HC Deb 13 October 1943 vol 392 cc869-71
42. Mr. Mathers

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the threatened one-day protest strike against the high cost of living in Cyprus took place; and what is the present position in relation to the meeting of this grievance?

Mr. Emrys-Evans

At a meeting organised by the Pan-Cypriot Trade Union Committee on 22nd August it was decided to call a 24-hour general strike as a protest against the alleged failure of the Government to take any effective steps to reduce the cost of living. After consultation between the union leaders and the Government the strike was later called off in relation to men employed on defence works and essential services a ten-minute halt being substituted. The strike was by no means universal. There was no disorder.

The cost-of-living index figure, as compared with 100 before the war, stood at 278 at the beginning of September. But, excluding clothing, it was about 200. Comprehensive measures have been taken by the Government of Cyprus to control the cost of living. They include the control of prices, with the assistance in appropriate cases of subsidies, and a special organisation for the distribution of essential commodities on a rationed basis. As a result, the cost of living (if clothing is excluded) has been stabilised at about 100 per cent. above pre-war level.

Clothing presents a special problem. By the beginning of this year difficulties of supply and transport had reduced available stocks below the normal demand. Prices accordingly rose very steeply. The Government have taken energetic steps to improve the supply situation, and to concentrate into their own hands all available stocks. These stocks are being issued on a strictly rationed basis according to need at controlled prices, which should be reflected in a material reduction in the index figure. But the problem as regards clothing is not price but supply.

Wages for unskilled labour have risen in Cyprus from an average of 1sh. 8 piastres a day for a 56-hour week to an average of 4s. a day for a 48-hour week; and for skilled labour the corresponding figures are 2 sh. 8 piastres and 6s.; but wages for skilled labour vary considerably in different trades.

Mr. Mathers

In the light of the statement made by the Minister, can he explain why the Governor of Cyprus has recommended the War Office to raise allowances to Cypriot dependants of Service men serving in His Majesty's Forces only by two-thirds instead of by the obviously necessary 100 per cent., to make it equal with British standards?

Mr. Emrys-Evans

I must have notice of that Question.

Mr. Silverman

Do not the figures show a really appalling state of affairs, and will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the warning from India of allowing these matters to get out of control until famine conditions arise?