HC Deb 29 July 1927 vol 209 cc1678-9W

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) the nature of the original Kenya Defence Bill and in what respects it differs from the Conscription Bill;

(2) under what circumstances consent was given to conscript all males from 16 to 60 in Kenya; and why the first Bill, which was described by the Governor as quite unsuitable, was introduced?


As the two questions appear to relate to the same subject, it will be convenient to answer them together. I understand that "the original Kenya Defence Bill" and the "first Bill" relate to the Kenya Defence Force Bill as published locally on 20th November, 1926, and described by the Governor in a speech in the Legislative Council on the 17th of December as being "in some respects no longer suited to the circumstances of the Colony." I understand that by "the Conscription Bill" the hon. Member refers to the Kenya Defence Force Ordinance in the amended form in which it was passed by the Council. The Ordinance has been reserved for the signification of His Majesty's assent, and, as has already been stated in the House, authenticated copies of it have not yet been received.

In the circumstances, exact comparison is impossible, but the two do not differ in essentials, as each provides for enrolment, voluntary or compulsory, for calling out the Defence Force in certain circumstances, and for a certain amount of training. The principal variations are (1) the omission of the oath of allegiance, on the representation of the Secretary of State's military advisers in this country that an oath had been regarded as inappropriate in many cases of compulsory services, for example, service under the National Service Acts at home, and (2) the division of members of the Defence Force into four classes, according to age, of which the youngest class only are liable for any material period of training, and the fourth class, of members over 50, is purely voluntary. This class was added on the recommendation of a Select Committee in the Colony, no doubt owing to the desire of persons over 50 to volunteer. Other alterations concerned merely the details of organisation. The Ordinance has no relation to persons under 18, and in mentioning the age of 16 the hon. Member has been misled by the printed petition against compulsory service. The organisers of the petition corrected this mistake as long ago as the 9th May.