HC Deb 09 February 1938 vol 331 cc1043-6
42. Major Mills

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that a company of the Sherwood Foresters was sent last November from Bermuda to Trinidad owing to disturbances there; that this company was sent to the Pitch Lake, and was obliged to live in bell tents from about the middle of November until the end of December while huts were being built for them; at whose instance these troops were sent to that hot and unhealthy spot; what percentage of the troops have suffered from malaria; and why such duties as they were asked to perform there were not carried out by the Trinidad constabulary and volunteers?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Yes, Sir. The troops were despatched to Trinidad at the Governor's urgent request and stationed by him at Brighton with a view to restoring confidence among the law-abiding and responsible section of the community in the southern area of the Island where confidence was lacking. I deeply regret that 31 cases of malaria occurred between 22nd November and 26th December. While the troops were under canvas the incidence of malaria was such as to cause concern, but since their accommodation in mosquito-proofed huts the detachment is living under conditions similar to those in which numbers of Europeans reside in the same area without loss of health, and the Acting Governor and his medical advisers are satisfied with the arrangements now made. As regards the last part of the question, the despatch of these troops was only authorised because the Governor considered that in the then circumstances the use of the police and local volunteers might be inadequate.

Major Mills

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with me that when troops are called out in support of the civil power they should be kept in reserve as much as possible, and that they should be kept in as healthy a position as possible? Does he not think that the Acting Governor, whoever he was, showed a regrettable lack of appreciation of that consideration in sending troops to this unhealthy spot?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

It is not for me to express an opinion on what is obviously a technical matter, but I gather that the area where the trouble was feared was a long way distant from the Capital, and that as there was no accommodation they had to be accommodated in tents. As soon as huts could be built they were built.

Major Mills

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the shade temperature in this locality in December is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and that in the model village referred to in the report of the Commission the white inhabitants, at any rate, live in mosquito-proof houses because the locality is so unhealthy?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

That may be so.

Captain Heilgers

Were these troops provided with mosquito nets when they were sleeping in bell tents?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I must have notice of that question.

46. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Prime Minister when it will be possible to debate the recent report on disturbances in Trinidad?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave on Monday last in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor).

Mr. Sorensen

Cannot the Prime Minister make a more definite statement now as the answer given on Monday was very ambiguous, especially as there is great concern in many quarters respecting this report?

The Prime Minister

This matter is under discussion through the usual channels.

57. Mr. David Adams

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, with a view to removing the causes of unrest in Trinidad and Tobago, as revealed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, he has taken any steps for the setting up of a labour department and industrial court in that Colony?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

As has already been announced, an Industrial Adviser with experience of such matters under the Ministry of Labour in this country has been appointed to undertake conciliation work and to form a new Labour Department in Trinidad. The Government of Trinidad has been asked for its recommendations on the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, but it may prefer to await the arrival of the new Industrial Adviser before submitting detailed proposals for the establishment of an Industrial Court.

Mr. Riley

Is it part of the duties of this adviser to advise the workers on the question of trade organisation?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore


Mr. Benn

Will the comments of the Government of Trinidad on the report of the Royal Commission be presented to the House?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I do not know that there will be a single report. I have asked the Government of Trinidad to give effect to the recommendations as soon as possible. A series of legislative proposals must first go before their Legislature. I do not think there can be any comprehensive report, but simply reports from time to time on the progress that is being made.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has the adviser been appointed, and if so, what is his name?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I have already stated that he is Mr. Lindon of the Ministry of Labour.