HC Deb 22 February 1917 vol 90 cc1488-9W

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether his attention has been drawn to the conditions prevailing on the Island of Raasay; whether he is aware that the crofters went to work at the iron-ore mines at wages ranging from 20s. to 24s. per week, with a war bonus of 3s.; that some of the crofters, finding it impossible to rear their families on this income, sought to return to their crofts, but were told that they had forfeited them; that batches of German prisoners have since been brought to work at the mines; and that part of the land applied for by the crofters upon which to grow food is used by these German prisoners as a sports ground; and whether he will make full inquiries into the whole matter and take steps to see that German prisoners are not allowed to be used to beat down the wages of the islanders?


My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. The iron-ore mines at Raasay are worked by a firm acting as agents for the Ministry of Munitions. The population of Raasay are, save for two persons, not employed in the mines themselves, but on work of a miscellaneous character, generally labouring work, on the surface. The ordinary labourers are paid 5s. a day, but those with more skill are paid at a higher rate. The Raasay men, with the exceptions stated, have declined to work in the mines, where, if they worked and became efficient, they would receive 11s. a day. The work in the mines is done by men drawn from the mainland. No person belonging to the islands has been displaced by German labour, and more of the population are now employed than was the case when the mines were taken over by the Ministry. The suggestion that the introduction of German prisoners has been used to beat down the wages of the men of the island is entirely without foundation. With regard to the statements that crofters were told that they had forfeited their rights, and that part of the land applied for by them upon which to grow food is used as a sports ground for German prisoners, I have no information, but I will have inquiries made.