HL Deb 01 August 1961 vol 234 cc75-9

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I think this may be a convenient moment for me to make a statement on Jomo Kenyatta in the same terms as my right honourable friend is making in another place. I will use his words, and they are as follows:

"The Governor of Kenya has sent a despatch to me in which he has informed me that he has decided that if there is no deterioration in the security position, Jomo Kenyatta should be moved to Kiambu about the middle of August and that his restriction order should be revoked a few days thereafter. I have informed the Governor that his decision has the full support of Her Majesty's Government.

"I am laying a copy of the Governor's despatch to-day as a Command Paper."

As an aside, I would say that of course I will make similar arrangements for the Paper to be laid at the Printed Paper Office.

"The Governor's decision is supported by all the members, including the official members, of his Council of Ministers, as well as by the senior members of the police and the Administration, and the Kikuyu who stood by the Government during the Emergency.

"I believe that this decision, difficult though it is, is in the best interests of all the peoples of Kenya and that it should be taken now."


My Lords, I am glad that the Government have decided to release Kenyatta and have had the moral courage to make this decision while Parliament is sitting, and not to wait until the Recess. Courage is something without which politics loses its flavour. I am particularly glad that this decision of the Governor has been supported not only by his Executive Council but by the senior civil servants and, above all, by the loyal Kikuyu; and I would express the hope that Jomo Kenyatta will take advantage of this unique opportunity to serve his country for the best advantage of his fellow Africans, Indians and Europeans. I should like to ask the noble Earl oppo- site only one question. Will the law in Kenya be amended so that Kenyatta can take part in the political life of the country? This is important, because otherwise when he is released he will still be unable to take the part that his fellow Africans at any rate expect him to take in the political life of Kenya.


My Lords, perhaps I might try to deal particularly with the last question raised by the noble Earl before anybody else comments. First, let me thank him for the words he said in regard to this announcement. Of course, we echo the hopes that he expressed, and it gives us considerable satisfaction that the action which has been taken by the Governor, with our full support, is one which also has the backing of his Government and others, as was said in the statement.

In regard to the question about Jomo Kenyatta's position, as to whether, for example, he can be a member of the Legislative Council, your Lordships will recall that when we were discussing this very subject the other day I said that there had been a resolution in the Kenya Legislature asking that the Secretary of State should consider the amendment of the provision, which is under an Order in Council, which, as a general application, prevents this. My right honourable friend, as he said he would, has considered and studied the record of the debate, but on the information available to him he has no proposal for amending the provisions in question. Furthermore he will not take any such action on this matter during the Recess.


My Lords, the noble Earl will, I am sure, realise that not all of us share the satisfaction which has been expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, with regard to the information which has been given to the House. I do not wish to go into that any further to-day, because I explained my reasons fully in the debate last week. But arising out of the noble Earl's reply I should like to ask him one question. Can he give an assurance that Parliament will be informed before any step is taken to remove the disqualification to which he referred in his reply?


My Lords, what I said, and I should not wish to go further, is that no decision will he taken during the Recess. I hope that will meet the point raised by the noble Marquess.


My Lords, I should like to welcome this decision and to express my appreciation of the action both of the Governor and of Her Majesty's Government in taking what I believe is a very wise step. May I ask the noble Earl whether it is not a fact that it is highly desirable to take this step new, while we still have power in Kenya? Secondly, may I ask him to give earnest consideration to removing the disqualification of Jomo Kenyatta, as otherwise the position will be highly artificial, if in every other way he is free and in this way is under an obligation not to serve in an official capacity?

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, following up the question put by my noble friend, Lord Salisbury, and the answer given about removing the disqualification, may I suggest that it is not at all an improper thing to continue the disqualification? I do not myself dissent from the view which I understand is the general opinion in Kenya, that it is a wise thing and a reasonable thing to move Kenyatta to this new place of residence, but that does not mean that there should not be a further period during which one has the opportunity to see whether that support which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, hopes he will give will be forthcoming. The Minister of State said that there would be no alteration in the status—that is, the disqualification by Order in Council—during the Recess. That seems to me to be perfectly proper, but surely the purpose of it is that Parliament should not be just informed after the event but should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to whether it is a right thing to do. I should have thought it was a very simple and very proper thing to do. The responsibility will be the Minister's. He has treated us—as has the Minister of State, if I may say so—very fairly in these debates, and it surely would be proper that if the Secretary of State decides that this disqualification should be removed the intention should then be communicated to Parliament, so that both Houses could have an opportunity of expressing an opinion before the Minister acted.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl this question?


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I point out that supplementaries are apt to pile up? The noble Lord will, of course, have an opportunity of asking his question, but I think it would be convenient if my noble friend were allowed to reply to the two outstanding.


My Lords, may I take the noble Earl's points first? I will certainly make known to my right honourable friend the views expressed both by the noble Earl and by the noble Marquess in regard to consideration of the legislation which prevents Kenyatta, as well as many others who are at present detained, from sitting in the Legislature or on the Executive Council. If I may say so, I find myself very much in agreement with the noble Earl that this is a completely logical process. Your Lordships will recall the statement the Governor made earlier this year. Perhaps it is worth my reading out just what he said then, because it shows how this process is going on. He said: It is not my view that Jomo Kenyatta should be kept in restriction indefinitely. I do not, however, propose to release him until the new Government is working well and until I think that the security risk can be accepted and contained and that the danger which his return presents to the economy and administration and to our whole constitutional progress towards early independence has been minimised. He went on: The people who form the electorate and the political leaders and the world at large must be allowed to see him and know him as he is now and see his effect on, the country and its politics. It is precisely that, over the last months, we have had an opportunity, and the Governor has had an opportunity, of judging. Remembering our debate the other day, I do not think I need go into detail, but I believe noble Lords would agree—I am elaborating on the point made by the noble Earl—that this is a reasoned and logical procedure.

As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I would say that I very much agree with him. I know that while we might have done it in any case, certainly many of those who are not happy about this feel that it is right or wiser to do it while we are in control, and that was of course an important consideration in our coming to our decision.


My Lords, while I quite appreciate and understand the feeling of caution which the noble Marquess and the noble Earl have expressed about this subject, it seems to me, and it will undoubtedly seem to many other people, that this is not a time for undue caution in regard to these matters. The Secretary of State has shown very imaginative insight into these problems of Africa, and a great deal of the value of this important decision will be lost if something like three months is to pass before the matter can be brought before Parliament again after the Recess. It is very important psychologically to seize the crucial time in regard to these matters. One knows how in connection with India, for example, the release of Pandit Nehru took place at a psychologically correct moment, and the result of that has undoubtedly redounded enormously to the benefit of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I appeal to the Government to have that in mind and not to let this very important opportunity slip by in procrastination.


My Lords, I think one can be satisfied that we shall not have undue caution. At the same time, we do not wish to be unduly rash.