Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £184,760,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, namely:—
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Lunn
I beg to move, "That Item, Class II, Vote 8 (Colonial Office), be reduced by £100."
I understand that on this Vote on Account we can raise any question of Colonial Office administration. I propose, therefore, to deal with the report of the Commission that went to Trinidad to inquire into the disturbances there in June last. It is a rare thing for any event that takes place in any British Colony to get any sort of publicity in this country. Wherever it is, whatever the race, colour or creed of the people, the Colonies believe that they are very badly neglected, and that something really sensational has to happen if anything is to take place in this country with regard to the Colonies. The disturbances in Trinidad, the loss of life that resulted from them, the appointment of the Commission and their report, are an exception to the general rule. It is now difficult to get a copy of a report of the Commission. It is almost as difficult to get a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the two days' Debate last week on the resignation of the Foreign Secretary and the mishandling of foreign affairs by the Government. While I do not accept the whole of the report or the whole of the recommendations of the Commission, I congratulate the Commissioners upon the way they applied themselves to their terms of reference. These were as follow:To inquire into and report upon the origin and character of the recent disturbances in the Colony of Trinidad and Tobago and all matters relating thereto, to consider the adequacy of the steps taken to deal with those disturbances, and to make recommendations.They got down to their work very well and issued a valuable report. It gives 767 a history of Government lethargy and inactivity for which, I think, no excuse can be offered. I must express my sympathy with the relatives of Inspector Power, Corporal King, and Sub-Inspector Bradburn, and with the relatives of the civilians who may or may not have taken part in the disturbances, but who lost their lives as a result of them. In my opinion, those disturbances ought never to have happened, and no lives should have been lost. The awful economic conditions of the people were well known, and innumerable warnings had been issued by Captain Cipriani, a member of the Legislative Council, while many others had acquainted the Government, both here and in the Colony, but no notice was taken.
Some weeks before the disturbances happened I repeatedly appealed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Colonial Office Debate, on 2nd June, to send out a Commission to the West Indian Islands to inquire into the economic conditions and other problems and to see what could be done to improve them. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I urged him to give this appeal his immediate attention because of the terrible conditions existing. If he had said in that Debate that he would even have considered it, he might have prevented the loss of valuable lives and would have given some hope to the people in the Colony. I would add another paragraph to the report of the Commission after paragraph 191, which is the first paragraph dealing with the disturbances. I would add, "191a. We are aware that the Secretary of State was well-informed and knew everything that was happening in the Colony of Trinidad, but we regret he did not heed the appeal to send out a Commission a few days before and avoid this loss of life."
The same awful and unjustifiable conditions exist in various parts of the West Indies. In the last three years there have been riots and strikes in nearly every one of the islands because of the shocking economic circumstances under which the people live. The report on the Barbados labour disturbances is as illuminating as the Trinidad report. It can be found in the Library. It is a scandal that such conditions should exist for so long in Colonies which have been under 768 our rule for more than 100 years, and which are very loyal to their British connection. Nothing was done, however. Now we know that, although workers in the oilfields and sugar plantations had for a long period been suffering from miserably low wages, that the cost of living had gone up considerably, and that poverty abounded, neither their rich employers, many of them absentees from the Colony, nor any other authority which could have helped them, listened to their cry for some redress of their conditions. The workers have seen huge dividends earned, but there has been no corresponding rise in wages, in spite of the rise in the cost of living. These are the real reasons for the disturbances in June last.
Trinidad is not a poor Colony. It is rich in natural resources. It produces hundreds of millions of gallons of oil, and is by far the best source of supply we have in the Empire. It has a subsidised sugar industry, but who gets the preference? We give these preferences, but we never consider the producers and the workers in connection with them. In Trinidad the workers certainly do not get the benefit of the preference given to sugar. Trinidad produces coffee, cocoa, bananas and oranges, and also has a good trade in livestock. Moreover, Trinidad has a well-balanced Budget, I should think one of the best in the Colonial Empire, and large profits have been made in many industries, yet in spite of it all the people are in extreme poverty, with miserable wages and awful housing and health conditions. Whatever may be said about Uriah Butler, the leader of the workers at that time, though I have no Communist sympathies, I feel that this report justifies all his agitation on behalf of the poverty-stricken people of Trinidad. If it is a fact that the people of the West Indies are soon roused by eloquent speakers who know of their horrible conditions, then the best course was to try to change those conditions. An evil is not cured by arresting the advocate of the sufferers. The Governor says of him:Though he had been intemperate and violent in his language.I have heard those words before, but there is nothing in this report to show that he had been intemperate or violent in his language—no literature or copies of any speeches, nothing to verify that assertion. The Governor goes on to say: 769there runs through all his speeches, and particularly his letters, an undercurrent of earnest appeal, made in all sincerity, to which a deaf ear had been turned.The Acting-Colonial Secretary says:We have had to solve our consciences with humbug, and try to satisfy labour with platitudes.I do not think the Governor and the Acting Governor have been treated, or are being treated, as fairly as they might have been in this business.
§ Mr. Lunn
By the people who are responsible for the Government and by the Colonial Office. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can deal with that later. It was known that state of affairs could not continue for all times, yet no one in power, though fully aware of the circumstances, attempted to do anything. We deplore the loss of life which has been brought about by these disturbances, but again I quote the Governor:I wish to emphasise the fact that during the unrest the strikers behaved in an exemplary manner.I suppose that it is statements such as that which have prevented him from giving evidence, or being considered as he should have been considered by the Commission and by the Colonial Office. I ask why, in those circumstances, we should have sent a large number of troops to Trinidad.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The hon. Member makes a charge—that the Governor has been prevented from giving evidence by the Colonial Office and by the Commission. Is that the charge which he wishes me to answer?
§ Mr. Lunn
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me what opportunity the Governor had before he left Trinidad of expressing his opinions regarding this matter, and what opportunity he has had of meeting the Colonial Secretary since he came home to deal with this matter. If we look at paragraph 276 we find the Commissioners saying that they are surprised that Butler did not secure more support than he did, and so am I. As we know from the answer given by the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) on 9th February, this sort of thing has been going on in many parts of the West Indies for a long time. For weeks and months 770 people have trifled with the urgent demand that something should be done with reference to low wages and the increased cost of living, but nothing definite had been settled when the unrest came to a head in Fyzabad on 19th June. I believe there was no real trade union organisation, and no proper means of contact between employers and workmen for the adjustment of grievances. There is no justification for employers in industries which were making huge profits leaving their workers and there dependants in such a sorry plight. It is a sad thing that such loss of life should have to occur before any real attention was given to the many grievances of the workers. It would have been better to send out a commission a few days before, as I desired the Colonial Secretary to do, rather than send the Commission after men had lost their lives.
It is not necessary for me to go further into the disturbances, because they are well known, and other speakers will have an opportunity of dealing with them. The all-important matter now is whether or not any real redress is to be forthcoming. We gather from the report that trade union organisation is to be encouraged. I wonder what sort of trade union organisation. The Secretary of State said in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) on 9th February that it was to be on English lines. What does he mean?
§ Mr. Lunn
We ought to be clear that we know what is meant, because though some of us believe that trade union organisation is not all that it should be even in this country, I believe that it is better here than anywhere else. Industry is to be reorganised, an industrial court is to be established, and opportunities provided for methods of conciliation and negotiation. Also, we understand there will be a minimum wage scheme, an amended Workmen's Compensation Act and a reduction in the hours of work, and one of the most important of their recommendations is that there should be a properly equipped Labour Department. I should like to see a Labour Department in every Colony. According to page 51 of the report, the previous Colonial Secretary sent out a despatch with regard to the establishment of a Labour Department in Trinidad, but nothing whatever has 771 come of it. Is it to be the case that there will be no delay in putting these proposals into operation, or will it turn out that these recommendations are only so many words, as has been so often the case when we are dealing with peple who are so far away? It is easy to speak nice words, but they butter no parsnips, and after the words have been uttered we are inclined to forget them and nothing is done, as nothing was done on that despatch regarding the Labour Department in 1935.
Further, we are told that the problems of disease, malnutrition, overcrowding and bad housing are to be tackled, that barrack dwellings are to be swept away, that the medical services are to be improved, the Health Department is to survey and replan the areas, there is to be a better system of education and more social life for the people. All these recommendations are on the right lines, but I wonder whether they will be carried out. All that we are going to do towards seeing that they are put into force is to send out a labour adviser to Trinidad. If he is to advise them upon the creation of a Labour Department and also upon the extension of Workmen's Compensation, it may be of some use, and I hope he will do something in that direction. There is no need for me to go through all the recommendations, because anyone who has read the report will know what they are. The all-important matter is, what are the Secretary of State and the Government going to do in Trinidad to see that their intentions are carried into effect? I admit that if remedies are applied properly they will to a large extent remove the discontent which has existed far too long in the colony, discontent which could have been removed easily long ago if a real spirit of human understanding and consideration had been given to them. In my opinion it is deplorable that 2,500 of our troops were imported into the colony.
§ Mr. Lunn
That is the figure I have seen of the number sent to the colony as a result of these disturbances, but if I am wrong I apologise. That was enough to cause more trouble, in my view. I am pleased that the Commission say that there was no need for the troops to be there. I am also pleased to know from 772 the Colonial Secretary that he intends to see that they are removed. I hope that the conditions in the island will be vastly improved as a result of this report, and that the Government of the colony will take a determined hand in the matter. The Government at home and in the colony have a real responsibility in seeing that the recommendations are carried into effect, but I still believe, as I said on 2nd June in the Colonial Office Debate, that it is necessary to send out a commission to visit all the West Indian islands, to inquire into the whole of the conditions that affect the people, and to see that they are remedied.
Underlying the economic evil is the constitutional question. The franchise ought to be more widely extended, side by side with a more advanced system of education. Closer union ought to be promoted. I think that I shall have the Colonial Secretary with me on that particular matter. Opportunities should be given for public opinion to express itself, and I regret that the Commission did not lay more emphasis on this subject. If we give the islands a real form of self-government, I have no doubt that peace and prosperity can be established, not only for a few people, but for the whole of the inhabitants of the colony, and I hope, for the whole of those who live in the West Indies.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
The main theme of our discussion to-day is the Trinidad Commission Report. I want to join with the last speaker in congratulating those distinguished gentlemen who contributed their labour to this report, which is exceedingly well done and, on the whole, very judicial. I want also to express my sympathy with the victims of the disorders in Trinidad and my condolences with those who have been bereaved. As the question is one of persons, the first thing I would like to raise is the position of the late Governor, Sir Murchison Fletcher, who, I understand, has now been replaced. I would like to hear more about his dismissal, or his resignation, from the Secretary of State. I want to ascertain the facts and will not prejudge him now. But I can say this: He should not be judged by Members of this House without full knowledge of the facts; Members are entitled, on such knowledge of the facts as they possess, to question the Colonial Office and the Colonial Secretary 773 in regard to Sir Murchison Fletcher's replacement. The Secretary of State is, of course, entitled to justify his action, but we must form conclusions before the Governor's case is heard.
I understand that the late Governor challenges the Commission's report on questions of fact, and, as was stated in another place in a Debate a few days ago, he issued a Memorandum to the Colonial Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to publish that Memorandum as yet. Of course it is well within the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman to publish or withhold that document, but what we should be told is the ground on which the Governor challenges the report of the Commission. We cannot form any judgment until we are told that. I regret that although the Commission's report is very interesting, the Commissioners have not been infallible. The Commission's strictures upon the Governor relate mainly to his conduct in the crisis, in particular to the notice which he issued after the Fyzabad raid. I draw attention to the fact that the exact terms in which he read this message were not set out in the report. The Commission say that he offered "an apology." On the other hand the Governor, in the speech which he made to the Assembly, called itan expression of regret to the law-abiding citizens who are the vast majority of the people residing in Fyzabad.I submit that there is a world of difference between the two statements. I am not sure that the manner in which the Commission attempt to justify their criticism is altogether convincing. For instance they say this:So far as is known, no one in Fyzabad had raised a hand to prevent the burning of Corporal King or the shooting of Inspector Bradburn on 19th June.It will be seen that the first few words are "so far as is known," and that in itself is a confession of partial ignorance; but it is immediately followed by the assumption that nothing was done. But even if it is a fact that no help was offered, is that the fault of the law-abiding elements in Fyzabad? Were they there? Undoubtedly they were not there. After that, even Corporal King's police colleagues did not know what was happening, and in condemning the entire population of Fyzabad, which very likely was not comglomerated around the valley—as many of them no doubt had remained in their 774 houses—the report does not show the judicial frame of mind that one would like shown on such an occasion.
The most serious strictures on the Governor made in the report are in respect of the speech he made in the Legislative Assembly on 6th July, on the motion to set up a Commission. The Commission has condemned this speech as "untimely and unfortunate in its substance." Untimely it may well have been, but there can be no doubt that in his speech there is much of substance which is perfectly justified and justifiable. For instance, I recall his remarks on the poverty in the island and the sympathy which he displayed because of the bad living conditions of the people. Of course we all know that similar criticisms had been made as far back as 1897, by the Commission of which Sir Edward Grey was then a member, and the Olivier report of 1930 likewise criticised the housing conditions. But this report also criticises the Governor's remarks on the prosperity of the oil and sugar industries. But that is borne out by the report on the West Indies, published in 1937. This is what that report states:Trinidad with a record output of petroleum and sugar, better prices for cocoa and other products, expanding minor industries and other products, enjoys a happy outlook.After all, the Governor in his speech tried to paint both sides of the picture—on the one side the prosperity of the companies and of the sugar estates which were operated in Trinidad, and on the other hand the miserable conditions under which the labourers lived. In speaking of the deplorable conditions in the colony the Governor says that when he arrived in Trinidad he was painfully impressed by the poverty there. He goes on to say that he was particularly impressed by the physical appearance of the East Indian population. He himself had just come from Fiji, where East Indians were introduced in exactly similar circumstances, and they were there of a definitely finer physique. He also referred to the report published in 1935, which gave the impression of a Dutch doctor who visited Trinidad with one of the medical officers. This doctor was shocked by the elements of malnutrition that he observed. This doctor had been 20 years in the Dutch Indies and had never seen such distressing conditions as existed in Trinidad amongst 775 the Indian labouring population. He says:Men and women apparently suffered from a deficiency of all the known vitamins.The report gives a list of the diseases due to malnutrition, and states:Every adult above 20 years is affected. The working life of the population is reduced by at least 50 per cent.In discussing wage levels and poverty, the Governor says that he recently looked into the question of free breakfasts in Port of Spain; that there were some 15,000 children there; that the majority of them had no breakfast in the course of the day. Then he adds:These were not the children of agricultural labourers.Indeed, one of the most important statements made by the Governor in his speech is about the wages of the agricultural workers. He says:Agriculture has not been able to afford higher wages, and therefore the general rates have been depressed. I have a definite instance of pressure being brought to bear to prevent an industry paying higher wages because it must thereby embarrass estate owners.This very damaging statement of the Governor was confirmed only last year in another place, in a Debate there, when the chairman of one of the oil companies operating in Trinidad stated that his company could not increase wages without consulting employers of agricultural labour. This speech, which was made in the House of Lords last year, was quoted in the Debate which took place also in another place two days ago. The Governor showed sympathy with the labouring classes and with the sufferings of the unfortunates, and whatever may be said, he deserves credit for his conclusion that the underlying causes of the disturbances were entirely economic and were not to be found in political agitation, Communist or otherwise. The Commission state, on page 81 of their report:In the light of all the circumstances it is a matter for surprise that Butler did not secure more support than was actually the case.That observation has already been quoted, and I quote it again only because the same thing applies to the Barbados report. The same statement was made by the memorialists.
As regards the remarks that the Governor made about the state of health 776 in the Colony, there can be no doubt that they are amply borne out by the report, which quotes the Medical and Sanitary Report for 1936 to the effect that there were nearly 19,000 cases of malaria, representing 4 per cent. of the population, and that 80 per cent. of the population was infected with hookworm. The report also reveals the deplorable housing conditions and describes, in a heartrending manner, the most common type of dwelling whichconsisted of a long wooden building roofed with galvanised iron, divided from end to end by a partition and sub-divided on both sides into a series of single rooms, each of which would be occupied by an indentured immigrant and his wife and family.Such dwellings, it says, are to be found not only in the agricultural districts but in the towns, and are often in a state of extreme disrepair. The commission visited back-to-back dwellings, as these are called, in Port-of-Spain, and they say that they wereindescribable in their lack of elementary needs of decency.The rents of these houses, they were astounded to relate, amounted to a monthly sumvarying from 12 to 15 shillings a room.It is difficult to imagine how a self-respecting community can grow up in such conditions. The worst housing conditions are to be found in the village of Fyzabad, where the principal riots took place which, says the report,was the centre of activity of the hooligan element.That is not altogether surprising, when one reads of the conditions which prevail there. The commission's report describes Fyzabad asa village which has grown up on the edge of the oilfields without any apparent regulation or control or observance of elementary rules as to structure, space, or sanitation.Such conditions are a reproach to the Government. Hon. Members will see in the report that the Government's own stock farm also contained unsatisfactory barrack-range dwellings.
In regard to labour conditions, the report reveals gross incompetence, inactivity and procrastination on the part of the administration. No one has a greater admiration and respect for the work of the Colonial Office and its many officials throughout the world, but on this 777 occasion it is difficult to feel in that way about it. As an example of procrastination I would again refer to the question of the Labour Department in Colonial administration. As has been stated before in the Debate, it was due to be set up after a despatch of 1935 from the then Colonial Secretary, the present Dominions Secretary, to all Colonial Governments. The despatch urged the setting up of Labour Departments and of adequate machinery for the supervision of labour conditions, and stated:This supervision should be of such a character as to ensure the due observance of the laws and regulations relating to labour contracts, the provision (where stipulated) of adequate housing, sanitary arrangements and hospital facilities; and, in the case of mines and other industrial establishments, of all the various matters which come under the purview of mining or factory inspectors in this country.Nowhere was such a regulation more necessary than in Trinidad yet, as was stated, no action was taken, and the despatch was not replied to until after the disturbances, when the Governor sent a telegram to the Colonial Secretary saying that he proposed to appoint a Secretary for Social Services. No action was taken for 18 months. What were the home Government doing all that time? Why were the home Government content that no action should be taken? Was there no subsequent inquiry from Whitehall as to why no action had been taken and as to what was being done? If not, I do not hesitate to say that the Government at home must bear some responsibility for the disturbances that took place. The disturbances were chiefly caused by the labour and housing conditions.
The home Government must also share responsibility, to a certain extent, for the unsatisfactory conditions as regards minimum wage rates and workmen's compensation. In June, 1929, a Labour Convention on minimum-wage-fixing machinery was ratified by this House. It had been passed at Geneva in 1928. In 1935 the Labour (Minimum Wage) Ordinance was passed by the Government of Trinidad. As is stated in the report, it was merely an enabling Measure, but a board was thereupon set up to recommend wage rates. The board reported in 1937, but no action was taken on its recommendations. No effect was given to the obligations which had been assumed by the British Government.
778 As to machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes, an ordinance of 1920 provided for the establishment of an industrial court for the settlement of industrial disputes. It was to be appointed by the Government and it was to this court that the President was appointed. For the last 18 years there has been presented in this island the sight of ghostly machinery, a court with nothing to settle because there was nobody coming before it, although wages questions were acute, and the island was seething with discontent. As a result, there was no check on wage levels. That has been the cause of the outbreak of industrial unrest and, indeed, made it inevitable. I hope that the recommendations of the Commission will receive the approval of this Committee. On the question of land settlement the recommendations are the same as those of the Royal Commission of 1897, 40 years ago. They may be of extreme importance in the future because there is no gainsaying that oil supplies may not last for ever, and that there may be a limit to them. There will then be a reversion to agriculture, which may have to be resorted to sooner than is at the present time believed. When we come to the recommendations regarding trade unions, great care must be taken in the exercise of discretion in the registration of trade unions.
There is one conclusion of the report from which I dissent, and it is that relating to praedial larceny. Corporal punishment will not cure the people of Trinidad of this terrible crime. The report on conditions in Barbados states:The price of locally grown vegetables puts them beyond the reach of the agricultural workers.Can we wonder that at night thieves rifle the gardens of the people? The Barbados report goes on to say:'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn'.That is an apt quotation. The Trinidad report contains an inadequate examination of this problem, and I trust that the Home Government and the local Government will give it further consideration.
The failure of the report to deal with the financial aspect of the recommendations must be disappointing to this Committee and, no doubt, in some measure, to the Colonial Secretary himself. The report says: 779We have made no attempt to set out the financial implications of our recommendations as there is, at the moment, very little data on which to base an estimate.The only satisfactory aspect of the position in the Colony is the state of the public finances. Although the depression in the West Indies was very severe following 1931, Trinidad increased its reserve fund by over £100,000. That must be a matter for surprise, but not altogether for gratification, because, with these Treasury reserves accumulating, there were terrible and deplorable social conditions, which indicate that the brunt of the depression may well have been borne by the mass of the people, without any alleviation by means of the social services.
Let us remember that, in Trinidad, as in Barbados, the people accepted a very-low scale of wages during the depression. With economic conditions improving, as they have been doing of late, is it not right that the improvement should be reflected in an improved standard of life for the working masses of the island? The Commission made no proposal at all how a part of the large profits of the oil and sugar companies might be earmarked for the betterment of the conditions of the people. I hope that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us on these points. Of course, such matters are not peculiar to Trinidad; they are present wherever territories are exploited from other countries, wherever capital comes from sources outside. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether it is not possible to introduce some such measure as the Native Betterment Fund which was advocated by Lord Moyne from Kenya. In view of the happy experience of the Exchequer of Trinidad, and of the fact that the public debt is only £2,300,000—that is to say, less than the annual revenue—and that there is a reserve of £1,000,000, there seems to be ample justification for the view that the adoption of the recommendations of the Commission will not throw on the Colony a burden heavier than it can reasonably bear.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley
I am glad, Captain Bourne, that I have been fortunate enough to catch your eye. I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to intervene in this Debate for the reason that I 780 happen to be a director of a company which has a large interest in one of the larger profit-earning oil companies in Trinidad, and am also a shareholder in that company. I think it only right that I should make my position perfectly clear to the House at the outset of my remarks. Moreover, I have, owing to the reasons I have explained, a good deal of information of a reliable character which I think the House may like to have.
In Trinidad—and I may say that I am only speaking for the oil industries there, and not in any way for the agricultural side of the island, of which I do not profess to know anything—the oil industries, while they employ only some 13 per cent. of the working population, provide 59 per cent. of the island's export value and 63 per cent. of the oil produced solely in the British Empire. The companies are required to maintain refineries and produce fuel oil to Admiralty specification, and the Government have the right in time of national emergency to commandeer the whole of the oil supplies of the island. Obviously, therefore, it is vital that the oil output of the island and the safety of the supply should be maintained. The oil industries are glad to feel that until last year there was comparative freedom from strikes. It is true that there was one in the year 1935, but it was a very shortlived affair, lasting only about three days, and it took place without any prior submission of grievances. It was disowned at that time by the Labour party, and only 200 of the 900 employés on the Apex oilfield came out.
§ Sir A. Gridley
As to that I am not sure, but I can say that they had ample opportunities of placing any grievances before the management. They frequently did so, and their representations received full consideration. It was then that Butler appeared on the scene. He managed to organise about 120 of these discontented employés, and took them through a series of hunger marches, thus showing himself to be an entirely irresponsible agitator of trouble which the trade unions themselves—
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
On a point of Order. I understand that in the case of 781 Butler an appeal to the Privy Council has been lodged, and in such circumstances it would not, I imagine, be in order to discuss the matter here?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I should like to support that suggestion. I am in this difficulty about any reference to Butler: He was tried before a judge and jury and sentenced. The case went to the local court of appeal and the decision was confirmed. I understand that the question of a further appeal is being discussed, and, therefore, I think it is impossible, in view of our custom, to discuss the Butler case.
§ Mr. Maxton
I would like a very precise Ruling from you, Captain Bourne, on this matter. Do we understand that all references to Butler's personality and work during the whole of this trouble will be out of order? Personally, I should not desire to refer to the details of the matter for which he is being or has been tried and on which he is appealing, but, if I were speaking, I should want to pay tribute to Butler's work, and I hope that this point of order is not going to rule out that opportunity.
The Committee will perhaps appreciate that I am not very clear either as to the grounds on which Mr. Butler was convicted or the grounds on which he is appealing, but it would appear to me that, following our usual and customary rules, the matters on which he might be raising an appeal are obviously matters which should not be discussed in this Committee while the case is sub judice. At the moment I understood the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) to be raising a discussion, not about what Mr. Butler has done in regard to the present troubles in Trinidad, and in connection with which, I understand, he was sentenced, but about what Mr. Butler may or may not have done three years ago, in regard to which, presumably, he has not been sentenced and is not now appealing to the Privy Council. References to that would obviously be in order.
§ Mr. Maxton
In the report very severe strictures are passed on Mr. Butler's character, personality and mentality, and surely we should be entitled to refer to matters of that description which are actually in the report?
It would seem to me that, in so far as those matters do not form part of the grounds either for Mr. Butler's sentence or for his appeal, the hon. Member would be perfectly in order in referring to them. He will perhaps appreciate, however, that I have not seen the sentence or the grounds of appeal, and, therefore, I am in a little difficulty in making up my mind beforehand on the matter.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I am sure we are all very much indebted to you, Captain Bourne, for the clear lead you have given us. I shall follow it as closely as I can. If I transgress, no doubt I shall be called to order immediately.
At that time the then Governor inquired into the grievances which lead to the short-lived strike in 1935, and he told the men that they had acted foolishly. From then until June, 1937, there was no trouble of any serious nature in the oilfield. I do not want to refer any more to Mr. Butler at this moment, beyond advising the Committee to look at page 82 of the report, where the Commission set out their views as to how and by whom the trouble in June, 1937, was started. The record of Butler—
§ Sir A. Gridley
I am referring to paragraph (4), in which they say:the immediate cause of the outbreak was the activities of Butler and the unruly element of which his following was mainly composed.
§ Mr. Bevan
Surely the hon. Member ought to quote the other paragraphs which say that the reason why the outbreak occurred was that there was a general sense of dissatisfaction, and that:while many men stopped work under the stress of intimidation there had arisen a widespread belief that a strike was the only means whereby an advance of wages could be secured to meet the increased cost of living and to obtain redress of other grievances.Surely, the other reason is incidental to that.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I have read the report very carefully, because of my serious concern about the matter, and while it is true that dissatisfaction about all kinds of matters was stirred up by these agitators before these outbreaks took place, they 783 were responsible for the riots in which those sentiments subsequently developed. I had intended to read to the House a letter written by Butler to the general manager of the Apex company, but I think that, in view of the point of Order which has been raised, I had better not do so. Butler's record stands in the Commission's report at page 58, and I can leave it there. I will pass to the next of the fomenters of trouble, Rienzi, an East Indian lawyer, who is described in the report as Butler's accredited emissary. His record is well known in the island, and I think I can leave it there—
§ Sir A. Gridley
I think that his record is pretty well known in the island, and is equally well known to hon. and right hon. Members opposite, and that it is just as well for their case that I do leave it there. I pass to the next, namely, Cipriani, a Corsican, who is referred to in paragraph 228 of the Commission's report, which states that his examples:appear to have been chosen with such reckless disregard of fact as to render his evidence on this part of our inquiry of no value.Lastly, we have a man named Roodal, a member of the Trinidad Labour party, who asked permission to address the crowd in the hope that he might pacify them, but whose speech, the Commission record only tended further to inflame the crowd. These three gentlemen to whom I have just referred are all members of the Legislative Council, and it is not surprising that the employers felt that unions so led must incite trouble. I need not remind hon. and right hon. Members opposite that some of their troubles in years gone by in the proper conduct of their own trade unions have been due to the difficulties caused by what are usually known as their wild men.
As to the classes of labour employed: first, there are the West Indians, who are employed mostly on the oilfields. They prefer long hours and more money. They are the spenders, and are nearly always in debt. On the agricultural estates the East Indians are mainly employed. They 784 take holidays, and during their holidays they plant or reap their rice. They are savers. The one trouble that one finds with them is that owing to their saving habits they spend too little on food, which to some extent accounts for the reference in the report to malnutrition. Reference is also made to the South Africans and their bad habits. It may interest hon. Members opposite to be told that of the working population the South Africans in Trinidad amount to 2.4 per cent. I had rather expected that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) would have more specifically narrated his complaints, or linked them up with the oil companies; but he did not do so.
Wages on the oilfields have always been higher than those paid for agricultural work or in Government and local government services, as the hon. Member must know. In that island, the cost of clothes, fuel and housing are but a fraction of the cost of such things as we know them; that should be borne in mind when considering the value of the wages paid. There was never any dissatisfaction with the wages paid on the oilfields during the world slump, when the cost of living was low. During that time, when food and clothing were cheaper, the workers, not unnaturally, had more money to spend on those items, and they quite rightly improved their standard of living. When the cost of living went up, at the beginning of 1937, they naturally began to feel the effect of it. It was then, and only then, that these complaints were heard.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I could produce a complete table of the classes of labour and the wages of each. It is a very long and complicated table, but I should be glad to let the right hon. Gentleman have it, if he so wishes. It was in February, 1937, that Colonel Hickling, general manager of the Apex oilfield, who had been home on leave, returned to the island; and he then learned that these complaints about the increase in the cost of living were becoming really serious. He started a cost-of-living index, the commencement of which had been urged on the local government in 1935, though nothing in that direction had been done when the strike broke out in 1937. Very soon Colonel Hickling represented to the 785 association which represents the oil companies in the island that there should be an increase of wages for the lower-paid grades of labour. The association asked the Government if they had any data which would afford guidance. They made the same suggestion to the sugar companies. On 21st April, the Governor said he was unaware of any general increase in the cost of living, but he called upon his poor relief officer to take part in the discussion and submit any figures he might have. The poor relief officer did so. The Governor then said that these increases were quite appreciable. Then, apparently for the first time, he realised that there were reasonable grounds for the complaint about the rise in the cost of living. I believe it is true that at that time the Trinidad Government wrote home to the Colonial Office to see if they could be informed of the methods adopted here of arriving at the cost of living.
But the oilfield companies did not wait. They approved an increase for the lower grades on the Apex oilfield, and it was not limited to the lower grades, but applied all round. [An HON. MEMBER: "By how much?"] By one cent an hour. And those increases have since been augmented, before the implementation of the Commission's report. I ask the Committee to believe that the wages increases that have been granted on the oilfields are ample to enable the workers to secure adequate food supplies. About that, we have no doubt. If I may detain the Committee a few moments to tell what is done in other ways to make the workers contented I would say that in this respect they are much better off than the workers in some industries in this country. They get one week's holiday with pay after five years' service. [Laughter.] I do not quite understand the mirth of hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members may laugh at what I was saying; but there is an object in making five years a condition, and I think it is perfectly reasonable. It is to try to secure continuity of employment on the oilfields, and to prevent constant change. Fifty per cent. of the workers on the oilfields at present have qualified for these holidays with pay. Medical services and medicine are free to the workers and their families. There are clubs, and the membership fees for them are very reasonable, 6d. to 1s. 6d. per week, depending on whether you are a playing or a non-playing member.
§ Sir A. Gridley
It should be per quarter, not per week. The fact that these clubs have extensive memberships indicates that the people have no difficulty in paying this sum. The oil companies tried the introduction of canteens, but these proved a failure. That is quite understandable. In hot climates you do not want canteens to provide hot meals in the middle of the day. In regard to compensation, it is true that there was a waiting period of 10 days, but that has already been reduced to three. I do not think that this indicates any lack of consideration or provision for all reasonable needs in a tropical country.
§ Sir A. Gridley
The dividends paid by this company are common knowledge. They have paid dividends of 35 per cent., and last year it was 45 per cent.; and they pay the highest wages in the island.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
Could the hon. Member say in how many cases workmen's compensation has been given during 1936 or 1937?
§ Sir A. Gridley
I could not, offhand; but I suppose I could get it for the hon. Member if he attaches importance to it.
I do attach importance to it, because I understand that habitually workmen do not get compensation.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I am quite certain the hon. Member has been misinformed. As to the details for which he asks, I cannot give them without looking up the records.
§ Sir A. Gridley
With regard to housing, I will say this. If the Committee have studied the report with great care they will see that the Commission say that the houses on the Apex oilfields are thoroughly satisfactory; and the fact is, that so good a standard has been adopted 787 there that the demand for the same type of houses is coming from all over the island. The conditions of housing in some places are disgraceful beyond description. I presume that one reason is that the local authorities have not sufficient finance to enable them to carry out schemes in the same way as we are endeavouring to deal with them here. Finally, I would like to say that the oil companies endorse the report of the Commission. They agree with its main findings, and they are prepared to co-operate with the Government in implementing them. I have felt it essential to put, as far as I have been able, the case for the oil companies, because I do not think that it should go out from this Committee that those who are responsible for the welfare of their employés in the largest oil-producing centre of the Empire are unmindful of their duties to their workpeople because, in my view and from my knowledge, emphatically the reverse is the case.
§ 5.1 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
I feel that we are considering this report to-day largely because, among the representatives of the oil companies in Trinidad, there are men of somewhat similar outlook to the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat. This is an extraordinary apology on behalf of the oil companies, and it is fortunate that certain of the directors, anyway, are learning a little from experience, and are prepared to recommend that certain of the proposals in the report shall be implemented. I do not want to discuss the manner in which the disturbances in Trinidad were handled, important as that is, but to consider, first, the underlying causes of the unrest, and, secondly, the constructive proposals which have been made for the purpose of removing them. It is a tragedy of human folly that it takes a great upheaval to remind us of our obligations and responsibilities, and then often it is too late. We are reminded in the report that time brings changes and that events march on. I will quote what the Acting Colonial Secretary in Trinidad said in one of those speeches for which he has received the censorship of the Commission:In the past we have salved our consciences with humbug and have had to satisfy labour with platitude. Those days have gone by.788 When I turn to the report of the Commission on the Barbados I see these striking words:You cannot tell a hungry man to wait and see, for a man in this condition is apt to be unreasonable and even dangerous. We are told it is a pity to give expression to these sentiments when the remedy is easily apparent. We cannot accept this view. The true folly, it seems to us, would be to shut our eyes to the facts, and hope for the best.I submit that the Trinidad report does not console us that all is well in Trinidad. Men and women are made desperate by want and squalor. They do not see things through the eyes of comfortable oil investors, nor do they see them through the eyes of Colonial administrators. Desperation, anger and misery are apt to burst through conventional arrangements, and it is no longer a matter of wonder that, when anger does burst through, disturbances, or something even worse, occur. This lurid picture is true of events described in the report.
I regret, with previous speakers, that certain statements in the report are unsupported by evidence. There are inconsistencies and phrases, which, to say the least, are unfortunate, but I do not think that it is fair to regard the report as altogether a whitewashing document. I regret the references to the Acting-Colonial Secretary and the Governor. It is all right being wise after the event, but it may be that these men were expressing what circumstances were forcing to their notice. Indeed, it is refreshing sometimes—we do not often get it—when someone in a high place, an official of high responsibility, directs attention to the growing evils and social abuses in the territories in which he is in control, and I hope that other officials will not be deterred by the manner in which the Commission has treated this Governor. I hope, too, that the workers in Colonial territories who are struggling for a higher standard of life will not feel that their struggle is altogether hopless.
I have read in a journal recently published by one of the Indian organisations in British Guiana of the repercussions of the treatment which the Colonial Governor has received. It points out to Indian workersthe sacrifice on the altar of truth";Sir Murchison Fletcher pays the penalty.Sugar kings score a victory.789Because he spoke of what he deemed to be so iniquitous a system of exploitation that was being permitted in a British Colony, this British Governor has had to pay the penalty.That is the kind of reaction you get when you single out officials who have been brave enough to declare the truth as they see it. The feeling is spread abroad that it is more or less useless to speak out the truth, because, sooner or later, forces of repression are brought into play. The report also leaves important gaps re the economic life in the island, but one thing that emerges is that these disturbances were not due as the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) seems to imagine, and as stated by the Duke of Montrose in another place toinsidious Communist propaganda on antiracial lines.Also the Commission which sat in Barbados pointed out that it was not race or Communist propaganda which caused the disturbances there but rather hunger, and they add thatthe real cause of the disturbances was, in fact, economic.If the hon. Member will turn to paragraph 267 of the Trinidad Report he will there see that the Commission declare that,the … disturbances … in our judgment, found their underlying causes in the working and living conditions of the labouring people.It was similar when the inquiry sat on the disturbances in St. Kitts in 1935. There was no legal proof of agitators or agitation. The causes were found in low wages. In fact, the leader of the oil magnates in Trinidad, Colonel Hickling himself, told the Governor of that island that the unrest was due solely to the rise in prices and that Butler's intervention played no part.
Trinidad happens to be the most prosperous of the West Indian Islands. The Colonial Treasury is not low. There is a great deal of work being done, public works are in progress, harbours are being made, roads cut, buildings are going up, waterworks are in the course of erection and the surplus revenue last year was in the neighbourhood of £1,500,000. If the Treasury are prosperous, likewise certain of the industries have turned the corner. I will refer only to the major industries and products in the island. In respect of cocoa, although precarious, it was showing improvement, and, in regard to 790 sugar, the Trade Commissioner in his report published the other day said that sugar was now on a sound basis. The same is true of sugar in Barbados where the Commission into the disturbances reported that provided properly managedsugar is a fairly lucrative concern.It is obvious that even greater prosperity will come, now that efficient management and organisation is being adopted in Trinidad. I would point out, as the Mover of the Amendment pointed out, that after all, the sugar companies of Trinidad enjoy a preference of quite a considerable magnitude. The Colonial Secretary, in reply to a question the other day, said that as far as sugar from Trinidad imported into the United Kingdom is concerned, the preference amounted to an advantage of £530,000 in one year. Why is it that the workers in Trinidad seem to be excluded altogether from the advantages of that preference?
I turn to oil, and it is true, as the previous speaker pointed out, that oil offers employment only to a limited section of the island; but oil is a very vital factor in the economy of the island. I read with amazement the cursory treatment of oil in the report of the Commission. I recollected that the Trinidad Leaseholds Company have already declared last year a dividend of 30 per cent. and a profit of over £1,000,000, and that 78 per cent. of the production of the oil in the islands was in the hands of four or five companies, and that since 1922 the Apex Company had paid 540 per cent. in dividends, and since 1917 the Leaseholds Oil Company had paid no less than 305 per cent. We are asked, in face of these facts, to believe that labour should be satisfied on a wretched fodder basis. What are the facts? Faced with these enormous profits—a profit of £1,500,000—the sum total of the wage bill for labour for a year is only £473,000. The average dividends declared amount to 23 per cent. after allowing for taxation and depreciation. Yet justificatioin is offered by the representatives of the oil companies for the abominably low wages by the argument that if they are improved too much—
§ Major Owen
Is the hon. Member comparing wages for the oil workers in Trinidad with wages of other workers in Trinidad, or is he comparing them with 791 the wages of workers in this country, where conditions are entirely different?
Mr. Creech Jones
I was comparing the total wage bill with the total amount of profits earned by the companies concerned.
§ Major Owen
That is not what the hon. Member said. He was comparing the wages paid to the workers in the oil industry with some other wage-earners somewhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Oh, yes, he was. I am merely asking the hon. Gentleman if he will tell the Committee with what other workers' wages he is comparing the wages of the oil workers in Trinidad?
Mr. Creech Jones
I cannot understand the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member. I have not compared the wages paid to the workers in Trinidad with the wages paid to other workers in that island or in any other part of the world. I have merely pointed out the total wage bill for the workers in the oilfields of Trinidad as being £470,000 while the profits of the oil companies are £1,500,000.
§ Major Owen rose—
If the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) does not give way, I have no means of making him do so. Therefore, the hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to speak.
Mr. Creech Jones
The hon. and gallant Member will have an opportunity to speak during the Debate. The point I was making when interrupted was that certain oil companies justify the miserable wages paid, on the ground that if better wages are paid they will have a prejudicial effect on the low wages already appertaining in regard to sugar, cocoa and other agricultural work. The figures in the report in respect to oil show that the profits have been arrived at after the revenue of the oil companies has been charged with capital expenditure, although it is well know that certain of the wells, no fewer than 48, which were sunk before the War, are still supplying oil. Nevertheless, the full capital expenditure for sinking wells is charged against revenue. Consequently we get the extraordinary figures submitted in the report, which are used as a justification for not pursuing a policy of social ownership of the mineral wealth of the country.
792 The taxation of the oil companies is only 2s. 6d. in the £ on their profits. Out of that 2s. 6d. the companies stand to gain, both as a result of the public works which are built, and also in some respects by social services of a limited character that are supplied to the workers in the oilfields. I can understand why Lord Strickland, speaking in another place, said that "the oil interests should organise their own Press to mould public opinion among the natives along the right lines." When the report was published, the "Times" correspondent in Trinidad sent a message to the effect that:This report, it is believed, will help to dispel the illusion that oil company shareholders will be deprived of satisfactory dividends because of excessive increases of labour costs.The report is a commentary on human values in the eyes of our administrators and in the eyes of capitalists. It seems to me to be a fearful story of neglect, of no continuous watchfulness on behalf of the inhabitants concerned, and no progressive development in social interest. If the Committee turn to the Barbados report they will see that the criticism of the administration is even more devastating than in the Trinidad report. Commission after Commission has gone to the West Indies with a view to putting recommendations forward to check the economic decay, and circular after circular has been issued by the Colonial Office on housing, malnutrition and labour problems with a view to arresting social decay, and yet very little has been done. It is not necessary for me to quote the report, because it speaks for itself. It is true that a few companies have paid attention to the housing and the health needs of their employés, but as against that there is the stark reality of an infinite amount of illiteracy throughout the island, of attempts at land settlements which have been footling and more or less futile, of the dreadful lack of sanitation and wretched health, of the appalling housing conditions, the neglect of labour, the neglect to provide a protective labour code—all these things are written large throughout the report.
Reference has been made to the circular of the previous Colonial Secretary urging the legislators of the island to do something about setting up an industrial court and establishing a labour department. 793 The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) referred to the fact that it was possible for the workers in the industry to bring their grievances to the notice of their employers. What does the report tell us? On page 54 it says:In this connection"—speaking of conditions in the oilfields—it must be recognised that up to that stage no means of collective expression had been available to the workers.On page 76, paragraph 257, the report states:At the same time, labour in this new field of industry has been as little equipped as labour in the agricultural areas with the means of articulating grievances, or discussing, through recognised machinery of collective bargaining, matters relating to its terms and conditions of employment.In point of fact, Colonel Hickling has made it quite clear that, as a result of the unrest, not only have some of the oil companies conceded small improvements in wages, but they have made contacts with the representatives of the workers in order that their grievances may be heard.
I should like to turn to certain of the constructive proposals embodied in the report. If some of those proposals are adopted it will be the beginning of a new chapter as far as social and industrial legislation is concerned, and the repercussions will be felt in other parts of the West Indies. I hope, therefore, that the Colonial Office will vigorously press on the Government of Trinidad the importance of going forward with the improvements referred to in respect of education, health, housing, sanitation and land settlement. I would refer briefly to the proposals respecting labour, because it may be, the recommendations do not carry us very much further than the statement sent out from the Colonial Office by the previous Colonial Secretary. We want a labour department, the appointment of conciliation officers, the setting up of trade boards, the re-establishment of the industrial court and workmen's compensation. I am glad to note that the Duke of Montrose, on behalf of the oil companies, has already promised co-operation in the carrying out of these recommendations. He said in another place:We have in the oilfields no objection whatever to the principles of trade unionism; no objection whatever to collective bargaining.I am glad to know that he accepts the soundness of trade union principles, I 794 hope it will not be a condition of the registration of a trade union that it should be a craft organisation. We have had some experience in the Union of South Africa in regard to that particular type of regulation. I sincerely hope that the character, form and structure of the organisation will be a matter for the workers themselves to determine. We want, further, an independent trade union movement. I do not want a trade union organisation which depends for its very life on the good will of the Government. I do not want an organisation tied and regulated by the State. We see what has happened in Germany. Sound trade union organisations should be encouraged. It will be a pity if they are made dependent for their continuance on the good will of the Government.
I want also to press the point—it is not dealt with in the report, certainly not in the recommendations—that the trade unions when recognised should enjoy the full rights of trade unionism as enjoyed in this country. They should have the right of picketing in times of industrial disputes, and they should be immune from attack, similar to the immunity provided in the 1906 legislation here. Further, I hope that the sedition law will be kept in the background. Under the present law a subject is liable to prosecution if "he raises discontent among His Majesty's subjects." We want a wide and tolerant interpretation of that Clause.
I am glad that the Colonial Secretary has already sent out an adviser and that, in view of the importance of expert labour knowledge in the Colonial Office, Major Orde Browne has recently been appointed. I welcome and congratulate the Colonial Secretary on the remarkably good Circular on Labour Problems issued by him in August last, and I hope he will vigorously follow it up and (see that Colonial Departments are established in nearly all our Colonial territories, that the kind of labour protective code there visualised is embodied in legislation, and that such legislation is vigorously operated. I would also ask the Colonial Secretary, in view of all the difficulties and troubles in our Colonies, whether the time has not come for something more inside the Colonial Office than an interdepartmental committee. I urge that there should be an advisory committee, which would have labour problems under its continuous attention, that on that 795 committee there should be experts with real labour and colonial knowledge and experience, and people who have had some experience of trade union matters in this country, in order to advise the Secretary of State on these important issues.
I welcome also the decision to withdraw the troops from Trinidad, and am glad that the spokesman of the Government in another place has made the position of the Government clear in regard to the reintroduction of corporal punishment for praedial larceny. He said:The precise steps to be taken with this evil of praedial larceny must vary in different places, but the idea to be aimed at must always be the removal of the predisposing cause.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
In fairness to the Commission I ought to make the position clear. They did not advocate the introduction of corporal punishment. They pointed out that corporal punishment for this offence had been on the Statute Book in Trinidad ever since the year 1921.
Mr. Creech Jones
My point is that corporal punishment had fallen into disuse and the Commission recommended that corporal punishment should be revived as a punishment for a second offence. But I am glad that the disposition of the Government is to attack causes rather than prevent larceny by the use of the whip. There are several omissions of real importance from the report. Several reports of Commissions which have recently investigated matters have suggested that there should be a new economic survey of this part of our Colonial Empire. The Trinidad report points out that Crown lands are being leased to oilfields at the expense of 796 peasant development; that there may prove to be definite limits to the production of oil, and also that the introduction of the working of oil in the island is having its repercussions on the agricultural colony.
The Trade Commissioner in his report takes a similar view and points out that sooner or later the island will be thrown back on its agricultural resources. Views are expressed in regard to economic disorganisation in respect to British Honduras and there is need for land settlement there. The Barbados report points out, as a matter of great urgency, that no fewer than 20,000 workers should be found some other place in which to settle. Development and land settlement are called for in British Guiana. The Barbados report recommends that there should be another Royal Commission to deal with migration and land settlement throughout the West Indies, British Guiana and British Honduras, and that such a Commission should take into consideration not only the problem of overpopulation and land settlement but also the relations with the mainland and inter-island trade. That is a request to which I should like the Colonial Secretary to give serious attention. If there is to be any future for this island—the underlying cause of the unrest is poverty—then there should be an economic survey in order that some definite planning may be pursued. Reference is also made to co-operation among the peasants, but I can find no recommendations on this matter in the report. I hope the Colonial Secretary will give some attention to this omission.
The third omission I wish to mention is that the report does not refer to what is urgently necessary in the island—some form of constitutional change. I do not want to see political agitation submerge the proposals for economic improvement. But at the moment there are only 26,000 people on the franchise out of a population of over 400,000. The franchise is far too limited, and the qualification for membership of the Legislature is far too high. In the Legislature there are only seven out of 26 representatives who are elected, and I suggest it would be a good thing not only that the franchise should be broadened and the standard of qualification for membership be reduced, but that the Governor should no longer preside over the Legislature, and also that 797 there should be a larger element in the council of elected members.
When you are pushing through economic and social changes as are called for by this report, it is important that the views of the people themselves should be heard in the Chamber if only to counteract the criticism that social and industrial legislation is being shaped by a wealthy oligarchy or by the interests which are in control or represented at the present time. In the French West Indies there is adult suffrage and this ought to be extended to the British West Indies. I therefore press on the Government the recommendations in the report in the hope that so far as social and labour legislation is concerned and the recommendations in regard to the trade unions, except for the reservations I have made, may be applied without further delay. I feel that we must bring home to white capital that it has definite obligations to black and coloured workers. After all, the workers in Trinidad are our fellow citizens in the British Empire, or they should be, and our task as trustees is to stop their exploitation and misery and help them forward to a better social and economic order which will guarantee to them a better quality of life.
§ 5.39 p.m.
I have read the report with some care and have also discussed these matters with various people who have lived in the island for some time. It is unfortunate that at this moment in one of our most ancient colonies disturbances should have arisen which necessitated the appointment of the Commission, but at any rate it is a good thing, when occasions like this arise, that the full flood of publicity is brought to bear upon the incidents which occurred and that there is complete freedom to debate the matter in this House. There are one or two general observations I should like to make. We have in this island a very unfortunate set of circumstances. If we take the physical conditions of the population, the majority are descendants of slaves brought over generations ago; many others are descendants of East Indians brought over under the unfortunate indenture system which ended in 1917. Again, the great majority of the inhabitants of the island are suffering from syphilis, hookworm or malaria, and that does not seem to be 798 a very good basis on which to build up satisfactory labour conditions.
Take, again, the economic aspect of the country, the collapse of the cocoa trade. For 50 years, almost for two generations, it was the main source of the prosperity and welfare of the island, but from the year 1920 the industry has steadily declined, and it is now one of the least important instead of being the most important exports of the island. In addition, it has to be confessed, and the report endorses it, that the administration, to put it mildly, has been rather a poor one. There is also throughout the island a very corrupt standard of life. The actual circumstances which cause these riots have been outlined. The most important was the rising cost of living and the fact that there were no organised labour unions through whose representatives the workers could make their case heard. It is idle to deny that when the trouble broke out the extremists, or hooligans, call them what you like, took control, and thereby made it far more difficult to come to a satisfactory solution of the problem.
When you consider all these factors I think it is remarkable that trouble of some kind or other did not occur before. On the other side of the account the island is very rich in natural resources and in revenue. The cost of living is low, the climate is, for that part of the world, fairly good. In spite of the mixed population in the island there is very little religious or racial animosity, and that is worth noting when you consider how much exists in certain other colonies. No one can deny that the report is a fair document. It states the case from every point of view. It has been signed by every member of the Commission as a unanimous report, and when one takes into consideration the character, lives and occupations of the individuals concerned, no one will disagree that the report gives a very impartial account of what has taken place. Almost every one in the island comes in for blame in some paragraph, no one gets away in a white sheet from the Governor to the labour leaders. In cases of this kind so much depends on the personality of certain individuals, and it does seem unfortunate that when these troubles arose there were so many people who did not possess the necessary tact or who were extremists in their views. The 799 choice of individuals who played a part in these troubles added immensely to the difficulty of the Government on the spot in coming to a solution of the difficulties.
One is tempted to wonder sometimes whether disturbances of some sort or other could have been avoided when one considers the unfortunate incidents and circumstances of the past few years. But when I have said that I must also add that there is no excuse whatever for the actual form in which these incidents arose, resulting in the loss of a considerable number of lives and the wounding of large numbers of people. Again and again in the report we read how firm action would have saved lives and how the absence of decision in a particular moment resulted in increasing loss of life and limb. The only remark I wish to make in this respect is that we can learn a lesson from what took place.
One word as regards the oil industry. I make no apology for referring to it. It is an industry which has increased 150 per cent. in the last 10 years. The facts and figures which have been given show how important it is not only to the island but to the whole British Empire. I speak, perhaps unfortunately for the sake of my pocket, not as a director of any oil company. I have made certain inquiries because when I heard that they were paying such high dividends and were apparently so rich I naturally asked what part they played in these circumstances. I tried to find out certain facts. The case against the oil companies has been already stated by an hon. Member. What really are the facts? I do not think the oil companies as a whole need be ashamed of the facts as recorded in the report. I do not for one moment suggest that they are completely free from blame; but the majority of the small oil companies—for I am not here referring to the big companies—have paid no dividend for some years and their unfortunate shareholders have had no returns on their investments. What are the wages paid by the oil companies? I have never been to the island, but the facts which I am about to give can be substantiated by any hon. Member who is prepared to make the same inquiries as I have. The average wage of the ordinary worker in the oilfields to-day is 30s. a week, and the wage of the skilled worker may be 48s. a week or more.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
If I said that, I must have given a very wrong answer. I have before me a full schedule of the rates of wages, and the striking fact is that they vary so much apparently for the same type of people. Some of those employed in production receive from 12 cents to 26 cents an hour for a 48-hour week, which makes from 23s. to just over 50s. a week. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no such thing as a flat rate for any grade in the oil industry as a whole.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
As far as I can ascertain, the total number of persons of all grades, European and local, employed in the industry is 9,000. The work is tremendously diversified.
Here it is not a question of opinions, but one of facts. I asked what was the average wage of the worker, and I was told that it was between one dollar 12 cents and one dollar 20 cents a day, which amounts to about 30s. a week. [Interruption.] I ask hon. Members to allow me to put the case as I heard it. I will make further inquiries after I have finished speaking, and perhaps hon. Members opposite will do the same. I relate the facts as they were told to me. I asked for information from a person whom I thought would be the most able to give it to me—the representative of one of the companies—and he produced the figures and papers relating to the wages that are paid. Furthermore, we have to consider what is the average cost of living. In the rural districts in this country it is possible to get board and lodging for about 25s. a week. Although I admit that no figures are wholly relative, I gather that the equivalent figure in Trinidad is something 801 in the neighbourhood of 12s. 6d. Therefore, the case that has been made against the oil companies on the ground of wages is not a very good one. There are other aspects of the question on which hon. Members opposite could much better pursue their attack. The report itself states that the wages are relatively good. [Interruption.] Let us admit that all wages are too low everywhere and that we would like to see them raised.
With regard to housing conditions, it is stated in the report that the housing provided by the Apex (Trinidad) Oil Company—of which I am not a director and in which I have no shares—is good. In an island where so much is bad, let us at any rate mention one thing which happens to be good. It has to be remembered that before an oil company can spend large sums of money on providing adequate housing, it must be certain that there is more than a few years' supply of oil. The whole oil industry, of course, is a very speculative one, but unless and until a company knows that it has supplies of oil which will last for some time, obviously it cannot afford to spend a great deal of money on housing. During the last two or three years, the oil resources of Trinidad have been investigated and have been found to be far more plentiful than it was originally thought they were, and the biggest oil companies have begun to spend a very considerable amount of money on housing.
I will quote one figure to the Committee. The Trinidad Leaseholds Company, in the year 1936–37, spent £16,500 on housing for native labour, and this year the figure is considerably in excess of that. Again, the oil industry was the first to recognise the rise in the cost of living and to give what hon. Members may consider an inadequate, but at any rate an increased, wage. The oil companies have been blamed for not having trade unions for their workers, but I put it to hon. Members that if these companies had themselves tried to form trade unions, would not labour in the island have been very suspicious of them? Would they not immediately have been designated as company unions, in the pay and under the control of the companies? 802 I think the Labour party in that country must at any rate share the blame for not having created trade unions.
Mr. Creech Jones
I would point out to the hon. Member that there were one or two trade unions in the island, but they felt they could not operate because they understood that they did not have the normal rights which a trade union should enjoy in order properly to fulfil its function. They felt that they had not the right to do peaceful picketing, and that their funds would be liable to attack in the event of their operating in an industrial dispute.
I am fully aware of those things, but I maintain that it is impossible to lay the blame on either one side or the other. I do not wish to refer to Mr. Butler, but I would observe that Mr. Butler, who is now being championed by hon. Members opposite, was expelled from membership of the Trinidad Labour party on account of his extremist tendencies. I am not arguing the merits or otherwise of that matter, but it shows that the history of the Labour party in Trinidad is not so blameless that it can be ignored by hon. Members opposite, and the whole blame put on the employers in the oil industry.
The hon. Member'? remark may be very witty, but I do not think there is any analogy. One hon. Member mentioned the question of the South Africans, which is also dealt with in the report. The number of South Africans employed by the particular company is 13, five of them having no connection with labour conditions. After all, South Africans are human beings like anybody else, and they have resented the slur which has been cast upon them as individuals who have no sympathy with or understanding of labour conditions. In the report, it is stated that the Commission were able to get no evidence with regard to the feeling on this matter. I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will give some word of comfort to these South Africans. The idea that there are large numbers of them in the industry has been entirely refuted, for they represent only a very small body 803 of technical people, the majority of whom have no connection with labour conditions; and to blame them as being largely responsible for what has taken place is neither fair to them nor fair to the country to which they belong.
§ Mr. Benn
It it not a fact that these South Africans, who are, I suppose, managers or persons in similar positions, come straight from similar enterprises in South Africa, and is it not a material point that they might introduce into Trinidad the conception of the relations between white and black people which prevails in South Africa?
Does the right hon. Gentlemen imagine that 13 men on a staff of 500 would have that amount of influence? After all, is it not in their interests that there should be harmonious conditions between employers and workers? I am willing to admit that there may have been some of them who may have had tendencies and characteristics not entirely acceptable to other people in the island—that is true of a good many people in Trinidad—but I think that far too much has been made about these South Africans employed by one company in Trinidad. It is extremely unfair to the individuals concerned.
It is no good minimising the situation, it is idle to pretend that conditions were not extremely bad and it is no use thinking that conditions in some parts of the island are any too satisfactory even today; but it is also futile to go back and to rake up old grievances. It is a pity that the world should see the inefficiency and incompetence of our Colonial administration in this island, for that is not true in the case of the majority of other parts of the British Empire. It is clear that firm rule will be needed for some time to come in Trinidad, and that there will have to be a cleansing of many of the Departments in the island. I hope and trust that many, if not all, of the suggestions of the Commission will be put into practice as soon as possible. The island can afford that, and the question of expense cannot be put forward as an excuse for delay in putting into operation the suggestions of the Commission, in relation to housing, education, medical reforms, and the formation of 804 trade unions. But all these will be practically useless unless there is a vigorous and efficient administration at the head, backed by the support and encouragement of Whitehall.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
We have heard two speeches by supporters of the Government who, although admitting that there is a serious aspect of this report, have claimed that there are extenuating circumstances. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), speaking about the oil industry in Trinidad, asked the committee to take the view that the cause of the political disturbances was Mr. Butler. He maintained that it was Mr. Butler who brought about the deplorable events which resulted in a considerable loss of life. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) seemed to think that the whole difficulty arises from certain circumstances in Trinidad. Those Members who seem to think that these disturbances in Trinidad, in which 14 people lost their lives and 68 were injured, were due to a local or special cause, would do well to bear in mind that, although we are now discussing only the report on Trinidad and Tabago, such disturbances characterised practically all the West Indian islands in 1935 and in 1937. For instance, there were disturbances in Jamaica, St. Kitt's and St. Vincent in 1935, and in 1937 there were disturbances in the Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. In those two years, taking all those islands, no fewer than 39 people lost their lives and 175 were injured in disturbances.
A widespread manifestation such as these figures indicate, cannot be attributed to an individual in Trinidad. If cannot all be attributed to Uriah Butler. We have to remember that these important islands are in some cases hundreds of miles apart, and I am not aware that there is any close association between the people of one island and another. The fact that these disturbances have been common to practically all the West Indian islands points to the fact that they have their root in some common cause. I do not dispute, and the Commission do not dispute, the fact that as regards Trinidad and Tobago the cause is to be found in the impoverished social conditions of the people. On page 81 of their report the Commission say: 805We draw the following conclusions from what is stated above as to the causes of the disturbances, namely:There we have the mature conclusion of the Commission. It is not a case of Uriah Butler having set the heather on fire, but of the conditions described in the report. It is out of those conditions that the disturbances have risen. I ask the Minister when he replies to say whether, arising out of the report, his Department will seek to apply any measures other than the mere appointment of an industrial adviser, to deal with the conditions revealed in the report. I do not wish to pile the agony on to the Department and the Minister, but when it is all boiled down, I do not think that any impartial person reading this report and the reports which have preceded it, can avoid the conclusion that a large measure of responsibility for what occurred last year in Trinidad lies at the doors of successive Governments who have been in office in this country.
- (I) that the true origin of the disturbances must be traced to the more or less general sense of dissatisfaction for which there was no adequate means of articulation through recognised machinery of collective bargaining;
- (II) that this sense of dissatisfaction reached its culminating point when, the cost of living having risen, the earnings of the workpeople were not adjusted with sufficient promptitude to offset its effect."
What are the facts? There was a Royal Commission in 1897 which pointed out then—40 years ago—the conditions of low wages and inadequate sanitation which existed. In 1930 we had the Olivier Report. The Olivier Report pointed out that in the Barbados the infantile mortality rate was 371 to the 1,000 and the wages were so low that it would be intolerable to reduce them any further. It also pointed out that generally Antigua was more poverty-stricken than the Barbados; that wages were even lower, hours extremely bad and the dietary of the population almost incredibly frugal. In Antigua that report said 50 per cent. of the children suffered from insufficient nourishment and in British Guiana housing and sanitation were in a shocking state. The Minister's Department had that report in 1930. What the Government have to answer is: What measures have been taken to meet the conditions described in those reports and carry out their recommendations? Let us consider first the question of houses. Here is what the Commission say about it: 806In no aspect of our inquiry have we been more impressed by the evidence placed before us and by our own investigations than as regards the conditions in which large numbers of the working population, both urban and rural, are housed.They go on to say:Under the terms of indenture it was provided that 'suitable dwellings will be assigned to immigrants free of rent and such dwellings will be kept by the employer in good repair'.What are those "dwellings"? I ask hon. Members to recollect that the Department have known about them all the time? According to the Commission,These 'dwellings' for the most part consisted of a long wooden buildings, roofed with galvanised iron, divided from end to end by a partition and sub-divided on both sides into a series of single rooms, each of which would be occupied by an indentured immigrant and his wife and family. These are designated as 'back to back' dwellings as distinct from those which comprise one range only of single rooms. … Nor is the type of dwelling referred to confined to the agricultural districts. We visited 'barrack' dwellings in Port-of-Spain which are indescribable in their lack of elementary needs of decency and for which we learned monthly rents varying from 12s. to 15s. a room are paid.The responsibility for the outbreak of disturbances and the loss of life attaches largely to the Governments accountable for the administration under which these conditions have grown up. It is not only a question of housing. There is also the question of wages. There was some dispute in the Committee as to the wages which are being paid in Trinidad and the West Indian Islands and I understood the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) to say that the average wage paid to the lowest class of workers was 30s.
I have had an opportunity since of checking the figures and I am told that the average wage of all workers is 30s. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that I spoke amid considerable interruption and I am anxious to make the matter clear.
§ Mr. Riley
Let me then give to the Committee the information supplied to me only a few weeks ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister himself. On 9th February I asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what were the rates of wages and weekly hours of work of unskilled workers in the sugar industry and oil industry respectively in the West Indian islands and his reply, which was 807 in tabular form, showed that in the case of agricultural workers the daily rate of wages varied from 1s. 2d. per day in Antigua and St. Vincent to 2s. and 2s. 6d. in Jamaica. The hours of work represented a 44 hour to a 54 hour week. Those figures referred to the daily wages of the workers on the sugar estates. Now for the oil industry. The right hon. Gentleman only gave me one figure; that of the daily rate of wages of unskilled workers in the oil industry in Trinidad which was 72 cents. Now, 100 cents represent 4s. 2d. and, therefore, 72 cents represent a wage of 3s. a day. For a six days' week that is 18s. a week for the mass of unskilled workers.
§ Sir A. Gridley
In order to clear up this matter I have now extracted some figures which will be of interest to the Committee. The wage rates in the oil fields are as follows: Minimum, 3s. per day of eight hours; maxmium, 8s. 8d. per day of eight hours; average, 4s. 9.d. per day of eight hours. That excludes men who are on fixed weekly rates.
§ Mr. Riley
It would be interesting if the hon. Member had told us what class of workers are getting 8s. 8d. a day. Are they technicians, or do they form a considerable body of the workers as a whole? But even so it is now admitted that the wages of the unskilled workers are 3s. a day, and does anyone seek to put up the argument that 3s. a day for an adult man, even though he be an unskilled worker, is anything like satisfactory? The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham referred to the cost of living being very low in Trinidad. That may apply to certain kinds of food, but I understand that, outside food, prices are high in Trinidad
I believe the Government figure is about 13s. a week; that is, the official figure of the cost of living. That makes it about half what it is here, and the equivalent wage here would be about double that quoted by the hon. Member as the wage in Trinidad.
§ Mr. Riley
I am informed that prices in Trinidad, outside food, are comparatively high. I want the Committee to realise the circumstances out of which these disturbances took place and the fact that successive Governments have known of these conditions for the last 40 years, and I want to know what is now going to be 808 done as to making an effective minimum wage and whether the ordinance which was issued in 1935, which is dead and inoperative, is to be made a read ordinance and put into operation. Further, what are the Government going to do to give an increased measure of responsible democracy throughout the West Indian islands? What are they going to do to make the franchise easier for these people? It is an axiom, I take it, accepted on all sides of this Committee that if you want to get people to realise their responsibilities in the community in which they live, you must give them the opportunity to take part in the life of the community as a whole. What are the facts of the present position? In the case of Jamaica, there are 1,100,000 inhabitants, and according to the latest figures only 66,000 people are entitled to exercise the franchise there. That works out at one in 15, whereas in this country it is one in two. Contrast that with the neighbouring French island of Guadaloupe and the Dutch islands, where you have manhood suffrage—restricted franchise in the French island and lack of suffrage under British government. I do not want to suggest that we should follow the French example of coloured people, living in the West Indies, being members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Riley
Well, why not? In that connection I may mention that I noticed an item in the Press a week or two ago to the effect that a negro who represents the island of Guadaloupe in the French Chamber had been elected Deputy President of that chamber. Recognition of that kind appeals very much to the people, and, therefore, if we are going to move towards better conditions and responsibility, the Government must give the right of the franchise to all and not bar it, as at present. In the case of Trinidad, where only one in 15 has the vote, to qualify for a vote a person must have a rateable value of £10 a year, and there is a heavy qualification for a person to stand as a candidate for the Legislative Council. How many should we have in this country now exercising the franchise if they had to qualify in that way? I appeal to the Minister to take this report on Trinidad as a serious responsibility, and in the years to come to lay down conditions which will rectify these shortcomings.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
I am interested neither in oil nor in sugar, and I am neither a director nor a shareholder, as far as I know, in any oil or sugar company, but one or two suggestions have been made in the Debate to-day, and I rather feel that I should do my best to clear up one or two points. In the first place, it has been suggested that Sir Murchison Fletcher, who was Governor of Trinidad, was relieved of his office—I do not know by whom; I do not know whether he was actually dismissed or whether he resigned—
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Member opposite says he was dismissed—because he had made one or two injudicious remarks, and that dismissal, it has been suggested, was due to capitalism and big business. I believe that Sir Murchison, if he was dismissed, could only have been dismissed for one reason, and that was mainly for lack of tact. When the Acting Colonial Secretary moved in the Legislative Council that a commission be appointed by the Secretary of State to visit Trinidad and inquire into the disturbances, Sir Murchison made a speech in that Council, in which he not only took it upon himself to give a general summary of the whole position, but he also began to apportion blame. I submit that in apportioning blame the Governor did a very wrong thing. He prejudged the very reason for the visit of the Commission, and I believe that that prejudgment made the Commission's task in Trinidad very difficult indeed.
§ Mr. Maxton
The Commission was not then in being. Is it not a fact that the Governor, in the circumstances that the hon. Member has mentioned, was actually proposing the appointment of a commission?
§ Mr. Taylor
Not at all. It was announced that a Commission was going out to investigate the disturbances, and the Governor then gets up in the Legislative Council and states the reason for these disturbances, and that was precisely what the Commission was going out for
§ Mr. Benn
I have read the report. Is it not a fact that a resolution was before the Council in reference to the appointment of a Commission, and does the hon. 810 Gentleman suggest that it was any more improper for any member of the Council to discuss that resolution than it would be improper for a Member of this House to question the right hon. Gentleman on the subject?
§ Mr. Taylor
I say that it was quite improper, in view of the fact that the Commission was going out. Otherwise, for what reason was the Commission going out? There would be no need for a Commission to go out if judgment had already been passed by the number one representative of Great Britain in Trinidad. Secondly, from the report of the Commission it is quite clear that Sir Murchison endeavoured to negotiate with a fugitive from justice, namely, Uriah Butler. I do not want to discuss Uriah Butler or his record, because the Chairman has ruled that it would be invidious to do so.
§ Mr. Taylor
But I must say this one thing, referring to Sir Murchison Fletcher. On page 118 of the report, he makes this rather curious statement:The word 'agitator' has been used by the Colonial Secretary. I have been called an agitator. Butler is an agitator. What is an agitator? An agitator is a person who stirs things up. I have tried to stir things up; and Butler has done it so much more effectively than I have been able to do.I can only say that the man who said that was not fit to be Governor. The Acting Colonial Secretary, Mr. Nankivell, perhaps went one step or two steps further than Sir Murchison himself, in that he crossed the t's and dotted the i's of all the unfortunate remarks which were made before the visit of the Commission. As I have said, these things did not make it easy for the Commission. It was unfortunate in some ways that the Colonial Secretary was on a visit to this country for the Coronation, and it was unfortunate also that Captain Cipriani, whom I know personally and who I feel is a very reasonable man in most ways, should also have been representing Trinidad at the Coronation celebrations. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because I feel that had not Captain Cipriani been over here at that time, he might have been able to restrain some of the more unruly elements. Captain Cipriani is a responsible man, and I do not believe that he would advocate any resort to violence.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Does the hon. Member not remember that only an hour or two ago one of his own friends and colleagues, the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) was in fact deprecating Captain Cipriani?
§ Mr. Taylor
I may not agree with the hon. Member who made that remark, and indeed I do not. I think that Captain Cipriani is a responsible and reasonable man, and I think he is largely respected, not only by members of his own party, but by very many residents in the island. Then again, I know it may be only a minor point, but the third point that I want to make about the Governor is this: Having upset business interests by his injudicious remarks in the Legislative Council, he then proceeds to invite the managing director of one of the leading oil companies to stay with him for a weekend or longer at the Governor's residence, when the Commission are actually sitting. Having prejudiced the business interests and rather upset them, he then upsets the oilfield workers by showing partiality and inviting the managing director to stay with him at Government House. That appears to be to have been most unfortunate. All these little incidents had their effect.
I am glad that the Governor has been recalled, and I hope that the whole of the administration there will be reviewed and that Trinidad will have the chance to start afresh under the new Governor who, I believe, is a very able, capable and strong character. There is no doubt that the administration of the Island has been riddled with a mass of intrigue and jealousy, and that there has been indecision, dilly-dallying and, above all, weakness in dealing with the rioters. We must remember that Trinidad produces the largest output of oil anywhere in the British Empire, and I feel that the oilfields should be protected both internally and externally. I do not know whether I agree with the recommendation of the Commission that a police force is sufficient because it is very easy to cause great damage to an oilfield and much loss of life and of valuable products. As a measure of protection in case of war, I feel that we should have a naval base in Trinidad or much nearer than Bermuda where it is at the moment. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend with regard to the delay in the arrival 812 of warships from Bermuda when the Governor cabled for naval assistance.
The Colonial Secretary cannot answer for the movements of warships. The hon. Member must put that question to the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Stephen
On a point of Order. The report of the Commission says that the Governor summoned warships. Surely, if he can do that, a Member of Parliament ought to be able to question whether he ought to have summoned them later or earlier.
That was not the point the hon. Gentleman was making. He was referring to the movement of warships, which is, obviously, a matter for the Admiralty. Questions as to whether the Governor was wise or not in summoning military reinforcements are questions the right hon. Gentleman can deal with, but he cannot answer why, after the request was made for warships, it was not immediately complied with. That is not a matter within his province.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sorry that I did not put the point clearly. The reporter of one of the local newspapers asked the Governor's permission to print that the Governor had cabled for the assistance of warships. The Governor said, "Yes, you can give the assurance to your readers that I have sent a cable asking for warships." Subsequently, about 36 hours later, the reporter went to the cable office and asked whether the cable from the Governor had gone off for the warships. The information which he was given was that the cable had not been sent, and some ridiculous excuse was given, such as that the lines were busy. If that is true—and I am asking for information whether it is a fact—it again shows that the Governor was really not fulfilling his duties in a way he should have been.
§ Mr. Benn
On a point of Order. This is rather serious. The late Governor, I understand, has invited the right hon. Gentleman to issue a White Paper and the right hon. Gentleman says it is impossible to lay it as a Parliamentary Paper. Is the late Governor now to be subjected to a number of charges? They may be well-founded—I do not know. If they are made, will the right hon. Gentleman invite the late Governor to give some rebutting evidence so that we 813 may know the position? It is a serious matter to say that Sir Murchison Fletcher told a Pressman that he had cabled for warships when he had not done so at all.
I am afraid that there is nothing in the rules to enable me to say that the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) is out of order.
§ Sir Percy Harris
Is it not a fact that Sir Murchison Fletcher was a civil servant, and that the Minister is responsible and has to answer charges with reference to the conduct of servants of his Department?
That is so. The Minister is ultimately responsible, but, naturally, in order to make a charge against the Minister, the Member who speaks must state what he understands to be the situation. The hon. Member for Eastbourne did not seem to me to be going beyond that.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Up to the point when Sir Murchison Fletcher ceased to be a civil servant, and when I was responsible for any action he took, or any action he did not take, naturally I will look into the matter and I must take responsibility, but I know nothing of this particular incident. Sir Murchison, however, is a free man and no longer a civil servant, and he must speak for himself.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am not giving the information in any mischievous way, but merely in order to ask whether it is true. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to deny it. These were the facts given to me, and I thought they were so serious that it was my duty to bring them up in this Debate.
§ Mr. Benn
On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman persists in these charges. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he will answer for the conduct of a man who was a Civil servant, and he said he would not answer the charges. The situation is, therefore, that the House is to be 814 used for the purpose of promulgating charges which the right hon. Gentleman has announced in advance that he is not in a position to answer.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I think there is a misunderstanding. I am quite prepared to deal with exactly what happened in regard to the request for warships and troops. I think that my hon. Friend, in giving what he was informed by his journalist friend, mixes up two things. I believe that, owing to the absence on leave of the Governor of Bermuda, to whom the Governor of Trinidad sent the telegram, there was a delay, not in Trinidad, but in Bermuda. I believe that is the explanation.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am willing to accept that explanation. I put the facts as they were given to me, and I am glad that there was no delay in Trinidad.
I want to mention the housing conditions in Trinidad. There is no doubt that they are exceedingly bad on the sugar estates especially. The barrack system is still in operation. They are long houses, wooden shacks more or less, of one room, and they are very unclean and unhealthy. Months before the riots broke out one of the oil companies, the Trinidad Leaseholds, had taken the initiative of building some brick bungalows. They assured me that they had the greatest difficulty in trying to get the natives to move from their wooden shacks to the brick buildings. They said they would prefer the wooden shacks.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
Is not the reason that the wooden shacks belong to the people and are on wheels and can be moved about, whereas the people never know when they will be ejected from the brick buildings?
§ Mr. Taylor
It was merely that they did not like living in brick buildings. I do not say that Trinidad Leaseholds have done the best they can, because the brick buildings are not large enough. They are only one-roomed buildings which are not sufficient to accommodate families. With a little extra expenditure they could have made buildings of two moderate-sized rooms and had an eye to the future. Although we may criticise the oil and sugar companies, however, we ought to consider how far an employer should be responsible for the living conditions of his employés. In this country not many 815 companies will be found who even know where their employés live. I do not think that we can blame the companies for not doing what they have not done because in this country an employer is not responsible for the living conditions of his employés. We have to take into consideration the social existence of these people and to remember that marriage as marriage is seldom practised. One finds a mother with a great number of children who have alternate fathers. We cannot expect, in a social existence of that type, either father to take full responsibility, and where there is a divided responsibility for the well-being of the woman she probably gets neither husband to look after her.
Reference has been made to corporal punishment. I was always given to understand that many of the natives prefer corporal punishment to the delay caused by waiting for a court of justice and any ultimate imprisonment. The natives say they prefer to get their punishment over. Corporal punishment is advised only when there has been a second or subsequent conviction, and they usually know what is in store for them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make representations to the Board of Trade to see whether it is possible to increase the duty on Cuban sugar and other foreign sugar. If there were a larger duty we should be able to use much more of the sugar produced in our own Empire, and the Empire sugar would obtain a better price and thus be able to pay better wages. I would like to know whether anything is being done to confiscate the arms and weapons that were used at Fyzabad. Has there been a round-up and a general clean-up to see that there are no secret dumps of arms?
Finally I would say that this report, a very excellent report, has been received in Trinidad very well indeed—I had a cable from Trinidad only to-day praising the report of the Commission—but I do think we could make use of modern forms of publicity in Trinidad. We have to remember that civilisation in this country is, I suppose, almost 1,000 years old, whereas in Trinidad civilisation is less, really, than 100 years old. We can, perhaps, apply certain principles and knowledge which we have gathered in our thousand years of so-called civilisation; we cannot expect such a high standard of 816 morality or of life among the people in Trinidad. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take action on this report at the earliest possible moment. Speed is essential, and I do know that if there is any delay out there the agitators will be stirring up trouble again and saying, "This was a Commission sent out just to pacify us and keep us quiet, and the report is to be shelved." This report has been accepted by all parties—by the employers in Trinidad, by the residents and by the employés, who all think it is a good report. There has really been very little criticism of it, and most Members in this House think it is a good report, and therefore I would ask my right hon. Friend to press forward with action immediately.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
As I have said on more than one occasion, I have for some time been very much disturbed about the easy way in which this House tends to take its responsibilities to the millions of coloured workers in the Empire, and while I listened to the apologetics of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor)—
§ Mr. Maxton
Yes, apologetics for the horrible conditions in that island which are disclosed in this report, which the hon. Member has praised and which he wants the Minister to make haste to implement. The Minister has nodded his head and is going to make haste; but we have been responsible for this island now for nearly a century and a half, and this particular Commission would not have been appointed and this particular Debate would not have taken place if there had not been an agitator called Uriah Butler, and the Debate would not have assumed its present interest in the minds of the people of Great Britain if there had not been a Governor called Sir Murchison Fletcher. Those are the two elements which make this Debate more real than the ordinary Colonial Debate. Butler is under sentence. Butler, who calls our attention to the troubles, is a criminal, a fanatic, suspected of not being mentally balanced. Because he says the people in the island have a standard of living which is disgraceful and discreditable, that then-health is miserable, their home conditions are squalid, their labour conditions are 817 terrible, he is regarded as a fanatic, a madman, one to be sentenced to heavy penalties. The Governor did all the things which an ordinary Governor does in similar circumstances; he acted according to all the ordinary practice of Governors—except that he did one thing which Governors do not usually do, that is, he expressed a humane interest in the welfare of the people, which is frowned upon by the Colonial Secretary and disapproved of by the hon. Member for Eastbourne. The hon. Member for Eastbourne says that the Governor talked with Butler while the latter was a fugitive from justice, and that that was improper.
§ Mr. Maxton
Say "negotiated." Does the hon. Member recall the important discussion in this House last week, and the issue involved? It was whether we should negotiate with a criminal or wait until he had first expiated his crime, and the hon. Member for Eastbourne voted for immediate talks as the commonsense thing to be done, as against the view of the late Foreign Secretary, who thought that the criminal should be kept at arms' length. [Interruption.] The hon. Member regards Uriah Butler as a criminal because Uriah Butler is an agitator; but Mussolini is a gentleman. There seems to be a curious double standard of judgment in the hon. Member's mind. Butler was an agitator but, as far as I can gather, not an unduly hasty one. He arrived in the island in 1922, after serving in His Majesty's Forces during the War. He was not rejected from the Army for mental defects. There was no suggestion that he was not capable of acting as a disciplined soldier. He served overseas in Palestine and with the West Indian regiment, and, so far as I know, had a good record as a soldier. Afterwards he went to work in the oilfields, and was injured, being maimed for life. He got no penny of compensation.
That is Butler's story. He served the Empire in the military sphere and also industrially, and he saw that in neither of those services were he and his fellows rewarded with more than the most miserable standard of life. So he started to talk among his fellows, and when people talk about poverty and slave conditions then they are unbalanced. I notice that one of my fellow-countrymen, the Duke 818 of Montrose, has taken a prominent part in this discussion. He has been tremendously critical of the Government. He is interested in the industrial exploitation of this island and is speaking out strongly against this sort of fanaticism—weak government and all the rest of it. The Colonial Secretary possibly does not know, though I am sure the Minister of Labour will, that certain people in Scotland who do not share the Duke of Montrose's political views regard him as a fanatic and an agitator. He is one of the recognised spokesmen for Scottish independence, Scottish Home Rule. They say many things behind his back, but it is one of his advantages that he is very deaf and does not hear all that is said about him. Had not this man Butler just grounds for agitation? He arrived in the island in 1922 and the strike did not break out until 1935. That does not look like fanatical recklessness. He went on organising, teaching, and preaching to the people, trying for 13 years to stir them up to demand a better standard of life.
§ Mr. Maxton
I was expelled from the Labour party. Why was the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) driven out of the Cabinet? From 1922 to 1935 Butler went on with his agitation, and then a strike took place. The hon. Member for Eastbourne says "Remember that in an industrial disturbance serious damage can be done to oilfields." If I were fighting employers like the oil employers in Trinidad I should be well aware of that fact, and in certain circumstances, in the face of brutal refusal to make concessions and under harsh repression, I should start looking around to see how I could injure them most. I have before now gone on marches with miners in Scotland, where the mood of the marchers was very bitter and anything could have happened, and I can understand the feelings of these people in Trinidad—but where is the evidence? Although the opportunities were there, although the spirit must have been there, to do the maximum amount of injury, where is the evidence of serious damage done to this very easily-attacked industry, the oilfields? There are no signs of it at all. Admittedly there was a regrettable loss of life, but I notice that the numbers who lost their lives or who were wounded 819 were about nine on the side of the forces and about 80 or 90 on the side of the civilians.
Everybody will profoundly regret and condemn as atrocious the circumstances in which Corporal King was killed. Nobody would for one minute attempt to excuse or explain away a thing of that sort; it was a horrible thing; but I do say it is not very creditable when the commander of a detachment leaves the scene of a crime one man short. An officer leads his men into difficult circumstances, and before he leaves he should have located all his men. He should have the same responsibility for bringing them away as he had for taking them in. That was not the case on this occasion.
§ Mr. Maxton
Corporal King was separated from the rest of the detachment, but I understand that he went there with the detachment. As I understand the report, he broke away on his own to follow on with a part of the operation—without instructions admittedly; it was individual action—but, as I understand it, he went with the others to the scene. The hon. and gallant Member shakes his head, but that is how I read the report, and I have no other information. If it is true that Corporal King went to Fyzabad and proceeded, without instructions or authority, to make arrests in the midst of big industrial trouble, that, again, is something that I should like to have explained—how it came about that a junior non-commissioned officer sets out on his own, in difficult circumstances, to carry out responsible duties on behalf of the Colonial Government.
§ Major Owen
What the report very distinctly says is that four officers went together, with the express purpose of arresting Uriah Butler. Corporal King was not in uniform, but he was ordinarily stationed in Fyzabad. The moment the warrant was issued for the arrest of Butler it was the duty of any constable, or of anyone in Trinidad if the opportunity occurred, to arrest Butler. Inspector Power and the other officers attempted to arrest Butler. They failed. The crowd overwhelmed them, and they let him go. Corporal King, in the performance of his ordinary duty, followed Butler, 820 and then as a result he was attacked alone. He was not actually in the company of Inspector Power and the other three officers. He was acting on his own in the ordinary performance of his duty, and it was then that he was attacked by the crowd and put to death in that horrible way.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not want to blame Inspector Power. I merely mentioned it to make the point, which I reiterate, that either in the one circumstance or the other, if an isolated unit, a police officer, is sent in such circumstances to arrest a man, some share of the responsibility must rest upon those who expected him to go there in the ordinary routine of his duty. I cannot find the place in the report, but it is in my mind that the report says that Inspector Power only discovered after he had withdrawn his men that Corporal King was not with the detachment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Paragraph 204."] The report says:It was not until after Inspector Power, Liddelow, Belfon and Price got back to the Fyzabad Constabulary Station that they became aware that King was missing.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not want to elaborate that point. I think that the death of Corporal King was a matter for profound regret. The circumstances of his death are the subject of the strongest condemnation and protest, but I do reiterate that if Corporal King's superior officers either allowed him or ordered him to go in circumstances of that description, a very grave responsibility is on their shoulders.
I have spoken longer than I intended, but I do want to say publicly in this House that I think the Governor showed a great humanitarian instinct in dealing with the situation. It is a shocking think that this man's continued service under the Colonial Office should have been made impossible as the result of these happenings. It was stated that he retired on grounds of ill-health. But when he left Trinidad it was reported in this country that he was coming home temporarily to advise the Government on the matters concerned. That was the "Gazette" statement in Trinidad. Then 821 he comes home and is retired on grounds of ill-health. Is it an exaggeration to say that this man came back and was dismissed from the Colonial service, and dismissed for no other reason than that he went outwith the ordinary duties of a Colonial Governor and showed sympathy with the common people of that island in their desire for something better than the bestial conditions in which they were living? Uriah Butler performed a service not merely to this House of Commons in bringing the condition of these people prominently to our attention, but he performed a great service to coloured workers in every part of the British Empire.
The hon. Member who spoke from this bench at an earlier stage said that fortunately that is the only part of the British Empire where conditions are anything like that. I do not believe that is true. I believe that conditions like those are to be found dotted over every part of the British Empire wherever there are coloured workers, but it is only where there is a Butler to speak out and make his voice heard, and to get his countrymen to follow, that the world begins to hear about it. It is a matter for the profoundest regret to me that the Colonial Secretary, instead of backing his man, who was in difficult circumstances—which is the normal tradition of this House—throws him aside at the bidding of the oil masters, the sugar developers, and the capitalists who have invested their money in the exploitation of the coloured labour. That is not his job as Colonial Secretary. He is not there to look after the vested interests of capital, but that is what he is doing in accepting this report in the various utterances he has made. He has come down on the side of the investing community, and against his own subordinate and the great mass of the working folk in the island.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I am quite sure that it is not really in the general interest that the consideration by the British House of Commons of the very important matters which have been raised in this report should be centred on personal questions and on the part played either by Butler or by anybody else who was there. Certainly it is obvious that events took place in Trinidad of such a nature as to require the searching examination of an independent 822 body of investigators. Having said that, let me say that I am profoundly glad that the Commission went out and that it has produced the report that is before us. Whatever the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) may say, if you can get this report implemented by Government, by capital, and by labour we shall have done a great thing to advance the social and economic conditions, not only in Trinidad but throughout the West Indian islands.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Apportion the praise where you like. That is a matter of complete indifference to me.
§ Mr. Maxton rose—
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The hon. Member has had his chance. I put the praise on the Commission and on the five men who signed this report.
§ Mr. Maxton
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? It is true I had my opportunity, I do not deny it, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that I was interrupted on several occasions and always had the courtesy to give way. The only point I wanted to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: He says he prefers to give the praise to the Commission. I would have preferred, if it had been possible, to give the praise for the proposed reforms in this report to the Colonial Secretary without Commission, without Butler, without agitation, but I was not able to do it, although the Colonial Secretary has had the opportunity of doing these things ever since he has held his office.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I quite agree that I am personally responsible for the action or the inaction of the Trinidad Government, since I have been in office; and in so far as this Commission reports, as it does report, that although there was a minimum wage ordinance no action was taken under it (and indeed wherever the Government of Trinidad is blamed in this report) I am bound to take the criticisms which are offered, and I do so with regret. I do accept the report of this Commission, and I am grateful for it. When the Debate ranges over various islands it is very important that I should make it clear where the Secretary of State for the Colonies has power, and where he does not have 823 power. Among those who advocate increased self-government are those who at the same time demand that I should do this, that and the other. But the two are mutually exclusive. In Trinidad there is still an official majority, which I have to instruct the Governor to use. I therefore am fully responsible both for their legislation and their administration. In Barbados there is no representative of the Colonial Secretary in the Legislature. It a wholly elective body. They have complete control of all legislation and complete control of money. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the franchise?"] A franchise which it would require the assent of that Legislature to alter, because they have had self-government in Barbados for 300 years.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I have the power to veto. I can veto legislation which they put forward, but I have no power to initiate any vote of money or any legislation in a body which is wholly elective, and I have no power to alter the franchise or to alter the Constitution, unless I come to this House and introduce a Bill to take away self-government from Barbados and restore my own powers; and whenever that has been done the Labour party has always opposed it.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
They have consistently opposed it. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have me responsible and at the same time a local legislature. One or the other must take responsibility. If I have an official majority, I am responsible; if I have not, I am not responsible, and I want to make that position clear.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is like the Minister of Health getting up and saying that he has no say in health administration in Sheffield. It would not be true. It would be misleading the House for the Minister of Health to say anything of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman has any 824 number of powers, directly and indirectly, over the governors and over other officials.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I certainly appoint the Governor, but he has no power to enact legislation and he cannot spend a penny of public money. I could wish that I could get rather more British personnel from the Colonial Services appointed in some of these places. Let me point out another contrast. The difference in background in Barbados and Trinidad forms a contrast for the solution of which any proposal such as that of a West Indian Federation is wholly illusory. Barbados is probably the most English of all the West Indian islands, while the neighbouring island of Trinidad is the least English. At the last census there were only 1,450 persons of United Kingdom stock out of 420,000 inhabitants in Trinidad. There is a large European population in Trinidad, but the vast bulk is not British in blood, language or feeling. At the last census in Trinidad 10,000 people resident there were not British subjects. The vast bulk of the Trinidadian population of European extraction is of Spanish or French origin, and the British are small in number and are often frankly and openly referred to as foreigners by the remaining European population. Barbados is almost purely English. There is a very old English tradition, everything is local, there are very small proprietors, no big companies and nobody with very great wealth. The bulk of the population is purely English.
In Trinidad you have a more cosmopolitan mixture than in any English colonial administration. In addition to the large number of Europeans of different European nationalities—predominantly Spanish and French, and a handful of English—and a good many Americans, there are approximately 100,000 Hindus, something like 20,000 Mohammedans and over 5,000 Chinese. There is a large coloured population—by which I do not mean black, because the term is defined, as it always is in the West Indies, to mean people of mixed races. There are probably also 100,000 blacks, negroes. The position is intensely complicated, and the climate is the hottest in the West Indies. You have to deal with a most difficulty cosmopolitan community and the State has to take its part in preventing clashes, and in assuring progressive conditions. Apart altogether 825 from the danger of clashes between capital and labour there is this extraordinary racial mixture. In those circumstances there is a great responsibility upon whomsoever is in my job and upon whomsoever, under me, is charged with the local responsibility of governing that country.
As I read this report, what is wanted to-day in Trinidad is not speeches, but action. I rejoice with the Commission that, whereas Barbados is cultivated to the limit—the possibility of raising more wealth is practically out of the question and the people in Barbados have to do the best upon what is now produced—and the possibility of an increase in the settlers is very small, Trinidad is rendered wealthy by the presence of the richest oilfield in the British Empire. You would smash Barbados if you tried to introduce a highly scientific agricultural production, but in Trinidad the sugar industry is probably the most outstanding example of an efficient sugar industry throughout the British West Indies. The bulk of the sugar crop in Trinidad is now under the control for factory purposes of two great concerns. Approximately just over 63 per cent. of the sugar is dealt with by the Ste Madeleine Sugar Company, Limited, and Caroni, Limited.
I am convinced that if there are to be progressive labour conditions and better wages, housing and social services, it is essential, wherever possible, although it is not everywhere possible, that the sugar industry should be rationalised into big units. Only in that way can you lower "overheads" or carry on very important technical and scientific processes in the factories. I can assure hon. Members that only with the most scientific and up-to-date cultivation can you stand a chance of competing, even with the preference, in the sugar markets of the world. Do not let us be under any delusion that we are through with the difficulties of the sugar industries of the West Indies. One of the main causes of our troubles last year, not only in Trinidad, but throughout the West Indies, was admittedly that after a long period of slump there was a rapid and remarkable rise in the world prices of a large number of tropical commodities.
When economic products that are exported rise in price, everything tends to rise with them, including the local cost of living, and, naturally, the workers in 826 Trinidad, seeing better sugar prices and better prices for all commodities, were rightly desiring to share in the better conditions obtaining in the industry in which they took an essential part. It is a matter of fact that the trade union movement and organisation are not developed as they should be wherever you get those industrial and quasi-industrial conditions. It is essential in the interests of government and of capital, as well as in the interests of the workers, that collective bargaining should take place between capital and real representatives of the workers and of all engaged in the industry. It is the only satisfactory means of reaching agreement, and is a better means than statutory rates imposed by the State.
What has happened? Since last year and those rises in prices, we have turned to the opposite side of the picture. The prices of practically all tropical products have been and are going down. Sugar is 1s. a cwt. less to-day than it was at this time last year. There is not one of the agricultural products of West Indian Islands, with the possible exception of bananas in Jamaica, that has not been affected by the fall. There has been a fall in the cost of living. The assessment of cost-of-living figures in tropical conditions is difficult. The cost of living varies in such a place as Trinidad. It will obviously be much higher in the oil area, which is largely still in forest conditions and where exploration is going on to find new sources of oil. All kind of drilling is going on in the hope of finding oil. Although 22 oil companies operate in Trinidad there are only two successful ones; most of the others are engaged in exploration.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Those two companies are now the most profitable. After that, United British Oilfields of Trinidad and Trinidad Petroleum Development Company.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Trinidad Leaseholds, of course, refines the product of almost all the oil companies. It is a wholly good thing that you should centralise the separation of crude oil into petrol, oil for ships, and so on. That form of rationali- 827 sation should make for better labour conditions and for more stable conditions generally. But, under the conditions which operate among the exploration companies, the cost of living is, of course, much higher than in the agricultural part of the country, where there are plenty of gardens, plenty of produce and the like. I have been struck by the reports which have come in about nutrition in these places. One of the troubles which capital has to face and which we all have to face in Trinidad is not so much undernutrition as thoroughly bad nutrition from the point of view of efficiency. If there are not to be endless troubles over cost of living indices, it must be made clear that it is in the interest of employers that they should make sure that their workers get good, nutritious food, and, above all, locally grown food, because in the tropics freshness is worth everything. When it is very hot, you do not want heating food, but you want, particularly, mineral salts, vitamins, proteins and the like; the calorific values by which we assess the needs of people in our climate do not operate in the tropics, where conditions are quite different, and where the metabolism of individual bodies is quite different. I am sure we shall learn a great deal from this report and the attention it has drawn to that subject. Another subject is housing. Tribute has been paid by the Commissioners to the Apex Company in particular.
I am sure that the whole organisation—and I shall have a difficult time over this—of the medical department in Trinidad has got to be improved, and improved quickly. It is impossible to allow doctors who are carrying out their duty to the State of insisting on the standards laid down by the State with regard to housing and sanitation to be at the same time in private practice and in receipt of private fees, either from employers or anybody else. I shall be accused of forcing D.P.H. men and the like on the Colony, but I am determined to do it. To my mind it is essential that the major recommendations of the report should be carried out.
The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) spoke about labour departments. I entirely agree. I think it is most unfortunate that we have not had a labour department in the Island of Trinidad before this. We have got many of them 828 entirely as the result of the despatch of 1935, though the germs of some of them existed before. We now have actually established labour organisations in Ceylon, British Malaya, Hong Kong, Malta, Tanganyika, Kenya, Nyasaland, St. Vincent, British Guiana, St. Lucia, the Solomon Islands and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. I am in correspondence with the local governments, but there is a difficulty in obtaining men—we may have to appoint them and train them on the job—in the case of the Gold Coast, Northern Rhodesia, Uganda, Mauritius—I have telegraphed for a man for Mauritius—and Grenada. These I will consider later.
I rejoice in having obtained the services of Mr. Lindon to go out immediately and take up the post recommended by the Commission. He was originally a docker, a colleague of Mr. Ernest Bevin in the trade union movement. Later he took up advisory work under the Ministry of Munitions, and has since done most valuable service as a conciliation officer in the Ministry of Labour. I was very lucky to get him for Trinidad. I impressed upon him how vital I thought it was in the interests of everyone that there should be properly organised trade unions in Trinidad and proper machinery for the adjustment of grievances in relation to wages, hours and the like. I am perfectly certain that the one chance of getting better conditions in Trinidad, after what the Government, Mr. Lindon and the trade unions can do for themselves, is to get it perfectly clearly understood by the local managers of these big companies that it is in their interest that it should not be merely a question of so many cents an hour, but that it is to their interest that the wage-earners in their employ should feel that they are real partners in the industry, and that human treatment is much more important than anything else. It is human treatment by the management on the spot that is, to my mind, the most vital thing of all.
Some hard things have been said about me to-night. I do not want to keep the Committee, but I must meet the criticisms that have been made of me—the criticisms of my treatment of Sir Murchison Fletcher, the criticisms, particularly by the hon. Member for Roth-well, about the sending of troops, and the criticism that I have prevented in some way or other the taking of action 829 by the Government of Trinidad before the outbreak of the trouble. I want to say quite definitely that in all these matters I am quite clear in my own mind that I never restrained the Government of Trinidad from putting into force any of the statutory powers which they already possessed; not only that, but I never turned down a single request that they made, and I would go further and say that I saw Sir Murchison Fletcher before he took over the Governorship of Trinidad, to which he was appointed on the recommendation of my predecessor. I told him about the existence of the Labour party, and of my view that there was need for social reform in Trinidad. I impressed that upon him before he went out, and he must have known that. I am sure he knew that, in anything he proposed for action, he would have had my most active support in that direction. I am quite sure he knew that; I made it abundantly clear to him before he went out.
Quite frankly, I was in this difficult position. Sir Murchison Fletcher was appointed by His Majesty on the recommendation of my predecessor, Mr. J. H. Thomas, about six months before I became Secretary of State for the Colonies, and he was on leave in this country. Not only was he here, but there was a deputation to Mr. Thomas from people in Fiji. There was a great shoal of Indian written representations, and two Europeans had come all the way to protest to me against Sir Murchison Fletcher's efforts, and the recommendations he had made to my predecessor and to me, to do away with elected representation in Fiji. I listened to Sir Murchison Fletcher, and he pressed that on me, but I overruled him. I did not agree with his proposal to do away with elections for Indians and Europeans in the colony of Fiji. The mere fact that I took that line in regard to Fiji must have shown him perfectly clearly what my views were. I have been accused of treating him badly. I have not got it on my conscience in the least that I have treated him badly. If he is criticised by the report, so am I, and I profoundly regret that, now that he is no longer in the Service, and is a free man, he thinks it necessary in certain particulars to challenge the findings of this Commission. I am perfectly clear that I can have no part or lot in that. If he wishes to publish his criticisms of the 830 Commission, he may use his rights as an independent citizen of this country to criticise them, and say where and how; but it is not for me to lay before Parliament the complaints of Sir Murchison Fletcher with regard to the Commission.
Let me say a word about how this Commission was composed. The decision to send out the Commission arose from representations made in this House by hon. Members opposite. I want to make it clear that no Governor and no Secretary of State is, or should be, immune from the criticism of an independent Commission. That criticism is the duty of a Commission if they think it is in the public interest to make it. You may agree with their findings or not, but it is their duty to criticise where they think that criticism is necessary. How was this Commission composed? The Chairman, as is well known, was acting here as chairman of the Industrial Court during the absence of Sir Harold Morris. He is a man of long service in connection with these matters. As to the second member of the Commission, I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition, and agreed with him that I should write to Sir Walter Citrine and leave it to the trade union movement of this country to nominate the second member of the Commission.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
He has a tremendous trade union record behind him, having been the chairman and, I think, the president of the trade union movement. I said I would accept whoever was put forward by the trade union movement of this country. I selected the third member, Mr. Fitzgerald, because, both in Malaya and in East Africa, he had had the experience of having been an employer of very mixed communities. He had charge as Chief of Posts and Telegraphs of all grades of State employés under the Government. He had charge of the Post Office in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika combined, and had a long experience of handling the problems connected with the employment of these mixed communities. I left Sir Murchison Fletcher absolutely free to select two others, because it was quite obvious that the conduct of the Governor was likely to be under review. He selected a judge in Trinidad, who is 831 a coloured man, largely of African descent, and Mr. Gwilym Jones, the Commissioner of Agriculture (not under the Government of Trinidad but under the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture which is independent of the Government) and whose knowledge of these matters in the tropics and in various parts of the world is of an exceptionally high standard. They made a most remarkable Commission.
Quite rightly, as I think, the Commission took the evidence of the various police officers, junior officers serving under the Governor, in camera first. They not only cross-examined them and tested their evidence, but in every case they invited them to say anything they liked to volunteer—of course, on the clear understanding that, although they were subordinate officers, they could do so in an entirely privileged character. They were given the undertaking which was the only undertaking on which evidence could have been taken; namely, that it would never be divulged, and that certainly nobody in the Colonial Office would see it. I have not seen it, and I certainly shall not see it. They took the Governor's evidence last, and they actually examined him on any outstanding points which had been raised by his subordinate officers. I am quite sure that that was the right course. You had on the Commission a judge and an experienced chairman who were accustomed to testing and dealing with evidence; and I am quite sure that the Commission did not make unfair use of evidence. I feel I have no option but to accept their view of the evidence put before them. I do so, and I say so definitely. One thing, however, I want to make clear. Just as I have to take responsibility for any action or inaction, for any speech, wise or unwise, of Sir Murchison Fletcher while he was Governor of Trinidad, I ask that he will equally take full responsibility for the action or inaction of every one of his subordinates in the administration or the police of Trinidad.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Not on any paragraph in the report—certainly not on that dealing with his speech in the Legislative Council. All that they say of that is that it was inapt; though I do not know what "inapt" means. It having been my decision to appoint a Commission, I do not see that the Governor, in announcing this, was called upon to say anything further. I resent the suggestion which has been made, I think by four hon. Members in this House this afternoon, that Sir Murchison Fletcher has been dismissed. Because he furnished a medical certificate on his return and I accepted it, they say I dismissed him. If they are going to put that interpretation on it every time somebody does that, it is going to be very unfair, both to the Governor or official concerned and to the Secretary of State.
I am bound to say that, quite apart from anything in the report, I asked Sir Murchison Fletcher to come home and discuss matters connected with Trinidad. I asked him to come back before I had any idea what was in the report, and I told him why quite frankly. It was because of what appeared to me to be a certain sudden change in policy on the part of Sir Murchison Fletcher during the course of last autumn, towards the end of the time when the Commission was in Trinidad. Hitherto he had strongly and openly spoken against the demand for troops, and I, therefore, was very surprised—I cannot quote the telegrams because they were secret and cypher, and they obviously could not be laid, but I want to give an absolutely fair account of what those secret and cypher telegrams to me during October conveyed to my mind. Late on 18th October, there arrived at the Colonial Office a telegram from Sir Murchison Fletcher. Up to that moment I had imagined that the situation was well in hand. I had congratulated him on his handling of the situation, and had been assured that things were more or less going well. The telegram referred to the reorganisation of the volunteers.
This was a matter to which I attached great importance, feeling that any volunteer reinforcement by the police should not be made either on a class or racial basis, and that it should be repre- 833 sentative of all sections in the island and should be of a composite character. He told me that additional constables were being enrolled and that shot-guns were being withdrawn from the population generally. I admit that I was somewhat alarmed. He added that he had seen, on 16th October, a deputation representing commercial, agricultural and industrial interests, which had asked him to transfer a company of troops from Bermuda to Trinidad; and his telegram said, in so many words, that he supported that view, and that no risks should be taken. In view of the fact that this was, as I think, a complete change in the view he had put before, I naturally asked him some questions about it and was very hesitant before I could agree. I had to ask him what had happened, what arrangements had been made in regard to accommodation and the like, and to account for this change. I sent him a telegram. I got a telegram from him on 22nd October, telling me that confidence was badly shaken and would be restored by the presence of troops. He urged that they should be sent as soon as possible, for at least six months. He asked also for a cruiser to come at once. Again I replied, expressing some doubts and pointing out the difficulties of the War Office in doing this so quickly and at such notice, and again raising the question of accommodation. I received a further telegram, saying that he regarded troops as essential.
In those circumstances, I had no option but to support the Governor. A few days later there reached me a report from Trinidad—admittedly first in a newspaper—and then there waited upon me the hon. Members for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) and Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) to draw my attention to an incident which had happened in the Legislative Council on the very day—22nd October—when the Governor had informed me that confidence was badly shaken. It was perfectly clear that feeling was running high. There was a debate on the re-equipment vote for the volunteers, and Captain Cipriani, the leader of the Labour party, one of the elected members, made a somewhat remarkable speech. I regretted, and I told the Governor to his face that I regretted, that, instead of replying to that speech and pointing out the nature of that speech at such a time, he turned round and said that there was no question of privilege 834 in the legislature of Trinidad, as in Parliament here, and referred the hon. Member's speech to the Attorney-General with a view to prosecution.
I told him that in the circumstances, and this having come to my notice, I had only one course consistent with what I thought to be my duty, and that was to ask him to come home and report. I saw him on two occasions before the report was signed. I had been informed that the report was critical of the Government, and I explained that, if it was so, he and I must take responsibility. I was informed that he had been furnished with a medical certificate that he was unfit to return to Trinidad; and the recent circumstances in Trinidad had clearly, from the way in which he spoke, upset his nervous balance. I told him I was not happy about his going back to the Colony, and in the circumstances, when he tendered a medical certificate that he had got from the doctor to whom he chose to go, I felt I had no option but to accept it. He is a man of long service and of considerable ability.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Just under 60—but I am convinced that it requires a physically more robust, and, quite frankly, a more determined Governor to put through this report and these reforms. That is my view, and I must state it to Parliament. Nothing of that would have been said, and nothing need have been said if I had not been accused in the House of Commons of having dismissed him.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I told him definitely that I did see great difficulties, having regard to his state of health and to his vacillation and rapid changes of policy—that it was extremely difficult—and I put it to him—for him to go back and face the very difficult situation that had arisen during his governorship in Trinidad and put whatever the Commission had recommended, and which I accepted, into force.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The right hon. Gentleman must put his own interpretation 835 upon the story I have told. The issue here of giving better labour conditions and better social relations in Trinidad has been overshadowed by a number of personal feelings, and if I had not been challenged and attacked on this I would not have said another word about Sir Murchison Fletcher. As I have been attacked on the subject I must make perfectly clear the part which I have played. I regret the circumstances as they stand now, and I must tell the truth to the House of Commons as I see it. The hon. Member said that this has not only to do with Trinidad, and I entirely agree with him. The question of labour conditions is likely to become more and more prominent throughout the Colonial Empire, and I fully recognise that fact.
I rejoice in the fact that now, for the first time, on the Estimates which we are discussing to-day, there is to be a labour adviser. I am aware that it will be an immense acquisition, and I have appointed Major Orde-Browne, who has had exceptional experience both at Geneva and in Africa, to be the first labour adviser. He is now engaged on preparing a report upon the labour conditions in the copper mines of Northern Rhodesia, and when he comes home he will have to go off to Geneva to attend the forthcoming International Labour Conference on behalf of the Colonial Office. No doubt he will have a great many answers to the despatch which I sent in August last dealing with all these labour questions and urging all Colonial Governments to take action. He will have to advise me on the more effective carrying out of my intentions declared to the Colonial Governments on the matter. There will be a great deal of detail and a good deal of legislation.
It is my intention to send him to the West Indies. It is proposed that his first trip as my labour adviser should be to the West Indies, and I am sure that this course is called for in the light of the circumstances which have arisen. I cannot conclude by suggesting that because we have a report and because we accept it, everything can easily be made perfect in this imperfect world. Every effort will and must be made. I am very well satisfied with the response of capital, but there is one point I must make because it affects not the oil companies, to which it is so easy to attract attention, but the 836 sugar industry. I am encouraged, however, by the fact that a big concern has taken a predominant interest in the merger between Waterloo and Caroni. They are two of the biggest concerns in the island, and I have been informed by Caroni, Limited, that since the publication of the report they have decided to spend £50,000 in rehousing labour on their estates.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Here is evidence that they are willing to spend money upon better housing conditions, and—
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
If we asked for British taxpayers' money to house the workers on the Trinidad sugar estates the hon. Member opposite would be the first to vote against it. I hope that the work will be proceeded with. [Interruption.] I am rather tired of speeches, and I want action. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman opposite wants to say something about sugar. Roughly, two-thirds of the sugar production of Trinidad is either grown upon these two properties or is bought by them from the East Indian cane farmers, of whom there are 20,000 growing their own canes in these islands. St. Madeleine, a big concern with a capital of approximately £700,000 and 27,000 acres of sugar land, from the years 1929 to 1931 paid no dividend whatsoever on any part of the capital. In the last three years the dividends have been 5 per cent., 5½ per cent. and 6 per cent., after these lean years with no dividend at all. If you are going to attract into the sugar market, which is anything but a gilt-edged market, capital for new machinery and more efficient development that is not an excessively unreasonable profit.
The other company, I understand, consists partly of Caroni and partly of Waterloo, and no divided was paid by the former in 1934, 2 percent. was 837 paid in 1935, and 3 per cent. in 1936. The Waterloo estate in 1934 had a net loss of £11,500, in 1935 a net loss of £3,895, and 1936 was the first year for many years in which any profit had been paid, namely, £20,000 on a capital of over £300,000. I do not think that the charge that the sugar estates owned by shareholders in this country and the big interests in Trinidad have made inflated profits can be maintained or should be maintained. It is only fair that I should say that my reports from Trinidad are that labour welcomes this report, that a real effort will be made to get all the workers, industry by industry, into organisations, that they welcome the appointment of Mr. Lindon to help them to that end. The social reform programme of this report was well received in Trinidad. Let us from this side keep a watchful eye on the action which, under this report, will be taken, and I am quite sure that in this case good will come out of evil. We have one of the most valuable documents in the history of social progress in the British Colonial Empire that has ever been presented to Parliament.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Oh, yes. I request the Governor of Trinidad to legislate. We do not legislate here. All expenditure in Trinidad will require a Vote to be submitted to the Legislative Council, and everything required will have to be submitted to the Legislative Council. I must make it perfectly clear that my power is not that I can order it to be done, but it is my general instruction to the new Governor of Trinidad to carry out the recommendations of the Forster Report.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
I am sure that we have all appreciated the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He speaks with great fullness of knowledge, and with a candour that carries great conviction in this Committee from this side. If I have criticisms to offer, they are criticisms of the forces which, I think, possibly are more influential in our Colonial policy than the right hon. Gentleman's opinions on these matters. If I thought that he was controlling the destinies of Trinidad I should 838 feel a great deal happier than one feels when one realises that big commercial and financial forces are in reality in control. Before I proceed to deal with that I want to clear up one or two points. First of all, the report criticises Sir Murchison Fletcher and Mr. Nankivell. Sir Murchison Fletcher has gone. I will not quarrel whether the right hon. Gentleman said that he told him that he had better go or whether he said first, "I want to go." That is immaterial. He has gone, and the right hon. Gentleman approves of it, and would not have him back. What is going to happen to Mr. Nankivell?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Mr. Nankivell will remain in the Colonial Service. In his office he is able to speak only at the invitation of the Governor. The Governor has the whole responsibility, and I am not going to blame Mr. Nankivell. He has had a good career in the Colonial Service, and I hope as opportunities offer he may go on.
§ Mr. Benn
That is a very satisfactory statement. It may be that what the right hon. Gentleman says about Sir Murchison Fletcher's health is true. He knows the circumstances. What has alarmed me and many other people on reading the report is that Sir Murchison Fletcher was blamed for a speech which, although it may have been inapt or untimely, was one which, in its essence, did appear to be a much better account of the origin of the disturbances, and revealed a much better balance of responsibility than the report itself.
When I read the paragraph which stated that for this speech he was to be blamed, and I realised that the opinion put in that paragraph was reflected by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), and I turned to the speech and saw what it was that he had done, then, as far as I can judge, speaking with the great experience that he had of the island as Governor, he put his finger on all the weak spots and showed a liberality of view which is unusual in administration. If one speech more than another could have produced a better atmosphere in Trinidad, it would have been the speech made by Sir Murchison Fletcher. Whether the speech was timely or proper is a trifling consideration, and of no importance.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
It was rather hard on me, after I had told Parliament that 839 I was sending out a Commission, that he thought it necessary to make that speech then.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman was generous enough and fair enough to say that it was not a matter of great importance. What is of importance is the fact that the Governor, who said things that no other Governor has said, is, owing to the circumstances, which may be right or wrong, to be dismissed. The result is that every Governor in the Service now knows that the one Governor who was not re-employed was the Governor who said that the labour code was the cause of the disturbances. The unfortunate thing is, that the Commission reproved the Governor because he did not pursue repressive measures with sufficient determination. The one Governor who is not to be kept in employment is the Governor who did not shoot. That is a disturbing thing. If he had been a General Dyer, things might have been different. We had debates on Dyerism, and ever since then there has been a celebration at Amritzar of the massacres carried out under General Dyer. The harm done to the British cause in India through the stern and wicked acts of General Dyer, cannot be assessed. In contrast with General Dyer who was employed, the Governor who is not to be employed is the Governor who does not take repressive measures. Power said: "I did not shoot, because it was dark, and I did not know whom I was going to shoot." To condemn Power for that action, is utterly unjustifiable. I am referring to the Commission, not to the right hon. Gentleman. He has risen about the level of the Commission.
What is praedial larceny? I have looked up the dictionary, and I find that it is stealing chickens. Who are these people? They are not only loyal, but they celebrate the birthday of every member of the Royal Family. Since the report, we are told that they cannot be persuaded to go into their houses. We are even told by the hon. Member for Eastbourne that they actually prefer to be flogged.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
What I said was that they prefer in many cases to have corporal punishment rather than wait for their trial by the court, with the eventual imprisonment.
§ Mr. Benn
These astonishing, almost superhuman people have every capacity, except the capacity to behave themselves. I am not experienced in Colonial affairs, but Lord Olivier is, and he says that if people suffer from the desire to permit praedial larceny, the cure is to give them something to eat, and then they will not want to steal. He said that, far from striking them, where he instituted a scheme under which they had their own little police force that they could organise themselves in the island of which he was Governor, and where they had their little holdings, this praedial larceny diminished, and then ceased.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that Lord Olivier succeeded in abolishing praedial larceny in Jamaica he is mistaken.
§ Mr. Benn
The unfortunate part about this Debate from my point of view is that I have not a substantial attack to make on the right hon. Gentleman. I am speaking rather of hon. Members, of the report and certain interests in Trinidad. We are chiefly concerned with oil and sugar, both vital industries. We are told with pride that the Trinidad oilfield is the largest in the British Empire, and that it is vital to us in case of war that we should have these oil supplies. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be arrangements by which they are assured of a market. In this matter we are speaking of a tremendous Imperial interest, but what about the wages of the men and their housing conditions? What about the relations of the companies with their men, and the relations between the black and white people generally in Trinidad?
A very highly placed official in Trinidad told me this story, which I believe to be true. He says that he went to address the workers in one of the oilfields, and he was told: "You will address them in that shed." He found in the shed a table, one chair, and an East Indian shorthand writer. He asked why the shorthand writer was there, and he was told: "He is here to take a note of what you say and what the men say." He said: "Take him away." Then he asked where the men were to sit. "Sit," was the astonished remark, "the men do not want to sit." Perhaps the corporal punishment has cured them of that desire. The right hon. Gentleman cannot think 841 that this is just a jest; it is not. It represents an outlook. It is reflected in a report which was made to Sir Murchison Fletcher, in which it was stated that the object was to inspire fear of the whites by the black people.
§ Mr. Benn
It was said by Sir Murchison Fletcher in his speech to the Legislative Council. What is the position in Trinidad? On the one hand we have a great Imperial issue, on which the safety of the Empire depends and over which the Flag flies. On the other hand, we have miserable dwellings, wretched wages and relations between employers and employed such as I have described. It is debunking Imperialism.
Take the sugar industry. It gets a preference. Who pays the preference? The poor people in this country. The people who pay the preference are working-class people. The woman with five children pays five preferences, while the bachelor pays only one preference. Last year £530,000 was paid in preference to the sugar industry in Trinidad by the working-class people of this country. We are told that it is for the Empire. I could quote speeches made by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) about our great Empire, bound together by Imperial Preference, and, standing united before the world. What is Imperial Preference? It is a few oil and sugar magnates persuading the Government to tax the working classes in this country in order that money should go into their own pockets, while they are paying their employés 1s. 3d. a day. Eighty per cent. of the employés are suffering from hookworm because there is no sanitation. We are fighting in this Debate not the right hon. Gentleman, who is well intentioned and with a great record of public service, but these interests who are making him their tool and who are persuading Parliament to do these things. It has been suggested that someone has to look after these natives. We in this House are responsible. There is nobody in the island to protect them. We are responsible, and if there is a charge to be brought against anybody it is not against Uriah Butler, but against this House of Commons for having neglected this great charge and for not having defended the natives of this island from these predatory interests.
842 Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why there cannot be an extension of the franchise? We had a constitution before 1832. Why cannot we extend that franchise? What is the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? We have given it to the ryots of India, to millions of illiterate peasants. I understand that 46 per cent. of the inhabitants of Trinidad are literate. Why cannot you give them the vote? The right hon. Gentleman has given us no answer. I say that the right and the approved method of defending the interests of these people is to give them the chance to defend their own interests by giving them the vote. Take the Petroleum Association in Trinidad, which I understand is a corporation of the richest interests in Trinidad. What are the purposes of the Petroleum Association? They are:To secure by every proper and legitimate means the enactment of wise legislation affecting the petroleum industry, and likewise to prevent as far as possible unwise legislation which may tend to overburden the industry to the detriment of the development of the Colony's resources.What does that mean? It means that the oil industry is banded together and is dominant, and if anyone asks me the real reason why Sir Murchison Fletcher has gone, it is because he was not acceptable to the oil interests in Trinidad. We learn now from hon. Members opposite that the oil companies have accepted this report. This is what the Apex Oilfields, Limited, say in their latest report for 1937:Labour disturbances in Trinidad during last July interrupted operations in the oilfields for about a fortnight, beyond which no material loss was sustained by the company. In view of the nature of the origin of these disturbances it is particularly satisfactory to note that it has been announced on behalf of the Government of Trinidad that it is determined there shall be no interference by ill-disposed persons with the freedom of employers and employed to arrange their mutual relationship on constitutional lines as they may severally see fit.If the right hon. Gentleman is not going to give any more protection to these people—who may not sit down—than is represented by the report, it is a poor look out for them. They are voteless, without influence, without access to the legislative council. They have six members out of twenty who are elected on a high franchise. What access have they to this House, these poor ill-informed people? On the other hand, these interests are at it the whole time.
843 The only other point is this. The Colonial Office has a very fine record for the protection of natives against local interests. Here the Colonial Office is dealing with a large industrial interest introduced for the first time into an agricultural community, and it is an interest which can survive only by increased mechanisation. But you are making no provision for the people who are to be cast on the scrapheap by this mechanisation. These interests are powerful in this House, and I notice with great regret that a practice which has been criticised in our Departments is creeping in here. It is an undesirable thing when a civil servant has been dealing with great interests that he should subsequently when he retires from the Civil Service be associated with these interests. The fear exists—I do not say it is justified—that when their future career is marked out, it tends to make it more difficult for a civil servant to exercise independent judgment when he is a civil servant, and, therefore, I say with regret that I notice that one of the directors of Apex Oilfields, Limited, is a distinguished civil servant of some few years ago, a Secretary in the right hon. Gentleman's own office. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he has not dismissed Sir Murchison Fletcher for making his speech, and he also said something positive, that he is maintaining Mr. Nankivell in the service. That is excellent news.
§ Mr. Benn
What the right hon. Gentleman has said is quite sufficient for me. He is a man of his word, and he has told us that Mr. Nankivell will be retained in the service.
Finally, there is the question of the relations between blacks and whites in Trinidad. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is vital that we should not have entering into the relations between the blacks and whites in Trinidad the same principles that exist in the relationships between them in South Africa. I do not intend to say a word in criticism of South African policy, for the Union of South Africa is a Dominion, a self-governing, sovereign State, and it is not our business to criticise them; but the views which they hold are not suitable 844 for translation into other countries. Let me read to the Committee an authentic passage:'Natives must obey the white man's law.' Referring to criticisms of the Government in dealing with these matters, he reminded people that the natives were living in a land of white men, where the white man's law ruled. If the native did not obey the white man's rule, he would be forced to obey, even if this had to be carried out by the imposition of more rigorous punishment or by stricter supervision of the native's freedom of movement. He warned natives not to expect equality with the white man.That is an authentic statement of the South African native policy.
§ Mr. Benn
By General Hertzog, but I do not want to criticise General Hertzog. That is a terrible doctrine to apply. One of the oil companies in Trinidad—I do not know whether it is the Apex Company or another—has a business connection with the Central Mining and Investment Corporation, as is pointed out in the Report, and they have 13 South Africans—
§ Mr. Benn
It is not a question of how many out of how many. What is important is whether these 13 people are in a position of authority and are able to inspire the policy of the company. Both from the report and from other witnesses we know that the natives of Trinidad fear that this business connection between these two firms and the presence of these foremen, or whatever they may be, will mean that the Government will accept the sort of view that was expressed in the passage which I read to the Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman make a perfectly clear declaration that there is no question, not only of the Government not adopting, but of not resisting the adoption in Trinidad of the South African policy towards natives? If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, I think it would do something to reassure us on this very important matter.
§ Mr. Benn
There were a great many things that the Commission could not find out. It is extraordinary that they could 845 not find out anything about the profits of this or that industry, or whether the natives wanted to have the vote. I do not think the hon. Member will deny that that fear exists in the minds of people in Trinidad.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
If the right hon. Gentleman suggests that because a few South Africans, all of whom I think are British South Africans, are employed by one company in Trinidad, that means that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, responsible for the Colonial Empire, will change their policy, I think he is asking us to believe something which is very absurd. If he means that any section in this country would stand for the introduction of colour-bar legislation, as in South Africa, in any British Crown Colony for which we are responsible, I make it perfectly clear that he can rest assured; I am sure that will not be done.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Mitchell
I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on his speech. I am sure that everybody, not only in this country, but in Trinidad and the West Indies will welcome his remarks. When my right hon. Friend says that he intends to implement the report, we know that that means it will be put into effect very quickly. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those gentlemen who gave up their time to go out to Trinidad und to draw up this very comprehensive, interesting and valuable report. I intervene in the Debate because perhaps I am the only Member of the House who is personally and actively associated, as an estate owner, with the West Indies, although not with Trinidad.
I think that rather too much emphasis has been laid on the importance of the oil industry in Trinidad. I would remind hon. Members that the cocoa, sugar and coconut industries together employ eight times as many people as the oil industry. Another thing which has been over emphasised is the part which the big companies play in agriculture in Trinidad and the West Indies. It is true that the oil industry is in the hands of big companies and that the sugar industry is to some extent trustified, but the vast amount of agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago is in the hands of very much smaller units. If hon. Members think of 846 the Colony as being run very largely by absentee shareholders and corporations in this country, they will get a very wrong picture of what, in fact, obtains.
I would remind the Committee of the extraordinary difficulties of tropical agriculture, a matter to which my right hon. Friend referred in his speech. The tropical agricultural industry is confronted by the problem of great fluctuations and rapid variations in commodity prices. There is no doubt that 150 years ago big fortunes were made in the West Indian Colonies, but to-day, in only too many cases, agriculture is carried on under very adverse conditions and in circumstances in which the profits, if there are any, are extremely small. A great many hard things have been said about the conditions in the West Indies and Trinidad. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) referred to the horrible housing conditions there, but there is no need for me to remind the hon. Member that bad housing conditions are not peculiar to the West Indies; the hon. Member need go no further than his own constituency to see housing conditions which all of us would like to see improved. In considering housing conditions in Trinidad, one must not judge them entirely from the British standpoint. The needs and the climate are completely different. It must be remembered that for a very large part of the year there is abundant sunshine. Moreover, from the point of view of diet, the cost of living in the West Indies cannot be compared with that in this country. Therefore, any comparisons with regard to wages are apt to be very misleading.
I very much hope that the proposals made in the report with regard to better housing conditions will be carried out. I would say that the only way of getting good housing conditions in Trinidad, or anywhere else, is to get prosperity. One need not look any further than this country to see the correctness of that statement. In an area such as that with which I am associated, Middlesex, where prosperity obtains, there are reasonably good housing conditions, but in South Wales—in the Special Areas—housing conditions are, on the whole, unsatisfactory. Exactly the same thing applies there. If you secure a greater measure of prosperity for the industries in those islands, it will tend to improve housing and other conditions.
847 I should like to see agriculture encouraged in the Colony for the purpose of getting people with capital to go there and also encouraging small settlers. I welcome, for example, the advent during the last year of firms of the standing of Messrs. Tate and Lyle, who have gone into Trinidad, just as I also welcome the fact that they have gone into Jamaica. I believe, too, that a great deal could be done in other directions to encourage agriculture in Trinidad. I noticed in an evening newspaper a suggestion that there should be an increase of the production of grapefruit. That is one instance of the possibilities of expansion which exist, and I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the importance of this aspect of the Trinidad problem when negotiations are being carried out with the United States.
The root of all these difficulties and troubles is economic. I believe that the people are far more interested in wages than in the franchise or anything else. Anything which brings about increased prosperity in the island is bound to have a beneficial effect. Much has been said about the great profits made by one or two oil companies, but the prosperity of the Colony is mainly dependent on agriculture, and that is the case throughout the West Indies. In recent months there has been a big drop in agricultural prices and particularly in cocoa, coconuts and sugar, the three main products of Trinidad. I suggest particularly that hon. Members opposite who have complained about conditions in the West Indies that when they get the opportunity to do so, should support any proposals which aim at providing better markets for the products of the West Indies. It is only by providing reasonable prices and reasonable opportunities for the sale of the produce, particularly in British markets, that these Colonies have any hope of attaining that prosperity which would enable them to pay higher wages and improve the standard of living of the people.
I would also welcome anything which could be done to encourage the tourist traffic. Anything which we can do to attract people to those beautiful islands will have a beneficial effect. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not persist in attacks upon commercial interests which are going into these islands. The 848 right hon. Gentleman who preceded me spoke of predatory interests. To attack firms who are putting capital into the islands and to cast aspersions upon them in a Debate, which will go not only throughout the Press of this country but throughout the Press of the world, is not the way to encourage new enterprises in those islands. For that reason I greatly regret some of the rather bitter criticisms which have been made this evening. We all recognise that there is room for improvement in many directions in Trinidad, and we welcome the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary that steps will be taken to bring about an improvement. I am confident that if the valuable report of the Commission is acted upon quickly we shall see a steady improvement in the conditions in the islands.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I rise only to emphasise one or two points which, I think, ought to be brought out more prominently. In the first place, I wish to ask the Colonial Secretary what he proposes to do. In the first part of his speech he told us that if the Governor accepted responsibility for the consequences following on his action, or lack of action, he himself in his turn would accept responsibility. The Governor, however, has expiated whatever fault he may have committed. What expiation are we to have from the right hon. Gentleman? His is the major responsibility. He is responsible for administration in Trinidad. The Governor has been dismissed, but the right hon. Gentleman remains in office. He extenuates the fact that he remains in office by saying that he proposes to carry out this report. I have read the report carefully and I think it is a good thing for this country that this Debate did not take place a fortnight ago. Had it taken place a fortnight ago, there would probably have been a highly coloured paragraph about it in Herr Hitler's speech, because this report shows clearly what happens in the Crown Colonies of this country. It proves conclusively from a comparison between what happens in the French colonies and what happens in ours, that our boast about this country being a good coloniser is baseless.
The position in Trinidad is that the actual government of the island has not been in the House of Commons, but in a number of propertied interests there who 849 have done what they liked without check or hindrance, and would have continued to do so, had it not been for the speeches and the agitation of Uriah Butler. We should not be discussing the distress, suffering the difficulties of the people of Trinidad, had it not been for the man who has been sentenced to two years' hard labour. For this ignorance on the part of the House of Commons, for this condition of affairs generally, the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. What, then, does all this "patter" mean, this saying, "I hold myself responsible for the condition of affairs in my Department," if riots and shootings are necessary in order that attention may be drawn to the conditions in this island? It is an appalling state of affairs, and I rise now to ask a very simple question. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that any substantial alleviation will be effected by applying the recommendations in the report?
What is the situation in Trinidad? You have a number of oil companies with a formidable financial armament at their disposal—something in the region of £8,000,000 or £12,000,000. The last speaker and the right hon. Gentleman himself expressed satisfaction at the fact that the sugar interests are now to be mobilised into an equally formidable financial unit. There will, therefore, exist in this island formidable financial groups having the gifts of employment in their power, with enormous political influence here and with the House of Commons obviously incompetent to govern the island. We are obviously incompetent, because if this report discloses anything at all, it discloses the fact that our Colonial administration is entirely unsatisfactory and that we in this House are not doing our job. And, of course, it is impossible that we should do a job of this kind. It is impossible to have information about the situation in so many different parts of the world. Whatever be the reason, the fact is that this House of Commons, as proved by this report on Trinidad, is entirely not to be trusted with the stewardship of these areas.
If any hon. Member says that that is an exaggeration, I would like him to say whether it is not proved by the facts of the case. Had it not been for an inspired negro genius in Trinidad, we should be ignorant in regard to the miseries of these people, so that in fact these Colonies cannot 850 look to the House of Commons to protect them against the pressure of these formidable financial groups. In what direction, therefore, can the people of Trinidad look for protection? Trinidad has been governed for years by the big employers in that island, and our part in the government has been negligible. Housing, health, wages and labour conditions of the people of Trinidad—and little else exists outside those things—have been entirely under the administration of the big financial groups.
Now we have in Trindad the organisation of volunteers. I have heard them called different names in different parts of the world, but they are really, of course, a crowd of property owners, because very few of them are workers; and they are armed, in order to supplement the military forces of the island. There you have this formidable group of property interests, and here you have a House of Commons unable to protect the people against those interests. In what direction, therefore, can those people look for succour? The report suggests that the way is to send out a labour adviser. I have listened to this talk about labour advisers, and I have heard some of my hon. Friends on this side cheering when they heard that a labour adviser was going out, but really these labour advisers do not matter at all. It depends entirely upon the disputes that they are going to seetle, and those disputes depend on the power of someone to make a dispute. A labour adviser in the absence of a dispute is a man working in a vacuum. Someone has to make trouble first of all before a labour adviser can come into operation. I would like to hear of an instance where the labour advisers of the Ministry of Labour have ever intervened to the advantage of working-class folk unless first of all there has been a dispute or the threat of a dispute.
What will happen in Trinidad? The right hon. Gentleman says he will implement the report and assist in the organisation of trade unions. The trade unions are to be organised on a craft basis; in other words, the workers of Trinidad are to be organised in a type of union that minimises and not maximises their strength. A type of union is to be deliberately selected for them—it is to be foisted upon them, and they are to be persuaded to accept it—which, to all intents and purposes, renders them help- 851 less in comparison with the formidable employers' organisations. In the next place these trade unions are to be registered, and the purpose of that, we are told by the report, is that, as these people have had no experience in managing unions and might ran amuck, they are not, therefore, to have independent unions, but certificated unions; in other words, they are not to have good unions. Those unions that are led by good boys will be registered and will negotiate with the employers, and those unions that are led by bad boys, like Uriah Butler, will not be registered at all; in other words, you will have tame unions, unions that the employers want.
This is exactly the situation which exists in Germany, and you will have in Trinidad a National Labour Front. You will have the workers organised in unions selected by the Administration, with backstairs influence from the employers, you will have them manned by persons of whom the Administration and the employers approve, and you will have the exclusion from registration at any moment of the union that tries to do its job independently and to defend its members. You will also have the careful weeding out from the unions of any independently minded workers. According to this report, strong exception was taken by the union representatives to the system of the red book. That system means that if an employé wants to change his employer, he applies "voluntarily"—it is very nicely worded—to his employer for his book. The employer gives him his book, which contains a number of particulars concerning his past industrial history, and if he does not present this book when he looks for work to another employer, he does not get a job.
First you have the power of the employer to dismiss a man if he misbehaves himself, or if he is independently minded, and then, after being dismissed, the use of the red book makes it clear that no other employer will be exposed to that man's independence of mind. He will not get work, so that you will have the membersip of these unions, already robotised, goose-stepping to the tune played by the big employers behind the Administration. Then you will have the personnel, of those unions carefully sifted so that only the most docile workers will be allowed to be members of them. That is the 852 proposal made in this report, and that is the amount of protection that the workers of Trinidad are supposed to have. They will have no protection through the exercise of the franchise, because they are disfranchised. Only about 20 per cent. of them have the vote at all, and only those are able to qualify by an income qualification. The vast mass of the people will have no voice in the making of the laws and ordinances of the colony and will be unable to protect themselves in independent trade unions. It is seriously suggested that this is the kind of report which will prevent a recurrence of the troubles.
I have listened to the Debate with a little shame. I have learned a great deal about colonial administration in the last few weeks because I have been reading a number of these reports. The language of this Commission is utterly deplorable. Throughout its report there is an air of superiority. It is supercilious in a way which is highly irritating. It approves flogging for what it calls praedial larceny; it rebukes a police officer because he did not take the risk of shooting innocent people; it rebukes a Governor for attempting to negotiate with a fugitive from justice, Uriah Butler, although we in this country held conversations with Michael Collins. We are now holding conversations with a fugitive from justice who is President of Ireland. We held conversations with Gandhi because he was strong enough to force us when he was a fugitive from justice. Uriah Butler was condemned because he was the leader of poor negroes trying to get a square deal in Trinidad. The report welcomes the statement that certain great companies are going to construct houses. Why the administration itself cannot construct houses I cannot understand, because not only are these poor workers disfranchised, not only have they no free unions, but they can be thrown out of their houses by their employers. That is the kind of freedom we are going to bestow on the people of Trinidad. It is an astonishing story.
Many of my hon. Friends may not agree in what I am about to say. I understand from the Secretary of State that Sir Arthur Pugh was elected to membership of the Commission on the representation of the British Trades Union Congress. I say this with deliberation. I hope that the Trades Union Congress will 853 take the earliest opportunity of dissociating itself from the report. In no circumstances can the trade union movement of this country be even loosely identified with a report of that character which is not only bad in tone, but recommends industrial trade unionism and social practices against which the workers of this country have fought for generations. The Trades Union Congress should repudiate Sir Arthur Pugh's signature at the earliest opportunity, and I hope that the next time they are asked to elect representatives on commissions of this sort they will not select them from among the most conservative-minded and reactionary-minded trade union leaders. To suggest that workers who have been guilty of stealing from the fields because they are hungry should be flogged; to suggest that a black register should be maintained; to suggest the registration of trade unions and the withholding of certificates; to suggest that rich employers should be protected from paying higher wages because if they did so it would make the rest of the workers discontented—to make statements of that kind is entirely abhorrent to the mind and the history of the British trade union movement. I, for one, deeply regret that our movement is even loosely associated with them.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I notice that Lord Olivier in another place referred to this report as "not very accurate and not very reliable." I want to offer the opinion that it is a disgraceful report. One result of it already is that the Governor, who has shown more understanding and more humanity than any other official, was dismissed by the Colonial Secretary. No one could listen to the statement of the Colonial Secretary to-night without realising that it was, in fact, dismissal. The right hon. Gentleman told the Governor that he was not capable of carrying out the terms of the report and that he had not the right hon. Gentleman's confidence, and yet he says he resigned and was not dismissed. Is it not obvious that there was nothing left for him to do but to resign after treatment of that sort? If there was one man with an understanding mind and a human heart in the whole of this situation, it was the Governor of Trinidad. Take the reference in the report to Uriah Butler—this "fanatical negro." How could one of the leaders of the trade union movement in this country 854 approve of such a reference as this? Does not this represent the unjustifiable attempt to bring in race prejudice? The Governor rightly asked in connection with Butler, "What is an agitator but one who stirs up things?" Instead of Uriah Butler being in gaol he should be honoured above all others for the work he has done in drawing the attention of the people of this country and the world to the horrible, ghastly, and unspeakable conditions under which profits are being made in Trinidad. Representatives of oil and sugar can come here in all their glory, dressed up and polished, while in Trinidad there is poverty, suffering, malnutrition and death. Yes, men, women and children are being done to death so that they can pile up fortunes. Even this report has condemned it.
I sat in the Gallery one day and listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talking from the Front Bench about fanatics and the mischief they were doing. I was the fanatic. A fanatic is somebody you do not like who is carrying out a policy that is against the interests of profit. He is anybody who dares to interfere with profits. I remember speaking to a meeting of business men one night. They were against the Communists because the Communists were against religion, but they had a great regard for Mussolini and Hitler. When I drew attention to the fact that Mussolini was an atheist, they did not change their attitude towards him. When I drew attention to the fact that Hitler was a pagan, did that alter their attitude to Hitler? No. Mussolini may be an atheist, but he protects profits, and he is all right; Hitler may be a pagan, but he protects profits, so he is all right; but the Communist is against profits. He is "fanatic," he is against "religion." I pay tribute to Uriah Butler, and everyone who has an interest in putting an end to oppression and the terrible poverty and the unspeakable conditions which prevail among the people in Trinidad should pay tribute to him. I would a thousand times rather be in gaol with Uriah Butler, in the next cell to Uriah Butler, than sit in this House and have in my pocket money which rightly ought to belong to the people who are starving in Trinidad.
There is one other point and I will finish. A right hon. Gentleman, speaking 855 from this side, said it was terrible that Hertzog should make the statement that the natives of Africa must obey the white man's law, and asked the Colonial Secretary whether that was the plan in the Crown Colonies. The Colonial Secretary said, "No, not in the Crown Colonies." But what is happening in the Crown Colonies? Whose law is being obeyed in Trinidad? Is it black man's law or white man's law? They have no votes for the Legislative Assembly and the people of Trinidad are forced willy-nilly to obey the white man's law, and it is a scandal. Every man and woman in Trinidad has the same capabilities and the same potentialities as we have. Everyone has the right to the franchise. This report will never solve the problem in Trinidad. Bring Uriah Butler out of jail, give the people the right to the franchise and let them have their own Legislative Assembly, and then there will be a possibility of changes taking place in Trinidad which will make for better lives for the mass of the people, though there may be less profits for those who in this House or in this country are robbing and exploiting the unfortunate people there. I, like every other Member on this side, am for the people of Trinidad, and anything we can do to help them in whatever struggle they make to better their conditions will be gladly done.
§ 9.19 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I desire to make one or two observations, because I think that is an obligation upon anyone who holds the sentiments which I feel about this report. It displayed an amazing story of official neglect, both on the part of the Colonial Office here and of the Government of Trinidad, of the elementary rights of the workers in the West Indies, and, in spite of the condemnation of the leaders of the workers there, all these strikes and mass protests were the only means of expression open to the workers in the absence of industrial machinery. There is no question that in the language of the Governor himself, many of the workers were living in a state of economic slavery. What a commentary upon the neglect of the workers was the position of those employed on Government work by the Government itself. We learn that in 1913 labourers received 50 cents per day, and in 1922 the pay was raised to 65 cents. Then came the depression, 856 and it was reduced to 56 cents, that is, 3d. per day more than the wages which was paid in pre-War days. In spite of the improvement in conditions in the island, that was the wage paid to the labouring classes in Government employ up to the period of the disturbance, when the Governor took the law into his own hands and gave a minimum wage slightly in excess of that for the poorest section of employés in Government service. He states—and this is indicative of the general conditions of these people—that he had long felt, during his six months' residence in the island, the gross neglect which had been perpetrated upon them, and that the gross poverty ought to be eliminated by some minimum standard. He felt compelled to reduce the hours of labour to eight per day as being all that the people, with their weakened and enfeebled physique, could stand. The minimum wage was granted to the poorest only.
With regard to the various industrial efforts which were made, or should have been made, there is again the same story of utter and complete neglect. With regard to the minimum-wage-finding machinery, in 1928 the International Labour Office secured a Convention, and in 1929 that was adopted by this Government for all non-self-governing dependencies under Article 421 of the Treaty of Versailles. One would have imagined that that would have been put into effect, but nothing was done in Trinidad. In 1930 there was an Ordinance establishing an industrial court. Nothing was done. The Colonial Office slept on. Trade union legislation which was passed in 1932 left out the right of peaceful picketing and trade union immunity, making that legislation virtually of no value for the Trinidad workers. After all the agitation the minimum wage legislation applies only to three small islands, Granada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
In 1935 the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. M. MacDonald) issued a circular on the creation of Labour Departments in the various non-self-governing Colonies, but the Government of Trinidad, as we might expect from their history, took no action until this disturbance arose. The social conditions of the people are completely inexcusable, and if the Colonial Secretary was not aware of the low standards of social life in the island it is a severe condemnation upon him. 857 Consider the hookworm disease. The Rockefeller Institute instituted a campaign in Trinidad from 1914 to 1924 and demonstrated that this disease is capable of eradication. A proper provision of latrines and a proper disposal of excrement is virtually all that is required to deal with the situation. For a population of 448,000, very large numbers of whom were afflicted with hookworm, they had two officials, one in the north end of the island and one in the south. We learn from this report, without commentary of a serious character from the Commissioners, that in parts of the northern area 78.97 per cent. of the population were afflicted with hookworm and in particular industrial areas in the southern part of the island 80.3 per cent. of the population were afflicted. We on this side of the House declare that there should be an extensive health campaign, with proper sanitary provisions which the situation demands, and an improved standard of life with a full-time medical service.
With regard to malaria the same story of neglect is shown. In an island where malaria is quite capable of being exterminated there were no fewer than 18,902 persons affected by it. If it was dealt with on normal lines, merely by drainage and land reclamation and the proper control of the infection, which is due to the mosquito, malaria could be eradicated as it has been eradicated completely in parts of the Gold Coast and certainly at Singapore. There
§ is the same story of neglect in the matter of housing and in the matter of the franchise. We contend that there was no justification for refusing this right to the natives. Membership of the Legislative Council is based on an annual income of £400, which of course shuts out all but the upper classes. But, in any case, only seven of the 27 members are elected persons. The electoral qualification of £62 10s. 0d. per annum excludes the working classes so effectively from the vote that as the report itself says, at the last keenly contested General Election in 1933 there were fewer than 26,000 voters in a population of half a million people.
§ We have learned something with regard to the oil workers this afternoon and the improvement in their conditions, and we are told that the most highly paid of them gets 72 cents per day, but that will still leave their annual income about £47, and they will still be excluded from the possibility of exercising the franchise. We on this side contend that there has been gross and culpable neglect, and if the Colonial Secretary recognises his responsibilities, which he admitted he does recognise, he ought to retire from his office and give place to a person willing and anxious to meet the liabilities to the coloured populations of our West Indian islands.
§ Question put, "That Item, Class II, Vote 8 (Colonial Office), be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 101; Noes, 194.859
|Division No. 109.]||AYES.||[9.30 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Foot, D. M.||Leach, W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Gallacher, W.||Lee, F.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Gardner, B. W.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Logan, D. G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lunn, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Barr, J.||Grenfell, D. R.||MacLaren, A.|
|Batey, J.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maclean, N.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Benson, G.||Hardie, Agnes||Mander, G. le M.|
|Bevan, A.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng, Univ's.)||Marshall, F.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hayday, A.||Maxton, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Milner, Major J.|
|Cape, T.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Parker, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Pearson, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Hollins, A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jagger, J.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Riley, B.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Dobbie, W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Kelly, W. T.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Ede, J. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Kirkwood, D.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Simpson, F. B.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||White, H. Graham|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Tinker, J. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Tomlinson, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Stephen, C.||Walkden, A. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Watkins, F. C.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Granville, E. L.||Owen, Major G.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Gratton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Grimston, R. V.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Assheton, R.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Radford, E. A.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hambro, A. V.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hannah, I. C.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Harbord, A.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hartington, Marquess of||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bracken, B.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hunter, T.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cary, R. A.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Scott, Lord William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Spens, W. P.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Levy, T.||Storey, S.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Lindsay, K. M.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Lipson, D. L.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Little, Sir E. Graham.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lloyd, G. W.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Loftus, P. C.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lyons, A. M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|De Chair, S. S.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Denville, Alfred||McCorquodale, M. S.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||McKie, J. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Macquisten, F. A.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Markham, S. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Errington, E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Moreing, A. C.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Munro, P.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Goldie, N. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Mr. Furness and Major Sir|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.