Cyprus (Industrial Conditions)

Oral Answers to Questions — Jewish Refugees – in the House of Commons on 3rd February 1943.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information respecting industrial disputes in Cyprus; what steps have been taken to meet the 175 per cent. rise in the cost of living; how many have been arrested and sentenced in connection with strikes; and what action is proposed to meet Cypriot economic needs and growing political demands?

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement regarding the present crisis in Cyprus caused by the increased cost of living and the suppression of trade union activity designed to secure a remedy; and whether he will order the release of imprisoned trade unionists and arrange for the ban against anti-Fascist clubs and centres to be lifted?

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I apologise to the House that the answer is necessarily a long one.

Hon. Members:

Read it at the end of Questions.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

With permission, I will circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

In view of the importance of this matter, might it not be more convenient for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to answer this Question at the end of Questions?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

Perhaps it would be more convenient to allow us to get through a few more Questions.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that through these Questions not being answered now some of those who are interested in this very important matter will not be able to elicit further information from the Secretary of State, and should not that be possible, seeing that other Members have opportunities to do so?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

There are a large number of Questions remaining, and the Minister has said that this is a very long answer.

At the end of Questions:

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

On a point of Order. The Questions which were addressed to the Colonial Secretary were put off in deference to the convenience of the House and because of the large number of Questions. Might we not ask for those Questions to be dealt with now? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think the House would be willing to give time.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

It appears to be the wish of hon. Members that they should be circulated by means of the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

On that point of Order. May I respectfully point out that the answers circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT as a rule are statistical in character, whereas those with which we are concerned are of a different character, and that if the course now proposed is taken as a precedent, many answers of a most valuable kind may not be given by Ministers upon the Floor of the House at all?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

That is a hypothetical question.

Following is the answer:

Twenty-five industrial disputes were reported to the Labour Department in Cyprus between January and October, 1942. In December workmen employed by the Government on defence and other work at Nicosia struck for higher wages. The strike lasted 10 days.

I am not aware that there is a crisis in Cyprus caused by the increased cost of living nor that the legitimate activities of trade unions are being suppressed. The cost of living index figure in Cyprus has risen from 100 in August, 1939, to 246 on 1st January, 1943. To meet this increase wages have been raised; bread is subsidised; the Government have assumed complete control over all essential imports as regards both price and distribution, and similar control is being extended to local produce. Active measures are being taken against profiteering and the black market. A Committee has been appointed to advise on measures for stabilising the cost of living. The economic needs of Cyprus are being met by increased local production and by a planned programme of imports which is operated in consultation with the Minister of State. But owing to the general shipping and supply situation shortages in certain commodities are from time to time unavoidable.

With regard to the seven trade unionists convicted in the courts of offences, I should like, in view of the misleading reports which have reached here, to give the correct facts. They were prosecuted in the courts under the criminal law as the result of information laid by a private individual. The complainant was a man who had declined to strike, and the case against the accused was that they visited his house, some of them carrying sticks. He hid from them, and when they did not find him they threatened his wife and daughter that if he persisted in working they would assault and kill him. They were convicted on two counts and sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months on each, the sentences to run concurrently. They appealed. The appeals were on one count allowed, on a technicality, but on the other count they were dismissed.

I have no information regarding a ban against anti-Fascists' clubs and centres in Cyprus.