§ 38. Mr. Macquisten
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the fact that the only step which the International Sugar Council can take with a view to improving sugar prices is to impose a voluntary cut in sugar quotas, he proposes to make special representations on behalf of the British Colonial Empire, seeing that any further reduction in the output of sugar from the West Indies and other Colonies is likely to cause further labour unrest?
Mr. M. MacDonald
At its meeting in April the International Sugar Council exhausted its powers of imposing cuts on the quotas of foreign exporting countries. In addition, several countries voluntarily gave up part of their quotas. The Council is meeting again early in July to discuss the position further, and I hope that there may then be further voluntary surrenders. There has been no suggestion from any quarter that the Colonial Empire should voluntarily surrender any part of its quotas.
§ Mr. Macquisten
If they cannot get an increased quota, can there be an increased subsidy to give these West Indians a decent wage?
§ 39. Mr. Macquisten
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the fact that Cuba is threatening to repatriate all British West Indian labourers to the extent of approximately 100,000 who are now working there, it is proposed to make any representation protesting against such repatriation, having regard to the large volume of Cuban sugar imported by Great Britain, and the benefits which Cuba receives from the sacrifices made by British Colonial sugar-producers under the international sugar agreement?
I am aware that it is the policy of the Cuban Government to repatriate British West Indian labourers in the near future, and representations on this subject were made recently to the Cuban authorities. It is not considered that any further representations can usefully be made at the present time.
§ Mr. Macquisten
Cannot we refuse Cuban sugar? Would not that prevent them dumping labour on our labour market, thus perpetuating labour evils in the West Indies?
Captain Arthur Evans
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the result of those representations, and whether it suggests to him the possibility of an agreement being arrived at?
Repatriation has not started yet, and if it appears that it is going to start we shall see whether there, are any further steps we can take to prevent it being done in such a way as not to cause wholesale hardships.
§ 40. Mr. Macquisten
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has taken any steps to ascertain from the British and Colonial sugar interests their opinion of what has been done, up to date, by the International Sugar Council to raise the present low price of sugar; and whether he will take any steps outside the operations of this Council to assist the West Indies and other sugar growing parts of the British Colonial Empire?
Immediately after the conclusion of the International Sugar Agreement a standing committee of representatives of all Colonial sugar producers was set up under the chairmanship of the officer of the Colonial Office who is a member of the United Kingdom Delegation to the International Sugar Council. My hon. Friend can therefore rest assured that we are kept fully informed of their views. With regard to the last part of the question, considerable assistance outside the operations of the Council is already being given to these Colonies. Their position is receiving my careful attention.
§ Mr. Macquisten
Is it not obvious from the labour discontent and unrest that this assistance has not been enough? The wages of these poor people are miserable.
As regards the International Sugar Council, I hope that further steps may be taken at the July meeting. As regards the other colonies, I am giving the whole matter careful attention, and I cannot say more at the present time.