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African Colonies

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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

Strike, Nigeria (Disorder)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the shooting of strikers by the police at Buruta, Nigeria; what was the cause of the strike and the reason for police opening fire; and what casualties there were among the strikers.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make on the strike of United Africa Company's workers at Buruta, Nigeria, and on the disorders which resulted in many strikers being wounded in a clash with the police.

A strike of labourers employed by the United Africa Company at Burutu started on 14th June following a wages dispute. On 21st June a large crowd formed and adopted a menacing attitude. Four employees of the company were set upon, and severely beaten. After the crowd had refused to disperse, in spite of repeated warnings, an unsucessful attempt was made to break it up without the use of firearms, and the order to fire was only given after the police had been attacked with large stones and other missiles. Only two rounds were fired, as a result of which two men were wounded in the leg. The wages dispute is being inquired into by a representative of the Nigerian Labour Department.

Will the Minister take steps to put a stop to any such brutal treatment of the workers? Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and I were once accused of stone throwing when it was a deliberate lie? I appeal to the Minister to make certain that never again will firearms be used on workers who are striking for decent conditions. I think it is shameful.

If my hon. Friend would acquaint himself with the facts, I think he would be satisfied that this is not an instance of brutal attacks on workers. Rather it was the response, after long provocation by workers, of the forces of police on the spot. Immediately the facts were brought to my notice I caused an inquiry to be made, and had the fullest reports from Nigeria. I must exonerate completely those responsible for ordering it. It was provocation on the workers' side that led to it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether in making this impartial inquiry he did not know full well that the answer he has given about strikers provoking the trouble has been a familiar story in this country for the last half-century?

I am familiar with large numbers of industrial disputes in the Colonies, and naturally because of my own suspicion, I should inquire most carefully as to the causes of trouble of this kind. I made the fullest inquiries possible, and I am satisfied that it was provocation on the workers side which caused this trouble.

Will the Minister appoint from this House a special inquiry into this question? Is he aware that I had my head bashed in two or three places by a policeman's baton, and then got three months for assaulting the police?

How many statements did my right hon. Friend obtain from the strikers, and how much of the information came from the other side in his inquiry?

I have the completest confidence in the Governor, and I have taken my reports from the Government of Nigeria, and from various sources which were open to me. I am completely satisfied with regard to the facts.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the question I put, because conversation was going on around him. I asked how many statements were received from the strikers?

Uganda (Taxation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the existing rates of taxation on Europeans in Uganda.

As the answer includes a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

There are two forms of direct taxation on Europeans in Uganda; (1) A nonnative poll tax, which is levied at the rate of£3 per annum on incomes which do not exceed£200 per annum, and at the rate of£5 per annum on incomes exceeding£200 per annum. Women with incomes of under£150 per annum are

exempt from payment of the tax, as are persons under the age of 18 years. (2) An income tax, additional to the nonnative poll tax, which is levied at the following rates:

Where the chargeable income does not exceed£250–2s. for every pound.
Where the chargeable income exceeds£250–2s. with the addition of one-eighth of a cent. for every pound of the chargeable income in excess of£250 up to a maximum rate of 5s. for every pound thereof.
Where the income exceeds£3,000—An additional tax (Surtax) at the rate of 4s. with the addition of one-twentieth of a cent. for every pound of the total income in excess of£3,000 up to a maximum rate of shs. 7/50 for every pound in excess of£3,000 of the total income.

In calculating the chargeable income the following personal deductions are allowed:— £350 for a man,£150 for wife,£75 for first child and£60 in respect of each subsequent child. There are also the usual deductions for dependants (other than children) life insurance and superannuation.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the estimated income of a peasant in Uganda farming one standard plot of land; and what is the amount of taxation to which he is subjected.

I regret that the information sought in the first part of the Question is not available in the Colonial Office. I am asking the Governor of Uganda to supply it and will write to my hon. Friend when it is received. In regard to the second part of the Question, the taxes for which the African peasant in Uganda is liable (including local taxation) vary according to District, area and tribe from 12s. to 47s. per annum.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information I am getting is that the poll tax, both of the Uganda main Government and the Kabaka's Government, amounts to 25s. per head, and that other levies amount to 18s. per head, making£2 3s., and that the average income of a peasant from a plot of land is£4 a year?

It is difficult for figures to be used in that way. If my hon. Friend will supply me with the information, I will check it against the figures in my possession.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I have asked him to have an interview with the Assistant Chancellor of the Kabaka's Government, who was dismissed for making recommendations for improvements and that I am still waiting for that interview.

In view of the interest of the House in this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman see that this information is published in HANSARD, so that we may all know what it is?

Royal Navy (Free Travel Warrants)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the reduction of free railway warrants for members of the Royal Navy to two per year is causing great hardship to them, especially to the junior ratings who live a long way from their homes; and if he will take steps to improve the position by granting more warrants.

The Fleet was warned last month that it might be necessary to reduce the number of free railway warrants for leave from three to two during the current year and that pending a decision only two were to be issued. The question of free leave travel is still under consideration, however, and no final decision has yet been made.

Does my hon. Friend realise that these seasonal leaves are given for ten days each, and that it is a great hardship, particularly to lower ratings, not to have these railway tickets, because they cannot, in many instances, get home at all without them?

I quite realise that. I have been the possessor of free warrants in the past. As I have said, consideration is still being given to the matter. I would point out to the House that there were no free railway warrants given between the two wars, and that this is an advantage over what applied then. In addition to free railway warrants, members of the three Services can travel at half fare when going on leave.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the new pay code was approved by this House on the understanding that facilities such as this would be fully main- tained, and that this looks like giving with one hand and taking away with the other?

It cannot be said that the new pay code was conditional upon four free railway warrants being given each year. It was given on the understanding that it would make the rates of pay and conditions in the Services more comparable with those in industry.

When the Civil Lord speaks of the number of free warrants going down to two in the current year, is he referring to the calendar year or the present financial year?

Is my hon. Friend aware that unlike those of the Army and Air Force, all the manning bases of the Navy are in the South of England, and that this falls with particular hardship on Scottish ratings and ratings from the North of England? Would he consider that as an additional argument when considering the question of a manning base in Scotland?

I hope that the question of a manning base in Scotland will not be judged in acordance with the number of free railway warrants we issue. The point my hon. Friend has raised is certainly borne in mind by the Admiralty when these matters are being discussed.

Post Office (Collections And Deliveries)


asked the Postmaster-General when he expects that new plates showing the revised timing of postal collections will be affixed to pillar boxes in Berkshire.

I am sorry that because of the sudden abnormal demand resulting from the recent changes in postal services, it has not yet been possible to provide new plates for pillar boxes in Berkshire, but I am assured that the revised timings of the postal collections should now be shown by means of temporary plates in all cases. New permanent plates will be provided as soon as possible.


asked the Postmaster General whether he has made any further arrangements for the collection and delivery of letters posted at the House of Commons late at night.

A collection is now being made at 7.45–8.o p.m. for first delivery on the following weekday throughout England and Wales. A supplementary collection is made after the rising of the House. On those occasions when the House is still sitting at 1.0 a.m. an additional supplementary collection is made at that hour. Letters for addresses in London, and posted in time for supplementary collections made up to 1.0 a.m. are due to be delivered by first post.

Will the Postmaster-General say whether there is any objection to members of the public with urgent letters to post, which will not be collected from the letter boxes outside after 6.30 p.m. bringing them into the Outer Lobby and posting them there?

What is the latest time at which letters should be posted at the House for Scotland for arrival in Scotland by the first mail in the morning?