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At this late hour of the night, I would commend to Ministers who are still on the Treasury Bench, the words of Dr. Faustus—
O lente, lente currite noctis equi:
My hon. Friends and I want to take this opportunity to raise two closely related matters. First, we wish to refer once more to the events at Hola Camp and to the death there of eleven detainees who were beaten to death. Secondly, we wish to raise the wider question of the detention without trial in British Dependencies of British subjects and British-protected persons, more particularly in Kenya, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I want to say at once that we on this side of the House make no apology for returning to the subject of Hola. It is perfectly true that we had a full debate on the matter as recently as 16th June, but we believe that there are a great many hon. Members on both sides of the House and very many people outside who are far from satisfied with the explanations that were given in the last debate. Moreover, since the last debate, we have had published two documents, the record of proceedings before the coroner and the Report of the Disciplinary Inquiry, and the second document throws a good deal of fresh light upon the events at Hola.
What was the upshot of the Disciplinary Inquiry? All that it amounts to is this. Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner of Prisons, is reprimanded, and he is to rehire a little earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Mr. Sullivan, Commandant of the Camp, is required to retire from the service without loss of gratuity. These are the only two individuals who are penalised in any way. Everybody else who was concerned in this matter gets away scot-free.
It seems to me that we in this House ought to try to trace the chain of responsibility, because it certainly is not confined to Mr. Lewis and Mr. Sullivan. It began on 11th February, when Mr. Cowan drew up his plan. May I remind the House of the particular paragraph
in the plan which led to the other events of which we know, and in which he wrote:
(j) It is assumed that the party would obey this order (the order to proceed to the work site) but should they refuse they would be manhandled to the site of work and forced to carry out the task.
The House will remember the comment that was made by the coroner when he said:
I find that on the plain wording of this sub-section, particularly the words 'manhandled' … and 'forced to carry out the task,' any reasonable person would construe those words alone as a carte blanche to use whatever force might prove necessary to ensure the performance of the task whether the detainees affected proved merely reluctant or completely obdurate.
That was how the matter was interpreted by the coroner. Of course, it might be said that that was merely wisdom after the event, but now let us look for a moment at the further documents which have been recently published, including the Report of the Disciplinary Inquiry. It appears there that on 17th February the Commissioner of Prisons addressed a minute to the Minister of Defence. This was with relation to the operation of the Cowan plan and is on page 23 of the further documents. He said:
I think this situation should be brought to the notice of the Security Council. …
Pausing there for a moment, perhaps we may be told this evening whether it was brought to the notice of the Security Council and whether it authorised continuing with the plan. He went on to say:
and a direction given on what policy should be adopted with these recalcitrant or unmanageable detainees. We must either let them stew and risk the contamination of the convicts and the open camp detainees or take such action as planned at (9) with the risk of someone getting hurt or killed.
That was the minute which was addressed to the Minister on 17th February, "the risk of someone getting hurt or killed". One would like to know what was the Minister's reaction to that? Did he consult his colleagues? Did he authorise that the risk should be taken? Did he merely let the matter ride? Did he react as, according to the coroner, any reasonable person would have reacted?
It appears quite clearly from that passage, taken with the coroner's report, that the authorities in Kenya knew—or at least ought to have known—that there
was a danger that someone would get killed and what happened was precisely what ought to have been forseen. I would refer in particular, coming to the evidence before the coroner and the record of the evidence, to the evidence of the Chief Warder, which appears on page 107. The Chief Warder said:
When I went out with the Askaris that morning I thought they would use batons against any prisoner refusing work without further instructions from me because I had been so instructed.
That again was precisely what any reasonable man would have foreseen as a result of the Cowan Plan and something which the Minister, I submit, should have foreseen when he had the minute from the Commissioner of Prisons. Of course, the Minister is not called to account in any way. He does not have to appear before an inquiry, because no appropriate inquiry has been appointed before which he could be called.
I want to come from the Minister to the part which was played by Mr. Campbell and his two colleagues, Mr. Small and Mr. Garland. The House will recall that on 4th March, after he had made his visit to Hola and conducted his inquiries, Mr. Campbell dictated his written record in which he said:
There was no apparent evidence of punitive beatings, although a number of askaris were probably over-zealous in the use of compelling force.
The coroner in his findings said it was impossible to understand how Mr. Campbell could have arrived at that conclusion. I think it worth while, now we have more complete documents, to compare the information which Mr. Campbell received with the report that Mr. Campbell made.
Let us first turn to the supplementary documents, at page 43, where we have a summary of the information which was given to Mr. Campbell and his colleagues by Dr. Moyes, the Medical Officer at the Camp.
Dr. Moyes said that a number of patients in hospital had bruises, there were two possible fractures and all had high temperatures".
On page 53 of the Record we read what Mr. Campbell, in his evidence, said that he was told:
Dr. Moyes told us 25 per cent. of the 22 in hospital were putting on an act. He said of those who had not died some were injured and some were putting on an act. I only know of the 22 injured. I was told 32 sent to
hospital and ten died. Dr. Moyes did not say anything about any other injuries. The injuries on living described to me by Dr. Moyes were cuts and bruises. He mentioned no fractures or suspected fractures apart from the one dead man who had facial injuries.
There is the conflict of evidence between Dr. Moyes and Mr. Campbell. Now let us look at how the matter was put by Mr. Campbell in his written report, which was Exhibit S. He wrote:
The Medical Officer informed us that quite a number of those in hospital were suffering from slight bruises; one man was given immediate attention on being injured in the scuffle on the way to the work site and one of the bodies had two broken teeth and facial bruises. The Medical Officer gave a preliminary opinion of the cause of death as aspiration pneumonia brought about by regurgitating vomit and water. He also volunteered the information that 25 per cent. of those now in hospital were 'putting on an act'.
One sees, first, what, according to Dr. Moyes, Mr. Campbell was actually told; secondly what, according to Mr. Campbell, he was told by Dr. Moyes; and thirdly, the very different gloss which was put on it in the written report, when "bruises" become "slight bruises" and there is no reference to any other injuries at all.
Mr. Campbell then went to the meeting of Ministers of 4th March. We have no record of that meeting. It is a pity that we have not. We do not know whether this written document was laid before the Ministers or whether Mr. Campbell and his two colleagues made a verbal report. All that we know is that the result was one of the most fantastically misleading statements which can ever have been issued by any Government—a statement which nobody on the Government benches or anywhere else has attempted to defend.
I want to turn to one other comment on Hola. A question which has been almost universally asked, both in the House and outside, is why no one has been prosecuted. We have had the explanation, given by the Attorney-General of Kenya. Knowing the Attorney-General of Kenya, I have not the slightest doubt that it was given in perfectly good faith. He said that it was impossible to identify the particular Askaris concerned. The reason for that was that the detainees were unco-operative and were not prepared to come forward and take part in an identification parade at a time when the identity might have been established.
What does anyone expect in the circumstances in which the detainees found themselves at Hola? Here were men who had been detained without trial for a very long time. They had no means of knowing when, if ever, they would be released. Their incarceration would not end, so far as they knew, with the end of the emergency. On 4th November last, at the opening of the annual session of the Legislative Council, the Governor of Kenya made a speech in which he said that there would be permanent legislation for detention without trial, legislation which would go an even after the emergency had been declared at an end. Also, he said that a camp was to be maintained at Hola for that purpose.
Will not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it can be a perfectly voluntary act on the part of any detainee to set himself on the move from the innermost camps to the outer ones, back to the civilisation where he had been living?
The answer is that I certainly would not accept that. I have visited detention camps in Kenya and elsewhere. I discussed this question with a good many of the detainees, and I have no doubt—indeed, it is borne out by some of the evidence in the record—that no one can be a candidate for rehabilitation until he has first made a confession of having taken the Mau Mau oath or engaged in Mau Mau activities. There are some detainees who say, "No; we are not prepared to confess. We never took the oath. Why should we confess to something we have never done?".
I do not deny that there are many dedicated individuals in Kenya engaged in work of rehabilitation, I do not deny for a moment that that work, in many cases, may have very considerable value. But it is a very dangerous thing to go to people who have been detained for a long time, without trial, and tell them, in effect, that the price of gaining their release is that they shall confess. There is the danger that they will confess to something which they have never done. There will always be some who at any price refuse to confess, because, they say, they have never committed any offence of the kind. For all I know, and for all that any hon. Member of this House knows, that may have been the position of some of the detainees at Hola, before 3rd March this year.
Let us consider the position of detainees in that category. There they were. They had never been convicted, but they were in a position worse than that of any convict. The convict knows the date of his release. He knows how long he has to serve. For all that these men knew, they were to be held for an indefinite period. Again, for all that they knew, they would be held for an indefinite period under the care of the same guards. In those circumstances, is it really reasonable to expect people to come forward to identify the guards?
It is clear that this sort of consideration was in the minds of some of those who gave evidence at the coroner's inquiry. On page 92 there is a reference to a witness Kariuki s/o Muriathi who was called before the coroner as a witness. He testified that he had been detained at Hola since September, 1958. He said:
Before I go on I wish to say:—I need some help before I start giving my evidence. I do not know who will defend me after I have left the Court house. I am very much afraid because I am going to disclose about the Camp and I will be taken back to the same camp.
There is a further reference to him on page 96 of the record. The court said to Crown Counsel:
This is a matter for Government not me whether any undertaking will be given for this man to be transferred from Hola or 'protected' in any way should he give evidence. Will you please take instructions?
The inquest was resumed, and a little later the witness was again recalled. The court then said to the witness:
I am informed that the Government are unable to give any undertaking that you will be transferred if you give evidence but there is certainly no intention to victimise you for anything you may say in this Court. It is now a matter for you to decide whether you wish to give evidence in these circumstances.
At that stage, the witness declined to give evidence unless he was given legal representation.
I ask the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams), and, indeed, hon. Members in all parts of the House, to put themselves for one moment in the position of that detainee at Hola detention camp. He does not know what will happen to him when he gets back to the camp, but all that he knows is that the treatment he is likely to receive in the future—it may be a lengthy future—and, indeed, his prospect of release, may well depend upon the evidence he gives at that inquiry. Does anyone really expect him in those circumstances to be an entirely willing and co-operative witness? This, I suggest, is one of the consequences—indeed, one of the inevitable consequences—of a system of imprisonment without trial.
I come now for a few moments to this general system as we have seen it at work in Kenya, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I am certainly prepared to concede that there may be moments of great public danger when a Government is justified in assuming emergency powers and in restricting the freedom of many people who have never been convicted to any offence. Indeed, we were faced with that situation during the war, when we had Regulation 18B, although on that occasion this House was very jealous about the operation of Regulation 18B and we were careful to hedge it about with all the safeguards that we could devise. I suggest to the Colonial Secretary that when Colonial Governments are framing emergency regulations providing for detention without trial, they might do worse than consult the Regulations that were drawn up in this country during the war as a result of consultation between all three parties.
If at any time we are to have emergency powers of this nature, I submit three propositions to the House. The first is that the use of such emergency powers should be confined to periods of real emergency and should not continue for a moment longer. Secondly, it should constantly be borne in mind that the detainees are not criminals and their detention should be made as little irksome as possible. Thirdly, whenever it is decided that any part of the Commonwealth for which we are responsible is to intern a man without trial, Ministers in this House should accept responsibility for what is done, in precisely the same way as they accept responsibility for other actions within their departmental spheres. None of those three principles is being observed today. Indeed, what is happening is that detention without trial is becoming almost a permanent feature of our colonial rule in East and Central Africa.
I have already referred to Kenya, where it is announced that there is to be permanent legislation going on even after the end of the present emergency. In Northern Rhodesia, there was a declaration of emergency in 1956. It was used not because there had been a public disturbance or because anybody suggested that security was in danger. It was used because there had been industrial trouble in the Copperbelt and some of the African trade union leaders were taken away. They were rusticated to remote parts of Northern Rhodesia and that is where they still remain.
In addition, Northern Rhodesia no longer relies on the Emergency Powers Order in Council of 1939. It has passed its own legislation giving the Governor power to declare an emergency and lock up people without trial. Lately, of course, we have had the example of Nyasaland. There was the announcement (made by the Governor of Nyasaland on 19th May that the Congress leaders were going to be kept in internment for a long time. He was not prepared, perhaps wisely, to await the report of the Devlin Commission. In any event, they must look forward to a long period of detention. There is the very well known phrase in the West Country, "Lydford Law,"which means hanging a man first and trying him afterwards:
Oft have I heard of Lydford Law,
How in the morn they hang and draw
And sit in judgment after.
That is the system of jurisprudence which would obviously commend itself to Sir Robert Armitage and his advisers.
I say the Governor was not prepared to await the result of the impartial inquiry. He announced in any event that those he locked up without trial would continue to be locked up.
Next I want to come to my second proposition, which is that these people are not criminals. One question which I put to the Colonial Secretary is this: Why should it be that the prison regulations in these various territories apply to detainees? Why, for example, should they not be given access to newspapers when they have committed no crime? They are not in prison because of anything they have done, but are in prison because, or should be in prison only because, of something it is thought possible they may do in future. Yet they are treated in precisely the same way as convicts, except, as I have already suggested, they are in one respect worse off than convicts.
The operation of emergency powers is nearly always based on the assumption, an assumption which is all too readily accepted, that the people concerned have been guilty of some criminal act. One can see it, indeed, in these documents which have been laid before us, and which are said to be about the deaths of Mau Mau detainees. But, of course, that is pure assumption.
I put a Question the other day to the Under-Secretary of State to ask how many of the detainees at Hola had ever been convicted of any Mau Mau offences. The answer from the hon. Gentleman was that he could not at that time give me a figure, but he said that the detainees at Hola were detained for Mau Mau activities. Who is to judge whether they have been guilty of Mau Mau activities?
Let me tell the House of an experience of mine when I was in Kenya four years ago. I went to visit the detainees on Manda Island. At that time it was almost an article of faith among many people in Kenya that those on Manda Island were the blackest of the Mau Mau offenders, but when I went there, and when I saw the grounds for detention which had been supplied to the detainees when they went before the Advisory Committee, I found in some cases which I saw that it was not even suggested that they had taken a Mau Mau oath or that they had engaged in any form of Mau Mau activity whatsoever. They were in prison because they had made inflammatory speeches or because they associated with somebody else who had been sent to prison or, in one case, as was said of one man, "You were the editor of a near-seditious newspaper which has since been suppressed."
One sees how this process goes on. First, they take emergency powers. Then they suppress the newspaper. What a "near-seditious" newspaper is I do not know, but they suppress a newspaper and call it near-seditious, and then they say to the man, "' Because you were the editor of the suppressed newspaper, therefore we are going to lock you up not for a short time but for a period of many years."Many of those on Manda Island referred to as Mau Mau detainees were in fact nothing more than political prisoners.
Finally, I want to come to the persistent refusal of Ministers at the Dispatch Box to accept personal responsibility for what is done.
Before the hon. and learned Member leaves that part of his speech, which is an interesting analysis of the consequence of emergency powers, would he say whether we would be right to draw the conclusion from what he has said that these detainees who remain in custody should either be tried by the normal process or, in the absence of sufficient evidence to make that thought to be worth while, they should be released?
I say that either they should be tried by the normal process or they should be released or, if the Government are not prepared to take either course, Ministers should be prepared to come to the Dispatch Box and answer in detail for the action which has been taken.
We are always told that we must leave this to the Governor's discretion and that the Colonial Secretary and the Under-Secretary are not prepared to interfere personally. We had a particular example of that in the debate on 29th April last year when a number of my hon. Friends, and I think one hon. Member opposite, raised the case of a detainee at Manda Island who was personally well-known to us, Mr. Achieng Oneko. We were able to point out the reasons which were given for his detention, which appeared to be quite inadequate. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary replied:
I am assured by the Governor that in this case he could not possibly take action to grant the release, but this case, like every other case, is reviewed at regular intervals administratively."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1958; Vol. 587, c. 344.]
That is the kind of bromide reply which we always receive when we raise matters of this sort in the House. It means that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared
to take any responsibility himself. It is left to the Governor who, after all, is a civil servant, it may be a glorified civil servant but a civil servant nonetheless.
My hon. Friends and I have sought to raise these matters tonight before the House rises for the Recess because we have never accepted, and we think it never should be accepted as a matter of course, that British subjects and British-protected persons should be liable to arrest without charge and imprisonment without trial. That is why we have put our Motion on the Notice Paper in which we say that
… these practices are countrary to Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights . .
There is a remarkable contrast between the speeches that Ministers make at home and their actions overseas. I see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. He made a speech on Saturday last. It was filled with the most admirable sentiments. He said:
We must be sure of three things—first, the independence of the judiciary; secondly, the absolute independence of those whose duty is to enforce the criminal law; and thirdly, the absolute liberty of the individual and respect for the individual by the forces of law and order.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary will inform us tonight that he agrees with those sentiments. If he does, I suggest that they should be prominently displayed on the walls of Hola and Kanjedza.
I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I talk on the aspect of this affair of which I feel I have some experience—the Overseas Civil Service. On all sides of the House we are very jealous of the good name of the Colonial Service as a whole, as a Service of which the nation has reason to be proud, and, therefore, it is important when mistakes are occasionally made that they should be recognised and acknowledged and that steps should be taken to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
The documents which have been laid before the House show two things clearly. The first is that there was no deep-laid plot of any sort either by the Governor of Kenya or the Kenya Government or by Her Majesty's Government to do anything illegal. The second is that there were serious mistakes made departmentally and that both incompetence and muddle were shown in certain directions. Those clearly demanded investigation under the strict rules of the Service, and, if the facts warranted it, disciplinary action. It is quite wrong to assume, as I have heard it assumed by hon. Members opposite, that juniors are made the scapegoats for seniors' errors as a general procedure. If orders are not properly carried out or an operation is bungled, then disciplinary measures are justified. [Interruption.] I speak on this subject with some knowledge, as I spent seventeen years in the Colonial Service, of which three were spent in a Service Department. So I have seen something of the actions and the workings of the Colonial Service at first hand.
In the circumstances which have been shown by the papers laid before us, it seems to me that the triumvirate procedure in this case under Colonial regulations was entirely right. It is only colleagues and contemporaries who can really know the full circumstances of such matters. There is a very high code of conduct in the Colonial Service which I am certain hon. Members in all parts of the House would consider to be right, and the behaviour of the members of that Service is supposed to be of a very high order. Their peers who form the members of the triumvirate are guardians of the good name of the Service, and they are the best guardians, and they can be trusted to ensure that those standards are maintained.
What about the findings of the triumvirate? First of all, we have what is called the "Cowan Plan." In actual fact, of course, what we have seen was a departmental minute by Mr. Cowan to other officers in his Service who understood precisely the conditions under which that minute was written. It was not meant for publication or public consumption. What he wrote was clearly understood in its correct sense by the officers to whom it was addressed who know the background and the rules and regulations of the Service
If the hon. Gentleman waits, I propose to deal with that point in due course. I am satisfied that Mr. Cowan did not advocate or intend the use of illegal force. It was a continuation of a policy which had been highly successful in that it had resulted in the saving of tens of thousands of men who, judged by all the standards of civilisation that we know, had been regarded by most people in this House, and the country, as irredeemable only eighteen months ago. The risks taken were justified by the results which were truly miraculous. I do not believe that any hon. Member who searches his conscience can deny that.
One of the things that appears in the documents laid before us is a Minute by the Commissioner of Prisons in which he says that there might be risks of someone getting hurt or killed, and he thought that a reference to the Security Council would be advisable. That Minute was carefully considered by the Minister of Defence and by the Minister of African Affairs as to whether reference to the Security Council would be necessary.
After consideration they came to the conclusion that as there was to be no change in the policy which had been successfully followed there was no need to refer it to the Security Council, and that if delay went on any longer the risks of worse trouble were very great and that therefore the best thing was to get on with the operation. It was a question of carrying out efficiently on a departmental basis in a particular case a strategy which had already been proved highly successful.
There are obvious risks in dealing with desperate and sub-human individuals,—[Interruption.]—if hon. Members remember the type of oath that was taken by Mau Mau followers I am staggered to think that they can come to any other conclusion but that such men were, for the time being at least, sub-human.
Great risks were justified to achieve great humanitarian results. It was in the departmental execution of the plan that muddle, mistakes and incompetence occurred. The plan itself was carefully thought out. It was meticulous and detailed. Mr. Cowan had spent two days at Hola and had investigated the situation very carefully. I beg hon. Members on both sides of the House to remember the horrible evils which had been exorcised by similar measures already taken.
In the circumstances, I consider that the disciplinary action which has been taken is both fair and just. I should like to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and to the Governor. They are to be congratulated on the humane way in which they have handled this problem. If the morale of the overseas Civil Service, the members of which cannot publicly defend themselves, is to be preserved, it is very important that this should be stated. I have never known the proceedings of a triumvirate to be published before. Therefore, if they are in exceptional circumstances to be published, I should say that very great care is necessary to ensure that such an unprecedented step does not undermine the morale of the Service, without which much more numerous and greater disasters would occur in the future.
It has also been suggested by hon. Members opposite that a Minister or Ministers in Kenya, or even in this country, should have resigned. I do not agree that the facts warrant this. The Minister of Defence approved a sound plan which had already been highly successful. It might be argued that when the disaster occurred he should have gone personally to Hola instead of sending three subordinates, but I do not think that failure to do so warrants resignation. Even if some hon. Members opposite may take an opposite view, I would ask them to bear in mind that Ministers in Kenya, unlike Ministers in this country—who are subject to the chances and changes of political life—are members of the Overseas Civil Service, and that the Minister of Defence was on the point of retirement after long and honourable service. If he had resigned he would have forfeited his pension, and I do not believe that hon. Members opposite or on this side of the House would think that in the circumstances that would have been either fair or right.
While the action taken was right, we who sit in the air-conditioned ease of this Chamber might remember occasionally the discomfort, danger and difficulties experienced by many dedicated members of the Colonial Service. While weakness must not be condoned, let us not forget how much we owe to the loyalty, courage and perseverance of people overseas, and how much the future of the Commonwealth still depends upon the continued demonstration of those qualities.
I should like, for a moment, to set this tragedy—as tragedy we all admit it was—in a wider context, because against the background of the 20th century, we are engaged in a gigantic and epic task of building a Commonwealth out of an Empire which will be a strong, cohesive power for peace and prosperity in an unsettled world. It is not surprising that in carrying out a job of this magnitude we occasionally make mistakes and experience disasters. I ask hon. Members opposite, who appear to be in good voice tonight, judging by their remarks, to think back to 1947, and to decide whether their consciences are entirely clear in respect of the millions of men, women and children who suffered the most appalling fate when independence was given to the Indian sub-continent.
Nobody wishes to gloss over this tragic event, but it should be seen in the broad context of our achievements and success. Those who inflate and exaggerate such incidents, for political or other reasons, encourage the phobia of nationalism and racialism. These weapons are being used against us by our enemies, and those who help them are doing a great disservice to this country and the Commonwealth. If those who proclaim in this House that they are interested in the welfare of our Commonwealth would think twice before saying or doing anything which is calculated to exacerbate racial tension, the path towards building a stable multiracial society in Africa would be more certain.
I would refer specifically to the Hola camp affair. It has been said that the magistrate who investigated this made the point about lack of adequate European supervision. We hear so much of the readiness and the fitness of backward and comparatively uneducated peoples to govern themselves, and yet we see here what can happen if adequate supervision is not provided by the protecting Power. I would also like to point out that there seems to be a considerable lack of adequate public relations machinery. This, I think, applies to many of the overseas territories. I am afraid that bureaucrats—of whom I have been one—do not much like public relations; nor do Legislative Councils much like voting sufficient money for it. Yet, in modern conditions, it is vitally important that we do not neglect this most important aspect of government.
Finally, I want to express the hope and the confidence that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who has shown a capacity for work and a pride in and a loyalty to the great service to which he is dedicated, will not be put off by the hysterical cacophony that is heard from the other side of this House. I hope that he will not falter, but rather will continue to discharge the duties of his high office with that combination of genius and humanity which has characterised his labours throughout.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) has spoken of the morale of the Civil Service overseas, but I thought that he overlooked the fact that the morale of Africa and of this country is affected by the issues which we are discussing tonight. The very fact that at this hour we have this crowded Chamber is an indication [Interruption.] I have no desire to be facetious about this subject. Let the House remember that what we are discussing is the murder of eleven men; and I believe that we are touching a sensitive nerve in Africa when we mention the subject of Hola.
The House knows that I have myself paid tribute—and I gladly do so again—'to those dedicated people who serve in Africa and in other parts of our Commonwealth. Pride in such people is not a monopoly of the other side of the House, and it is as common for hon. Members from this side who are privileged to visit the Colonies to pay tribute to such people as it is for hon. Members opposite. But to hide behind the fact that the morale of the Overseas Civil Service is concerned, and to avoid examining these issues which are at stake, would be, I think, to deny the duty which the country expects of us at the proper time.
I think this Report is an exercise in whitewashing. I believe that high and responsible people in Kenya ought to be thoroughly ashamed of their attitude in the face of the death of eleven people under their care and responsibility. These people at Hola were not merely in the custody of the Askaris and Mr. Sullivan and the officers in charge of the camp. They were in the custody of Sir Evelyn Baring and the Government, who must accept the ultimate responsibility, and also right hon. Gentlemen opposite who were so anxious to tell us that things in these camps were not sufficient to warrant an inquiry almost immediately before the events occurred.
I trust the memory of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) will not be upset by my reference to this, but when I was in Hola Camp I remember asking, in the presence of the hon. Gentleman, "Who checks up if there is violence in this camp? If anyone is ill-treated who checks up on you gentlemen, because although you are responsible people you must be checked up on." I hope the hon. Gentleman will remember as well as I do the reply I received. I was told, "The doctor checks up, because he, after all, has the evidence if there has been ill-treatment."
The doctor at Hola comes out of this Report very badly. I should not like him to be my doctor. A doctor who can mistake a broken leg for pneumonia is indeed a very strange doctor. This Report is shocking in the negligence it reveals regarding medical treatment. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) was right to remind the House that these people who are regarded as the hard core, or many of them, have not been brought before a court at all to have charges levied against them. It is all right for the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East to describe himself as a bureaucrat and call them sub-human in the air-conditioned surroundings of this Chamber, but he ought to remember that his words reach the ears of Africans.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that their own people who are perfectly all right and respected members of society have declined to take these people back into their midst?
If that is the test for being called sub-human, the hon. Gentleman does not ask for very much. There are plenty of people who are not welcomed back in their own community, but they are not imprisoned for years because they are not liked.
I sought to catch your eye tonight, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I believe that public opinion in this country is appalled at what has happened at Hola. I believe that now it is regarded as much a moral issue as a political one, and it is thought that somebody in authority should be man enough to take his punishment. The plain fact is that the architect of the past policy is remaining securely in office. The Governor has a long and honourable record in public service and is given all credit when things go well. The duty of his office is to accept responsibility when things go wrong. Sir Evelyn Baring presided over the Council of Ministers which issued the most misleading report of all time, which indicated to the world that through drinking water these men had died. Now, when the evidence is published, Sir Evelyn Baring remains safely in Government House. He ought to set an example to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because I believe that decency compels a call for resignation.
What has happened to public life in this country and the Overseas Civil Service? Why are standards falling so much that apparently nothing is enough to shift people whose skin is thick enough to sit there in the face of public opinion? [Interruption.] I did not hear that interruption. [HON. MEMBERS: "Let us have it again."] It is no pleasure for me to say these unpleasant things, but does any hon. Gentleman opposite think that we ought to be silent on this? Do hon. Members opposite believe this is not the time to call on public men to resign, when such terrible things happen in the British Commonwealth? Or do they think we should pass it over conveniently? I believe that in Kenya itself there is a greater desire to have the proper amends than has been made clear in this House.
Naturally enough, the whole of Kenya has been content to leave these detention camps to mind themselves—out of sight, out of mind. And in any case, such large numbers of the detainees have been restored to normal life that people were content. [Interruption.] Well, all right. But does this justify eleven murders? Does the fact that people have been rehabilitated now justify us in saying that we should not demand that responsible people should behave responsibly in this matter? I believe it is natural for people in Kenya to want sleeping dogs to lie, but I am glad to know that there are responsible people belonging to all races in that multi-racial nation who are ashamed of the brutalities revealed at Hola and think that the good name of that fair land will not be served by a report of this sort.
The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot), when he opened this debate, began in a quiet manner which almost had a semi-judicial air about it. It soon became obvious, though, that that quiet manner disguised the voice of a partisan.
It seemed to me that his partisanship came out very early in his speech when he spoke of the report given by Dr. Moyes. Fortunately, he quoted the pages of the report and I have it here with me. The hon. and learned Member said that Dr. Moyes said:
a number of patients in hospital had bruises, there were two possible fractures and all had high temperatures.
He said it should have been abundantly obvious there had been very great violence, but he did not do justice to Dr. Moyes in quoting only the last two lines of his report and leaving out the previous fourteen lines in which he talked about "aspiration pneumonia" and all that went with it. I think it would have shown a greater spirit of fairness if the whole picture had been painted at that time.
I think all of us regret the rather foolish report which was made about the possible cause of death. That was a mistake. When we make a mistake we can admit it because our cause is generally a good one. There are occasions when hon. Members opposite are not prepared to admit that they have made a mistake. One thing which is quite certain is that that error was not intended to cover up any crime, because it was perfectly obvious to everyone concerned that it would be followed by a post mortem examination when the true facts would be ascertained and made public to the world by the Government of Kenya.
The hon. and learned Member was also perhaps a little unfair in painting a picture of these men who might so well be innocent and who probably had not taken the Mau Mau oath. Again, I have taken care to bring the documents with me. The hon. and learned Member in his speech placed very great stress on the report of Mr. Goudie. Let us look at what he said and not just at the last sentence. Describing these men who the hon. and learned Member says may not have taken the Mau-Mau oath, he said:
I accept that the Mau-Mau detainees in the Hola Closed Camp, which included the eleven deceased, were the inner core of the hard core of Mau Mau, hostile to, and contemptuous of, any form of authority, whose incorrigible attitude may be judged by the fact that they preferred to 'rot' in the Closed Camp rather than merely to ask to be almost automatically permitted to go to the Open Camp and work for money and be granted irrigated plots. I myself found them both at Hola and in Court sullen, suspicious and quite obviously entirely fanatical. The killings, atrocities and mutilations committed by Mau Mau is an historical fact of which I take judicial notice. It follows, therefore, that these men were potentially dangerous in the highest degree and would certainly be ready to take immediate advantage of the slightest sign of weakness in Camp staff and exploit it to the full.
If we take the example of some of our own people, it may be in Korea or elsewhere, who had resisted Communist conversion sullenly and determinedly for a matter of years, does the hon. Member think the Communist description of them as the hard core of our people would be very different?
I cannot see the parallel. Never, even from the most extreme source, has it ever been suggested that our people had had the kind of record of bestiality that went on in Mau-Mau.
I quote Mr. Goudie because the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich paid so much attention to him and put so much weight on what he said. In view of the strength of that paragraph, if the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich believes that these people had not taken the Mau Mau oath, he will believe almost anything.
By innuendo and suggestion the hon. and learned Member implied that these men might be innocent. He must face the realities of his own speech. There have been so many allegations. It has been suggested that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies was not prepared to come to the House to answer these allegations. There are few Ministers who come to the Box as repeatedly as he to answer unfounded allegations from the other side of the House.
In facing up to the problems of Hola, we must all agree that there is regret and sorrow on all sides of the House that these lives have been lost. That is abundantly clear. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There are some hon. Members opposite who are too eager on all occasions to impute dishonourable motives. We on this side of the House and people generally will treat them for what they are worth.
It is fair to say that the aim of our policy is to lead to the preservation of human life, not to its destruction. With the troubles at Hola, therefore, we should first ask, what can we learn from the tragedy of Hola? How can such mistakes be avoided in the future? How can we make the work which we are doing in rehabilitation in Kenya more efficient and at the same time more human? That is the attitude which was taken by the Secretary of State and mentioned in his despatch to the Governor of Kenya on 2nd July. I feel that as long as the Government are tackling the problem in that way, they must be on the right lines.
It is essential that we should get the position at Hola into perspective. In my opinion, Hola may well be the end of an era. It is the end of the war against Mau Mau in which force has been pitted against force for a number of years. We should remember that Mau Mau gave the worst example known in generations of man's inhumanity to man. Some of these Mau Mau men were reduced to the lowest depths of human degradation and beastliness. There were many, many murders of both white and black men, although it was the black man in Kenya who suffered more from Mau Mau murders than the white man.
When the battle was on, the Government and the whole House were committed to the use of force. These people were taken to detention camps by force, and at one time 80,000 were in the camps. That has been reduced to under 1,000. It is fair to say that every opportunity is given to these people to improve their situation. As Mr. Goudie says in his Report, they have the opportunity to move from the closed camp to the open camp, then to restricted areas and then, possibly, to their homes. We should remember, however, that some of them cannot possibly be permitted to return home. It is well known that one man at Hola has confessed to no fewer than thirty-five murders, and it is therefore obvious why the Africans in the area from which he comes do not want to see him back among them. We have to consider the position of the Africans as well as ourselves.
The hon. Member will be well aware that it is sometimes difficult to collect all the necessary evidence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is. The hon. Member may not be aware of the fact, but this will not be the first time that a murderer has confessed to a murder and yet no one can prove it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some Tory heads should roll."] It is interesting to hear a reference to Tory heads. The greatest interest of hon. Members opposite throughout the whole debate has been that heads should roll. Our interest is, rather, in rehabilitation and bringing people back to a human way of life.
In the words of Mr. Goudie, we have left the inner core of the hard core. As was said in the "Further Documents", the smaller the core, the harder the task became. It should be said in this House that, bearing in mind the nature of the task, the men who did the job in Kenya had to show great moral and physical courage, and they themselves were in constant danger. Considering the brutality of the people with whom they were dealing, it is, in my opinion, a great credit to them that serious incidents have been avoided until this unfortunate occasion.
There have been great achievements in rehabilitation in Kenya. I agree that, above all, we must not destroy the morale of a fine and loyal service because of one very unfortunate experience.
The hon. and learned Member may have his opportunity of speaking later. I have given way to him once already. I have listened to him speaking on this subject and other subjects, and I hope he will grant me the same courtesy as I have accorded to him, because I do not make a practice of interrupting him.
The further documents recently published, in my opinion, give a very clear picture. I have read them very carefully more than once. It seems to me that the Cowan plan was a practical one, and, if it had been carried out, it might well have had a very real chance of success. Unfortunately, when one reads the Report, it is clear that the instructions were not carried out by the man in the field. That is the man who is now losing his position. Mistakes were made. There is no doubt about that. For the policy to have any chance of success, it was essential that there should be dilution. Instead of being sent out in small parties of 20, the whole lot were taken out again. The warders and the men in the field were inadequately briefed. Supervision was inadequate, and, at one time, Mr. Sullivan himself made a very great mistake when there was trouble in leaving the site without leaving any European supervision. It seems to me that he had misunderstood the directive. It is a pity that this should have happened, and it is a pity and a mistake that a copy of the operational order was not given to him.
Does not the hon. Member honestly believe in his heart that the whole Cowan Plan was quite mad—the idea that one could attempt to make an unwilling man work by force? Psychologically and physically, it is quite impossible.
The hon. Member may think that it is quite mad and impossible, but it has had a considerable measure of success so far. Once a man can be led to the position of having to do some work and so purge himself of the Mau Mau oath he has taken, there is a chance that he will be rehabilitated. Whatever the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) says, it has happened in the past and we hope that it may happen again.
One need not go through the details of what is to happen from now on. That Sullivan retires is known to us all. Mr. Lewis, who was in a higher position of authority, felt that as a matter of honour he should resign, and he did. All credit to him for taking that view, because it must have meant a great deal to him to leave after a long and successful career. As for the Minister himself, Mr. Cusack, although he knew what the plan was to be, it must be abundantly clear that the plan which he approved was not carried out.
Now, the Government have sensibly tackled the situation with the suggestions that are now coming out: that in the new direction of those who come in, there must be one responsible Minister to take the authority in Kenya for the rehabilitation camps, so that there is not a conflict of two responsible Ministers tackling the same task, as they have done before. Sensible it is, too, that there should be a fresh and clear directive on the whole subject, so that everyone knows what is going on, and sensible, too, that we should take better measures concerning health, so that people have their ascorbic acid tablets whether they like it or not. There is no doubt that deficiencies in that manner had something to do with the deaths of these men. Finally, it is agreed that from now on, whenever an operation takes place, there must be a written directive so that everybody knows what is to be done.
Let us not confuse what happened in the past by saying that the Cowan Plan was a directive. It was a report from one man to his superior officer. Whatever was said from the other side in the last debate, there was nothing in that plan that altered in any way the previous directives with regard to the use of force. Nothing was changed. Now, it is done and over.
I never sought to disguise that, nor has anybody else. [Interruption.] Of course it is admitted, and that is what the whole subject of this debate is about. We are trying, as sensible men, to see what we can do to overcome the defects of the past. From now on, we must have a firm resolve that such mistakes shall never happen again, and I think that the right steps have been taken.
It is essential, too, that the fine work of rehabilitation in Kenya should go on. It would be fatal for us to take the view that any detainee is completely irreconcilable. We must go on with the most arduous efforts to reclaim each man for civilisation and for society. At the same lime, we must take good care that we do not send back again into the African areas any unrepentant Mau Mau supporter where he may well jeopardise the future and the safety of his country and of his fellow men.
In my opinion, there are men of all races in Kenya who are determined to build there a new nation dependent upon freedom, tolerance and the respect of man to man. Let us give them our support and look to the future rather than rake up the ashes of the past for reasons of political advantage.
The best one can say about the speech of the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) is that whilst it was complacent it did not reach the heights of terrifying complacency of the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), who preceded him from the benches opposite.
In the last debate on the Hola incident, the Colonial Secretary quoted some paragraphs from a Report of the 1957 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation to Kenya which referred favourably to the administration of the detention camps in that country. I was a member of the delegation and I signed that Report, and I should like to quote to the right hon. Gentleman one paragraph from it which he did not quote and which is singularly relevant to this debate and to the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot), who opened the debate.
In paragraph 93 it was said:
… we feel we must stress the fact that the liberty of the subject is imperilled so long as detention without trial exists and that this should be kept in mind in Kenya as being fundamental to human rights. The very reasons for which such detention is acceptable in times of violence, namely the security of law and order and the preservation of the State, are also the reasons why detention is unacceptable once normal conditions return. The utmost speed in ending detention is then required.
Those words were written two and a half years ago, and only a week or so ago The Times newspaper had occasion to write in an editorial:
The moral is that the very existence of detention camps breeds an atmosphere in which human nature too readily corrupts.
In that Report we did pay some tribute to the rehabilitation system in Kenya, and the Colonial Secretary devoted most of his speech in the last Hola debate to a panegyric of that system. How, then, do disgraceful incidents such as the Hola incident—and many others which have preceded it—occur?
I believe that the answer can be found in two totally different attitudes on the part of Europeans in Kenya and in the Administration towards Africans. Towards the Africans who are co-operative the Europeans show the better aspects of that kind of out-of-date paternalism which is still prevalent in that country, but towards the non-cooperative Africans, the so-called hard core, there is shown an attitude of uncompromising toughness, an indifference bordering on callousness which leads on occasions to sheer brutality.
I would illustrate this by reference to a report which has not been discussed in this House, the report of Mr. Jack, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, who looked into allegations of Mr. Shuter. That Report is not irrelevant to the subject we are discussing tonight. It is not a very satisfactory document. I do not think it can be regarded as conclusive proof of either the truth or the falsehood of the allegations it was investigating. The method adopted by Mr. Jack, which was, roughly, to confront people who had been accused by Mr. Shuter with the allegations against them, listen to their denials and record them, would not be exactly proof against any collective cover up operation on the part of all those who were accused.
Nevertheless, Mr. Jack did, in the course of his investigation, discover evidence of some half dozen incidents of brutality at Manyani and Fort Hall camps—incidents which had not in fact been alleged by Mr. Shuter. One or two points emerge from this about the treatment of non-co-operative detainees which I think reveal a general attitude. At Mariira camp in the Fort Hall district there was what Mr. Jack calls a "riot," and following this so-called riot an African called Mwaura s/o Githira died. The autopsy showed there were various bruises, haemorrhage inside the skull probably due to blows with a blunt instrument. Mr. Jack comments that the death was unfortunate and he adds that
No tremendous force was used
and that there was
no evidence of any unnecessary violence having been used.
At Manyani Camp on two occasions at least, and this is borne out by European witnesses, African detainees were beaten on the testicles with rubber hoses by European security officers. The two European officers in the prison service who witnessed this were horrified, but they did not report it to their superiors because, they told Mr. Jack, the atrocities were not committed by officers in the prison service. The Special Branch officers concerned were named. One had left the service and the country and the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary told me, in reply to a Question the other day, that at last he had been traced and had been told of the allegations. He had denied them, and that apparently is the end of that.
Another incident revealed by Mr. Jack also took place at Mariira Camp. An African called Gichini who was a cripple with both legs amputated at the knees was found to have been made to work in a quarry, and in this case this was one of Mr. Shuter's allegations. The District Commissioner had given his approval as he thought that it was better for this legless African to work in the quarry rather than do nothing in the camp. A visiting Government medical officer confirmed this view. Mr. Jack accepts all this—the opinion apparently that breaking stones in a quarry is a suitable form of occupational therapy for an African with no legs at all.
These are not without significance to the background of the incident at Hola, which is the main subject that we want to debate tonight. The position at the end of the previous debate was very much in the air. In the course of a speech of what I thought was monumental complacency, the Colonial Secretary told us that so far as the responsibility for these events was concerned the matter was really sub judice because there was set up the Conroy Committee, this "trium-vuriate" as it was called at the start of this debate.
The Colonial Secretary seems to have adopted a policy which has become increasingly popular with Ministers of this Government. They apparently believe not in Parliamentary accountability but in accountability to the Press, and they reply to charges which are levelled by the House, which they should reply to in the House, in interviews and speeches outside. The Colonial Secretary thought fit to give an interview to the Daily Mail which appeared this morning. Referring to Nyasaland and Hola, he said:
Of the two cases, I regard Hola as the more serious.
He then went on to make a comment which I regard as nothing less than frivolous in the context of this affair. He said:
The Hola Camp affair has at least highlighted the tremendous amount of good rehabilitation work being done in Kenya.
Are we to believe that this rehabilitation work might have gone unnoticed but for the brutal beating to death of eleven Africans? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman meant? If he did not, what on earth possessed him to make a remark like that?
At the end of the last debate we had a speech from the Attorney-General which, as a layman, I found as unconvincing as my hon. and learned Friends did. It supported the decision of the Attorney-General of Kenya not to prefer criminal charges as a result of these deaths. Now we have the Report of the Conroy Committee. I want to repeat what I said at the time the Committee was set up Whatever may be the normal practice in the Colonial Service, I cannot believe that this was the proper type of inquiry to look into these allegations. This was not only a question of whether comparatively junior officers had misunderstood or wrongly carried out their instructions. It was, or should have been, an attempt to pin down responsibility all along the chain of command. One really cannot say that civil servants are the right people to place culpability on the shoulders of Ministers or, a fortiori, the Governor of a Colony or a Secretary of State.
I accept the finding, very naturally—as I think we all do—that the charges against Mr. Sullivan have been proved, and I think it is reasonable to say also that those against Mr. Courts have not been substantiated. What happens? Mr. Sullivan was dismissed without loss of gratuity. Sometimes one wonders what one has to do in the Colonial Service, or indeed the Civil Service anywhere, to lose one's gratuity.
Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner for Prisons, is in a slightly different position. He is considerably senior to Mr. Sullivan. The Conroy Committee finds Mr. Lewis responsible for the failure to send Sullivan a copy of the Cowan Plan, and it is certainly implicit in the Conroy Report that if this copy of the plan had reached Mr. Sullivan this massacre would probably never have happened. I do not accept that view at all. There is a conflict of evidence and a conflict of view between the two Reports on this matter. For my part, I prefer the coroner's view that this plan had defects, ambiguities and omissions. I accept his view that it was a plan which gave carte blanche to use whatever force was necessary. I believe that there would have been bloodshed even if the Cowan Plan had been operated in precisely the form that it was written down, and I do not believe, as my hon. Friend said in an interruption, that it would ever have been possible to force these detainees against their will to carry out manual tasks. I believe this was an illegal plan.
There is one other thing which has not been made very clear but which I think is certainly implicit in both Reports. That is that most, if not all, of the deaths of these detainees resulted from the beatings at the work site. A great deal has been made of the fact that all this trouble arose because Sullivan marched these men out of the camp en bloc, but compared with what happened at the work site, what happened on the road was comparatively minor. The worst beatings took place after these men had been divided into groups of twenty, which was one of the features of the Cowan Plan as written down. At the work site they were in groups of twenty, and the plan produced with the documents laid in the Library by the Colonial Secretary shows that the groups were at least 20 feet apart. I do not believe that the Conroy finding that the failure to separate units into groups leds to the deaths stands up to examination at all.
Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner for Prisons, is in my view very properly saddled with the responsibility for the incompetence and muddle in the department for which he was responsible. What happens to him? I should like to read what is stated in the Government despatch:
It is characteristic of his exemplary conduct throughout both the Inquest and the Disciplinary Inquiry that Mr. Lewis has felt it his duty in the circumstances to request permission to retire from the service as soon as arrangements can be made for a new Commissioner to be appoined in his place, and permission to do so has been granted.
We gather from what went before that in fact Lewis has been permitted to retire a few weeks before his normal retiring date. That is as high as culpability is placed by the Conroy Report.
I want to deal with Mr. Cusack, the Minister of Defence. He approved the Cowan Plan. Even before the last Report appeared, The Times said in an editorial:
It does seem that the Minister within whose department these events occurred, if he did approve and return the Cowan plan, carries a very grave measure of the responsibility.
There is more evidence of Mr. Cusack's responsibility in the further documents which were published last week, and perhaps I may try and follow the course of events as they affect the Minister of Defence and Internal Security. Mr. Cusack having approved the Cowan
Plan, Mr. Sullivan sent a situation report from Hola on 14th February. This report was set out in full in one of the documents, and it is a report that would undoubtedly have disturbed anyone who read it.
This report, according to the Conroy Report, showed that Sullivan had not grasped all the principles of the plan put to him by Cowan. This report was then sent by the Commissioner of Prisons to the Minister of Defence and was enclosed with a Minute which opened with the following words:
As you know, I have for some time been anxious about a situation which has been developing at Hola where in the old closed camp there were 208 detainees … amongst whom were 66 able-bodied men who refused to work and from whom trouble has always been considered likely.
The Commissioner of Prisons went on to say:
The plans Mr. Cowan worked out could be undertaken by us but it would mean the use of a certain degree of force in which operation someone might get hurt or even killed.
Again, in sub-paragraph (5) he says:
I think this situation should be brought to the notice of the Security Council and a direction given on what policy should be adopted with these recalcitrant or unmanageable detainees.
The Minister of Defence then discussed this with the Commissioner. He told the Conroy Committee that he did not refer it to the Security Council because he did not think that it involved any new matter of Government policy. He expected that as a routine matter a copy of Cowan's letter would be sent to Sullivan before carrying out the operation, and he was extremely surprised when he heard that it was not. He did not agree that the operation was delicate and dangerous. It is very difficult to equate that with the remarks in the minute sent to him by the Commissioner of Prisons. Mr. Cusack goes on to say that he never envisaged that force would be used to overcome the resistance of detainees. The Report says:
The Minister is of opinion that he would never have agreed to 85 detainees being put to work as one group.
The Permanent Secretary for Defence conveyed the Minister's decision to implement the plan to the Deputy Commissioner
on the evening of 24th February. He said:
The Minister considers that Mr. Cowan's recommendations should now be implemented and agrees with the Special Commissioner that the longer we wait to put this operation into effect, the more difficult it will be.
Why is there no suggestion of any action being taken against the Minister of Defence? This is a fantastic situation, because the Minister of Defence is today going on his retirement leave. He is going on leave without any stain on his record—this man in whose department these muddles and incompetence took place, which led with inevitability to the death of these 11 Africans by beating.
I now turn to the position of Mr. Campbell, which is not quite so simple. Since the hon. Member for Blackpool, South rather travestied the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend about this matter and said that he had not quoted in full, I must weary the House with a number of quotations which will show how totally unreliable a witness Mr. Campbell was. He is Assistant Commissioner of Prisons and was the senior of the three officers sent by the Governor to investigate the Hola incident the day after it took place.
The right hon. Gentleman has put into the Library records of the proceedings before the Conroy Committee. One of the witnesses whom both the Conroy Committee and the Coroner—Mr. Goudie—found fully reliable was the District Commissioner, Mr. Thompson. The District Commissioner told the Conroy Committee:
I think Campbell's notes (Exhibit S) were inaccurate"—
that is, the report which Campbell dictated on his arrival back in Nairobi and which apparently, if not certainly, was the subject matter of the discussion at the Governor's meeting which preceded the issue of the Press communiqué:
It is very hard to say exactly where, but the impression conveyed by Campbell's notes of the meeting"—
that is at Hola—
is different from the impression I had of that meeting. Paragraph 10 in particular; I do not really know what it means. Paragraph 2, I gathered it much more more serious than a scuffle which took two minutes to sort out. I understood they had thrown themselves down and together and warders had to use batons to sort them out.
Campbell went to Hola with the other officers, Small and Garland—and one of the most extraordinary things is that in the course of three and a half hours at Hola they never troubled to inspect the bodies of the dead detainees. According to Thompson, in his evdence to the Conroy Committee, Dr. Rogoff, who, I think, is the pathologist, was asked whether there was any sign of bruising or external injuries and he said:
No, but on very black skins like these, it takes a very long time for bruises to come out.
Then there is some interesting evidence from Mr. Small, who was also on this visit to Hola. Mr. Small had exactly the same opportunity as Mr. Campbell; no more, and no less; and looking at Exhibit "S", he said,
I do not recollect the Medical Officer telling LIS that the detainees were suffering from slight bruises. Then, in paragraph 11, it is stated, 'The compelling exercise was in no way connected with the cause of death', but I have already stated that it was, in my opinion, one of the five factors. I do not think that anyone at Hola expressed the opinion that the compelling exercise was in no way connected with the cause of death ".
Mr. Small set out his view, which he formed at Hola, of the cause of death. He states:
I came to the opinion that the deaths were due to the fact that the detainees were 'soft', not having worked for several months and were hysterical and determined to die rather than to obey orders; that they had been involved in three riots in which riot batons were used … that they were made to work in a hot climate, and that they had drunk too much water when suffering from exhaustion and heat",
There was also the Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr. O'Dwyer, and he was asked questions by Mr. Small. Mr. O'Dwyer said:
I was questioned next by Small. He asked me if I had examined the bodies and could I say what was the cause of death. I described what I had seen, i.e., man with injury on back of skull, man with injury to his teeth and with bruised eyes. I also told that all the bodies had various minor injuries and abrasions and I also told him about the skin peeling.
Campbell said O'Dwyer did not mention head injuries. He said:
I have made no note of it.
Campbell, however, had some interesting things to say. He also said, about O'Dwyer, that O'Dwyer had examined the bodies and found no obvious signs of death by violence or brutality. There were bodies with bruises which could
have been caused by handling after death.
On page 103 we come to the conference at Government House. This is extremely important because we have to discover how unreliable a witness Campbell was and to what extent this conference based its conclusions on what Campbell wrote down in his report or what he and his two colleagues told the conference. This was the conference presided over by the Governor of Kenya. Campbell here says:
I did not take much part in the conversation at Government House.
That, I think, is rather remarkable since he was the senior member.
It is not so surprising. It has been called a report, but it has cast unjust reflections on Mr. Campbell. They were notes which he made, but he was not the senior member of the party.
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman's intervention has not elucidated anything. As I understand it, Mr. Campbell dictated this note, or report, or whatever we like to call it, immediately he came off the aeroplane at Nairobi and, so far as I can see, this was the only written document before the conference presided over by the Governor. Anyhow, he goes on to say:
The use of batons was a factor to be borne in mind. It was also a possibility before the meeting at Government House. The Governor and the Ministers had a copy of Exhibit S"—
that was his notes or report—
I never saw the Press communiqué. The Governor did discuss it with the Press Officer in my presence, but eventually he said, 'Let's go to my office and finish it off.'
That seems to be quite extraordinary. Here is a gathering of Ministers to examine what had happened at Hola on the basis of evidence submitted by three men sent there for the purpose, and at the end of it the Governor and the Press
Officer go off quietly in a comer to finish off a communiqué which, as my hon Friends have said, was quite appalling in its misleading nature. I think that inevitably it brings the position of the Governor into question.
I wish to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Goudie stated in the coroner's report that it was submitted to him that the Press hand-out and the circumstances surrounding the publication of it were irrelevant to his inquiry. I am very glad to say that he did not take the view that it was. But would the Colonial Secretary kindly tell us who it was who made those submissions to Mr. Goudie and on whose behalf? It seems to me quite extraordinary that anybody less than the Governor or the Colonial Secretary would ever have suggested to the coroner what was or was not relevant to his report of the inquest on these eleven bodies.
If there were a conspiracy to hush up the truth about how eleven men died at Hola, that is as damning an indictment as could be made against any Government. A failure to clear up this point—it certainly has not been cleared up at the moment—will compromise anything said by the Government of Kenya in the future.
Now I come to the position of the Colonial Secretary. Eleven Africans were battered to death. They may have been fanatics, they may have been hard core Mau Mau, but they were all Africans for whose safety the Kenya Government and ultimately the right hon. Gentleman himself was responsible. One scapegoat has been found, one comparatively junior officer in the Kenya Government service. He has been dismissed without loss of gratuity. One more senior officer has been allowed to tender his resignation, a very slightly premature resignation, and he was cordially thanked. Is that to be all? Is there to be no further payment by anyone for the long story of brutality, carelessness, incompetence and muddle disclosed by these Reports?
Undoubtedly, until the Hola incident took place, the right hon. Gentleman supported the Government of Kenya consistently in refusing any independent inquiry into the camps. By setting up the Fairn Commission he has belatedly acknowledged his wrong-headedness in the past, but it was wrong-headedness which may well have led or contributed to these eleven deaths. The Report of the Fairn Commission has been in the hands of the Government of Kenya, I understand, since 7th July. We are now told that it is not to be published until August 15th. Why? What is in the report which is inconvenient or unpalatable to the right hon. Gentleman or the Government of Kenya? Why is that report being delayed for five or six weeks?
The right hon. Gentleman must forgive us if we get a little suspicious about these delays. The Conroy Committee's Report had been in his hands for more than three weeks; indeed, nearly four weeks elapsed between the signing of the Report and its publication here as a white Paper. Its publication was delayed until after the business for the last week of this Session had been fixed. There is nothing in the Despatches which passed between the Colonial Secretary and the Governor of Kenya to justify that delay. I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman can really remain in office and allow junior officers on the spot to take the rap for this affair he has compromised fatally the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility and brought discredit to the high office which he holds.
Several speakers have referred to the importance of the morale of the Services of the Crown in these territories. I would like particularly to speak of the prison service itself in Kenya, because I think the House should not close its eyes to the danger of undermining entirely the morale of this service.
Whatever happens in the future, whether we have a Labour or Conservative Government in power, and whatever the future constitution of Kenya, we have to keep in this service and attract to it men of the quality required to run it as it should be run. If we bear in mind how suddenly and enormously this service had to be expanded to deal with the flood of the most perplexing kind of prisoner, it is surprising what a high proportion of its officers have turned out to be men with a sense of vocation, who take a real interest in and try to help the, at first sight, not very attractive human beings with whom they have to deal.
It is important that we should try to keep a sense of perspective about the Hola incident. I would ask the House to consider carefully whether, from the point of view of the service itself, it is not fair to compare this incident with a disaster such as an air crash or railway accident, in which many people—often entirely innocent people—lose their lives due to a human error of judgment or a misunderstanding.
That there was an error of understanding in this case is clear enough from page 49 of the Report, which reads:
As it transpired Sullivan had not under-stood what Cowan had discussed with him. We cannot believe that if Sullivan had grasped what he had been told that he would then have deliberately set about the operation in a wholly different and much more dangerous and difficult way.
There is in East Africa another potent cause of misunderstanding, with which, because I have lived and worked with Africans in Kenya longer perhaps than anyone else in this House, I happen to be familiar. That is the difficulty of language. In my experience when things go unaccountably wrong in dealing with Africans almost invariably one of the reasons—generally the main reason—is the difficulty of language. One of the particulars on which Mr. Sullivan is condemned is that he failed to give his warders adequate and proper orders. Many admirable people find the learning of languages difficult, especially when they are no longer young.
In East Africa there is a peculiar difficulty because Swahili, which is the lingua franca, happens to be the language of the coast and therefore the language which people coming to East Africa from outside would first hear: it is not the language of anyone in the interior. For instance, if I wished to speak in his own language to every African on my farm I should need to know at least six languages. Not a single African on the farm speaks Swahili as his native language. I should not be surprised if not a single one of Sullivan's warders spoke Swahili as his native language.
I think it right, too, in trying to be fair to the Kenya Prison Service, to remember what kind of people these two men mentioned in this Report were. Sullivan had twenty-four years service in the Navy, starting as a boy and finishing as an officer. He is described by Cowan, before any of this happened, as having enthusiasm and an infectious good humour. He was described by a reliable authority as sympathetic to the people of whom he was in charge and certainly not as a cruel man. Coutts had twenty-two years service in the Army and over seven of them as a regimental sergeant major in the Gordon Highlanders. He had had considerable success in rehabilitating young hard core Mau Mau convicts—surely as tough an assignment as anyone could undertake.
These are the kind of people that most of us in this country would regard as the salt of the earth. I think we want to be very careful that no impression is made by anyone that when these kind of people put on the uniform of the Kenya Prison Service they cease to be the salt of the earth and become the scum of the earth. I do not seek in any way to minimise the tragedy at Hola, but just as it is right that the causes of an air disaster or a railway accident should be investigated with the greatest thoroughness so that as far as is humanly possible no such disaster can occur again, so it is right that the Hola incident should be similarly investigated. But just as it would be mischievous and unfair to use an accident to undermine confidence in the whole policy or personnel of the air service or the railway service—
— so it is wrong to undermine the morale of the Prison Service and the rehabilitation policy of the Kenya Government, for that is vitally important to the future of that country.
When the hon. Member talks about an "incident"—an unfortunate word—he should recall that the Committee of Inquiry said that it accepted the evidence of Mr. Peters, which was that Mr. Sullivan was there at the time the injuries were being inflicted, that they appeared to be inflicted upon unresisting persons sitting on the ground—although he was not sure of that—and that eleven men died, seven or eight of them from severe fractures which could be caused only by very great violence.
I did not call it only an incident. I also called it a disaster and a tragedy, and I am not attempting to excuse the mistake which was made by Sullivan. All I am saying is that it was a mistake and it was a misunderstanding.
The large attendance in the House at this late hour is a sign, I think, of the recognition by hon. Members in all parts of the House of the importance of this subject, and it is also a reflection of the uneasiness in the country, even if that uneasiness has not percolated to the benches opposite to the extent that we should have wished.
It is because this is an important subject that we have chosen to take it so late tonight, because we wanted to give every hon. Member an opportunity to express his views on it. We also hoped that there might be some hon. Members opposite—in fact, we believed that there would be some—who would be as concerned as we are with the good name of Britain and the important constitutional principles involved and would have the courage which the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) has had, for he has stated clearly in a London newspaper tonight that it is impossible for him to support the Colonial Secretary on this issue.
The hon. Lady should not assume that we on these benches are not just as distressed, disturbed and anxious about this as she is. She has no right to demand, however, that we should take a certain line. I assure her on my honour that we are just as worried as anyone else.
I do not think the hon. Member can have heard the last three speeches by his colleagues. A more nauseating parade of complacency I have never heard, and I have been in the House for fifteen years. To hear hon. Members opposite speak of it one would imagine that this was an unfortunate, minor incident. We heard from the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) most perfunctory regrets about this tragedy. That took two seconds of his time, and for the rest he told us that we must not undermine confidence in the Kenya Civil Service. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Armstrong), who spoke last, asked us to keep a "sense of perspective" about this matter. We are discussing in all seriousness the future of the British Commonwealth. I ask hon. Members opposite this: if in any prison in Britain twelve men had been beaten to death, would anyone on the benches opposite have said, "Keep a sense of perspective about this, in view of the fine record of Prison Administration"? Of course not. Public opinion in this country would not have permitted anyone to do so. The speeches to which we have listened to tonight are a reflection of the very basis of the problem which we face in our remaining Colonial Territories. Quite instictively, sincerely and genuinely, without even being aware of it, hon. Members opposite do not believe that an African life is as important as a white man's life.
If it had been eleven European prisoners who had been beaten to death, what would hon. Members opposite have said? Would they have said that no heads need roll except the head of the man lowest on the ladder? Would they have said that these were in any case criminals, so it did not matter? The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) himself became a party to this argument. He asked us to remember that, after all, these were deperate, hard-core Mau Mau murderers. He gave us an example of a Mau Mau detainee who confessed to 35 murders.
The men whose fate we are discussing tonight are men who have not confessed. That is why they are dead. Simply because they had not confessed, simply because their guilt has not been established, they have been subjected to the Cowan Plan of being taken forcibly to a work site and put in such a situation that death inevitably resulted.
We face tonight something which is fundamental to the future of our colonial rule. Hon. Members opposite speak about the need to keep the confidence of the Colonial Civil Service in Kenya. If I were a civil servant, my confidence would not be greatly reinforced by the knowledge that, when something went wrong when I was carrying out Government policy, I should take the can back for my Minister. That is no way to keep the right sort of administration.
There is another kind of confidence which we must restore in Kenya, the confidence of the African in British justice. We shall never reach the end of the state of emergency in Kenya if we do not. We shall not lay the foundations for the multi-racial society in which we on this side believe, because we believe in the equality of men of every race and colour unless, on every challenge which comes to this House, we react as completely to any outrage against Africans as we would to any outrage against white men. That is what must be done, and that is one of the issues which we are discussing now.
Another issue concerns our individual responsibility for ensuring that justice is done. We cannot escape that responsibility because the Attorney-General of Kenya, with the backing of the Colonial Secretary, has told us that, although it has been indubitably established that these eleven men were murdered, no criminal charges can be brought against anybody. This makes it all the more imperative that administrative action should be taken, that the Disciplinary Inquiry should be complete and just. I echo and reinforce the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who said that, of course, this type of inquiry is the last type of inquiry, really, to ensure that impartial justice is done. But, having established this inquiry, each one of us has an obligation to take note of it and to remember that such an inquiry reports to this House, and that we are responsible for it. The decisions arising out of this inquiry are taken, as the Governor makes clear in his Despatches, after consultation with the Colonial Secretary. We cannot shuffle off our responsibility, because tonight we take the place of a court of law to decide where the responsibility should be placed, whether it is being placed fairly and whether the men who are being accused are getting the treatment they deserve.
Our case here tonight—I maintain this in all seriousness—is that if anybody carefully examines the evidence which has now come to light in the Report, taken in conjunction with the coroner's report at the inquest, there cannot be the slightest doubt that if the White Paper, with the recommendations in the two Despatches, is accepted by this House tonight, there will have been one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in British colonial history.
It is, of course, established by the Inquiry that Sullivan is guilty. It is established that he deliberately misled a succession of people. It is established that he failed to supervise properly the proceedings on the work site. It is clearly established that he was present and did not interfere when men under his command mercilessly beat helpless Africans to death.
It is not surprising that this verdict was reached. It was quite impossible for any other to be reached when we take into account the evidence of such impartial witnesses as the supervisor of the irrigation scheme, Mr. Peters. I want to read one short extract from what he said at the inquest:
Whilst I looked, it was continuous beating on persons all of whom were sitting down, apparently to make them work and not to put down any form of disturbance that I saw … I thought it no place for me. It was not the sort of thing I like to watch. I did not agree with it, but thought it was nothing to do with me. I do not know to what extent the prisons authorities are allowed to go.
That quotation from Mr. Peter's evidence is not reproduced in the Report of the Disciplinary Inquiry. The reason is clear. Having placed the blame on Sullivan, as the Inquiry inescapably had to do, it then turns round to build up a pyramid of mitigating circumstances. Even Sullivan is not to be brought properly to account. Even the man who allowed that continuous beating to go on under his very eyes is not to be given the treatment that any man who did that to Europeans would inevitably get. So the mitigating circumstances have to be established.
One of the mitigating circumstances is the testimonies to Mr. Sullivan's character. We are told that a certain Canon Webster had declared that Sullivan was not a cruel man. That is remarkable, because Mr. Sullivan watched, apparently unmoved, the sort of treatment of helpless detainees that turned the stomach of Mr. Peters, who said, "I did not like to watch it. I thought it was no place for me."
I say to hon. Members opposite that the Inquiry cannot have it both ways, yet from what we see it is trying to have it both ways, because in the end the "Old Pals' Act" has got to operate and somehow it has all got to come right in the end. What the Disciplinary Inquiry is trying to say is that Sullivan is not cruel; but if he is not personally cruel and acted as he did, he must have acted as he did because he thought that in doing so he was doing his duty and carrying out his orders. Either it was personal cruelty, in which case all the character testimonies fall, or he was a man honestly and conscientiously and without personal cruelty deciding he was doing his job properly. Indeed, the Inquiry is very tender towards him because it found that it was
unfair to Sullivan to order him to carry out this operation without giving him specific and detailed instructions in writing and without proper assistance and supervision by senior and experienced officers.
In his Despatch of 18th July, the Governor seized on these extenuating circumstances in order to say what should be the punishment for Mr. Sullivan under whose eye eleven men were beaten to death. The punishment is retirement without loss of gratuity.
I say to the Colonial Secretary quite advisedly that I have memories of similar punishments meted out in the past which did not in the end amount to a row of beans. I remember years ago taking up the Kamau Kichina case in Kenya. It was that which first got me interested in this Colony. I found that a helpless African prisoner, supposed to have been in the custody of a European district officer, Mr. Richmond, was somehow strung up out of doors for five days and nights and successively beaten, left without food, exposed at night naked. In the end, nobody is called properly to account. When he dies, it is not murder, and when he dies nobody pays the full penalty for that neglect. In this House I brought to the Colonial Secretary's attention the fact that the court proceedings repeatedly condemned the behaviour of the district officer. I was attacked for maliciously pursuing civil servants just doing a good job. Eventually the Colonial Secretary said there was to be a disciplinary inquiry into his conduct, and eventually he was sacked—and twelve months later we found out by accident that he had turned up again as African Affairs Officer to the Aberdare County Council in another part of Kenya.
So we are not impressed by the punishment meted out to Mr. Sullivan. I say it is an insult to Africans unparalleled in British colonial history for a man found guilty on three counts of "grave dereliction of duty" leading to eleven deaths to be retired from his job without a penny loss to himself. I challenge every hon. Member opposite: is he really prepared to sit here tonight and stomach that?
But it is impossible to "extenuate" Mr. Sullivan without implicating somebody else. One of the main excuses made for Mr. Sullivan, to justify this ludicrous penalty, is the fact that he had not been given a written copy of the Cowan report. The Disciplinary Inquiry says:
In our opinion, this failure to send a copy of Cowan's proposals, which had been approved by his Minister, together with the failure to reply to the specific points raised by Sullivan in his situation report of 13th February, constituted one of the main causes of the tragedy which followed.
In other words, somebody else should be brought to account. If words mean anything at all, this means that if Sullivan is allowed to be punished and those responsible for one of the main causes of the tragedy are allowed to go scot-free, our rôle of a court of justice is not being fulfilled.
Who was to blame for having provided one of the main causes of the tragedy? First and foremost, of course, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Lewis. It is really incredible that he is not even censured in the Report. It is not only that he is not punished. It is not only that that he is asked to kindly carry on until the job has been filled from which he was going to retire anyway, but he is heaped with thanks for being kind enough to go a few days earlier than his proper time.
Can we expect confidence to be restored by behaviour of that kind? Would hon. Members have confidence if this is what we did when eleven of their own people had been killed? But, of course, Lewis should be brought to account. He is the man who, in the high and responsible position of Commissioner of Prisons, admitted at the inquest that he knew there were differences between the plan Sullivan intended to carry out and the scheme Cowan originally outlined. He admitted on cross-examination in the inquest proceedings that he realised that to parade 85 men at a time instead of 66 in groups of 20" … constituted a different plan … "He never put in a word of warning or caution to Sullivan about it. He never intervened to stop this different plan being put into operation.
Here we come to another incident, to which reference has already been made, but I ask hon. Members to study its implication. This is the situation report that Sullivan sent on 13th February. I raised this matter in the previous debate on Hola Camp on 16th June. This document, most mysteriously, was not printed among the exhibits attached to the report of the inquest proceedings. I happened to notice that in the proceedings there was a reference to this report by Mr. Sullivan on 13th February. I wondered, with this suspicious nature of mine, why it was not being brought to light. I asked the Colonial Secretary to place a copy in the Library and I got it a few minutes before the debate began.
It then became quite clear that on 13th February Sullivan sent out an S.O.S. He said in effect, "The situation in my camp has deteriorated so much that the Cowan Plan cannot be carried out." He said, "I have men falling sick." What is more, he said that he had explained to Mr. Fulgate, the man in charge of the irrigation scheme, what the Cowan Plan meant. Mr. Fulgate expressed himself as wishing "to be dissociated entirely from any such undertaking." Moreover, it was Mr. Fulgate who pointed out that it was an essential part of the Cowan Plan that tools should not be used. That was obvious if so much care was to be taken that it should not result in violence, if all that was to be done was to take a couple of warders and put one on each side of a detainee and make him go through the motions of pulling up weeds just to break his Mau Mau oath. Was that not obviously very different from allowing desperate men to be turned out on to a work site with tools in their hands with which, presumably, they might have struck the warders?
It was an essential part of the Cowan Plan that the men should not be put to work on which tools had to be used. Yet, Mr. Fulgate is reported in Sullivan's situation report of 13 th February, as saying: "I have no work at Hola to which the men can be put without tools." Mr. Sullivan therefore was asking Mr. Lewis "Does this mean that you want to alter your mind about the operation of the Cowan Plan?" Never more clearly in Civil Service history has a subordinate officer asked for instructions because of his secret doubts about the advisability of the official policy.
What is more, Mr. Sullivan said in this report, "If I am to go ahead, will you please send the Senior Superintendent of Prisons with powers of summary punishment to be present when the scheme is carried out?" Do hon. Members know what the Disciplinary Inquiry says about that? It is fantastic. It had to prove that there was never anything punitive about the Cowan Plan, because that would be to give the whole game away. It says, "The situation report of 13th February showed that Sullivan had not grasped all the principles of the plan put to him by Cowan."
What did Lewis do? Faced with a situation in which he was telling a man to put eighty-five desperate hard-core Mau Mau detainees to work against their will, and faced with the report of 13th February which, according to the triumvirate, showed that Sullivan had not begun to grasp the essentials of the plan, did Lewis intervene? Not a word of it. He did not even bother to send Sullivan a written copy of the Cowan Plan. Can hon. Members let these proceedings go through without censuring a man like that for sheer downright incompetence? I am not accusing anybody tonight of sadism. I am accusing them of incompetence so overwhelming as to amount to criminal negligence. That goes all the way up the line.
Lewis has an excuse clearly spelt out in this Report. What was his excuse? Reading the situation report of 13th February from Sullivan, Lewis thought, "My God, this is not so hot. I had better get instructions from higher up." It was for that reason, to cover himself up, that on 17th February Commissioner Lewis proceeded to minute the Minister responsible for his activities. To the Minister of Defence on 17th February went Mr. Lewis's appeal. What Mr. Lewis said—and he spelt it out so that anyone from a kindergarten ought to have got it clear—was, "The plans Mr. Cowan worked out could be undertaken by us, but it would mean the use of a certain degree of force in which operation someone might get hurt or even killed."
Here is a clear indication that, before the Cowan Plan was put into operation in Hola, it had been made clear by the Commissioner of Prisons that it would not be a plan merely to frog-march men to the site and make them go through a few harmless motions of working. It would be a plan carried out in circumstances which involved a certain degree of physical force, beatings, the use of batons, and all the things that we are told were never to be associated with the Cowan Plan.
Lewis had the sense to suggest to his Minister that so serious was the deterioration of the situation in Hola from the one ideally visualised in the Cowan Plan that the whole matter ought to be brought before the Security Council. He asked that it should be. I want to read a vital piece of evidence so that the House will know who is being sheltered tonight. Lewis wrote:
I think this situation should be brought to the notice of the Security Council and a direction given on what policy should be adopted with these recalcitrant or unmanageable detainees. We must either let them stew and risk the contamination of the convicts and the open camp detainees, or take such action as planned with the risk of someone getting hurt or killed.
That was the clearest request for a direction, and he was passing the responsibility where it lay, on to the sholders of the Minister.
Lewis did not get a reply to that request. If we say, as we do, that Commissioner Lewis was unfit for his job, how much more must we say that his Minister was unfit for his, because Mr. Cusack did not refer this new situation to the Security Council. According to
the evidence that the Minister gave to Inquiry, he did not do so
because he did not think it involved any new matter of Government policy.
The fact that the implementation of the Cowan Plan would involve a certain degree of force that might lead to somebody being hurt or even killed did not, in Mr. Cusack's view, involve any change in Government policy.
Where is all the paraphernalia of excuses, that nobody was going to be punitive in the Cowan Plan and that they were all going to be armchair psychiatrists merely analysing these poor unfortunate Mau Mau detainees?
Secondly, both direct to Lewis and in a minute to the Minister for African Affairs, Mr. Cusack said that he did not agree that the operation was "delicate or dangerous." Sullivan said it was. Fulgate said that he did not want to be associated with it in any way. Lewis had expressed his doubts, and yet the Minister of Defence said that he did not believe that the operation was delicate or dangerous. It turned out to be both, and the man who ought to take the can back is the Minister who said that it was not.
It appears that complacency can go to almost impossible lengths in the Kenya Administration. The Minister also told the Inquiry that he felt
no real apprehension in view of the strength of the Prisons staff.
On 23rd February the Minister's Permanent Secretary dropped a little minute to the Permanent Secretary to the Minister of African Affairs asking him what he thought about the deteriorating situation in Hola Camp. We do not know whether the Minister for African Affairs saw the situation report of 13th February or Lewis's own minute to the Minister of Defence. If he did, he is equally guilty, but it is quite probable that he acted in ignorance of these documents.
On 24th February back came this minute from the Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Defence to the Deputy Commissioner of Prisons:
The Minister considers that Mr. Cowan's recommendations should now be implemented. The Minister has asked me to emphasise the importance of ensuring that you have sufficient staff of all ranks at Hola to deal with the situation should trouble in fact occur.
In other words, they were prepared to go ahead expecting that trouble would occur. At no stage has the Minister of Defence, with his much-vaunted concern for seeing that violence was avoided, said, "You may go ahead if you are satisfied that you have the staff not merely to deal with trouble when it arises but to stop it ever arising; that you have the staff, in fact, to frogmarch men to the site without violence and make them go through the motions of working." So we have Mr. Cusack passing the buck to Mr. Lewis. What did Lewis do? He sent a signal to Mr. Sullivan saying, "You go ahead if you think you have sufficient staff." There was no answer to Sullivan's questions, or his request that the Senior Superintendent of Prisons should be there. None of the points he raised in his minute of 13th February was replied to. There was just the message, "You can go ahead if you are satisfied you have enough staff to deal with any trouble that may arise." That was passing the buck to the chap at the bottom, who could not pass it any further down.
There is not a word of criticism in the Governor's Despatch of the Minister of Defence; not a word of criticism in the Despatch drawn up, as the Governor says, "in consultation with you"—that is, the Colonial Secretary. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that no blame attaches to the Minister of Defence. If it is to be argued, as it may be, "But this man gave wonderful service in the past, and anyway he is going at the end of the month," I would ask hon. Members to draw a contrast between what is being done in this case and what was done only a week or two ago in Kenya when another civil servant made a slip-up. He was the chairman of the European Agricultural Settlement Board—Mr. J. F. Lipscombe—and he made a most unfortunate speech, a really shocking speech, which simply could not be tolerated. He said that European investors were losing confidence in Kenya because of conditions there. Of course, if a person discourages foreign investment coming into the territory it is treason. So, in the Kenya Newsletter, we have the Kenya Government's boast that they
took prompt steps to rebut implications of lack of confidence in the Colony by potential investors … ".
What were the prompt steps? The man was forced to resign within 24 hours, although the European Agricultural Settlement Board itself placed on record its appreciation of the eight years invaluable service he gave to it. It took 24 hours to sack a man who undermined the confidence of the European investors, but for a Minister who undermined the confidence in British justice of the Africans throughout the whole of the African continent, there is not the slightest condemnation.
There are so many others on whom responsibility must be laid. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) has referred to Mr. Campbell. Campbell was Assistant Commissioner of Prisons, the man sent to Hola by the Governor to make his inquiries. I would remind hon. Members that it is clearly established in the reports that Campbell lied. There is no other word for it. The notes, or whatever the Colonial Secretary likes to call them, that Campbell submitted to the Governor said that
it was the opinion of all with whom we spoke that the compelling exercise was in no way connected with the cause of death.
His lie is proved out of the mouth of the District Commissioner, Mr. Thompson. In his evidence at the inquest, on being shown Campbell's report to Government House, Thompson said;
I cannot agree to this statement at all. Although the deaths occurred after water, we all knew in our own minds that the events were linked. I think we all understood that compelling people to march to site, compelling them to work, the use of batons, flinging themselves to the ground and such things all had their effect. I cannot agree that so far as I was concerned I had indicated that 'the compelling exercise was in no way connected with the cause of death' ".
That is the District Commissioner calling Campbell a liar, and yet there is not a word of condemnation of Campbell before us tonight.
Let me come to the Medical Officer at Hola, Dr. Moyes. Here is a man who when ten men have died gives his opinion as to the cause of death as aspiration pneumonia. I am no medical person, but I have consulted my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. B. Stross) and, as I understand it, aspiration pneumonia is caused when men inhale water into the lungs as happens in drowning; and nobody at Hola had had a bath. What was really happening was that dying men were vomiting water that they had drunk, and any person fit to hold the office of medical officer in charge of detainees ought to have enough medical knowledge to be aware of that fact.
Of course, perhaps he did, but perhaps like everybody else he was "covering up". The most significant words of all in this business were spoken by Mr. Marsden, the District Officer, at the inquest. He said:
There was a general attitude amongst all Europeans not to say anything ".
This is our indictment. Yet we have here a whole network of responsibility and a picture of administrative callousness which shocks us, whatever it may do to right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
We have also here the violation of the constitutional principle which I should have thought this House would have gone a long way to defend; and that is that if orders are given to subordinates and things go wrong the men who give those orders should have the decency to say that the responsibility is theirs.
The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary stands in the dock just as much as the Minister of Defence, the Governor of Kenya, or anybody else associated in any way with this shocking affair, because he has been asked in this House time and again if he approved of the Cowan plan and whether it was being operated anywhere else. We were told in the last debate we had that it would all be all right in future because the Governor was drawing up new directives as to the use of force. All I can say is that there must then have been something wrong with the present ones. This promise was given six weeks ago, and we were told that, when the new directives were ready, a copy would be put in the Library of the House. Yet I have been asking all afternoon if anything is yet available and it is not. After all this time, after eleven men have died, the new instructions are not available. At that rate, Mr. Lipson would be in his job for life. When this terrible shame comes upon the Colonial Secretary, whether he willed it or not, and he does not act, he shows he does not deserve to hold his office.
Many aspersions have been cast and many imputations made by hon. Members opposite in the course of this debate with which I could not for an instant associate myself. And yet I cannot regret that even at this hour the House is once again considering the affair of Hola Camp. For the further documents relating to the deaths which were issued as a White Paper last week confirm what was already pretty clear from the earlier evidence, that it could be to the credit neither of this House nor of this country that the matter should rest where it now stands.
The affair of Hola Camp was a great administrative disaster, and to that administrative disaster there were three aspects. There was the authorisation of an operation which in its nature was likely to have fatal results; there was the failure to see that that operation, such as it was, was at least carried out with the minimum of risk; and, finally, there was the incident, which it is difficult to find a word to describe, of the water cart communiqué. The new documents show that the responsibility for all three aspects of this administrative disaster goes higher than can be discharged by the premature retirement of the officer in charge of the camp or by the retirement, accelerated by a few weeks, of the Commissioner of Prisons.
The central document in the White Paper of last week, and it has often been referred to in this debate, is the minute of 17th February addressed by the Commissioner of Prisons to the Minister of Defence. That Minute enclosed two other documents, Folios 9 and 10 on the file. Folio 9 was the Cowan Plan as drafted and intended by Cowan and put up by him as a proposal to his senior officers. Folio 10 was the extraordinary message which Sullivan had sent to Cowan on the 14th which can hardly be described otherwise than as a cri de coeur. It is impossible to read that document without sensing through it the state of mind of the man who wrote it or being aware of the risks which were attendant upon the situation which it reveals.
I will only remind the House of the ominous facts which it disclosed, that the Ministry of Works on the site had asked to be "disassociated entirely from
any such operation" and the request for a senior superintendent, "with appropriate powers of summary punishment", to "be present when the policy outlined is implemented". It was clear evidence, among other things, that the Cowan Plan, Folio 9, was not what Sullivan, vide Folio 10, thought he was expected to implement. Incidentally, therefore, if there is blame for the failure to implement the Cowan Plan accurately, that responsibility must rest on all those who should have become aware, through seeing Folio 10, that Sullivan had misunderstood the Cowan Plan. With these two documents underneath, went this Minute, Folio 11, from the Commissioner of Prisons to the Minister of Defence. The Commissioner of Prisons had not yet taken a decision on the Cowan Plan. Indeed, when he saw it he gave instructions that "no action should be taken until authority was given" by his office. When he looked at 9 and 10 together, he decided that he, on his responsibility, could not authorise any action to be taken, and submitted it to his Minister, saying—and I am sorry to quote these words again, but they are essential—
The plans Mr. Cowan worked out at (9) could be undertaken by us, but it would mean the use of a certain degree of force, in which operation someone might get hurt or even killed. I think this situation should be brought to the notice of the Security Council and a direction given on what policy should be adopted.
He then again referred to the
action as planned at (9), with the risk of someone getting hurt or killed.
Those were not idle words, the reference to someone getting hurt or killed. He said in evidence to the Committee of three that the risk he had in mind that someone might get killed or hurt included "warder staff as well as detainees." Since the Commissioner of Prisons knew that in the Cowan Plan the numerical superiority of the warders to the detainees was to be overwhelming, the fact that he regarded the likelihood of being killed as applying to warders as well as to detainees is evidence of the degree of risk and danger which he associated in his mind with the Cowan Plan—the original, correct Cowan Plan, Folio 9. This was apart from the evidence in Folio 10 that things were going wrong, that it would not be that plan which would be put into effect, and that Sullivan had misunderstood.
He considered the responsibility for putting this into effect was not only one that he could not take, but it was one he could not advise his Minister to take alone, without reference to the Security Council.
Incidentally, the action of the Commissioner of Prisons disposes of the notion that the Cowan Plan for Hola was, as has often been said—and I quote the expression in the leading article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday—
the application of a long-standing and highly successful technique of rehabilitation.
The truth is that it was the application of a modification, and a very important modification, of the technique which had elsewhere yielded good results.
When my right hon. Friend spoke in the debate on 16th June last, he was careful to put that correctly. He said:
The proposals were the adaptation of a proved and successful technique to the circumstances of Hola."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1959; Vol. 460, c. 280.]
They were, in fact, as proposed now in the Cowan Plan, something which represented such a serious departure from anything attempted before, something so dangerous in themselves, that he could not envisage the responsibility to carry them out being taken otherwise than by the Security Council itself.
The Minister of Defence decided that it was not necessary, and the Minister of Defence and the Minister of African Affairs took upon themselves the responsibility for authorising an operation which they had been warned involved the risk of death, in a minute accompanied by a paper which showed to anyone who cared to read it that not even that operation, dangerous as it was, was the one which Sullivan contemplated carrying out.
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) was a little too kind to the Minister for African Affairs. She overlooked the fact that he as well as the Minister of Defence had all the relevant papers in front of him. Those two men took upon themselves, with their eyes open and with full knowledge, not only the responsibility for the Cowan Plan but the responsibility for allowing the deformed version of it to go forward. It was authorised—now we come to the second phase, the execution—with the indication that it should go forward
"subject to the proviso that" the Commissioner
should first ensure that he has a sufficient number of warders at Hola to cope with possible eventualities.
So, warned of the danger implicit, aware from the S.O.S. that all was not well, the Ministers responsible, the Ministers who had given the decision, left the matter there and just sent it down the line.
Those two men, who knew that they had authorised—without reference, as advised by the Commissioner of Prisons, to the Security Council—an operation involving the risk of death, learnt on the afternoon of 3rd March that on the day on which that operation was carried out ten men had died at Hola Camp; and on 4th March, after—and these are the words of the publicity officer:
a good deal of discussion as to whether violence was the cause of the deaths of these men
in a meeting presided over by His Excellency the Governor, they were parties to the issue of the water cart communiqué.
Those documents, that evidence, prove to me conclusively that the responsibility here lies not only with Sullivan and Lewis, but at a level above them. It lies with those to whom they actually appealed for help, whom they warned of the danger, from whom they received indeed a decision which transferred responsibility upwards, but no other help or guidance. That responsibility, transcending Sullivan and Lewis, has not been recognised; but it cannot be ignored, it cannot be burked, it will not just evaporate into thin air if we do nothing about it.
I am as certain of this as I am of anything, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State from the beginning to the end of this affair is without any jot or tittle of blame for what happened in Kenya, that he could not be expected to know, that it could not be within the administrative conventions that these matters should be brought to his attention before or during the execution. When I say my right hon. Friend was in this matter utterly and completely blameless, that is of a piece with his administration of his high office generally, which has been the greatest exercise of the office of Colonial Secretary in modern times. It is in the name of that record, it is in the name of his personal blamelessness, that I beg of him to ensure that the responsibility is recognised and carried where it properly belongs, and is seen to belong.
I have heard it suggested that there were circumstances surrounding this affair at Hola Camp which, it is argued, might justify the passing over of this responsibility—which might justify one in saying, "Well, of course, strictly speaking, that is quite correct; but then here there were special circumstances."
It has been said—and it is a fact—that these eleven men were the lowest of the low; sub-human was the word which one of my hon. Friends used. So be it. But that cannot be relevant to the acceptance of responsibility for their death. I know that it does not enter into my right hon. Friend's mind that it could be relevant, because it would be completely inconsistent with his whole policy of rehabilitation, which is based upon the assumption that whatever the present state of these men, they can be reclaimed. No one who supports the policy of rehabilitation can argue from the character and condition of these men that responsibility for their death should be different from the responsibility for anyone else's death. In general, I would say that it is a fearful doctrine, which must recoil upon the heads of those who pronounce it, to stand in judgment on a fellow human-being and to say, "Because he was such-and-such, therefore the consequences which would otherwise flow from his death shall not flow."
It is then said that the morale of the Prison Service, the morale of the whole Colonial Service, is above all important and that whatever we do, whatever we urge, whatever we say, should have regard to that morale. "Amen" say I. But is it for the morale of the Prison Service that those who executed a policy should suffer—whether inadequately or not is another question—and those who authorised it, those to whom they appealed, should be passed over? I cannot believe that that supports the morale of a service.
Going on beyond that, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-Eeast (Mr. Peel) reminded the House how proud the Colonial Service is of the integrity of its administration and its record. Nothing could be more damaging to the morale of such a service than that there should be a breath or a blemish left upon it. No, Sir; that argument from the morale of the Prison Service and the Colonial Service stands on its head if what we mean is that therefore the consequences of responsibility should not follow in this case as they would in any other similar case.
Finally it is argued that this is Africa, that things are different there. Of course they are. The question is whether the difference between things there and here is such that the taking of responsibility there and here should be upon different principles. We claim that it is our object—and this is something which unites both sides of the House—to leave representative institutions behind us wherever we give up our rule. I cannot imagine that it is a way to plant representative institutions to be seen to shirk the acceptance and the assignment of responsibility, which is the very essence of responsible Government.
Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, "We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home." We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility.
When an hon. Member has spoken with the effect and the sincerity which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell) showed, I realise that felicitations from the other side of the House are, sometimes, a little tactless. I beg the hon. Member to believe that I convey them with the same spirit that, I am sure, many hon. Members on both sides feel, and I am perfectly sincere when I say that I have sufficient respect for many hon. Members opposite to realise that he was expressing views which quite a number of them would like to express. The hon. Member spoke so well and so clearly that there is not much for me to add, and, after the very brilliant speech, one of the most effective speeches I have ever heard in the House, from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who dealt with principles first and with some of the important issues of practical detail later, much of what I wanted to say has been said. I had not intended to intervene at all until I heard the first speech from the benches opposite.
I have no wish to raise the temperature, but the fundamental issue here is not what happens to Mr. Sullivan. It is not whether somebody gets away with it, or whether somebody "carries the can." All those are matters of importance, and we have gone into the detail of some of the deplorable history of these events in which, it is quite clear, one of the persons whose conduct comes up for investigation is the Governor of Kenya himself. In these circumstances, any inquiry by subordinates of the Governor of Kenya is obviously inadequate. An inquiry into the homicide of eleven Africans by three Europeans is not, on the whole, the best way of conveying the impression of sincerity.
The important matter is that this House is still looked to all over the world because it has been associated with almost every fight for justice, liberty and freedom of significance for the Western Hemisphere. When we faced the postwar situation, we found that we were not, perhaps, in some ways, the great nation we had been. Our foreign policy is made in Washington, and our colonial policy, necessarily now, has to be dictated by world events and cannot be planned in isolation from world events. We cease to rank as a great Power, but moral power we still have. As a moral Power, there is still no country in the world, with the possible exception of one or two Scandinavian countries, which is regarded as we are, and there is hardly a country in the world which does not envy this House its democracy, the incorruptibility of our Civil Service, and the independence of our judiciary.
In the course of the events of the last fortnight, whether it be the direct responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman or not, all those things have come to be endangered. All those principles are being undermined. The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Peel) comes from a great Nonconformist area with a long tradition of liberalism in these matters. He should get to know his county. The hon. Member said that, of course, the colonial civil servants were jolly good chaps, and it was very unfair to attack them, whatever they did. That is what Crippen's friends said: they all said that he was an extremely nice chap, but, after all, he had murdered his wife.
We have now a situation in which there is a report by which every civil servant connected with the matter is condemned in one way or another, and some for the most appalling inefficiency. The hon. Member says that we must not criticise them. That is like my saying that he must not attack a fraudulent solicitor because I am a solicitor and solicitors are really very much better fellows than the public think they are—which I believe to be true.
After all, we are looking at facts. Consider the young doctor. He was undoubtedly faced with a situation of great and exceptional difficulty. I have not seen the hospital, but I can hardly hope that it is adapted for the reception of eleven dead or dying men and twenty-two injured at once. Obviously, it was a difficult situation. What did the magistrate say on the question of whether the men had scurvy? Surely, everyone has heard about scurvy. Is there a boy of fifteen now who does not know the liability to scurvy in prison? Christopher Columbus found it out on his first journey to America and even began dimly to diagnose the trouble. It is many years since we realised that scurvy was a question of vitamin deficiency and largely associated with the provision of fresh fruit or vegetables.
The magistrate who acted as coroner said in his report that when he visited the prison, he did not know what the symptoms of the deficiency were but he was told that they were swollen legs, and he could see them. If the magistrate could see them, why could not the doctor also see them? The magistrate said he was told that no fresh vegetables—the one vital constituent food—were ever supplied at Hola prison. He said that looking over the area he could understand it, because no fresh vegetables were being grown. What was the diet? All that we are told, the only information we are given, is that some ascorbic acid pills were available and, apparently, they were not very well distributed.
This is the case against the Colonial Secretary. As I have said before—and I have quite a personal regard for him—I understand that he is being torn between the possibility of two destinations and that one may look more attractive than the other. The case against him is this slap-happy, inconsequential way of brushing everything off. The case against the Report is that eleven men have died and we do not know one-tenth of the facts. Everything has been covered up. We do not know what the diet was at the prison, how often the doctor went there and why those men were curiously posted watching the place where the deaths occurred. It was extraordinary how men were sitting in cars on the roadside all day in that lonely spot. All that is hushed up. We do not know what information the doctor gave to the assistant commissioner of prisons and his two colleagues on that day.
When we convict people after a fair trial in our criminal courts, we do it by a process of deducing a natural inference of their actions. It is sometimes a dangerous thing to do, but if there is any hon. Member on the Government side who believes that the whole water-cart story was not a put-up story, carefully got together between them, and that all three of them did not know when they went back with their report that it was false, he is simply not applying the rules of evidence on which we in this country send men to prison or to the scaffold day after day.
Very few counsel would ever get up and try to defend the proposition that three officers sent to investigate a tragedy of this kind, flown specially all that distance up to Hola, did not even ask the doctor what was wrong and the doctor had not even found out then that the eleven men had fractured skulls and ribs and lacerated brains and twenty-two others showed bruises all over their bodies, some of them with bruises at the back, front and in almost every conceivably mentionable place. Everyone knows that an attempt was made to hush it up.
How far did that hushing-up get? The hon. Member who has just spoken has pointed out that all this information about the Cowan Plan was available in the offices of the Minister for African Affairs, a man a European Government appoint ostensibly to have special concern for Africans. It goes into the pigeonhole. Right through the Report we find the white-washing process: the Minister thought somebody else had done it, and Mr. Cowan thought somebody else had done it, and Mr. Cowan never thought of telling Mr. Sullivan he would not be in the country when the Cowan scheme was put into operation for he was going away on leave to Britain. This was going on and eleven people were killed.
But the men are dead. Whether we are vindictive to Mr. Sullivan or not, whether we are too gentle to Mr. Sullivan or not, is not the matter which concerns me. I do not much like punishment anyhow. I have far too guilty a conscience in many ways ever to act as prosecuting counsel against anybody. What is important is this.
In those dark days after the war we used to say we had fought for justice and that there was value in this conception of ours of justice, in the fact that we had got courts which applied the basic principles of justice; that it was our heritage; that democracy was based on a conception of justice. We thought that people looked to us for that and that in it we had—and had had—something to defend.
When we heard of a Catholic bishop being prosecuted in Hungary because he was a Catholic bishop we sent telegrams of protest to Mr. Stalin, and we said this was a monstrous thing, that this man was being convicted for his political views, never having been given a fair trial. "It is true you have given him one sort of hearing," we said, "but he has not had a public hearing. He has not had the full, free right of cross-examination." And we said something more. We said, "It is true, and we have to admit it, that the Russian economic system has produced some very remarkable results. "We had to concede that somehow they managed to have larger forces than ours, larger submarines, larger fleets and navies while having great economic expansion, reducing the cost of food, and with rather less taxation. But we said, "The evil of the system is forced labour camps." Over those wide spaces in Siberia political suspects are convicted and locked up for years without trial and compelled to work in the salt mines or in some other compulsory work.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House this: what is the authority to say an unconvicted person can be forced to labour in any circumstances at all? What becomes of this principle we have always fought for? The Home Secretary is here. He knows no unconvicted man can be forced to labour in a British prison. He can volunteer. If he likes he can do it. If he says after a day or two, "I will not do it any longer," he is entitled to give it up.
This is the issue for which we fought through the Red Cross during the war. We sought to protect the prisoners of war. We said to the Japs, "You cannot put our men on the Burma railroad to work and say they are being rehabilitated." When did this word "rehabilitation" come in? And who in this country would rehabilitate a man by making him dig a huge ditch in the desert under a tropical sun without water, with batons, with men with rifles standing a little away? What nonsense. But we did. We have always fought for this. We said, in effect, an unconvicted man was not to be compelled to work. And that is another principle gone.
I pay tribute to the work of the civil servants very often. There are some fine ones. I have paid tribute to the East African Supreme Court, which is an admirable colonial tribunal. But the record of Kenya in the courts of justice is deplorable enough. Already for fifty years we have been calling attention to the Kenya courts as a very special example. One of the most forthright and best of the European members of the Legislative Assembly today was the District Commissioner who was taken from his office and put for year after year in some remote, miserable northern post, because he pointed out, when he took over, that a lot of people had been locked up who had never been tried and never convicted and had been sent out to work on a farm.
This sort of thing has gone on and the protests have come. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman conceiving it his duty to back up the Government of Kenya. I know that the Governor is a courteous and charming gentleman, and I would not wish to criticise him, but there is this whole attitude, the attitude of the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) who made a speech which Captain Ramsay would not have made in his worst moments. This talk of "subhuman" people. I can remember after Tom Mooney was released after 22 years imprisonment one or two nit-wits writing to say that it was hardly worth the struggle because it turned out that he was not a nice man at all. But if one imprisons a man for 22 years it does not improve his temper.
When the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) speaks with his great knowledge, his financial knowledge, of the Colonics, one has the assumption that if someone is locked up he is guilty. God bless my soul, the prisons of the world have been full of people we have locked up who have turned out to be some of the great men of the world. Among those whom we have locked up are to be found Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Neru, Dr. Nkrumah—[An HON. MEMBER: "Under a Labour Government."]—yes, under a Labour Government, too, and under the Colonial Office. I know only one of these prisoners personally, and I know him fairly well. I was in his company a fairly long time. At the risk of saying something which may sound offensive, I will say that if I had to choose between taking the evidence of Achieng Oneko and that of Sir Evelyn Baring on anything connected with Kenya, I would take Achieng Oneko's as more likely to be accurate, honest and correct. He is one of the men locked up, no doubt on the list called "hard-core Mau Mau".
Have we not reached the time when, if we are going to lock up men, someone should be entitled to know why they are locked up? What information is available about these men? [An HON. MEMBER: "Thirty-five murders."] Yes, that one has committed 35 murders, which is a very large number of the murders committed in Kenya altogether. There are something like 500 or 600 persons locked up for every crime.
I beg the Colonial Secretary to remember that when he sends out High Court judges to the Colonies and then tears up their decisions and announces in advance that he will continue to lock up men who have already been exonerated by judicial inquiry of any offence of any kind and even of making any stormy controversial speeches; when he says he has approved of a man being permitted to retire on pension, with the prospect of having been promised already that if he keeps his mouth shut he will get a job a few months later, as did the last man sacked in similar circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman is setting up a spectacle impossible to defend. It is a bad thing to go on talking about a free world if Hola is part of it. It is bad enough for some of us to find that we are expected to die for General Franco and Dr. Adenauer, but if we are to die in defence of forced labour camps being permanently kept in colonial territories because we do not like the political views of some of the people we are detaining, we are left without very much ground of defence of liberty at all.
That is the case against the right hon. Gentleman. No one expects him to know in detail what happened in Kenya, although he has been questioned so much about it that he might have made a few more inquiries, and if he had made inquiries he might have given a little more information. Even now, in this second debate within a month, we are conducting our discussion with hopelessly inadequate information because of the slap-happy way the right hon. Gentleman treats the House.
The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) raised two matters of very great importance. One is the question of the tragedy at Hola, and the other is the question of detention without trial, and he referred specifically to Kenya, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I will in the course of my observations, and without keeping the House too long, deal with those points as adequately as possible.
First, with regard to Hola, we had a very full debate on the subject on 16th June. On that occasion the hon. and learned Member was not fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. I was very interested indeed to hear what he had to say. Before I come to the various points that he made—they were picked up by subsequent speakers—I should like to put him right on two matters which he mentioned, both of which have considerable importance.
In the closing part of his speech the hon. and learned Member said that it was necessary if somebody wanted to leave the closed camp at Hola to confess that he had given up his Mau Mau tendencies and go through the ritual of confession. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at paragraph 10 of the White Paper that we are considering he will see that the detainees were given the opportunity of going out to the open camp. The choice whether they remained in the closed camp or whether they were released to the open camp was theirs to make. If they agreed to work on the scheme, for which they would be paid, and to co-operate with the Government, they would be released to the open camp. Many took advantage of this offer. There is no requirement at all at Hola that in order to do that confession must be obtained.
What I said was that before prisoners can be candidates for rehabilitation—I was not referring specifically to Hola—they must confess, and that, indeed, was borne out by the evidence of Mr. Cowan before the coroner. On page 63 of Command Paper 795 he says:
The people who gave their oaths and activities were supposed to be reformed characters and confessing their activities.
That is indeed true. I do not quarrel with that. I thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was referring to Hola. Indeed, it was in the context of Hola that he made that observation.
The second point that he made was rather a sneer at the administrative review as if it were a valueless procedure. It was rather curious that he should do this in the case of Achieng Oneko, because it was after such a review that his detention order was suspended and converted into a restriction order, which, even though the hon. and learned Gentleman and others may think it should not be imposed on him, is at any rate a very considerable improvement on the detention order itself, for under the restriction order he is now accompanied by his family.
I am not certain of the number of years, but in this case, as in all cases, there is no attempt whatever to prolong the period of detention. As soon as it is clear that, with safety to the community as a whole, the detention order can be lifted, it is lifted. I am absolutely satisfied that the Governor and others concerned keep a constant watch on these orders.
As I said in the debate on 16th June—I hope the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and others will remember this—I understand fully the frustration felt by many hon. Members—indeed, I share those feelings of frustration—that after the death of eleven people it was not possible to bring any criminal charges against anybody. But I would ask the House as a whole to realise that there was no serious attempt to challenge the view of the Attorney-General of Kenya that it was impossible to bring such a charge. There was no serious attempt to challenge that when the matter was fully debated in this House.
I vigorously deprecate the suggestion that the Attorney-General might have arrived at a different conclusion if the eleven men who died had been Europeans. It is observations, or hints, or innuendoes of that kind that will continue to do mischief to racial relations in Kenya and elsewhere long after the immediate and understandable impact of the horrible events at Hola have faded from memory.
I hope to tell the House of some of the changes and improvements that have been made as a result of this tragedy. I propose to do so now and I hope that hon. Members will listen to what I have to say.
I cannot give way now.
As the House will see from the first of the Governor's Despatches, Mr. Fairn and his colleagues have just completed
their work in Kenya. They have told the Governor that there is:
… hope of eventually restoring many of the thousand detainees to normal life. But they do not think that their release, without reconciliation to their own people and restoration to a sane, peaceable, and wholesome outlook on life, can be justified.
A little later I shall deal with the Fairn Report and give the House information about its evaluation. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) asked questions about that. The Despatch says:
We must therefore redouble our efforts in the humanitarian task of reclaiming the detainees, if necessary one by one, and we must refuse to accept, particularly in view of the remarkable successes of the past, that any of them are lost beyond recall.
As an administrator, as Secretary of State, and as a Christian, I wholly accept that conclusion. It would be utterly wrong to assume that anyone is irredeemable, but I am equally certain that until they have been redeemed their actions in a large part rest with their own local friends and homes as to whether they can safely be allowed to return to their homes.
The House will see from paragraph 7 of the Governor's Despatch that in the past there has been a certain dualism of control and responsibility, with the Ministry of African Affairs and the Ministry for Internal Security and Defence in a sense sharing a certain responsibility for detainees. This dualism worked relatively well in the conditions for which it was designed and in which vast numbers of detainees had to be dealt with, but now the problem is a different one.
The Governor has had the advice of Mr. Fairn and his colleagues, and he and I accept their view that in dealing with the problem that now remains a single chain of command and responsibility under a single Minister is necessary to meet the needs of the situation. There is also need for an officer who can devote his whole time to the duties of a Special Commissioner.
The Governor has therefore decided that a Special Commissioner should be appointed to have undivided responsibility for the planning, direction and oversight of detention camps, and the whole process of rehabilitation. He will be in executive charge, under the Minister for African Affairs, of all detention camps. In addition, as the problem is now a relatively small one, though still of crucial importance, he will be responsible for the executive control of the camps which are designed to restore the detainees to normal life, and for their reabsorption in their home districts.
Many hon. Members of this House know Kenya as well as I do. They know individual devoted people in Kenya who have been, or are, giving fine administrative service. Those on both sides of the House who know Kenya will be glad to hear that the Special Commissioner will be Mr. R. G. Wilson, District Commissioner of Northern Nyanza. He will have as his Deputy Mr. Hillin, at present Senior Superintendent of Prisons. Mr. Wilson will be responsible to the Minister for African Affairs. The day-to-day responsibility for the management of detention camps and rehabilitation will therefore no longer be that of the Prison Department. This will mean a clear separation of responsibility for detainees and for convicts respectively.
I am sure that this is a wise change. Convicts will remain in the custody of the Prison Department, which will continue to be under the Minister for Internal Security and Defence, and Mr. Swann, already well known to many hon. Members, will be taking over today from Mr. Cusack, who will go on his retirement leave. I will come later to certain charges made against Mr. Cusack personally.
So much for the reorganisation. The House has been righly reminded that the Disciplinary Inquiry was concerned with specific charges against Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Coutts. I will not go into those charges in detail, except to say that no charge was sustained against Mr. Coutts but that the Inquiry found that both charges against Mr. Sullivan were established, subject to certain factors in mitigation. As the House knows, he has been required to retire from the Service. I hope that hon. Members will realise that to somebody who is interested in his work and is dedicated to it, compulsory retirement from the Service is a very serious penalty. It means the interruption of the career in which he was entitled to look forward with interest to creative work in Kenya.
Among the extenuating circumstances was the failure to send a copy of the Cowan proposals to him, together with the failure to reply to the specific points raised by Mr. Sullivan in his situation report of 13th February. In the view of the Inquiry these failures constituted one of the main causes of the tragedy which followed. As the House knows, the attention of Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner of Prisons, was drawn to this section of the Inquiry's remarks, and he thereupon requested permission, which has been given, to retire from the Service as soon as arrangements can be made for a new Commissioner to be appointed in his place. Many harsh things have been said about Mr. Lewis in this House, but I must say—and I say it gladly—that he has borne a heavy responsibility, which would have taxed the courage and fortitude of any hon. Member, for a very long time, as I know personally. He has borne it with great courage and fortitude, and his conduct throughout, and not least in the last few months, has been that of a very gallant and honest man.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made a remarkably interesting and important intervention in the debate. It was incomparably the best critical speech made tonight or during the debate on 16th June, and if the Opposition think they can lake any comfort from the fact that the best critical speech came from the Conservative benches, they ought to think again. Anything that my hon. Friend says naturally requires study with the closest care and attention.
He made three main points in regard to the tragedy; first, that there was an authorisation of an operation which, of its nature, was likely to have very grave consequences; secondly, that there was a failure to see it properly carried through and, thirdly, the Government House communiqué.
I cannot accept his charge that this operation was likely to have serious, grave, or even tragic results. If the operation had been carried out as planned, that would not have been the consequence. As to the second charge, that there was a failure to see it properly carried out, the disciplinary action has been partly an answer; but I fully recognise that it is not wholly an answer, and as I come to deal with the charges made against other individuals, so I will deal with the points made by him.
As to the Government House communiqué, I must tell the House that I have never disguised my feeling that it was wrong to have issued a communiqué which, although issued in all good faith—and of that, I am absolutely convinced—was in fact an error of judgment. That I have told the Governor, and that I have made clear in this House.
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer my question about that? Who was it who submitted to the coroner that these matters should not be the subject of questioning?
I was coming to that at the appropriate time; but I will answer the hon. Member now. The submission that the Press handouts were irrelevant must have been made by the Crown counsel. We have been through all the evidence, and all there is is question and answer by counsel or witnesses and there seems little doubt that it was made by counsel; but I will check on that and let the hon. Gentleman and the House know.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made reference to Mr. Sullivan's situation report. It has been thought, since that report disclosed the fact that he did not grasp all the principles of the plan, that opportunities should have been taken to make sure that he did understand those principles. Hon. Members should study carefully paragraph 36 of the Report (Cmnd. 816) where we see that Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner of Prisons, did not read into this that Sullivan was under any misapprehension as to the Cowan Plan. Mr. Lewis was entitled to take that view on the facts as he knew them and, so far as the possible use of corporal punishment was concerned, Campbell, although he did not think that this would be part of the operation, thought in his evidence that it might have been at Sullivan's discretion.
The same applies to the use of tools. Whatever is stated in the situation report, it is not suggested to my mind at least that he did not grasp the important principles. Then I was asked about the other safeguards in Kenya public life, including the part played by the Minister for Defence and Internal Security, Mr. Cusack. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North and the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich asked about him; I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn did as well.
The fact is that Mr. Cusack had before him a plan and a Minute by the Commissioner of Prisons pointing out the dangers and suggesting that it should be referred to the Security Council. It was right of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West to point out that the dangers were not only to the life, or fear or injury, of detainees, but also to the warders. Mr. Lewis was conscious of the injury which occurred on Mageta island to a warder, and Mr. Lewis satisfied himself that no new policy was being introduced and that the plan included safeguards to reduce the risk of trouble to a minimum.
The safeguards were explained in great detail in the debate on 16th June; that they should be told first in the compound, that they should be told first when they were in a party of not more than twenty and not until that party had been got safely under way and started work should another group be told. The moment of maximum danger would be at the time when there was an overwhelming warder force, including five Europeans. Those were the safeguards.
I think Mr. Cusack was fully entitled, on the facts as he understood them, to take the view that this matter did not call for reference to the Security Council. He had an experienced Commissioner of Prisons on whom he relied so far as the detailed execution of the policy was concerned, and he could see that considerable trouble had been taken to send down an officer experienced in operations of this sort to go over the matter fully with the man on the spot. He said in the Conroy Inquiry that he did not tell the Commissioner the proposals must be strictly complied with. If he could have known beforehand that some of the fundamentals of the plan were to be altered, and trouble would therefore quite likely ensue, obviously he would have said explicitly that there must be no variation. But I think he was entitled to assume that once he had given his approval to the plan it would be carried out as he had approved it and not be departed from in any fundamental particular. On that basis he was prepared to shoulder the responsibility for the decision and not pass it on to anyone else.
The Commissioner of Prisons, who was responsible for the day-to-day administration and execution of policy, has accepted without question responsibility for certain failures and I do not myself see that the Minister is in any way culpable here. I would put it to the House, which I think is a generous body, that whether there was a degree of responsibility or not on Mr. Cusack for what happened—and, as I have said, I do not think there was—is, as was arranged last January, ending his career in the service today. He is, as the House knows, a Civil Service Minister and is handing over today to Mr. Swann. But I must repeat what I have said as to my own view of his conduct throughout.
There has been a reference to his colleague, Mr. Johnston, the Minister for African Affairs. Some suggestions appeared in the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) about Mr. Johnston. In some contemptuous way it was suggested that he was indifferent to his obligations as Minister for African Affairs. Of this I am quite certain, that when the history of these troubled years in Kenya comes to be written, his will be a very honoured name in the story of rehabilitation. Countless people will owe their recovery and return to normal civilised life to his work, and I would in the strongest manner deprecate any suggestion that he is indifferent to the full obligations of his job as Minister for African Affairs.
With his direct experience of rehabilitation methods and their result, he could of course see that there were potential dangers, but he felt that dilution would be one factor to minimise the risk. There is reference in the plan to the association of some co-operative detainees in the operation, but the number involved was not stated. We now know that Mr. Cowan himself had not envisaged dilution to the extent that had previously been made. Apart from the fact that there would not have been a sufficient number of co-operative people in the closed camps to allow of it, there was the point that Mr. Cowan made that the objective in this first operation was limited to getting the men to work. In the past full dilution had been needed not so much for this purpose but for the later stages with the rehabilitation process. Although he indicated that dilution was not to be a cardinal feature of the plan he also made clear it could go in to some extent.
Any difference there may have been between Mr. Johnston and Mr. Cowan as to the actual extent of the dilution, does not alter the fact that there were other important safeguards in the plan which all concerned who approved it fully understood and I personally am fully satisfied that no blame can be attached to Mr. Johnston.
A great many references have also been made to Mr. Campbell. I answered one or two questions earlier this evening as to his status in the party of three that went to have a look at Hola at the Governor's request on 4th March. I spoke at length in the debate of 16th June on the visit paid by these three officers, of whom he was one, to Hola on 4th March. I also spoke of the most unfortunate Press statement that was issued after the Government House meeting. I made it clear that it was really not credible that there was on either occasion a deliberate intention to mislead. Autopsies were about to be conducted; the C.I.D. had begun its investigation; the truth was certain very soon to emerge. There was no possibility that the truth could be covered up, even if anyone had wanted to cover it up. It really is carrying suspicion of the Government of Kenya to an alto gether unjust extent to believe that this was deliberately designed to give the wrong impression.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why was it done?"] As to the notes—
In view of the statement which is made by the Colonial Secretary, will he comment on the statement made to the coroner's court by Mr. Robert Lindsay, who was responsible for the Press statement, and who attended the meeting on 4th March? He said to the coroner:
It does indeed seem extraordinary to me that if all you have read to me of Mr. Campbell's evidence was then known to him that it should not have come out at the meeting. From what I have since learnt it seems to me that at Government House we were given an
incomplete picture. If we had known then such information as human pyramids, serious rioting, absolute refusal by detainees to go to work, and the reported use of violence, our first communiqué would have taken account of these matters and would have been very differently worded ".
I know about that and about Mr. Lindsay's evidence, he being the Press Officer, but the misunderstanding arises from the use of the word "report" about what were really notes taken by Mr. Campbell. When they were submitted and given publicity, they grew into the conception of a formal report. When Mr. Campbell returned from Hola he immediately and hastily dictated some notes, themselves based on such notes as he had been able to make at several rather discursive discussions which had taken place at Hola. Mr. Small, who had been on the mission with him, told the Disciplinary Inquiry that the report was not complete, as it was designed as an agenda for discussion at a meeting of Ministers.
I recognise that these notes, read in the light of what we now know to have happened, do not, of course, give a true or a properly balanced picture. Mr. Campbell would, I am sure—[Interruption.]—I am making very serious statements about persons whose honour has been called in question, and I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham, West will let me finish what I have to say. Mr. Campbell would, I am sure, be the first to admit that he admitted at the Disciplinary Inquiry that he should have been more precise on the question of whether there was any period, however short, when a European officer was not in charge.
He also admitted, in effect, that he should not have written that it was the opinion of all with whom he spoke that
the 'compelling exercise' was in no way connected with the cause of death
but rather that he should have expressed this as his own opinion. Bearing in mind that these were notes and not a formal report, I regard these as the admissions of an honest man and one who did not attempt to take advantage of the fact that the two officers at Hola were accused of misleading him.
When he said, as he did before the Inquiry, that his notes represented an honest appreciation and that they contained deductions which he honestly believed as a result of what he had heard, I believe him and so does the Governor. He put down his thoughts carelessly, but I am sure that he had no intention of trying to mislead other people. He also knew very well that official investigations were taking place, and so did his colleagues. If he had wanted to mislead, he would certainly not have committed anything to writing.
Some hon. Members have drawn attention again tonight to the criticisms of Mr. Campbell made by the inquiring magistrate, Mr. Goudie. I must point out that Mr. Campbell's conduct was not directly in issue before Mr. Goudie, but it was directly in issue before the Conroy Commission in relation to the second charge against Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Coutts, and the Committee believed Mr. Campbell. Nevertheless, I agree that it is extremely unfortunate that the work of this three-man committee was not as effective as it should have been. I have asked the Governor to ensure that when officers are asked to prepare situation reports such as this they are clear as to the objects of their mission and take the greatest care in carrying it out. [Interruption.] I ask hon. Members to bear this in mind. However careless and however unfortunate the actions of Mr. Campbell were, they were in no sense contributory to the death of the eleven men. I agree that they were very unfortunate and I have said so, but they had nothing to do with the death of these eleven men. In asking hon. Members to bear that in mind, I think that is the least one can do in justice to someone whose name has been bandied about in many newspapers and frequently in this House and one who has no one to answer for him except myself.
Certainly, Sir. I think the unhappy fact must be faced that in not carrying out the Cowan Plan in the form it should have been carried out the responsibility lies primarily on the officer who was the subject of the Disciplinary Inquiry. There were a series of extenuating circumstances, which involved others, and I have dealt with them. Here I must say that I hope the House will remember particularly the difficult circumstances of the detention camps in Kenya, even though they have been reduced in size now to a mere fraction of what they were before and that there will be understanding and sympathy for Mr. Sullivan in the misfortune that has come to him, the anxieties and sadness of which will remain with him for the rest of his life. I think the House should remember that in justice to someone who has done loyal service hitherto.
The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich asked me certain questions about detention in Kenya, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. They were not very detailed questions. They were generally directed to the query as to whether I thought that these sort of regulations were appropriate in the modern age. Of course detention without trial is a desperate remedy for a desperate situation. All Governments in the United Kingdom in recent years have had to practise it. I take it that when right hon. Members opposite have defended detention without trial from this Box they have disliked the task as much as I do tonight or on any other occasion. The basis of its introduction and continuation is that a desperate situation exists.
Let justice be done, though the heavens fall
is often said, but, if the heavens do fall, justice cannot be done for there is no one to enforce it and no peace in which it can take effect. That is why it is widely recognised, for instance, in Article 15 of the Declaration of Human Rights, that circumstances can exist the exigencies of which strictly require and justify some abrogation from the rights of the individual. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that I am as anxious as he to see detention without trial brought as swiftly as possible to an end, whether in Kenya, in Northern Rhodesia, in Nyasaland or anywhere else, but I must have regard to the safety and security of the State.
I have said earlier that the Governor had had an opportunity of consulting Mr. Fairn, and I quoted some words which Mr. Fairn had used about the difficulty of returning detainees to their homes until they had been thoroughly rehabilitated. I have been asked about the Fairn Report and when it will be published. The Report has been completed and is with the Government of Kenya, but they are anxious, as is invariably the practice, to publish their own recommendations and decisions along with the Report. There is nothing to hide in the Report. I hope that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North will believe me that there is nothing to hide in the Report and nothing that I am not perfectly prepared for the House to know. I am anxious, however, to have the decisions of the Government of Kenya published at the same time.
With this careful and independent analysis before us, we shall, I believe, be able to face the future in Kenya with courage and with good hope, but it would be the height of folly to ignore the real demands of society as a whole in Kenya or Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland and to risk its complete upset once more by the release of the remaining detainees, many of whom in Kenya are really convicted criminals whose sentences have been suspended. There will be an opportunity tomorrow to deal in detail with detention—
The right hon. Gentleman said that I had unfairly criticised a distinguished public servant and Minister for Agricultural Affairs. He may be right or wrong, but he failed to deal with the points which I made. Did the Minister of Agricultural Affairs know anything about the food being served in the prisons, or that 60 per cent. of these men were suffering from disease and food deficiency or that an officer of the prison had said that he would rather resign that operate the plan?
I assume that the hon. Member means the Minister for African Affairs, Mr. Johnston. Nobody knew about the ascorbic acid deficiency. I dealt with that in great detail in the debate of 16th June. If the hon. Member had attended to my speech in that debate he would know the answers to these questions. I refer him to the record of that debate.
After five years close association with the hon. Lady I can assure her that I can deal with her interventions at any time and that I am not in the least frightened of her.
The main burden of the speeches on the other side of the House has been to suggest that there was muddle in high places in Kenya which directly led to the deaths on 3rd March, that the Kenya Government made some sort of attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes and, having failed in that and being compelled to take some sort of action, that they have been driven to a policy of white-washing and of finding scapegoats for the mistakes of others. I entirely reject that fanciful picture. I say quite definitely that there was no attempt by anyone in high office to mislead or to attach blame in the wrong quarter.
In the last debate, I said that the first announcement by the Kenya Government on 4th March was a very unfortunate one and was, indeed a grave mistake. But it was a mistake made in good faith by people who were at that time baffled by the information which had come back from Hola. As I said before, if they were setting out deliberately to mislead—which, of course, they were not—they chose a most curious way to set about it.
When this affair goes into history, with all the lessons which we have learned, and I certainly have learned, from it, I hope that those who have lent support to particularly vicious suggestions will reflect on the damage they have done to a public service which has served the people of Kenya—[Interruption.]—Perhaps hon. Members will wait to hear what the particular charge was—to the damage they have done to a public service which has served the people of Kenya faithfully and well for a great many years. I refer to the suggestions which were made that those in authority were waiting for the results of the debate which took place in the House last February before, so to speak, giving Mr. Sullivan the all-clear to go ahead and do his worst, and to another suggestion that people were hoping in their heart of hearts that so much time would elapse that the decay of the bodies of these unfortunate men would make it impossible to carry out a proper investigation into the cause of death.
Those suggestions have been made. I think they are unworthy of comment or of detailed answer, but they do untold damage. The deaths at Hola occurred at a time when the Kenya Government were approaching a final phase in what was and is a massive scheme of rehabilitation which has brought tens of thousands of dangerous people back to a condition in which they can rejoin as free men the society they have done so much to endanger.
My last word is one of admiration—and I know him well—for the Governor of Kenya and for his servants who did so much to make this achievement possible, and who, faced with this setback, immediately and energetically set themselves to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, a tragedy of this kind cannot occur again.
This has been, from many points of view, a memorable debate. There have been admirable speeches made, and I believe that all of us, on both sides of the House, will long remember the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I had hoped that the speech of the Secretary of State in reply would live up to the level of the debate. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was an attempt to defend the indefensible, rattled off at high speed, and, I am bound to say, delivered in a manner which scarcely seemed to convey sincerity on his part.
At this late hour, I do not wish to make a long intervention, but I want to examine one or two of the things which the Secretary of State said in his defence. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with what has been described as the water communiqué and on many occasions during his speech he said that he had himself stigmatised that as a grave error, although he thought it was an error made in good faith. It was a grave error of judgment. But in what sense was it an error of judgment except in that it was so couched as grossly to mislead anybody who read it?
In my view, it was a grave error of judgment to give any indication of what was thought to be the cause of death until the autopsies had been conducted. That was why I called it a grave error of judgment. That was why I said to the Governor that it was a grave error of judgment to do so until after the autopsies had been conducted, when it would have been possible to say firmly and with truth exactly what was the cause of death.
Does the Secretary of State not think that it was a grave error of judgment to make that grossly misleading statement? If he hesitates about it, I remind him that the magistrate, in the course of his findings, expressed himself as being unable to decide whether it was even made in good faith. That, surely, is a severe stricture in the case of a formal communiqué issued by the Government dealing with the deaths of eleven men who had been battered to death at Hola. For the Secretary of State to try to brush that off, to try to treat it as something that is dealt with adequately simply by saying that it was an error of judgment, seems to me to be falling far below the level of this debate.
We on this side would have had much more sympathy with the Secretary of State if he had been frank with the House and not sought to gloss over that which cannot be defended on any rational basis and if he had said that it was grossly wrong for the Government of Kenya to issue a statement which must have misled millions of readers in a matter about which they felt acutely, and about which there is still great feeling, as is indicated by the presence tonight of hon. Members in large numbers on both sides of the House and by the wealth of feeling displayed during this debate. To mislead people in a matter of that sort by grossly incautious language, if no worse, is a gross and unpardonable error of judgment. How far does the Secretary of State think that those for whom he is responsible can go in misjudgment without incurring his displeasure? This statement has been made and the Secretary of State seeks to say, "Oh, well, it went wrong and that is all about it."
I pass from that water communiqué, as it is called, and I borrow the phrase from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, who spoke from the benches opposite in such moving and impressive terms about it. The Secretary of State then sought to justify Mr. Cusack, the Minister of Defence. When we debated the matter in June, we did not have before us the communiqué to which a lot of reference has been made, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.
We now know that Mr. Cusack received formal and definite word from Mr. Lewis, the Commissioner of Prisons, that the plan as originally envisaged and drawn up by Mr. Cowan was, in Mr. Lewis's view, a dangerous plan which might well lead to killing or injury, both of detainees and of warders. The Minister of Defence chose to override that. He assumed that batons would not be used. They were used. The learned magistrate who pronounced upon all this read the Cowan Plan as giving carte blanche to use whatever force was necessary. That was how it struck the learned magistrate. If it does not strike the Secretary of State in that form, I and, I am sure, vast numbers of people who considered the matter would prefer the view of the magistrate to his own.
When the Secretary of State is adjudging upon Mr. Cusack's conduct, I remind him that the learned magistrate, after having reviewed and considered the evidence, formally said that there was no justification for any sort of assumption that the detainees would agree to work and would obey orders given to them. In other words, the magistrate was finding that disorder was almost inevitable, and I would ask the Secretary of State why on earth exactly the same conclusion should not have suggested itself to Mr. Cusack as it quite obviously suggested itself to Mr. Lewis.
I do not wish to make a long intervention because there have been such massive indictments directed against the Secretary of State already from both sides of the House, and I do not want to traverse matters of fact which have already been gone over, but I would say to the Secretary of State that what his speech really amounts to is this, going from the lowest rung in the hierarchy to the highest. Mr. Sullivan is found guilty. Mr. Lewis has been allowed to resign. Mr. Cusack, as I would have thought on the clearest evidence—I adopt the argument of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—is shown to have been guilty of utter disregard, shown to have been utterly negligent in the way he assessed and appreciated the position. He—I disagree with the Secretary of State—I think is more blameworthy than anybody else in this matter. So we go up. We then get to this communiqué, which comes from the collective body of Ministers, which the Secretary of State regards as a gross error of judgment.
How far, I ask, has one to go before the Secretary of State will himself recognise that he is under some personal responsibility for this gross mishap in the branch of administration which has been entrusted to him? Mr. Sullivan has gone. Mr. Lewis has gone. Mr. Cusack by perhaps rather an accident of fate has also gone. The Secretary of State remains. I would simply say this. As my hon. Friend said in the debate we had in June, the memory of Crichel Down is with all of us.
I do not remember any vocal protest from the Secretary of State when his colleague, the then Minister of Agriculture, resigned his office because he felt he was personally concerned in what had gone wrong. Crichel Down was very much less serious than the muddle and maladministration which has been shown to exist in the Department which is the Secretary of State's responsibility.
This is a matter for his own personal conscience. Whether he thinks he can, consistently with the principles of our government in this country, remain in the office that he holds, he must decide, but I am bound to tell him that very large numbers of people, not only in this House, on both sides of it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but outside this House, feel that the time has come when he should consider his position and see whether he is not so personally involved that he should resign his office.