Oral Answers to Questions — West Indies (Unemployment)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1948.

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Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon 12:00 am, 16th June 1948

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will inquire into the circumstances in which some 400 unemployed West Indians have sailed for this country in search of work; what provision he is making for the welfare of these men on their arrival here; and if he will issue a warning in the West Indies that, although some industries in Britain are undermanned, it is not easy for large numbers of unskilled or skilled immigrants to find suitable work here at once, and also initiate more vigorous efforts to deal with the considerable unemployment in the West Indies, especially among ex-Service men in Jamaica.

Mr. Creech Jones:

The West Indians in question booked their passages privately. I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Labour and National Service, with regard to their welfare and employment on arrival. All of them were warned about the employment position before they sailed, and the situation in regard to employment in Britain has been made fully known to the people of the West Indies. It would appear, however, that the men concerned are prepared to take their chances of finding employment. The West Indian Governments are fully aware of the need to do everything possible to relieve the unemployment position.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions? First, has he arranged suitable accommodation, in hostels or otherwise, for these men, pending their employment, so that they will not merely drift down into the underworld; and, secondly, is he aware that the West Indian Governments have not done anything like enough—despite their awareness of the situation—to cope with the resettlement and employment of ex-Service men?

Mr. Creech Jones:

I cannot accept the last part of the supplementary question and it would take far too long to explain the steps that have been taken by the West Indian Governments. As to the first part of the supplementary, this question of accommodating is very difficult and we are doing everything in our power to receive these men and find a place in which they can lodge.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Bristol West

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the experience during the war was that unless these West Indian workers were carefully vetted before coming over here and their capabilities ascertained the experiment would be a complete failure, and will he make certain that if this is going to continue some organisation will be set up for the West Indians to ascertain beforehand if they are likely to be suitable for employment over here?

Mr. Creech Jones:

We recognise the need for some vetting, but obviously we cannot interfere with the movement of British subjects. It is very unlikely that a similar event to this will occur again in the West Indies. We are very mindful of the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.