HC Deb 10 April 1935 vol 300 cc1257-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

8.57 p.m.


May I say a few words on this Clause? As I understand it, the position of the police in Burma is quite as important as the question of the police in India. As the Clause now stands the police are under the control of Burmese ministers. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary would be good enough to reconsider that position between now and the Report stage, for this reason, that not only are the police of great importance to Burma, on account of the great numbers of crimes of murder and dacoities, but the whole position of Burmese defence rests not in the hands of troops but in the hands of the military police. Therefore, it would seem to be a case for keeping, if not the police, at any rate the military police outside the power and hands of Burmese politicians. There is one more reason, and that is that I believe the military police are very largely Gurkhas and Sikhs drawn from India or territories adjacent to India. If, therefore, the defence of the Burmese frontiers is to rest in the hands of foreign military police, that is an even greater argument in support of my contention. I should be glad if the Under-Secretary would sympathetically consider this question between now and the Report stage.

8.59 p.m.


I appreciate the point of my hon. Friend. The position of the military police in Burma is certainly rather different from the position of the police in India, but I think I can give my hon. Friend a general answer even at this stage. The position will be roughly this, that the military police in Burma are composed of ten battalions, three of which do service in the large towns and in the plains. It is proposed that the battalions which actually do work in the towns, and are the equivalent of the armed police in certain Indian Provinces, should be under the control of the Ministers, but that the frontier battalions, the military police of Burma, should be under the Governor, in his discretion. That is the division that it is proposed to make. Otherwise generally it may be said that the police provisions are equivalent to those in India. The hon. Member raised certain questions about the constitution of the military police in Burma. The Rangoon and Mandalay battalions are composed largely of Indians, but there is a definite recruitment of Burmans. It should be realised by the Committee, in answer to one or two remarks that have been made about recruitment, that a proportion of Burmans are recruited into these battalions. As regards the frontier police they are constituted, as the lion. Member said, of Gurkhas and Punjab Mussulmans. I hope that answer will satisfy the hon. Member.


If I understood my hon. Friend correctly, he drew a. distinction between the ordinary police and the frontier or military police. Will he be good enough to point out where exactly that distinction is made in the Bill? It is not in this Clause.


My hon. Friend will not find it in this Clause, but if he will take. my assurance I can assure him that this is the arrangement which it is proposed to make in the future, and it is done on the advice of the Joint Select Committee.

9.2 p.m.


May I point out that there will be two different branches of police. Surely in the inception of this unitary form of government it would be wise to keep this force in the hands of the Governor. We all know the dangers of political differences in a new country. Anyone who has read the evidence of the various Burman politicians must realise the intense feelings that can be created even when sitting round a table. I think that can be testified to by those who were members of the Round Table Conference. Is there not a very grave danger of political issues and would it not be wise, for a. few years at any rate, to see that the police force was kept out of political influences in Burma?

9.3 p.m.


I think we are getting rather beyond the Clause. The Clause is all in favour of the hon. and gallant Member's contention, so far as it goes. but he is raising now something outside its scope.


I do not think that we ought to allow the statement of the hon. and gallant Member to go unchallenged. We found differences of opinion between the two sections of Burmans, but I never saw politicians in my life co-operate so well together once they had decided on a line of action.


I accept the assurance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary with regard to the arrangement which he says has been made, but if that arrangement has been made I do not see why it should not be included in the Bill.

9.4 p.m.


Perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend by telling him that this is an executive matter which will be done by an executive order and that this is intended to be the arrangement for the future as regards the military police in Burma.

Clause 310 ordered to stand part of the Bill.