HC Deb 21 July 1964 vol 699 cc259-61
25. Mr. M. Foot

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies if he will make a statement on the recent orders issued by the Governor of British Guiana about penalties to be imposed on those convicted of possessing illegal arms and ammunition.

27. Mr. Wade

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies what instructions he has given to the Governor of British Guiana regarding the reintroduction of flogging as a punishment in the Colony.

Mr. Sandys

The emergency regulations made on 23rd May on the advice of Guianese Ministers provided a variety of penalties for looting and kindred offences. On 7th July the Governor added the illegal possession of arms, ammunition and explosives to the list of offences covered by the earlier regulations. No change was made in the nature of the penalties prescribed.

Mr. Foot

Whoever may have supported proposals of this kind in the past, will the Secretary of State tell us whether he was asked to approve these methods of barbarism? Does he think that it can assist in establishing democracy in British Guiana for the British Govern- ment and Governor to be a party to the imposition of flogging and life imprisonment, punishments which are more reminiscent of the slave trade than anything to do with democracy?

Mr. Sandys

First, as to the question of the Governor being associated with this, I should like to point out that these penalties are included in the normal criminal code of British Guiana. My second point is that the application of these penalties to offences under the Emergency Regulations was introduced by the locally-elected Ministers of British Guiana and that the Governor was merely introducing that in accordance with constitutional practice. It was his duty to make whatever regulations the elected Ministers ask for What he has done is to add—I should have thought, reasonably—to the list of offences which carry these penalties, and which previously included looting, the illegal possession of arms, ammunition and explosives.

Mr. Wade

Does the Minister really think that the use of flogging can in any way help to resolve the conflict? Does it not play into the hands of these who are trying to blame Britain and who are suggesting that Britain is adopting reactionary measures? Surely, the introduction of flogging is about the worst thing to do.

Mr. Sandys

The kind of murder and violence that is going on there is very reactionary. I believe that whatever measures are necessary to save life, to prevent murder and to bring to an end this reign of fear and terror are justified. As I have said, these penalties are already included in the criminal code of the country and have been proposed by the elected representatives of the people in British Guiana.

Mr. Bottomley

Is not Her Majesty's Government's name involved in this, too? The Secretary of State takes upon himself many responsibilities for British Guiana, and I should have thought that in this case he could have called for the end of flogging. Is he aware that at the independence celebrations in Malawi, when Britain's stock was very high, this news was received and shocked every African there present?

Mr. Sandys

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman did his best to explain the true facts.

Mr. Bottomley

I did. I was ashamed.

Mr. Sandys

I hardly think that at a time when racial murders are taking place night after night it is the right moment to reduce penalties for violence.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

We ought to get this matter into proper perspective. Would my right hon. Friend care to give the House, by one method or another, a list oil the independent countries which have reintroduced flogging since independence, including flogging for simple offences such as larceny?

Mr. M. Foot

Is it the Secretary of State's desire, as it has been the desire of some previous Secretaries of State, to abolish flogging throughout British territories? Why does he try to shelter behind somebody else's decision? Would he tell us whether he is in favour of flogging as a penalty in British Guiana and, if he is, does he recognise that he convicts himself of barbarism out of his own mouth?

Mr. Sandys

I have made my position perfectly clear, and I have nothing to add.

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