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West Indies

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1947

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Medical Officer, Grenada (Dismissal)

27, 28 and 29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) for what reason, Dr. Walter Hughes, a native of Grenada, British West Indies, now residing at Ebro, Ontario, Canada, until recently holding by appointment a medical post as District Medical Officer in Grenada. has been dismissed from the Colonial Medical Service; whether there was a local inquiry into his conduct before his dismissal; whether he had and exercised any right of appeal to the Secretary of State; and if, in view of the importance of this case in the Colonial Medical Service, he will make a statement on the case;

(2) whether he is aware that Dr. Walter Hughes, of Ebro, Ontario, Canada, who was recently dismissed from the Colonial Medical Service in Grenada, is not listed as a registered qualified general practitioner in the latest Legal Register, 1947, compiled by the General Medical Council of Great Britain; whether he was employed in the Colonial Medical Service only on his Canadian qualification and registration; if this is the present usual procedure; and whether this doctor, a native of Grenada, had been granted a scholarship out of the revenues of this Colony to enable him to qualify in medicine.

(3) whether reports submitted by Dr. Walter Hughes, formerly a district medical officer in Grenada, British West Indies, during his employment on the health services of this Colony, and of his particular medical district in the island received careful consideration from the local government and its medical advisers, and especially at any local medical inquiry; and whether the report of the whole proceedings in connection with this medical officer's appointment and retirement will be placed in the Library of this House.

In view of the allegations made by this man in a British newspaper I have prepared a full statement on the case in answer to these Questions, and, with my hon. Friend's permission, will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear in the interests of the Colonial Medical Service in the West Indies, that this poor medical graduate with his malignant idiosyncrasies has unfairly and untruthfully attacked the medical personnel in this island, and that the publicity given to his mendacious report was most unjustified and malicious?

I accept most of what my hon. Friend has said and I hope the reply I have given him will receive wide notice.

Following is the reply:

Dr. Hughes was never a member of the Colonial Medical Service. He was engaged as a district medical officer by the Government of Grenada on an agreement on one year's probation, in October, 1946. Early this year the Citizens' Association of the district in which he worked made complaints about him, and elected Members of the Legislative Council made representations expressing dissatisfaction with his behaviour towards the public. There was no formal inquiry, but investigations were made by the Acting Head of the Medical Department.

In March, 1947, the Governor of the Windward Islands, acting upon the advice of the Executive Council, terminated Dr. Hughes' appointment, granting him a passage back to Canada and the leave to which his service entitled him. I confirmed the Governor's action, which in my view was justified since Dr. Hughes had shown himself to be temperamentally unsuited for the Service. Dr. Hughes made no appeal to me against the decision.

Dr. Hughes is not registered as a qualified general practitioner by the General Medical Council of Great Britain. He is a Doctor of Medicine of the University of Western Ontario and Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada. He was registered locally in accordance with a special decision of the Executive Council under Section 6 ( c) of the Grenada Medical and Dentists Registration Ordinance. The qualification would not normally be registrable in Grenada. Appointments to the permanent and pensionable establishment are made only in the case' of practitioners who hold medical qualifications registrable in the United Kingdom.

I understand that before his engagement Dr. Hughes, although born in Grenada, had resided for some 20 years in Canada; he has never received a scholarship from the Government of Greneda for medical training.

I have received no information to the effect that Dr. Hughes submitted any reports to the Government of Grenada. Certain local conditions of which he complained at the time when he was employed as a district medical officer received careful consideration from the local Government, and Dr. Hughes was afforded a personal interview with the Administrator.

I am expecting a further communication from the Acting Governor, and on its receipt will communicate further with my hon. Friend.

As regards medical conditions in Grenada it has unfortunately been the case that there have been shortages of drugs and equipment due to the world-wide wartime difficulties of obtaining supplies, but the allegations made regarding the inefficiency of the administration are either false or exaggerated misrepresentations. The facilities available are generally similar to those of other small Colonies, and it is the constant endeavour of the local administration to improve them.

Relief And Resettlement, Jamaica


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what ways the Government of Jamaica has revised and extended its plans for relief and resettlement, in view of the present grave discontent amongst unemployed and ex-Service men.

As the answer is long and contains figures, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate the information which he seeks in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the information:

(a) Relief of unemployment. Unemployment is most serious in the Corporate Area of Kingston and St. Andrew. Two programmes of special works prepared by the Corporation and costing altogether £285,312, of which the Government is contributing half, were approved last year. £37,231 still remain to be spent on works included in the first programme, and £56,374 on works included in the second programme. The Corporation has submitted a third programme, proposing that the cost should also be met partly by Government grant. This third programme has now been revised in consultation between representatives of the Government and of the Corporation, and it is expected that part of the programme, covering work on roads and gullies at a cost of approximately £158,000, will shortly be put into effect.
With regard to unemployment outside the Corporate Area, a programme of special works costing £75,000 for the relief of unemployment was approved in November of last year. The estimate for this year includes a number of new works providing employment which are to be put in hand in the near future.
(b) Resettlement of ex-Service men. Schemes estimated to cost at least £500,000 have already been approved and a number of changes have been made to the advantage of ex-Service men since the schemes were first announced at the beginning of 1946. These advantages particularly affect assistance to ex-Service men in land settlement and housing. There was some administrative delay in putting certain of these schemes into effect but at the beginning of 1947 the hon. Major A. G. Curphey, M.B.E., M.C., an officer with long experience of welfare work for ex-Service men, agreed to offer his services as Director of the Re-Absorption Department. He has been able to make improvements in the administration of schemes of assistance. In particular, he has made new arrangements for co-operation between his department and the other departments concerned to reduce delay in the execution of the schemes.

Prohibited Demonstrations Jamaica (Proclamation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what were the reasons for the prohibition of demonstrations by the Governor of Jamaica; under what powers his proclamation was issued; and when it is proposed to restore freedom of assembly.

This action was taken solely in order to prevent breaches of the peace. The Governor issued his proclamation in the exercise of powers conferred upon him by the Jamaica Public Meetings Law No. 27 of 1939, as amended by No. 31 of 1940. The proclamation will be revoked as soon as it may safely be considered that the dangers against which it provides no longer exist.

Is it not unfortunate that the powers of this Act were only imposed when the demonstrations were against the party in power in the House of Representatives and not when there was such a demonstration in favour of this party which actually penetrated into the House of Representatives itself?

There has been notice of a further demonstration, and in the steps taken by the Governor he had the unanimous support of the Executive Council.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to agree that this is a typical example of a police state?

Trinidad (Murder Of Oilfield Official)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether his attention has been drawn to the shooting, in Trinidad, of Mr. Deryk Ashmead-Bartlett, who died on 25th April from revolver-shot wounds; whether his murderers have yet been arrested; and if he will make a full statement.

I would invite the hon. Member's attention to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Seven-oaks (Colonel Ponsonby) on 21st of May. I regret to say that the murderers have not yet been identified or arrested, but inquiries are continuing.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that within the limits of their power the police are doing everything they can to arrest those responsible?

That is so, and I believe that a much larger sum has now been offered in order to assist the effort to find the murderers.