§ MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information as to the number of emigrants from British Possessions now working upon the Panama Canal; whether he has any information as to the rate of sickness and mortality among such emigrants; what powers he possesses to enforce the terms of contracts under which such emigrants engaged; and whether His Majesty has any representative upon the canal to whom British subjects may appeal in case of necessity or grievance.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
The exact number of emigrants from British Possessions working on the canal is not known. But the immigrants into Panama from the British West Indies during 1906† See (4) Debates, clxxiii., 1061–2.956 amounted to 24,400, presumably including women and children. In September last there were at work in the engineering department and earthworks of the canal over 10,000 men from these islands. If this information is not sufficient, a report will be called for from His Majesty's representative at Panama. The daily sick-rate for the first ten months of 1906 was twenty-eight per thousand; the annual death-rate 44.03 per thousand. These figures apply, however, to the whole body of canal labourers, and there is no special information as regards those from British Possessions. His Majesty's Government have no special powers to enforce the terms of the labourers' contracts. But in the event of a case of non-fulfilment of a contract being brought to their notice and warranting action on their part, a diplomatic representation could, of course, be addressed to the United States Government, as the employer. His Majesty's Representative at Panama, to whom all complaints made by British subjects are addressed, has, however, reported that any recent complaints made to him have been so few and trivial that he has generally found on investigation that they had no foundation. He is convinced that the labourers are well treated and well cared for.
§ VISCOUNT TURNOUR (Sussex, Horsham)
Is it not the case that extraordinary precautions have been taken by the United States Government to prevent sickness, and that the sanitary state of the workmen is good?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
I think it would be better to wait for a fuller report; but I understand that generally what the noble Lord states is accurate.