54. Mr. David Adams
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that minimum wage laws have now been enacted in 40 Colonies, but that only in nine are any minimum wages actually in force; and whether, as the absence of such minimum standards is the cause of depressed living conditions, steps will be taken to encourage the implementing of minimum wage laws?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
Yes, Sir. My Noble Friend is aware of the position as stated in the first part of the Question. He is, however, anxious that wherever possible the payment of adequate wages should be arranged by amicable agreement between the parties, without it becoming necessary to have recourse to the powers conferred by the minimum wage legislation. Every encouragement is being given by the Colonial Governments to the promotion of such collective bargaining, and in a very large number of cases adjustments of wages to meet fluctuations in the cost of living have been arranged without intervention on the part of the Government since the outbreak of war.
In view of the fact that in many Colonies no such organisation exists, surely, as the Minister has again and again recommended Governors to pursue a certain course, he might recommend in this case the establishment of minimum scales of wages?
§ Mr. Silverman
Is the Minister not aware that in many Colonies the promotion of bodies designed to secure collective bargaining is in itself an act of sedition involving very heavy penalties? How can any Governor promote collective bargaining while legislation of that kind exists?
Would my hon. Friend keep that point in mind, because many of our Colonies are purely agricultural and no industrial organisation is possible in them?