HC Deb 19 January 1937 vol 319 cc7-8
8. Mr. Lunn

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Newfoundland?

11. Mr. Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he can make a statement as to the present position of Newfoundland?

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)

A report by the Commission of Government on Newfoundland affairs during 1936 is in preparation and will be presented to Parliament as soon as possible. It is proposed that similar reports should in future be presented to Parliament annually, as early as possible in each year. In the meantime the main feature of conditions in the Island is that owing to an exceptionally poor fishery season and to the continuance of export difficulties, especially in the important markets of Italy and Spain, a large number of the fishing population continue to require relief at the present time. The commercial agreement concluded between the United Kingdom and Italy in November provides a substantial Italian quota for Newfoundland codfish, and it is hoped that this will result in some improvement in the local situation. The revenue returns are still favourable and show a slight improvement upon those for the corresponding months of last year.

Mr. Lunn

Is it a fact that 50 per cent. more persons are on relief in Newfoundland than a year ago, and why have not some of the main recommendations of the Amulree Commission been put into operation?

Mr. Lyons

Has there been any improvement in the general economic position during 1936?

Mr. MacDonald

The answer to the first supplementary is that it is not true that there has been an increase of 50 per cent. in the number of those on relief over the corresponding figure of last year. There has been an increase for the reasons I have given, but it does not amount to anything like 50 per cent. With regard to the other question, the general economic condition of the country was not quite so good in 1936 as in 1935 largely because of the obstacles in the Italian and Spanish markets for fish on which the island is largely dependent. The financial position, on the other hand, is slightly better.

Mr. Lunn

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the percentage increase in the number of those on relief? The Press of Newfoundland is definite in saying that it is 50 per cent.

Mr. MacDonald

The number of those on relief is 65,000, and that does not represent anything like a 50 per cent. increase.

Mr. Maxton

May I ask whether the scale of relief to the distressed fishermen of Newfoundland is still on the same miserable basis that it has been for the last two years?

Mr. MacDonald

The scale of relief to fishermen in Newfoundland has been increased by something like 25 per cent. since the commission came into operation. With regard to the other question, I do not wish to misstate anything, but the figure last year was just under 50,000.