HC Deb 13 February 1946 vol 419 cc367-73
14. Mr. W. J. Brown

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will ascertain whether S.E.A.C. are satisfied that there is no likelihood of internal disturbances arising in Sarawak, before he agrees to separating the people of that country from their traditional form of government.

Mr. George Hall

I have as yet no information on local reactions to the Rajah's message, but I have asked for a report. The Supreme Allied Commander, who has been kept informed of the developments, would certainly report if, in his opinion, there is any likelihood of internal disturbances.

Mr. McGovern

Is it right that one family should hand over the people of this island? Have the people no rights apart from this family, who seem to have plundered the island all the time they have been there?

Sir Ronald Ross

Is this not the first instance of imperialism we have seen from a British Government for many years?

19 and 20. Sir W. Smiles

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether the Constitutional Assembly of Sarawak agreed to the transfer of that territory to the British Empire; and whether a vote was taken on this decision;

(2) how many persons compose the Constitutional Assembly of Sarawak; whether there was a full attendance when the decision was taken to transfer Sarawak to the British Empire; and for how long the matter was debated.

26 and 27. Squadron-Leader Donner

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) on what date any formal meeting of the Sarawak State Council took place to consider the proposed constitutional changes; whether any document was submitted to them for consideration; what resolution was passed by the State Council after such deliberation; whether this resolution was unanimous or not; and if he will publish both the document submitted to the State Council and the terms of the resolution passed by them;

(2) with what bodies or individuals, official or unofficial, consultations were held by an official of his Department when he went to Sarawak; if any document or agreement was drawn up; and, if so, will such document be published.

Mr. George Hall

The Supreme Council consists of not less than five persons and the Council Negri of 25 persons. The Rajah and I agreed that the meetings between his representative and the representatives of the people, which took place early in January, though they took the form of meetings of the councils, should be regarded only as exploratory discussions. It is for that reason that, as I stated last Wednesday, the proposal to cede the territory is to be put to the Supreme Council on the Rajah's return. Unanimous resolutions in favour of the Rajah's proposals which were passed at the meetings to which I have referred have been recorded, but as it has been decided that the meetings should not be regarded as formal proceedings of the Council, and the resolutions do not therefore constitute formal or final agreement of the Council to the cession, I understand that these records will not be gazetted or published. There are also letters addressed to the Rajah by the Malay and Chinese communities expressing absolute confidence in the Rajah's proposals for the territory. The Colonial Office representative was present at the above meetings merely as an observer. He did not take any part in the meeting or hold any separate discussions.

Sir W. Smiles

If the Constitutional Assembly eventually vote against this proposal will the deal be allowed to lapse?

Mr. Hall

That is very largely for the Rajah. The Supreme Council is made up entirely of the Rajah's nominees, and, of the Council Negri of 25 members, 14 are made up entirely of Sarawak civil servants or, again, of the Rajah's nominees.

Squadron-Leader Donner

Will no arrangement be made whereby the people of Sarawak can express an opinion on this matter and express their desire to join the Empire?

Mr. Hall

It is very difficult to get a real expression of opinion of the people of Sarawak. There has been no system of electoral voting and the Rajah has always been regarded as the mouthpiece of all the people of Sarawak.

Mr. Skinnard

Can the Colonial Secretary inform the House whether the Council Negri ever met except to be photographed prior to the present negotiations?

Mr. Hall

Yes, under the old Constitution it met once every three years to hear a very short speech from the Rajah. The Supreme Council did not meet at all

Mr. Stanley

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is not a very satisfactory meeting for getting the opinions of the people of Sarawak. Even if it is very difficult, could he not devise some more satisfactory and effective method for taking the opinion of these people?

Mr. Hall

The right hon. Gentleman must know that the internal administration of Sarawak is entirely in the hands of the Rajah, as indeed are the finances. It is true that under the 1941 Constitution certain power is given to the Supreme Council and the Council Negri, but there the Rajah has the right of veto on legislative or financial proposals.

Mr. Wilson Harris

In view of the fact that the population of Sarawak has not been advanced one inch towards self-government during the 100 years of the present regime, and that 90 percent. of them are illiterate, is there any serious possibility of getting an intelligent decision from them on this rather serious constitutional question?

22. Captain Sir Peter Macdonald

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what arrangements have been made for the future of the Europeans in the Sarawak Civil Service; and what agreement has been reached regarding their accrued pension rights.

Mr. George Hall

No arrangements have so far been made regarding the future of the European members of the Sarawak Civil Service. I can, however, assure the hon. and gallant Member that in the event of the cession of the territory, the obligations of the State towards the past and serving members of the Sarawak Civil Service will be assumed in full by the new Colonial Government.

23. Mr. W. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the rank of the Colonial Office official who accompanied the Rajah's private secretary to Sarawak; how long he stayed there; if he had been to Sarawak before; and if he could speak the language.

Mr. George Hall

The official is a senior officer of the Malayan Civil Service with over 22 years' service, and as such is, of course, a member of the Colonial Service. He arrived in Kuching with the Rajah's private secretary on 31st December, and left with him on 7th January. He had not been to Sarawak before. He has a good knowledge of the Malay language, and has had wide experience of service in the Malay States.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the first part of my Question, and give the official's actual rank?

Mr. Hall

Yes, Sir. His actual rank in the Malayan Civil Service is Class II, to which he was promoted in 1940.

Mr. Fletcher

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that that hardly tallies with his description of a high official, and is he not adding to his own difficulties in sending an official of that sort on the difficult and delicate mission he has described?

Mr. Hall

He is a high official, and has had long experience in the Malayan Service, as I have mentioned.

24. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will publish the details of the trust fund of£1,000,000 provided for the Rajah of Sarawak and his family; a list of beneficiaries under the fund; who are the trustees; and if the capital of the fund can be drawn upon under any circumstances.

Mr. George Hall

The proposal for the creation of this trust fund is to be submitted to the Council Negri of Sarawak upon the Rajah's return to the territory. Details have not yet been worked out, but will be published when they are settled. It is the intention that the capital of the fund should remain intact.

Mr. Gammans

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has a moral responsibility for the way in which this money is expended?

Mr. Hall

We will certainly deal with whatever responsibility there will be. It must be remembered that these funds were entirely in the hands of the Rajah, and in any agreement which is arrived at the funds will be protected in accordance with that agreement.

Mr. Kirkwood

Seeing that he is only to have a paltry one million, is it not possible for my right hon. Friend to direct this Rajah and his family to the public assistance committee?

25. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if, under the proposed terms of cession, the Rajah of Sarawak, or any member of his family, will retain an interest in or the ownership of land, oil, mineral rights, or any other property in Sarawak after his abdication.

Mr. George Hall

In the event of cession, neither the Rajah nor any member of his family will retain any such property, interests or rights.

29. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the desirability of establishing beyond doubt that the people of Sarawak desire incorporation as a British Crown Colony; and if he will send an independent commission of inquiry to Sarawak.

Mr. George Hall

As I have already stated the Rajah intends to lay the proposal before the Supreme Council and the Council Negri upon his return to the territory. That, I understand, is the proper constitutional method of ascertaining the wishes of his people. In these circumstances I do not think it necessary to propose to the Rajah an independent commission of inquiry.

Mr. J. Langford-Holt

In view of the importance of this whole question, and the undesirability of the extension of any form of Imperialism at this time, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that justice should not only be done but should seem to be done?

Mr. Stanley

If the right hon. Gentleman, for reasons which I quite understand, finds it impossible to send a commission, would it be possible to send a single individual who would command the respect of the whole House, who would spend an adequate time there and really be able to tell us what the state of affairs was?

Mr. Hall

That matter is being considered, and I hope that a decision will be arrived at soon.

Major Bruce

Will my right hon. Friend consider publishing a list of the concessionaires in Sarawak, so that we can elucidate the reason for the considerable interest of the Opposition in this small State?

Mr. Stanley

On a point of Order. The obvious insinuation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's supplementary question was that questions were being put by Members on this side because of the financial interests they had in Sarawak. I want to know whether it is proper for an hon. Member to make insinuations of that kind.

Mr. Speaker

The rule in regard to Questions is that insinuations must not be made. They are not allowed, and would not be passed at the Table. The same rule also applies to supplementary questions, and I must inform the hon. and gallant Member that the insinuations really ought not to have been made and must be withdrawn.

Major Bruce

No improper insinuation was intended— [Interruption]

Major Lloyd

In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, surely in common decency the hon. and gallant Gentleman must withdraw?

Mr. Gallacher

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I have been here for ten years and time and time again not only insinuations but direct charges have been made against me from the other side. What he said was true. [Interruption.] Look at the things they have said about me.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member says he intended no insinuation and that, surely is equivalent to a with drawal.

Major Bruce

If any insinuation was understood from my remarks, I most certainly withdraw them, Sir.

Mr. Cobb

Can I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether we could have the facts so that we can know whether the insinuation is true or not?

Mr. Speaker

Hon. Members really must not go on making insinuations in that way. Hon. Members must restrain themselves a little more. I really think if we go on like this we shall become quite an excited House. I think we should go on to the next Question.

Mr. S. Silverman

Now that any possible insinuation has been fully and freely withdrawn, may I ask whether it would be out of Order to ask whether there are in fact any British concessionaires operating in Sarawak?

Mr. Hall

That 1 could not say. If my hon. Friend will put a Question down, I will see whether I can answer it