Jamaica.

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence. – in the House of Commons at on 4 May 1938.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of serious unrest in Jamaica and that many children are suffering from lack of food; whether the threat of a hunger march has been averted by the police; and whether he intends to take action to meet the situation?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

I assume that the hon. Member's question is based on a recent Press report containing information which, I am informed by the Governor, is out of date and grossly exaggerated. I have no information that children in Jamaica are suffering from lack of food. The reference to a hunger march appears to relate to a demonstration by ex-British West Indies Regiment Association members which took place on the Kingston racecourse on 14th August, 1937. The association subsequently apologised to the Governor for the disturbances, and its grievances were later discussed in full and steps were taken where possible to meet them. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer to the reply given to the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) on 27th April.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in fact, serious disturbances have broken out? Has he been acquainted of these disturbances, and if not, will he take steps to get all the information necessary and publish a report at an early date?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

The next question that I shall answer deals with disturbances, but I wish to make it clear that I have no information of any disturbances at Kingston. The disturbances have been a long way from Kingston.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Riley Mr Benjamin Riley , Dewsbury

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as recently as August, 1937, a petition was presented to the Governor of Jamaica asking him to have an inquiry into labour conditions in the island, and what action did the Government take?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

The petition was received, it was accepted, and the commission is now at work.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I did not mention Kingston in my question?

Photo of Mr Roland Robinson Mr Roland Robinson , Blackpool

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to disturbances on the West Indies sugar estates near Savana-la-Mar, Jamaica, on Sunday, 1st May; what action was taken to quell the disturbances; and whether these disturbances have now ceased?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

I have received a telegraphic report on these disturbances from the Governor. It appears that a slight disturbance occurred on Friday, 29th April, on the West Indies Sugar Company's Frome Estate in the Parish of Westmorland, where a new factory is now being erected, during the payment of weekly wages. Some windows were broken, but there were no casualties, and one hour later the police inspector found that all was quiet. On the following day, between 400 and 500 labourers employed on the new factory struck for higher wages, but the situation remained quiet and no disturbance occurred through the week-end. Ninety extra police were drafted to the area. It appears, however, that on Monday, 2nd May, a crowd of about 3,000 strikers demolished the company's office at Old Frome, attacking the staff and police with stones, sticks and iron bars, necessitating immediate firing by the police. Motor traffic was attacked on the road nearby, and some 80 acres of cane near the factory were fired. Four persons were killed and nine wounded, and 93 arrests were made. The disturbances appear to have been entirely local in character and due to trouble on the particular estate. The latest report indicates that the situation is now quiet.

Photo of Mr Roland Robinson Mr Roland Robinson , Blackpool

Will my right hon. Friend take strong action to maintain law and order in the West Indies, and at the same time make it clear throughout the British Empire that just grievances can always be remedied by constitutional action?

Photo of Mr William Lunn Mr William Lunn , Rothwell

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman again whether he will send out a commission to inquire into the horrible conditions that exist not only in Jamaica but in the West Indies, so as to settle what is the cause of these disturbances?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

We have just had a Commission on Trinidad and, as I informed the House, the new labour adviser to the Colonial Office is going out to the West Indies; a special inquiry is now sitting in Jamaica, and we have had one in Barbados. When an incident takes place such as this one, of course, there must be a special inquiry, but as to the character of that special inquiry, naturally I must consult the Governor before taking any steps.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that they are not allowed to form a trade union in Jamaica, and that therefore they cannot follow the usual constitutional method?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not so. We now have trade union machinery fully working in the West Indies.