HL Deb 29 July 1959 vol 218 cc895-924

11.0 p.m.

LORD PAKENHAM rose to draw attention to documents published in Command Paper 816 relating to the disaster at Hola Camp; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the disaster at Hola. I am sorry that this Motion should have come on so late, but I do not think any Members of the House will expect me to apologise for initiating a discussion on this matter before the House departs for the summer holidays. No one in the House will need me to remind them that on March 3 of this year eleven detainees were beaten to death by African warders on the instructions of the Camp Commandant who was present for most of the time, though he absented himself for a while, leaving no European in charge. That is to say, the Commandant was absent certainly while fatal injuries were inflicted, and also many other injuries which did not prove fatal. The eleven men died a little while afterwards; that is to say, ten died soon afterwards and one later in hospital. It is, of course, fair to point out that the Commandant never expected that they would die.

Is it right beyond all shadow of doubt to say that these men were murdered? I am aware that the coroner's finding did not exclude the possibility that some part of the force—perhaps a small part—might have been used under the Regulation which permits the use of force in case of violence from detainees. But I have not found any disposition on the Government's side to shelter under that point. I should have thought that the whole House, including the Minister, who I am glad to see is going to reply, would agree that a number of appalling murders were committed under our own country's official auspices on March 3 at the Hola Camp. The men in question were clubbed to death—that is to say, murdered—for the simple reason that they refused to work.

Murder, as we have been told several times by Ministers, both yesterday and to-day, is murder whether it takes the form of killing or assassination; and I am sure that fact has been sufficiently emphasised in the House. These men were prisoners, helpless British subjects whom we had taken into our custody and care, and whom we claimed to have been trying to redeem. To many of us there is no surer indication of the difference between civilisation and barbarism than the treatment of prisoners, as we have been the first to point out to the Germans and a good many other peoples.

I think that many Members of the House—perhaps most—including, I would hope, members of the Government, would feel that this was the most shameful single event that has occurred in our Colonial history or, indeed, besmirched our name at home or abroad within living memory. I do not know how other Members react, but when I hear of an atrocity of this kind—though I do not remember one of quite this magnitude—my first instinct is to assume either that the Commandant in question lost his head, and behaved in some way quite unrelated to his character, or that, by some appalling mischance, a man of criminal and sadistic type found himself in this crucial position of responsibility. Otherwise, on the face of it the thing appears quite inexplicable. But in fact, neither of those explanations covers the facts here. The Commandant, while admittedly encountering a situation for which he was unprepared, acted deliberately in giving his orders beforehand; and though the orders may have been somewhat distorted by the warders, the Commandant himself was present for so much of the time while the fatal injuries were being inflicted that he cannot disclaim responsibility for the way in which his own orders were carried out.

There is no passage in the Report of the Kenya official inquiry more significant than paragraph 103, in which evidence is given as to the character of Mr. Sullivan, the Commandant. Perhaps the House would allow me to remind them of that passage. Mr. Sullivan is described—and I do not doubt any of this—as having already done much for Hola "by his enthusiasm and infectious good humour." His conduct is mentioned as being "exemplary". The testimonial of Canon Webster, the Chaplain to the Kenya Prisons, is of particular interest. Canon Webster is reported as having had a very high regard for Sullivan's character. He says that Sullivan was co-operative, conscientious and sympathetic to the detainees under his charge. It seems that Mr. Sullivan gave Canon Webster every help in co-ordinating the activities of the African padre and the evangelist at Mageta Island, when Sullivan was in charge of Mageta Island in 1956. Canon Webster was most certainly, we are told, of the opinion "that Sullivan was not a cruel man." So the theory that this might be some sadist who had strayed into this job by some accident must clearly be excluded. Mr. Sullivan had served in the Navy for many years with credit before coming to Kenya, Therefore, what makes the story all the more horrifying is that it cannot be explained in terms of the iniquities of a particular Englishman.

Mr. Sullivan appears to have been a good, average, decent naval type, the salt of the earth, one would suppose from that description; a man who admittedly misunderstood his instructions but who was trying to carry them out faithfully. I am afraid I see Mr. Sullivan's performance as a symptom of an outlook with terrible potentialities for evil unless that outlook is instantly and utterly repudiated, and repudiated from the highest level. How did Mr. Sullivan, this average, decent Englishman, come to authorise these murderous assaults? He did so because he thought it was his job to get these men to work at any price. He saw that as his appointed duty; that it was his job to see that if they would not work they were beaten until they did, at whatever risk to their lives.

Had he any excuse for supposing that these were his orders? The House is aware by now of the visit paid to Hola on February 7, nearly a month earlier, by Mr. Cowan, the senior superintendent, who unfolded to Mr. Sullivan the Cowan Plan, which was a modification of methods used elsewhere for getting prisoners to work. Since Mr. Sullivan admittedly misunderstood Mr. Cowan's instructions, both in what might be called their strategy and tactics, we shall never know what Mr. Cowan told Mr. Sullivan. But in the Cowan Plan, as afterwards put on paper, paragraph 5J was described by the coroner of being of vital consequence. May I quote from the Cowan Plan? I will come to the point that the Cowan Plan was never communicated in writing to Mr. Sullivan, but I am quoting from the coroner: It is assumed that the party would obey this order"— that is, the order to proceed to the work site— but should they refuse they would be manhandled to the site of work and forced to carry out the task.

This is a quotation from the Cowan Plan in writing. "Should they refuse they would be manhandled to the work site and forced to carry out the task." The later inquiry of the Kenya officials said that they accepted Mr. Cowan's assurance that he never envisaged force in the form of batons being used, even if the men refused to work. The coroner found that the words I have just quoted from paragraph 5 clearly gave carte blanche to whatever force might be necessary to secure the performance of the task. That view of the coroner is apparently rejected by the later inquiry because of other Government directions in force—at any rate, known by high officials to be in force. It is not for me to challenge an inquiry conducted on the spot by excellent officials. I am, and I must be, ready to accept what the later report about Mr. Cowan says. But it is obvious, and it is accepted by all, that the intentions of Mr. Cowan were completely misunderstood by Mr. Sullivan on an absolutely vital point. If the House asks me why—and here I am speculating but speculating confidently—the explanation seems to me to be this: that, even making allowance for the way Mr. Sullivan modified the Cowan Plan, and these modifications only made it less efficient, it seems that Mr. Cowan completely under-estimated the difficulties of Mr. Sullivan's task.

Here I quote the words of the coroner: I find that the assumption that the order to work would be obeyed was completely unjustified.


The name of the official in question is Cowan.


I am ready to be corrected on that and all other points. I asked that I should be corrected on all points were I am clearly wrong, and with regard to the pronunciation of Mr. Cowan's name, I am clearly mistaken: I find"— said the coroner— that the assumption that the order to work would be obeyed was completely unjustified in the circumstances operating at the time the plan was formulated, in view of the large-scale previous refusals and since the Plan itself was a Plan to compel refusing detainees to work. In other words, the point about the use of batons, which Mr. Cowan never envisaged, and which were used in this terrible way, was never settled between the two men because they never discussed the matter.

Those who have studied the documents of the debate in another place are aware of the series of errors, to call them no worse, which occurred between the visit of Mr. Cowan to Hola on February 7 and the tragedy on March 3. Mr. Cowan drew up his Plan which, whether it was sensibly human or otherwise, failed to cover one all-important contingency—an organised refusal to work. He addressed it to the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Prisons. Later, Mr. Cowan received an urgent situation report from Mr. Sullivan which, in the light of his extra knowledge, should have caused him some disquiet. But he handed it to the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Prisons and went on overseas leave. I am certain he had richly earned his leave and was entitled to depart. One certainly cannot blame him for that. In that report, Mr. Sullivan, besides revealing, it may be thought, some misunderstanding of the Cowan Plan, mentioned the general deterioration in the situation and made what was surely an urgent plea: It is requested he said— that the senior superintendent of prisons with appropriate powers of summary punishment, may be present when the policy outlined is implemented. He begged to have a senior officer there before he tackled this difficult and dangerous duty.

On February 17 the Commissioner of Prisons forwarded the Cowan Plan with Sullivan's situation report to the Minister of Defence. And the Commissioner of Prisons wrote a Minute which included this passage: (4) The plans Mr. Cowan worked out at (9) could be undertaken by us, but it would mean the use of a certain degree of force in which operation someone might get hurt or even killed. (5) I think this situation should be brought to the notice of the Security Council and a direction given on what policy should be adopted with these recalcitrant or unmanageable detainees. We must either let them stew and risk the contamination of the convicts and the open camp detainees, or take such action as planned at (9) with the risk of someone getting hurt or killed. So the Commissioner of Prisons, when he forwarded the Plan for approval to his Minister, pointed out that it might lead to someone being hurt or killed, and that the circumstances should be placed before the Security Council.

The Minister felt it unnecessary to place this Plan before the Security Council. He did not consider that any new matter of Government policy was involved and did not refer it, therefore, to the Security Council. He discussed it with the Commissioner and accepted the principles contained in it. The Minister has in my opinion been criticised, and rightly criticised, and the Minister for African Affairs to whom the Plan was also made available, must share some of the responsibilities for not bringing this matter before the Security Council.

In fairness, I must quote their defence in paragraph 38 of the Officials' Report, in which these are perhaps the key sentences: The Minister of the Interior was satisfied that the proposals put up by Cowan and as understood at prison headquarters did not involve the use of any illegal force. The proposals were not carried out in precisely that form. How he thought that resistance would in fact be overcome is not disclosed, but I am bound to say that in conjunction with other critics, including that ex-Conservative Minister, Mr. Enoch Powell, who made such a memorable speech in another place a day or two ago, I find the defence of these two Ministers remarkable and totally unconvincing.

Two further omissions must be mentioned, for both of which the Commissioner was responsible, and then the chain of neglect or muddle, or at best lack of foresight, is complete. The Cowan Plan, which was explained orally to Sullivan and which there should have been some reason at headquarters to think he had misunderstood, was never forwarded to him in writing, and Mr. Cowan had always assumed it would be forwarded in 'writing. Poor Mr. Sullivan had to be content with this oral briefing some time before. Secondly, Mr. Sullivan was denied the assistance of the Senior Superintendent of Prisons whom he had specifically and prudently asked for, because he knew better than anyone the kind of men he was being asked to deal with.

It all boils down to this. Mr. Sullivan was expected to perform a task of extraordinary difficulty. He was badly let down by his superiors, collectively and individually, whether through shocking neglect or sheer administrative muddle we are open to choose, and the latter is the more charitable view. The actions of Sullivan on March 3 cannot be condemned too strongly, and his penalty of being required to leave the Service with a gratuity is certainly not, in my opinion, too severe. The Committee of Officials, however, rightly point to these extenuating factors, but in removing some of the blame from his shoulders they put it higher up. I would extract these sentences: It was unfair to Sullivan to order him to carry out this special task without giving him specific and detailed instructions in writing and without proper assistance and supervision by senior and experienced officers. We consider that high level control should have been exercised over the execution of this operation, more particularly as it was the first of its kind to be undertaken at Hola. The Commissioner of Prisons has voluntarily decided to ante-date his retire merit by a short space of time; he was about to retire in any case very soon I am quite ready to believe—I have no earthly reason for not believing—that he is a gentleman of the highest character, as revealed in this voluntary decision. But I certainly cannot feel, and the Commissioner obviously does not feel, that it would have been right for him to escape without penalty. I am not saying now that these particular penalties are inappropriate to the two gentlemen concerned, one being required to leave the Service with a gratuity and the other to agree to ante-date his retirement by a very short time. But I am saying, if that is all, that the sum total of penalty is shockingly disproportionate to and is infinitesimal compared with the fantastic evil of the slaughter. As they stand, if that is all, it adds to the blot on our name rather than contributing in any way to erasing it.

I must draw to a close, leaving many aspects untouched on. If I do not seek at this hour to discuss the future of the detainees it is not, as the House will I hope be ready to believe, because I am uninterested in penal reform or human reclamation. The episode of the Kenya Government communiqué of March 4, which the Colonial Secretary himself described as a grave mistake and most unfortunate, I must leave to other speakers. The House will remember that after a three-man team had visited Hola the Kenya Government issued a statement on March 4, the day after the tragedy, and in that statement, after mentioning that an inquest was to be held, clearly implied that the men had died as a result of the water they had drunk. If I might quote from that Government of Kenya Statement of March 4, they say: The deaths occurred after they had drunk water from a water cart. I think the implication is clear: that in their view that was the explanation of the deaths. It is impossible not to be shocked by the circumstances surrounding that communiqué. Here, again, gross muddle is the most charitable view that can be offered.

Again, I can only allude in passing to the immense gulf of thinking which divides those of our countrymen and Members of the House here, who feel that the whole of the Kenya Administration deserve high praise for the way they have tackled the problem of detainees, and those who have been crying out and will continue to cry out in protest against the whole system, the philosophy behind it and the results which have followed it. It may well be argued—but I am not trying to argue it to-night—that if adequate inquiries had been called for, as they were in another place by the Labour Party, and had been allowed, into the conditions in these camps, these terrible happenings could never have taken place. But I am trying to narrow the issue to-night to see whether those on both sides of this gulf of thinking can unite in a verdict on this episode at Hola.

The real difficulty—and others must feel this beside myself—is that so many public servants are involved that the question of sorting out the measure of blame and deciding how much sacrifice should be called for from each one becomes almost impossible. I am ready to believe—here again I have no credentials for arguing otherwise—that the Attorney-General of Kenya was right. It is clearly beyond my province to differ from the Attorney-General in saying that no prosecutions could be launched with any hope of success. But may I venture to suggest that if that is so, if it is really impossible to launch any prosecutions, that must increase the strain on the political consciences of those who carry the ultimate responsibility, the Governor of Kenya and the Colonial Secretary.

I am concerned with this episode and this episode alone. I used to know the Governor of Kenya well and the Colonial Secretary very well, and I have in the past been privileged to call each of them my friend. I should certainly judge them by only the highest standards. I know well that the problem in their minds would not be how to cling to office but how to reconcile one kind of loyalty with another. How each one of us solves that problem is, in the last resort, something which each one has to determine within himself. But I myself believe that nothing could have been done so much to clear our name from this great slur as the resignation, without moral blame attached, of the Governor or the Colonial Secretary. I think the Governor should have resigned and then it would not have been necessary for the Colonial Secretary to resign. If the Governor failed to resign, I think it was the duty of the Colonial Secretary to go. I suppose that they have been persuaded that it is a higher loyalty to remain, and I say that without any sarcasm about men for whom I have a deep personal regard. Be that as it may, these frightful murders will take a long time to live down, and I hope that in the atmosphere of this House, if not elsewhere, it will be possible for one of the two Ministers who are speaking to-night to show signs not exhibited I am afraid, as I would have hoped, to the effect that the Government are bitterly ashamed of what has occurred under their rule and deeply resolved in a contrite spirit to make sure that nothing of this kind ever happens again.

We all know in our hearts that if some-frightful thing of this kind had happened in this country the matter would not have been disposed of with these derisory penalties. These men were Africans. Their fate and our treatment of what occurred there are of vital concern not only to the whole of Africa but, even more widely, to the whole world interested in British ideas of justice with our proud boast that we govern irrespective of colour. I implore the Government to speak tonight in a way that will make it plain that we are genuine and not humbugs when we say that in the British Commonwealth the life of every human being is equally precious, whether be be black, white, yellow or brown.

11.30 p.m.


My Lords, even at this late hour I think it is both right and proper that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, should have raised this issue which is, as he says, one of great tragedy. It is also the first opportunity that we have had to debate this question in this House. I well understand the distress and the dismay of Lord Pakenham that no one can be prosecuted for this tragedy involving the death of eleven detainees at Hola. I also understand his sense of frustration. This sense has prevailed clearly throughout what was a very sincere speech. But I cannot follow him to his conclusion—namely, that the Governor, or indeed the Secretary of State, should resign. That, I believe, is an emotional reaction—something I can understand, something I realise is sincere. But it is not, I believe, supported by reason. I know that I speak for the Governor of Kenya as well as for the Government, and indeed for everybody in this country, when I say that we are deeply distressed at this disaster, very greatly regret it and are determined to see that its like can never happen again. Shortly, I shall be coming to the steps we have in mind to that end.

As the noble Lord has pointed out, no one has been prosecuted. The Coroner found that that could not be undertaken. The Attorney General of Kenya also, and most reluctantly, came to the same conclusion. The issue was long debated in another place, and there the Attorney General also offered that opinion. On that point I feel that there is nothing more to be said. It is also a tragedy for another reason, that it comes at the end of a long line of successes in dealing with Mau Mau detainees. The Kenya Government over the years have succeeded in restoring to normal life 77,000 out of 78,000 of the detainees—far more than anybody believed was possible a year or two ago. This is an achievement which, whatever may have occurred on March 3—and it is a terrible thing—is something from which nothing can detract.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, talked at some length about the Cowan plan and about the fact that it seemed to indicate or lead to force, and so forth. But I would point out that in that plan as originally suggested, there were, as Mr. Cowan understood with Mr. Sullivan, important safeguards. It was evolved from the experience of successes in other cases than those at Hola. Mr. Cowan thought that Mr. Sullivan understood that the experiment would be tried in relation to small batches of men, fifteen or so at a time; and in those conditions, if there were a large number of Europeans supervising, the sort of thing that did occur would not have occurred. In fact, Mr. Sullivan, I think, took out all 84 men in one batch.

Again, Mr. Cowan expected that they would be told they were going out to work. It was essential that they should be told this when they were in the camp. Unhappily, Mr. Sullivan did not follow out that instruction. He took them out of the camp without telling them what they were going to do, and it was then that the trouble arose. Then, also! we had not the number of Europeans who would have been there if——


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I raised one point which does not seem to me to have been sufficiently discussed. I do not know whether the noble Earl can give us an answer. What did Mr. Cowan envisage should be done if, in fact, the men refused to work?


My Lords, I think the answer on that point is that they should be manhandled. I think it is put in the Report that they should be made to go through the motions of work.


The noble Earl used the word "manhandled". That really is the whole point of the matter.


That is my interpretation. If my interpretation is wrong, I would appeal at this moment to the noble and learned Viscount to give his interpretation in a more legal form.


My Lords, it is actually dealt with. Cowan was asked that, and it may be helpful if I refer your Lordships to paragraph 32 of the Report, which says: Cowan was asked about what he meant by 'manhandled', and he explained that his meaning was precisely illustrated by a photograph which he showed to us"— that is the Committee, of course— cut from the Daily Telegraph of Saturday, 9th May, 1959, which showed five Metropolitan Police constables frog-marching a struggling demonstrator from outside Pentonville prison.


My Lords, what does that mean?


As I see it, it means taking someone by the arm and urging them along. That is the way the police remove a demonstrator.


Where do they take them? And how long do they go on with this manhandling?


I am sorry; I thought that the noble Viscount was asking me what was meant by that. I understand that that is the ordinary police method. But as my noble friend said—I am sorry if I have stolen his thunder—that what Cowan had in mind was that they would be manhandled; that is, frogmarched, in the way that a policeman deals with someone, to the scene of the work, and then that their hands would be placed down, say, to remove a root from the trench; and that the fact of getting their hands to go round the root and take it up would demonstrate to them that the Mau Mau oath was not the terrifying, awful thing that they thought when they swore it, but that the fate they believed would befall them if they broke the Mau Mau oath was dissipated by the fact that they had succeeded in removing the root and no harm had befallen them. I should think that the folklore of every country in the world contains something of that sort, but it cannot be ignored. I am sorry if I have stolen the thunder of my noble friend, but I hope that I have got it right.


My Lords, if that is the interpretation that Cowan put upon it, is it not rather a misfortune that he did not explain it to the man who was going to carry out this process?


My Lords, I think the answer must certainly be that it is a great pity, because obviously it was one of the causes of the tragedy occurring. I spoke a little about the Cowan plan because I think it is important to realise some of the reasons why the thing went wrong.

But, of course, all along one knew that rehabilitation involved risks; for as the Governor says in his despatch of July 6, which is published as part of Command 816, detainees include men who are ready at any time to resort to violence. I am not saying this as any sort of excuse for what happened on March 3, but rather as a pointer to the fact that the whole rehabilitation operation had always involved danger to prison officers as well as to detainees, and those dealing with it had to face this fact when planning any forward moves.

My Lords, after seeing the coroner's report, as you will know, the Governor appointed a Commission of Inquiry into charges against Mr. Sullivan, and the inquiry also covered Mr. Coutts, the Assistant Superintendent. I do not think there is any point in my going into detail on the charges. It is sufficient to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, that Mr. Sullivan is to be retired from the Service. There were extenuating circumstances, but that was the position as to the penalty. As to Mr. Coutts, the Governor and Minister accepted the findings of the Commission that the charges were not proved and no action was justified.

The findings also, as the noble Lord pointed out, revealed a serious administrative situation in the prison department. Mr. J. H. Lewis was the Commissioner of Prisons. His attention was drawn to the substance of the Committee's remarks, and he at once sought permission to retire; and this has been granted. Mr. Lewis has performed a thankless task over the last seven years, and it is a very sad thing that this should be the end of such a fine career. He acted in an honest and exemplary way throughout the inquest and throughout the disciplinary proceedings.

So far, my Lords, I do not think there has been any divergence of opinion, at least among those who have spoken. I do not think I need touch on Mr. Cusack or Mr. Johnston, the Ministers; but I should like to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, about the Press communiqué.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I should not like the noble Earl to feel that I accept the exoneration of the Ministers. I did not dwell on that point, but, as I tried to explain, I found their defence completely unconvincing, and I found the argument in another place of a distinguished Conservative ex-Minister most telling.


My Lords, I do not want to go back to that, but I think the important thing is the Press communiqué. I agree it was regrettable, and Mr. Campbell has admitted that his notes, which were not formal but only for the purpose of an oral report, were in one or two respects incorrect. But one must not judge from that that this was a deliberate attempt to mislead or to cover up the true facts. That, I think, is an incredible interpretation to put on what happened. We must remember that when Mr. Campbell and Mr. Small were up at Hola investigating the position, in order to make a very quick report, they knew that at that very time the coroner was investigating; they knew the C.I.D. officers had been sent to see what was the situation; and they knew that under those conditions the doctors also were looking into it. What was the truth was bound to be arrived at. They were wrong in what they discovered, or, rather, in what they concluded; but that they ever thought of trying to cover things up is clearly something which does not warrant any belief or any support.

Now I think the most important thing I can talk about is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, very rightly made—namely, what arrangements are we making to prevent such a happening again; and, further, what are the arrangements to continue the rehabilitation of the remaining hard-core detainees? As your Lordships will know, a Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Fairn, has been considering these problems. The Committee includes Canon Bewes and another gentleman, whose name I am afraid escapes me at the moment. But they all have great experience and are people well qualified for their task.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl would agree, in view of the fact he is quoting the Report of this Commission, that it would have been a great help to us this evening if we had had this Report, for which we asked last week.


My Lords, I quite agree and I was going to make my apology that the Report was not fully available. There are, however certain things that should help your Lordships


My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that it is a very old Parliamentary practice that it is improper for a Minister to support his views by quotations from a Report unless he lays the Report on the table?


My Lords, I am sure that is an old Parliamentary practice. But if the noble Viscount will allow me to finish, I am going to quote from a document which is in your Lordships' hands, if you bother to read it. I refer to the Report which appears in the despatch, Command 816. I regret that the other Report is not available. As I said, it is being considered by the Governor, and the detailed recommendations, together with his judgment, will be known shortly. But—and this is the point—the main conclusions are already known and they are to be found in the Governor's despatch of July 6, Command 816, which is in your Lordships' hands.

They find that there is hope of eventually restoring many of the 1,000 remaining detainees to normal life, but they do not think their release without reconciliation and restoration can be justified. Detention and restriction without trial are there-for, unhappily, going to be necessary for quite a long time. But there is hope, and the Governor and the Administration are to redouble their efforts to reclaim the detainees, if necessary one by one. To this end, with the numbers falling and the problem altering, there is to be a single chain of command with a single Minister responsible. At the head of the chain of command is to be a special Commissioner, Mr. R. G. Wilson, and he will be working under the Minister, Mr. Johnston. I feel confident that this will be a strong team and that the new organisation will function well.

The following steps are also being taken to prevent a similar occurrence. A fresh directive is being prepared in clear and simple language on the rules governing the use of force. Instructions are being issued for medical officers to bear especially in mind the possibilities of deficiencies in ascorbic acid. That is important, because one of the contributory causes to the tragedy at Hola may well have been this deficiency. And, lastly, any important prison operations will be committed to writing and copies given to the officer in charge when they are approved.

My Lords, the tragedy of Hola will always remain, with its sense of frustration that none can be prosecuted. Disciplinary action for faulty administration has been taken already. Our regret at the Hola disaster is profound. But let us also remember the successes in rehabilitation in the past. As to the future, with the measures I have outlined to prevent any such occurrence again, and with the new organisation to deal with the last and most difficult of the detainees, we earnestly trust that the task of restoring these unhappy people to normal life and to their own kinsmen will succeed.

11.48 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to speak at great length, because I am not very well acquainted with the subject. But I must tell the noble Earl that to many people the whole idea of detaining people who have not been convicted is abhorrent. I do not know how many of these eleven people who were killed had been convicted—perhaps he could tell me. But to talk about retraining them, rehabilitating them, is, I believe, quite new so far as we are concerned and it is much too much like the German system. It is not to be supposed that Hitler's camps were intended to exterminate people. There were extermination camps like the Auschwitz Camp; but the camps were also intended to do what is called "rehabilitate". As regards Auschwitz, the notion was that if you beat people up enough somehow you redeem them; and that was an attempt to crush the spirit. I had one particular friend, Dr. Niemoller. Dr. Niemoller was eight years in one of these camps because he would not bow the knee to the Nazis. And they would say, "We are doing no harm to him. We are merely rehabilitating him." It would be interesting to have a paper about it.

You may say "We had 80,000 and we redeemed 79,000." But had the 80,000 people been convicted of something, or were they simply people whose names were ticked by the police? That is a point which is extremely important. Because if the policeman says, "I will put him in because I think, on the whole, he is better out of the way", is it quite easy for the man, later on, to be what is called redeemed? Will the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, who is to reply again, tell us how a man is redeemed. Suppose a man is in a rehabilitation camp and he wants to be redeemed. What does he do? Does he say, "I have given it all up"? Does he make a "decision", such as at a Billy Graham meeting? What does he do to escape? Because I well imagine, especially if he is a man with no particular convictions, that he would do anything to get out on to a farm.

When we come to the Hola case, why do these 1,000 men continue to be beaten up? The Lord Chancellor is giving us another version—not a different version, but a third version—of what can be done with the people. According to the first paragraph here, they must not be beaten. The Lord Chancellor describes another process of what he calls "manhandling"—pushing a man to place and making him lift a root. Supposing he does not lift a root, what do you do with him then? Then you have another system: if he refuses to work, you take him out and flog him. How does he escape? By saying, "I am saved"? That is what I cannot understand. I am perfectly certain that the French Union is looking on; that Ghana is looking on, and that the whole of Black Africa is looking on, at the way we treat these people. And we have never had—at least, I have not seen—an explanation which satisfies the ordinary conscience of an Englishman, who believes that people should not be tortured, should not be beaten, and should not be imprisoned unless they have been convicted of some offence.

11.52 p.m.


My Lords, very little remains to be said, I think, on this one debate. I regret very much that we are not going to hear the noble Lord, Lord Twining; because, with his experience, I was hoping that we should get a really authoritative opinion on what consequences should have followed a breakdown, an incompetence in the administration, such as has been disclosed in Kenya.

The noble Earl, Lord Perth, started by complaining that my noble friend Lord Pakenham, in some of his demands, was speaking emotionally, and that his demand for the resignation of the people responsible was not dictated by reason.

My Lords, are we not dealing entirely with a matter of the emotions, not only in this country but in others? It is an emotional matter, not a rational one, that strikes the people of the world when there are wholesale murders in such circumstances. It seems to me that it is quite right to talk about it on an emotional basis. I think that is the way it has struck many, many people in this country, quite apart from those in Colonial territories, in the Commonwealth, and in other countries overseas. I think the shock, as it gradually dawned on people what had happened, has been very much deeper than Her Majesty's Government appreciate: and I think there is nothing which has been said that I have heard or read that cannot be classed as complacent. It was complacency that was complained of in another House; and although the noble Earl took the whole matter very seriously, I cannot help thinking that his attitude was complacent. His attitude seemed to be: "There it is. It was a great pity, and very regrettable. Somebody has suffered, but there it is; we will do better next time."

And to bring into this question the fact that 77,000 of the original detainees have been released, I really do not think is relevant. We are not considering why those men were at that particular camp. The fact remains that, while they were detained there under our powers, they were beaten to death. All noble Lords must know the story quite well, and we cannot go into it now. But I think that most people who have had any experience of, or have thought at all about, the Commonwealth realise that in the past, when cases of gross mismanagement and incompetence came to light in the Colonies, they were taken very seriously; and somebody, the senior person who was ultimately responsible, resigned, or was forced to resign. In this case, it was not merely the fact that it was a case of extraordinary incompetence and muddle running right through one branch of the administration, but the fact that that resulted in a wholesale loss of life and in conditions that really have never been equalled, I think in our Colonial history.

My Lords, next time any of your Lordships use a phrase about the free world or the Western way of life, and contrast that way of life with any others, remember, please, that things just as unpleasant can happen in places for which we, this Parliament, are responsible. We maintain that the Government have treated this matter altogether too lightly.

11.58 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, will not think that I am taking this matter too lightly. The deaths of eleven men can never be lightly passed over. It must always be regarded as a matter of the utmost gravity. I want to say quite clearly that the gravity and seriousness is not affected by what they are, who they are, or what they have done. The noble Earl takes my point; that it is entirely immaterial, from the point of view of inquiry into their deaths in these circumstances, what they had done when they were implicated in Mau Mau. I have said too often in my life that justice I must be done to the dead as well as the living, because the dead include all those who belong to their families and whose lives are wrapped up with them.

Now I should like to underline that by reading very shortly what my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General said with regard to prosecution, because the noble Lord said that the accumulated penalties seemed slight. Therefore, I think it is important that in this debate I should mention the difficulties in the way of prosecution. My right honourable and learned friend said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 607 (No. 126), col. 362]: Murder is a foul and terrible crime and the colour of a murdered person's skin does not reduce its gravity. It is a terrible thing that as a result of the events of 3rd March eleven detainees met their death. It would seem, I am certain, that some, if not all, of them did so as a result of illegal blows, but as some of the violence used by the warders was justified it was not possible and is not to establish whether any particular injury was the result of any particular blow. My right honourable and learned friend went on to say: Hon. Members can read for themselves in the coroner's report that it is not possible to establish that any particular injury was the result of an illegal blow, that any particular death was due to illegal force, or that any particular person struck an illegal blow. That is the finding of this magistrate, whose conduct of this inquiry has been praised on all sides. As my noble friend Lord Perth said, that was also the view of the Attorney-General of Kenya. The important point is that the absence of prosecution depended not on the view of the Law Officers of the Crown alone but on views based on an independent Inquiry by a magistrate who came to similar conclusions.

The next point is the position of Sullivan himself. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has not gone into the findings in detail. The position is shown in paragraphs 101 to 105, and broadly the position is, as the noble Lord put it, that Sullivan did not apply the plan as it was suggested. If your Lordships will bear with me for a moment, I would refer to the finding against Sullivan which is in paragraph 101 (2). The first particular is that he put the 85 detainees to work in such a way that he was unable to exercise proper control over them and in a manner contrary to instructions given to him by Senior Superintendent Cowan.… We further find that this arose from Sullivan's failure to grasp what Cowan had told him and not from any deliberate breach of instructions. There was the further finding that Sullivan "gave his warders inadequate and improper orders" and "took out a force of nearly 200 warders and detainees on the road under his sole charge" and that he left the site knowing that batons had been used. He was also charged with failing to prevent warders from improperly assaulting the detainees and with giving misleading information about the use of batons.

As my noble friend Lord Perth pointed out, the Committee are careful to say that there were certain mitigating circumstances. Broadly speaking, these are that apparently there was a failure of communication of the plan between Cowan and Sullivan. I think that it is important for your Lordships to realise what Cowan had in mind in his plan. In paragraph 31 of the Report it says: Applying the principles set out in paragraph 30 to the report of 11th February by Cowan, we can find that there was nothing improper in the suggestions made by Cowan for the use of 'compelling force'". Your Lordships will appreciate that the inquiry had already distinguished between compelling force and punitive force in the preceding paragraph. The report was addressed to the Commissioner of Prisons. Cowan was therefore writing to an officer conversant with the differences between compelling force and overwhelming force, between legal and illegal force. The report was not, and was not intended to be, a detailed operational plan. The Commissioner discussed the report with Cowan. It was not, therefore, necessary for Cowan to qualify his report by saying in, for example, paragraph 5 (j) when speaking of manhandling and detainees being 'forced to carry out the task', that this manhandling and force should be compelling force only and would not be overwhelming force. Had the letter been addressed to a layman this paragraph would have been misleading. It was not so addressed and we can therefore find nothing improper in it. I now pass on to the kind of force used. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, appreciates that Cowan was closely questioned on this matter. What he said, roughly, was that the words, "compelling force" might have been ambiguous to a layman, but his report was not intended for a layman. The use of batons was never authorised by him because the use of batons was absolutely and strictly forbidden. According to Sullivan's evidence which the noble Lord has probably looked at, he asked Cowan how they were to be forced to work. Cowan told him that the task was weeding, whereby the men had to crouch down to weed by hand. The noble Lord has gone through—if he will allow me to say so, with great restraint and perfect propriety—the number of people who were injured. I can only assure him that I have tried to carry out the same exercise.

With regard to the position of Mr. Lewis, who my noble friend Lord Perth has said has retired, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will see that the Committee deal with Mr. Lewis's reactions in paragraph 36. Further on they explain Lewis's reason for not sending the copy to Sullivan, and they comment most strongly upon that. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, referred to the risk of death that was observed. It was explained that that referred to warders as well as to other people, obviously on the basis (and I think this is fair) that a fight might start between the warders and the detainees. But I think the points in regard to Lewis are these: that there was no reply to Sullivan's report. Secondly, he did not read into the report that Sullivan misunderstood the Cowan plan, which seemed obvious to the Committee. Thirdly, he did not consider tools important. Fourthly, he gave Sullivan no instructions how to deal with the agricultural manager's refusal to provide a task which could be done without tools; he thought this a local matter and, as I said a moment ago, the risk he had in mind was the risk to the warders. On that, and what I mentioned in the Committee's finding in paragraph 45, the attention of Mr. Lewis was drawn to these matters and he resigned at once. As my noble friend Lord Perth said, he has done an extremely difficult job in very difficult conditions since the war.

I am very anxious not to say a word that might make it seem as if I were underestimating anything, but I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, from his inquiries in many fields, will realise that, these being the complaints about Lewis, and that being the job he has done, at any rate it is a reasonable view of the position that if he left the service that would be enough. I am being studiously careful in the matter. I am only saying to the noble Lord that I think he will agree that that is in the field of reasonableness.


I may say at once that, speaking for myself, I would agree with what the Lord Chancellor has just said.


I am very glad. I also went into the position of Mr. Cusack the Minister of Defence and Internal Security. The position was that under the Cowan plan there were the following safeguards: first, that the detainees should be told first in the compound—that is, before they were taken out at all—that they were being taken to work; secondly, that they should be told that in a party of not more than twenty; thirdly (and the noble Lord will appreciate the importance of this) that another group should not be told until the first party was safely under way and had started work; and fourthly, that at the time of the telling there should be an overwhelming warder force, including five Europeans. It was with these safeguards that Cusack took the view that the matter did not call for reference to the Security Council. He had an experienced Commissioner of Prisons with him. So far as the execution was concerned, he knew that care had been taken to send Cowan to see Sullivan, and if he had known or guessed that some of the fundamental points of the plan were to be altered in such a way that trouble might ensue, then he would have said there was to be no alteration in the plan.

The position, so far as he is concerned, is this. Can it really be said that he was not entitled to assume that, once he had given his approval to the plan, it would be carried out without any fundamental alteration? As again the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will have noticed, he says that he would never have agreed to 85 detainees being sent out in one group. That was the main cause of this trouble. Cusack thought that as a matter of routine a copy of Cowan's letter would be sent to Sullivan; he did not think that the original operation as planned by Cowan was delicate or dangerous, and he was satisfied that the proposals of Cowan did not involve the use of an evil force. Of course he never envisaged that batons would be used.


If I may interrupt at that point? Surely he was taking a grave responsibility on himself at that moment in rejecting the view of the Commissioner of Prisons.


The Commissioner of Prisons originally suggested that the matter should have been sent to the Security Council. For the reasons that I have given, and because of the safeguards, Mr. Cusack thought that it need not be sent.

I do not want to seem to be making points for the sake of doing so. I gave the noble Lord nine reasons why he thought that, and again I put it in this way: that having these nine reasons, and considering that he dealt with policy and that execution was for the Commissioner, he thought he was justified in taking that view. I refer the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, to paragraphs 39 and 40 of the Report, and I think that in the circumstances the position of Mr. Johnston, the Minister for African Affairs, was really too far removed from the matter. At least, I would put it in this way: that I should find it difficult to see what charge could be framed against him. It would be possible to frame a charge against Mr. Cusack, although it is not a charge that would hold, for the reasons I have given; but I should have thought that it was difficult to say that Mr. Johnston was sufficiently proximate to the events for even a charge to be made.

The other matter is the question of the investigation of the Campbell trio. Again I should like to assure the noble Lord that I have worked out all the facts which the Campbell trio could have learned if they had been really clever on their visit to Hola; and I have in mind particularly the evidence of Mr. Thompson and the evidence as to the defence to get in touch with Dr. Rogarth, the pathologist, and some remarks that Dr. Moyes said. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will agree that what Dr. Moyes did would have been very puzzling to anyone, because Dr. Moyes was a young man of 25 or 26 and was engaged in dealing with twenty-two men who were hurt, rather than with examining the dead bodies. That is a priority which one could well understand. That is not an excuse; it is what actually happened.

I want to tell the noble Lord that I have gone through all that. Undoubtedly, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said, there was the most unfortunate failure to communicate and understand; secondly, it was unfortunate that Campbell, who is the junior of the three officials, which again complicates the matter, was the person who made a note—he did not make a formal report, but made a note—which, as he frankly put it, was also inaccurate. That note was used as the basis of the report, and the result was the communiqué which has been so bitterly regretted. But, as my right honourable friend said, when one considers that most unfortunate communiqué, one also has to remember that the police and the pathologist were both inquiring into it. They knew the matter was going to go on, and I do not think that there was any question of hiding the matter.

I want to deal with one other point, and I am sorry I am taking so long. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, asked me about rehabilitation. I think I can help him in two ways on that. The first is in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Report. The Committee deal with the question of rehabilitation and describe what was done. I think this is the sentence which the noble Viscount had in mind: The rehabilitation of detainees depends on hard work, discipline and voluntary confession. Voluntary confession is the getting of the fact that they have been in the Mau-Mau. With the continued success of rehabilitation the few remaining detainees who failed to respond to Government's efforts to turn them into good citizens and release them to freedom, became increasingly difficult and intransigent. The Government was therefore left with those who were not acceptable to their own communities, or who had, by their refusal to co-operate with the Government in rehabilitation, made it impossible for the Government to release them.


How many of them?


After the noble Viscount's question, I got as much information as I could, and as I understood it the noble Viscount asked how many were convicts.




The number of Mau Man convicts—those who had actually been convicted—


I am talking about the Hola Camp.


I am talking about the whole series of camps. It was more than 18,000, and there are now only 82 left. Rehabilitation the noble Viscount will find mentioned in Despatch 1603, in paragraph 6, and that was drafted after consultation with the Committee.

The noble Viscount will remember the maiden speech in the House of Commons of my great predecessor Lord Birkenhead, when he was F. E. Smith. He will remember that at a moment in that maiden speech Lord Birkenhead accused Mr. Lloyd George of saying that the Tory Party intended to introduce slavery on the hills of Wales. Mr. Lloyd George got up indignantly to deal with this matter, and my predecessor said, Anticipating such a lapse of memory on the part of the right honourable gentleman, I came here armed with a newspaper which is not generally unsympathetic to the right honourable gentleman's cause. I allude to the Manchester Guardian." I have also come armed with the Manchester Guardian for Tuesday. I know how carefully the noble Viscount reads The Times, but he might extend it to the Manchester Guardian this time, because there is a most interesting article with photographs called: The brighter side at Hola. The fruits of a successful scheme. Quite seriously, I do not think that a paper like the Manchester Guardian, which is running an attack on the Government on Hola and Devlin at the moment, would have put it in unless they had been convinced, on the old Scott principle, that news was right. They say here that out of no fewer than 78,000 such sympathisers detained for security reasons since 1954—that includes the 18,000—fewer than 1,000 remain in detention to-day, and from these only 100 or so still show no signs of renouncing their past allegiance to Mau Mau, such is the success of Kenya's difficult rehabilitation process.


I do not read the Manchester Guardian very often. Can the Lord Chancellor tell us how many of these people who were murdered had been tried and convicted?


No, I am sorry, I cannot.


It does not matter—they are still dead.


It is because they are dead that I am afraid that I have trespassed on the time of the House by explaining again most carefully why there could be no prosecution, and explaining the chain of command and the position of each person. I hope that I have shown that we have treated this as a serious matter, and again the result is, as my noble friend Lord Perth has shown, that a really effective reorganisation has been set in motion, and we hope that we have made it impossible that this should happen again. It is so easy to appear complacent in these matters that I can only throw myself on your Lordships' mercy. But it is an extraordinary thing that, after 78,000 cases have gone through without complaint from the detainees except in a very few cases, with the success that the Manchester Guardian has mentioned, the misunderstanding and the misapplication of orders by Sullivan, who is a man—I am sure the noble Viscount has read it—of high purpose and good character——


I have nothing against him.


It was interesting that he was specially mentioned by the padre for being a man who was cheerful and co-operative and got on well with anyone. But he misunderstood or did not carry out his orders. He took out these 85 men and these awful occurrencies happened. That is the position. I do not think I can help your Lordships further, but I have done my utmost to deal with the points raised.

12.29 a.m.


My Lords, I am, as usual, most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for the very careful way in which he has dealt with the points we placed before the House, and also to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who was very courteous, as always. In a moment, I am going to ask the House to divide on this Motion, but before doing so it might be as well simply to explain what we shall be voting about. I am not accusing the noble Lords opposite in any personal sense of having brought about the deaths of these eleven men. I am saying that when those deaths occurred it was their duty to bring the culprits to justice much more effectively than they have been able to; or, failing that, it was the duty of some high-level person to resign. Because that has not occurred, I feel confident that it will go out to the world that this matter is not treated with sufficient gravity by Her Majesty's Government. That may be a misleading impression but that is how it will go out to the world. It is because I feel that the Government have failed to act in an appropriate manner in view of this unprecedented tragedy, that I am going to ask the House to support my Motion for Papers.

On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 10; Not-Contents, 59.

Addison, V. Lucan, E. [Teller.] Shepherd, L. [Teller.]
Archibald, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Stansgate, V
Crook, L. Pakenham, L. Taylor, L.
Darwen, L.
Aberdare, L. Auckland, L. Camrose, V
Ailwyn, L. Bathurst, E. Chesham, L.
Albemarle, E. Blackford, L. Clitheroe, L.
Amulree, L. Boston, L. Coleraine, L.
Ashburton, L. Bridgeman, V. Colville of Culross, V
Ashton of Hyde, L. Buckinghamshire, E. Conesford, L.
Congleton, L. Home, E. Perth, E.
Crathorne, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Rea, L.
Davidson, V. Howe, E. Robins, L.
Denham, L. Jessel, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Derwent, L. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) St. Oswald, L.
Devonport, V. Lansdowne, M. Selkirk, E.
Ferrier, L. Long, V. Soulbury, V.
Fortescue, E. Luke, L. Teviot, L.
Gage, V. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Teynham, L.
Goschen, V. Merrivale, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Gosford, E. Milne, L. Waldegrave, E.
Grenfll[...], L. Netherthorpe, L. Waleran, L.
Hailsham, V. (L. President.) Onslow, E. [Teller.] Wolverton, L.
Hastings, L. Pender, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.


My Lords, I know that the whole House will wish me before we adjourn to thank the official reporters for the services they have given this House. We have often sat late and it has been a very long Session. Their services to us have been admirable and we should like to thank them for it.

House adjourned at twenty-one minutes before one o'clock on Thursday, July 30.