HC Deb 02 March 1955 vol 537 cc2059-62
50. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he proposes to take against those settlers in Kenya who have been responsible for the distribution of leaflets warning members of Mau Mau that, despite the Kenya Government's amnesty offer, any member who surrenders will be hanged.

53. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the widespread dismay felt in Kenya by the action of European settlers in distributing leaflets warning members of the Mau Mau of the consequences if they accept the amnesty terms of the Government; and what instructions he has given the Governor of the colony in this situation.

58. Mr. Fenner Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action has been taken against the publishers and distributors of the leaflets repudiating the surrender terms announced in Kenya on 8th January.

65. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has now received on police investigations in respect of persons responsible for printing or distributing pamphlets or leaflets in Kenya proscribed under emergency regulations; and what action has been taken in respect of European or other periodicals which have been encouraging defiance of the law.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave on 23rd February to the hon. Members for Flint, East (Mrs. White) and Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). Police investigations are continuing and I await a further report. A new Emergency Regulation has been made which renders it an offence, punishable by up to two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £500, to communicate or attempt to communicate with terrorists to the prejudice of the surrender offer. Although various periodicals in Kenya have been critical of the Kenya Government, none has advocated defiance of the law.

Sir L. Plummer

In view of the fact that if action of the sort taken by the white settlers had been taken by the Kikuyu it would have led to their apprehension and execution, will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that swift and condine punishment is meted out to those people who break the law in this way?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think that the hon. Member must beware of a too easy generalisation of this kind. These particular pamphlets—and I have already said what I feel about them—were drawn up with great care in regard to the existing law of the land, and that is why it has been necessary to take further steps.

Mr. Johnson

May I ask the Minister to give the House a firm assurance that even-handed justice will be done in this matter? Would he further comment upon the speech of Mr. Humphrey Slade, and would he care to tell us what the Governor intends to do in this connection?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, of course, even-handed justice will be done irrespective of the race of those who break the law. Regarding speeches made either in Parliament or in the Legislative Council, I should hesitate to comment on matters which are privileged.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask whether, when considering this matter, the right hon. Gentleman will give serious consideration to the statement made in the Legislative Council last week by Mr. Matthui, one of the African members of the Council, that if some of these statements and actions had been made or performed by Africans, action would already have been taken? Is it not absolutely essential to the present conditions in Kenya that we shall as a Government both here and in Kenya show that we treat all races alike?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. As I have already hinted, these new powers had to be taken because the pamphlets in question appear to have been drafted in such a way as to avoid breaking the existing provisions of the law of sedition. I can give the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that they will be imposed without any regard to who has broken them.

Mr. Sorensen

May I ask the Secretary of State whether we are to deduce from what he said that in fact no offence has yet been committed, in view of his statement that regulations were about to be issued making this incident an offence?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I was talking about legal offences. I have also made it absolutely clear that in my view a gross moral offence was committed.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

While appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman said on this matter, may I ask him to see that there is no discrimination in the treatment of Africans and Europeans, and whether it is not the case that if Africans had been guilty of such offences they would have been screened and declared black and white? Should not what is good for the Africans be good for the Europeans?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In order to avoid any possible misunderstanding, if I do not answer the hon. Gentleman, I would add that if I say it four times it is no more true than when I say it once.

Mr. Alport

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there have been many instances of the distribution of these pamphlets or whether the instances have been relatively isolated?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

They have been relatively isolated, but there have still been quite enough to be very serious. Even if there had been only a handful, the offence would have been just as great.