HC Deb 10 April 1935 vol 300 cc1260-3

9.7 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 182, line 31, leave out "thirty" and insert "thirty-two."

The object of the Amendment is to enlarge slightly the number of seats in the Legislature in Burma in order to include two extra seats. It is intended that these two extra seats, over and above the 130, shall be given one to the Chettiar Association, and the second to the Burma Chamber of Commerce. The Chettiar Association have a very important position in Burma. It is composed mainly of merchant bankers, who perform services absolutely vital to Burma. It occupies a very important position in the national life and performs duties which Burma can ill afford to lose. It is only just that the Government should suggest an extra seat for the association. The other seat is for the Burma Chamber of Commerce. The object is to give an extra European representative. We have been pressed by Europeans to increase their representation in the Chamber. We did not succumb to their blandishments for some time, but I am glad to be able to announce that we have agreed that it is but justice that the European community should have one extra seat.


How many had they before?


The Europeans will have eight seats, including this one, and the total number of the Chamber will be 132. This has been pressed upon us by the European Association, and I hope the Committee will agree that these two seats should be added.

9.8 p.m.


I am sorry to hear the pronouncement of the Under-Secretary, and his explanation. Already we have entered out protest against the representation of interests on these central bodies. I should have thought that seven was an ample representation of commercial interests in any case. Now there is one extra seat to be provided for bankers and other commercial interests. I am astonished at the pronouncement, and I warn the Under-Secretary that on Report stage we shall take steps to enter our protest in a more formal way.

9 9 p.m.


The Committee, I am sure, will be interested in the protest of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) as representing the Socialist party. He rises in his wrath to protest that there are but eight European representatives in this new legislative body out of a total of 132. This is the first indication in this Bill from start to finish that His Majesty's Government are taking any steps to strengthen British interests, and I shall go into the Lobby against the hon. Member if he challenges the Amendment. I congratulate the Under-Secretary on having gone to some little extent to strengthen British interests. I hope hon. Members of the Opposition will realise what Burma owes to Britain, all that Britain has done, the millions of pounds we have poured into the country, and the fact that we have not subtracted such great profits. British credit in Burma, as in India, has been the cheapest credit of any country in the world, and when one realises what we have done in the defence of the country—the people of this country are still to be responsible for the defence of Burma, we shall still have to send our soldiers and sailors to offer their lives in the defence of the country —it is not asking over-much for a paltry eight representatives out of 132.


I only wish to suggest that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) is a little inconsistent in objecting to these extra seats, for the bankers are the same people as the Banias into whose hands he and his party were willing to entrust India.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, arid Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

9.11 p.m.


I desire to draw attention to the fact that in this Clause the whole official bloc is entirely abolished.


The hon. Member is now proposing to discuss a matter which was fully discussed on the Indian Clauses.


Is not the case of Burma somewhat different from that of India? You have a far more backward political experience in Burma and therefore the point is not one of repetition.


I cannot, of course, prevent hon. Members differentiating between Burma and India on every single Clause of the Bill if they choose to do so. I am only reminding the hon. Members that they should bear that in mind.


In this Clause the nominated element, or official bloc, is withdrawn altogether, and I submit that in a country like Burma you will thereby exclude the possibility of having in the House of Representatives a number of able Burmese, capable of shouldering responsibilities, capable men of business, who would never submit to the hurly burly and publicity of popular election. If you abolish altogether the nominated bloc you will de facto exclude these people, who may be of the greatest value in Burmese administration. From that point of view I hope the Under-Secretary will reconsider the Clause.

9.13 p.m.


I do not think the hon. Member has fully appreciated the extent of nomination there will be in the Burmese Senate. Half of its members will be nominated by the Governor in his discretion. That answers the point that there may be some Burmans who will not wish to face the hurly-burly of an election, inasmuch as the Governor will have ample chance of nominating any gentleman whose services may be required in the upper house. Apart from that, the main argument against eon-tinning the nomination bloc is the same as that which applied on the Clause relating to India.


Is it not the case that wherever we have endeavoured to give full responsibility in other Crown colonies there has been an effort to maintain the nominated bloc, and that these nominated members have been of great assistance to the Government, a steadying influence when passions have run strong. Is it wise to dispense altogether with them?


I think I must repeat that the Governor will be able to nominate certain persons who may not wish to face election, because half of the Upper House will be nominated by him.

Clauses 314 to 319 ordered to stand part of the Bill.