HC Deb 01 August 1961 vol 645 cc1151-6
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a short statement.

The Governor of Kenya has sent a despatch to me in which he has informed me that he has decided that if there is no deterioration in the security position, Jomo Kenyatta should be moved to Kiambu about the middle of August and that his restriction order should be revoked a few days thereafter. I have informed the Governor that his decision has she full support of Her Majesty's Government.

I am laying a copy of the Governor's despatch today as a Command Paper. The Governor's decision is supported by all the members, including the official members of his Council of Ministers as well as by the senior members of the police and the Administration, and the Kikuyu who stood by the Government during the emergency.

I believe that this decision, difficult though it is, is in the best interests of all the peoples of Kenya and that it should be taken now.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that the decision to release Mr. Kenyatta will receive general agreement on this side of the House? Is he further aware that we are all glad to hear that the decision is supported by such a wide body of opinion? May we take it that the Government's decision is supported by their own supporters? Is it not the general wish that Mr. Kenyatta should now place his exceptional talents and abilities at the disposal of all the races in Kenya so that that country may be built up into a land in which everyone can live without fear?

If this is to be achieved, what action does the Colonial Secretary propose to take about the resolution, passed in the Legislative Assembly a week or two ago, asking that the provision in the Lancaster House constitution that people who have served a term of imprisonment of more than two years should be for- bidden to stand for the Legislative Assembly?

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to act on that resolution and to remove from Mr. Kenyatta all the disabilities which now attach to him so that he can take his full place in public life if it is the desire of the people of Kenya that he should do so?

Mr. Macleod

The reason why I have made this statement now is that it is only now that I am able to stand at this Box and to say that not only the Governor, his senior Ministers and the members of the Administration, but also the Central Province Advisory Council, agrees with this decision. I therefore think that it is right that this decision should be taken now.

At the moment Mr. Kenyatta is doubly disqualified from being a member of the Legislative Council—first, because he is in restriction, and, secondly, because he has served a period of imprisonment exceeding two years and, therefore, comes within the restriction Order in Council. The first of those two is, or will be in three weeks' time or something like that, removed.

Question No. 45 on the Order Paper, put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), refers directly to this matter and my Answer to it, which will appear in HANSARD tomorrow, is that we have studied the debate and the proposals and the suggestion made that this Order in Council should be amended, but that Her Majesty's Government have no proposal to make in relation to it.

Lieut.-Commander Maydon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will cause grave concern among Africans and Europeans in Kenya and in other territories in Africa and among a great many people in this country as well?

Mr. Macleod

I am certain that, when my hon. and gallant Friend studies the despatch, which, I hope, is now available in the Vote Office, and realises, as is clear from my statement, that the Central Province Advisory Council, which consists of the leading chiefs of the Kikuyu loyalists, thinks that this is a decision which should be taken now, he will genuinely find that most of his anxieties are removed.

Mr. Callaghan

Why do the Government behave in this timid and hesitant way? We have been through all this process about Mr. Kenyatta's release. Are we to go through the same process about his full readmission to public life? Surely the Colonial Secretary can carry his followers with him to this extent, that there is general recognition in Kenya that Kenyatta's influence is of such a character that it should be openly expressed through the normal processes of Parliament and the Legislative Assembly out there if that is the desire of the people. Why do not the Government make up their mind and cease to be so timorous about their extreme lunatic wing?

Mr. Macleod

That is a typically offensive contribution to this discussion. There is no question of timidity here. I could easily have waited four or five days until the House rose and said nothing about it.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. Gentleman gave a promise.

Mr. Macleod

I deliberately chose to come to the House and to tell hon. Members of this decision before the House rose.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, more than one opinion is held in relation to the other matter which he raised, even within the political panties in Kenya. In my view, having studied the proposal put forward, the original Motion and the Amendment to it which was finally carried in the Kenya Legislative Council, the Answer which I have given to the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell is the right attitude for the Government to adopt.

Mr. Turton

My right hon. Friend has previously refused to release Jomo Kenyatta on the ground of danger to security. Is he now telling the House that he is confident that there will be no danger to security as a result of this step? if it is shown that he has miscalculated the danger, will he give an assurance that steps will he immediately taken to put under arrest Kenyatta and any other leaders of the revived Mau Mau gangs?

Mr. Macleod

Everyone knows, of course, that equally there is a risk attached to action and a risk attached to inaction in this matter. Paragraph 6 of the Governor's despatch, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will presently be able to read, carefully spells out the security position. Naturally, if the estimate turns out to be wrong, all the forces which could be made available would be used in the interests of law and order. Of that there is no question.

Mr. Brockway

Is the Secretary of State aware how deeply many of us welcome the announcement which he has made, although we feel that it is belated? Contrary to the view which has been expressed on the benches opposite, will he confirm that only a minority in Kenya is against the overwhelming opinion of Africans, Europeans, Asians and now the Government themselves who wish to see Mr. Kenyatta released?

I should like to clear up this point, because it has not been made clear. Do the Government propose to permit Mr. Kenyatta to function in the Legislature, and will they give him opportunities to function within the wider federation of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda when they Federation is formed?

Mr. Macleod

It can only be a matter of opinion as to the number of people who support or oppose any particular decision. For the reasons which I have given in my statement and to which I have added in answer to supplementary questions, I have never before felt able to put this problem for decision to my colleagues. In view of the Governor's despatch, which I commend to the whole House, we are agreed that this is the right time to take this step.

In case what I said earlier is not clear, let me now make it clear that the Order in Council remains. Therefore, it is not possible for Mr. Kenyatta, who, I think, is not even on the electoral roll, to stand for or to be a member of the Legislative Council unless and until that Order in Council is amended. My Answer to Question No. 45 today makes it clear that we have no proposals for amendment.

Mr. Callaghan

When will the right hon. Gentleman have them?

Mr. Fisher

What my right hon. Friend said about the reaction to this step of the loyal Kikuyu is most encouraging. Can he give any estimate of the degree of European support in Kenya, which, I believe, is considerable, for this decision and which—I say this to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—I believe is supported by the great majority of hon. Members on these benches?

Mr. Macleod

Obviously, I cannot give an exact estimate. I think that the newspaper which is most generally thought to represent the Right-wing settler view in Kenya was the first to call for Mr. Kenyatta's release. Throughout this there have been odd eddies and currents of different opinions among all the races. It is, therefore, quite impossible to make an estimate. What I believe is true is that opinion has crystallised a good deal on this matter recently, as I think is made clear by the Governor's despatch and by my statement.

Mr. Dugdale

While welcoming Mr. Kenyatta's release, may I ask the Colonial Secretary whether he will confirm that in India and Ghana discriminatory laws were removed at a fairly early date, making it possible for two men who had been in prison to lead those countries?

Mr. Macleod

I am sure that that is so. Many countries in the Commonwealth have such discrimination. It is certainly rare and I think that it may be unique in the Commonwealth that Kenya's discrimination in this ordinance is permanent.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not most disturbing that the request which is the subject of my Question No. 45 should be made at all by the Kenya Legislative Council at this moment? Is it not a fact that the bestial cruelties and revolting rites of Mau Mau place it on an entirely different footing from any other nationalist movement, and was not Jomo Kenyatta convicted, and, as far as I know, is the unrepentant manager of Mau Mau? Would it not, therefore, be outrageous and utterly degrading to our Parliamentary institutions—one of the glories of the Commonwealth—if this man were allowed to enter the Kenya Legislative Council while we have any responsibility for its affairs, and, still worse, to take office under the Crown?

Mr. Macleod

I think, with respect to my hon. Friend, that I have answered his Question No. 45 on the Order Paper today in the sense, presumably, from that long supplementary question, in which he wished me to answer it. I think that it is right that, after having studied the matter carefully and Her Majesty's Government having given this matter full consideration, we should not put forward proposals for amending this particular ordinance.

Mr. Callagham

The Minister has said twice that he has no proposals to bring forward for meeting the requests of the Legislative Assembly that this disability should be removed. Can he tell us what conditions will need to be fulfilled before he will be ready to bring forward proposals?

Mr. Macleod

The resolution finally passed did not, in fact, specify what the hon. Member has just said. It did not in fact, indicate in what way the ordinance should be amended, and, in any case, as I am sure the whole House will realise, if there were to be an amendment of the ordinance, it would not be for one man, but would be of general application. I am sure that the whole House would agree about that, whatever our differences may be. So far as the rest is concerned, all I can say is that Her Majesty's Government have considered this particular resolution which was passed in the Legislative Council in Kenya, and have come to the conclusion which I have announced this afternoon.

Mr. Callaghan

Cannot the Minister answer my question?

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

We really cannot debate this now. There is no Question before the House.