HC Deb 10 June 1958 vol 589 cc25-6
40. Mr. Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has now received the report of the Governor of Hong Kong on conditions in the textile mills there; and if he will fix a maximum of six working days a week for women and girls.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have not yet received it. I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave the hon. Member on 15th May.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that last week a further four Lancashire mills closed down because they could not compete with textiles produced by operatives working in many cases 84 hours a week? If the British Government could end such scandalous exploitation in Lancashire 100 years ago, why cannot they do the same thing in Hong Kong today? How much more suffering in Hong Kong and in Lancashire must there be before the Minister acts?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member ought to apply his mind to the circumstances of Hong Kong, with a vast population on a tiny island, with a density fourteen times that of Manhattan, and the necessity to see that there is employment in that critical corner of the world.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are also large numbers of people living in Lancashire who depend upon the textile industry for their living and do not see the point or the fun of their market being taken in order to provide a market for sweated products from Hong Kong?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot accept the description of Hong Kong products as sweated—that is, their general description—as witness previous reports by people who have looked into the industry. I think that the House will want to await the report of the Governor, to which I promise to draw attention as soon as I receive it.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Hong Kong expectant mothers in an advanced state of pregnancy are working nine hours a day seven days a week and that the conditions in these factories are known by experts to be the very worst in Asia? In view of this, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he intends to do about it?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I completely repudiate the last part of the right hon. Lady's statement. As soon as I hear from the Governor, I will acquaint the House.

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