HL Deb 25 November 1937 vol 107 cc308-10

THE DUKE OF MONTROSE asked His Majesty's Government whether they can now state what is the present position of affairs in Trinidad; and when the Report of the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the cause of the recent riots may be presented and published. The noble Duke said: My Lords, in rising to ask the Question which stands in my name, l would just like to remind your Lordships that it was last July that I initiated a debate in this House on the position of things in the Island of Trinidad after serious rioting, accompanied by loss of life, and the noble Marquess who will reply to this Question informed us that a Commission had just been appointed, and was going out to investigate matters on the spot. Since that time I am unaware that we have received any information in your Lordships' House regarding either what has happened to the Commission or what has happened in the Island. I believe that some statements have been made in the Press, and also in another place, but, probably in company with other members of this House, I have not observed those statements. I think it would be well that we should hear at first band what is the condition of things in Trinidad, and when the Commission is likely to report, so that we shall be on the same footing as anybody else.


My Lords, I hope that neither the noble Duke nor other members of your Lordships' House will think me discourteous if I reply very briefly to this Question. The position at the moment is that the Commission are in process of writing their Report, and the Governor of Trinidad has been asked to come home in order to confer with the Secretary of State over recent happenings. In those circumstances I think that your Lordships will agree that it is quite impossible, and would be most improper, for me to say anything which might prejudice the discussions or the Report.

All I think I can usefully say this afternoon is that, although tension has existed in the Island, at the moment the situation is calm, but that precautions of a temporary nature have been taken in order to enable both employers and employees to adjust their relationships in a constitution manner. With that object H.M.S. "York" at one time called at the Island, although she has now left, and a company of troops have arrived from Bermuda, and have been posted in the oilfields area. The duration of their stay clearly depends upon circumstances, although it is impossible for me to say what circumstances would enable them to be withdrawn. Meanwhile, Sir Mark Young has taken over for the moment the administration of the Island, and I do not think there are any signs at the moment of further disturbance. As far as the question of the time of the publication of the Report is concerned, my noble friend will realise that the position is complicated by the fact that the Report will have to be referred to the Trinidad members, and that will necessarily take some little time, but it is our hope that the Report will be available some time in the new year. I am fully aware that the reply I have given is extremely brief, but I think that is all that can be usefully said at the present moment.

House adjourned at eight minutes past five o'clock.