HC Deb 29 February 1956 vol 549 cc1171-2
16 and 17. Mr. G. Darling

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) if he is aware that some Malayan rubber-planting companies have offset the increases in wages, granted last October to their workers, by increasing prices in estate shops, where the workers are compelled to trade; and what action he will take to bring this truck system to an end;

(2) what action is being taken by the Co-operative Department of the Government of Malaya to establish consumer or supply societies on rubber estates, where the workers are at present compelled to buy their needs at company shops.

Mr. Hare

Workers on rubber estates are not compelled to purchase goods from company shops or from any other shop. Only one company shop exists and this will shortly close. Shops on estates are run by independent shop-keepers licensed by the Labour Department. One of the conditions of licensing is that labourers shall not be compelled to purchase goods from these shops.

In addition, it is the policy of the Government to encourage the establishment of a sound consumers' Co-operative movement: Co-operative stores and shops have already been set up on rubber estates, and the possibilities of establishing others are investigated wherever there appears to be a need.

Mr. Darling

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that the trade unions on the rubber estates have made the case that there are shops owned by the estate companies at which the workers have to trade? Will he look at this matter again? May I say how glad we are to hear the second part of the Minister's reply?

Mr. Hare

The main point is that the estate shops are regularly inspected by the Department of Labour. Such price increases as have taken place are caused, in part at least, by the general trend following the increase in the price of rubber.