HC Deb 06 August 1941 vol 373 cc1932-3
22. Mr. David Adams

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, whether, in view of the fact that much of the labour in the United States of America bases in the West Indies is not organised, and that local wage levels are below those of reasonable subsistence, he will advise the respective Governors to encourage the payment of higher wages than those so prevailing?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)

As was stated in my Reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 2nd July, the rates paid by the United States authorities are based upon the rates prevailing for comparable work in the Colonies in which the work is being carried out. In the event of the Governors being of the opinion that the rates paid generally are unreasonably low by reason of the rise in the cost of living or other cause, it will be possible in nearly every case for them to deal with the situation by prescribing minimum rates, in the event of agreement for higher rates not being reached between the employers in the Colony and the workers or the workers' unions.

Colonel Arthur Evans

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that since the outbreak of war wages in the sugar industry in Jamaica have been increased by 30 per cent, and the average hours of work are 20 per week, and that wages have increased in Trinidad and other islands?

Mr. Adams

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a general feeling among those who are studying the problem of wage conditions in the Colonies that the Colonial Office is very shy in insisting on better conditions for the under-paid?

Mr. Hall

I do not know that my hon. Friend is justified in making that assertion. The Governors in some of the Colonies are taking up with the American authorities the question of increasing wages even beyond the rates paid generally throughout the Colonies.

Mr. George Griffiths

What is the 30 per cent, increase based on? Is it 6d. a day?

Mr. Hall

I cannot say that.