Mr. David Adams:
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that minimum wage laws have now been enacted in 40 Colonies, but that only in nine are any minimum wages actually in force; and whether, as the absence of such minimum standards is the cause of depressed living conditions, steps will be taken to encourage the implementing of minimum wage laws?
Yes, Sir. My Noble Friend is aware of the position as stated in the first part of the Question. He is, however, anxious that wherever possible the payment of adequate wages should be arranged by amicable agreement between the parties, without it becoming necessary to have recourse to the powers conferred by the minimum wage legislation. Every encouragement is being given by the Colonial Governments to the promotion of such collective bargaining, and in a very large number of cases adjustments of wages to meet fluctuations in the cost of living have been arranged without intervention on the part of the Government since the outbreak of war.
In view of the fact that in many Colonies no such organisation exists, surely, as the Minister has again and again recommended Governors to pursue a certain course, he might recommend in this case the establishment of minimum scales of wages?
In many Colonies there are no, or only small, industrial undertakings. If my hon. Friend will look into the matter further, he will see what is being done in most of the Colonies.
Is the Minister not aware that in many Colonies the promotion of bodies designed to secure collective bargaining is in itself an act of sedition involving very heavy penalties? How can any Governor promote collective bargaining while legislation of that kind exists?
My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. There are few Colonies to which that criticism applies. There are some, but we are endeavouring to deal with that matter.