HC Deb 12 March 1952 vol 497 cc1369-71
24. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what further information he has had from Fiji about distress arising from the hurricane on 28th January; and what additional steps he proposes to help the island to deal with the situation.

19. Mr. John Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that, as a result of the recent hurricane in Fiji, the Fijians are now bartering their last personal possessions to pay for flour from the Indian storekeepers; if he will cause further inquiries to be made into the adequacy of present food supplies; and what further action the Government propose to take to bring immediate relief in view of these fresh circumstances.

Mr. Lyttelton

As soon as I was informed of the Press reports upon the statement by the acting Chairman of the Methodist Mission in Fiji, to which this Question appears to refer, I asked the Acting Governor about them. The reports are exaggerated and refer only to a small part of the island of Viti Levu.

The Acting Governor tells me that the Mission's representative and the District Officer concerned, since visiting the area, have published a joint statement showing that food supplies, except cultivated root crops, are plentiful. Substantial relief supplies were already in the area and distribution was being arranged when the original report of hardship was made. There may have been some bartering of personal possessions for food, but my evidence is that it so it cannot have been extensive.

According to my information adequate relief measures are being taken and no special action seems to be called for.

Mr. Hynd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he last answered a Question on this subject his answer was received in Fiji with a certain amount of indignation, as they regarded it as too complacent? As the Fijians are already living under poverty-stricken conditions, owing to the low price they are getting for their sugar, they feel that some generosity should be shown in this case.

Mr. Lyttelton

I think a good deal of the local feeling was aroused by the Press reports which, on investigation, turned out to be inaccurate.

Mr. Bernard Braine

On a point of order. May I inquire whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to include in his answer the answer to my Question, No. 37, on an identical subject? He did not say so.

Mr. Lyttelton

I did not say so. What I did not say I did not mean.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that these quiet, unassuming, delightful people get every possible help in their time of trouble?

Mr. Lyttelton

I echo the right hon. Gentleman's feelings about these inhabitants, but I think adequate measures are being taken. I will make further inquiries and, if any additional steps ought to be taken. I will see that they are suggested.

37. Mr. Braine

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give any further estimate of the damage caused by the hurricane which swept Fiji in January; and what steps have been taken to mitigate distress.

Mr. Lyttelton

I regret that it is not yet possible to give a more accurate estimate of the damage than that given in my statement of 20th February in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls). Emergency food supplies have been distributed where necessary and these will continue until new crops mature.

A request for financial assistance for sugar cane growers in the areas affected is under consideration by the Fiji Government. Supplies of building materials are being given high priority and are being directed to those purposes for which they are most urgently needed. In addition to the gifts of the New Zealand Government and Her Majesty's Government, substantial sums have been collected for relief work in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Mr. Braine

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that answer, and allowing for the fact that the comparative effects of the disaster were less than were caused by the hurricane in Jamaica last year, may I ask if he will bear in mind that this country has always helped Colonies in facing difficulties of this kind; and will he satisfy himself that this far-off little outpost of the Empire is given all such assistance as may be required?

Mr. Lyttelton

The sum so far raised has not yet been spent, and if there should be work outstanding thereafter, I will certainly look at it again.

Mr. J. Hynd

Would the Minister consider as a contribution in this case the revision of the sugar agreement which at present gives this Colony much less than the world price?

Mr. Lyttelton

That is quite another question.

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