HC Deb 15 November 1938 vol 341 cc655-7
3 and 4. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (1) whether he is aware that certain mines in South Africa are able to lease large numbers of prisoners for commercial profit; and whether he will satisfy himself that none of the prisoners so leased have been secured from British Colonial territories or British-protected territories;

(2) whether the Forced Labour Convention, under which convict leasing to private persons and corporations is prohibited, applies to the High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland; whether he can give an assurance that British subjects and British-protected subjects from these territories are able to enjoy, both within their borders and beyond them the provisions of the convention; and whether, in the event of such British-protected subjects, who may be sentenced to imprisonment, being leased to private persons in other territories, he will consider the advisability of prohibiting the recruitment of labour from these territories?

6. Mr. Riley

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any information regarding natives of the Bechuanaland Protectorate who are serving as convicts under the Government of the South African Union and who have been leased to mining and other employers by the Union Government; what payment is made to the Union Government by the employers for such convicts; whether the convicts are paid any wages; and what are the general conditions of such leases?

Mr. M. MacDonald

The Forced Labour Convention applies to the High Commission Territories in South Africa, and, in accordance with its provisions, the hiring out of prisoners to private individuals, companies or associations prohibited in those Territories. The practice in the Union of South Africa, Where the Forced Labour Convention has not been ratified, is, I understand, different. I am not aware to what extent, it at all, natives from the High Commission Territories who have been convicted in the Union are affected by the Union practice. I am, however, asking the High Commissioner to let me have a report on the matter.

Mr. Riley

Can the Minister state the amounts of money paid by these companies for this leased convict labour, and whether any wages are paid to the convicts?

Mr. MacDonald

I will include a question on these matters in my communication to the High Commissioner and ask him for a report.

Mr. Lunn

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the High Commissioner to give him the figures of the number of natives that are placed in the mines of South Africa?

Mr. MacDonald

we are primarily concerned with the position of natives who have gone into the Union from this Territory, and I am not quite certain how much information I can get about that.

Mr. Leach

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to get rid of this practice wherever he finds it exists?

Mr. MacDonald

It does not exist in the Territories for which we are responsible.

Mr. Leach

That is not my question. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to prevent it wherever he finds that it does exist?

Mr. MacDonald

It is beyond my power to do that.