HC Deb 09 December 1953 vol 521 cc1965-8
31. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Africans have been killed, how many wounded and how many captured during operations against Mau-Mau since 1st January to the nearest convenient date.

Mr. Lyttelton

From 1st January, 1953, to 28th November, 2,821 Africans were killed and 980 were captured, of whom 263 had been wounded. In addition, 507 were presumed wounded but escaped. These figures apply entirely to operations of a military type and do not include figures of persons captured or arrested in operations of a police type.

Mr. Edelman

Do not the sinister proportions prove the ruthless manner in which the right hon. Gentleman's "shoot to kill" instruction is still being interpreted, and, in these circumstances, will he qualify the instruction in order to prevent this abuse which his own figures clearly show is still being carried on?

Mr. Lyttelton

The inferences which have been drawn from the figures by the hon. Gentleman are entirely wrong. These operations of a military character are conducted in thick jungle areas, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman's experience as a distinguished war corespondent would have led him to a different conclusion.

Mr. Edelman

Is it not the case that, in the whole history of war, there has never been a case in which the proportion of those killed to those wounded has been double, as it is in this case of operations in Kenya? In view of this fact, will not the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the manner in which the "shoot to kill" order is being carried out, in order to make sure that wounded men are not thereafter done to death?

Several Hon. Members rose

Hon. Members


Mr. Lyttelton

I cannot rise while a lot of hon. Members are on their feet. I am not yet prepared to alter these regulations to allow British soldiers and others on active service—which is what they are doing—in these forest areas to have to fight entirely with their hands tied behind their backs.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he expects the soldiers fighting in hand-to-hand fighting in these areas not to pursue indiscriminate methods of slaughter, in view of his own answer in this House a little while ago that any person who may be injured by bombs dropped from Lincoln bombers have only themselves to blame for being in a prohibited area? If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that death is the proper penalty for being in a prohibited area, how can he distinguish between dealing it out by bombs and dealing it out by Bren gun?

Mr. Lyttelton:

The hon. Member is entirely at sea in this matter. Very great precautions have been taken to warn everybody that they must not be in prohibited areas. The bombing, which is the question raised here, has been done on appointed targets, and these areas are almost entirely uninhabited, except by game.

43. Mr. Fienburgh

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will instruct the Kenya authorities to cease the periodic issue of figures of alleged Mau Mau killed.

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. Questions which have been addressed to me in this House indicate that it is in the public interest for figures of Mau Mau casualties to be published.

Mr. Fienburgh

Does not the Minister agree that the odd figures published at the end of particular operations are most likely inaccurate, probably of no value at all for intelligence purposes, and generally help to provoke an atmosphere in which killing instead of settlement becomes the main aim?

Mr. Lyttelton

I could not agree with that. If the hon. Gentleman looks back on the Order Paper he will see that Questions have been addressed to me on this very matter. I think that this House, the public and the security forces must have the figures which are now published roughly once a week.

Mr. Wyatt

Is it not the experience of the right hon. Gentleman from his own 'distinguished military record in the First World War that the number of persons killed, as recorded in these periodic lists, is extremely high in relation to those wounded or captured? Will he not take account of the fact that there is a mounting horror in this country at the vast number of people killed.

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. My experience in the First World War was never of fighting in almost impassable forest areas, nor would I accept in any way the nature of the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman makes.