§ Mr. DEVLIN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the average quantity and value of the export of linens and yarns from Ireland for the ten years preceding 1914, and the quantity and value of the export from Ireland of linen and yarns for the year 1915, and for the year 1916 to the end of October?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
In compiling the export returns of the United Kingdom no distinction is made between goods produced in Ireland and goods produced in Great Britain. The quantities and values of linen yarns and linen manufactures of home manufacture exported from the United Kingdom to all destinations in the periods specified were as follow:43W
Whilst the greater part of these United Kingdom exports are doubtless of Irish origin, it must be borne in mind that about 25 per cent. of the linen yarns and thread, about 37 per cent. of the linen piece goods, and about 43 per cent. of the made-up linen goods manufactured in the United Kingdom are produced in Great Britain and not in Ireland.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the distress existing amongst the factory workers in the making-up end of the linen trade in Belfast and amongst the factory, ware-room, and shop girls in that city owing to low wages and increased cost of living, he will send an impartial special Commissioner to investigate the facts on the spot and to report accordingly, with a view to an immediate increase of wages for these workers?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
As I have stated on previous occasions, the Board of Trade are considering the whole question of the extension of the scope of the Trade Boards Act, and in this connection the position of the various branches of the linen trade and of persons employed in ware-rooms and shops will not be lost sight of. Local investigation will be made in any case where it appears necessary. It would not, however, be possible to bring these workers under the Trade Boards Act without further legislation by Provisional Order or otherwise.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his attention has been called to the evidence given at an inquest held in Belfast on the 13th November instant, with reference to the death from burning of a child named Mary Katherine Gallagher; whether it appeared that the mother was a spinner, who was out of employment owing to slackness of work; that she had obtained outwork teasing tow, at the remuneration of 2s. 6d. a hundredweight; that, when the fire occurred, she and her mother were engaged on this work at half- past two o'clock in the morning by the light of a small fire, she being unable to pay for gas; that the dust from the tow fell in the ashpan, and a cinder falling on the towdust set the house on fire; that she ran into the street and gave the alarm, and then fainted; and that the children were rescued by the neighbours, one of the children subsequently succumbing to its injuries; whether he is aware that the conditions of poverty and struggle 44W revealed in this worker's home exist at present in thousands of other homes in Belfast owing to low wages and want of work; and whether he will undertake to investigate the facts through impartial agents and use his influence to provide, some immediate remedy for this condition of affairs?
§ Mr. DUKE
The facts in regard to this lamentable occurrence are generally as stated; but I am informed that the remuneration given for the work mentioned was at the rate of one shilling a stone and not 2s. 6d. per cwt. The statements in the last part of the question are, I am given to understand, not in accordance with the facts. While no doubt there are cases of poverty and destitution in Belfast, as in other large cities, the condition generally of the working classes during the War has been fairly prosperous.