§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the action of Her Majesty's Government in refusing political asylum to Chief Enahoro.We are picking up the debate which had to end the other night when we were dealing with the Consolidated Fund Bill at a point where we had failed to carry the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General with us. Arguments were submitted from both sides of the House, but we were unable to test the feeling of the House by a Division. For that reason, it has been arranged that we should return to the debate for a short time in order to make a further attempt to carry the Ministers with us. Failing that, we shall ask the House to express its view on the matter.
In view of the length of the debate the other day, it is unnecessary for me to return to the major arguments deployed then. I am sure that I carry the whole House with me, or at any rate those hon. Members who have been interested in this case, when I say that we are dealing here with a matter which is as grave as it could be. It affects only one man; but it does affect his liberty and possibly his life. There is no subject to which hon. Members would turn in a more serious frame of mind than the liberty and life of one of Her Majesty's subjects.
I repeat that I will not go further into the case made by the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General, except on one point, to which I still think they did not give enough attention the other night. I refer to the alternative available other than political asylum in this country, or returning the man to Nigeria. In view of the misunderstanding—I put it no higher—which led Mr. Enahoro to come to this 1272 country from Dublin, where he certainly was in no danger, and the part the Home Office played, wittingly or unwittingly, in that misunderstanding, I still feel that we are entitled to press the Home Secretary to give a good deal more thought to the possibility of letting Mr. Enahoro return to Dublin, or some other place of his choice, rather than insisting on returning him to Nigeria.
Having said that, which I hope the House will consider, I wish to concentrate on a matter which was not taken the other night because the House relied on an assurance from the Home Secretary, given and repeated by the right hon. Gentleman on two occasions, and later repeated by the Attorney-General in even stronger words. This was an assurance that Mr. Enahoro, if returned to Nigeria, would not be at risk of his life because the offence with which he was charged did not carry the death penalty. It will be my purpose tonight to submit to the House that the Home Secretary has misdirected himself in making that assumption and has, therefore, exercised his discretion on a fundamentally mistaken basis and has subsequently—of course, not deliberately—misled the House in the advice which he has given.
May I first establish what the Home Secretary said. Answering something that I had said about the basis of political asylum, he said, in column 594 of the OFFICIAL REPORT:The tradition of this country is that a person is granted political asylum if, in his own country, he appears to us to be in danger of life or liberty on political grounds, or on grounds of religion or race.That was the Home Secretary's statement of the tradition of this country. He did not limit it in any way to the Commonwealth or any other such territory. Later the right hon. Gentleman said in column 601:Let me add, because there have been misconceptions and misstatements about this, that there is no question of Chief Enahoro being sent back to stand trial for his life. The offences for which he is charged under Nigerian law do not carry the death penalty.He repeated that in column 603.
The Attorney-General returned to this in column 669. He said:… one reserves to the Home Secretary what is plainly right that he should have, namely. 1273 a discretion not to return those for whom it would be oppressive if he were to return them, and I submit to the House that the Home Secretary ought in this case to apply the same principles in deciding whether a person should have political asylum—is he a person whose life or liberty would be in danger on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion, if he were refused asylum?"[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1963; Vol. 674. c. 594, 601, 669–70.]The Home Secretary established that this is the tradition. The Attorney-General said that he ought to exercise his discretion if the Chief were in danger of his life, and then the Home Secretary said he had not exercised his discretion because the offences did not carry the death penalty and, therefore, Mr. Enahoro was not in danger of his life.
I ask the House now to consider a document to which I want to refer, which is the affidavit sworn in Lagos on 8th December, 1962, and put in at Marlborough Street Police Court in the extradition proceedings under the Fugitive Offenders Act. This is an affidavit sworn by the Acting Senior Crown Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Nigerian Government requesting the extradition of Mr. Enahoro.
It states three charges against him. The first is that he is guilty of a treasonable felony contrary to Section 41 (b) of the Criminal Code, and it sets out in full the Code and the punishment, which is, for that particular offence, that he is liable to imprisonment for life. It then goes on to set out a second charge. This is conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code. It then quotes Section 516 verbatim and sets out that if he is guilty of this offence he isliable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for seven years, or, if the greatest punishment to which a person convicted of the felony in question is liable is less than imprisonment for seven years, then to such lesser punishment.I repeat that conviction on the second count would carry a sentence of imprisonment for seven years if no other punishment were provided. There is a third charge which carries a punishment of two years' imprisonment, but I need not refer to that because it is not relevant to my case.
On the next page of the affidavit, paragraph 7 reads: 1274That the felony referred to in count two on the endorsed warrant is an offence of treason punishable under section 37 (i) of the Criminal Code Chapter 42 and the offender if found guilty is liable to punishment of death.Paragraph 8 says:That section 37 (i) of the said Criminal Code Act reads as follows: 'Any person who levies war against the Sovereign in order to intimidate or overawe the Governor-General or the Governor of a region is guilty of treason and is liable to punishment of death '.The Home Secretary was at pains elsewhere in his speech to tells us that the crime for which this man was to be charged was treason against the Sovereign. It seemed to me when this affidavit was sent to me that on point II of the warrant he could be sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, provided there was no punishment provided elsewhere in the Criminal Code, and that the Acting Senior Crown Counsel, speaking on behalf of his Government, took pains to point out specifically to the magistrate in the court here that punishment was provided elsewhere in the Criminal Code, and that that punishment was death.
I have consulted such legal advice as is open to me. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice)—an ex-Attorney-General—permits me to say that he has given this matter consideration at my request during the day. Other lawyers in the House have also considered it. The position seems clearly to be that at the very best it could be said that this is a badly drafted Statute, and that being a criminal Statute it is just possible that the court, in the presence of any ambiguity, would construe it in favour of the subject. I am told that that is the normal practice in connection with a criminal Statute where there is ambiguity. It is said that it is just possible that that would be done.
But there is unanimity among my legal advisers that nobody could possibly say with any certainty that that would be so; indeed, there is strong and distinguished legal advice available to say that the ambiguity is nothing like so great as that, and that it is pretty clear that the death penalty is one of the punishments open to the court to impose upon Mr. Enahoro for his political offence.
In the light of that legal advice, and in the light of the Government's own 1275 statement that they ought not to return this man were he in any danger of the death penalty, I feel bound to tell the Home Secretary that this is a totally new factor which the House is bound to ask him to take into account. It is well worth pointing out that, whatever may be the difference of legal view, it is clear that the Nigerian Government believe this to be one of the penalties available, for that was the reason—and it could only be the reason—why their Acting Senior Crown Counsel went to the trouble to include it in the affidavit which he swore before the magistrate.
In those circumstances, I hope that the Home Secretary will immediately address the House, without waiting for other arguments on other points, and will deal with this point. I can tell the House that although it was our honest intention last Friday not to treat this other than as just an extension of the debate so as to bring the matter to a vote, unless the legal advice open to the Government can undoubtedly and unequivocally controvert that which is open to the Opposition, I sincerely hope that the Government will be willing to grant a further stay of execution in this case while talks can take place and people can be consulted—and perhaps our lawyers can talk with those of the Government so that there will be absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind before we do anything further in this case that this man will not be sent back while there is the slightest risk of his facing the death penalty.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:mindful of Great Britain's tradition of granting political asylum here to persons who might otherwise be exposed to unjust or oppressive treatment in their own country, is confident of the fair and impartial administration of justice in Nigeria and upholds the decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to return Chief Enahoro to stand his trial there".I willingly respond to the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) to speak at once. Perhaps if other matters are raised in the course of this short debate the 1276 House will grant me leave to speak again for a few minutes. I went over the facts of this difficult and heart-searching case in Thursday's debate at length. I shall deal specifically with the matter raised by the right hon. Member. Otherwise I intend to speak briefly.
Chief Enahoro is charged in Nigeria with treasonable felony and conspiracy. The Nigerian authorities, acting within their rights under the Fugitive Offenders Act, have called for him to be returned there to stand his trial. A person cannot be returned under the Act if the courts in this country find that there is not "a strong or probable presumption of guilt"—I am quoting the words from the Actor, quite distinct from that, if the High Court on an application made to it under Section 10 of the Act find that it would beunjust or oppressive or too severe a punishmentto send him back. The Bow Street magistrate before whom the case came found that there wasa strong or probable presumption of guiltagainst Chief Enahoro. The High Court, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, endorsed that finding and, in relation to Section 10 of the Act, that it would not beunjust or oppressive or too severe a punishmentto return him. The Appeal Committee of the House of Lords evidently agreed with the conclusions of the High Court, because it refused him leave to appeal to the House of Lords.
The right hon. Member suggested that I misled the House the other day when I said that Chief Enahoro, if he went back to Nigeria to stand his trial, would not be standing his trial on a capital charge. We have been in communication with the Nigerian High Commission in London on this matter and we have received an unqualified assurance from the High Commission on behalf of the Government of Nigeria that if he were returned to Nigeria he would not be at risk of the death penalty. A number of other people are at present on trial in Nigeria on similar charges. None of them is in danger of the death penalty. That is my reply to the right hon. Member.
Now I must come to my duties under the Act.
§ Mr. G. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman and his colleaeues made—and it 1277 seemed right at the time—a great point last week, and I did not challenge it, that one of the reasons why we should not consider that this man was in too much danger was that the courts were not subject to political direction. If the courts are not subject to political direction, how can the High Commissioner give any worth-while assurance about what the court will do in the light of the law set out in the affidavit?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that our channel of communication with Nigeria is through the High Commission, and we thought it desirable to ascertain this fact, because I had made a statement to the House, by which I stand, and it was desirable, in case any doubt should be cast on it, that it should be made absolutely clear and beyond doubt. We have received this categorical assurance from the High Commission. This is the information on which I must rely, and I have not the slightest doubt of its truth and accuracy.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
Is the High Commissioner in a position to assure the Home Secretary that the second charge, which is the charge which carries the death penalty, is going to be withdrawn? If that charge is not going to be withdrawn, would not the Home Secretary agree that if this affidavit is correct the accused person stands charged with an offence which, upon the plain terms of this affidavit which has been put before the Marlborough Street Police Court, carries the death sentence?
§ Mr. Brooke
I have received this categorical assurance from the High Commission that if Chief Enahoro returns to Nigeria he will not be in danger of his life in the courts.
§ Mr. C. Brown
I am not trying to be discourteous to the House but so that we may check the validity of this assertion, will the Home Secretary say whether our High Commissioner in Lagos, under the same Act, would be able to give an assurance to the Nigerian Government about the action to follow in our courts on a similar charge?
§ Mr. Brooke
I must rely completely on this assurance that I have received from the Nigerian High Commission in this country that Chief Enahoro, if he 1278 is returned to Nigeria, will not be in danger of his life. That is absolute.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
If the High Commissioner is in a position to tell us the penalty which will not be imposed, is he also in a position to tell us the penalty which will be imposed'? if so, what is the meaning of this trial?
§ Mr. Brooke
Quite clearly, the courts in Nigeria are independent and not under political control. I am giving the House the information of which I am certain, and that is that if Chief Enahoro is returned to Nigeria he will not be on trial on a charge in respect of which he will be in danger of his life. In any case, I have not the slightest doubt about the integrity, fairness and competence of the Nigerian courts. The information that I have given to the House throughout is strictly correct.
There are a number of further matters with which I think I should deal.
§ Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
We are not interested in the doubts and hesitations of the right hon. Gentleman. We want an answer to the question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice). The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has an assurance from the Nigerian High Commissioner which none of us believes the High Commissioner is in a position to give if those courts are as free of political dictation as the right hon. Gentleman tells us and as we all want to believe. Has the right hon. Gentleman had an assurance, and is it an assurance which carries any weight, that the second charge has been dropped? Or is he merely telling us that he has been told by a political officer who has no authority to speak for a court of law that that charge does not carry with it the capital sentence? Will he answer that?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order. Are we to understand from the intervention by the Attorney-General that the Home Secretary has finished his speech?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstrnther-Gray)
It is a matter of what 1279 suits the wishes of the House. I understand it to be the wish of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it is not the wish of the House, the Home Secretary has possession of the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Further to that point of order. It is quite clear that if the Home Secretary in the middle of his speech cannot answer a question and calls across the Prime Minister's front for the Attorney-General, it should be the wish of the House that this debate should be adjourned until we can get a clear answer from the Home Secretary. In these circumstances Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would you accept a Motion, "That the debate be now adjourned", or alternatively that the Prime Minister now rises and exercises his authority and tells us whether it is a matter for the courts of Nigeria, for the Government of Nigeria, for the Government of this country, or who is in charge of the whole business?
Order, order. If indeed it be the wish of the House—it seems to be the wish of the House—that we stay strictly to the rules, the fact is that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is in possession of the House and has the right to continue his speech. Mr. Brooke.
§ Mr. Wilson
Further to that point of order. Could I have a reply, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to my point of order? Since we now have three right hon. Gentlemen—the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the AttorneyGeneral—all falling over one another's feet and none of them knowing the answer, will you now accept my Motion,That the debate be adjourned?
I am unable at this early stage in the debate to accept the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. May I put the position in another way? If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has concluded his speech, then indeed if he wished to speak again it could only be with the permission of the House.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Would it not be competent for the Home Secretary to give way to the Prime Minister for an interruption, or to the Attorney-General for an interruption, as he so courteously does to hon. Members of this side of House?
I am bound by the rules of the House. I tried a little laxity but it was not accepted by the House. The position is that a speaker in the course of his speech can give way only in answer to a question. Mr. Brooke.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to that point of order. The position appears to be at this moment that the Home Secretary has confessed that he does not know the answer to a fundamental question, a question fundamental to what the House has to decide tonight. In those circumstances, since you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will not accept a Motion to adjourn the House, would it not be in accordance with the procedure of the House for some Minister who is responsible and who knows the answer to tell us what it is?
Allow me to reply, please. If the right hon. Gentleman in possession of the Floor wishes to resume his seat, it is open to another hon. or right hon. Gentleman on either side of the House to rise and to catch the eye of the Chair. Mr. Brooke.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Would it be in order to move that the right hon. Gentleman be no longer heard?
§ Mr. Brooke
A point of an essentially legal character has been raised. I thought that it would be to the advantage of the House to hear the Attorney-General. I am perfectly ready to sit down now, but perhaps the House will, in the circumstances, do me the courtesy of giving me leave to speak again, as there may be other matters raised in the debate. But I am prepared now to sit down—to give way to the Attorney-General to enable him to clear up the specific point that has been raised.
Order. In order to make the position clear, I should point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary rose to propose an Amendment to the original Question. It is therefore my duty to put the Amendment from the Chair. The original Question was:That this House regrets the action of Her Majesty's Government in refusing political asylum to Chief Enahoro.since when an Amendment has been moved, in line 1, to leave out from "House" to the end and to add:mindful of Great Britain's tradition of granting political asylum here to persons who might otherwise be exposed to unjust or oppressise treatment in their own country, is confident of the fair and impartial administration of justice in Nigeria and upholds the decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to return Chief Enahoro to stand his trial there".The Question is,That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir John Hobson)
I hope that I can assist the House on the point that has just been raised by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I hold in my hand the original warrant, which sets out the exact nature of the second charge upon which turns the discussion that has just arisen. It is correctly set out by the right hon. Gentleman as being conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code. The felony is that Chief Enahoro… and others on divers days between December, 1960 and September, 1962 conspired together with other persons unknown in Lagos and in various other places in Nigeria to commit a felony, to wit, to levy war against our Sovereign Lady the Queen in order to intimidate or overawe the Governor-General.
§ The Attorney-General
Overawe the Governor-General.
If one looks at the Criminal Code of Nigeria, one finds that there is in it, as there is in the code of the English law, a distinction between treason and treason felony. While I concede that I have not had time to study this at length—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"}—I take the immediate view that the felony with which Chief Enahoro is charged is a charge of conspiracy to commit treason felony and not treason, because—I come to the point of the hon. Member for Nelson and 1282 Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who speaks so much when sitting—Section 41, which creates the offence of treasonable felonies, states:Any person who forms an intention to effect any of the following purposes, that is to say … to levy war against the Sovereign within any part of Her Majesty's dominions ֵ in order to put any force or constraint upon, or in order to intimidate or overawe any House of Parliament or other legislature or legislative authority of any of Her Majesty's Dominions, or of any country which has been declared to be under her protection. …Therefore, I think that without any doubt at all the conspiracy to commit a felony is a conspiracy to commit treason felony, because the charge of felony isAny person who conspires with another person with intent to cause such levy of war as would be treason if committed by one of Her Majesty's subjects …Therefore, while the distinctions between treason and treason felony are nice, I have no doubt at all that the felony in count 2 is one of a conspiracy to commit treason felony. But I am authorised by the Prime Minister to say that the Government will not in any circumstances send back Chief Enahoro until this point has been cleared up between the legal advisers of the British Government and the legal advisers of the Nigerian Government. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already said, there has been an assurance that the position in this case was that there was no risk of the death penalty, but we will make assurance doubly sure before the Chief is sent back. I give that undertaking on behalf of the Government before he is sent back.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, or if the House will grant me leave—whichever it may be—may I say that we are very grateful for what the Attorney-General said towards the end of that interruption? I repeat that all of us are more concerned with the life and liberty of one of Her Majesty's subjects than with any other Motion that may arise. Does the undertaking given by the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Prime Minister, involve the corollary that the Government will come back to the House to let us know what their view of the situation then is so that we may then pick this matter up, as it were, at this point?
The Prime Minister appears to be shaking his head. I submit that we are not 1283 being given that assurance. I well understand that there has not been a great deal of time to discuss this and that time is required. If the Prime Minister could indicate that we could find time through the usual channels to resume discussion and for a Division at a subsequent date, we would be prepared to withdraw our Motion tonight. But the House would be put in an impossible position if the Attorney-General, having said frankly that he had not had time enough to consider the mattter, the Home Secretary has exercised his discretion on an issue the answer to which is not yet clearly known. I find it impossible to believe that anyone in the House would, in those circumstances, vote for a Motion tonight which would lead to the return of this gentleman.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
If I may by leave answer the question and also be in order—and I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) was himself in order—I would make this absolutely clear. Up to the moment when the right hon. Gentleman raised this point I was unaware of it. It was a general discussion we had last Thursday to be resumed tonight and on which, I think, the House could well reach a decision. A new point has been raised whether charge 2 does or does not allege a crime which would carry or might carry the death penalty.
I give this undertaking: that until I am satisfied that either this charge is withdrawn, or our legal advisers and others tell me that the view just expressed is absolutely right beyond peradventure, we shall not return this man; that is to say, the charge is withdrawn, there is doubt about its meaning, or we are satisfied beyond any doubt at all that the legal view which has just been given is correct.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, may I say that I am sure that when he considers the matter he will realise that this is simply not good enough? What he has said in the middle of a debate on a Motion and Amendment before the House is that the Government will take it back and, when the Attorney-General has had time to consider this admittedly difficult point, if he, the 1284 Prime Minister, is then satisfied that the point is not valid, presumably the chief will be deported; but if the Prime Minister is not so satisfied, then the chief will be kept here.
With respect to the Prime Minister and the whole Government, who have made an unholy mess of the whole business, it is for the House to be satisfied, not the Prime Minister. As my right hon. Friend has said, we are prepared to withdraw the Motion tonight, or move the Adjournment of the debate. Will the Prime Minister give this assurance: first, that if he finds that the point my right hon. and learned Friend has made is valid, the chief will not be deported; and, second, if he is not so satisfied and if the Home Secretary wants to go on with the deportation, the matter can be brought back before the House and time will be found to debate the Motion again? In other words, may we have an assurance that we shall not have this question pass once again from the control of the House? Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to that?
§ The Prime Minister
There are two quite separate questions. There is the debate as it was conducted on Thursday and as we expected it to be conducted for the rest of tonight on the general merits and whether this Act of 1881 should operate or not. There is also a new and purely legal point raised. I do not think that the House can be satisfied about the legality of this, because we are not lawyers. But I go further and make this perfectly clear. If this other charge is withdrawn, the point which has been made will fall. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman would agree With that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes; if this particular charge is withdrawn, the point falls. Would that be agreed? If the point is attached to charge 2 and that charge is withdrawn by the prosecution, surely the point falls. That must be so. Very well. If the charge is withdrawn, that point falls.
I make this perfectly clear. Until either the charge is withdrawn, or if the lawyers decide and advise—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which lawyers?"] I am quite prepared that my right hon. Friend and, let us say, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) should agree about this. My 1285 right hon. Friend would be quite prepared to consult him. I tell the House that there will be no question of this man being returned if there is any doubt or any question at all of the death penalty being enforceable by the courts. This, surely, can be met either by the charge being withdrawn by the prosecution, in which case the point falls, or if the legal advisers—and my right lion. Friend will consult with any other legal advisers—are satisfied that the point is not a good one.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Does not the Prime Minister see the point that, if an assurance were now given that the charge was withdrawn, the House would, I imagine, before it made up its mind that the Home Secretary was properly exercising his discretion, wish to consider whether there was any question of a charge being re-laid when Chief Enahoro returned to Nigeria? Does not the Prime Minister see that the merit of the case is the legal one? The Home Secretary has exercised a discretion wholly his without knowing the legal basis on which he had to make it.
The House cannot possibly abdicate its rights at this point. Will not the Prime Minister allow us to adjourn the debate tonight and conduct this business in better form? He will lose nothing. Let us adjourn tonight. Let consideration be given to the matter, and let the House return to it in a proper way when we know what the situation is.
§ The Prime Minister
I only wish to do that which is most fair and most agreeable to the House. I think it fair to say that the main debate has been on whether the 1881 Act ought to be applied or whether the view is that it is obsolete or obsolescent. That is really what Thursday's debate was about. Now, however, a new point has been raised as to whether a charge against Chief Enahoro might be one which would carry with it the death penalty.
§ Mr. Brown
With respect, may I put this to the Prime Minister? I also said when I began that this point would have been raised last Thursday but for the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General specifically saying that it did not 1286 arise. What is new is that it is only since then that we have discovered that the Home Secretary had not enough legal assurance to enable him to give the undertaking he gave us then.
§ The Prime Minister
To be fair, the right hon. Member for Belper was not only going over the old ground, but he raised this new point which came to him in the course of today. The view of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is that it is a bad point; but I will give this assurance: we will not return Chief Enahoro until either this is shown by the lawyers, after consideration, to be a bad point, or, if it is held to be a good point, the Nigerian Government have given a definite undertaking that no charge will be brought against the chief carrying the death penalty either now or at any other time.
That seems to me to be as clear a statement as I can make. The chief will not be returned to Nigeria until there is a definite undertaking from the Nigerian Government that this charge, if it carries the death penalty, is withdrawn and that no other charge that could carry the death penalty is substituted, or until the interpretation placed on this point by the right hon. Gentleman is shown by the lawyers to be incorrect, which I believe to be the case.
Under these circumstances, I would be quite willing that the House, when it returned to the subject, should discuss merely the question which was left last Thursday, if it was satisfied on the legal question or with the understanding of the Nigerian Government that there was no question of the death penalty. That would seem to be a reasonable course.
If that is the view of the House, and it would make it easier for the House for me to do so, I am ready to move that we should now adjourn the debate, it being understood that it is not the wish of the Government, or of the House, that there should be any circumstances in which this man should be subject to danger of his life. If it is the wish of the House, I am quite ready to move the adjournment of the debate. But if the legal point at issue is satisfied, then the Government will continue to put forward the view that they put forward on Thursday.
Order. I think it would be right for me now, in order to meet the point, to propose the adjournment of the debate as a Question.
Order. It is perfectly debatable. I want to, be sure that I correctly understand that the Prime Minister is proposing that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Question proposed, That the debate be now adjourned.
§ Mr. G. Brown
It is much more agreeable to my right hon. Friends and myself—and I suspect to the whole House—in view of the situation which has arisen, that we should now adjourn this debate. I accept the Prime Minister's willingness to face the situation, and I respect him for it. It seemed to me that he was trying to limit the rights of the House and of hon. Members as to what they would say, or might say, were we to return to this matter. I am sure that on reflection he will take the view that that cannot be done. Obviously, when we have returned to it, anything that is in order will be said.
I have not had time to consult my right hon. Friends, but I believe that I will have their support in saying that if we return to the Motion later we will not want to do more with it than we would have been able to do with it tonight. I am prepared to say, beyond that, that we ought to accept the Adjournment on the understanding that we are now to have a look at this matter, that the lawyers will have a look at the basis of it. If it is found, in the sense that the Prime Minister puts it, that the man will not be deported, in that case there will be no further need to move the Motion—the Home Secretary can tell us that. If the Government go on with the deportation, time will be found for us to resume the debate on the Motion that we are on at this point.
§ The Prime Minister
I think that is a fair picture of what is the intention 1288 and what, I think, the House wishes. If there is any question of the death penalty at any time, either by the legal position or by any other position, of course the House can debate that, either the validity of the assurance given or the validity of the legal view given. Of course it can debate that. From what the right hon. Gentleman said, in view of the pressure of business, it will not debate the broad general question at any great length. But it will proceed as it would have proceeded tonight had this point not been raised. I think that a fair assumption and that it would be the wish of the House.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I do not know whether the Prime Minister is deliberately seeking to misunderstand the attitude expressed from these benches or whether he does not understand the point that we are trying to make. There are really two matters before us. When the debate began the issue of the death penalty, as raised by the right hon. Gentleman, was not before us. But the main issue of the deportation was before us and many of us took the view, whatever may be the legal decision about the death penalty, that the issue of the deportation remains. We should want to be satisfied that this House would not merely pass into the hands of the Government the matter of the death penalty, but that the House should have the opportunity to decide the issue of the deportation.
§ The Prime Minister
If I may be allowed to intervene; what the hon. Gentleman says is exactly what is my intention. There are two questions. After the death penalty question is out of the way, we should proceed, as we had intended tonight, to discuss the second question, and all the rights of the House are preserved.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.