HC Deb 10 July 1967 vol 750 cc97-101

Mr. Wall (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what action he proposes to take to safeguard the families and property of British farmers recently expelled from Kenya, and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Herbert W. Bowden)

On the evening of 5th July our High Commissioner was informed by the Kenya Government that they had decided to expel at 24 hours' notice 12 persons said to be United Kingdom citizens, of whom five were Europeans and seven Asians.

The High Commissioner immediately approached the Vice-President of Kenya asking for the names of those concerned, and the reasons for the expulsions, and asked for an extension of time. As a result of his representations immediate relatives and representatives of the High Commission were given access to those under expulsion orders.

Although the Kenya Government undertook to give 24 hours' notice, those expelled were arrested during the course of the night of 5th/6th July and taken to Nairobi, where they were kept under armed guard until their departure.

While we recognise the right of the Kenya Government to decide who should be allowed to live in their country, we feel the deepest concern at the lack of consideration shown in carrying out the expulsion orders. On instructions, the High Commissioner has seen President Kenyatta and made strong representations about this. I am asking the Kenya High Commissioner here to call today to hear our views on this.

The safeguarding of lives and property is, of course, the responsibility of the Kenya Government and we naturally look to them to meet this responsibility in respect of all persons in Kenya. The British High Commission is helping with the affairs of the families of those expelled and will, of course, continue to do so.

Mr. Wall

Is the Secretary of State aware that in view of President Kenyatta's well-known desire to preserve good race relations, this action will come as a particular shock? Is he further aware that many of these men have been prominently advocating fair compensation terms under resettlement agreements, which are paid for by the British taxpayer? As it now seems that protests by the British Government in Africa have no value, will the right hon. Gentleman think of taking retaliatory action?

Mr. Bowden

I agree with the first part of the hon. Member's question that since the independence of Kenya President Kenyatta has always done everything possible for the peaceful settlement and living together of Europeans, Asians and Africans in Kenya.

With regard to the farmers who have been deported, I have arranged to place in the Library a statement of the reasons given by the Kenya Government. I would, however, point out that concerning the acquisition of their farms there is no such thing as compulsory purchase of farms. This is on the basis of a willing seller and a willing buyer. If any farmer wished not to sell his farm at the price offered, he would refuse to do so. One should not assume that the one aspect is related to the other.

Mr. John Lee

While disregarding the rather unfortunate observations on the question of compensation, may I assure my right hon. Friend that many on this side of the House feel that the treatment of these people was very bad indeed? Will my right hon. Friend see that British subjects are not treated to the kind of humiliation and, it seems, brutality which was meted out to some of these people on this occasion?

Mr. Bowden

I said in my original statement that despite the reason for deportation the treatment of the deportees leaves a lot to be desired. We have made strong representations about this and will continue to do so.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Secretary of State make it clear to the High Commissioner this afternoon that those of us in this House who have always admired and supported the Kenya Government in all their difficulties object strongly to the treatment which has been meted out and to their departure from normal standards in the treatment of these 12 citizens?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said so.

Mr. Woodburn

Would not my right hon. Friend regard it as wise not to start uttering condemnations or prejudgments until we know the facts? My experience in Kenya was that race relations there were as good as anywhere in the world. It would be a great pity if anything that we were to do disturbed them until we know the facts.

Mr. Bowden

I accept that the relationships between the races in Kenya are an example to the whole of Africa and I would not wish to say anything to disturb them. I must, however, protest about the treatment which has been meted out to these deportees. As for the reason for it, perhaps we had better await the paper which I propose to place in the Library.

Lord Balniel

While not wishing to prejudge in any way the merits of any individual in this case, may I ask whether the Secretary of State is aware that the House is becoming increasingly concerned about the treatment which is being meted out to British subjects in many countries, where it is thought that this bad treatment can be undertaken with absolute impunity?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say—I did not understand it from his Answer—whether he accepts the merits of the expulsion order?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that the reason for expulsion is a matter for the Kenya Government. They, like every other country, are free to deport people if they so wish. What I object to is the method used in deportation, the shortness of notice, and so on. As to the merits of whether this was justified, every right hon. and hon. Member can judge for himself when he sees the document. But the right to deport must obviously rest with the Kenya Government.

Mr. Paget

Would my right hon. Friend consider suggesting to the Kenya Government that there should be some form of commission to advise the President that in the matter of expulsion people who have been there all their life should have a right of hearing and of hearing the charges against them, otherwise there is great danger of action simply upon informers without answer?

Mr. Bowden

This, again, is a matter for the Kenya Government, as it would be for ourselves to decide the machinery which we would use before coming to a decision whether to deport.

Mr. Burden

Would not the Secretary of State agree that if these expulsions are of a harsh and unfair nature, he should take into consideration any sums which might be paid as grants or aid to the Kenya Government and that this should apply not only to the Government of Kenya, but to other African governments who might receive aid from us and who treat our citizens in this way?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir, I would not like to think that our aid to Kenya or to any other African Government was based upon what is undoubtedly the right of every independent country to deport people whom they regard as being undesirable.

Mr. Whitaker

Is my right hon. Friend a ware that those of us who deplored the expulsion without trial by the Rhodesian régime equally must regret this one? Will he ask President Kenyatta to consider the procedure recently followed by the President of Zambia, when he had a proper independent, judicial inquiry prior to deportation?

Mr. Bowden

The High Commissioner is again, I think, seeing the Vice-President of Kenya and this point could be made to him. Of course, the decision is one which the Kenya Government alone must take.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.