HL Deb 29 January 1946 vol 139 cc17-45

3.25 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read:


My Lords, this Bill is a machinery Bill to help us give effect to the general proposals which were discussed in the House on December 19, and your Lordships will remember that these were subsequently set out in the White Paper. There are three sets of States in question, the Straits Settlements, which consist of Singapore, Penang, Malacca and the various islands. Then there are the Federated Malay states, Perak, Selangor, and two others, and the Non-Federated States—five of them—and it is proposed in the scheme of operations that they should be united into one State known as the Malayan Union and, except in the case of Singapore, this Bill is necessary in order to give effect to the proposals in respect of the Straits Settlements. The scheme with regard to the Federated Malay States and the Un-federated States, as it is described in the White Paper Cmd. 6724, can be brought together under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1890, but with regard to the Straits Settlements this Bill is necessary in order to achieve that purpose. There are many advantages in this scheme, and I think I need not repeat to-day the description which I gave of them in our previous discussion. It will provide for the consolidation of services and development of social and economic schemes for the whole area without a multiplicity of States and Unions in respect of such matters as education, currency, taxes, aviation, post, telegraphs, shipping and many other common services which can be developed throughout the whole area under the one administrative machine.

There are very important safeguards with regard to citizenship which I remember was a point some of your Lordships mentioned with considerable earnestness in our previous discussion. It is suggested—I repeat this although of course it is not in this Bill—that persons born in the Union or those who have resided there for ten years out of the last fifteen years, not counting the war period, shall become citizens of the Malayan Union, but in deference to representations made by the Rulers it was provided also with regard to those who claim citizenship by virtue of their being resident for ten years out of fifteen that they must now take an Oath of Allegiance. That was an additional safeguard inserted in response to the request of the Malayan Rulers, and the safeguards for the Malays—the land reservation policy and so on—will be continued in future. There is one point—


May I ask the noble Lord this question? It is an important point, otherwise I would not interrupt him. Is it proposed that Japanese should obtain citizenship under this Constitution, because if so there would be very strong opposition to that? Will any provision be made to stop that?


The provision as it stands is that a person who has been continuously resident for ten years out of the past fifteen shall be entitled to claim citizenship, but he will be required to take an Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty. Your Lordships are aware that a very large proportion of, shall we say, alien persons in the district have not resided there continuously for ten out of the last fifteen years. In the case of persons of Japanese origin, I have not had the question put to me before, but I will inquire into it. In any case they would require to take an Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty even if they complied with the other provisions. I will make further inquiry into the point made by the noble Lord.


My Lords, I rather understood there was a recent decision given whereby the Japanese would not be tolerated in Malaya any more.


I sincerely hope that that is so! I cannot say anything to the noble Lord except that I will inquire into the position and I will give an answer when we come to a later stage of the Bill. But with regard to—


This is rather important, and I should be very grateful if, when the noble Lord has been good enough to make inquiries—because this point has been put to him at a moment's notice—he would inform either me or my noble friend Lord Elibank of the result, and we can then consider whether it would be necessary to put down any Amendment on this point before the Committee stage.


I will certainly do so. I shall be only too glad to inform the noble Lords as soon as I know myself. I have no desire whatever to avoid the point. It is entirely new. So far as I am concerned the citizenship which requires ten years residence clearly will only apply to people who are bona-fide residents. I will, however, proceed as I am requested to by the noble Lord in that matter.

Some point was raised, I remember, in December as to the separation of Singapore. I think there is an overwhelming case at the beginning for treating Singapore separately, as is proposed. It is a great city, mainly employed in overseas trade. It is quite different from the mainland and its interests are quite different from the Malayan interests which predominate in the mainland. It is largely a Chinese city, and I am quite sure that at the beginning it will be better that the Malayan Union should not be overshadowed by the incorporation of Singapore. That is a very strong case for proceeding as we propose. The administration of the territory will be by an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. It is proposed that the Municipal Council of Singapore (with suitable extension of its powers, and so on) shall be continued, but there will require to be, I understand, some considerable amendments with respect to the scope of the municipality's authority, particularly as affecting the rural areas which were previously included. That, however, will be the subject of future adjustment.

Another point that was raised in our previous debate, and into which I made careful inquiry, was, the arrangement made with regard to the Rulers of the different States. I am glad to report that alt the Rulers have agreed cordially to this scheme and entered into treaties with His Majesty's Government accordingly. Provisions have been made whereby each Ruler will preside over a Malayan Advisory Council in his own State, and they will have particular duties with regard to safeguarding the Mahomedan religion and the institutions connected with it. There will be also be a Central Malayan Advisory Council of the Rulers, meeting periodically under the Governor to deal with matters of that kind. Also I should add that the residences and estates as well as the incomes of the Rulers are safeguarded under the treaties.

The machinery of Government proposed for the whole area is that there will be a Governor of the Malayan Union and of Singapore. There will be an Executive and a Legislative Council in each area, apart from the local councils to which I have already referred. I think it is right that I should say here that in framing these proposals and in negotiating the agreements with the Rulers, we are enormously indebted to Sir Harold MacMichael for his negotiations and for what he has done to bring this about. It clearly will make for the development of the whole of this area in a comprehensive way. I confess that I myself know very little personally about this area, and from what little I do know I am filled with amazement and admiration at Sir Harold MacMichael's skill, diplomacy and the friendliness with which he has enabled all these different agreements with the various Rulers to be negotiated.

It might perhaps be of interest to your Lordships if I took, this opportunity of announcing those whom we propose to appoint to these important posts—namely, the Governor-General of the Union and of Singapore, the Governor of the Malayan Union and the Governor of the Colony of Singapore. We propose to appoint as Governor-General Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who, for some years, has been our High Commissioner in Ottawa. I think it is difficult to imagine a more suitable appointment. I know from first hand, both from Mr. Mackenze King and his colleagues in the Canadian Government and otherwise, that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald has really established a unique record as High Commissioner in one of our Dominions, and I cannot think of anybody in the public service anywhere who would be more suitable for this post. It is proposed that, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Malayan Union shall be Sir G. Edward Gent, who has been Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, and that the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Colony of Singapore shall be Mr. F. C. Gimson, at present Colonial Secretary in Hong Kong. I thought perhaps your Lordships would be interested to know who were suggested for appointment to these important posts.


Will you repeat the name of the Governor of Singapore? I did not quite catch it.


Mr. F. C. Gimson, who has been Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong. Finally, to revert to one of my opening sentences, I may say that although I have, with your Lordships' permission and I think in accordance with the traditions of this House, rather exceeded the bounds of order in speaking generally, this Bill is part of a whole. It relates only to the Straits Settlements, the Union of the other Malay States being possible, as explained in the White Paper, by authorities exercised under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act. But I thought it was only right, in presenting this Bill, which deals only with the Straits Settlements, to present, at any rate in summary, a picture of the whole. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Addison.)

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I should like—and I am sure I shall have the agreement of the whole House in this—to thank the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, for the very full statement which he has made, and for the extremely interesting information which he has given us. In particular, I should like, at the very outset of my remarks, warmly to welcome the news that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald is to be the new Governor-General of the Malayan Union. As your hardships know, during my time at the Dominions Office I had long personal experience of Mr. Mac-Donald's ability and experience, and the fundamental wisdom which he has always shown in Canada, and I cannot imagine a better appointment for this very important post. I would also like to welcome the news of the appointment of Sir Edward Gent. I have also had to work with him, and I, as everyone else who has done so, have the highest respect for his ability.

I do not intend to trouble the House at any great length this afternoon with regard to the wide issues raised by this Bill. I say this, not because it is a Bill of a minor character. On the contrary, in one sense it a very important Bill indeed, because it deals with the future of one of the most pre-eminent areas within the territories of the British Commonwealth and Empire, an area whose happiness and prosperity is a matter of the utmost moment, not only to the people of this country but to the peoples of the world. But this Bill is, in itself, as I understand it, only what may be termed a preliminary and preparatory measure. We are not asked specifically to approve the new structure which the Government propose to set up in the Malayan Union, as I gather it is now to be called; we are asked only to assist in preparing the ground, in sweeping away the old structure which is now shown to be out of date, and setting up a scaffolding to enable, the new structure to be built. The actual details—I hope I have understood this aright—will be incorporated in Orders in Council which will be produced in due course, I hope at an early date. These Orders in Council will undoubtedly require very careful scrutiny, and they will, I am sure, receive that scrutiny when the time comes.

Of course, it may be said that by approving this Bill we accept the fact that some simplification and reform of the present very complicated administrative machinery of Malaya is needed. That may be argued by the Government; and I believe it is quite true; I think it is common ground among all Parties that some such simplification is necessary. Indeed, the case has been stated with Undeniable force in the White Paper (Cmd. Paper 6724) to which the Leader of the House has referred. It is quite clear that the pre-war set-up is out of date and that it does not make for the maximum of efficiency. It may also, I think, be assumed that if we pass this Bill for its Second Reading we on this side of the House are not hostile to the broad lines of reform which are laid down in the White Paper. That I believe to be true of the great majority of noble Lords in this House.

The White Paper, as we all know, is not a last-minute brain-wave of His Majesty's Government; it is the result of many months of careful thought and study, which began in the days of the National Government, even before the liberation of these territories from the hands of the Japanese. I understand from the Leader of the House, and I think it is actually stated in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, that the essential portions of the proposals have already been discussed with the Malayan Rulers and that general agreement has been reached on the broad principles. Therefore, this is not a matter on which there is, as I understand it, any violent difference of opinion in Malaya itself. But it is one thing to approve broad principles and another to approve detailed provisions as applied to individual territories. Here surely—I feel certain the Government will agree with this—Parliament has an important additional duty which must not be neglected.

That brings me to what I conceive to be the one considerable omission from the Bill which is now before the House. There is a provision for Orders in Council to give practical effect to the proposals contained in the White Paper, but there is no provision that those Orders in Council shall be laid upon the Table of this House. I can only believe that that omission is unintentional. I hope the Government will be able to give assurances that they will consider inserting an Amendment during the Committee stage which will ensure that these Orders in Council will in fact be laid before your Lordships before they are actually applied. It may be that we shall all be completely satisfied with the provisions as they are finally approved by the Government—I hope that that will be the case—but it is essential that the opportunity should be given to Parliament to consider the actual Orders in Council and to discuss them if it wishes to do so. I hope we shall have an assurance of that kind, and that the Government will be willing to put down an Amendment, because if they are not willing I am afraid we shall have to put down such an Amendment ourselves. It is surely absolutely essential that these Orders in Council should be discussed by Parliament. As I understand it, we are not going to have a full debate on the proposals to-day, and indeed it would hardly be possible to do so because practical effect is going to be given to them only by Orders in Council, which probably are not yet in existence.

There is one other point I would make. We must all recognize that the details of far-reaching reforms of this character will require very careful thought and I am quite certain we shall not wish unduly to hustle the Government to produce these Orders in Council before they are ready, because that would be liable to produce avoidable friction in the territories themselves. Whatever scheme of reform is finally adopted, we want it to have the fullest chance of success. This is a case, like many others, where more haste would certainly mean less speed. However, that is, of course, a matter which is immediately for the Government. But we may fairly urge them to bear that aspect in mind. Subject to those two provisos, I personally do not see any reason why we should oppose the purpose of this Bill. I believe it is thoroughly sound and that the reforms are needed, and I hope the House, will be willing to give the Bill a Second Reading.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I think we all agree that considerable alterations and amendments had to be made to the Constitution of Malaya—I use the term collectively—after the war. We know, as my noble friend has said, that this was being investigated before the war and that during the war steps were taken to arrange that proposals for this Constitution should be put forward. It seems to me that what has been forgotten is that all these arrangements have been discussed inside the Colonial Office and elsewhere in this country without knowing the conditions which would be found in those territories. Nobody really knows what those conditions are to-day in Malaya and in Singapore, which are still under British Military Government, and necessarily so. For instance, as I came down to the House to-day I saw in the evening papers that nearly three quarters of the civilian population of Singapore was on strike. The noble Viscount who opened the debate told us nothing about that but I feel that we might have had a little account of what was happening in that way. I mention this now because I think there are many problems in Malaya to-day which should be investigated before we actually apply the new Constitution there. I welcome the fact that Sir Harold MacMichael was so successful in his Mission; I think he must have used great powers of persuasion and great eloquence in his talks with the Sultans in Council to succeed as he did. But was that the proper time to have this talk? Would it not have been better to wait until things had settled down so that the Sultans could take a clearer view of what was happening?

My noble friend has said that we should consider what is contained in the Orders in Council when they come before the House, but in view of the fact that the noble Viscount has referred generally to the scheme which is going to brought into effect and that a White Paper has been issued on that scheme, I should like to refer to one or two points in it. First of all, in the short debate which took place in this House on December 19, I referred to the fact that there was a number of minorities in Malaya, and that the Chinese could hardly be called a minority. I said that unless some arrangement was made in the Constitution to enable minorities to be represented great unfairness might result. The noble Viscount opposite, in his reply, said: I think the noble Viscount knows enough about British ideals and methods of government to understand that it is not our policy to establish privileged minorities. We do not go in for that sort of thing. He repeated that a little later. I venture to suggest that when you go to the Middle East and to the Far East you find that minorities exist and have to be recognised; you cannot get away from them. To what is our trouble in India due today? To the minorities—the Hindus and the Mahomedans. What will be our trouble in Ceylon, to which a new Constitution has just been granted? It will be the minorities. Under the new Constitution, the Singhalese have been placed in what amounts to full control of Ceylon. The minorities are objecting to that, and will continue to do so.

In Malaya there are large numbers of minorities. The noble Viscount did not give us the population of Malaya and of Singapore, but I am going to give those figures. In December, 1938, there were estimated to be in Malaya, including Singapore, 5,278,866 persons. It is important to note that of that number the Chinese formed 2,220,000 and the Malays 2,210,000, so that the Malays are already in a minority in their own country. There were also 743,000 Indians, 28,000 Europeans and 30,000 aboriginals, who were there before the Malays arrived. There were also 18,000 Eurasians, 8,000 Japanese and 19,728 who were classified as "Miscellaneous." I do not know how many races they include. Those figures include Singapore. In 1931 the population of Singapore numbered 567,000. Of these, 422,000 were Chinese. There were 71,000 Malays, 51,000 Indians, 8,000 Europeans and 7,000 Eurasians. In 1938, however, the population of Singapore had risen to 720,000, of whom over 75 per cent. were Chinese.

It will be seen that there is something in my contention that unless we are careful we shall hand over Malaya and Singapore to the Chinese, and, instead of Malaya and Singapore becoming, as is suggested in this White Paper, a Dominion of the British Commonwealth, it will become a dominion of the Chinese Empire. I say with a full sense of responsibility that we cannot ignore the fact that in China to-day there is arising a very forceful cult in favour of making the East Chinese. Only last week five thousand students walked through Chungking shouting "We want Hong Kong! We want Hong Kong!" If this goes on, as a result of what we are doing to-day we shall, unless we are careful and provide for the rights of minorities in the area of which we are talking, find that the next cry in China will be "We want Malaya! We want Malaya!" It will be said that most of the people there are of Chinese origin.

I thought seriously about it before I said these words to-day, but I feel that it is necessary to say something of this kind in order to warn the Government of what we may be faced with and of what may happen not now but in the years ahead of us. When I look at the White Paper with regard to the appointment of the Executive and Legislative Councils, I find that in the interim stage there will be an Executive and a Legislative Council. This applies both to the Malayan Union and to Singapore. Each will have a Governor, and I welcome the appointments which have been made. I particularly welcome the appointment of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald as Governor-General of the Union. I can think of no one better who could be appointed. I have known him for many years and seen him at work in Canada and elsewhere, though not so intimately, perhaps, as my noble friend Lord Cranborne. To begin with the Governor will have an Advisory Council, which he will select. It is the intention that the Constitution shall be broad-based and representative, and that the final determination of numbers and the details of representation should not be decided until there has been consultation with local opinion. I think that that to some extent nullifies what the noble Viscount said on the previous occasion, that there would Le no established of recognized minority representation.


I am quite sure that I never said anything of the kind.


Let me quote the noble Viscount's own words: I think the noble Viscount knows enough about British ideals and methods of government to understand that it is not our policy to establish privileged minorities.


That is another matter.


This is taken from Hansard.


But the word "privileged" makes all the difference.


I am suggesting to the noble Viscount that the result of this White Paper is that you are going to make privileged minorities, because you are going to have representation of the minorities on the Council, and, if they are placed on the Council, in that way they will be privileged minorities.


I am sorry to interrupt again, but do I understand the noble Viscount to argue that minorities should not be represented?


I am arguing that minorities should be represented, and that they should be privileged. The noble Viscount said that they were not privileged. I am very sorry if we disagree about what the noble Viscount said and about the interpretation which I place upon his words.

There is this other point in connexion with the Advisory Councils. It has been pointed out that the responsibility is placed on the Governor's shoulders to select the members of the Executive and Legislative Councils on this basis of representation. I submit with all respect that it is not fair to the Governors to put that responsibility on their shoulders. Whatever they do, they are bound to excite hostility or enmity in certain sections of the community by not giving what are, perhaps, considered the proper proportions of representation. I suggest that the proper and, in fact, the only way in which this could be done, in which the various interests can really get a proper deal out of this, is that a properly constituted Commission should be sent out from this country to go into these questions of representation and other questions which the Government may wish them to examine. I do urge this—and I am not saying anything in contradiction of my noble Leader, because I have not questioned the actual giving of a new Constitution at all. I do urge that the Government will, having regard to the state in which things are to-day in Malaya, especially in Singapore, form a proper Commission and send it out to conduct an inquiry. This will in no way abrogate what has been done by Sir Harold MacMichael and the Malay Rulers and Councils. What the various interests in Malaya do ask and urge is that the matter of their representation and their interests should be efficiently and fully investigated before this Constitution is finally given.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, before commenting on the Bill and the Government proposals, I would like to endorse the thanks which have been expressed by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, for the way in which he has explained what the Government intend to do. At the same time I would congratulate the Government on the appointments they have made. Two of these gentlemen, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald and Sir Edward Gent, are personal friends whose ability and judgment are widely recognized, and such appointments augur well for the success and smooth running of the proposed Constitution.

With regard to the Bill, I desire to offer I a few remarks which I hope will be taken into consideration, for, whilst wishing the new policy every success, I am sorry that the Government feel it necessary to press forward these far-reaching proposals with such great haste, when we well know that the peoples of Malaya are still sore and suffering greatly from the effects of the Japanese occupation. Judging from the communications which I have received since the White Paper was issued, the haste with which they are being pushed forward does not inspire confidence. In fact, the reverse is very much the case, and I say that advisedly because I have taken great trouble to verify some of the statements which have been made to me in this connexion. I want to see this scheme a success. I want to see it carried forward with good will, without ill feeling and without resentment. It can never be a success unless it is carded out in that way.

The hope has been expressed in many quarters, by those who know and love Malaya, that the Government will not legalize the term "Malayan Union." It is rather suggestive of a Poor Law institution or something of that sort. I should hope that in place of using such a term we might adhere to the century-old term "Malaya." That really is a century-old name. It is beloved by all who know the country, and I suggest that it is a far better name than "Malayan Union." I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, will be able to see his way to do something about that. Those of whom I am speaking also hope that the present unimposing label of "Straits Settlements," for the adjacent Colony, will be erased from the map altogether. No legal descriptions for the areas created by the new policy could be better than those ready to hand—namely "Malaya," and "Singapore," and I urge that consideration should be given to these two suggestions.

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Malayan Union is to be inaugurated at a time when feeling between Chinese and Malays has never been more bitter. I think it right that I should point out that following the Japanese occupation, in Johore alone, three Malay District Officers, one Malay Assistant Commissioner of Police, and one Malay Inspector of Schools are reported to have been murdered by Chinese, most of them schoolboy Communists. A boycott is reported to have driven most of the small Chinese population out of Kelantan.

Chinese guerrilla bands are still looting and pillaging. This may be ascribed to the war, but it nevertheless illustrates the animosity prevailing, and every care must be taken to avoid inflaming passions further. The fact must be faced that no system of government can unite or fuse a population composed of different Asiatic races, with different outlooks, different and often conflicting interests, and very different and irreconcilable religions. It is impossible to fuse them; we must come to an agreement with them all in amity if we are to succeed in this great task.

The Chinese are fully aware of their capabilities and resent our taking on the role of super-men, privileged to rule over every class. They look for friendship on our part and not condescension. They have seen us as a conquered race, subject to the greatest degradations by the Japanese, and this fact will never be forgotten. It is a sad thing to think of, but it is a reality that must be considered, and that is why I interposed just now to say how delighted I was to hear that a decision, or rather an order, had been made that no Jap would ever again be allowed in Malaya—at any rate until better conditions and a better understanding with those inhuman wretches prevail. I hope that that order will stand good for all time.

The demand for independence and self-government is increasing throughout the world, and nothing can stop it. In a country like Malaya it is inevitable that the question should be asked why a small number of Europeans should form the Government or control it, when the vast majority of the population is Asiatic. The troubles in India, and the recent violent upheavals in Java are an illustration of this, and they must not be disregarded. With this in mind, and hoping for a peaceful and contented solution, I ask the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, to inform us, if he will be so good, who was it, in the first place, who asked for this "Malayan Union." Did the peoples of Malaya express any wish for it?

With regard to the statement in the White Paper that Sir Harold MacMichael has successfully concluded an agreement with the Malay Rules, "after consultations conducted with friendliness and good will," it would be far more reassuring if His Majesty's Government would state definitely that the agreement had been concluded with every Ruler after he had consulted his Council. It must not be forgotten that it was by our British advice that the Rulers have always acted in Council and that actions taken otherwise were unconstitutional. With the merging of States, some of our treaties with the Malay Rulers definitely require the written consent of the Rulers in Council. To look at the situation from another angle, unless the proposed Union has been approved by the Rulers in Council, an unfair weight of responsibility is being thrown upon the Sultans. It lays them open to the criticism of their chiefs and their peoples and may leave a legacy of discontent at the illegality which may well cloud the inception of this new Constitution. Another sentence in the White Paper runs: Those acquiring Union citizenship otherwise than by birth will be required to affirm allegiance to the Malayan Union. One can understand allegiance to the Sultans or to His Majesty the King, but how many people, even in this country, would feel bound by an Oath of Allegiance to the British Constitution? I think that that should be looked into.

My remarks, I would again assure the noble Viscount opposite, are made in no captious spirit. I welcome this scheme and I congratulate the Government most heartily on the appointments they have made for the Governor-General and the two Governors. I repeat that I hope the Constitution may be launched without feelings of bitterness or resentment. If this is done, I am sure it will redound not only to the credit of this Council but to the benefit to the people out there.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, if I take part in the debate now, it is not because I think the measure is a very controversial one but because I was unfortunate, Owing to my absence from England, in being unable to take part in the previous debate to which the Leader of the House has referred. May I, to begin with, invite your Lordships' attention to one point in this Bill which will, I am sure, be of interest to students of history? The Act of 1866 which we are now asked to repeal had for its main purpose the cancellation of the previous arrangement by which the Straits Settlements were ruled from India. It is interesting to reflect what a very different position Malaya now occupies in the world from those days when it was a somewhat ill-considered dependency of India. It was inevitable, of course, that although this measure is of a very restricted extent, and is in fact confined in its main purpose of allowing us to separate Prince of Wales Island, Penang and Malacca from the Straits Settlements of which they were made a part under the previous Acts, that discussion should range over the whole scheme of the White Paper. It is not only here, of course, that this matter has aroused attention but there has been a certain amount of criticism and discussion from outside, in which many persons who are closely acquainted with Malayan conditions and deeply sympathize with the Malayan people, have taken part. It is mainly in view of what has been said outside that I venture to add a few remarks on what has already been said to-day on the subject.

Whether this is a measure which has been unduly hastily conceived or not I have not sufficient acquaintance with Malaya to say. My acquaintance is that of study and of a brief visit; but I have myself in a somewhat long administrative life had reason to look on the appointment of Commissions with some apprehension. I am not greatly enamoured of the Commission procedure advocated by the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank. I am not sure whether the complaint that this scheme has been unduly hastily conceived comes mainly from European interests in the country, or whether it is likely to be felt by the people at large. That is a point which it may be a little difficult for us to decide here; but it certainly seems to me that there are strong reasons for supporting the main purpose of the White Paper. I think that everyone is agreed that viewed purely as a measure of administrative reform it offers great advantages. You have an existing situation in which Malaya at large—and I am not referring at the moment to Singapore—is nominally ruled by nine Sultans and their Councils, but subject to what is called the advice but what does, in fact, amount to the orders, of Residents or Advisers. No one would contest that under this system the country has made an almost spectacular advance.

I am not referring merely to our own views in that regard; there is the evidence of many competent foreign observers on the subject. Whether you look at the improvement in material conditions, the improvement in health conditions, the improvement in education or in general standards of living, I think you can say that Malaya has during the relatively brief period of our rule made an advance far greater than that of the majority of our dependencies. Whether that can be said to be due entirely to the present system, or largely to the fact that the revenues of the country, derived from the enterprise of private capital in the tin and rubber industries, have enabled expenditure to be undertaken on a scale unexampled in the other dependencies—whether that is not at least as large a contributor to this advance as the system itself, I find it difficult to determine. But the fact remains that progress has been unequal. Many of the States have lagged behind both in material developments and in the improvement of social conditions. Moreover, the requirements of the future are for social and economic advance of a kind that needs co-ordinated policy, strong technical and uniformly directed services. The present system does, of course, militate against this.

But the scheme on the White Paper does not end merely at administrative reform. It has a political aspect, the purpose of facilitating political development. Such development towards self-government has, as Lord Marchwood has said, become inevitable, and this demands the evolution, if not of a sense of nationalism, at all events of community of interest. As Lord Marchwood said, it may be very difficult to fuse together elements so diverse as we find in Malay. Whether we may be able to achieve that or not, it is certain that the maintenance of a number of self-centred units, each with its local loyalties, would clearly be an obstacle to that development.

Moreover, it is difficult to see in the maintenance of the present system any logical basis for the development of self-rule. One line of advance—and it is one that has seemed natural to a great many people—would be the gradual reduction of the elements of superintendence or control over Sultans and their Councils, leaving them ultimately in unrestricted control of their local areas. Now this might be self-government of a type; but it is not self-government of the type of which we have usually thought elsewhere. We have always assumed that self-government means not merely the absence of external control, but the existence of some form of political machinery which would give as wide as possible a share of popular control over the legislative and executive actions of the Government. That might take various forms, not necessarily the form of Parliamentary Government as we understand it. The continuance of the present system, even although accompanied by a progressive reduction of control and the withdrawal of supervision, would not necessarily secure this end. The end might perhaps be secured by retaining just that element of official control which would be necessary to secure that the Sultans and the Councils did popularize the institutions of the country, and though it might be effective in that respect, yet so long as an element of external control is retained, even to that limited extent, that again would not be self-government. As I have said, there seems to be in the maintenance of the present system no logical basis for the development of self-governing institutions.

I think, however, I am right in saying that, generally speaking, the objections that have been taken to the scheme or the criticisms that have been expressed about it have not been against the principle of the White Paper, so much as against some of the methods that may be employed to obtain our object and some of the consequences that will be entailed. I think that this was also the conclusion of the noble Viscount, Lord Marchwood. Now, there are here two major considerations. The first—and we have heard of it again to-day—is the position of the Sultans of the States. We made agreements with them as independent sovereigns, but the necessity for securing the final and undisputed control of the Crown both in the legislative and judicial sense will involve the extension of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, and this, in a juridical sense, will undoubtedly deprive the Sultans of the position of independent sovereign.

However, there is this to be said on the other side. The fact that they had in their own agreement, in the past accepted the obligation to act on the advice of our Residents or our Advisors and that this has for many years established a well-understood usage by which control has remained in official hands, this has, in effect, very largely invaded their de jure position. It is perhaps this fact, as well as more material considerations, that has led them to accept the position which it is now proposed to establish and which we have been told has been fully explained to them in the negotiations with Sir Harold MacMichael. Now I join with the noble Viscount, Lord Marchwood, in hoping—and I hope we may obtain an assurance from the noble Viscount, Lord Addison—that that acceptance has not been only the acceptance of the Sultans themselves, but the acceptance also of their Councils. Throughout systems of this kind it must always be understood that though in form they are not in fact autocratic or absolute, it is always essential, and well-established by tradition, that the Sultan should act with his Council.

But we may nevertheless hope that the change which is now proposed in their de jure position will not be allowed to result in wide invasion of the position which they otherwise occupy. They obviously have the full loyalty of their own subjects; they enjoy a position of dignity and respect; and apart from what we owe to them, their influence can be of great value to us in securing the social advance of the country and the betterment of its conditions. The powers acquired under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, as I need not remind noble Lords, many of whom no doubt know its terms more intimately than I do, are in every way complete. But, as experience has shown, there can be a very wide measure of difference in the extent to which those powers are utilized. If we take for instance the example of Zanzibar, it has shown that authority acquired from the Foreign Jurisdiction Act is not incompatible with the retention of a Ruler in a position which, while it enables us to achieve our legitimate purposes, does not seriously impair the prestige or the dignity that he commands by tradition from his own people. I hope that similar steps might be taken on that analogy to secure the position of the Malayan Sultans.

There is here one particular point. It is proposed that the Sultans and their Councils shall remain the authority for legislating on and deciding issues relating to Moslem law and religion. That is of course a function which they have already exercised in the past under their own agreements, but the position will require very careful definition, because in the theocratic system of the Moslem's religious law was all-pervading and covered a very wide field, both of criminal and civil matters, including many aspects of land holding and land tenure. It would be very unfortunate if for lack of care in defining that position there should be any conflict arising which would make relations difficult as between Sultans and the official Administration.

But, as I have said, there is not only the consideration of administrative unity, there is a second major consideration arising from the White Paper scheme. I mean its effect not only on the position of the Sultans but on the position of the Malayan population generally, a point to which the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has called prominent attention. It is proposed to give formal recognition, through the creation of the Malayan Union citizenship, to the rights of the immigrant communities, and the grant of citizenship must in due course result in the extension of political rights to them. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has given you some figures relating to the exact position in respect of the various component elements of Malaya, that is, the Malayan population, and the large immigrant communities. It is of course the fact that, taking Malaya as a whole, the Malays or Malaysians—and I include in that term also the very large number of Malays who are themselves immigrants from Sumatra and not original inhabitants of the country—now constitute only 37½ per cent. of the total population. For the present purposes, however, it is advisable to exclude Singapore, and if I give you the few figures that follow it will perhaps illustrate the position a little more fully than the total figures of population the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, gave you.

In the Federated Malay States, the Malays are now only 26 per cent. of the whole population; in Kedah and Perlis, they are 67 per cent., and in Kelantan and Trengganu they are 90 per cent. In Johore they come down to only 22 per cent. of the total population. Now whether we regard these as minorities, as Lord Elibank described them, or however we regard them, it is quite clear we have a position in this respect of some delicacy. There is no doubt that our Policy in the past has been directed to maintain the position of the Malays as against the immigrant population. Some of the agreements with the State actually stipulate that the officers of the local (that is to say the State) Government were to be only Malays, and there were declarations made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in 1925 and the permanent Under-Secretary of State in 1932, which emphasized the desirability (to use the words of the latter) "of establishing safeguards against the political submergence of the Malays which would result from the development of popular government on Western lines." Throughout I think it has been generally our policy to guard against a submergence of the Malays in a political sense and, indeed, in an administrative sense by the immigrant communities.

But if we are in earnest to promote self-government institutions in the peninsula as a whole, how far is it possible to neglect the claims of these immigrant communities? It is true that they owe their modern growth to our own action or the action of European private enterprise in developing the tin and rubber industries. But the Chinese in particular have an old-standing connexion with Malaya. They are said to have been established in Malacca for 300 years. They certainly exploited the tin resources of the country long before the European occupation of it. The treatment of the Chinese by some of the Malayan Sultanates in the old days was indeed the very cause of our intervention in the peninsula and our efforts to obtain jurisdiction over it. The Chinese are to-day mainly responsible for much of the internal trade and industry in the peninsula itself. It is a little difficult to say how far they can be regarded as a permanent immigrant population. In 1931, 31 per cent. of the total Chinese population was actually born in Malaya. I quote this figure as an illustration though it may not in itself be a real proof of permanence of the Chinese immigration. But it shows the extent of the Chinese immigrant interest. That of the Indian immigrants, which constitute some 14 per cent. of the population, is much more transient. They are very largely labourers on the plantations.

But this kind of problem is not a new one for us; we have had to face it elsewhere in our dependencies. The case of the Indian Tamils in Ceylon is a case in point. We have had to face it in Fiji, where the Indiana immigrant population is now exceeding in number the indigenous population. We have had to face the same problem in East Africa. I am not referring merely to the fact that we have an immigrant European population whose interests may have to be considered; there is the problem of the Indian immigrant population also.

Now I think it is clear that, in view of all the circumstances, we must recognize the political rights of these communities. But I hope that the concrete measures which will be taken in this regard will take due account of our obligation to the Malays. I notice for instance, that it is proposed to give the Malayan Union citizenship to all persons born in the territory of the Union. It seems worth while considering if his should not be confined to persons born in the Union of parents one or both of whom themselves were born in it. That would give you a far larger measure of connexion with the Union itself. In other ways also I hope that due steps will be taken to safeguard, as far as possible, both the feelings and the position of Malays, as, for instance, in admission to the public services or in regard to facilities for acquisition of land.

As both the noble Lords have emphasized, there is, as a matter of fact, something like standing animosity between Malays and Chinese. It has, perhaps, never been stronger than at the present moment. The Chinese have constituted the real "resistance" movement against the Japanese in Malaya, and it is certain that they will stand out strongly for the recognition of their political claims in Malaya. Nevertheless we have to remember this: that the interest of a large number of these immigrant communities is limited to the industrial or commercial opportunities they represent. As all experience shows, it is only rarely that an emigrant from China or India can regard any other country as his adopted homeland or as the real centre of his loyalty and attachment. I think on that ground, and apart from the very obvious ground of defence on which I have said nothing, for it is one of the outstanding questions that still have to be solved, there is every reason why we should proceed with caution and with studied moderation in such part of our political developments as may affect the position of the Malayans. Our rule has, as I have said before, brought great benefits to Malaya, both in material and in social progress. As I have said before, I believe Malaya has made a more rapid advance in the short period of our rule than most of our other dependencies. But we now have to consider the further promotion of social and economic advance, not for its own sake, but as the foundation for the progressive establishment of the institutions of self-government. We must, therefore, endeavour to secure that political advance is achieved on terms which will neither injure the self-respect of the original inhabitants of the country nor impair the value of their co-operation in achieving its success.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, if I rise for one moment to welcome this Bill it is because, as the Leader of the Opposition remarked, although it is a very small Bill it is by implication an extremely important one. I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, who used the word "Dominion" in connexion with Malaya. I think we all hope that this Bill will be the first stone in the foundation of a new Malayan Dominion. Therefore, I think, it is impossible to exaggerate its importance. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, and the noble Viscount, Lord Marchwood, were doubtful whether this was the proper time to undertake these measures. To me it seems that no time could be more suitable than the present, when all Malayan institutions are in the melting pot. If we re-established what I think all sides of the House admit to have been an unsatisfactory state of affairs, it would surely be very much more difficult later on to undertake these steps of fundamental reorganization. Lord Marchwood inquired who asked for these measures to be undertaken. I would say the answer is that the circumstances of the present day demanded that they should be undertaken.

Before the arrival of the European in Malaya, or indeed in all the countries of South-Eastern Asia, the peoples there formed almost completely homogeneous societies, greater or less, ruled by Rulers who varied from petty tyrants to benevolent despots. There existed no rule of law other than the will of the Ruler. Economic relations generally were con- trolled by custom. I do not wish to paint a picture of a lost Utopia; the conditions were such as you would expect to find under petty tyrannies or even under benevolent despotisms. The arrival of the European and the introduction of Western thought and methods produced a revolution in all those countries from Burma to the Dutch Indies and Indo-China. There is a curious resemblance, I suggest, between the events in all those countries. In every country the native customs were upset and replaced by an increase, or an apparent increase, in the wealth of the country owing to Western methods, but that involved the importation of foreign communities. In Malaya the foreign community is no longer a minority community but a majority community. For the rule of custom there has been substituted a state of social anarchy. That, I submit, is the fundamental problem of all these countries in South-Eastern Asia.

The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, stated what we all know to be the fact—namely, that the social condition of the peoples in Malaya has been vastly improved, and remarkable social and medical services have been put at their disposal. But those services have really had as their aim the improvement of conditions for the commercial exploitation of those countries. Education, for example, was directed to provide the employees required for administration and for business enterprise. Instead of giving to those people something with which to replace their native culture and their native traditions, we gave them only so much education as was required to make clerks of them. The maintenance of small units in Malaya was clearly, in a modern world, an anachronism. The noble Lord, Lord Bailey, has pointed out that the process of self-government in a democratic sense was clearly impossible under the Sultans. I would suggest to your Lordships a point which we, as a great Colonial people, must consider—namely, that where we support native rule we thereby prevent the ordinary action of powers within those States which would have varied, modified and produced progress in the Government's composition and general make-up. That being so, it seems to me that we have a definite duty to the people in such States, since they are unable to make their feelings known as they would if they were truly independent, to see that their progress shall not thereby be impeded but rather aided under our guidance. The great problem with all these South-Eastern Asiatic countries seems to me to be how they can again co-ordinate their societies into a single effective, if not racial at least cultural, homogeneous whole. I believe that this Bill is the first foundation stone in setting up an administration and an organization in South-East Asia which will show the way and which will be a guide to other territories which have to face this extremely difficult and complicated problem.

I have seen a certain number of extracts from the Malayan Press. They seem to me to be, on the whole, welcoming the present plan, but with reservations, and nearly all those reservations turn on the point of Malayan anxiety lest they may be submerged. In our earlier debate I asked the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, what steps, if any, were being taken or were in contemplation for the protection, not so much of the Malayan but of the peasant cultivator. The land reservation policy does not, I suggest, go far enough. What is required in Malaya, as in other Eastern countries, is protection for the cultivator, security in the tenure of his land and a reduction of rural indebtedness.

I think that the exclusion of Singapore, although on economic grounds it may seem a difficult and perhaps clumsy operation, is in fact an operation which at this time can hardly be avoided, and which is indeed desirable. As the noble Lord, Lord Halley, and I think the noble Viscount, Lord Marchwood, also, pointed out, the population of Singapore is predominantly Chinese, and were those deducted from the total number of Chinese in Malaya, Chinese preponderance would be very much less threatening to the Malayans. On that ground I suggest the separation of Singapore under a separate administration is a necessary operation at the present stage of development. I would, incidentally, like to ask the noble Lord who will reply for the Government—he probably cannot do it at this stage—whether he can give any indication of what the exact relationship between the two units which it is proposed to set up, and, later on, of the other unit, Borneo and Sarawak, is likely to be. I hope their separation will not be too absolute or too complete and that it may be made possible in the future to co-ordinate those units more closely.

We have heard a good deal about Malayan citizenship. I thought a very good point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Halley, when he suggested that mere birth in Malaya should not be an entitlement to citizenship unless at least one parent of the child had already got that citizenship. That seemed to me a very sensible and reasonable point, and I hope that it is one that the Government will consider. I hope, too, that this citizenship will really mean the birth of a new Malayan entity, of co-operation between the races of Malaya, and a far happier future for them, which may be a guide to other countries in that very difficult neighbourhood.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I think that we have had a discussion on this Bill which is characteristic and in the high tradition of this House. It has been contributed to by a considerable number of speakers who themselves are well acquainted with the problems concerned, and who are able to give us the assistance of their special knowledge. That is the special characteristic of the discussions of this House, and give; them their very high value. I shall try to reply quite briefly to the questions which have been put to me, taking them in their reverse order, Dealing with a question put just now by my noble friend Lord Faringdon, I may say that it is proposed that the Governor-General shall have regular meetings with the other two Governors and such of their advisers as may be necessary with a view to promoting harmony and co-operation in schemes of administration in the two areas. I have no doubt that under the skilful guidance of the man whom we are going to send there that will mean quite rapidly an increasing measure of consolidation and common guidance.

I think that what the noble Lord said in reply to Lord Marchwood about the time of introduction of this Bill was peculiarly appropriate. I think that the time is exceedingly well chosen, or at any rate forced upon us. I should like to remind your Lordships, and to remind myself, of something which I omitted to say at the beginning—namely, that this scheme is not the sole invention of the present Government. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranborne) is well aware that this has been the subject of consideration for a long time, so that we do not take any special credit in that respect. It is peculiarly fitting, however, that these changes should be initiated now, because the disorders which the war has produced in that area provide a unique opportunity for making a better start before some of the habits become consolidated which we would rather were not renewed. In that sense, therefore, the present time is very appropriate.

We shall consider, of course, the suggestions which have been made with regard to the conditions of citizenship, and particularly the suggestion made by Lord Hailey near the end of his remarks. We are fully alive to the safeguards needed for the Malays, and very sympathetic in that respect. In spite of that, we have, of course, to recognize the rights and privileges of bona-fide residents, and of workers who come to live there and make their homes in this area, and we have to treat them fairly too. The facts with regard to the population which have been given to me in a table provided officially since the debate started are not quite what one might have understood from what the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, said, because there is a great preponderance of Chinese in Singapore.


I said so.


With regard to the rest of Malaya, I am told that in 1941 the population consisted of 2,200,000 Malays, 1,780,000 Chinese and 664,000 Indians. I do not know the numbers of the others. In Singapore the figures show a quite different position; there were 599,000 Chinese in Singapore, and only 77,000 Malays and 59,000 Indians. I think that that difference in the population is in itself a very important reason for treating Singapore separately, as otherwise the Malays in the rest of the Union would be more likely to be overshadowed by the active business people in Singapore.

I can assure Lord Hailey that we have given full consideration to safeguarding the rights of the Sultans, and I think that the scheme is fully adequate in that respect. Their privileges and duties with regard to religious places and observances are fully safeguarded. In reply to a question put to me by more than one noble Lord, I am authorized to say that Sir Harold MacMichael consulted the Sultans with their advisers in every case, and, where it was a statutory duty that they should be consulted with their advisers in a formal Council, that also was done. It was not a case of merely consulting with the Sultans individually, as might be thought. I say that partly in reply to Lord Marchwood, who asked that question. As for his preference for names, I shall report that to my friends, and we shall await the result of their considerations. As far as I am concerned, I do not object to the word "Union." I should have thought that one who belonged to the Party which the noble Lord has represented for so long would not object to it either, because the members of that Party for a long time prided themselves on being Unionists. I thought that the name "Malayan Union" was a happy one, but I shall report to my friend the noble Lord's animadversions, and he will no doubt meditate upon them. I cannot say more than that.

I did not feel able to agree with the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, that we should send out a Commission of Inquiry now. I was not sure as to the terms of reference that were in his mind, but, in view of the elaborate, painstaking and long-continued investigation and negotiations which have taken place, I do not think that it would be wise or necessary to send out another Commission of Inquiry.


No Commission of Inquiry has been sent out. The noble Viscount speaks of "another Commission," but we have never had one. The question which really requires investigation is that of these so-called minorities—the different races—the relationship between them and their representation on the Council. Conditions in Malaya have altered very considerably since the former proposal; were made, and no Commission has ever been sent there.


It is quite true, I believe, that there has never been an inquiry by a body called a Commission, but there have been most prolonged and detailed inquiries.


In the Colonial Office.


It will be a very important part of the duties of those con- cerned with the initiation of these schemes to create the safeguards which are legitimate for minorities. We shall certainly not lose sight of that. Personally, however, I do not think that a further inquiry by a body styled a Commission is called for at all, in view of the elaborate and painstaking and long-continued inquiries which have already taken place.

I now come to the very important point raised by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, which I confess I fully anticipated. I understand that, under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, these proceedings, these changes, alterations and adjustments are brought about by orders, and that this Bill is strictly in accordance with those that have gone before it in that respect. That is to say, the form of this Bill is in conformity with all other previous Bills effecting similar improvements. But I recognize that times have changed and that this is a very important, and, in fact, in one sense, a revolutionary proposal. I am greatly impressed by what the noble Viscount says, and if he will allow me to leave it where he suggested that I might leave in I will bring his very forceful observations with regard to the procedure affecting orders to the notice of my colleagues, and will communicate the result of our conference to him before the Committee stage is reached. Under the circumstance I hope your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.

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