HC Deb 13 March 1928 vol 214 cc1720-2
47. Mr. MAXTON

asked the Prime Minister if he will have inquiry made into the wages, conditions of labour, and health conditions of workers in the artificial silk industry?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)

I have been asked to reply. I have no power to order an inquiry such as the hon. Member suggests. If, however, the hon. Member is in possession of any facts which seem to him to require investigation I shall be glad to look into them.


On a point of Order. This is a question which I have put down on three occasions. First, I put it to the Minister of Labour, who told me he had not the facts, then I put it to the President of the Board of Trade, and now to the Prime Minister. On each occasion, I have been switched back to the Minister of Labour, who has no information. Can you tell me, Sir, to whom I can apply for information about the conditions of labour in safeguarded industries?


It would appear that the information does not exist, if the hon. Member has tried three sources and has not been able to get it.


As I understand it, no industry is safeguarded until the whole of its affairs, including the conditions of labour, have been examined by a committee, to establish the question of whether it is subject to unfair competition. I want to know if this information is not available in the case of the artificial silk industry?


There is no compulsory power of obtaining facts with regard to wages unless there is reason to believe that an industry comes under the category of a sweated industry to which the Trade Boards Act should properly be applied. Under such circumstances, if there be prima facie evidence, an inquiry may be made, and my Department would be the proper Department to make such an inquiry. At present, I have no such prima facie evidence, but if the hon. Member can furnish me with any particulars which would give me reason to believe that such an inquiry is necessary I should be glad to consider the point.


Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me how the Government have established the fact that this industry is subject to unfair competition without having any knowledge whatever of the conditions in the industry?


It is not a safeguarded industry.