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Hola Camp, Kenya (Report)

Part of LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) BILL [Lords] (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1959.

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Photo of Mr John Peel Mr John Peel , Leicester South East 12:00 am, 27th July 1959

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