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West Indies

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 10 March 1943

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Food Supplies


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of food shortages in the West Indies, to what extent food rationing has been introduced; and what further plans are in hand for the equitable distribution of food in these Colonies?

Although shortages of particular foodstuffs will no doubt continue to occur in the West Indies, as elsewhere, the general food supply position is considerably better than it was some months ago, and efforts are continually being made to improve both the organisation of imports and the methods of local distribution and to increase local food production. Hitherto food rationing has not been introduced to any large extent, as more use has been made of the method of price control to ensure equitable distribution. I will send my hon. Friend a summary of what has been done on these lines.

Is the Minister aware that there is very great perturbation in most of the islands on account of the present situation and that the local Press emphasises the necessity of rationing?

Yes, Sir, the situation has been very difficult, and although, as I say, it has improved, it still gives rise to anxiety, but the hon. Member will realise the difficulty of applying our methods of rationing to countries where the administrative machine is perhaps not so complicated as it is here.

Welfare And Development (Stockdale Report)


asked the Prime Minister whether it is his intention to arrange for a day for the discussion of the Stockdale Report on Schemes of Welfare and Development in the West Indies, the Report on the Proposed Changes in the Jamaica Constitution and the Report on the Administration of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act?

Yes, Sir. A request has already been made for time for such discussion, and the Government hope to make the necessary arrangements.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the extent of unemployment in Jamaica and the principal West Indian Colonies; the recent steps which have been put into operation to deal with unemployment; and how many persons are now employed on public relief works?

As regards Jamaica, it is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the total number of unemployed persons, but approximately 12,000 persons are at present employed on Government relief works. When the census has been completed more precise figures will, of course, be available. A loan of £1,000,000 has been authorised, of which it is proposed to raise £500,000 as a first instalment, for relief works, which include schemes for swamp reclamation, road construction, anti-malarial measures, food storage and rural water supplies. No figures of persons employed on public relief works are available for the remaining West Indian Colonies. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of relief works in certain other West Indian Colonies.

Following are the details referred to:


The latest information indicates that there is no appreciable unemployment in Trinidad, but lists of work have been ordered to be prepared by the various departments to be used if the necessity arises.


The necessity is not acute, but funds have been made available for a relief scheme in case of necessity.

British Honduras.

The position has been seriously affected by the recent hurricane, and various relief measures are in operation for which a total sum of approximately £31,016 has already been provided.

British Guiana.

The position has been recently aggravated by prolonged rains and flood. One major and seven minor drainage schemes, estimated to cost £118,584, have been sanctioned in the last few weeks and these are expected to provide work for the majority of the unemployed in the Colony.

Palestine (Jewish Immigra Tion)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give particulars of the arrival of Jewish children and adults in Palestine from Iraq; and in what circumstances and by what means they were enabled to reach their destination?

I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the recent arrival in Palestine of Polish Jewish refugee children and adults from Persia who had been granted immigration certificates for Palestine, 858 children, 100 men and 269 women arrived in Palestine on 18th February, having travelled from Persia to Egypt by sea, and thence overland to Palestine.

Would it not be true to say that they reached their destination by the good will and efforts of the British Government, and under the protection of the Royal Navy?

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give any news as to the arrival in Palestine of any of the 4,000 children and of the 500 adults from Bulgaria whose transmission was promised to us? Are they on their way?

Can the Minister tell us whether there is any disposition on the part of the Government to increase the number of Jews who will be allowed to go to Palestine?

I made a very full statement on that the other day. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the number amounts to over 30,000.

Is the Minister aware of the tremendous persecution of the Jews; and does he not realise that that figure is quite inadequate?

If the hon. Gentleman realises the difficulty there was to get in even these 1,200, he will also realise the difficulty there is to get in 30,000.

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say whether they travelled in British ships or not?

This was arranged by the Ministry of War Transport, and I am afraid I am not certain of the nationality of the ships.

Colonial Affairs (Joint Standing Committee)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet come to a decision regarding the setting-up of a Joint Standing Advisory Colonial Committee consisting of representatives of both Houses of Parliament; and whether he is aware of the strong support given to the setting-up of such a Committee by Sir Hubert Young, ex-Governor of Trim-dad and Tobago, recently?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the full statement made on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Minister Resident in North Africa in the Debate on 26th November last, to which at present I have nothing to add. I am aware of the views expressed by Sir Hubert Young.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind the repeated requests that were made in this House regarding the setting-up of a Committee, and also the pre-eminence and urgency which Colonial problems will occupy in post-war times, and will he consider the matter from that angle?

Yes, Sir, I am very cognisant of that, but this is really not a matter you can deal with by question and answer. It was fully dealt with in this Debate, but I would point out that, although the hon. Gentleman asked for an Advisory Colonial Committee, Sir Hubert Young asked for a Joint Standing Committee, which would have full responsibility for formulating all plans and leave no responsibility either to the Secretary of State or to the House of Commons as a whole,

Road Transport


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what controls as to direction and employment are now exercised over road transport undertakings by his Department?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
(Mr. Noel-Baker)

A general control is exercised over road transport through the system of carriers' defence permits and the issue of motor fuel rations. In addition, the new Road Haulage Organisation now coming into operation will take over the direct control of long-distance traffic and of the vehicles by which that traffic was previously carried.

Will the Minister consider the possibility of issuing a statement which will describe the scope, conditions and terms of the existing road control?

Several statements have already been issued, but I will certainly consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend.

Is this the same Controller who authorises the use of vehicles to convey flowers, which actually means petrol, oil and labour? Does this actually mean one and the same person and that he is the person responsible for the authorities which were given in recent weeks?

Yes, Sir; I am answering another Question on that subject a little later.

44 and 58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (1) how many road vehicles have been licensed in the separate categories of A, B and C;

(2) how many persons now separately own road vehicles with either A or B licences?

The latest available figures which show separately the numbers of A, B and C licences, and the numbers of vehicles authorised under these licences, relate to the year 1938. If it would be of use to him, I will furnish my hon. Friend privately with the total number of goods vehicles now in use and with some general information about the classes of work on which they are engaged.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, what further steps are being taken to organise road transport so that it will play a more effective part in the war effort; and whether the necessity for doing this is being considered, especially in relation to the heavy call which is expected will be made on transport undertakings in the course of the current year?

My Noble Friend announced last November his intention to control long-distance road transport in order to ensure economy in the consumption of motor fuel and tyres, while at the same time maintaining a supply of transport immediately available to meet any increased demand or any emergency that may arise. The necessary organisation is now being set up. Some haulage firms have, by agreement, already become controlled undertakings and many others have made known their intention to do so. These controlled undertakings will provide the necessary facilities for the operating units, which will form the basis of the organisation. Already some nucleus units are in existence, and it will shortly be possible to proceed with arrangements for the hiring of the vehicles of other hauliers, provided these vehicles have been previously engaged wholly or mainly in the conveyance of the traffic which is to come under control.

Does either my hon. Friend or his Noble Friend take the view that when these rearrangements are completed we shall have reached a satisfactory position in road transport organisation?

I must remind my hon. Friend that we are working under difficult conditions, because our major objective now is to save petrol and rubber.

In view of my hon. Friend's statement that the over-riding consideration is economy in the use of fuel and tyres, will he see that his Department does not encourage any diversion of transport facilities from the electric railways to road transport?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say, broadly, whether the proposals of this scheme have met with general welcome or general hostility from the road transport organisations?

The road haulage industry is not well organised, and it is difficult to say what meets with their general approval, but a large number of the undertakings which have been invited to become controlled undertakings are accepting that invitation.

Can the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the road transport undertakings have come into the scheme?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that Question down. I can say, however, that it is a high proportion.

Post-War Transport (Reorganisation)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the broad outline of the proposals formulated by his Department for the post-war reorganisation of transport; and to whom have they been submitted?

When my Noble Friend has formulated definite proposals for the post-war reorganisation of transport, he will submit them to his colleagues in the Government for their consideration, but that stage has not been reached.

Am I to take it that there is under contemplation the State organisation of transport after the war?

I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman should make any assumptions.

War Cabinet (Departmental Responsibilities)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider separating the Ministry of Labour from the Ministry of National Service and the Home Office from the Ministry of Home Security and placing them under separate Ministers in order that the present War Cabinet Ministers may be free from heavy departmental responsibilities and enabled to give more time to their duties as members of the War Cabinet and to War Cabinet Committees?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether some of the bottlenecks in these Departments are due to the fact that Ministers have to spend much of their time at War Cabinet meetings; and does he think that Ministers can administer their Departments and at the same time give their full time to the War Cabinet Committee?

I am afraid that I do not know to what bottlenecks my hon. Friend refers, but it is certainly true, in the judgment of the Prime Minister, that this arrangement is the best that we can contrive.

Forestry Commission (Scottish Questions)


asked the Prime Minister whether in view of the fact that the Forestry Commission controls 603,000 acres of ground in Scotland, as against 459,000 in England, he will consider arranging for all Questions in this House concerning forestry matters in Scotland to be addressed to, and answered by, the Secretary of State for Scotland?

As indicated by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) on 2nd February last, the future of forestry in this country is one of the many subjects already engaging the attention of His Majesty's Government, and I do not think that it would be appropriate to make the change proposed in the present arrangements.

Would it not meet the position suggested in the Question if the functions of the Forestry Commission, as applied to Scotland, were vested in the Scottish Department of Agriculture?

Electoral Machinery (Reform)


asked the Prime Minister whether following' the precedent of the great war, it is proposed to set up a committee, at a reasonably early date, to enquire into the working of the electoral system?

As my hon. Friend is aware, the question of electoral machinery has been the subject of a recent inquiry. The recommendations of the Committee are under the immediate consideration of the Government. To set up another Committee to consider the wider question of electoral reform would not seem to be an appropriate course in present circumstances,

Does not the Minister feel that it is a very dangerous thing at the present time that all young people under the ages of 24–25 have no vote and therefore feel detached from Parliamentary institutions, and cannot something be done to rectify the matter?

Yes, Sir. However that may be, it is not a question for electoral reform; it is a problem for the new Register.

Will not my right hon. Friend re-consider the promise that has three times been made on behalf of the Government that there would be an opportunity in this Parliament for the consideration of this matter?

This Report has been received—a voluminous Report, as my hon. Friend knows—and there may be an opportunity for a discussion at a later date. It is presently being examined by the Government.

Has not this to deal with a possible emergency? What is demanded is that there should be an inquiry into the whole system, as was the case in the last war.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that in the election of 1918 as many votes were cast against the Government as for them?

Post-War Reconstruction


asked the Prime Minister what Minister will be in charge of legislation, foreshadowed in February, 1942, for dispersal of industries and population from congested areas and for encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development; when such legislation may be expected; and is he aware that great local authorities are having their plans for after-war building held up because the will of Parliament in such major problems of reconstruction is not yet fully expressed?

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio informed the House on 1st December, 1942, the consideration of general future policy in reconstruction matters is proceeding under the supervision of a Committee of Ministers over which he presides. It will be for that Committee to consider what legislation is necessary for these purposes. Bills which relate to the control and use of land will be in charge of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The decision as to which Minister will be in charge of any other necessary Bills will depend upon their nature. The Government recognise the importance to local authorities of Government decisions on major problems of reconstruction, and such decisions will be reached as soon as the investigations now proceeding and the exigencies of the war allow.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the necessity for an early decision with regard to planning if private builders and local authorities are to be in a position to start building houses when hostilities terminate?

Does that mean that the Government have to come to a decision and that Parliament is not to have a say?

Post-War Employment


asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to set up a Select Committee to consider the problem of maintaining full employment after the war, and to make recommendations?

I do not consider that the appointment of a Select Committee would be appropriate in this case.

My Question has been rewritten, no doubt in conformity with the practice of the House, but may I ask whether the Government have this question under consideration? It is no use waiting until the end of hostilities.

The point I had in mind was that this matter could not be dissociated from the general Government economic policy over the whole field. As the hon. Member will know from my earlier answers as Foreign Secretary, certain events are moving there.

Trees, Trentham Area


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the concern expressed by the City of Stoke-on-Trent at the instructions given for the cutting down of practically the whole of the trees in the Trentham area; why this area was selected before the big estates and woods throughout the country, which are many miles from industrial centres, while Trentham is the main one left in North Staffordshire and was to be developed for the benefit of the industrial population; and whether he will give further consideration to this?

No instructions have been issued for the cutting down of trees in the Trentham area. Consideration is, however, being given, in consultation with the local authority, to the possibility of felling a certain number of trees in the area.

Will the Minister take the views of local authorities into consideration?

Have the Government any policy with regard to replanting trees for amenity purposes in various parts of the country where, in industrial areas, trees break the effect of the harshness of industry?

Cotton Tyres


asked the Minister of Supply whether he can give any information in connection with cotton bicycle tyres; whether he has received a report from the scientists of his Ministry about them; and whether the cotton tyres will be suitable for motor-cars?

Tests of cotton bicycle tyres under road conditions are not yet complete. Motor car tyres made of cotton are also being investigated, but results so far are not promising.