Oral Answers to Questions — Union of South Africa – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1960.
asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations how many of the persons who were killed or wounded by the police at Sharpeville and Langa in the Union of South Africa were from Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechunaland, respectively; and what representations Her Majesty's Government have made, or propose to make, to the Government of the Union.
asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will state the number of British protected persons from the High Commission territories who were killed or injured in the shooting of Africans at Sharpeville in the Union of South Africa on 21st March; and what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of British protected persons now living in the Union of South Africa.
asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations what grant Her Majesty's Government will make to alleviate the distress of the families of British protected persons who were killed in the shootings at Vereeniging and Langa on 21st March, 1960.
asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (1) how many British protected persons were killed, injured or arrested during the recent riots in South Africa;
(2) what steps he is taking to safeguard the position of British protected subjects in South Africa at the present time.
As I informed the House on 22nd March, my noble Friend has asked the United Kingdom High Commissioner in the Union of South Africa for information with regard to whether any citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British protected persons have been injured in the disturbances which took place in the Union earlier this week. The High Commissioner has not yet obtained full information, but it is reported that one Mosuto was injured. I have no details as to the circumstances in which this occurred.
As to the welfare of dependants in the High Commission Territories, I would refer hon. Members to my reply to a supplementary question by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 22nd March.
With regard to the position of United Kingdom citizens and British protected persons working in the Union, the High Commissioner is in constant touch with the South African authorities.
Will the hon. Member say whether citizens of the United Kingdom or British protected persons who happen to be working or are resident in the Union of South Africa are entitled to expect from the High Commissioner and his staff the same degree of assistance and protection that British subjects living in foreign countries would receive from Her Majesty's diplomatic and consular representative?
It is normally true that in Commonwealth countries the services required from the High Commissioner and his staff are not the same as those of consular authorities in foreign countries, but where these services are required they are provided by the High Commissioner's office and officials concerned.
Will the Minister answer the second part of Question No. 9 and say what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of British subjects within the Union? Will he, in particular, cease immediately the export of Saracen tanks and other armaments which are being used to shoot down defenceless persons?
I replied to a similar Question on Tuesday to the effect that it is the policy, and has been the policy of successive Governments in this country, to meet the defence requirements of all Commonwealth countries. In answer to the hon. Member's other point, the High Commissioner, Sir John Maud, in the Union of South Africa has my noble Friend's full confidence that he will carry out his duties effectively and energetically in the protection of any interests that we have in that part of the world.
First, is the hon. Member aware that, when he refers to defence, one of the operative considerations is, defence against whom? Will he address himself to the implications of that aspect of the matter? Secondly, will he address himself to the point in Question No. 10? Is he aware that if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to make a token grant of, say, £25,000 to any distress fund set up it would be widely welcomed in this country as a gesture of our feelings?
I have noted the point which the hon. Member has made. As I said in my Answer today, I answered the point that he raised about alleviating distress of families in the High Commission Territories when I replied to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday.
As a British protected subject was involved in this incident, may I ask the Minister of State whether he will follow the precedent of his own reply on 8th February and press for Her Majesty's Government to be represented at the judicial inquiry which the South African Government are to hold? Further, will the hon. Member bear in mind Lord Palmerston's famous dictum "Civis Britannicus sum", and that even the humblest of Her Majesty's citizens is entitled to the protection of the Crown at moments like this?
As the hon. Member is aware from Press reports and as I understand it, there are to be two judicial inquiries into these circumstances. I am sure that we can leave it to the High Commissioner, whose duty it is, to ensure that the interests of United Kingdom subjects are looked after at the inquiries.
Is the Minister aware that not only is there widespread concern in this country about the events in South Africa, but also a genuine desire to do something more practical than pass resolutions of protest? Would it not go some way to meet this desire if it were made known that Her Majesty's Government, on humanitarian grounds, were prepared to grant financial and other aid to the victims of the bloody tragedy that is taking place in South Africa?
I think that it would be wise for the hon. Member and the House generally to await the arrival of further information, which we hope to get, and to await the outcome of the judicial inquiries which are being made under the auspices of another Commonwealth Government.
We are all very unhappy about this wretched business, but we should like to await the High Commissioner's report, which we hope my hon. Friend will make available to us on its receipt.
I shall make available any further information about the position of United Kingdom citizens or British protected persons in connection with these disturbances. As I said last Tuesday, events which result in a heavy loss of life are of great concern to everyone in this country and elsewhere.
We are grateful for that advance, but now that he has had 48 hours to think about it, could not the Minister of State get his heart so high as to say that he deplores these shootings and to express his sympathy with the families of those who have lost their lives and with the injured?
The hon. Member is perhaps not clear that I have already done that—on Tuesday—and I do it again. The hon. Member would be greatly in error if he assumed that concern and feeling in this matter were exclusive to any particular section of the community.
Is not the Minister aware that we believe this feeling of concern to be shared by the whole population, and that is why we want the Government to give the lead in expressing it?
On a point of order. In view of the fact that it is six or seven weeks since Questions addressed to the Commonwealth Relations Office were answered, may we ask for your leniency in a few more supplementary questions?
There has been very little lack of leniency. It is 3 o'clock and we have dealt with about a dozen Questions. I have to consider the interests of other Members who are concerned with other topics.
We must deal with one hon. Member at a time.
Is it not a fact, Mr. Speaker, that there has been only one supplementary question from this side of the House?
Is it not permissible for another supplementary question to be asked from this side of the House?
We must bring this Question to an end at some time. I will allow one supplementary question from the right-hand side of the House and one from the left-hand side, and then we must get on.
On a point of order. There are many more questions which hon. Members on this side of the House would like to ask about this terrible tragedy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Put down a Question."] May I ask for your guidance? To what extent are we inhibited by the fact that two judges of the Supreme Court of South Africa are to hold an inquiry?
Not at all. If the hon. Member tries to put Questions on the Order Paper he will be able to ascertain whether they are in order, because if they are. not in order they will not be allowed.
It is certainly not only in order but it is a duty of hon. Members to ask Questions about British people and British protected persons, wherever they may be.
I do not wish to make wide Rulings about this. I was only indicating that it is easy to find out whether a Question is in order if an hon. Member tries to put it down.
While I would deplore most sincerely this loss of life— as my hon. Friend has deplored it and as I think the whole House deplores it— in South Africa or anywhere else, is it not a fact that the Union Government have set up two Commissions of Inquiry, each under a Supreme Court judge, in order to find out the facts of what happened? In that case, should we not be wiser to refrain from passing judgment until we know what those facts are?
Has the United Kingdom High Commissioner been instructed to draw the attention of the Union Government to the undeniable fact that British arms were used in these circumstances? Has he been instructed to indicate to the Union Government that these arms were supplied for defence purposes and to ask for an undertaking that they will never again be used to shoot down the civilian population?
Throughout the period when the Socialist Government made available arms to other Commonwealth countries, conditions of that sort were never attached to them. It would not be in accordance with practice.