HC Deb 31 January 1940 vol 356 cc1126-7
23. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the causes of the labour dispute in Singapore; what steps have been taken to remove the workers' grievances; whether any persons are being victimised or prosecuted for their part in the dispute; and what conciliation machinery exists for dealing with labour difficulties?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)

As the answer is necessarily long I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is it a fact that all strikes in Singapore at the present time are illegal, and under what emergency powers have the Government been acting to break this strike?

Mr. MacDonald

My information is that practically all the strikes which have taken place at Singapore have been amicably settled, and therefore, the hon. Member's Questions do not arise.

Following is the reply:

The cost of living in Singapore has risen since the outbreak of war, and this has provided a genuine economic basis for recent claims on behalf of labourers. There is reason to suspect that subversive elements unfriendly to this country are attempting unscrupulously to exploit this position.

All public authorities have awarded, with effect from 1st November, a cost of living allowance, to be revised monthly in accordance with changes in the cost of living; it has been twice raised in subsequent months. Most other employers have adopted a similar policy; but in some cases employers have refused to negotiate on demands considered extravagant. In one or two disputes workmen have been dismissed by employers; but the Governor informs me that such a course has been strongly disapproved by the Government. Eleven persons have had to be arrested after warning that interruption of work in the essential service of the Dockyard was an offence against Defence Regulations, and six others were arrested for throwing bottles at the police.

The officers of the Chinese Secretariat and the Labour Department of the Straits Settlements Government have great experience of conciliation in labour disputes. Workers have long been accustomed to invoke their assistance, and a very large measure of success has been secured by their efforts in the recent disputes, almost all of which have now been settled, including the strike of the mechanics employed by United Engineers. Trade union legislation on approved lines and legislation to provide machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes is now in process of enactment by the Straits Settlements legislature.