HC Deb 25 November 1936 vol 318 cc410-1
27. Mr. LUNN

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the serious conditions prevailing in St. Helena; that following upon the widespread epidemic of influenza in June and July there is considerable ill-health among the population; that 50 per cent. of the workpeople are unemployed, wages have been reduced and unemployment relief cut down; and whether he will have immediate inquiry made with a view to some amelioration of conditions in the island?


I have made inquiries of the Governor of St. Helena on the matters referred to, and as the reply is a long one, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Does the answer mean that there will be inquiry into all these grievances in the island?


No, Sir; the answer is that the hon. Member has been misinformed.


Is it not a fact that the suggestions in the question are greatly exaggerated?

Following is the reply:

The Governor of St. Helena has reported that the general health of the island is better at present than it has been for some time, and that the effect of the outbreak of influenza, which was of a non-virulent type, disappeared some time ago. My information is that the percentage of unemployed is not as high as is suggested in the question; that there has been no reduction during the past three years in the wages paid either to the regular employés of the Government or to employés in the flax milling industry, which is the principal industry of the island; and that there has been no reduction in the rates of wages paid by the Government in respect of unemployment relief work. There has been some increase in unemployment recently owing to curtailment of flax milling, in consequence of which the Government unemployment relief work has been increased, but I understand that there is some prospect of additional employment in the flax-milling industry becoming available in the near future. As regards the last part of the question, the Governor is fully alive to the needs of the situation, and various steps, including the appointment of an agriculture and forestry officer and the growing of experimental crops, have been, and are being, taken with a view to obtaining alternative means of livelihood for the islanders. I would point out that the total population is a little under 4,000, and the annual revenue under £25,000.