HC Deb 14 June 1938 vol 337 cc54-5W
Captain Evans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has had an opportunity of giving further consideration to the economic position and general situation in the British West Indies, particularly Jamaica; and whether he is now in a position to make a statement?

Mr. Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the request from Jamaica for a Royal Commission to be appointed to investigate conditions in that island; and whether it is his intention to accede to that request?

Mr. M. MacDonald

I shall be making a general statement on the West Indies, including Jamaica, later this afternoon, and I would ask the hon. Members to await that statement.

Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Jamaica?

Mr. M. MacDonald

Since I last made a statement on the Jamaica disturbances, in reply to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) on 1st June, I am glad to report that the situation in Kingston has remained quiet.

In the parishes, however, the position is less satisfactory. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Conciliation Board to reach agreement on the question of wages, there has been continued unrest and lawlessness, necessitating regular patrolling by the police and military and the enrolment of a number of special constables.

There were numerous unavoidable clashes between the demonstrators and the police or military. In the parishes of St. Elizabeth and Clarendon, the military were obliged to open fire upon an unruly crowd which was obstructing communications, resulting in two persons being wounded. At Islington in the parish of St. Mary a party of police were attacked by the crowd and were forced to fire, killing three and wounding two persons. In the parishes of St. James, Hanover and Trelawny, where the crowds were disorderly, the total casualties were one killed and two wounded, one constable also being wounded in this area. In St. Catherine serious outbreaks necessitated police firing and seven persons were wounded. A number of arrests were also made for looting, molesting of traffic, cutting telephone wires and other disorderly conduct.

The Acting Governor has issued an appeal to the public for law and order, and a statement announcing the Government's policy for an island-wide scheme of land settlement, which has been well received.

I am glad to say that the later reports from the Acting Governor indicate a general improvement. On 9th of June he reported that the situation throughout the Colony was now generally quiet, though some unrest continued in places, and the maintenance of full precautionary measures was still necessary.

Mr. Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the economic position of Jamaica and the urgent need of drastic rehousing measures, a grant in aid of housing will be made from the Imperial Exchequer to the colony?

Mr. M. MacDonald

Proposals were approved in January last for the allocation of a sum of £100,000 from Loan Funds for two schemes of slum clearance and rehousing in Kingston, and I recently sent a communication to the Government of Jamaica inquiring whether further schemes were in contemplation and, if so, how it was proposed to finance them. In these circumstances the question of any grant-in-aid from the Imperial Exchequer does not immediately arise.

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