HC Deb 28 July 1908 vol 193 cc1226-7

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that an annual subsidy, at first of £10,000 and latterly of £20,000, has been paid out of the Treasury since July, 1899, to the Imperial Direct West India Mail Service, principally in order to encourage a trade in bananas between Jamaica and England; whether during the financial year 1907–8 a total of 15,847,590 bunches of bananas were exported from Jamaica, of which 14,505,911 bunches were shipped to the United States and only 1,239,500 to England; and whether he will give notice to terminate this contract at its expiry on 15th January, 1911, seeing that £20,000 paid by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom for the advantage of receiving 1,239,500 bunches of bananas is equivalent to the bounty of fourpence per bunch, and that a sufficient supply of this fruit can be obtained, without subsidy, from other West Indian Colonies, from the Canary Islands, and from other parts of the globe.


I am aware generally of the conditions of the service referred to. The question as to the renewal or termination of the service is one which will no doubt receive very careful consideration, but, as the contract does not expire for some years, it would be premature to consider it now.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman if this subsidy was not granted in order to assist in developing the banana trade generally, and whether this proportion of 14,000,000 bunches and 1,000,000 bunches to the United States and England respectively does not represent the purest principles of free trade?


I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by the "purest principles of free trade." I should hardly think he is a good judge. I would only add that my hon. friend is quite right in supposing that there are other considerations involved besides the encouragement of the trade between Jamaica and England.

*MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)

Was not this contract made in the reign of the protectionist Party?


I do not know what the particular views of the Party were at the time this contract was entered into.