HC Deb 28 July 1966 vol 732 cc1896-9
Mr. Faulds

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to protect British citizens against the action of the illegal regime at Salisbury University.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

I have been asked to reply.

I have called for a full report from Mr. Hennings, Head of the British Residual Staff in Salisbury.

Meanwhile, I have instructed him to make immediate representations to the appropriate officials in Salisbury about the arrest at the instance of the illegal regime of United Kingdom citizens for whom we are responsible, and to take all possible steps to protect their interests.

A member of his staff has this morning seen a number of those detained.

Mr. Faulds

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House will regard that Answer as totally unsatisfactory in the matter of the protection of British lives? As we are the legal Government, would it not be more responsible to forestall the breakdown of law and order and the inevitable African insurgency by putting down this colonial rebellion in the customary manner, by military means?

Mr. Bottomley

In present circumstances. I think it most unwise to pursue the matter in the way suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. David Steel

As one who knows two of the persons now detained, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make it absolutely clear that the whole country will feel revulsion at the detention without trial of British subjects?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes, Sir. That will be made clear, and it is reinforced by the question which the hon. Gentleman has now put.

Mr. Winnick

Will it be possible for consultations to take place between the Government and the Leader of the Opposition about the way in which certain Tory M.P.s attend public meetings with the aim of giving comfort to the illegal regime in Rhodesia?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. A supplementary question must have something to do with the original Answer.

Mr. Maudling

In answer to his hon. Friend's question about the use of military force, the Secretary of State used the phrase "in present circumstances". Will he make it absolutely clear that in no circumstances will this be contemplated?

Mr. Bottomley

It has been made clear earlier that there is no intention of using force. By the phrase "in present circumstances", what I wished to convey was that it would be unwise even to talk about such a subject.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say what effective power we have to enforce our wishes on this illegal regime?

Mr. Bottomley

We have none, Sir.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this action is all the more sickening when this university was one of the few places left where intellectual freedom flourished? Is he aware that to close down a university is a typical hallmark of the police State? Does this action, by which British subjects have been detained without trial, affect our attitude to the resumption of talks about talks?

Mr. Bottomley

What the hon. Gentleman has suggested in the earlier part of his supplementary question gets the support of us all. With regard to the talks, I think that we must await the report before we are able to consider further the full implications of what action should be taken in the future.

Mr. Wall

Does not the fact that the university was to close down for the summer holidays this week emphasise the foolishness of this action? Will the Secretary of State confirm that British Government funds will continue to be made available to the university as long as it remains open and multiracial?

Mr. Bottomley

That is a separate question, which should properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development. I think that it is premature to speculate about the matter.

Mr. Evelyn King

In condemning the action of the Rhodesia authorities, which I wholeheartedly do, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman does not think that the moral validity of his position is weakened because, weakly, he has not used similar forthright language when other African States have behaved similarly and done equal acts of tyranny?

Mr. Bottomley

I think that I have used forthright language on other occasions, and will continue to do so whenever it is justified.

Mr. John Hynd

As the Minister has clearly announced to the House that the United Kingdom Government have no effective powers to administer this territory or protect our citizens in it, is it not time that we reviewed our policy, and considered handing over the matter to an authority that can handle it?

Mr. Bottomley

That is another question.

Mr. Faulds

Owing to the extremely unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.