§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that great disappointment and discontent have arisen in connection with the construction of light railways in Ireland, owing to the fact that employment is given entirely at the discretion of engineers and gangers, who are strangers to the localities in which the works are proceeding, and who have not the local knowledge requisite to enable them to distribute employment so as to-effect the purpose of alleviating distress; whether any provision has been made by which contractors are bound, in employing men, to give the preference to those most in need; whether any such provision will be made in future contracts; and whether, in order to secure the employment of the poor by system, instead of, as at present, by mere chance only, the Government would arrange that employment should be given upon lists made up by local officials who have knowledge of the condition of the poor, such lists to be revised by the local clergy?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I do not think the hon. Member has been rightly informed as to the feelings with which the light railway construction has been received in Ireland. It would be impossible, and, in my judgment, most inexpedient even if possible, to limit the control of the engineers and contractors over the men they are employing. Neither should I think of interfering with their choice of gangers. My own belief is that gangers not connected with the locality and having no localties and interests are 1837 much more likely to be impartial than residents in the district from which the workmen are drawn. The advice of local officials, based as it is upon their own observation and upon information obtained from local clergy and others, has been largely acted upon, I am glad to think, by the contractors. But it would be unwise to bind them to take lists made up by local officials who have knowledge of the condition of the poor. In several of the contracts the contractors have bound themselves to execute works involving as much unskilled labour as possible, and to employ, as far as practicable, able-bodied persons living in the district in which the works are being constructed. The Reports I have received from the various lines indicate that the persons employed are in the main drawn from the class requiring relief.