HC Deb 28 January 1953 vol 510 cc1013-7

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

77. Mr. ALPORT

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement regarding the situation now existing in Kenya; and how far loyal elements among the Kikuyu tribe have been of assistance to the authorities in their attempts to restore law and order.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a further statement on the situation in Kenya; and, in view of the latest atrocity, whether he is now satisfied that the Governor has full powers and adequate resources to re-establish law and order.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House I will make a short statement in reply to Questions 77 and 89.

Last week four major operations were carried out by the police and military and 350 members of Mau Mau were detained. In the three Kikuyu districts there has been an increase of confidence in the Government, and a number of Home Guard units led by anti-Mau Mau chiefs have been formed. Nearly 10,000 Kikuyu are enlisted altogether in Home Guards and resistance groups, and more Kikuyu are coming forward to take part in cleansing ceremonies. In the Nyeri district these Home Guard units dominate large areas.

There is evidence that the area under Mau Mau influence is being reduced. These developments, and the closer policing of the Kikuyu districts, have, however, driven some of the Mau Mau leaders to more desperate measures, and the danger of savage attacks by gangs may even for a time increase.

The news of the atrocious murder of Mr. and Mrs. Ruck, their small son and an African servant will have shocked the whole House, and I am sure that the House would wish to join with me in sending a message of deep sympathy to their relatives.

The House will wish to know how our plans for dealing with the emergency have been developing. On Monday, 26th January, the Governor announced the appointment of Major-General Hinde, a senior officer specially selected for this purpose who was formerly Deputy Military Governor of Berlin, to succeed Colonel Rimbault as his Personal Staff Officer for the period of the emergency.

Let me explain the duties of this officer and the Governor's powers. The powers of the Governor of Kenya are closely comparable with those of the High Commissioner in Malaya. In Malaya the High Commissioner is the supreme authority. Being a soldier he has a deputy on the civil side. Equally, in Kenya the supreme authority is the Governor and, being a civilian, he has a Military Staff Officer, who is charged with the duty of planning and controlling military and police operations. Just as General Templer's deputy on the civil side acts in his name and under his authority, so does the Military Staff Officer under Sir Evelyn Baring act in his name in the military and police sphere.

The Governor has set up an emergency Defence Council of all races to meet regularly and to advise him on emergency measures. The responsibility for the police is being transferred from the Attorney-General to the Chief Secretary, so that the former can concentrate on the other duties of his office, which have greatly increased Under the Emergency Powers Orders-in-Council, 1939, the Governor may make such regulations as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the territory, the maintenance of public order and the suppression of mutiny, rebellion and riot and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

Since my last statement, a number of new regulations have been made by the Governor under these emergency powers. These include the introduction of the death penalty for the administration of the Mau Mau oath in cases where the oath contains a promise to kill. The powers which the Governor has are comprehensive, and he will continue to have my full support in exercising them.

There is, I know, in Kenya some criticism by the Europeans—understandable, for they are under great strain—of what is called "Colonial Office control," that is, with the control exercised by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Since Her Majesty's Government and Parliament have the ultimate responsibility, we must retain ultimate control, but I am under no illusion that an emergency of this kind can be handled in detail by someone 7,000 miles away. I can assure the House that there has been and will be no unreasonable interference from London and no avoidable delay in dealing with those matters of policy on which consultation may prove to be necessary.

Law-abiding Europeans, Africans and Asians are living under conditions of great and daily strain and peril. The thoughts of this House are with them in their ordeal, and I am sure I am speaking for every hon. Member when I say that this House will support them in all the measures required to end terrorism and the campaign of murder and mutilation, and to restore peace and re-open the road to orderly progress.

Mr. Alport

Is my right hon. Friend aware how very greatly his statement will be welcomed, not only in this country, but in East Africa as well, and will he assure His Excellency the Governor that he has the support not only of my right hon. Friend, but, I think, of all parts of this House in putting into effect any proper and necessary measures that he may think fit in order to safeguard the lives of people of all races in Kenya?

Mr. Lyttelton

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. It is particularly gratifying to hear such words when they come from someone so well informed on these matters.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I join the Colonial Secretary in speaking, as I know he does, for the whole of the House and the nation, in extending sympathy to the relatives of the family who were murdered during the weekend?

I should like, if I may, to ask two questions. The first is about the new regulations on the death penalty for the oath taken by Mau Mau. May I take it that that is subject to the provision for appeal to the Supreme Court in all these cases which was provided for in the original regulations? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the composition of the Emergency Defence Council, who has been asked to serve on it and whether it is intended to work side by side with or to replace the Executive Council? May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Royal Commission has begun work and when it is intended that it should visit East Africa?

Mr. Lyttelton

I think that I can answer those questions very shortly. First, concerning powers of appeal, what I said only related to the penalty, and it is a penalty for the administration of the oath where that administration contains a condition to kill. The Emergency Defence Council has no executive function and is merely to advise the Governor. I cannot yet make a statement about its exact composition, but I understand that the numbers will be kept quite small and, as I have already said, it will represent all races. The Royal Commission is at work and has been for some time and, I believe, intends to leave for East Africa by the middle of February.

Mr. J. Hynd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House will welcome his assurance that we are having more co-operation from the Kikuyu and that we are accepting that co-operation? Can he assure us that those Kikuyu who are co-operating with us in suppressing Mau Mau terrorists will have adequate protection where it is possible? Can he make any statement on the protection that was given, or not given, to chief Hinga who was murdered in the Government hospital near Nairobi after assisting the authorities?

Mr. Lyttelton

I can only say in reply that any measure that we can take to protect law-abiding Africans, as well as Asians and Europeans, will be taken; but, of course, in a widely scattered district this is difficult.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I do not think that we can carry this any further. Mr. Bowles.

Mr. Hale


Mr. Speaker

We are getting very much behind time and I am thinking of the Committee that is to follow.

Mr. Hale

On a point of order. I came in to ask one question which I think is of importance.

Mr. Speaker

I would point out to the hon. Member—and sitting where he does he probably did not notice it—that several hon. Members rose, and there is no reason why I should pick one Member rather than another.

Mr. Bowles

Thanks to the courtesy of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) who withdrew a Question on this matter—

Mr. Hale

Further to my point of order. I was under the impression from what you said, Mr. Speaker, that you were calling my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) to ask a supplementary question of the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have passed that matter.

Mr. Hale

Further to that point of order. No back-bencher on this side of the House has been called to ask a single question on this extremely important statement.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is really challenging my Ruling in this matter. I must ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Hale

I rose to put a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the hon. Member's question was with regard to the Kenya situation. We have passed from that and I cannot allow his question to be put.