HC Deb 28 May 1941 vol 371 cc1839-40
26. Mr. Mathers

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state the cause of the strike of employés on the rubber estates in Selangor, Federated Malay States; and whether steps are being taken to increase the wages of these workers to meet the increasing cost of living and in view of the prosperity of the employers, caused by the high price of rubber in world markets?

27. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the state of emergency declared in the Malay State of Selangor; whether he is aware that Indian plantation strikers and police have been killed or wounded in clashes, and more than 100 strikers arrested; whether he has any information respecting the cause of the strike and un rest; and what steps are being taken to avoid further shooting and deal effectively with the social or economic cause of the trouble?

Mr. George Hall

Early in May the High Commissioner for the Malay States reported serious strikes amongst Indian labourers in a district in Selangor. Some 7,000 workers were involved. The High Commissioner reported considerable intimidation being practised by bands of strikers, and I regret that between 10th and 15th May two disturbances resulted in five fatal casualties to rioters. On 20th May the High Commissioner reported that the resumption of work was practically complete.

My Noble Friend has been assured by the High Commissioner that there is no economic justification for the strike and that wages of Indian estate workers in the rubber industry are at present higher than they have ever been, and include a cost-of-living allowance. The district concerned had been subjected to considerable propaganda by adherents of the Central Indian Association of Malaya. The High Commissioner has informed my Noble Friend that there was clear evidence of subversive propaganda on the part of one of these persons who had been arrested on 5th May with a view to banishment in accordance with the law of the Federated Malay States. The strike outbreak followed with the object of securing cessation of work until this person's release. He was deported to India on 19th May. My Noble Friend has kept prominently in mind the importance of a full and sympathetic examination of any grievances which the workers may put forward, and the High Commissioner has assured him that he is actively concerning himself with this aspect of the disturbances

Mr. Mathers

Are these workers allowed properly to organise in trade unions, and are the unions recognised as a bargaining medium between employers and workers?

Mr. Hall

There is a trade union ordinance in operation in the Malay States.

Mr. Sorensen

Does not my hon. Friend appreciate that his statement sounds very similar to a report that might have been given on industrial unrest in South Wales? Does he appreciate also that there must have been some other cause than subversive activity, and will he take care to have a fuller investigation?

Mr. Hall

A fuller investigation is being made by the High Commissioner, and we are awaiting his report.

Mr. Creech Jones

Will my hon. Friend take steps to permit peaceful picketing in industrial disputes and see that satisfactory machinery is set up—

Mr. Speaker rose