HC Deb 20 June 1961 vol 642 cc1171-3
40. Mr. Brockway

asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct the Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies to seek to arrange joint consultations with the Governments of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei with a view to establishing a federation of these territories within the Commonwealth.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I have observed with interest the recent constructive suggestion of the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya that sooner or later the Federation should have an understanding with us and the peoples of Singapore, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak on a plan which would bring these territories into closer political and economic association. Tunku Abdul Rahman's statement is already stimulating discussion in these countries and Her Majesty's Government will wish to take their reactions into account in their own consideration of the suggestion.

Mr. Brockway

Will the Prime Minister do all he can to encourage this big, imaginative idea which has been put forward by the Prime Minister of Malaya and endorsed by the Prime Minister of Singapore and which might be a means of overcoming the difficulties of those two countries as well as of uniting Brunei with Sarawak and North Borneo?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, of course these are territories which, as the hon. Member knows well, are in widely different stages of both political and economic development. Therefore, there are considerable problems to overcome, but I think it is a good thing that these matters should have been ventilated, and it is good that each of these territories should have the widest opportunity to consider the proposal.

Mr. Strachey

While appreciating the Prime Minister's point that the initiative must be left to the territories, may I ask whether he would not agree that it is a matter of considerable urgency and that his forthcoming visit to the area in the autumn should be used as an occasion to push this very important matter?

The Prime Minister

I think it is a matter primarily for the territories, but we take a great interest in it. We have certain special interests in Singapore and elsewhere. At this very early stage much good has been done by the raising of the matter and by discussion.

Sir J. Barlow

In view of the importance of the matter, would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is unwise to push it too quickly? Would he not agree that there are great differences in language, religion and race and that while eventually this would be a good thing it would be unwise to push it too quickly?

The Prime Minister

There are, as I have said, very widely differing stages of political and economic development, and obviously there are great problems in going too rapidly to what might not be a successful conclusion of any discussions.