HC Deb 11 May 1938 vol 335 cc1571-2
39. Captain Arthur Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether in view of the cycle of riots and strikes which the British West Indies have experienced since 1935, largely as the result of the present state of the sugar industry, he will consider the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the whole question of the future of this industry and the conditions of the people employed therein?

Mr. M. MacDonald

My Noble Friend is only too well aware of the series of distressing incidents, of the kind to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, during the last year or two; but he does not share his view that a Royal Commission into the sugar industry is warranted. The economic difficulties of the sugar industry arise from circumstances of a world-wide character and there already exists an International Sugar Council which is charged with the duty of trying to find means of overcoming them.

Mr. Paling

Is it not a fact that the expenditure of £40,000,000 upon subsidising beet sugar in this country has something to do with the position out there?

Mr. Creech Jones

Will not the Government try to tackle in some comprehensive fashion the underlying social and economic causes of all this unrest?

Mr. MacDonald

That is a wider question. The question on the Paper concerns simply sugar, and that is dealt with by the International Sugar Council.

Mr. Lunn

But does not the last part of the question ask that a Royal Commission should be sent out to inquire into the whole question of the West Indies?

Mr. MacDonald

It asks for a Royal Commission to investigate the whole question of the future of the sugar industry.

Mr. Lunn

And the conditions of the people.

Mr. Harold Mitchell

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Cabinet whether they cannot do something for the West Indian sugar industry comparable with what is being done for the production of sugar at home, and also assist other West Indian products, because unless something is done to provide a remunerative market it is impossible to pay higher wages?