HC Deb 20 July 1955 vol 544 cc365-6
22. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if an agreement has yet been reached with the Government of Sierra Leone on the legalisation of indigenous diamond mining; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am not yet in a position to add anything to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) last week.

40. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the value of diamonds mined in Sierra Leone in 1954; and what proportion of this was produced by the Sierra Leone Selection Trust Limited.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The value of diamonds exported in 1954 by the Sierra Leone Selection Trust was £1,699,874. I have seen various estimates of current illicit production ranging from £2 million to £4 million per annum but am in no position to vouch for their accuracy or otherwise.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Secretary of State not aware that people in the Colony are virtually digging up diamonds from their back gardens, which leads to a Colony-wide black market? Could he not see his way to licensing authorised diggers and thus end this monopoly?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is precisely because I am aware of the comparative ease with which these stones can be extracted that I asked for a delegation to come from Sierra Leone, with whom I am now in the middle of negotiations.

Mr. Stokes

As one who has supplied machinery for digging diamonds, may I ask whether it is true that if all the diamonds which are dug were released to the public they would be completely and utterly worthless?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct, and I am sure that he, like many other capitalists, is interested in the preservation of legal practices.