Troops, Nairobi (Incident)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th May 1963.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton 12:00 am, 6th May 1963

Mr. Paget (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has a statement to make with regard to the military riots in Nairobi.

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

During last Saturday night a number of incidents occurred in Nairobi, involving damage to property.

As is normal, large numbers of British Service men stationed in or around Nairobi were off duty in the city. The incidents reported appear to have been caused by a small number of Service men, and investigations both by civil and military authorities are now proceeding.

Five soldiers are at present in military custody.

The causes of the incidents have not so far been established, but it is thought that they may have been connected with the murder last week of a British private soldier of the 1st Battalion, Staffordshire Regiment.

The Commanding Officer of the Staffords personally warned all ranks of his unit prior to the weekend against disturbances or any attempts to take the law into their own hands.

None of those so far apprehended comes from the Staffordshire Regiment.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Can the right hon. Gentle-many tell us any more about how this private in the Staffordshire Regiment came to be murdered, and the circumstances? Secondly, does he not feel that incidents of this sort, reflecting on the discipline and morale of the Army, are getting too frequent?

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

Indiscipline is always to be deplored, but the use of the word "riot" gives an entirely misleading impression. A riot involves a crowd indulging in an outbreak of lawlessness, and that is not what happened, according to what I have been told so far, in this case.

I have no further details of the motives in the murder of Private Jones, although, so far as we can ascertain, there is absolutely no question of racial or political motives.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

The right hon. Gentleman's statement referred to damage to property. Do we understand that so far he has no information of any damage to persons? Secondly, from his answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question, are we to understand that reports of about 100 people being involved are probably exaggerated? Thirdly, has he had any previous evidence of dissatisfaction with conditions in Nairobi?

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

I have no information, even now, about any dissatisfaction with conditions in or around Nairobi which could possibly have led to what occurred on Saturday night. I am glad to have the opportunity of emphasising that so far as I know—and the House will understand that these are rather early days—there were no organised bands of large numbers of soldiers, as has been reported in certain sections of the Press as having done this. I think that there were two sorts of incidents—those in bars, where there were certain fights, and so on, and those involving a number of taxis. I do not believe that they were necessarily related.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will wish to express their sympathy with the relatives of the soldier who has lost his life. Has the Secretary of State taken any steps whatever to institute a court of inquiry to inquire into the circumstances in which these acts of indiscipline have occurred? If not, will he do so in terms which will also cause an inquiry to be made into his personal responsibility for the lowering of standards right throughout the Army as the result of his own policy?

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

I do not quite accept the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's contention. Whatever he may feel, I do not accept that the standards of the Army, or its discipline, have been markedly lowered. Nor can I accept that incidents which have been occurring in the Army are necessarily correlated.

The other day, when the hon. Gentleman could not be present, I was asked whether 1 would institute an inquiry into "bull". I refused, because I do not believe in dealing with this sort of thing at that sort of level. I believe that incidents of this sort should be dealt with by commanding officers and the Army itself.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

As I have recently visited Nairobi and seen the conditions in which our troops there live, will the right hon. Gentleman accept my assurance that the conditions of our troops in Nairobi are far better than those in many other parts of the world? Will he say what is to happen in the case of the British soldier who has been murdered? Are active inquiries being made to apprehend the murderer and to deal with him in accordance with law?

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

Yes, Sir. I did not address myself to that in my main Answer, because I was asked about so-called riots, but I can give an undertaking that the very sad death—murder—of this British soldier is being fully and properly examined. I cannot make any statement about that, because it is under examination.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport , Knutsford

Is it not rather regrettable, Mr. Speaker, on an occasion such as this that, with the exception of two, hon. Gentlemen opposite should attack our troops instead of sympathising with the victim and his next-of-kin?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman addressed his question to me, and I do not think that it raises a point of order.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport , Knutsford

I did not raise a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, and I apologise. In my anxiety I was addressing my question to you, but I meant to address it to the Minister.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

In view of the fact that Private Jones lived in my constituency, perhaps I might be permitted to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it will be possible for him to give sympathetic consideration to the desire of the widowed mother of this soldier that his body be brought home and buried in Tipton alongside his father.

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

I have been informed of this desire, and although I cannot give an actual answer at the moment, I give an undertaking that I shall consider this with all sympathy.

With regard to the question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), C am sure that no hon. Member would willingly wish to attack the British Arm but I am grateful to him for what he said.