HC Deb 10 May 1960 vol 623 cc200-3
Mr. Callaghan

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the disturbances in Northern Rhodesia on 8th May, following which 127 Africans have been arrested.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

There has been a most regrettable outbreak of lawlessness in the Copperbelt over the past week-end. Apart from the deplorable attack on Mrs. Burton and her daughters, which the whole House will condemn, cars were stoned or attacked in 16 separate incidents in all, and 14 persons were injured.

There were also three attacks on beer halls, in one of which a building was set on fire and in two of them the police called to the scene were stoned by crowds. A European was stoned by a crowd who entered upon his own property, and elsewhere an African property was damaged. An unauthorised meeting of the United National Independence Party was dispersed, and a number of Africans were arrested.

Every effort is being made by the police to identify and apprehend Mrs. Burton's attackers, and the offenders in other incidents, and the police in the Western Division are fully mobilised.

I fear that these events exemplify a growing tendency towards violence, which was already apparent during my recent visit, and which has its roots in extremist political agitation. I made it plain to all concerned during my visit that lawlessness could not be tolerated, that violence inevitably retarded political progress, and that if it occurred it would be firmly handled.

I wish to repeat that warning today, and the Governor will have my full support in any measures which he may think it necessary to take to restore and maintain law and order.

Mr. Callaghan

Will the Colonial Secretary ask the Governor to convey to Mrs. Burton the sympathy that all of us must feel for her and for her two daughters in the ordeal that she suffered? Will he also convey to the Governor our very strong view that the leaders of all the political parties should call upon their followers to renounce violence in any circumstances?

Having said that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will look further into the cause of these riots and, in view of the fact that the very existence of the Federation itself is a cause of tension, whether he will satisfy himself that the actions of the authorities in banning meetings are well judged, and not calculated more to rouse tempers than to quieten them? Will he also consider whether there should not be a further advance in the revision of the Constitution, or an announcement made, so that the Africans, who are now in an extremely volatile state of mind, may be assured that their interests will be properly safeguarded by their own people when they come to the review of the Federal Constitution later this year?

Mr. Macleod

I very much welcome the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. The whole House will condemn these outrages, and they have been condemned in Northern Rhodesia by all shades of political opinion, European and African alike— not just by the United Federal Party and by the Dominion Party, but by the Central Africa Party and by Mr. Harry Nkumbula—and it is right that the House should add its detestation of violence.

We are inevitably coming into a period of tremendous tension in Northern Rhodesia, and I think that it is a time for measuring one's words very carefully indeed. For example, the elections in the Congo start tomorrow, and the numbers of incidents have been accumulating over recent times.

With regard to what the hon. Gentleman said about public meetings, and political advance in Northern Rhodesia, I made it clear when I was there that I thought that Nyasaland was a special case and that, therefore, the conference planned for July should take place to replace the one that was lost owing to the emergency a year ago. I do not think that exactly the same argument holds good for Northern Rhodesia, but, on the general question, surely the position is this. I think that almost everybody in the House wants to see political advance for all the peoples, but lawlessness is not the way to bring this about, and in times like this the first thing to do is to unite with the Governor and with all responsible opinions— European and African alike—to condemn it.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. Gentleman may inadvertently have forgotten the last part of my question, which referred to the need—and I beg him most earnestly about this—to go on making adequate representations to ensure that, whether or not there is constitutional advance, the Africans will be represented by their own people at the forthcoming constitutional conference on the future of the Federation in these territories. Will the Colonial Secretary give an explicit assurance about this, and say as soon as he possibly can what form that representation will take?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, I will give an explicit assurance on that now. African opinion will be represented at the Federal talks, but it is too early yet, in view of the fact that five Governments are concerned, to say what form that representation will take.

Sir L. Plummer

Does the Colonial Secretary appreciate that the lady who was hurt in the attack is a constituent of mine? Would he make representations to the Governor to have her condition watched most carefully, and, if there should not be sufficient medical facilities in Ndola to look after her adequately, to arrange for her to be flown home and cared for here?

Mr. Macleod

If that were necessary, of course, we should consider what would be helpful in her condition. Mrs. Burton is, I am sorry to say, in a very serious condition indeed, but I am sure that all medical attention which is available to her has been provided.

Mr. Lipton

In the present circumstances, do Her Majesty's Government still consider it desirable that a certain Royal visit should take place in these parts in the near future?

Mr. Macleod

It would be very sad if the great desire of the Queen Mother to visit this territory and the great desire of the peoples there that she should go were frustrated by the incidents which have occurred. There are no plans for altering the programme, but, naturally, it is something which will be watched carefully in the next few days.