HL Deb 04 May 1970 vol 310 cc27-9

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement on the kidnapping of Mr. Brian Lea which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This is the Statement:

"The House will have noted with concern the Press reports of the kidnapping of Mr. Brian Lea, a First Secretary in the British High Commission in Kampala. Mr. Lea received a request on Saturday afternoon to deal with urgently needed travel documents and drove himself to the High Commissioner's Office to attend to the matter. He did not return home and at about 7 p.m. the High Commissioner and Mrs. Lea both received telephone calls in which the caller, who did not identify himself simply stated that Mr. Lea had been kidnapped and rang off. The Uganda authorities were notified at once and immediately ordered the Uganda police to take every possible step to locate and free Mr. Lea.

"As soon as the report was received in London, the Prime Minister got into touch with President Obote and, with the agreement of President Obote, we sent to Kampala yesterday a security expert from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to establish continuous liaison between the High Commission and the Uganda authorities concerned with the investigations.

"I am of course in constant touch with the High Commission in Uganda. We do not know who the kidnappers are, nor what they hope to achieve by this senseless crime. The House will, I know, wish me to convey its sympathy to Mrs. Lea, and their two daughters, in their anxiety."


My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord for repeating that Statement here, and we on this side of the House would like immediately to join with the noble Lord in conveying sympathy to Mrs. Lea and her family. We are also very glad that the Prime Minister took immediate action in this case. But has the noble Lord really no information as to why this terrible crime has been perpetrated? There must be different alternative possibilities. May it have been solely because certain Ugandans consider that we are not granting enough visas to Ugandan Asians? I have only one other question. I note that Mr. Lea drove alone to the High Commissioner's Office. In view of our recent debate on the subject, can the noble Lord say what extra precautions are being taken to protect our diplomats in Africa as well as in South America?


My Lords, I too should like to associate myself, and my colleagues on these Benches, with the expression of sympathy which it is intended to send to Mrs. Lea. I would also express satisfaction at the immediate action taken by the Prime Minister. I think that this outrage lends much point to the debate which we had the other day, and reinforces the desirability of taking a strong line—as I think was to some extent suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—in the event of any political conditions being attached to the release of the unfortunate Mr. Lea. For instance, I cannot imagine that the Government, as a result of any demands from the kidnappers, would consider any alteration of their present policy as regards the admission to this country of British subjects of Asian origin. I also suppose that any sums which we, as distinct from the Government of Uganda, might feel obliged to hand over against release would be deducted from the aid which we at present grant to the Government of Uganda.


My Lords, I am grateful for the sympathy which the two noble Lords have expressed on behalf of their colleagues, and I am certain that that represents the view of the House as a whole. As I made clear in my original Statement, we have no idea at all as to who the kidnappers are, or of the reasons for the kidnapping. One can think of many possibilities. I indicated during the debate last week, that kidnapping does not necessarily have a political motive directed at the country whose official may have been kidnapped. Therefore, this is clearly a matter of conjecture.

In regard to further precautions, certainly we shall see whether there are any lessons to be learned from this ncident. But as I indicated to the House last week, our officials have duties which must be performed, and all of us who have travelled overseas, and have any experience at all of our Embassies or High Commissions, know that from time to time our officers are called upon to help in consular matters at rather strange hours. It is their duty to help where there is an application or where there is some difficulty arising from passports. That is what Mr. Lea was doing. We will certainly see whether there are any lessons about precautions to be learned, and certainly precautions will be taken.

On the matters which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned I will, with the permission of the House, say nothing. I am particularly concerned to-day in getting Mr. Lea back safe and alive, and it would be very foolish for me to say anything at all on the conditions which might be attached to Mr. Lea's release.