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Panama Labour Contracts

Volume 181: debated on Tuesday 20 August 1907

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I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will ascertain what steps the local Governments have taken to assure themselves that the labourers engaged in the British West Indies working on the Panama Isthmian Canal thoroughly understand the terms of their engagement before leaving.

The respective Governments of the British West Indies are very careful to safeguard—as far as it is possible to do so—emigrants from those Colonies, and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by making the suggested inquiry unless or until the hon. Gentleman is able to furnish me with some definite evidence that neglect has occurred.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps the Government have taken to ensure that the coolies understand the terms of their contract.

We assume naturally that the officers responsible have done their duty, but if there are any facts to justify the suggestion that there has been neglect and that injury has resulted therefrom they will, if brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, be inquired into, but we think aprima facie case should first be made out.

was understood to ask if the regulations provided for inquiry being made of the coolies if they really understand the contracts. Would the regulations be laid on the Table?