HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc381-2
8. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice his Department gives to British firms in Sri Lanka about the level of wages for their employees in that country.

Lord Balniel

None, Sir.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that millions of viewers were shocked by a recent "World in Action" film showing tea workers and their families diseased and dying through literally starvation wages of £1 a week paid by British firms? Will the Minister set up an inquiry into this, similar to the one dealing with wages in South Africa?

Lord Balniel

I am aware that many people were concerned about that television programme. Equally, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand that Sri Lanka is a developing country, struggling with an extremely bad economic situation, and conditions compare unfavourably with conditions that would be acceptable in this country. British firms in Sri Lanka pay the rates laid down by the Sri Lanka Government. Tea companies in Sri Lanka are barely profitable. Indeed, many are losing money.

Miss Joan Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his description of Sri Lanka being in a difficult situation is hardly apt to describe a situation in which there is rationing worse than there was during the war? One of the problems for those British companies which are left there is as to their belief in the future, because there has been so much nationalisation there and they do not want to invest because they feel they might be nationalised tomorrow by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Lord Balniel

The main worry does not arise from the political prospects, although no doubt they are very relevant. The main worry is that the price of tea as a commodity has not risen and many of these countries are in a very difficult economic situation.

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