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Colonial Empire (Conscripted Labour)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what British Colonies legislation for compulsory labour service has been passed; and what are the numbers conscripted under these laws in each territory?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to unskilled manual labour conscripted for work in Government civil undertakings or private undertakings. Such conscription is permitted only when the labour necessary for purposes essential to the conduct of the war or maintenance of the life of the community cannot otherwise be obtained. The territories in which schemes for the conscription of such labour have been authorised by legislation are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Mauritius, Fiji and Seychelles. As the further information asked for by my hon. Friend necessitates a statement of some length, I will, with his permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is there anything really very dreadful in conscripting certain natives for food production when everybody in this country is conscripted?

Does the Minister appreciate the great distinction between natives who have no self-government and ourselves?

May I ask the Minister whether private firms for whom these people are being conscripted pay the full 1000 per cent. E.P.T., or do they make a profit out of the conscripted labour?

Conscription can only be where there is need for work which is necessary for the war effort.

Following is the statement:

The only labour conscripted in Nigeria for schemes of this character is the labour conscripted for the tin mines, and the latest figure in my possession was given in my reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on the 24th March. In Kenya, the total number of conscripted men in employment at the end of January last was 14,561, out of a total of 254,810 labourers registered as being in employment. In Tanganyika, 3,623 labourers were conscripted during the period March to December, 1942. In December, 1942, a further requisition was issued for 5,000 men in view of labour requirements for the following six months, but it is not known what proportion of these has been compulsorily recruited. In Northern Rhodesia, the only conscription is for a small Government Labour Corps of about 500 men, of whom 115 only were compulsorily recruited. The Corps is used on farms for food production, or for any urgent Government work. Government supervision is provided for at all times. In Mauritius, a Labour Corps is in process of formation on the same lines as the Northern Rhodesia Corps, and with the same safeguards. I have no particulars at present regarding the number of men enrolled. In Fiji, a Defence Regulation exists empowering the Director of Man Power to direct any male person between 18 and 60 to perform essential work in the employ of the Government or of contractors working under the direct supervision of the Government or certain public Authorities. I have no information what, if any, use has been made of this Regulation. In Seychelles, the Compulsory Service Ordinance provides that adult male persons can be, if necessary, enrolled to do any work or render any personal service which the Governor may think necessary to order in aid of or in connection with the defence of the Colony. So far as the conscription of labour for civilian purposes is concerned, it is not known whether any use has been made of these powers. Compulsory powers have also been taken under the Food Production Ordinance as amended by Defence Regulations to secure the planting of land with a view to increasing the food supplies of the Colony. I understand that only about 11 men have been called upon to render service in this connection up to the present.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why forced labour was abandoned in Kenya; and what is now the position of those workers who have been conscripted in that Colony?

Recruitment of labour by conscription was suspended in February in order that the food supply difficulties should not be aggravated by a further addition to the numbers of Africans employed outside the Native Reserves. While I have no definite information on the point, it now seems probable that those recruited prior to the suspension will complete their period of service. But I am asking the Governor for a report.

Has the release of these natives materially improved the food situation there?

It helped during the critical period. Of course, improvement depends upon the new crop, and I am glad to say that in most areas of East Africa crop conditions seem favourable.