HC Deb 14 April 1937 vol 322 cc1025-6W
Mr. Lunn

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that, at the time of the financial crisis, salaries of Government officials in St. Helena were reduced by 10 per cent. and wages of workmen by 20 per cent.; that the 10 per cent. reduction has been abolished but, apart from certain increases made recently, the 20 per cent. reduction still obtains; what is the reason for this difference in treatment; whether he is aware that, in spite of the appointment of an agriculture and forestry officer, nothing substantial has been done to improve conditions; and whether he will make representations as to the desirability of a scheme of workmen's allotments in the Highlands for the growing of potatoes, which would help to meet the regular shortage of potatoes for Home consumers?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Owing to the financial crisis in 1932 the Acting Governor ordered a 10 per cent. levy on the salaries or wages of all officers and Government employés in St. Helena. The result was that official salaries were not commensurate with their duties and responsibilities and were in some cases actually lower than wages of unskilled labourers. The 10 per cent. cut in salaries was, therefore, restored. At the same time, in order to provide additional revenue to help meet the Island's deficit, a new customs tariff was introduced, designed to affect the labouring classes only lightly but others appreciably.

In order to enable larger numbers of unemployed to be given employment wages were further reduced in 1933 by about 10 per cent. to a figure which a local committee had previously advised was sufficient to provide a reasonable standard of living. Following this reduction the number of labourers has been steadily increased and the Governor reports that there is no discontent on the part of the labourers employed by Government. I am fully alive to the importance of developing the agricultural resources of St. Helena and, in fact, since the appointment of the Agricultural and Forestry Officer to whom the hon. Member refers, promising beginnings have been made with several different export crops.

With regard to the last part of the question, I am pleased to be able to say that a grant of £2,679 from the Colonial Development Fund was approved last month for the establishment of smallholdings for the growing of potatoes and other garden produce.