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Jamaica (Tobacco Industry)

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 18 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to further his declared policy of giving every possible encouragement to the tobacco-growing and cigar-manufacturing industry in Jamaica.

The furtherance of local industries in the Colonies is primarily a matter for the colonial governments concerned, though my Department naturally encourages colonial development in every possible way.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that any agreement recently entered into or contemplated will in no way be likely to increase the estimate of unemployed in Jamaica? Surely my hon. Friend has heard that there are unemployed there, and that the less work there the more unemployed there will be.

That is a purely hypothetical question. I agree as to the seriousness of the unemployment situation. I cannot say whether any agreement will or will not have any particular effect on the unemployment.

Is it not a fact that there is now quite considerable unemployment in the tobacco industry in the West Indian Islands? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that while preference used to be 25 per cent. in the United Kingdom market it is now 3 per cent., and are we now free to increase that if we want to do so?

The question of preference should be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

With great respect, the Minister has a large measure of responsibility for the West Indian Colonies. Is it not a fact that however much, constitutionally, it rests with someone else to answer this detailed question, the fact that we are now precluded from giving greater preference is a matter which ought seriously to disturb the right hon. Gentleman?

We are seriously concerned about it and we do take it into consideration, but the actual answering of that particular question, and the responsibility for it, is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Does my right hon. Friend consider that the apprehensions of the Jamaican cigar manufacturers about the rivalry of the Cuban cigar manufacturers is unfounded?