HC Deb 23 November 1949 vol 470 cc359-62
42. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the composition of the commission appointed by Sir John MacPherson to inquire into the shooting of the strikers at the Iva Valley Mine, Enugu, Nigeria; and how many of the miners' representatives are on the commission.

Mr. Rees-Williams

The composition of the commission is not yet decided, but the Governor will appoint it at the earliest possible date in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of this shocking affair of the shooting down of 40 miners, will the Under-Secretary insist that a British working miner and a Nigerian miner be taken on to the commission, as otherwise it will just be a whitewashing commission? Will he consider that?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I cannot add anything to the answer I have already given. The whole matter is now being considered.

Mr. Gallacher

But is it not of the greatest importance in a situation of this kind, when there has been such a shocking business, that utmost confidence should rest in the commission; and would it not create the greatest confidence to have a British working miner and a Nigerian miner on the commission? Why should they not be on the commission?

Mr. Piratin


43. Mr. Keeling

asked' the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the disturbances at the Enugu Colliery, Nigeria.

44. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the disturbances near Enugu. Nigeria, which resulted in the death of 18 miners; and what steps were taken to induce the crowd to disperse peaceably before opening fire on them.

56. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the riots in the Nigerian coalfields.

Mr. Rees-Williams

A "go-slow" movement recently began at the colliery, and on 16th November a "stay-in" strike developed and one act of sabotage was reported. Two days later the mine authorities decided, in the interests of public safety, to bring away the explosives from the mines. While a detachment of police were evacuating explosives from the Iva Valley mine they were surrounded by a large number of miners armed with crowbars, picks, matchets and spears, who rushed the police and attempted to disarm them and obtain possession of the explosives store. The officer in charge of the police endeavoured to reason with the miners without success. Despite repeated warnings, the situation became so dangerous that the police were compellted to open fire in self-defence. I greatly regret to say that the casualties are 18 persons killed and 31 injured, and I am sure the House will share this feeling.

The Governor has decided to appoint a commission at the earliest possible moment to carry out a full public inquiry into the recent labour troubles at the colliery and the events which followed. No further disturbances have occurred since 18 th November, and talks are proceeding with the trade union leaders and native authorities.

Mr. Keeling

Would the Under-Secretary agree that the pay, food and housing of these miners compares favourably—as several hon. Members of this House can testify from personal knowledge—with the conditions obtaining in any other industry in Nigeria?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I think that is perfectly true.

Mr. Driberg

Will the Under-Secretary bear in mind that it is only three weeks, today since the Secretary of State assured the House that he had recently addressed all colonial governors on the subject of using humane methods to disperse demonstrations, and that this was "accepted colonial practice"; and will he investigate and find out why that was not done in this case?

Mr. Gallacher

Tonypandy again.

Mr. Gammans

Can the Under-Secretary say whether, as a result of this trouble, coal production has been impeded in any way; and if so, is it likely to affect the movement of the groundnuts still in West Africa?

Mr. John Paton

How many police are among the 18 killed, and how many among the injured?

Mr. Rees-Williams

No police are included in these figures.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

Will my hon. Friend impress upon the Governor the importance of having some Africans on the commission of inquiry; and will he assure us that the report of this commission will be made available to the House in this country at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Gallacher

And we do not want African "stooges."

Mr. Rees-Williams

On all these matters my right hon. Friend is in communication with the Governor, and I can assure the House that when we get further information I shall take an opportunity of giving it to the House.

Mr. Warbey

How many of the police were killed or wounded?

Mr. Rees-Williams


Mr. Gallacher

No injuries to the police!

Mr. Driberg

Will my hon. Friend take note of the opinion implied from the benches opposite, that the lives of mere African workers are of no consequence—[Interruption]—in comparison with the movement of groundnuts, and will he initiate a most rigorous investigation on a humane basis?

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Is the hon. Gentleman to be allowed to make allegations that the lives of African workers are of no concern to hon. Members who sit on this side? We are just as much concerned as ever the hon. Gentleman has been.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman can make these allegations, but he is entirely responsible for them, and I am sure the House would repudiate them.

Mr. Driberg

On a point of Order. May I—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] May I point out, with respect, Mr. Speaker, that what I have said was clearly implied in the callous supplementary question of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans).