HC Deb 21 March 1957 vol 567 cc519-20
1. Mr. Brockway

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what reply he has made to the communication of the Basutoland African Congress complaining of the amendment of Proclamation 59 of 1938 into Proclamation 12 of 1944 and criticising the inadequacy of the conditions of the Jones Inquiry into the ritual murders; and if he will authorise an investigation by a commission which would have the confidence of the Basuto people.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)

My noble Friend is considering, in consultation with the High Commissioner, a letter which he received from the Basutoland African Congress at the end of February. No reply has yet been sent.

Mr. Brockway

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that not only the Members of this House but also the leaders of the Basutoland African Congress deplore these practices just as much as anyone, and would the hon. Gentleman consider the facts that the amendment to the Proclamation, which has substituted South African principles of law for British principles, and this one-man inquiry, have tended to worsen the position rather than better it? Would he also consider appointing a commission which would include representatives from other African countries, which would have the confidence of the Basuto people?

Mr. Alport

I accept that there is a strong feeling of horror, both here and in Basutoland, at these incidents, but I cannot accept the strictures which the hon. Gentleman directs against the Jones Commission which, after all, was appointed by a Labour Government, who were satisfied with the results, as, indeed, we are satisfied that it was an able and effective investigation. I would say to the House, however, that this is a problem which touches very closely the interests of the Basuto people. It is a complicated one and, therefore, I am sure that the House would wish my noble Friend and the High Commissioner to give the fullest thought to a particularly difficult legal problem.