Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1974.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any statement to make about the situation in Grenada.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When I went to put down a Private Notice Question about Grenada I was told that as Question No. 26 was on the Order Paper it would be answered in that way. As it has not been reached, may I ask whether the Minister is prepared to make a statement, because this is a serious matter?
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
I think this is a matter that the hon. Lady and the Government had best settle together. It is not a point of order for me.
If it is your wish, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am willing to answer Question No. 26.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be for the convenience of the House if the clock above your head were synchronised with the digital clock, which no hon. Member can see, on the Clerk's desk?
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
As far as I know, all the clocks in the Chamber are synchronised. The time is what I choose to make it, neither more nor less.
With permission, I will answer Question No. 26.
I regret to have to inform the House that there have been a series of demonstrations against the Grenada Government in recent weeks with consequential casualties including some deaths. There are continuing strikes which have interrupted the electricity supply and the telephone service. Industrial action in Grenada and elsewhere has also contributed to serious shortages of oil and scarcity of imported food. There have, however, been no violent demonstrations reported over the last few days and no reports of threats to the British community in Grenada.
As the island is supposed to become independent on 7th February and as the West Indies Act states in Schedule 2 that there could be a referendum before independence, may I ask whether that will be considered?
Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether it is true—we have heard rumours—that many people, including the Governor, have fled from Grenada to neighbouring islands and that some people fear that there may be a danger of civil war in the island? In those circumstances, will he confirm that Prince Richard will no longer go to the independence celebrations? Will he also tell us whether arrangements are being made to evacuate British residents in Grenada, if necessary, and what other action, if any, we could usefully take to help?
It would be wrong for me to try to prophesy future events. It is true that a number of persons have left the island because of the disturbances that have taken place there. I repeat that no violent demonstrations have been reported in the last few days and there have been no threats to members of the British community in Grenada. Naturally there are always contingency arrangements to secure the well-being of British communities in every part of the world. These arrangements exist for this part as for elsewhere.
It had been intended that His Royal Highness Prince Richard of Gloucester, accompanied by Princess Richard, should represent the Queen at the independence ceremonies. In view of the conditions in Grenada, Her Majesty's Government have consulted the Premier, Mr. Gairy, and have, we regret, advised Her Majesty that the visit should be cancelled.