HC Deb 29 June 1961 vol 643 cc651-2
31. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered a letter sent to him by the Malta Labour Party with reference to violations of the principles of democracy, the denial of human rights and the suppression of free speech; what reply he has sent; and if he will arrange for a deputation of all parties of this House to visit the island.

Mr. H. Fraser

Yes, and my right hon. Friend has replied that he cannot accept the imputations made in the letter. He sees no need for an all-party delegation at the present time.

Mr. Awbery

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the allegations in the letter concerning persecution, intimidation and suppression of free speech, are very serious and that three men are being prosecuted because they put up posters outside their clubs, which other clubs are permitted to do? Does not this justify the inquiry by the Secretary of State into the circumstances? Will he hold one?

Mr. Fraser

No. This arose from a meeting held on 21st May on Gozo. The object was to persuade Gozitans to boycott the Gozo civil council election. For this purpose about 1,500 members of the Malta Labour Party arrived in the island of Gozo, much to the distress of the people of Gozo, who considered it to be interference in local affairs. Furthermore, crops were destroyed by the visitors, and if it had not been for police action there might have been serious outbreaks of violence. The police are to be warmly commended on the steps they took.

Mr. Marquand

Without wishing to take part in Maltese politics, may I ask, in view of what the Under-Secretary of State has just said, and of the disturbing information which reaches hon. Members on both sides of the House, whether he will reconsider the suggestion put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) that a delegation from this House should go to see for itself and whether it could perhaps exert a mediatory influence?

Mr. Fraser

I do not think that that supplementary question arises from this meeting. I have made it clear that in this instance the police carried out their duties perfectly. There was, in my view, provocation by certain members of the Malta Labour Party who went to Gozo.