§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India a question of which I have given him private 2557 notice: Whether he is satisfied that the resources at the disposal of the Government of India for the preservation of internal and external peace are sufficient. May I also ask if the Secretary of State can give us any further information about the position in India before we separate for the Recess? If so, I am sure the House will be grateful, but I do not press him if he thinks it would be contrary to the public interest.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Wedgwood Benn)
The answer to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman is "Yes, Sir." In reply to his further question, I have prepared a short statement about the North West Frontier, and, with your leave, Mr. Speaker, I will read it.
"For some days past there have been reports of a lashkar of Afridis gathering in the Bara Valley South-West of Peshawar. Report as to the number of the lashkar have varied, but as high a figure as 4,000 has been reported. Their purpose is somewhat obscure but my information shows that the lashkar consists largely of young tribesmen without the support of the elders as a whole.
"My latest information consists in a report from the North-West Frontier Province, dated yesterday, which shows that Afridi tribesmen in gangs of considerable size visited the villages at the mouth of the Bara Valley, within a mile or two of the cantonment at Peshawar, yesterday morning and urged the villagers to join them in an attack on the cantonment. The villagers refused, and the Afridis retired West and South-West. They endeavoured to block the roads behind them, but the obstructions have been removed. The Royal Air Force is watching the retirement of the tribesmen which is being effected in parties of varying strength ranging from 30 or so to 300 or 400 men.
"There is no information yet of any military contact with the tribesmen, but a particularly threatening encampment of tribesmen in tribal territory was attacked from the air on the night of the 4th-5th."