HC Deb 24 November 1959 vol 614 cc195-7
29 and 31. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) to what extent Dr. Banda is allowed to receive letters and newspapers; and what degree of censorship is exercised in both cases;

(2) to what extent British-protected persons, held in detention without trial in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, are entitled to write to hon. Members without censorship; and if he will take steps to ensure that the freedom of hon. Members to act upon such letters will be in no way impaired by legislation of those Territories.

Mr. Iain Macleod

There are no detainees in Northern Rhodesia. Nyasaland detainees, including Dr. Banda, are, under prison regulations, entitled to send and receive one letter each week, but the prison authorities have discretion to increase this entitlement. All detainees' mail is examined as a security precaution.

Detainees are provided with a selection of local newspapers and other publications and no material is excised unless it advocates violence and subversion or seeks to justify or excuse the employment of these methods as a means of obtaining political objectives.

If the hon. Member will give me any examples of how he considers the freedom of hon. Members might be impaired in practice, I will glady consider the matter.

Mr. Stonehouse

On Question No. 29, is the Colonial Secretary aware that newspapers sent to Dr. Banda are at present being censored, and is not this intolerable? On Question No. 31, is he aware that the Federal Administration has just published a Bill under the terms of which it will be made a criminal offence for anyone to act upon correspondence sent from prisons in Nyasaland or, indeed, Northern Rhodesia? Does not this prevent Members of Parliament acting on information which may be sent to them?

Mr. Macleod

On the first point, if such censorship of the newspapers which Dr. Banda has—I will very gladly look into this—has occurred, I assume that it is for the reason I gave in my Answer. The second point, I agree, is an immensely difficult one. Of course, no legislation passed could affect the rights of hon. Members to raise a matter in this House, but matters which might entrench ultimately on Parliamentary Privilege, of course, are not for me to define.

Mr. Wade

Can the Minister give an assurance that the Emergency Regulations will be withdrawn before the Monckton Commission goes out, since the point raised in the first of these Questions is surely evidence of precisely the kind of problem which is likely to arise if leading Africans are retained in detention without trial while the inquiry is taking place?

Mr. Macleod

I could not give an assurance in those terms. The Emergency Regulations will be removed as soon as possible, but I cannot give an exact date.

Mr. Bevan

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether Dr. Banda is able to receive his own solicitor without the presence of Government representatives?

Mr. Macleod

I should like to inquire into that question and let the right hon. Gentleman know the answer.