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Sierra Leone (Workmen's Compensation, Government Employees)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 17 March 1943

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that a workman employed by the Admiralty at the Boom Defence Depot, Sierra Leone, after many months' delay, for the loss of an eye, was awarded under the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, £10, with one-third of his normal wages for the period of his illness, and was thereafter discharged as unfit for his employment; and whether he will recommend adequate compensation and the required amendment to the Ordinance in this respect?

The question appears to refer to an African labourer, Jacob Abbor. The delay in settling this case, which I nevertheless regret, was chiefly due to obscurities and contradictions in the evidence submitted by and on behalf of the claimant. It was not established that the loss of the eye was due to any injury while at work, but in all the circumstances a compassionate award of £10 was made to Abbor. In addition, Hurt Pay at the rate of half—not a third—of normal wages was authorised under Admiralty regulations, in respect of the time which he spent in hospital. Abbor was not discharged as "unfit," but on account of misconduct. The Sierra Leone Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, is not applicable to employees of the United Kingdom Government.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Sierra Leone Press gave evidence taken on the spot refuting his statement and is he satisfied that the trifling allowance of £10 for the loss of an eye was fair and reasonable in the circumstances?

The facts as I have given them are accurate, but the whole question of these awards is being examined.

Can this assessment of £10 for an eye be the subject of any judicial investigation, and will any review of awards cover this particular case?

Yes, the review would cover this particular case. In reply to the first part of the question, it was not established that the loss of this eye was in fact due to the work he was engaged on.

Are we to assume that the £10 granted to this African is an indication of the value of an African as distinct from a British eye?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, of Sierra Leone, contains no provision for compensation to injured workers in Government service unless sanction has first been obtained from the Overseas Department, whereby months elapse, the injured man and his dependants being left without subsistence meantime; and whether he will amend this Ordinance so that satisfactory evidence and proof of the injury may be submitted 1o the local branch of the Overseas Department for settlement as in the case of injured workers not employed in His Majesty's services in this Colony?

The welfare of civilians employed in the Colonies by the Admiralty, the War Office or the Air Ministry is the concern of the Service Department by whom they are employed; and in the case of permanent, or partial, incapacity or death they or their dependants are entitled to receive compensation under the Injury Warrants and other regulations. They are therefore excluded from the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Ordinances enacted by the various Colonial Governments.

Why is it necessary to send ever to this country to have a case examined rather than have it examined and settled on the spot?

I have explained that the case to which I think the hon. Member refers had nothing to do with the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance. It was settled by the Admiralty.

Whether it had anything to do with the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance or not, why did it have to be investigated so far away; why did it have to take so long and why is it alleged after that lapse of time that the man is unable to prove something pertinent to his case?