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High Commission Territories

Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Relations – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1957.

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Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough 12:00 am, 9th May 1957

asked the Under- Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when it is intended to set up a minimum wage rate in Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland for agricultural and industrial workers, respectively.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

The High Commissioner has the power under the Laws of Basutoland, the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland to prescribe a minimum wage and to establish wage boards in the Territories. It has not yet proved necessary to use these powers.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Can the hon. Gentleman really say that, in view of the disgraceful standard of wages paid in the three Territories, particulars of which I gave in a speech this week? Will he follow the example of many Colonial Territories, where minimum wages are in operation?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

The actual level of wages is the subject of a subsequent Question, but I can say that the Resident Commissioner in Basutoland is proposing to consider means for improving wage rates in the Territory, and when the High Commissioner comes back to London, as he will shortly, I intend to discuss with him the matter of wages in the Territories.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations the daily rates of pay of unskilled workers employed by the Public Works Departments of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, respectively.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

The daily rates of pay of unskilled workers employed by the Public Works Departments in Basutoland, the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland are as follows:

Basutoland: From 2s. 6d. to 6s. a day.

Bechuanaland: From 3s. to 4s. a day.

Swaziland: From Is. 6d.—youths only—to 6s. a day.

In each case free rations are supplied in addition.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

In view of the criticisms which the hon. Gentleman made of my statement about this matter this week, can he give any indication whether there is housing accommodation for the unskilled workers? Is he aware that I took my figures from official statements, and that in those statements there was no mention of either rations or housing accommodation?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

The hon. Gentleman may remember that the figures he gave were 9d. to Is. 5d. a day, which are very much below those which I have quoted. If he looks at HANSARD, he will see that I was referring, as indeed was the context of the remarks, to agricultural wages generally.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what projects have been financed from the Colonial Development Corporation in Basutoland.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Then is it not a scandal, in view of the fact that in Basutoland there are only three miles of tarred roads and only one mile of railway, and that there are being discovered there uranium and thorium which ought to be developed in order to raise the standard of life of the people rather than the profits of private companies? When is the Colonial Development Corporation going to do something about it?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

I am not responsible for the Colonial Development Corporation in this particular matter. I am quite certain that, if the Colonial Development Corporation found projects which would interest it in Basutoland, it would be the first to take advantage of investment in that territory. So far as my Department is concerned, we should welcome interest of this sort. As a matter of fact, the Colonial Development Corporation is considering a project for the Oxbow Lake Scheme, at an estimated cost of about £9 million, which is connected with the provision of power for that area and elsewhere in neighbouring areas. But we have no knowledge of the occurrence of uranium and thorium in Basutoland. If such discoveries are made, it would, of course, be invaluable because it would make a great deal of difference to the economic position of the Protectorate.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

Can the Under-Secretary of State tell us whether the Colonial Development Corporation will have the £9 million to develop this scheme in any case? Is it not clear from its Report that it is already committed up to the maximum to which it is entitled to borrow, and will not the Government have to make more money available to it?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

That is not a question for me.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

Further to that reply, may I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he is not responsible for these Protectorates, and is it not the case that the Colonial Development Corporation is itself responsible for financing developments of this sort in the Protectorates? Has he not, therefore, a direct responsibility?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

Questions with regard to the finances of the Colonial Development Corporation are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary.