HC Deb 29 June 1909 vol 7 cc357-8W

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the continuation of short time in the Ulster textile factories has caused intense hardship to the workers and their families; whether he has any official information showing that the short-time movement is a result of the financial instability lately so much in evidence in America, or to a desire on the part of either spinners, manufacturers, agents, or commission houses to maintain a high level of selling prices, or to the cost of raw material, or to the shortness of supply of home-grown material; whether, prior to the good years of 1906–7, spinners, manufacturers and finishers worked at a loss; what were the average profits during those years as compared with the present time; whether, prior to the inauguration of short time in November, 1907, speeding-up of both machinery and workers had taken place; whether he is aware that in the lessened period of work, with the consequent lessened wage, an almost equal amount of work has been extracted from the worker and the machine; whether the system of speeding-up involves any new process or any deterioration in the product; whether any steps are in contemplation with the object of securing to the textile workers a 'minimum wage sufficient to maintain them in frugal comfort; and whether the Government will institute an inquiry into the whole present position of textile manufactures in Ireland?


The amount of short time in the linen industry in 1908 was considerable, one of the principal causes of the depression being the greatly decreased demand from the United States. I am, however, unable to say to what extent the "desire on the part of either spinners, manufacturers, agents or commission houses to maintain a high level of selling prices" contributed to the short time movement. In view of the contraction in the demand for linen goods in 1908 it is not likely that the decreased production of flax in that year seriously affected employment, and the price of flax was considerably less in 1908 than in 1907 or 1906. No information is available as to the profits of the trade during the period 1906–8, or as to the alleged speeding-up of machinery. As compared with 1907 there was, however, a considerably decreased export both of yarn and piece goods in 1908, and presumably a considerably reduced production. Since the beginning of 1909 the state of employment in this industry has steadily improved, and the numbers employed and the weekly amount of wages earned per head, as shown by the monthly returns published in the "Labour Gazette," have shown a continuous increase. The exports for the first five months of 1909 have been largely in excess of those for the corresponding period of 1908. In the circumstances I do not think it necessary to institute a special inquiry into the industry, but the state of employment will continue to be carefully watched.