HC Deb 21 June 1939 vol 348 cc2255-6W
Mr. Riley

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he considers that an average attendance of 55 per cent. is a satisfactory attendance for children in the elementary schools in Jamaica; what steps he proposes to take to raise this percentage; is he aware that it is obligatory for children attending the elementary schools in Jamaica to provide their own school utensils, such as pens, pencils, exercise books, and other school books; and will he consider altering this?

Sir T. Inskip

No, Sir. The school attendance in Jamaica cannot be considered to be satisfactory, although the figures are improving and the average monthly attendance in 1938 was 4,698 higher than in 1937.

Economic conditions are the main cause of irregular attendance and of non-attendance. The provision of better and more adequate school accommodation is a necessary prelude to the extension of compulsion. Within its financial resources the Government of Jamaica is doing what it can to extend facilities and ensure their being used.

My right hon. Friend is aware that school children in Jamaica are obliged to purchase their own school books and stationery. The free issue of books by Government, although recognised to be desirable, has so far been precluded on account of expense. My right hon. Friend would prefer to await the report of the Royal Commission before considering any changes in the educational system of Jamaica which are likely to involve heavy expenditure.

Mr. de Rothschild

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make any statement on the disturbances which have occurred in Jamaica during the past week-end and the circumstances which have given rise to them?

Sir T. Inskip

The Governor has reported that on the evening of the 16th June a riotous mob after leaving a public street meeting attacked and attempted to bum the headquarters of the Jamaican Ex-Service Men's Trade and Labour Union in Kingston, but were driven back by the police who were compelled to open fire on the mob. Only three or four rounds were expended and there were no casualties amongst the mob, but four policemen were sent to hospital with injuries from stones thrown by the mob. Attempts were made also to loot and wreck small shops principally owned by Chinese traders. These attempts were all prevented by police action.

On the 17th June the local forces were called up for active service and 400 special constables were mobilised. A system of intensive mobile patrols was instituted throughout the Corporation area of Kingston and St. Andrew and the essential services placed under armed guard. The 17th June passed without serious incidents except that during the night a Chinese shop was looted and the owner and his wife assaulted. Two arrests have been made in connection with this. On the 18th June at about 7.30 a.m. a riotous mob attempted to attack members of the Jamaica Ex-Service Men's Trade and Labour Union proceeding to work at No. 2 Pier under police escort. The escort was attacked by a mob of about 600 with sticks and stones and compelled to fire four rounds in self defence. As a result one member of the mob was wounded and has subsequently died in hospital.

A coroner's inquest will be held in due course. Since then no serious incident has occurred. Intensive mobile patrols are being continued and the police are continuing to disperse all attempts to assemble in public places.

The cause of this outbreak of disorder is attributed to (a) misunderstanding which has been deliberately and maliciously fostered by certain elements in print and in speeches that the Government unemployment relief programme is an attempt to reduce ordinary wages: the Governor has again reiterated that this is untrue. (b) Dissension among the unions and their followers. (c) Presence in Kingston of a hooligan and criminal element which is always ready to take advantage of any unrest.

The trouble has been confined to Kingston and the situation is well in hand.

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