HC Deb 08 March 1951 vol 485 cc917-24

Motion made, and Question proposed,"That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Popplewell.]

5.41 a.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I very much regret the mischance which makes it necessary for me to raise this matter at this hour. I regret it for my own sake, for the sake of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, for your sake, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the sake of hon. Members, and, of course, for the sake of the Whips. I wish to raise the question of the deportation of Mr. Ignatius Musazi from Uganda.

Mr. Musazi was president of the Uganda African Farmers' Union. It had 80,000 members, which was 25 per cent. of the peasant and farming population of that Protectorate. He came to Britain in 1949 for two purposes. The first was to see and to seek to lay before the Colonial Secretary the difficulties which the Uganda farmers were having in making arrangements for ginning cotton; and the second was to make a study of the Co-operative Movement in this country, so that when he returned to Uganda he could develop the organisation of the farmers on co-operative lines. Although he received influential introductions, he was not seen by the Colonial Secretary at that time.

In April, 1949, disturbances broke out in Uganda. There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Musazi had anything to do with those disturbances at all. The only charge made against him in connection with those disturbances was that he sent a telegram to the Colonial Secretary and that a copy was sent to the Governor of Uganda. As that telegram was not published until nine months after the disturbances, it obviously could have had no effect in encouraging the disturbances at all. I am not defending that telegram, though Mr. Musazi himself puts a very different interpretation on what appears in the Kingdon Report.

There are two other charges only made against Mr. Musazi. The first was in 1939, 12 years ago, when he was charged with forging signatures to a petition. In actual fact the bona fidesof the signatures was recognised, and because of that the charge had to be changed to trans- ferring signatures from one petition to another. He denies absolutely that he was guilty, but he was found guilty and was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. The offence committed 12 years ago cannot possibly justify today's deportation from Uganda.

The third charge against him, and the only other charge which has been made against him, is that he participated in a general strike in Uganda in 1945. On that occasion, he reserved his defence and asked for a public trial. A public trial was refused. Nevertheless, he was deported for two years for conspiracy with intent to overthrow the Protectorate and the Uganda Government. I have examined with the greatest care all the facts about Mr. Musazi's attitude in this country and in Uganda itself. I am entirely convinced that his influence throughout that general strike was for moderation and against violence.

Those are the only three charges against this man. I have asked the Secretary of State whether there is anything else against this man at all, and he has told me that there is nothing whatsoever except what is in the Kingdon Report. There is one telegram sent during the disturbances, the alleged forgery of signatures 12 years ago, and the participation in a general strike for which he was deported but subsequently allowed to return. What possible justification can there be for deporting this man now?

I went to Uganda in August and made a detailed investigation of this matter. I came to this conclusion—that the charges against Mr. Musazi's organisation are not justified. I came to the conclusion that the charges against Mr. Musazi himself are not justified. I could not find a single man in Uganda who believed that Mr. Musazi should be prevented from returning to that country—except, of course, the Government officials. The Bishop of Uganda expressed his complete confidence in Mr. Musazi. The staff of the Makerere College expressed complete confidence in him. Professional men and business men expressed their complete confidence in him. I have known this man closely myself for nearly two years, and I say that there is not an atom of violence or vengeance in him. There are very few men for whose character I have greater respect.

Mr. Musazi returned to Uganda despite the fact that the Secretary of State had informed him that he would be deported if he returned. He returned in January of this year because he felt that he had the right to justify his return to his own people. Meanwhile, the Government had found at last that everything I had said about Mr. Musazi's organisation was true. They now admit that his organisation is aiming at the constructive development of a co-operative movement. They now admit that it is helpfully co-operating with the Government, and they even admit that, although he is in detention, within that detention Mr. Musazi is still devoting himself to the purpose of building the Uganda farmers' movement on a constructive basis.

I say that the Colonial Secretary has been mostly gravely misled on this matter —misled about the farmers' organisation and about Mr. Musazi himself. The Secretary of State has stated in his answers that Mr. Musazi has not been deported but has only been detained, I have in my hand a copy of the deportation order; it is a deportation order from the province of Uganda to the township of Moyo. That is normally the case with a deportation from Uganda; the same thing happened when the deportation order was made against Mr. Musazi in 1945.

I have also had an assurance from the Secretary of State that Mr. Musazi would be free to live under conditions in which his wife and family could join him and where the representatives of his organisation would have access to him. The fact is that Mr. Musazi has five children at school and, with the allowances which would be given if his wife were living with him in this village of deportation, his wife has to go on working in order to maintain those five children at school. It is impossible for her to join him. The allowance paid to him is £3 a week. If his wife joined him there would be 15s. for her and 7s. 6d. for each child up to three. As to access by his organisation, Moyo is an aeroplane journey from Uganda. It takes two days if one travels by road. What chance is there for the representatives of his organisation to discuss with him matters in which he is concerned?

I have spoken strongly on this today and not in a way which expresses my affection for the Secretary of State, for whom I have a very deep affection. If I have spoken strongly it is because I know that an injustice has been done in this case. I know this man as well as I know a brother. I know that his only desire is to build the farmers' organisation on a constructive and co-operative basis. I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has said that the matter is being reconsidered and that there is an opportunity for Mr. Musazi to return. I beg of him not to speak of Mr. Musazi as though Mr. Musazi had changed; the fact is that the Uganda Government have at last found out that I have been right about his organisation and about the man himself. Instead of. making an appeal to Mr. Musazi to change, the honest thing would be for the Uganda Government and for the Colonial Secretary in this country to acknowledge that a mistake has been made both about the organisation and about the man.

5.53 a.m.

Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I want to say a few words in support of what has been said by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway). As he has thanked everyone else, I should like to thank him for having raised this subject and the Secretary of State for having come"here to answer at this time of day. I do not want to repeat the facts of this case as they have been put, except to say that I understand they are substantially agreed.

I believe the Secretary of State is sympathetic to some alteration in the system by which, apparently, people can be deported or detained without a trial in the sense in which we regard a trial. I believe he is making an inquiry into the general principle. If he can give an assurance tonight that the system will not continue, as well as an assurance that the case of Mr. Musazi is being reconsidered so that the man may return to his own country, we shall be grateful. I would ask him to bear in mind that the system of deportation, as explained by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, bears with particular severity on the family of people who are deported.

5.55 a.m.

Mr. Dodds (Dartford)

In a matter of secondsI should just like to say that the Co-operative group of hon. Members in this House have gone to some lengths to look into this case and are satisfied as to the Co-operative movement efforts of this man. Furthermore, up to the present it seems that this whole action has been a terrible blot on our colonial administration. We hope that action will be taken, before long, to ensure that an alteration is made before permanent harm is done.

5.56 a.m.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)

First, may I say to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that these powers of deportation are very old and have existed in different parts of the colonial territories from times when circumstances were very different and when there were features of colonial life which are absent today. I am examining, with the Governors, these powers and the future intention of them, or otherwise. Consultation is now taking place. I am sure that it is right that I should consult with the Governors about the future of these powers in the light of the circumstances in the territories for which they are responsible. In due course, when the consultations are complete, I will make a statement to the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) has referred to this case in the House on previous occasions, but I have been reluctant to delve into the past. I have preferred to keep attention on the future, but as he has gone into the history of this case let me, in fairness to the Governor and all concerned, give the House some simple facts. Mr. Musazi came here in December, 1948. He was not deported but came of his own accord. He stayed here from that date. His stay was voluntary. Before he left Africa he had formed the Uganda African Farmers' Union, and that Union believed that the arrangements made for the sale of their cotton to the ginners and the conditions under which those sales were carried out were not all they should be. That, in itself, is a problem. The future of the ginning industry in Uganda is very important, because there is beginning to be a very promising co-operative movement among them. I am paying considerable attention to it, and I hope to study it on the spot if I am privileged to visit Uganda in the near future.

In April, 1949, there were disturbances which led to loss of life and some considerable damage to property. My predecessor in this important office appointed a Commission of high judicial experience and with the highest qualities to make an inquiry. That Commission recorded a finding which was that the disturbances were the result of activity by the Uganda Farmers' Union, which Musazi formed, and the Bataka party. These were held to be primarily responsible for organising what the Report of the Commission describes as a "planned rebellion."

Mr. Fenner Brockway

I do not want to delay my right hon. Friend, but is it not a fact that not a single member of the executive of the Uganda Farmers' Union was charged in connection with these disturbances?

Mr. Griffiths

It is true that Musazi was here. But I am sure that my hon. Friend who has had a lot of experience of public life, will know that it is possible—I will put it no higher than that—for one who is some way apart from happenings to give some inspiration to what takes place. I want to put myself in the position of my predecessor. The Report was presented to him after the inqury, and he had to accept or reject it. My predecessor gave full consideration to the matter, as I have also done. On the evidence I have examined, I think my predecessor was right in accepting the findings of the inquiry.

The position under Uganda law at that time was that no charge could be made in regard to any event six months after the event had taken place. Therefore, no charge has been made against Mr. Musazi. But he and another leader of another party were both held responsible for this planned rebellion. We have been assisting the people of Uganda, as we have other colonial territories, towards responsible self-government within the Commonwealth. I say this for myself and my predecessors, and for the Government to which I belong and for this House. If the Kingdon Report is right, this was organised, planned rebellion.

That is the background. The Governor of a colonial territory is responsible for its security, and he must bear that in mind, particularly when there have been experiences which have not been happy. There had been tragic experiences in Uganda. Planned rebellion which leads to loss of life is not something to be treated lightly, and a Governor has to take the steps which he may think necessary to prevent further disturbances taking place.

The Governor of Uganda thought it desirable therefore that Mr. Musazi should not return to the area from which, and in which, this disturbance took place in 1949. This view was conveyed to him. However, eventually he has gone back. He is now in detention in the town which my hon. Friend has mentioned. He is provided with living quarters. Arrangements have been made for his wife and children to be with him. My hon. Friend may think that the allowance made to Mr. Musazi is inadequate. That is a matter of opinion. He is not kept in a prison. During the daytime he is allowed out within the precincts of the town in which he now lives. He cannot leave the place in which he lives at night without permission from the District Commissioner, but he can get permission. He has been interviewed by a representative of the Government, and as far as I know it was made clear that he should have an opportunity of discussing problems of the future with leaders of his movement.

It is hoped that Mr. Musazi will find it possible to co-operate with the Government in their efforts to build up this movement. One of the difficulties at the beginning was that Mr. Musazi and his organisation would not register their cooperation under the Companies Ordinance. There have been times in this country when we thought such ordinances were too restrictive, but that was one reason for registering under them, with a view to changing them. We are deeply concerned about the growth of both producers' and consumers' co-operation among these African peasant farms, for that is the answer to so many of their problems and the best way to promote their development.

Recently my adviser on co-operation in the colonial territories has visited this territory and has now returned. It is very essential when a movement of this kind begins that. for its own sake, it should be protected, and that sometimes the restrictions placed upon it should be rather more severe than we would expect in this country. That is also true of trade unions. In their early stages, trade unions and co-operative movements can be wrecked by dangers against which they have to be protected.

I do not want to rehash the past in this case. I have not met Mr. Musazi. All I know is that when the Kingdon Report was published that was the finding after examining the evidence. I am not saying this unkindly. When the inquiry was held Mr. Musazi might have gone back to give evidence. He was in this country all the time. I do not want it said that it was the fault of the Governor. The evidence was there, recommendations were made, and the Report was published. My predecessor accepted the Report and examined its findings. Now we are in 1951, and I do not want to rehash the matter.

I am sincerely hoping it will be possible to find a way by which Mr. Musazi will co-operate with the Government. That does not prevent his criticising or saying that the Companies Ordinance is not all it should be. But it is certainly desirable, in the interests of the co-operative movement in Uganda, that it should be brought within the Companies Ordinance, that it should grow strong and play an important part. I have no doubt that Mr. Musazi himself will in the futureplay a distinctive part in the building up of the movement. He is now under the kind of detention I have mentioned, and when the Governor is satisfied that it is possible, bearing in mind security considerations, to have Mr. Musazi freed from all restraint, then he will be allowed to return to his area. When he does. I hope it will be his major and only concern to develop the co-operative movement, and that in the future of Uganda we shall have no more planned rebellions, no disturbances, and no loss of life, but that we shall have a development of co-operatives in the best interests of the present and future well-being of the Africans.

Question put, and agreed to:

Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes after Six o'clock a.m.