HC Deb 25 May 1938 vol 336 cc1201-2
42. Mr. White

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for what reasons the recent ordinance in Kenya Colony was sanctioned by the Colonial Office permitting contracts for child labour for children of the age of 10 years; and whether there is any other case under the jurisdiction of this country where contracts for child labour at such an early age are authorised?

Mr. M. MacDonald

As regards the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answers which I gave to questions by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) on 16th and 17th May respectively. With regard to the second part, the employment of children not under the age of 10 years on contract, other than for industrial employment, employment at sea, or employment outside the Colony, is permitted by law in a number of tropical Dependencies.

Mr. White

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind this age limit, which appears to be extraordinarily low, in connection with the instructions to the British delegates to the Conference at Geneva next month?

Mr. MacDonald

I will certainly bear it in mind, but the Geneva Convention has been accustomed to permit exceptions where local conditions make it desirable.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is it not a great reflection that a retrograde step of this kind has been taken, even if the work is light work?

Mr. MacDonald

I cannot accept the view that this is a retrograde step. I think the effect of the ordinance has been to improve the position generally, and to tighten up the safeguards for juvenile employment. If the hon. Member will read carefully the answer which I gave, I think he will see that in many respects the position has been distinctly improved.

Mr. Riley

Are any white children in Kenya allowed to work at 10 years of age?

Mr. Macquisten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of how eager young children in every country are to work, but that the schoolmaster has paralysed initiative?