Oral Answers to Questions — West Africa (Cost of Living).

– in the House of Commons on 25th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies the approximate rise in the cost of living in the West African Colonies, and whether wages have risen proportionately both respecting Government and other coloured and white employees; and whether there is an adequate store of foodstuffs for present and future consumption?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Stockton-on-Tees

As the reply is necessarily of some length, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Are steps being taken to deal with the hardship arising from the increasing cost of living?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Stockton-on-Tees

Yes, Sir. The reply will set out the various steps that have been taken.

Following is the text of the reply:

It is known that in all of the West African Colonies the rise in the cost of living has been substantial. The position is being closely watched by the Governments and last July the Government of Sierra Leone published a report of a detailed survey which had been made earlier in the year by a special committee appointed for the purpose. In this report it was estimated that the increase in the cost of living based on the main items of expenditure was 75 per cent. above the average for the year 1939. The Governor, however, said that this figure must be accepted with some reserve, owing to the difficulties experienced by the committee in obtaining reliable information. Steps have been taken by all four Governments with the object of ensuring that the wages of Government employees are adjusted to meet the increased cost of living either by means of bonuses or by an increase in the basic wage if the latter is deemed to be unreasonably low. Such bonuses have already been granted in Sierra Leone, following the consideration of the committee's report and apply to all persons in Government employment whose rate of remuneration is less than six shillings per day or £93 a year.

In the Gold Coast a committee was appointed last autumn to investigate the cost of living, and approval has been given to a recommendation made by it for the payment of a 20 per cent. bonus to all Government labourers in receipt of wages not exceeding two shillings and sixpence per day.

In Nigeria a special committee was appointed in November to consider the adequacy of the rates paid to Government employees in the township of Lagos in the light of the rise in the cost of living.

In the Gambia the general wage position of manual labourers was investigated last spring by a commission of inquiry, and an order was made last July providing for minimum rates of wages for all unskilled manual labourers employed in the neighbourhood of Bathurst.

It is hoped that these examples will be followed by industrial concerns in the territories, without the Government having to seek recourse to the powers conferred by the minimum wage legislation. In Sierra Leone a number of agreements providing for bonuses to meet the rise in the cost of living have been reached between some of the more important employers and their labourers, and in some of these cases the Labour Officer has acted as Arbitrator.

As regards the last part of the Question, measures were taken some time ago with a view to maintaining adequate stocks of foodstuffs and the position continues to be carefully watched.