HC Deb 26 May 1938 vol 336 cc1420-1W
Mr. Riley

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make with regard to the labour disturbances in Kingston, Jamaica, on Monday, 23rd May, when troops fired on the demonstrators, wounding two women, and 200 cases, chiefly bruises caused by police batons, were treated at the hospitals?

Mr. M. MacDonald:

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made yesterday in answer to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cardiff, South (Captain A. Evans). I am now able to supplement this as a result of further information received from the Governor:

I regret to state that a woman and a boy were killed and a woman seriously wounded as a result of firing by the police on the 23rd May. These are the deaths to which I referred in my statement yesterday. Reports that the troops have been called upon to fire are incorrect. The other casualties over a period of three days total 77 injured, of whom 17 were detained in hospital. Of these latter, two are persons assaulted by the mob, four are police constables, and two special constables. The firing by the police was necessitated by the refusal of the mob to disperse, and by stoning and other serious attacks on the police by the rioters. The police generally exercised great restraint.

The latest report received from the Governor indicates that though there is a slight improvement, the situation in Kingston is still serious. He has, therefore, considered it desirable to enact a Bill on the lines of the United Kingdom Emergency Powers Act, 1920. The market and the majority of the stores and business houses opened yesterday. Scavenging work and the tramway services were resumed, though some of the tram drivers and conductors are still on strike. The gasworks employés, after striking, have resumed work on the understanding that their demands will be considered.

There has, however, been a certain amount of trouble in the parishes outside Kingston. Strikes have taken place on a number of estates. On the Caymanas Estate after the Riot Act had been read, it was found necessary to fire on the crowd, when four people were wounded who are now in hospital. At Port Morant and Bowden, banana shipping ports, 250 wharf labourers are on strike for increases of pay.

Arrangements have been made for a meeting of shipping companies and wharf labourers to-day for negotiations.

The Governor is prepared to set up a conciliation board of which the Commissioners now inquiring into labour conditions and rates of wages would be members. It has not hitherto been possible to get leaders of labour to make definite proposals to Government or to form a responsible trade union with which Government could negotiate, but the Governor has now received an undertaking that the representations of labourers regarding wages will be put forward.