HC Deb 13 June 1951 vol 488 cc2274-6
23. Colonel Gomme-Duncan

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether suitable arms and armoured vehicles will be provided free of charge to estates in Malaya situated within the area of hostilities in order that they may play their full part in the war against Communism in that country.

Mr. J. Griffiths

No requests have been made to the Federation Government for armoured vehicles to be supplied free of charge to estates. Orders placed by rubber and tin companies for such vehicles are sponsored by my Department, and I understand that these orders have so far been fulfilled without delay. Purchase of vehicles with fixed armaments cannot be permitted for security reasons.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the latter part of his answer refers also to arms, as opposed to armoured vehicles, and, further, whether, though these people have not asked for these supplies, as they are part and parcel of our efforts in Malaya they should be supplied automatically if necessary?

Mr. Griffiths

No request has been made, and I think they are content for this to be part of their contribution to the effort.

Air Commodore Harvey

Will the Minister check up on the information he has just given to the House, for when the Parliamentary delegation was in Malaya the situation was quite contrary to what he said? Many of the estates were having difficulty in getting armour plating to fit the vehicles and were extremely short of other equipment. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that unless something is done the position of the planters who have been producing rubber for three years will deteriorate very rapidly?

Mr. Griffiths

I visited Malaya myself about the same time as the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I am fully seized of the problem. The information I have given to the House is that provided for me now, but I will check up on it again.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Does not the Minister agree that it is not so much a squabble as to who pays that is disturbing people on the spot, but the availability of the material, which is much more important than who eventually foots the bill.

Mr. Griffiths

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that in recent months the Federal authorities concerned have found it essential to recruit the people who live and work on the estates, and that is in many ways the most important part of their problem.

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