HC Deb 03 December 1952 vol 508 cc1557-8
19. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what instructions he has given to the High Commissioner of Malaya regarding collective reprisals against Malay villages suspected of harbouring bandits.

Mr. Lyttelton

No instructions have been given, and none are necessary. As I have previously said, I have every confidence in General Templer's reasonable exercise of the discretion entrusted to him.

Mr. Robinson

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that this is a form of punishment in which any military advantages are far outweighed by the damage to our cause throughout the whole civilised world? Does he think it is fair to leave it to General Templer to assess the political consequences of those acts?

Mr. Lyttelton

This has nothing whatever to do with military matters. This is entirely in order either to bring witnesses forward or, where those atrocious crimes are committed by a small community, to visit those who are guilty of not coming forward and supporting the law with some punishment.

Mr. Edelman

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered whether the system of collective punishment is consistent with the Charter of Human Righs of the United Nations, and, if he has considered that matter, would he say what conclusions he has reached?

Mr. Lyttelton

The imposition of collective punishment, provided it is confined to a very small area, is in my opinion not a contravention of that Charter.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does not the Secretary of State agree that the whole history of guerilla warfare, of which there has been a great deal since 1945, shows that the right plan is either to afford protection to the population or else to move them somewhere else where they can be protected?

Mr. Lyttelton

I could not possibly accept so large a generalisation.

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