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Kenya: Fort Hall Clash

Volume 179: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1952

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2.38 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement about the clash between the police force and an African crowd in the Fort Hall area of Kenya on 23rd November, and whether they will appoint a Committee to inquire into the incident.]

My Lords, your Lordships will recollect that this Question was really answered during a statement which I made in this House yesterday, similar to one which was made in another place by my right honourable friend and which was considerably amplified by a debate which took place on the Adjournment in another place last night. I have nothing further to add to the observations which were then made by my right honourable friend.

I am much obliged to the noble Earl for his perfectly fair reply to my request for a committee of inquiry, but is the noble Earl aware that, at about 3.30 yesterday afternoon in another place, the Secretary of State said that he would give this proposal his most earnest attention and consideration, and that at about 9.30 last night, in the debate on the Adjournment he announced his decision to turn it down? If those are the facts, then surely this proposal has not yet been given careful and earnest consideration. Does the noble Earl share my view that the decision has, in fact, not been taken on the merits of the case but as a result of Party politics? I am sure he will agree that that is most undesirable in the case of matters of this kind, which affect profoundly the welfare of people in the Colonies.

Let me assure the noble Earl at once that this decision was not reached in any sense of the word as a result of Party politics. My right honourable friend and I discussed this matter at a reasonable hour last night, before the statement which my right honourable friend ultimately made in another place, and we agreed, for reasons which ho gave at that time, that it would be unwise to hold a court of inquiry.

I am obliged to the noble Earl. In my experience in the Colonial Office, however, no matter of any importance to a Colony has been decided by the Secretary of State without consulting the Governor of the Colony. May I ask the noble Earl, it being unlikely that such a consultation could have taken place in the course of six hours, whether the Governor of Kenya was consulted before this decision was taken?

No; the Governor of Kenya was never asked whether a court of inquiry should be held. The question which was put to my right honourable friend by a right honourable gentleman in the other place was whether Her Majesty's Government would institute a court of inquiry. On that point, my right honourable friend and. I had a discussion at some length, reaching the conclusion which he has already announced in another place.