HC Deb 09 July 1963 vol 680 cc1028-9
16. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he intends to return to Kenya the battalion of troops at present in Swaziland.

Mr. Fisher

I am not yet in a position to give a firm date.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members find it repugnant that British troops should be used to break up a strike in which men are claiming that they cannot live on 5s. 4d. a day? May we therefore take it that it is the Government's intention to return these troops at the earliest possible moment? Is it not the fact that the strikes took place in two firms that have so far refused to recognise the trade unions? Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that what is really needed is not troops, but that the two firms should be brought into the twentieth century and give proper recognition to trade unionism?

Mr. Fisher

I recognise that these firms have not recognised the unions. In extenuation, I should, perhaps, point out, that the trade unions in this part of the world are very young—I think they began only about a year ago—so I hope that we shall come to the state of affairs which the hon. Gentleman recommends. We shall naturally withdraw the troops just as soon as we can. Although the position is now quite quiet throughout Swaziland, we cannot very well withdraw the troops until it is perfectly clear that the police can cope unaided with the situation.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is the Undersecretary aware that this anxiety about using troops on strike breaking in these circumstances is very widely shared? Can he assure the House that positive steps will be taken to encourage trade unionism in Swaziland in order to prevent any recurrence of this most unfortunate situation?

Mr. Fisher

I do not think that the troops were used for strike breaking, but to support the police, if necessary, in preserving law and order. They were not, in fact, used in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests, or on work to break the strike.