Skip to main content

Nigeria (Compulsory Labour)

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1942

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any inquiry by a commission, including some member with special knowledge of the conditions of African native life, was held prior to the enactment of regulations in Nigeria for the conscription of African labour for civil work, on the lines of the commission of inquiry in Kenya prior to the enactment of the ordinance on compulsory labour; why the regulations for Nigeria contain no provisions to safeguard the conditions of employment; and whether such provisions have subsequently been made, or will be made without delay?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies why forced labour has been adopted in the private tin mines of Nigeria?

The regulations to which the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) refers were enacted as a measure of great urgency by the Government of Nigeria to meet the situation resulting from the loss of the Far Eastern sources for the supply of tin. It was necessary to proceed upon the wide knowledge of the conditions of native life already available to that Government, and my Noble Friend has every confidence that the knowledge was adequate for the purpose. Section 4 of the regulations in question gives power for the Government to regulate the conditions of employment with a view to ensuring the well-being of the persons selected; but while the general powers appear to be adequate, the question of providing more specific safeguards is being taken up with the Acting Governor.

Is it not an urgent matter that proper safeguards in regard to labour should be enforced without delay?

Is there not forced labour to-day in the coal mines of Britain?

In view of the great shock to all progressive opinion in this country caused by this decision to extend forced labour to Nigeria, where there is already a considerable surplus of labour which could be employed, on what public grounds was the decision taken? What is to be done in regard to the profits and royalties which will be gained out of the exploitation of cheap native labour for private profit and private enterprise?

In reply to the first supplementary, it was a considerable shock to this country when 60 per cent. of the world supply of tin was lost to us, and it has been very necessary to make it good. With regard to the second and third parts of the Question, the profits of the company will be liable to Excess Profits Tax of 100 per cent. and the royalties, if they are increased, will go very largely to the revenues of the Colony in question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is a violation of the Forced Labour Convention that this labour shall be employed for private enterprise for the purpose of private profit, and on these grounds will he reconsider the whole policy?

If my hon. Friend will study the International Labour Convention carefully, I think he will find that there is no violation of the Convention.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the question on the Adjournment.