HL Deb 07 May 1959 vol 216 cc219-21

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry for what has occurred, but my noble Leader has explained the circumstances. The first part of the statement, as I understand it, refers in particular to the unfortunate happenings at Hola. There the coroner found that illegal assaults had taken place against the detainees, but that specific offences by known persons had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. The Attorney-General of Kenya is considering what further investigations are necessary, and whether any prosecutions should be launched. We do not wish to say anything which might prejudice any criminal proceedings on which he decides.

The Governor has told us, however, that he wishes to obtain expert advice on the future administration of the four remaining emergency detention camps, and in particular the arrangements for their systematic inspection and the investigation of complaints by detainees. I am glad to say that we have been able to secure the services for this purpose of Mr. D. Fairn, a Prison Commissioner and Director of Prisons Administration in this country, who has taken part in the work of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders and has previously carried out inspections of colonial prisons: and of Sir George Beresford-Stooke, a former Governor with wide colonial experience. I hope that they will be able to begin their inquiry next month.

I should perhaps add that the International Committee of the Red Cross has also come forward recently to offer the Kenya Government the help and advice of its delegates, who would visit the camps in the same way as they visited them in 1957. The Kenya Government have asked us to accept this offer on their behalf, and the Secretary of State has done so.


My Lords, may I say that I am greatly obliged to the Government for having made the statement, in all the circumstances that preceded the matter. It is a very good thing to have it made here. We have all been very concerned about the report in The Times this morning. There has been something seriously out of place, obviously, for the coroner to come to such findings. On the other hand, I am sure the House will recognise that it would be inadvisable to press for any particular action with regard to the findings of the coroner until the Government have the advice of the Attorney-General—although it seems to me that the Government need not be finally bound by the advice of the Attorney-General, and that if, after considering it, they think an inquiry should be held, then it might be as well that that course should be adopted. I am glad to welcome the fact that expert advice has been asked for and is to be given to the Governor in regard to the matter of the administration of these prisons.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, who has dealt with this matter with his usual charm. It was never a quarrel so far as I was concerned. However, there are points that I should like to put in the form of questions. First of all, it is obvious that no question should be asked which could prejudice the case against any individual; but there is no news of that to-day. However, there are questions which, for the good name of our country, are very urgent. First of all, what was this Cowan plan which permitted the beating of prisoners and the forcing of them to work? That plan is known: it was revealed at the inquest. I ask, therefore, first: will the Cowan plan be printed and circulated to Members of this House, as it is available in Kenya? The second question is: will the coroner's report, which is public, be made available to this House in its text? The third question I would ask is concerning the dead men—because eleven men are dead—and it is this: had they been convicted of any crime, or were they just under detention? Finally, now that they are dead, what provision will be made for their dependants?


My Lords, quite simply, I am not going to be able to answer all these questions "off the cuff". I have made the statement. On the first two questions that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has asked, certainly I will see what may be possible. Of course, we are fully aware of how anxious the House is to know all that can be known anywhere. On the other matters, perhaps he would be good enough to put a Question down, and I shall be able to answer it more properly on Tuesday. Otherwise, I can write to him privately after I have made investigations.


If I may be permitted, I will put the Question on Tuesday, if necessary by Private Notice, because I think the quota is full.