HC Deb 19 November 1941 vol 376 cc294-5
43. Mr. David Adams

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether the sugar interests in the various West Indian islands have now been united in the British West Indies Sugar Association; whether, as Jamaica is the only Colony with a cost-of-living wage agreement, it is intended that labour conditions throughout the islands will be made uniform by bringing lower standards up to the highest wage; and what results the recent conference has had upon the British Government's Sugar Purchase Scheme?

Mr. George Hall

My Noble Friend understands that it is proposed to establish a West Indies Sugar Association with headquarters at Trinidad for the purpose of consultation on matters of mutual concern, such as research and scientific work and the various other aspects of the development of the sugar industry in the West Indian area. The maintenance and improvement of the standard of living of the labouring population are under the constant review of the Governments concerned and of their Labour Departments, as well as of the trade unions, but circumstances vary so widely in the various Colonies that complete uniformity of labour' conditions is difficult to attain. The answer to the last part of the Question is that the formation of an Association will not affect the sugar purchases of His Majesty's Government in any way.

Mr. Adams

In view of the fact that the absence of a cost-of-living agreement in many of the West Indian islands is the cause of very depressed wages, do the Government intend to institute a cost-of-living wage in all the Colonies?

Mr. Hall

It is not for the Government to deal with the matter in the first instance. It should come from the people on the spot.