HC Deb 24 March 1892 vol 2 cc1661-2
MR. EDWARDS-MOSS (Lancashire, S.W., Widnes)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to an application which has recently been made to the Prescot Board of Guardians by the chemical workers of Widnes, who have been thrown out of work and become dependent on the workhouse, owing to the employment in their place of foreign paupers at their works; whether he is aware that these pauper immigrants are Poles, 80 per cent. of whom arrive in this country quite destitute, and who, by working for starvation wages, are displacing the natural working population of the locality; and whether, in view of the fact that much distress is caused thereby, and an additional burden is being placed upon the rates of the district, the Government will consider the recommendations of the Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration of 1889, especially the last clause of their Report, and take some steps to put a stop to the immigration of foreign paupers into this country?


I have been in communication with the clerk to the Guardians of the Prescot Union on the subject of the statements in the question. I learn that distress has existed among chemical workers at Widnes, but this is apparently due to the closing of a number of alkali works in the district. With respect to the immigration and employment of Poles, I am informed that the statement that these immigrants arrive in this country in a state of destitution is misleading. Generally speaking, they appear to be strong able-bodied men who are readily given employment at the works by reason of their fitness and willingness to perform the work allotted to them. The number of Poles employed in the various chemical works, it is stated, does not exceed 50, the majority of whom have been in this country for a number of years. Not one of the men who were relieved by the Guardians with a labour test could, when inquiry was made of them during the present week, say positively that his place had been taken by a foreigner. As regards the allegation as to starvation wages, on inquiry at one of the largest chemical works at Widnes, it was stated that the wages paid to the Poles were exactly the same as those paid to other workmen employed in the same manner, and that of the eleven Poles employed at the works, ten were receiving wages at the rate of 4s. per day, and one at the rate of 4s. 3d. It is further stated that not a single Pole is in receipt of relief from the Union, and so far as the experience of the Guardians and their officers goes, this class seldom or never apply for Poor Law relief. It does not appear to me that there is any sufficient reason at present for the adoption of such a course as is suggested in the last paragraph of the hon. Member's question.