HL Deb 21 October 1952 vol 178 cc789-91

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the proceedings of this debate for a few moments in order to make a further statement on Kenya. The statement which I shall make is similar to that which will be delivered this afternoon by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place.

As the House is aware, a state of emergency was proclaimed in Kenya last night. This was done with the full knowledge and approval of my right honourable friend. Secrecy was essential if the ringleaders were to be arrested quickly and outbreaks of violence avoided. The timing of the operation was therefore arranged to coincide with the arrival of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers from the Middle East. There are two battalions of the King's African Rifles stationed in Kenya, and one battalion and two companies of the King's African Rifles are being moved in from Uganda and Tanganyika respectively. These troops have been brought in solely as a reserve, and all action now being taken is by the police. Until these troops had been brought in and the police had taken action against the ringleaders, it would have been undesirable to refer to this plan.

Since the middle of September the situation has become progressively worse. Once, crimes were committed by stealth, but now law and order are challenged in broad daylight. Chief Waruhiu was murdered on the highway by a hired gunman who did not even know his victim. Firearms and gelignite continue to be stolen and firearms, instead of knives, are being increasingly used by the terrorists. Mau Mau terrorism is carefully planned, centrally directed and its object is to destroy all authority other than Mau Mau. Its leaders are establishing their own courts in their attempt to usurp the functions of government.

Action against these leaders was imperative. The ordinary process of the law is necessarily slow. In present conditions in Kenya it would have allowed time and opportunity for those behind the outrages to organise widespread disturbances, in which numbers of innocent people might have been killed. The declaration of an emergency has enabled the Kenya Government to detain the ringleaders and their lieutenants, about 130 altogether. The prisoners will then be screened, and some may be released when the tension following the operation relaxes.

My right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary is leaving for Kenya next week, not to discuss the present measures—which, as I have already made clear, have his full support—but to see for himself what is happening and to consider, with the Governor, plans for the future development of the Colony. With the permission of the House, I hope to make a further statement as soon as possible after the return of my right honourable friend from Kenya.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for the statement he has made. My noble friend Lord Ogmore, who is more familiar than I with this matter, will ask a question or two. I rise merely to assure Her Majesty's Government that in the measures they are taking they will have the complete co-operation and support of Her Majesty's Opposition. After all, it is the first duty of a Government to restore law and order, so that law-abiding citizens may go about their peaceful avocations. It seems to me that Her Majesty's Government are right to take prompt and drastic measures, in view of what appears to be, unless it is nipped in the bud, an ugly and serious emergency. They have our complete support in so doing.


My Lords, in extension of what my noble friend Lord Jowitt has said, I should like to express our satisfaction that the Secretary of State is going to Kenya without delay to see for himself what the position is. I should like to ask the Government two questions. First, are they satisfied that the complacency which caused some concern, both in official circles in this country and in Kenya, is now at an end? Secondly, are they satisfied that they have sufficient civil and military forces in Kenya to preserve law and order? Our experiences in Malaya showed us how necessary it is in these matters to have sufficient forces at an early stage, and often the Colony itself, for financial reasons, feels unable to obtain the required forces. I hope that if there is any case of that kind in Kenya Her Majesty's Government will assist the Colony with the necessary financial arrangements.


My Lords, I feel sure that my right honourable friend will be grateful for the observations made by the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition. It is indeed a great satisfaction to him, and certainly to myself, to learn that we speak on behalf not only of Her Majesty's Government, but also of Her Majesty's Opposition. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will forgive me if I say that I do not think there has been any complacency in this matter at all; but no doubt that aspect will come up for discussion when we have a debate on this particular subject. I certainly hope that the forces which are now available in Kenya as a reserve will prove sufficient to stop any further spread of the Mau Mau terrorism. And I hope that they, supporting the police, will be able to bring to an end as soon as possible the difficulties and complexities which have developed in this particular Colony.