rose to call attention to the situation in Malaya; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the wording of my Motion is of necessity formal. I am in point of fact moving to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the state of affairs in Malaya—and if, by that, His Majesty's Government imagine that I am implying that all is not well with the policy pursued by them in the conduct of affairs in Malaya, their imaginations are not running away with them. Some courtesies have already been exchanged across the floor this afternoon. I hope the noble Earl will acquit me of any discourtesy or brusqueness if I say at the outset that in my opinion the policy of the noble Earl, and of His Majesty's Government, with regard to Malaya has been vacillating, complacent and unrealistic. Of course, I am not making any personal attack against the noble Earl. He has taken the trouble to go out himself to Malaya to see what was happening; and he has, as always, been helpful, courteous, friendly—and seriously misinformed.
We have recently welcomed back into this country the Commissioner-General in the Far East, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, and we were very glad to take the opportunity of congratulating Mr. MacDonald on the sterling work he is doing in very difficult circumstances. He made a report, a very encouraging report—I hope it will not prove over-encouraging. Clearly, there has been an improvement in the state of affairs in Malaya within the last few weeks—and a very welcome improvement too. It can be put down, I think, to two reasons. One was the invoking of emergency powers this summer—which in the opinion of many was long overdue. The second is the very determined and skilful performance put up by the Army in Malaya, consisting of British and Gurkha troops, the Malay Regiment and police; and also by the courage of the planters and miners themselves. I do not think the people of this country quite realise what the planters have been going through and how much we owe them. They have had a very thin time indeed; many of them have already been subjected to three and a half years' imprisonment and worse; many are no longer young men. They had a stiff enough task, in all conscience, to rebuild their homes and rehabilitate their estates; and now, just as they have got their lives and their work properly reorganized, along comes this trouble. If the planters had given in, or if the Communist attack had been more skilful, Malaya would have gone down in chaos, because if the planters had left their posts hundreds of thousands of labourers would have been left to wander over Malaya without leadership, and without protection. That, I think, is something which we in this country forget. We pay too little tribute to them. They are startled and angry when they realise that the only attention that this country pays to them is to level at them unfounded accusations of exploitation. Those accusations are adequately refuted by the Report published recently in Kualar Lumpur by Mr. Awbery and Mr. Dailey.
We praise the energy and enthusiasm with which the planters are rebuilding Malaya, turning her into the biggest dollar-earning agency of the British Empire, and then hurl abuse at that very private enterprise of which they themselves are a splendid example. The planters in Malaya view with a sharp and candid eye the policy which His Majesty's Government have pursued, and which they themselves believe has seriously aggravated the difficulties. What exactly is that policy? That is not a rhetorical question. I do not know the answer myself, and I do not really believe that His Majesty's Government know the answer. A post-mortem is never a very satisfactory procedure, certainly for the corpse, but I think that in this case we might examine the history of His Majesty's Government's conduct in Malaya.
There is no getting away from the fact that His Majesty's Government have asked for trouble in Malaya. It is no good blaming the Communists entirely for what has happened in the last three years. My only surprise is that the Communists have not been more successful. As regards the Communists, half a dozen Russian-educated men have been enabled to gain control of a large undisciplined body, and to turn it to terrible advantage. That should be a lesson to us here at home. I had an opportunity of talking to several of the men who have been captured in the recent sweeps, and they did not strike me as being Communists in the way we might possibly understand the word. Few of them, I suspect, know as much about dialectical materialism as do your Lordships. The Communists have got hold of the guerrillas, the squatters and young hooligans who have been running loose for three and a half years, not knowing the meaning of law and order. They are simply Oriental spivs. Communism is not, therefore, wholly responsible.
We ourselves have made further serious mistakes. First and foremost there is our failure to round up all the arms and ammunition which we ourselves poured into the country during the war. We could quite easily have got most of them back. We demobilised the local Forces much too soon. We have been very lax in training and recruiting for the police—particularly in providing ammunition and wireless. We then imposed upon the country a complicated system of trade unionism for which Malaya was totally unprepared, with the result that trade unionism soon fell into the wrong hands. By May of this year, over 60 per cent. of the unions were controlled by Communists, for the Communist Party was not banned until July of this year.
It is untrue to say that the present movement in Malaya is in any way nationalist or anti-British. There is, naturally, as the result of the war, a greater feeling of nationalism in the country, but to paint a picture of rising indignation against British rule is totally untrue. We also failed to round up the large numbers of notorious "bad hats." Whilst this was going on, and before the country had been completely cleaned up, we attempted to launch there an overambitious scheme of social reform. I use the word "we"; I do not quite know what is meant by "we." I do not know what should be the apportionment of blame between His Majesty's Government—although His Majesty's Government are, of course, ultimately responsible—and the late Sir Edward Gent.
It is an easy and contemptible thing to heap abuse upon the memory of a dead man, but I believe that Sir Edward Gent is not so responsible for what happened as is generally believed. Certainly, when he went out from this country to Malaya, he saw eye to eye with the Government. When he got there and tried to solve on the ground problems which were all too easy to solve, on paper, in Whitehall, he radically changed his views. It was the difficulty that he experienced in making the Colonial Office realise that he had changed his views which caused so much administrative confusion in Malaya, without in any way shaking the Government's optimism and complacency at home. His Majesty's Government are themselves clearly responsible for several things. They withheld from Sir Edward Gent the power of banishment, which his predecessors had always needed for the maintenance of law and order. They revoked the system whereby secret societies had to establish their bona fides before they could be legalised. There are many other matters that I could quote as examples of the curious ways in which Whitehall tried to solve the Malayan problem.
Perhaps I may give one small example which will illustrate what I am trying to say. Clause 7 (3) of the Malayan Trades Union (Amendment) Bill was before the Malayan Legislature for consideration in May of this year. That clause lays down that no man may hold office in a trade union until he has served for three years in that particular trade or calling. That is a reasonable enough provision, one would have thought, but, for some extraordinary reason, London ordered Kuala Lumpur to strike that clause out of the Bill. Why? One is led to the suspicion that certain members of the Cabinet at home were more than a little uneasy about a provision which insisted that a man should be qualified in his job before he could be appointed to a high office. That principle may have caused uneasiness in Cabinet circles at home. I believe, in short, that His Majesty's Government have misappreciated the dangers of the situation in Malaya for the whole of the last three years.
I should like to give your Lordships one final example. Your Lordships will remember that we were told upon July 1 of this year that the civil authorities in Malaya had at their disposal in the country all the armed forces that were necessary for the maintenance of law and order. Since that date, Malaya has seen the arrival of no fewer than five battalions of British infantry. Not even this Government ought to be that wrong! This conflict may or may not have been avoidable. Certainly, we have aggravated it by our policy. A certain amount of forethought and courage would have mitigated the trouble considerably. This trouble in Malaya, so far, has cost us 250 killed. It will cost us more. It has also cost us £3,000,000 of money. It will cost us more. For all the optimism exercised by high officials, there is still a long and hitter conflict ahead before even the Asian population can be protected against intimidation.
We have heard and read in the newspapers how unfortunate this campaign is, in view of the fact that at the moment Malaya earns the largest number of dollars in the British Empire. I would say categorically, however, that my primary interest in Malaya, and my anxiety, are in no way connected with the question of dollars or dividends. I am concerned with the lives and the safety of His Majesty's subjects in Malaya. Therefore, we assure His Majesty's Government that they will have our complete support in any proposals that they put forward to end this campaign and to reduce the bloodshed. If the problems in the past have been difficult, those of the future are no easier. What, for instance, is to prevent Malaya from becoming a second Palestine? The pattern is now all too familiar: Ulstermen and the Southern Irish, Hindu and Moslem, Arab and Jew—and now Chinese and Malay. The two peoples jogged along comfortably enough before the Second World War, but the Japanese did everything they could to drive a wedge between them, and met with a fair measure of success.
The Chinese have net come well out of this present campaign of terror. Nearly
all the bandits are Chinese, and nearly all the forces of law and order are Malay. Over 20,000 Malays have joined the police since the trouble began, and only 400 Chinese. Nevertheless, all the money, initiative, enterprise and trade come from the Chinese. They are multiplying fast. They are rapidly overtaking the Malays. Our debt of loyalty is to the Malays. It is not a sufficient answer merely to say that because Malaya has been Malay for 4,000 years, it must stay Malay. That is an unrealistic answer. Some modus vivendi must be found. The Chinese, unfortunately, are looking over their shoulders to China. Their roots are not deep enough in Malaya. They are looking back to a chaotic and Communist-ridden China—a China which has no love for us. The Chinese are perfectly prepared to be loyal to us in Malaya, provided it is worth their while, and provided they see something concrete to which they can give their loyalty. Some are doubting that at the moment.
The first question I would ask His Majesty's Government is, therefore: What is His Majesty's policy with regard to the rift between the Chinese and the Malayans? How do they envisage enabling these two peoples, both of whom are worth so much, to settle down to some happy form of life? Some form of constitutional revision must inevitably be involved. The history of the Constitution in Malaya has not been a happy one; it has been one of muddle and confusion. I suppose the trouble was that priorities were wrong in the planning stage. It is, of course, easy to be wise after the event, but I should have thought it would have been wise to use the old Constitution which worked well, and so get the country out of the chaos. Instead, however, we took out a prefabricated Constitution and fastened it on the country while chaos still reigned. The Malayan Union was all right in its way. The Constitution itself, as far as it went, was not so bad. It had some good points. But it was the way in which we tried to force it down the throats of the Malays which was wrong. It amounted almost to sharp practice—certainly the Sultans thought so, and certainly the Malays thought so. Then we were forced, almost in the face of serious trouble, to retract completely and try and introduce some form of federation; and that displeased the Chinese as much as the Malayan Union had displeased the Malays. Both sections now have an impression of vacillation, of uncertainty. They do not know what we are going to do next.
How do we envisage the future Constitution of the Malayan Peninsula? It is, as I have said, confused. The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, with his organisation, has now left. That still leaves, however, three separate organisations. At the top—at least, I think it is at the top—there is the Commissioner-General, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who is there in an advisory capacity, in a co-ordinating capacity, but who has no executive authority. He is, in fact, the ultimate authority without any authority. He is the man to whom decisions must be referred, but who is unable to decide. He is the one thing which is anathema to the oriental mind—the ruler who cannot rule. Then, under him, we have the Federation of Malaya, with a High Commissioner and a large staff, a Colonial Secretary, a Chief Justice, and all the administrative trimmings; and then just across the Johore Causeway, we find the Customs House between Johore and Singapore—that fine monument to Socialist imperialism. Then we come to Singapore, where we have a harbour board to look after the docks, the Admiralty concerning itself with the naval dockyard in the north, a city council looking after the government of the city in an island the size of the Isle of Wight, and, on top of all that, another Governor, Council, and Colonial Secretary with all his trimmings.
The astonishing thing is that, despite this excess of Excellencies, despite this gubernatorial gallimaufry, Singapore appears to be tolerably well governed. How much longer can we allow this ridiculous situation to go on? Surely it must be possible to devise some sort of amalgamation which will allow the Commissioner-General to govern, which will not allow the predominantly Chinese influence of Singapore to out-weigh the whole of the Malay feeling in the rest of the country. Can we not stop thinking about the Federation of Malaya and Colony of Singapore, and think of Malaya as a country? What is His Majesty's Government's idea of the future of Malaya? How do they envisage the country in five or ten years time? How do they see orderly progress towards Dominion status—or do they favour the delight of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the pending liquidation of the British Empire? I cannot help thinking, if I may say so with respect, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in no way helping the situation when he made that deplorable speech. What must the people in Malaya think when a responsible Minister of the Crown (a Minister of the Crown to whom many of us now look for sanity, judgment and common sense) indulges in a piece of catchpenny clap-trap like that? What effect must that have in Malaya?
If His Majesty's Government are seriously considering promoting the evacuation of the British from Malaya, they are doing that country no good service. Neither the Chinese nor the Malays are competent to run the country without British help, and they are both aware of it. The Chinese are far too interested in making money ever to be interested in running a country. The Malays are not political animals; they are loyal, honest, friendly and simple. They lack, in fact, every quality of the rising politician. There are few politicians in Malaya and fewer statesmen. There are all too few men of the quality of Dato Onn Bin Ja'afar, the Prime Minister of Johore.
What are His Majesty's Government doing to promote a greater sense of civic activity in Malaya? Are we to allow the situation to drift, as we have done so often in the past, optimistically hoping that the people will find their feet and master the art of self-government? The road to self-government necessitates, more than anything, hard work; and until we get it out of our heads that the Malays can reach their goal otherwise than by this means there will be confusion and probably bloodshed. Whether we like it or not, we are now on trial in Malaya. Whether we like it or not, the Malays think that we let them down in 1942, when we failed to honour our bargain to protect and guard their country. They feel they should not be called upon to pay this £3,000,000 for a campaign which, they say, was aggravated by the policy of His Majesty's Government. They say: "Why are His Majesty's Government not prepared to pay for the use of British troops in Malaya to combat Communism when they are prepared to pay for them to do the same task in Greece?"
Why should our war damage contribution to the Malays, who still look with loyalty to the Crown, be so much less than our war damage contribution to the Burmese, who now look to the Kremlin for their guidance? They ask even whether it is in their interests to continue to allow us to derive the vast profit and advantage which we do from a Malaya which is able to earn more dollars than we can. They look in fact with a critical eye on the future conduct of His Majesty's Government. They are looking for firmness, and all they have had is Fabian flabbiness. They are looking for leadership, and all they get are lectures from the London School of Economics. His Majesty's Government must stop playing politics in Malaya. One suspects—but I am prepared to be contradicted—that the Colonial Office do not really understand what is happening there, and are not prepared to learn.
My Lords, Malaya is the last bulwark against Communism and chaos in the Far East. We have never had a better friend than Malaya, and now we are on trial in front of our friends. In two wars the Malayans have poured out men and money to come to our aid in times of danger. The Malayans themselves are now in danger. They look to us for help. They look to us to repay what they regard as a debt of loyalty. We, in our turn, look to His Majesty's Government to profit by their past mistakes. It is in the hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will forget their past ideas, repair their past mistakes and bend their minds to the task of leading Malaya back to the peace and prosperity which she once enjoyed, and which surely she has the right to enjoy again, that I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I am on my feet now at the request of the noble Viscount opposite. I am delighted to oblige him by providing a rather broader target than would otherwise have been available for his verbal shafts, because we welcome any criticism or advice which any noble Lord may wish to offer. We know that any criticism made in this House will be delivered without an undue dosage of Party animus and with the sincere desire to help Malaya and to help us here to give the Malayan authorities the support which they need. The noble Viscount, I think, referred to me the other day as a useful, or potentially useful, man for contacts with different parts of the Commonwealth. That is exactly what I aspire to be. I spent a few weeks at the beginning of this year in Malaya, and I hope to give the House an accurate and fairly comprehensive picture of the situation there and of the events that led up to it. I shall also, of course, deal with policy. I venture to hope that there will be a wide measure of agreement between this side of the House and noble Lords opposite, because my story will consist largely of facts which I think have been to some extent misunderstood and, perhaps, on occasions, misrepresented.I should like to remind the House that the present outbreak of violence in Malaya is part of a widespread epidemic of violence in South-East Asia resulting from the war. There have been similar happenings in Indo-China and Indonesia, and they are all a direct result of the military measures that had to be taken by the Allied Forces to drive the Japanese out of occupied territory. When the Japanese occupied Malaya, it was the Chinese in Malaya who were mainly responsible for organised resistance. All sections of the Chinese community joined in the resistance movement, but the most powerful groups were the Communist-dominated Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army and the Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Army organised by the Kuomintang. The high command was nominally shared by representatives of these two groups but, in fact, the Communist leaders retained control of the whole resistance movement and used this golden opportunity to indoctrinate the rank and file, drawn from the poorer classes of Chinese, in Communism. Thus it was that as long ago as that the Malayan Communist Party, during the three years in which the resistance movement was the sole organised opposition to the Japanese, had sufficient time to give the raw recruits to the guerrillas a thorough schooling in the theory and the practice of Communism. The jungle became what has been termed—picturesquely but accurately, I think in the Awbery-Dalley Report to which the noble Lord referred—a forcing house for Communism. The young guerrillas not only studied Marxism and Leninism, but learnt the use of firearms and the technique of guerrilla warfare, terrorism and sabotage which they are practising at this moment. The appetite of the Communists for power was whetted by the short interval between the surrender and the withdrawal of the Japanese, and the establishment of the British Military Administration, for during this time elements of the guerrilla resistance forces assumed control of the administration in Malaya in certain areas. They regarded themselves as the successors of the Japanese and as the forerunners of the Malayan Communist Republic. But in August, 1945, the British Administration obtained effective control of the country. The guerrilla forces were ordered to disband their men, and to hand in the arms with which they had been equipped to fight the Japanese. We now know that instead of obeying these orders—as the noble Lord opposite has mentioned—they must have hidden large quantities of the arms and ammunition abandoned by the Japanese or dropped by Allied aircraft in the remoter parts of the country during the war. It is difficult to tell, in the circumstances prevailing at that time, whether it would have been possible to avoid the concealment of large quantities of arms and ammunition in remote parts of the Malayan jungle. I have dwelt at some length on this remoter historical background of current events because it explains so much that is happening now. There are so many misunderstandings about the real cause of our present difficulties. The Far Eastern War left in its wake a small but highly dangerous section of the population soaked in Communist ideology, trained and disciplined in guerrilla tactics, and in possession of a substantial supply of arms and ammunition. I think everyone will agree that it was not the fault of the United Kingdom Government, or of the civil authorities in Malaya, that this powder magazine was inherited by the Civil Administration when they took over from the Military Government. The war and the Japanese occupation strengthened the hands of the Communists in yet another way. We all know that Communism thrives on misery, and, indeed, I think it was Karl Marx who objected to social reform in capitalist countries because it lessens the misery of the people. The Civil Administration was immediately faced on its return by the economic consequences of the interruption of trade and the virtual cessation of production in an immensely rich territory during the war years. There was a general and grave shortage of rice, the staple diet in Malaya, and food prices were soaring. The Governments of the Federation and Singapore decided, very wisely, I think, in view of the position, to ration rice and to control the price. Even so, in the early period after the liberation the daily ration amounted to only 3.3 ounces, or less than one half of the present ration which everyone regards as a bare minimum—7.6 ounces in the Federation and 8.2 ounces in Singapore. Many thousands of manual workers in the early days, after the Japanese had been driven out, were kept on their feet only by buying food at exorbitant prices on the black market. This period of real hunger among large sections of the population provided fresh grist for the Communist mill. It was the occupation and the distress that followed it that made the Communists so formidable in Malaya. Now there have been, I think, two distinct and successive phases in Communist policy, since the liberation, for imposing their will upon the people of the country. The first, which lasted from August, 1945, to May, 1948, was the phase of indirect action, of avoiding overt and organised violence and keeping carefully and deliberately within the legal and constitutional framework, both in the Federation and in Singapore. At this time, the Malayan Communist Party set out to capture the trade unions by infiltrating into their membership, by planting their cells wherever they found a large group of workers, organised or unorganised, and by linking together their separate unions and cells in a General Labour Union. They hoped in this way to produce economic chaos, and to be able thereafter to dictate their terms to the authorities. In 1946, the General Labour Union, this Communist federation of unions, had captured all the unions in Singapore and was able to call a short general strike. But the Government of the Colony perceived the immense danger in the political use of this economic weapon, and in March of that year—as long ago as March, 1946—decided to banish a number of the union leaders. This did not stop the process of infiltration into the trade unions. The success of this Communist campaign can be measured by the fact that in 1947 there were 360 strikes or labour disputes in the Federation alone, involving about 70,000 workers. During the investigation of these disputes many cases of intimidation, in which the workers were forced by threats of violence to strike, came to light, and there is no doubt that the power of the Communists in the unions was not at any moment due to their numbers but to their blackmailing methods, which is something of which we have no experience in this country and which is hard to believe unless one has seen it at work. We lack sufficient knowledge to be able to say exactly why the Communist Party in Malaya decided to switch over from indirect to direct action and to attempt the overthrow of the Government of the Federation by the organised violence and sabotage which began in June of this year. There were no doubt several factors which contributed to this change of mind. We cannot discount outside influence, which the pattern of Communist violence in South East Asia obviously suggests. It had also become clear that the two Governments were determined to break Communist influence in the unions and to see that organised labour developed on the normal lines of collective bargaining for economic objectives. Then the rehabilitation and economic recovery of the country was making large strides forward Rice had become increasingly plentiful and constitutional advances in both Singapore and the Federation were attracting moderate opinion towards co-operation with the authorities. The prospect of advance towards self-government by orderly and gradual stages and of a steadily improving standard of life may well have convinced the Communists that their future was black. Some or all of these considerations were no doubt in the minus of the Communist leaders when, acknowledging the failure of their efforts to get their way by constitutional means, they decided to impose their will by force upon the vast majority of the inhabitants of Malaya. What we now know is that it would have been impossible for the authorities in Malaya to anticipate the switch-over to direct action much in advance of the date when the outbreak began, because the decision was not taken by the Communist leaders themselves earlier than March of this year. From the moment it became evident that revolutionary violence had been adopted, the two Governments did not hesitate to take special powers, with the full support of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and to act with the utmost firmness to stamp out this campaign of murder and sabotage. After five months of fighting in Malaya, it is not too early to say that the Communist bandits have failed, utterly and completely, to achieve their ends. They have not overthrown the established Government of the country; they have not paralysed its economic life, and they have completely failed to rally any substantial proportion of the peoples of Malaya to their side. Let me deal with my last point first. The population of the Federation and Singapore numbers about 6,000,000. The terrorist bands muster between 3,000 and 5,000 armed men and receive active support from a few thousand Communist supporters. It is evident from this that they, civilian and armed bandits taken together, represent only a minute fraction of the total population. The movement is recruited almost entirely from the Chinese in Malaya. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made that point so abundantly clear. This is borne out strikingly by the latest figures of casualties amongst the bandits since the outbreak began. Of the total number killed and captured to date, 435 were Chinese, 15 were Malays, 2 were Indians and 6 were foreigners. This does not mean, of course—and it would be a great misfortune if anyone were to draw the wrong conclusion—that the Chinese community in Malaya is against us. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of the Chinese are on our side. Many of them are British subjects who have lived for generations in Malaya, whereas a number of the Chinese Communists are recent immigrants whose loyalty is to China, and not to Malaya or the Commonwealth. Another indication of the fact that the trouble-makers are essentially a Chinese revolutionary movement is that their victims have been mainly not British or Malay officials or British business men, but the Chinese political opponents of the Chinese Communists. May I illustrate that again from the casualty figures? In the last five months, 262 civilian men, women and children have been murdered by the bandits. Of these, 20 were Europeans, 8 Indians, 38 Malays and 189, or about three times the number of all the other victims put together, were Chinese. The conclusion which I think one can legitimately draw from these facts and figures is that the great majority of the population of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Singapore—European, Malay, Indian and Chinese—abhor the dastardly crimes that are being committed by a handful of violent men, and that their loyalty remains unshaken by the perverse ingenuity of Communist propaganda. The average inhabitant of every race is in fact co-operating splendidly with the authorities in their efforts to restore law and order at the earliest possible moment. Their support has been shown in deeds and in the personal risks they have accepted, as well as in words. Appeals have been made for auxiliary police and special constables to help in the protection of villages, estates, mines and other likely targets. The response from the local population was admirable and exemplary. Ten thousand auxiliary police and 25,000 special constables were raised without any substantial delay—every single man after the trouble had begun in June. In fact, the response was so good that the best men only were taken and many willing volunteers had to be turned away. The bandits have also failed to paralyse the economic life of the country. They had hoped by murders and threats of killing to intimidate the labourers on the rubber estates and in the tin mines, on the railways and at the docks, so that the labour force throughout Malaya would be terrified into laying down their tools. This would have brought the trade and industry of the country to a complete standstill. But far from being intimidated by these armed gangs, which sprang out at them from their hiding places in the jungle, labour and management in many of the concerns on which the prosperity of Malaya has been built carried on their jobs without loss of morale or decrease in efficiency. For example, rubber production has been splendidly maintained. Production in April of this year, a typical pre-disturbance month, still reflecting the tide of recovery, was just over 66,000 tons. In September it had climbed again to 64,000 tons, and at no time fell more than fractionally below 50,000 tons. In the case of other primary products, the rise in production has been virtually uninterrupted. Production of palm oil in April was 3,600 tons; in September it had risen to 4,300 tons. Coconut oil production in April was 4,000 tons; in September, well over 5,000 tons was produced. Tin production has climbed steadily from 3,500 tons in April to nearly 4,000 tons in August, and very little less in September. The output of coal has increased from 27,000 tons in April to 31,500 tons in Septembér. I apologise for wearying the House with a string of figures, but I think your Lordships will excuse me, because I am using them to prove something of outstanding importance. I am sure your Lordships will agree that these figures are solid testimony to the resolution and loyalty of the primary producers of Malaya. I should like at this point to pay a tribute, with which I am sure the House would wish to be associated, to the courage and determination of the gallant body of men and women, many of them living in remote and isolated places, who have continued to do their normal work despite the ordeal of recent months. All the time they were under the shadow of this terror which lurked, day and night, in the jungle. I have told your Lordships that the armed Communists do not number more than from 3,000 to 5,000 men. They are, of course, enormously outnumbered by our soldiers and armed police, and they would be easily wiped out, or forced to surrender, if they were operating in open country. But they have one ally peculiar to the area in which they are fighting which we cannot destroy, and which will undoubtedly prolong their resistance. This ally is the tropical jungle which covers most of the Peninsula. No One who has travelled across it by air will forget the green sea of dense jungle growth, stretching from one side to the other, until it gives way to a narrow strip of open country running down the coast. The wooded rubber estates and wild jungle are ideal haling places for these small bands of armed fanatics. They are careful not to operate with a large or concentrated military force, limiting their striking units to small groups of twelve to twenty men. Each small band conducts its local campaign of killing, burning and sabotage. They choose their own time and place to ambush a car, raid a village or cut a railway track. When the job is done they retreat again to their jungle camps. When opposed, they never stand and fight. As soon as police or troops appear on the scene they escape into the immense expanse of trackless undergrowth, where they cannot be seen or followed by their pursuers. Of course, they would not survive long in the jungle without supplies of food, but unfortunately they are at present in a position to obtain the food they want from the thousands of squatters whose paddy fields and vegetable gardens lie close to their jungle encampments. Sometimes voluntarily, but usually under compulsion, these squatters feed and shelter the terrorists, and it is quite impossible for the police to watch every area in which these widely scattered settlements are placed. Some of their villages have been destroyed by our forces, and their inhabitants resettled in arears where they can be watched by the police. I can assure the House that we are carefully considering other measures to deal with the squatter problem, and that action will not be ineffective or delayed. These are local conditions which make the rooting out of these armed bandits a slow and difficult process, and which enable them to strike back with isolated acts of murder and sabotage. But whatever advantage they may take of these opportunities of concealment and escape, we for our part—the Malayan authorities, and His Majesty's Government who are supporting them—will continue our military action against the bandits until the last gang is broken up and the last bandit captured or destroyed. Our counter-measures have already altered the tactics of the bandits, who are now less ambitious in their choice of targets, confining themselves to those easiest to attack, such as single vehicles and unguarded communications. During the past month the bandits have carried out a number of attacks on railways and road communications. Our own activities have been widespread, and in Johore and the Sungei Siput area of Perak have been particularly successful. During the last week of October thirteen bandits were killed and two wounded, and thirteen enemy camps were located by our forces. In the week ending November 5—the last full week for which we have the figures—seven bandits were killed and four wounded, and four camps were destroyed, while between November 6 and November 8 ten more bandits were killed by the armed police—that is, in the last two days. The number and effectiveness of our operations will increase steadily with the stronger ferret forces which will be available as the training of military and police in jungle warfare progresses. But it is not only by military measures that the authorities have set out to crush Communist violence in Malaya. Revolutionary violence and extreme political views are nourished by want and despair. They spread where material standards are low, where there is small prospect of their improvement by higher wages and better social conditions, and where the machinery for peaceful constitutional change in response to public opinion is defective or wholly absent. Our policy in Malaya, ever since the war ended (and I am prepared to defend it to the utmost, even though, I may add, that policy has not been the policy of any single Party, but the policy of a series of Governments, controlled by different Parties, in this country) has been to raise material standards and to encourage the movement towards political freedom, not only because these things are good in themselves, but because they are the best possible antidote to the Communist virus. I have already mentioned the improved standard of life which has resulted from a more plentiful supply of rice for the average worker in the towns and in the countryside. To champion the worker's rights in his employment we have encouraged the growth of a vigorous democratic trade union movement, which has already secured many advantages for employees in different occupations, and has benefited employers by substituting stable, contractual relationships for the constant menace of sudden stoppages, or even outbreaks of violence. We owe a great deal to the trade union advisers of both Governments, whose efforts to foster the healthy development of workers' organisations along the right lines have undoubtedly saved them from falling completely into the hands of the Malayan Communist Party. I think it is very important that there should be no misunderstanding about the contribution that healthy democratic trade unionism has made to prevent the sort of trade unionism dominated by the Communists, which has done so much damage in Malaya. When I was in Malaya I heard many tributes from Indian, Chinese and Malay trade union officials to the encouragement which they had received from the trade union departments of the Government, and I know that these tributes were thoroughly deserved. I will cite only two examples—although many others might be given if time allowed—of what the authorities have done, and are doing, to improve the social services in Malaya. These two examples I will take from education and housing. A ten-year programme of educational development was prepared both in the Federation and in Singapore immediately after the return of the civil Government. The principal aim of this programme is universal literacy, by means of a system of free primary education for all children—the same type of system that we have in this country. There will be a gradual elimination of the present system of separate vernacular schools, and everyone will learn English. This, of course, will cover girls as well as boys, and the minimum primary course will last six years. The importance of this educational basis for racial understanding and co-operation—the need for which was emphasised, and rightly emphasised, by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft—can hardly be exaggerated, and it is no less important for the intelligent use of the franchise in time to come. The most significant advance in higher education is the acceptance of the recommendation of the Carr Saunders Commission that there should be a University of Malaya, with power to grant degrees equivalent to those given by any other university, and with the three faculties of Arts, Science and Medicine. There will, of course, be no bar to entry on the grounds of race or religion, and the extension of university education to those sections of the population which have not hitherto benefited according to their numbers should result in a more balanced social structure, with the Malays taking a full share in appointments to Government service and to the different professions. It is fortunate that the existence of Raffles College and the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore will provide a nucleus for the new university. The university is to be built on a new site at Johore Bahru, but it is hoped to start degree courses in the buildings of the College of Medicine and Raffles College as early as October. 1949. The capital cost of this project is estimated to be between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, of which £1,000,000 has been earmarked by the United Kingdom Government. When I was in Singapore I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Allen, who is Principal-designate of the new university, and I can assure your Lordships that the planning for its future could not be in better or more experienced hands. I should like to say something about housing, especially with reference to Singapore. No one can have visited that great teeming city without being horrified by the congested living conditions of the Chinese population, and the high incidence of tuberculosis is, of course, largely a result of bad housing. The Singapore Improvement Trust, set up by the Colonial Government, has already done good work in Singapore, and during last year the building programme included four new housing projects and amounted to a total of 1,500,000 Straits dollars. I saw some of the new flats that have been completed. They seemed to me to be thoroughly well constructed and equipped, and they were immensely appreciated by their occupants. The Singapore Housing Committee, which is responsible for planning, has also recommended the creation of eight satellite towns of 50,000 inhabitants each on Singapore Island, outside the city. This is a most grandiose and ambitious housing scheme. The estimated cost of this long-term housing project is about £35,500,000, spread over a period of twenty years. The noble Lord opposite seems to be slightly skeptical—
I said, "Hear, hear" at the word "grandiose."
It is a very large scheme. I am certainly prepared to modify my epithet, in deference to the noble Lord. I am quite convinced, however, that only a large scheme can meet the needs of Singapore. I am convinced that be realisation of this programme will contribute more to the health and happiness of the people of Singapore than any other social service that has hitherto been undertaken by the Colonial Government.As the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made particular reference to this subject, I should like to say something about the record and prospects of constitutional progress in the Federation and Singapore, and to persuade your Lordships—if persuasion be needed—that the record is good and the prospect fair. Our policy was laid down ii the Federation of Malaya Agreement between the Malay Rulers and the late High Commissioner, Sir Edward Gent. This Agreement was foreshadowed in the White Paper of July, 1947, and I should like to remind your Lordships of the paragraph about the aim and the method of political evolution in Malaya. This paragraph records that it is the desire of His Majesty and Their Highnesses the Rulers that progress should be made towards eventual self-government, and that as a first step to that end, His Majesty and Their Highnesses have agreed that, as soon as circumstances and local conditions permit, legislation should be introduced for the election of members to the several Legislatures which were to be established under the Agreement. The institutions of government set up subsequently by the Federation Agreement represent a remarkable advance in the constitutional evolution of Malaya, and mark another stage on the road towards self-government. For the first time in the history of the Federation, a Legislative Council, in which all the communities of Malaya are represented, has power to legislate about matters of common concern to the peoples of the country. Of the seventy-five members of the Federal Legislative Council, only fourteen, besides the High Commissioner, are officials. There is thus an overwhelming unofficial majority drawn from all the different sections of the population. I had the good fortune to attend the opening session of this legislative body last February. I was particularly impressed by the breadth of vision and progressive spirit of the speeches of the leaders of the Chinese and Malay groups in this assembly. Both Dr. Ong Chong Keng, whose untimely death all who knew him will deplore, and Dato Onn Bin Ja'afar, emphasised the duty of every resident in the Peninsula to place loyalty to Malaya before loyalty to any section, however large, of its population. This, surely, is the answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said earlier. This is the spirit which will enable the Chinese and the Malays to live together in amity in time to come, and it is evidence that this spirit already exists. We are all aware of the statesmanlike qualities of Dato Onn, the leader of the United Malayan National Organisation, of his record of service as Mentri Besar of Johore, and of the pre-eminent part which he played in bringing about the wider outlook among the Malays required for support of the principle of Federation. I am delighted to see that he is present at this debate this afternoon. I can assure him that his services in the past, and during our present difficulties in Malaya, are greatly appreciated by all those who recognise his wise and inspiring leadership. I think it should be stressed that the latest constitutional advance in the Federation is extremely recent and was completed only this year. It is essential that sufficient time should be allowed to elapse for the new system of government to get firmly established before any other step forward is taken. Apart from the necessity of allowing the new machine to be run in, I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that the present disorders, during which the main preoccupation of the Administration must be the restoration of law and order, are bound to delay the next stage of constitutional development. For example, there can be no elections to the State and Federal Legislatures until the names of all Federal citizens have been entered and inscribed on an electoral roll. It is not possible, under present conditions, to carry out a registration of Federal citizens, and it follows that the legislation required for the election of members to these bodies will have to wait. Nevertheless, I should like to repeat, as our policy has been called in question by the noble Lord opposite, that it remains the firm intention of His Majesty's Government, of the Government of the Federation, and of Their Highnesses the Rulers of the States, that the policy recorded in the Federation Agreement to bring an elected element into the various Legislatures shall be carried out at the earliest possible moment. In Singapore also there has been a considerable constitutional advance since the war. From April 1 of this year, the first meeting of the first Legislative Council of the Colony to contain elected representatives took place. The first elections in the history of Singapore happened this year. This Council also has an unofficial majority. I would emphasise—because I am sure all noble Lords who give reflection to this point will agree—that it is no less desirable in the case of Singapore that the new machinery of government on an elective basis should be given a fair trial before we proceed to the next stage of democratic self-rule. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has complained about over-government in Malaya, and before I proceed to answer that criticism I should like, if I may, to thank him for the helpful and constructive note he struck in the speeches which he made during his short personal visit to Malaya. I wish to record our appreciation of his thoroughly helpful and altogether patriotic behaviour whilst he was in Malaya. I am also, needless to say, appreciative of his thoughtful speech to-day, and none the less because of the occasional barbed shafts which were, quite properly, aimed at the Government. The noble Lord referred particularly, I think, to over-government in Malaya and to the existence of Singapore as a separate Colony cut off from the mainland; and he emphasised the increased efficiency and considerable economies which would result from the entry of Singapore into the Federation. Our policy in this connection adheres to the terms of the White Paper of July, 1947. May I remind him of what was said in the concluding paragraph of this White Paper?
This refers to an earlier official statement in the White Paper from which I have quoted."It is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to preclude or prejudice in any way the fusion of Singapore and the Malayan Union in a wider Union at a later date should it be considered that such a course were desirable."
I think the noble Lord will agree that this statement leaves it open for Singapore to enter the Federation by mutual agreement between the two territories and that the United Kingdom would not lift a finger to interfere with any such arrangement. At the same time it must be recognised that the primary responsibility of restoring and maintaining law and order should for the present take precedence of all other matters requiring the time and energy of the authorities in the Federation and Singapore. I apologise for having spoken at this length, but I have been doing my best to give as objective and faithful a picture as possible of the situation in Malaya. This is a grim, anxious and trying time for all Government servants in Malaya, and the shadow of this terror still hangs over them. I think your Lordships would wish me to convey a message of sympathy and support from this House to the civil and military authorities and their subordinates in every rank and grade of the Civil Service, the Armed Services and the Police, both in the Federation and in Singapore. They are meeting the difficulties and dangers of the present situation in a spirit of service, with a courage and determination we all admire, and I know that we wish them the speedy and complete success that their devotion to duty deserves."His Majesty's Government still hold this view and believe that the question of Singapore joining in a Federation should be considered on its merits and in the light of local opinion at an appropriate time. The new Governments and Legislatures in the two territories will be the appropriate authorities to consider any demand for the inclusion of Singapore within the Federation. … The question is one on which considerable difference of opinion exists in Malaya, but the establishment of the new Federal Constitution will be without prejudice to the possibility of Singapore joining the Federation at some later date."
My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has put us all under a deep sense of obligation not only by introducing this debate but by the masterly speech in which he opened it, a speech full of first-hand knowledge and extremely wise and fair in its appreciation. We are also much obliged to the Minister of State for following that speech so promptly and for giving us, as indeed is right and necessary, the Government's answer and such information as he could give upon this situation. I can assure the noble Earl that not only do we all in this House join in the expression of sympathy and hope which he has just uttered, but also in assuring His Majesty's Government of the fullest support in arty effective action to suppress Communist terrorism and insurrection and restore peace and prosperity to that great land.Our duty to-day in this debate is twofold. We are concerned to see how far the present misfortunes—which the noble Earl, the Minister of State, has not underrated—could have been avoided by truer appreciation of the situation and by earlier action; and also to see what further measures, if any, the Government should take to bring these grave matters to a more speedy conclusion. We must consider the past because it has such a definite bearing upon the present; indeed, it is not merely that the present follows it in time, but also that a great deal that has happened is the direct consequence of what has been done, and still more of what has been left undone, in the past. The Government were very complacent during, at any rate, the first two years. I am going to justify that statement presently. Certainly they ought to have known the true facts, and ought to have foreseen what would happen. They knew from the very start—the noble Earl has said so—that there were great supplies of arms in the hands of these Communists and guerrillas at the close of the war. Were the officers of Force 136 asked where these arms were likely to be found? The Government had seen the whole Communist pattern disclosed plainly in Indonesia and in Indo-China, and they knew from the very start that the Communists were creating and controlling these bogus trade unions. Yet, in the face of that, in May, 1946, the noble Viscount, Lord Half, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, when asked about the position, admitted that in Singapore there had been wholesale intimidation of workers, shopkeepers and coolies by subversive elements whose efforts approached direct challenge to Government. He said that there were isolated bands of robbers elsewhere. But he was quite hopeful that this was only a passing phase. He said that the situation had changed since February 15 (I do not know what happened on that date). When he was asked whether the military forces were sufficient—and we must remember that military forces have had to be sent out quarter by quarter since then—he replied:
If that was not a complete lack of appreciation of what the situation really was, it was undue complacency. I am quite sure the noble Lord would not have been complacent if he had appreciated what the situation was. One charge against the Government is that they ought to have appreciated what the situation was. Indeed, the facts were known to them. And now, we have this Awbery-Dalley Report. As there are so few copies of this Report available, perhaps the House would bear with me if I made one or two quotations from it. We can see from it that the Communist menace was absolutely plain for anyone to see in September, 1945—three years ago. Let me read one or two passages from it. Here is one:"Military forces are engaged with police in dealing with these matters; and I am satisfied that this co-operation is bringing about a peaceful solution of the matter."
They go on:"… once in the jungle they found themselves in a veritable Communist forcing-house. Each control was a Communist cell with a military commander and a political commander on approved lines."
Then, as the noble Lord has said, they refer to the fact that these guerrillas came down out of the jungle and established themselves as the Government for a short time before the Military Government came in. The Report goes on to say—and this is very interesting:"The object of this education was frankly stated to be the preparation for a Communist republic of Malaya, and there is also the evidence of written documents. The methods to be used, naturally enough, included as a most important object the infiltration into all Labour movements and places of employment. … The most rigid discipline was enforced and all the guerrillas … were subject to direction from the Party in all aspects of their lives, and the evidence goes to show that they still are."
It leads up to this: that the Government did all to establish freedom of speech and all the rest of it. The Report continues:"They were to all intents and purposes the de facto Government of the country. Not unnaturally, they spread the legend that they had driven the Japanese out and thus gained an added prestige."
that is, the Communists—"The Malayan Communist Party, however, continued with their post-war plans—plans matured and drilled into the guerrilla groups during the Occupation, as already described. Long before the end of the year, indeed by the time the British Military Administration took over in September, 1945, they"—
Then the Report adds:"had set up 'cells,' dubbed 'trade unions' for every type of trader and worker from miners and rubber workers to cabaret girls. None of these were in the smallest degree representative or democratic; and the evidence is conclusive, both as regards their activities and the men appointed to hold office, that they were just mouthpieces of the Malayan Communist Party. Their organisation was well tried and powerful; they had money and they had contacts with other countries …"
Does not that show that, during the two years of complacency by the Government, it ought to have been, and it must have been, plain to them that there was this full-blooded Communist organisation in a common pattern? Why should we be surprised at the way this has worked out? It is the common pattern the world over, under ruthless orders from top to bottom—terrorism, strikes, ample cash, ample arms and foreign contacts. Observe that this was in a country which was not liberated by the British Army defeating the enemy in the field in battles on the spot; hostilities came to an end because of victories won thousands of miles away. As the Awbery Report says, the Communists were not slow to spread the legend that it was they and not the British who had driven the Japanese out, and that they were the real conquerors. In the face of all that, why was not positive action taken at once, particularly in view of the fact which the noble Earl has pointed out to-day, that the Communist forces were told to disband and to lay down their arms, but did not do so. Apparently, that was the end of the matter. What should have been done is this: the Communist organisation should immediately have been declared illegal. There should have been no question of freedom of speech. Here we were faced with terrorism to be followed by an armed war. The leaders were all Chinese, I think, apart from a few other aliens. They should have been deported. Why was not the power of deportation used? It is absolutely necessary. I speak as one who for four years held the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies. Even in those peaceful days, the power of deportation was absolutely necessary in Malaya, with its Chinese secret societies often terrorising people, and with its vast alien population. But there were no deportations until 1947. This power of deportation, which dates, I think, from 1910, and which the noble Lord said was so exceptional, was absolutely necessary in normal times, as anybody who has been either Secretary of State for the Colonies or Governor of Malaya will affirm. Why in this grave crisis did the Colonial Office prevent the Government from deporting? The local forces should have been maintained as far as possible. The police should have been reinforced and armed; and, above all, the arms should have been rounded up at the time when the officers of Force 136 knew—or at least had a very shrewd suspicion—where those arms were. The Awbery Report says in 1945 that it was plain what the whole picture was. Did the authorities really suppose that, when the Government, whether military or civil, said "Will you please bring your arms in and hand them over?" the Communists were likely to do so? Have they done so anywhere in the world? Of course not. The Government should have followed that up and rounded up the arms. I observed that the noble Earl said to-day, as I think Mr. Awbery himself, the author of this Report, said in another place: "We could not do anything against the Communists until they did something illegal." Why not? In the face of this terrorism, why was not this Communist organisation at once made illegal? We could have rounded up the arms. We could have deported the undesirable aliens. We could have made the bogus trade unions illegal. Be sure that the Malays, who wanted to be loyal to us, watched what was going on and, when they saw that there was no action, they thought that we were afraid; and so there was a vicious circle. Those people who, as the noble Earl has said, are very often, against their will, compelled to comfort the King's enemies, are terrified to give evidence to us, although I agree that the vast majority of them hate these people. That vicious circle continued because the Government did not take firm action. Nobody knew where we were going. For all I know, a report may have been spread about that we were going to evacuate the country. That was what was done by the same sort of people in West Africa, when I was there during the late war. It was said that we were going to clear out. We soon made it quite plain that we were not going to clear out and that, if any clearing out was to be done, it was the people who spread those reports who were going to do it. There is nothing more calculated to lose the confidence and co-operation of these loyal Malays than such inaction. The Colonial Secretary, who is the most kind-hearted man, said in another place:"The Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army itself was disbanded but it continued to exist (and still does) in the form of ex-Comrades Associations and there was little attempt to disguise the connection between these Associations and the controlled unions."
Communism is a great deal more than a political force; Communism is armed terrorist revolution. The Colonial Secretary seeks to excuse himself because the Communists did not resort to armed force until the spring of this year. The noble Earl said it to-day. He told us that at first, they tried all the subversive movements, and that it was only in the spring of this year, when they found that they could not get rid of the British Government and drive Malaya from the British Empire into Moscow, when they found that they could not do that by terrorism and beating up of good trade unionists (which is what they were doing), that they resorted to force and to open warfare. Why should we be surprised at that? Of course, they were going to attempt to get what they could without having to fight for it. That is the technique. Hitler did just the same. So long as he could get what he wanted without fighting, of course he did not wish to fight. But you ought to have known that this was the common picture and the common form as well as the Cominform. It is the same; it always proceeds according to plan. The charge against the Government is that they must or should have known this would be the Communist plan and pattern, and that the Communists had ample arms and organisation to fight with if it came to fighting. The Government should have rounded up the arms and dissolved the organisation at the very first blush of trouble. In fact, what has been tardily done in 1948 ought to have been done in 1945. It would have been much easier then. Our friends would have been rallied to us. The Malays hate these terrorists. As the noble Lord said, 20,000 Malays have joined the police. The majority of the Chinese, I agree, are not Communists. It is said that the Communists are only a minority. Of course they are. Communists are always only a minority, but that does not prevent them, if they get power and if they are not resisted with energy, from getting control of the majority whom they can terrorise and browbeat and, wherever necessary, shoot down. Many lives would have been saved, and more lives which will still be sacrificed might have been saved, if action had been taken; and the greatest dollar-earning country in the British Commonwealth would now be peaceful and prosperous. Ministers are not slow to boast that they have rediscovered the British Empire. Whether, if they have rediscovered it, they have done so in order to liquidate it or in order to develop it seems to be a matter still under discussion in the Cabinet. Why did they not discover what was happening in Malaya? Of course it is right to encourage the good, sound trade unions. I knew the value of them in West Africa. I knew it in the old days long before, when I was Colonial Secretary. I know the good work which wise British trade union leaders have given in all quarters to young and inexperienced trade unions, to build them up by what are sound methods. But that is not an answer to Communist terrorism and revolution. Indeed, I go further, and say that these sound trade unions cannot function unless revolution and terrorism are rooted out. Read this Awbery-Dalley Report when you get the chance. You will see in one of the appendices (I think it is No. 7) a description of what happened. They say it is almost impossible for an ordinary English trade unionist to understand that these things could happen—how the vice-president of a decent trade union could be beaten up, how another had to flee the country for fear of his life, and how these hooligans came down and browbeat everybody and finally burnt up the local Transport House, the headquarters of a decent trade union in the docks at Singapore. Nor, unless terrorism is rooted out, can you get that co-operation and joint working which is so necessary between the employers and the trade unions. Here again the Awbery-Dalley Report is perfectly plain about the matter. I must say I was glad that the Minister said to-day how well the European community had done. It was a pleasant change from the sort of stuff that some of his colleagues hand out over the week-ends. When you read the Awbery-Dalley Report you will find that the great majority of the British employers have done very well. Indeed, it is pointed out that it is not very creditable to the Government that the employers set the pace in giving better wages and better conditions and that the Government lag far behind. That is said in the Report. This is the point I am making about the importance of getting rid of terrorism if we are to have this co-operation. The Report says that when the employers who wanted to do collective bargaining tried to bargain with these unions, they found that they were up against men of straw, who were taking their orders from the "power behind the throne" and who, whenever they made an agreement, entirely failed to carry it out. I am all for decent trade unions, but do not let the noble Earl, in delivering his lecture to us, say that the setting up of sound trade unions—which is what we all want—is the soft answer which turns away the wrath of Communism. It does not. Nothing turns away the wrath of Communism with its tommy guns, except other people who can shoot the terrorists down. That is the plain truth about it. In conclusion I want to make two suggestions to the Government. They were rather tentatively made by my noble friend, Lord Mancroft, and I want to endorse both. The noble Earl did not really reply to either of them in his interesting and agreeable speech. The first is in the matter of finance. I hope the Government are not going to be petty and niggling in their financial dealings with Malaya. It is not only that the Government have a very peculiar responsibility in this matter through their lack of prescience and their delayed action. A great deal of the expenditure which is incurred to-day would have been avoided if the Government had acted more vigorously and sooner. But here is a great common interest, a great Imperial partnership. Malaya is one of the Empire's great resources, the greatest dollar producer in the whole Empire. I believe I am right in saying that its exports collect more in dollars to-day than the whole of the exports of this country put together. It is a colossal asset and a great partnership asset. The noble Earl has said that we are going to spend money in developing the Empire. I do not grudge that at all; but, for heaven's sake, do let us spend the money where we shall get a return. Surely, if there are millions to be spent—I am not against the ground-nuts project; I think it may come to fruition in the fullness of time, and I hope it will—the wisest place to go and spend your money is where you know you are going to get a return, where there are vast resources only waiting to be reinstated and for which there is a ready market. Do not let us forget the generosity of Malaya to this country before the war, through the Sultans, the States and the Colony. In the four years I was Secretary of State for the Colonies (and my noble friend, Lord Harlech had the same experience when he followed me) year by year, and often more frequently than that, these generous contributions came in. I remember that quite unexpectedly one morning the Sultan of Johore came into my room and said, "We have not been doing too badly and we want to get forward with the defences. Here is half-a-million." It was just like that, across the table; and that was not the first contribution that Johore had made. When we are parcelling out how much is to be by grant and how much is to be by amortised loan, let us remember the generosity of our friends in the days before the war, and let us remember what we owe to them both for what they are and for what, alas, we have left undone in their country. If I may take a parallel, which surely is not an unreasonable one, let us take the American Aid which has been so generously extended to us and to Europe to-day. Three quarters of it is in gift, one quarter is in loan. Do not let us be ungenerous to the greatest dollar producer in the British Empire when we remember that. I would add one other point. The noble Earl has spoken rightly of the development in social services, in housing and in health—and certainly those things are very necessary—which he hopes will take place there. But apparently Malaya is going to pay for it. But if a charge is to be placed on Malaya for repairing the devastation of the war (a far greater one, apparently, than is to be put upon Burma, a country that has not shown us much gratitude) and for the restoration of the plantations, great and small (and do not forget, whether it is tin or rubber, it is not a case of these businesses being owned by great capitalists; a great deal of the production is in the hands of the smallest men), it will be a very heavy burden indeed. The noble Earl was rather vague about it, and I am not sure who is to pay for the campaign which is being carried on to-day, and for the troops we have set out there. But if this burden is put on Malaya, Malaya will not be able to put in hand these schemes for social reform, for health services and other plans, whether they are for the betterment materially, morally or physically of the people. It will, in fact, be placing far too heavy a burden on these loyal people. I come now to the other point which I wish to make. It concerns the powers—or the lack of powers—residing in the right honourable gentleman, a good friend of all of us, who I think bears the title of Commissioner-General. What I want to know is this: Is there one man with real authority? May I draw once again on my own West African experience? I was sent out there as a projection of my colleagues in the Cabinet. First there were Governors there—and I must say that they have something to govern—the Commanders-in-Chief, the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Supply, all of whom were concerned. Much the same sort of situation exists in Singapore to-day. There must be quick decision and quick action. Who is able to take that quick decision and direct prompt action? I do not believe that anyone is now. First, policy is settled—apparently there is no dispute about that. As I have said more than once in this House, policy issues in action; and when we are confronted with a situation such as faces us in Malaya to-day there must be one man on the spot who has authority. I do not care what is his title. What I do care about is the matter of his powers. He must have authority to give directives on policy and the power to see that those directives are carried out in action."We are determined to make Communism an ineffective political force in our territories."
My Lords, perhaps I should begin by saying that my reason and excuse for intervening in this debate is that I spent the best twenty-one years of my life in Malaya. I also spent four years in Borneo. I have to declare a financial interest in the situation in Malaya, because I am a Malayan pensioner, and am therefore deeply interested in the future of the country. I have adopted a Latin motto for the occasion—Quicquid delirant reges plectuntur Achivi, which perhaps, being a classical scholar, I may be allowed to translate as: "Whatever mess the Colonial Office make of Malaya, I am one of the people who will pay for it."Those of us who sit on these Benches believe in facing the future, but in connection with Malaya I would urge that if we do not face the facts of the present there will be no future to face. I have noticed a slight tendency to blame the present Government, in particular, for various things. I should like to make my own position quite clear at the start. I regard the present situation in Malaya, which has perhaps been mishandled (I will deal with that later), as arising far away in the past. I think that the history of Malaya in this century is one of four or five major policy errors, for which there is no Party in this State which would not have to accept responsibility. I propose briefly to mention what I think those errors are, then to mention something about the present situation in Malaya, and finally to say—if I may have the temerity to do so—what I think ought to be done. Before going into that, however, there is one thing which I should like to say, though obviously it is not a matter that I can pursue in detail, and it would not be in the public interest to do so. But, in addition to other things in Malaya, we have there a Service which is not itself happy, not internally happy—in particular one section of that Service which, in this relationship, happens to be very important: I refer to the police. Let it suffice for me to say that when you introduce into an existing force (and, may I say, a force which came out with the greatest honour of all Government Departments in Malaya when Malaya fell) a large number of officers from another place, officers who are new to the police, it is clear that tension must arise. Matters such as the allocation of appointments and so forth must be handled with the greatest tact and with the greatest regard for the human personnel on whom we must depend. After all, the morale of the force will depend on our success in dealing with that. I think it is unnecessary for me to say more on that subject. To go back to what I regard as the first of the major mistakes in Malaya, in my time there it was indeed the Golden Chersonese. I went there at the time of the beginning of the great rubber and tin booms. The country was developing at a terrific pace, because the introduction of British justice had meant that every man could be sure of being able to hold his own. And the country had unlimited wealth of different kinds awaiting exploitation. So exploitation was the order of the day—unlimited exploitation. We had not the necessary labour available on the spot. Scores of thousands of Chinese came from China. Thousands of Indians came from India, Jaffna Tamils came from Ceylon to start the offices; and later on, Javanese labourers from the Netherlands Indies. The Malays took very little part in this. They sat bewildered amidst these immense developments. In those days—they have progressed a little since—they were essentially a conservative race, a race of sportsmen, great sportsmen and great gentlemen, with a strong distaste for regular work. They have since then progressed considerably, but we have in the situation to-day part of the Nemesis of what we did then. We never thought what problems we were piling up for that country when we flooded it with foreigners. There is an example of the opposite kind of mistake in the same area of the world, in Sarawak. In Sarawak, which is also a potentially rich country, precisely the reverse was done. The Brooke family, according to their own lights, did a great work in Sarawak, and they believed that the best thing they could do for the people of Sarawak was to prevent any Asiatic or European capital coming in, so as to prevent any exploitation. Therefore, they tried to make a sort of political Whipsnade of Dyaks and natives of that country. Of course, that has brought problems of its own almost as difficult to deal with to-day as are those of the opposite policy in Malaya. Obviously, we cannot keep a people like that without ultimately leaving them helpless when the impact of modern conditions comes, as come it must. Another political mistake which was made in Malaya, though of a different kind, was the agreement on the subject of the Singapore base, when the advice of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, was not taken, and that of Lord Beatty was. Lord Trenchard pleaded that Singapore should be handed over to the R.A.F. to defend, but he did not win the day. If he had, that in itself might have altered the face of history. The next major mistake, which has been referred to already and I need only mention it, is that of the famous new Malay Union Constitution, which the present Government endeavoured to introduce. The only blame which attaches to the present Government, if I may be so arrogant as to say this, is that they ought to have known better than to take that policy from their predecessors. I think we are on the high road towards making another big mistake, in the niggardly treatment of war damage claims. As this has been mentioned already, I need only refer to it. I was in Malaya after the first war at the time when the Government behaved with great generosity, and it would be a pity if what I might call the "Treasury mind" should be allowed to dominate a situation like this, where the community and an appreciation of human values are far more important than the number of noughts on the end of millions. I should like to say one or two words about the present situation in Malaya. As your Lordships know, out of every eight people in Malaya, roughly four are Malay, three Chinese and one Indian. Although the Malays vaunt steady progress in self-government, they are fully conscious of the fact that without our presence there they would be submerged politically by the Chinese, just as to-day they are excluded from the commerce of their own country by the Chinese. We should realise the fact that the Chinese will not, if they can help it, allow the Malays a chance in commerce in their own country. That is a situation which sooner or later we have to face. As has been pointed out by the noble Earl, this is obviously not a nationalist movement, because the people who are causing the trouble are a matter of about 5,000 illiterate young men. If I may say so with respect, I was unable to find the satisfaction of the Minister of State in the fact that these 5,000 young men had not succeeded in upsetting the government of Malaya. As an ex-Malayan Government servant, it left me with a blush of shame to think that it should ever have been possible that such a situation could be contemplated. In dealing with the Chinese in Malaya, one has to remember that although perhaps half of them—it may be more or less: there is a census now in progress—were born in China, they are not in any sense united. There are those who have been there for many generations and are now Malayan. If they read the Chinese classics, they probably read them in their English translation, and their language is English or Malay. Others who have been there for a generation or two are much closer to China, and there is a small group of young Chinese who aim at power and wish to dominate Malaya; but they have nothing to do with the Communist group which is endeavouring to obtain the same end by violent means. As I have said, this movement does not spring from either nationalism or race. Many of these young men attended only elementary school. And may I say, in passing, that the Chinese elementary schools in Malaya, as everybody knows, have for a generation at least been centres for the teaching of Communism. That is well known in Malaya, and I presume it is well known in London. These young men, with their appalling ignorance, have had no education since, except what they have received in the Communist doctrine in their jungle hide-outs. They believe firmly that they won the war and, according to their own code, they think that they are entitled to the loot which is the reward of victory. That is probably all there is in their aim and object. It is, of course, easy to say that the Military Administration should have seized these arms and should have held certain Communist leaders, but, in extenuation of the Military Administration, one has to remember that at the beginning they had not access to the best advice which the Government formerly had. The Malay civil servants who had specialised in the knowledge of these things had been scattered, and many of the advisers of the Military Administration were new to Malaya and knew as little about the country as the people they were attempting to advise. I deplore the way in which the word "banishment" has been used in this country. After all, nobody has ever been banished from Malaya. All that the Malayan Government have done, even in the bad days when I was serving there and the Government did these things without question, is to exercise the right which every civilised country in the world exercises—the right to deport from their midst any undesirable political or criminal foreigners who happen to be there. That is a power which I feel the Government of Malaya did not exercise sufficiently, but apparently under the new Constitution previously introduced they would have found it difficult to use it at all, because the Constitution extended immunity from banishment to everybody in the Peninsula, and paralysed the only Kay of dealing with this large number of Chinese who have always presented the chief security problem in Malaya. I wish, in passing, to say a word about education. I do not like to think that the academic enthusiasts who went out from this country will be listened to, and that we shall sacrifice the future of Malaya and have universal English in order to make the whole country a forcing ground for students of Raffles College and, incidentally, provide a large number of recruits for the Communists with whom we are trying to deal. One has to remember, as has been said several times this afternoon, that the Communist group is very small, and could be—and no doubt will be—almost exterminated. I use the word "almost" advisedly, because one has to remember that, so long as there is Communism in China, so long as there is any Government in China of that nature, so long will you have this trouble reproduced among the Chinese in Malaya. One should always remember, too, that the Kuomintang, now the respectable Government of China, was in my day the proscribed society. And when Sun Yat Sen and his friends came to power in Southern China, largely put there by money which had been subscribed to them by Chinese millionaires from Malaya, the first thing that the aspiring Chinese politician thought was of Malaya as China irredenta. That is a situation which will arise again. It should never be forgotten that it is not solely Communism with which we have to deal; we shall always have the difficulty of that Chinese problem. As yet we have no indication of what the answer is. That is why it is so urgent that there should be a definite policy now declared, so that the Malays will know where they are in their own country for the future. I believe it is now the policy that all immigration should cease. That is a very desirable thing. But we must also recollect that when immigration has ceased—if it has ceased to-day—the rate of increase of the Chinese in Malaya is such that within ten years the Malays will again be outnumbered in their own country. One of the things which should occupy the major attention of the Government is, surely, the saving of the large number of Malay babies in the rural districts, who now die for lack of proper attention. I would urge upon the Government that there should be a tremendous concentration on training Malays for trade, for technical jobs, and in dealing with the health services. I do not mean only for the towns, which have been amply dealt with in the past, but for the villages and the cantons of that country. If your Lordships will bear with me a few more minutes. I would like to say (and I suppose, in fairness, I ought to say it) what I think should be done. We are all agreed that the first thing should be to concentrate wholeheartedly on crushing this Communist terrorism. In doing so, I think we should at the same time settle quite definitely what will be the terms of future Malayan citizenship. I suggest that we should leave the Constitution alone until we have dealt with this Communist menace. Let us have no more tampering with that, whatever may be its defects. Coming now to the Administration—on which I feel I am qualified to speak—I would ask: Is the Administration of Malaya at present geared for efficiency? I should return an emphatic negative to that question. There are too many Governors; the country is over-governed; and, as has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, it has no head. Take the Borneo side. There is a Governor of North Borneo, to which has been added Labuan. There is a Governor of Sarawak, who is now also the High Commissioner—or whatever he is called—of Brunei. What is needed in those countries to-day is young, vigorous, picked, able men; and if such men are to be obtained it is rating the office too highly to call it a Governorship. I suggest that it would be far better to make it a Lieutenant-Governorship, or even a lower rank than that. Passing over to Singapore, one finds an island twenty-seven by fourteen miles. It has a municipality which is practically independent, and which runs all its own services. There is a Harbour Board, which is also independent, and there is also a Navy which runs itself. What, then, in heaven's name, is there left for the Governor to govern? There are only a few Chinese and Malay villages scattered over that island, and to have a Governor for them really does not make sense to anybody who knows that country. Then you have the High Commissioner for the Malayan Federation, a big and responsible post. And above them all—at least, I suppose he is above them all—there is the Commissioner-General. I took the trouble to find out what are the functions of the Commissioner-General. It is said that he is responsible for the co-ordination of administration and policy in relation to the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei. He is also responsible to the Foreign Office for duties which were formerly done by the special Commissioner. I do not know what sort of political chameleon this is. I suppose he has to keep one eye on Mr. Bevin, and the other on Mr. Creech Jones. I have never met a chameleon and I never want to meet a cross-eyed one. En passing, I would say that I deplore the tendency to-day for Colonial affairs to be dominated by the Foreign Office. I suggest that there is ample work for the Commissioner-General; and for goodness sake let us call him a Governor-General, and make him really responsible. I gather—I made particular inquiry some time ago—that he has no power to give executive orders to the Governors. Then what do those words "co-ordinating policy and administration" mean? I really do not know; in the circumstances they can have no practical meaning at all. I suggest that in circumstances like this, if immediate and quick action is required, as has already been said, it is necessary really to make the Governor-General a Governor-General. Your Lordships will have gathered, from what I have said, that I regard a good deal of the present trouble in Malaya as due to weak government. I think I have some experience of what both weak and strong government means. It would serve no purpose to try here to disintegrate what are the several shares of the contributory partners to the difficulties in Malaya—the British Military Administration, the local Civil Administration and Whitehall. But the fact is that there has been a weakness somewhere, and flaws which prevent quick decisions and definite action. That seems to me to be certain. A picked officer has been sent as High Commissioner of the Malayan Federation, and a man of influence and proved ability is appointed Commissioner-General. I do plead that these two men should be given a completely free hand to clear up this mess. I had meant to say something about the question of the Trade Union Report, but it has already been dealt with, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, read extracts from it. Having seen the situation truly, and reported it truly, the compilers of the Report give us, in the recommendations at the end, the same old platitudes. Labour can have no exercisable rights in a situation of terrorism such as exists in Malaya even to-day. Surely, times of peace are the times when the liberty of the subject and the rights of labour are properly attended to. We have our own experience that in time of war, even in England, we readily give up those liberties for the sake of dealing with the emergency. I do suggest that, until the emergency has been cleared up in Malaya, it is no time to talk of liberty of the subject, rights of labour or any of the other rights to which we attach so much importance. I notice that a good deal is said at the end of that Report about nationalism and self-government. All the "bucketsful" of platitudes poured on the present conflagration in Malaya will not put it out—platitudes have no reputation as fire-extinguishers. Nor, if I may say so, will all the cloud-capped policies which we like to dream of at other times. This is not the time to deal with those. There is one other matter I should like to mention, and that is that I think the Colonial Office are suffering from political astigmatism. There seems to be a great obsession to-day with Africa, but should we not beware lest, while we are growing ground-nuts in East Africa, we are oblivious of the fact that we are sowing and possibly insurrection in Asia? Should we not consider that possibly the future of Africa itself, the future of Western Europe and the future of our own country is being settled all this time in Malaya? One of the first things that Pandit Nehru said in a public speech when he got back to India was that he thought there was far too much concentration here on Western Europe. If you added Africa to that—if I may use the common phrase of to-day—I could not agree with him more. I believe that we may be losing not only Asia but the whole of our own position while we concentrate on a country which does not present the immediate emergency. In any case, when all is said and done, if the Malays find later that we have sacrificed them, that we have sold their birthright for a mess of Chinese potage, what will be said of us? And how long could we stay in Malaya if we lost the confidence of the Malays? Not for long. But they are people who have always trusted us, and at present they still trust us. I have said that what is needed is a clear lead as to what we mean to do; that a free hand should be given to the two men in charge; that we should concentrate, first of all, on crushing the Communist and stopping immigration, that we should give the right sort of education to the Malays; and last, and most important of all, we should create the confidence that there is a determined Government in that country. I do suggest that the Govern ment have not, at the moment, the confidence of the country. That confidence has to be built up. The bulk of the Chinese are by nature loyal and law-abiding. They will respond as quickly as any other people to strong and purposeful government. If we wish to win the best of the Chinese, and if we wish to keep the loyalty of the Malays, we must provide that strong government which is so badly needed. I naturally feel some personal emotion over that country because, as I say, I spent so long there. We who served in Malaya feel as Kipling felt about India:
"I have eaten your bread and salt,
I have drunk your water and wine;
The deaths ye died I have watched beside,
And the lives ye led were mine.
Was there aught that I did not share
In trouble or toil or ease—
One joy, or woe that I did not know?
Those of us who served in Malaya lost our hearts and left them in that country. We are, naturally, very anxious that the British Government should not leave its honour there.Dear hearts across the seas."
My Lords, the House has listened with the greatest interest to the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, for his personal knowledge of Malaya is a very deep one. I knew him there as Sir Arthur Richards, and he was known throughout Malaya as being a wise and far-seeing administrator. It is to be hoped that the debate to-day will convince the Government that any misplaced leniency can only prolong and aggravate the unfortunate situation in Malaya. In spite of many optimistic military assurances regarding the situation in Malaya, lawlessness, murder and banditry still persist. So far, these assurances have generally been followed by fresh atrocities. Quite lately, a party of police were quite needlessly butchered in an open lorry that had no protection for its passage through cuttings and gullies. During the past few days news has come through of two young planters being killed within twenty-four hours; and five more police were murdered yesterday. More reassuring than military pronouncements, both to the people of this country and to those we have failed to protect, would be a periodical statement by the head of the police—for this is essentially a police campaign.We would like to hear that the police force is now at full strength, for responsible people with local knowledge have complained that the police should be considerably strengthened in numbers and in power. If possible, European police officers from Hong Kong, who know the Chinese and are experienced in dealing with Chinese criminals, might be drafted to Malaya, in exchange for officers sent from Palestine who have no knowledge of local races and languages. Communist activities have long existed in Malaya, but they used to be controlled by the firm and just use of the laws for the repatriation of undesirable aliens. They were kept constantly under the closest supervision by the police, and were immediately recommended for return to their own country when their activities were found to be anti-social. The common opinion is that since the war the High Commissioner in Malaya has not had unrestricted authority to repatriate those guilty of political intrigue subversive of law and order. It is alleged that, a short time ago, out of one hundred alien agitators whose names the police submitted for repatriation, only two were banished. Such unjustified and misguided leniency must prolong the murderous terrorism of extremists, with the result that Malaya has to go on facing the heaviest expenditure, both of blood and of treasure. The Communist attempt to overthrow the Government will be stamped out only provided the strongest measures are taken. The tide will doubtless ebb and flow for some time yet, and it is to be hoped that any occasional lull will not produce a false sense of security or lead those responsible to think that the danger is past. The present situation is the product of conditions following the Japanese occupation, when Chinese fled into the jungle for their lives and got much of their food by descending in armed bands on the Malay villages. To-day the number of the terrorists is estimated at about 5,000, out of a population of 6,000,000. It is not a Malayan Nationalist Movement, for the terrorists are practically all foreign Chinese. The movement would have been quite insignificant and quickly suppressed but for the fact that three-quarters of a country the size of England is covered with dense forest. In these conditions the gangster can pose as an innocent vegetable gardener, eating his rice at a village shop, and the next moment can vanish under the trees and emerge a short distance away as an armed bandit. The number of innocent people whom these miscreants have killed is comparatively small, nearly all of them being their fellow countrymen, adherents of the Kuomintang, followers of Chiang Kai-shek. The terrorism cannot be called anti-British, for fewer than twenty-five European civilians have been killed, but it is, of course, the responsibility of the British protecting Power to quash it and to keep it from reviving. The problem of keeping it under can be solved only if the reason for its present dimensions is fully appreciated. A review of all that has happened must lead any unbiased mind to the disquieting conclusion that, but for the mistaken and supine policy of the Government, the trouble might have been tackled far earlier. It is an open secret that when Malaya was full of troops, the military refused to arrest or repatriate Chinese, whom they regarded as brothers in arms, though all these "allies" had done was to sing the Internationale and raid defenceless Malay villages. When the late High Commissioner succeeded the military, he, too, refused to strengthen the hands of the police force by repatriating Chinese criminals and Communists as had always been done with undesirable criminals before the war. Even those sentenced to death for murder were reprieved. The pro-British leader of the largest Malay political Party reported to us that he had been approached by Chinese Communist leaders and asked if the Malays would join a movement to drive out the British. No heed was paid to this warning. The unofficials, the planters and miners, made no secret of their fears but their warnings, too, commanded no attention. The British Government seemed concerned only with untried ideologies and political experiments. There was to be a new Malaya, a democratic Malaya, founded on a usurpation of the rights of the Malays, the one race that had always been loyal to us, the race that to-day is providing 98 per cent. of the local forces for the suppression of Chinese terrorism. The Malayan Union, fortunately, was aborted, but even since the rights of the Malays have been admitted and the Union exchanged for a Federation, over-centralisation favours the gangster. Formerly, a State like Johore could repatriate an undesirable or criminal alien in a few days, but now reference to Kuala Lumpur has been delaying repatriation six or seven weeks. The action of the British Government in introducing, trade unions so hurriedly after the war was, in the opinion of all acquainted with Malaya, a great error. The Chinese have had their own trade unions for many centuries, but those unions were closely watched by the police. Then came the British trade union. This was exactly what the Chinese Communists wanted—societies approved by the British and recommended by the Government. They quickly augmented separate trade unions by State unions, and State unions by a Federal union: a perfect channel for the diffusion of Communist propaganda and Communist orders. Late, as in so many of their moves, the British Government were compelled to abolish both these State and Federal unions, but it is impossible to overrate the harm done. The scathing indictment by a recent High Commissioner in a letter to The Times on November 1, points out that the prime cause of the trouble, from first to last, was the refusal of Whitehall to face facts and to trust the men on the spot. Banishment was approved only in respect of criminals, but not for political or criminal activities, and powers wielded by successive High Commissioners without reproach for many years were, in a time of special stress and danger, denied to Sir Edward Gent. In view of the letter to The Times, if the present terrorism is to be suppressed the Secretary of State should give an assurance that the High Commissioner of the Federation and the Governor of Singapore will both be granted full freedom of action in all matters affecting the suppression of antisocial activities, as was the case formerly. Considerable resentment was felt that young, semi-trained soldiers, with no experience of tropical conditions, should have been sent out to cope with the situation. The British soldier should be used to protect towns and villages, leaving the Malay Regiment and the Malay Police to ferret terrorists out of the jungle. Only the Malays can move unobserved among the Asiatic population; only the Malays can speak the local language and detect anything suspicious in Chinese movements. Far firmer measures are needed to stir the respectable Chinese out of their fear and apathy and compel them to come forward with the information many of them possess. It has been a very ancient custom for the Chinese tradesman to pay money to criminal societies so that he will not be molested. There is little doubt that to-day thousands of respectable Chinese are aiding terrorists by this selfish, unsocial conduct. The practice must be stopped if terrorism is to stop, and the record of the police shows that it can be stopped if the Government are resolute. Dato Onn Bin Ja'afar, the Prime Minister of Johore, is now in this country. It is heartening to hear that the Secretary of State has taken counsel with him on the present state of affairs. Undoubtedly, Dato Onn is the most influential Malay in Peninsula politics, and he is wholeheartedly pro-British. No one has a greater knowledge than he of the dangerous position now existing in Malaya. I know that he considers that at present the centralised Government are out of touch with the individual problems of States that have been separate and distinct for centuries. In a recent broadcast, the Commissioner-General reiterated the policy of self-government for Malaya. Let there be self-government, by all means, as soon as Malaya's races are ready for it; but if ever the British withdraw from Malaya, then war will inevitably start between Chinese and Malays, and the country will run with blood from the China Sea to the Malacca Straits. I will close my remarks with the hope that the selection of Sir Henry Gurney as High Commissioner will prove a wise and popular appointment. His outstanding record of distinguished and courageous service in the past points him out as eminently suited for his present difficult task. A great many years of my life have been spent in Malaya. I love the country. I love the people. I hope that he will succeed in securing peace and prosperity for both.
My Lords, I am venturing to say a few words in this debate, for this reason: Cornwall has very close associations with Malaya. More than 20 per cent. of the world's tin is produced from the Malayan gravels, and wherever in the world you find tin you are likely to find Cornishmen. We have sent out some first-class men from Cornwall, born and brought up in that county, and also men from other parts of England who have been trained at our School of Mines at Camborne. We know them and we keep in touch with them. We feel that we can rely on what they tell us. I have been recently comparing what they have said in their letters with the public utterances of Government officials. One of the best of these young Cornishmen was captured by the Japanese in the late war. After suffering a terrible ordeal of imprisonment, through which he behaved magnificently, he returned to his work on a rubber plantation in Malaya. He was murdered on July 9 last. A letter came home afterwards which he must have posted that very day.
he wrote,"Don't worry,"
And when to testimonies of this kind we add the weighty letter of Sir Shenton Thomas, published in The Times of November 1, and the considerations brought forward this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and others, we cannot but feel disturbed by the complacency with which His Majesty's Government seem to regard their past achievements in Malaya. We still feel anxious about the future, in spite of the recent assurances, clear and vigorous as they certainly are, of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, and the additional assurances given us this afternoon by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in his very informative speech. In his broadcast from Singapore, as reported in the Malay Mail of October 7, Mr. MacDonald included a most well-deserved tribute to the courage and steadfastness of the European managers of mines and plantations. I am glad that this afternoon this House has joined in paying that tribute. I should like to add here a grateful tribute also to the remarkable achievements of the Ferret Forces commanded by Colonel Hannah and other officers. The letters which come back to Cornwall speak with the utmost appreciation of the skill and daring of these men and their commanders, who are thoroughly jungle-trained. No doubt these highly mobile and efficient bodies will be encouraged and developed. Full use will also be made, we hope, of the excellent local police, who have long experience of jungle conditions. They should be invaluable in co-operation with the Palestine Police who are now operating in the country. Resolute as the Palestine Police are and highly trained by hard experience, they are by no means as yet used to the strange guerrilla warfare of the jungle. That brings me to the very head of my anxiety. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald promises vigorous action. I am sure that we can depend on vigorous action. But will sufficient attention be paid to the advice of experienced and reliable people on the spot? It is clear that in the past the Colonial Office have not paid sufficient attention to the advice of people on the spot, who have, of course, local responsibility and real local knowledge. Take, for example, Government action in connection with Malaya's trade unionism—so different in its origin from English trade unionism. The Government appear to be very satisfied with the results of their action, but such satisfaction surely needs qualification. Was not the Government action, in some respects, at all events, premature and not appropriate to local conditions? Let me read the following letter dated just over a year ago—October 4, 1947—and written by that gallant young Cornishman:"we have seen this trouble coming two years, but the Government would not take strong measures."
he writes."Life goes on here so and so,"
Those are the words of an honest and public-spirited man on the spot. That was his impression, and it could not but be a discouragement to him in his arduous and dangerous duties. The latest letter that I have seen from Malaya came from a man in a responsible position in one of the mining areas. It is dated October 24 of this year. He says:"Labour seems to be jumping to conclusions very quickly; all sorts of officials were sent out from home to teach the locals trade union rules, and all they have done is to whip up trouble everywhere."
No doubt the situation will rapidly improve now that the Government are taking energetic action, and it will improve all the more rapidly if due attention is given to the opinion and advice of the responsible, experienced, reliable men who have had practical experience on the spot. We have listened with the deepest attention to the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, in his most impressive speech this afternoon. That, if I may say so, is the kind of advice to which we hope the Government will listen. When the country is quiet and safe again, we must, I suppose, expect the cold war of the infiltration of fanatical agitators to continue; and then, and now, and always, we look to the Government to be not doctrinaire but realistic and practical, and to give the accumulated wisdom of honourable and discerning men, long experienced in Malayan affairs, the weight it deserves."The situation shows no sign of improvement, and men of all races continue to be killed. … It seems curious that this sort of frontier warfare should have already become the normal, scarcely-regarded way we live. In this particular place, it is not having a good effect on the men or their families."
My Lords, I think we are much indebted to Lord Mancroft for having initiated this debate this afternoon, and we also are much indebted, if I may say so in his presence, for his brilliant exposition of conditions in Malaya to-day, after a visit which he has so recently paid there, and for the views he expressed and the recommendations he made. If I may refer to another speech made this afternoon—namely, the speech by Lord Milverton, who as Sir Arthur Richards saw many years of his official life in Malaya—I think it was one of the most instructive and informative speeches that anyone could have made in this country, and I hope sincerely that although he is a supporter of His Majesty's Government—or because he is a supporter of His Majesty's Government—they will pay very close attention to it. I do not wish to delay the House too long as it is getting late, and so I will not make all the remarks which I had intended to make on the subject of the origin of the position in Malaya to-day.I must express surprise, however, at one thing. As I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, describing the reasons for the conditions which exist, he seemed to cast—in fact he did cast—a very thick veil over all the actions of the present Government in Malaya since they came into power. I am not going to recount all that again because, to some extent, my noble friend Lord Mancroft covered it. But I am surprised—and I wish to emphasise this point—that at the moment when, as the Government knew, there was unrest in Malaya (they knew that the Communists had already started their games) they chose to approach the Sultans and to induce them, without any chance of consulting their people, to agree to a new Constitution of an entirely different character from anything that anyone could ever have conceived would be applicable to Malaya at that time. I was also amazed to hear that although the Government knew the Communists were then in Malaya (they have since been augmented from China), although the Government knew they possessed arms, and that those arms were hidden in the country, they merely gave an order. And, ingenuously, with all respect, the noble Earl said that the order was not obeyed, so the arms were still there. I have some experience of administration in our Colonies, and I can conceive of nothing of that character happening, certainly under the old régime. I suppose that this is the new régime, under which you give an order and, if it is not obeyed, you do nothing. I believe that the Government were very culpable. Whether it was the Malayan Government or this Government, or both, does not matter; a Government, or both Governments, were very culpable at not having taken proper measures then to seize those arms. By such action they could have minimised very greatly the tragic situation in which the country finds itself to-day. There was already a bad feeling between the Chinese and the Malays in the country, due to certain happenings during the war; but as a result of that situation the feeling of bitterness became worse, and immediately there were massacres and murders between the two races. As time went on, the Communists became more active; feeling between the two races grew progressively worse. The consequence to-day is that the Chinese and the Malays are not in accord with each other, and they are in a position to hinder the Malay Government in all the actions they may wish to take to improve the conditions and the prosperity of Malaya. My Lords, we have to face up to that position. What are we going to do about it? The noble Earl suggests that, a time may come when the Federation of Malaya may have added to it the Colony of Singapore—when the whole country will be federated. I believe that will only add to the difficulties. The Chinese in Singapore are in a very large majority, and if you add that number of Chinese from Singapore to the General Federal Council of the country, you are only going to add to the feelings of the Malays that they are outbidden by the Chinese. The noble Earl spoke about giving votes, and so on. In this country we understand votes. In Malaya they do not understand votes. They do not understand the free democratic Constitution which the Government are trying to impose upon them overnight. All they understand is that, if this were to happen, the Chinese politically would be in a far superior position to the Malays, who own the country. I want to suggest to the Government that they take no action to hand over Singapore, and to ally Singapore with the Malay States, until they have made a proper investigation of the whole subject. I think there are a number of matters there which require reinvestigating. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald did a splendid job of work when he went out there and managed to pull the chestnuts out of the tire. He went out, fortunately, with a fairly free hand and he re-created the Constitution. But we could not ask him to do it again. We cannot ask him to inquire into those matters. He has been in this atmosphere of Communism, of suppression of Communism and all that sort of thing; and I venture to suggest that the Government, as soon as they can, ought to send out a Commissioner, or a Royal Commissioner, or a Royal Commission, to inquire independently into the best manner of reorganising, if necessary, or to such an extent as is necessary, the whole constitutional position in Malaya and in Singapore. My Lords, there is only one other matter on that point to which I wish to refer, and that is the question of deportation. I was amazed again to hear that deportation has not been exercised from the beginning. It must be carried out ruthlessly and determinedly. That is the only way in which these conditions can be met. That course has been used times out of number for years past in every place where these organisations have appeared and where difficulties of the nature which are now occurring in Malay have been encountered. So far as the Communists are concerned, I think violence must be met with violence and murder punished with death. You must be absolutely ruthless in exterminating this external criminal element from the country. There are just two or three smaller points with which I wish to deal before I sit down. I want to refer to the question of compensation for war damage. I do not propose to beat about the bush with regard to this matter, but to say, briefly, that there is a very strong feeling indeed in Malaya upon it. The people there consider that they have received a very raw deal from the British Government. They cannot forget the unsatisfactory way in which His Majesty's Government carried out its protective responsibilities to Malaya during the war. In saying that, I am not, of course, aiming a charge at the present Government. All I say is that, generally speaking, that is the feeling in Malaya. The people feel also that the political affairs of their country since the Japanese defeat and ejection have been handled by the British Government in a very unsatisfactory way. I want to bring this matter down to plain figures, and I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' time in dealing with it. The total claim for compensation for loss in the tin mines and the rubber plantations is £170,000,000. This figure, which I can assure your Lordships was not excessive in view of all the damage done, has, by the British Government's decision, been levelled down to £55,000,000, or 32 per cent. of the total sum claimed. How is it proposed to meet this compensation, levelled down by force mafeare to £55,000,000? Let me tell your Lordships that £10,000.000 of it is to be provided by reparations from the Japanese, who caused all the damage, £10,000,000 by His Majesty's Government, who failed to prevent the damage and, in addition, ordered a "scorched earth" policy, and, finally, £35,000,000 by Malaya, who suffered all the damage. That is £55,000,000 in all. If this were not so monstrously unfair to Malaya, it would be almost laughable to think that any Government could put forward such proposals in all seriousness—and yet His Majesty's Government have done so without, apparently, appreciating what a travesty of justice and reason it represents. So I am going to make the following proposals, shortly, in order not to prolong my speech. The first is, that the total amount awarded—£55,000,000—is too small, and should be considerably increased. Secondly, the amount payable by Malaya should be considerably scaled down. Thirdly, the amount of Japanese reparations should be largely increased—the Japanese behaved brutally, cruelly and barbarously the whole time they occupied Malaya, extracting much tin from the tin mines and rubber from the plantations, and they should be made to pay for it. Fourthly, the proportion payable by His Majesty's Government should be considerably increased, because they, through lack of foresight, were responsible for the unpreparedness of the defences at Singapore and in Malaya. That, may I say, applies to Governments of all kinds and not merely to the Labour Government, though they in 1929 did nothing to increase the Singapore defences. There is another point which I would like to make in that connection. The price of rubber and tin in Malaya since the war have been forcibly kept down below world market prices, and consequently so much more has been lost to the country. But I do not propose to pursue that subject any further, but just to ask His Majesty's Government if they will take that point into serious consideration, with a view to reviewing the position and bringing it more within the realms of fairness and reason. The question of insurance is one that is giving considerable concern in Malaya. So far, I am glad to say, the insurance companies and the underwriters appear likely to take a responsible view in regard to the claims which have arisen and which may still arise under existing policies. I do not wish to emphasise this issue to-day, except to say that this is, obviously, a matter with which the Government must keep in close touch in case the situation becomes worse. For, in the absence of insurance protection, commercial operations become difficult, if not impossible, thus leading to further unrest and uncertainty and playing into the hands of the Communists. I have one final point. I want to ask the Government whether the rumour is true that a considerable tonnage of the Malayan rubber crop has been sold to Russia, and that it is at present being loaded up at Singapore and being transported there. I am told that the quantity is as much as 20,000 tons. I ask His Majesty's Government if that is true. If it is true, I wish to express the opinion that it is surely unwise at this time, when our relationship with Russia is, to say the least, strained, that we should be selling to her an article which is an essential war potential. This is the sort of thing which was done before the last war, when Hitler was contemplating aggression and filling his warehouses. I venture to suggest that this action should not be repeated now. I gave notice to the noble Earl that I was going to ask that question, so perhaps he will be able to give the House a reply. I conclude by associating myself with those noble Lords who have given praise to the planters and miners and their womenfolk for the way in which they have continued to carry on their duties in these most difficult and troublesome times. They have shown the true British spirit. They have kept the old flag flying, and no doubt they will continue to do so, in spite of everything.
My Lords, I am one of those who welcome the discussion we have had this afternoon on Malaya and the troubles that beset the Governor-General, the Administration, and the authorities in Malaya. If the situation is firmly and properly handled, we may yet be in time to overwhelm the subtle and powerful Communist-inspired large-scale rebellion which is threatening the Malayan Federation and Singapore. As a cruiser captain on the China station, I saw the advance of Communism in China, where the shortage of food and the shortage of housing were exploited, just as they are being exploited by Communists in Malaya to-day. I questioned myself then as to how Communism could be cured and prevented from spreading. The answer was, by improving living conditions, by good leadership—or example, if you like—and by education, in which in the Far East one must include hygiene. We had a medium-sized Navy on the China station then and the Commander-in-Chief, his officers and petty officers inculcated into the Navy and the Marines that their behaviour in China made them the ambassadors for the country we were all so proud to serve. The Navy did their utmost to support the Commander-in-Chief, but in a country of more than 500,000,000 inhabitants our efforts could almost be likened to throwing a handful of sand into the fringe of the Gobi Desert.What we realised, in this rapidly changing world, was that there was a good deal of short-sightedness in the Colonial Administration in that area. China and the Far East are countries for Europeans, provided that they are young men; but at the time I was in China young men were not encouraged. With the exception of a few well-established firms, where amenities were on a high plane, young men were so discouraged that they were almost suppressed. Just before the Second War, as I have stated in your Lordships' House before, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Auxiliary Patrol were prevented from coming into existence by the highest civil authority in Singapore. The result was that we lost a great deal of face, to use the expression out there. And this minimum of foresight and maximum of pomp lost us so much face that it was only by the best efforts in co-operation between the three Armed Services and the Allies that we were able to bring to an end the unfortunate loss of Singapore and Malaya. In September, 1945, when Malaya was reoccupied by British Forces, there was a hiatus, an unavoidable gap before government could be established, and during this period all the post-war chaos was being cleared up. This included the military clearing up, the re-establishment of communications, plantations, industries and business. Nearly all of this reconstruction was badly hampered by language questions and race problems. Shortage of transports, of ships and barges, of rice and other native food stuffs, and a deplorable shortage of houses following the Japanese invasion, made the native population, both in Malaya and Singapore, fruitful soil for Communist propaganda on three different fronts. Communism-inspired control delayed the turn-round of ships. There were, inevitably, delays in demobilisation. There were discontent, disillusionment, postwar weariness and slackness, largely due to climatic conditions, and particularly to those torrential rains. Lack of medical supplies, pests like the mosquito, typhus ticks, sand flies, and the dreadful leeches, and countless other handicaps, added to the problems that Malaya had to face while putting her house in order. Those noble Lords who read The Times as well as the Daily Herald must have found a good deal of satisfaction in the Report, quoted this afternoon, of the Mission sent out by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to examine the trade union situation, and the labour movement in Singapore and the Malayan Federation. Besides mentioning the shortages and lack of houses, the Report adds to the causes of the troubles the lack of amenities, high prices, low wages, and the ferment of new political ideas. If your Lordships will first read this Report and then turn to the address of Colonel Spencer Chapman to the Royal Geographical Society late in 1946, you will have a vivid insight into the almost hopeless situation with which Mr. Creech Jones, the Colonial Secretary, and the Malayan Government have been faced in the post-war period. There has been a good deal of destructive criticism this afternoon and a certain amount of constructive suggestion, especially from the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. My view is that we must turn our attention towards obtaining the best type of administrators, police and civil servants of all grades. We should ask your Lordships, from your great store of knowledge, for helpful remarks as to the nature, size and quality of the three arms of the service employed, and to be employed in Malaya. I do not think it has been pointed out this afternoon that Sir Stafford Raffles (the irresistible Raffles) early in the last century set himself, with indefatigable zeal, to improve the conditions of the natives of Malaya. That is, indeed, what the British and Malayan Governments are endeavouring to do to-day. The present disturbances are almost entirely caused by foreign-born Chinese thugs, bent on large-scale sabotage of law and order, and intent on wrecking the economic recovery of Malaya. Whilst mentioning the forces now employed, your Lordships must have been very glad to see that Colonel R. N. Broome, a fluent Chinese speaker of the Malayan Civil Service, is now commanding the Ferret Force which a few days ago discovered the rebel training camp. It is to men like Colonel Broome and Colonel Spencer Chapman that we may look to crush Communist terrorism.
My Lords, it is hardly surprising that this debate on Malaya, introduced by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, has raised a good deal of interest in your Lordships' House. Those countries in South-East Asia under the general co-ordination (I think that is the proper word) of the Commissioner-General, are now the only large territories in Asia for which Great Britain retains direct responsibility. The interest of Parliament will, therefore, he concentrated upon them perhaps to a greater degree than has usually been the case with Colonial territories. I am sure the general wish will be that the resources of Great Britain—resources of every kind: of personnel, culture perhaps, material and financial—shall be called in aid in full measure, so that the peoples of those territories may have the chance of assessing the value of the British connection at its best. His Majesty's Government will be mistaken if they rate lightly the interest which is likely to be taken in the future of the peoples who live in those territories.The speeches which have been made so far in this debate have been concerned, as is natural, with the present situation in the Malay Peninsular, caused, as I think we all agree, by the outbreak of banditry, instigated, and I have no doubt nourished, from Communist sources. I have no wish to repeat a great deal of what already has been said, but I would like to press upon the Government three points. I feel it is important that His Majesty's Government should make very clear that they are determined to eradicate this bandit menace, whatever exertions may be needed to do it. I was, therefore, very glad to notice the emphasis placed upon that by the noble Earl who spoke for the Government. I think he said: "We shall go on to the liquidation of the last gang." That is certainly a form of liquidation to be preferred to the brand advocated by some leading members of the Government. I do not doubt that in a situation of this kind the first essential is to make it absolutely clear that you are going to see the trouble through; to create, so to speak, the impression that the Government, with their immense resources, are hound to be the winning side. In addition, I would say that the Government ought to be prepared for prolonged operations against these bandits. A country which is three-quarters jungle or mountain must be exceedingly difficult to free from a pest of this kind. I hope, therefore, that the Government, who perhaps started late to deal with this trouble, will not be tempted to give up too soon. I hope, too, that the Government will pay attention to what Lord Milverton has urged upon them—namely, the necessity of giving a free hand to those in charge on the spot. The second point I wish to press upon the Government concerns the police. If the Government were taken by surprise by the effectiveness of the bandits, it was perhaps due—I do not know—to inadequate information about their preparations. It would seem, therefore, that the police were not adequately equipped to collect and furnish the authorities with information. I certainly would not seek to attribute blame in this matter in any quarter. It is only three years since the country was liberated from Japanese occupation, and that is too short a time in which to rebuild the police force to full efficiency. However, I would urge the Government to make quite sure that the resources allotted to the police are sufficient to maintain a service of information which will be effective in this difficult country. It is essential for the Government to know what is going on in the country. The third point I wish to press on the attention of the Government concerns the food supply. The noble Earl's remarks on this matter were, to some extent, reassuring, but I would like to ask him whether he feels entirely satisfied that he will be able to keep Malaya well supplied with food. I should imagine that conditions in Burma make it unlikely that Malaya will draw her prewar supplies of rice from that country. I would like to feel sure that that void will be filled satisfactorily. I need not point out to the noble Earl the importance of this matter. Communists thrive on a population which fears hunger, and I have little doubt that one of the tactical objectives of all the Communist-inspired troubles in South-East Asia is the disruption of the food supply. The present troubles are naturally our first preoccupation in regard to Malaya, but they should not prevent us front considering future policy. As I see it, we are in a position to concentrate our many resources, and our now considerable experience, on future developments in those territories; in fact, they present us with a considerable opportunity, and we ought to be clear what is to be done with that opportunity. The noble Earl who spoke for the Government gave us a brief outline of the policy which the Government have in mind. I would like to make some comments on what he said, and in making them I am not unaware of the difference between making speeches in the academic serenity of your Lordships' House, and the difficult, anxious, sweating toil which a decision of Parliament, or even an ill-judged remark, may impose upon those who bear the burden of Government in these territories. I think the noble Earl said that the general line of policy was to improve material standards and to make a gradual advance towards self-government. Certainly I do not quarrel with those as the ultimate objectives, but I was particularly glad to notice that he placed repeated emphasis on the necessity for going slow over constitutional advance. I noticed that he did that more than once, and I welcome it very much. But it seems to me that there is a principle of policy in this matter which should be brought into the foreground. The interests and the welfare of the people of these lands should be the first consideration of all, and should take precedence, if necessary, even over the advance towards self-government. That principle should be the factor which should regulate the pace of that advance. The chaos that was Burma, the slaughter and disruption of life for millions of people which occurred last year on the border lands of India and Pakistan, warn us that self-government, if ill applied or too hastily applied, can be a cruel boon to humble folk. Self-government is not the only thing, although we should be foolish not to recognise that it is often the thing most desired. But it is not the only thing which a State needs in this modern world. It requires also the building up of institutions which will stand when the framework of the builders is removed. May I briefly list some of the things which seem to me still to need building up in Malaya? There is local government—not necessarily, I would say, of the pattern familiar to us in this country, but rooted in Malayan custom and tradition. There is development of the primary industries, with the particular objective of increasing the food supply. There is education, although I confess to sharing what I thought were the doubts of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, about compulsory primary education in the English language. I should feel rather doubtful whether that was going to be a great social advance. There is public health. There is a system of law and order, still to be firmly established; r general respect for justice and its impartial administration; and also, and certainly not least, there is defence against any aggressor. All those things still need to be built up in Malaya. They will call for a degree of understanding of Malayan conditions, culture and tradition, and a degree of training of British officials which I hope (and hope with confidence) will not be stinted by the Colonial Office. Those are the tasks which confront the authorities in Malaya, and which are demanded by the interests of the people of that land. It would be a betrayal of those interests to thrust upon the people a form of self-government before they have a chance of carrying the burden, merely to avoid facing up to an agitation. Let us be realistic about this matter. A course of that kind may possibly—I would think probably—mean standing firmly against demands for too hasty constitutional advance. Such demands, I hope, in the rather peculiar-conditions of Malaya, will not be able to whip up doubts about the genuineness of our ultimate intentions. With the wise, patient, and sympathetic handling which can be expected of the present Commissioner-General, I hope that both major communities in that land may be persuaded to act as partners with the authorities in working on these immediate building tasks, feeling well assured that their ultimate goal is not in doubt. My remarks may seem to many of your Lordships to be of an elementary kind, but our recent experience in Asia, the opportunity before us in Malaya and, I fear I must add, the doubts raised by Ministerial utterances in the last few weeks, seem to call for an examination of the simple elements of our policy in Malaya. I sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government will show by their actions that they do not intend, either by negligence or through some reckless passion for the liquidation of the British Empire, to throw this land to the wolves, but, on the contrary, that they will spare no effort and spend some of our still large resources to make the British connection with this part of Asia a credit to our name and a thing of value to its inhabitants.
My Lords, I think this debate is more than justified by the quality of many of the speeches we have heard and, in particular, if I may say so, by the most remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I sincerely hope that not merely the actual words of his speech but the spirit underlying it, and his very notable experience and reputation throughout the British Colonial Service, will be borne in mind in future. Many noble Lords have spoken about the campaign against armed terrorism. Frankly, I am still worried about Constitution-mongering in Malaya. I think one of the greatest shocks I ever had was when I read the Report of the McMichael Commission, which was sent out by Colonel Oliver Stanley. I think that was one of the most deplorable things in the whole record of the Colonial Office—that attempt to browbeat, at the point of a pistol, as it were, the various Malay States into accepting a Constitution concocted in Whitehall, and saying that we would not recognise them unless they signed within so many hours. That was not the way to treat the people who have been consistently loyal to us, especially since the treaty rights given to us by the Malay Sultans were the sole legal basis for our presence in Malaya.I would not like to see any step taken by the Colonial Office to hasten constitutional development in Malaya, and particularly federation between the Malay States—now called the Malayan Federation—and Singapore, unless it is perfectly clear that the Malayan people as a whole are quite happy about it. That is the vital thing. After all, the race, religion, habits of life, interests in life and occupations of the Malay people and the Chinese are absolutely different. They both have their merits. The Chinese are wonderful craftsmen; wonderful workers in the factories. Seeing them cutting trees in a forest, one cannot but admire their vigour and their stamina. But the Malays are a peasant people. They understand their land, they love their land and it is their country. The next question I want to ask is: What steps are His Majesty's Government taking to limit further the immigration into Malaya? I would rather see economic development slowed down than have further immigration to hasten economic production, if that would mean still further exercising the feeling of the Malays that they are to be swamped and then, on the basis of one man, one vote, handed over to people who have only recently come into Malaya. And let us watch what is happening in China. Quite frankly, I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay of Birker, who speaks to us in this House about the Chinese Communist. I believe that Chinese Communism is a little different from Russian Communism. But still, it is a Chinese form of Communism; and it is clear from recent events that the area of China under Communist control, as compared with that under Chiang Kai-shek's control is growing. The Civil War, from what the Generalissimo said, is likely to go on for five years. In that event, inevitably, the refugees will spill over; and unless the situation is very carefully watched there will be further inroads of refugees and, possibly, of more agents of the Communists who want to oust Chiang Kai-shek, in Malaya, where they will get recruits to help. They look forward, as many Chinese do, to the incorporation of the Malayan Peninsula into the Chinese Republic: that is the avowed aim of many of them. While, therefore, I want to see constitutional development, I feel that it is not an easy business. Anybody who has flown over Singapore, or up and down the coast, will realise that. I flew from Singapore in a small aircraft, down the coast and over Sumatra and Java; and the number of sailing craft—Chinese junks, and every kind of craft—putting in everywhere was astonishing. There is, of course, no such port there as Southampton or Dover or the Port of London, where immigrants can be checked. And that brings me to the further point, which is equally vital, that there are "too many cooks" in our Administration in Malaya. I hope the Government will come to a decision now to have one supreme authority in the Malayan region. I am sure all of us in this House would be delighted if the person appointed were Mr. Malcolm MacDonald. Nobody could be better. He has vast experience; people of all Parties like and admire him; and wherever he has work to do he does a fine job. When I visited Malaya twenty years ago the whole area, including the Straits Settlements, Borneo, Labuan, Christmas Island, and the whole of Malaya, was under one final authority. He was also Commander-in-Chief and, if he found it necessary to do so, to deal with a situation, he had power to call up the Navy, Army and Air Force. I hope that that position will be restored, and that there will not be in future the perpetual referring back to Whitehall through different channels of communication, or the continual demarcations and regimentations and all the rest of it. That is not the right procedure for getting a policy decided, for right action or for good administration. The other point I wish to make concerns food. When I went to Malaya I also visited Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies, and I found a remarkable contrast between them. In Malaya, and particularly in the Malay States and in Singapore itself, I found absolutely first-class hospitals, first-class anti-malaria work—in fact a really good medical department; as good as the one in Ceylon was bad. Then I found in Ceylon and in Dutch Java, some of the finest agricultural stations and some of the finest education, propaganda, and organisation that I have seen anywhere in the world—and I have visited most of the British Empire. In Malaya, the agricultural department whose headquarters in the Federated Malay States I visited was absolutely deplorable. Yet the country was rich in tin—it was the largest supplier in the world of tin—and in rubber, of which it was also the largest supplier. But those are not agricultural commodities. The British agents, in contrast to the Dutch and American agents, were all for clean weeding—which meant erosion. They had not begun to understand the scientific basis of tropical agriculture. The agricultural position was absolutely deplorable, and I am glad to say that very soon afterwards they changed the system. I was shocked by what I saw on that occasion, twenty years ago, by way of contrast between the British rubber industry and the rubber industry of other nations. I was shocked, also, by our agricultural department there. Food was a problem and great efforts were made before the war, before Singapore fell, to get back to more food production, about which nobody out there cared. The next five, ten or fifteen years is going to be a vital time for food production everywhere. I am convinced that Sir John Boyd Orr is absolutely right. And nowhere is that problem of food production going to be more serious than in Asia—in India, in China, and even in the Dutch East Indies, which used to export such quantities of food and where everything depends on high standards of scientific research. I am convinced that one of the first duties of the British Administration in Malaya is to go in for further intensive and extensive production of food—of rice and other cereals, or any food the people can eat. It is no use our spending millions on a ground-nuts scheme so that we can have more margarine here, if we do not develop agriculture in these other places which are not producing enough of the necessities of life in the way of cereals and basic foods. Elsewhere we find everything sacrificed to cocoa and imported flour from America. More countries could become self-supporting. Our policy during the years ahead has got to be far more constructive; otherwise we shall not be doing our duty as trustees for these people for whom we are responsible. I hope we shall see how this confederation works, but, frankly, at this stage I regret the Malayan Federation. When I was there, these four Federated Malay States were demanding decentralisation, demanding each to go back to its own local government powers and not to have so much "carcosa" as they had—and that was my view. I hope this attempt at centralisation will not mean forcing on them artificially our form of Constitution. We think it is the best. It probably is the best, but let them and not us be the judge of when the time is ripe for them to have a House of Commons on a universal popular franchise, and with Government responsibility of that kind to the electors. The Malay people are sensible people, and I believe that they, rather than we by forcing them to act, should be the judge of when the time is ripe.
My Lords, I regret having to ask the House to allow me to speak for a second time this afternoon. I can assure your Lordships that what I shall say will be brief. I shall not attempt to answer all the points that have been made. I should like to thank noble Lords for their tributes to the work of the Commissioner-General. When I was out there, I remember distinctly the impression that he had won the confidence and liking of the leaders of all the different communities in Malaya. That, in itself, was a remarkable achievement. I entirely agree that he has done a grand job, and he deserves well of this country.I should like now to pass on to some points that were made by the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, who was good enough to give me notice of the matters he intended to raise, and whose remarks will therefore receive rather a disproportionate amount of attention in comparison with those of other noble Lords. I hope that your Lordships will understand the reason. I think it is a little unfair to put quite the load of blame that has been put upon this Government for the policy of a Union of Malaya. This was a policy which I think everyone agrees was conceived and had been adopted and authorised by Colonel Stanley when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. It was inherited by the present Government, and it has proved to be what I think the lawyers call a damnosa hœreditas. The noble Viscount asked me to say something about rubber, and he criticised the Government for allowing the sale of Malayan rubber to Russia. There are one or two things I ought to point out in that regard. The first is that those sales were made by commercial firms upon a business basis, mainly on forward contracts. As there is no longer any Government control over the sale or export of rubber from Malaya, this freedom from Government control, only recently obtained, is highly prized by the rubber interests in Malaya. We are not at all anxious to restore to them what has been a most irksome restriction. My second point is that this purchase on the part of Russia is not by any means disadvantageous to the United Kingdom, because the Russians have paid partly, but not wholly, in dollars. It has turned out to be one of the additional dollar resources of Malaya. It is sometimes not realised what an extremely small proportion of the total amount of rubber exported from Malaya is going to Russia. The figure for this year is only 18 per cent. of the total rubber exports during the year, which shows what a very minute quantity is going in that direction. The noble Viscount also asked me whether we would consider sending out a Royal Commission to study the constitutional position in Malaya. I think that my reply to that has already been made: that we do not feel, and I am sure that the House would agree—
If the noble Earl had listened to what I said, he would have understood that my suggestion was a result of his stating that Singapore was to be federated or annexed, or whatever you like to call it, to the Malay States. I said I was of opinion that before anything of that sort was done, a Royal Commission should be sent out to Malaya to examine and investigate the whole question, as I did not believe that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, however popular he is, should be asked to revise the Constitution which he himself had arranged for the Government. That is my case.
I think that the noble Viscount will agree that if a further step is in suspense, then anything leading to it should be taken as in suspense.
I hope that the noble Earl will not take it that anyone on this side of the House, with the exception of the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has any desire whatsoever to see a Royal Commission sent out.
I am quite prepared to make my own suggestions. I am not a wholehearted supporter of the Opposition all the time. That is why I sit in my place here.
The other question touched upon by the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, was one referred to by a number of other speakers as well—the extremely important question of war damage compensation. Noble Lords who have addressed themselves to this problem have expressed the view that the United Kingdom Government have been less than generous in the contribution they have offered towards the payment of war damage compensation in Malaya. The facts are these. We have offered a free grant of £10,000,000 and, in addition, we have promised an interest-free loan not exceeding £35,000,000 when the desire for such a loan is expressed by the authorities out there. I do not myself feel that this is a niggardly or mean contribution, when we consider the extremely heavy burden which falls upon the United Kingdom taxpayer at this moment. The difficulty is that anything of this kind comes out of the pocket of the average Englishman. The compensation scheme has been framed upon an austerity basis. The original claims have had to be scaled down, as the noble Viscount pointed out, but that is owing to the limited resources both of Malaya and of the United Kingdom itself at the moment. Your Lordships are well aware that unrequited exports mean the loss of other goods, such as foodstuffs and various materials which are so much needed by the people at home.
Could the noble Earl tell me why Japan is paying so little—only £10,000,000?
I have not examined that point, but, of course, whatever amount of reparation has been claimed from Japan must be related to the total reparation claims that have been made upon Japan. I imagine that that is how this particular figure was arrived at. I think that this scheme represents a fair division among the various claims. It is related not only to rubber and tin, but also to the loss of private chattels—such things as household goods and furniture—which of course has hit some small people very hard. Again, I would remind your Lordships that Malaya is not the only Colony which has had to put in a claim for help in the form of a payment of war damage compensation from the United Kingdom Treasury. The Malayan claim has been related to claims from other Colonies which have suffered severe war damage.Another important point raised by the noble Viscount was one to which he alone, I think, referred. It is the question of the insurance companies. I am glad he mentioned that, because I think the insurance companies have played the game extremely well. As he rightly says, the possibility of carrying on business in Malaya depended on the willingness of the insurance companies to continue to cover risks; and they have done this, and I think they have done it with considerable public spirit. The position is that, provided the situation in Malaya does not seriously deteriorate, not and civil commotion cover for people who have insured their property in Malaya will continue to be available, and claims will be settled as they have been before, with or without admissions of liability on the part of the companies. I think this must give considerable confidence to business interests in Malaya that they can carry on without any serious risk of loss if their property is damaged, and that they will be covered if they themselves, or any of their relatives, are killed during these efforts of the bandits to terrorise the population. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, referred to the great cost of the reestablishment of law and order in Malaya and suggested that we should make some contribution to help the Malayan authorities. The position is that the Malayan Governments are at present considering how this extra expenditure is to be met, and we in the United Kingdom will of course give careful consideration to any representations that they may make. We have not yet received arty official views from Malaya on this subject, but when the time comes, we will certainly consider very carefully what they have to say and also what has been said by the noble Viscount on this matter this afternoon. I should like now to refer briefly to two points that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton—I am afraid that I cannot deal with any more. In the first place, he said there was some dissatisfaction among the police. Of course, it has been a difficult thing to introduce police from Palestine into the existing police force in Malaya, but I think everyone would agree that this exceptional step was justified by the emergency. We had to reinforce very considerably, and at very short notice, the strength of the police force in Malaya. The second point is that promotion in the Malayan police force is strictly on merit: no preference is given to anyone from any other quarter. Furthermore, by reason of the sudden expansion and the very large expansion of the police force, there are more openings for local recruits in the commissioned ranks than there have ever been before. I think when those facts are considered it will be recognised that substantial justice is being done to local people in the police force, and that any exceptional measures that we have had to take are due to circumstances over which nobody has been able to exercise control. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, like a number of other noble Lords, complained about the over-government of British territories in South-East Asia. I think everyone will agree that we do not want more high authorities than are absolutely necessary, and that an excessive number is a waste. But I would point out that since the war there has been a reduction in the number of these high Government authorities. The post of Special Commissioner for South-East Asia, which was filled for several years by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, has been abolished and his functions were taken over and combined with those of the Commissioner-General, Mr. MacDonald. So we have not only been carefully considering and watching this question but we have taken steps to prune away some of these "big-wigs" at the top, if I may say so without appearing in the least offensive. Somebody has got to be responsible for the external relations of the Malayans with the foreign territories in those parts. Those external relations are extremely important and must be watched. The difficulty is—
I am all for the Commissioner-General, or whatever he is called, having full powers indeed, and exercising functions in regard to foreign relations and everything else, and being really a Minister of State there in this emergency. I want one man who will control everybody, whether he belongs to the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Food or anywhere else; but I do not want an unnecessary number of mandarins under him.
I entirely appreciate the noble Viscount's point, but I want to stress one of the difficulties, which I think was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton—namely, that one man is responsible to two Departments, the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. I do not see any way round that particular difficulty, because in respect of his work in external relations the Commissioner-General has to deal with the Foreign Office, while in respect of his work in co-ordinating internal matters, he deals with the Colonial Office.
But Ministers of State or Ministers Resident have always had that difficulty, and have always been able to surmount it.
If any way can be found of surmounting it, I am quite certain that that way will be adopted.
I think most of the High Commissioners of the United Kingdom in the Dominions have on their staffs, working under them, people, not only from the Dominions Office but also from the Foreign Office. Those staff men are in constant communication with their own Department, while the High Commissioner deals with both offices. He is appointed by the Dominions Office, but the system works perfectly well.
I must thank the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, for his very helpful speech. He referred to food, and I should like to say something, quite briefly, about the food position. We appreciate the political importance, apart from the human importance, of maintaining the rations in Malaya. The general supply position is as follows. Malaya draws most of its supplies from Burma, with a small allocation from Siam and minor supplies from other sources. The quantities allotted in 1948 were 393,000 tons, of which 234,000 tons were from Burma and 138,000 tons from Siam. Because of political conditions in Burma to which the noble Earl referred, supplies from that source have become uncertain, and it is expected that there will be a substantial deficit this year in the total quantities allotted from Burma.In this connection, arrangements have been made to obtain alternative supplies from Italy in order to make up for this shortage. So I think the noble Lord may rest assured that, so far as the present situation is concerned, we are able to hold the food position in Malay; but, as he will be the first to recognise, we cannot look very far into the future, and I do not want to encourage any hopes that might be disappointed in days to come. We must get along as best we can in the extraordinarily difficult world conditions in regard to rice. I was particularly grateful to the noble Earl for pointing out that the unfortunate Government spokesman in a debate of this kind has to keep his audience in Malaya in mind and be extremely careful not to say anything which will make things more difficult for the people on the spot. May I reply to two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech? It was very valuable to hear a speech this afternoon from the last Colonial Office Minister before myself to visit Malaya. The noble Lord was there in the 'twenties, and I went there last year. It is certainly valuable to have a contribution from somebody who has not only had an administrative responsibility there but has been on the spot. So far as immigration is concerned, it has been stopped, and there is no intention of resuming it. We are, of course, fully aware of the political importance of immigration. We are also just as anxious as the noble Lord to see that Malaya produces as much rice as possible for her own consumption. The tonnage produced in 1947–48 has already shown an increase compared with that for 1946. In 1946 it was 257,000 tons and in 1947 it was 340,000 tons. We are expecting that rate of increase to be maintained this year. When I was in the Northern States, where most of the rice is grown, I was immensely impressed by the desire of the Sultans to grow as much rice as possible, while, on the administrative side, the agricultural experts were doing all they could to improve the production of rice by giving advice about modern methods, and so on. Model stations were being run by the Government to encourage rice growers to make the best use of their land. Very big schemes have been drawn up for bringing additional land under cultivation by means of drainage and irrigation works. When these schemes are brought to fruition, the amount of rice grown in Malaya should be substantially increased. My Lords, this has been an extremely remarkable and useful debate. The speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, was one which we were all delighted to hear. He contributed to the debate from a long first-hand experience of Malaya, and his knowledge of administration and of political conditions in that territory is especially valuable. But Lord Milverton's speech was only one of a number of thoughful and constructive contributions. I can assure all noble Lords who have spoken that what they have said will be very carefully considered by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and by the Government. We wish to profit to as great an extent as we possibly can from the advice which we have received in the course of this debate.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that we have had a long, interesting and helpful debate. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has already replied in some detail to the first speech of the noble Earl, it world be impertinent on my part to address further remarks to your Lordships. I wish, however, just to say that I agree with the noble Earl—if he did not think that I did, then I can only assume that I must have spoken very indistincly—that no constitutional change should take place in the Malayan Peninsula except with the approval of the people there. That, I think, is a fundamentally important point. The debate will have done good if only it serves to impress on the people of Malaya how anxiously we in this country are watching their welfare and hope that their troubles will soon be over, and if it demonstrates to His Majesty's Government how closely we are studying their conduct of Malayan affairs. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
House adjourned at a quarter before seven o'clock.