HC Deb 01 March 1948 vol 448 cc37-9
Mr. T. Reid

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make on the disorders at Accra in the Gold Coast on 28th and 29th February.

Mr. Rees-Williams

I have been asked to reply. Rioting occurred in Accra on the afternoon of 28th February. A parade organised by the ex-Service men's Union, which is not recognised by the Gold Coast Legion, got out of hand while it was proceeding to present a petition to senior officers of the Secretariat and Labour Department. The procession was to follow a route agreed with the Commissioner of Police and was then to disperse. But in contravention of the agreed arrangement the procession, reinforced by other elements, attempted to march on Christiansberg Castle, the residence of the Governor. No request had been made by the Union to see the Governor and the procession was in very ugly temper, many taking part being drunk. Two attempts by the police to divert or stop them failed, and after two police officers had been injured shots had to be fired. One rioter was killed and one wounded. Simultaneously, rioting took place on a large scale in the town and considerable damage to business premises in the town was caused, one main shopping street being looted and gutted. Military forces were called in to assist and at one stage it was necessary to use firearms. By midnight the town was under control. Further rioting started in the town at dawn and two volleys were fired by the military with no casualties. The Governor has imposed a curfew in certain parts of Accra and has made regulations to control traffic and close roads. Military reinforcements have now arrived and all necessary steps taken to safeguard the population. The latest report received indicates that the town is much quieter.

Mr. Reid

May I ask my hon. Friend if he will explain whether there were any political implications in all this?

Mr. Rees-Williams

Yes. There cer-certainly were political implications, but I have not yet had a full report on them from the Colony.

Mr. Gallacher

Would the Minister consider sending a deputation of responsible trade union officials from this country to investigate this shameful affair on the Gold Coast? Is he aware that we had shooting in South Wales, on one occasion, and every member of the Labour Party protested against it, and the same answer was given by the official responsible, that it was the miners of Wales who were responsible; and I ask him, will he send a deputation of responsible trade union officials to investigate this affair on the Gold Coast?

Mr. Rees-Williams

We will not send such deputation. A full investigation will be carried out—a formal inquiry by the Government—and then the facts will come to light, and I guarantee that when they do come to light the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will not like them.

Earl Winterton

Are we to understand that when a full investigation has been made into the political causes, the Minister will place a statement in the Library so that we may know whether or not it is due to the Communist dupes of the third International, including the Communist Party in this country?

Mr. Rees-Williams

There was almost certainly Communist incitement in this case. I will place a full statement in the Library when it arrives.

Mr. James Hudson

As the Minister has just admitted that a considerable number of the participants in these troubles were drunk, will he now propose to take away the considerable increase of drinking facilities that have recently been made by the Government in these parts of the world?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I am not aware that any increase in the facilities has taken place on the Gold Coast in recent years.

Commander Noble

As H.M.S. "Nigeria" belongs to the Africa station, would the Minister ask for her to go to the Gold Coast after her present mission?

Mr. Rees-Williams

She is not required in the Gold Coast: we have ample troops either in the Gold Coast or in neighbouring Colonies.

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