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Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies approximately how many persons in the Aden Protectorate are under some form of slavery; in which States this now exists; whether these persons are aware of the opportunity to secure manumission; and why few persons during the last fifteen years have sought and secured manumission.

Slavery has almost ceased to exist in the Aden Protectorate. This explains the few recent instances of manumission, the facilities for which are well known.

Arising out of that reply, does not the fact that manumission has been granted imply that slavery exists? Should there not be some further inquiry to see to what extent slavery remains and in which form? What approaches have been made to the various States and their rulers to get this institution entirely abolished, especially in view of the splendid work initiated by Mr. Ingrams some years ago?

Manumission is a certificate given on request to a person certifying that he is no longer a slave but a free man. It is given by members of the British Advisory Service in the Protectorates. I do not think that such an inquiry would be of any help. No certificates were given last year. The only reason I cannot say that slavery does not exist at all is that there may well be one or two people of slave origin who are still with families in the Protectorates. I do not think that we should track that down profitably by an inquiry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that from 1948 I served for five years in the Aden Government? There is no question of any slavery at all in the Protectorate or the Colony. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) is probably thinking of the odd case over the Saudi Arabian border.

There were no certificates last year and in 1959 there were only five. I cannot say absolutely that slavery does not exist, but I cannot think that an inquiry would enable us to be any better informed about the extent to which it exists.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that although the incidence may be diminishing, it is obvious from the statement which he has made that it exists, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison)? In those circumstances, could not some special representation be made to the various rulers in order to remove the last remnants of this hideous practice?

I shall be glad to consult those responsible in the two Protectorates. Perhaps hon. Members would like to look at the figures for the last year or two. There was none last year; there were five in 1959; the 1958 figure is a corrupt group in my telegram and I cannot read it; there were three in 1957; there was none in 1956; and there was one in 1955. It can hardly be said to be significant.

Are not they the numbers of those who have applied to secure manumission? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that, in his original reply, he used the expression, presumably on advice, that slavery had virtually ceased to exist? Is not this an admission by the Government that there is still some slavery there, and is it not complacency to allow slavery to go on in any circumstances in any Protectorate for which Her Majesty's Government are responsible? Will he investigate the matter?

I should be glad to investigate it if I honestly thought that the slightest fruit would come from it.

Without question, not only in this country but in the Aden Protectorate the whole of public opinion is entirely opposed to slavery. All I am saying is that there may well be here and there one or two people of slave origin remaining with families. They know perfectly well that they can tomorrow, if they wish, have a certificate that they are free men. In view of what has been said in the House, I will take up the points which have been made, but I frankly say that I do not think that it will be a very fruitful investigation.