HC Deb 21 February 1963 vol 672 cc609-11
3. Mr. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on the progress made towards the establishment of a Malaysian Federation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

The Intergovernmental Committee has finished its task of working out detailed arrangements and guarantees for North Borneo and Sarawak. Its report is being considered by the four Governments concerned. The Governments of Malaya and Singapore have set up a similar committee. Discussions are proceeding between the Governments of Malaya and Brunei following the Sultan's announcement on the 7th of this month that Brunei had decided in principle to join Malaysia.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while most of us on this side of the House believe that the Federation represents the best possible answer to the problems of the territories concerned, we are disturbed at certain recent developments, in particular the hostility of the Governments of the Philippines and Indonesia to the Malaysia project? It seems to create a real threat to peace, at least in Borneo. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether Her Majesty's Government intend to accept the offer made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to intervene in the matter, an offer which, I gather, has been favourably received by the Tunku of Malaya? Secondly, is the lion. Gentleman satisfied that the decision in principle of the Sultan of Brunei to join the Federation represents the views of the people of Brunei, and if not, what steps are to be taken to obtain their support for it?

Mr. Tilney

As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, that, of course, is really a matter for the Tunku to decide. As regards the second part, I am told that the Brunei revolt has hardened local opinion in North Borneo and Sarawak where it must be remembered that the elected representatives voted in favour of Malaysia. Brunei is only a protectorate, and it is up to the Sultan to decide whether Brunei joins.

Mr. Healey

With respect, the hon. Gentleman has not answered any of the questions I asked. Surely Her Majesty's Government are now responsible for the territories of Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei, and, therefore, have a perfect right, and a duty if they think it wise, to accept the offer of mediation made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations? Secondly, is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Sultan of Brunei's decision to accede represents the will of the people of Brunei, because, if not, does he not think that we are storing up trouble for ourselves in the future?

Mr. Tilney

I believe that the interests of the people of Brunei would be far better served by joining with Malaysia, and I think it will be shown in the discussions that the people will back that. As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, it is rather a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs than for me.

Mr. Warbey

Does the hon. Gentleman think that it helps to create the right atmosphere for popular support of the Malaysian Federation to arrest the leading members of the Opposition political party in Singapore and detain them in prison indefinitely without trial or right of appeal? Will Her Majesty's Government advise the head of State in Singapore to release the overwhelming majority of these men immediately?

Mr. Tilney

Again, I think that it must be remembered that 71 per cent. of those who voted, and voted very recently, in Singapore favoured the merger. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question about Singapore to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that while he may think it is best for Brunei to be part of this Federation, and that may be so, his judgment nevertheless is not the decisive factor and it must in the end depend on the will of the people of Brunei? Would it be possible to suspend the question of including Brunei for the time being and to get on with the rest of the Federation?

Mr. Tilney

Perhaps the hon. Member will put down that Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.