asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that recently 21 labourers, employed by the sanitary department of Sierra Leone, were convicted for taking part in a strike and fined £2 each or 30 days imprisonment; and whether, as these illiterate workers were wrongly informed by the chief labour officer that their work came within the schedule of essential undertakings under the provisions of the Defence (Essential Work) (General Provisions) Order, 1941, although, in fact, the sanitary department had never been so scheduled, he will secure the appropriate restitution to these natives and that improper interference with their legal rights shall cease?
It is correct that 21 sanitary labourers in Sierra Leone were convicted for taking part in a strike and fined £2 each or 30 days' imprisonment. They pleaded guilty on the advice of the defending counsel. They were charged under paragraph 6 of the Defence (Settlement of Labour Disputes) Order, 1941, which prohibits strikes and lockouts unless the dispute in question has been reported to the Chief Labour Officer in accordance with the provisions of the Order. Before they were charged they were warned on two separate occasions that they should submit their cases for consideration under the terms of the Order and that unless they did so the strike was illegal. The men, however, declined to accept advice and refused to return to work. It is not correct that they were informed by the Chief Labour Officer that their work came under the provisions of the Essential Work Order, as the Sanitary Department has not been scheduled under that Order. There was no improper interference with the legal rights of the accused, and the question of restitution does not therefore arise.
I do not quite follow the hon. Member's Supplementary Question. I should have thought that if the Press was heavily censored, that would make it more difficult for incorrect statements to be published.
Am I to understand that it is out of Order to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should revive some of the sentiments which did him so much credit before he joined the Government?