HC Deb 27 April 1949 vol 464 cc171-2
15. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what fresh instructions he has now given to the police in Malaya with regard to the shooting of women.

Mr. Rees-Williams

The regulations authorising the use of firearms in effecting arrests or preventing escapes already require clear warnings to be given before fire is opened. It is not practicable to discriminate in this matter between men and women. To do so might facilitate the escape of women who are themselves bandits, or are suspected of assisting the bandits in their murderous activities. One of the women killed on 23rd February was in uniform and armed. On 20th April the hands of another woman were blown off by a grenade which she was in the act of throwing at a police patrol.

Mr. Hughes

In view of the previous statement that these two women were unarmed, will my hon. Friend consider giving an instruction that unarmed people should not be shot?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I do not remember that a statement was made to the effect that the women were unarmed. One of the women was armed and it is quite impossible to know whether a person is armed or not before fire is opened.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Is it not well established that both in the case of the bandits and of the squatters who helped them there have been many cases of women who were armed attacking members of His Majesty's Forces?

Mr. Rees-Williams

Yes, that is so.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Is it not the case that one of the two women shot was described in the official statement as running away and being chased for half a mile before she was shot? Was she armed?

Mr. Rees-Williams

One of the women was armed and one was not. I must point out to my hon. Friend that the country is very enclosed, the ground is rough and it is largely jungle. Half a mile in Malaya under those conditions is not like half a mile along Parliament Street. As to the other question, it is quite impossible to give orders to the police that they are not to fire unless they first search the people to find whether they are armed. That would destroy the whole point of the regulations.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Is not this a case in which the principle of "equal pay for equal work" should apply between the sexes?