HC Deb 08 February 1945 vol 407 cc2209-10
28. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India how many women are now employed in mining; what are the present rates of payment; and whether steps can now be taken to bring such employment to an end.

Mr. Amery

I am asking the Government of India for up-to-date figures of the number of women employed in mining. Rates of pay for women working underground are the same as for men. They vary according to a number of factors and average about 12 annas per day in the types of work on which women are mainly employed. In addition they receive attendance bonus and grain concession of an average value of 6 annas per day. The question of the continued employment of women underground is under the Government of India's consideration and I expect shortly to be informed of their conclusions.

Mr. Sorensen

Does it not work out that the women, in fact, get from 1d. an hour upwards for their work? Could the right hon. Gentleman say, in general terms, whether there has been a reduction in the number of women employed?

Mr. Amery

I cannot say, but I will try to get figures. As to the rates of pay, they compare favourably with those of other industries in that part of India.

Sir H. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the view of women Members of Parliament, that women should take part in every occupation?

Dr. Edith Summerskill

Can the right hon. Gentleman answer a question which I have asked him on two other occasions—whether expectant mothers are prohibited from going underground?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. I understand that expectant mothers are prohibited from working for a month before and a month after delivery, and that they receive maternity benefit during that time.

Mr. Stephen

Are representatives of these women included in the industrial group coming to this country?

Mr. McGovern

Is there any intention of abolishing this abominable form of industrial slavery?

Mr. Amery

Work in the mines is entirely voluntary, and the Government of India are just as anxious as we in this House are not to continue that work any longer than is necessary. But coal deliveries at present are one of the most serious limiting factors of India's war effort.

Mr. Sorensen

May we take it that women can, and do, take their babies down the mines a month after birth?

Mr. Amery

I do not know. There is no reason why they should. Maternity pay is continued for a month after the birth, and the women are forbidden to work at any rate during that period.

Earl Winterton

Are not the owners of these mines among the most prominent supporters of Congress, and ought they not, therefore, to be very friendly with hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches?