HC Deb 24 October 1956 vol 558 cc621-2
21. Mr. Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how the average wage for cotton operatives in Hong Kong compares with that of cotton operatives in Britain : and if he will consider introducing a legal minimum wage in the Hong Kong cotton industry.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Average weekly cash earnings of cotton operatives in Hong Kong are between £2 13s. and £3 compared with £7 5s. in the United Kingdom. In addition, the majority of Hong Kong workers are provided with free accommodation estimated to be worth 10s. per week plus a subsidy on meals worth another 4s. 5d. Many workers also enjoy other welfare facilities on which a cash value cannot be placed. Wages and working conditions compare favourably with those in other Hong Kong industries, and it is not proposed to introduce a legal minimum wage.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that if Hong Kong cotton imports into Britain, made with underpaid labour, continue to grow at the present rate from 5 million square yards a year to 60 million square yards a year in five years, there will soon be even fewer mills left in Lancashire? Would it not be possible, as in Kenya, to introduce a minimum wage and thus help Hong Kong and Lancashire cotton workers?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I explained about the minimum wages, but if goods from Hong Kong were to be kept out of the United Kingdom on the ground that people are paid less in Hong Kong than in Lancashire, then some of our manufacturers exporting to America would have some difficulties to face.

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