HC Deb 15 December 1937 vol 330 cc1150-2
35. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Indian natives are working on the Ceylon tea plantations; how many of these are men, women, and children, respectively; and what are the daily earnings of each of these categories?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

The figures at my disposal do not differentiate between tea and other estates; but the total Indian estate population in 1936 was 659,311, of whom 206,530 were men, 119,520 women, and 253,261 children. For the same year the legal minimum rates of wages applicable for a working day of nine hours, including time not exceeding one hour taken for the mid-day meal, were as follow:

Men. Women. Children.
Cents. Cents. Cents.
Up Country 49 39 29
Mid Country 43 35 25
Low Country 41 33 24

Mr. Sorensen

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that these rates indicate a very low standard of life indeed; and, in view also of the fact that these men, women and children are not working for continuous periods, will he not take some action to guarantee to these workers a higher standard of life?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

That is quite beyond my power; it is a matter entirely for the Ceylon Ministers and State Council.

Mr. Paling

Is there any restriction as to the age at which these children are allowed to work?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Oh, yes. As the hon. Gentleman knows, all these people are migratory workers who go backwards and forwards, and their conditions are settled with the representatives of the Government of India. I must make it clear, however, that it is a matter for the Ceylon Government, and not for me. I can only give information: I can take no action.

37. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the number of estate schools, as at the last convenient date, that are being maintained for the children of labourers working on estates in the Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States, and Ceylon, and the rate of regular attendances of Indian children at these schools?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

In the territories named the number of estate schools and of Indian pupils attending them were as follow in 1936:

Schools. Children.
Straits Settlements 39 1,637
Federated Malay States 385 13,796
Ceylon 653 39,647

Mr. Day

Are facilities given to these children to acquire a knowledge of the English language?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No; these are almost entirely Tamil schools for Tamil people.

Mr. Day

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider giving the children such facilities?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

English is taught in the Government schools, but in these estate schools, which are for migrant workers, it is in accordance with the wishes of the Government of India that Tamil should be the medium of instruction.

Mr. T. Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with a situation in which 39,000 migrant Indian children are attending schools out of a total of well over 200,000?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

They are of all ages. I do not think it can be said that the Tamil children in Ceylon are entirely catered for by schools provided by the rubber estates; there are other schools.