HC Deb 07 February 1961 vol 634 cc180-1
1. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will state the average wages and working hours in Hong Kong in all industries, and in the manufacturing of small electrical goods; and what steps he will take to improve them.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hugh Fraser)

These wages statistics are not available. The average daily hours of work of women in industry are between 9½ and 9½; for men they are estimated to be 10. In the electrical goods industry, hours of work are just under 10 for both men and women.

Wages are determined mainly by collective bargaining. The present regulations governing working hours for women and young persons are a first step in raising minimum standards of employment. The Governor has further proposals under consideration.

Mr. Allaun

I thank the Miinster for that reply. Is he aware that, thanks to sweated labour, such goods as electrical lampholders are being sold here at 7s. 6d. a dozen, including sea transport, whereas the cheapest possible price for Lancashire manufacturers is 12s. 6d. a dozen? Since the Government, following prompting by the Opposition, were able to reduce working hours in Hong Kong cotton mills, cannot they reduce them considerably in other industries as well?

Mr. Fraser

We are looking at this, but I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that, as far as we can estimate, wages rose by over 15 per cent. last year in Hong Kong.

8. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the provisions of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance, 1955, how many workers in Hong Kong are employed seven days a week.

Mr. H. Fraser

No figures are available. Regulations under the Ordinance require industrial employers to grant a weekly day of rest to women and young persons.

Mr. Hynd

Will the Minister look into the case which I have referred to him in correspondence? When I recently visited the textile mill in question not only was it admitted that seven days a week were being worked but it was insisted that this was necessary. It was said that the workers preferred to work a seven-day week, and volunteered to work on Sundays. In view of the number of refugees in Hong Kong, is the hon. Member aware of the kind of volunteering that could take place in such circumstances?

Mr. Fraser

I have had an inquiry made into the mill to which the hon. Member refers. Although the factory works seven days a week, that does not apply to the women and children concerned.

Mr. Rankin

But is it not the case that the Kowloon riots of 1956 were largely promoted by the terrible industrial conditions in Hong Kong? Is not the hon. Gentleman further aware that we were then promised that these matters would be looked into? Does it not seem that nothing much has been done?

Mr. Fraser

I entirely disagree with the hon. Member. A great deal has been done, including the Ordinance to which he is referring, which was brought in in 1959, restricting female and child employment.