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Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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Anti-Terrorist Operations


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the progress of operations in Malaya.

The operations against the terrorists are proceeding satisfactorily. The general policy is to deny them supplies and maintain steady pressure on them everywhere, bringing special concentrations of troops to areas where the danger is most.

One good indication of the progress made by the Security Forces is the large proportion of party leaders among the terrorists killed or captured in the past year. Another is the admission in captured documents of the effectiveness of the blockade of supplies. As a result of this progress it was found possible last Sunday to declare a new white area in north Kelantan, with a population of 360,000. This brings the combined population of the white areas to 1,120,000, or one-fifth of the total population of the Federation.

Will my right hon. Friend take comfort from the thought that in all the three countries mentioned in my three Questions he has won confidence by his wisdom and firmness?

Batu Arang (Dismissed Coalminers)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the township of Batu Arang, Malaya, depends entirely upon one coal pit; that 800 men from this pit have been dismissed since October; that 300 more have now been given notice, and that this township is likely to become a depressed area; and what steps are being taken to find alternative employment for these men and to supply them with unemployment pay while they are without work.

I am aware that Batu Arang depends mainly on one coal pit, but some inhabitants also earn money by growing vegetables for sale. My information is that only 450 men have been paid off since October, and that most of these have found other work. The company is now paying off 300 more men in batches, and efforts to find work for them are being made, through the employment exchange and by other means. Some are reluctant to take work elsewhere and are expanding their market gardening; and the company is at present allowing them to remain in occupation of their quarters and land. There is no unemployment insurance scheme, but there is a public assistance scheme. The question of giving relief work, should this become necessary, is under consideration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the only colliery in Malaya, that its two chief customers are now turning to means of obtaining power other than coal, and that the result will be that this colliery area will become distressed unless something is done to help? Will he keep his eye on this matter to see that these men do not fall into distressed conditions and that assistance is given to them if they should become unemployed?

If the hon. Member will consider my answer he will see that we have the matter in hand and are quite prepared to give relief if it should be necessary.

School Children (Meals)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the Institute of Medical Research in Malaya has reported that many children from the rural areas travel long distances to school without a meal and get nothing until they return home in the afternoon; that this is retarding both their physical and mental progress; and if he will take steps to provide a midday meal at the schools for these children.

Yes, Sir. The Federation Government are at present considering the report of a committee set up last year to examine the problem.

Will the Minister bear in mind that these children have a long way to go and have nothing to eat from the time they leave their homes until late in the afternoon? Will he press the local people to take some steps to provide these children with meals during the morning or early in the afternoon?

The nature of this problem is well known to the Federation Government, but the need for pushing on with primary education is probably even more urgent than that of providing the amenities to which the hon. Member refers.