HC Deb 12 March 1959 vol 601 cc1452-5
51. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement upon the situation in Nyasaland Protectorate, with particular reference to the number of African and European casualties so far suffered; and what members of the Nyasaland Legislative Council have been arrested.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made to the House on 10th March in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and ether hon. Members.

Since then I am glad to say that the Central and Southern provinces have remained comparatively quiet and increased patrolling is resulting in improvement in the Northern province; but further improvement is being delayed by widespread damage to communications and bad weather. Further casualties reported up to and including 11th March are: one rioter killed and two wounded. My noble Friend the Minister of State is now on his way to Nyasaland where he will spend several days before visiting Salisbury and then returning to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Johnson

In view of the appalling African casualties which the Minister has not divulged today, is it not a shocking situation and does it not get worse and worse under ham-fisted handling, particularly in the Northern Province? Why are Dr. Hastings Banda and such members of the Legislative Council as Mr. Chipembere, who are so suspicious of Southern Rhodesia, being sent to detention in Southern Rhodesia and not to a British protectorate such as Northern Rhodesia next door?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member was less than fair when he suggested that 11 was deliberately hiding figures. I was asked for a further progress report and this is clearly to follow the report I have already made when I gave the regrettable casualties up to date. What I have done is to give the subsequent casualties, which are one rioter killed and two wounded. The hon. Member has the other part of his supplementary question wrong, too, if I may say so. The only member of the Legislative Council who is in detention is Mr. Chipembere. Dr. Banda is not a member of the Legislative Council. I have already made at least one long statement to the House dealing with the reasons why they were detained in Southern Rhodesia rather than in Nyasaland.

Mr. Johnson

I asked the Minister for a statement upon the situation in Nyasaland Protectorate with particular reference to the number of African and European casualties so far suffered. I was not given that information.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am ready, if the hon. Member wishes, to repeat the Answer which I gave on 10th March, to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and others, but I thought the House would not expect me to repeat an Answer which I had already given. I am quite prepared to give the hon. Member all the facts, however distressing they are, but I understood that he wanted a progress report after my last Answer.

Mr. Albu

In view of the fact that the African Congress is now to be made an illegal organisation in Southern Rhodesia, how can Dr. Hastings Banda ever get out of detention?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As far as I know, he is not a member of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress.

Mr. Bottomley

Can the Minister explain why some Europeans have expressed the view that security forces are not desired in their district because they feel safer with the Africans?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I should certainly have to see chapter and verse for that statement before I accepted it.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Does the Minister realise that his Answer means that 44 Africans have been killed, that no Federal troops have been killed and that no European has been killed? Is this the massacre for which he said a plot had been made? Does he recognise that all the killings have been of Africans and not by Africans? How soon will he withdraw Federal troops from Nyasaland?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As I said in my Answer a day or two ago, if Governments are slow in taking action to nip conspiracies in the bud they are blamed for that. If they act promptly and prevent murder, then I think that credit is due. Needless to say, we all deeply regret the deaths among the rioters, most of whom have been duped by their leaders.

Mr. Gaitskell

While I welcome the announcement that Lord Perth is to visit Nyasaland immediately, may I ask whether the Colonial Secretary can say exactly what he is to do there, since I understand that he is not to have discussions on constitutional development? How long is he likely to remain there?

Have the Government come to any conclusion on the proposal that a Parliamentary Commission should be sent to Nyasaland?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, I think that it would clearly be inopportune at this stage to have formal constitutional talks, but it would equally clearly be helpful if the noble Lord discussed with the parties concerned when in their view it would be appropriate to start such talks. I should think the length of his stay will be three or four days, but he must have a certain flexibility in that matter. Needless to say, we shall be very anxious to welcome my colleague back here and to hear his first-hand impressions at the earliest practicable date. Answering the third part of the supplementary question, I have nothing to add to the replies which I have already given to the House.