HC Deb 17 December 1928 vol 223 cc2624-6
63. Mr. HURD

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet received an official report from Cuba that more than 50,000 Jamaican labourers, usually employed in the sugar industry, are out of work and in distress: and what steps are being taken in their interest?


As the answer is rather long, I will, with the hon. Member's consent, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

It is estimated that about 50,000 Jamaicans are employed for sugar-cane cutting in Cuba. Cutting usually lasts about four months and begins in December or January. A period of unemployment is the natural corollary of this seasonal demand for labour. While labourers often find other employment during the slack period His Majesty's Minister reports that this year a, larger number than usual are unemployed owing to the Cuban Government's recent restrictions on the sugar crop and the diminution of industrial and commercial activity following the low price of sugar. In consequence Jamaicans in Cuba have suffered a good deal of hardship and distress. Their interests, are, however, especially well looked after owing to the fact that the Jamaica Government provides a special official on the staff of His Majesty's Minister, who, under the latter's direction, devotes his whole time to the Jamaican labourers' affairs.

The labourers have been encouraged and assisted as far as possible this year to seek work elsewhere and to get temporary employment in Cuba, and a considerable number have been repatriated in cases of destitution and illness and assistance has been rendered them in collecting wages and insurance claims and in other ways. When Jamaicans leave Jamaica they have to make a deposit with the Jamaica Government sufficient to cover the cost of repatriation, but they

are not permitted to make use of this except in case of urgent distress. His Majesty's Minister considers that conditions will improve considerably when cutting recommences this month, particularly as the crop will no longer be subject to Government restriction. He regards the fact that a great number of Jamaicans constantly go back to Jamaica after cane cutting and then return to Cuba as in itself an indication that on the whole they are satisfied with conditions in that country.