HC Deb 18 June 1925 vol 185 cc800-1

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that children under 10 years old work in British-owned mills in Shanghai; what action His Majesty's Government have taken; what action they propose to take; and will Papers be laid?

Mr. A. M. SAMUEL (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

I have been informed that in certain British mills there are regulations prohibiting the employment of boys under 10 and girls under 12. I have no other specific information, but steps are being taken to obtain full particulars. For some time past His Majesty's Government have exerted pressure to secure the adoption of the recommendations of the Child Labour Commission by the Shanghai Municipal Council. Papers dealing fully with industrial conditions in Shanghai and in China generally will be laid as soon as possible℄it is hoped in the course of next week.


Will the hon. Gentleman direct the attention of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Russell) to the letter which appeared in the "Times" of yesterday from Mr. Mackay, the late chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council, in which he described the conditions under which children accompany their mothers?


Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the statement published by the International Labour Office at Geneva, that contractors are sent round the villages to bring in these child labourers into the mills in Shanghai, and that the children are working for no wages at all?


I am not aware of that fact. This present Question deals with British-owned mills, and I am fully assured that, so far as British-owned mills in the Shanghai international area are concerned, those responsible for them are very anxious to have regulations passed prohibiting the employment of boys under 10 and girls under 12. Papers will probably be laid next week which will give the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), and the whole House, full information about this subject.


If the proprietors of these mills, and the British Government, are so anxious to get these cruel malpractices stopped, will the right hon. Gentleman say why it was that a quorum did not turn up to enforce these regulations?


So far as possible, the British representatives on the Council, I am given to understand, did turn up, and they were most anxious in the fullest sense, without any reservation, to give effect to these proposed regulations. This was before 30th May. On the second occasion when the matter came up for confirmation, these recent unhappy and terrible circumstances prevented people, presumably for fear of their lives, from attending the meeting. Otherwise I have every reason to believe that the necessary regulation would have been passed.


If the Minister is making investigations as to the control of the best managed British mills, will he also make investigations as to the conditions in the best managed Chinese-owned mills?


Outside the international district, it is utterly impossible for the British Government or the British community to interfere.




We must not have too many supplementary questions.

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