HC Deb 03 October 1939 vol 351 cc1818-9
75. Mr. Lunn

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Newfound land?

Mr. Eden

I regret that the Newfoundland Government have not been able to report any improvement in economic conditions in the island during the past summer. Though the mining industry has been operating on its normal basis, the fishing season has been a disappointing one and logging operations were also below normal during the first half of the year. The number of persons in receipt of public relief in August was about 45,000 as compared with 40,000 in August, 1938. The outbreak of the war has, of course, introduced many new factors, the effect of which on the economic position of Newfoundland it is difficult to estimate at present. The question of obtaining from Newfoundland supplies of iron ore, fish, pitprops and other timber for use in this country is being actively considered. Arrangements have been made to recruit Newfoundland seamen for service in the Royal Navy for the duration of hostilities and similar proposals for recruitment for the Army are under consideration.

Mr. Lunn

Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to get an up-to-date report upon what is happening in Newfoundland? I should like to know whether conditions now are not worse than as disclosed in the last report, presented many months ago, and also what is being done about land settlement in Newfoundland?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend may be assured that I am already going into this very difficult question. He will appreciate that war conditions in Newfoundland, as elsewhere, have created a new set of difficulties, and it is in the light of them that we must consider the situation.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

May I ask whether any steps have been taken to assist recruiting there for the Mercantile Marine, even to the extent of granting passages to this country?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will give me notice of that question.

Mr. McGovern

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the assurance that although Parliamentary Government has been abolished in Newfoundland the people there will still be allowed to fight for democracy?