I apologise both to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse).
I desire to oppose the Motion for the Adjournment of the House on two grounds: first, that the House has not had an opportunity to debate the White Paper on Nyasaland, containing the Governor's despatch; and, secondly, that we require a much clearer statement than we have had so far about the procedure that is proposed for the judicial Commission of Inquiry.
The Government have issued a White Paper that raises very grave and very important issues. We have not had an opportunity to discuss here the contents of that White Paper. The Government have promised a judicial inquiry on matters relating to it, but before that inquiry has taken place, there has been published all over the world, with very great prominence, the charge that Dr. Hastings Banda and the Nyasaland African Congress have been plotting murder and massacre.
It is quite true that the responsible Press in this country has been very sceptical of the charges made in the White Paper. The Times has described the evidence as not being conclusive; the Manchester Guardian has said that it is too much to believe, and the News Chronicle has called it flimsy—and that is not to mention the views of the Labour Press. I would strongly urge that we should have an opportunity of expressing our opinions on these matters before the House adjourns.
Yesterday the other place had that opportunity and it at least gave the country this advantage, that one now knows the view of Lord Malvern, namely, that in certain circumstances the armed forces of the Federation might be used against the Government of this country. In our view, therefore, we ought not to adjourn for the Easter Recess without having a similar opportunity to debate that matter.
We had very brief questioning yesterday on the Colonial Secretary's statement about the judicial inquiry, and before we adjourn and that inquiry takes place we have the right to certain information. We have the right to ask whether that inquiry will have full opportunity to meet Dr. Banda and the other prisoners in conditions of freedom. We have the right to ask whether the prisoners will be allowed freedom to collect evidence.
We have the right to ask whether they will be provided with an opportunity to obtain evidence that during the fortnight before the declaration of the state of emergency members of the Nyasaland African Congress handed over to the police the arms which they had taken from disarmed Europeans. In particular, we have the right to ask whether Inspector David M. Hogan of the Nyasaland Police, of Limbe, Blantyre, will be asked by the judicial inquiry whether a gun was handed to him by Dr. Banda in his surgery two days before the declaration of the emergency.
The hon. Member should direct his speech to the Motion that we adjourn till Tuesday, 7th April. I have gathered the drift of his argument, which is that we should not adjourn without an opportunity to discuss the situation in Nyasaland. That is perfectly clear, but he must not go into the situation in Nyasaland in detail, because that is another question altogether from the one before the House.
I am striving to keep within the rules of order of the House, Mr. Speaker. I began by urging that we should not adjourn for two reasons: first, that we should have the opportunity for debate; and, secondly, that we should know exactly what will be the powers and procedure of the judicial inquiry, about which we in this House had had very little information so far.
I think that it would be in order to say that we ought not to adjourn before we know whether the prisoners will be allowed to call witnesses and be represented by counsel or friends, as in the case of some tribunals, if they so desire. We are entitled to ask for answers to these questions before the House of Commons adjourns.
I should like to apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) for the misunderstanding about whom you called at the beginning of this debate. It arose because of a general exodus of Members from the Chamber.
I want to follow my hon. Friend in opposing the Adjournment of the House for Easter until we have had an opportunity to discuss the situation in Nyasaland and in Southern Rhodesia, for which this House is partially responsible. In Nyasaland there is a state of emergency. Several hundred British-protected persons are imprisoned there. Not only that, but allegations have been made against many of these British-protected persons, and, as far as we are aware, there is no guarantee that those persons will be enabled to reply to the allegations which have been made against them in this House and also in the White Paper, the despatch from the Governor of Nyasaland.
We should have an undertaking, before we adjourn, that British-protected persons who are imprisoned in gaols in Southern Rhodesia, beyond the jurisdiction of the Governor of Nyasaland, will be entitled to appear either in person or be represented before the Commission of Inquiry which is going to Nyasaland.
I believe that it would be a mistake for the House to adjourn before it has had a clear undertaking from the Colonial Secretary that a Parliamentary commission of inquiry will go out to Nyasaland to investigate the situation there. It is generally recognised that the situation in Nyasaland, which gave rise to the events which led to the disturbances there, is largely a political one, and it is necessary that there should be an objective fact-finding mission, on behalf of Parliament, to ascertain the political facts leading up to the situation. I oppose the Adjournment of the House because we have not had satisfactory assurances from the Colonial Secretary on these points.
I also oppose the Adjournment of the House because in Southern Rhodesia—a country for which we still have some responsibility under the reserve powers of the Southern Rhodesian Constitution, 1923—certain Bills have been introduced which, according to various church leaders in Southern Rhodesia, are Hitlerite in character. These Bills are discriminatory against the 2½ million Africans who live in Southern Rhodesia. Her Majesty's Government and the British Parliament have certain responsibilities towards the 2½ million people who live in Southern Rhodesia.
The Prime Minister, in the statement which we have just heard, referred to the right of the 2¼ million people who live in West Berlin to decide on their future. We must ensure that the 2½ million people in Southern Rhodesia have the opportunity to live in the way that they choose and that the minority of people who live there do not have, or over-exercise, powers to dictate to the majority of people.
I oppose the Adjournment of the House until 7th April because I believe that we have a right to discuss both these points—the state of emergency in Nyasaland and the discriminatory Bills introduced in Southern Rhodesia—at this most vital time.
Before supporting the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, I should like to know whether the Colonial Secretary can tell us whether he is satisfied that the loyal Africans, the other Asian communities, and the British communities will be adequately protected against the difficulties with which they have been faced for some considerable time, both before and since the declaration of the emergency.
It would not be in order for me to say what I think about the situation in Nyasaland, but I think that to have continual debates, without referring at all to those who are doing a first-class job in the maintenance of law and order, and in looking after the present and future position of the loyal people in Nyasaland, does no good either to this House or to those who, in future, I hope, will have a happy prospect for a good livelihood in Nyasaland. I should like to know from my right hon. Friend whether he can assure us that their position is also being considered and not only the position of those people who, apparently, are the only ones in whom hon. Members opposite are interested.
I should like to support what my hon. Friends have said. There are today many people in all three Rhodesian territories for whom we are responsible. Many of them are in prison, and we have not yet had a satisfactory answer from the Colonial Secretary as to whether he has accepted the offer that some should be returned from Southern Rhodesian prisons to Northern Rhodesia. It is right that we should know whether he has accepted the offer of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia before Parliament rises. During recent weeks Parliament has been able to do much to help the people of Rhodesia, and but for its action the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia would not have repealed certain of his more repressive legislation.
We cannot shuffle off our responsibilities by saying that a Commission of Inquiry has been appointed. It is the duty of Parliament to see to these things, and it is essential that Parliament should remain in session even though it is inconvenient to many of us. If the events in Nyasaland had taken place in this country, and hundreds of people had been put in prison, would Parliament have risen? It would not. It would have remained in session until something was done to deal with the situation.
We must pay equal attention to what is going on in Rhodesia. Parliament has shown what can be done when it is in session and it should not adjourn now, but continue to do the work it has already done with such remarkable results in Rhodesia.
I support my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale). We have removed the leaders of the Nyasaland Congress outside our jurisdiction. Before we adjourn it is important that we should have some assurance from the Colonial Secretary that those people who are outside our jurisdiction will be available to the judicial Commission of Inquiry The Commission will be a farce if it is not given the power to enable the people who are one of the parties to this investigation, the Nyasaland Congress, both to appear, and have freedom to appear, before the judicial commission and prepare their case.
That is essential, and I hope that we can have an assurance on the point before we adjourn. To put a British-protected person outside our jurisdiction is something which has probably never before occurred in our history, and is a very serious thing to have done.
I do not want to detain the House, or be controversial about this very important subject.
I appreciate there is always a case against discussion. It is always said that a long and possibly controversial debate may aggravate things when a state of emergency exists. If, unhappily, a more serious crisis arises there is a danger in expressing an opinion while the crisis is on because, it is said, military forces are engaged in dangerous and difficult circumstances and the free expression of opinion is inhibiting that.
I am not trying to be controversial, but we are always faced with this dilemma. I can see the case for both sides. When the noble Lord the Earl of Perth was speaking yesterday—and I hope that I am in order in quoting, or at least paraphrasing, his words—he said that he did not think he ought to go into the matter of evidence after a judicial inquiry had been appointed.
I agree with that statement, subject to the qualification that it is a very grave question whether we ought to adjourn. If we did not adjourn it should not cause inconvenience, because we are here at the service of the community and we ought to be here and available if the needs of the community and of the situation demand our attendance here at any time on any day.
There was a debate in another place yesterday on this matter. That debate, to a high degree, was extremely controversial. It may well have raised the issue not only of Nyasaland, but of the relationship between the two Houses, because it seems very strange that a noble Lord can fly to this country over from the Central African Federation to make a speech and fly back at a time when a Member of Parliament can be deported from that Federation.
I do not want at the moment to follow that up. Lord Malvern—I was not referring to that noble Lord a moment ago, but to another gracious and noble Lord, which, I believe, is the correct preface—has the clearest right, as a man of great experience, to express his view about the African, but in expressing his opinion he does not tell us anything about the African; he tells us about Lord Malvern.
That was not the point on which I interrupted the hon. Member. I was asking him to direct his argument more closely to the Motion before the House, namely, that we rise until 7th April.
I regret that I did not hear your words, Mr. Speaker. I regret that this disposition to stray is becoming almost inherent in me. I must endeavour to restrain it. I was tempted. It is interesting and sometimes diverting.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider this. I want him to consider it as being said in no hostile sense, and not as part of a discussion which sometimes arises on these Motions, and which is perhaps less grave than the subject with which we are concerned today.
If we are to restrain ourselves in not demanding a further debate; if we are to accept the situation that, in the terms of the Motion, there is little possibility of this extremely urgent and important matter being debated until after 7th, 8th and 9th April and the following Monday, when the financial proposals are to be debated; and if we bear in mind that this Parliament may well be coming to the end of its life, there may be a demand that we should devote our time almost exclusively to trying to complete some of the legislative work in this Session rather hurriedly, and pass through an electoral Budget in the hope that there will be some recovery of support in the country for the party opposite. No doubt we would consider the question of co-operating in that, because we are anxious to see the end of the Government.
If we do that we have to remember that this judicial inquiry is going out with the hope that its labours will inspire such confidence as to create at least a period during which there will be no resort to violence and no displays of the kind that have been said to be taking place.
If it is to inspire that confidence, we are entitled to know, as are the Nyasaland people, what its powers and its duties will be. We do not know the answer, and I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, in response to the invitation I am making, fairly and sincerely, to tell the House what powers the Commission will have. Will it be able to interview all those people who are capable of giving evidence? Will it be able freely to take people from the detention camps to give their evidence, not in custody and not under restraint? Will it take evidence on oath? Will it be able to demand and receive all the documents that the Government say have been sent to them, and all the documents that may have been sent to the Government either of Nyasaland or the Central African Federation?
I submit that we ought not to adjourn until we have that information. I ask the Colonial Secretary to make a statement now which will be sufficient to show that a judicial inquiry—in the personnel of whom we have confidence, with whose appointment I do not quarrel—is invested with sufficient powers to be a really judicial inquiry. I hope that the Commission will be invested with the right to demand information and get it, with sufficient powers to create confidence in the people of Nyasaland that a just inquiry is to be made, and that the Commission will be able to pass a just opinion on the very grave allegations which are embodied, with so little support, in the White Paper.
There seems to be no doubt that the House should not adjourn until it has had a statement from the Colonial Secretary about the position in Nyasaland. I want to emphasise and underline what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), that this may be the last occasion in the life of this Parliament on which the House will have any control over these affairs. If we return on 7th April we shall then have the Budget, and the Finance Bill may be hurriedly pushed through to meet the electoral convenience of the Government, who will then dissolve Parliament and have a General Election, in which case it will be the middle of June before any discussion can take place upon this matter.
The Government have produced a White Paper, and every responsible and serious-minded person must read it and take note of what it says. It is said, upon the authority of the Governor—a man of high reputation—that there was disorder, the threat of increased disorder, conspiracy and murder in Nyasaland and that a state of emergency had to be declared. At the same time, it is deplorable that this peace-loving people should have been forced, as a result of political pressure, into this position, all within the space of a few years.
I remember that during the war I came into contact with troops raised in Nyasaland. I thought that they were by far the best educated of our colonial forces. There was never a suggestion that they were prone to indiscipline. They were loyal soldiers of the Crown and their services were exemplary. Now, suddenly, we find them accused of sedition, on the verge of rebellion, and certainly on the verge of taking steps which required the Government to take the most urgent countermeasures.
The Government are responsible for law and order, and the first thing that they should have done is what they did, namely, to order a British battalion—the 1st Batalion K.O.R.R.—to proceed from Kenya to Nyasaland.
It is my submission that the steps that I am now urging and seeking to explain to the House should be taken before it adjourns. The Government should admit the necessity for taking these steps. The first step that should have been taken, and was taken, was to put a British battalion under orders. But within six hours, that order was cancelled, and in view of the statement made in another place—which, if it had been made outside, would have rendered the speaker, namely, Lord Malvern, liable to a charge of sedition, because he said that he was prepared to use armed force—
I always strive to accept the Rulings of the Chair in the spirit as well as in the letter, Sir.
My submission is that it may be two or three months before we have an opportunity of calling the Executive to account on this point, namely, their responsibility for law and order in Nyasaland, on the basis of their own White Paper. The only guarantee of law and order in Nyasaland is the existence of loyal bodies of troops, and the only troops which can be depended upon to uphold the authority of the Government are a British battalion.
The only guarantee of the Government being able to carry out their responsibility to all the citizens of the Crown is the presence of British troops, and I should like to hear from the Colonial Secretary the circumstances in which the 1st Battalion K.O.R.R. was first placed under orders and then had those orders cancelled. In view of the publication of the White Paper, while there is still time will the Government send out a British battalion in a high state of efficiency, whose discipline is such that they can be relied upon to carry out the orders of the Executive?
I think that I shall have your protection, Mr. Speaker, if I do not answer all the points that have been raised. I must congratulate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite on the ingenuity with which they have contrived to have a further debate on affairs in Nyasaland, Both the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spoke, the one as if this might be the last opportunity for this Parliament to debate affairs in Nyasaland and the other as if it was the last opportunity until June. They both spoke about the forthcoming Budget and other preoccupations, as if they would prevent the House from turning its attention to Nyasaland or other Colonial Territories.
In carrying out their researches into former Parliamentary precedents they have obviously failed to read tomorrow's Order Paper, in which no less than 40 Questions are addressed to me, as Colonial Secretary. There will then be many opportunities of questioning me about Nyasaland and elsewhere, and when the House returns after the Easter Recess there will be plenty of other opportunities, whatever our preoccupations with the Budget, to cross-question me upon the situation in Nyasaland.
Two points were asked which appeared to be relevant to the Motion before the House, and I should like to deal with them briefly. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) spoke about people being outside our jurisdiction. I do not think that the hon. and learned Member is in the Chamber at the moment, so I am outside his hearing. He might have waited to hear my answer. He raised a very serious point, but, as in the case of so many other points, it was based upon a complete ignorance of the situation.
The people in Bulawayo are not outside our jurisdiction. They are detained on the orders of the authorities in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. They are still within the jurisdiction of the Colonial Governments, and it is quite untrue to say that by being detained in a Federal prison in Bulawayo they are outside the jurisdiction of this House or the authorities in Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland. The Governors of the two Territories are responsible for law and order in their Territories, and no one can take that responsibility from them.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it seemed tactless to send these men south of the Zambesi, to an almost self-governing State, instead of sending them next door, into a Protectorate, where we have a Governor appointed by Her Majesty's Government?
It would be out of order for me to deal with that point, and the hon. Member clearly indicates that he realises that I would be out of order to discuss it.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West raised a point about the form in which the Commission of Inquiry would be set up. I will take the earliest possible opportunity to inform the country of the method by which the inquiry will be set up. I spoke about it yesterday at some length, but as soon as our work is completed—and hon. Members will realise that it is being carried out with very considerable speed, to meet the feeling in the House and the country—I will take the earliest opportunity of informing the public and the House of what is being done.
The Secretary of State has failed to convince me that the House should adjourn without a much fuller debate than we have so far had on the situation in Nyasaland. I want to put before him three points, which should be dealt with much more fully before the House adjourns. The first point concerns incidents at Blantyre on 22nd and 23rd February—
May I deal with that point straight away? As I told the House, there was a conflict of testimony about that. I told the House that I was in touch with the Governor, so that the two stories could be presented to Parliament. Those inquiries will continue and, I hope, be completed during the Easter Recess. May I venture to say that it is rather an abuse of the privileges of the House to suggest—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that I, having given a promise—
On a point of order. Is it not a gross reflection on the Chair to speak, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, about an hon. Member grossly abusing the privileges of the House? Is that not entirely a matter for the Chair?
The last thing I would do is to reflect upon you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or any other occupant of the Chair.
I gave an assurance that the matter was being investigated by the Governor. The rising of Parliament will in no sense hold up the investigation. Indeed, the Governor will be able to concentrate all the more on the investigation if he does not have to provide material for answers to other Questions, and a reply will be given to the House as soon as possible.
The Secretary of State is excessively quick to jump in. I was about to say to him that, on the first point I was raising with him, he had an opportunity to assure me that the House might safely adjourn. I have a Question down to the right hon. Gentleman tomorrow morning on this important matter and I was hoping to have a reply from him this afternoon to assure us that in this respect the House could safely adjourn. Instead, however, the Secretary of State has produced strong arguments for the House not to adjourn.
This matter was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and others of my hon. Friends on 10th March, which is 15 days ago. At that time, the Secretary of State said, as he has just mentioned, that he would look into the matter and would immediately inform the House when he was able to give the result of his inquiries into the conflicting evidence. That was 15 days ago and one would have expected that by this time, on a matter of this gravity, in which there is the most conflicting evidence, the Secretary of State would have been able to inform the House of the result of his inquiries.
This matter involves a conflict of evidence between the Government's authorities in Nyasaland and the Church of Scotland there. We who represent Scottish constituencies put at least as much credibility on what the Church of Scotland tells us as on what is told to us from the benches opposite. It is unfortunate that the Church of Scotland should continue under this slur, on the evidence it has produced, for the period during which the House is to adjourn. The Secretary of State ought to have been able to clear up this point before the House adjourns.
It is quite wrong for the House to adjourn without adequate debate, as another place has had, on the White Paper on Nyasaland, which was produced the other day, and, in particular, without much fuller information concerning the powers of the Commission of Inquiry. Here again, the Government must understand that they are not simply facing criticism of a Conservative Government by Labour Members, doing their duty as Her Majesty's Opposition. The Government's evidence in the White Paper is in direct conflict with the information that hon. Members, on both sides, are receiving from Scottish missionaries in Nyasaland. So long as this conflict of evidence continues, there will be, first, the most unfortunate situation in Nyasaland itself, and, secondly, a continuing suspicion of the evidence which has been produced to us, a suspicion that should be cleared up.
If this matter is to be cleared up, it is essential that the Commission should have the opportunity to make a thorough investigation. It must, for example, be able to cross-examine the African Nationalist leaders and to get their answers to the grave allegations that are made against them.
My point is that in questioning him yesterday afternoon, we had very inadequate answers on this matter from the Secretary of State. We are arguing that the House should not adjourn until the Secretary of State has told us whether the Commission will, for instance, be able to examine the police spies and paid informers who have provided this information.
I was arguing that the House should not adjourn until the Government have given us this information and have answered the serious reflections which have been made on the White Paper and on the powers of the Commission by many organs of the Press.
I would point out to the Secretary of State the comments of the Scotsman, the national newspaper of Scotland and one which is of independent Conservative persuasion in its politics. The Scotsman said of the White Paper that
Of the unreliability of these sources and the accuracy of the reports, it is impossible to judge.… It is difficult to credit that any organisation intending such an atrocity should be so ill-equipped or ill-organised for its accomplishment.
We really must have a more adequate answer from the Government before the House can adjourn, or allow the present situation to continue.
There is the further point that the Government should not allow the House to adjourn without stating definitely that they are sending a Parliamentary Commission to Nyasaland in addition to the Commission of Inquiry. If the Secretary of State looks, for example, at the Economist, he will find there the comment that he is sending the wrong Commission to Nyasaland. If he reads the Scotsman, which I have already quoted, again he will find the viewpoint that a Parliamentary Commission is required.
We have in Nyasaland a steadily deteriorating position in the good will and trust that should exist between Nyasaland and this House of Commons. That will get worse during the period of our Easter Recess unless before we go into recess the Government are prepared to say that a Parliamentary Commission will go out and attempt to repair the damage which has been done. For these reasons, the House should not adjourn without much more adequate assurances from the Government than we have had this afternoon.
May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? During his inadequate statement, the Colonial Secretary referred to the fact that he would be making to the public and also to this House a further statement concerning the Commission of Inquiry. My point of order is to ask what opportunity there will be for the Colonial Secretary to make to this House his further statement, which is awaited with such anxiety.
No, I do not think so. The position is that if this afternoon's Motion is carried, the House will go on to the Adjournment after Questions tomorrow. A number of hon. Members wish then to raise a number of constituency points in which they are keenly interested. As is customary, I have done my best to allot the time fairly between them. There is no right of asking for a statement tomorrow.
The Question will be the Motion for the Adjournment. Hon. Members would be acting rather beyond the usual comity of the House if they were to introduce another topic and thereby deny hon. Members an opportunity to raise the points about which they are anxious. It is, of course, a question of who catches my eye on these occasions, but I shall endeavour to follow the proper course.
I hope that the House will agree not to adjourn without discussing some of the issues which have been raised. The Colonial Secretary has not attempted to reply to the arguments from this side of the House. Surely it is insulting the House to suggest that, merely because Members have an opportunity to put Questions tomorrow, that is a substitute for a debate on a White Paper. The Colonial Secretary, however, is suggesting that that is an adequate reason for agreeing to the Government's Motion.
It seems to me fantastic that another place can discuss for a whole day, and until midnight, the White Paper submitted to this House, and discuss it in very close detail, while we have no opportunity whatsoever of dealing with the matter. We should have some other assurances—