HC Deb 10 November 1959 vol 613 cc204-10
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

It is just over seven years since the Governor was compelled to assume emergency powers in Kenya. With the improvement of the situation in recent years, it has been possible to abandon some controls and to apply others less widely. But the major emergency powers have nearly all had to be retained.

The Governor has today announced with the authority of Her Majesty's Government that as soon as the necessary Bills can be passed to maintain the few special measures to which I shall refer, and provided that there is no deterioration in the situation, the operation of Part II of the Emergency Powers Orders in Council will be terminated and all the remaining emergency regulations will be revoked.

Of the emergency powers assumed seven years ago, the most stringent is that to detain persons without trial. Those who have studied the Report of the Fairn Committee will know the Committee felt that the Kenya Government were right in their policy of keeping under control those who are irreconcilably attached to Mau Mau. It follows that a remnant of those at present held will have to be kept in restraint for some time to come.

The Kenya Government are, therefore, introducing into the Legislative Council a special Bill which will enable the social and psychological task of reintegrating these men into the community to be pursued, while, at the same time, maintaining the necessary controls over those who still remain unreconciled and unacceptable to their own people. The Bill will be restricted to persons now under control and to listed fugitives still at large. Otherwise, the Governor will relinquish his present emergency powers of detention and restriction.

Among other powers which will lapse are those to proscribe local publications, to license printing presses, to control Kikuyu movement by passbooks, to impose emergency communal labour, and to require the Kikuyu to live in villages. This new policy clearly involves risks against which it is only prudent to insure. The Kenya Government have accordingly published a Bill under which the Governor may, after giving due public notice, take such measures for the preservation of public security as appear to be strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.

This Bill seeks to meet the problem, to which I referred in the House last week, of putting reasonable and flexible powers in the hands of a Governor to deal with abnormal conditions threatening security which do not justify the use of the sledge-hammer of the Emergency Powers Order in Council. I am glad that the Governor feels that present circumstances require the use of this new ordinance to continue only two special security measures when the emergency regulations lapse: that is to maintain a stricter control than exists in permanent law over public meetings, and over the registration of political associations.

Special security powers may from time to time be unavoidable, but the first defence of any society against threats to good order and government must be adequate provision and resolute enforcement of the ordinary criminal law.

The Governor has today also announced his intention, by the exercise of his prerogative powers, to release from imprisonment during the next six weeks all those, numbering about 2,500 people, who have committed offences connected with the emergency on both sides. About 120 of these are deeply imbued with Mau Mau, including 16 convicted murderers, and they will be detained but will become eligible for rehabilitation and in due course for release. Six are loyalist Africans or Government servants who have committed serious offences upon Mau Mau sympathisers in detention camps or elsewhere. In addition to this, the Governor hopes that by the end of the year about 500 of those at present detained or restricted will be released through the reviews recommended by the Fairn Committee.

I understand that the Attorney-General of Kenya has decided, in view of the Governor's action, to institute no further proceedings in respect of offences connected with the emergency committed before today.

The aim of these measures is to bring to a close the unhappy chapter of the past seven years, and to encourage the whole Kenya nation to turn together to the constructive tasks of the future.

Mr. Gaitskell

There will be a general welcome for the ending of the emergency powers, despite the qualifications to which the Colonial Secretary has referred in his statement. However, may I ask one or two questions? First, how many persons will remain under detention, the persons who are covered by the special Bill which, I understand, is to be introduced?

Secondly, can the Colonial Secretary throw some further light upon what he refers to as the ordinance to continue only two special security measures"? Does this mean, for instance, that under these special measures it will still be possible for the Governor to proscribe a political party and to forbid particular individual meetings? Is it still within his power to detain persons without trial?

Mr. Macleod

The number of people today either in prison or in detention or whose movements are restricted, is about 4,000. In a few weeks' time—I think that these operations will take perhaps six or seven weeks—that number will be about 1,000; from 4,000 down to 1,000, and—as I hope my statement makes clear—there will be none of those in prison for offences connected with the emergency. Those who are being moved from prison to the detention camps will become available at once for the ordinary treatment as applied to those undergoing rehabilitation and for the opportunity of release.

On the question of the two points on which the Governor—and I fully support him in this—feels it necessary to have special security measures, that is to say, the control over public meetings and over the registration of political associations, the position will remain as it is now. But I think that I should read what the Governor has said today: I hope that experience will show me that I do not need the use of these controls. I intend in the coming weeks to give sufficient rope to judge for myself how much, if at all, they must be used. So the position on those two points is that the powers remain as they are today, but the Governor has said that he intends to see whether these need be used at all, and with how light a rein he can control them.

Mr. Gaitskell

One last question, which the Colonial Secretary did not answer. Under these special measures does the Governor have power to detain persons without trial?

Mr. Macleod

I am sorry; I should have answered that. Perhaps I can make the position clear. The House will remember that I referred to this point in my speech during the debate on the Address.

In a state of growing unrest, that is to say, not a grave emergency, not one that would justify derogation under the Convention on Human Rights, there is no power of detention; nor is there power to exact communal labour. Those can only come if a new situation arose which was so grave that the Governor felt that he had to give public notice that such a grave state of emergency had arisen. In the powers under what I might call the first stage—I know that this is difficult to follow, but it will become clear when the Bill is in the hands of hon. Members, in a day or two—there is no power to detain.

Mr. Wall

While welcoming the statement, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will continue to bear in mind, particularly in releasing hardcore Mau Mau, the effect on Kikuyu loyalists? Will he also say whether it makes any difference to the present position of political organisation on a national basis in Kenya?

Mr. Macleod

It is, of course, very much in the mind of the Governor and in mine—and I think that the findings of the Fairn Committee bear this out—that it is essential, and, indeed, would be regarded otherwise as a betrayal of the Kikuyu loyalists, to ensure that these people are fully reconciled and acceptable to their communities before they are returned. This will be a cardinal point of the legislation.

I think that I answered the second point made by my hon. Friend when I replied to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Creech Jones

In welcoming the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask, first, whether, under the new powers of rustication of persons involved in the emergency in the past, those persons will be permitted to return to their homes? There are one or two important chiefs who are still held and rusticated although no charge has been made against them.

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman give serious consideration to the suggestion that the time has now arrived, particularly in view of the conference next year, when political organisations on the African side should be less restricted? Will he consider the creation by the Africans of a national party instead of political organisation on a tribal or regional basis?

Mr. Macleod

On the first of these points in relation to a number of people, of whom, as the right hon. Member suggested, one or two names will be in everyone's thoughts at this time, the proposal is that we should go through the procedure that, again, is recommended by the Fairn Committee. That is to say, the people who are both detained and those whose movements are restricted should have their cases examined by the Special Commissioner and then, if the decision is unfavourable, their cases should go to the Advisory Commission. I think that in the Fairn Report it is only recommended for detainees, but in the special cases mentioned by the right hon. Member I think it would be wise, if necessary, for them to go to the Advisory Commission.

On the question of restriction of political parties, I think that the Governor's statement, which I quoted in answer to the first supplementary question, makes the position clear. Perhaps I should read a sentence of it again. It says: I hope that experience will show me that I do not need the use of these controls. This must be a matter for the Governor to be able to judge, in that he has indicated that he has hopes in this field.

Mr. Bevan

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I ask whether it is not obvious that the only real answer we have against a revival of atrocities by Mau Mau is to enable the Africans themselves to express their grievances in normal constitutional ways? Do we understand from the reply of the Colonial Secretary that it will be possible for them to have political parties on a national basis and that the Governor will watch how those organisations behave themselves before he exercises his powers of suppression?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. That is not what I said. The licensing of public meetings is not a new power, nor an emergency power. In fact, it goes back to 1948. It is the conditions which govern the kind of meeting for which the emergency regulations are retained.

In reply to the second point, I hope that I made it clear that the position in law under the emergency regulations will be exactly the same as it is today. We are dropping those powers about movement, passbooks and licensing of the Press and the rest, but these two powers it is intended to preserve. How those powers will be used, the existing two powers, will remain exactly as it is today. How they will be applied is, of course, a matter for the Governor.

Major Legge-Bonrke

Would my right hon. Friend consider at the appropriate moment—which, I agree, need not necessarily be exactly now—that some token of appreciation by this House should be conveyed to the authorities, the security forces, the police and, not least, the loyal Kikuyu, for the splendid way in which they have endured the perils of Mau Mau and assisted so many to be rehabilitated back to their community?

Mr. Macleod

I agree very much with that. The Kenya nation, and, of course, not least the loyal Kikuyu themselves, have lived under conditions of intolerable strain for many years and it will be an enormous relief to them if we can lift this cloud. I should like to refer again to something I said in my speech in the debate on the Address. I said that I believed that on the foundations laid by Sir Evelyn Baring and my predecessor, it would be possible for a new Secretary of State and a new Governor to build.

Mr. Bevan

Do we understand that the political parties which are banned today will continue to be banned?

Mr. Macleod

The answer is, yes, in a way. If I may, I will qualify that for one particular reason. The political party which, no doubt, is particularly in the mind of the right hon. Member is that of the Kenya Independence Movement. The position there is that it was refused registration, but appealed from that refusal to the Governor in Council and the appeal was rejected. Therefore, in the case of that party I think I am right in saying that it will be necessary, if it wishes, to make a further application.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

There is no Question before the House, so we cannot debate this matter now.