HL Deb 05 June 1961 vol 231 cc961-3

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, while it is still within their power, they will set up a fund to compensate our kith and kin who are landholders in Kenya in the event of dispossession of their property.]


My Lords, if I interpret the noble Earl's question aright, he is suggesting that we set up a compensation fund now against a hypothetical possibility in the future. If this is the correct interpretation, the answer is that Her Majesty's Government do not believe that this would be in Kenya's interest. Apart from anything else, it would mean that we anticipated the failure of our policy, whereas we are determined to do all we can to ensure its success.

Her Majesty's Government's policy for land in Kenya is that it should be regarded primarily in economic rather than racial terms, as the country's most valuable asset. In this connection I would assure the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government fully recognise the immense contribution made by the European farmers to the best use of the land and that we attach great importance to this contribution continuing.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. Of course, we all know that the Government are trying to do all they can for the landed interests in the Colony, but recent events have not been reported sufficiently in the papers of this country, so that a great number of people do not know what the position of security is out there. Is the noble Earl aware that in the Legislative Council on May 28 Mr. Swann, the Minister for Internal Security and Defence said that a plot had been discovered to murder the Ministers and their families, and that fourteen arrests had been made in three different places? Settlers in the Rift Valley and elsewhere are saying—


Order, order!


I am asking if the noble Earl is aware of all these things, because it is almost impossible to make my point that there is a need for a compensatory fund in this Colony unless noble Lords and Her Majesty's Government are aware of the upset state of the settlers because they now are afraid about security. This is my final question: does the noble Earl not think that, if this country can pump £20½ million into that Colony with the state of security as it is, the Government and the taxpayers can afford to start some fund to which the settlers, who may fall by the way if things go badly, may have some recourse? Many of them have used up all their earnings, have put them into their farms and have no future.


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, may I say this? This is a very important matter. Does the noble Earl consider that question and answer is the best way of dealing with it? There is so much to be said on both sides. While one has a great deal of sympathy with the noble Earl in what he is desiring to achieve, I feel that this method of questioning is not the best way of getting the views of the House on the matter.


My Lords, to answer the last question, I quite agree that the whole of this issue of Kenya, or the land there, is one of great interest to your Lordships and of fundamental importance to the future of the country. Of course it is always open to your Lordships at any time to debate the issue, if that is thought appropriate; that would be arranged in the usual way. But to answer the particular question put by the noble Earl, what I would say is this. I have tried to explain in my earlier answer why we do not think it is appropriate to set up a compensation fund now. On the other hand, I should like to assure the noble Earl that I realise very well the anxiety of many of the settlers in regard to security, and I can assure him that everything possible is being done to ensure that there will be law and order. In that connection I think we are well placed, both in regard to the police force and to the other reserves that may be available if there should be further trouble.


My Lords, while I am delighted to hear the latter part of the answer of the noble Earl, does he realise the very great disappointment that settlers in Kenya will feel over this compensation question?


My Lords, it is not a new policy that I have enunciated to-day; it is something which has been known for many months. While it may be that some of the settlers feel that a compensation fund would be satisfactory from their point of view, I hope that the great run of them, considering the reasons why we want to follow the line we are taking, will in the end come to realise that it is in the best interests not only of themselves but also of Kenya as a whole.