HC Deb 07 December 1964 vol 703 cc1059-60
32. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs what is the extent to which British-owned rubber estates and other properties in Indonesia have been affected by compulsory acquisition in consequence of the policies of the Indonesian Government.

Mr. George Thomson

By a Degree dated 26th November, the Indonesian Government officially confirmed that all British-owned commercial interests in Indonesia, including rubber estates, had been placed under complete and direct Indonesian management and control.

Accordingly, on 1st December, Her Majesty's Ambassador at Djakarta delivered a note to the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs stating that this Decree, when taken in conjunction with Indonesian public statements of intention, appears to amount to de facto expropriation, and reminding the Indonesian Government that, when property has been expropriated, there is an obligation to provide compensation in accordance with international law.

Mr. Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are about £200 million worth of British assets in Indonesia and that for many years these companies have been subjected to savage taxation and unreasonable trading conditions? Is he aware that if strong economic retaliatory action is not taken it will merely encourage other countries to solve their financial problems by expropriating British property?

Mr. Thomson

It is very difficult to put a figure on the value of the assets concerned, but our estimate is that it is well over £100 million. It is not the policy of the Government to indulge in retaliatory expropriation. In any case, we believe that by this kind of action the Indonesian Government are likely to do themselves a great deal of economic damage.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my hon. Friend aware that I and other right hon. and hon. Members on both sides deplore this country being pushed around by Indonesia or any other country? Nevertheless, can he tell me whether these expropriations have taken place since the Labour Government took office?

Mr. Thomson

Yes. In my Answer I stated that the decree was dated 26th November. But I agree with my right hon. Friend's general point of view. Certainly, Her Majesty's Government are not to be deterred by this kind of action from supporting our Commonwealth ally, Malaysia, in face of the acts of aggression against her by the Indonesian Government.

Mr. Shinwell

For purposes of accuracy, will my hon. Friend inform the House whether similar action has not been taken by the Indonesian Government before 26th November?

Mr. Thomson

I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I misunderstood his original supplementary question. Of course, this is only the latest of a number of actions of a similar character carried out by the Indonesian Government.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the hon. Gentleman convey this Question and Answer to the Prime Minister in Washington and ask him to discuss this matter with President Johnson to see whether the United States will withhold the aid it is giving to Indonesia and back this country up in some commercial matters?

Mr. Thomson

I am sure that the affairs of South-East Asia will figure in the Washington conversations.