HC Deb 23 June 1954 vol 529 cc418-23
30. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many members of the national and local authorities in Malaya have resigned their office in protest against the refusal of the Government to amend the constitutional proposals.

41. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps in non-participation in the affairs of the Federation have so far been taken by the Alliance of the United Malays National Organisation and the Malayan Chinese Association.

49. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the number of elected members who have advised the authorities that they will take no further part in the work of the municipal and town councils in the Federation of Malaya; and the number of nominated members who have resigned from positions for which they have been nominated.

Mr. Lyttelton

Three members of the Federal Executive Council and 14 members of the Federal Legislative Council have resigned. The numbers of resignations from the State and Settlement Councils and local authorities are not yet available.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that the total number of resignations is placed at about 1,000? Does not the size and form of the protest seriously disturb him? Is he aware that it arises from the fact that the people of Malaya are protesting against the fact that the elected majority afforded under the new Constitution will not permit effective working of the Legislative Council? Can he not, even at this late stage, use his influence to try to meet the protests which were voiced to him by U.M.N.O. and M.C.A.?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Member is not correct about the figure of 1,000. I have not got the actual figure and could not comment upon it. With regard to the other matter, hon. Members who put down these Questions should realise quite clearly what the position is. The commission on electoral reform did not recommend an elected majority. I overruled that. After long negotiation, the High Commissioner reached an agreement with the Rulers. That is enshrined in the Constitution, not by any act of this Government but by an act of the previous Government, and we are unable to go behind those undertakings, either directly or indirectly, until further contacts and further discussions have taken place, the outcome of which is quite unknown. I must not be driven any further on this matter at the moment.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I appreciate that the constitutional changes must be governed by the agreement reached in 1948, but will not the right hon. Gentleman again consider what is certainly within the agreement, that, in view of the existing situation, the High Commissioner should take the initiative in inviting the Rulers and the representatives of U.M.N.O. and M.C.A. to consult each other before the situation gets worse?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. We must be careful in this matter to preserve the good faith of Her Majesty's Government absolutely intact. The next opportunity of discussing this matter—after all, the elections do not take place until next year—will be not later than 15th July.

31. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the emergency regulations limiting the rights of speech, writing and meetings are to remain in operation during the election of representatives to the Legislative Council of Malaya.

Mr. Lyttelton

So long as the emergency continues the regulations are unfortunately necessary; but I am satisfied that none of them will be used to impede the proper conduct of an electoral campaign.

Mr. Rankin

Is it not absurd to be conducting an election when, at the same time, we are denying freedom of speech? How can the Colonial Secretary reconcile that? I hope he will attempt to do so.

Mr. Lyttelton

I will certainly do so. If the hon. Member thinks that it is a restriction of freedom of speech to have a regulation which forbids the spreading of false reports likely to cause public alarm, there is a restriction, but there is nothing which would interfere with the conduct of an election.

Mr. Rankin

Would the right hon. Gentleman apply that to elections in this country? If so, would it not prejudice the Tories?

Mr. Lyttelton

I suppose that "Who's finger is on the trigger?" is an example. The sooner hon. Members opposite realise that conditions in Malaya are quite different from those in this country the sooner they will begin to understand what is necessary.

32. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any further statement to make in respect of the decision of the Alliance not to participate in the elections in Malaya; and, in view of the representative nature and strength of this political body and the necessity of its co-operation, what has been the result of his further approach or advice to the Malayan rulers.

42. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the High Commissioner's consultations with the Rulers in Malaya, regarding a commission of inquiry on constitutional reforms in the Federation.

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. The High Commissioner will consult their Highnesses at the next meeting of the Conference of Rulers on 15th July.

Mr. Sorensen

Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is going to approach the Rulers and give them such advice as he feels advisable?

Mr. Lyttelton

The matter will be placed on the agenda for the Conference of Rulers on 15th July.

Mr. Awbery

If the concession is made for which M.C.A. is asking, will it not be almost impossible for any political party in Malaya to get a majority? Will it not have to poll five votes out of every six cast in order to get a majority in the Legislature? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider these numbers again?

Mr. Lyttelton

I am well aware that at all times a new party, after a sweeping electoral victory, will not necessarily be able to command a majority over all the members of the Legislature, but it would be wrong to suggest that it would be unnecessarily impeded in the course of its government by that fact.

Mr. Brockway

In view of the gravity of the situation in Malaya, where, on the one side, we are in physical contact with what are termed bandits, and, on the other side, we have the constitutional movement, which is now becoming so opposed to this Government that its members are resigning all their seats in public authorities, will not the right hon. Gentleman speed up the discussions and try to find a solution to the problem before the situation gets worse?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Member should cast his mind back to the situation in Malaya three years ago, and not make that sort of statement. I have said that the matter will come before the Conference of Rulers on 15th July. I do not think it would be in accordance with public policy if, an agreement having been reached, it was decided, just because one section protested against it, to call an emergency meeting in order to try to get out of the difficulty. I have said that the matter will come up on 15th July. I am not prepared to go any further at the moment.

50. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will seek a basis of compromise with the U.M.N.O. and M.C.A. alliance in the Federation of Malaya and instruct that the High Commissioner shall consult with the leader of the party or parties commanding majority support in the new Council before the High Commissioner fills the seven nominated reserve seats.

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir. Two of these seats are to be filled by the officials discharging the functions of Secretary for Defence and Member for Economic Affairs. The High Commissioner has the duty to use the remainder for the purposes indicated in paragraph 31 of the Elections Committee Report. He could not, therefore, undertake to use them primarily and automatically to increase the majority of the party or parties commanding major support among the elected members.

In filling these seats for the purposes for which they are intended, however, the High Commissioner will inform the majority leader of his intentions and take into account any views that the leader might express.

Mr. Proctor

Is it not possible for the Secretary of State to say that there will be consultation in regard to the questions I have put to him and that he will consult the leaders of the majority party? Do I understand him to say on this question of Malaya that all the suggestions are coming up for consideration with the Rulers on 15th July? If that is so, in view of the great advances that he has made and successes in Malaya, is it not possible for them to appeal to the leaders of the Malayan movement to wait till 15th July on the understanding that there will be real consideration of all the matters that arise?

Mr. Lyttelton

I would make it quite clear that the actions by the Alliance are highly irresponsible at the moment and have been instigated by a small minority of the Alliance. With regard to whether there will be consultation, the leaders will be consulted. I worded my reply very carefully, because I did not want it to be thought that this is more than consultation. The matter of nomination of these members is at the sole discretion of the High Commissioner and he will inform the majority leaders of his intentions and take into account any views they may express.

Mr. J. Griffiths

These elections, should they come, will be of immense importance to the future of Malaya. As these organisations represent a very substantial proportion of the two major communities, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it is possible to stop the present position getting worse and enable discussions to take place for a possible settlement?

Mr. Lyttelton

The right hon. Gentleman's remarks suggest that the Alliance are likely to boycott the election. There is as yet no reason to suppose that that will be the case.

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