HC Deb 27 July 1955 vol 544 cc1151-3
1. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it was with his authority that consultations took place between the Governor of the Seychelles and the Bishop of Mauritius, as a result of which, after the refusal of the Archdeacon of the Seychelles to resign his post, he has now been informed, on behalf of the Governor, that he will not be allowed to return to the Seychelles.

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

My right hon. Friend is aware that the Governor of Seychelles has had correspondence with the Bishop of Mauritius on this subject. The question of Mr. Roach's return as Archdeacon is, however, a matter for the decision of the Bishop.

Mr. Fletcher

Is not this a monstrous interference with freedom of speech in the Seychelles? Is it not scandalous that the Governor of the Seychelles should use his influence, or attempt to use his influence, with the Bishop of Mauritius to prevent the return to the Seychelles of the Archdeacon, merely because he has thought fit to criticise the administration of Government in the Seychelles? Is the Minister aware that a petition is being widely signed in the Seychelles asking for the return of the Archdeacon?

Mr. Hopkinson

I do not think that there has been any question of criticism of the Administration. There is no doubt whatever that the Archdeacon has criticised a number of individuals and made allegations which have not been well-founded in many cases.

Mr. S. Silverman

How does the right hon. Gentleman know that?

Mr. Hopkinson

But the point is that no formal request was made by the Governor to the Bishop for the Archdeacon's removal. All the Governor did was to make it clear that in his opinion it was in the interests of the Colony and in the interests of the Anglican community that Mr. Roach should not return. I should like to say that everybody will agree on many of the Archdeacon's good qualities, on his sincerity and courage, but at times he has certainly been lacking in wisdom and certainly lacking in tact in a Colony where the situation is of great delicacy.

Mr. Silverman

So have the Government.

Mr. Nicholson

How does the Governor come into the picture, if the Archdeacon has not broken the law? I have not understood my right hon. Friend to say that the Archdeacon has broken the law. Is it not a most dangerous precedent that the Governor should intervene in Church matters, purely on matters of private opinion, when he has no legal right or status so to do? This may be a far-away Colony, but the ordinary rights of freedom of speech and common sense should be observed.

Mr. Hopkinson

This is not a question of free speech, but the Governor has had correspondence with the Bishop of Mauritius in the past on the subject of the Archdeacon's activities, and there is no doubt whatever that the Governor is entitled to express his opinion, a perfectly private opinion, about whether the Archdeacon's presence is in the interests of the Colony and the Anglican community, which is greatly divided on this subject.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the right hon. Gentleman state exactly what it is of which the Archdeacon has been accused? Has there been any public hearing of these accusations?

Mr. Hopkinson

No, Sir. There is no question of any public hearing of accusations. This is a matter, as I said at the beginning, for the Bishop of Mauritius to decide.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Minister is leaving this matter in a rather unsatisfactory state. Are we to gather that because this man expressed views which were unwelcome or unpopular he is to be deprived of the opportunity of going back to the Seychelles, and is to be without any opportunity of meeting the charges?

Mr. Hopkinson

The Archdeacon has had an opportunity of having these charges, which he has made against individuals, investigated in the past through the Governor, and he has also been in correspondence on the subject with the Colonial Office. They are allegations against individuals, and there is no question of the Governor's administration. But the fact is that he has stirred up a lot of trouble in a community where there is very great delicacy between the different denominations, and there is no doubt whatever that he has caused very great difficulties there.

Mr. Fletcher

On a point of order. In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the reply, and in view of the very serious constitutional issues involved, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.