HC Deb 19 March 1953 vol 513 cc210-3

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

101. Mr. FENNER BROCKWAY: TO ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if he will make a statement regarding the arrest and detention of Mr. Fanuel Odede, African Member of the Legislative Council of Kenya.

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

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should now like to give the reply to Question No. 101.

As the House is aware, Mr. Odede, an African Representative Member of the Kenya Legislative Council, was arrested on the 9th March and placed in detention. This was done with my approval. There had been reports for some time that Mr. Odede had attempted to create unrest in the Nyanza Province. More recently information was received from most reliable sources that he had been in touch with the Mau Mau movement, and had threatened a number of loyal Africans with the fate suffered by some law-abiding Kikuyu. This threat to use violence made it necessary for the Governor of Kenya to detain him.

Mr. Odede was not arrested for his political views or on account of any of his activities as a Member of the Legislative Council but because of his adyocacy of violence. It would not be in the public interest to disclose the identity of the people who have supplied information against Mr. Odede. Both the Governor and I are satisfied that the evidence against Mr. Odede comes from most reliable persons and that his detention in the present situation in Kenya is essential to the security of the Colony.

Those who have come forward must also be protected as far as lies in our power. Mr. Odede has been informed that he has a right to submit his objections to the Advisory Committee which has been set up under Emergency Regulation 2, sub-regulation (3), made on 24th February, 1953. This Committee will follow a similar procedure to that used under Regulation 18B in this country. A distinguished former Chief Justice has been invited to be its chairman, and his reply is awaited. If he accepts, the Advisory Committee will begin work before the end of next week, and in any case before the end of the month.

The Governor has made an extensive tour of Central and South Nyanza and reports that there is wide support amongst Africans for the action taken against Mr. Odede. He proposed to appoint a temporary Member in Mr. Odede's place so that the people of his constituency shall not be left unrepresented, and will consult me later about making a definite appointment to fill the vacancy.

Mr. Brockway

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the very serious implications of the statement which he has made? Would he not agree that four months ago this kind of charge against Mr. Odede would have been quite incredible? Does not this imply that even moderate African opinion, if these charges are true, is now being led to more extreme courses? Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman at least see that Mr. Odede has a public trial where he can publicly answer the charges which are now being made against him?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Member's supplementary question shows a complete lack of knowledge of what the situation in Kenya is at the moment. What our opinions might have been of Mr. Odede four or five months ago is quite beside the point. The point is that now we have definite information that he is trying to stir up trouble in Nyanza. Of course the use of 18B procedure is serious, as it was in this country in time of acute emergency. It will not be possible to bring Mr. Odede to public trial at this moment because witnesses are in fear of their lives and cannot be persuaded to come forward.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will my right hon. Friend agree, in view of the state of public security and in view of the terrible atrocities being committed by Africans against Africans, that such preventive detention is not only inevitable but is in the best interests of all races in Kenya?

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Odede offered to broadcast an appeal for non-violence as far back as last October, has constantly asked Her Majesty's Government for leave to address public meetings to appeal for nonviolence and non-association with Mau Mau, and that he has constantly tried to help in this matter but has been denied the right to speak to his people? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the recent statement that African opinion in Nyanza is against Mr. Odede is in entire conflict with the subsequent sentence that witnesses are going in fear of their lives? If opinion is in favour of a trial, let him have a chance of being tried fairly. Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that this arrest without trial of a public representative is almost unprecedented?

Mr. Lyttelton

Let me begin by correcting the hon. Member on a matter of fact. It has been made known to all the African Members of the Legislative Council that any application by them to address public meetings would be sympathetically received and no application of any kind has been received—that goes for Mr. Odede as well. I have nothing to add to what I have previously said.

Mr. Alport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that resolute action taken by the Government in Kenya will prevent the extension of murder and terrorism outside its present confines and will be supported not only by the people of this country but by law-abiding people of all races in East Africa as well?

Mrs. White

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether it is open to Mr. Odede to apply for writ of habeas corpus, as was possible under 18B?

Mr. Lyttelton

He can, of course, apply but whether it would be granted or not is a matter for the Kenya Supreme Court.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his attempted parallel with procedure under 18B breaks down completely in that in this country no attempt at arbitrary arrest by the Executive has ever been made except in time of war? Will he bear in mind, further, that it is impossible for Parliamentary institutions to grow up if individual members of the Assembly are subject to arbitrary arrest by the Executive, and that he will gain nothing by attempting to create a police State in a British Colony?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Member's supplementary question merely shows how certain hon. Members below the Gangway are completely out of touch with the situation in Kenya, which is analogous to a state of war or acute emergency. It is for this reason that the putting into force of such a Regulation becomes necessary.

Mr. Brockway

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.