HC Deb 21 March 1951 vol 485 cc2421-3

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

92. Mr. C. S. TAYLOR

TO ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the dismissal of the superintendent of police in Grenada.


TO ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a further statement upon the situation in Grenada.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)

With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and that of the House, I will answer Questions Nos. 92 and 93.

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on 14th March, the proposal to set up statutory wages councils has been favourably received both by employers and by labour, and it is the intention to set up these councils immediately the necessary legislation has been passed. A general return to work for a period of three weeks to enable further negotiations to take place was urged by the leader of the Grenada Mental and Manual Workers' Union, and the Governor informs me that there has now been a general resumption of work throughout the Island, with the exception of two or three estates where some details have yet to be settled. All public works employees are back at work.

I regret to report, however, that there was some increase in cases of theft towards the end of last week. I also regret to say that, on 15th March, in self-defence, the police had to fire on a hostile crowd, which had assembled to march on the court house after eight persons had been arrested for stealing cocoa. Stones were thrown and several policemen were injured. The police, therefore, had to open fire; three persons were killed and three more were wounded.

The question of taking all possible measures to achieve the maximum degree of public security had been greatly exercising the Governor. He was not satisfied that the best use was being made of the police force, and decided that a change in command was necessary. The Governor, who must clearly have full discretion in such matters, therefore granted Colonel Donald leave pending the termination of his appointment. He appointed another officer, Brigadier Pickthall, who has had considerable police experience, to act as Superintendent of Police. A Deputy Superintendent has recently been appointed and is proceeding to Grenada as quickly as possible. At present an officer from Trinidad is acting as deputy.

The Governor is satisfied that certain measures of reorganisation which have been carried out will enable the best use to be made of the police, and I am glad to say that the situation over the weekend was much quieter. A report sent by the Governor yesterday afternoon informs me that there had been no reports of incidents during the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Smithers

As we are soon to go away for the Easter Recess, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Governor is now in a position to give effective protection to the lives and property of all citizens, and to prevent further outbreaks of looting and violence?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. The Governor now assures me that the arrangements which he has made will enable him to give that protection.

Mr. Pickthorn

Can the Minister tell us—I did ask him about this 10 days ago—which are the estates where there has been serious material damage and which are the estates where work has not been resumed?

Mr. Griffiths

No, Sir. I am awaiting a full report on the damage that has been done and on those estates where damage has been caused. As soon as I have that report, I will make it known publicly.

Mr. Taylor

I understand that there were two serious charges against the former Superintendent of Police. One was that he did not make sufficient use of the police forces' available to him, and the other was that he concealed the seriousness of the situation. Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what evidence and on whose evidence these charges were made?

Mr. Griffiths

No, Sir. I am awaiting a full report from the Governor. In the meantime, if he found that, in the light of the existing circumstances, this change in command was necessary, I think he was right to make it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In view of the very great anxiety in the House and the country for the preservation of law and order in Grenada, will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement as soon as the House reassembles after Easter, and give us the latest possible information about the situation?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. I will.

Mr. Harrison

When the police fired on the demonstrators was it during that period that the Superintendent of Police omitted to do something, with the result that the Governor asked for his resignation?

Mr. Griffiths

I would rather await the fuller report on what happened.