HC Deb 04 February 1964 vol 688 cc987-9

Considered in Committee; reported without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)

For a few moments this afternoon I wish to speak on the Third Reading of the Bill and, in particular, to make reference to the sum of £40 million part of which, as one can find in Votes 3 and 6, is to be used for the Federation Army in South-West Arabia and also for internal security and special measures under Class III (6) for internal security in Aden.

I realise that this day is to be devoted to the Opposition's business, but I should not like a sum of this nature to be passed unless I had, first, an undertaking from the Minister about the spending of this money in South-West Arabia and some enlightenment about it. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that part of the money might be used in detention centres and also in looking after the prison services.

A year ago I and other hon. Members spoke to him about the condition of Aden Prison. Before I agree to allowing the Bill to pass I want an assurance from him. He and the Colonial Secretary know that in that prison, built about 1809, in one compound, there are lunatics, prisoners, women and also boys, who are treated as if they were pack hounds.

In the central part of the prison one can find women barred up. This is the most terrible gaol, for which this country is responsible. I would like to have an undertaking from my hon. Friend that at least the lunatics will be taken away from where the prisoners are. There is no room for women prisoners in the gaol. I ask what authority was given to use the chapel to house a woman prisoner. Was it because there was no room in the prison for women, or because the women's part of the prison was so terrible that she could not be sent there? These are such serious matters that I must ask the Minister for an assurance before I agree to the passing of the Bill.

I spoke to my hon. Friend privately about it a year or more ago. He knows that this prison is a standing disgrace. It is all very well for the Opposition to say that it was more of a credit in their time, but this prison in Aden condemns our name and in the last century it would have brought mortification to our country. I am not surprised that the United Nations authorities were not asked to visit the area of Aden.

The Minister promised a year ago that a special place would be built for the lunatics so that they would not run around throwing filth among all the other prisoners. I ask him to review the case of every prisoner and of every person detained in Aden against whom no charge is made, wherever he may be detained, and where Government money is used to detain him which comes out of these funds. I must ask him, in the name of human decency, that this matter of Aden Prison be put right. Until he says so I shall endeavour to obstruct the Bill as long as I can.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

Would my hon. Friend make this clear to the House? Is he suggesting that the detainees—those detained after the recent bomb outrage—are confined in the civil prison of which he has just spoken?

Mr. Yates

May I point out, first, that those who are waiting to be repatriated or sent back to another country are confined there, and, secondly, that the lady detainee, Miss Radia Anasallah, was imprisoned in the chapel and that because we were visiting there she was moved into the hospital. The other detainees are detained outside, but wherever people are detained without trial somebody in this House must stand up and ask that they be tried or a case brought. The hon. Member did not visit the gaol during his visit, but if he was satisfied with it perhaps he would tell the House?

3.53 p.m.

The Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies (Mr. Nigel Fisher)

Subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I am advised that the scope of this debate does not properly permit me to answer the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) in detail. I am sorry to detain the House at all when I know that hon. Members wish to get on with the main business of the day.

Of course, I respond to my hon. Friend's invitation to look again at the conditions in Aden Prison. I think that in the present context they are not entirely relevant because the detainees under the state of emergency have not been detained in the prison, which is admittedly somewhat overcrowded and old-fashioned. That is why they were moved elsewhere. This prison is shortly to be replaced, so my hon. Friend's points are a little academic, but I shall certainly look into them with great care and particularly at the case of the Lady in the chapel, which I have heard about for the first time this afternoon.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.