HC Deb 12 March 1973 vol 852 cc891-4

3.42 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement.

The House will have learnt with the deepest regret of the murder in Bermuda late on Saturday night of the Governor, Sir Richard Sharpies, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Sayers. Both men were shot while walking in the grounds of Government House. The culprit or culprits have not yet been discovered. A team of New Scotland Yard officers are now assisting the Bermuda police in their investigations and every possible effort will be made to bring the assassins to justice. A state of emergency has been proclaimed by the acting Governor to provide the police with special wider powers. There is no sign whatever of any general unrest in the island.

Sir Richard Sharpies had a long, gallant and most distinguished career of public service, in recent years as our colleague in this House and as a Minister of the Crown. The knowledge of our respect for him and of our deep regret will, I hope, be of some comfort to Lady Sharples and the other members of his family at this time. I also extend the sincere sympathy of the House to the family of Captain Sayers, whose promising military career has been so cruelly cut short.

Mr. Callaghan

The Opposition fully and completely associate themselves with what has been said by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in expressing our great regret at the death of both Richard Sharpies and Captain Sayers and the hope that their families will derive some consolation from that knowledge.

Most of our recent contact with Richard Sharpies was on the marathon Immigration Bill of last year. Whatever we thought about that legislation, I think all who served on that Committee were left with an abiding impression of his unfailing courtesy, patience and consideration during those long sittings.

We can only express the hope that those responsible will be brought to justice as soon as possible.

Perhaps it might be fitting if the House were to say something to the people of Bermuda. This House has many associations with Bermuda and it is right that we should recognise that in this small island community this outrage will have cast a shadow over all races and all colours. We can only hope that that shadow will be lifted from them as quickly as possible.

Mr. Thorpe

The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be aware that the whole House shares the sense of horror and shock that he has expressed. There is the added poignancy that, as he and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, Richard Sharpies, who was recently our colleague, was well respected and much liked in ail parts of the House. We wish to be associated with the messages of sympathy to Lady Sharpies and the family of Captain Sayers.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, unhappily, this is not the first time that murder has been committed against a public servant in Bermuda. The murders may or may not be linked. Will he tell us whether the investigations are under the control of Scotland Yard or are being carried out by Scotland Yard under the direction of the Bermuda police? Will he assure the House that every possible assistance will be given and that if it is necessary to send out further personnel from this country we shall not hesistate to do so?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir, we would certainly do that. The matter is under the direction of the Bermuda police, but they asked for the assistance of Scotland Yard officers, so there will be the most complete co-operation and co-ordination.

Miss Quennell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people in East Hampshire are deeply angry and hurt at this despicable cowardice which has so cruelly removed one of our number in this foul murder recently? Is he able to give the House some reassurance about the security and protection that is being afforded to the late Sir Richard's wife and family who remain on the island until their return?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have asked for a complete report on this matter. I have no doubt that the authorities on the island are on the alert. I cannot tell my hon. Friend exactly what the security arrangements were at the time of the assassination, but I will make certain that this matter is gone into.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Would not the best tribute that we could pay to our late colleague the Governor of Bermuda and his ADC who died with him be to institute in Bermuda a really tough régime from the security point of view? Would it not also be in the interests of the people of Bermuda as a whole that this should be imposed and maintained so that the tourist traffic, on which they depend so much, should not be scared away?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have no doubt that the authorities on the island are fully aware of the need for a police force which can keep security for ordinary citizens throughout the island. As has been said, this island has been famous for the tolerance inside it. Nevertheless, security must be kept.