HL Deb 19 July 1934 vol 93 cc777-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill to obtain the approval of Parliament in respect of an Agreement which has been concluded with the Sultan of Perak, one of the Federated Malay States, for the retrocession to Perak sovereignty of the territory of the Dindings. The territory has an area of 180 square miles on the West Coast of the Malay Peninsula, and a population of about 20,000. It comprises the headwaters, creeks, and inlets of the Dindings River together with some small islands to seaward. Territorially it is an integral part of the State of Perak, but in 1826 it was ceded to the Honourable East India Company by the Sultan for the purpose of the suppression of pirates who operated from the river and islands in that area. Piracy on this coast has long been a thing of the past, and the desirability of restoring the Dindings to Perak has been under consideration since the end of last century, when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was at the Colonial Office.

The territory is an enclave in the State of Perak, and the Dindings River is the only good access to the sea which the State possesses. In present circumstances it is administered as part of the Settlement of Penang, one of the Straits Settlements, but for various reasons this has been proved to be an inconvenient and uneconomical arrangement. Topographical considerations render administration of the Dindings from Penang far more inconvenient and expensive than would the administration under the Government of Perak. The territory can be reached from Penang either by a sea journey of some 100 miles, exceedingly rough during the South-west monsoon, or by an overland journey through Perak. Further the convenient way to travel from the southern to the northern section of the Dindings lies for some distance through the Sultan's State. In addition the inclusion of the Dindings for administrative purposes in the Settlement of Penang has become definitely undesirable since the wide extension of customs tariffs in the Federated Malay States, as it facilitates smuggling from British territory into that of the States. The frontier between the Dindings and the State of Perak is a purely artificial one and renders not only customs restrictions, but also such matters as quarantine and immigration, difficult of supervision.

The conditions which were present at the time of the cession of the Dindings to the East India Company have long ceased to exist, and the retrocession of the territory, which would of course give the greatest pleasure to the Sultan, would be a fitting mark of appreciation for the steadfast loyalty to the Crown which he and his predecessors have exhibited since the British Protectorate was established in 1874. In the administration of the State the Sultan consults the British Resident and acts upon his advice on all questions other than those touching Malay religion and custom. I might mention that Perak is one of the four Malay States in the Federation which presented this country with His Majesty's Ship "Malaya" and more recently with a gift of £2,000,000 towards the cost of the Singapore base. As regards the terms of the Agreement and the procedure for retrocession it is particularly provided that the transfer of the sovereignty shall not affect the national status of the present inhabitants, and that existing rights in property shall be maintained. An agreed payment to Colonial funds of a sum of approximately £10,000 will be made from Perak revenues in respect of Straits Settlements Government property which will be taken over. The date contemplated for the effective restoration of the Dindings to the State of Perak is three months after this Bill is passed into law. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.