HC Deb 11 December 1945 vol 417 cc298-330

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." —[Mr. Collindridge.]

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

I should like to start by expressing my gratitude to you, Mr. Speaker, and to Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not having called me to speak in the recent Debate on foreign affairs. At the time, I did not feel so grateful, but, as it has turned out, we have tonight considerably more time than we should have had on that occasion to discuss the very important matter which I want to raise.

The British people have learnt with dismay and concern that, four months after the end of the war in the Far East, British and Indian troops are engaged, and are suffering heavy casualties, in a war in Indonesia and in French Indo-China—a war whose object appears to be the restoration of the status quo in the Dutch and French Empires in that part of the world. Their dismay is not lessened when they learn that we are also employing Japanese troops in the action there. Indeed, it was only yesterday, I think, that one of the military spokesmen was reported in the Press to have said that the action in Indonesia is about to develop into a major military operation, and, as we all know from the reports, heavily censored as they are, Indonesian villages have been burned and attacked with rockets—and only those who have been near the receiving end of a Typhoon rocket know what a terrifying weapon it is—and there is every indication that this is not a mere trifling or guerrilla campaign, but something quite important. I have referred to Dutch Indonesia and French Indo-China. The circumstances in these two territories are not precisely parallel, of course, but there are certain resemblances between them. The situation in Indonesia is much more acute, and the disturbances there more widespread, and I shall, therefore, confine my remarks mainly to that country, but one should, perhaps, remark in passing that, if anything, French Imperialism in Indo-China was more oppressive and backward than Dutch Imperialism in Indonesia.

When the Foreign Secretary dealt with this subject in his great speech, if I may so describe it, in the Foreign Affairs Debate, one point that I noted with pleasure was the tribute that he paid to all ranks in the British Forces serving in that part of the world; I should like to echo that tribute, and to pay, in particular —though this perhaps may seem, to some hon. Members opposite, to come strangely from these Benches—a special tribute to the British commanders on the spot, because I know that the troubles that have arisen there are no fault of theirs. They have done their utmost in the way of conciliation, but they have been handicapped throughout by intransigeant and unwise political directives emanating originally from Paris and from the Hague. If it had been left to the judgment and the discretion of the commanders on the spot to settle this matter, I believe that an amicable solution could have been reached without bloodshed, and both Indonesia and Indo-China might now have been well on their way towards obtaining self-government by peaceful means.

The evidence of that is manifold. General Aung San, the Burmese Nationalist resistance leader, has paid repeated tribute to the wisdom and liberality of the policy pursued by Admiral Mountbatten. Again, in Indonesia some weeks ago, when the Dutch were at their most difficult, General Christison was meeting and having dinner with Dr. Soekarno the Indonesian Nationalist leader. Again, in French Indo-China I know, from my own firsthand observation, that General Gracie did his utmost to get agreement on the spot before the trouble actually flared up, and the trouble only flared up in Saigon, late in September because, in effect, General Grade was double-crossed by the French commander on the spot.

Moreover, it should also be said that most of the objectives for which British troops entered these territories were harmless and even laudable—the recovery of prisoners of war, the disarming of the Japanese forces, the taking over of Japanese headquarters, and so on—and when the British troops first went in to carry out those tasks, they met with no opposition or resistance at all from the Nationalists, but, on the contrary, offers of co-operation. I believe that in some cases those offers were made use of. I hope sincerely that that can be done again, and that we can invite the Nationalists, so far as possible, to assist us in those primary tasks—the recovery of prisoners of war and the disarming of the Japanese. I believe that many hundreds of lives of prisoners of war and of internees, as well as of troops, could be saved if we could get and use the full co-operation of the organised Nationalists in doing that. It was only when the final part of the assignment began to become evident, and when the Nationalists realised that one of the objectives was the maintenance of law and order until the Dutch and French civil governments could be restored, that they began to get restive. So one of the questions I would ask my right hon. Friend this evening is this: what exactly are our commitments to the Dutch and to the French, and from when do they date? Are they a legacy from the Coalition Government? Were they commitments entered into during the war, when, of course, the Dutch were our Allies—as they still are—and fought very gallantly on our side? Or are they new commitments? I ask this because some of the more responsible American newspapers have published a fairly detailed account of the alleged signing of a pact on this matter between the Foreign Secretary and M. Massigli, the French Ambassador, within fairly recent months; so I hope that my right hon. Friend can shed a little light on that.

It may be said—it probably has been said—by some of the Dutch and French spokesmen that we have no right to interfere in the domestic Colonial policy of Allied Powers, and to tell them what to do, and to say to them, "You must give these territories their freedom straight away." I suggest that we have established such a right for two reasons. In the first place it is our troops who have the distasteful, unenviable task of doing this job and sacrificing their lives; in the second place, we have shown, in our handling of a somewhat analogous problem in Burma, that we, at any rate, know how to handle such problems in that part of the world. I do not say that I am altogether satisfied with every aspect of the situation in Burma at present, because I am not, but at least there has been no bloodshed there, and at least it can now be said that Burma is clearly on the way to self-government and independence within a clearly defined number of years. That is the very least we are entitled to demand on behalf of the Indonesians and the Annamese from the Dutch and the French Governments respectively. There was one passage in the speech of the Foreign Secretary which I particularly liked, and that was his very understanding reference to so-called rebels. He said that the sensible thing to do with so-called rebels was to talk to them in a friendly and man-to-man way, and he reminded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) of at least one erstwhile rebel known to him, who had now become a great Empire statesman.

Now I come to what is really one of the crucial points in this argument, and that is the terms of the Dutch offer to the people of Indonesia. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State said a week or two ago at Question time that that offer went very far and was extremely liberal. I know he was only answering a supplementary question at the time, and I hope he will be able to tell us tonight that he has now analysed the offer rather more scrupulously and has discovered that it really does nothing of the kind. The terms of this offer became known on or about 6th November—a month ago—and, in very broad outline, here are a few of the main points of the Dutch offer as transmitted to the Nationalists by Doctor van Mook—whose position throughout this matter has been one of extreme difficulty, because he himself takes a liberal and humane point of view about it, but he is constantly being called to order and rebuked, even publicly, by some of the more intransigeant upholders of the status quo in the home Dutch Government.

Some of the main points of the offer are these: that Indonesia in future is to be "a partner in a kingdom." Now that, I suggest, does not correspond in any way to our Dominion status. Another main point is that there is to be a representative body, with a majority of Indonesians on it, and a Council of Ministers, under the Governor-General as representing the Dutch Crown. Further, so far as one can gather from the rather obscure language in which this offer has been reported, this representative body and the Council of Ministers are to deal almost exclusively with the internal affairs of these territories. That suggests an arrangement analogous to the present situation in Ceylon, which again obviously falls far short of anything comparable with Dominion status. The question of the suffrage even is not cleared up in this remarkable offer; the offer merely says that the question of the suffrage "will receive further consideration." Finally, it is made absolutely clear that all final decisions on matters of major policy are to be taken at The Hague.

I really do not think that can be described as an extremely liberal offer which goes a very long way. I would refer my right hon. Friend to the despatch from the special correspondent of "The Times" which appeared in that newspaper on 7th November. If he has any difficulty about looking that up, it should be said that there were apparently two editions of "The Times" on that day—as there are of most newspapers on most days—and the dispatch appears in an abridged form in some editions. I think, incidentally, that we can assume that the special correspondent of "The Times" who sent that report is Mr. Ian Morrison—a highly responsible journalist and authority on the Far East, whose admirable and well-balanced book, "Malayan Postscript," will be known to many hon. Members. "The Times" special correspondent's comment on this Dutch offer was that two months ago it might have done some good. To-day, with tension rising all over Java, with shots ringing out in Batavia each night, and with nearly everyone—especially the Dutch—thinking in terms of war, such a statement signifies little. He then goes on to comment—

The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

What was the date of that despatch?

Mr. Driberg

The 7th November. He He then goes on to analyse the Dutch statement in general terms and he says, with quiet irony: It is more full of loopholes than most official declarations of policy. Nearly all its provisions, when put into plain language, represent either pious hopes, …. obvious statements of fact, …. or evasions of the issue. Even the proposed round table conference is to have only advisory powers. No dates are given, and nothing specific is said about elections. That is the offer described in this House by the Government spokesman as being extremely liberal and going a very long way. I am afraid that I canot agree with that description. The very least the Dutch could offer now is something comparable with Dominion status, and I am not sure that it is not too late even for that—the situation is so tragic and so tense.

The latest information which I have, apart from the newspaper reports, is in a letter dated 17th November written in Indonesia by a well-known Dutch Socialist there, Mr. de Kadt. This man was interned during the Japanese occupation and is a friend and associate of Mr. Sjahrir, the Prime Minister of the new Indonesian Provisional Government. I will not quote the letter in full, because it is very long, but there are one or two sentences in it of special interest and significance. He says: People in Holland have apparently no idea of the way in which the Nationalist Government, in spite of its weaknesses, now holds power. He goes on to say: I have gone to Batavia because it is the political centre. Bandoeng is practically isolated, for posts, cables, telephones do not operate for Europeans any longer; neither do railways or motor traffic. Thus you can see the position of Europeans in Java. He is writing, by the way, to a friend and comrade in the Socialist movement in Holland. He says: Probably it is already too late for complete Dominion status (with the right of separation). There is only one solution, the recognition of independence and an effort to make an agreement for future co-operation between Indonesia and Holland on that basis. There is still a chance for a far-reaching alliance of equal and independent States, but every day of hesitation loses one more chance for this favourable solution. 1 have been in touch again with Mr. Sjahrir [the Prime Minister of the Provincial Government], whom I respect very much. He has mentally matured (luring the years of exile and occupation, and in my opinion he is the one man who can bring about a satisfactory solution. Then he goes on to make a perfectly frank admission which could well be taken by opponents of the Nationalists and used against them, but it is better to have all the facts of this difficult and tragic situation out frankly in this House. He says: Sjahrir will have a difficult time with the terrorists, Fascists and rascals around him who want to use the nationalist movement for their own ends, and are working among the masses of the people, intriguing and causing trouble. Of course, there are none of these elements in the Cabinet, which is not only respectable but very capable. Sjahrir's struggle against corrupt Fascist and terrorist elements is necessary. The point is sometimes made by official Dutch spokesmen that these so-called Nationalist leaders cannot control their own extremists and terrorists. We all share in the condemnation which the Foreign Secretary expressed of the acts of terrorism committed by extremists in Indonesia. But the way to enable the responsible Nationalist leaders to control their extremists is to recognise them as such. While they have no status and are not recognised by the Allies, how can they exercise control? That is the way to enable them to do so.

One more point from this Dutch Socialist in Indonesia. He says: The problem is to make an agreement which will give economic and cultural chances to the Netherlands in the future. But this can only be done if people in Holland are reasonable enough to understand that the period of their political power is ended. One ether Dutchman in Indonesia recently came out publicly with a statement on behalf of the Indonesian cause, a man well known in circles in this country interested in serious documentary films—Mr. Joris Ivens, who was one of the producers of that great film, "Spanish Earth." He was employed by the Netherlands East Indies Government as film adviser, or in some such capacity, and he has just resigned that post, saying publicly that his reason for doing so was that he could not continue to associate himself with an administration which was plainly trying to reimpose a mere status quo on an advanced and intelligent people with strong National aspirations.

I want to end with two constructive suggestions. First, that there should be a conference held, away from the inflamed atmosphere of the Netherlands East Indies. There has just been a conference in Singapore, but I am sorry to see—so far as one can judge from the reports—that no representatives of the Nationalist leaders, either of Indonesia or Indo-China, were present. It was reported as a conference between ourselves, the Dutch, and the French. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can tell us a little more about that conference and its results, and what the possibilities are of holding another conference—perhaps even in London—at which the Nationalist leaders would be treated as equal parties with representatives of the French and Dutch, and at which the whole thing can be thrashed out in as calm a way as possible.

If the Dutch—I hope they are not—but if they are still making that foolish remark that "We cannot do business with Quislings," perhaps I might just dispose of that allegation in passing. I am glad to see that the responsible newspapers no longer refer to these Nationalists as Quislings, because, of course, although it is true that in some cases and at some times during the war, some of the Nationalist, elements co-operated with the Japanese, they never did so for the reasons for which the Quislings in Europe collaborated with the enemy, and, above all, they never betrayed their own people. The definition of a Quisling is surely somebody who betrays his own people. The Indonesians and the Annamese Nationalists were only concerned in getting independence and freedom for their own people, and they thought, mistakenly, that they could use the Japanese as a means of getting freedom from the Dutch and the French. Furthermore, in the new provisional Cabinet of Dr. Sjahrir, there is nobody who could, even by a twist of language or imagination, be described as a collaborator or a Quisling. On the contrary, every member of this new Cabinet has a most admirable record of resistance against the Japanese during the period of occupation.

My second suggestion is that whether or not such a conference as I have suggested can be arranged, this whole situation might be handled under the transitional security arrangements provided for in Article 106 of the United Nations Charter. It will be remembered that the great Powers have power in such a case to co-opt other Powers to join in the discussions. No doubt, if that were done in this case, such Powers as Australia and China would be brought in. I hope that that will be seriously considered. It does not in any way offset or contradict my previous suggestion of a conference. The conference is obviously the short-term, urgent way of dealing with the situation. The other would take longer. If it is said that this is not a suitable subject for reference to the U.N.O. under these arrangements, one might ask what is—because if this is excluded, any of the many dangerous situations which are boiling up, in the Far East in particular, could be excluded.

One might perhaps adapt, very slightly, an old rhyme, and say: In matters of. Empire, the fault of the Dutch Is yielding too little and grabbing too much. The Dutch have gained vast wealth from the peoples of Indonesia, and they have done remarkably little to allow or to encourage their aspirations towards independence. The whole of South-East Asia is now astir. The whole Far East, as my right hon. Friend knows well, is the real danger area in the world today. I hope that the British Government will deal with this whole situation with the highest wisdom and statesmanship, and with a realistic recognition of the strength of the new forces that have arisen. The only alternatives before them in Indonesia are either to recognise the Provisional Government of Dr. Sjahrir, with everything that that implies, or to conduct a full-scale war for the repression of Indonesian independence. I do not believe that the British Government, or its supporters in the country, can regard the latter alternative with equanimity.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)

I wish to support very strongly the plea that this question should be dealt with as a matter of international concern. There are good reasons, both negative and positive, why this should be done without any delay. On the negative side, it is not fair to ask this country alone, after six years of world war, to bear the material and moral burden of armed intervention in Indonesia or Indo-China. We are desperately in need of all the men we can get home, as quickly as we can get them home, to restore our industries and switch over our life to a peacetime basis. Moreover, after six years of war, the men still out there in the Far East have their minds filled with the thoughts of coming home. I do not think it is fair to put them into the firing line again, in a new war which was not in the contract. That is one of the negative reasons.

The other negative reason is that what is happening in Indonesia and Indo-China, and the part we are being forced to play in those events, are being viewed with gathering disapproval, not only in certain sections of public opinion here, but by our principal Allies. There is no doubt at all about Chinese and Soviet disapproval, and the American Press has shown pretty lively criticism of what is going on now in those areas. It is not only the American Press. Our own newspapers have reported the statement made by Mr. James Byrnes, the Secretary of State for the United States, in which he declared that the United States were prepared to mediate, 'but would not intervene by force in this situation. He added that the United States disapproved of the use by British and Dutch troops, for political purposes in Indonesia, of American Lend-Lease arms. That is a pretty clear indication of American opinion on this matter. Indian Nationalist opinion is also very strong. That is a second very powerful negative reason why this matter should be treated as a matter of international concern, and not as a matter of either exclusive Dutch, or exclusive British or exclusive Anglo-Dutch concern.

A positive reason is that these territories were liberated by inter-Allied action, as part of our common cause, as part of our war against Japan; and as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs declared in his last great speech on foreign affairs, our troops went into Indonesia as the mandatory of the Allies, to carry out a mission entrusted to them by the Allied Commander-in-Chief. They went in to wind up the war against Japan, notably to disarm and bring out of the country the Japanese troops, and to get out of the country our own prisoners of war, who, by this time, I believe I am correct in saying, have all been brought out of the country. If that is the case, if we went in there as part of the winding-up of the war waged by all the Allies against Japan, and as the mandatory of the principal Allies, surely this situation should now be referred back to the principal Allies, because it is getting out of control. We went in originally for a limited military purpose, and we have been involved in this situation for a very large and undefined political purpose, which may easily grow into nothing less than an attempt to reimpose Dutch rule by force of arms on a population as great as the population of this country. That is a very large military enterprise, and will be viewed, to put it mildly, with a considerable lack of enthusiasm by the people of this country.

The final positive reason why this should be treated as a matter of international concern, is that the future of all these liberated territories between India and China is very much bound up with the whole future peace settlement, particularly the peace settlement in Eastern Asia, because these territories all have a common characteristic. They were Colonies, and are now liberated territories with strong nationalist movements and very definite aspirations to evolve into States with national independence. A corollary of national independence in the world today, is membership of the United Nations Organisation. In one way or another, we should work for a settlement which contemplates the achievement of independence by those liberated territories—call it independence or Dominion status. It does not matter what it is called, provided that it qualifies them for admission as member States of the United Nations Organisation.

If you adopt that principle and regard this matter as a matter of international concern, you have, thereby, given a guarantee to the nationalist movement and its leaders, because you have already satisfied their main demand, which is their claim to the status of an independent community. By doing that you will make it easier to negotiate arrangements with them for maintaining law and order during the difficult period of transition, because it looks as though the situation there was degenerating to a point at which a certain amount of foreign force will have to be used for a certain period to restore order, and even to restore the authority of the existing Government. That can only be done by the forces of this country or of Holland, and it can only be done properly as part of the action of the Untied Nations, bound up with a recognition of the claims to status as a member State, of the Indonesian Nationalist Government.

I am not concerned with the forms in which the United Nations Organisation should be invoked in this matter. It could be brought before the Assembly, and the Assembly asked to appoint a Committee to deal with it. Or we could invoke, perhaps even more conveniently, Article 106 of the Charter providing for transitional security arrangements. This Article provides, in substance, that, pending the coming into existence and operation of the Security Council, the principal Allies, who are permanent members of the Security Council, should take such joint action on behalf of the Organisation as may be necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.

I should like, although I think it is unnecessary, to remind the Minister who is going to answer for the Government, of the great danger of adopting a position which argues that the Charter is not a fit instrument to be applied in a situation of this sort. We had a great deal of that in the days when Lord Simon —Sir John Simon as he then was —used the utmost resources of forensic ingenuity to prove, not that the Government were unwilling to use the Covenant of the League in the Sino-Japanese conflict, but that the Covenant could not be applied, and that it was not the kind of instrument to apply. I plead very strongly against any arguments that the Charter cannot be used and invoked in this situation. If that argument were proposed by a Labour Government, it would strike a fatal blow at the prestige of the United Nations Organisation on the eve of the first General Assembly, in which the nations of the world are to pledge their faith in this new instrument. Therefore, I ask the Government to treat this as a matter of international concern and to find some means, perhaps through Article 106 of the Charter, or an appeal to the Assembly, to bring into operation the machinery of the United Nations Organisation in this conflict.

8.14 p.m.

Major Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)

I would like, very briefly, to support the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). The particular aspect I want to stress is the use of Indian troops. The use of Indian troops has had a most unfortunate effect on public opinion in India generally, as anyone can see who has followed the Press in India and the speeches of Nationalist leaders. It has given them the impression that Indian troops have been used without consultation with the Indian people to prevent the legitimate aspirations of the Indonesians being realised and the result of that has been to make many Indian leaders feel that, perhaps, this is a foretaste of our future policy towards India, which, of course, we know it is not. But the use of Indian troops in this way has given that impression. Also, the official Government statements on this subject have not been couched in as sympathetic language as they might have been. If they could only have contained passages of sympathy to the nationalist aspirations of the Indonesians, saying that the Government felt they were fully justified, that would have eased the situation a great deal. The Government should have been able to make it clear to India that the use of Indian troops is only a development of the fact that India herself is a great Power in the Indian Ocean area, and that India is going to have to play her share in settling the affairs of that region. It was a pointer which could have been used to indicate the future responsibilities of India as a self-governing country.

I would like to suggest that we should set up, straight away, a Regional Council to deal with the affairs of the Indian Ocean area. We have got past the days when the Powers in Europe, or we from Whitehall, can presume to settle the affairs of the Far East, or individual countries there, without consultation with the leaders of the countries concerned. If we were to have a Regional Council on which were represented France, Britain and Holland and also the national leaders of India, Indonesia, Burma, Malaya and French Indo-China, further occurrences of this kind could be avoided, because they could all get together and settle the problems themselves. If we had had one in being at the end of the war with Japan, this unfortunate trouble in Indonesia would not have happened.

8.17 p.m.

Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)

It seems to me that we must treat all the Allies on the same basis, and I propose, first of all, to put this point. Undoubtedly, it was by an international agreement that we went into Indonesia. Unfortunately, we did not find things exactly as we expected to find them. We naturally expected, when we went to liberate a country, that that country would accept our liberation. As far as I know, that liberation is not yet complete. The task we set out to do is not yet finished. If we are going to secure it against future Japanese aggression, there are steps which remain to be taken. Our task, therefore, is extremely complicated.

Unfortunately, we have here the same kind of situation that we ourselves might be faced with within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It has been clearly stated from the Government Front Bench that we will not allow the independence of any parts of the British Commonwealth to be vindicated by force, and it seems to me that that is exactly what is happening here. We have gone into this territory with the object of helping our Dutch Allies and with the object of freeing the Indonesian people from the Japanese. Had the war not ended so suddenly, I suppose —and I would like the Minister to confirmthis—it was intended that Dutch troops should participate in the liberation, and that they would, by now, have gone there so that the situation would have been much easier. I would like to ask the Minister whether it is still intended that Dutch troops should go there. If we accept the position that we should not submit to force within our own territories, I find it very difficult to see how we can deny the same position to our Dutch Allies. Part of this difficulty, it seems to me, arises from the time it has taken to establish the United Nations Organisation.

I fully agree with the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) that this is a matter for international settlement and I think it is a matter that may very well at the earliest opportunity be committed into the hands of the Trusteeship Committee. But in the meantime what have we to do? We are there to accomplish a task which has been, as it were, left over from the hostilities and has not yet been completed. How is that to be accomplished? Surely this is a task that cannot be determined by one side only and by force; and unless and until the Indonesian Government are prepared to cease hostilities of all kinds and come round a council table, it seems to me that we should refuse to enter into negotiations. I put that point, and, as the same kind of circumstances might easily have arisen within our own Dominions and Colonies, I think we would be very vulnerable in- deed to criticism if we were at this time to yield before force rather than request the representatives of the opposition that we are now meeting, to come round the council table and settle the matter by negotiation.

8.21 p.m.

Mr. Platts-Mills (Finsbury)

I would like briefly to add to the contributions already made to the Debate. Myhon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) gave the Indonesian National Government and its cabinet a good reputation. May I introduce them in a little further detail? The members of this cabinet are men who are known as established figures throughout Indonesia and in Holland. I will not introduce them all, but typical is the Home Secretary, or the Minister for the Home Office, Wiranata Kusuma. This man was a regent; that is to say, he was the governor of a province in this island with a vast population of 40,000,000, appointed by the Dutch. For many years he had been such a regent. More, he was chairman of the Council of Regents; that is to say, he was the outstanding, best known and most important of the regents appointed by the Dutch themselves to administer such local autonomy as the Dutch allowed to these people. When a man like this goes on to the National Indonesian Cabinet, it must mean that the whole body of the regents are supporting him. He could not do otherwise. At the Foreign Office there is Ahmad Subardjo, who is a lawyer trained at Leyden, where all the famous Dutch lawyers are trained. He is known throughout the world by those races who have struggled for independence against foreign subjection. He was the representative of Indonesia at the Brussels Conference against Imperialism in 1927, and at a similar meeting in 1929 at Frankfurt in Germany.

The Minister of Justice is Dr. Supomo, another product of Leyden. This man held the minor position of chairman of the Indonesian high court. He resigned that position—he is not a young man—and became principal or the head of the Faculty of law at Batavia. This man, if you like, cannot be dismissed as no one at all. He is a leading lawyer who held the highest judicial position in the country under the Dutch. Who is more suitable as the Minister of Justice under the new national regime? May I turn to finance? We have Dr. Samsi. Where do we go to get our best advice on finance for our new Government?—to the Governor of the Bank of England. We take him gladly into our collaboration to deal with our most vexing problems. Dr. Samsi was the director of the National Bank of Indonesia. It is not a national bank that these raw natives have set up, but the National Bank of Indonesia established by the Dutch to administer their great Imperial oil interests. That is the man they have taken on. He has given his service and will continue to give it when that Government is accepted by us. He was a close friend of Van Kleiffens, although many of us on this side of the House will probably doubt if that is much of a testimonial. Mr. Ki-Hadjar, the Minister of Education, has set up under his own authority, as the chief Indonesian educational officer under the Dutch, 17,000 schools for the Indonesian people. Do they respect this man, is he of any standing in that island? Is he a tit person to fill the position of Minister of Education? I do not put it against this man, but he was exiled for ten years after his great successes, because he wrote a satirical book called, "When I was a Dutchman."

Having introduced this Cabinet, and the men we shall have to deal with when this Indonesia is finally established as an independent nation, may I say one word by way of a humble request for information about the obvious confusion both in our actions and in our information as it is disclosed to us in this House? We are there, so my right hon. Friend informed us during the great foreign affairs Debate, for three purposes—to disarm the Japanese, to free our prisoners of war and to release those who were interned. That was, apparently, the situation a week ago. But was it so? It is on this point that I would like information, two months ago every British prisoner of war was released. Six weeks ago we were informed that the same position still held. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State said that. The Prime Minister told us the same. I think the Secretary of State for War told us that, and again on 31st October the position was confirmed by my light hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who said that 2,497 Commonwealth prisoners of war had been evacuated, that every one was released and that 256 had remained behind in the country of their own will, because their assistance was being used to identify war criminals amongst the Japanese. We are obviously not staying there to release prisoners of war.

Are we staying there to disarm the Japanese? We were told by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 17th October that, in the first instance, we were using the Japanese to preserve law and order in the emergency created by the sudden collapse of the Japanese resistance. There has not been an official word about the use of the Japanese forces by us against the Indonesian people until today when the Supreme Commander in the area reports, as a result of the disclosure by Mr. Edward Murrow, the Colombia broadcasting reporter, that, in fact, we were still using the Japanese in active offensive warfare. We had this admission —and I invite the attention of hon. Members to its precise terms—that we were using the Japanese, but only for static defence and also for defence when the lives of Allied internees and prisoners of war are in danger from Indonesian extremists. I want the House to appreciate the position—static defence of internees who are in danger. I want hon. Members to picture the static defence area, placed where you will, and beyond that, Indonesian extremists with internees still in their grip, the Japanese forces statically defending as they move forward to assail the area, where, it is suggested, the extremists are imperilling the lives of internees. The Supreme Commander in that area added that these Japanese were being used for the static defence of prisoners of war, but we know they are not in captivity. They are all released and have left the country, except those who have remained behind for quite express professional purposes. Is it not prefectly apparent when we say that we are there to disarm the Japanese that we are speaking like the unhappy French children who murdered their parents and who, on their trial for murder, pleaded for mercy and said: "Have pity on us for, unhappily, we are orphans." Here we are deliberately keeping the Japanese under arms for some purpose that is confused, on the information that we have been given, and then saying that we must stay there until we have disarmed the Japanese.

We can say that for ever. Let us take the island, and set up a governor, and if anyone wants the job let us have some offers. The island is ours, so long as we keep the Japanese fully armed, as we appear to be doing. The course to be taken is that we should say to the Indonesian Cabinet, "We want the release of the internees." Has any approach been made of that kind? When it was a question of releasing our own prisoners of war, their positions were identified by the Japanese. The Prime Minister said in the House on that day that the identity of their positions had been established, and they had been released. It is clear that the Indonesians do not want to keep the internees against us, but we keep them to defend them against the Japanese, who are still in arms, and not unnaturally.

I would tell the House of another point of confusion. The right hon. Gentleman said in this House, on one dramatic day when a famous and distinguished officer had been shot, that this was a dastardly crime, and he associated it with Indonesian extremists. Was it not the fact that this distinguished officer was shot by a stray bullet when he was being driven in a motor car, to a meeting indeed, and in that very area where there are so many armed Japanese, our bitterest enemies? Can we not at this stage have an understanding as to how that officer died, and whether it is really suggested that it was other than our Japanese enemies, kept armed by us, who killed him? That was the tragedy of the whole thing. There is one further point I would like to make, supplementing what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus). It is suggested that there is some agreement with the Dutch that requires us to be there. The agreement has never been published. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary a week or two ago said, "It is clear that there must be an agreement between us and the Dutch." That is not fair to this House. If there is any such agreement it cannot override the Atlantic Charter or the Charter of the United Nations.

I ask whether it is suggested that there is some agreement, kept secret so far, which requires us to be there and to intervene in what is becoming a bloody war on behalf of the Dutch Empire. It is not a case where the peace of the world is threatened. The peace is broken, destroyed already. The war is on. In early October there had been three British casualties. Two days ago there had been 46. The total now is over 1,000, of which 200 are dead. I am giving the roughest figures which are in the possession of this House already. It is urged that this matter must come before the United: Nations Organisation. The only conceivable grounds on which it could be withheld from the jurisdiction of the United Nations Organisation, I mean the transitional body that it has set up for the express purpose of dealing with precisely this situation, is set out in the discussions, we had in Moscow. It was there said that a situation might arise for maintaining international peace and security pending the re-establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a system of general security. That is the very situation which is there today, and which was legislated for in Moscow in 1943, and in Article 106 of the Charter. The only reason that could be advanced, surely, for withholding this matter from that organisation, that interim security procedure is this: it could not be said that this is an international matter. It is solely a matter between the Dutch and their subject people.

Be it so; what follows? Our lads are there on behalf of the Dutch. They are carrying out Dutch policy. If this is not a matter of international concern, our lads—this means Finsbury lads—are there as hirelings and mercenaries of the Dutch. They are mercenaries of the kind that the German princelings used to hire out in Europe. They used to charge the same price per head for them, when they crossed their territory, as they charged for the transport of cattle. Our lads are treated in that way and the only pay they get, those Finsbury lads, is the pay which every mercenary expects, and that is death. It has been reported officially in the Press that 46 two days ago-had paid that price. That is not a matter between the Dutch and the Indonesian people; it is an international matter.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead said, those people were liberated as a result of international action. The Secretary of State said, on 3rd December, that we were going there because of a duty which had been allotted to us expressly by the Supreme Commander of that area. What is more, when those people have established their freedom they will come into the international field and we shall have to accept them. It is an international problem from every point of view. What will be the result if we persist in this armed intervention, when no case for it can be shown? We shall not only discredit our own moral standing as a nation but we shall be leading to this great world organisation, to which all the peoples are looking with hope, being stillborn, for this is the very eve of its birth. Are we, on this great day, to advance legalistic arguments to prove that we cannot bring into action this magnificent machinery that has been set up already for this very purpose? I assert that we should be given an answer why a truce should not be called at once and a conference opened.

8.38 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I associate myself with the speeches that have been made on this question of Indonesia. In regard to the remarks made from the other side of the House, I must point out that tomorrow and the next day we shall be discussing a loan from America. About 100 years ago Americans were battling against the British troops for independence. If you look at the Press you will find that they were called rebels, gangsters and murderers and that every vile term was used about them. We are getting a loan from them tomorrow. In the last war there was a battle for independence going on in Ireland. If you look at the Press you will find that those people were gangsters and murderers and that all the vile terms were used against them; but they were invited over here to discuss an agreement.

I say to the Lord President of the Council that the Indonesians have as much right to liberty as the Americans had. When the Indonesians looked for liberation, it was liberation not only from the Japanese but from enslavement to the Dutch Imperialists. We have no right to be there preventing them from getting liberation and independence. We often hear a lot about Liberal principles and about listening to the voice of Liberalism, but in a case like this where people are fighting for independence, we hear all this talk about "You can't get independence by force." How will they get it? If they do not use force against the forces of the Dutch Imperialists, how are they to get independence in the existing situation? They will get independence anyhow. It does not matter how long we stay there, we can never hold back the spirit that is alive, not only in Europe but throughout the whole world today. The peoples are marching forward to freedom and independence.

The other thing I want to draw attention to—and I want the Minister particularly to pay attention to it—is that I put down a Question to the Secretary of State for Air arising out of a letter I received from the mother of a lad in the Air Force. When the war was over she expected her boy to come back to her. Where is her boy? He is in Indonesia. She does not want him there; she wants him home. She was quite agreeable to the boy fighting against Nazis, but she does not want him to be sacrificed fighting against people struggling for independence. Neither the Minister nor the Labour Government can justify before the people of this country, or before the people of any country, the sacrifice of one British life to maintain Dutch or any other kind of Imperialism in Indonesia, or anywhere else. The Labour Government should withdraw the troops in Indonesia, and the Indonesian problem will be solved. If we withdraw our troops, there will be no fighting because the Dutch are quite incapable of continuing the fight. The situation will ease when the British troops are withdrawn.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

If I do not follow in the fashion and with the vigour with which the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has just spoken, it is not because I do not feel the same kind of sincerity that he invariably expresses. We, the fathers and, I suppose, one can speak of the mothers, and sweethearts and the wives, whose relatives and kith and kin are in Indonesia or in those zones, feel that somebody somewhere has made a mistake. We feel that the Dutch have handled this matter clumsily, and it is not the first time they have handled matters clumsily. We know, and I think it ought to be said, because most of the people who have spoken on this subject following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) who raised it—and, I think, in a right and proper manner—have been Socialists, Socialists have spoken strongly on this subject. We are not unmindful that in Holland there is a Government which has handled other problems in a clumsy fashion in its own country, never mind in its Dominions. We know that the vast majority of that Government are Socialists. You may think this is a pretty kettle of fish; a Socialist Government in Britain offering strong and vigorous criticism against a Government in Holland which is made up in the main of Socialists. By contrast, the Conservatives sit silent, dumb, and wonder what it is all about.

So far as the Dutch are concerned, we believe there is an avenue awaiting us that really allows for a line of approach such as that mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon which can avoid further bloodshed. We believe that if the "get together" spirit prevails or is created as the result of this Debate, the Debate will have been worth while—as most Debates are which are raised by this side of the House. As one who visited Holland some weeks ago, I was aware of the misgivings, the doubts and the fears on the part of the Socialists in Holland concerning their Government and the way they were handling their problems.

Not all the Socialists, the trade unionists or the Social Democrats are happy about the way the Dutch have handled their own peculiar situation in their own country. To give a little illustration, they have 85,000 collaborators—and I have mentioned this to my right hon. Friend before —behind barbed wire. These collaborators, some of whom may have been released since I was there, were put behind barbed wire for lots of reasons. When a country is occupied by an enemy, those who feel they were the Maquis, the resistance movement, or worked with the liberators, begin to work off their spite on people they do not like. Naturally, they gather together lots of people who include such types as a person who played a piano for a relief fund and a young girl who sang at a concert. This particular girl was pointed out to me, and she had been behind barbed wire for three or four months without any sort of trial at all.

There are many similar cases which one could quote. In this clumsy fashion the Dutch are dealing with their own people in their own country. We, on the other hand, are asked to deal with an Empire problem, to provide the shooting men, the soldiers, the people who are taking the risks, while in Holland there is a peculiar kind of army marching around looking after queer people who really ought to have been brought to trial months ago. I would mention to the Minister—I have already referred to it in the House before—that they are only trying about 30 people a week and when I was there a few weeks ago there were about 85,000 imprisoned. I know the Dutch Minister for Justice has said they are going to deliver justice to all these people, that they are working out a new code and setting up new courts and doing all kinds of things to at last clean up their country.

I would say to the Minister and to my friends in Holland—because those of us who have spoken tonight are friends of the Dutch, and we are concerned about the situation—that we feel that misguided action such as has been taken over the Indonesian situation may have repercussions throughout the length and breadth of the world. As the hon. Member for West Fife said, we shall discuss the Bretton Woods Agreements tomorrow. We shall discuss this situation in the next few days or before the Recess, but, unless we clean up this Indonesian problem before Christmas, how on earth can there be any rejoicing in those thousands of households in Britain whose lads are doing the fighting about which they were never consulted? As far as "good will to all men is concerned," this should include the Dutch. We should say to the Dutch, "If you cannot find ways and means of settling your Dominion troubles and of bringing together the people who call themselves Nationalists—those people who may disagree with the Dutch Government—we cannot settle them for you." The present Dutch Government is vastly different from that which they had in 1939, the Government that did not arm and did not prepare its services or defences, and did not do very much in rallying to fight Fascism, in the way we did in this country. We took the brunt long before Holland was invaded.

Lieut.-Colonel Mackeson (Hythe)

The hon. Gentleman is surely not suggesting that the rearmament programme was carried out by his party?

Mr. Walkden

I would say that the Conservatives have nothing to their credit so far as that is concerned. I have nothing on my conscience in relation to it either in this war or the last. I did fight in the last war.

Lieutenant William Shepherd (Bucklow)

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether he voted against the Army Estimates before the war?

Mr. Walkden

That is vastly removed from what we are debating. So far as the Dutch are concerned, and so far as mistakes have been made, the present situation is dynamically dangerous. We believe that now is the time to tackle the problem, and no excuses must be offered. We are clearing the Japanese out of Indonesia, and this trouble has been caused by a failure of understanding which is unpardonable. We believe that the mistakes that have been made can be adjusted by the efforts of my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend, and the Government for which they speak.

8.51 p.m.

The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

I know the House will be kind to me tonight, for I have to deal with a matter of great difficulty, which has been raised in a spirit of moderation and international friendship by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), and I must carefully choose the words I use. I want both to reply to the Debate and to make some statements which, I hope, will be regarded as of importance. Owing to the many other duties which are falling on my shoulders at the present time, it has not been possible for me to give as many hours to the preparation of what I have to say as I should have liked.

I will begin, if I may, with my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden). He told us that the Dutch Government have not solved all the problems of the postwar epoch yet. I would repudiate, with some emphasis, what he said about their participation in the war. When they were attacked by Hitler they resisted with all the means in their power. I was in The Hague a fortnight before they were attacked, and had an opportunity of examining their defences and seeing what they had done. I venture to say that, with the resources at their command, they defended their land with the utmost gallantry.

The present Dutch Government is drawn, not entirely but almost entirely, from the ranks of the resistance movement. Whatever else they may have done, no one can deny that, after their long martyrdom under the Nazis, they have, so far, done a wonderful job of reconstruction. But I would like to endorse one phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster: "The more of the get-together spirit we can have, the better for all concerned."

I should like to assure the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) that some of my ancestors fought against King George 150 years ago, and, therefore, so far as that is concerned, I enter the Debate with no prejudice against those who rebel against established authority.

Mr. Gallacher

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, I have not got very long, and the hon. Gentleman took a long time. The hon. Member for West Fife and my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills), if I understood them, came very near to suggesting that we ought never to have gone to Java at all, but ought to have left the Japanese, and the Japanese-trained Indonesian bands, in charge. If that is their suggestion, I do not think it will receive the approval of the House. Why did we go to Java? I do not need to repeat it again, I hope, to a House which has heard it repeatedly from the Prime Minister and from the Secretary of State, but I can summarise the main purposes. The purposes which it was necessary for us to carry out, and which I do not think a single hon. Member would repudiate, were to disarm and concentrate the Japanese forces, to rescue and bring home our prisoners of war, and—let us not forget it—to rescue the thousands of people whom the Japanese had placed in internment camps under appalling conditions and subject to cruelty of many kinds. The only agreements made with the Dutch Government, and with the French Government about Indo-China, which my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon also mentioned, were the ordinary civil affairs agreements made with all the Allied Governments for the taking over by them of the administration when the Allied Armies had finished their job.

So far as Indo-China is concerned, I understand that the tasks for which the British and Indian troops went in are now nearly completed. Practically all the Japanese have been disarmed, a relatively small number remain to be dealt with, and it is hoped that they will all be dealt with by the end of the year. I for my part hope that our troops may be able to come away in the early future.

Mr. Driberg

Does that mean that the Annamese people are to be left with the French in control, without any guarantee of future independence?

Mr. Noel-Baker

What does the hon. Member mean by independence?

Mr. Driberg


Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it certain that the people of Indo-China are all united in desiring a complete changeover to independence, as my hon. Friend suggests? These are assumptions which tonight I cannot possibly admit from others, and which I could not allow myself to make.

Mr. Driberg

Ninety per cent. hate the French, and justly.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I want to come to what he said about Indonesia and Java, which is more important. He said that we were employing Japanese troops, that Indonesian villages had been burnt, and so on. Let me deal first with the use of Japanese troops. It is true that they have been used, in the official phrase, "defensively." What does that mean? It means that if internees, women and children—Dutch, Eurasian or other—are being attacked and subjected to murder or cruelty, as they very often have been by the Indonesian bands, then the Japanese are called on to repel those attacks. According to my information they have been used offensively only once, and I will give the House the exact details of what occurred.

On 6th December one of our battalions was ordered to reach and evacuate 500 starving internees, 140 of whom had already been carried off. They were met by heavily-fortified strong points. Our infantry could only have got to the rescue of those people with heavy loss of life unless we had been able to call on some artillery. There was no artillery to reduce the strong points, except Japanese. It was used in order to save our soldiers' lives and to rescue those people. Some of my hon. Friends, in particular the hon. Member for Finsbury, seemed to imply that no atrocities of any kind have been committed by the Indonesian bands. I wish I could agree with him. I am not going to take the time of the House in describing atrocities, but I could do so at very considerable length. It was said that we had destroyed Indonesian villages by Typhoon rocket-planes. I have not heard of that. I have heard of the destruction of two radio stations by rocket, a very different matter. The targets were very well isolated, with no centres of population near them, and were very easy to destroy; in point of fact, the percentage of direct hits was very high. They were attacked because day by day and night by night they were pouring out the most inflammatory propaganda, inciting the Indonesian bands to acts of cruelty of many kinds.

It is said that villages were burned. I know of one case in which a village was burned, and again I will give the House the facts. An R.A.F. aircraft made a forced landing near a village. The crew were taken and murdered by brutal torture. Nothing was done against the population. They were cleared out of their village and the village was burned. I am not defending indiscriminate reprisals, but in these circumstances I find it hard to blame the commander on the spot.

Despite the obstructions and difficulties with which we have met, we have, in fact, made great progress towards our aims. We have disarmed and concentrated under our control a very large proportion of the Japanese forces in the island. We have set free and evacuated tens of thousands of the internees. There are still very many to be rescued—up to 200,000, mostly women and children. They are enduring starvation and all the familiar horrors of Japanese custody. To get them out, of course, we had to take military measures. We had to occupy Sourabaya for evacuation and for supply. Those who are resisting us are sometimes referred to in a facile phrase as "The Indonesian Army," and it is implied that they are obeying the orders of the Indonesian "Cabinet" and "Government." The resistance to the Allied Forces engaged on this relief, and the acts of terrorism which are going on, are the work, not of an army, but of so-called Indonesian youth movements, gangs of fanatical youths who were armed, and very largely trained, ideologically as well as militarily. by the Japanese. This so- called Indonesian "Army" does not seek approval for its policy from any responsible Indonesian leader. It has shown itself capable of every outrage all over the Island, against the Allied prisoners of war and the internees. Moreover, all those who are known to sympathise with the Dutch and the British were at the mercy of these bloodthirsty youths, and in some areas in immediate danger of massacre, following on the starvation they had previously endured.

I venture to say that no one would urge that we should turn our backs on those people and say their fate is no concern of ours. If we do not help them no one else can, certainly not the Dutch, who have placed their troops and their ships at the Allies' disposal, and who have been extremely loyal in that regard. We must do everything we can to complete this work of rescue and relief. The first necessity is to remove them from the remaining camps and then, if we can, to get them away. That work is very difficult, so long as disorder is going on, and once you start on it, you arc compelled to do what the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister described as "restoring order." I know that the phrase "restoring order" has a sinister connotation in Colonial history. I know that any use of it justifiably arouses suspicion. I know it has been too often used as an excuse for the suppression of political aspirations by force. But what are the facts in this case? The suppression of the Indonesian terrorist groups will not in any way weaken the presentation of the Nationalist case by the Indonesian leaders in their negotiations with the Dutch. It will strengthen their case; and I have strong reason to believe —I ask the House to note this—that Dr. Sjahrir and his colleagues would welcome the suppression of the extremist elements whose outrages only prejudice their case, and who in fact, accept no orders from anybody. How can Dr. Sjahrir present the Indonesian case effectively under conditions in which the Armed Forces and the most important means of propaganda are in the hands of extremists who reject negotiations and call for further bloodshed? Anyone who has compared the declarations of Dr. Sjahrir and his colleagues with the wild and foolish outpourings from the radio stations of the so-called Indonesian "Army" will appreciate the extent of this disastrous division of the Indonesian people. The savagery in word and action of the irreconcilables can only play into the hands of the more exacerbated and less conciliatory elements on the Dutch side.

Here I must say one word about the case for the Dutch. My hon. Friends spoke about the Indonesian people as being advanced, educated, capable, and so on. If that is so, some of the credit goes to the Dutch. The Dutch found these islands, when they first went there, in very primitive conditions. No one can deny that the reputation of the Dutch as a Colonial Power stood high in 1939. I venture to think that we must remember not only that record, not only what they have done in the study of anthropology, which is so vital to colonial progress, and which was so admirably advanced by the Dutch colonial administration and by the Universities of Holland, but that we must remember also the magnitude of the sacrifice that they made in the war. We must remember both the help which they gave us in Holland, when those four days mattered, for they had an effect on the ultimate outcome of Dunkirk, and their effort in the Far East, when they declared war on the Japanese without waiting for the Japanese to attack them, and when their submarines and their armed forces made a mighty contribution in holding up the pace of the Japanese advance.

I am confident that the well-known phenomenon, the colonial dieheard, who will not admit that the old days of easy and unchallenged ascendancy have gone and cannot return, will not prevail against men like the present Prime Minister of Holland, Professor Schemerhorn, and the Minister of Overseas Territories, Dr. Logemann, both of whom have been personally involved for several years in the promotion of movements for the more democratic and progressive administration of the Netherlands East Indies. The programme of the Indonesian Committee, of which the Prime Minister was chairman, was approved by all its Indonesian members and by the Communists. Dr. Schemerhorn's colleagues in the Dutch Cabinet know from first-hand experience in the Dutch Resistance Movement how intolerable repression and the denial of political rights can be, and I do not believe that that is their purpose in the East.

I ventured to describe the offer of 6th November as generous and far-reaching. My hon. Friend, in his well-reasoned statement tonight, thought that I was too optimistic. Had I the time I would gladly analyse it further, but I think that the difference between us lies largely in what the Dutch propose about the Government of the whole Kingdom. They want now to implement the policy which was broadcast by the Queen of Holland in 1942. They aim at the realisation of those aspirations for a more liberal system by a process of evolution, by co-operation, and not by violence. They propose a partnership inside a Commonwealth or Kingdom of the Netherlands, which would include the Empire as a whole. They provide in Indonesia for a representative body with a substantial majority of Indonesian members, and, as my hon. Friend said, that body would be dealing primarily with internal matters.

Mr. Driberg

Under a Governor-General.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, but where are the powers to lie? That is to be negotiated. This is a basis of discussion which the Dutch have put forward and which they ask the Indonesians to talk about. But the Dutch not only propose that; they propose a round table conference to decide on the methods whereby the Netherlands Indies, like other overseas Netherland territories, will participate in the Government of the whole Kingdom. I think that is where I differ from my hon. Friend, and that, I think, is where "The Times" correspondent, like my hon. Friend, got it wrong. What does the statement actually say? Indonesia will become a full partner in the Kingdom organised as a Commonwealth of the participating territories. A round-table conference will propose how this will be done. Decisions, however, will be taken by the constitutional authorities of the Kingdom. That means the authorities of the whole Kingdom. Unless I am mistaken, what is proposed is not at all Dominion status, but it is instead an advance towards a cooperative, federated Commonwealth of Holland and her territories overseas.

Mr. Driberg

But without the right of contracting out.

Mr. Noel-Baker

But surely that is all a matter for the negotiations, and for future historical development which we cannot now foresee. Canada, Australia and New Zealand had no right of contracting out when self-government was first established by Acts of this Parliament. Let us not forget that until the war of 1914, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had nothing to do with foreign affairs; they dealt with internal matters only.

This is a very far-reaching and liberal proposal for negotiations between those Indonesian Leaders who are fit to negotiate and the Dutch Government. It is easy to talk of independence. The leaders who claim to represent the country have still to prove that they can do so, and that they can exercise effective control; they have not done it up to now. They have still to prove that they can bring economic welfare to a country in danger of starvation, in a world where in far too many places, starvation exists or is coming very soon. The right plan now is to proceed on the road of co-operation and orderly evolution, and I beg hon. Members to consider how little reason we have yet to think that these Indonesian leaders could solidify the whole of the people for whom they claim to speak. Even in Java there is a tremendous mixture of races—Javanese, Sundanese, Mudanese, Chinese, Dutch, Eurasians, Arabs. This has to be taken into account. I am not saying that that is an argument against self-government, but it is one of the things that must be dealt with not by violence or by leaving the country to the bands trained by the Japanese, but by negotiations between responsible leaders and a responsible Dutch Government at home.

I was asked if I would encourage a meeting outside Java, perhaps in London. I was asked why it was that the Indonesians were not invited to meet at Singapore. To that the answer is simple. The meeting in Singapore was a military conference of the Allies to deal with questions concerned with the liquidation of the war with Japan, and there was no reason for Indonesian representatives to participate, and none of the items on the agenda could be said strictly to concern them. I venture to suggest to my hon. Friends that, before we think of conferences outside, and of referring the matter to the United Nations Organisation—and no one is likely to accuse me of wanting to keep important questions away from the United Nations Organisation—we had better see whether the negotiations which are now going on, which, on Dutch initiative and with our support, have actually been begun, should not now be carried further.

It is not true that the Dutch have re fused to have meetings with the Indonesian leaders. Meetings have taken place. The difficulty has been the unwillingness of the Indonesian leaders to commit them selves to formal meetings. They do not seem confident of their powers to lead and to negotiate as authorised delegates. Therefore, however reasonable they may be in informal talks, they will not publicly, and as responsible delegates, declare what they would regard as a satisfactory basis of negotiations. The Dutch, as I said, took the initiative. I think it is up to the Indonesians now publicly to meet that initiative with counter proposals, if they want to make them, in a spirit of reasonable com promise. Dr. Van Mook is now on his way to the Netherlands to consult the Dutch Government—

It being a quarter past Nine o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—

Mr. Noel-Baker

I was saying that Dr. Van Mook is now on his way to the Netherlands to consult the Dutch Govern- ment, and His Majesty's Government hope he will be given full authority by the Government at home, when he goes back to Indonesia, to use his unequalled experience of conditions and sentiments in the Dutch East Indies to meet the Indonesian case in most concrete and conciliatory terms. I think we must await the outcome of these consultations before we express any further opinion. In the meantime, we have the right to insist that there shall be the minimum possible delay in elaborating the statement of 6th November in more concrete terms and as a basis of negotiation. May I end with these words, which I commend to the attention of the House?

We now expect, and we demand, that the Dutch and Indonesians should sit down together to adjust their differences on a basis of concrete proposals from both sides without any further delay. The first essential is that both sides should appoint representatives with full powers, who are in no danger of being repudiated. In the meantime, His Majesty's Forces must continue to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of Allied prisoners of war and of the helpless internees.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen Minutes past Nine o'Clock.