HC Deb 18 March 1959 vol 602 cc587-98

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]

12.34 a.m.

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

In dealing with the question of the detention of Mr. Clutton-Brock, I want to make it especially clear that I am not asking for any special treatment for him and that the matter is not being raised because he happens to be a European. It is a matter of basic principle. We feel it is wrong to detain persons who, in the present difficulties in Central Africa, can use a moderating influence.

The crime of Mr. Clutton-Brock and others seems to be that they are members of the African National Congress. Indeed, I would say that it is most encouraging in these rather troublesome times to find that there is an organisa- tion where Europeans and Africans can work together. Mr. Clutton-Brock joined the Southern Rhodesian African National Congress, as he said, because of its principles, policy and programme, which is entirely non-racial.

The Under-Secretary, I imagine, has seen the letter that came from prison and which was quoted in the Manchester Guardian and the News Chronicle. Those who have read it will understand that it is a most sincere letter, and I quote one extract from it: We had no inkling of violence in Nyasaland. I believe it flared up suddenly. Past experience has taught all of us that there is little chance of moderation in a state of emergency.

Today, I have had a letter from the brother of Mr. Clutton-Brock who says: Guy has been a social worker all his life, is interested in the welfare of the individual and is a keen Christian. I stress this to make it quite clear that he is not a political agitator and would be the last person to stir up trouble or take part in any subversive activities.

Some of my hon. Friends will remember Guy Clutton-Brock as the Principal Probation Officer for Metropolitan London. I remember him during the height of the blitz. He worked in one part of the East End and I worked in the other. There are many people who still remember him for his heroism.

After the war, he was put in charge of the youth and religious affairs section of the British Control Commission in Germany. He resigned that work to take up work with the Council for Christian Reconstruction in Europe. It was because of the terrible things that he saw following the devastation of Europe, particularly the shortage of food, that he decided that he ought to do all he could to help to increase food production, and he became a farm labourer in order to understand the work.

This led him to Africa and to the St. Faith's Mission Farm in Southern Rhodesia, where he became an agricultural officer. Before he went there, in 1949, European farmers were protesting at the dangers of soil erosion. The diocesan authorities were being pressed to sell the land and send the people away, as was done in the case of several missions in Central Africa.

Under the Land Apportionment Act, lands held by missions before 1932 are the only lands in the European area on which Africans have any rights. When the mission lands are sold, those rights are lost. Ever since Mr. Clutton-Brock joined St. Faith's Farm, European and African co-operation has resulted in the stopping of soil erosion. Today, there are irrigated fields, grass paddocks and modern buildings; each smallholder has his own stock of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry; they grow maize, rice and vegetables, and there are granaries and a butchery, run on a co-operative basis.

The farm manager is an African, and other Africans are employed in running the farm and accepting their share of responsibility, and they show initiative. The manager and some others have been detained. One cannot but draw the conclusion that perhaps it is the objective to try to close down the farm, to deny the Africans rights in the European area. Social and general services have been improved in the farm. Labour is more capable and there is a greater sense of security among the families. The land has been improved, and the general impact of the life of the mission is widened. The mission has no political complexion; all there have varying views about politics. There is a democratically elected village council, which controls the cooperative organisations. The chairman of this council is detained.

Mrs. Clutton-Brock runs a clinic for the treatment of deformed children. African children come from everywhere to get attention. The Clutton-Brocks were trying to develop other inter-racial societies in Southern Rhodesia. They were winning the confidence of the Africans, putting into practice what is contained in the Federal constitution, to foster partnership and co-operation between their inhabitants.

The present state of emergency lasts for 30 days. Mr. Clutton-Brock and the others are being detained without charge. No official reason has been given for their detention. There has been no trial. I hope this debate tonight will give support to those liberal elements in the Federation who feel that the mistakes that are being made are indeed hideous.

The Archbishop of Central Africa has spoken of the action of the Southern Rhodesia Government as "Characteristic of Hitler." The Bar Council of Southern Rhodesia has added its condemnation. The previous Prime Minister, Mr. Garfield Todd, said: The Unlawful Organisation Bill which is being rushed through to detain Mr. Clutton-Brock and others offends against the basic principles of British justice. We are entitled to ask what the Government think about these matters. The Secretary of State has some responsibility. The Statute Law of Southern Rhodesia, Clause 28, states: Unless he shall have previously obtained our instructions upon such law through a Secretary of State…or unless such a law shall contain a clause suspending the operation thereof…until the signification in the Colony of our pleasure thereupon, the Governor shall reserve… …any law, save in the respect of the supply of arms, ammunition or liquor to natives, whereby natives may be submitted to any conditions, disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European descent are not also subjected or made liable. It goes on: …any law which may repeal, alter or amend, or is in any way repugnant to or inconsistent with the Land Apportionment Act, 1930, of the Legislature of the Colony… I submit that, in these circumstances the Secretary of State ought to have been consulted, or, if he was not consulted, I am entitled to ask whether he did give any instructions. I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to satisfy me with an answer on that point.

I would also pursue further the Question and Answer in the House on 5th March, when the Under-Secretary said: Although Mr. Clutton-Brock is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, he is also a citizen of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, having previously become a Southern Rhodesia citizen in 1951. It would be contrary to normal practice for the United Kingdom Government to intervene on behalf of a person with dual citizenship in the other country of which he is a citizen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 601] Perhaps it is appropriate to remind the Under-Secretary—and I agreed with the Government's action—that there was a time when representations were made in the case of others who had dual citizenship. I refer to the Russian wives of British soldiers.

In that case Sir Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary, not only made representations but personally interviewed Mr. Molotov, then Soviet Foreign Secretary, and urged him to take some action. The present Foreign Secretary, too, has made representations, and Her Majesty's Ambassador has been instructed to make representations. If it was done in that case, we have a right to ask why it has not been done in the case of Mr. Clutton-Brock.

This is not a party issue. Perhaps I may end by quoting from last night's Star leader, which says, under the heading "No Apology": Sir Roy Welensky's demand that the Labour Party should apologise for attacking his policy is cool cheek. It is an old trick to accuse those who simply want fair play for the underdog of 'stirring up racial hatreds'. If hatred between white and black in Sir Roy's Federation is now acute, it is not because of what has been said or written in Britain. It is because of what has been done in Africa. Repressive measures by police and troops; Fascist legislation to outlaw nationalist Africans; a casuality list that shows the underdog constantly getting the worst of it. What more stupid way of awakening race hatred than to imprison and hold without trial the very men whose moderating influence could allay it—men like Clutton-Brock and Dr. Banda?

12.46 a.m.

Mr. Percy Holman (Bethnal Green)

I wish to support the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) for Government intervention in connection with the arrest of Mr. Guy Clutton-Brock. I claim the right to speak for a moment or two because Mr. Clutton-Brock was a constituent of mine until he left this country for Germany. He was head of Oxford House for six years, and I knew him well, and the Parliamentary Secretary will have received from me this morning a letter which I forwarded to him and which I would like to quote to the House. It is a protest from the Mayor of Bethnal Green, the Head of Oxford House, the Deputy Head of Oxford House, the Warden of University House and others, and it reads: Many people in Bethnal Green, and especially those who were closely connected with the Oxford House during the last war, have been much concerned with the news that Guy Clutton-Brock has been arrested and is now in prison in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. We read in the columns of the national Press that no charges have been preferred against him. Guy Clutton-Brock came to Bethnal Green in 1940 as Head of the Oxford House Settlement. During the 6 years he was here he endeared himself to all those he met and, by his example, showed that men and women can make their best contribution to society if they live in a Christian relationship with all those they meet. We and those who came to us for news are very aware that this has always been his guiding principle. The reports which we have all received and the personal experience of one of us confirm that he has applied the same high principles to his work in Rhodesia. We believe that he has proved that a partnership can exist between Europeans and Africans. What then is his crime? This man, of the highest character—a pacifist perhaps stronger than any of my most pacifist friends; who has never endorsed violence under any conditions; who has tried to apply Christian principles in every activity in which he has participated; who is loved by many thousands of people whom he has met and who know him, and is appreciated by many millions who have never met him—this man has been arrested without any justification by a Government controlled by British people, with whom we have very much more influence than we have with many foreign nations in respect of whose actions we do not hesitate to interfere.

The other day the Prime Minister protested to Southern Ireland because it had let some I.R.A. prisoners out from the prison in the Curragh. Was that undue interference? If we can interfere in Southern Ireland, which claims to be independent, surely we can use our influence in a part of the British Commonwealth with whom we should have a great deal in common.

If nothing is done in this matter, to many thousands of people in this country the veneer of liberalism which the Government of Southern Rhodesia has tried to show in its treatment of the black people will have worn so thin that policies of apartheid copied from South Africa will begin to emerge. I pray that the Government will take more effective action than was suggested by the negative attitude which the Under-Secretary adopted on the last occasion.

12.51 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Holman) for drawing attention to the fact that he has forwarded to me the document to which he referred. I have received it and studied it.

I am fully aware of the strong feelings which exist in the circumstances which surround the detention of Mr. Clutton13rock. The right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) referred to some exchanges which took place in the House on 5th March, and at the beginning I think the best thing I can do is to make the Government's position quite clear. I tried to explain to hon. Members the reason why the Government were precluded from accepting the proposal that they should make representations on behalf of Mr. Clutton-Brock. It is precisely on occasions such as this, when strong emotions are aroused, that the established conventions for the conduct of relations between Governments become most important. We in the United Kingdom resent it if established conventions are broken by other countries in the conduct of their relations with us, and I think it is reasonable for hon. Members to assume that others feel the same about it.

In 1930 at the Hague it was agreed that, a State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a State whose nationality such person also possesses. I do not know whether hon. Members have ever read the notes at the back of their passports. I have possessed a passport for thirty years, but I had not read them until recently. If they study these notes they will see that a person who has dual nationality as a result of marriage or registration or by any other process is warned specifically in the passport that when in the country of their second nationality such persons cannot avail themselves of the protection of Her Majesty's representatives against the authorities of the foreign country and are not exempt by reason of possessing British nationality from any obligation such as military service to which they may be liable under the foreign law. When the British Nationality Act was passed in 1948 to regularise the whole question of subjecthood and citizenship, as far as the Commonwealth was concerned, it was immediately and logically accepted that the principles of the international convention should apply equally to the relations between Commonwealth Governments in the case of persons possessing dual Commonwealth citizenship. Indeed, the House may feel that there are even stronger reasons for this practice within the Commonwealth than there are in the relations between Commonwealth and foreign countries, and I am sure that there is no direct analogy with the case of the Russian wives, such as that which the right hon. Gentleman sought to draw.

Southern Rhodesia has had a Citizenship Act since 1949 and was included in Schedule I to the British Nationality Act until last year, when Southern Rhodesian citizenship was merged into citizenship of the Federation. Mr. Clutton-Brock became a citizen of Southern Rhodesia in 1951, and there is no doubt whatever about his status or about our rights of intervention on his behalf. I am also informed that Mr. Clutton-Brock is detained after the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor of Southern Rhodesia under the Public Order Act, 1955. Again, there is no doubt about the legal rights with regard to the enactment of emergency regulations by the Southern Rhodesian Government under this legislation.

The declaration of an emergency and the promulgation of emergency legislation are within the sphere of the Southern Rhodesian Government for the maintenance of law and order within the Colony. There is no need for the Secretary of State to be consulted in advance about any of these actions, nor was he in fact consulted. Although under the Regulations there is no obligation on the part of the Government of Southern Rhodesia to give reasons for taking any individual into detention, I can tell the House that it has been publicly stated in Salisbury that Mr. Clutton-Brock is a member of the Southern Rhodesian African National Congress. That is now a proscribed organisation, and Mr. Clutton-Brock has given it much encouragement and support.

I would say at once that there is nothing in this of an implication against his social work or against his strong religious feelings. So far as this problem arises, it is entirely a question in the political context, and it would be quite inappropriate for me to comment on a decision made by the Southern Rhodesian Government as a result of their judgment of the internal security needs of the situation in Southern Rhodesia and in accordance with powers which have been freely devolved upon them by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. There have been many occasions on which the actions of Governments in different parts of the Commonwealth relating to their own internal affairs have evoked criticism from different sections of opinion in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich) rose

Mr. Alport

If we are asked to do so by the other Government we are willing to help, but while we are always willing to help to find a solution to difficulties when they arise, and if we are so asked, we have always set our faces against pressure to intervene without first being asked to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech to a matter which is not directly related to the case of Mr. Clutton-Brock.

Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East) rose

Mr. Alport

I am trying to answer some of the points which have been put. The right hon. Gentleman did not put his remarks in a controversial manner and I am not replying in a controversial way, but there is little time left to me and I am endeavouring to answer the points which have been raised. I was about to say that the right hon. Gentleman referred to something which is not directly concerned with the case of Mr. Clutton-Brock.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about our attitude to the Unlawful Organisations Bill which yesterday had its Second Reading in the Southern Rhodesian Assembly. But the Second Reading to which I have referred does not appear to be one of a Bill which must be reserved by the Governor under Section 28 of the Constitution Letters Patent of 1923. The requirement to reserve is broadly confined to legislation which discriminates against Africans or is in conflict with the United Kingdom's treaty obligations.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Give him a cheer.

Mr. Alport

I understand that as a result of yesterday's debate the Southern Rhodesian Assembly has accepted some important Amendments to the Bill. From the constitutional point of view, the Secretary of State's powers and responsibilities would not, in any case, become operative until the legislation had been passed in its final form.

I said a few moments ago that the legislation in question must be shown to discriminate against the African. This legislation does not appear to do so. The organisations which are scheduled in the Bill do not appear to be organisations which are confined to African membership. Indeed, there are organisations among the 42 proscribed in an appendix to the Annual Report of the Labour Party which are included in the Schedule to the Southern Rhodesia Bill, such as the W.F.T.U. and the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

Again, it is not my duty to pronounce judgment on the merits or otherwise of this legislation. It is only for the Secretary of State to act in accordance with powers reserved to him under Section 28 of the Constitutional Letters Patent, if the Bill eventually comes within his responsibilities under that Section. As I say, we do not expect that that will arise.

Finally, let me say—

Mr. Callaghan rose

Mr. Alport

May I finish my speech? Will the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) do me the courtesy of allowing me to continue?

Mr. Callaghan

Will the Under-Secretary do me the courtesy of giving way?

Mr. Alport

Finally, let me say, as I said recently, that in circumstances such as these one of the saddest things is always—

Mr. Callaghan

Really, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Alport

I am very familiar with the extreme discourtesy of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East on these occasions. I am very anxious on this occasion to make this point which, I hope, will appeal to hon. Members.

Finally, let me say, as I said on a previous occasion, that circumstances such as these have always shown as one of their saddest sides the anxiety and strain caused to the wives and families concerned. I am quite certain that the Southern Rhodesian Government are fully alive to this human aspect of the case, not only in the case of Mr. Clutton-Brock but also in the case of those Africans detained under the regulations, and they are most anxious to take what steps they can, while carrying out their responsibilities, to see that such effects are kept to the minimum.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Shocking. Just reading.

Mr. Alport

I have certainly taken great pains to answer the points which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman and to help the House in a consideration of this particular matter, because the truth is that this is a responsibility which devolves upon a Commonwealth Government, a responsibility—

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

The Under-Secretary has not given way once.

Mr. Alport

I have given way once.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Not once.

Mr. Alport

—a responsibility which we have voluntarily devolved upon them, and we must leave it to them to decide w hat is in the interests of their country in accordance with the powers which they possess.

Mr. Bottomley rose

Mr. Alport

I will willingly give way to the right hon. Gentleman at this point.

Mr. Bottomley

Will the Under-Secretary agree that the responsibility of the Commonwealth Relations Office is to see that nothing is done to bring discredit upon the Commonwealth, and the Southern Rhodesian action has done precisely that?

Mr. Alport

I do not accept that for one moment. The right hon. Gentleman has had responsibility in these matters in the office I now hold, and he has taken responsibility on behalf of his party on the Front Bench. He knows perfectly well that one of the most important things which the United Kingdom Government should do is this, Having devolved responsibilities from the United Kingdom to a country of the Commonwealth they should not seek to draw those responsibilities and powers back but should have faith in the common sense and good judgment and sense of justice—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which is available in other parts of the Commonwealth just as they are here to ensure that the best interests not only of their country but of the Commonwealth as a whole are fully maintained.

Mr. Callaghan

I ignore the hon. Gentleman's personal remarks because I want to ask him a very serious question. Two further Bills have been introduced today and yesterday. Is he making inquiries as to how far these will discriminate against Africans in order that he can carry out his constitutional responsibilities? I should like an answer to that question. The hon. Gentleman can give it to me in writing, if he wishes to do so. I want to take up the rest of the time. He has had his speech.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is no more time.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Wednesday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at four minutes past One o'clock.