HC Deb 09 July 1963 vol 680 cc1018-9
2. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the situation in British Guiana.

Mr. Fisher

I am glad to say that terms for the resumption of work were agreed on 6th July and that most strikers resumed work yesterday. I am sure the whole House will wish me to express our gratitude to Mr. Robert Willis and to the Trade Union Congress for making him available to help in the negotiations. The resumption of work is to no small extent due to his efforts. I hope that incidents of violence will now cease and that the people of British Guiana will work hard and constructively to repair the harm to their country's economy which this prolonged strike has caused. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend left by air for British Guiana this morning.

Mr. Brockway

Whilst appreciating the end of the general strike and wishing to endorse the congratulation of Mr. Willis, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is not the case that the crisis in British Guiana is much more than the general strike? Is it not a matter also of the difficulties between the leaders of political parties, between the races, between the economic conditions of that country and the need to satisfy America before independence? Is the hon. Gentleman thinking in these broader terms towards some solution of the problem of British Guiana?

Mr. Fisher

Yes, we certainly are, of course, but I, like the hon. Gentleman, do not want to minimise the seriousness of the industrial dispute. He is perfectly right in saying that we also have a very acute political and racial conflict here, and we are certainly thinking in the wider terms which he mentioned. That is why my right hon. Friend has gone there. He was never going to mediate in the strike but was always going in the wider context which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mr. Bottomley

While wishing to be associated with the tribute to Mr. Robert Willis and the T.U.C., bearing this in mind, would it not have been wiser to have accepted his further guidance that the Secretary of State might have delayed his visit?

Mr. Fisher

I do not think so, for the reason given in the latter part of my Answer to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not going out to mediate in the general strike but in the much wider context mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Gardner

While welcoming the news which my hon. Friend has just given the House, may I ask him if he will bear in mind the fact that the life of this Colony is being strangled by hatred and fear; that the hatred is basically racial while the fear is that this country will soon be giving independence to this Colony and so creating on the mainland of South America another Cuba?

Mr. Fisher

This, of course, is one of the additional complications in this very difficult territory. Not only do we have a political and racial difficulty but we also have the genuine fears which my hon. and learned Friend has expressed about the future of the country in the context of Communism and so on. This is another aspect which my right hon. Friend wishes to see for himself.

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