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Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1952

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Destruction Of Crops


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if General Templer's threat to destroy crops in Malaya by chemical means was made with his approval.

Yes, Sir. Destruction of crops grown for the terrorists or likely to fall into their hands is a preventive measure of which, of course, I approve.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of State last Wednesday stated that this threat, as he himself admitted, applied to all crops which might fall into the hands of the terrorists, and are we to understand quite clearly that this applies to and includes crops grown by the villagers?

Generally speaking, that is not so. Of course it depends upon the actual circumstances and it is easy to find out what crops are grown for the terrorists. Where there is doubt it is always decided in favour of the villagers.

Further to that point. For the benefit of the House could not the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether or not this threat is to apply, or is not to apply, to those crops which are grown for the sustenance of the villagers in Malaya?

I can give the hon. Member an unequivocal answer to that couched in general terms. The answer is "No." We have to be satisfied that they are being grown for the terrorists or in some place where the terrorists are compelling the inhabitants to grow crops for them.

Is it not desirable that hon. Members of this House should give the Commander-in-Chief their support in his efforts to protect the lives of our men and in his attempts to bring this war to a successful conclusion, instead of putting down Questions on the Order Paper like this one, which only tend to destroy confidence?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would give the greatest possible support to the Commander-in-Chief if his Government would have the courage to give political status to the Chinese and now offer a date for independence?

That raises questions which are not concerned at all with the Question on the Order Paper.

Tanjong Malim (Collective Punishment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far relief for the people of Tanjong Malim, Malaya, arising out of the curfew, has been left to charitable organisations and how far it has been undertaken by the Government; to what extent the supply of food is adequate; what attention is given to the villagers' cattle during the curfew period; and when the curfew will be lifted.

Local communal organisations provided relief for the poorer inhabitants of Tanjong Malim. It has not proved necessary for the Government to give relief. The supply of food is adequate. The 22-hour house curfew was lifted on 9th April. There is now a house curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. over the whole area and a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in some districts. During the period of daytime curfew, arrangements were made, at the villagers' request, for cattle to be brought within the perimeter area and owners were allowed out each morning and evening to care for them.

While it will give some satisfaction to right-thinking people that the curfew has been withdrawn for at least some period, is the Minister aware that the period of the curfew was for 22 out of 24 hours; that people live four and five in a room and were not allowed to leave their houses to go to an outside latrine, and were fined 50 dollars for so doing—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask a supplementary question which is nothing but an effort to pass on information?

In general, supplementary questions should be interrogatory, but I have known them used as a vehicle for imparting information. Mr. Awbery.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is because of the requests of the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians that the curfew has been reduced by several hours?

I have no information upon that. I only say that the curfew has been reduced—

I have no information that it was at their request. I only know that it has been reduced, and I would remind the hon. Member that these measures are far less severe than those taken in similar cases by our predecessors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what have been the results of the system of collective punishment on Tanjong Malim in bringing about greater co-operation from the people; and if he will give instructions that, in future, collective punishment should not be used.

Useful information has been received but it is as yet too soon to assess the full results of the measures taken at Tanjong Malim. I have no intention of interfering with General Templer's reasonable exercise of the discretion entrusted to him to deal with the very serious situation in Malaya.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this form of collective punishment is very repugnant to right-thinking people—

—and that this method is causing hostility against the Government among the people of Malaya? Is he doing all he can to protect the people during the period of the curfew?

The answer to the second part of the question is, "Yes." Wherever we can, we are endeavouring to improve the wire round these new villages.

While it is undesirable to cause embarrassment to General Templer, who has been appointed to undertake this difficult task, will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is desirable, on the other hand, that General Templer should proceed with the utmost caution in enforcing collective punishment, which may not be at all efficacious?

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that these measures are not primarily punitive. They are in the main in order to prevent rice being passed through the wire to the bandits, and also to control movement in these black spots. I repeat that they are much less severe than some measures which have been taken in the past.

While I quite appreciate the difficulty, may I beg the right hon. Gentleman to understand that many of us, while not wishing to cause any embarrassment to General Templer, are anxious that he should not proceed in a direction which may have very serious repercussions?

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman asked that question. I say freely that the use of these measures has to be confined to places where demonstrably the inhabitants are helping the terrorists against our Forces in a way they should not. They will not be applied in a wholesale manner or without careful consideration of the circumstances. I hope that re-assures the right hon. Gentleman.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as new collective methods by the bandits, both of mass murder and of helping their own supporters, come into operation, equally new methods have to be taken against them?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that repressive measures on a collective scale of this kind have always had the effect, not of reducing resistance to them, but of increasing it? Is he also aware that there is no war crime in history that has not been justified by the doctrine of giving unquestioning, blind support to the commander in the field?

I can accept neither suggestion of the hon. Member. I am afraid each is founded on ignorance of the circumstances.

Police Officer (Wife's Allowance)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why he refuses to take any action in the case of Lieutenant Birnie of the Malayan Police who is receiving pay at married rates but refuses to pay to his wife Mrs. A. C. Birnie, Hove, the married increment which he is receiving; why he has failed to take steps to bring home to this officer his obligation to provide adequate main-enance for his wife out of the resources available to him; upon what grounds he justifies this misapplication of public funds; and whether, if this officer continues to appropriate to himself money intended for his wife's support, payment of such increment will be stopped.

I have no jurisdiction in this matter and there has been no misapplication of public funds. Lieutenant Birnie has been paid strictly in accordance with the terms of his service as set out in his contract with the Government of the Federation of Malaya.

The question of his allotment to his wife was brought to Lieutenant Birnie's attention by the Malayan authorities but he said that he was not prepared to increase the allotment to which his wife is entitled under their voluntary separation agreement. Any variation in the amount is a matter for mutual agreement or for the courts.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is not a solitary case? There are many similar instances in which his Department is being lamentably spineless. Will he take the necessary action to bring home to the officers responsible for the support of their wives that money provided for them out of public funds is intended for that purpose?

I am afraid I can do nothing in matters over which I have no jurisdiction.