HC Deb 07 July 1937 vol 326 cc331-3
23. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, at the time of the recent disturbances in Trinidad, there was in the Colony any governmental machinery established by law for official conciliation in settling industrial disputes; whether any minimum wage legislation or other industrial statutory regulation of wages exists; what restrictions are imposed on the organising of trade unions and their functioning in accordance with recognised and legitimate practice as exists in Great Britain; and why the Government in the Colony failed to act in time to prevent the disputes?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Legislation exists relating to industrial disputes, minimum wages, and trade unions, and I will have copies of the relevant Ordinances placed in the Library of the House. The question whether the Government might have taken steps to prevent the sudden outbreak of the present disputes will be a matter for inquiry in due course.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is this operative legislation or just on the Statute Book? Further, can the right hon. Gentleman say when this inquiry is likely to be set up, and can he give the terms of reference?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I am considering the form and nature of the Commission, which, I think I may say, will be partly composed of persons appointed by me from here and partly of people from Trinidad. With regard to the operation of the legislation to which the hon. Gentleman referred, whereas trade unions were formed and registered under the Trade Unions Act, they ceased to exist, not because of any action of the Government of Trinidad or of any of the employers, but the trade unions dissolved themselves and became a political party so that the Ordinances under the Act for the registration of trade unions could be complied with.

24. Sir. N. Grattan-Doyle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information as to labour conditions in Trinidad; and whether, as the result of Government intervention, a settlement of the labour dispute in the oilfields there has been effected?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

According to the latest information in my possession the return to work is now general, and the strike situation appears to be ended. The Governor has fixed a minimum wage and established an eight-hour day for unskilled Government workers and has promised to investigate the claims and grievances of the better-paid grades. He also proposes to ask the local Legislature to resolve that a Commission under a chairman from this country should be appointed to investigate the whole position.

Captain Arthur Evans

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the number of regular troops normally stationed at Trinidad and what volunteer troops are available to assist the civil authorities to maintain law and order?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

There are no regular troops ever stationed in Trinidad. There is a volunteer force in case of need, but I think it is largely a case of special constables, and the police in the main bear the burden. As is usual in the West Indies, the Royal Navy can go to the aid of the civil authorities.

Mr. George Griffiths

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the minimum wage is?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No, I have no idea.

Mr. Lunn

Does there have to be a disturbance before the Government will act?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No, Sir. The surprising thing is the sudden and unexpected outbreak of these disturbances, which spread so rapidly from a single industrial dispute in the oilfield.