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West Indies

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1943

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Virgin Islands (Tobacco Industry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the difficult situation facing the tobacco industry in the Virgin Islands; and what action is being taken to remedy the position?

Yes, Sir. Attempts were made between the years 1939 and 1942 to foster the tobacco industry of the Virgin Islands with the aid of financial assistance from the local Government. These efforts were unsuccessful, and the Governor of the Leeward Islands has been advised to consult the Inspector-General of Agriculture in the West Indies as to the best methods of renewing the attempt to develop this industry.

United States Bases (Wages)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies who is responsible for the level of wages on the American bases in the West Indies?

The United States representatives fix the rates in consultation with the Colonial authorities.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British or foreign subjects are now under detention or restraint in the West Indian Colonies for alleged subversive activities in connection with trade union or political work?

No persons are detained under the local. Defence Regulations or placed under restriction in the West Indian Colonies on account of their trade union activities. According to my information, detention orders under Defence Regulations on account of political activities likely to be prejudicial to public safety and defence are in force against one person in British Guiana and three in Trinidad; in British Honduras there is one person and in Jamaica two persons subject to certain restrictions. All these persons are British subjects.

Stockdale Report (Implementation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action the Government propose to take over the Stockdale Report; and how much of the money voted for the West Indies has been spent on relieving unemployment and raising the social and economic condition of the people of those islands?

Many of the schemes recommended in the Stockdale Report have been approved, and are in operation; others are under discussion with the Governors or otherwise under active consideration. In some cases, there are difficulties owing to the shortage of personnel or supplies. All expenditure on approved schemes is directed towards the improvement of social or economic conditions. In many cases schemes operate in relief of unemployment, but it is not possible to assess separately the amounts so expended.

Has all the money voted for this purpose been actually expended in the islands?

I think that if the hon. Gentleman had read the two days' Debate we had on this subject, he would see the position set out very clearly.

Burma (Operations)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the progress of operations in the Burma theatre of war?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to have an opportunity of making a general statement on the war before we separate for Whitsuntide. The operations in Burma would have their appropriate place in this.

Gas Warfare (Retaliatory Measures)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it clear that in the event of the enemy using gas as an implement of war this country is in a position to retaliate on an even more terrible scale?

It is not thought necessary to add to the carefully weighed statements which have been made upon this point.

In view of the fact that we have to depend upon newspaper reports for what has been described as the "forgotten front," can we have an assurance that the supply of tanks and aircraft has not been forgotten or wholly ignored?

Post-War Civil Aviation


asked the Minister without Portfolio whether he will give an assurance that no decision has been taken by the Government which would have the effect of placing all British overseas air transport services after the war in the hands of one organisation?

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it will be a major disaster if there is no real enterprise in our air transport services after the war, and could he say exactly what are the implications of the decision he has just announced?

As I explained the other day, we have been careful not to attempt to fix the national set-up until we know what arrangements, if any, can be made internationally with regard to civil aviation.

May we assume that there is absolutely no decision of any kind so far?

Machine Tools


asked the Minister of Production whether he is aware of the shortage of tools and equipment for machine tools; and what steps he is taking to switch over the production of surplus machine tools to the production of these much-needed accessories?

I am not aware of any general shortage of tools and equipment for machine tools. There is, of course, a tendency on the part of contractors to specify a more lavish provision of fittings and tools than is necessary. Over ordering of this kind is obviously liable to cause shortages, and the Machine Tool Control is organised so that all possible steps are taken to check the tendency. As I assured the hon. Member in reply to his Question on 17th February, where it becomes advantageous to switch capacity for making machine tools to the production of tools and equipment, this course is followed.

Can my right hon. Friend explain how it is that he is not aware of a shortage of these tools when in point of fact some manufacturers are completely snowed under with orders for them, and that in the case of one very essential tool, there is a waiting list of over six months? Can he explain why it is that the knowledge of the situation in his Department is so different from the appreciation of the situation in the country?

If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of this case, I shall be glad to look into it. There is no general shortage of tools or machine tools equipment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the machine tool position in the shipbuilding industry?

Could I have an answer to my Supplementary Question? I want to know if the Minister is satisfied with the machine tool position in the shipbuilding industry.

That is quite a different question. If my hon. Friend will put it down, I shall be glad to give him an answer.

Am I to take it that we do not use machine tools in the shipbuilding industry?

Joint Production Committees (District Problems)


asked the Minister of Production what steps are being taken to fill the gap in organisation now existing by the establishment of joint district production committees?

Joint production committees at individual firms were set up by agreement between the Engineering Federation and the unions concerned. Any suggestion for the setting-up of similar joint district production committees is a matter for consideration by both sides of industry. I would, however, remind the hon. Member that official machinery for the discussion of district production problems exists in the District Committees which have been set up under the Regional Boards of the Ministry of Production.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to the recent article on this subject in "The Times," where it was pointed out that there was a serious gap in that chain as regards the district committees, and does he propose to take any action?

I have pointed out that the district committees under the regional board serve this purpose.

Is it not a fact that these gaps in the chain of committees are the only loopholes through which manufacturers can escape and get on with their work?

Will the Minister see that all these committees which are in existence are doing their work and not create any more?