HC Deb 05 December 1945 vol 416 cc2298-300
5. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in the present discussions which are taking place in Lon don between His Majesty's Government and representatives from America, Holland and France with regard to the future of the rubber industry, what steps are being taken to ensure that the price to be fixed for plantation rubber will be sufficient to enable companies to pay adequate salaries to white planters and native labour; and whether he will give any indication as to what can be regarded as reasonable scales of payment at the present time.

Mr. George Hall

The Rubber Study Group discussions to which my hon. Friend refers were designed to elucidate the basic facts regarding the present position of the natural and synthetic rubber industries, and their probable future prospects in the light of the demand which may be expected for their products. It is not a policy-making or negotiating body.

As regards the last part of the Question, I am not aware that any substantial re-engagement of indigenous labour in the rubber industry has yet taken place, but I understand that the wages of such labour as has been re-employed have recently been raised by 33 per cent. It is impossible to give any indication of what can be regarded as reasonable scales of payment at the present time owing to the existing unstable economic position and the difficulties over currency and exchange, but I am informed that an investigation is being carried out by the Military Administration to ascertain the current cost of living for workers in urban and rural areas.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Is the Minister aware that his reply does not cover the all-important point of the small native producer who is not really employed for the State, but works on his own account and who represents 50 per cent. of the total production, and will the right hon. Gentleman see that his interest is properly safeguarded, as it has been lost sight of up to date?

Mr. Hall

No, I entirely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Their interests have not been lost sight of. They are constantly before the Colonial Office.

Captain Gammans

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much longer the Government propose to pay only 10d. for Malayan rubber and 1s. 6d. for rubber from Ceylon, and does he think that that disparity in price will enable him to do what he has suggested in his answer?

Mr. Hall

That again is a matter which is being considered and is before us. We are in consultation with the rubber producers and we are discussing that matter.