§ It being Seven o'Clock and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, further Proceeding stood postponed.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to move his Motion, I would draw the attention of the House to the scope of the debate. It takes place at Seven o'Clock on the acceptance by the Chair of a Motion to draw attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the serious disturbances which occurred at Kirawara, Kenya, on Sunday last. That is the subject of the debate. It will not be in Order, therefore, to go beyond the incident itself and such matters as can be shown to be relevant to it. I suggested at Question time, when the matter was being discussed that perhaps a wider debate would be more in the interests of the House, for the Rules of the House are such that it is the definite matter of urgent public importance which is the subject before us now.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I beg to move (under Standing Order No. 9). "That this House do now adjourn."
In opening this debate, as one who had the privilege for a short time of being Secretary of State for the Colonies, I am deeply conscious of the fact that those who take part in the debate carry a great responsibility. We have the responsibility of measuring our words, for they will have repercussions not only in Kenya but all over Africa and, indeed, all over the world.
But we equally have the responsibility that, as a House of Commons, we are the final authority for everything which happens in each one of our Colonies. I know from my own experience, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, that it is of great importance that those people who are under our charge and for whom we are responsible—70 million of them spread all over the world—should all the time be assured that we keep a vigilant and constant watch on everything which occurs in every one of these Colonies. They are our wards and we 327 are the trustees, but, while recognising the responsibility to measure our words, we have also to speak frankly. They must always be able fully to understand that all their grievances and anxieties can be ventilated and debated in this House.
In making his statement this afternoon, the Secretary of State told us that the situation in Kenya has worsened in the past few weeks. That is obvious from the reports which have reached us in the Press day by day. The events of last Sunday seem to me to be the most serious which have yet occurred since the emergency began, and it is for that reason that we have taken the step, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, of raising this matter immediately, while, at the same time, sharing your hope that the wider problems of Kenya can be fully discussed in the House in the not too distant future.
The Secretary of State has given us a resumé of the events which occurred on Sunday last. It begins with a meeting. I hope what I am about to say is in order, because it may appear a little irrelevant. The position is that under the emergency regulations in Kenya, public meetings have been banned. They are illegal. But although they have been banned, they are still taking place. This was a public meeting, attended, so we are informed, by 2,000 Africans.
In view of the fact that, despite the ban, public meetings are still taking place, I ask the Secretary of State whether the retention of that ban is wise. What is happening is that the only meetings being held are illegal meetings, and for people among the Kikuyu and elsewhere illegal meetings, and the secrecy of them, have an attraction and fascination which draws people to them and creates an emotional state which will always make them very dangerous indeed.
Moreover, as they are attending these illegal meetings, the only voices which the Africans hear now are the voices of the Mau Mau leaders. When we debated this matter a few weeks ago, I urged the Secretary of State to accept the offer which had been made by the leaders of the Africans. They have their own representatives on the Legislative Council, they have their member of the Executive Council; there is a member of the Legislative Council for this area. All of them are prevented from speaking to their people.
328 The leaders of the Kenya Africa Union told the Governor and the Government, and if my memory serves me right also told the Secretary of State when he met them, that they were very anxious to have opportunities of addressing the Kikuyu. They were anxious to have the opportunity, and the permission which was essential in view of the banning of public meetings, to go to this area to speak to the African people, to tell them that they were determined to co-operate with the Government to root out Mau Mau and to rally together those Africans who are loyal and who are opposed to Mau Mau. That offer was rejected, and I think it was a profound mistake to reject it.
We have left these people without leaders and without an organisation; we have left them entirely to the mercy of the only people who talk to them—the leaders of the Mau Mau. In spite of all the efforts which we have made and of all the powers which are available to the Government, and which are being used, to prevent these meetings from being held, they are still being held. There were 2,000 at the meeting on Sunday and there may be another meeting next Sunday. Is it not clear that as long as these meetings are held, every one is a potential Kirawara. If we have a succession of incidents of this kind, they may do irrevocable damage to the whole of our prospects in Kenya and have many serious repercussions over the whole of the African Continent.
I therefore say that the events of last Sunday, in my view, make it imperative that further reconsideration should be given, first, to the policy of banning all public meetings and, secondly, to the offer which has been made by the leaders of the African people, the acceptance of which would enable them to go and talk to the people and rally together the loyal Africans to keep them away from Mau Mau. If we do not do these things, I am afraid that what happened last Sunday may have its successors in days to come, with untold damage to our prestige and to all the hopes we have in Africa.
I come to the events of last Sunday and to the statement which the Secretary of State made this afternoon. He told us that news was received from a patrol of police that a meeting was being held in this area of Kirawara. I want to ask the Secretary of State who received 329 the news and who made all the decisions afterwards? The patrol reported that there was a meeting of 2,000 people. As far as I am aware from the Press reports—and the Secretary of State said nothing this afternoon to contradict it—these 2,000 Africans were unarmed.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me to intervene. I do not want to do so unless he wishes it. They were armed with long knives. Armed is perhaps an equivocal expression, but they were armed with long knives.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Some of them, then, had these panga—to give them the name which they give to those knives. Others were unarmed. A patrol of police saw them and then reported that event to someone. What I want to ask the Secretary of State is this: Who is responsible—what level of officer is responsible—for deciding what takes place when information of this kind is received? That is a very grave decision.
What happened was that this was reported to someone, who received the report, and who then acted—who made the decision. It was decided to send a force of three European officers and 23 Askaris—African policemen—all of them armed, to the meeting. When they got to the meeting it was quite clear that approaches were made to the person who was addressing the meeting and who was eventually arrested; and presumably the others. Were the police accompanied by a civilian officer able to speak the African language, able to converse with them fully and to reason with them?
It seems to me that what should have happened is that there should have been an officer there, that every attempt should have been made to seek to get the meeting dispersed before armed police went there. That seems to me to be the essence of wise leadership in circumstances of this kind. I should, therefore, like to ask the Secretary of State whethere there was a district officer or a provincial officer or an officer of the Kenya Government other than police officers there, and whether it would not have been better if that officer 330 had first of all gone to the meeting, and sought to interview the leaders, and sought to persuade them to disperse, so leaving the police with their arms as the last resort instead of the first.
From a reading of what has taken place, and from what the Secretary of State said today, it seems to me quite clear that this patrol of police found the meeting taking place and reported that to the police headquarters, that an inspector, with the forces I have already mentioned, went to the meeting, that the leader was arrested. We are not told whether any effort was made first of all to secure a peaceful dispersion of those who had gathered together.
I make the point again, that here we are depriving ourselves, in what, I know, is a very difficult task, of the services of the African leaders. If we had accepted this offer of the co-operation of the African leaders, then, in circumstances of this kind, it might have been possible for one of those African leaders to have gone to this meeting and used his influence to disperse them before these very tragic events occurred. Instead of which the police, as I understand it, were the first to arrive. They asked the crowd to disperse; they refused; the leader was arrested; then the crowd was warned; and eventually these very tragic events took place.
Will the Secretary of State tell us, who, in circumstances of this kind, makes these decisions? I think that with a decision of such gravity, with such consequences—what the consequences are we do not know yet, but they may indeed be very grave—we are entitled to know who is the officer, of what level is the officer, who is responsible for deciding whether the police go to a meeting of this kind in these circumstances.
I now come—I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but only want to put these questions—to what we have to do at this moment, these tragic events having occurred. The last report I have seen—it may be uncorroborated—is that 21 Africans are now dead and that about 27 have been wounded. This news will spread. It will spread throughout Africa. It will spread elsewhere. We are now in danger—this illustrates the danger which we must seek to avoid, and the Secretary of State today was quite frank with the House, for he 331 admitted the danger, which, I think, has been added to by what happened last Sunday—of converting what began, or what could have begun, as a struggle of all the decent, moderate, loyal people, Africans, Asians, and Europeans together, against Mau Mau, into a Black-White struggle. That is the most serious thing of all. That is what has happened from this sequence of events.
When we first discussed these things in the House a few weeks ago the Secretary of State said—and I was very glad to know—and the Governor and others who have spoken about this have made it abundantly clear, too, that Mau Mau would have represented but a very small proportion of the African people—indeed, a very small proportion of the Kikuyu—and that most of the Africans were opposed to the Mau Mau: they were being frightened by them; they were being terrorised by them; they did not belong to them; and they wanted to resist them.
It is quite clear now that we have left them leaderless, voiceless, without an organisation. Their own Members of Parliament are prevented from going to see them. Their own leaders are prevented from going to see them. We are left with these meetings, which are illegal and have a horrible fascination. The result is we are now in grave danger of driving all the Kikuyu people into the hands of the Mau Mau. That is the danger I see; and it is a very grave one.
I hope, therefore, that some of the suggestions I have made—the lifting of the ban on public meetings, the acceptance of the offer of the African leaders, and the full use of their services which they have so readily offered—may be considered as possible means to rally the African people.
I want to make two other suggestions. I put these very seriously to the Secretary of State. We are responsible, and it is very important that we should send from this House, and send as quickly as we may, a message that we are deeply concerned at the worsening of the situation, that we are deeply concerned about what happened last Sunday, and that we are determined to find out ourselves exactly what happened. I was confronted, as Secretary of State, with two situations of this kind. There are two precedents I can 332 give. One occurred just before I became Secretary of State. There was a strike in the Enugu district of Nigeria, and a series of very unhappy events led to shooting by the police and created a dangerous, explosive situation.
My predecessor, Mr. Arthur Creech Jones, acted at once. He announced in the House—and the announcement went to Africa—that he was proposing to set up an independent inquiry to make a full investigation into the circumstances and to bring back a report to him. The report came, and then eventually, after the General Election, during the time when I was Secretary of State, there was full investigation. The very announcement that we would investigate steadied people everywhere. There was an awareness of our determination to find out the facts—that if there had been mistakes, if the policy or the arrangements had been wrong, we would investigate them to find out, and, after that, put them right.
I would urge the Secretary of State to consider—I hope he will tell us that he will consider it favourably—the appointment of a commission to go immediately to Kenya to make the fullest investigation into what happened at Kirawara last Sunday. Does the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) want to interject? I do not know. I am putting forward, responsibly, a serious suggestion. I am suggesting an inquiry, based upon my own experience. Shortly after the events that occurred in Enugu, further events occurred in Singapore, and they had their repercussions. There are rights and wrongs, but, if I may be allowed to say so, I am not without experience of matters of this kind.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I do not deny the right hon. Gentleman's experience, but, if I may say so, I think that in these matters I have a much wider experience that the right hon. Gentleman and I say quite frankly that to have a commission going out to investigate would do much more harm than good. What we must do in this House is to back up the European administration in Kenya.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This evening, in accordance with Mr. Speaker's Ruling, I am confining myself to the incidents which occurred on Sunday, to the general situation in Kenya and our attitude towards it.
333 Last Friday we said that we would support the Government in all measures that were necessary and essential to put down Mau Mau. At the same time, we urged that every measure should be taken to remove genuine grievances. I have, therefore, not ventured into other matters.
I know that the hon. Gentleman's experience of East Africa is much wider and longer than mine, and I am sure he realises, from the news of what happened last Sunday, what the effect would be on the people there of appointing a commission to investigate and to inquire. It may be that everything that could be done to prevent it was done, but he knows very well that events of this kind are bound to lead to a sense of grievance, and for that reason I urge this all the stronger. I know that when I had to act, in circumstances not unlike this, the very announcement that a commission of this kind was being sent out had a steadying effect upon everyone.
I ask the Secretary of State to reconsider the answer he gave this afternoon to my suggestion, which I have repeated more than once—and I am still convinced it is a wise suggestion, apart from these incidents in Kenya—that a delegation of Members of Parliament from all parties should go out to Kenya. We are all gravely concerned about what is happening in Kenya. It is a tragedy. Now that we are in the midst of all this it seems to me to be of the utmost importance that the House of Commons should send out a message saying that we are concerned for the welfare of all the people. While the Executive have these extraordinary powers, which I will not discuss now, we have a duty to ensure that we keep vigilant watch on the use of these extraordinary powers.
Someone has said that Kenya may be the last chance we have in Africa of working out a democratic constitution in a country in which all races co-operate together. We are determined to put down Mau Mau, but we have a solemn duty to prevent this from becoming a racial conflict which may destroy the last chance we have in Africa.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has said. He 334 has put his finger on the point, that we are all deeply distressed at the events in Kenya, particularly this latest tragedy last Sunday. We have often been told that this is the last chance, but most of us will always go on trying to find a way out of what I believe is today the fundamental problem of humanity, and that is to get the race relationship in various parts of the world correct, particularly, if I may say so, in Africa.
I am afraid that I was not here earlier this afternoon, and therefore did not have the advantage of hearing what was then said. I have heard you, Mr. Speaker, say that this debate is a narrow one, but I should just like to follow one or two of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that most of the suggestions he made have been considered by many hon. Members on both sides, to see how we can help in the circumstances with which we are faced in Kenya today, but we must be very careful in this House against resentment overseas of peoples of all communities when, directly something happens, we send hon. Members of the House to investigate. Today we are clearly in a transitional period. We are all trying to get greater self-government in these territories overseas, and unless these suggestions are carefully handled there may be resentment overseas that we in this House should still try to keep 100 per cent. responsibility for the details of administration. That is not for a moment to say that we have not the deepest interest in what is going on and would not like to make our contribution.
We must not think that we hold the key to the future of these countries by making a quick trip there from this country—especially any of us who have little or no knowledge about these territories, rather than those members of the administration who have devoted their lives to these territories, who have done their best to establish good relations between the four main communities in East Africa, and who may resent suggestions such as that made by the right hon. Gentleman—I am certain in all good faith.
We have so little information about what happened last Sunday that I, for one, find it very difficult to comment in any detail. The right hon. Gentleman has 335 put his comments in the form of questions to my right hon. Friend, and until he gives us further information, which at this early stage, only 48 hours after the events, may not be available, it is very difficult to discuss what happened last Sunday. I should, however, like to say just one word in support of whoever had to take the decision to open fire. It is obviously desirable that such a decision should be taken by highly responsible and senior officials, but in a territory the size of Kenya, and in an area the size of the Kikuyu Reserve, it is obviously impossible to have senior officials who could possibly fulfil all the standards which we and they would desire.
We must realise that the individual concerned may be relatively junior, and that he had this terrifying spectacle of the approach of 2,000 Africans armed with pangas, which, as anyone who has seen some of the pictures of the multilations carried out with them will realise, are the most terrifying weapons. In some ways they are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and make one realise how much more frightening war must have been when one saw people armed with such weapons, rather than being opposed by the modern bullets or shells which may be fired from a long distance off.
I ask hon. Members opposite to place themselves in the position of whoever was responsible. From the information I have, there were three European officers and 20 African police; knowing what they know, and what few of us do, of the mutilations which are carried out with this weapon, and they had to take this decision. Perhaps I speak with some feeling, because, if I may be forgiven this personal interjection, in the years before the war I was myself faced with this sort of situation, although nothing like so serious as this one. In this decision, I can sympathise with the individual concerned, and I hope that we shall say nothing in this debate that will undermine the confidence of those individuals who have some of the most desperately serious tasks in Africa today.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I wonder if the hon. Member has seen one of the reports of this incident? I do not make myself responsible for it, and I do not know anything about it, but 336 one of the reports stated that this illegal meeting, having been called upon to disperse, was left with only one way to go because all the other ways of egress had been stopped up, and when they had been told to go and were left with only one direction in which to go, would he still think that the order to fire was justified.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Nothing I have said would be changed if what the hon. Gentleman said was true. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] No. If the individuals had been peacefully inclined, they would not have advanced on the police patrol. It is not difficult to realise the position of 25 people surrounded by 2,000. I cannot see how that changes what I have said about the responsibility on the individual.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am afraid that I did not make myself clear. I do not know whether the report is true, but the report, as I read it, was that the people had been told not to stay at the meeting because it was illegal, but to go, and they were left with only one direction in which to move. Does the hon. Member really say that when they are told to move and are left with only one direction in which to go, one is entitled to fire on them because they move in the only direction left open to them?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I said nothing of the sort. Let us imagine the circumstances. If that crowd was dispersing peacefully, I am certain that none of those responsible would have given the order to fire. It was not a question of a peaceful dispersal, but, from all the accounts I have seen, an attack upon the police patrol.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
May I ask the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) where we can read this report? It has not come to my notice, and I should be interested to read it.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
May I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House not to make interruptions in speeches, but to wait until called upon to make their own speeches, except when interruptions are necessary to clear up some ambiguity in the debate.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I hope that in the course of the debate the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne will put the source of his information on the records of this House. I have accepted, for the purpose of the debate, what he has said as being true, but that does not alter one bit the point which I was making.
The information available to the House is still pretty slender on this event, and on Mau Mau in general. Many cases which may be relevant to this tragic event of last Sunday are sub judice, and therefore one must be extremely careful of what one says on this occasion. It is clear that the events which led up to last Sunday's occurrence are based on causes going back many months and even years. Yet, so far as know, the information available to this House and to the country is pretty slender.
I think that the whole of the post-war period in Kenya, as elsewhere, has been extremely overcrowded. As a result of the tremendous rate at which Africa has expanded in the last 60 years, particularly East Africa, it is a fact, tragic though it may be, that there have been growing pains, and there has been a psychological impact on numbers of Africans in different parts of Africa which have led to a reaction which is not always favourable. As is well known to those who have worked in Africa, the tribes differ one from another, just as in North-Western Europe the tribes are emotionally different. I think that the impact on some of these tribes has been rather unfortunate. Others, so far as my information goes, have not been deeply affected. But the events of the last few weeks have obviously been well organised. There have been thefts of arms and sudden outbreaks of violence, attacks on loyal chiefs and—
I think that at the beginning of this debate it was said that it was to be a narrow debate confined to the events of the Sunday.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I was trying to keep to that somewhat narrow point in following some of the remarks put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I was trying to show how possibly, in my limited experience, the events of last Sunday may have been based on events 338 which occurred further back in the history of that part of the world.
I think that one thing which has not been realised is that it is a tremendous tribute to the British system of Government by persuasion and administration in that part of Africa that between Khartoum and the Union of South Africa, until the Lancashire Fusiliers came in, there has not been a British battalion in 3,000 miles—as far as from here to Moscow—to maintain law and order.
I think that the work done by the local administration is not always sufficiently appreciated. I think that there has been a tremendous amount of overwork on all the administration. For better or worse, they have had economic development to supervise—in addition to the results of the war, and of the psychological growing pains to which I have alluded. It is a sad fact, leading up to the events of last Sunday and the months before, that the district administration has been obviously overloaded. The right hon. Gentleman has asked for details concerning who has been responsible. Whoever it is, I am sure that it is someone who has been doing his utmost for his people as a whole, despite the difficulties of office work and the general discouragement that goes on, largely by necessity, of the individuals who need free time to travel, sometimes by animal or on foot, to get to know their people. To what extent it is true, as I have seen in one or two reports, that there has not been adequate political officering—it is not the fault of the local administration.
I think that the hon. Member is getting a little wide of this Adjournment Motion.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)
With great respect to yourself, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, did not Mr. Speaker rule that the debate should be confined to the events of last Sunday and matters relevant thereto. I suggest that the events did not occur in a vacuum, and that most of what the hon. Member has been saying is perfectly relevant.
The ruling is confined to the events of last Sunday and matters relevant thereto, but the hon. Member must not travel too wide of the events of last Sunday.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I will leave that point.
I should like to stress again, as I have done in the course of the last few weeks, that, in this difficult situation all over Africa, local administration should be given a certain amount of consideration and that there is a case for the Governor, as well as the district officer, the agricultural officer and others to spend more time with their people and not be overloaded with central government and office work. I think that if circumstances had permitted that, much of this trouble might have been avoided.
I will, therefore, come to my concluding points, and I support what the right hon. Gentleman said, that we must on both sides of the House support the local administration in restoring law and order, or, as he called it the other day, restoring law and peace. It may be said that this is a somewhat wider aim, but, whatever the words may mean, we must support the restoration of law and order.
A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have, in imagination, put themselves in the shoes of individuals, in Kenya, living scores of miles from a telephone, with the fear which has been engendered by the events of the last few weeks. It is not only Europeans who are fearful. A great number of Asians are fearful, too. A great number of loyal and moderate Africans are also fearful, and, from the information which I have, they have so far paid a large part of the penalty for the disturbances. It seems at the moment that the first target of the Mau Mau individuals is to go for the loyal chiefs and the natural leaders of these people. That is another point which makes me think that this action is essentially organised.
I am certain that we must make it clear that the Commission which is to go to East Africa is in no way connected directly with the events of Mau Mau. From time to time it is necessary and good to send out Commissions to inquire into certain big problems, but the events of last Sunday and the horrors of the last few weeks must be dealt with on their own, and no impression must be given that any other action by the Government at home or in Kenya in any way condones the murders of the foulest type, not just of Europeans and of Asians, but of 340 Africans, too. It should not be missed that so far this has been an all-racial affair and that it has been a matter of individuals under Mau Mau against the best elements of the other three races.
I hope that nothing will be said in this House to give any impression that we think that, although the danger may exist, there is any justification for trying to suggest that this is purely a colour action. I hope that when we have further information, from my right hon. Friend and elsewhere, it will show that what I have said in this respect is true.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
No one who has recently been in Kenya will want to say a word in this debate which will intensify racial feeling there. One is very conscious of European farmers, often miles distant from each other, who, in the night hours, are now waiting anxiously, isolated, in case they may be attacked.
One is very conscious, too, that a situation may arise there which may not only become an effort to repress violence and to repress Mau Mau, but may also become action against the whole Kikuyu tribe. Anyone with any knowledge at all of Kenya knows how disastrous that would be, disastrous not only to the African population but also to the future of the European population, and how all of us must seek to avoid it. When I read of what took place there last Sunday, my first feeling was of the tragedy of it in its effect upon the efforts which men and women of all four races in Kenya are today making to find a basis for harmonious relations in the future.
Last Sunday, there was an illegal meeting. Apparently, a speech was being made to it, urging violence. I have been in the very district where the meeting was held. After an isolated clash with local police, a message was sent to Thika, and a regular inspector and two European inspectors who have been in the Kenya Police Reserve for only a short time, with Askaris, went to the scene.
The first point which I want to make about this event is that I believe we are placing too great a responsibility on men of very young age and of very short experience when they are faced by this situation. The three European officers were aged 22, 21 and 20. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shocking."] Two of the officers 341 were only recently recruited into the Kenya Police Reserve. One had been a member for only six weeks and the second had been a member for only one month.
From my own experience, I have a very great sense of sympathy with those young men. I know that they have joined the Kenya Police Reserve because they want to protect their families, who are often isolated in the way in which I have described, but I say to the Colonial Secretary that neither he nor the Government of Kenya ought to place the responsibility for decisions which may have an appalling effect upon race relations in Kenya upon men of that tender age and of that very recent experience.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make sure, as the first result of our debate tonight, that men of experience and of responsibility shall be in every district, to whom the call will be sent in situations of this kind, instead of leaving the decisions to the officers of youth and of very small experience who were responsible for the decisions in this case.
§ Brigadier Christopher Peto (Devon, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us where he got the information which he is now giving us about the ages and the experience of these men?
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I am quoting from the report in "The Times" of today. It gives the names of Inspector W. R. McGrath Blackwell, who, I understand, is a regular member of the force, and gives his age as 22; Mr. J. S. A. Weaving, who is 21, and who volunteered for the Kenya Police Reserve only six weeks ago; and Mr. I. D. St. G. Lindsay, who is only 20 and who has been in the police force for one month only.
§ Mr. F. Harris
I am sure that the hon. Member is not trying to mislead the House, but I think some hon. Members are misunderstanding the position. The fact that these men have only been in the Police Reserve for one month or for six months is because the Europeans in Kenya have recently joined the Police Reserve to protect the country, and it would be very unfortunate if there was any misunderstanding here about the matter.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I think the House understood the point I was putting. The point I am making is one of absolute 342 sympathy with these young men. If I may say so, they protected me only a few weeks ago. I look back at this moment to the time when one of these young men, I think probably still in his teens, and who was an officer, came to me to announce that because a report had been received that a European was leaving Nairobi to murder me protection around the house was to be increased by one non-commissioned officer and six Askaris.
The young man was very nervous and so inexperienced that he could hardly speak to me. Indeed, he gave to me the instructions that he ought to have been giving to the local police superintendent. I am not saying that out of any attitude of contempt for these young men, but out of sympathy for their position. I am saying that they ought not to be in that position, and I am asking the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make sure that in every effective district in Kenya a responsible officer of age and experience shall be left in charge so that when a situation arises we shall feel at least that clashes, woundings and even deaths have not taken place because of either the age or inexperience of the officers concerned.
I want to keep strictly to the point which we are discussing in this debate, and, therefore, I want to emphasise what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), that the tragedy of this situation is that the only meetings which are allowed are illegal meetings. I know the present African leaders. I know the leaders of the Kenya Africa Union. One of them is Mr. Odede, the President, who is a teacher at Makerere College. He is universally respected, one who was selected by the Governor to be a member of the Legislative Council. The man belongs to the Christian church and interprets the Christian teaching as being opposed to the methods of violence.
Mr. Awori is another member of the Legislative Council, selected by the Governor for that position. Obviously, the Governor had trust and confidence in him. He is also a member of the Christian community. The third member is the Secretary, Mr. Joseph Murumbi. He is the ablest African I have ever met from any African community. He is a man who is entirely constructive in his approach, and one who is almost broken by the turn of events among the Kikuyu.
343 Yet when these three men, now the leaders of the Kenya Africa Union, who are regarded with confidence, trust and even pride by thousands of Africans, went to the Governor and to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Nairobi to offer to go themselves to the Kikuyu people and dissuade them from violence and encourage them to live peaceably, the offer was refused.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman more than is necessary, but I should state that Mr. Odede told me personally at that meeting that he was against the holding of public meetings at that time and for some time ahead.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I accept that statement by the right hon. Gentleman, but I know that I met Mr. Odede before and after he met the right hon. Gentleman, and was informed that the offer to speak to these people had been turned down by the Government of Kenya.
May I quote one other illustration as evidence? My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and I, when we were in Nairobi, wanted to make our contribution to the campaign against violence and against membership of Mau Mau. The three African leaders Ito whom I have referred, and European and Asian leaders proposed to me that I should ask the Governor for permission to broadcast against violence. The Governor did not accept that suggestion. Then we asked the leaders of the Kenya Africa Union whether they would distribute among their people an appeal if we wrote one in the interests of peace. I want to read a passage from that appeal, which was sent out by the Kenya Africa Union leaders to all their membership, to indicate—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
This appears to be very—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have a perfect right to raise a point of order. This appears to me to be going very wide of the incidents on Sunday. I do not object to that in any way, but I only want to say that if the member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) is 344 allowed to go as far as those matters I hope that I may be allowed to reply equally widely.
Mr. Speaker's Ruling, at the beginning of the debate, was quite clear. It was that the debate was limited to the events on Sunday and anything that was relevant to those events. I understood that the hon. Member was developing an argument in regard to an illegal meeting, but he must not travel too wide of that subject.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I was directing my argument to the fact that the gathering which was broken up with loss of life on Sunday was an illegal meeting. My appeal was that public meetings should be permitted so that this kind of incident would be less likely to occur. And I was indicating to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the responsible leaders of the African organisation, if they had the opportunity to go to their people, would be able to make the appeal against violence. I will, therefore, read the extract:We beg you to remain calm in this difficult period. Cruelty and violence are wicked things. Beware of those who preach a doctrine of hate or a doctrine of violence whether in political, social or religious affairs. Those who in any circumstances advocate a resort to violence, even in circumstances of extreme provocation, are at this moment the real enemies of the cause of the African people not only in Kenya but all over this great continent. We accept the Christian ethic of goodwill towards all. So do many of you. But we appeal to you in the common belief in the humanitarian ethic for tolerance and understanding. Fear only fear. Hate only hate.Yet the men who deeply and sincerely hold that conviction are now silenced by the Kenya Government, with the endorsement of the right hon. Gentleman, from making that kind of appeal to the Kikuyu people. Instead, the right hon. Gentleman is departing on a course which is making the action of the Government, not only against Mau Mau and those who advocate violence, but against the entire Kikuyu people, very dangerous for future racial relations in Africa.
I conclude on this point. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) urged that we ought to be careful about intervening in affairs in Kenya because it is felt there that they are developing towards self-government. I want to see Kenya developing towards self-government—
Yes, but I did seek to call the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) to order because he was travelling widely.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
Then I shall be content to accept your Ruling on that point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and will make my appeal to the House, and not only to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We are at a moment of the parting of the ways in Africa. It is racial conflict or racial co-operation, and it depends upon the policy which this Government and the Government of Kenya now pursue in which of those two directions we shall be moving in the coming years.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
I must confess that I am taking part in this debate with deep regret today, and I am equally regretful that the debate has taken place at all. It is quite true that this is a matter about which everybody should be considerably concerned, but I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who wanted to deal with this question, could not have done so privately by seeing the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Equally, I cannot see why the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) could not have done the same. Although we may think that only ourselves here and the public in England will hear what has gone on tonight, in other parts of the world, and of course in Kenya, people will read extracts in the Press—most certainly not HANSARD—and a large number of them will not understand why we are keeping to this one, narrow point tonight.
Many will ask why we should be talking only about the shooting of so many Mau Mau Africans when so many other Africans and so many whites have been not only shot but hacked to pieces over the last few months. It is true that Mr. Speaker has allowed that we can discuss matters relevant to the event of last Sunday, but it is difficult to deal with that in a satisfactory manner. This is such a terribly serious subject, with possibly 346 tremendous repercussions in other parts of the world, that I cannot see why it should be brought up in these narrow terms tonight and pressed by the Opposition.
Outside, and especially in Kenya, this will be looked on as a question of party politics. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am afraid it will. I have been out there just as much as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, and quite recently, and I know how strong the feelings are there at the moment. At one house where I stayed a daughter has since been shot. Living two or three miles away are the grandparents aged 93 and 87. Are they not frightened? Are their relatives not worried about what may happen to them? Is not everybody in a state of the most appalling tension out there? Why then bring this matter up in this narrow way?
However, we have to discuss it on those lines, and again I cannot see why the hon. Member for Eton and Slough brought up the question of the three young men aged 20, 21 and 22. Men of 20, 21 and 22 in many parts of the world—and British ones too—are quite capable of looking after the interests of the Askaris who are with them, and also of looking after their families. They had quite good instructions. They have carried them out. We are told tonight on the tape that the person they arrested who was organising the 2,000 against them was himself only a youth. He was presumably not much older—
§ Mr. Teeling
I am told he is only 18. It seems to me there is no argument then at all. We know that all these people have to be looked after. It is far better that the younger people should go out and try to do the work than that the older ones should do it. The younger people are just as fair-minded as anybody else. When they find themselves with 2,000 people coming against them, what can they do? We are told by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that there was no other way for the 2,000 to go.
§ Mr. Teeling
The hon. Member said he had got it from some newspaper. I wish he would tell us which one. No? The hon. Member is keeping it to himself? I believe that my right hon. 347 Friend will point out that this was not the case. Anyway, when it is a question of 2,000 people against, at the most, 27, surely there is nothing much else that the poor devils could do than shoot and try to stop the 27 being killed? I cannot see why the hon. Gentleman brought up the ages of these boys. He could have done it for no other reason than to try to make people genuinely shocked and horrified, as one could hear they were from the noises made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why should they be? They are not frightened when young men of 21 become officers and fight in wartime—
§ Mr. Teeling
They are all right to defend people. Then why should they not be all right in Kenya? I am sorry, I cannot have any sympathy with that argument. There are people in Kenya who are loyal citizens, who are friendly towards this country and willing to work with us, but I am sure there are moments, when they hear speeches like those made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite this evening, when they will wonder whether we are not getting back to the old colonial times when the United States broke away from us. We were then telling the white people and the other people out there just, roughly speaking, exactly where they got off, and they went off.
In Kenya the members of the Legislative Councils are themselves elected people. One or two, I believe, were Labour candidates who were defeated in this country and have gone out there and are often quoted from the other side. There are large numbers of people there who are conceited enough to think that they know just as much about how to interpret rules and laws as the people in this House.
The right hon. Gentleman wants a commission to go out from this country. If there is to be a commission, why should it not be from out there? Why should not the inquiry be made by people there? Are we suggesting that the Governor and the others are no good?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Secretary of State is the only one who can order an inquiry. I do not suggest that the commission should be confined to Members of this House. The Enugu Commission of Inquiry included two Africans from Africa.
§ Mr. Teeling
I am not talking about the Royal Commission, but about the commission which, the right hon. Gentleman suggests, should go out now to discuss this problem. Why on earth should it have to come from this House?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Secretary of State is the responsible Minister. Only he could order an inquiry of this kind.
§ Mr. Teeling
Let him order it, but by all means let him order it from people out there and not from people coming out from the House of Commons.
The right hon. Gentleman has brought up this point. He happens to have a friend out there—at any rate, I met a gentleman who told me that he had a great admiration for the right hon. Gentleman and lunched with him at the House here and met many Members of Parliament with him. I refer to Sir Alfred Vincent, who has just written a letter in the "Daily Telegraph" practically on this very subject. It is appropriate, therefore, that I quote from his words in last Friday's "Daily Telegraph":It may be the suggestion was made"—that was, the suggestion that a delegation should go out from here; the remarks apply equally as far as a commission is concerned—on the spur of the moment but we in the Colonies have suffered enough from outside interference from all sorts of 'well-meaning' people and others, and especially from Members of the House of Commons. Have we not a Governor, a Judiciary and a Legislative Council and has not the British Government a Colonial Secretary?I know that Mr. Griffiths would be the last deliberately to give offence by making any such suggestion, and I feel that on reflection he will agree with me that the high standard maintained by the Kenya European members of the Legislative Council compares very favourably with, and surpasses in many instances, the standard set by a number of Members of the House of Commons. Certainly their sense of responsibility and restraint, especially in the present trying circumstances, could not have been better.349 That comes from a gentleman who, I know, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly considers to be a very knowledgeable and level-headed person in Kenya. His remarks would apply equally to the commission that the right hon. Gentleman suggests should go out. If there is a suggestion that some judicial inquiry should be made about what has happened, it equally seems to me utterly inappropriate that we should be discussing the matter here at present. In fact, it is quite wrong.
We have been told by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough that the way to stop these shootings is to allow public meetings again to take place and to allow the three gentlemen to whom he referred to go out and meet the members of the Kikuyu tribe. The hon. Member has told us more or less what he thinks they are going to say. My right hon. Friend has interrupted and pointed out that practically the exact opposite—at any rate, as regards the holding of public meetings—was said by one of them to him. [An HON. MEMBER: "The chief one."] That was said to my right hon. Friend by the chief one, the leader of the three mentioned by the hon. Member.
That makes us begin to doubt what exactly these people say. I am quite certain that many of the things that have been said to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, whose charming nature is such that he believes almost anything he is told—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sometimes."] Indeed, I have heard of amazing things he has listened to and believed out in Kenya. Many of the things said to him are probably quite different from what is said to other people.
As I mentioned in the House only a fortnight ago, when Jomo Kenyatta discussed things with me he said what must be very different things from the sort of things he used to say to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough. I do not believe that we can really be certain what they did mean. If they were to go to a public meeting now, if a public meeting was held, it might well be like when Mr. Mathu went—I believe also with Jomo Kenyatta—to address something like 30,000 people and had promised to tell them to give up Mau Mau and to stop having anything to do with it. For some reason, when they 350 got to the meeting, they never discussed that thing at all. No, I do not see that this is at all the moment for public meetings—in fact, far from it.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly has been saying that that is the only way, and that the African Union are pretty well the only people who can talk to these people. Nobody seems to remember or to think at present of the existence of the Christian churches in Kenya. They were there before all this started. The mission chapels and churches are in all the reserves and areas. They are still there. The priests are still there. The protestant clergy are there, and there are many worth while African Christians there also. Do not they ever preach to them on Sundays? Is nothing ever said to them from the pulpit about law and order and about keeping it? All these are things that when said to them ought to be able to stop them from bringing together their 2,000 people.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
Does the hon. Member recall the statement the other day by the Colonial Secretary that one of the very causes of these outbreaks of Mau Mau was the suppression, he alleged, by the Christian churches and their missionaries of the ritual dances of the tribe.
§ Mr. Teeling
I do not quite see what that would have to do with it. If a person is a Christian it is a perfectly good idea that he should give up these ritual dances, and that does not prevent the Christian missionaries from still having their supporters as they have all over the country. Those supporters go and listen to them and hear them preaching, among other things, that they should not attack the Government and that they should not do all the sort of things that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough himself wanted to broadcast.
§ Mr. Follick
On a point of order. I had quite an important point to make. Will you allow me to put it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?
The hon. Member may very well have had an important point, but ritual dancing is not part of this debate.
§ Mr. Teeling
It should be remembered that there is an approach, and a definite approach that can be made, not towards party or political propaganda, but towards the keeping of law and order and towards their being no violent or fierce attacks on anybody; and this can come from the Christian churches.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this issue is liable to be a question of White versus Black. There is no need for that whatsoever. The rules and regulations that have been passed by the Legislative Council, and permitted by the Colonial Secretary, give the powers which are being used, and many of us have wondered when they were going to be used. The wandering about of police and troops over districts has frightened many Africans who were supporting us and who have been wondering whether the Mau Mau people would not be allowed to come back eventually and to punish and attack them while the police went elsewhere. Many of us believe that the only way now to stop this and not to have the Africans of the Kikuyu tribe laughing at us by having so many police and troops wandering about and doing nothing, is to be absolutely determined and, where necessary, to take over the cattle, as we did the other day, and to warn these people that if they attack us, the police and troops must fire. These things must be done.
It is not going to be a question of White versus Black. There are many Africans at present working with us. One has only to go out in Nairobi and elsewhere at night to find just as many Indians as Whites acting as special constables. The Africans all over the world are not only watching to see what the Kikuyus do and whether, in a sense, they get away with it, but to see whether the loyal Africans who support law and order and who support the Whites are protected and defended. If so, the other Africans 352 will respect us. If not, they will simply laugh at us and think that we are worthless.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) is quite entitled to urge the necessity for a restoration of law and order in Kenya, and in that we are with him 100 per cent. But what he is not entitled to do is to suggest that this Motion has been moved this evening for the purpose of serving party political interests. That was a very wrong thing for him to say, and I very much hope that my friends in Kenya—and I was there 18 months ago as a member of a Parliamentary delegation—will not believe that.
§ Mr. Teeling
I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong there. What I pointed out was that I did not think this was the moment for such a narrow discussion, and that the points in the narrow discussion could quite easily have been raised privately by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ Mr. Evans
I agree that the debate is narrow, but before he left the Chair, Mr. Speaker spoke of the events of last Sunday and of matters relevant thereto. I must say, as he has been attacked, that my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) has been very statesmanlike since his return from Africa. He and I have not always seen eye to eye on African affairs—we have fought each other in another part of this House—but I thought his articles in the "Daily Herald" last week were fair and objective.
While, as I said earlier, we are at one with the Government in the attempt now being made to restore law and order in Kenya, I think we ought to be careful in indicting each other, even by inference, because it would be a wretched thing if the impression got abroad in Kenya that we in this House were prepared to risk aggravating a very delicate and dangerous situation for the sake of party political advantage.
I do not believe that, and I do not believe that this Motion has been moved with any other motives than the best. But I think we have to have regard to the background of this matter in so far 353 as Kenya would appear, in part at any rate, to be reverting to that barbarism from which the white man rescued it. Twenty-one Africans were killed and 27 more were injured because of that reversion to barbarism. Listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough, I was a little anxious lest he be unfair, though unwittingly, to the young officers concerned in the incident which took place on Sunday.
As I understand, the trouble arose out of the attempt of an African patrol, consisting of an African corporal and eight men, to arrest an African who was, apparently, offending against the law. They arrested the African and were advanced upon by a mob of Africans who approached in what can only be described as infantry fashion. Those who have any experience of war will know how infantry advance. They advance so far and then fling themselves to the ground, and proceed in that fashion until they are able to grapple with the enemy in a hand to hand struggle.
I understand that this patrol was heavily stoned, that three African policemen were killed, and that it was not until after this that the white officers came on to the scene. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough would agree that that puts a rather different construction on the matter.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not know whether I ought to interrupt the hon. Gentleman on a matter of fact, but he mentioned that he thought there were three casualties among the original patrol. There was none. That is merely on a point of fact.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
So far as I know, there were no African casualties at all among the patrol or the police.
§ Mr. Evans
In that case the newspaper from which I am quoting would appear to be mistaken, and I shall certainly go back to it before this debate ends, because it is a newspaper on which one can normally depend.
I was very glad to read what my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough had to say about this business. He said that whatever the explanation of Mau Mau it is an ugly fact; that its members have committed crimes against man and beast of the vilest character. That is 354 what he wrote in the "Daily Herald," and, of course, it is important for us to recognise and to keep in mind at all times if we are to arrive at a correct impression, that this is the background against which the events of last Sunday took place.
I would say to the Colonial Secretary that I thought there was some point in one of the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). If it is a fact that these meetings have been banned, but that the law is being ignored and brought into disrepute, would it not be a good thing to reconsider this matter, because obviously, as has been said both by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly and by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough, it is only the law-abiding who are to suffer from this ban. Indeed, it is going to be impossible for those Africans who are loyal and law abiding to make that appeal to the Kikuyu which is so desirable in present circumstances.
I think that we in this House are quite right to discuss this matter, and I believe that if there is any blame to be apportioned it is as much ours because of our influence in Kenya. Part of the responsibility is ours, and we cannot escape from it. We have the situation in Kenya in which there is one African policeman to 5,000 Africans in the reserve and one European policeman to 250,000 Africans. If our friends in Kenya have not the means with which to create and maintain a police force equal to the situation, then it is our duty to provide assistance because we in this country have lived for a long time, fat and comfortably, on the self-denial of our colonial friends. I would ask the Government to consider that point.
I am sure that we are all going to be very careful in everything we say. I was immensely encouraged by what my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough said in the course of his recent article in the "Daily Herald." I will quote it because it confirms what I have always felt—that we are entitled to have faith and confidence in our own kinsfolk in these circumstances. Indeed, we must have it because if they on the spot cannot solve this problem we in this House cannot.
355 Therefore, I was glad to read the generous tribute that was paid by my hon. Friend. This is what he said:Mr. Michael Blundell Leader of the Unofficial members in the Legislative Council is a man of many liberal ideas.He is the principal European in Nairobi at this moment.
My hon. Friend went on to say:In the atmosphere of my arrival it was beyond my expectation that before I left I could get the leaders of the four races round a table to discuss a common programme to heal Kenya's wounds.These are fine words. He said:But thanks to the tolerance of the European leaders, the constructive response of the Africans and the mediation of Indians and Arabs that happened.Far from being entitled to be critical of my hon. Friend the Government have every reason to be grateful to him.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Brigadier Christopher Peto (Devon, North)
It is very seldom that I trouble the House with an intervention, but I feel that on this occasion I have possibly some very small contribution to make. I have had in the past very similar experiences to those which the young officers whom the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) mentioned are now experiencing in East Africa.
If I may mention it, I was, for example, in Ireland in 1919–20, when we had the same sort of difficulty. Though the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr S. N. Evans) takes up a self-righteous attitude about his party not being politically biased at all in moving this Motion, I would remind him that in 1920, at any rate, they were entirely politically biased in their views on that insurrection.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans
What happened in 1920 is quite irrelevant. What I am suggesting is that tonight we should keep the temperature down and not say things that would be wrongly construed and interpreted in Kenya.
§ Brigadier Peto
I quite agree. I was only saying, in passing, that it is not always the case that the hon. Member's party has moved a Motion of this kind without a political end in mind.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member will no doubt realise 356 that, after all, we are talking now of something that happened more than 30 years ago and that there was a difference of opinion between the parties as to the right way to deal with Ireland at that time. Has he learned nothing from that lesson? Is it not clear now that our party was right on that occasion and his party wrong?
§ Brigadier Peto
I do not know whether the hon. Member learned anything, but this is what the Prime Minister of that day said:The hon. Members who represent"—
§ Mr. Follick
On a point of order. I was told that this debate is limited to the events of last Sunday. Surely it is not concerned with what happened in Ireland.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I thought that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) was drawing a parallel.
§ Brigadier Peto
In reply to the remark made by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) and the intervention by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who asked if I had not learned anything, I might say to his party that they have not learned anything. This is what the Prime Minister of that time, Mr. Lloyd George, said:The hon. Members who represent the Labour Party find it difficult to reconcile differences amongst themselves and the have very judiciously withdrawn discussion to another sphere."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1920; Vol. 131, c. 168.]I only mention that because a similar parallel could be drawn today. I do not think that there is really very much point to be made out of what the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said about the age of these young officers. These young men, one 22 according to the report in "The Times" that the hon. Member quoted, one 21 and one aged 20 had their duty to perform. They had their orders, and to the best of my belief they carried out their duty as they should.
The hon. Gentleman said that there should be somebody more senior—I think the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said the same—on the spot to take a decision of that sort. Believe me or believe me not, there 357 are many occasions when a young officer has to make a decision and cannot refer to somebody above him to find out what he should do in given circumstances.
§ Brigadier Peto
Why not? But we are not discussing charge-hands.
I would say to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough that I do not think that these three officers should have any aspersion cast on their action at this moment.
§ Brigadier Peto
They are not too young in my opinion, nor in the opinion of the people who put them in that job.
§ Brigadier Peto
Why not? How many officers of 22 has the hon. Member known who were not able to take a decision of that sort?
§ Mr. Wigg
I quite agree that an officer of 20 or even younger is quite capable of taking decisions, but there is all the difference in the world between that and putting on a young man with less than a month's service responsibility in matters of life and death and matters which may affect the whole of civilisation in East Africa.
§ Brigadier Peto
The hon. Member has made his point. I think that possibly it was true that they had only had a month's service. They had been in that country for a very long time—in fact, born and bred there probably. We shall hear later in the reply from the Government Front Bench—
§ Brigadier Peto
He may have been one of the very few exceptions. I only have the word of the hon. Gentleman, which I accept, until I have heard the truth from our Front Bench.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) cannot intervene.
§ Brigadier Peto
I have given way a number of times and I think I had better get on with my speech now.
My experiences in the past have led me to very definite conclusions which are firmly imprinted on my mind. I will give the House one or two of them. First, it is of vital importance that the Governor or the soldier, whoever he may be and of whatever rank, who has a job to do in a very difficult situation, must feel that he has the complete confidence of those to whom he is immediately responsible. That is to say, the Governor must feel that he has the support not only of one side of the House but of the House and the country as a whole. Similarly, a young officer must feel that his action, if he thinks it is right and he does it to the best of his ability, has the support of the authority above him.
Secondly, I think there is a danger that speeches made in this House, however well intentioned, may be misquoted or misconstrued. I think that is a definite danger, and that is one of the disadvantages of having raised this narrow point tonight without very careful forethought being given to it. Thirdly, I think it is very dangerous that there should be unnecessary outside interference at a very ticklish moment.
With that I class the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Llanelly that at this moment we should send a party of Members of Parliament, representing both sides of the House, to investigate what is going on. I think it would be a most untimely action to take. After the present emergency is over and when we have some form of peaceful settlement it might then be well worth sending them, but not at this moment. On the other hand, I should be entirely in favour of setting up a Royal Commission as soon as possible, and the sooner the better.
359 Lastly, where there is insurrection which may be inflamed and which may spread, it is better to have too much firmness—almost ruthlessness—in the early stages, rather than run the risk of being thought to be weak or vacillating. I should like to see a message go out from this House, from all sides—and I think that this is in accord with what is really in the hearts of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—that we are agreed and determined to stamp out the evil lawlessness of this terrorism and, at the same time, to uphold the actions taken by those responsible and in whom we have complete trust.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I think I am the only one who has taken part in this debate so far who has no experience whatever of any part of Africa. Some hon. Members opposite may regard that as one example of the kind of outside interference which they deprecate.
I do not take that view. As that country is now constituted under our Commonwealth constitution the ultimate responsibility for what takes place there is that of the Minister; but not his alone, because he is responsible not in any personal capacity but as a Minister of the Crown who is responsible to this House. Many hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, "Leave it to the man on the spot; have confidence in him; do not interfere with him, certainly not from London." I would say to those hon. Gentlemen that neither they nor I can wholly renounce our own personal responsibility. In a sense I am as much responsible as the right hon. Gentleman himself.
There may come a time—we all hope there will—when that will cease to be true, when this Colony and most of our other Colonies will have full and complete responsible self-government. That time is not yet, and until it comes it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman—and I am sure he accepts it—to satisfy this House that what is going on is rightly going on. So I make no apology whatever.
The first contribution I want to make to the debate is to say that it seems to me quite apparent from what has so far been said on both sides that we do not yet know the full facts of what took place last 360 Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman said that he knew enough facts to enable him to decide that an inquiry was unnecessary. That is my first complaint. I do not think that he does possess enough facts to show that an inquiry is unnecessary. I am glad to hear that the general sense of the House is that at the moment we have not the facts on which to form a judgment. If we have not the facts it must be because the right hon. Gentleman has not the facts either. I do not believe that if he had the facts in his possession he would not have communicated them to us.
§ Brigadier Peto
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that a commission of inquiry, consisting of representatives of this House should be sent out there?
§ Mr. Silverman
Personally, I would prefer it so, and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), but I do not regard that as necessarily essential. I think that the events of last Sunday are serious enough in themselves and in their possible ultimate implications to make it vitally necessary for this House to inform itself as early as possible as to what actually occurred.
The second point is this. Everyone who has taken part in the debate so far—and I do not disagree—has spoken of the overriding importance of preserving law and order. But lawyers divide the law, at any rate, into two classes; there are those offences referred to as mala quia prohibita and there are those which are mala in se. In other words, there are those things which are an offence only because the Government have forbidden them and there are those things which are evil in themselves. In the present law of Kenya, this meeting on Sunday was a crime, but nobody in the House will think that the right of assembly is a crime in itself. This was a crime in Kenya only because the Government of the day had chosen to prohibit meetings.
But again, another legal maxim worth remembering is that a law which does not carry with it the moral consent, or at least the moral acquiescence, of the vast majority of the people for whom the law is made, is a very bad law indeed. My right hon. Friend said that meetings are going on all over Kenya in spite of the prohibition. I do not know about that. 361 We are told that the meeting on Sunday was attended by 2,000 people. That does not look as though the Kenya Government's decree prohibiting meetings carried with it the authority of the majority of the inhabitants of Kenya, and if it did not, then the Government would be wise to withdraw it forthwith.
If a Government are to prohibit meetings in a country where the majority of the people desire to hold them, then they have to rely for their government only on force, and if the force is insufficient, the Government will be defeated. There can be no greater crime against law and order than for a Government to take up a position in which it can enforce its will not by the consent of the governed but by force, and then not have the force with which to enforce it; this is the worst way of government; this is the easiest way to anarchy.
§ Mr. F. Harris
If it were subsequently found that a large number of the people who were assembled there came from 20 or 30 miles away, would the hon. Gentleman still agree that such meetings ought not to be permitted at a time so critical as this?
§ Mr. Silverman
I was not aware that it was in the newspapers, but let me take the hon. Gentleman's point. It is a valid point on the general idea I am putting to the House, whether it applies to this case or not.
We have had experience of this kind in this country. There were the days when Mosley and his supporters used to disturb the peace of the country. In every single case they did it by bringing in lorry and van loads from 10, 20, 40, 50 miles away, and as much as 100 miles or 200 miles away, and brought only for the purpose of causing mischief. Hon. 362 Members opposite would not say—I myself would not have said—that those meetings ought to have been prohibited for that reason. What I am saying is that it is quite clear, if what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning is correct, that meetings are being held all over Kenya despite the prohibition, and I say that that means we have to rely on force, and that the event has shown we cannot rely on force.
Now I come to the point of the age and experience of the young men. I do not think anybody on the opposite side who heard my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) make his speech really thinks he was intending to cast any kind of reflection upon those boys. Certainly, he did not. He went out of his way to make it quite clear that he was not doing anything of the kind. Nor is there anybody in the House who does not know that people even as young as that in all countries and at all times have sometimes been forced to take decisions of the utmost gravity and the heaviest responsibility. And that will always happen. There is no reason why it should not happen. But the suggestion here is not merely confined to their age. One of them had had only six weeks' experience of Kenya altogether, and he was 20 years old.
§ Brigadier Peto
The young one the hon. Gentleman mentioned would not have had the executive task of giving the order to fire. He would have taken the order from the senior one above him.
§ Mr. Silverman
That senior one was only 22, and he had had only a few weeks' experience himself. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really think—and I think his opinion is likely to be a sounder one than mine on such a point because, obviously, he has had very much more experience of it—it right to send people with such short experience, of ages like this, in charge of a mere handful of native troops—
§ Mr. Silverman
Yes, of course, police—eight or nine of them, in order to disperse a mob of 2,000 people, some of whom, at any rate, were armed? How else could they do it than by shooting? Does he really think it was a wise decision? My right hon. Friend made this point. To whom was the report of 363 the original disturbance made, and who had the responsibility for deciding what would be done about it? We shall probably get an answer to that later, but for the moment would the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, if he had been the responsible officer in that part of Kenya last Sunday, have sent these three youths, with that handful of police, to handle that mob of 2,000 people determined to hold a meeting in spite of the Government's prohibition? Would he? I know perfectly well that he would not, and that was the basis of my hon. Friend's criticism.
In our long history we have had experience of this kind of thing in many parts of the world. Ireland has been referred to; and we have had a recent experience in Palestine. The experiences of the American colonies in the last quarter of the 18th century—if my history is right—have been referred to, about which I think Sir Edmund Burke is well worth reading in this African context. What is clear is that one cannot by force impose a minority régime against the will of the mass of the people, and if we are to do any good in Kenya, or Africa, it is obvious that we must do our utmost to ally with our purpose the active consent of the majority of the people whose land it is.
That cannot be done if we persist in the attitude of the Kenya Government, in deliberately spurning the offer of any kind of co-operation from the natural leaders of the African section of the population. It seems to me that it was out of these three things that the disaster, as I am sure everybody agrees it to be, of last Sunday occurred. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to an immediate inquiry into the events of last Sunday, and into the decrees and prohibitions out of which those events arose.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
At the outset, I should like to make a reference to the slight altercation I had with the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) while he was speaking. I am sorry he is not in his place, but when he reads what I say in HANSARD tomorrow I hope he will agree. In the course of his remarks he suggested, as did various hon. Members throughout the debate, that in his view a commission of inquiry should 364 be sent out immediately, and I made the comment that I thought that was ridiculous. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman heard exactly what I said, but that was my comment.
§ Mr. Craddock
I stand to be corrected, but what I recall is that I said "ridiculous." Anyway, there is not much to choose between "ridiculous" and "nonsense." Whatever phrase I used, I still feel that it would be a very great mistake for a commission of inquiry to be sent out to Kenya at this juncture.
My approach to the whole of this problem is this. Rightly or wrongly, when listening to discussions on these matters in this House I have formed the impression, particularly from the speeches of many hon. Members opposite, that they never seem to give full credit for the tremendous work which has been done in East Africa, and in other British Colonies, by the British administration in those Colonies, the European settlers and the missionaries. That is one of my great objections to so many of the comments one hears. Even this evening, in this debate, we have heard very little reference, so far as the Mau Mau trouble in Kenya is concerned, to the ghastly atrocities that have been committed on many fine Europeans who have served Kenya for years, and with great success.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
The hon. Gentleman must not say that. Surely in this debate we are limited to what occurred last Sunday.
§ Mr. Craddock
And matters relevant thereto, according to Mr. Speaker's Ruling. We have heard a great deal about the killing of Africans, and that is very regrettable indeed. Nevertheless, if any message is going out from this House tonight on this matter, it should be that this House has the fullest confidence in the administration in Kenya to handle this matter.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
That is quite wrong. I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw that statement. I have been sitting here all the time.
§ Mr. Craddock
I did not see the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I certainly withdraw my remark.
Let me now turn to the next point, that made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He took great exception to the banning of these meetings. I think that he said—and his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly also said—that there were meetings going on in this connection throughout the whole of Kenya. So far as my information goes these meetings are confined to the Kikuyu Reserve. That is the point. I much regret that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has not spent any time in that part of the world, and I have no doubt he will take the opportunity of doing so at some early date.
§ Mr. Craddock
Even in my short time in this House, I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's thirst for knowledge and experience, and I think it will be a good thing if he went there, because if he knew East Africa, I think that he would agree that the ordinary rules, legal or otherwise, in connection with meetings do not apply to Mau Mau at all.
§ Mr. Craddock
Yes, at this present juncture, I do.
I want to confine myself to the ambit of this debate. This Mau Mau trouble is no new thing in Kenya. It has been going on for years, and in the last 20 or 30 years there have been spasmodic outbreaks of Mau Mau trouble. What is this Mau Mau movement? We all know that it is what one would simply and quickly describe as witchcraft. It is a movement of appalling barbarism and most frightful savagery, and I myself, some 17 or 18 years ago, actually saw what had been done to an African who 366 had refused to join the secret society of Mau Mau. I cannot describe the appalling mutilation that was committed on that unhappy and unfortunate African. It is a purely barbaric movement which must be stamped out, in my view, with absolute ruthlessness. I certainly feel that the administration is fully entitled, and, indeed, it is its boundened duty, to take every step to stamp out the spreading growth of this horrible movement.
§ Mr. Rankin
Would the hon. Member agree that this movement should be stamped out in Basutoland by the same methods as are employed in Kenya, because what he describes in Kenya is just as rife in Basutoland?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member will not reply to that question. It would be quite out of order for him to do so.
§ Mr. Craddock
As I say, if hon. Members had seen some of the crimes that have been perpetrated by the followers of Mau Mau, I am quite certain they would agree that the administration was right, and that my right hon. Friend the Minister was correct in saying that we must take the strongest steps possible to stamp it out. Because, apart from the wounding, maiming and killing of Europeans, the largest number of victims are the Africans themselves.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly says—as I understood him to say—that the present action of the administration would have the effect—and I quote his words—"of driving all Africans into Mau Mau," with the very greatest respect, I do not agree at all. If I know the African at all, I should say that the bulk of the Africans in Kenya are wholeheartedly behind the Administration in taking these very strong measures to stamp out Mau Mau.
§ Mr. Craddock
I took his words down. His words were that the action being taken now "might have the effect."
§ Mr. Craddock
Yes, I am just as well educated as is the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. Will the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) accept it if I say that his right hon. Friend said that it might have the effect of bringing all the Africans into Mau Mau.
§ Mr. Craddock
I do not accept that statement for one minute. I do not believe that the large numbers of Africans will have anything to do with Mau Mau at all. I believe the very reverse of that will be the case. All my information at the moment is that the bulk of the Africans are behind the administration in adopting these very stern measures.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) complained that the administration had made a great mistake in not allowing the leaders of the African people in Kenya to address meetings of the people. There, again, I believe that would have an entirely adverse effect. My view is that the Africans in Kenya are much more inclined to pay attention and heed to what the District Commissioners and their own chiefs tell them than to anything that they are told by the so-called leaders who have set themselves up in Kenya today.
Be that as it may, I believe that on Sunday last at Kirawara the administration were perfectly justified in their action. I believe they must take the very strongest and sternest measures to stamp out the appalling atrocity of Mau Mau. Fortunately, it is a movement which is not supported by many Africans; it is a small cult imbued with primitive ideas of savagery and barbarism, and the sooner it is stamped out the better for all concerned, in Kenya and for the Africans in particular.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) could not have read with very great care the debate which took place in the House on 7th November. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and many other hon. Friends of mine made it clear that we have the utmost sympathy with those who have suffered at the hands of the Mau Mau supporters and that the Secretary of State and the Government had the wholehearted support of the Opposition in taking the necessary steps to suppress Mau Mau. We made it clear on that occasion, and we can repeat it now if the hon. Gentleman wishes it to be repeated. The Opposition stand 100 per cent. behind the suppression of Mau Mau.
We are discussing and rightly discussing—although I know that a number of hon. Gentlemen want to gag us—how the situation last Sunday came about. The hon. Member for Spelthorne rightly said that secret societies and witchcraft are endemic in Africa. That sort of thing is commonplace; it is going on all the time. If it is not called Mau Mau, it is called something else. It is bestial, wicked and illegal, and it must be put down. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, in Kenya it is confined to a small area, to the Kikuyu Reserve.
We have all the evidence we need that the outbreak came about suddenly. We can even fix the date. On 17th July the Secretary of State came to the House for the debate on colonial affairs in which we review the whole of our colonial activities, and he said not one word about Mau Mau or disorders. It must have been a rather sudden occurrence.
The hon. and gallant Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) put forward a perfectly acceptable military doctrine, though an old-fashioned one. It was about trusting the man on the spot. I am all in favour of trusting the man on the spot, but that leads to one of my criticisms of the Secretary of State. He failed in his duty to send out the new Governor, and for four months he left the Colony, when bordering on insurrection, without a Governor. That is a charge that has never been answered. Last Sunday is one of the consequences of the neglect of duty of the Secretary of State, and he cannot avoid that charge.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
The hon. Member, with his experience, will agree with me, I am sure, that when a Governor is away the Chief Secretary carries on, and generally Chief Secretaries are quite capable of carrying on in the absence of the Governor.
§ Mr. Wigg
The simple fact is that whether the Chief Secretary is capable or not, there was a failure to appreciate the gravity of this situation, otherwise I am quite sure that the Colony would not have been left without a Governor for four months. When the Secretary of State did appreciate the situation what did he do? He did not introduce his emergency measure in the Kikuyu Reserve only. He applied them over the whole of Kenya. He had at least four and a half battalions and a cruiser and we must not forget the cruiser.
§ Mr. Wigg
Not last Sunday, but the right hon. Gentleman must not forget the provocative use of the cruiser in Mombasa. He ordered the sailors to march through the streets in an area in which there were no disorders and where there have been no disorders. It was a demonstration of force because, of course, the policy of Her Majesty's Government and of the Secretary of State is not based upon political reconciliation. The right hon. Gentleman does not want an agreement. What he wants to use is ruthless force. He told us so today.
One of the very interesting aspects of the whole Kenya trouble has been the reports in "The Times." They have been quite objective, at least from one point of view. Certainly, no one in the Conservative Central Office or the Colonial Office could take any objection to the reports appearing in "The Times." They have favoured the Government point of view. I am not going to rely on "The Times" of this morning, although I read the article in it with very great interest.
I want to turn to "The Times" of 30th October, because on that day the Secretary of State arrived in Kenya, and, therefore, the special correspondent of "The Times" had the advantage of the advice of the official spokesman and maybe a hint or two from the Secretary of State himself. This is what he wrote: 370The completion of the police chase would have been much easier if there had been a clash in which large numbers of Mau Mau had put up a resistance and been rounded up.Those are the words of "The Times," and I should like to know from the Secretary of State whether, in fact, the sentiments expressed in "The Times" article were in any way a part of the official policy of the Government?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I can tell the hon. Member straight away that anything that appears in "The Times" relating to Kenya has not been inspired by or represents in any way official policy, but represents the opinions of the newspaper. With some of them I agree and with some I disagree.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is a step forward.
We know that the special correspondent out in Kenya was putting forward a point of view that must have come from somewhere. It has not been denied. The Secretary of State has had from 30th October to 24th November to deny this very simple fact that the police were hampered because the members of the Mau Mau had not put up a resistance. One understands the reason for that. The Kikuyu are a docile people. They are not the kind of people described by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), who talked about the chiefs being natural leaders. The Kikuyu have become so detribalised that they have no natural leaders. That is one of the troubles. The Government have to appoint them. The Government pay a certain number of people to act as chiefs. Those chosen serve the Government and the Kikuyu people to the best of their ability.
The fact is, however, that the only people in Kenya who can talk to the Kikuyu are the leaders of the Kenya Africa Union and, whether the Secretary of State likes it or not, he must either use those leaders or rely upon force. His answer, of course, is force and ruthless force. Yet as one of the African leaders in the Kenya Legislative Council said, the trouble is that when peaceful methods fail, force remains, but when force fails, nothing else remains.
That is the position in which the Secretary of State finds himself now. He relied on force. He relied on four and a half battalions. He sent the cruiser H.M.S "Kenya" away and a frigate 371 has taken its place. Then he found himself caught up in a police action which brought about the deplorable result of 16 Africans losing their lives and a worsening of the general situation in Kenya. His four and a half battalions, his cruiser and his policy based upon force have not brought about an improvement of the situation. As he said himself today, the situation has in many ways worsened. One of the reasons why my right hon. Friend moved the adjournment of the House was because we are afraid that if not next Sunday, on some other Sunday we shall find once again a worsening of the situation.
Sooner or later a Secretary of State has to realise that a policy of force by itself will not produce an answer. Somebody, at some stage, has to get people around a table in order to find a policy for a basis of peace in Kenya, and the sooner a start is made the better. I should have thought it would have led to a general leavening of the political temperature if a delegation went out from this House to talk to members of all races in Kenya round a table, get them to see that it is in the interests of everybody that a policy of force should be abandoned, and get a foundation of good will which, in the long run, is the only way of achieving a peaceful Kenya as a result of which we can abandon the use of troops.
The Secretary of State ought to tell us at what point the police take over and at what point the military take over. It seems to me extraordinary that, with the considerable forces at his disposal, a situation should be reached in which 2,000 Kikuyu faced three inexperienced police officers. Where were the troops? They have been sent out there. Indeed, the Secretary of State held up the imposition of emergency measures until he was quite sure he had his four and a half battalions there. What are they doing? What are the troops there for if they are not there to police the Kikuyu Reserve, the area in which there are these disorders?
The situation has been handled from the start with the greatest incompetence. The Secretary of State has got himself into a mess, he does not know how to get out of it and the consequence is that the people of Kenya and of this country 372 have to foot the bill. I have said it before, and I repeat it tonight, that the best thing the right hon. Gentleman can do is to resign. Sooner or later he will have to resign. There can be no fresh start in Kenya as long as the right hon. Gentleman is the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He would do something to make up for the wrong he has done, not only to the people of Kenya but to his fellow countrymen, if he offered his resignation to the Prime Minister who, I hope, would accept it.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) at great length, but I nevertheless believe it to be necessary at least to correct the impression that he gave to the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies wants to use force.
I hope that I am not misrepresenting what the hon. Member said, but I understood him to suggest that it was the desire of the Colonial Secretary to use force. Really, the force on this occasion with which we are concerned is that which is used by this criminal organisation known as Mau Mau. There is no possibility of conferences with such people and under such circumstances. Conferences which are born of violence are usually doomed to a very serious failure.
I should very much doubt whether anyone who has heard the whole of this debate could feel assured that it would serve any useful purpose whatever. Equally, it would be right and fair to say of the restraint shown by hon. Members opposite—I mention particularly the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway), both of whom showed marked restraint in the tones which they used—that it is a matter for which we can all be grateful that no wilder words have been used on what is a very explosive occasion.
I thought, however, that there has been a note of unreality permeating right through all the tenor of this discussion. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough referred to the young men. Are we not entitled to recognise and admit that this is an emergency, at any rate for the inhabitants of Kenya, and that in emergencies these young men are very rightly called upon to do their best, and that it 373 is most unreasonable to suggest that the fact that such young men have been called upon is a sign of unpreparedness?
Whatever else may be said against the Government, surely it is a most unreasonable charge to level against them that three young men, in a large country like Kenya, have been willing to come forward and do their duty. I know what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who is about to rise, is going so say: that it was not the intention—I gladly admit this—of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough to suggest anything against those young men themselves. I do not dispute that for a moment. All I am saying is that it is a most irrelevant argument to bring against the Government that the services of these young men should have been used.
I think that the same unreality was present in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly. As one of my hon. Friends has said, the suggestion that an unarmed man—whether an African leader or a white man is immaterial—should have attended this meeting and seriously suggested to them that they should have disbanded, is so unreal and so impractical as not to be worthy of the consideration which normally arguments coming from the right hon. Gentleman should receive in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the hon. Member mean that the meeting ought to have been dispersed, that the only way it could have been dispersed was in the way chosen, by sending this handful of people led by these three young men, and that, therefore, the shooting was justified by the mere holding of the meeting and not by the fear that the meeting was going to attack?
§ Mr. Peyton
There was a dangerous situation. A large crowd had assembled when public meetings were banned by law. It was, therefore, the duty of the authorities to disperse that meeting, using the minimum of force that was necessary. Surely the hon. Member, with his experience, appreciates the principle underlying that.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Do I gather from the hon. Gentleman that in circumstances of this kind—and there may be others—no attempt of a peaceful character should be made by civilian officers to disperse the 374 gathering before the armed force is brought in?
§ Mr. Peyton
Certainly not. I entirely agree that every attempt should be made peacefully to disperse these crowds, but a crowd of 2,000 men armed with savage knives does not present a very tempting target for an unarmed civilian to approach and disperse on his own.
I believe that in present circumstances it would be most dangerous to remove the ban on public meetings. It would obviously place on the administration, which is already carrying in this emergency an exceptionally heavy burden, a quite unfair extra burden were we to ask them to observe and to allow the normal rule of public meetings to go on unsuspended.
It is not from a party point of view that I would approach this matter. It is of desperate importance that we should not allow emotion to cloud our judgment in any way, and it is of vital importance that the emotion which is so engendered in this House, and even more dangerously outside it, should not be allowed to cloud our clear duty, which is the re-establishment at any early date of law and order in Kenya.
I believe that that emotion is something which has already done very grave harm indeed in this highly vexed question of racial relations. So often it has allowed us in this country and in this House to give the impression among wide areas of the world that we are not prepared to do what I believe is our duty, namely, to support those who are carrying out the tasks of administration.
I think that we in this House should pause tonight to think of the extreme difficulties and the vastly increased burdens which are now carried by members of the administration in Kenya. We should seriously pause, even in the midst of this very difficult and vexed racial question, to remember those burdens and the people who are carrying them, and to send them a message tonight, a message certainly not of party politics, but of encouragement, to the effect that we in this House, quite regardless of party, will support them in all they may do which is right and within the letter of the law.
This question links itself up, too, with the misunderstanding which has grown in recent years concerning our attitude towards the white populations. I was very 375 glad and perhaps a little surprised to hear the very generous way in which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough began his speech tonight. He said quite clearly that his recent visit to Kenya had revealed to him the appallingly dangerous and difficult atmosphere in which the white populations live.
Incidents such as the tragic occurrence of last Sunday should, I believe, always remind us of the position in which a white minority lives among a race, the large majority of which has only just begun to acquire the rudiments of civilisation.
The white minority in such circumstances should not be tempted too far by accusations from here or by taunts such as sometimes have come their way. I believe that if we are going to make progress over this vexed racial question we shall only do it by making it perfectly clear, that we are not prepared, on an unbridled and uncontrolled wave of emotion, to betray that white population to whom we owe our best and primary duty.
I do not believe that this debate has served any useful purpose. I do not believe equally that it has done any harm, but I believe that a Division tonight on this Motion would do immense and incalculable harm. I do not know what are the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly. I can only guess from the remarks that he made and from the way in which he made them that his intentions are to advise his hon. Friends not to divide the House.
In that case I can only say that I welcome that decision most sincerely, because I believe that to divide the House tonight on a party basis would have one real consequence. It is that outside this House, right beyond its confines, such a Division would be taken as a condonation of violence, a betrayal of those to whom we owe a considerable duty and a jettisoning of what is really vital and truly a great Imperial trust.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
I should like to begin by thanking almost all the hon. Members who have taken part in this debate for the very temperate way in which they have put their arguments. I must except the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), though his speech, which 376 he has made so often, has really so lost its stings that I might even include him among those who made balanced statements.
All through these speeches one could detect a very great sense of responsibility in the very critical times which face Kenya today. I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will interrupt me if I forget or seem to avoid any point that they have made. I hope that they will not hesitate to hold me up if they think that I am trying to avoid any of them. I will make no small points, but will try to put to the House exactly how this situation last Sunday appears to me, how I think it has been dealt with, and what lessons we shall learn from it.
First of all, the situation is in no sense critical as a result of last Sunday, but, of course, the possibility of grave convulsions must always be present in our minds. Since I made a statement in this House this afternoon I have had a further telegram from the Governor of Kenya. I think—and I say this with some diffidence—that it will be for the convenience of the House if I give a complete account of these events, incorporating the extra information which I have received since, because in the course of this debate there have been some varying versions of what occurred in the same events. Probably it would be for the convenience of the House if I restated the events, if, in other words, I gave an official report of what has happened. In doing so, I will turn aside here and there to pick up some points made in the debate.
I will begin by reminding hon. Members who have not had the advantage of being in the Colony that Kirawara is a very small place, not marked on most maps and in the Thika district, and although it is in that district it is in what we should describe as typical Fort Hall country—that is to say, country broken up into a series of small hills and valleys with a good deal of standing timber, and thickly populated. At about half-past 10 in the morning of the day of these events—I use that equivocal phrase because the latest telegram says it was 22nd November which would be a Saturday, and that could be a mistake—a police constable and eight Askaris, four of whom were armed, found a mob of about 2,000 strong partly armed with 377 pangas—long knives of the country—assembled in Kirawara market place. This is the first of the events.
I want to interpolate here something about the emergency regulations and public meetings. Public meetings of this kind are illegal under the emergency regulations. They are illegal at the moment all over the Colony of Kenya. I take up at this point something that was said by the hon. Member for Dudley. It is not desirable to continue emergency regulations outside the areas affected for a day more than is necessary, and that is the policy which I discussed with the Governor and which the authorities there will pursue.
Nevertheless, a mob of 2,000 people cannot be collected in such a small place as this without messengers having gone out far and wide to collect them. There they were, and it is unquestionable that they were engaged in an illegal meeting. I have studiously avoided trying to put any debating points, but I must say that those who think that in this state of the Colony a meeting should be allowed, are in my opinion wrong. I must give some reasons why they are going to continue to be illegal until the Colony is in a much quieter state.
After all, if the law is flouted—and this particular meeting was flouting the law—is it generally the right way to make what is illegal legal in order to get out of the difficulty? I think not. Such a doctrine, if carried to its logical conclusion, is complete surrender. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that the Government could commit no greater crime than to be unable to keep law and order, and that in those circumstances the last state of the country was very much worse than the first. I do not think that is controversial.
Let me just discuss a little further this matter of these meetings. Does any right hon. or hon. Gentleman really think that in this state of the Kikuyu Reserve we could permit the assembly of, say, 20,000 people without great danger to the public safety, especially having regard to the number of police per head of the population? Hon. Members are entitled to their opinion, but if any hon. Member says that such an assembly could be permitted I must say that I do not agree.
378 One of the causes of these troubles was that at one time a meeting of 20,000 or 30,000 of the Kikuyu was permitted and was given some very inflamatory speeches by leaders. I must say with absolute bluntness that I would not be willing to accept responsibility for advising the Kenya Government in these conditions to permit public meetings. Let me hasten to add that such an embargo is only justified when law and order is seriously jeopardised, and it is, if you like, a self-criticism of the state of the Colony that this measure is necessary.
I can only say to the House that so far as lies within my power and that of the Governor, we will try to restore the right of assembly, which is one of the fundamental rights, as soon as the state of public safety permits. I think that is a fair answer but from the quite practical point of view I must say that to admit public meetings which might easily reach figures of 20,000 or 30,000 in this state of the Colony would be absolute folly.
Another point which was raised by the last speaker from the other side was the question of what the troops were doing. That argument appeared to be designed to be in favour of martial law. I do not take that view in this case, any more than I do in the case of Malaya. I think that here we must rely as far as possible upon the civilian authority and the police to keep the Colony in order. That is not to say that armed forces—soldiers—should not be held in reserve in case—which is quite possible—what is now a secret society movement develops into an open rebellion. I think I have the House with me in saying that for as long as possible we intend to deal with these particular movements by civil police action under the law as it exists in Kenya.
To resume the narrative—the House will remember that so far a corporal and eight Askaris had discovered this meeting. The mob advanced on these nine men and stoned them. After warning the crowd the corporal opened fire, but withdrew in face of the overwhelming numbers and threatening attitude of the crowd. No casualties were reported from the police—the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) raised this point—but three casualties were reported, though not confirmed, amongst the crowd. The corporal then went to Thika for reinforcements.
379 The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) asked if it was not desirable that a civil officer should make an attempt to disperse crowds in these circumstances. I am all for using all available agencies, especially civilian ones, for trying to restore law and order or trying to prevent a breach of the peace. In this case—which I cannot guarantee will happen in every case—a civilian officer, Chief Ndumgu, with three Askaris attempted to disperse this particular mob. I may say that this Chief knows the language, which answers another point made by the right hon. Gentleman. The Chief was chased off by the mob. So that attempt to obtain a dispersal of this crowd by peaceful means, by a civil officer speaking the language, had manifestly failed. At half-past 12—that is, two hours after the mob were originally told to disperse—Inspector Blackwell, with two European officers and 22 African police, arrived and took up position on two sides of the market square.
At this point I must turn aside to discuss the matter of the age of these officers. It is very regrettable—as two or three hon. Members opposite have mentioned—that great responsibilities should devolve upon officers of this age. I admit it freely. I discussed this matter with the Governor, and the Government are determined to police the Kikuyu areas very much more closely than they are now policed. The number of police in comparison to the total population is infinitesimal and as long as that situation exists I am bound to say, quite frankly, that there will be occasions when grave responsibilities will devolve upon quite young men.
But I think we should also remember that none of us who are getting old would be in this House if the youth of our country had not accepted and fulfilled its responsibilities in every quarter of the globe. Let hon. Members remember that. However, be that as it may, it is perhaps significant that the actual cause of the assembly of this mob was to resist the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman wishes—and I agree with him—the building of a police post in order that there should be more police and that these very heavy responsibilities should not be faced upon officers who many of us would 380 regard—I would not be one—as of immature age. That is the reason why the mob assembled, because they wanted to pull down the police post which was in the course of being built.
I will leave this part of the subject by saying that I agree with hon. Members who suggest that it is desirable that these grave responsibilities should devolve only upon the oldest and most experienced officer in the area. We all agree about that, but I must, equally frankly, say that, with this spread of the police, it is very likely that here and there quite junior people may have to take serious decisions. The point here is that in taking these decisions the police and these officers behaved with the greatest restraint and sense of discipline.
I now resume the narrative. The mob was then in a state of frenzy and was being harangued by a youth and a young woman. I do not know whether they were members of the Mau Mau. The House will see from the narrative some of the dangers of unlimited public assembly which has been advocated, and very sincerely advocated, by some hon. Members. This mob had been worked into a state of frenzy by a youth and a young woman, and Inspector Blackwell arrested the youth, who called upon the mob to rescue him.
The mob surged forward, and Blackwell ordered them to halt. This order was either not heard in the din or, if it were heard, it certainly was not obeyed. Accordingly, Blackwell himself and one of the other two European inspectors fired a burst of Sten gun fire into the ground, and the mob then lay down, but shortly rose again and attacked in the most determined manner.
I want to pause at this point to assure the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that there is no question of the mob being unable to get away or anything of that kind. They were in a state of frenzy and they attacked the police—the 2,000 against 25 men—in the most determined way. Inspector Blackwell did not order fire to be opened until the mob were within seven to 10 yards of the nearest policeman and his 23 men. Let me make it quite clear that there is no question, no doubt whatever, that these police were being attacked. When fire was opened, the mob bolted.
381 The wounded were attended at once and taken to hospital. Altogether, 343 were arrested. Some young boys were released. Some people will be charged with riot. The total confirmed casualties, on the information which I have received—despatched at 12.30 p.m. Nairobi time today—are 16 killed and 17 wounded. The mob leader, who was arrested, was a youth who was said to be dumb until last week. According to him, he recovered his speech and saw a vision, and he prophesied that God would arrive at Kirawara at one o'clock and that then aeroplanes would fall to the earth and the police bullets would be turned to water. These are the statements which had the effect of working this mob into a state of frenzy, and in these circumstances I think the House will have some sympathy with me in feeling that this order against assembly should be maintained until things are in a more peaceful condition.
All the communications also show that although this was caused by the building of the police post, the mob were inspired by the Mau Mau. I do not know whether the youth was a member of Mau Mau or had taken the oath, but it is apparent that the mob were inspired by the Mau Mau, because the Africans had removed all their European clothing before this meeting and piled it in the market place. As the House knows, this is the usual preliminary at Mau Mau meetings.
I want again to say that throughout this incident the police discipline was excellent. No unauthorised shot was fired, and the firing ceased immediately upon command. I have some experience both in war and peace of battle and civil disturbance. I know of no other way in which they could have acted when set upon by 2,000 armed with knives. I have other responsibilities in this matter, and if these 25 policemen had been hacked to pieces—which is what would have happened if they had not opened fire—then another series of equally disastrous events would have ensued.
These are the complete facts, and I am sure the House will take a balanced and objective view of them. It would be wrong, on the one hand, to give the impression that the police are justified, have carte blanche—whatever phrase hon. Members like—in opening fire whenever 382 any illegal mob is assembled, or even when their own safety begins to be threatened. It is as repugnant to me as it is to any hon. Member—and I believe the House will know that I am speaking with full sincerity—to condone the use of firearms except in very extreme cases.
But let me make it quite clear that equally it would strike a fatal blow to the cause of peace and law and order—I adopt the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—if it were thought that this House, after full evidence had been put before it of the circumstances, as it has in this case, were not prepared to support the police to the full in the proper exercise of their duty.
The tenor of some speeches made from the other side of the House was that we should order an inquiry into these events. I am always willing to order an inquiry where I am doubtful whether the officers on the spot, who have the full load of responsibility on their shoulders, have not acted in the best manner, and I am quite willing to order inquiry where there is any obscurity in what has happened.
But there is none here. Everything that can be found out about this incident has been found out, and it has been shown that the handful of police, three Europeans and 22 Africans, had to deal with a frenzied mob, mostly armed with those long knives, and organised by the secret society; and that they behaved with admirable discipline and restraint, and used their rifles only when they had to. It is quite clear from the reports that if they had not opened fire they would have been slashed to pieces, and I suggest that it would be wrong now for this House to re-open this case—to suggest that an inquiry should be made into something which is already known; because the moment that inquiry went forth from this House the Administration and police in Kenya would think we were not behind them.
I beg hon. Members in all parts of the House not to let the impression go back to Kenya—which, I think, from the temper of the House and what has been said today would be a false one—that we are now to let the police down. I end in the most seemly way I can end by again assuring the House that in all these matters—the emergency regulations—I will, with the Governor and the Government of Kenya, endeavour to remove 383 every check upon public liberty—public and private liberty—that is possible, having regard to the public safety. I ask the House to sympathise with me in often having to impose very repugnant measures just for this particular matter of public safety, because I am simple enough to think that unless the Government can deliver to their citizens freedom from fear, all other measures are merely nugatory.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
By your leave, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House, I am going to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends not to press this Motion to a Division. I want, however, to tell the Secretary of State that I am not satisfied with the reply on the narrow point which we have been able to discuss tonight. Indeed, I am more deeply concerned about the general trend of policy.
Let me reaffirm what I have said from the very beginning on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We are determined to offer our fullest co-operation in every way to stamp out the terrorism of Mau Mau. At the same time, we are deeply concerned that we should take every step to root out the underlying trouble; and in the face of the present emergency it is essential to preserve racial co-operation. We shall seek an early opportunity of returning to the larger questions beyond the scope of this debate, and of putting forward our constructive proposals of how we think this situation should be handled now, and in the future.
§ I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.