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British Guiana

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what inquiry has been held into the causes of the recent disturbances in British Guiana; and what persons, firms, or organisations are shown by this inquiry to have been mainly responsible for instigating them.

Dr. Jagan, the Premier of British Guiana, has asked me to appoint a Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry with terms of reference "to inquire into the recent disturbances in British Guiana and the events leading up to them and to report thereon". I have informed Dr. Jagan that I will do so, and the necessary preliminary steps are being taken.

Why was the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's Answer released by a spokesman of his Department last night? Is that not rather unusual—and rather disrespectful to the House—when a Question for Oral Answer is on the Order Paper for the next day?

I do not think so. I did have that point much in mind, but Dr. Jagan was making the request to me; and they wanted to publish it, and I thought it right to do so.

Will the Secretary of State look at that point again? Has it not been the usual practice when there have been riots in a territory like British Guiana for the announcement of a Committee of Inquiry to be made, in the first instance, in this House? As to the composition of the Commonwealth Commission, while we welcome that it is to have a Commonwealth membership, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the riots arose out of industrial disputes involving most industrial unions and civil servants in the territory? Will he, therefore, make sure that on the Commission there is a member with really good trade union standing?

I will certainly bear that in mind. In this particular case, it is rather important to stress that the request came from Dr. Jagan himself and wins made on his own initiative. That is very important for the future success of the Commission.