HC Deb 26 November 1945 vol 416 cc867-9
6. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on recent happenings in Indonesia with particular regard to Sourabaya; and if he will assure this House that British and Indian troops will not be used to support the French and the Netherlands Governments in any consequences that may arise from a refusal to recognise the independence of Indonesia and Indo-China.

7. Mr. Collins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the disfavour with which British people regard the possibility that British forces will be used to suppress the native populations of Indonesia and Indo-China; and will he give an assurance that our troops will only be used to secure the evacuation of British and other European nationals desirous of leaving the areas concerned.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In his statements on 24th October and on Friday last, my right hon. Friend explained the purposes for which British troops were sent to the Netherlands East Indies and to Indo-China, and explained the policy which His Majesty's Government have pursued. I am sure my hon. Friends will agree that his statement was warmly endorsed both by the House and by the nation. I need, therefore, add nothing to that statement except to remind my hon. Friends that the Indonesian Leader, Mr. Sjahrir, was reported last night to have expressed his confidence that a settlement by agreement could be reached between the Indonesians and our Dutch Allies. His Majesty's Government will continue to do everything in their power to promote that end.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to recent reports that, as a kind of reprisal or punitive measure for the discovery of mutilated bodies, British troops actually burned a number of native villages? Can he say if that is so, and will he bear in mind that that kind of punitive measure has been rather under a cloud since Lidice?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have not heard any such reports. I do know that a number of acts of terrorism have been committed against internees, and that it is of vital importance to prevent terrorism from spreading.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that a good deal has happened since the date he mentioned in October, and surely the time is ripe for another statement? Will the right hon Gentleman assure the House that the British Government will fix its objective definitely and spare no pains to see that that objective is attained; and that there will not be any muddling about through lack of clarity as to objectives?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think if the hon. Gentleman will examine the statement made by my right hon. Friend, he will see that the purposes for which our troops are in Indo-China are really the same as those for which they are in Java. A very full statement was made by my right hon. Friend on Friday last, and I do not think I need add anything to it.

Mr. Bowles

Has not my right hon. Friend seen in the Press reports of the burning of these native villages as a reprisal, and has he not made any inquiries?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have not seen the reports, and have not made any inquiries, but I will now do so

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that the lives of these British lads are being risked and sacrificed in the interests of the rubber merchants?

Mr. S. Silverman

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that while nobody wishes to condone acts of terrorism, and everyone believes that if the culprits can be found they should be punished, we in this country have never believed that the proper way to prevent acts of terrorism is to have indiscriminate reprisals?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, of course, but I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that the situation in Indonesia today is one of the greatest difficulty to all concerned, and, above all, to our commanders who are in charge, and that the lives of perhaps 125,000 innocent people, largely women and children, are at stake.