Skip to main content

Foreign Visitors

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

11.25 p.m.

I am pleased to have the opportunity of raising the question of additional expenditure for foreign visitors, including the salaries of foreign service personnel, who are seeking to prepare the way for these visits; the extra provision for the police, and, no doubt, the secret service, for the protection of our guests; and the reasons for that addition.

We are a most hospitable and kindly people. I refer not only to the Welsh, who are renowned for their singing hospitality, but also to those who are unfortunate enough to inhabit other parts of the British Isles. We welcome guests and are happy to have them with us. We like London to be the central visiting and purchasing point of the world and we are only too pleased to encourage conferences of all sorts at public and, preferably, at private expense. However, we are entitled to ask what money is being spent for official visitors to our country and we are entitled to consider whom we wish to have and whom we would prefer not to have.

There is a new game which I have only played once, and that was last week at a party. I am told that it is called "Murder" but it might be called "He never would be missed." The basis is that everyone round the table writes down the names of six people who, if they disappeared from the face of the earth, would not at all be missed. If one plays that game it is surprising the names that crop up. Most are the names of people about whom there is nothing we can do because their feet are firmly planted on British soil and they are entitled to be both here and as pestilential as they wish.

There are others, who are likely to be official visitors to this country, for whom we are liable to have to pay not merely for their entertainment but also for their protection and security. I wish to refer to only one. It is a person who has persistently said that he intends to come here. But as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, it is hoped that he will take a hint and not come.

When I raised this matter last week the Prime Minister said there is all the difference in the world between coming to a Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference and attending the celebration of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. In my opinion there is no difference at all.

I refer to President Amin, who would be the most unwanted guest to this country since Hess, with the possible exception of Mr. Shelepin. In each case these people are representative of the worst kinds of dictatorship. I believe that we should retain the freedom to decide whom we wish to have as our official guests and whom we do not.

The Home Secretary has residual powers to see that certain people are not admitted into this country. He exercised those powers, rightly in my view, a few weeks ago when keeping out that disgraceful Danish pornographer, Thorsen, who would have been in this country not as the official guest of our people, not eating at the Royal table and not banqueting at Downing Street and exchanging songs with anyone who might happen to be there at the time, but as a private citizen, however obnoxious. He was kept out and that was right.

I submit that among the official visitors whom we should keep out of this country, now and in future, is President Amin of Uganda. I wish to say why he should be kept out. First, we have enough murderers who are brought to law in this country without inviting into this country people who are mass murderers, particularly the kind who are genocidal maniacs. He is a man who attacks Britain mercilessly and relentlessly, sometimes with the air of a buffoon and the bells of a clown but always with an unpleasantness unparalleled in the world today.

His latest effort was in Cairo only today when he accused Britain and the United States of being imperialist forces and of backing South Africa and Rhodesia while pretending to help the black majorities there to gain power. That is yet another lie.

In a previous Prime Minister's Conference, we rightly said that we did not want among our visitors those who operate racialist policies in South Africa. I believe that we should be equally denunciatory when we are dealing with other unwanted visitors, whether white or black, whether African or European. A dictator is a dictator. A murderer is a murderer. President Amin is both, and the fact that he comes from Africa makes him neither more nor less of a welcome guest here. Certainly we should not spend a penny of public funds on the salaries of Foreign Service personnel to prepare for his visit, or on police protection, which would have to be considerable, or on Secret Service protection, which would be essential for his visit, in any circumstances.

The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) puts me in some difficulty. Our general rule is that the Heads of friendly States are referred to politely, as is our own Head of State. I understand and appreciate the hon. and learned Gentleman's feelings, but perhaps he will try to argue his case more generally and not abuse another Head of State.

With respect, Mr. Speaker, you said "Heads of friendly States". This is not a friendly State. We have no diplomatic relations with Uganda. We broke them off not because we had any wish to be unfriendly but because of his behaviour towards us. My case is that this man, who has seen fit to denounce Britain day after monotonous day, who has seen fit to murder—let us not mince words; indeed, they are the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which are good enough for all of us, whatever our faiths—Archbishop Luwum and two of his former Ministers and to carry out a campaign of slaughter of tribes which do not follow his line, should not be here in any circumstances, and the fact that he is a Head of State makes it worse, because he would come with diplomatic immunity, and we would not be able to lay a finger on him.

I have certain specific interests in this man. I first got to know of his lying exploits in connection with the sad death of Mrs. Bloch. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the help which he and his colleagues and diplomats gave not only in trying to prevent the murder in the first place, not only in trying to get an inquiry instead of what he correctly described as "a whitewash operation", not only in attempting to recover the body of Mrs. Bloch for her family, because she was a British citizen, but also for my hon. Friend's great personal kindness to the family.

The strange feature is that this man is apparently not only determined to come here but says that he is entitled to come. He has also apparently sent his precursors in the form of 10 ladies, women or girls who are being trained as military pilots for the Ugandan air force. I do not know whether they are included amongst the official guests for whom the public have to pay. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what he can about these Amazonian ladies from Africa. If they fly their planes with the same precision and accuracy as male Ugandan fliers, I am sure that there is not too much to worry about. But we should not allow them to be trained in this country. After all, they are representatives of a despicable dictator who is terrorising his own country. We do not want him here under any guise, and we do not want to have him represented by these women or any others.

I understand from the Press that efforts are being made to lift the burden of expenditure on the British public which would be imposed by having President Amin here by inducing others to lean on him not to come. I remember one of my hon. Friends suggesting that we should not just invite him but have him here for a long period so as to enable others in Uganda to take over while he was away. This temptation should be resisted, in my view, because, on my information, he has killed off any potential successors. Not only has he slaughtered all those who saw the murders of Mrs. Bloch and Archbishop Luwum. Apparently there are few people left who are in any position to replace him.

In the circumstances I am very pleased that Lord Thomson is making this journey. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to set the mind of the House and the country at rest and say a little about this journey, which appears to be shrouded in secrecy. I do not believe that this matter should be secret. Amin does not keep his intentions secret, and the country is entitled to know what we are doing and to have a clear statement from the Government that they are not prepared to have this man here under any circumstances, whether it be for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference or, still less, to visit Her Majesty and spoil the glittering celebrations.

It is said that the rain falls on both the good and the evil. That does not mean, however, that we have to invite the evil here to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of Her Majesty's reign. That man should not be allowed to come here. I hope that the Minister will reassure the country. If my hon. Friend can do that, I shall put Amin at the top of the list of those who never would be missed.

Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), may I say that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) will have noticed that I allowed him to continue. On reflection I thought that that was entirely right since we are not in diplomatic relations with Uganda.

11.37 p.m.

The House should be indebted to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) for having raised this matter in the House. As the Vote which we are now discussing makes clear, we are now considering the amount of money which Parliament should allocate to matters which fall within the direct responsibility of the Foreign Office. We are talking about expenditure which will be incurred on those who come to this country as official guests of the Government.

The hon. and learned Member pointed out that there are two occasions later this year, three months from now, when it is possible that the President of Uganda might be coming to this country on the invitation or, at at any rate, with the consent of Her Majesty's Government. Any such visit will involve the Government in certain expenditure. If ever there were a case where it was right for this House to consider whether that expenditure, which our constituents will be incurring, was justified, it is now. This is the only occasion on which we are able to raise a matter of this kind in the House.

Is the hon. Member aware that among my constituents are very large numbers who have been driven out of their homes by General Amin?

was not aware of that. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for making that point.

It is right that we in the House should say, not in extravagant or extremist language, that we believe that if the President of the Republic of Uganda were to come to this country as the guest of the Government or with their assent or—and I do not use this word in any derogatory sense with the connivance of the Government, and if expenditure were thereby incurred, that would be deeply repugnant to the great majority of the constituents of myself and of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

It is right that this country, which has been the citadel and champion of freedom, should make it plain that we would regard it as an outrage upon the views of our consituents, and a grave misallocation of public funds, if we were to spend money, as would inevitably be the case, on hospitality, in protecting, in greeting and, I suppose, in putting up the President of the Republic of Uganda.

Many of us believe that the hands of the President of Uganda are stained with blood, blood of which the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke in the case of Mrs. Bloch, blood, as we 'believe it, in the case of the late Archbishop of Uganda. Apart from those two instances, there is evidence which is almost incontrovertible that in Uganda in recent months and years there has been a policy of mass extermination of those who are opposed to the régime of the President of Uganda.

In those circumstances, to allocate money from the British taxpayer to welcome the President of Uganda to this country, to offer him hospitality and protection, would be deeply offensive to our people. Therefore, I believe that the House is right to afford this opportunity to ask the Minister to reply on the matter of the anxieties which the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed, anxieties which are felt by the overwhelming majority of the British people.

We have a long tradition of hospitality, particularly to Heads of State of members of the Commonwealth. We understand that there are two events in the calendar of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth which are of great importance. The Queen's Jubilee is an event of immense importance to the whole Commonwealth, and we would want that occasion to be one of genuine rejoicing. But that would not be the case if the President of the Republic of Uganda were to come to this country, for it would be impossible to have that spirit of rejoicing and happiness to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred if among our guests, among those upon whom we were lavishing hospitality, was the butcher of Uganda.

But it is not only the Queen's Jubilee that we are considering. We are also considering the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. If there is one link which binds, or should bind, the Commonwealth of Nations together, it is a belief that we have civilised standards, that we have tolerance, freedom under the law, freedom from fear, from terror, from arbitrary arrest, from murder. Those are the qualities that we expect from the Commonwealth. They are certainly qualities to which the Minister will want to pay tribute when he replies. It would be a great affront to all those traditions and ideals of the Commonwealth if there were to be invited, if hospitality were to be given to, a Head of State who had violated all those principles which are dear to the idealism of the Commonwealth.

It is with great regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman and I speak in this debate. In asserting that the expenditure of public money on acting as host and protecting President Amin would be a grave affront to the people of this country, we believe that we are not only serving the interests of our constituents but are championing precisely those ideals which are effective in the Commonwealth. We are seeking to assert that in the national and Commonwealth rejoicing in the Jubilee this June, to invite or allow President Amin to come would be deeply repugnant both to the institution of the Commonwealth and to the national rejoicing in the Jubilee.

11.45 p.m.

I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) have testified to the values and friendship, as well as the understanding, that can be derived from conferences, both national and international, sponsored, supported and promoted by Britain. Equally, I understand the strength of feeling expressed by both hon. Members about the immediate problems arising from the issues that they have raised.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West mentioned an extremely sad and distressing case with which I have had to deal. It was for me personally the most distressing case with which I have had to deal since I have been at the Foreign Office.

We have no quarrel with the people of Uganda, but the Government's attitude towards President Amin can be in no doubt. Following the Entebbe raid and the disappearance of Mrs. Dora Bloch, never satisfactorily explained by the Ugandan Government, two members of the British High Commission were expelled from Uganda. Following those events the Government broke off all diplomatic relations, convinced that it was no longer possible to do business with President Amin's Government and regime. It is the first time that we have broken off relations with a Commonwealth country, and it is 30 years since we have broken off relations with any country. Therefore, hon. Members may understand and appreciate the depth of feeling about the nature of the events which led us to take that course.

The shocking reports of recent events in Uganda have greatly disturbed Her Majesty's Government, as I am sure they have disturbed the British people.

The House will know from my right hon. Friend's statement on 2nd March that we were deeply disappointed that our proposal, made in a confidential procedure, for an investigation into human rights in Uganda was defeated in Geneva on 1st March. The hon. Member for Eastbourne said that he was sure that I shared his view that, wherever we found violation of human rights, we should stand up and uphold the values and freedoms that we enjoy. That is what we have been trying to do in this instance. We regard the resolution adopted as insufficiently firm, far reaching and effective and are left with no alternative but to press for an investigation in open debate in Geneva, as my right hon. Friend said in reply to questions last week.

The issues raised by the question of President Amin's attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting are not for Her Majesty's Government alone to decide. They are for the Commonwealth as a whole. We shall be willing to take soundings on this matter, but, in view of the delicacy of the situation, I am sure that hon. Members will understand that I would not wish to go further on this matter at present. In this respect, I cannot speculate in advance of any official announcement about the possible role of Lord Thomson.

The question of immigration control is for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I can do no more than repeat his statement on 28th February:
"In general, admission to the United Kingdom of people who neither have the right of abode, nor exemption from immigration control, is governed by the Immigration Act 1971 and the Immigration Rules made under it."—[Official Report, 28th February 1977, Vol. 927, c. 13.]
I cannot go any further than that, because this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

I fully appreciate that this is a matter for the Home Secretary, but I am sure that there have been consultations. Will my hon. Friend at least confirm that there is residual power to keep out of this country anyone whom the Home Secretary wishes to keep out?

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spelled out the law in general terms on 28th February. It is not for me, as a Foreign Office Minister, to go beyond that.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West asked me about the training of Ugandan pilots in the United Kingdom. I am aware of reports that these pilots belong to the Ugandan air force. I am unable to confirm that, but I am seeking urgent clarification of the situation. I assure my hon. and learned Friend and the House that the pilots are here on a private commercial basis and that the Government have not been and are not involved in any way in their training, nor, of course, are Government funds being used. My understanding is that these are courses that are open to anyone from any part of the world.

The fate that has befallen Uganda, a previously happy country with which hon. Members and many people in Britain have long and deep personal and governmental ties and which is much cherished by its friends, is a sad one indeed. We cannot remain indifferent to the reports reaching this county of happenings there. If they are true, words are not strong enough to condemn them. We have taken and are taking every opportunity to make our views known. It is our duty to uphold the principles for which the Commonwealth stands. No British Government can flinch from that.