HC Deb 16 February 1949 vol 461 cc1113-5
1. Mr. Geoffrey Cooper

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the responsibility of the present re-absorption officer in Belize who has been appointed on a temporary basis to deal with the unemployment problem; what staff and office accommodation is available to this officer; what is the number of ex-Service men for whom this officer has been able to obtain employment; and what was the number of registered unemployed in British Honduras at the latest convenient date.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)

My hon. Friend no doubt has in mind the liaison officer, appointed to attend to ex-Service men's problems, including employment. This officer is attached to and has an office in the Labour Department. It has not been found necessary to provide him with a separate staff of his own. At the end of November, there were 645 registered unemployed in British Honduras, of whom 102 were ex-Service men. Between that date and the end of January, the number of unemployed ex-Service men on the register was reduced to 74, including 42 for whom casual work has been found.

Mr. Cooper

Does the Colonial Secretary realise that the figures of registered unemployed give little real indication of the unemployment problem in Honduras, because few men continue to register when they see that so little is done for them? Can he give an assurance that something more vigorous will be done in future than has been done in the past to alleviate this problem, which I have been following up for over a year with little result?

Mr. Creech Jones

In the difficult economic circumstances of British Honduras, everything possible is being done to find employment for these men, and the figures which I have given do indicate an important reduction.

Mr. Pickthorn

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether "re-absorption officer" is the official title of this man, and what are his exact functions?

Mr. Creech Jones

I have not the official title here, but that is certainly not the title by which he is known in British Honduras.

Mr. Niall Macpherson

Will the figures distinguish between the native and the white populations?

Mr. Creech Jones

No, Sir; not the figures in my reply.

Mr. Cooper

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the registered figures, unless registration is made compulsory, really do not indicate the size of the problem?

2. Mr. Cooper

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to establish a well-organised employment exchange in Belize, British Honduras, in order to tackle more effectively than at the present time the urgent unemployment problem.

Mr. Creech Jones

Government Departments are required to obtain such labour as they need through the Labour Department, which fulfils the functions of an employment exchange and maintains a register of unemployed. That Department also keeps in touch with private employers for the same purpose, and there would be no advantage in establishing a separate employment exchange.

Mr. Cooper

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his answer does not bear out the testimony coming from the Colony, and will he look into this matter again, because he will no doubt realise that the problem will not be solved until new development schemes are introduced and new industries are developed in the Colony?

Mr. Creech Jones

I would point out that very considerable attention is being given to the recommendations of the Commission which visited Honduras, and many of its recommendations are being applied at the present time.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Could not the Governor be recalled for consultation?