HC Deb 15 December 1954 vol 535 cc1743-4
15. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how long it has been the practice to chain Mau Mau prisoners in Kenya; at what internals the chains are removed; and for what period.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Henry Hopkinson)

Under the Kenya Prisons Ordinance, 1948, certain adult male prisoners, which now include Mau Mau prisoners, may be confined in irons in order to ensure their safe custody. Irons are not employed as a punishment. The period of such confinement must not exceed three months, except by order of the Commissioner of Prisons. Irons may be removed at any time on medical direction.

As I informed the House on 8th December, Colonial Governments have been urged to bring their practices in this matter more into line with those of the United Kingdom, and my right hon. Friend will consult the Governor of Kenya in regard to the possibility of modifying the present practice there.

Mr. Fernyhough

While thanking the Minister for that helpful reply, may I ask him whether he realises that the present practice is doing irreparable damage to the good name of Britain, that it is really a throw-back to the Dark Ages, and makes a mockery of our criticisms and protests at what takes place in totalitarian States? As this practice degrades both the victims and the perpetrators, will the right hon. Gentleman press on until this undesirable practice is stopped?

Mr. Hopkinson

I must point out that the Kenya Prisons Ordinance was passed under the previous Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "An excuse."] I am only pointing that out in passing. I have given an assurance that my right hon. Friend will do his best to get this practice modified, but I would point out that in the case of out-door working parties in a place like Kenya, conditions are entirely different from those in this country, and it is sometimes difficult or impossible to ensure the safe custody of prisoners without some precaution of this kind.

Mr. Peyton

Does not my right hon. Friend think that some of the questions which come from the other side of the House do much more to make a mockery of the name of Britain?

Mr. Speaker

We must try to stick to the Question before us.