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Mr Robert Scanlon

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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2.44 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action is being taken to determine the whereabouts and general situation concerning Mr. Bob Scanlon.

My Lords, the Government have taken all steps possible in the circumstances to determine the whereabouts of Mr. Robert Scanlon but, I regret, without success.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Does not the noble Lord find it slightly disturbing that Mr. Robert Scanlon has been absent for some time; and although we do not have an embassy in Uganda, could we not make representations to those who have?

My Lords, I entirely agree that it is not only disturbing but deplorable that under present circumstances there are no means of finding out where Mr. Scanlon is, and there may be others. We are doing our utmost to find out and are following up every possible lead.

My Lords, for my edification could the Minister say who Mr. Bob Scanlon is?

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help us on this particular question—because, as he will be aware, representations have been made by the family of Mr. Scanlon requesting information and help in tracing Mr. Bob Scanlon in Uganda. Can the Minister assure the House that Mr. Scanlon does not, in fact, have British citizenship, because I believe that this has led to much misunderstanding of the efforts which we are aware the British Government have made in this case? Secondly, has the Minister approached individual States within the Organisation of African Unity asking them to make representations to the President of Uganda on this particular matter?

My Lords, if I may, I shall first answer my noble friend Lord Blyton. Mr. Scanlon was a businessman working and living in Uganda who has inexplicably disappeared. In the interests of his family we have been trying to discover where he is and in what condition he is.

Dealing with the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Files, Mr. Scanlon renounced his United Kingdom citizenship at the British High Commission in Kampala on 25th August 1975. The record of that renunciation rests at present with the Home Office. It is true, as the noble Baroness has said, that his renunciation of British and Colonies citizenship and his acceptance of Ugandan citizenship in lieu of that British citizenship has not made it easier for us to try to help the family to ascertain where he is.

The second point which the noble Baroness raised related to the attitude of the OAU countries. We are, of course, in contact at the United Nations and at the Commission on Human Rights with a variety of countries, including those that are members of the OAU. I know of no country in Africa or elsewhere which does not join this country in wholehearted condemnation of these barbaric acts in Uganda.

My Lords, in addition to communicating with countries in the OAU, could there not be communication with the OAU itself on behalf of Mr. Scanlon?

My Lords, perhaps I may look into the possibility of a personal representation and request direct to the Organisation as such rather than bilaterally to a number of countries who, we know, are as exercised as we are about this and similar cases.

My Lords, does not the difficulty which we experience in this case illustrate the disadvantages we should have to suffer in a number of other countries if we were to withdraw British representation from them, as is suggested in the Think Tank's report?

My Lords, I think it does. The House will be aware that we terminated diplomatic relations with Uganda as a result of a long series of cumulatively disturbing and dangerous incidents. I think that the whole world has agreed that we had absolutely no alternative to what we did and continue to do. As to the implications of this matter in the wider consideration of British diplomatic representation in as many parts of the world as possible, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hankey.