§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I have it in Command from the King to acquaint the House that His Majesty places his Prerogative and interests, so far as concern the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the will of the peoples of Burma as expressed by their elected representatives that their country should become an independent State, should cease to be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and should no longer form part of the King's Dominions. Henceforward the relationship of this country and Burma will be based on a Treaty and on the friendship between the two nations which, I am glad to say, is stronger than ever today. The departure from the British family of nations of one of its members must be an occasion for deep regret. It was the hope and desire of the Government that the people of Burma would recognise the great advantages which accrue from membership of the Commonwealth—a membership which, as one of the Dominion Prime Ministers said, is not a derogation from independence but an addition to it. But they have decided otherwise. In our view, nations have the right to decide on the nature of their own government. The British Commonwealth of Nations is a free association of peoples, not a collection of subject nations. When, therefore, after due consideration the elected representatives of the people of Burma chose independence, it was, I believe, the duty of His Majesty's Government to take the necessary steps to implement this decision.
We had the further duty of seeing to it that minorities for whom we had a special responsibility were given due position under the new Constitution and were safeguarded in their rights. This, as I shall show, has been done in the new Constitution. We had also to make provision for the winding up of the old régime, for compensation of officers who served Burma very well in the past, and 1837 for regularising the future relationship of our two countries in relation to defence and trade. These things have been effected in the Treaty which I signed with the Burmese Prime Minister a few days ago. Although, as I have said, it is a matter of keen regret that Burma should be leaving the Commonwealth, it is a source of great satisfaction to us all that the negotiations have been conducted in a spirit of the utmost good will and cooperation.
Before I turn to the provisions of the Bill, I should like to give a very short survey of the course of events which have led up to it. Our earliest connections with Burma derive from the activities of the East India Company. Burma at that time was a kingdom, and a very disturbed and troubled country; and, except for a short period, our relations with the rulers of Burma were difficult. Eventually, as the House knows, the whole country was annexed in 1886. Effective British rule over the whole of Burma has lasted just over 60 years. We came to a country that had suffered from gross misrule, and under British rule much progress was made—moral, material and in every respect. The geographical propinquity was responsible for Burma being made a unit of the Indian Empire. Yet the Burmese differ from the Indians in race, language, religion and temperament, and actually until the late war there were no communications between India and Burma by land. Yet Burma was treated as part of India, and administered under - the Government of India Act.
I recall very well visiting Burma as a member of the Simon Commission in 1929, and we were all struck by the great difference between India and Burma. In our Report we emphasised this fact, and we recommended its separation from India. This was accepted by the Government of the day in 1931, and was effected by the Burma Act, 1935. It is important to recall what was said in 1931 by the Secretary of State in Parliament. He said:…The prospects of constitutional advance held out to Burma as part of British India will not be prejudiced by this decision, and the constitutional objective after separation will remain the progressive realisation of responsible Government in Burma as an integral part of the Empire."—[OFFICIAI. REPORT, 20th January, 1931; Vol. 247, c. 29.]1838 That statement has always been relied upon by Burmese political leaders as a pledge to the people of Burma that whatever advance should be conceded to India should equally apply to Burma. In the Act of 1935, owing to Burma's having an unitary and not a federal constitution, she obtained a greater measure of self-government in 1935 than did India. This state was, in effect, reaffirmed by the Governor of Burma with the authority of His Majesty's Government both in 1939 and in 1940. Therefore, I must emphasise that the offer made to India, generally known as the Cripps offer, whereby India was to be free to choose her own future within or without the British Commonwealth is held by the Burmese to give the same right to the people of Burma.
We all know, and it is not necessary for me to repeat, the tragic story of the over-running of most of Burma by the Japanese, of the heroic retreat conducted by Lord Alexander, and of the ever memorable exploits of the forces under Admiral Lord Mountbatten which led to the freeing of the country. These events had, naturally, a profound effect on the people of Burma. They gave increased impetus to the already strong urge of the peoples of Asia for self determination that had been growing ever since, in fact, the Russo-Japanese War. I remember we noticed it in the Simon Report. Therefore, many young Burmans, when the Japanese invasion took place, took at their face value the professions of the Japanese that they came to liberate Burma from the British and the show of independent Government that was set up. But experience soon convinced most of them of the hollowness of those attempts.
As the House knows, under the leadership of the late U Aung San, a movement was set on foot by which the independent forces of Burma jointed up and took their share with the Allies in expelling the Japanese. It is as well to remember that some Burmans and a great many men from the hill tribes did good service throughout that campaign. The end of the war found the country disturbed and full of arms; and—there is great danger in a country like Burma of dacoity—there has been a good deal of armed dacoity. The whole of the economy of the country was gravely impaired, partly through what was done by the Japanese forces, partly by the actual fighting, partly by the effect 1839 of the destruction which we ourselves had to do in order to hamper the enemy.
In May, 1945, a statement of policy was issued by His Majesty's Government. It envisaged the drawing up of a constitution by representatives of the Burmese people with a view to full self-government. In October the civil administration was restored, and Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith took over the government with an executive council on which there were a number of representatives of the older school of Burmese politicians. Meanwhile, the more vital forces of the Burmese people were organised in the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League under the leadership of U Aung San. They were impatient of delay, and they were very impatient of the older politicians. The House will recall that Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith retired through ill-health. The new Governor Sir Hubert Rance was faced with a very difficult situation. There was danger of widespread disorders, many strikes, dacoity, and the rest. I should like here to bear testimony to the very great services rendered by Sir Hubert both in administration and in securing the co-operation of the Burmese people. His wisdom and his sympathy with the aspirations of the Burmese people have guided the country through a most difficult period.
There followed, as the House knows, the formation of a Government under U Aung San, elections to a Constituent Assembly in which the party of U Aung San obtained a very large majority, and a series of meetings between this country and the Burmese leaders. One of the most difficult problems in framing any constitution for Burma was the position of the tribes of the hill country, the Chins, the Kachins, the Shans of the Shan States, and the minority community of the Karens. The House knows that these hill tribes occupy the highlands and central Burma, and that they have been administered under separate administration. Under the Act of 1935 they were not brought into ministerial Burma.
These problems of the relationship between these tribes and Burma proper have been resolved, thanks, I think, in the first place, to the broadmindedness and desire to give full rights to minorities exhibited by U Aung San, Thakin Nu, and the other Burmese leaders. It is a difficult position. A series of meetings was arranged. The House will recall that 1840 the frontier areas and Shan States were separately administered by their own rulers, the Sawbwas. The Karens were partly included in ministerial Burma, partly in the excluded areas. My hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade attended the Panglong Conference at which representatives of ministerial Burma and of the hill tribes met together, and rendered very valuable service in bringing them together. So also did my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies who was then a Private Member.
My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Burma paid very recently a visit to Burma and was able to help in smoothing out the differences between the Burmese and the Karens. As a result the new constitution has been approved by the representatives of these various communities, and it provides for a generous degree of autonomy. There are still some groups of the Karens who are not wholly satisfied, but, so far as we are able to ascertain, the great majority of the communities have accepted the provisions of the constitution, and the three Karenni States, which occupy a position analogous to that of the Indian States, are adhering to the new Union of Burma. Let it be noted that the provisional President of Burma is himself a member of a minority community. He is the Saohpalong Yawnghwe.
During this transitional period when, as the House will remember, the Government of Burma has been treated in practice as if it were a Dominion Government A Shan Sawbwa was appointed Counsellor for the Frontier Areas with a Kachin and a Chin deputy-Counsellor. I should add here, as I know some hon. Members are interested in the point, that the Anglo Burman community took their part in the framing of the constitution, and it has not been the policy of the community to seek for special privileges. They have thrown their lot in with the rest of the people of Burma, and I believe that they have a contribution to make to the future of Burma. The Government of Burma has welcomed their presence there, and stated that it was their policy to provide fair opportunities for employment for them.
The House will recall the tragic events of 19th July when Aung San and six of his colleagues in the Cabinet were brutally 1841 murdered. I have already in this House paid a tribute to those leaders. I should like today to bear witness to the courage with which Thakin Nu and his colleagues stood up to a testing situation, and the wisdom and co-operative spirit which they have shown in all the negotiations which we have had with them. In August last, a Defence Mission, led by the then Under-Secretary of State for War, now the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, visited Burma; as a result of his labours a satisfactory Defence Agreement has been arrived at, and that is annexed to the Treaty. In September and October a Finance Mission from Burma, led by U Tin Tut, came to this country, and the outstanding financial questions were settled. On 17th October, the Treaty between the United Kingdom and Burma was signed by myself on behalf of His Majesty's Government and by Thakin Nu on behalf of Burma, and it will come into force on the date of ratification, the appointed day under this Bill. Its provisions will be known to the House, for it was published on 27th October.
I turn to the broad provisions of the Treaty. Burma is recognised as an independent State, and Burma takes over the responsibilities hitherto binding upon this country. Provision is made to enable persons to divest themselves of dual nationality, the details, of which I will deal with later when I come to the Clauses of the Bill. We agree to provide and contribute to the cost of a Military Mission, and Burma undertakes not to receive a Military Mission from any other country. We are also helping Burma over military equipment and training, and we secure the right of landing on Burmese airfields. This agreement was come to between ourselves as two equal States. Under Article 5, Burma undertakes the obligation to meet the Service payments, which are mainly civil. Article 6 embodies an all-over financial settlement. Provision is made for the repayment over a period of years of £27 million due to us, and of the amounts received by Burma for the sale of surplus stores. Article 7 provides for the taking over by the new Government of the contractual obligations of the old, while Article 8 provides for a standstill arrangement in respect of trade, pending the conclusion of a regular commercial trade treaty. I do not think any other article calls for special notice.
1842 Before coming to the provisions of the Bill I should like to say a few words on the Burma Constitution. The production of this constitution and its adoption without dissent by the Constituent Assembly within a period of less than four months is, I think everybody will agree, a very remarkable achievement. Very few Constituent Assemblies have worked so quickly. The constitution has been described to me by experienced constitutional lawyers as being a remarkably able document. Its general principles embody the practice of Western democracies, and in particular those which obtain in the British Commonwealth. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must all be members of one or other of the two legislative chambers, one of which consists of directly elected members on a population basis, while the other is called the Chamber of Nationalities and provides for considerable weightage in favour of minorities. In fact, it is remarkable that in the constitution of the Upper House the minorities collectively have more seats than the majority race of the Burmese.
The structure of the new State called the Union of Burma has certain federal features. There are three States within the Union, Shan, Karenni and Kachin. Each of those will have exclusive legislative and executive authority over a substantial field, and they will enjoy certain sources of revenue. In addition to that there are two special regions, one for the Chins and another for the Karens of the Salween district, where a certain measure of local autonomy has been set up. We are all aware that the success of constitutions depends less on their actual provisions than on the way they are worked out and worked by the members. But if the spirit of co-operation that has been shown between the various communities in all these negotiations is exhibited in the future, I think that future should be bright.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
There are many hon. Members who have not had an opportunity of being able to see this constitution, because copies could not be obtained in the Vote Office.
§ The Prime Minister
If it is not in the Vote Office I will have it put there. I thought it had been published pretty widely.
I now turn to the actual provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 embodies the principle 1843 of the Bill, and lays down the date of its coming into operation, which date has been chosen in consultation with the Burmese. The House knows that some days are better than others for embarking on important undertakings in the East, and it has now been proved, on our latest advice, that 4th January instead of 6th January would be more convenient from the point of view of the Government of Burma. Therefore, in Committee, we propose to move an Amendment with regard to the date. Subsection (3) makes provision for the termination of suzerainty over the Kerenni States.
Clause 2 must be read in conjunction with the First Schedule, and is, I am afraid, very complicated; but then it deals with a very complicated and difficult subject—nationality. There will be a full opportunity of exploring its detailed provisions during Committee, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Air and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will be prepared to deal with particular points. However, as I retired from practice at the Bar more than 30 years ago I will content myself with trying to give the broad provisions of the Clause from the point of view of the layman. The broad principle of the Clause is that the persons specified in the First Schedule—that is to say, persons whose British nationality is derived solely from their connection with Burma—shall cease to be British subjects. Subsection (2) provides that persons who come under the provisions of Subsection (1), but are domiciled or ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom or any of its Dependencies, may, within two years, exercise an option to remain British citizens.
It will be observed that Subsection (1) does not apply to those resident in the Dominions. The reason is that it is for the Dominions themselves to make their own nationality laws. However, Subsection (4) provides for the recognition by the United Kingdom as a British subject of any persons who are given, by law of one of the self-governing Dominions, a similar right of electing to remain British subjects. Subsection (3) is put in for extra precaution, and gives a right of election to persons who may find themselves stateless. We do not think there will be many of those, but there may be some. I should add that by Article 3 of 1844 the Treaty, persons who find themselves dual nationals and are resident in Burma will have the opportunity of divesting themselves of their Burmese nationality. Therefore, it is hoped that the joint effect of the Bill and the Treaty will reduce the number of persons with dual nationality to a very small number. Subsection (6) prevents the exercise of the right of election from voiding retrospectively something done before the exercise of that right. Someone might have had a deportation order made against him, but he cannot get out of it by subsequently opting for a different nationality.
I now wish to say a little on the Schedule. The general effect of the Schedule is that any person who can claim that his British nationality, or the nationality of his father or his paternal grandfather, rests on something otherwise than his connection with Burma remains a British subject. Hon. Members particularly interested in the position of the Anglo-Burmese will realise that many of them will, under this, remain British subjects. They can, if they desire, under the provisions of the Treaty, divest themselves of their Burmese nationality and remain British subjects. It should be noted, for the purposes of this Schedule, that the Burma referred to is the Burma of today, and not the Burma as it existed, either at the date of birth of a particular individual or of his father, or of his grandfather, where he wants to carry back his right to British nationality further. The House will remember that Burma was split up, in part under the Kingdom of Burma, and in part under British rule. This is to give the most extended rights to all to remain British subjects.
Clause 3 is, I think, self-explanatory. It is the transitional provisions pending the conclusion of a trade treaty. Clause 4 deals with legal proceedings. Appeals to the Privy Council from Burma have always been very few, and as far as we can ascertain, there are no legal proceedings pending against the Secretary of State. Section 133 of the Act deals with contracts. The general effect of Clause 4, and of the new constitution of Burma, will be that if proceedings under that Section were in contemplation, they can be brought against the new Government of Burma. Subsection (3) is a saving subsection, protecting jurisdic- 1845 tion in British courts in respect of divorces already pronounced in Burma. Clause 5 provides for the repeal of Acts of Parliament relating to Burma, and references to Burma in other Acts. The same thing is also effected with reference to Orders in Council. These repeals are set out in the Second Schedule of the Bill.
I think that is all I need say at this stage on the Clauses of the Bill. I have little more to do than to commend the Bill to the House. When passed, it will close one chapter of the relations between the people of the United Kingdom and the people of Burma, and will open another. Although, if it is carried, Burma will leave the British Commonwealth, there will remain memories and ties of friendship between the two countries which will endure. I say, as I said at the start, that we all regret Burma should be leaving the British Commonwealth, but this is done by the will of the Burmese people, and I think we must accept their verdict.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
I was rather surprised to see the benches opposite, particularly those below the Gangway, so thinly occupied upon an occasion which must, to hon. Members opposite, particularly in that quarter, be a joy-day—one of those moments in our history when they reach the satisfaction and fulfilment of long years of labour and endeavour. I remember reading the other day a speech by the Foreign Secretary in the country where he spoke of the announcements about India—the impressive scene, with the quiet little man and his quiet little voice sweeping away our position in India. I wondered, after this glowing description by a Member of the right hon. Gentleman's Government, that his followers have not hastened to be in their places in order to see the same performance repeated, if on an even smaller scale.
The position which was occupied by the National Government, of which I was the head, is set out in the White Paper of May, 1945, and the substance is contained in the first paragraph:It is and has consistently been our aim to assist her political development till she can sustain the responsibilities of complete self-government within the British Commonwealth and consequently attain a status equal to that of the Dominions and of this country.1846 That was conditional upon a three years' breathing space for rehabilitation, and also to give time for the wishes of the people to manifest themselves calmly and deliberately, and under conditions of peace and order. A return to the constitution of 1935 was the objective in the interval. The framing of a new constitution for full "self-government within the British Commonwealth" subject to special protection for the frontier tribes—and particularly mentioned in the White Paper are the Shan States—from all of whom we received much loyalty and aid in freeing the country from Japanese invasion.
There would have been no difficulty in carrying out this programme in an orderly and careful manner. Half, perhaps one-third, or one-quarter, of the British troops squandered in Palestine on a policy now abandoned, the fatuity of which is now recognised, would have sufficed to enable the transfer of power to a Burmese Government, on the basis of Dominion status, to be carried out by regular and measured steps, and with due consideration for all interests, opinions and feelings involved in that population of many various strains. Instead, the whole business has been conducted by the British Government from weakness and not from strength. The breathing space has been curtailed and we are now confronted, not with Dominion status, which, as in the case of India, we considered an indispensable stage in any policy to which we on this side of the House were committed but Burma has been plunged at once into full independence.
This Bill is to cut Burma out of the Empire altogether, and to make her a foreign Power. At the earliest moment when these intentions to hustle the whole process through were known—although at that time the right hon. Gentleman did not mention independence, and seemed to indicate that a decision in that sense was not probable—I protested. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement, and on 20th December, 1946, I made an immediate protest. I said:It was said, in the days of the great Administration of Lord Chatham, that one had to get up very early in the morning in order not to miss some of the gains and accessions of territory which were then characteristic of our fortunes. The no less memorable Administration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is distinguished for the opposite set 1847 of experiences. The British Empire seems to be running off almost as fast as the American Loan. The steady and remorseless process of divesting ourselves of what has been gained by so many generations of toil, administration and sacrifice continues. In the case of Burma, it is hardly a year since, by the superb exertions of the Fourteenth Army and enormous sacrifices in life and treasure—sacrifices in British blood and in Indian blood—the Japanese were forced to surrender, destroyed, or driven out, and the country was liberated. And yet, although barely a year has passed away, there is this extraordinary haste that we should take the necessary measures to get out of Burma finally and for ever. The same formula the right hon. Gentleman says will be used as was used in the case of India, with the same extensions he put on to that formula when the Indian Mission was sent out, eliminating the—"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 2343.]At this moment, as there had been no Question before the House, you, 'Mr. Speaker, did me the honour to interrupt me, so that I was not able to conclude my sentence, which would have finished—"eliminating the stage of Dominion status.There is great importance in the stage of Dominion status, in that it does give a definite period in which, with all the advantages of Dominion Government and the full authority attaching thereto, all matters can be considered without heat or prejudice; in which those who feel that they would wish to adhere to and enjoy the great advantages and protection afforded by the British Commonwealth of Nations to all its members, would have an opportunity of making their weight felt, without any question intervening of direct interference by British administrators in their local affairs.
The Prime Minister said that it was necessary for him to go back into the recent past history and to give us his version. I will follow him briefly over that course, but I think I must place a little different emphasis upon some of its episodes. Following on his announcement, and the comments which I have just read to the House, which I made then, a delegation of the most distinguished and leading representatives in Burma, or persons selected by the Government, was invited to London in January, and the British Government arranged with them for the acceleration of the whole process of getting rid of Burma. All the leading Burmese with which the Prime Minister negotiated, lunched and dined on that occasion have either been 1848 murdered, or are being tried for their lives for the mass murder of the Burmese Cabinet in July. The two outstanding figures of that delegation were U Aung San and U Saw. It is interesting to look at the respective parts which they played in the war.
U Aung San went over to the Japanese, and raised what we might call a Quisling army to come in at the tail of the Japanese and help conquer the country for Japan. Great cruelties were perpetrated by his army. They were not very effective in fighting, but in the infliction of vengeance upon the loyal Burmese—the Burmese who were patriotically fighting with British and Indian troops to defend the soil of Burma from Japanese conquerers—great cruelties were perpetrated on those men, because they had helped us to resist the Japanese.
After two or three years of desperately hard fighting, under climatic conditions and conditions of disease indescribably painful to British troops—two or three years of a struggle swinging to and fro, sometimes with most anxious crises, at length the balance turned in our favour. When it turned, U Aung San, as soon as he saw that Japan would be defeated—and it became quite evident that it was a matter of time only as to who was to win the great struggle—made overtures to Admiral Mountbatten, the Supreme Commander, that he was willing to come over to the winning side and bring his army with him, for what it was worth. I was, at that time, responsible, and upon the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, and with the approval of the Cabinet, we accepted those overtures.
I was in favour of that because of the general aim and importance of shortening the war, saving the unnecessary shedding of British blood, and bringing the whole of the Burma position forward into line with the American advance in the Pacific. Of course it is not a very agreeable transaction, when a traitor rebel leader, who has come in with foreign invaders, brings his army over to your side, when so many cruelties and outrages have been perpetrated—still, in war time, the great thing is to get to the end of the war as soon as possible in a victorious manner. I certainly did not expect to see U Aung San, whose hands were dyed with British blood and loyal Burmese blood, marching 1849 up the steps of Buckingham Palace as the plenipotentiary of the Burmese Government.
The case of U Saw is equally odd or even odder. In the autumn of 1941, this gentleman visited this country for consultations. He was the Prime Minister of the Burmese Government, which had been set up on the 1935 Constitution model. At the request of the India Office, I received him, and I also received from him strong assurances of loyalty and fidelity. He left to return to Burma by the Western route. He traversed the Atlantic, the broad expanses of the North American continent and embarked upon the Pacific, arriving at Hawaii on the night of 7th December, 1941, when the Japanese Pearl Harbour outrage had just been committed. The whole place was in confusion, a large portion of the United States fleet was sunk or burning and great numbers-of casualties had been inflicted. The scene was not at all well adapted to make a favourable impression upon the Oriental mind. It was evident that U Saw could not continue his journey by the westward route. He returned to Europe, and at the first moment when he could find a Japanese Consul, which was in Lisbon, he offered his allegiance to Japan. We are, of course, a very careless, happy-go-lucky people, but in wartime some pains are taken. We became aware of his message, overtook him in the air as he was flying across Palestine, and forced him to land. He was interned until the end of the war.
Such were the two figures whom the Government welcomed as the outstanding authorities with whom they were to confer and to whom they were to confide the future of Burma, where 15 million people had dwelt for more than 60 years in peace, justice and contentment under British rule. U Saw is now on trial for the murder of U Aung San and most of his Cabinet. I will make no further comment because the case is sub judice. But however the matter may be viewed, the Government can hardly be congratulated on the choice they made of the hands into which Burma, its fate and its future are to be delivered. I trust they will be found more fortunate in the new men with whom they have now to deal.
Today we are confronted with the result of complete independence and the cutting of Burma out of the British Empire and out of the protection of the 1850 British Empire. There is to be no interval stage of Dominion status where with calm and with deliberation all parties, all interests, all sections of the community and all creeds would see where their final fortunes would best lie. There are grave doubts that the assent of the frontier tribes has been honestly and genuinely given. I do not consider that we have any guarantee that there has been a fulfilment of our duties towards those who fought valiantly at our side. Indeed, I am told that through these mountainous regions, this half circle of mountains and hills about which the Prime Minister spoke, there is a condition of armed preparation and incipient revolt prevailing. About 12,000 murders and dacoities or armed robberies are reported to have taken place in the first seven months of this year and this is only a prelude—
§ Mr. Churchill
The average must have been upset by the extraordinary events of the last five or six years but even if it were only an average at 12,000 murders and dacoities amongst a population of 15 million, it would hardly be convincing proof of their fitness for full self-government.
This is only a prelude, in my view, to the bloody welter which I fear will presently begin, as it has in India, with which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Economic Affairs has been so intimately concerned. No effective provision has been made for the protection of, or fair compensation to, important British commercial interests, built up over many years to the mutual benefit of the Burmese and British peoples. The Constitution provides that private property may be expropriated—that is British private property—under a law which leaves it to the Burmese Government to prescribe if and what compensation should be payable.
There is to be national treatment of public utilities and national treatment of all natural resources and other measures which are fashionable in Socialist States. The Burmese Government is like our own, a Socialist Government aiming at the nationalisation of all important industries, but 60 per cent. of the British businesses and installations, according to the statement by a Burmese Minister last month, will be in the hands of the 1851 Burmese nation. Independent Burma is, we are told, to be a Socialist State. No effective provision has been made for compensation such as has been practised here even by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite. It rests with the Burmese Government, whose country is far from rehabilitation, and whose finances are in a disorder rivalling our own, to decide in the case of any dispute what, if any, compensation has to be given to their great industries which have been growing up for generations and from which this country has received an external source of wealth, and in which the people of Burma have themselves found great employment and increases of local wealth, which are the foundations of the revenue of the Government.
This is what we are invited to assent to and to become responsible for in the Bill which is now before Parliament. We on this side of the House have no power to prevent what the Government intend to do, but we have to consider what our own attitude must be on an occasion of this kind. I say that we can accept no responsibility for this Bill, and I do not think it should be settled merely on questions of oil companies or vested interests. It raises whole issues affecting the British Commonwealth of Nations and our actions must be based on Imperial and moral grounds. We accept no responsibility for this Bill. We wish to dissociate ourselves from the policy and the methods pursued by the Government. They must bear the burden and it falls with peculiar weight upon the Prime Minister himself. I interrupted him the other night and said that I did not mean to charge him with personal blood guilt. There is a difference; I certainly did not. He individually is a humane man, but he is in the position of the signalman who has made a fatal mistake rather than that of the murderer who has placed an obstruction on the line. The responsibility rests upon him in a broad political manner, and I am bound to say I would be very sorry to go down to history bearing upon me the name and the burden which will rest on him. The Government must bear the burden.
Burma is an appendage of India and is likely to reproduce, though, of course, on a far smaller scale, the horrors and disasters which have overspread her great neighbour and which should ever haunt 1852 the consciences of the principal actors in this tragedy. All loyalties have been discarded and rebuffed; all faithful service has been forgotten and brushed aside. There is no assurance that the power of the new Government will be sufficient to maintain internal order, or, I might add, national independence against far larger and far more powerful neighbours. We stand on the threshold of another scene of misery and ruin, marking and illustrating the fearful retrogression of civilisation which the abandonment by Great Britain of her responsibilities in the East have brought and are bringing upon Asia and the world. I say this to the Government: You shall bear that burden. By your fruits you will be judged. We shall have no part or lot in it. We have not obstructed your policies or Measures and they must now take their own course. We, at least, will not be compromised or disgraced by taking part in them, or denied the opportunity of pointing the moral to the British nation as and when occasion may occur. On those grounds we shall, at the close of the Debate, move the rejection of the Bill.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
This afternoon we have had an excellent exposition from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) of what a genuine Tory faith in Empire really means. The Tory belief in Empire means, "Be dominated by us. If you don't like it, get out." That is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying this afternoon. In the last six or seven months the right hon. Gentleman has been doing his best to insult and to denigrate the two Dominions of India and Pakistan, despite the fact that both of those countries fulfilled his first qualification for freedom from British rule. They both voluntarily said, "Please may we become Dominions of the British Commonwealth?" The right hon. Gentleman says, "Thank you very much. I will now proceed to tell you that you are unfit to govern yourselves."
The right hon. Gentleman has gone further than that. He has described the people of India as so many cannibals butchering each other. Does he really think that is the way to bind together the British Commonwealth of Nations? Does he really think that, when two countries are newly set up and inaugurated, it is a 1853 help to them in their great difficulties, and makes them feel sympathy for the British nation, to be insulted by the Leader of the Opposition? It is very remarkable that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has not been present during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. For that, of course, there is a very obvious reason; he does not agree with a single word of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. Nor do many other Members of the right hon. Gentleman's party. There was a marked lack of enthusiasm, except when the right hon. Gentleman was making a mockery of murders in Burma, among his own supporters for the statement he has just made.
What does the right hon. Gentleman want? Does he want us to continue to rule Burma by force? If he wants that, then he must say so quite clearly. We cannot give a country Dominion status if it is not willing to accept it. If a country says, "We want to be free; we don't want Dominion status as an intermediate stage," the only way we can persuade it to have Dominion status is by force. If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks we have been wasting our troops in Palestine, what sort of policy does he propose for Burma? Force, or get out? If the right hon. Gentleman thinks Burma would be likely to accept Dominion status after a speech of the kind to which we have listened this afternoon, he really should think again.
The position with regard to Burma is something quite different—as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, because his own father was the Minister responsible for the annexation of the Kingdom of Burma—from the position in India. Burma is a nation which has never lost its nationhood. It is quite true that there was a dispute between King Thibaw in the early 1880's, and a British trading company, and that in that dispute the British trading company was in the right; but the very first British Governor who was sent by the right hon. Gentleman's father to take over control of Burma said that annexation and direct rule of that country was unnecessary, and that, a protectorate would have sufficed just as well, or a treaty arrangement of the kind which we had with Nepal. Burma has never forgotten that, and knows that she is a nation. She has 1854 never been disunited and split up by internecine strife in the same way as many of the States of India were. The result is that at the very first opportunity she has looked for her freedom, her old nationhood and independence.
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I am speaking very wildly this afternoon, perhaps he will look again at the leading article of "The Times" of 28th October. In that leading article the Government are criticised, it is true, but for what were they criticised? The Government were criticised for going too slowly with the independence of Burma after the end of the war. In referring to the announcement of the presentation of the Burma Independence Bill, "The Times" leading article said:Before that announcement, the Government had shown themselves somewhat slow to appreciate the vigour of Burmese nationalism after the war, and the strength of its resentment at the restrictions on national progress embodied in the White Paper of May, 1945.What does the right hon. Gentleman's programme amount to? He has protested against restrictions in this country, but he wants restrictions for all the other countries he can possibly lay his hands on. He does not want to try to make a friendly arrangement with a nation which was wrongly taken over by his own father and to be in association with them, after they have achieved their independence. He wants to stamp on them and keep them down by force. He explained this afternoon that we would not have needed as many troops in Burma to keep the people down by force as we needed in Palestine. That is the long and the short of his programme. Every time he has stated a fact he has misstated it wherever possible. For example, U Saw was not the most prominent, or one of the most prominent, members of the delegation, as anybody who has studied the affairs of Burma would be able to inform the right hon. Gentleman—and as his right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden will be able to inform him afterwards.
Nor is it true to try to denigrate U Aung San as a traitor to his own country or even to our country. The right hon. Gentleman well knows the difficulties facing any leader of a nationalist movement in South-East Asia during the war, when they were overrun by the Japanese. Why should not U Aung San seek to 1855 make the best arrangement for his people that he could? Why should he be regarded as having special affinities or ties with this country demanding his allegiance, not having been particularly helped by the right hon. Gentleman? Why should he not be regarded as a hero by his own people? The right hon. Gentleman may disagree with him about the things he did, but it is not the way to win the hearts or the affections of a people to insult their favourite leader—
§ Mr. Wyatt
—particularly, as I am reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall), after he is dead.
I congratulate the Government on what they have done. They deserve the highest praise for the treaty they have made with Burma and for the arrangements they have made leading up to that treaty. Naturally, we are sorry that Burma is not going to be a member of the British Commonwealth. If it had not been for the policy followed by the party opposite before the war, it might well have been that Burma would now voluntarily become a member of the British Commonwealth. If the right hon. Gentleman had been in office today he knows perfectly well that if he had resisted the Burmese demands he would have enraged the whole people and would have created the maximum bitterness and discontent. It is very surprising that there has not been more bitterness on the Burmese side. His Majesty's Government are greatly to be congratulated that they have reached a conclusion so amicably.
Although the treaty takes Burma out of the Commonwealth, in fact it leaves her practically in the Commonwealth. It leaves her so closely allied with the Commonwealth that it is true to say that we are in a very special relationship with Burma, one that we are not in with any other foreign power. The agreement to accept military missions only from this country and not from any other country than this virtually does imply a military alliance. So also do the provisions that provide that Burma will afford all facilities necessary in Burma for the British, whenever we wish to bring help to any part of the British Commonwealth. The solidity of that Defence Agreement, a great deal 1856 of the credit for which is due to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Supply, has ensured that there is, in fact, no gap whatever in Commonwealth Defence. What is the right hon. Gentleman complaining about? If there is no gap in Commonwealth Defence caused by the departure of Burma from the British Commonwealth, what is he complaining about? Is he complaining at the desire of the people to rule themselves in the way they wish?
Even in connection with the commercial arrangements the right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. He has told the House that British interests in Burma will be expropriated without compensation. There is no intention to do anything of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong. He said that Burma was taking over British interests without compensation, and that is quite untrue. It is expressly provided in the treaty between Burma and His Majesty's Government that British interests will be respected, and in the exchange of Notes between Thakin Nu and the Prime Minister it is expressly laid down that no action prejudicial to British interests will be taken, particularly before the commercial treaty is concluded. In fact, far from expropriating British oil interests, the present Burmese Government have given the oil undertakings every encouragement to get the oil wells functioning again. There has been no move whatever against British interests.
Further, the Burmese Government have been most generous and have raised no difficulties whatever in the arrangements for the, compensation of British officials employed in Burma. They might have made difficulties about it, but they have not done so. I well remember that there were difficulties in fixing the compensation for British officials employed in India, but there has been none here. There were many things the right hon. Gentleman might have said in favour of the Burmese and this new country, but not one of them has he chosen to say. Every single thing he could find to sneer, ridicule and laugh at in them he has taken up, no doubt with an eye more to his electoral future in this country than to the welfare of his own country.
The Government are also further to be congratulated because the arrangements they have made with Burma, as well as 1857 being highly satisfactory to us, will prove highly satisfactory to Burma. The best type of arrangement is that which is satisfactory to both sides. Burma will be needing a great deal of help in capital equipment and technicians in the years to come. We shall be in a position to supply such things, and I hope the Government will make every effort to do so in order to consolidate the friendship we already have with Burma. It is quite true that there are many difficulties and problems ahead for the Burmese Government. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out so pleasurably, that they have great problems of internal law and order and dacoity, but the dacoity figures are now going down.
It may interest the right hon. Gentleman to know that an early British Governor in Burma was startled to find that whereas dacoity had not existed before the British occupied Burma, it had grown very strong since the British occupied Burma. I must say, however, that it is a problem which arises very largely out of the war. I would not say that the Burmese Government have behaved in the wisest possible manner over it. They made a great mistake in issuing arms indiscriminately to individuals and organisations, however well-meaning, who claimed they needed them for their protection and would be able to put down the troubles. Now they have reversed that policy and have adopted a vigorous policy of calling in the arms, laying down heavy penalties against those who do not surrender them.
The problem with regard to the Karens has been satisfactorily settled, no doubt to the right hon. Gentleman's disappointment. The Karen hill tribes have come to an agreement with the leaders of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, and have taken their place in the Constituent Assembly. Only a very small minority of Karens in the Delta do not agree with the arrangements which have been made. The Anglo-Burmans have also been given satisfaction, according to a speech made by their leader in the Constituent Assembly on 22nd October, which is another disappointment for the right hon. Gentleman.
There is one thing over which I hope the Burmese people will act cautiously. They have a brand new Civil Service without the support and help of British 1858 officials. That Civil Service will naturally take some time to get into its stride. It will be some months before it is really competent to deal with the administration of the country, and it would be unwise at the moment to press on too hastily with schemes of nationalisation and socialisation. For that reason—and only because of the inexperience of the Civil Service—it will be a problem which must be considered by the Burmese people before they press too hard for extensive nationalisation. I hope that the more extreme Socialists and the Communists in Burma will not seek to overthrow their present leadership because they do not hasten on as fast as they would wish with Socialistic schemes. [Interruption.] I expected that I had said something which would please the Opposition, but I do not mind doing that, if I feel that it will be of any help to Burma.
I hope, finally, that, despite what we have just heard, in one of the right hon. Gentleman's most outrageous speeches, a message of good will will go out from this House today to the people of Burma and that Burma will know that, although she will not be a sister nation of the Commonwealth, we shall regard her with a very special affection and feel that the ties between us have been enhanced and not diminished by the passing of this Bill.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
This is an historic occasion and, as has been said, we are closing one chapter and beginning a new one in being asked to confirm the treaty that has already been made which establishes the independence of Burma. I do not intend to occupy the House for more than a few minutes. I would have been even shorter but for the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). We all know that he has played a great part, a very noble part, and certainly an historic part, not only in the affairs of this country, but in the affairs of the Empire, and he has done a great deal to promote the interests of the Colonies and other parts of that Empire. We- also know that he holds his views sincerely, and we pay him the deepest respect, but I sincerely wish that he had not expressed those views this afternoon. What good can they pos- 1859 sibly do to anybody—to the Burmese, the people of this country, or anyone anywhere?
What has happened? Nothing that we can say now can alter the act which has already been signed by the Prime Minister and the head of the Provisional Government of Burma. Burma is starting on her new career, and surely the right thing at this present moment is to wish her well and hope for her future prosperity? It, is no good indulging in recriminations. The word "traitor" is easily thrown about, but a person who may be described by one set of people as a traitor may be regarded by another set of people as a patriot. Many a man who has been fighting for what he regarded as the essential freedom of his own people, and fighting against what might be regarded as domination over his own people, has afterwards been welcomed by us as a friend, to the benefit of himself and certainly to the benefit of ourselves.
§ Mr. C. Davies
May I recall to the House that we had to fight a bitter and bloody war in South Africa, but at last we extended the hand of friendship to two of the greatest builders of this Empire, General Botha and General Smuts, and it would ill become us to refer to the bloodshed in South Africa in connection with them after they had been received at Buckingham Palace. May I come nearer home? We all remember the tragedy of Ireland, but the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues shook hands with the man who was regarded up to that moment as a traitor and who died as a result of extending the hand of friendship, Michael Collins. So it does no good to indulge in these recriminations.
Undoubtedly Burma has benefited considerably, not only materially but also politically and even spiritually, by her association with this country. We have built roads, harbours, houses; we have taught them many things, we have brought schools there, helped them in their education, and taught them to learn to govern themselves. Surely this is the culmination of the policy that this country has always desired to pursue, namely, that we would welcome the day when we could say to those people, "Now we have played our part. We have done all we 1860 could during our period of trusteeship. We are glad that the day has now come when you can take over responsibilities yourselves." We have indeed made great sacrifices in Burma. What our men went through there is almost indescribable, and they have left an imperishable memory behind them, fighting for the very freedom we are now conferring upon Burma. I hope it will be memories of such events that will be treasured by us in the future, and I wish well to this new Government and this people.
One other word. We are all of us apt rather to think of ourselves and what is happening to us in these troublesome times, when events are moving so rapidly, but to me probably the greatest event of all in this rapidly moving age is the awakening of Asia and the tremendous changes that are taking place there. What may eventuate from them, no one can tell. There is a mighty population there—China, India, and now a separate Burma. All we can hope is that they will discharge their responsibilities towards their people and build up a better world, not only for themselves but for all of us.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
I am sure the major portion of the House welcomed the spirit and tone of the speech made by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), and I must also add my profound regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) should have thought it fit at this time to encourage the worst elements, rather than the best elements, in Burma and this country. I say that deliberately because there are two ways by which we can encourage people to be our friends. One way is to try to insist that they shall be our friends at the point of the bayonet —or, in these latter days, with the menace of the bomb. The other is, whilst recognising unfortunate characteristics and facets, to look to the best, to think of the best, and to expect the best from those whom we desire to be our friends. I assume we desire Burma to be a friend of this country and, if so, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was calculated to destroy that possibility.
Indeed, when he referred to the recently assassinated leader of the Burmese people as a traitor, I could not but remember that at one time the originators 1861 of the American nation were also designated traitors. If that be so, then the very man who today has been calling a leader of the Burmese people a traitor, himself has traitor's blood in his veins. I hope I say that without any personal offence to him, but obviously he would not dare at this time to slander the American people, or to point out that they began in bygone days by rebellion against this country and, therefore, were technically traitors. Rather would he do what most of us do, appreciate that the American people, although they have a variety of races within their confines, are people who are equal with ourselves and therefore need to be in friendship with us on every possible plane. That is why, again, I much regret, and I am sure many of his own party regret, that he should have thought fit to speak in the way he did this afternoon.
§ Mr. Bracken
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was referring to the fact that certain persons connected in the past and present with the Burmese Government were strong allies of Japan in this war, and that there were thousands of British soldiers killed through the actions of these traitors.
§ Mr. Sorensen
It is interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) echoing his master's voice. All I can say again is that it depends on what one means by "traitors." After all, from the Burmese standpoint they adopted a policy which they thought was in the interests of their country, and although the right hon. Member for Bournemouth may accuse them of being traitors, I would suggest that the best way to test whether they are traitors or not is to ask the Burmese people. An overwhelming number, 99 per cent. or more, of the Burmese people would say, whether we like it or not, that U Aung San and others were not traitors, but examples of the finest Burmese patriots. It is quite true that it was inconvenient and embarrassing for us, and that it led to a great deal of suffering, but again I beseech hon. Members, and especially the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, to realise that when we think of others as being traitors, we judge them only from our standpoint, whereas we have to realise that it is from the Burmese standpoint that U Aung San and others must be judged. Otherwise 1862 we soon get ourselves into difficulties. There are many in this country who could accuse certain leaders of this country of being traitors. We have all heard from time to time the most scathing language used by hon. Members opposite regarding the Members of our own Front Bench, but it is not for them to determine whether we who are Labour Members have confidence in them; it is for ourselves. And so it is with the Burmese people. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that U Aung San and others followed a policy which they hoped would lead them to ultimate liberty.
Further, may I point out that there was a time in Italy when large numbers of Italian people began to defy Mussolini. I suppose from one standpoint they could be called, technically, traitors to their country; but we welcomed that traitorous act, we encouraged it, and in the long run those very people, called traitors technically by some of the Italians, were recognised by us as being the finest Italian patriots. [An HON. MEMBER: "And by the right hon. Member for Woodford."] As my hon. Friend says, by the right hon. Member for Woodford as well. So it is with the Burmese people, and it is a shocking thing in my estimation deliberately to give offence to the Burmese people by designating one of their honoured men as a traitor. I am certain that, on second thoughts, if not the right hon. Member, many others of the party to which he belongs will regret profoundly that he saw fit beforehand to work out the phraseology of his speech in the way he did in order, not impulsively but deliberately and by choice, to leave on record for all time that the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House has designated the honoured and beloved leader of Burmese liberation a traitor. I hope history will nevertheless realise that there are other voices in this country besides his, whose desire it is to encourage all that is best in the Burmese people, so that they can go forward with us in friendship and fraternity.
The right hon. Gentleman also regretted the fact that hon. Members below the Gangway look upon this with joy. Though I do not sit in that position normally, I would have asked him, had I been able to do so, why we should not look on this with joy? Are we not glad that the Burmese people have not only 1863 secured their freedom, but are on terms of firmer friendship with us now than ever before? Are we not glad that peoples who were conquered by us are at last liberated, not in a spirit of rancour but of good will? Surely, that is something about which to rejoice, and I do rejoice in the fact that the Burmese people are now a free people who have been made free, not by acts of violence between themselves and ourselves, but by the culmination of a process of reason and good will.
The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested at one time that we could have had approximately 25 per cent. of the Forces who are now in Palestine in Burma to implement a policy of Dominion status, rather than of independence. I shall read his words in HANSARD more carefully tomorrow, but I think I have not give an unfair paraphrase of what he suggested. What does that mean? If it means anything at all, it is that, despite the overwhelming determination and desire of the Burmese people to be independent, and not merely to enjoy Dominion status, he would have been prepared to have had an army of, say, 25,000 British troops in Burma to see that they had something which they did not want to receive. More of our British soldiers would have been killed, which sounds ill when one remembers the undoubtedly sincere comments which he and the right hon. Member for Bournemouth made in regard to the tragic losses we suffered in Burma only two or three years ago. From our own standpoint it was a wise step to take to recognise that neither in India nor Burma do we wish to lose more precious British lives. I challenge his Parliamentary colleagues opposite to state whether, in fact, they are prepared to support the right hon Member for Woodford and to go into the Lobby against this Bill. Are they going to put it on record that so deeply and conscientiously do they disagree with this that they are going to prove their sincerity by-voting in the Noes Lobby against this Bill? Otherwise, one must recognise that they are in fact not endorsing that policy to which the right hon. Gentleman has given utterance.
As stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) there are many difficulties facing Burma, difficulties which will require the guidance of others 1864 to help the Burmese. It is for them to decide, but I am quite certain that in this new atmosphere of freindship and goodwill they will turn to this country for advice and assistance and, indeed, for cooperation. Their policy of nationalising large industries naturally meets with the sympathy of hon. Members on this side of the House. I hope they will be able to go forward with that. Certainly the economic distress of their country is very great at the present time, and it was caused by the war, a war into which they went not of their own choice, but by the decision of the British Government. It may have been a wise choice on our part, but that is not the point—the point is that they themselves did not choose to go, but were ordered to go into it, and they suffered grievous damage; and it will be a long while before they can recover.
§ Mr. Bracken
They were invaded by the Japanese; that little point must be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Sorensen
That may be, but if they had been a free country they could have decided themselves whether they would take up arms against the Japanese, or not. In any case the Japanese invaded Burma because that was part of the Japanese policy of attack against this country and her allies. In other words, the invasion of Burma took place because Burma was merely part of the game, the game which on the one part Japan and her Axis allies were playing, and on the other we ourselves were playing. I do not think it is fair to say that because Burma was invaded by the Japanese we went out to defend Burma from the Japanese. Nothing of the kind. We went to Burma to defend ourselves, our own interests, and Imperial prestige and to defeat the Japanese, not primarily for the sake of Burmese interests. I repeat, they may have been defended, but the main fact was that it suited our purpose to defend Burma against the Japanese when they invaded that part of the world.
I notice a very minor factor which will certainly hearten all the women Members of the House. It is laid down in the new Constitution that in future all women in Burma who do the same job as men must receive equal pay—[Laughter.] In spite of the laughter of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans)—
§ Mr. Gammans
I was merely suggesting that the hon. Member might mention that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and ask him to redeem his Election promise.
§ Mr. Sorensen
If that is implemented we shall be in the interesting position of Finding an example set for us by one of the newest nations in the world. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House generally, will take note of that, and will follow Burma's example. That may be symbolical of the future, and I hope that hon. Members opposite, and on the Liberal Benches, will join with us. It is quite true that Burma is not part of the British Empire, but she is our friend, and many of us would rather have her not in the Commonwealth but a warm friend, than in the Commonwealth but resentfully and bitterly trying to work her way out. Burma goes forward as an independent country, but in friendship, and may that friendship deepen and ripen in course of time not only into more friendship for both lands, but into an example to the world.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Wavertree)
The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) cast out a challenge to hon. Members on this side of the House. As far as I am concerned, I say without hesitation that I propose to give unqualified support to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in voting against this Bill when the time comes. Many attacks have been made in the course of the last 20 minutes on my right hon. Friend, and the main gist of the attacks has been that he has taken the opportunity to make a provocative speech at a time when Burman independence is drawing near to a conclusion.
The speech of the Prime Minister was completely devoid of all reality. Anyone listening to that speech would have imagined that a rather friendly, genial, democracy-loving people were just about to adopt the British form of constitutional government, and pass gracefully out into the new order of democratic states. But everyone in this House knows that that is not a true picture of Burma. My right hon. Friend took the opportunity of lifting the lid a little, and showing something of the real difficulties we have to face. He took the opportunity of stating the real issue. It is so easy in this House—and we all do it at times—to make easy phrases 1866 and express satisfaction that all is to be for the best in the best of all possible worlds at the moment when we disclaim responsibility in some area of the globe. My right hon. Friend does not take that view. He is prepared to seek out what he believes to be the truth even when the truth annoys the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), and shocks the Liberal Party which is being shocked at the moment somewhere else.
Nevertheless, the truth deserves to be spoken. I will say only one word about the late Burmese Prime Minister. There has been perhaps too much discussion in the course of the last 20 minutes in regard to his own guilt as a traitor. It is an insult to General Smuts and to General Botha, both of whom were men who fought for their own country, as they believed, against us, to compare them with one who first of all united with the cruellest race in the East—the Japanese—amongst other things to oppress Burmans and who, having done that, double-crossed the Japanese as soon as he thought he was on the losing side. If that makes patriotism, it is the sort of patriotism which I would sooner see on the other side of the House than on my own. So much for that.
On the general picture, quite frankly I look at this Bill with great apprehension and anxiety. Certain hon. Members opposite will remember that a number of years ago I took, as I was entitled to take, a different view from them, and indeed a different view from certain of my own party on the Government of India Bill. I was afraid at that time that in that country we were speeding the pace towards complete independence too fast without that background which alone can make democracy work. That was my view then. Since then I have seen India quitted by the British and I have seen prophecies that were described as fantastic 12 years ago come true. We have' all seen, first of all, bloody massacre, then an enormous forced displacement of population, leading on the one hand to typhus, and leading beyond typhus to starvation and famine. I have seen these things happen within a few months of a beautiful picture having been painted in this House—
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
Is it not a fact that we saw millions of Indians starve previously, when we were in India?
§ Mr. Raikes
I am glad that the hon. Lady made that interruption. I think I can deal with it, and probably in a way which may satisfy her. It is true that throughout the history of India there have been great famines. It is also true that during the period when the British were in India famines were reduced so far that the population of India increased in a way never known in the history of any Eastern race during a similar period. When famines did take place, and they took place to some extent during the war, they did so owing to the failure of crops. The famine which is now taking place in India is taking place quite apart from crops, owing to the forced migration of populations. Owing to these changes of population, as a result of civil war in parts of India, we find completely different sorts of famine, which would never have occurred but for those displacements.
§ Mr. Raikes
My own recollection was that in 1943 there was a very bad failure in the rice crop in India, and there was the Japanese war.
§ Mr. Raikes
I confess that if quote come along I" am as fond of a free-for-all as anyone in this House, but if I may, I will return to the subject which is worrying my hon. Friend beside me, which is Burma.
I said a moment ago that events in India cause considerable fear when we see another such step being taken in another Eastern country on rather similar lines, because one thing is certain beyond all else. Whatever there will be when we leave Burma, it will not be a nice pleasant constitutional democracy of the British type. One has only to look at the new constitution of Burma to realise that inevitably there will be not a democratic State but a form of totalitarian State. That State is coming into existence in an atmosphere of great bitterness and unpleasantness in Burma, an atmosphere of Cabinet Ministers being murdered on the one hand, and leaders of the Opposition being tried for their murder on the other, and a great deal of unrest in the nation. There will be not a democratic, 1868 but a totalitarian regime. I remember the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) once making a statement which stuck in my mind. On that occasion he said that the heady wine of democracy was, in his view, too much for Eastern Europe at the present time. He was, of course, talking of Poland.
I would dispute that, but it is beyond dispute that the heady wine of democracy, if carried too quickly to untrained heads in Asia, must have results which are very different from the results which Members of the Government Front Bench would like to see come into operation. There is no evidence whatever that if a national totalitarian Government is formed in Burma, as it inevitably will be, it will be a stage towards the development of democratic institutions. In fact, I say with confidence that where such a Government is set up the only effect can be to destroy those seeds of democratic ideas which have been sown in that country during the years when it was in close contact with the West and with this nation.
I would summarise the result of our departure from Burma in this way: First, that Burma will be left in complete turmoil and risk, as India was left; secondly, that the Karens who were our loyal friends through thick and thin throughout the war, will have to make whatever struggle they make for their national independence without any support from this country. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that there are special ties and special needs to stand by those who stood by us. I know it has been said that the Karens, apart from the dwellers on the Delta, have entered this new Constituent Assembly. What else could they do? Our Government have made it clear that we were clearing out, but no one in Burma imagines that the position between the Karens and the Burmans will be either happy or pleasant for that very gallant minority. It is all very well to say, as another hon. Member has said, that a member of the Anglo-Burma community had stated that he was satisfied that all would be well in the Assembly. The Anglo-Burman community have, like others, to hope for the best, but in view of the bitter anti-, British propaganda which has been conducted ever since the war, when we have been moving towards Burmese independence—conducted among others by the very Prime Minister who was slaughtered 1869 the other day—the Anglo-Burman community, like the Karens, with no safeguards whatever, will face a grave and difficult time.
As every one knows, the Burmese police have been riddled with politics, especially since the last Prime Minister, who was murdered, led and encouraged a police strike only a few years ago. So there are political police, a totalitarian regime, and the British are quitting. I am not prepared to stand down and merely use a few easy words of patronage about that situation. I do not think that it would be right or just to do it. In view of these slaughters, in view of the condition of the nation, we could have advanced by stages. We could have insisted that the police be purged of politics and that the people had some practice in free elections. The first "free" elections in Burma were not very much like free elections in this country. We could have ensured that they passed by stages towards the final stage of independence.
The Government are governed by a pledge. I know that a pledge has been made. I know that my words tonight are in vain, but I would remind them that if a pledge is sufficiently reckless, sufficiently foolish, it may be qualified. There is precedent for it. There is one pledge which this Government, or the majority of hon. Members opposite, threw over in this Parliament—the pledge to the friendly societies—and they did that with far less justification. That was not a pledge which had in it the inherent gravities of this one. If having promised a man to give him a razor, one then discovers that he is likely to cut his own throat, one is entitled to qualify that promise until the condition of his health is a great deal better. I believe that this Government are taking a terrible responsibility. I am glad, for my part, that we on this side of the House do not share it. The quitting of our responsibilities at this moment may easily lay a load of blood guilt upon this Government of which they and the people who come after will have cause to be ashamed.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes) made what seemed to me an extraordinary remark when he talked about lack of reality in the speech of 1870 the Prime Minister, because throughout the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that was what impressed me most—his complete lack of realisation of what the situation in Burma really was and still is. I was the more surprised because, if there is one subject upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is an expert, it is that of warfare in all its forms. It seemed to me incredible that he should say that Burma could have been repressed or kept in order with far fewer troops than we use in Palestine. There is simply no comparison between the two countries.
When one considers the vast expanse of Burma, the jungle covered, hilly country which is absolutely ideal for guerillas, when one looks back at history and thinks of the trouble we have had in the past and the rebellion which we took a very long time in quelling in peacetime with all our administrative and military resources in full operation, it is perfectly obvious that if the whole country is against us the reconquest of it or the keeping of it in repression, would be a military operation of the highest magnitude. That is especially so when one considers how the communications were completely disrupted by war and the fact that there were arms everywhere in the hands of dacoits, and people of every description, in the jungle and the villages throughout the country.
It was absolutely essential if there was to be any peace in Burma that we should have the people on our side. What was the state of the people after we reconquered Burma? They were seething with nationalism. The spirit of nationalism which has been growing up in South-East Asia had come to a head in Burma, and nothing would content the people but almost immediate independence. That was conveyed to me, and I think to many other hon. Members, by people who were on the spat. Some 16 months ago I criticised the Government because I thought that they did not realise that fact. I thought they were acting much too slowly. In fact, I thought that they were following up the White Paper which the Leader of the Opposition quoted with some satisfaction, which visualises a slow, stately, gradual progress towards independence. It would have been utterly useless to attempt anything of 1871 that kind in Burma in view of the temper of the people. There was only one thing to be done, and that was to take vigorous and immediate steps towards giving the Burmese independence. It was the only way of saving a volcano from blowing up there. I congratulate the Government most heartily on having realised that fact and on the vigour and promptness with which they have dealt with the situation.
I would also like to echo the compliment paid by the Prime Minister to Sir Hubert Rance for the tact and wisdom with which he guided Burma through the period of transition. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had some very bitter things to say about the Burmese leader, Aung San. I think it was most deplorable that he should do that. Though no doubt he was sincere, he showed complete lack of responsibility. That is a thing that we are accustomed to expect from him now, though as a war leader we all had a great admiration for what he did. Now that his responsibilities are given up, sometimes he behaves more like a naughty and mischievous school boy. I only hope that the Burmese people will take it for what it is worth and will realise that he does not represent, I should imagine, even the majority opinion on the benches opposite in this matter. Even hon. Members opposite share the change which has come over public opinion within my lifetime. When I was a young man we used to look at so much of the map coloured red and rather gloat over it saying, "This is our Empire. It belongs to us." There was a sense of possession about it. Most of us have advanced beyond that stage.
We realise that the only right attitude for an Imperial Power over territories which may still be subordinate to it is the relationship of guardian to ward. We are responsible for these territories just so long as it is necessary for us to supervise them. All the time we should be aiming at preparing them for independence. That is now the accepted enlightened view. Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Woodford has his mind still as it was about 50 years ago. He has not been able to assimilate the new ideas. Otherwise, he would not speak of these as being days of gloom. The guardian does not regard it as a day of gloom when his ward achieves his 21st 1872 birthday. He merely says, "Now we have a new relationship which we hope will be just as friendly with just as much mutual confidence and respect as before, but there is no longer any subordination." He regards it as a joyful occasion. We on this side of the House take that view when we see Burma getting her independence.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) emphasised the fact that although Burma has decided to leave the Commonwealth, she has a very particular relation to the Commonwealth, which is different from that of any other foreign country. On this side of the House, we can also welcome the fact that Burma is to be a Socialist state. I can agree with the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes), that it will not be what he called "a nice, pleasant democracy," like we have here. Of course, it will not. How could it be, when we consider what Burma is and her past? Anyway, I am not surprised that they are aiming at a Socialist State, because it is in accordance with the history of the country. Burma is a land of villages, which has always had a strong community spirit and a strong spirit of working together in local democracy. It is a country which never has had an ideal that men should set out to make great fortunes for themselves; capitalism was a foreign importation, brought in by Europeans, Indians and Chinese. Although it may be perfectly true that it has brought material benefits, it has also had very harmful effects, in some ways, on the Burmese social system, which the Burmese themselves were inclined to resent. Now, they are out to make the best of modern industrial methods, while, at the same time, retaining or going back to their own communal system, and I think we shall look with sympathy on the experiments which they make in that direction.
In conclusion, I would like to recall what I thought were the remarkable words of Thakin Nu, the Burmese Prime Minister, in reply to our own Prime Minister, when he said this:The two Governments have striven, for something greater and nobler than a mere agreement on such points as might arise for settlement in connection with the impending transfer of power. What both sides have sought and I believe have achieved is nothing less than arrangements which will form a firm and solid basis for Anglo-Burmese friendship.1873 That is very true, and I would like them to think that, at any rate, the majority of us in this House tonight, and on the other side as well as here, reciprocate that view.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that, whatever way hon. Members on this side of the House may cast their votes tonight, they are not lacking a full measure of good will to Burma and the peoples who live there.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I do not know if the hon. Member thinks that is the way in which to conduct Debate or whether it conduces to the dignity of this House, but I do not think it does. I wish it to go down on record and also to go out to Burma, and I know that it will be reciprocated by all my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side, that we feel a full measure of good will towards Burma. But, having said that, I find myself completely differing from almost everything else the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. I believe, particularly, that it is a bad thing in this House if, just because we disagree with the actions or speeches of an hon. Member or a party, we should charge them with irresponsibility. I do not share the views held by some of my hon. and right hon. Friends. In fact I may find myself in the Government Lobby this evening, but I resent as keenly as anyone this charge of irresponsibility that is levelled against them. I feel impelled to say to my hon. Friends that when we vote for this Measure, we shall do it with a very heavy sense of responsibility in our hearts, so that I resent, both on their behalf and on my own, this charge of irresponsibility. It docs no good to the future of our relations with Burma that these charges are made, and I think they should be withdrawn.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes). If we are to embark on a new stage of our relations with Burma in an aura of honeyed words and easy phrases, then we are, indeed, most culpable. If we close our eyes to the fact that this may very likely be a change for the worse in the life of the ordinary common man and 1874 woman in Burma, then we are indeed deluding ourselves. I would like hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite, and, indeed, would like Burma to recognise, that there is a tradition in the Conservative Party of a very heavy feeling of responsibility towards those nations of the world for whom we have been and are acting as trustees. Some hon. Members of my own party feel a deep and bitter sense of personal guilt When they read of the disasters in India. I comprehend their attitude of mind, and I can understand that, tonight, they are feeling the same sense of responsibility and the same sense of apprehension in regard to What is being done in connection with Burma.
I take a different view myself. I say to them, and most earnestly, that, if they cannot bring themselves to share the responsibility of the Government in passing this Bill into law, then, I believe, it is their duty and is in the highest interests of this country and of Burma to say to the Government: "The power is yours, the responsibility is yours. Nothing that we can do can alter the acts that you have undertaken to carry out. We shall leave you to carry the full responsibility for those disasters which, most regrettably, we foresee." I do most earnestly beg my hon. and right hon. Friends to abstain from voting tonight. I believe that an adverse vote tonight on the part of the Conservative Party would be widely misinterpreted in Burma, and would make the relations between Burma and this country more difficult when the day comes when hon. Gentlemen on the other side are dismissed from office and the Conservative Party takes the reins of power, for, whether they think it is coming soon or late, it is bound to come some time. I therefore ask them to cast their minds forward to that date.
Of course, the removal of British influence is not going to bring good results to Burma in the future. We may easily find either complete chaos or a police State set up in Burma. I share the apprehensions on this point just as much as my hon. Friends, but I believe we have got to approach this problem in a realistic frame of mind. We are committed to a policy of self-determination for Burma. I do not regret that, and I am willing to take my share of the responsibility for it. In every speech which I have made 1875 during Burma Debates in this House I have expressed that view. We have been committed, for a very long time, to give Burma self-determination, but that self-determination has been exercised in a way which I, for one, deplore. I regret very deeply that Burma has made up her mind to leave the British Commonwealth of Nations. I take it unkindly of them, and, to put it at its mildest, it was an act of discourtesy to a country which has shown the warmest friendship for Burma.
The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) took it upon himself to denigrate our motives for fighting in the last war in Burma, but I assure him that much British blood was spent to save Burmese lives. I wish to say to Burma that I am wounded by the determination to leave the British Empire, combined with the desire to take the fullest advantage of any association with this country. But when we said that we would give Burma the chance of self-determination as to her future, we had to be prepared for a decision to be taken on these Unes. We must stand by our word, and that is my first argument in favour of voting for this Bill.
The second—is an elementary question, but a very difficult one to answer—it is, what is the alternative? It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree to say that we should grant self-determination to Burma, and should assent to Burma's evolution to complete independence, but it must be done by stages. One can do lots of things by stages, but one cannot control a flood by stages. If a great wave of water is rushing down a valley, it is no use saying to that flood, "If you will give me time to evacuate my house, floor by floor, I will ultimately row away in a boat and you can have my house." But we cannot say that. When we get these great surges of national feeling, unreasonable and irrational though they may be, and though they may ultimately tend to disaster for the people who experience them, we cannot reason with them. We cannot say, "Very well, we will proceed by stages." I put it to my hon. Friends that there can be no stages, and that there can really be no halfway house. Either we say that for the good of Burma we will stay in Burma, with all the military commitments that entails, or say, "We stand by our 1876 pledged word. We will give Burma the full choice of self-determination with a full realisation of what that may entail, even though the choice may be made in a way which we think is disastrous to Burma, and which we may not like."
As I have said before, I can quite understand, and, indeed, share, my hon. Friends' deep sense of responsibility. I share many, if not most, of their apprehensions and gloomy forebodings, but I say to them that if they are going to cast a vote against this Bill tonight they should bear in mind the effect that a vote against this Bill will have in the East, or that they should at least produce some rational alternative. This is almost my final point and one which I think they should also bear in mind. I have always been rather frightened by the fact that I as a Member of this House of Commons have a responsibility that is shared by every other hon. Member for far distant parts of the world. It is a responsibility that it is impossible for each individual among us to carry out of our own personal knowledge. We can only carry it out properly if we have regard to the views of the people on the spot who know the country and whose lives and livelihoods are likely to be in the country permanently. I say this with a full sense of responsibility. It is the unanimous, or almost the unanimous, expressed opinion of the British community in Burma—and of every section of it—that this Bill should go through. I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends—as they know, I do not charge them with a lack of responsibility—that they should weigh their action most carefully, and that they should think again before they vote against this Bill tonight.
As I have said, I shall quite understand if they cannot vote for the Bill, and if they say to the Government, "It is your show and your responsibility; you have the power. We dissociate ourselves; we wash our hands of it. We will abstain." I should understand and respect that attitude. If they cannot vote for the Bill, I beg them to do that. I end as I began with the reiterated assurance to Burma that, however the Conservative Party may vote tonight, whether together in one Lobby or another, or by abstention, their good will must not, and shall not, stand in doubt. We shall loyally and wholeheartedly carry out our obligations of friendship and good will towards that country.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in saying that this is an historic occasion. A great country, bigger than France, and with enormous wealth, is passing "out of the British Empire at the request of the people of that country. But I venture to suggest, big as this event is, that it is only part of a world movement going on all over the East today. The countries in the East, especially since the war, are getting more and more restless, and more and more nationalistic in their outlook. Let us put it bluntly; they resent alien and white domination.
The Imperial Powers are faced with this problem in the East today; it will be in Africa, the West Indies and everywhere else tomorrow. The question is whether the British Government are tackling the problem in the right way. In a case like this, I think that the British people under any Government—I do not care to what side it belongs—is moved rather by instinct than by reason. What are we doing? What are the Governments of this country committed to for years? We are committed to the policy of independence for those countries who seek to have independence. That is common to both parties. I venture to suggest that that is the proper policy. I do not want to criticise any Imperial Powers by name, but I think that our policy is superior to theirs. They are trying, in some way or another, by federation, or by some sort of union, to amalgamate these restless peoples with the home country. I think that policy is absolutely bad and vicious, and that ours is right.
After all, these peoples are not asking to be federated with us, to be affiliated to us, or to become a constituency of Great Britain. They are asking for independence, and it is a wise thing, in a movement like this, to give people that for which they ask. Secondly, if we try in the case of Burma, Ceylon and India to amalgamate them in some sort of Federal Union with us, I suggest that it would confuse the politics of their countries and of ours. I believe implicitly in the party system. To kill the party system is to kill democracy. Those countries which have the one party State have no democracy, and cannot have it. If we try to amalgamate these countries with 1878 us, countries with a totally different culture, race and language, we should only upset the politics of our own country and of theirs, and our democratic party system.
Therefore, my first proposition is that the Government of today are acting wisely in the case of Burma in granting the request of its people for independence. If it were not satisfied, that demand would grow. Cynics sometimes say in the East that political emotions and movements go up like a rocket and come down like a stick. There is a considerable amount of truth in that, but there is no truth in it when we come to this racial problem. The demand for racial equality and independence grows every year. It has been growing for years, and will get stronger and stronger. It cannot be resisted. As the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) said, in the case of Burma it was a flood tide.
I, like others, made inquiries before I made up my mind on this subject. I knew Burma in days gone by when it was a happy land, with charming people liked by the Europeans, and when the greatest friendship possible existed between the European administrators and the Burmese. Since the war, I have been informed on most reliable authority by people specially sent out to investigate, that the change of political feeling in Burma has been difficult to believe. The whole people—not a few—are intent on getting self-government. Therefore, we cannot possibly resist that. I agreed with some of my hon. Friends who have said that the Burmese have made a mistake in not being satisfied with Dominion status. I think it was a mistake. They had so committed themselves in their propaganda to the idea of complete independence and the complete removal of the British from Burma, that they could not go back on it. I think the Burmese will live to regret the day when they expressed their dissatisfaction with Dominion status, which is a very honourable and beneficial status.
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) attacked the Government because they had said we should not delay this settlement. The right hon. Gentleman said that delay was easy. Delay was not easy, and I congratulate the Government on the way they handled this matter; especially do I congratulate 1879 the Prime Minister. Instead of trying to settle the matter by sending telegrams and the like, he induced the Burmese leaders to come over here and effect a settlement. If that action had not taken place at that time, Burma might have gone up in flames. That is the real fact. Delay was not easy; it was impossible. Delay would have caused bloodshed and would have prevented the settlement which has now been made. At the same time while the right hon. Member for Woodford said that delay would be easy and that Dominion status could have been agreed upon, he also said that we could easily have used in Burma the troops whom we are wasting in Palestine. He was contemplating not an easy delay, but the use of force. I have never listened to a more irresponsible or deplorable speech.
To revert to the right hon. Gentleman's reference to Palestine, it is quite true he said about two years ago that we should come out of Palestine. But there is a need for timing in everything. We should not have come out of Palestine then, and we should come out of Palestine now, because a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the right hon. Member for Woodford made that suggestion two years ago. Great strategic changes have taken place in the Near East, and what was wrong then is right now, in my opinion. However, that is a digression. Then the right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that although the Prime Minister was not an actual murderer in the case of Burma, he was like a signalman on the railway line who was signalling Burma towards murder. If the policy of the right hon. Member for Woodford had been followed, I predict with absolute certainty that he himself might well be accused of being the, murderer, because blood would have flowed in Burma, and British blood at that, and people in this country do not want British blood to flow in suppressing the politics of people who are demanding their independence.
The right hon. Member for Woodford also said that the Burmese were not fit for self-government. For that matter, very few people in the world are fit for self-government. Most countries in the world, even in Europe, have made a mess of democracy and cannot work it. A lot of them have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and now live under a 1880 system of totalitarian tyranny, and they regret it. Whether the Burmese are fit for self-government or not, the point is: Should we continue to govern Burma against the will of the politicians in Burma, against the whole national feeling of Burma which has demanded self-government?
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) asked his colleagues on the opposite benches what their alternative was. I, too, ask them what is their alternative. In a case like this there is no use in abusing the Government for their policy and putting forward no alternative policy. The only suggestion we could get from the right hon. Member for Woodford was that he wanted to delay things so that the Burmese would agree to Dominion status and thereby prevent the bloodshed and misgovernment which might ensue. As I have said, that is an impossible policy. But supposing that were achieved, would Dominion status prevent bloodshed? Dominion status is complete independence, and under Dominion status the Burmese could carry on misgovernment and bloodshed just as easily as they could under the system which is to be set up. Dominion status would not prevent bloodshed. I ask hon. Members opposite, What is your policy?
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
There would be the restraining influence of the Governor-General, in close contact with the Government here.
§ Mr. Reid
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the existence of a Governor-General, who might not necessarily be an Englishman but who might be a Burmese or an Indian, would prevent possible bloodshed and misgovernment in Burma, I am afraid I cannot agree with him. The right hon. Member for Woodford also indulged in a deplorable postmortem about U Aung San. I knew him. I have my own opinion about him, which I will not express, but what is the use in dragging that up now? What is the relevancy in the right hon. Gentleman's speech? We are deciding whether we should vote for the independence of Burma or not. What is the use in dragging up the deeds and misdeeds of U Aung San? The right hon. Gentleman's speech was deplorable. It does no good to this country; it does infinite harm to Burma and to this country as well.
1881 Reverting to the question of the troops in Palestine, suppose that we had set those troops in motion and that we had reduced Burma to law and order—because, as we all know, since the war there has not been law and order in Burma. There are dacoits, and all sorts of trouble exists there still. Suppose that we had taken the job in hand and had reconquered the country at the expense of British money and blood. What then would hon. Gentlemen opposite do? Would they then hand over the country to the Burmese? The same question has arisen in India. Suppose that we had tried to keep law and order and re-establish our authority in India. What then? We should do what we did in South Africa after the Boer War. After two or three years of war, we did what we might have done before the war, hand over to the South African people their liberty. We should have to do that in Burma after employing the Palestine troops. The speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford was the most irresponsible speech which I have ever heard him make.
So far as I can gather, this Burma problem is regarded by the Burmese leaders as a purely Burmese problem. I have spoken to them over here in various delegations, and I have discussed these matters with them. Like all these amateur politicians, as I call them, they look at things exclusively from their own national point of view. They have not had the experience of world politics. But the Burmese problem is a world problem. In an interdependent world, Burma is a very important country indeed. Those who know Burma, know what inexhaustible wealth lies there—petrol, teak, gems, enormous rice fields and all the rest. It is a well-watered country, unlike the one-monsoon zones in India. It can help to feed and enrich the world while feeding and enriching the Burmese themselves. Hon. Members opposite and others think that this new change of constitution will lead to economic deterioration. It may happen, but if so it will be a loss not merely to Burma but to the whole world. We cannot help it. All we can do is to carry out what we and all parties have pledged ourselves to do—to meet the wish of the Burmese, and put the responsibility on them. The hon. Member for Farnham said that he personally does not feel responsible for what 1882 has happened in India. I think I have quoted him correctly.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I said that I accepted full responsibility. I share responsibility for the British policy towards India. I thought I had made that perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Reid
I think the hon. Gentleman said that he did not feel responsible for the outrages, murders and pillage which have taken place since. I, like the hon. Member for Farnham, supported the Government's policy in India. But I do not feel that I have any responsibility for the consequences. The Indian leaders have insisted on it, and we had no option but to give them self-government. So far dreadful things have occurred. I told my hon. Friends that they would occur. But I do not feel responsible. We tried to persuade them to adopt the suggestion of the Cripps Mission—a most excellent constitutional suggestion of the Cabinet Mission. We and the Government have done our best to get the Indian people together in a federal constitution. They rejected it, and the responsibility is on them. Similarly, in the case of these charming people, the Burmese, I hope they will all pull together and make a success of the settlement, but if they do not the responsibility is on their heads. It was they who demanded it. They insisted on it, and I hope they will make a success of it.
I do not know how hon. Members opposite are going to vote tonight, but of one thing I am certain, and that is that the people of this country almost unanimously approve the policy of His Majesty's Government in giving self government to India and self government to Burma. They approve also the policy enunciated recently by the Government, of withdrawing from Palestine in certain conditions. The people of this country do not want these adventures of dabbling in the political affairs of other peoples, who want independence. It is the tradition of our race to be independent ourselves and to insist on political liberty, and to give it to others, and if hon. Members opposite think that the people of this country will approve of our taking troops from Palestine and sending them into Burma to try to keep down the Burmese and to prevent them from gaining their independence, I think they are sadly mistaken. Finally, I hope that the Burmese 1883 will realise that that is the feeling of this country, that we want the Burmese to be free, independent and prosperous, and to be friendly with us and I hope that these things will be realised.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
Speaking in this Debate I want to remember that it is November, 1947, and not to think too much about what happened in 1935 or even before then. The question before the House is, What are we going to do now? I myself did not oppose the Government when they granted Dominion status to India and to Pakistan. At that time I said that there might be a million or even five million dead. But I am a responsible person, and I voted in the way that seemed right to me at the time. It may be even now that there may be 50 million Indians dead by famine and by civil war within the next 10 years. Even so, I have to face the fact that they have wanted their independence, and that the Burmese want theirs now. Can the Indians govern? That is the question in India. I am very disappointed in these first few months of their self-government, but even so, I must still vote in accordance with the truth as I see it.
Burma is a very small country compared with India and, of course, the trouble there will be smaller also. I have heard hon. Members on the opposite side speak as if the British had responsibility for all the famines in India. I can remember that even when I was a boy my nickname at school was "Indian Famine Fund" because I was so thin. I do not suppose I should be called that today. In Rudyard Kipling's book "The Day's Work" one can see descriptions of Indian famines, the best detailed narrative it is possible to read. How can we expect anything else but famine in India when the country cannot feed itself, and the excess of births over deaths is more than 5,000,000 a year? Famines are a certainty in India. At any rate, in Burma, after the Japanese invasion, and the taking of Singapore by the Japanese, and the fighting to and fro over Burma, things are completely different there from what they were in 1938. There are many Burmese themselves, even judges, who actually worked and administered law and order for the Japanese. It is easy 1884 enough to condemn them. None of us knows what he might do himself if our own country were occupied by an enemy.
I expect in Burma murder, battle and sudden death; but I have to face the fact that they want their independence. What are we going to do? Are we really to continue to put British troops into Burma to enforce law and order by shooting? I say it would be completely wrong. I do not believe that this country would stand for it. I can hardly believe that the people of Northern Ireland want to see the Royal Ulster Rifles sent to enforce that sort of compulsion in Burma. I know that we are abandoning some of our friends. In passing, I might mention to the Prime Minister one small matter, that of compensation. I have friends in Burma. There is a certain captain I know who ran a steamer on the Irrawaddy carrying troops, petrol and other supplies. He had to leave his home at a few hours' notice at the end of 1941. His wife had to walk out of Burma into Assam, and he escaped later to Imphal. I hope that the Government will think that they are responsible for that man, who fought right through the war for us, and left his house, his car, his silver, his furniture and everything else at a few hours' notice.
I see the Prime Minister on the Government Front Bench. I do not believe the Prime Minister in his own mind is entirely happy about this. He would like to see Burma a Dominion. But I believe he has done the best he can do in this month of November, 1947, and so I shall support him, and in doing so I hope that Burma will be strong, peaceful and prosperous, and I hope that our relations with that independent country will always be based on friendship.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I was not surprised when the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), who sits behind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), spoke against the right hon. Gentleman. When I recall the classical language the right hon. Gentleman used during the war period, that most inspiring language, and contrast it with his utterance today, his tragical utterance today, I really do not know how to express my regret and astonishment. I remember another time and another historic incident concerning another 1885 nation's independence, when the right hon. Gentleman was denouncing what he called "traitors of today." He had to deal with a nation which was considered to be traitorous, and he so called the Irish who desired their independence. That question of Ireland ought never to be forgotten in this House. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman told Michael Collins how his reputation was at stake on that issue, and Michael Collins told him, "Yes, but my life will be the consequence of fighting for the liberty of my nation."
I am pleased today to be able to see this British Government of ours realise that the material conception of life is not really the thing for which we have to fight. I should have thought that the lesson of the last two world wars ought to be quite convincing, that conquest and invasions ought to be things of the past, and that the cementing in brotherly love of the nations of the world ought to be the object and ideology and system of government of the British Government. We were fighting for our liberty and life in the last war and for the preservation of civilisation. Even if we are not able to read the writing on the wall, it is time we were able to take stock of the world position today. Empires come and Empires go, and this Empire is disintegrating. It is disintegrating not because of conquest but because of its civilising influence. I think it has reached its pinnacle, and today we are seeing merely the natural evolution of things. We are now beginning to realise the conception of a common standard of life for all men, and we see a beginning to our becoming one human family. I do not want to speak with any animosity towards hon. Members opposite. I have been in this House for 18 years now; I have seen many things transpire, and I think we are becoming more sane; there is a better and more human touch in the affairs of fife.
No one can say that our homes have not suffered in some way or another all over the world. Every street in my neighbourhood tells that sad story, not only from the 1914–18 war, but from the war that has just ended. In my family five or six, from different homes, have made the supreme sacrifice, as have many thousands in the town in which I live. Because of that, I realise that much of this idea of conquest has been a farce; there has been no reality in it. The only reality 1886 has been the sacrifice. The material conception of trying to own the world is false today; it cannot last and stand the test of man. Because of that I believe that the Government, in the measures they have taken, have made a real contribution towards achieving the best that is possible in the East.
The East is a very treacherous place, and if we have no friends there we shall regret it. A miracle happened there in our own day when the Government achieved the settlement in India. Before that, when I looked at the Indian situation, I never thought that in my time, without bloodshed, the Indians would come to terms with the British Government as they have done. I know that the internal differences will have to be worked out, and differences of religion and nationality play their part. But we must recognise national aspirations, as we had to do in the case of the Irish. There is no difference whatever between the national aspirations of the Indians and those of the Irish. Each nation must solve its own riddles, and the West certainly cannot settle the affairs of the East. Once before we did not understand the mentality of a sister land across the water, which was really at our very doorstep and could have helped us materially. Because of our handling of that situation, not in this but in the past generation, we made enemies in every part of the world wherever there were Irishmen. Do let us learn from the history of the past.
I want to forget the method of the strong arm and invasion; I want those to be things of the past. We must change the mentality of the past; we must deal with the facts and realise that we are not the power we were. We have no right to sacrifice the lives and blood of the manhood of our nation on further conquests. We must learn that we have to settle down to a different system of life. We want peace in our time; that is the aim and object of civilisation. This great stroke that has been announced today by the Prime Minister is one of the greatest triumphs of this House of Commons. Just as I realised in regard to the settlement of India, so do I realise in regard to this problem that we now have a solution which I thought would never come in my day, and I am grateful to our Government for having produced it.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I think this is a moment when we have to speak with discretion and not let our emotions and party feelings become mixed up with this issue. I feel, however, that hon. Members opposite are beginning to merit the charge that their policy on every subject now ends with personal attacks upon the Leader of the Opposition. It is becoming a little monotonous to find how often hon. Members opposite point out the irresponsibilities of the speeches of my right hon. Friend. One almost feels they have the gramophone record on already, and they know what they are going to play. We should realise that we have in the Leader of the Opposition an Elizabethan in more ways than one, since he not only speaks the language of Shakespeare, but breathes the very spirit of Shakespeare, of whom it was said that he loved England's friends because they were her friends, and he hated England's enemies because they were her enemies. If we have an Elizabethan living in our midst today, then, when I regard some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite and listen to their speeches, I feel we can afford to have one great figure, even if from the past, to breathe the spirit of those times.
What did my right hon. Friend say? He spoke about the Burmese leader who, when our fortunes were lowest joined the Japanese and fought against us, and then when the Japanese fortunes began to fade joined us and fought against the Japanese? Must we really make of such a man a great patriot? Must we really? I know the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Economic Affairs who now smiles has a greater personal knowledge of these men, and it may be that that Burmese leader was actuated by a great sense of responsibility towards his own people. But surely, we, too, have a right to give the hand of friendship and cooperation to those who are loyal to us, even if according to Burmese standards they were wrong?
Are only the Burmese to have standards of loyalty? Are we to have none? Are we to show no gratitude to those who put their trust in us in our moment of danger, or must we always wait and chill towards those who fought by our side? Truly, the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) is right when he 1888 says that the whole conception of the Empire is changing. It is changing when we honour men who fought against us and grow cold towards those who fought by our side. Then, indeed, the conception of Empire is changing very rapidly. The truth is that the party opposite, sometimes secretly, but mostly openly, has always been ashamed of the British Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Always.
§ Mr. Baxter
It is not poppycock. Not until Socialist Governments appeared in New Zealand and Australia did the attitude of the Party opposite change. I think it is perhaps inseparable from the Socialist philosophy. They look back upon the conquest, and they look back upon the exploitation. All those things were true, but as it-developed the British Empire became, and has remained, the greatest influence for good in the world. Today, hon. Members speaking early in the Debate asked why we did not enthuse and cheer when our Leader uttered his grim forebodings? Should we cheer if these things proved true? Again, hon. Gentlemen opposite asked why we did not rejoice because here was a people being liberated? Since when should we rejoice because the strength and unity of the Empire is less than it was before? I say that, in its heart, the party opposite is ashamed of the story of the British Empire, and actually rejoices, in some curious sanctimonious sense of happiness and relief, when the grand alliance is weakened by the defection or withdrawal of one of its units.
§ Mr. Follick
In my speech on the Gracious Address, I made it quite clear that we on this side were not ashamed of the Empire. Those were the very words I used. I ask why we should be ashamed of it, when other States are increasing their empires? We have nothing to be ashamed of, because the working-class people of this country for the most part built up the Empire. They were the people who, because they could not find a living over here, went to the great Dominions and, in settling there, developed this great Empire.
§ Mr. Baxter
The hon. Member has managed to make a speech, which no 1889 doubt will be recorded in HANSARD. I have already said that there is a certain change of heart in the party opposite, and I am glad that the hon. Member is one of the sinners who has come to the penitents' bench. The speeches of hon. Members opposite have all been on the basis that every leader of the Burmese is a patriot and an idealist, and that every member of the Constituent Assembly is thinking only of the people he represents. It has been altogether too unrealistic. Burma is no more fortunate than any other country in its human greed, ambition and opportunism, all of which have been playing their part.
I wonder, when looking back on these events which have come to pass, whether we are handing Burma over to a really nationalist movement of freedom, or to a clique. That is a question which must be asked. Did we endeavour in every possible way to acquaint the people of Burma with the benefits that would accrue by remaining in the Empire, or did we surrender without a fight? When Members opposite appear so complacent about this, and when the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool gives his verdict almost before the ink is dry on this Bill, saying that it is an enormous achievement and this is a great moment, I wonder how he knows. Does he know how Burma is to protect itself? Is he completely convinced in his heart that Burma in its present condition, with its inexperience in leadership and everything else, will be able to maintain its independence as a nation in view of the expanding influences and ambitions of other great and powerful nations? Are we really confident, and is the hon. Member confident, that Burma will be able to maintain the freedom about which the Party opposite have been rejoicing so much today?
§ Mr. Logan
From someone who has arrived home after being on the spot for five years, I am able to obtain information which makes me believe that things are all right there. Secondly, history repeats itself in regard to the troubles we have- had all over the world, and I think that the policy of the Government is absolutely right. The Opposition policy is based on nothing but material conception and conquest. I say that a new era has to come into being, and Members opposite appear to be too dense to realise it.
§ Mr. Baxter
I want to bring to an end what I wish to say. It is impossible to discuss these matters without this emotional sincerity which has clouded the judgment of the party opposite, bringing things pretty low in this country. This is a sad day in the history of the British Empire. This is weakening the United Empire front at a time when we should be strong. The Prime Minister has to take a great responsibility on his shoulders, and I sincerely hope that his confidence in the future of Burma will be proved right. None of us wants to see bloodshed there, but when an hon. Member opposite, who has now left the Chamber, said that he felt no shame about what followed in India because we came out too swiftly, and hundreds of thousands of people have died horribly as a result, I cannot understand how any of us can feel no sense of shame about it. It is beyond understanding. I cannot understand what is in the minds of hon. Members opposite when they say that we came out on a certain day and the murder of these women and children means nothing to them.
§ Mr. Baxter
The hon. Member to whom I am referring said that a moment ago. I am sorry if I misrepresented him, but he did say, "I feel no shame and no responsibility for it." If I am doing him wrong, I am ready to withdraw it, but HANSARD will, I think, show that I am right. We are seeing today the end of the second Empire. The first Empire ended with the loss of the American Colonies. The second Empire began with the inclusion of India, and it is now ending with the changing status of India and the loss of Burma. We are now beginning a third phase, which may take many forms. I cannot look forward with any great hope or confidence to the third Empire if it is to be governed by a party which cries "Glory Hallelujah," every time the Empire is weakened. The Minister for Economic Affairs smiles. We are glad to see him smiling, because he has a lot to do with our happiness and un-happiness in other ways. I hope that it comes from the internal warmth and not from false optimism. The false optimism of hon. Members opposite is terrible to see in action—the optimism that there would be no cold weather last winter, the 1891 optimism of the Government that there would be no bread rationing.
I wish to make my position clear. Because I believe that the warnings of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition may be right, and because I do not feel we are doing everything possible to keep Burma in the Empire, I cannot vote for this Measure tonight. But because it is an accomplished fact, because we want to send out to the Burmese people the good wishes of this House, and because we hope that the Government will be right, I will not vote against it. I hope that my hon. Friends will realise that that is a sincere conviction on my part. By every instinct, I would like to follow my Leader into the Lobby, but I shall not do so tonight; neither shall I follow the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) has accused us on this side of being unrealistic and over optimistic, and he suggested that we are deliberately, with our eyes shut, I suppose, taking a step which would mean the weakening of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I wonder if he can explain to me how this step is weakening the British Empire when the alternative, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, is the retention of British power in Burma by employing force. Is it strengthening the British Empire when one link in the chain is weakened by internal struggle and force, which is the very denial of the free association of the peoples?
§ Mr. Baxter
I think that I made my point perfectly clear. All I am objecting to is rejoicing at the weakening of the British Empire. Maybe this is inevitable, but what I objected to, and made my protest against, was the party opposite rejoicing at the weakening. '
§ Mr. Ross
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman made that very fine distinction in his speech, but we will see in HANSARD tomorrow. He accused us also of being unrealistic; and that is where the rejoicing comes in. We are not, to my mind, unrealistic at all. We have to keep Burma by force and lose a friendship, or take the practical and courageous step of carrying out our pledges.
I am as much a lover of the Empire as any Conservative, and always have 1892 been. My determination here to vote with the Government and to encourage the Government to take this step is because of that. My connection with Burma was probably a little unpleasant; it was a connection of the years of war. I can remember a hill in Assam rather shattered and bare compared with the rest of Kohima. There is a memorial there built by the men of the Second Division. On it are the words:For your today, they gave their tomorrow.That applies to Burma tomorrow. Did these men die that we should resurrect British power for the sheer glory of domination and prestige and deny the friendship of these people? That, to my mind, would be a stain on the sacrifices those men made. We did not recapture Burma to reconquer it for the greater glory of the Burmah Shell or anyone else. We fought, I hope, for freedom, and we are giving freedom to the people there.
We have heard a lot of talk today regarding U Aung San, whether or not he is to be considered a patriot or traitor. I am sure there are many Englishmen who will consider him a traitor, but do not forget that it is Burma we are discussing today, and the Burmese people considered him a patriot. I come through. Westminster Hall practically every day. There was a Scotsman tried there, and he was branded as a traitor by the English, but we know that Scotland considers him a patriot. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) has been heard to refer to him as that.
I feel myself that the speech which we have had today from the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), was one of the most outrageous and venomously malicious that I have heard since I came into this House a short time ago. The transfer of power, he stated, should have been delayed, even by the use of force, and by taking men from Palestine to do it. That, to my mind, would have meant civil war in Burma. I think that the sort of heart searching that usually goes on before the right hon. Gentleman comes to decisions had not been very deep on this occasion. We are prepared to accept the moral responsibility for our decisions, and we consider our decisions are in keeping with the highest principles of British politics, and that the freedom which we 1893 are giving to Burma will be properly used by the Burmese. They themselves have come to an agreement with the minorities, and they are all agreed as to their future constitution. What they require now is friendship from Britain and the rest of the Dominions, whether or not they elect to remain within the Dominions.
I feel that the complete failure of many hon. Gentlemen opposite is due to this nostalgia for the past and hankering for Imperialistic glory. It is no use preferring Imperial prestige to peace and domination to friendship. I congratulate the Prime Minister on the decision which he has taken, and I am perfectly sure that the people of Burma will prove themselves worthy of our friendship and will prove themselves not forgetful of the part that the ordinary British soldier played in giving them a chance to enjoy this freedom.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I hope that the words which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) used at the end of his speech come true. I am one of those who very much hope that the future of Burma may be as he said, and that that future may justify the hand of friendship which His Majesty's Government, I think rightly, has held out to them at this most difficult time. Anyone who has listened to this Debate must be conscious of the many weighty arguments both for and against the course which His Majesty's Government has taken. All our moral responsibility, all the considerations of right and wrong in every aspect, all the considerations affecting loyalty and treason which had been discussed, sometimes warmly and sometimes in the cold light of reason—all these have occurred to my mind, and it has certainly been no easy task to come to the conclusion to which I have come, that it is right to support today this Bill of which we are now Debating the Second Reading.
I think—before I put my arguments shortly to the House—a little too much emphasis has been laid by some hon. Members on the other side of the House and perhaps by one hon. Member on this side on the importance of the argument that there is really no alternative. I agree that there is no alternative but 1894 surely it would be an indictment of His Majesty's Government, who have been in office for two years, to say that that was the only reason for the course they have taken today. If we are really going to say that this country takes a great decision like the decision we are now taking merely because we drift along and there is no alternative, it would indeed be a grave indictment. I have always been conscious, since first I went to Burma for a short time last winter and began to study the whole history of Burma and the policy which we were pursuing there, that the flood of nationalist feeling was growing so great that we would find it impossible before world opinion to delay the granting of self-government in the form in which that country wished it, however much we might think it to her advantage that she should take some other course. As I look back I am convinced, weighing everything up both for and against, that the policy which is now being pursued is not just the only possible policy but it is a right policy.
Having said that, I should like to make it quite clear that I do not consider this a day of rejoicing. I think many hon. and right hon. Friends on the other side of the House in 1945 and since have always hoped that Burma would take her place as a self-governing nation within the British Commonwealth. It is a matter of great regret and great sorrow that these people should have decided to leave the Commonwealth in January next year. The majority of the House have always hoped that at the time when self-government came to Burma there would be a constitution completely different from the one which she has now adopted and certainly an administrative system vastly superior to that administrative system which is likely to reign in Burma for the next two years or more. I am certain we all hoped that when self-government came to Burma the conditions of law and order, of internal prosperity and of financial stability would have been vastly different to those appertaining today.
So I cannot join with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) who said that this was one of the grandest triumphs in our history. I do not think it is such. The policy which is being pursued is right and it is the only possible policy. I do not rejoice; in fact, I consider this is a day 1895 of sorrow, and I have to recognise that the way we have been handling the situation in the last two years and of the high hopes we held before Burma came into the war have proved misplaced, and that there have been mistakes which historians will be in a better position to judge than we are today.
§ Mr. Low
I should like now to deal with one consideration which has urged some of my hon. Friends and right hon Friends to oppose this Bill. First of all is the fact that the self-government is to be outside the British Commonwealth. I believe that the strength of the British Commonwealth in the past and in the future lies in the fact that its self-governing nations wish to remain inside and have the power if they like to get out when they want. We have no unwilling members. Of course, I realise that it may be said that there have been no fair elections in Burma and that emotions have taken charge of reason. In so far as one can judge, the elections were as fair as could be expected in the conditions, and consideration was given as fully as could possibly be given in the years that have elapsed since the war to the advantages and disadvantages of remaining inside the Commonwealth. I watched for a short time the way in which the Governor, under instructions from His Majesty's Government and on his own initiative, was trying to persuade the leaders of the Burmese nation to understand what were the advantages to them of remaining within the Commonwealth. As many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree, I think U Aung San was convinced. In fact, I was in Rangoon when he made a speech in public advising the people of Burma to remain inside the Commonwealth. However, he was only a leader of the people to whose views he had to pay full attention and he was not able to persuade them that he was right.
If I may point out—and I do this with all humility and I hope without giving cause for shouts from the opposite benches—the one thing, which has had 1896 a bad effect and an opposite effect to what His Majesty's Government would wish in matters like this, is that for so long so many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying and writing things which brought the handling of the British Commonwealth and of Imperial problems by this country into disrepute in the East. When I was in Rangoon I found there, as I found in India, that writings and speeches of that kind had left a mark which will be difficult to eradicate.
It has been said on many occasions that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have had many pangs of regret for statements made in the past. On this occasion if they think sincerely they will realise that they make their task of persuading others that the British Commonwealth itself has independence plus rights and privileges not independence minus rights and privileges more difficult, much more difficult, by what they have said before. A glance at the terms of the treaty will show that we have been able to secure arrangements for defence between Burma and this country, and arrangements in trade—we hope soon to secure arrangements affecting our commercial interests in Burma—which will indeed be a fair substitute for the arrangement which would logically have been made had Burma remained inside the Commonwealth.
I have also asked myself whether this action is right, judged by these two tests. The first is the responsibility of this country to the people of Burma. Much has been said on that subject. Much has been said on this side of the House with which I entirely agree, and on that side of the House with which I disagree. I am bound to say that when one has led a people to believe that self-government was near, the main responsibility to that people is to implement the pledge which one has given, and to allow them to fix the form of constitution and of relationship between themselves and this country. I say that with a feeling of some regret, because I know that many standards in which I believe will go by the board.
It is wrong to hide from the House the fact that Asiatic standards are far different and far below the standards in which we believe, and the standards which we 1897 hoped those countries which are marked red on the map—as one hon. Member has put it—would, in the long run, share with us. But I am convinced that the proper way to show our responsibility to the Burmans when we have made up our minds as we did in 1945, that they were nearly fit for self-government is to give them that chance.
Some reference has been made to the fact that in 1945 an Act was passed fixing a minimum period of three years which must elapse between the arrival of the Governor and the reinstitution of Parliamentary government. I would remind the House that Mr. Amery, at that time the Secretary of State, said that that period was not a minimum or a definite period, but that it was a permissive and precautionary period. I think I am using his own words. He made that statement, I think, in answer to a Question put to him by the present Minister for Economic Affairs. I am sure that it was never intended by him at that time that we should necessarily have to observe the three years' period before the Burmans were to be allowed to reach the decision which they have now reached.
The second test is this—our responsibility for British interests. I have already referred to those parts of the treaty affecting what I may call Commonwealth relations. Those have been covered, I think. It is true that no treaty is likely to be of any value to British interests unless we are convinced that those who signed the treaty with us not only intend to carry it out but are capable of doing so. When I vote with the Government tonight I shall be registering my opinion that that is true of the present provisional government of Burma, men who are likely to be the Government of Burma in the future. But His Majesty's Government have not given sufficient attention to the interests of the civil servants—not the Secretary of State's servants—who have served this country and Burma in Burma for so long. The Secretary of State's servants are covered by the Compensation White Paper, but we have had no definite statement so far from His Majesty's Government that any fund is to be set aside for their provision. The House will remember that in the case of the Indian civil servants a special fund was to be created to guarantee to those civil servants their pensions in the future, after 1898 the compensation had been paid. No special arrangement such as that has been made for the Secretary of State's servants in Burma. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply will tell us something on that subject.
I want to press the case particularly of the non-Secretary of State civil servants. These men were engaged by the Governor of Burma. They were not engaged through the Secretary of State but as servants of the. Governor of Burma, at a time when the Governor of Burma was responsible, through the Secretary of State, to this House. It has now been made known to this House by the Government of Burma that they do not intend to employ Europeans any longer in their civil services, as a rule. I believe that to be a great mistake on their part and a mistaken decision, but they have taken it and they are entitled to take it. What is the position of those men who were engaged to serve the Governor of Burma, at that time under the responsibility of this House? Surely, this House and this country owes something to them? Surely, too, the Government of Burma owes something to them and should compensate them if, by the Government's own decision, it is now making their further employment impossible.
I think these men have a stronger case than the men who are in a similar position in the Indian Service. In that case I know the House was interested. I would add a further point and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay particular attention to it. I notice in the treaty that we have, with generosity, agreed to cancel about £15 millions of the money which we lent to the Government of Burma in the past two years for current Budget purposes. Before we did that, surely we should have considered the possibility of putting some money aside to pay some form of compensation to these civil servants? Surely, that was a prior charge. If we are to be generous, can we not be generous to those who have served us so well in the past? I urge the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider that point, and to answer it either tonight or at some future time.
I am afraid I have been at some length into the reasons why I am taking this course. It is not easy, as all hon. Members know, to depart from the course re- 1899 commended to one by one's right hon. Friends who have vast experience in these matters. I have tried to explain why it was that I feel as I do. Before I sit down, I would like to emphasise once again the dangers that I see ahead. After all, those dangers need little emphasis. India has been referred to, but the case of India is very different from the case of Burma. I think that has been little said, but the dangers are there. The dangers to which my hon. Friend the Member for Waver-tree (Mr. Raikes) referred to by implication, and which we have seen in Eastern Europe, must be fresh in our minds. I have taken all those matters into consideration, and I believe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have done the same. We should send a message to Burma that we realise those dangers. We regret that they are no longer to be in the Commonwealth and we hope that they will be able to meet those dangers and to retain their freedom. We hope-that they will be able to increase their standard of life and that they and we will remain in a relationship of amity for many years to come.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
I welcome this Bill and I congratulate the Government on the speed with which they have terminated these negotiations. I have listened with very great care to all the speeches made from the opposite benches. I congratulate the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) and the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) on the attitude they have taken, which cannot have been easy. One knows that their attitude has been taken not only after very full consideration of the facts of the situation but because both those hon. Gentlemen have been to Burma and know more about the situation than many of their colleagues who are opposing the Bill.
I think I understand the motives of the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes) and some other hon. Members who have spoken from the Opposition Benches. I do not agree with them, but I would like them to understand that on this side we feel not shame—that is not the word to use—but just as much sorrow and anxiety about what is happening in India as they could possibly do. We should feel just as much sorrow and anxiety if those 1900 things happened in Burma. But what would be the alternative? Surely, hon. Gentlemen must know that if we had not taken this step the position might have been infinitely worse than it is in India. The real difference between us is that the minds of the Opposition are fixed almost immovably in the moulds and the patterns of the 19th century. They still feel they carry the white man's burden. They do not seem able to allow their children to stand on their own feet. Burma is a test case, just as India was an even greater test case. There comes a moment when we must not continue thinking we have to guard these children of ours, but must allow them to stand on their own feet and let them take their own risks. That is what we were pledged to do in India, unhappy though the results may be for the moment; it is what we are doing in Burma, unhappy as the results may be there for the time being.
Democracy is always of very slow growth. It has been a thing of slow growth in this country. Nobody seems willing to look back to the times when we had bloodshed, violence, regicide and civil war when we were fighting our own way upwards to democracy. Those things should not be forgotten. As the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) once said, we must remember that things are very different in the backward parts of the world from what they are here. Other parts of the world are not at the same stage of growth, and because of that we must accept the fact that in their fight towards democracy there may well be some of that violence we suffered, when we were fighting our way up.
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) raised a point which interested me very much. I want to develop it in a rather different way. He said that we had reached the third stage of the Empire; that the loss of our American colonies marked the end of the first Empire; that at the present moment by giving independence to India and Burma we have reached the second Empire, and that the third Empire is something towards which we are working. I think he was right, but it is not so much a question of there being three different Empires as it is of the way in which we have gradually changed our attitude towards, and our values in respect of, the people for whom we are at 1901 the time responsible—the different attitudes we have taken when they say they need their freedom. America and South Africa are obvious cases. They reached a point where they made it absolutely clear to us that they wanted their freedom. What did we do? We made them fight for their freedom. That is what the Leader of the Opposition seems to want us do with Burma. Are we to send there troops freed from Palestine to start the sort of thing that is going on in Indonesia? Would that be the right course for a Socialist Government or any civilised country to take today?
At one time even when we had become aware of the absolute necessity for parts of our Empire to have their independence we made them fight for it. We made America fight for it. There was a bloody civil war. We made Africa fight for it. We could have given them their independence and made them free Dominions, as we were forced to do afterwards, without all that fighting and bloodshed. Now we have come to the second method of transferring power. It is that, as in the cases of India and Burma, when we know the people are demanding their freedom, we enter into negotiation with them and help them to make their constitution. We give them their freedom without forcing them to fight for it. The third way—and we shall have something to say about this on the great Bill which is to be discussed tomorrow—is to realise that in our Empire there are countries which have been exploited in the past. We are responsible for raising these countries to a point where they will be able by improved education, health and general amenities in their country to assume their independence. We hope they will elect to stay within the Commonwealth, but if they wish to go outside it, we must not interfere with their free choice.
I regret as much as anyone that Burma has taken that choice, but since they have done so we must accept it with as good a grace as we can and hope that now they have their freedom, they will use the resources of their great country, for the benefit of the people within that country, and that our friendly relationships with them will be maintained. I am sure that in time the vast wealth and natural riches of Burma will be used for good in all parts of the world. There is no reason why that should not be so. It 1902 is more likely that that will be done now than when the country was being exploited for private interests.
I welcome the Bill for all these reasons. The suggestion that soon our Empire will have disintegrated and that we shall be saying, "Thank goodness we have got rid of the Empire" is a figment of the imagination of the Opposition and is very different from the real feelings which animate Members sitting on these Benches. What we look forward to is a great Commonwealth of free and equal Dominions, and we hope that the time will come when every part of our Empire will have reached exactly that status. I am sure that not only hon. Members on these benches but that the more enlightened hon. Members opposite, whose minds are not fixed in the moulds of the 19th century, see this growing purpose in exactly that light.
My friend the Leader of the All Burma Women's Conference is in this country and I shall be seeing her shortly. I congratulate the women of Burma on having been able to secure in their Constitution the great civic right of equal pay for equal work. That shows that, in spite of all that has been said on the opposite side of the House about the people of Burma not being able to govern, they are more enlightened in at least one respect than the Government of this country. Those of us who know the women of Burma know that it can sometimes be said that one woman there is equal to two men. Certainly the women have done magnificent work. I doubt whether it would have been possible to make a Constitution which did not give them equal pay for equal work. I congratulate the women of Burma on their achievement. I congratulate the whole of Burma on having, attained independence. I wish them the best of fortune in overcoming their difficult economic situation, in restoring law and order, in ridding the country of dacoity and in building stability and happiness for their people. I, and I am sure every hon. Member, whether he votes with the Government tonight or not, wish Burma the very greatest happiness in the future.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I am sure that we on this side of the House are very grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) for showing that 1903 she is one of the few speakers on the opposite benches who give us credit for good intentions. At any rate, she thinks we are honest, if slightly misguided. I can assure her, however, that my mind is not in the 19th century; my mind, at this moment, is on what is going on on the plains of India, and on what I fear may happen in the Delta of the Irawaddy. What is interesting, listening to the speeches of Members opposite, is that not one of them seemed to think that this constitution will work. Not one pretended that we are handing over Burma to a democratic constitution. Not one tried to prove that. Instead, Members opposite spent most of their time abusing my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Not one of them pretended that the people of Burma will be anything except worse of economically as a result of this change.
I would assure the Prime Minister, if he were here, that it is with the greatest reluctance, and the greatest regret, that I cannot support the Government over this Bill. I supported them through many stages of the Indian Independence Bill, and I can assure them that, in spite of my misgivings as to what is happening in India, I would support them tonight if I thought there was an even chance of this Bill working, that there was an even chance that it would not bring misery and distress to the people of Burma. But I would like to support the Government for another reason. We in the House, in the past few years, have passed many Measures for increasing self-government for different parts of the Empire. After all, every party is committed to it. It would have been very pleasing, and in accordance with the best traditions of this House, if we could have passed this Bill with the unanimous support of all sections. Holding those views, it is only because I have the gravest misgiving as to what will happen that I cannot support the Government. I think this is one of the occasions where, if a Member holds strong views, he must register them in the only way he can in this House—either by voting for or against the Measure.
I realise that the action we are about to take will lead to possible misunderstanding and perhaps misrepresentation, either wilful or otherwise, not only in this country but also in Burma. Therefore, let me make it quite clear, that we on this side of the House are equally 1904 committed with Members opposite to the ideal of self-government for Burma. We made that clear in the White Paper of 1945. But we laid down three conditions. First, that there should be a period of Dominion status, a reasonable period during which the people of Burma, not in the hasty aftermath of war, should make up their minds whether they wanted to stay in the Empire or not; secondly, that there should be general agreement between all the peoples of Burma. I need not, I hope, remind the House that there is no such thing as the people of Burma; there are races and different peoples of Burma.
The third condition we laid down was that there should be an efficient and responsible Government to whom we could hand over our power, that that Government should be capable of preserving the freedoms of speech and association, and all the other freedoms which the people of Burma have enjoyed under our rule. It is because not one of these conditions has been fulfilled that we cannot support the Government. I would remind the House that we in this House have, responsibility for the people of Burma, as the subjects of the King. If we pass this Bill we are divesting ourselves of that responsibility; we are saying that what happens to them from now on is no concern of ours.
I believe that this Debate, up to now, has shown very clearly that one of the great differences between us is as to what is our conception of our responsibility to the people of Burma. It raises, I know, one of the most difficult and fundamental questions which can ever come before the Imperial Parliament. The question is this: should a part of the Empire, hurriedly, and in the excited aftermath of war, be able to claim an unchallengeable right to walk out of the Empire and sever all communications with us, even though we believe that that action will lead to internal strife, economic misery, inability to defend itself, and the setting up of a form of Government which will be the absolute negation of all we regard as democracy? What ought we to do when faced with a question like that, and what ought we to do when we have seen, as we have, what is happening in India? The Prime Minister has given the answer. He is like Pontius Pilate. He calls for a bowl of water, washes his hands, and then dries them on a paper constitution, 1905 and his followers are prepared to back him up. I cannot bring myself to believe that that is the right thing to do.
The hon. Lady the Member for Epping, and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who knows more about that part of the world than most of his hon. Friends, say, "We do not mind what happens. We do not mind if Burma goes down into chaos. We wash our hands of the whole thing." I hold entirely different views. I say that we are not justified in shedding our responsibility for the people of Burma, or for any other part of the Empire, unless certain conditions exist which make it reasonably sure that we are handing over a country to orderly and democratic progress, and not to anarchy. What are these conditions? They are no different for Burma than for other parts of the world. They are, first, that there shall be law and order in the country; second, that there shall be a stable Government; third, that the essential qualities of democracy shall exist to a high degree, that there shall be literacy and a sense of unity within the country, that there shall be all the other conditions which are necessary if democracy is to work anywhere; fourth, that there shall be economic stability; and, lastly, that the country can stand on its own feet without the British protection she is now receiving in a world of three very large, very powerful, and potentially very jealous neighbours. To talk about the independence of Burma when it is possible that within 10 years Burma will cease to exist as a country is, to my mind, synicism and hypocrisy of the very worst sort.
Do any of these conditions exist? First, law and order. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford said, there are large areas of Burma where dacoity exists, where there is murder and wholesale gang robbery going on. As I said in the House the last time we had a Debate on Burma, if we wanted proof that that country is not in a state of peace and tranquillity it can be shown by the fact that last year, 60,000 tons of teak—and not tea, as some newspapers reported—was stolen between Mandalay and Rangoon. In September of this year, 172 people were murdered. Apparently we are expecting the Burmese Government, without an army, and without the assistance of British troops, to put down that sort of dacoity all over the 1906 country. When the hon. Lady the Member for Epping and Members opposite talk about the use of the British Army in Burma, it was to put down dacoity, to see that there was law and order, not to hold down the Burmese people.
Is there stability of government? The best answer to that is that the Prime Minister and most of his colleagues were murdered in cold blood a few weeks ago possibly by one of the men who came over to this country to negotiate the treaty back in the spring.
§ Mr. Gammans
He is on trial now and, therefore, perhaps nothing more had better be said about that. As to democracy, is there any idea of democracy in Burma today? We are giving self-government to Burma, but we are not giving democratic self-government to Burma. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister recognises that. He does not talk about freedom in Burma, he talks about transfer of power, and it is transfer of power to an almost certain autocracy. If that happens, then we shall see what occurred in Egypt and in other parts of the world where we have transferred power. The first thing is that the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. The second thing that always happens is that those essential freedoms of speech, security, property and life, and the incorruptibility of justice which we have given to Burma will disappear.
As to economic stability, Burma has been ravaged by two of the most bloody campaigns in history, and quite apart from the damage done by bombing and by the invasion of Burma, millions of money will be required to put Burma on its feet. Under the new constitution those millions of money will certainly not be forthcoming. Therefore, we can contemplate—and apparently hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to accept this lightly—a lowered standard of living for the people of Burma. I am glad that the hon. Member for Swindon raised another point, the place which Burma has in the economy not only of the Far East but also of Europe. One of the reasons for the wheat shortage in Europe today is that there is not much export of rice from Burma, and the result is that the people of the Far East, Malaya and other countries, 1907 which import rice, are today importing flour. Unless there are stable political conditions in Burma, we shall see a falling off in the standard of living of the Burmese and of their fellow Asiatics in that part of the world.
What about the security of Burma? To begin with, there is Russia working through the Communist Party which, as in other countries, owes its first allegiance to Russia. India has great economic interests in Lower Burma; China has always cast covetous eyes on Upper Burma. So long as Burma remained in the British Empire she could call on the other countries of the Commonwealth to defend her, but would anyone like to predict that within 10 years even a vestige of independence will remain for Burma? It is much more likely that Burma will be divided between one or other of her two most powerful neighbours, unless Russia jumps the claim of both of them. In other words, at the very best we are handing over Burma to a virtual dictatorship and, at the very worst, we are handing her over to complete anarchy and a loss of all national independence. Other hon. Members of this House may view that possibility with complete equanimity. I cannot.
I want to say a special word about the non-Burmese people, for whom we have a special responsibility, who stood by us during the war when other sections of Burma were prepared to help the Japanese. We are not dealing with any small minority of people here, we are dealing with two and a half million. They are not Burmese in origin; on the contrary, they have always been the traditional enemies of the Burmese. They fear and they distrust the Burmese. It was only because they could look to the impartial rule of Great Britain that they have ever been regarded as part of political Burma at all. As it was, they had special safeguards and special forms of constitution. I know what the Government will say—in fact the Prime Minister has already said it. He said, "I know all about that, but that is old stuff. Under the Panglong Agreement they are now content to throw in their lot with the Burmese, and the age-old enmities which have existed between the Burmese, and the frontier tribes have miraculously disappeared overnight." My answer to that 1908 is that I do not accept the Panglong Agreement at its face value. I do not believe things happen just like that. That agreement was negotiated by the frontier people in the knowledge that we were going to sell out on them anyway, that we were prepared to abandon them, and that they had better make peace with their adversary quickly. There is also a widespread feeling in Burma that many of the people who negotiated that agreement on behalf of the frontier tribes were nothing more nor less than nominees of Aung San and his party.
I want to deal with what I think is the only valid point that I have heard from the other side. When they turn to us and say, "We fear all this may happen"—in fact every hon. Member has either said or implied that—they go on to say, "What can we do now?" Or they turn round to us and say, "What is your constructive alternative?" This is the bleat which we have heard from the other side of the House ever since this Government has been in power.
§ Mr. Gammans
They lead the country in home affairs as well as foreign affairs to the brink of disaster, and then they turn round and say, "What is your constructive alternative?" The answer is that any competent and responsible Government would not have followed that course of action which has brought about these results. That is the excuse of a man driving a motor lorry into a brick wall, and smashing it up, then turning round and saying, "What can I do now except sell this thing for scrap?" The answer is, "If you had had a decent driver, you would not have gone into the wall."
§ Mr. Blackburn
Will the hon. Member forgive me for interrupting? Much as I agree with him, I still think he must say what in his opinion we ought to do now.
§ Mr. Gammans
I get so tired of, "What is your constructive alternative?" It reminds me of the amended version of the story of the Gadarene swine. We all know the original version about the pigs who 1909 rushed down the steep place and went into the sea. I am not sure that really happened. What probably happened was that before they went into the sea, half a dozen stopped and looked over the edge and said to the remainder, "We do not think much of this; we are not going over the edge with you," and the others said, "You must. What is your constructive alternative?" The other pigs then said, "We did not want to come this road anyway. Our constructive alternative is to fight our way back to safety and to sanity."
There is one other point we have to consider before we pass this Bill. Only a few months ago the same Government, the same Prime Minister, invited us to pass a similar Bill with regard to India. I know it is rather unkind to remind the House of what he told us then, but as he has just told us a similar thing about Burma, I must recall it. He said:It is not our intention to hand over India to chaos.And Lord Pethick Lawrence said:there was a danger that the removal of British overlordship would usher in a period of communal strife in India which would leave indelible stains of blood. I am glad that all these dangers have been averted.Then there was a highly lyrical pamphlet issued by the Labour Party, "Fifty Things Labour has Done." It finished by saying:We have given India her freedom. Civil war in India has been averted.I only dwell on these things because it is the same Government saying the same thing today in regard to Burma. What has happened in India? Anything up to half a million people have been butchered, tens of thousands of women have been carted off and raped, and tens of millions may yet die of starvation. I think the most pathetic thing I have read in regard to India was in an American newspaper which has never been particularly favourable to us, and certainly not to our policy in India. The correspondent told the story there of the rather ugly statues of Queen Victoria set up by the Government of India at the time of the Diamond Jubilee. They are seen all over India in the dusty squares of the cities. The story was that at one of the worst times in this butchery in the Punjab there was a group of refugees holding on to one of these statues for refuge in the pathetic belief that the 1910 power of the Queen Empress would stretch out and save them. Is that going to happen in Burma? Can anyone with a sense of responsibility, and with the example of India before them, take this step in that light-hearted way shown by hon. Gentlemen opposite and turn round and say "We fear this may happen, but we wash our hands, it has nothing whatever to do with us."
It is true that Burma is not as large a country as India, but it is no more a united country than India, and the people to whom we are handing power are certainly far less experienced than those to whom we handed power in India. There is in no sense of the word a Burmese Army. The Army of Burma is recruited in the ratio of about three to one from the hill tribes, which is just as if we recruited the British Army from the Highlands of Scotland. In the long run it is the people who do the fighting who demand to do the ruling.
I do not wish to say much about the constitution, although, as I reminded the Prime Minister, not every hon. Member has had a chance to read it. To my mind it is not a Socialist, but a Communist reception of life, whatever may be the alleged safeguards to protect those whose interests are to be protected. Under Section 30, for example,the State shall have the right to regulate, alter or abolish land tenures or resume possession of any land and distribute the same for collective or co-operative farming or to agricultural tenantsIn Section 219 it states that all mines, minerals, and so onshall be exploited and developed by the Unionand that no exploitation shall take place other than by the Government, except in certain circumstances of individual citizens in the Union, or companies and associations with at least 60 per cent. of capital owned by their citizens. This is subject to the condition, which I would ask the House carefully to note, that it may be repealed,when public interest so requires.That term "public interest" in Europe has covered everything from the murder of Jews to putting 10 million Soviet citizens in concentration camps. So keen are the Government to get this treaty through, that they are waiting until after this Bill has been passed before negotiating a commercial treaty. I do not 1911 know whether any hon. Members of this House have any commercial interests in Burma, but if so, in my opinion they might as well write them right off, because they will never see their money back again.
The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) asked me what I thought ought to be done now. My objection to the Government's policy is that for two years they have followed the wrong policy, but I will tell him what policy I think they ought to have followed. First, we should have put Burma on its feet economically before we talked about self-government. Secondly, we should have restored law and order. That was our duty to the people of Burma. We should have allowed a reasonable time under Dominion status to elapse before coming to this irrevocable decision, but above all we should have restored law and order and put the country on its feet. But here we have slipshod haste, and almost frantic determination to shed responsibility at whatever cost.
That is a new way for Great Britain to do business. In the past we have been strong and respected because to us principles were more important than expediency, and because we could not be deflected from our duty either by intimidation or cheap applause. It is with considerable reluctance and—certainly I hope the Prime Minister will accept this from me—in no party spirit at all that I say I cannot support him. It is because I am convinced that we are giving to Burma not freedom but anarchy, a lowered standard of living, and the probable extinction of independence that I shall feel compelled to go into the Lobby against him tonight.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I do not think anyone who knows Burma or has served in that land or studied the present situation can feel happy tonight. Burma, as has been very truly said earlier in the Debate, used to be a very happy land. To move into Burma from caste-ridden India was like moving into a new atmosphere of joy and pleasure. Rangoon was a great, handsome city; and of all the beautiful sights in the world, perhaps the most beautiful was to see the sun setting over the Shwe Dagon Pagoda on 1912 the other side of the lakes. Mandalay is in ruins, and the great system of river transport has been wrecked. The rice industry and the oil industry have been shattered; all these are very grievous thoughts to all who approach this situation in a sense of sobriety tonight.
I do not see why this realistic view of the situation should entirely destroy our sense of values. Any depression I feel this evening is made the deeper by this great question being discussed in a manner which brought laughter and jeers. There is no occasion for laughter, and no case for jeers. I have been thinking very hard, and listening very carefully, and with all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), for some clear light and leading on this question other than that which the Government give us, but I have completely failed to find it. Nationalism in Burma is no new thing, but has been a steadily developing force, beginning with the Russo-Japanese War, and gathering strength in the years that followed; even on the eve of the late war it was the most vivid force in the country. For that we have the authority not only of myself and others who spent some years there, but of the former Governor of Burma Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith. If anybody thinks of going back to the Burma of before the war, let them not forget the troops landed in Singapore, thrown into that cauldron, and from that cauldron into years of desperate captivity, what time they might have been sent to Burma; and, in the view of the brilliant soldier who then commanded in Burma, he could have saved that country from the miseries and havoc of invasion. That is the position which we have to face today.
If we face the position soberly it will be seen that there are only two alternatives before this country at the present time. One is virtually the reconquest of Burma. I doubt if any soldier will contemplate that that can be done with anything under two Divisions operating for an indefinite period. Is anyone here prepared to face a situation in which two British Divisions, based on Britain, without any of the ancillary help which carried us through the first, Burmese war of 1838, and the second of 1886, and that in a country which has dacoity as an endemic feature of the situation, dacoity which kept it in a state of turbulence for 1913 10 or 15 years after the conquest of 1886–we called it dacoity instead of armed rebellion? Burma is now saturated with arms from one end to the other, and her people violently disturbed by the conflicts of the last few years.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I have been most impressed by what the hon. Member has said, but will he remember that he gave the same advice about India, and that his advice about India, which was accepted by the Prime Minister, has produced more deaths in India during the last three months than during the whole of the period between the time of the Indian Mutiny and the time when my right hon. Friend assumed office.
§ Sir S. Reed
I never think that it is an attractive part of the procedure of this House that Members cannot sit still for a few moments without interrupting. I have never, since I have been here, interrupted any Member; I never give way to any Member. I gave way to the hon. Member today simply to make that point clear. I say without hesitation that if the Government of India Bill had come up again, in the circumstances we had before us, I should vote for it again. I should have had no hesitation in doing that; I have no regrets for having done so, and my interest in, and feeling for, India is not less than that of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn).
To return to my main thesis, we had two alternatives. We could say, "We will conquer Burma with armed Forces, and keep there, for an indefinite period, two British Divisions as a minimum, based on this country, without the help we had from adjacent areas in the past." Supposing we did that, and supposing we reconquered the country, and supposing we recreated and re-established the Civil Service, for that has gone, and the other services, which have been violently disturbed, where should we be at the end of that period? What would be the situation which we should then have to face? Having held down the country for an indefinite period, could we then say, "We have reached the stage now at which we can depart in peace, with goodwill, your love and your affection"? The answer to that is clear and inevitable. Some of us in the last Parliament spent 1914 a good deal of time considering the position and prospects in Burma. We came to the conclusion that there were three clear things to be done, that, first, there should be a brief period of direct rule; secondly, the establishment of self-government in Burma; and, thirdly, the negotiation of treaties with that Government in regard to finance, commerce and the protection of British interests. We hoped then, as everybody did, that Burma would be a partner in the Commonwealth and Empire. That that has not happened is, unfortunately, a bitter disappointment.
I was rather staggered to hear, in the course of this Debate, that if Burma had remained within the Commonwealth, possibly temporarily, these discussions would have proceeded in an atmosphere of calmness, without prejudice. If that is the lesson drawn from events in the last few weeks, it baffles the imagination of man to know how it could have been drawn. The other alternative is that we should proceed to negotiate with the Burma Government, which has been thrown up by her own people on as free a vote as will ever be obtained in Burma under modern conditions, the Treaty which has been put before us, and the grant of independence which is embodied in this Bill. Like others, I profoundly regret that Burma has opted to be outside the Commonwealth and Empire, yet I feel very strongly that membership of the Commonwealth and Empire is not something to be forced upon a reluctant people, it is a priceless privilege to be conferred upon those who are conscious of its benefits and advantages, and of the greater protection, security and hope which it embodies for them. I think that the Burmese Government have made a profound mistake, but we have to get rid, now and for always, of the idea that we always know better what is good for for other people than they think they know themselves. That is an attitude of mind calculated to produce a great sense of mischievous exasperation.
For those reasons, I cannot refuse my support for the Bill which the Government have presented to the House. I have no constructive alternative to offer. On the other hand, I find that any possible alternative will almost certainly lead to evils or disadvantages even greater than those which may accrue from this step. I trust that the Motion to give 1915 this Bill its Second Reading will not be forced to a Division, but if it is, I shall feel, with a full sense of responsibility, that I must go into the Lobby in support of the Bill. I do so with no illusions. I have heard it said many times from the other side of the House in the course of this Debate that we are giving freedom to Burma. I will put it another way: We are giving to Burma the fullest opportunity for working out her own freedom, and we hope that this Bill will work in that direction. I do not think for one moment that Burma will develop on the lines on which our own Parliament and our own institutions have evolved. Our own democratic system is one which is sui generis, entirely peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon race. Yet that Burma should have this opportunity and liberty to work out her own system I have not the shadow of doubt. Even if I had any doubts because it is some years since I was in Burma, they would be entirely resolved by the knowledge, which has been mentioned already, that the Government has the solid support of the British community, who are most directly concerned with the future of Burma.
I would ask the Prime Minister to give careful consideration to the plea made for the smaller, almost forgotten men who have been doing their work in Burma, such as port officers and others, who do not come within the major Services but who still have a claim upon our attention and our consideration. Another thing to be done is to strain every nerve to re-establish the industrial economy of Burma, because there the whole future of the land and, therefore, that of a large part of South-East Asia, which is so dependent on her resources, very largely rests. Having listened to every word of this Debate, I must say, with all respect to those who sincerely hold different views, if they fail to find any definite alternative to the policy the Government are pursuing. Therefore I give my support to that policy and, if necessary, I will go into the Lobby to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill which is now before the House.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)
I, too, have listened during the whole of the afternoon and I have been much struck by two speeches—first, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham 1916 (Mr. Nicholson) and, second, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) who took the alternative view. At this late hour in the Debate I find it very hard to add anything new, but I have two points which I would like to bring to the notice of the Government. The first is to consider what would happen in the unlikely event that this Bill did not receive a majority tonight. According to the Constitution, a copy of which I got from the Library where it arrived only yesterday, I see that the Constitution was agreed on 27th September and that it says, in the first line, that Burma declares itself an independent Republic. It would seem to me a little premature, if that is so, when we are now debating here the Second Reading of the Bill to give that independence.
In the Treaty it says that the Government will invite Parliament to pass legislation to give the Union of Burma independence and that the Treaty will be ratified on the day on which Parliament has agreed to give them independence—by 6th January, 1948. Is it not rather premature for the Union of Burma to take independence and form an independent Republic before- any legislation is passed in this country to that effect? I bring that point out with the object of calling attention to the fact that the whole procedure for giving independence to Burma has been very much rushed. It has been done in a hurry. Like so much other legislation in the past two years, it has been pushed across without any opportunity to debate the issue before deciding whether we should accept one alternative or another.
As is usual, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has been much criticised in the House by Members of the Government. He has been criticised today because he is considered by the Government not to be constructive and to be irresponsible. The difference between: the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford—which is the view taken by many of us on this side of the House—and that of the Government, is that we think that it would be a great deal better had things been steered as my right hon. Friend said that he would have steered them, so that there should be a transition period during which the Union of Burma 1917 remained within the Empire and was given self-government within the Empire for a period of time. That is the difference of opinion. There is nothing else between the Government and those on this side of the House who consider that this Bill which gives Burma complete independence is premature. Everybody in all parts of the House would give the Union of Burma self-government. That is what has been worked for not only by the Leader of the Opposition but by others including my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). That has been worked for for some years, the difference being on the question of whether or not for a period of time, Burma should or should not be within the Empire. I am wholeheartedly in favour of voting on the side of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree to using whatever force was necessary to achieve that object?
§ Brigadier Peto
The point is that it might or might not have been necessary to use force. Who can say that, had my right hon. Friend and his colleagues been in the Government, the necessity for using force to restore order in Burma after the end of the war would have arisen? No one can say, least of all the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that the situation would have been the same had there been leadership such as there was during the war.
The other point I wish to make is one that was raised by Lord Rankeillour in another place during his speech on the Address. It was with regard to the safety and safeguard of minorities. The Prime Minister today said that there was quite adequate safeguard for minorities. If one reads the Constitution, it gives certain rules for citizenship in Section n, which are completely negatived in the following paragraph. This says that citizenship can be taken away by order of the Burmese Government if and when they think fit. Section n says:Nothing contained in Section 11 shall derogate from the power of the Parliament to make such laws as it thinks fit in respect of citizenship…or for the termination of the citizenship of any existing classes.1918 How-that can be considered compatible with safeguarding the interests of minorities, I fail to see. Further, in a letter written on 30th October to the "Daily Telegraph," Lord Rankeillour concludes by saying:When I add that the Supreme Court …which is, of course, the final arbiter—…is to be entirely dependent on the Burmese Parliament, it will be seen that no lasting protection for the minorities is secured and that the future is as dark for them as it is in the two Dominions of India. But in Burma there is still time.I agree with that, with the exception of the last remark. I do not agree that there is still time. We can see that, though time may in fact be available, we cannot possibly use it owing to the hurry with which this legislation is being done. There is no opportunity for discussion. The decision has already been taken by the Government without any discussion in this House and that is the end of that.
One cannot help remembering all those sailors, soldiers and airmen, who in 1942, fought to defend Burma from the invading Japanese, and one cannot help thinking of the sailors, soldiers and airmen who, under the gallant leadership of General Alexander, General Wingate and General Slim, among others, fought and gave their lives in very large numbers to recapture Burma in 1944–45. One is forced to ask for what they were fighting? Were they fighting for the whim of a Socialist Government, so that the same country which they fought to restore, should be given away without any discussion and without any thought for what the consequences might be? Personally, I would say that the selfless devotion with which these men fought is being thrown away, and I would say that the idea of giving away the Empire, about which there was so much discussion this evening, is no new one on the part of the Socialist Party. I could quote an instance where the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Economic Affairs made a now very well-known remark to that effect. It was in 1936 that he said:It is fundamental to Socialism that we should liquidate the British Empire as soon as we can.If that does not prove that, at any rate, in those days, that was their idea, I do not know what does.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
I have listened carefully to this Debate on Burma today, as I listened carefully almost the whole time to the Debate on Egypt and to that on India, and I really cannot see any difference in the arguments put forward by the Opposition in any one of those Debates. Their whole idea seems to be that we have got to hold on to every scrap of earth that we have ever possessed, and in the same position as we have always held it. They totally ignore the progress made in the world, and the fact that these very great territories have marched with the progress which the rest of the world has made.
It must not be forgotten that we are not only a great Empire, but great Empire builders. We have built this great Empire, in many cases, from nothing. It must be realised how we did that. I am not speaking against the Empire or against our Empire-building in any way, because there is no greater Imperialist in this Chamber than I am. I believe in Empire in the right sense. In the first place, we went to these lands for trading purposes; that is to say, for exploiting the territories with which we were trading, and to get out of those territories as much as we could. In order to exploit these territories efficiently, we had to give certain developments to the inhabitants so as to make use of those inhabitants, and, as we developed our interests in these different territories, we had to give them greater advances so as to exploit them better and more efficiently; otherwise, it would not have been worth while, but would have been bad business. We had to educate them and teach them to take over greater responsibilities. We had to train and educate teachers, doctors and lawyers so as to make the territory more exploitable. We had to provide universities for them and bring their people over here to study in our universities, so that they could use their own universities better. Quite naturally, a time comes when the people say to us, "We can look after this territory ourselves now; why should not we do so?" That is great Empire building. That is the right sense of developing civilisation throughout the world.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The hon. Gentleman has used the words "exploit" and "develop," but I think he 1920 changed the places of them, and has given a wrong meaning different from what he intended. The picture he was giving us, surely, was that of development, which was benefiting the inhabitants as well as the people who went in? The word "exploit" has quite a different meaning.
§ Mr. Follick
I made my position quite clear. We had to develop the territory in order to exploit it more efficiently. That was made quite clear, and there was no need at all for the interruption. In the course of time, there were further developments, and we brought them up to such a height of civilisation that the people were able to look after their own affairs and to govern themselves, and the time came when we had to take a decision either to remain there by force or come out as good friends of those territories. The Tories have never understood this kind of development. I am old enough to know the history of South Africa and the Tories would not let go of South Africa. It was, the Liberals who did it, and what was the result? What did General Smuts say when he came over here and was asked why he was fighting on the side of the nation which had defeated him. Smuts said:That nation, which defeated us, treated us like a Christian people, and so we are fighting for those Christian principles which they are defending.
If I had thought he was out of Order, I would have stopped the hon. Member. He is creating a background, and, therefore, is in Order
§ Mr. Follick
They do not understand civilisation. The same thing happened with Ireland. They refused time and again to give the Irish Home Rule—
§ Mr. Follick
I want to mention that, if Ireland had not been given self-government in the last war, they would have been against us, instead of friendly to us
The hon. Member is not in Order. We are now dealing with Burma, and not Ireland. He must relate his remarks to the Bill.
§ Mr. Follick
I have explained how we, on this side of the House, really extended the old traditional Liberal idea of liberty and civilisation, and are going ahead on the grounds that these people are now reaching such a degree of development that they can be safely left to manage their own affairs. I would like to give a comparison of Empires in the past. Previous to the rise of the British Empire, there were two great Empires in Europe, the Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish lost every one of their territories in America, because they would not give them any form of development or government of their own, whereas the Portuguese gave to the Brazilians, first of all, co-partnership, and then independence, and the result has been that Brazil has always remained the greatest friend of Portugal, whereas the South Americans have always been hostile to the Spanish.
§ Mr. Follick
I am just giving illustrations to show that, by granting these people their freedom and their independence, we retain their friendship. The retaining of their friendship is much more important than holding them in bondage, because, in retaining it, we retain their trade, their commerce and their industry, and we are still able to send our people there to help them develop their independence and their Government—and to make a bob or two out of it, which we will not make if they are our enemies. For those reasons, I say that we are not casting off a part of the Empire light-heartedly. What we are doing is retaining the friendship of the people of Burma for many years to come by recognising their right to freedom. For that reason, I shall most certainly go into the Lobby tonight in support of this Bill. I believe that, in the future, the people of this country and the people of Burma will be able to say that today was a day of great thanksgiving and pride.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
I hope that the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) will forgive me if I do not follow him in that delightful historical fantasy in which he has just been indulging. Clearly, the professor of history whom We studies most closely is Einstein, 1922 because what he was saying was not relatively accurate.
In all seriousness, I wish to say that I approach this problem of Burma with considerable mental trouble and anguish. During the war, I was working at the back of Burma, with Burma as the objective of my endeavours. I have, therefore, some idea, some local knowledge of the problem, as of other parts of the Empire. On the political side, to which I am only going to devote a very short time, I feel that my objection to this Bill is based on the fact that to some extent—quite possibly unintentionally—it is a sham, and that it does not do, cannot do, and will not do, what it expresses as its intention. It treats Burma as a homogeneous whole, and talks of Burma as if it were one country with one people. That is not the case. Of the many tribes included in Burma, only one-third are in Burma geographically and ethnologically, and two-thirds are outside, and have a different loyalty either to China or Siam. It is plain nonsense to believe that it is possible just to draw a line, and to say that one-third of this is Burma, and will be governed under the constitution here. That is not facing the reality.
§ Mr. Follick
In the past—going back into history again—were not the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish divided, and have they not been fused into one political whole? Could not that happen in Burma as well?
§ Mr. Fletcher
It took a good many centuries for that to happen, and it has not entirely happened even yet. But, to come back to the real problem, the serious problem, here we have a Bill which is possibly going to have the most serious effects upon people whom we talk about as Burmese, but who have practically nothing in common with what is going to be the majority party in the Burmese Government. I feel that the gravest responsibility of all is towards those people, because those tribesmen, who, as I know personally, were among those who rendered us the greatest service of all. The British troops, for whom strong pleas have been made this evening, have been withdrawn and are now—those who survive—safe, but the troops who helped us, the Karens, the Shans, and others, are left there. I feel that the most difficult obstacle in the way of accepting this Bill 1923 at the present moment is the responsibility which we must feel towards the people to whom we can give no adequate protection.
This Bill will not stop the machine gun bullet or the knife of a dacoit, and it will not stop murder and rapine. It is no use the people in villages, when they are attacked saying, "the Bill protects us," because it will not. Those peoples have no access to the sea. The Burma Government will have access to the sea, and will be able to import arms if they wish to use force. I am not saying this in any hostility to Burma, but there is no doubt that there is not yet that degree of responsibility which most European countries, and Western European countries in particular, have arrived at after a good many centuries. Therefore, I have the gravest fears that we are sacrificing, without due regard to what it means, people who have helped us in the past, most notably during the war. That will not only have its effect in Burma; it will have its effect throughout the Far East and in other countries where our sense of responsibility and justice means a great deal, and where we govern because of our known justice and responsibility. I feel that this is probably the point which is the most difficult of all for His Majesty's Government to answer.
I would like to turn to the economic side of this question. I notice that on this aspect the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) spoke most contemptuously of Burma Shell. The moment the words "vested interest" are used, even on the Government Front Bench and on the benches behind it, there is a sort of titter of contempt and dislike. Indeed, it is very curious to note that in this Debate and in others when a vested interest is a British one, it is suspect, but the moment it is not British, either by being grabbed or by other forms of acquisition, it begins to acquire an entirely new sanctity. We are getting back to the Gilbert and Sullivan situation—The idiot who praises in enthusiastic tone,Every century but this and every country but his own.We should pay a little more attention to the question of these much despised vested interests. Whether we use the word "develop" or "exploit"—I am willing to concede the use of words to the hon. Member for Loughborough—the standard of living has been raised, the 1924 country has been developed and has been put on a better footing because of these much despised vested interests. If there is to be a good future relationship between Burma and this country, it must inevitably depend on a proper working partnership between these vested interests and Burma. It is no use Burma expropriating the whole lot and paying no compensation. I will come to the question of compensation shortly. She is totally and utterly incapable of increasing her standard of living. Eastern countries do not stand still any more than Western countries. I have known and seen a good deal of China over the years, and I have seen how, after arriving at a high point of civilisation, it is perfectly possible for a country to go back again. Indeed, unless there is a working partnership on the economic side between Burma and this country, without using the word "exploit" at all, the future status and standing of the man in the street in Burma is going to decline.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) was speaking of what had not been done in the last two years and said that we had not put Burma on her feet, there was again a good deal of laughter. At the beginning of this year I made a trip to Burma, Siam, IndoChina, Malaya and Hong Kong, and on the evidence of my own eyes and ears I say that less has been done to get Burma out of her difficulties and relieve her of her great wrongs and the destruction which occurred during the war, than has been done in any other country in the Far East. That has been because there has been no certainty of tenure for British and foreign firms in that country. They have not been able to make a constructive policy for getting on with the job in conjunction with the Burmese, because they have not known from one day to another whether they are going to stay or be turned out. The technical knowledge and the capital goods in the form of machinery that we can supply, and for which we have a responsibility in areas in which we are continuing to remain, and even in the areas which we are leaving—all these things are in great jeopardy until some new basis has been hammered out by which we can live as partners with the Burmese.
There is one very difficult question that arises out of this Bill. It is that the 1925 claims, amounting to nearly £100 million which have to be met and considered. There are hundreds and thousands of them, small ones and big ones. I have no direct claim; but in accordance with the tradition of this House, that a Member who has an interest involved or that might be involved should declare it, as I have a parallel claim in another country, Malaya, which may be affected by this, it is only right that I should declare it, although I have no direct interest in Burma. In considering these claims it is extremely important that we should have at the earliest possible moment some sort of statement from His Majesty's Government as to how they are to be treated. They fall under three heads.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The voice from the Moscow minaret again. If we got nothing it would be beyond our expectations. As I was saying, these claims come under three heads. There are the claims on insurance policies for which the then Government of Burma, which was the British Government, were responsible. Those are subject to contracts between the parties, and there can be no doubt about them because they are direct claims. Then there are the claims which arise from the scorched earth policy, carried out at the orders of the military chiefs who were in charge of the country during the retreat from Burma, to deny to the Japanese plant and machinery so that they could not use them against us. The third category is that of the rehabilitation claims, arising out of the destruction that was carried out.
It is most vital that His Majesty's Government should approach those in a realistic spirit. If we look at Burma at present, it is quite clear that the vast totality of these claims, however just they may be, should not fall on a country which has not begun really to recover from the war, for that would not be a very fair settlement. But on the other hand, injustice must be avoided, and the claims of those who suffered in carrying out the policy of the Government, given to them directly in writing, or under the insurance claims, must be treated properly. Here we are up against this inate dislike, based on misunderstanding, of anything that can be called a vested 1926 interest. If we can find another label to put round the neck of the bottle, it seems to Socialism to be perfectly in order, whatever the contents of the bottle may be. What I should like to elicit from whoever replies for the Government is a clear statement on this. It is the acid test of the future relationship in commerce between Burma and the outside world. If this matter is to be settled—and it can be settled, given goodwill on both sides, by give and take—
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is all right. I can never enter into any game of skill or chance with the hon. Member. I can only say most seriously—hoping that we may have no more of these frivolous interruptions—that the whole basis of our future working with Burma, and of trade with Burma, is that the Burmese must have from us brains, knowledge, technical equipment, and technical assistance, and so much depends on how this matter of the claims is handled and is settled.
I believe myself, from a certain amount of conversation with people in Burma and here, that it is not an insuperable difficulty. But I do beg of His Majesty's Government to realise that two years have elapsed, that during that time not sufficient has been done, that a sort of paralysis has set in in Burma, which has stopped the effort of all parties to rehabilitate those regions which need rehabilitation so urgently. We have got to put in new machinery, create new transport, new railways. They cannot be produced by Burma itself. We can give them all the political liberty we like, but that is not steel. We can give them a brand new Constitution, but it is not lorries and transport. The political idea must not altogether outweigh the practical needs of the situation, and those cannot be released and put into action for one single moment until this vexed question of settling the claims of the past and setting up a new partnership has been taken in hand and a practical decision, equitable to all parties yet full of what is necessary in the way of seeing what can be done, has been set on foot and approved.
Therefore, I make a final appeal to the Government not to believe that in passing this Bill tonight—as they will do—they have settled either the safety of many people in Burma or the adequate economic 1927 progress of a country towards which everybody in this House, in his heart of hearts, has the greatest good will.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)
I hope hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House who have taken part in this Debate will forgive me if I do not follow the arguments they have put forward—and I have listened to most of them. I have risen in my place tonight to raise one specific point. I feel it is my duty to do so, and I look upon it as a great responsibility. I want to speak on behalf of many loyal and devoted subjects of the King who have lived in and worked for Burma, but who cannot speak for themselves and have no means of putting their point of view.
On 30th October this year I asked the Prime Minister a Question about the conditions of, and what would happen to, the Anglo-Burmans in Burma, and in his reply to my supplementary question the right hon. Gentleman said:…if the hon. Member can give me evidence that there has been a change in the position of the Anglo-Burman community on this matter, I will certainly look into it.I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, who is to reply tonight, will remind the Prime Minister of that promise and keep him to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) asked a supplementary question about an individual, and, as I see it, to try to explain his trend of thought and, I hope, that of the Government, the Prime Minister replied:I will always consider any individual hard cases, but the point put to me was rather one of the Anglo-Burman community.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 1077.]Therefore, I do ask the Government, even at this late hour, to do what they can—and I shall make a definite appeal at the end of my speech—effectively to look after the interests of the Anglo-Burman community. I have had a very long letter from a responsible person, representing responsible and reliable people in Burma. It is much too long to read to the House, and, therefore—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I notice the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie), the hon. Member 1928 for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) are reading books which do not seem to have anything to do with the Debate.
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is the Burma Constitution, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely, we are entitled to look at that?
§ Sir W. Smithers
—I have had a very long letter from a representative of reliable and responsible people of the Anglo-Burman community in Burma. It is much too long and detailed to read, but I have gone to considerable trouble to make a résumé of the salient points, and I hope that in fairness to these people—who, after all, are British subjects—the House will bear with me while I read this short extract:Of the Burmese delegates it may be said, 'These people flatter with their lips, but the poison of asps is on and in their tongues.' Things are going from bad to worse for us Anglo-Burmans, and nothing will be done till the British public is told the naked truth. Mr. Attlee's speeches are deplorable because they are so misleading. Does the British public know that in Burma the whole population is composed of many different people, each having its own lore, its own standard and manner of life and its own form of religion. Why should they be made to knuckle down to one particular group of Burmans? Is the public aware that in speaking of Freedom and Independence, Burmese politicians mean that independence and freedom of thought and action is to be the sole right of one Burmese group, and in particular the Buddhist Burmese? And that if anyone voices the utter injustice and bullying that is going on, he or she stands to be attacked personally and either dacoited or killed outright? Never has Burma been in the grip of terrorism as it has been since power was placed in Burmese hands. Does the public know that the services of Anglo-Burmans are steadily being dispensed with, and that they are being denied the right to live in every way in accordance with their upbringing and outlook on life; and that regardless of all qualifications and facts, Anglo-Burmans in the Navy and in the Army are to be replaced by Burmese Bur-mans forthwith?In every office and Government department, every Anglo-Burman is to be ousted, and we are not to get other jobs in place 1929 of those from which we are being turned out. British money is being freely spent, and since it cannot be denied that it was by the British mainly that Burma was brought from darkness into the light of progress, and that it was mainly by British arms that Burma was recaptured from the Japanese, and that large numbers of Anglo-Burmans laid down their lives for Burma, why has His Majesty's Government agreed to all the present injustices, and is it in keeping with British prestige and honour that Britain, through His Majesty's Government, has repudiated her responsibility for a community deliberately created by Britishers during the last century? Does His Majesty's Government approve of what is being done to Anglo-Burmans?Now this is the point I wish to stress.We wish to send a delegation of two or three members to discuss the matter with His Majesty's Government. Will we be allowed to? Burmese Burmans are having a good time travelling all over the world at the expense of the British taxpayer. Why should not Anglo-Burmans be given the right of one delegation? Why does Britain want to let us down like this? Only a delegation to His Majesty's Government can explain things fully. Unfortunately, the man chosen as High Commissioner, U Tin Tut, is dead against Anglo-Burmans. What is to happen to us if Britain repudiates responsibility for us and our future? Let both Britain and Burma put it down in black and white, and then let Britain send ships and money to take us out of the country and place us where we can live in peace and freedom and be suitably employed.
§ Sir W. Smithers
No, I will not. After all, I am making an appeal for people who cannot make it for themselves in this Assembly, which, for the moment, is still free. I hope the House will allow me to get their opinion across.
§ Sir W. Smithers
The letter continues:Till then, do not let Britain transfer any power, or else, let Britain never again speak of honour or honourable dealings. The only thing to help us is to send an open letter to The Times '.
§ Sir W. Smithers
I want here and now to thank "The Times" for doing a public duty in giving publicity to the opinions, troubles and trials of a loyal section of the British public who could not otherwise put their trials across. Mention has been made in the Debate several times to the sacrifice of life and the terrible 1930 hardships that our troops went through to set Burma free. I would like to give the House one example. A nephew of mine was for 12 hours lying in a bush while the Japanese with fixed bayonets were stabbing every bush around him. By the grace of God, his bush was missed and he got away. That is typical of the kind of sacrifice that was made to set Burma free.
I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply, once again, of the promise made by the Prime Minister. I ask him most earnestly, even at this late hour, to send a cable tonight—and I will give him the address privately; I do not want to give it publicly because if the name and address are made known those concerned will probably be murdered. [Interruption.] Yes, I am told that that is so. Would the Government send a cable and invite a delegation of two or three Anglo-Burmans to fly here, and if they can make any impression on His Majesty's Government, then it may be possible to introduce in another place, at a later stage, an Amendment to this Bill which would adequately protect the interests of these loyal people who have done so much for Burma in the past? I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give a considered answer to this rriuest when he replies.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I beg to move to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add, "upon this day six months."
We have had a most interesting Debate on this very important Bill a Debate which has, I think, done credit to the House, although very strong views have been expressed on both sides. I cannot conscientiously stand at this Box—with a perfectly free hand in the matter and no pressure put on me by my right hon. Friend and Leader—and do otherwise than move this Amendment.
As a preliminary, I would like to make one or two personal observations. I promise the House not to bore it with my observations. As is known to some of the older Members of the House who have been here for the last 10 or 15 years, I was for many years at the India Office, and was frequently in conflict with my right hon. Friend and Leader in those days, not only over the India Bill, but 1931 before it, on the subject of self-government for India. I still hold the view that I have always held, which is my reason for voting against this Bill tonight, that the stages of self-government both for India and Burma should be gradual, constitutional and proper. I maintain, and I shall endeavour to prove it in the time available to me tonight, that the procedure which this Bill has taken is exactly contrary to that which a number of us in all parties fought for before the war in a political sense, namely, the extension to Burma and India of self-government within the Empire. In the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, we did not hear one word to show that that promise had been carried out. May I quote what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quoted, which the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), who spoke after him, never attempted to answer, namely, that the White Paper of 1941 said that certain things could not be doneuntil she "—that is Burma—can sustain the position of a self-governing country within the Empire.Therefore, I move this Amendment to the Motion, for it would not be consonant with my conscience, having regard to the background in regard to self-government for India and Burma of which I have spoken, that at the present stage of her development full self-government should be granted to Burma, with terrible results for the ordinary population. That is my answer to the very reasoned speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson). He made a reasonable and temperate speech, in which he said that it would not be consonant with his conscience to vote against the Bill. It is not consonant with my conscience to hand over the people of Burma to the kind of Government which will be in power in Burma in the days to come.
I make no attempt to defend my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition from the attacks which have been made upon him tonight in this House, for he is well able to do it himself. All I would say by way of reply is that we on this side of the House have just as much right to claim that this is going to be calamitous to the ordinary people of Burma as it is for Members on the other 1932 side of the House to say that we should at this very moment hand over self-government to Burma without taking any precautions to see that self-government as we mean it is exercised. As I have a fair amount of time to put my points, I am going into detail a little later on to show the House where I stand on these matters. We heard my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) ask—
§ Earl Winterton
I have not interrupted hon. Members on the other side when they were speaking, and I would appreciate it if they would let me develop my arguments.
§ Earl Winterton
I think that if the hon. Member will be good enough to sit down and listen to what I have to say, he will see what I mean. I have not interrupted any hon. Member and I am putting a reasonable point of view. I hope I shall be allowed to develop my argument, and if I am, I will try to convince the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). The hon. Member for Orpington made what I think the House will agree was a very moving appeal. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has gone now."] I know the hon. Member for Orpington has gone, and he apologised to me before he went. He has gone to get some food. [Laughter.] There is nothing funny in that. He is entitled to go and get his food, as he has been sitting here for the greater part of the day. It may be a subject for ridicule, but I think that when we are dealing with a rather serious matter, these little points should not be made. The hon. Member for Orpington made a most moving appeal on behalf of the Anglo-Burmese. I noticed the House, including hon. Members opposite, listened to him with respect. That is only one of the cases which I am going to develop in a moment or two.
The hon. Member for Aston made an attack upon my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I will reply 1933 to it with this very simple statement which I do not suppose the hon. Member for Aston or any hon. Member opposite would agree with, namely, that my right hon. Friend's speech was one of the greatest exposures which I have ever heard of the makebelieve, avoidance of logic, and ignorance of hard cruel facts which are the invariable main features of Leftish philosophy. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman who got up and made what he, no doubt, thought was a very effective attack upon my right hon. Friend. He did not make the slightest effort to answer a single one of the facts which my right hon. Friend brought forward. The hon. Member said nothing about the deplorable record of one of the so-called statesmen of Burma who has subsequently been assassinated. He made no attempt to deal with the factual record that my right hon. Friend put before the House. He seemed to think there was something wrong in stating the deplorable record of a man who had been responsible for the torture and death of thousands of his own fellow countrymen, before he was assassinated by another of those gentry. I did not hear in any of the speeches delivered from the opposite benches one single answer to any of those points. Perhaps we may hear an answer from the Secretary of State for Air, when he replies.
§ Earl Winterton
The evidence can be read in the newspapers by anyone of average intelligence. Whether the hon. Gentleman answers that description or not, I do not know. The evidence has not only appeared in the newspapers but in the official histories of the war, and it has been borne out by every sort of factual observation.
I wish to pay a tribute to the Burmese civil servants. Here is another of these strange lacunae in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Aston. Those hon. Gentlemen have said a great deal about the high mission that the Government are performing but not a word of praise for the devoted men, both British and Burmese civil servants, who, for two generations, have given their lives to help the Government of 1934 Burma. I should have thought that a particular tribute might have been paid to them. I was rather surprised that in an otherwise unexceptionable speech, there was no reference to them in the speech of the Prime Minister. I would like to pay a tribute to them. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply, and who has been a very good friend of the Indian civil servants, will share my admiration for what the Burmese Civil Service has done.
I would call attention to another matter which is of some importance. Unlike India, Burma has declared its intention of getting rid of all European civil servants, who will be denied the chance of further service. Both the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, with much greater wisdom, have given the opportunity to British civil servants to continue to serve. It is a fact, as I have proudly announced from this Box, that the situation in India since self-government was given would have been infinitely worse but for the restraining influence of certain Englishmen in high positions in the ordinary Civil Service and in the Army. We have not had a word from the Prime Minister, but no doubt we shall get it from the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply, about the non-Secretary of State servants, those who used to be called in the Indian service the uncovenanted servants. Those men claim proportionate pensions such as have been granted in the past in the case of Indian servants, and compensation for loss of office. Having had previous official experience of this matter, I agree that in law these people probably have no claim, but I am perfectly certain that they have a very strong moral claim to fair treatment. The Prime Minister's speech was listened to by a very small number of his supporters but I thought that he might have referred to the case of these uncovenanted civil servants.
In order to go into the reasons why it is in accord with my conscience that I have moved the Amendment, I want to mention certain matters which have hardly been referred to in the speeches we have had tonight from the opposite side, or from anywhere else in the House. Let me take first the case of law and order. May I repeat, for the benefit of those hon. Members who have been good enough to come in since I started speak- 1935 ing and thus to make a better House, what I said at the beginning of my speech, that the condition laid down in the White Paper was that self-government should be conferred on Burma by gradual stages; in other words, when Burma was ready. The first of the points I am going to make is in itself an answer to any suggestion which may be made by the Prime Minister or anybody else that the present Bill is being brought in at a time when those conditions are fulfilled. It is true, as the Prime Minister said, that lawlessness and crime have always been fairly widespread in Burma, but I do not think they have ever been more widespread than they are today. I have collected some figures which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will challenge. Nearly 12,000 crimes, mostly of violence, were committed in Burma between January and July. In August, there were 168 murders and 1,269 robberies, and in September the figures were higher. These are only the statistics of reported crime.
§ Earl Winterton
No. I have a long speech to make and I see no reason why I should give way. I have not interrupted other hon. Members. Why should we, when opposing a Motion at this Box, be subjected to interruptions by hon. Members?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am sure that the noble Lord would not want a complete misstatement of facts to go on the record on an important matter like this. The total of dacoities for September shows that the figures have not gone up since January. The figure for September was 1,116, which is rather less than in January.
§ Earl Winterton
I stand by the figures that I have given and say that the, figure is higher than the average for the previous month. At any rate, if the hon. Gentleman is right and there has been a slight decrease in the numbers, so much the better. What he and any other fair-minded person cannot deny is that this 1936 is an appalling record of crime in Burma. What he equally cannot deny is that these are only the official statistics of reported crime and that it may be assumed that the Government of Burma have not been in a position to state all the crimes that have not been detected. There was an indiscriminate distribution of arms after U Aung San's assassination in the hope that disorder would be put down, but it resulted in weapons getting into the wrong hands and in increased banditry all over the country. There have been instances in more than one place of armed troops and police trying without success, to put down armed revolt.
I come now to communications. What an astonishing thing it is, if one looks at it from a practical point of view and gets rid of all the sentimental Leftism which has imbued so many of the speeches from the opposite benches, that after the admittedly deplorable damage done to Burma by the fact that a big war was waged within her boundaries we, as a nation which above all others has in its long history been successful in restoring a country of that kind—putting back the railways and restoring the communications that have been destroyed—should have left and given up the work when the country is in the deplorable state it is in today. The result is that, railway communication in Burma is most unsatisfactory.
Let me now take some figures. The present volume of Burmese exports is less than 20 per cent. of the prewar figure. It would be difficult to imagine a more serious position than that of both agriculture and industry in Burma. Are even hon. Gentlemen opposite quite so sure that a country in that condition is better without the British than with them? Are they really so sure as they appear to be? Are they so sure that a country in the industrial and economic condition of Burma can get on far better without the aid-of the trained civil servants and business men who have hitherto kept her on her feet?
Take the question of finance. Not one word have we had in any of the speeches from the benches opposite—hardly a reference to it was made in the Prime Minister's speech—about the deplorable state of Burmese finance. The 1946–47 budget shows an estimated revenue of £20 million, and expenditure of £30 million. By comparison, in the 1937 wicked days of the British—so disliked by Members opposite; they think it terrible that the British actually governed another country successfully—there was a balanced budget of £13 million. Now there is a deficit of £10 million. Burma owes us a great deal of money. [An HON. MEMBER: "As a result of the war."] Yes, of course, but because of that, is it not an act almost of criminal negligence on the part of His Majesty's Government to leave that country, just when we might be in a position to help the Burmans not only to help themselves, but to pay back some of the money they owe to us? [Laughter.] I was prepared for those jeers. I know Members opposite think that the prospect of anyone ever paying back to us money which is owed to us is unimportant. Money does not matter to them. But we have some regard for the finances of this country, and I should have thought that it was a very serious thing to become entirely irresponsible about the financial position of Burma when she needs our aid so much, and owes us so much.
In speech after speech Members opposite have said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford has made a wholly irresponsible speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did."] My right hon. Friend laid it down, as the central theme of his speech, that not one of the things which were regarded in 1945 as essential to constitutional advance has been fulfilled. There is only a semblance of law and order outside the towns in Burma, communications have practically broken down, agriculture and other industries are in the doldrums and Burma is verging on bankruptcy. Nothwithstanding this, Members opposite say that we must accelerate self-government. Another thing we should have been concerned with was to see that in this transfer of power proper respect was paid to the rights of minorities. It is all very well for the Government to say that, on the whole, the minorities are satisfied. As has been said from these Benches, there is no satisfaction on the part of the Anglo-Burmans—
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman can say "Nonsense" as much as he likes, but it does not alter the facts. I have had dozens of letters from people 1938 who are just as influential as those who have written to the hon. Member, and there are bitter complaints about conditions in Burma. As for the tribes, what else could they do? When we deserted the people who were our best friends in the war, what else could they do but make friends with those like some of the Burmese statesmen, friends of Members opposite, who were the friends of the Japanese in the war, and who made termas with them when the enemy were within their gates?
I do not want to go into the whole question of our position in Burma, but I suppose that even in the Socialist Party there is some regard for British commercial interests there. Indeed, I understand that the new theory of Socialism is that there is some merit in private enterprise. We have important commercial interests in Burma, and I see nothing in the Bill, and nothing in the deliberations or consultations which have led up to it, to make me think that British commercial interests are safeguarded in Burma. On the contrary, the whole theme of the Bill, and everything which has been said by the Burmese, is that British interests there, and the British financial position, will have a very poor deal. It is quite true that responsible Burmans, and there are many, know in their heart of hearts, even though they may not say so to Leftist politicians from this country when they visit Burma, that without alien direction and capital Burmese economy will crash, but unfortunately the control of the extremists is so great that it is difficult for them to state that. As regards the financial position, I see no reason to hope, and every reason to fear that the Burmese financial position will be such that the money which she owes us will not be paid for a long time to come.
I want to make a few observations of a different kind. They concern the spiritual and moral aspect of the matter which, as the Minister for Economic Affairs said the other day, ought to form part of all the transactions of this House. Here I think—though I may not give the impression by my attitude occasionally towards them—that hon. Gentlemen opposite have a sense of fairness, and I would commend to them the questions which I shall put on this subject. If I may say so with real respect, it is all very well to attack my right hon. Friend the Leader 1939 of the Opposition for making what they are pleased; to describe as a reactionary speech of the 8o's and 90's, but there are moral questions which Leftists in these days have to answer as well as those on the Right, as to whether the ultimate results of what they advocate, of what they no doubt earnestly believe in, are quite as moral as they suppose, and whether the so-called reactionaries on some moral questions, as well as on many practical questions, may not, after all, be right.
I will begin my questions by answering a very common aphorism which was quoted frequently when I first came to the House, with a truism. It is still quoted occasionally, in the way in which people bring out of the lumber box of quotations one which they produce with great aplomb. It used to be said in the old days by almost every member of the Left that good government is no substitute for self-government, and it always got cheers. It was indeed one of the mottoes of 19th century Liberalism. Unfortunately, it is equally true that self-government does not necessarily imply the retention of impartial justice and reasonable equality for all the religious and racial elements in a' mixed community such as Burma, which alien rule, so far as it can, guarantees. I propound that not in any spirit of personal hostility, but because it shows the great difference between the philosophy of those sitting opposite and most of us on this side of the House. We do not think that mere self-government is a substitute for good government, unless that self-government can give to the people what that good government was able to give them. And with all our faults—and goodness knows they were numerous—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I admit that—with all our faults, both in India and Burma, we gave some things to those countries which they certainly have not today, and which they never had before we went there. That is something which we should all think about, including those of my hon. Friends who are not prepared to vote against this Bill tonight.
I am the last person to suggest for a moment that only the people of this country or the people of Europe are capable of self-government. In fact, I would go further and say that there are people in the world outside Europe who are more suited to self-government 1940 than some of the countries of Europe. Despite the length of time I have been in this House, I have been to almost every African country. I have been on more than one fleeting visit to India. I have both worked and fought in the Middle East. I would say it is undoubtedly true that there are certain primitive communities in the two continents, Asia and Africa, which understand and practice democratic self-government. You get it in African villages in what is known as the headman system, whereby a man is elected very often by popular vote. You get it with Arab sheikhs and, on the North West frontier, with Indian chiefs, because none of those people can act without the assent of the tribe. I myself, in the far-off and rather over-advertised days of the Arab revolt, have been at gatherings of Arab tribesmen where there was a regular debate.
If I may be permitted a frivolous personal reminiscence, on one occasion I made an impassioned speech through an interpreter begging that the lives of certain prisoners who had been caught pillaging should be spared. I mentioned that I was an English Member of Parliament at which, to-my great annoyance, there were shouts of laughter. When I asked the reason, I got the reply, "Everybody looks on a Member of Parliament as a joke, because we have seen some of them out here, and we think that every man should have a right to decide in conclave what the future of the tribe should be, not merely an elected representative." There are communities in which democratic self-government is possible, but those communities are racially and religiously homogeneous.
I assert that the conditions in Burma are such that those requirements do not exist. There is no racial nor religious homogeneity except, ironically enough, among the frontier tribes. It is an interesting fact, which should be remembered, that it is the frontier tribes, who were our very best friends and supporters in the war, and who will greatly miss us when we depart from Burma. I say to the hon. Member for Aston, or any other hon. Member who talks of democracy in the East, that they need to be far more discriminating than they are, otherwise they put themselves in a very embarrassing position—this is a friendly suggestion—from the point of view of their strongly held convictions, since, when they talk of 1941 conferring democracy upon a community like Burma they are giving democracy to a handful of not too scrupulous politicians, supported by some of the worst examples of private enterprise. They are propounding a theory which is in direct conflict with the views which they put on platforms here.
By all means, give self-government to a democracy where they are people deserving of it, but, in the case of Burma could anyone say—and here I will sit down if anyone wishes to interrupt me—that she has ever been, in the course of her long history, or is ever likely to be, a democratic country in the sense of the word as we use it in this country? We only went there because the situation was so terrible that the Burmese had to have recourse to us. The situation was so terrible that Burma could not go on. Burma, in general, has so many races and considerable social contrasts that one cannot call her a homogeneous community. She has a large illiterate peasantry on the one hand, and a quick-witted, reasonably well-educated, political intelligentsia with little sense of administration or responsibility, on the other hand. I must repeat what I said on a previous occasion when I spoke on the Burma Bill, that I defy anyone to deny the essential truth that:Burma …. will have exactly the same type of government that all Asiatic countries have always had, except when ruled by European nations …. We are allowing those countries to return to an Asiatic conception of government and we must all hope it will prove to be a success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1947," Vol. 436, c. 2376.]I think I was over-optimistic in expressing the hope that it would prove to be a success.
However much hon. Members may laugh at me, I do not think they will laugh at what I am going to say. I said that more confidently six months ago because then I had not seen the calamitous results of conferring so-called self-government on India. I think that someone tonight, besides my right hon. Friend, might have risen on the other side of the House and said what a terrible thing it is that half a million people have been starved and tortured to death because the Indians, to whom we gave self-government, cannot agree among themselves—half a million people who might have been alive today had we still been in India. The hon. Gentleman may not think that it rests upon his conscience. I think it 1942 does, and upon the consciences of all those who sit upon the other side of the House. That is a matter of opinion, upon which the hon. Member is as entitled to express an opinion as I am. I am being sincere when I say I think it should rest upon his conscience. I associate myself with everything which my right hon. Friend said—it should rest also upon the; conscience of the Prime Minister and upon the conscience of the Government.
There is not the slightest doubt, I am afraid, that the system of Government which we are to confer—if that be the right term—upon Burma will mean dictatorship, armed struggle for power, financial difficulties, revolts by minorities, everything we see happening in India. I remember the days—so long does my mind go back in this House—when we were discussing the new régime in China Many hon. Members of the Liberal Party were very enthusiastic about it; some of us were less enthusiastic. We were told that for the first time China was to have democratic government. Another hon. Member, now dead, said that it would mean 100 years of peaceful development. We see what has happened in China, and that instance could be multiplied. Almost all the aphorisms of Gladstonian Liberalism have proved to be untrue.
All of us, like the hon. Member below the Gangway, the Prime Minister, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to follow me, have met Burmans for whom we have the highest regard. I have never met people who were personally more charming and attractive to work with than those with whom I sat at the Burma Round-Table Conference. They had a great sense of humour and many of them were men of the highest intelligence and culture. They are of a people who are gifted with an artistic perception of beautiful things which we can envy, and with a sense of humour which commends them to us, but their whole history—why should we not be honest and state our opinions?—shows that they have a bad record of cruelty and irresponsibility towards each other. No one can deny that.
Those who ask what the alternative of my right hon. Friend and others of us would have been can have this answer—a perfectly fair and honest answer. Another 15 or 20 years of partial self-government, which was what those of us who met at the Burma 1943 Round-Table Conference contemplated, might easily have made all the difference and have produced statesmen worthy to rule their fellow countrymen, and not people of the type described by my right hon. Friend in his opening speech.
The Government have chosen another course. I would like to pay a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of British and loyal Indians and Burmese—several of them were subsequently tortured by their "great statesman," the man who was murdered a short time ago, for being loyal to us—who died to save Burma in, the war. Despite all that, the Government have said that if the Burmese wish to leave the Empire and be ruled, in part at any rate, by those who were friendly to the Japanese invasion during the war, so let it be. That is the whole case of the. Government. I hope we shall have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman to what my right hon. Friend said. What is the explanation of the Government about dealing with men of the character with whom they dealt when they came over here, men who were traitors to their own country, bitter enemies of ours, responsible for the death and torture of thousands of their fellow countrymen who were loyal to us? What is the answer? What is the Government's explanation? We heard nothing about it in the speech of the Prime Minister. I would have said it was a matter which should rest upon the conscience of the Government.
I notice that "The Times," quite untaught by the fact that it described the events in India before the recent massacres took place as a great act of statesmanship, says that this Bill is an act of statesmanship. From some points of view, so was the partition of Poland or Hitler's pact with Mussolini. But both meant death and mutilation for millions. I think that the Burmans will be very lucky if it does not mean death and mutilation for many of them, judging from the state of the country at present. I do not think I will be contradicted when I say that personally, apparently unlike "The Times," I think that statesmanship should have some regard for the probable results on the ordinary man and woman affected by its decision.
Hidebound Tory as, no doubt, hon. Gentlemen opposite think me to be, I think that in dealing with this matter 1944 we should have some regard, not for theories, but for the effect on the ordinary Burman man and woman. The hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton) made a perfectly moderate speech to which I listened with some admiration, If, from his knowledge of Burma and his distinguished service in that part of the world, he seriously believes that this Bill will result in better conditions for the ordinary man and woman in Burma, he is perfectly entitled to vote for it; but, being a fair-minded man, equally I am sure that he will agree with me that if I believe that it will not, I am perfectly entitled to move the rejection of the Bill. That expresses my whole feeling on the matter.
I would say a few words more before asking the right hon. and learned Gentleman one or two questions. Of course, supporters of this Bill are entitled to say frankly that this country and the Dominions, weakened by two terrible wars and with Leftist Governments in power here and in the two Pacific Dominions, can afford neither the expense, nor the odium of controlling an Asiatic land like Burma. They are quite entitled to say that. I rather thought, from one or two of what I thought were very moderate speeches from hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, who differ from me, that that is what they had in mind, though personally I do not agree with them. Similarly, it may reasonably be contended that the 70 million or so people of pure European descent in this country and the Dominions, as tough and as competent as any people of any age or clime and homo-genic, save for a small dissident racial minority, in Canada and one in South Africa, can hold their own in defence and trade without going to the trouble of trying to govern ungrateful Asiatics. Hon. Members can take either of those views, and there is something to be said for both.
All I say, with the utmost conviction, at the risk of causing great dissent possibly even among some of my hon. Friends, is that what no one in this House is entitled to do is to talk with hypocrisy and self-admiration of the wonderful benefits which the Bill will confer upon the ordinary Burmese man and woman in the street. They are not entitled to say that because it would not be true. They could say, "We have to do it because we are compelled by circumstances." They 1945 could say, "We have to do it because we of the Socialist Party believe that self-government is always better than government by anyone else." But what hon. Gentlemen are not entitled to say, and what nobody has said, and what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister carefully avoided saying in the course of his speech, is that the result of the Bill is going to be beneficial to the ordinary man and woman in the street in Burma. They know quite well that it is not going to be beneficial. I would say, though such a statement never commands support, that every peasant in any clime or continent does not in the least care who his rulers are so long as they will allow him to cultivate his land in peace and give him and his family a reasonable living.
That is the peasant point of view, and it is very difficult to explain to the British, because they long since ceased to be peasants. That is the peasant point of view, and the Burmese peasant, unfortunately, has a very small chance of either under this Bill, and that, I suggest, is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham, who, in his very moderate speech, said that there was a great upsurge of national feeling. Of course, there is among the politicians and the people he met when he went there. Is anybody going to say that the average Burmese peasant has at any time said that he prefers the state of dacoity, robbery and corruption in high places which goes on under the Burmese Government, or the lack of equal justice—
§ The Prime Minister
The explanation I have been given by our own officers out there is that this is the most incorruptible Government which the Burmese have ever had. I really think that the noble Lord should not say that.
§ Earl Winterton
I will withdraw then. I did not mean it in a financial sense, but only in a political sense. I think the right hon. Gentleman made a perfectly proper and friendly interruption, but I am not withdrawing the phrase "political corruption," because all the evidence which reaches me is to the contrary. There has never been anything but political corruption. Does the right hon. Gentleman really ask us to believe that in an Asiatic country like Burma, there has ever been anything else but political corruption? Is there anything else in China? Of course, there is political corruption.
§ The Prime Minister
I quite agree with the noble Lord, but it was reported to me by our people out there that there are politicians today in Burma who are not corrupt. I know the amount of corruption there was among the old Burmese politicians, but I am bound to testify that the present Government contains straight and incorruptible men.
§ Earl Winterton
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that what I have said was not a reflection on present Burmese politicians for one moment, but I cannot withdraw what I had said in another respect—that there is bound to be, in a country like that, an enormous amount of political corruption in the ordinary sense of the word. If I may carry the war into the enemy's camp—and I hope I did not catch the right hon. Gentleman's interruption accurately in one respect—that there has never been a less corrupt Government than there is in Burma today—does he really suggest that the Burma Government is less corrupt than other Burma Governments?
§ The Prime Minister
Less corrupt than any other Burmese politicians. The noble Lord made a very sweeping accusation. He said they were corrupt, and I said the present Government was not corrupt as compared with any other Burmese politicians—I do not say with all other Governments, because I do not know all the other Governments which have held office in Burma. I said that, compared with previous Governments, this one holds a very high standard.
§ Earl Winterton
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made that clear. It was not a reflection on the devoted services of both Burmans and British who served Burma and the British Empire under previous Governments. I have noticed, in recent years, that the habit of putting questions by Opposition speakers from this Bench to the Government has now in a sense decreased, and the former custom of answering these questions which used to persist in the old days, has, I am sorry to say, largely been abandoned, but I hope that I may put three questions to the right hon. Gentleman tonight. Can he tell us whether there are any conditions in Burma giving even a vague guarantee of democratic self-government in the sense-in which I have ventured to expound it tonight, without any opposition from hon. 1947 Gentlemen opposite? Can he give any guarantee that that is so? Secondly, can he tell us whether there is any real racial homogeneity in what we call Burma? [An HON. MEMBER: "America."] I was not talking about America; I am talking about Burma. This question, as my right hon. Friend reminds me, happens to deal with a different part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should brush up his geography.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I did not interrupt the noble Lord; the observation was not made by me.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. John Freeman)
I can assure the noble Lord it was not made by me.
§ Earl Winterton
The third question I wish to ask is that, if, as may unhappily be the case, there is before Burma a period of anarchy and internal misery, will His Majesty's Government show any remorse, as they have, apparently, shown no remorse about producing the conditions which have resulted in the terrible suffering and atrocities in what was once British India? That was the question put by my right hon. Friend, and I would like to repeat it. Do they feel any responsibility in the matter whatsoever? Do they say that, because the Burmans have asked for this, they have no responsibility? I think we should have an answer to that question. Lastly—and this is the most important question of all—do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite take the Gladstonian view of the '8o's or '9o's against which Lord Randolph Churchill, and, indeed, Lord Rosebery and some other Liberals fought so fiercely, that when we have a wholly or partially primitive country, and scuttle or are driven out, we have no sort of responsibility for the ordinary people who supported us? We have not had a very' good record sometimes in the past in that respect. Have we no responsibility" for the Anglo-Burmans? Have we no responsibility for the tribes who gave us such magnificent assistance during the war?: I would like to have an answer to that question. Does it, or does it not, matter to the conscience of the Govern- 1948 ment and of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite how many of those people are tortured, enslaved and imprisoned, so long as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen can get up on the Benches apposite, or at a public meeting, and say with hypocritical unction, so dear to a section of Britain, "We have conferred the great benefit of self-government on Ruritania"? Do these things matter to the Government or not? Will they give us an answer to them tonight? It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to attack my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for having laid down certain propositions, but I say at the end, as I said at the beginning, there has not been a single answer to any one of the points he made in any of the speeches from the benches opposite. I now gladly give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
The noble Lord has covered a good deal of ground tonight, and has addressed a large number of questions to me. I- am afraid it is going to be difficult for me to answer all his questions, together with all the other questions that have been put by other speakers. What I would say, with regard to the four, five or six questions which the noble Lord has just addressed to me, is that, in my opinion, they would be equally relevant if we were discussing the grant only of Dominion status to the Burmans and not the grant of independence outside the British Commonwealth. For example, one of the questions he asked was, Is there any racial homogeneity in Burma?
I must confess that I am surprised the noble Lord addressed his question about the racial composition of the population, because he has had much longer experience in dealing with Bunman affairs than I have had, and I think he knows as well as I do what the population of Burma is. It is roughly 17 millions, of whom approximately 13 millions are what might be called straight Burmans and the other four millions are Shans, Kachins, Chins and Karens. I merely cite that particular question to illustrate that the questions which the noble Lord has just addressed would have been just as relevant if we had been discussing the grant of Dominion status.
§ Mr. Henderson
I will take the noble Lord's first question: Is there any guarantee that the conditions in Burma resemble in the vaguest way democratic government? The noble Lord was a party to the passing of the Government of Burma Act, 1935, and the present Government of Burma are operating under the provisions of that Act as amended by various orders. Apart from that, let us take the composition of the constituent assembly. There is adult suffrage in Burma—there are roughly seven million men and women voters—and a General Election was held some months ago. I think 43 or 45 per cent., of the registered voters voted, and the representatives elected have met in this constituent assembly. They have produced a constitution, and under that constitution provision is made for a directly elected lower House, based again on adult suffrage, with an upper House which is known as the Chamber of nationalities. If there is any meaning in the phrase "democratic government" as we know it in this country, the authorities who have produced this constitution are democratically elected, and they have provided in their constitution for the democratic election of the legislators who are to operate after they have obtained their independence.
The noble Lord based his main case against the Bill upon the fact—and he quoted the right hon. Member for Wood-for (Mr. Churchill)—that not one of the things regarded as essential in the White Paper of 1945 have occurred. He based his case upon a quotation from pargraph 1 of Part II:It is and has consistently been our aim to assist her political development till she can sustain the responsibilities of complete self-government within the British Commonwealth…The noble Lord argued that Burma had not yet arrived at the position at which she could sustain responsibilities of complete self-government. But if we look further down the White Paper we find in paragraph 3 reference to the proclamation that was issued in 1942, the effect of which was to put the Government of Burma into commission. It provides as follows:As the proclamation issued in 1942 exhausts its validity in December next, it is proposed to make it permissible to prolong 1950 its validity for three years more, that is till 9th December, 1948. Parliament is asked to approve this extension for a period of three years only "—that is, till December, 1948–in the hope that it will be possible by then, if not before, to establish conditions in which a General Election can be held and a Government established…Those conditions have occurred. The General Election has taken place, and the Government have been established under the Constitution. Therefore, I submit to the House that it is not the case that the conditions which were adumbrated in the White Paper have not yet happened, but that, in fact, they have, and that we are, therefore, entitled to allow, as was pointed out in a subsequent paragraph, that constituent Assembly to meet and to draft their Constitution.
§ Mr. Henderson
The difference is this, that the Opposition—or those Members of the Opposition who take the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford—rest their case on the fact that the White Paper provides for Dominion status within the British Commonwealth of Nations, whereas we are giving them independence with the right to be outside the British Commonwealth of Nations. That, of course, does bring this House face to face with a fundamental aspect of the society of nations which we know as the British Commonwealth of Nations. I do not believe that I can be accused of exaggerating when I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's view of this Bill strikes at the very foundation of the British Commonwealth of Nations as we know it today. The essence of the British Commonwealth is voluntary association of those nations which form parts of it. If we are to be told that the people of Burma may have Dominion status but that they are not to be allowed to exercise their right to decide whether they will remain within or without the British Commonwealth of Nations, then I suggest that that is entirely inconsistent with the conception—
§ Mr. Churchill
Who ever said anything like that? If they have Dominion status, it is quite true that in due course they have the right, if they choose, to opt outside the British Empire. No one has disputed that. That was the Statute of 1951 Westminster. No one has disputed it. But the intervening stage was to give them the chance of exercising free option.
§ Mr. Henderson
Yes, Sir, but the elected representatives of the people of Burma take the other view. They do not want to have Dominion status for a period of "due course." They have decided unanimously in their Constituent Assembly that they want to start their independence outside the British Commonwealth ab initio, and not after a period of "due course"—whatever that may be.
I should like to make my own position clear on this point, and I am quite sure that I am speaking for the great majority of my colleagues on this side, if not for all of them. I have great faith in the British Commonwealth of Nations. I believe it sets an example to the rest of the world in the relations that exist within it between the nations that compose the British Commonwealth of Nations, and I certainly do not stand at this Box tonight in any spirit of jubilation because Burma has seen fit to leave the British Commonwealth. But I do take my stand upon this: I believe that the policy of the Government is right, that the Government are doing the right thing in allowing the people of Burma to exercise their free right to control their own destiny, whether or not they are doing the best thing from their point of view.
This Bill marks a further step in the development of a policy which, I am convinced, represents the true, democratic genius of the British people. We do not regard ourselves as dormant Imperialists whose duty or pleasure it is to impose our will upon subject peoples, or whose function it is to exploit less advanced peoples for our own benefit. There was a time not long ago when the Government of this country, while giving expression to many laudable sentiments, yet so carried out their policies as to perpetuate British domination wherever it was thought economic advantage might be gained. That policy may have suited certain sections of this country who stood to gain by it, but it was never the objective of the broad masses of the people. They have always, I believe, taken the view, which is shared by the 1952 present Government, that it is our task to enable others to enjoy the same democratic freedom that we ourselves enjoy.
§ Mr. Churchill
What about the deaths of half a million people in India? Enjoying democratic freedom! Half a million killed, and who has done it?
§ Mr. Henderson
Every hon. and right hon. Member of this House regrets the tragic events that are taking place in India and Pakistan today. But do not let us forget the history of the world. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that even in the history of the United States of America—a country for which he and I, and the rest of the House, have the most friendly sentiments—they had to go through tribulation; tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, were slaughtered during the Civil War in the fifties—
§ Mr. Henderson
The point is, whether we are dealing with the United States of America or whether we are dealing with India or Pakistan, once we have acknowledged the right of the people of those countries to settle their own destinies, then it is not for us—
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the noble Lord, who himself claimed the protection of the Chair, not to extend to my right hon. and learned Friend the very courtesy for which he asked?
§ Mr. Henderson
I am quite indifferent to what the noble Lord has to say. This afternoon the right hon. Member for Woodford made, I must confess, what I thought was a speech which in parts was not worthy of him. He is a man of great personal prestige and great political authority, and I cannot help thinking that some of the remarks he made will be difficult of understanding for people in far off countries who do not understand the cut and thrust of debate as we know it in this country and in this House; they will not understand the references which he made, for example, to one or two of the leaders of the Burmese people. It is not for me to make apologia on behalf of the late U Aung San. It is a matter of perspective, of point of view, as to when a 1953 man is a traitor. He may be a traitor from the point of view of this country, but it does not follow that he would be a traitor from the point of view of his own country.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman again, but in the case of U Aung San one has very little choice. Either he was a traitor to Burma when he helped the Japanese to come in, or he was a traitor to the Japanese when he deserted them to join the British. We get him both ways.
§ Mr. Henderson
What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is, that he was the author of the phrase "working your passage home," which he applied, I believe, to Marshal Badoglio. There is only this to be said, that I have never heard a British subject paying tribute to the support given to us by Marshal Badoglio which we know Lord Mount-batten, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, has seen fit to pay to the services of the late U Aung San.
§ Mr. Churchill
I really must cavil at this comparison between U Aung San and Marshal Badoglio. Marshal Badoglio was an Italian who fought for his country when war was declared by the Government of the country, and at a certain stage, when the tyranny of Mussolini was overthrown, in which he took a part, he came over to our side. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Be patient. That is quite a different thing from a man who comes with an invading Army into his own country, helping a foreign nation to invade and overthrow his own country, and then, when he sees that that foreign nation is going to be beaten, changes over to the other side. You must be just, even to Marshal Badoglio.
§ Mr. Henderson
I think that Marshal Badoglio's record was a little erratic, because at one time he was prepared to play ball with Hitler.
§ Mr. Henderson
I have been long enough in this House to know that one is entitled to use examples by way of illustration. I was very interested in the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he and his friends could not support the 1954 Government, with regard to this Bill, on Imperialistic and moral grounds. I do not propose to follow him as regards Imperialist grounds, but I was very interested that he should base his opposition on moral grounds, because I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, all sections of this House and the population of this country were morally bound to do what we are doing in this Bill. I will tell the House why. If I may make a personal reference, the right hon. Gentleman has had a great effect upon my mind twice in my life—once when I was a schoolboy listening to a Debate, nearly 40 years ago, in the House of Commons on Home Rule for Ireland, which the right hon. Gentleman was winding up, just as I am winding up this Debate. It had been a much more acrimonious Debate than we have had here, and he made a fine fighting speech, breathing the very essence of Liberalism with a small "1." That speech left an indelible impression on my mind. The subsequent occasion on which action by the right hon. Gentleman had a profound effect upon my mind was when he signed the Atlantic Charter. I took an opportunity to refresh my memory by getting a copy of it and looking through it, and I should like to quote this extract to the House. It states:The President of the United States and the Prime Minister Mr. Churchill representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of our respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.After the first and the second principles, the third states:They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.
§ Mr. Churchill
It is well known that when I came back from the voyage where the Atlantic Charter was signed, I was asked in this House formally about its application to these very problems of our Eastern Empire, and I gave a full and clear answer agreed upon by all my colleagues in the Cabinet, including the then Deputy-Prime Minister, who is now sitting by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's side. He should not quote the statement of the Atlantic Charter, unless he quotes this agreed answer which was made.
§ Mr. Henderson
Was not that explanation based upon the fact that it was agreed by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that this was already the policy of His Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. Churchill
No, it was explained exactly how the words of the Atlantic Charter applied. It certainly was implicit in the answer that we were moving forward to the establishment of self government in these countries as they became fitted for it.
§ Mr. Henderson
It is a matter of opinion when people of any kind are fitted for self-government.
There are one or two questions which were addressed to me with which I should like to deal. The hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) raised the question of the non-Secretary of State services in Burma. May I say at once, in company with the noble Lord, both he and I have worked in the Burma office and know the valuable services that have been rendered by the civil servants who have been sent out from this country—and the Burmans recruited in Burma—and the excellent service they have rendered in the past. I shall be only too happy to associate myself with the tribute which he has paid to them tonight.
The position with regard to the non-Secretary of State services, as they are covered by paragraph 5 of the Treaty, which, if hon. Members will look at it, is an undertaking by the Government of Burma that they will be responsible for all the pensions, remuneration, and other conditions of service of the British who are engaged in service in Burma. They have now agreed that a proportionate pension will be paid to those British civil servants who belong to the non-Secretary of State services, on the basis that their services are no longer required. The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) raised the question of compensation. The position is that under the war damage insurance policies, the claims in respect of them are in process of being settled at the present moment by the Government of Burma.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Is the responsibility for meeting these to be that of His Majesty's Government or the Burmese Government?
§ Mr. Henderson
The question of these payments when made is to be settled between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Burma.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) raised the question of the Anglo-Burmans. I think that every Member of this House will have every feeling of sympathy for these people. The great majority of them have kith and kin in this country and, therefore, on that basis, I think that there was nothing between us. In so far as it is possible to obtain their views, we can only do so through the Anglo-Burman council, which for some years and before the war was recognised as the official body speaking on their behalf, and they have made it clear in pronouncements that they believe that their future lies in Burma. I can only say that the letter which the hon. Gentleman read out to the House tonight is the very opposite of the information which I have received, based on a statement made by a Mr. Rivers, who is a responsible member of the Anglo-Burma community and a member of the Constituent Assembly. In a broadcast a few days ago, he said:I am grateful to the Premier "—that is the Burmese Premier—for his recent assurances to us of equal opportunity and advancement in the service of our country. His assurances are proved by the fact that our small community has been privileged to be actively associated in the shaping of the destinies of our country. The fact that a few of the highest posts of administration in our country have been given to Anglo-Burmese for the first time in our history is further proof of the Premier's recent assurances to us and I call upon each one in my community to give of his best in the service of our country.I think that indicates from the official spokesman on behalf of the Anglo-Burmese community that that community takes a rather different view from the letter which Was read out by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Henderson
I do not think that any advantage would arise if I indicated that the Government would receive a deuta- 1957 tion. In conclusion, may I say this Bill is in keeping with the highest traditions of this House. By it, the British Parliament will be adding one more free and independent nation to the number on this earth. This nation of ours, which stands in the van of freedom-loving peoples, is the better able to appreciate and understand the aspirations towards freedom of another people. We have done much over past decades to aid and encourage Burmese progress in the art of self-government. Let us now bestow the priceless gift of full independence in a mood at once generous and hopeful and with our sincere wishes for Burma's future peace, prosperity and social
§ advancement. I hope and believe that by what we are engaged in doing tonight we shall create a new relationship between the peoples of the British Commonwealth, of Nations and of Burma that will be based on the solid foundation of mutual friendship, trust and respect, and one which will have lasting strength, because its roots are firmly implanted in the charter of freedom which we are considering tonight. It is in that spirit that I ask the House to support this Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 288; Noes, 114.1959
|Division No. 21.||AYES.||[9.58 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Holman, P.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Deer, G.||Holmes, H. E, (Hemsworth)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||House, G|
|Alpass, J. H||Delargy, H. J.||Hoy, J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Diamond, J.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Dobbie, W.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Dodds, N. N||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C R||Donovan, T.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Awbery, S. S||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Dye, S.||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)|
|Bacon, Miss A||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Baird, J.||Edwarde, Rt. Hon. Sir (C[...]wellty)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Balfour, A.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Janner, B.|
|Barstow, P. G||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Barton, C||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Battley, J. R.||Evans, A. (Islington, W.)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Bechervaise, A. £||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Berry, H.||Evane, John (Ogmore)||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Beswick, F.||Evane, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Keenan, W.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Ewart, R.||Kenyon, C|
|Blenkinsop, A||Fairhurst, F.||King, E. M.|
|Blyton, W. R||Farthing, W. J||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E|
|Boardman, H.||Fernyhough, E||Kinley, J.|
|Bottomley, A G.||Follick, M.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr H. W.||Foot, M. M.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Bowen, R.||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exeh'ge)||Freeman, John (Watford)||Leonard, W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Bramall, E. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Lever, N. H.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Gallacher, W.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Brown, T. d. (Ince)||Gibbins, J.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gibson, C. W||Lipton, D. L.|
|Burden, T. W||Gilzean, A.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Burke, W. A.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Logan, D. G.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gooch, E. G.||Low, A. R. W|
|Byers, Frank||Gordon-Walker, P. C||Lyne, A. W.|
|Callaghan, James||Granville, E. (Eye)||McAdam, W|
|Carmichael, James||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||McEntee, V. La [...]|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Greenwood, A. W. J (Heywood)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Champion, A. J.||Grenfell, D. R.||McGovern, J.|
|Chetwynd, G R||Grey, C. F.||Mack, J. D.|
|Cluse, WS||Grierson, E.||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||MacMillan, M K. (Western Isles)|
|Coldrick, W.||Griffiths, Rt Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Macpherson, T (Romford)|
|Collindridge, F.||Griffiths, W. D (Moss Side)||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Colman, Miss G M.||Guy, W. H||Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)|
|Cook, T. F.||Hall, Rt Hon Glenvil||Marquand, H. A.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N W.)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Corlett, Dr. J||Hardy, E. A.||Medland, H. M.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Crawley, A.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Mikardo, lan.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Herbison, Miss M.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E R|
|Daggar, G.||Hewitson, Capt. M||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hobson, C R||Monslow, W.|
|Moody, A. S.||Rees-Williams, D. R||Thomas, I O. (Wrekin)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Reeves, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Morley, R.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Richards, R.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Mort, D. L||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Tiffany, S.|
|Moyle, A.||Robens, A.||Timmons, J|
|Murray, J. D||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Nally, W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Usborne, Henry|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N)||Rogers, G. H R.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Nicholls, H R. (Stratford)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Viant, S. P|
|Nicholson, G,||Royle, C.||Walker, G. H|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Scollan, T||Warbey, W. N.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Scott-Elliot, W||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|O'Brien, T.||Segal, Dr. S.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Oldfield, W. H||Shackleton, E. A. A||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Orbach, M.||Sharp, Granville||West, D. G.|
|Paget, R. T.||Shurmer, P.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Paling, Will T. (Dowsbury)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wigg, George|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Simmons, C. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Skeffington, A. M.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Parker, J.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Parkin, B. T||Skinnard, F W.||Williams, J. L, (Kelvingrove)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, C (Colchester)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Perrins, W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Piratin, P.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Williamson, T|
|Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S W.)||Willis, E.|
|Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Solley, L. J||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Popplewell, E.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F||Wilson, Rt. Ho. J H|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Stamford, W||Woodburn, A|
|Pritt, D. N.||Steele, T.||Woods, G S|
|Proctor, W T.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wyatt, W|
|Pryde, D. J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G (Lambeth, N.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H||Stross, Dr. B||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Randall, H. E||Swingler, S.||Zilliacus, K|
|Ranger, J||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Rankin, J.||Taylor, H. B (Mansfield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)||Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Gammans, L. D.||Pitman, L. J.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Soot Univ)||Hare, Hon. J. H (Woodbridge)||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon R||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Price-White, Lt -Col. D|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C.||Raikes, H. V|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Bossom, A. C||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bower, N.||Howard, Hon. A.||Ropner, Col L|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N. J.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T||Hutchison, Lt.-Com C. (E'b'rgh W)||Shepherd, W. S (Bucklow)|
|Bullock, Capt. M||Jarvis, Sir J.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Carson, E.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O|
|Challen, C.||Jennings, R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Channon, H.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H||Strauss, H. G (English Universities)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S,||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Stuart, Rt Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K||Studholme, H G.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Sutcliffe, H|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Linstead, H N.||Taylor, Vice-Adm E. A. (P'dd't'n, S)|
|Crowder, Capt. John E||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A. F|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Touche, G. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon O.||Turton, R. H.|
|Digby, S. W.||MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Vane, W. M F|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (L of Wight)||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Donner, P. W.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marlowe, A. A H.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Duthie, W S.||Marsden, Capt. A.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon Walter||Maude, J. C.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Fox, Sir G||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'stor)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, Sir L. (Lonsdale)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fyle, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P M||Orr-Ewing, L. L.||York, C.|
|Gage, C.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Pickthorn, K||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Drewe and Major Conant.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]