§ SIR C. HILL
I beg to ask the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the case 69 of Mr. Silberrad, who has been accused of immorality towards a native child in the East African Protectorate; and whether he will lay before the House any official correspondence which has passed in regard to it.
The following Questions on the same subject also appeared on the Paper—
§ SIR GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON (Bradford, Central)
To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any official information concerning the alleged procuring of young native girls for immoral purposes by high European Government officials of the East African Protectorate; is he aware that the allegation against one of the officials was inquired into privately by His Honour Judge Barth, of the High Court, at the request of His Excellency the Governor, and that the offender was punished by the loss of one year's seniority; and does the Secretary of State propose to take any further steps in the matter.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that last February Mr. Silberrad, Deputy-Commissioner at Nyeri, in British East Africa, used his official position to procure a native child of thirteen for immoral purposes, and that on complaint being made by a British settler a private inquiry was held and Mr. Silberrad received some trifling disciplinary punishment; whether he will explain why an open inquiry was not held in this case; and what steps the Secretary of State proposes to take to prevent the recurrence of such cases in British East Africa, and to secure the same standard of conduct in this Protectorate as obtains in other British Colonies.
§ MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)
To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the inquiry undertaken by Judge Barth by the instruction of the Governor at Nyeri into the conduct of an official; and, in view of the state of corruption alleged, will he grant a public inquiry in order that a Report may be presented to Parliament.
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if any complaints have been made to the Governor of British East Africa respecting the conduct of officials other than the case which was recently referred to Judge Barth of the High Court; and, if so, have any inquiries been held as the result of the complaints.
§ MR. BENNETT
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to certain grave charges recently brought against two officials in British East Africa; and whether, if such charges are well founded, he will see that adequate punishment is meted out to the offenders.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
asked the hon. Gentleman whether he was aware that, so far from the offender in this case having received some slight disciplinary punishment, he had already been severely punished, and was still labouring under that punishment; that since this occasion his conduct had been most exemplary, and that the suggestion that he had procured a child was entirely and absolutely unwarranted; and whether, under all the circumstances, he would leave the matter where it was, in the hands of the Governor of the Colony, and not consent to retry the case on ex parte statements.
§ * COLONEL SEELY
I trust the House will permit me to reply to the six Questions on this subject together, and to make a short statement. Perhaps it will be convenient to deal, in the first place, with the particular case of the officer mentioned by name, and, in the second place, with the general aspect of the matter referred to in some of the Questions on the Paper. With regard to the particular case, the officer named was not a high Government official, but one of the junior grade of administrative officers. He was charged with the offence referred to in the Question, and a Judge was nominated to investigate the charge, and to report to the Colonial Government. Before stating what subsequently took place, it is right to clear up two points on which the House will wish to be informed, so as to understand the nature of the offence more clearly. With regard 71 to the use of the word "child," it is the case that women in East Africa, as in other tropical countries, develop so rapidly that they are commonly married at the age of thirteen or fourteen, which is the age stated in this case; secondly, unwillingness was not found by the Judge to be proved. The Judge investigated the charge and reported, and on his report the officer was suspended from duty, and his case considered by the Executive Council, who advised that he should lose one year's seniority, and not be put in charge of a district for two years. The whole matter was subsequently reported to the Secretary of State, who gave it his most careful attention. He had, of course, no opportunity of seeing and hearing the witnesses or of weighing the value of their evidence, and he, therefore, considered it right to accept the decision of the Executive Council. But he did not do this until he had satisfied himself that, since the pecuniary loss involved was considerable, and since the officer's opportunities for advancement must necessarily be affected to a far greater extent than might at first sight appear, the punishment was undoubtedly a severe one. Since then the officer has returned to duty, and the Governor reports as follows: "Silberrad is an able and energetic officer, who has done good work and has been favourably reported on up to time of his fault, for which he expressed deepest regret and gave me the fullest assurances. He lately married in England, and I understand that before doing so, he told all to his future wife. His conduct since his return has been exemplary, and he should make a valuable officer." With regard to the general question, the Government of East Africa on their own initiative issued a strongly worded Memorandum in September last condemning such practices and warning all officers of the consequences of disobedience. I think the House will agree that it would not be well to lay Papers on this matter, but I need not say that the Secretary of State associates himself with the condemnation which has been expressed. He is taking steps to impress upon members of the whole Colonial service, through the Governors, that such actions, all questions of morals apart, are damaging to the public service, and 72 that the gravest consequences must be the penalty for conduct which is unworthy of a servant of the Crown.
§ MR. PIKE PEASE
May I ask the hon. Gentleman why no action was taken or inquiry made in regard to the other official about whom a complaint was made by Mr. Routledge; and in regard to the Question asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, is he aware that Mrs. Routledge went to the house of Mr. Silberrad and took these girls of twelve and thirteen away from him?
§ COLONEL SEELY
With regard to the first Queston I have only replied on the specific case put before me. I shall be glad to answer any Questions on that subject if the hon. Gentleman will give me due notice. With regard to the second Question, I understand that is the case. We must all be very grateful to the lady for the action which she took.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD
inquired whether the hon. Gentleman was aware, that three out of four hon. Members who put down Questions on this subject had had charge of natives under the British Crown and that they were all disgusted and horrified at this occurrence, and also at the attitude taken by the Colonial Office and the Governor towards it?
§ COLONEL SEELY
The Answer to the first Question is in the affirmative, and to the second in the negative.
SIR GILBERT PARKER
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these malpractices against native women are alleged to have been the cause of disturbances in that district which led to a punitive expedition 'Did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, during his recent visit to East Africa, make any inquiry with regard to these allegations?
§ COLONEL SEELY
Really, I must have notice of that Question. But I repeat that the Secretary of State regards this question as one of the utmost gravity.
§ COLONEL SEELY
He is doing the usual work of a subordinate officer, and the Governor has telegraphed to me that he is endeavouring to do his best to redeem his character by leading an exemplary life. It is rather difficult to define the term "judicial." Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put a further Question down on that.