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?
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.
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.
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.