HC Deb 17 April 1946 vol 421 cc2672-3
43. Mr. Piratin

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many leaders of the Singapore Labour Union have been deported and on what grounds, to what country and under what authority; if he will cause a public inquiry to be held into the administration of Malaya and the relations of the British administration to the Singapore working-class movement; and if meanwhile he will stop all threatened deportation of labour leaders.

73. Mr. Driberģ

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the chairman of the Singapore Labour Union and nine other Chinese are to be deported from Singapore; and if he will cause their deportation to be delayed until the matter has been further investigated.

Mr. Georģe Hall

Ten Chinese have been expelled from Singapore under the civil law of the Colony on the ground that their expulsion was conducive to the public good. These persons had already been detained by the Military Administration after having attempted, in defiance of police instructions, to organise a demonstration on 15th February, which would have been prejudicial to law and order. Full warning had been given by the authorities before action was taken.

I am advised that these men were in no sense genuine labour leaders, and that their activities were making impossible the development of a trade union movement on sound and democratic lines which is now being undertaken by an experienced Trade Union officer from this country. Their aims were disruptive, and they had no real popular support. On the other hand, they and their associates had been able, by a policy of wholesale intimidation of labour, to hamper the work of government and to jeopardize the speedy rehabilitation of Singapore. The present administration of Singapore has only been in existence since 1st April, and I see no reason for a public inquiry as suggested by the hon. Member.

Mr. Piratin

Would the Minister state what was the purpose of the demonstration to which he takes exception? Further, will be answer sections one and three of my Question?

Mr. Hall

Whatever the purpose of the demonstration, the police advised those who organised it that it was untimely and dangerous to hold it.

Mr. Piratin

What about the purpose?

Mr. Hall

I am not speaking about the purpose. It was untimely and dangerous, and as a result it led not only to bloodshed, but to a very serious situation in Singapore.

Mr. Driberģ

Is it not the case that these men were active in the anti-Japanese resistance movement during the occupation, and also that the trade union development which my right hon. Friend commends is being organised on lines of racial discrimination instead of inter-racially, which would contribute to the Malayan union which is desired?

Mr. Hall

I have no knowledge of their activities during the Japanese occupation, but I am convinced from advice I have received that the trade union which they organised was not on the lines which we in this country consider is a genuine trade union.

Mr. Walkden

Could the Minister tell us how many of these people of the so called working class movement are tram drivers and dockers and other such types of workers that we associate with the term, or whether their main job and function is mischief making and keeping our men in Singapore longer than they ought to be kept there?

Mr. Hall

Not without notice.