HC Deb 18 June 1941 vol 372 cc631-2
21. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under secretary of State for the Colonies what action he proposes to take respecting industrial discontent in Malaya; whether he will cause a special inquiry to be made into the disparity between wages and the rising cost of living; is he aware that this is the basic cause of the discontent and that immediate steps must be taken to remedy this; and whether he is now in a position to publish the report from the Malayan Government?

Mr. George Hall

My Noble Friend is consulting the High Commissioner for the Malay States with a view to securing early investigation and conciliation by officers of the Labour Department in instances of labour unrest, and he has arranged for his Labour Adviser, Major Orde Browne, on the conclusion of his present visit to Mauritius, to go to Malaya, where his advice will be available to the Malayan authorities. I would remind my hon. Friend that, as stated in my answer of 28th May, the wages paid to Indian estate workers in the rubber industry include a bonus in respect of the rise in the cost of living. In addition, most estates provide further advantages, such as free housing, ground for grazing stock, education, and firewood, and make arrangements for the issue of rice to labourers at cost price. My Noble Friend has not yet received the High Commissioner's full report on the recent disturbances in Selangor.

Mr. Sorensen

Can my hon. Friend say whether the inquiry that is to be made, and which will no doubt give great satisfaction, will be entirely comprehensive of the political, economic and any other aspects of the difficulty, and can he also say when the report of the inquiry is likely to be available?

Mr. Hall

It will be a matter for the High Commissioner to decide as to the scope of the inquiry, and it is impossible at this stage to give any idea when the report will be available.

Mr. Creech Jones

Can my hon. Friend say whether part of the inquiry by Major Orde Browne will include existing industrial codes as well as the facilities of the trade unions to operate in times of trade disputes?

Mr. Hall

I can assure my hon. Friend that Major Orde Browne will take all these factors into consideration. He has, as my hon. Friend knows, had a very wide experience in these matters.