HL Deb 15 February 1972 vol 328 cc1-4

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 they will publish a list of the names of persons in detention in Rhodesia prior to the agreement on Settlement Proposals and a list of persons released and detained respectively since that date.]


My Lords, Rhodesian regulations forbid the publication of names of people held in detention. We have asked the Rhodesian authorities for a list of names, but this has been declined. The names of some of the more prominent detainees and ex-detainees have appeared in the Press outside Rhodesia, but I regret I do not have information about all the individuals concerned.

At the time of publication of the Proposals for a Settlement there were 93 people in detention in Rhodesia In accordance with the undertaking given at that time by the Rhodesian authorities, 31 people were subsequently released. However, a further 5 people have since been detained, so that the total now in detention stands at 67.


My Lords, why is it so difficult for the noble Marquess to give the names of these people? If he will be so good as to refer to the White Paper, Command 4835, he will see that it says that, normal political activities will be permitted to the satisfaction of the Commission". Can the noble Marquess say how the Commission could possibly be satisfied that normal political activities are in operation unless they are able to see the names of the persons who are in detention? Can he further say what implementation has taken place of the White Paper, that Rhodesians will be releasing a substantial number of detainees"? From what the noble Marquess has said, the number has risen. Is not, this contrary to the undertaking given to us by Mr. Smith at the time of the settlement?


My Lords, it will be for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearce, and the Commission to decide whether they are sat satisfied with the arrangements made for interviewing detainees, and indeed for finding out who they are. As I said in my substantive Answer, it has not been possible so far to persuade the Rhodesian authorities to release the total list of names of those persons whom they are holding in detention. With regard to the second part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, it is true to say that normal political activity is to be resumed, and this again is something about which Lord Pearce will have to make up his mind.

I am afraid that I have now forgotten the third point raised by the noble Lord. I should be grateful if he would repeat it.


My Lords, it was on the question of the undertaking given by the Rhodesian Government to release a substantial number of detainees.


My Lords, as the noble Lord must be aware, they have done this in the case of the 31 persons who were released at that time. The noble Lord is also obviously aware that, under the Proposals for a Settlement, as soon as a settlement is agreed a Commission will be sitting to review the cases of the other detainees. That was part of the agreement.


My Lords, since the accounts of the numbers of detainees appear to vary so alarmingly, and since Mr. Smith seems to be so extraordinarily unconcerned about the condition of the people in his prisons, and since Her Majesty's Government are still responsible for a great deal of what goes on in Rhodesia, may we ask Her Majesty's Government to take further steps to find out what the actual numbers of people under restriction may be?


My Lords, this is obviously something that we are very anxious to know. The numbers I have just given refer to those who are in detention, as it were, under the orders of the Minister. It does not take into account those Rhodesians who may be restricted under the 30-day police order, or indeed those who are restricted in detention for some reason or other, either awaiting trial or after conviction. As the noble Baroness will be aware, in his broadcast the other day Mr. Smith put the number at something around 1,000.


My Lords, is not the figure of 1,000 which Mr. Smith gave in his broadcast extremely important; and should we not try to clarify it? Of these 1,000 people who were said by Mr. Smith to have been taken into custody, some of them may have been released, some of them may have been charged with ordinary offences and the remainder have been placed in detention without the ordinary processes of the law coming into operation. If Mr. Smith is not prepared to give this information to the Commission for it to be conveyed to the Government, how can the noble Marquess say that normal political activity is taking place to the satisfaction of the Commission? Will he consult Lord Pearce about this as a matter of some urgency?


My Lords, I am quite certain that Lord Pearce is as aware of this problem, as are the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the Government themselves. But I will certainly draw the attention of Lord Pearce to what the noble Lord has just said.


My Lords, is it really a matter for Lord Pearce? Clearly he will need to have this information when he makes his report to Her Majesty's Government, but would not the noble Marquess accept that at the end of the day the Government will need to come to Parliament and to satisfy Parliament that the conditions of the agreement have been fulfilled, and that unless Her Majesty's Government have clear, specific information on this matter it will be impossible for them to satisfy Parliament to this effect? Will the noble Marquess therefore bear in mind, in the long-term interest of the Government in relation to this agreement, that this information should be obtained and made available to Parliament?


My Lords, I will certainly bear in mind what the noble Lord has said. It is perfectly true that Parliament in this country will have to be satisfied. The only point I was trying to make was that before that happens it is up to Lord Pearce and his colleagues to be satisfied that they themselves have been able to carry out an acceptable test.

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