HC Deb 23 October 1972 vol 843 cc759-62
8. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the position of Asians with British passport resident in East Africa.

12. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Ugandan Government to dissuade them from expelling Asians with British passports from Uganda.

31. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement concerning discussions which he has had with President Amin concerning the position of United Kingdom passport holders in Uganda.

34. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Ugandan Government to secure a longer period of notice of intention to deport Asians with British passports.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Despite our representations, the Ugandan Government have refused to rescind the decision to expel the Asians from Uganda or to extend the deadline of three months by which they must leave. They have, however, given assurances to the Secretary-General of the United Nations that Asians remaining after the deadline will not be maltreated.

Mr. Taylor

Has any estimate been made of the assets which Ugandan Asian immigrants have been prevented from bringing out of that country, and does my right hon. Friend think that there is any reasonable chance of their obtaining compensation? Can he report on any progress in discussions with the United Nations about the position of stateless Ugandans?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

That supplementary question goes slightly wider than the original Question. Nevertheless, I will answer my hon. Friend by saying that we have made representations about assets and again General Amin has told the United Nations Secretary-General that he does not intend to confiscate the property of the Asians. It still remains to be seen what he will do in terms of compensation. On the question of stateless Ugandan Asians, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whom we have been actively stimulating to do his best, has got a good long way in his discussions with the Ugandan Government about the treatment of stateless refugees. Our concern has been to get them out of Uganda safely.

Mr. Jenkins

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the undertaking given to the United Nations about good treatment will be fulfilled? Is it possible for him to take steps to try to ensure that this is the case?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

In view of recent history in Uganda, I cannot say that pledges will be carried out. They have been solemnly given to the United Nations Secretary-General, and again to the President of Liberia and to the President of Zaire. If these pledges are not kept, I must reserve every right to use all the machinery of the United Nations.

Mr. Powell

For how many persons have entry certificates been issued to date?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I think in the region of 20,000.

Mr. Powell

You are wrong.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Perhaps I can confirm it to my right hon. Friend. I have not the latest figure with me.

Mr. Powell

It is over 25,000.

Mr. Davis

Has the Foreign Secretary given consideration to the convening of a Commonwealth meeting in order to consider what useful place, if any, Uganda has in the Commonweath in future?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There is a later Question on that subject.

Mr. Deedes

Have we been able to make any assessment of the assets of the Asians who have left Uganda?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Asians who are in a position to do so have given to our High Commissioner in Kampala an assessment of their assets. Therefore, these are recorded in the High Commission.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great public unease in the country that hundreds of thousands of Asians and other races with British passports, or possibly stateless persons, may claim the right to come to this country? Is there any comfort at all which Her Majesty's Government can give to people of this country on this matter which so vitally affects them and the future of their children?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There is a Question on this matter later on the Order Paper.

25. Mr. Douglas-Mann

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations or complaints have been made to him about the manner, speed and efficiency with which the British High Commission in Kampala is processing applications to enter the United Kingdom by British passport-holders previously resident in Uganda.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have received a very small number of complaints and representations, including one from the hon. Gentleman. However, I am fully satisfied that the High Commission faced with very difficult circumstances has been working hard and efficiently to carry out its tasks before the deadline.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

While I appreciate that the staff of the High Commission are certainly working under extremely difficult circumstances, and that there has been a great deal of progress since my Question was tabled, will the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless take note that a considerable body of opinion would wish the benefit of any doubt to be given to those who are applying for entry and that a considerable number of people in this country would not wish any of the Asians to be left to the tender mercies of General Amin after the deadline through any bureaucratic procedures on the part of the British Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We shall not be bureaucratic in this matter, but there must be a limit to the number of Asians we can take, and we cannot take stateless Asians. But I have to resist the implication that the High Commission had not been efficient. What it has done in the time available is almost miraculous. We now look like getting all the Asians with British passports out before the deadline of 8th November. I deplore an anonymous memorandum dated 6th October which was circulated to a number of Members of Parliament and which had no basis of accuracy at all.