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Tobago

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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Land Settlement

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, how much land suitable for cultivation in Tobago is at present uncultivated; and what plans have been made by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to assist the settlement of landless peasants on smallholdings in Tobago.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question cannot be furnished until the results of the census of 1946 have been compiled. I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as the figures are available. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer to my reply to the Question on this subject asked today by my hon. Friend, the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams).

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, how many estates have been put up for sale in Tobago within the last five years; whether the local government has taken over any land for distribution to landless peasants with assisted purchase; and whether there are any plans for such action in the future.

I regret that the answer to the first part of this Question could not be ascertained without research into a large number of deeds. The Colonial Government have recently acquired an estate of 600 acres in Tobago with the object of establishing an agricultural experiment and demonstration centre of some 80 acres, and creating a land settlement for peasantry. There are no further plans at present for the acquisition of land for settlement.

Will my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that the rentals proposed in these cases are such as to make the development of the smallholdings a practicable proposition for peasants with small means?

I know that to be the desire of the Trinidad Government, but I will so inform them.

Steamship Service

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that the Government steamship service serving the island of Tobago is efficient and that its fares are as low as possible.

yes, Sir. I am aware that the two steamers in use are small in relation to the volume of traffic, but it has not yet been found possible to replace them by a larger ship, owing to the high level of shipbuilding costs.

Medical Service

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient doctors in Tobago to attend to the needs of the population; what public health service is provided by the Government; and whether he is aware that the cost of medical attention is almost prohibitive for the poor.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

There are four Government medical officers, three of whom are full time officers. The Russell Committee recommended in 1944 that in addition to the three medical officers then employed, there should be a full-time qualified county medical officer of health and a house surgeon for the principal hospital. Since then an additional part-time medical officer has been appointed, and I am making inquiries whether further steps have been taken. The nursing staff numbers nine, and includes a matron and three health visitors; there are five sanitary inspectors. The Colonial Government provide one 60-bedded hospital, which can be expanded to 70 beds, and 12 health offices and dispensaries. An intensive campaign against yaws, hookworm and malaria is being carried out at the present time.

As regards the last part of my hon. Friend's Question, paupers and old age pensioners receive free medical treatment. Persons in possession of a poverty certificate from the local administration, or from the public assistance authorities, pay 15. the receipt for which entitles them to medical treatment for a fortnight.

Public Works Department (Employees)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what pension provision is made for manual workers employed by the public works department in Tobago; whether these workers obtain regular all-the-year-round employment; and how wages paid by the public works department compare with those for similar work paid by private employers.

Manual workers employed by the public works department in Tobago, whose posts are scheduled under the Provident Fund Ordinance, are entitled on retirement to provident fund benefits. The remainder are eligible for gratuities under the regulations applicable to all daily paid employees of Government who do not contribute to the provident fund. A number of these workers are regularly employed, the remainder are employed on a casual basis as and when work is available. There are no private employers of labour in Tobago engaged on large scale building and roadmaking projects, such as are undertaken by the public works department, and a comparison with private employment is, therefore, not possible.

Will my right hon. Friend take further steps to satisfy him-self that the guaranteed week is granted in this case as far as possible in order that subsequent claims for gratuity and old age pensions shall not be invalidated because of this non-constant work?

I will look into that point, but this island, and other islands in that part of the world, suffer from under-employment and the solution is very difficult.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what it is that brings Tobago into the news so extensively and so suddenly.