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Royal Navy

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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Barge Sinkings, Welsh Coast

9.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has considered the report on the disaster off the Welsh coast; and can he now make a statement concerning the report?

I regret that I am not yet in a position to add anything to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 12th May. Proper consideration of the report will take some little time.

British Sailors, Philippines (Treatment)

10.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the punishment of British sailors who were said to have posed as civilians in the Philippines; and whether he will make a note of such actions for eventual retribution?

Owing to the difficulties of obtaining news regarding prisoners of war in the Philippines, it has so far proved impossible to obtain any information beyond what has already appeared in the Press. Further inquiries are, however, being made through Diplomatic channels.

Captains (Promotion)

11

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many captains of the Royal Navy have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and acting rear-admiral, respectively, without consideration of their place on the list, since 14th December, 1940?

Since 14th December, 1940, 19 captains have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and five captains to the rank of acting rear-admiral, irrespective of their positions on the captains' list.

Is it not a fact that, in spite of these promotions, there are still very few, even rear-admirals, under the age of 50 in the Royal Navy, with the result that the Navy, instead of being the senior Service, is rapidly becoming the senile Service?

Any such suggestion, in view of the record of the Royal Navy in this war, is most uncalled for.

Wound Pensions {Serving Personnel)

12.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether pensions in respect of wounds are being paid to officers and men wounded during this war but still serving?

Pensions in respect of wounds sustained in this war are not payable to officers and men while they continue to serve, but on termination of their service they are eligible for consideration for awards from the Ministry of Pensions.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the practice that was in operation until this war was brought to an end; and is he not aware that all through the last war and the period before the war officers who were being paid wound pensions were being paid while in the Service?

I think that my hon. and gallant Friend has been a little misinformed. The present position was that it was based on the change adopted by this House after the Report of the Select Committee of this House in 1921.

Will the right hon. Gentleman further consider this matter, because there are now officers serving who have lost limbs in this war but who have not been paid any wound pension at all, and is that not contrary to previous practice?

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will refresh his memory about the arrangements which have been made and which brought certain other advantages with regard to the payment of pensions for disease as well as for wounds by bringing all the practice into line in 1921.

Nigeria (Copper Production Grant)

13.

asked the Secretar of State for the Colonies whether, in respect of the grant of £750,000 made to the Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines to increase copper production in Northern Nigeria, this development will employ more Africans; whether conditions will be attached to such grant and employment with respect to family accommodation and some proportion of permanent settlement with reasonable amenities; and whether conditions will be imposed preventing colour-bar practices and the adoption of the, recommendations of the Commission into the Copperbelt disturbances?

The Ministry of Supply is making a grant of 50 per cent. of the cost of certain capital expenditure at the Nchanga copper mine for the purpose of obtaining an increase in output. Within that expenditure a sum of £135,000 is provided for the building of a township and native housing. There is no information here as to the exact items upon which the £35,000 will be spent, but the company is asking its local management in Northern Rhodesia to supply this information. The Ministry of Supply contract does not include provisions dealing with the matters referred to in the second and third parts of the Question.

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, when this grant is actually made, conditions with regard to the welfare of the African workers can be embodied in it, particularly in regard to work of a superior character, so that the colour bar does not operate, and, further, that certain wage standards should be established and general welfare provisions made with regard to the conditions of employment?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that this grant is made by the Ministry of Supply for the express purpose of increasing copper output during the war, and that must be the primary consideration.

Solomon Islands Operations (Awards For Civilian Gallantry)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British administrative officers and natives in the Solomon Islands have been decorated for gallantry during recent operations against the Japanese?

The British Administrative Officer who was acting as District Officer, Guadalcanal, and was serving as a captain in the Island's Defence Force, has been awarded the Military Cross. A civilian award for gallantry has been made to a native retired sergeant-major of police, who has received the George Medal. In addition, exceptional devotion to duty in a theatre of war has been recognised by the award of the C.M.G. to Mr. Marchant, the Resident Commissioner; of the M.B.E. to a British District Officer; and of the B.E.M. to three native officers of the local Administration.

In view of the very great gallantry shown, not only by the administrative officers, but also by the native population, would it be possible to recognise this gallantry by some similar method to that by which the gallantry of Malta was recognised?

Trinidad (Food Control)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of discontent in Port of Spain arising from food shortage and alleged maldistribution; and whether he will make inquiries into the matter with a view to removing hardships and grievances?

Representations made to him regarding the administration of food control in Trinidad have been forwarded to me by the Governor who has stated that they are being examined by the Control Board which advises the Food Controller on matters of policy. I have asked the Governor to send me a further report as soon as the Board's recommendations have been received and considered by him.

In view of the apparent grave shortage and even hunger, cannot something be done meanwhile to expedite this matter?

The Committee are considering whether it would in fact be advantageous to alter the system.

Colonial Empire (Conscripted Labour)

17.

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.

18.

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.