§ 12 noon:
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I hope the House will agree that it is very appropriate and essential that we should have a Debate on events in Malaya before this House rises for the Easter Recess. A situation of real gravity is developing in that part of the world, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies will not take the attitude that we on this side of the House are in any sense trying to make party capital out of this discussion. I hope we shall not be chided for irresponsibility if we state what we fear are very unpleasant facts. Indeed, there is very little in what I am going to say to the right hon. Gentleman that I would refrain from saying even if my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley) was in his position.
What are the facts? Surely, the first is—and I hope we can agree on this—that the events in Malaya must not be regarded in isolation, because they are simply a part of a world-wide attempt by Communist Russia to dominate the world. What is happening in Malaya is that the cold war, which we are fighting here and which every democratic country is fighting within its own borders, has in Malaya become a hot war. The tragedy of it is that we are not winning this hot war. The facts of the situation, if looked at objectively, show that there are between 3,000 and 4,000 ill-armed bandits challenging with impunity very nearly a division of British troops, and also between 40,000 and 50,000 police. The Kremlin has certainly got very good value for its financing of these 3,000 brigands, because they have immobilised a division of troops which ought to be in Western Europe.
The second fact is that the situation is getting worse instead of better. Malaya has just had an anti-bandit month, and there was a great response from the civilian population, which proved incidentally that this is not in any sense a nationalist uprising. The results of that anti-bandit month have been disappointing in the extreme. On the whole, the 1369 bandits in Malaya have killed twice as many of our people as we have of theirs. If I may give some figures, the security forces and civilians had 77 killed, while we killed 38 bandits. When it comes to the wounded, the ratio is 5 to 1; 101 of the security forces were wounded, and only 22 bandits.
It is not only that, but the situation is getting worse in two other respects. For the first time, the bandits have started to operate in the large towns. Bombs have been thrown in Singapore, and a pitched battle took place at a spot no farther from the centre of Kuala Lumpur than Hampstead Heath is from this House. What is more, there are now larger bands operating which can overpower an isolated police station or rubber estate. In addition to all that, trains are now being derailed.
Let me give two instances, to convince the House that I am not exaggerating, of what happened only two days ago.Bandits collecting identity cards in a raid last night on Damansara village, seven miles from Kuala Lumpur, murdered three Chinese men and an elderly Chinese woman, whom they battered to death because they could not find her son; shot and wounded a Chinese woman who was taking a bath; and wounded a four-year-old Chinese girl. Another section of the same gang, on its way to the village, met the Indian chief clerk of the Seventh Mile Estate, tied his hands and shot him dead opposite the first houses in the village.In the Bahau area of Negri Sembilan, 20 bandits ambushed an estate lorry, killing a special constable, two Chinese labour supervisors and an Indian labourer and wounding a Chinese special constable, a Chinese labourer and the Malay driver of the lorry. They also fired on a police jungle squad travelling on the Bahau road in two vehicles, without causing casualties. An armoured train from Mentakab to Triang, in Pahang, was derailed and fired upon yesterday, but the train guards drove off the bandits.Those are all the events that happened within 24 hours during the last two days.
If I might go back to last month, we find that, on 2nd February, the European manager, with 25 specials, beat off an attack on the European bungalows and factory of Telemong Estate, Bentong, with the help of a military party who arrived on the scene later. Gurkhas killed two bandits in Jelenu. Two specials were killed in the Johore Beharu area when 100 bandits attacked a Chinese estate. In the Kluang area bandits fired 1370 at specials guarding the water pumping station at Rengam town. One special died of wounds. In Johore Bahru bandits dragged a Chinese and his wife from their house and shot them dead. Thirty bandits shot dead two Chinese women and stabbed a third near Mentakab. A significant sidelight was the hoisting of 11 Communist flags during the night—one on the top of the public canteen in the heart of Ipoh town.
If I may give one more instance, on 24th February, 150 bandits—and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to notice the point about the larger gangs—ravaged the village of Bukit Kepong in Johore, 35 miles inland from Muar, burned three women and a child to death and killed 13 police and six kampong guards. The bandits attacked at 4.30 a.m. from three directions and the 17 police fought back for three hours. At 7.30 a.m. the bandits broke through the defences, burned down the barracks and marched the wives and families of the police to the station to order the police to surrender. One woman who refused to go was murdered. When they still refused to surrender, the bandits fired the wooden police station and threw in hand grenades.
Finally, the four police left alive jumped from the burning building and three died in their last charge at the bandits. Meanwhile kampong guards 2½ miles away attempted to create a diversion and two were killed. Later it was found that wells in the village had been poisoned. The appalling feature of this incident is that no means existed for the police to summon aid and it was not until after the bandits had left at 10 a.m., that the head man of the village set out in a boat to the next police post 14 miles away. Aid arrived at 4 p.m., 12 hours after the attack started. What is most ominous about this particular outrage is that there was no means whatever for the police to start communicating with headquarters, and it was 12 hours after the attack started before the news about it reached headquarters. These are the events of just three days.
The third factor in the situation is surely this—that we cannot expect the planters and tin miners to carry on indefinitely under these conditions. I sometimes wonder if the Government realise what life on a rubber estate is 1371 really like. We hear that the right hon. Gentleman is going to Malaya, and, incidentally, I hope he will go there before July, which was the date we first heard about. If he does go out there, I do plead with him not to spend all his time in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore surrounded by military guards. I hope he will spend a week-end on a rubber estate with the planters so that he can see what their lives are really like and the difficulties with which they have to contend.
Rubber planters today are living inside barbed wire fences, on which are lights shine at night to prevent anybody creeping through, while the telephone rings every hour with a call from the police to find out if the people are still alive. That is how they have been living for the last two years. If I may quote some passages from a letter from the wife a young planter, they will show what life is really like:We sleep with a Sten gun under our bed and a revolver in bed. If we go anywhere, the last things that are placed in the car are the guns and the baby's rattle. The baby appears to be cutting her teeth on a revolver.Yet these people are carrying on in conditions like that month after month. Those are the facts of the situation.
We on this side of the House would make three criticisms of the Government. First, we contend that they have not up to now sufficiently realised the seriousness of the situation, and they have continuously issued optimistic reports which have been disproved by events, and in this connection I want to quote one example from the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, who, on 3rd June last, made this statement in the House:Extraordinary progress has been made in the past few months in dealing with these disturbances and uncertainties. I think it can be said that the progress is good, that the security authorities have the situation well in hand, and that we can look forward to the complete elimination of this trouble over a period which I hope will not be too protracted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd June, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 2490.]All that sounds pretty hollow now.
My second criticism of the Government is that, while they have generally done the right thing, they have always done it too late. I will just run through the various things that have happened 1372 over the last few years—the series of unfortunate decisions. We started, of course, with the attempts to impose a constitution in a hurry, all of which had to be withdrawn and almost completely reversed. Then there was the well-meaning attempt to introduce trade unionism at a hand gallop, which resulted, as everyone predicted, in the unions being dominated by Communists within a very few months, and that had to be reversed. Then came the attempt to deprive the Government of the powers of banishment of offenders and of the control of secret societies. That, again, had to be reversed. Then we had this very unfortunate episode of the introduction of the Palestine police in a way which caused all this dissatisfaction among the Malayan police. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the report on that was only published yesterday.
Now, at last, we have the appointment of Sir Harold Briggs as a co-ordinator, and I want to say a word about him in a moment. But why did we have to wait two solid years for co-ordination at all? Our third criticism of the Government is that it seems to us that very often the right hand of the Foreign Office does not know what the left hand of the Colonial Office is doing. I am, of course, referring to the recognition of Communist China.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
Is it not true that the Leader of the Opposition urged the Government to recognise the People's Government of China on 17th November?
§ Mr. Gammans
As a matter of fact he did nothing of the sort. He said that the whole question of the recognition of Communist China would naturally have to be considered.
The question I wish to put to the Minister—and perhaps he will reassure us on it—is, can he tell us whether the Colonial Office was really consulted over the recognition of Communist China and the way in which that régime was recognised, that is, three days before the Colombo conference was held? Does the Minister still contend that this recognition has had no effect whatsoever on the intensity of the bandit campaign, because, if he takes that view, I can assure him that there is no one in Malaya prepared to accept it. Do the Government know that the day after we recognised the Communist régime, Malaya was plastered with 1373 Communist flags from one end of the country to the other? Is there any wonder, when the Communist régime in Peking is recognised, that the Chinese in Malaya look over their shoulders and wonder who is going to control Malaya in the next two or three years?
I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman read an article in yesterday's "Daily Telegraph" by Sir Keith Murdoch, the Australian, who has just come back from Malaya? In it, he said:Nothing could have been calculated more to encourage the rebels and frighten our essential supporters than Whitehall's recognition of the Chinese Communist Government. It made Communism respectable, and threw doubt on our sincerity. Chinese necessary for our cause could feel the knife slipping across their throats.He went on:Neither the Chinese nor the Malayan populations want the Communists among them; they want us to stay for at least a generation. They know that following us would come massacre and disaster.What, also, is going to happen with regard to the appointment of Communist consuls to the Chinese consulates in Malaya? We cannot evade this much longer. It will mean that we shall have people legally appointed to these consulates who can help the bandits in the jungle, not only with money, but in other ways as well. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has appreciated the resolution passed by the State Council of Perak two days ago protesting most strongly against the appointment of these consuls. The motion was proposed by a Chinese, Mr. Leong Yew Koh, who had had a bomb thrown at him only a few weeks ago and who actually addressed the House sitting in a chair. He said:If we allow a Communist consul in our State, nefarious action is inevitable. Contact with terrorists will be made and our anti-bandit campaign will be sabotaged. How are we to prevent this consul from putting pressure on Chinese here, because of their relatives in China, to force the Chinese to buy Communist victory bonds?The House is entitled to know what safeguards, if any, the people of Malaya will have against the appointment of these consuls. Are we going to restrict them to a particular area like the Communist countries restrict our diplomatic representatives, or are they to be allowed to carry on just as they wish?
These are our three criticisms of His Majesty's Government. What can be 1374 done? We hope, in this connection, that we shall hear something more than the statements made, not only in this House but in another place, during the past week. Let us get it out of our heads that there is any magic formula that can settle this matter. Do not let us have talks about new constitutions or the sending of more trade union organisers, or think that anything like that is going to settle this affair. This is not a nationalistic rising, but a war; and the only way to win a war is to fight it out. The Communists are adopting exactly the same technique as they adopted in Greece, Czechoslovakia, and Albania. This is a matter of fighting it out.
The second point with regard to what action can be taken is this. We have to admit that the present type of military and police action has very largely failed. One of the reasons why it has failed is because we have been compelled to use short-term National Service troops for a job for which they were never intended. By the time these men acquire jungle training, they are due to come back. If we have not enough Regular long-service troops, can we use more Gurkhas? Why not use the King's African Rifles and long-term service troops from Africa? These men fought magnificently, and with great efficiency in the jungles of Burma; they could fight equally well in the jungles of Malaya.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who raised this matter as long ago as September, 1948, said:If as we have so often suggested during the past two years an adequate Colonial Army had been built up, it would have been possible to draw upon it for men who were used to the bush and able to stand up to the climate.Has anything been done in that direction? It is not much good sending more half-trained troops.
What about equipment? Is there enough radio equipment? When this campaign first started, we were, unbelievable as it may be, short of rifles. Then we were short of Sten guns. What has happened to the radio equipment? Why is it, as I read yesterday in the report of Sir Alexander Maxwell on the police, that there are still lonely police stations without telephone or radio? Why is it that planters who are cut off have 1375 no means, even now, of getting in touch with headquarters? What about armoured cars? We were told only last week that more were being sent out. More being sent out after two years! What is happening? Is it true that the Army and the police in Malaya have never asked for them before? Where does the fault lie? Does it lie with Malaya for not asking for them, or with London for not sending them?
In my opinion the "Anti-bandit Month" has very largely failed because the Government have not yet regained the confidence of the people. When I was in Malaya, I went on a good few raids against tin stealers and gang robbers, and we always found that it was not much good going into the jungle on spec. One only goes into the jungle on information received. It was only because one knew that one was going to get them or had a good chance of getting them that one ever made a raid at all. That is equally applicable today. The police, however gallant, never catch these bandits, unless the Chinese population are prepared to give information. The bandit could not survive for a minute in the jungle without getting food and help outside. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to read an interesting book before going to Malaya he should spend Easter reading "The Jungle is Neutral." That would give him a good idea of the conditions. He would gather from it that without help from outside that bandits would not survive at all. The police would get help if the people of Malaya could be reassured that the Government means business and that they would not be left in the lurch in a short time.
We are told that General Briggs is a co-ordinator. If there is one word I distrust it is the word "co-ordination." In my experience it almost invariably means divided authority and muddled thinking. Can General Briggs give orders to the police and the military? Can he, on his own authority, clear an area of squatters or has that to go through the High Commissioner? Does he deal direct with the right hon. Gentleman, or does he have to deal with these links in the chain—the Commissioner of Police, the O.C. Troops, the High Commissioner and the Governor-General? What is wanted is not a co-ordinator but a supreme commander and a six months state of 1376 emergency under military law. I do not believe the country can be cleared without it.
What are our relations with Siam? We are told that a lot of these bandits are trained on the other side of the border. Are the Siamese co-operating with us in this matter? I have seen the suggestion made that we would cut the jungle on the frontier between ourselves and Siam and put up block-houses and barbed wire. I suggest we should sow the area very heavily with mines. That is the sort of operation we would have done during the war and would have thought nothing of it. Is it completely beyond us now? Is it not feasible? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us if it has been examined at least?
Has any approach been made to Australia and New Zealand to help us in this matter? I believe it was made before but perhaps with a new Government in power in both countries something could be done in that direction. After all, if Singapore fell Australia and New Zealand would be faced with a most deadly peril. Sir Keith Murdoch said yesterday:More men skilled in jungle fighting would help, and I believe that these could be obtained from Australia.Time is getting short, and there is a limit to what the planters and tin miners can stand. General Mao Tse-Tung and Stalin have signed an agreement in the Kremlin. If it is on the normal pattern of Communist agreements what matters is the secret clauses. I wonder if the subject matter of one of those secret clauses is an all-out military attack on South-East Asia to capture the rich rice bowl of French Indo-China, Siam and Burma and also to strike a deadly blow at Britain's interest in Malaya.
It is no good talking about closing the dollar gap if we lose Malaya. Last year Malaya produced as many dollars as the total exports of the United Kingdom put together. What we want to be reassured about is not only what the Government is doing to put down Communism within Malaya itself, but that, if the worst should happen and Malaya should be attacked from without, His Majesty's Government is capable of dealing not only with the inevitable fifth columnism from within but also capable of repelling any invaders that might come from the north.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
While I hardly agree with a word that the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) has just spoken, I must say that, in sharp contra-distinction to his speech last night, he did express himself in moderate terms at least, and that is something we ought to welcome.
I have been listening to the theories he has put forward. It seems to me that his whole assumption was that only by wholesale military suppression could one hope to provide a remedy for the disturbing situation in Malaya. I do not think it is pandering to sentimentalism to say that there is probably an alternative to that. When one considers the economic situation that has developed in Malaya one cannot help remembering the words of the former Chinese ambassador to this country who, when speaking in Geneva, said "the sky was dark with the wings of the chickens coming home to roost."
I am not making a party point but will not the hon. Gentleman agree that if we had poured back into Malaya in pre-war years some of the great wealth extracted from Malaya, we would not be faced with this situation?
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to agree. I emphatically disagree. Is he aware that the International Labour Office sent a delegation to Malaya before the war and they came back and reported that Malaya had the highest standard of living of any country in Asia and one which exceeded that of more than half the countries of Europe?
§ Mr. Snow
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me. I am not prepared to accept the view that if the position of Malaya was good in comparison with other countries, it was good enough. I was not trying to make a party point. My party was in office several times before the war. I was working myself in a colonial dependency under a Labour Government when things were permitted which should not have been permitted.
As I understand the argument of the hon. Gentleman, he was saying that in fact a state of war should be declared and that the whole administration should become a military operation. What are the implications of that from the commercial point of view? Am I not right in saying that, 1378 if a state of war were declared, insurance coverage which only applies at present in conditions of what are termed "riot and civil commotion," would cease? If that international insurance ceased, it would have a very bad effect on the commercial interests of this country in Malaya.
There are other matters I should like to dispute with the hon. Gentleman. I agree that we are not fighting nationalism but fighting an internationalism which is in opposition to everything for which we stand as social democrats. But when we have said that, how are we going to provide some alternative which will attract the inhabitants of Malaya and distract their attention from the baits offered to them by Communist political forces? It is not going to be easy to provide that alternative. I do not think we have had enough time to offer that alternative, although it does exist and will exist if we are given the time.
Not enough credit has been given to the administration for the things that have been done. This country has provided £8 million in emergency contributions. That money comes from taxation imposed upon ordinary men and women in the factories. This country has provided £20 million grants for the scheme of War Damage Compensation, plus an £18,500,000 interest-free loan for the same fund with money provided out of taxation levied in this country. We have provided 43 million dollars from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. All this money comes out of taxation levied in this country.
While I think the hon. Gentleman made a good point just now when he said that the dollar exports from Malaya were greater than the total dollar exports from this country—I think that is a substantial point, and I agree with him—the fact must be realised that, in origin, the capital for that development came from the work of the ordinary people of this country. It is rather regrettable that the hon. Gentleman has written articles which have been published in Malaya and which have done great disservice to the very good actions which have been carried out by this Administration on behalf of the people. He knows that I am not making an unfair point. He has written very partisan articles indeed in Malaya which I do not think he should have written.
1379 I want to address one question to the Colonial Secretary. Does he know anything about an organisation called the Singapore Music and Dramatic Association? If he does not, I would suggest that he looks into it, because I understand that that cultural organisation—at least, I suppose it is cultural—entertained Tan Kah Kee recently in Singapore. It is, in fact, a front for the Communist Party in Singapore, and one of the disturbing things that resulted from Tan Kah Kee coming to Singapore was that he appeared to convince some of the Chinese merchants that if they "stepped on the wagon" now and reserved a seat, when the Chinese Communists did take over Singapore they would be all right. He apparently convinced them that that would be quite an easy thing to arrange.
I am very disturbed by the fact that, by and large, this trouble in Malaya is Chinese. The Malayans themselves, so far as I can gather from reading such documents as I can find, are not in this rising; it is Chinese in origin. If that is so, is it not time that we provided more and more scope for the native Malayans—I use that term advisedly—to participate more in the economic life of the country? I think the hon. Member for Hornsey will agree with me when I say that many of these Chinese merchants who live a very ostentatious life and who provide a sort of social provocation the whole time, are at the root of the trouble. To some extent I think the Europeans are equally to blame. Standards of living that they demand in places like Singapore are a permanent provocation to the ordinary people of the country.
I have worked in Eastern parts of the world myself, and I know it is not a reasonable thing to say that a European should not have many amenities there which are not necessary in this country. Climatic conditions and other things make it desirable that he should have various additional amenities, but the Chinese and Europeans and the commercial elements in Singapore over-do it, and by over-doing it they provide provocation. The ordinary people say "Is the present state of society just? Should these people have this apparent great wealth when the ordinary people of the country are living in such a state of serious economic depression?" I suppose that sounds like class warfare. It is 1380 not meant to be. I have lived in those countries, and I know it is a fact that Europeans in India did the same thing. The military and the commercial elements in India year after year provided a scene which appeared to the ordinary Indians to be economically unjust.
I want to put this last point to the Minister. I wonder if the commercial elements in Malaya—the Chinese and the British—are making a fair contribution to the expenditure on military operations at the present time. Is there not some justification for saying that an increase in taxation would be a good thing? I say that because we cannot indefinitely pour out the wealth of this country provided by the hard work of the people in our factories, and expect them to sit by and see this vast expenditure going abroad which can only result in a depression of our own standards of living in this country. From what I can learn, I think, the defence contributions by residents in Malaya should be stepped up.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)
In the short time that I propose to occupy I do not want to develop too much in detail the situation in Malaya. The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) knows a great deal more about what is actually happening and what has happened in Malaya than I do. What I want to emphasise is that what is happening in Malaya is only one aspect of the threatening developments that are going on right through that area.
I cannot possibly enter into a quarrel with the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) as to whether the social habits of the British and the Chinese—and let me remind him that there are also Indians and the Malayans themselves to consider—may have caused some social dissatisfaction in that part of the world. The point is that from Pakistan and India, to Ceylon across to Malaya and Borneo, and on to Australia and New Zealand, there is a threat developing which has got to be met, not in isolated patches or pieces, not in this Colony or that, but throughout the whole of that part of the world. At the moment it is our misfortune that it is we British in Malaya who are engaged in a hot war. But the importance of our success in Malaya means just as much to all the 1381 other nations in that area as it does to our own interests.
It is a lamentable picture to look upon—to think what the situation was at the end of the war or, indeed, up to the beginning of 1946, and to think what it is today. I do not propose to say much about the situation in India and Pakistan, except to express my great satisfaction that, at long last, the two Prime Ministers have got together. But in connection with the country with which we are dealing today, the seriousness is that the resistance which those two Dominions ought to be capable of making against this threatening peril to the whole of that area is grievously handicapped by their own internal disputes. I read last night a paper in which I learned that there are some 5,000 Communists in the gaols of India today. I can tell the House that when the communal strife occurred in 1946, there is little doubt that it was inflamed by Communists. I had to preside over a commission, and there was certainly evidence to that effect.
I read in the same paper to which I have just referred, that there is the clearest evidence that the Communists have been inflaming the trouble in Calcutta during these last days. One can say nothing about Burma, except that, there again, its capacity to resist this threat of Communism has been infinitely weakened, and I rejoice that anything is being done—and I hope much will be done—to try to strengthen it with a view to resisting this threat.
I pass on to Malaya. We seem to be dealing with this country on our own, and much to my sorrow I can see no general policy at all between all the Powers and nations who are interested in the South-East Asia area. I disliked strongly, and still do, the recognition of Communist China. I thought it was a grave mistake at the time.
§ Sir P. Spens
With great respect, I do not mind. What I feel is far worse is that that recognition was not made in consultation with the United States. It was against their policy. As far as I know, it was not done in consultation with anybody else. If I am wrong I shall be corrected. There are ourselves, there 1382 are the French in Indo-China, there are the Dutch in Indonesia, there are the Americans with their interests in the Philippines and the Pacific area, and there are the whole of our Dominions and Colonies; and there ought to be, and must be, one common policy to deal with the whole situation.
There is a suggestion that at the forthcoming meeting of Commonwealth representatives this threat is to be dealt with by trying to raise the standard of living throughout these countries. That is ultimately the only cure and safeguard against Communism, but it will take years to achieve. Anybody who has lived in the East knows how long it takes to raise the standard of living among Eastern people. It is difficult enough to do so at home, where such an improvement takes a generation to achieve, but to raise the standard of living of many millions of Eastern people, in order to try to eliminate the ground on which Communism might flourish, will be the task of at least a century. Does anyone think that Communist forces are likely to wait that length of time? Communist forces are infiltrating into the whole of this area, and a common policy must be put forward, and put forward quickly. I should like to see, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey suggested, Australia, New Zealand and other nations, if necessary, asked to help in dealing with Malaya. Let us get everybody together so that they may all realise what has to be done.
I agree with the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth that the chief trouble in Malaya comes from the Chinese. When I was in Singapore two years ago news was being received day after day of the landings of boatloads of Chinese on the Malayan coasts. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say what steps are being taken to patrol those coasts against that sort of thing. The Chinese came at first by sea—which is the natural element of most of the people in that part of the world—and unless the Navy are co-operating with other forces, I am quite certain that the infiltration will continue.
My main point is to suggest that this problem is not merely a matter for the Colonial Secretary, or for this country alone. It is a matter in which His Majesty's Government should get together 1383 with all the other Governments concerned. We must all formulate a plan—an immediate plan, and not merely one for improving conditions in the countries affected—and work together, realising that this is a campaign which is being directed from somewhere, which is never short of either money or arms, and if sometimes there is a shortage of men, when one lot disappears another lot arrives. Unless all this is done, and without delay, that part of the world will go over to Communism, lock, stock and barrel.
I want to say a word about Indonesia. It is not unnatural that when nations start on nationalistic programmes, they accept help from whatever source they can get it; and no body of men is quicker to realise that there are people ready to be helped than are those who direct the Communist campaign. It would be wrong to suggest that those who adopt nationalistic policies in that part of the world are all Communists. On the other hand, there is a terrible danger of those people getting financial and personal help and training for their leaders from Communist sources. I ask the right hon. Gentlemen who are concerned with this question to remember that. Communism has infiltrated into some of these areas indirectly through assistance which has been given to those nationalistic forces, and to those who know the life of the people it is surprising in what unexpected places examples of this are to be found. I hope that when the meeting at Sydney takes place in May, first and foremost on the programme will be the question of how members of the Commonwealth are to co-operate together and with others in dealing with and defeating this menace.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I listened with very great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), who has a very great knowledge of the part of the world which we are discussing. I agree with him that the trouble in Malaya is all part of the cold war, and that if it is not directed from the Kremlin it is directed from the Kremlin's agents in the East who met a short time ago in Calcutta. This war is a war with Communist imperialism, and it is being fought out in Malaya with weapons suitable to the Malayan terrain. I also join with the hon. Member in expressing 1384 admiration, not merely for the planters—I know the sort of life they lead—but also for the miners, officials and others in Malaya who are having an extremely thin time.
In the speeches we have heard from the other side of the House, the fact that we are dealing with guerrilla forces has been kept in the background. No forces are more difficult to deal with than guerrilla forces, and I would remind the hon. Member for Hornsey, who is equally aware of this, that there are millions of acres of jungle in Malaya. It is an undeveloped country and it is easy for guerrilla bands to hide themselves; it is very difficult indeed to track them down. Although the forces on the Communist side are small—they can be numbered in thousands—they are volatile, and we have undertaken an extremely difficult task in trying to extirpate them. Let us, therefore, in all fairness to the Government, admit that the task of our authorities in Malaya is an exceedingly difficult one. We have only to think of what is happening in this country, which is highly developed and nearly all built upon, and our difficulties in putting down "cosh" bandits and others. Anyone who realises the extent of our troubles here in putting down these law breakers can imagine what the position is like in Malaya.
I asked a Question the other day of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and the answer which I received was very disconcerting. I was under the impression that originally the bandits in Malaya were Chinese, who came across the border from Siam, and that recruitment was from their ranks. In his answer to me, however, my right hon. Friend said that recruiting was now done locally. He told me people were working during the day at their ordinary work and that they became bandits by night. I think that is the gist of what he said. He said also press gang methods were in force for getting recruits for Communist bands in Malaya itself. That was a very disquieting statement in my opinion. That is all very difficult to put down. I can remember when I was out in Palestine and the troubles were on, how the fellaheen, though working at their crops by day, would take up rifles by night. We are dealing with an extremely difficult thing, and I think that hon. Members opposite 1385 are not giving the Government adequate credit for what they are trying to do.
The suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Hornsey that martial law should be proclaimed. Well, martial law is proclaimed in certain circumstances, for instance rebellion. There is no rebellion in Malaya. Martial law is proclaimed sometimes in a particular area—one particular spot—where there is riot and commotion. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman, Have not the Government in Malaya adequate legal powers? Is it right to impose martial law on the whole country, on innocent and guilty alike? Because martial law is very onerous indeed, and gives tremendous powers to the authorities, and imposes heavy restrictions on the whole population. I do not think there is any justification for imposing martial law, and I think it would be very unwise to impose it.
As regards the recognition of the Communist Government in China, I am well aware that our people out there were foremost in demanding that recognition for commercial reasons amongst others. It is quite incorrect to say, however, as was said here a moment ago, that recognition was accorded without the knowledge of or consultation with the American Government. As I understand it, the American Government were consulted from start to finish, and I think I am right in saying that the American Government raised no opposition at all to the recognition of the Communist Government by Britain.
Possibly the Government in Malaya have made optimistic statements from time to time that they had got the troubles in hand, when they bad not, and that has been a mistake; but while that may be so, it is for us to back up the Government in Malaya and to give them all the arms and help they require. We should ask the Government in Malaya to show that they intend to finish this job however troublesome it may be. We must persuade the Malayan people, Malays and Chinese both, that we intend to win the struggle, and show the people of Malaya that they have no hope of anything from the Communists except disaster. I urge my right hon. Friend to press on relentlessly and ruthlessly with every measure necessary to support the Government in Malaya in putting down this trouble in Malaya.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow). I was rather astonished by it. It seemed to me from the picture that he drew that he had not got beneath the surface of the problems of the lives of the Europeans, the Malays and the Chinese in Malaya, He drew a picture of exceedingly wealthy people living in ease and comfort—ease of mind as well as ease of body. His picture was a totally and utterly untrue one to draw of how the average European, the average Chinese, the average Malay lives in that country. An enormous change has come over the whole situation since the days 20 years ago when there were booms in various local commodities. I think it is common ground between everybody in the House that a very serious deterioration has come upon the whole situation in the last three months.
I should like to take up one other point that the hon. Gentleman raised, and that was about the insurance, because he was not quite accurate about that. It is perfectly true there is grave danger to the flow of rubber and tin—which, incidentally, provides this country with very much more than it gives out to Malaya in the sums the hon. Gentleman mentioned and provides it in dollars, too. That flow is in real danger. In the insurance contracts borne by the insurance companies there is a clause that they can give either 30 or seven days' notice. It by no means depends on any act of the Government, or on whether there is a declaration of any sort by the Government or not. It depends entirely on whether, in their view, the risk they are asked to write is a war risk or a peace risk, for no insurance company can honestly write a war risk. Therefore, the danger, whether martial law is declared or not, does not arise from a declaration of the Government but from the facts of the case.
One of the points I put to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday was how he was going to tackle that, because at the present moment the local authorities have refused to put into operation any scheme that could take over when the private companies could no longer underwrite because they felt they could not pay out. 1387 The local authorities at the moment have said they will introduce no scheme unless it is self-balancing in the first year. It is quite impossible for anybody to give a guarantee that any insurance scheme will be self-balancing in the first year. If we are to insure the flow of rubber and tin, which at the present time continues owing only to the great gallantry and perseverance of the Europeans, the Chinese and Malays working in those industries, which are absolutely vital, the Colonial Secretary must use his powers to break down the local point of view which is quite untenable.
§ Mr. Snow
I do not wish to dispute the point about insurance, because the hon. Gentleman knows more about it than I do, but I think there is substance in what I said on the first point. He criticised me for painting a wrong picture. I hope I made it clear—if I did not I should like to do so now—that I was referring to the urban mercantile classes, not to the planters and their associates, for whom I have a very profound respect.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The very fact that the hon. Gentleman referred only to the urban classes, proves my contention that his picture was wrong. It is a danger, in any case, to generalise about the Chinese. One of the most significant facts in the whole of Malaya at the present moment is the split between the good and the bad Chinese, and I shall refer to that a little later on. I am entirely at one with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) in his analysis of the situation as having deteriorated greatly, but I am not certain whether the causes of it are sufficiently clear. It may well be that an impulse to the deterioration has been given by the recognition of the Communist Government in China; I believe that to be the case; but I do not quite agree that it is the main cause.
I believe that the main cause—although the recognition of the Communist Government in China is an important contributory factor—is that the bandits have changed from what they were one year ago when I was out there. Then they were ill-clad, ill-directed bands of thugs with no worked out plan at all. Their work of destruction was very much less. Today they are people who are fed, 1388 directed, clothed, armed and alimented, given directions and order by bodies in Malaya itself. These local bodies in turn may be helped from outside, and I have no doubt that in many cases they are, but before the recognition of the Communist Government in China there were already signs that parts of the Chinese community were disaffected, and felt discontented because under the scheme of His Majesty's Government greater political power has been given to the Malays than to the Chinese, and that that discontent was being worked upon by Chinese elements already in the country. So the discontented Chinese were registering their protest and trying to keep their positions by this means.
I have often defended many parts of the Chinese community in this House, but I should like to say here and now that, for those parts of the Chinese community who may be suffering under this discontent because greater political power has been given to the Malays, there is no more reprehensible way and no worse way of going about their grievance, no way more likely to ensure that they will get no sympathy, than that in which they are indulging. In nearly every town, village and district there now cells, all largely composed of Chinese, who are often made the playthings of Communism, but who are themselves undoubtedly levying considerable sums of money from other Chinese who may not hold the same political views as they; and this works from very high up all the way down.
The greatest possible danger is that this movement is being financed and carried on from the centres that I have enumerated, and leads to, I think, the inescapable conclusion that we must attack the cells in the towns and in the villages; that is, the bases from which the bandits or guerrillas—whatever you like to call them—draw all their sustenance, and are enabled to continue. The operations which were carried out by our troops, and are being carried out, are hitting at the perimeter, and that is an excessively difficult task. The percentage of the country that is cleared and is free compared with the jungle into which the guerrillas can disappear with ease and move about—and anybody who has read Colonel Spencer-Chapman's book "The Jungle is Neutral" will realise this—is very small.
1389 Therefore, I believe that it is the duty of His Majesty's Government, not only to think in terms of assisting, reinforcing and equipping those who are the spearhead for the attacks on the bandits, but to take vital preventive measures at the bases. For that purpose we need an enormouse increase in the C.I.D. part of the police, with unlimited funds to be used by them in the traditional manner that the Chinese understand—because they can be persuaded by monetary means just as often as they can be persuaded by means of force. That is the only way to counter their fifth column methods—which are by the levying of money to keep these guerrillas going—and it is of vital importance. Whether or not we shall be able to do that quickly and in time is a little doubtful. Time is not on our side in solving this particular problem. We all expected an improvement, but we have had a real deterioration.
The first thing to do is, not only to think in terms of co-ordinating at the top—which I do not believe will have a very great effect—but to find the right type of people for the C.I.D. work. One of the tragedies is the disappearance of so many of the right type of police officer, who knew the Chinese dialect, who knew the Chinese in his own district, who knew the doings of the secret societies, and who had that personal intimate knowledge which enables one to smell when something is going wrong in a particular place, when there is a new movement, when new faces appear, especially coming from outside.
The trouble that there has been in the police force has had a far wider effect than appears to be realised, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to see how many of those who could carry out this most difficult but essential part of the work can be retained, or asked to rejoin I do not agree with the analysis made regarding the work done by the different types of troops, as between the conscripts and the Regulars. In both those types excellent work was done by some, while others were found less fitted for the particular work. We certainly ought to pay a tribute to the work that was done by a great many of the conscript troops out there.
Another problem which the right hon. Gentleman will have to handle when he 1390 goes out there, and possibly before, is the difficulty in carrying out extradition orders. One of the great troubles has been that the squatters have formed a sort of band which enables the guerrillas to get intelligence, to hide themselves, and to be guerrillas one day and squatters tapping a rubber plantation the next. Very many of them have been cleared away, but more will have to be cleared before real safety can be ensured in any particular district. Up until a little while ago the extradition of these thoroughly undesirable people, largely Communist in their outlook, took place in considerable quantities, and they were sent to the ports of Amoy and Swatow, from which most of them came. For a long time now those ports have not been open, and I regret to say that owing to the mishandling of this question last year by the Foreign Office, and the failure to appoint a consul there, there was even then a gap.
Today, one of the most important problems in Malaya is undoubtedly that so many of the people who are taken in for protective purposes from this screen of squatters who help the Communist bands, and who give them invaluable information about what our troops and forces are doing, are still in the country in large numbers in camps. Has the right hon. Gentleman thought of the danger, supposing that those camps were broken into and those forces released? I believe that as we have recognised Communist China it would be perfectly in order for us to ask that the ports of Amoy and Swatow should be opened, so that we can send back these people, who clearly should be welcomed there for their political attitude, and who clearly are not welcome where they are at the present moment.
The question of appointing a high officer out there must be considered a little in relation to what has happened on the civil side. There is still the separate Federation of Malaya, Singapore with a Governor, and above them a Commissioner. That has not worked very well. There are still considerable differences and stresses between the acts and the speeches of the two councils, and the fact that there is at present a wise, able and experienced co-ordinator has not affected that. Indeed, one of the things to which the Colonial Secretary should pay attention when he is out there, and which may prevent him listening to the 1391 demands which are being made for even further powers to be given locally to elected members, is undoubtedly this. If examination is made of the records of the councils up to date, he will see how small a step towards real responsibility has been shown by the sectional members of those councils.
In my view, very often the council scarcely speaks with one voice on any occasion. They are still in that stage of development—it is quite natural; I am not saying this in any spirit of blame, because it is natural in the early stage—where the full sense of responsibility of people who have on their shoulders the task of directing the government of the country has not yet been realised. In the present emergency it seems to me very wise to sound the same note of warning as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor did on 3rd June last year, when he was pressed by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) to make even further advances.
Unless there is something like stability in the political sphere, how are we to base operations against what is now quite an important section of the community, the Communists? The incidents to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey drew attention, where when the Nationalist Government was recognised a large number of flags were flown, and there were rejoicings, are some measure of proof of what I have just said: that it is among the civilian population that we must look for the source from which the guerrillas draw nearly all the things that they must have to keep going.
I should like to refer for a moment to the question of Indonesia, because it is affecting the economic, and I think may well affect the political, life of the country. In Indonesia, after a number of events to which I will not now refer, self-government has been given to the people of Indonesia, but they have not yet been able to find a very stable or easy form of government, for one overwhelming reason: that they have not yet got a civil service—that cement which holds any governing body together—to take the place of those who have now relinquished their posts, many of whom have returned to Holland.
They cannot be replaced quickly, and if, as a result of the great difficulties and 1392 dangers experienced, not only by planters and miners, to whom reference has already been made, but by the great band of civil servants and those who have to go out for the various firms there and are responsible, in large degree, for carrying on the mining and rubber getting, the difficulty of recruitment, which is already apparent, becomes even greater because the Government are unable to stop the deterioration in the local situation. If young people realise that it will be difficult to take their young wives and children out there, or to have a family out there, then in a very few years we shall have hit at the class who are really carrying on the most difficult and dangerous task of all in Malaya—that of good civil administration.
This banditry or guerrilla warfare has gone on so long and its effects are becoming so deeply imbedded in the minds of the people, that it will lead to difficulties in recruitment. This problem should very much occupy the attention of the Colonial Secretary. By all means let us have more and better equipped troops for the difficult job of attacking the bandits as and when they can be found, but let the right hon. Gentleman devote a great deal of attention to the question of obtaining intelligence for breaking up of counter-espionage and other methods available by cells all through the country, from which the guerrillas draw their power to harm, which unless, the matter is handled much more vigorously and on a much wider sweep than is the case now, may lead to upsetting the whole of our economic balance. We are prone to take it for granted that because tin and rubber have flowed from Malaya and have played a great part in reducing the dollar balance, that that must continue. However, there is real reason to fear that that will not continue unless something like an all-out effort on the lines that have been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and myself is undertaken, not after July, when the Minister is going there, but from tomorrow onwards.
§ 1.11 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
The hon. Member for Bury and Ratcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) has left me three minutes in which to make my speech, and therefore I shall try to make it as direct and sharp as I can. I do so with pleasure because I am a constituent of 1393 the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), who opened this Debate. He said that this problem cannot be solved by a magic formula. I agree, but his speech, in which he suggested that the solution was to regard this as a war which must be fought to a conclusion, and that the correct course is to appoint a supreme commander and to apply six months martial law, is a magic formula. Looking at this problem only from one point of view, that suggestion is bound to fail to find any solution.
In the two minutes which I have, I want to urge very strongly upon my right hon. Friend that he should balance that kind of advice by a different kind of advice—that he shall seek in Malaya in these coming months to concentrate upon two points. The first point is the raising of the standard of life of the whole of the people. The hon. Gentleman says that this must take centuries, but I suggest to the Minister that a very big beginning can immediately be made, and if the confidence of the people of Malaya is to be secured the first step should be to lay down an equality of remuneration for similar posts between the Malayan people and the Europeans who are there. The teaching profession, the medical profession and the legal profession are indications of the difference which now exists.
The second point is to urge that, despite the situation in Malaya at the present time, we should proceed vigorously with the democratisation of the constitution. At present in Malaya there is not a single elected member of the Legislative Council. There is a liaison committee now in Malaya regularly attended by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the Chief Commissioner for South-East Asia, and that has declared in favour of two things. In the first place, it has declared for an executive council which shall have unofficial representatives; and secondly, for a citizenship based upon birth and residence for all the races in Malaya. I urge very strongly, indeed, that the Colonial Secretary should carry out both those proposals.
My final point is that at some point in this struggle we must reach a stage where an amnesty will be necessary. When that point is reached, let us be strong in the fact that our Government in Malaya rests on social justice to the people and to their political freedom. If we are strong in 1394 those two spheres, we need not fear the competition of the Communists in Malaya.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
I welcome this opportunity of discussing the Malayan situation, and I am grateful to all those who have spoken. I begin by saying that everyone who has spoken has an advantage which I do not possess, in that they have been speaking of a country which they know personally. I am very grateful that they have brought their experience of the conditions in Malaya to bear upon the contributions they have made today.
There have been in the House today in this Debate and in the Press both here and in Malaya, criticisms of the Government on the ground that we do not sufficiently realise the seriousness of the situation. I want to begin by reassuring everyone that there is no foundation for this criticism at all. There never has been, and there is not now, any disposition to regard the situation in Malaya as anything other than serious or to expect that there can be a rapid or easy solution to this very difficult problem. We also think that there is no magic formula. Everyone who has spoken in this Debate is agreed upon that. One can understand the reactions of the people who are involved in this very difficult situation. We must all realise that it is an ordeal and a very great strain. This kind of warfare—this shooting, running and hiding—and the fear that at any time there may be an attack on oneself or one's friends is a very great strain upon everyone. That must be realised very clearly from the beginning.
I should like to give the House a factual account of the steps we are taking to deal with this situation, and in the course of that I shall deal with most of the questions that have been put to me in this Debate. First let me give some account of the operation of these bandits or guerrillas in recent months. By December of last year the attacks of the bandits had been reduced to an average of about 23 each week. Earlier in the year it had been on a much higher level. There is no doubt about it that during the last half of 1949 there was every indication that we were getting slowly and steadily on top of the problem. Some of the statements made by my 1395 predecessor and others, some of which have been quoted today, must be related to the situation of that time, and to the fact that week by week and month by month in the course of 1949 the attacks of the bandits were going down, which gave every reason to believe that the situation was improving, if slowly, nevertheless steadily and regularly.
There is no doubt about it, too, that the bandits themselves were feeling the effects and their organisations, morale and supplies were diminishing. Since the New Year the attacks have increased to about 50 or at a peak period 60 a week. This determined intensification of activity is perhaps largely due to the bandits' fear of the threat to their cause provided by Anti-Bandit month, in which the support for the Government's actions by the entire civilian population was such as to hamper the bandits freedom of movement and supply. Everyone will agree that one of the cardinal features and essential needs is to maintain and increase the confidence, support and co-operation of the civilian population.
Perhaps I may give figures from the beginning of this campaign in June, 1948, until the present time. Questions have been asked about them, so I expect they will be of general interest. During that period, 1,138 bandits have been killed, 646 have been captured and 359 have surrendered, a total of 2,143. The estimated number of armed bandits still operating is about 3,000. During the same period 323 police, 154 members of our troops and Fighting Services, and 803 civilians, have been killed. Sometimes there are exaggerated accounts, which do no good to anyone, of the effects of the campaign upon the bandits and upon our own people.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not know what that question means. If my hon. Friend is asking for information perhaps he will be good enough to put his question on the Paper.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
How many people are in detention camps, not only bandits but those who have been helping them?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I tried vainly to elicit at Question time yesterday from the Minister of Defence a reply to show how much military expenditure there has been in Malaya since the end of last year. Could the right hon. Gentleman assist me in any way? A Member of this House is entitled to know how much money has been spent since the end of last year.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All I can say is that I have not the information and that I do not know whether the information is available. In any case, that question would be better addressed not to me but to my colleague in the Defence Ministry.
The purpose of this anti-bandit effort was to rally the whole of the people against Communist banditry. I believe the House will be glad to know that there were nearly 500,000 volunteers, which is an indication of the success of the campaign and of its support from the general population. The campaign was never intended as a measure which could end the emergency, but as a rallying point for the civilian population and the securing of its support. It has shown very good results indeed. Out of it will come increasing co-operation from the civilian population. If I stress this point it is because, in warfare of this kind, the increasing support and confidence of the civilian population is one of the factors in success.
Plans for the continuation of this voluntary effort beyond the month for which it was originally organised are being put into operation. The chief extension is the development of the auxiliary police forces in the towns and villages. This will enable regular police to give more attention to their operational duties and will perhaps relieve them of some other duties for which the auxiliaries were formed. In addition, we are enlarging our schemes for resettling squatters. This scheme is marked by regular and continuous forms of activity to help everybody concerned in this campaign.
I want to mention a few facts about the position of the police and the Services engaged in this campaign. The police have been steadily built up from 9,500 in 1948 to 70,000 today. That figure includes 15,000 regulars, 33,000 special constables and 17,000 auxiliary police. The special 1397 constables are full-time, and 693 new officers and men have been flown out to take charge of them and to train them. The auxiliary police are voluntary and unpaid, and consist mainly of guards.
They will also be assisted by the auxiliaries recruited during Anti-Bandit month in doing what is normally the work of the police so as to free the police for the more important duties of the campaign. Sir Alexander Maxwell has just published the report of his mission to inquire into the organisation of the Malayan police. Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House. I hope that hon. Members will read it. I am awaiting the High Commissioner's recommendation, but I think it is fair to point out that the report discounts the exaggerated stories of dissension in the Forces and makes it clear that the Forces are loyal and united.
In regard to the Armed Forces, the present strength of British and Gurkha troops actually in operation against the bandits is approximately 11,000. In addition, there are 3,500 men of the Malay Regiment. The strength of the Forces in Malaya will be increased by about 2,000 troops with the moving of the 26th Gurkha brigade from Hong Kong, which will be completed very soon. Additional aircraft are also being sent, including squadrons from the United Kingdom.
Questions have been asked about armoured vehicles. The Minister of War gave details in reply to a Question on the subject the other day showing what steps are being taken to supply additional armoured vehicles. A question was also asked about wireless equipment, by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), among others. We know that this is a matter of very great importance. I am glad to say that nearly all the outstanding orders have now been met. The radio expert from the United Kingdom has recently advised on the police wireless network in Malaya and orders have been placed on his advice. They are being assembled urgently for despatch by air.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
In view of the vital importance of Malaya as the front line of freedom in the fight against Communism, may I ask 1398 whether it has priority in troops and supplies over any other theatre of war?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am speaking for the moment about the wireless equipment. The matter is of great importance and it is not unrelated to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher). I said that the orders were being urgently dealt with and assembled and were being flown out by air.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I should not like to make a general statement of that kind. These instruments are required because they are of urgent and vital importance.
I want to say a word about Commonwealth Forces and about the suggestion that has been made that assistance should be sought from other members of the Commonwealth. All that I can say about that is that the House can be assured that the possibility is not being overlooked.
I was asked about co-operation with Siam. I am glad to say that in August of last year an understanding was reached with the Siamese authorities whereby Malayan police patrols accompanied by Siamese liaison officers were permitted to cross into Siam, and Siamese police permitted to cross the border in the same way. There is a growing and increasing co-operation, and we realise how very important it is. Already there are good results from this co-operation, which is being continued and expanded. I am very grateful indeed for the continued co-operation which is given by the Siamese authorities in this matter.
In regard to reinforcements in the future I can only repeat what was said by the Under Secretary of State for War, speaking for the Government in the House on 20th March:While it is reasonable to hope, and Indeed reasonable to expect, that the military Forces as now strengthened will prove sufficient for the present operations, we are not proposing to close the door to a re-assessment of our requirements."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1702.]Indeed, they will be kept under review continuously.
I should like to say a few words about the recent appointment of General Briggs 1399 as Director of Operations. I hope that this will be regarded as a full answer to the criticisms which have been made of the plethora of authorities in Malaya. General Briggs has an admirable record of service in the war with the Indian Army, and his experience as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Burma will, we believe, be of inestimable value to him in his new task. I am certain—so are my colleagues—that no better man could have been found for the task—I am using the word "task," for we have not found a better word in English, although there is one in Welsh—of co-ordinating the plans for action and co-ordinating the activities of the various parts of the Forces which have been assigned to this operation.
One hon. Member proposed that there should be martial law in Malaya. He was the only one who has made that suggestion. All I can say—I am sure he knows this too—is that the demand for martial law in Malaya has come from a very few people out there and that there is a very great amount of opinion there against it. It is important to remember that we have always aimed at the fullest co-operation between the civil and military forces in this campaign, for there is a dual task. There is not only the military campaign to rid the area of the bandits, but once the area is rid of them it is essential that the civil administration shall be built up very quickly.
The hon. Member for Bury referred to the importance of the civil administration. It would not be doing the job properly just to clear areas by military action and to leave civil administration on one side. It must be remembered that the job is the dual one of military operations and, at the same time, the building up of civil administration strong enough to hold the territory cleared by the military forces.
§ Mr. Gammans
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the three questions I asked him about General Briggs? First, can he give orders—
§ Mr. Griffiths
May I go on? I was coming to that. I merely wanted to show that there is a dual task of military operations and civil administration in order to give the background for the appointment of General Briggs and for 1400 bestowing upon him the powers which he has. General Briggs will be directly responsible to the High Commissioner, and he will be in a position to give instructions to both the police and the military forces in regard to the planning and execution of the campaign. The Commissioner of Police and the heads of the Armed Forces in Malaya will, of course, retain the responsibility for the discipline, training and administration of their respective arms, but let me leave no doubt in the minds of anyone that General Briggs will have all the practical powers which a strategic commander requires in this situation. I hope that answers the question put by the hon. Member.
I have said that there is no complacency here or in Malaya on the part of the Government, but I want to urge that, whereas some criticism and suggestions are all right, at the same time suggestions that the situation is being carelessly or insufficiently assessed do harm to the progress we all wish to see and burk the difficulties within which we have to operate and do far less than justice to those in Malaya who are bearing the burden. I am certain that the High Commissioner and all the others are tackling their job with the clearest appreciation of what is involved and with the utmost determination, and I believe that, although it will be a big and difficult job, in the end we shall prevail.
I am sure the House will join with me in paying a tribute to all of them, to the men of the Army, the Air Force and the Police, who are bearing the brunt of these very difficult and trying operations, to the auxiliaries who are gallantly defending their posts under constant threat and danger, and to all those who have recently volunteered for duty to eradicate the menace, and also to the great mass of the civil population who have been so constant in holding to the road of ordered progress for their country and in fighting against the bandits. I would specially commend those of the Chinese community who have stoutly resisted the threats and intimidation brought to bear upon them and are standing loyally by us, and also all the people of all races who have maintained the trade, production and progress of Malaya throughout this difficult period, the rebuilding of her economy 1401 and her social services, and the development of constitutional reform.
If we are ultimately to win this fight not only in Malaya but all over the world, we must remember that we must show the mass of the people everywhere that there is a better way. That is the only real alternative to show that their reasonable demands, their anxiety for themselves and their family, their desire for a higher standard of living and their desire for full citizenship and to be treated as human beings can be satisfied. Unless we can provide that alternative throughout the world, then Communism will thrive.
If I may introduce what might be regarded as a party note, it is because of that that I am convinced that social democracy is the only alternative to Communism, and I am proud to belong to a Government which is doing this job. Since there has been a Labour Government here, Communism has been going down in the country, nowhere more than in the area from which I come, for it thrives on bitterness and distress. It is essential to realise that, particularly in the case of Malaya. Not only are we conducting military operations and getting rid of the bandits there, but when that is done we are determined to build up the standard of life of the people.
I hope that the statement of the Prime Minister the other day will have removed any doubts which there might have been in the minds of any of the gallant people in Malaya and people in this country about our intentions. I will repeat the very clear words of the Prime Minister:It is our firm intention to implement the policy … of steady democratic progress towards self-government within the Commonwealth. We … have no intention of relinquishing our responsibility for the defence of Malaya and the protection of its law-abiding peoples by all means at our disposal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 180.]I am grateful to all those who have made suggestions. Those suggestions will be carefully noted and considered. I hope in the not too distant future—no date has been fixed—to have the privilege of paying a visit to Malaya. Let me stress that we are confronted with a dual operation, of ridding the country of bandits and, at the same time, of building up a new civil administration. I know it will take time. Are the Opposition 1402 sure that they have a century in which to do it? That is the problem. With military operations must go the development of Malaya's economy and the building up of production and the standard of life. Only by pursuing this dual policy shall we be able to see the menace disappear.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the office which I once held—an office which I regard as the most interesting and perhaps the most important of all in His Majesty's Government—should have had to make his first speech upon a subject where Colonial administration is today under the severest trial, instead of, upon the many areas of Colonial administration and Colonial prosperity where we can point to a much rosier picture.
Normally these Adjournment days are for the benefit of back benchers, and I should not have intervened—I intervene now only for a few minutes—were it not for the fact that I want to emphasise that the problem which we are discussing transcends in importance those ordinary problems, interesting as they may be, which we usually discuss on these occasions. This was the only method by which the matter could be raised quickly in the House, but it is of such immense importance that obviously it must be raised again at no long distance of time, when there will be more opportunity for all to take part in something which is not a matter of party politics and is of tremendous importance.
I want to say a word about what I regard as the most unfortunate speech made by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow). I am not questioning his intention; I am not even questioning how that speech may appear to people sitting in the calm of this Chamber; but I can imagine how that speech, taken by itself, will appear to the people who are facing the danger, the toil and the disappointment of life in Malaya today. In all his speech there was no reference to the fact that vast numbers of people are today living under conditions of just as great peril as the majority of the Armed Forces of the Crown had to face during the war.
There was no reference to the fact that they were living in what amounted, not 1403 to a cold but to a very hot war. The suggestions that were made appear to me—and I am certain will appear to them—to have no reference to the immediate urgency which must be their concern day and night. They sounded not like proposals for putting down a Communist war but proposals for winning the next election. It was the same thing that we have heard before—emphasising how dreadful things were between the wars, and telling people that there will be higher taxation of certain classes. That is not much comfort to the men and women who are wondering every night when they go to bed if they will see another dawn, and every day when they set out on a journey whether they will reach their destination.
I think I can claim during the time in which I have taken an interest in colonial problems to have shown just as much interest in the raising of the standard of life of colonial people, and in the planned advance toward self-government of the colonial territories as those on the other side of the House who may perhaps speak more loudly. However, I say that in Malaya the advance in the standard of life, the advance towards self-government, depends upon one thing and upon one thing only, and that is winning the war in which we are now engaged. If any hon. Member has read the speech made by a noble Lord in the other place yesterday, who is just back from Malaya, he will realise what a farce it is to pretend that in a country where conditions like that are appertaining today, one can suddenly say, "We will raise your standard of living."
It will be the greatest struggle under those conditions to continue to maintain—or, indeed even to approximate to—those economic resources which today make even the present standard of life possible. Let them understand in Malaya that in this country, far away as we are, we appreciate their problem and understand that the first thing to be done is to defeat a movement which has nothing whatever to do with the ordinary political desirabilities of which we are used to talking in this House on the Colonial Estimates. It is part of a far wider and more sinister plan in which the pay of the teachers in Malaya really forms no very considerable part. Let them understand that this attack has first to be 1404 defeated, because that is the essential preliminary to that better standard of life and that advance in self-government which hon. Members on all sides of the House wish to see them attain.
§ Mr. Snow
As the right hon. Gentleman singled me out, as he has every justification to do, may I say that I have never attempted to criticise his ideas as I have understood them. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is sincere and, considering the party he represents, that he has been enlightened. However, the kind of speech made by Lord Killearn yesterday and the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) today seemed to me to be the kind of speech which resulted in the happenings at the Jullianwallabagh in Amritsar.
§ Mr. Stanley
I must leave hon. Members who read the speech of the hon. Member, and the background even of the speech of the Minister, to decide what effect that would have in Malaya.
§ Mr. Stanley
I cannot give way again; I gave way to the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) because I referred to him. My time is up, and I shall conclude by saying that we shall certainly discuss this again in no party spirit because the objective of both sides of the House is the same. We want to put this thing down, we want to be able to have a fresh start in Malaya. It is merely a question now of how it can be done. Meanwhile I beg His Majesty's Government to regard Malaya as "Priority No. 1" in the whole of British policy; not only in our foreign policy, not only in our defence policy, but in our economic policy too, because all three will come crashing to the ground if we lose the war in Malaya.
Therefore I say to the Secretary of State for the Colonies: Do not let the Department hesitate in asking for anything they want, or, which is far more important, anything they may want in the future. It is much better to have it there before, than to have to ask for it a little late. Do not let them hesitate to ask their colleagues for all they want, because they can be certain that in their demands they will have the support of all sections of this House.