British Nationals (Safety)

Oral Answers to Questions — East Africa – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1964.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux , Nottingham Central 12:00 am, 30th January 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what prior warnings he received of the danger to British lives caused by the recent overthrow of the Zanzibar Government and the recent mutiny in the Tanganyika army.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The situation in Zanzibar has for a long while been known to be unstable and at different times there have been rumours of trouble. We had no prior knowledge of the mutinies in East Africa.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux , Nottingham Central

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, on the whole, there is more danger to British lives and property in many Commonwealth countries than there is in foreign countries? Is it not, therefore, vital that we should have the fullest possible information concerning future happenings in those countries? Is he fully satisfied that we have had such information and, if not, will he take steps to see that in future we have it?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Responsibility for internal security and intelligence in that connection is a matter for these independent Governments—[Hon. Members "No."]—of course it is. They are responsible for their own security and for taking the steps necessary to ensure it. If we do receive information so much the better, But we cannot make ourselves responsible for keeping in touch with every subversive activity which goes on in any Commonwealth country throughout the world.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux , Nottingham Central

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that we are equally responsible for the safety of our own people in those Commonwealth countries as we are for those in foreign countries? Surely our intelligence in those countries should be as efficient as it is in foreign countries?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend. We are responsible for the safety of our citizens in Commonwealth countries to the same extent, but not more, than we are for those in foreign countries. As to our information about pending coups and other troubles in foreign countries, we may hear about them or we may not. We cannot keep a tab on every trouble-maker throughout the world.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will take all possible steps to protect British lives and property in those East African countries that have asked the United Kingdom for military help, when the Governments concerned request the withdrawal of United Kingdom forces.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Our concern for the safety of British lives and property in these countries, and our ability to provide help if needed, have been clearly demonstrated during this last fortnight. But the primary responsibility for law and order is and must remain that of the Governments of the countries in question.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

Is it a correct assessment of the position that as soon as these Governments ask us to withdraw our troops we are in fact at any rate, if not in theory, bound to do so? It is this period immediately after the withdrawal of our troops which holds the greatest danger to the lives and property of British people in these countries. Therefore, while everyone admires the way in which the Commonwealth Secretary has handled the situation so far, will he be careful to see that we do not withdraw troops until we are pretty confident that the position is safe for British lives and property?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Not just British lives and property, but the general situation in these territories is very much in the mind not only of Her Majesty's Government but, even more so, of the Governments concerned. That is why I said earlier that it was my hope to arrange for consultations with the various Governments to see where we go from here.