HC Deb 26 November 1945 vol 416 cc869-71
8. Mr. John Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British-owned rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies are now in the hands of Indonesian irregulars; and what representations have been received from the owners of these plantations by His Majesty's Government as to the effect of he Dutch Government's announcement of a rubber monopoly in the Dutch East Indies.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I regret I cannot tell my hon. Friend how many plantations belonging to British subjects are in the hands of Indonesian irregulars. I am awaiting information about these plantations and other British property from the Foreign Office representative in Batavia. So far as I am aware, His Majesty's Government have received no representations from British planters or plantation owners about the rubber monopoly which the Dutch Government have proposed.

Mr. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend in a position to assure the House that there is no association between these British-owned plantations and the presence of British troops in Indonesia?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, without the slightest hesitation. My right hon. Friend has explained why it is necessary to send troops, and I do hope that suggestions will not be made which would endanger the hope, based on the report last night which I have quoted, that there may be a settlement by agreement between the Indonesians and our Dutch Allies. That is the object we must keep in view, and which we must at all costs endeavour to promote.

Mr. Eden

Is it not a fact that the presence of British troops there simply arose out of our obligations, first to our Dutch Allies and second, for the preservation of peace? It is a most thankless task throughout, and our local commanders deserve full support and not insinuations against our motives.

Mr. Driberg

While everybody realises that the commanders on the spot have got an extremely difficult job and have done their best, is it not the case that the Dutch offer referred to by my right hon. Friend last Friday does not go even as far as British Dominion status?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I should not accept that for a moment. If my hon. Friend will examine the statement of 6th November, he will see that it does go extremely far. The system, of course, is different from that of Dominion status, but it goes extremely far. I would beg him to await confirmation of the report last night that the Indonesian leaders themselves are still hoping for a settlement by agreement.

9. Mr. John Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British-owned plantations in the Dutch East Indies, the acreage and the amount of capital invested in them by British subjects.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I understand that before the war there were rougnly 40 British tea and rubber plantations in the Netherlands East Indies. With other British plantations, they had a total cultivated area of more than 600,000 acres. The plantations were held on leasehold. I am informed that, in order to bring them to the bearing stage, and to equip them with buildings and plant, the average sum expended per acre was between£55 and£60. On this basis, the total. British capital invested in these plantations would be between£30 and£40 million.