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Kenya (Compulsory Labour)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 12 May 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many natives of Kenya are working in the tea and coffee plantations under forced labour; and why this compulsory labour on tea and coffee production is considered essential for war purposes?

Compulsory labour has been suspended since February. There are, however, at present, according to the latest figures available, about 550 Africans who have been recruited for the coffee industry and rather less than 100 for the tea industry under the Defence Regulations. The main object of declaring these two important industries in Kenya to be essential undertakings under those Regulations was in order that they might be maintained in operation on a scale which would enable the Colony to play its part in meeting the food supply requirements of the United Nations, including those of the large numbers of refugees and prisoners in East Africa.

Is it considered necessary that these 700 should be subject to enforced labour? Is there no other means by which the requisite labour can be obtained?

I think it was because it could not be obtained by other means that these Regulations were brought into force.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say how I am to distinguish between coffee produced by enforced labour and coffee that is not?

I am afraid I can make no useful suggestion at all to my hon. Friend on that point.

In view of the very severe food shortage and the breakdown of food supplies due partly to the fact that native labour has been diverted to work other than food production, would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give special consideration to the transfer back to the reserves of some of these men, so that they can build up the food supply necessary for sustaining the lives of the natives in the reserves?

As I said in my answer, compulsory labour has been suspended since February.

No, Sir. I said that compulsory labour had been suspended in February. At that time, when it was suspended, those were the numbers employed.