HC Deb 02 May 1956 vol 552 cc380-1
16. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the United States contractors now installing radar equipment at Vieuxfort, St. Lucia, are paying their workers 17 cents an hour; how this compares with other rates of pay in the island; and what steps were taken to see that adequate wages were paid by United States firms before permission was given to reactivate this base.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Unskilled labour employed at the United States base has been paid at the rate of 17 cents an hour, semi-skilled and skilled labour receiving higher rates. A 25 per cent. increase has been granted to all categories with effect from 12th March. The rates paid compare favourably with other rates of pay in the island. The Notes exchanged with the United States Government before the base was reactivated provide that wage rates shall be determined by agreement among the United States and British authorities, including the Administrator of the island.

Mrs. Castle

I welcome the fact that this low rate of pay has since been increased by 25 per cent., but is the Colonial Secretary aware of the fact that there is grave discontent in the island at the low rates of pay which are being paid by these wealthy American contractors, and that even a 25 per cent. increase upon a rate of about 6s. a day is inadequate for modern needs? Will the Minister have the matter looked at again?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am always anxious to see the standard of living of every West Indian island steadily rise, but it is extremely important to be realistic and to realise the need for the American authorities' wages to be based upon those operating elsewhere in St. Lucia. I have no reason to think—indeed, quite the contrary—that their rates are unfair, judged by this criterion.