HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc363-5
8. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British subjects are now detained in Tanzanian prisons; what charges have been brought against them; what is the length of time they have been in gaol; what are the dates they have been brought to trial or are expected to be brought to trial; what is the frequency with which they have been visited by a British consular representative; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Joan Lestor

There are five British subjects, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, in prison in Tanzania. One who was arrested in July 1972 was brought to trial in July 1973 and was sentenced on 20th August 1973 to three years' imprisonment for espionage and sabotage. Four others are detained under the Preventive Detention Act, which does not provide for charge or trial. Two of them have been in prison since February 1972, one since May1973 and one since January 1974.

The frequency of consular visits varies, though permission has not yet been given for a visit to one of the detainees.

Mr. King

Does not that reply indicate that this regime has some of the hallmarks of an oppressive dictatorship? In the light of the principle established by the Prime Minister yesterday, will the hon. Lady tell us on what date arms supplies to Tanzania were withdrawn and contracts broken?

Miss Lestor

I have already told the hon. Gentleman that I deplore detention without trial, wherever it exists. If the people concerned are British citizens, we make whatever representations we can about them and try to have them brought to trial as quickly as possible.

Mr. King

That has nothing to do with the question.

Miss Lestor

It has something to do with it. The hon. Gentleman has just asked me that question.

As to the rest of the supplementary question, if the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question about arms supplies to Tanzania I am sure the Prime Minister will answer it, but that is not the Question which he asked today.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that when she visits African territories in the next week or two, as I understand she will, she will take a list of all the British citizens who are imprisoned without trial in all the African territories? I have the name of one person in Zambia who has been in prison for two months without charges made and without trial. Hon. Members on both sides of the House very much object to this kind of treatment of British citizens. In order to ensure that we are not engaging in double standards, will my hon. Friend be firm and make it clear to those Governments that we are not prepared to stand it?

Miss Lestor:

My hon. Friend is aware that we are not engaging in double standards. He is also aware that my Department has done everything it can about the people whose cases he has raised with my Department and has made representations on his behalf about those people. We continue to do so.

On the general question whether I will take a list of such people to the African countries which I visit later this week and next week, if the opportunity presents itself I shall certainly raise the question of the detainees.

Mr. Brewis

Will the hon. Lady make an opportunity to discuss the matter?

Miss Lestor

Certainly. Of course I will make an opportunity, as I always do, to be consistent in the views that I hold. If I am not satisfied and hon. Members on either side of the House have problems about the detention of British subjects, not only do we make representations through our Department but I shall be happy to carry those representations personally when I go there.

Mr. Fernyhough

When the question of double standards was raised, to which my hon. Friend replied, will she recognise that some of us deplore detention without charges, no matter where it may occur? Will she bear in mind that British subjects in Ulster are being detained without being charged and without trial, and that it does not help if we close our eyes to what is happening in our own back garden and see all the evils in somebody else's back garden?

Miss Lestor

All I can say to my right hon. Friend on that question is that it is a matter for my right hon. Friend who deals with Northern Ireland.

Mr. King

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to my Question, recognised as it is by the whole House of Commons, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.