asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what were the wages paid to labourers on Government and private coconut plantations in the Seychelles; what was the price of copra in 1947 and 1951, respectively; and, in view of the increased cost of living, whether the food subsidies will be restored.
The proclaimed monthly minimum wage for labourers on coconut plantations, based on a 33½ hours' week, was Rs. 16 in 1947 and Rs. 18.50 cents in 1951. It was increased to Rs. 22.20 cents for Government labour in August, 1951. Most labourers can, and many do, earn two or three times the minimum wage. It is believed that the wages paid on private plantations are approximately the same. The price for copra in 1947 was £40 10s. per ton; the average price for 1951 was £84 16s. Expenditure on food subsidies in 1947 was nil and in 1951 Rs. 432,000 (£32,400). A similar amount has been provided for food subsidies in the current year's Estimates. It will again be devoted to maize and coconut oil. There is no intention of restoring the subsidies on rice and sugar.
In view of the fact that, not only has the price of copra risen steeply but the cost of living has gone up even more steeply, will not the right hon. Gentleman take steps in order to avoid what undoubtedly is, and is likely to be increasing, hardship among the people of that island?
The price of copra has now fallen, and I should be very careful about interfering in the negotiations.
Does that mean the right hon. Gentleman favours a policy of laissez-faire in this respect?
No, it does not. I am watching the position now and if intervention is necessary, I shall, of course, take it, but I want to be careful.