§ 8. Mr. Driberg
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered the representations from the Deputy Chairman of the Town Council of Vieux-Fort, St. Lucia, forwarded to him by the hon. Member for Maldon, concerning the destitution and unemployment caused by the collapse of the sugar industry in that district; what compensation, rent or other payment was received on account of the former United States base, whose presence led to this collapse; and what steps are being taken to provide money, work and other help for those in want.
Yes, Sir. I am aware of the present difficulties of the people of Vieux-Fort. I cannot say, without reference to the Governor, what was the total amount of compensation paid to owners of land on account of the United States base. This base brought considerable prosperity to the area; and, as its activity decreased, substantial sums were provided both by the local government and under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act for resettlement schemes. Further measures are plainly needed to help this area, but they must await the report of the team of experts who have recently visited the island to investigate means of expanding agricultural production I am asking the Governor to speed things up.
§ Mr. Driberg
When my right hon. Friend says that further help is plainly needed but that we must await the report of the experts, may I ask him what is being done about the urgent plight of the people concerned? Is any form of relief being provided?
No, Sir, there is no form of unemployment relief there; but I must say that the people there had rather unexpected prosperity during the time that the Americans base was there.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Opposition have also received a communication from this island and are deeply anxious for its welfare? Pending inquiries, would it not be very unfortunate if the impression got about that the United States, in some sinister way, are responsible for the present destitution?
§ Mr. P. Smithers
In view of the reports reaching us about the unsatisfactory conditions on St. Lucia, could the right hon. Gentleman say when the affairs of the island last came before him? If they have not done so for some time, will he have them looked into?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they come before me and my right hon. Friend on very frequent occasions.