HC Deb 09 December 1953 vol 521 cc1974-5
48. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the declaration of the Attorney General in British Guiana that there is insufficient evidence to institute a prosecution, he will now withdraw his accusation as to the existence of an arson plot, involving leaders of the People's Progressive Party

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government are fully satisfied of the existence of the plot, despite the absence of evidence suitable for bringing a prosecution against individuals.

Mr. Swingler

For our guidance, will the Secretary of State for the Colonies say what is the principle of justice in British Guiana? Is a man innocent until he is proved guilty, or are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that a man is guilty until he proves himself innocent, even though he is not given the chance of doing so?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Gentleman must draw no such conclusion. Any responsible Government which is satisfied of the existence of a plot has to take action accordingly. It is quite a different matter if charges can be preferred under the common law against individuals. Every hon. Member who has to deal with these matters knows that what I have said is accurate.

Mr. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that had he allowed a plot of arson to come to fruition without taking action, he would nowhere have been ore severely criticised than by the party opposite?

Mr. I. O. Thomas

Will the Minister submit for the information of the House and the country details of the intended arson plot which, it is stated, existed, so that we may have some grounds on which to judge whether the action taken and the charges made are justified?

Mr. Lyttelton

No. Sir, I am not prepared to do that. I have other considerations to fulfil, particularly those concerning the security of the officers who made the report.