HC Deb 10 March 1959 vol 601 cc1059-62
11. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a further statement about the disturbances in Nyasaland.

49. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the present situation in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.

55. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a further statement on the situation in Nyasaland.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Conditions in Nyasaland remain generally disturbed in the rural areas, but I am glad to say that there is a greater degree of stability in the main centres where conditions are returning to normal. Rumour is rife, and by broadcasting and dissemination of pamphlets every effort is being made to ensure that the true facts are brought to the notice of the people. Members of the African Civil Service, Posts and Telegraphs and Railways are back at work; but intimidation of loyal chiefs continues and attacks on Government servants outside the main centres have been increased.

Conditions are probably worst in the Northern Province. The homes of some African Government officers, schools and other public buildings have been burned down and communications have been disturbed by the widespread sabotage of roads and bridges.

Two mission schools have been burned. Troop reinforcements have now moved in to this Province.

In the Central Province two mission stations belonging to the Watch Tower Bible Society are reported to have been burned down, but there appears to be a decreasing number of incidents and among estate labour there has been a reaction of relief to the removal of Congress leaders.

In the Southern Province the situation in the Mlanje area remains tense with widespread interference with the telephone lines. Crowds have gathered on some of the tea estates, and on 7th March a riot took place on Thornwood estate in which two Africans were killed and four injured. Some Asian shops in isolated positions have been looted.

Casualties up to and including 7th March amongst the rioters were 44 killed and 71 injured. Twenty-three members of the security forces, including 13 Europeans, have been injured and 16 civilians, making a total of 39. I have no information on how many of the civilians injured were African and how many European.

To sum up, the indications are that the situation is gradually improving in the Central and Southern Provinces but in the Northern Province remains serious.

In Northern Rhodesia the community as a whole is naturally anxious about developments in Nyasaland and particularly in case the activities of Zambia in Northern Rhodesia should bring about a similar situation there.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Now read the letters in the Manchester Guardian.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that when the situation in Nyasaland returns to normal the constitutional talks will continue? Will he also ascertain whether there have been favourable reactions among Africans in Nyasaland to the arrest of the more extreme members of the Congress Party?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The answer to both questions is "Yes."

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

The right hon. Gentleman referred to troop movements within the Central African Federation. Will he confirm the Press statement that an official statement was issued by the British Government that the Government have offered British troops in Kenya to be at the disposal of the Federal Government to deal with law and order in the British Protectorate of Nyasaland?

If this statement is correct, would the right hon. Gentleman say since when have the British Government abandoned their responsibility for law and order within this British Protectorate to Sir Roy Welensky? Is it not deeply humiliating to hand over British troops to Sir Roy Welensky to use in this Protectorate, and by what right was this done?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. and learned Gentleman is completely false in some of the assumptions and inferences which he has drawn. As the House knows, a small part of the United Kingdom Strategic Reserve is stationed in Kenya. It would be common prudence, when there is a state of disturbance in Central Africa, for measures to be taken to alert those forces, but there is no need for them to be used. The responsibility for law and order remains, as it has always remained, the responsibility of territorial Governors.

Mr. Grimond

Are we to understand that the Colonial Secretary wants to see the Southern Rhodesian forces withdrawn and replaced by British forces? Also, have any white people bean killed in these disturbances?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I have every hope that forces outside Nyasaland can be withdrawn shortly be-:muse of the restoration of law and order, but I have no wish that Federal forces outside Nyasaland should be withdrawn in order that United Kingdom forces should replace them. It has been suggested that there is a lack of co-operation between the Governor of Nyasaland and the Federal Government, which is completely untrue. The troops are there because the Governor of Nyasaland asked for them, and police reinforcements.

In answer to the second part of the supplementary question. I am glad to say that no people have been killed. The suggestion has been made that stories of a plot are obviously untrue because no one has been killed, but I would remind the House that the charge is frequently made that preventive action is delayed until it is too late.

Mr. Speaker

Lord Hinchingbrooke.

Mr. Brockway

On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has answered a question of mine on the Order Paper. Am I not entitled to put a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

I am hoping to come to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) in due course.

Lord Hinchingbrooke

Is it right to say that my right hon. Friend has not ruled out the possibility of the Minister of State paying a visit to Nyasaland and the rest of the Federation at an early date?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There is a later Question on the Order Paper which will enable me to deal with that point.

Mr. Brockway

Has the right hon. Gentleman yet received any evidence from the police of the story of a plot to massacre? Is it not the case that this information came from rewarded informers who had overheard a conversation in a forest last January? Is it not the case that Dr. Banda was not even there? Is it not the case that the Governor rejected this story? It was not until Sir Roy Welensky accepted it that any action was taken on the matter.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

That is a complete fabrication. The information given to me by the Governor was such, as a later Question will show, that neither he nor I could possibly fail to act upon it.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Is not the policy of revolutionaries in these countries to seize power by murder and bloodshed and then to abolish freedom? Is it not a pity that this policy seems to be encouraged, however unwittingly, by certain Left-wing politicians?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The forces of law and order do not always get the support they deserve, but in this and other cases I am very anxious to build bridges for reconciliation rather than to destroy them.

Mr. Creech Jones

In view of the widespread scepticism as to the massacre plot and the tragic loss of African life, will the Secretary of State seriously consider—what is the usual, customary practice—appointing a commission of inquiry in order to ascertain the facts and to distribute responsibility?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There is a Question on that later on the Order Paper.