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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 George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 27th July 1959

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.