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West Indies

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made up to date towards West Indian Federation.

The subject has now been discussed by all the Legislatures concerned except British Honduras and Barbados. The Legislatures, apart from British Guiana and the Virgin Islands, have accepted federation in principle.

The next step should be a conference in London. A copy of my despatch setting out detailed plans for this conference was placed in the Library on 27th February.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the West Indies are going on with the plans for a Customs union, or whether these plans for a Customs union have to wait on the larger question of federation?

I think the Customs union will have to await the matter of federation. I do not know whether those discussions can take place simultaneously, but this is a germane subject, and the various Governments are now studying the matter with a view to this conference.

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to speed up this federation, and will he do me the honour of reading a paper which I wrote last year after visiting the West Indies?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread satisfaction caused by the recent announcement of further steps to enable the West Indian territories concerned to discuss federation, and of the hope of this side of the House that these discussions will have a successful outcome?

Queen Elizabeth's Nursing Service


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been called to the distress suffered by members of the Queen Elizabeth's Colonial Nursing Service recruited by his Department for service in the West Indies as a result of the inadequacy of their salaries in face of rapidly rising costs of necessities; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy the position.

I am afraid that it is true that in some cases the salaries of members of the Queen Elizabeth's Colonial Nursing Service in the West Indies are inadequate and that they have difficulty in making ends meet. The Governments concerned know this and, where possible, are taking steps to improve matters either by means of cost of living allowances or general salary regradings. The amount that can be done, however, must of course depend upon the resources of the territory.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will look again at the conditions under which these girls are living, in view of the fact that many of them are in an extremely unfortunate situation at the present time? Will he use what powers he has to persuade the Governments concerned to do more to make the living conditions of these girls tolerable?

I am much exercised about this question, and will do what I can to help.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, to judge from correspondence which I have had on this subject with the Minister of State, the dissatisfaction is such as to make it difficult to fill future vacancies?

Sugar Industry, Trinidad (Cost Of Living)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the price paid per ton of sugar in 1949, as compared with the present price to the producers in Trinidad; and what increase has taken place in the cost of living in Trinidad during the same period.

The price per ton of cane paid to sugar-cane producers in Trinidad in 1949 was 7 dollars 71 cents. The present price is 7 dollars 99 cents.

During the period January, 1949, to December, 1951, the cost of living index in the Colony based on 1935 as 100, rose from 227 to 251. This index has now been replaced by an index of retail prices with January, 1952, as 100. It at present stands at 104.2.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is a proper relationship between the price of sugar, the cost of living and wages in this case?

It is asking a good deal to ask if I am satisfied. What I am satisfied about is that very careful studies are made of the question, and I think the result is broadly correct.

Sugar Industry, St Lucia (Strike)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement upon the strike among workers in the sugar industry in the island of St. Lucia.

A strike of sugar workers on the Roseau Estate began on 11th March and spread to two other estates, affecting factories also. By 19th March the factories were again in partial operation and a number of estate employees were at work. A general resumption of factory work took place on 24th March. Except for two minor cane tires, there has been no disorder. The Governor has appointed a commission of inquiry to examine the circumstances of the strike and to make recommendations.

Rice Industry, British Guiana


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to develop the rice industry of British Guiana.

Work has continued on plans referred to in the reply to my hon. Friend on 14th November last, and I hope to be able to report progress soon.

Is it true to say that the original plan as sponsored by the Government of British Guiana was turned down by the Colonial Development Corporation because they felt it earned an inadequate rate of interest?

I cannot say for what reasons the Colonial Development Corporation—

That is rather a flight of imagination in the case of the Colonial Development Corporation.