HC Deb 04 April 1951 vol 486 cc191-3
23 Mr. T. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the extent of the damage caused to public and private property in Grenada during the recent riots; and to what extent the citizens or their representatives helped the authorities to suppress the rioters.

24 Sir Richard Acland

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any further statement to make on the recent disturbances in Grenada, and particularly about the circumstances which served as the effective cause of the deterioration of the situation from a relatively normal industrial dispute into a serious disturbance; and whether he proposes to hold any formal inquiry into the immediate circumstances of the disturbances and into the general economic background against which they have to be considered.

Mr. Cook

I will, with permission, make a further statement on the situation in Grenada as promised by my right hon. Friend on 21st March.

The Wages Council Bill was passed on 28th March. Independently, representatives of the Agricultural Employers' Society and the Grenada Mental and Manual Workers' Union have met under neutral chairmanship. No incidents have been reported by the Governor since the statement in the House on 21st March. The resumption of work was delayed at Plaisance and Mount Horn Estates but is now general.

In view of the negotiations proceeding locally I do not wish to add anything to previous statements in the House about the course of past events in Grenada. I regret to say that damage and losses in respect of crops are reported from some 80 estates, the latest total estimates amounting to £195,000. In addition, damage by arson to Government property is estimated at £8,300 and to private property at £9,700. Some citizens with wireless experience greatly assisted police communications during the strike: others joined the special constabulary.

Dr. Morgan

Is my hon. Friend aware that the economic conditions of the poor labourers of the estates in Grenada and the other West Indian Islands are perfectly disgraceful? Would he see that machinery is quickly available to take the matter in hand as soon as an industrial or agricultural dispute is announced in any of the Colonies?

Mr. Cook

We now have this Wages Council set up and we hope for good results from it.

Mr. Pickthorn

Could the House be told what was the meaning of the word "independently" used, I think, in the early part of the hon. Gentleman's reply? I was not quite clear about it. Secondly, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman but I did not hear quite clearly the names he mentioned. Plaisance was one; was Mount Horn one? Thirdly, is there any means of estimating how much, if any, of the damage caused is covered by insurance policies?

Mr. Cook

I am not in a position to reply to the latter part of the question, but if the hon. Gentleman would put down a Question to that effect I will see that he is given a reply. I mentioned Plaisance and Mount Horn was definitely mentioned. The word "independently" means that they were independent of the Wages Council.

Sir R. Acland

My hon. Friend mentioned the question of investigations that are now proceeding. If those are investigations simply by the Minister's Labour officer I would ask, without any criticism of that officer, whether he is a sufficient man to investigate alone the very important question of why it was that something that may have started as a labour dispute degenerated into a disturbance and a riot with tremendous loss by damage and loss of life. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Second, who is to investigate the question of the general economic and social background of this Island, against which this dispute arose?

Mr. Cook

It does not arise at this point. Mr. Barltrop has the full confidence of the Secretary of State in handling the situation, not only from day to day but from hour to hour. We want the immediate problem to be settled first, and to consider post mortems later.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

In view of the known activities of Communists in other parts of the West Indies, is the hon. Gentleman able to give the House an assurance that a full inquiry into that possibility has been made?

Mr. Cook

We have no evidence at the moment of any Communist activity so far as Grenada is concerned, but we are watching the position very carefully.