HC Deb 21 October 1942 vol 383 cc1954-6
28. Mr. Maxton

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can state the nature of the troubles with the North Rhodesian Mine Workers' Union; how many leaders of the union have been imprisoned; and what is the nature of the charge against them?

Mr. Harold Macmillan

The recent detention of three persons on the Copper-belt under the local Emergency Regulations took place under the following circumstances. It had become clear to the Government that certain individuals on the Copperbelt were deliberately fomenting an agitation of a subversive character, and were planning to achieve their ends through the threat of a disruption of the copper mining industry. These threats were accompanied by the implication of a resort to arms. In these circumstances the Governor, being satisfied that a continuance of such activities constituted a danger to life and property and to the maintenance of essential supplies of copper required for the war effort, ordered the detention of the leaders of the agitation. His decision was taken after full consultation with my Noble Friend. I would emphasise that the action which has been taken does not, as my hon. Friend's Question suggests, result from any dispute between the Government and the Mine Workers' Union. The men in question, two of whom happened to be officials of the Union, were detained solely on account of their individual subversive activities. The Governor's action was taken under Section 16 of the Northern Rhodesia Emergency Powers Regulations. The individuals detained have the right to make objections against the Detention Order either in person or by a legal representative.

Mr. Maxton

To whom?

Mr. Macmillan

To the Advisory Committee.

Mr. Maxton

Were the subversive activities referred to the attempt on the part of the union to obtain decent working conditions for the workers in the industry?

Mr. Macmillan

No, Sir. The conditions of work are fixed by agreement freely negotiated between the union and the employers' associations.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister tell us why, in reply to Question No. 26, he said it was left to the trade unions to make the settlement, and the next Ques- tion says that the police are interfering with the trade union leaders and not allowing them to negotiate?

Mr. Macmillan

I find it difficult to answer Supplementary Questions on Question 28 which refer to Questions 26 and 27, but it is quite clear that there was no industrial dispute of any kind in the Copperbelt, and the activities were not connected with industrial claims.

Mr. Gallacher

What are subversive activities?

Mr. Maxton

Will the Minister remind the Governor that there are distinguished trade unionists in the War Cabinet against whom this type of charge might be made and that he ought to show a certain amount of restraint and discretion in dealing with cases of this sort?