HC Deb 21 October 1953 vol 518 cc1957-9
17. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what evidence he has that the People's Progressive Party, or its leaders, in British Guiana are Communist-inspired.

Mr. Lyttelton

I would invite the hon. Member's attention to the White Paper which has just been issued. (Cmd. 8980.)

Mr. Grimond

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have read the White Paper and, while agreeing that it reveals a most deplorable state of affairs in this Colony, might I nevertheless ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, has any action been taken against individuals who appear to be breaking the law; and secondly, bearing in mind that it is not in itself an offence to go behind the Iron Curtain and attend conferences there, is there any definite evidence that the disturances were inspired from outside the Colony?

Mr. Lyttelton

I must ask the hon. Member to wait for the statement which I shall make tomorrow. One has to cover the whole field, and by taking different little things here and there, the House will only get a false impression.

Mrs. Braddock

Do I take it that there is additional information which the Minister has not put in the White Paper, and if that is so, why does he produce a White Paper containing only part of the facts?

Hon. Members


Mr. Lyttelton

Hon. Members are getting very excited about nothing. The information is coming in all the time. All the statements in the White Paper are not just opinions; they are facts, and they require explanation and expansion by me.

Mr. Alport

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to the article in the Cominform Journal of 9th January this year in which instructions were issued to Communist leaders in Colonial Territories to increase their attempts to undermine and subvert the constitutions of these territories?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are we to understand definitely that all the evidence available to Her Majesty's Government up to the date of the publication of the White Paper is included in that White Paper?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, not all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] This is a matter of fact on which I must give the House a perfectly straight answer. There are a number of other speeches in the same sense but which are not included in the White Paper. If I were to include all the evidence, the White Paper might be double the size.

Mr. J. Griffiths

This is a matter of some importance. Acting for the Opposition, we put forward a request, which we thought was a reasonable one, that in anticipation of the debate the Secretary of State should prepare for us in a White Paper a full statement of all the evidence available upon which the Government's action has been taken. Am I to understand that we are to take it that in tomorrow's debate all the evidence available upon which the Government rest for justification of what they did in British Guiana is included in the White Paper? If not, and if some other evidence is available, ought it not to be published in the White Paper?

Mr. Lyttelton

I conceive it to be my duty to publish sufficient evidence to justify what Her Majesty's Government have done to meet the situation. The point which the right hon. Gentleman is taking is not a substantial one. Part of the evidence comes from published speeches of these Ministers, and it would be an infliction if all of them were to be published. Naturally a sensible selection is made of them.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has just said that he conceives it to be the duty of the Government when they publish a White Paper to give sufficient evidence to justify what they have done. When a White Paper has been published, is it not an old rule of the House that the House is entitled to all the facts available to the Government and not merely to such a selection of them as the Government may think sufficient for their purpose?

Mr. Speaker

I know of no such rule. I have known many White Papers in my time, and they have all purported to be no more than an account of certain matters, and not necessarily an exhaustive account; I think that would be impossible.

Mr. Silverman

If I may say so respectfully, Mr. Speaker, I do not dissent in the least from what you say, that White Papers give accounts of certain things. It is on that that I base myself. What the right hon. Gentleman has said is that the White Paper is not giving an account of the matter at all, but only sufficient of it to justify what the Government have done. I am asking whether it is not the duty of the Government, when they publish a White Paper which purports to be an account, to give a full account and not a selective one?

Mr. Speaker

Opinions must necessarily differ as to whether an account is full or not. This matter is for debate tomorrow and is not a point of order for me today.