§ 2.34 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
With your Lordships' permission, I will make a statement about Burma. The conversations between His Majesty's Government and the Burma Goodwill Mission, led by Thakin Nu, President of the Burma Constituent Assembly and now Deputy Chairman of the Governor's Executive Council, ended on July 2. The conversations turned principally on the arrangements for the transfer of power in Burma and the future relations between Burma and His Majesty's Government. It has been agreed that immediate steps shall be taken by the exchange of Missions between Burma and this country to examine and if possible reach provisional agreement on various matters such as defence, finance, nationality, commercial relations, and contractual obligations arising out of the transfer of power. The common objective of His Majesty's Government and the Government of Burma will be if possible to reach provisional conclusions on those matters by the date on which the Constituent Assembly completes the drafting of a new Constitution for Burma.
His Majesty's Government have given the Mission an assurance that they intend to introduce legislation at the beginning of the next Session of Parliament in the autumn to give effect to the transfer of power to the Burmese Government under the Constitution which is to be set up by the Constituent Assembly which is now sitting. His Majesty's Government will do their utmost to carry the necessary Bill through Parliament as quickly as possible.
As regards the future relations between Burma and His Majesty's Government it has been agreed that should the final decision of the Constituent Assembly be that Burma is to become an independent State outside the British Commonwealth, the object of both countries will be to maintain the most cordial relations and that all steps that are practicable should be taken to this end.
The Mission have represented that it is desirable that, for the period between now and the achievement by Burma of her full independence, the Interim Government set up under the Government of 317 Burma (Temporary Provisions) Order, 1945, is recognized as the Provisional Government of Burma. In order to make clear their sincere desire to help Burma to achieve her full independence as early as possible His Majesty's Government agree that the present Interim Government as so constituted shall become the Provisional Government of Burma until the transfer of power is completed. The senior member of the Cabinet will by convention be designated as Prime Minister, and the other members as Ministers.
I should inform the House that the agreement which I have just read was communicated by the Burma Goodwill Mission under Thakin Nu to the late U Aung San and his colleagues in the Executive Council and that I am informed by the Governor that it received their approval. That approval was given almost immediately before the lamentable outrage of Saturday last.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I wonder if I may ask the Secretary of State for India to make one thing perfectly clear, although the general principle of this statement naturally will require our consideration at a future date. I understand him to say that there will be an exchange of Missions. I do not know whether he can inform us when this exchange is likely to take place. And may I ask him this? If Burma should elect to go outside the British Empire, some treaty will be necessary between His Majesty's Government and the Government of Burma. I should like to know whether he contemplates a treaty of that sort, because it was not indicated in the course of the remarks he made to the House just now.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I would like to thank the Government for the statement made on Burma which, as the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has just said, in principle is a matter for later consideration. I cannot, however, refrain from saying that, if the decision of the Burmese Constituent Assembly should be that Burma should remain outside the Commonwealth, it would be received with much regret by members in all quarters of your Lordships' House. Let me end by saying that the House would desire to express their sympathy to the Burmese Government and people on the terrible tragedy and outrage which has lately taken place there.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, might I say first how deeply grateful I am to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for expressing, I am sure on behalf of fie whole House, the sympathy that is felt with the victims of the dastardly outrage in Burma and their relatives, and the sympathy that is also felt for Burma generally on account of the loss of leadership which that country has sustained?
I should also like to answer quite to briefly the two questions addressed to me by the noble Earl, Lord Munster. The Missions which I mentioned in my statement are under consideration by the two Governments at this moment. We hope that the exchange will take place at be earliest possible moment and that the terms of reference will cover the whole field which will have to be dealt with before the final provisions of a Treaty are drawn up. The two things, as the noble Earl will observe, are linked together and, as he rightly said, there will be a Treaty or other agreement between Burma and this country arising out of matters connected with the transfer of power.