HC Deb 01 July 1942 vol 381 cc195-7
25. Mr. David Adams

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that under the Defence (Essential Work) General Provisions Order, 1942, of Sierra Leone, it is an offence for any workman to be absent twice a month or two days consecutively, or to be late for work; whether, as many workers require to leave their homes hours before daybreak to catch trains, and do not return from work till late at night, and in many cases medical facilities are neither available at the works nor in ther villages constraining sick workmen to remain at home and, as convictions under such conditions for short absences or lateness are unjust, he will request the Governor to withdraw this section of the Order forthwith?

Mr. Harold Macmillan

The recent amendment to the Sierra Leone Defence (Essential Work) (General Provisions) Order provides that it is an offence for any person (a) without reasonable excuse to fail to attend at his place of work punctually at the normal hour of commencing or recommencing work, or (b) without permission and without reasonable excuse to be absent from duty on two or more occasions in any one month or absent from duty during a period of two or more consecutive days. My noble Friend feels that the inclusion in the Order of the words "without reasonable excuse" provides a sufficient safeguard against unjust convictions for absence or lateness.

Mr. Adams

Is the Minister aware that special courts have been set up, and that these workers are daily being fined or imprisoned for lateness at work or for short absences?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, Sir. We were very reluctant to include this provision; but in the original Order such provision was not included, and the Governor reported that he was unable to obtain complete essential war work without some tightening of discipline.

Mr. Creech Jones

Could not further consideration be given to the matter, as it is a retrograde step to introduce penal sanctions in this form without the necessary safeguards which exist in this country?

Mr. Macmillan

As my hon. Friend knows, we are trying to introduce all the safeguards we can, subject to the overriding necessity of obtaining complete war production.

Mr. Shinwell

Were not the workers or their representatives consulted, as is done in the case of war workers in this country?

Mr. Macmillan

That is another point. If the hon. Member will put down a Question, I will be glad to give him the fullest possible account of the safeguards which exist, and of the steps which were taken to create them.

Mr. Shinwell

All I am asking is whether the workers or their representatives were consulted before these sanctions were imposed; surely the right hon. Gentleman can answer that?

Mr. Macmillan

No, I would like to give a full and accurate account of what has been done.

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