HC Deb 23 May 1944 vol 400 cc579-82
62. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered the case of the Nigerian soldier, about whom particulars have been sent to him, who is to receive only 5s. per week pension for the loss of two hands and an eye; and what action he proposes to take to secure that the amount of pension is adequate.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Oliver Stanley)

The rates of disability pensions for members of West African Forces were fixed in 1942, after full consideration by the local Governments, having regard to the standard and cost of living in West Africa. Particulars were sent to the hon. Member and placed in the Library of the House, in August, 1943. In addition to the rates fixed by local legislation, Governors have the power to increase the amount by 50 per cent. if, in any particular case, the amount of pension appears to be inadequate. Cash gratuities are also payable—in this case, £20. As soon as this case was brought to my notice, I inquired of the Resident Minister, West Africa, whether he considered that the rates fixed in 1942 were still adequate, and I am awaiting his reply.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement describing the treatment which has been accorded to Private Maye since his arrival in this country.

Mr. Sorensen

While thanking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the reply, might I ask whether he has himself sent any recommendations to the Governor, to propose that there should be some substantial increase in view of the increased cost of living in West Africa?

Colonel Stanley

I want to find out from him whether, if the cost of living has gone up, the rates of pension fixed 1942 are adequate.

Mr. Shinwell

Surely, quite apart from the cost of living, this award, for a man who has suffered serious disability, cannot be regarded as adequate. Cannot the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make representations to secure an increased pension?

Colonel Stanley

The House will realise that the rates must be fixed in accordance with the standard of life in the country concerned. In the Cameroons the average income of a farmer is £8. In addition, the man is being set up in a trade, in which there is every prospect that he will be able to earn a decent living.

Mr. Riley

Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman looked into the corresponding scheme of payments for British soldiers?

Colonel Stanley

There is no relation. Those British subjects have to live in Great Britain, with the British cost of living.

Following is the statement:

Private Maye is a member of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps (West Africa), who was severely wounded in the Mediterranean theatre in September, 1943. He was brought to this country, and admitted to a famous military hospital. The military authorities drew the attention of the Colonial Office to this casualty, and immediate arrangements were made for him to be visited by an officer of the Welfare Department of the Colonial Office, who had first-hand experience of Nigeria and was able to take down suitable West African foodstuffs and advise the military authorities on diet and other matters of general welfare. Since that date, members of the Colonial Office have paid him several other visits. Private Maye was later transferred to Roehampton, and has been fitted with artificial hands and an artificial eye. He has received the same scale of treatment as would be accorded to a British soldier from the United Kingdom.

2. Since African Colonial rates of pay would be insufficient to meet his needs while in England, the War Office have agreed, at the request of the Colonial Office, that all Colonial troops will receive United Kingdom rates of pay when posted to England, either on duty or as casualties.

3. I felt that it was most important that this man should, while in England, receive the best possible rehabilitation treatment and occupational training which can be provided in the United Kingdom, which, it is recognised, leads the world in this sphere. It would be most regrettable if a man returned to his country, after suffering such severe injuries, without being afforded every possible opportunity to take his place as an independent citizen in the life of his own community. He will, therefore, be trained at a Ministry of Labour centre, free of charge, in the trade of tailor, which he himself has expressed a strong desire to learn, and for which there is a large demand in his own country. During his training he will receive free board, lodging, attendance and travelling, at Government expense, and, in addition, will receive the usual Ministry of Labour training allowance of 24s. a week. This, with his disability pension, will give him approximately 30s. a week pocket money, clear of expense of maintenance, and he will, in the normal way, be provided with one complete suit of civilian clothing. The special treadle sewing machine which he will take back with him to Nigeria is, of course, to be provided at Government expense.

4. Private Maye is grounded in English, but has expressed a keen desire to improve his education; and he has been supplied with English readers, of the same kind as those in use by the Nigerian Education Department. He has also received a number of small gifts and comforts from Welfare Funds and from members of my staff, including kola nuts obtained specially for him from Nigeria.

5. It will be seen that every effort has been made by the responsible authorities for Private Maye's welfare, while in this country.