HC Deb 07 June 1945 vol 411 cc1067-9
58. Dr. Edith Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for India how many expectant mothers working in the mines in India have been prematurely confined in the mines and in their homes or hospital, respectively; and how many of these mothers and babies have died.

The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)

There is no record of any child being born underground. I am asking the Government of India how far they can supply the other information desired by the hon. Member. The hon. Member will be glad to know that in April last the Indian Legislature amended the existing law to make it illegal for women to work underground in the mines for 10 weeks before and six months after confinement while the hours of work are severely limited for a further three months. The rates of benefit during these periods of absence have been increased.

Dr. Summerskill

How long does the Government propose to sanction this cold-blooded cruelty to expectant mothers?

Mr. Amery

It is not a question of sanctioning. The Government of India are dealing with an extremely difficult situation affecting the whole war situation and life in India. Machinery is in process of being ordered, or installed, which I hope will ease the situation and bring the desired change nearer.

Mr. McNeil

Is the right hon. Gentleman asking the House to believe that the amount of coal moved by a woman within ten weeks of confinement is so considerable?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Glanville

When do the Government propose to adopt a civilised attitude and withdraw all women from all mines?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is it within the competency of the Secretary of State, to issue directions to the Indian Government in these matters?

Mr. Edmund Harvey

As the right hon. Gentleman has already assured the House that it is his hope that this will be brought to an end very soon, will he give an assurance that every effort is being made to get it stopped as soon as possible?

Mr. Amery

The Government of India are as anxious as Members of this House to terminate the employment of women in this way.

Mr. Pritt

What wages are paid to these women in the period during which they are prohibited from going down the pit?

Mr. Amery

They have been considerably increased. The payment now amounts to six rupees a week, for ten weeks before and six weeks after delivery.

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