HL Deb 10 March 1954 vol 186 cc231-80

2.53 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the situation in Malaya, with special reference to the Report on the Elections to the Federal Legislative Council recently published by the Federal Government, and to alterations recently made in the functions and powers of assessors in capital cases in the Federal Courts; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree that this is an opportune time to discuss affairs in Malaya. Your Lordships will remember that we had a debate at the beginning of General Templer's period of office, when we reviewed the situation and wished him Godspeed. Now that his term of office is nearly over, I think it is opportune once more to look at the period, to ascertain what has been done and to hear from the Government what, if any, are their hopes for the future.

Any unprejudiced observer, whatever his Party may be, must feel a debt of gratitude to General Templer for the work he has done in Malaya. Critical though I am of Her Majesty's Government, and as one who has expressed that criticism in no uncertain language, I think they also deserve a measure of praise for the way in which they have handled affairs in Malaya. I must not allow this measure of praise to be extended to a field greater than that which I now intend to cover. but I give praise where praise is due. I am sure that noble Lords on both sides of the House would all wish to extend a word of gratitude to the Colonial Office, to all loyal officials in the Malayan and British Governments, and to the various services, police and army alike. But we must not allow the improvement in the situation to blind us to the fact that the emergency is not over. Even while General Templer was speaking on the improvement, and giving a warning similar to that which I am now uttering, there was an ambush in which a number of people were badly injured. So we must not think that, because there has been an improvement in the situation, nothing more need be done. On the military aspect of the situation I, for one, was delighted to see on the newsreel the other night the seven battalions of the Malay Regiment marching past Their Highnesses the Rulers and General Templer. It was a fine sight. As one who had done some work to get the Regiment going, I felt proud indeed to see them march past so smartly, and to learn of the good work which they have done. I hope that in time the seven battalions will be added to, and that we shall have nine. I think it is right that every State should have one 'battalion of its own, at all events nominally.

The directive from the Secretary of State to General Templer, which was recounted to us by the noble Marquess at the time General Templer went out, concluded with these words: You may assure the Malayan peoples of all communities that they can count on the powerful and continuing assistance of His Majesty's Government, not only in the immediate task of defeating the terrorists but in the longer-term objective of forging a united Malayan nation. His Majesty's Government will not lay aside their responsibilities in Malaya until they are satisfied that Communist terrorism has been defeated and that the partnership of all communities, which alone can lead to true and stable self-government, has been firmly established. At that time my noble friend Lord Listowel and I welcomed that expression of the Government's intention. To-day we should like to hear from the noble Earl who is to reply how far he thinks these intentions have been carried out during the last two years and what are the prospects in the future. How is the "united Malayan nation" to be forged? What are the Government's intentions and plans with respect to Malaya? For example, do the Government see the Federation—that is, the Federation of the nine protected States and the two Settlements of Penang and Malacca—developing as an independent member of the Common-'wealth on its own, or do they see the Federation before it becomes an independent member of the Commonwealth, being joined by other Territories and States in the area, such as Singapore, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei? Do they see the Federal Government and Parliament on the United Kingdom model, and do they see, possibly, as I have before suggested, a Ruler being chosen by the other Rulers in the Malayan States to be a constitutional monarch? All these questions are apposite at the moment. We want to consider them carefully, because it is time that we looked at the situation as a whole. With the military position much better than it was, the political situation now becomes the one which must have our urgent consideration.

May I look at the problems involved? First of all, there is security. Undoubtedly we shall hear something of this from the noble Earl, Lord Munster. As I have said, we are glad to hear that things are so much better, but it is important to realise that we cannot have a real security programme in Malaya without the support of the public. I was impressed by the statement recently made by Colonel Young, the Commissioner of Police for the City of London, who was lately in Malaya and is shortly going to Kenya. He is reported to have said that: No doubt his experience in Malaya, especially the successful change of public feeling that had been effected from hostility to co-operation with the police, would help him in what was bound to be a long and uphill task in Kenya. He had found, bath during his visit to help the Gold Coast police in 1951 and to Malaya in 1952, that it was vital to persuade the public that the Army though unfortunately necessary, was still there to help the police, and that the police were not a kind of auxiliary soldiers. He wished to emphasise, however, what important and. indeed, essential work had been done in Malaya by the Army. The basic duty of a policeman even in such a troubled area as Kenya to-day, was to go forth and arrest alleged law-breakers and to hand them over to the magistrates to be tried and punished if found guilty. I think we shall all agree with that, and this emphasis from one who is a great authority shows how important it is to have public opinion in Malaya behind us. I was interested to see a report in the diocesan magazine for the diocese in which I live on the work that is being done among the new settlements in Malaya by the Young Anglican Movement. At some time in the future perhaps we shall have the opportunity of hearing from one of the most reverend Primates or the right reverend Prelates on this particular aspect of the work, because obviously it is highly essential that there should grow up in these new communities a sense of community, and not a sense of hostility towards the police and the Government generally.

I should now like to say a word or two about the economic side of this problem. Progress—slow progress—has been made since the war with the diversifying of the economy of Malaya. Before the war, as we all know only too well, the Malayan eggs were in two baskets; namely, tin and rubber—and I do not think many more baskets have been added since. However, art attempt has been made to grow more rice, to establish fish farms, to establish mixed farming, and to go in for more copra, palm oil, tea and other commodities. Even so, in spite of all the efforts that have been made, I am sure the noble Earl will agree with me when I say that the economy of Malaya is still based largely on the two commodities of tin and rubber. Malaya produces 36.6 per cent. of the world's tin and about 59 per cent., or perhaps a little less, of the world's rubber. Unfortunately—I am sorry to have to say this, but it is a fact—one of the commodities that has suffered most in the fall in prices in recent years has been tin. In 1952 the average price of cash standard tin was £962 a ton, and it fell to £731 a ton in 1953—that is a fall of £230 a ton in a year.

This sharp fall caused great concern to those in the industry, and to those also, who were responsible for the affairs of Malaya. The primary cause was the knowledge that at the end of 1953 or early in 1954 the fixed-price contracts for the purchase of tin for stockpiling by the United States would end: this together with the reduction in the demand by users, caused that fall. The future price probably depends upon ratification of the Agreement arrived at recently in Geneva, which Governments were asked to ratify by June next. The object is to enable production to be adjusted to consumption and at a reasonable stability of price. This is the dream of all producers, of course; whether British farmers or Malayan tin producers everybody wants to have production adjusted to consumption and the price to remain reasonably steady. The Agreement also provides for a reduction in output if supplies are excessive, and for the formation of a buffer stock to deal with fluctuations in demand.

Unfortunately, the United States have refused to enter into this Agreement. This refusal materially affects the situation, because they are the biggest users of tin. I am glad to say that Her Majesty's Government have shown the way, and that on Friday last the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, signed the Geneva Agreement at the Foreign Office. I seem to be giving bouquets all round to-day, but I feel that the British Government deserve a bouquet for this: they have done their best to bring this tin Agreement into effect. Of course, the British Government are interested in two ways. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, is protecting the British consumer, and next to him is the noble Earl, Lord Munster who is trying to protect the two big producers, Malaya and Nigeria. But that is inevitable, in the circumstances. I do not know—and I should like to hear from the noble Earl on this point, because it is a basic question, not only concerning the tin trade, but concerning the whole of Malaya—how the Agreement will come into effect if the United States stand out. If the biggest consumer of all will not come in, how on earth will the Agreement come into effect?—because it is an Agreement to enable production to be adjusted to consumption.

I must say that it is a matter of surprise to me—it is no business of mine, or of any of us, in a sense, because the Americans run their own affairs—that the Americans, with their McCarthy Senate Committee, and all the rest of it, should spend so much time chasing people in America who are alleged to have had a cup of tea with a Communist in the early 'thirties, and should not be looking over the fence at the serious situation which will be created in South-East Asia if they do not stabilise tin and rubber prices. That is the direction in which their eyes should he turned. That is the place in which Senator McCarthy should be directing his energies: he should not be sitting in a room in Washington, hounding some poor fellow. The Americans should be looking at Malaya and South-East Asia, because that is where the battle of Communism will be won or lost. It does not matter what somebody said in a Liberal magazine in 1932; what is important is what is happening in Malaya and South-East Asia to-day.

The war and post-war troubles impeded prospecting, and some existing mines are approaching exhaustion. It is important to the tin industry to know what proposals the Government are making for the issue of new prospective licences. Rubber, too, has suffered a considerable fall in price in the last eighteen months. The employers demanded wage reductions when the price fell, and the Government set up an arbitration, with Mr. Justice Taylor as arbitrator. And less than two months ago he issued a report. He announced cuts of 25 cents for rubber workers and 16 cents for field workers. The trade unions. representing about 25 per cent. of 300,000 rubber workers, decided to accept the reduced rate during January only, as a trial period, without prejudice, but to hold a secret ballot. A secret ballot was held, and 98 per cent. voted against acceptance of the award, and 90 per cent. authorised a strike, if necessary. The employers, somewhat reluctantly, accepted the award. There is no need to stress the extreme danger of a strike on the rubber plantations at the present time; and there is no need to emphasise the danger of widespread, reasonable dissatisfaction among the tappers and the estate workers as a result of reductions in wages. That is a situation which I feel sure must be causing the Government considerable anxiety, and we shall be glad to know their views about it. I feel that the United States, as the biggest consumer of both tin and rubber, hold the key, to a large extent, to both of these problems. From my own experience when I was in the position now occupied by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, I know how difficult it is to get them to realise their responsibilities in this field, and to get them to realise their responsibility for trying to get a stabilised market at a reasonable price for the two basic commodities of tin and rubber.

I now turn to the question of constitutional reform, another aspect of the Malayan problem. There have recently been issued two Reports. One is the Electoral Report, referring to the Federation of Malaya, which, as I have said, consists of the nine Protected States, with whom we are joined by Treaties made by their Rulers, and the two Settlements of Penang and Malacca, which up to the beginning of the Japanese occupation formed, with Singapore, part of the old Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements. Penang, as your Lordships know, was the oldest British Settlement in the Far East going back to the East India Company days: in fact, in my days in Penang all the runners in the Supreme Court still wore the old East India Company livery, and the Malays used to call the Government "the Company"—or "the Company," because they do not pronounce the letter "c" very well.

The Federation of Malaya Report recommended direct elections, common electoral rolls and individual territorial constituencies. We roll these things off our tongues nowadays, but they are a tremendous step forward. It would have been unheard of for Malaya to recommend those three things when I lived there: to have everybody on the same roll and individual territorial constituencies, doing away to a large extent, though not entirely of course, with communalism. There was a split among the members over the proportion of elected members on the Legislative Council. Thirteen members of the Committee held that on the Legislative Council there should be sixty elected members, out of a hundred, and the majority of twenty-nine Committee members favoured forty-four out of ninety-two. I wish to emphasise the fact that neither the majority nor the minority favoured all elected members; nobody suggested that the whole of the Legislative Council of Malaya should be elected. The only difference was whether there should be a slight majority of elected members, or whether the elected members should be in a minority. In the event, the majority on the Committee favoured having only a minority of elected members. That has given rise to some dissatisfaction, and the National Convention have already lodged a petition—a copy of which they have sent me—with the High Commissioner on this and other points. They are not happy about the fact that there is not to be a majority of elected members. All are agreed that the members of the Executive Council should be appointed by the High Commissioner, and must be, or mast become, members of the Legislative Council.

The Singapore Report, which was issued more or less simultaneously with the Electoral Report, said that the Legislative Council should be mainly an elected assembly: twenty-five of its members would be elected, three would be ex-officio official members, and four would be nominated unofficial members. Thus, out of thirty-two members in Singapore, no fewer than twenty-five would be elected and only seven would be appointed or nominated. Therefore, if the Reports are accepted, as I presume they will be, there will be a tremendous difference. In the Federation of Malaya, where it cannot be said that the people are any less intelligent or advanced than Singapore, they will have a non-elected majority, whilst those in Singapore, next door, over the causeway, will have an elected majority. I should have thought that would lead to trouble, but we shall listen to what the noble Earl says. In the Singapore Report, the members made one rather interesting comment. They stressed the need for closer association between the Federation of Malaya and Singapore before full independence within the Commonwealth can be achieved.

That is an interesting comment, and lit conies back to what said originally in my speech: that it is important for us to know what are the future plans of the Government. because, obviously, if there is the idea of an independent member of the Commonwealth embracing more than the Federation of Malaya which obviously the inclusion of Singapore envisages, then it is important to lay the groundwork for that new Dominion, as it used to be called (independent member, as it is called to-day), on the right lines.

There is one final matter that I wish to bring to your Lordships' notice— I have raised it before in the form of a Question, but I should like to bring it up again—and that is the recent alteration in the Federation other than the Settlements of Penang and Malacca, of the powers, duties and. responsibilities of assessors in capital cases. Previous to this year—at least, for many many years—in what is now the Federation the position was as follows. In capital cases—and, so far as I remember, assessors are not used in other than capital cases—if the assessors returned a verdict of "Not guilty" or "Guilty," as the case might be, and were unanimous, the judge could not overrule them. I myself have appeared many times before assessors, and my own experience—which I think would be borne out by most people practising in Malaya, at all events in those days and I think it is the same to-day—is that the judge invariably accepted the unanimous opinion of the assessors. I think he could order a new trial, but in fact he did not, and he invariably accepted the decision of the assessors if it was unanimous. Of course, if it was not unanimous, a different set of circumstances applied. That was the position as I recall it. An interesting letter appeared in The Times from a lady in Kuala Lumpur, and she said the same thing.

The alteration recently made is that the assessors are now to be asked their opinions only on certain questions of fact which the judge may specify. The judge is not bound by the opinion of the assessors. That is the position so far as the nine States of the Federation are concerned, but it is not the case in Penang or Malaya, because they have a trial by jury, just as we have in this country. As far as I remember, the number of the jury was seven and not twelve, but I am not sure about that. At any rate, it is a jury, and the judge has to abide by the verdict of the jury just as in this country. It may be that this change is necessary, but I cannot understand how it is that during all the years when terrorism was at its height it was found possible to work a legal system with the assessors, and now, when everyone admits that the position, from a military point of view, is getting much better, it is found necessary to do away with this ancient right. I think that is a matter on which this House and the country and Malaya want to be satisfied. Except in the reply to me in general terms by the noble Earl, the Government have made absolutely no statement at all on this subject.

Looking at it from another angle altogether, I should have said that was a bad thing to do. One of the responsibilities of citizenship, as I understand it, is the duty to become a juryman or an assessor, which is the local equivalent. In this country that is one of the inherent duties of a citizen. It is often regarded as being an unpleasant and boring one, but it is accepted. If you look down the years, judge after judge in this country has said that trial by jury is one of the bulwarks of our Constitution, and from time immemorial has been a bulwark which no dictator, whatever colour he may be—I mean politically, of course—has been able to overthrow. In times when there have been dictators in this country juries have often stood out against them and in what were really political cases returned verdicts which were unpleasant to the Executive. Why should we take this responsibility away from the Malayans, who are now growing up in the political field towards full citizenship? They must have this responsibility, because otherwise all the odium will be passed on to the judge, who will usually be a European. Under this system he, and nobody else, will carry all the odium for capital cases. Then, in a few years time, it may be that Malaya will be an independent member of the Commonwealth, but there will be no jury system and no trained jurymen; no one will have had experience of trial by jury. There will be only a judge, who will have the sole right, in effect, of pronouncing on matters of life and death. Your Lordships know as well as I do the importance of the jury system. You may recall the statement by Colonel Young, which I have already mentioned, on the importance of having the public behind one in matters of security in Malaya. I feel that there is a strong onus upon Her Majesty's Government to explain why, at this particular stage in the history of Malaya, it should be thought desirable to do away with this system of assessors which the country has had for so long. I have nothing else to say to your Lordships this afternoon. I hope I have made a case on reasonable grounds and shown your Lordships the many points upon which we should like to have an answer from the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who is to reply. I beg to move for Papers.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, Lord Ogmore has, I think, done a great service to the House in bringing forward the question of the situation in Malaya at the present time. It is certainly well to consider this situation and, if possible, take stock of our position there now. I have seen only this morning, just before the opening of this debate, the Report regarding the elections to the Federal Legislative Council, and I will not attempt to deal in detail with any of those recommendations. I would, however, say two things concerning them. In the first place, as regards the question of direct and indirect elections, I do not feel confident that a mistake has not been made in deciding that elections, if they are to be held, are to be so to speak, direct elections—that is to say, not through any form of district or other electoral college.

I was serving in India at the time when the White Paper on Indian government was under discussion in this country. My own idea at that time with regard to those enormous constituencies in India—enormous in more than one sense: as regards extent and also as regards population; enormous, moreover, not only in population but in the number of completely illiterate persons in those populations—was that the only practical way was to have indirect elections: that is to say that a district should appoint its own chief or representative and he should represent the vote of the district. I was talking about it to an Indian statesman (I will not mention his name now) who was a distinguished Mohammedan so distinguished that he became one of the Viceroy's Council in the last war. We were talking about possibilities, and I said I wondered whether it would be possible to proceed without some form of indirect election. His reply was, "Do you really think that?" I said. "Yes, I do, because I cannot see how it is going to be run otherwise." He said, "General sahib, which would you think easier: to bribe one man or to bribe a thousand?" That is the way in which it is looked at in the East. Make no mistake, my Lords, in Malaya as in India, there will be bribery and corruption as opportunity occurs—and I think it is an absolute certainty. That is one reason why I am still a little doubtful whether direct or indirect election is the better in this particular case.

I think it is legitimate to ask who, in these elections, will be the electors and what qualifications those electors have. The answer, according to this Report, is that all Federal citizens will he qualified, and women will be included. In other words, there will be practically universal suffrage. I wonder how many of those prospective electors understand anything whatever about political, economic or social matters. I wonder how many can read and write. I think it would be a very small minority. I wonder, too, how many of them are ex-bandits or are in sympathy with the bandits and terrorists. Are we not, possibly, going to make the mistake that we have made so often in dealing with Asiatics and some Africans, of expecting them to have the same outlook, the same reactions, the same ideas of right and wrong and of fair dealing or otherwise, and the same sense of responsibility, as have the people of this country? Is it not a fact that most of these Asiatics—I ant talking about the rank and file, the men in the jungle, the men in the village, even the men in the street—are totally unfitted for arty form of democratic Government, and that the difficulties cannot be adequately solved by the grant of self-government? Is this a suitable time to give any form of self-government to Malaya? Will it not be taken as being some sort of offer some son of inducement and, if you like to look at it so, some sort of bribe to be good and to keep on our side and away from the terrorists? Any form of inducement of that kind in countries in the East is certainly not a useful one.

I would say that if the last Government had recognised in time the impending danger of rebellion in Malaya—we had a debate about it in another place, when the then Colonial Secretary rather pooh-poohed the idea of there being a possible revolution or serious trouble, although he was warned strongly—it might have been averted. They were warned but they would not heed the warnings. There was even talk on the Government Back Benches and a good deal of talk in other quarters in this country about "Malaya struggling for freedom," when in point of fact 98 per cent. of those who were, against us were Chinese and not Malays at all—just as much foreigners, in fact, as we are in Malaya. It is to a good many of those Chinese that votes will be given under this proposal; and, further, all those Chinese who were terrorists were undoubtedly inspired and supported by outside Communist sources, and they are so still: in other words, they are suspect from every point of view.

I would suggest that the only possible policy is to go on backing General Templer and General Templer's successor, and to be continuously firm in dealing with Malaya and the Malayans. We must continue to be strong, and to conduct a relentless offensive against the rebels. It is not over, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has sad. We have every reason to think that there has been an improvement, but this thing has to be knocked right out before there, can be any form of safety in Malaya. Only so can the terrorist gangs who are scattered in dense jungle over wide areas be effectively dealt with. Such a continuous and persistent offensive not only wears down the terrorists but, what is equally important, encourages those members of the civil population who are not out on commando, so to speak, and induces them to refuse aid to the terrorists. We must make it clear that we back our friends as well as hunt down our enemies, and that it pays to be on our side and to co-operate with, and to give information to, our forces and not to the enemy.

There has been far too much information and aid, given very often under duress but given, to the enemy by those who are not actually in the jungle. I have every reason to believe that what I have said is General Templer's policy. I hope it will be adhered to and that there will be no slackening because there is an improvement. We have to knock these people right out, clean out, before we can possibly get a satisfactory state of affairs there and before any fresh form of Government can be put into effect. I was glad to see in this Report a definite recommendation that there should be no immediate intention of instituting a new form of government and that it would be necessary to await a better opportunity. We ourselves must back, must help and must encourage our own forces by all possible means. Only so can we hope to defeat our enemies and restore peace. I suggest that no grant of self-government can improve matters, at least until the terrorists have been completely defeated and eliminated. That can be done only by the most drastic means, because we must keep in mind all the time the fact that behind them are the Chinese and outside Communists, in fact the world-wide Communist movement in the East.

I have already detained the House too long with these, perhaps, archaic views, but I feel strongly that it is no use treating Asiatics, mostly illiterate Asiatics, in exactly the same way as it would be right to treat enlightened Europeans. I believe that we ought to be careful in any grant of self-government and of elected government which we may make to the immediately adjoining territories. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that, if we do grant any new form of government, it will be desirable, at any rate, to consider its extension to such places as Singapore, Penang and Sarawak.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I clear up one point'? May I ask him what authority he has for saying that the views he has expressed are those of General Templer?—because so far as I understand General Templer's views, they are almost diametrically opposite.


The views to which I was referring as those I believe to be held by General Templer were nothing to do with these political and constitutional changes but were what I believe to be his views for pressing the war as strongly as possible against the terrorists at all times. Have I made that clear?


Yes, as long as we distinguish between General Templer's military views and the political views on which he had a directive from Her Majesty's Government and which so far as I know, he wholeheartedly believes in. He certainly has never said anything to the contrary. His political views are very different from those expressed by the noble Lord.


I think that may be so. I was not referring to his political views. What I was referring to I said immediately after sentences which explained what I meant—that I think he is in favour of relentlessly pursuing the war and hunting the enemy to death. If he is not, I am sorry, but I believe those are his views, and I believe that is the right policy.

I have detained the House too long. I have no more to add, except to say that in many ways I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. There is only this question on which I have very great doubts, as to whether we are right in treating as persons fitted for the franchise Asiatics of the type who reside in the Malay Peninsula.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I must precede my few remarks by declaring an interest. I am commercially concerned both in the Federation of Malaya and in Singapore. I am grateful as many other noble Lords will be, to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for raising this matter. I am grateful on three counts. First, I think it is right that when matters of moment arise in the British Empire and Commonwealth we should have the opportunity of debating them here in as helpful a vein as possible. Secondly, it has given us an opportunity of paying tribute to the brilliant administration of General Templer, and the stubborn courage of the races of Malaya during these six years of endurance. Last, I should like to pay a tribute to the authors of these two Reports which, whether one agrees with all they suggest or not, are brilliantly lucid presentations.

I will not seek to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, into the dense legal jungle in pursuit of the assessors: that I will leave to my noble friend. What I should like to do is to make some general observations about these two Reports, with particular reference to tie one on the Federation of Malaya. Reports come thick and fast these days. I have heard it said that when a Report is published three immediate points of view are to be noted. There are those who are for it; there are those who are against it: and there are those who have read it. Those of your Lordships who have not yet had an opportunity to do so will, as I think your Lordships will agree, find that these two Reports are brilliantly lucid presentations. That the preparation of the Federation Report should be undertaken is a manifest that the situation in the Federation is improving, for it was laid down in the Agreement of 1948 that steps were to he taken to prepare for elections when conditions made it feasible. But the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was right to remind us that, although the emergency is improving, it is by no means finished.

I was in Malaya about a year and a half ago. Roads which one then drove down at mortal peril are now considered to be relatively, or possibly completely, safe. But the cloud has just lifted at one corner—it has not vet blown away. I am rather tempted to ask Her Majesty's Government: Was it by accident or design that these two Reports appeared almost simultaneously? I am just as keen as Lord Ogmore and Lord Jeffreys to pounce on points of detail in these Reports, to question and comment; but I do not see how we can do that to-day. This matter is in the position of being sub judice. The Reports have still to go to several authorities, at several levels, and until the Colonial Secretary in London and Her Majesty's Government have made up their minds and taken a view, we are not in a position to hold a debate.


The noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, but I must join issue with him on that. Surely the whole point of Parliament is that it discusses matters before the Government have made up their minds; and in that way it differs from a Reichstag, which is called together only when the Government have made up their minds, to rubber-stamp the decision. To say that until the Governs merit make up their minds we cannot, or indeed should not, debate this matter seems to me to be a most startling doctrine, especially coming from the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, for whom I haw the greatest respect.


The noble Lord would not have been startled had he allowed me to finish. I was going on to say that it hardly makes for a debate if we can comment and question but the noble Earl, Lord Munster, is prohibited from replying. And until a decision is taken he is entirely prohibited from replying, and by ordinary British canons of fair play it hardly makes for a sporting arena. What I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Munster, is this: When the Government have made up their minds and reached a decision, can that decision be communicated to Parliament, through the medium of a White Paper, so that we can then have a full and careful debate on these two Reports?

My Lords, we in Britain are called upon to do a great many things, and not least to prepare Constitutions for countries all over the world. I think we can claim to be rather expert in that line. We have the longest uninterrupted history of humane and effective government of any country in the entire world. We have a far greater experience of dealing with the problems of plural societies than any other nation—and certainly one blue print will not do for more than one plural society. We had many long debates on Central African federation. That is a plural society where the indigenous people enormously outnumber the immigrants but if you go to Fiji you find precisely the opposite situation. If you go to islands like Jamaica you find that there are no indigenous peoples: both are immigrant populations who, in effect, arrived there the same day. In recent years many and more Reports on plural societies have filled the pigeon-holes, but it is unlikely that any will ever equal the Report that the great Lord Durham wrote on Canada. I do not think that any man will ever possess his faculty for propounding a completely revolutionary idea in terms which made it appear as if its acceptance was not only obvious but inescapable. We are asked for self-government by a great many countries in different parts of the world. Of course they are not asking for self-government at all, but for a purely British institution called "responsible government." Not more than about 200 years ago, in Britain, a defeated Minister faced impeachment. Now he is made Leader of the Opposition, and his salary is a charge on the Consolidated Fund. That is a peculiarly British institution, and that is what countries who ask for self-government are, in fact, asking for.

Throughout both the Reports which we are discussing to-day runs this vein: first of all, the interdependence of the peoples of Malaya; secondly, the vital need to build up a Party system as the only basis of democratic Parliament; thirdly, the immense desirability of having a very small number of very large Parties, instead of the reverse; for if Malaya ever finds herself with a constantly changing kaleidoscope of coalition, which one has only to look across the English Channel to see, it would be of grievous harm to her. As your Lordships know, Malaya is composed of several races, all of which, including the British, are there to stay. The Federation Report, which is a purely Malayan document, was drawn up by a Committee of forty-six, only six of whom were Britons. I think it is intensely moderate in tone. There has, of course, been sparring between the different racial groups since its publication, but by and large I would say, that so far as I can find out, it has had a good and appreciative reception from the Colonial people. It is the work of moderate men. We do not hear very much about moderate men these days, because, while one can advise moderation and counsel moderation one cannot agitate for moderation; and the agitator will, of course, steal the headlines. But if the future of Malaya or any other British territory is to be beneficial, the future lies in the hands of the moderates.

There are some who may say that this Report is over-cautious. It is cautious. Why?—for three very powerful reasons. The emergency has been going on for six years, and if the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has the figures with him, I should be grateful if he can tell us the comparative figures say for last year and the year before, of the casualties of the security forces and civilians. The people of Malaya know that all their lives they have to live next door to Communism. They know that shrewd, scheming alien brains will always watch Malaya, and that eyes will be turned on her to disrupt her economy and upset her Constitution. They know that the enemy at their gate will always be watching from outside. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, the battle with Communism is being fought, and will be won in South-East Asia. Therefore the writers of this Report realised that in no circumstances must any kind of Constitution be drawn up which the Communists would be able in any way to pervert to their own ends.

The second point is economy. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has told us, Malaya is of the very first importance to the free world. The investors of the free world can look to many places for investment. Malaya is not vital to them, but they are vital to Malaya. If investment goes on, as it must go on, there must be no break in stable government, or investment will be frightened away for ever. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has called attention to the dangerous dependence on rubber and tin. I wonder whether your Lordships realise just how sensitive the economy of Malaya is. You will have noticed in the newspapers that the price of rubber has been falling pretty steadily for the last year. I wonder whether your Lordships realise that if the price of rubber falls by one penny the revenues of the Federation of Malaya suffer a diminution of £750,000, and six times that sum in terms of the overall income of its inhabitants. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised another interesting point which he did not put in the form of a question. So that we may have an answer from the noble Earl, Lord Munster, I will put the question. Attempts have been made by the last Government, and by this one, to get away from this dangerous dependence, to broaden the basis of agriculture and industry. I wonder whether the noble Earl could say a word about that in his reply.

The third powerful reason which enjoined caution was, I believe, the spectacle of Indonesia. All your Lordships recollect the time when. Indonesia became an independent State, on the crest of a tremendous sweeping nationalist movement. Indonesia is a multi-racial State. The people of the islands are very different, particular in Sumatra and Java. That nationalist movement did not stop at independence; it has proved to be a continual fragmenting force. I was interested the other day, to see for the first time that the term "Dutch Imperialists" was not used by the Sumatrans, but that "Javanese colonialism" was substituted in its place. In short, my Lords, those who drew up these Reports realised that it was far better to do their job well than to try to do it in a hurry. In all our minds there is this question of closer union between the Federation and Singapore. It will come some time. It must come. It is of the first importance that constitutional advance in either of those two territories should keep step with the other. I know of the existence of the Joint Co-ordination Council, which I believe exists to further this very thing. I know nothing of its work. If the noble Earl can say something about that in his reply I shall be extremely grateful to him.

In conclusion may I add that Malaya is buffeted by powerful world forces it is a country of immense importance to the free world. Its people have had six bitter years of endurance. Like the rest of the world they have their own internal rivalries and their dissensions, but they have combined as one race in this Report to plan for their own future, realising that the test of statesmanship is to build well, rather than to build hurriedly.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said that our purpose in putting down this Motion is, not to quarrel with Government policy in relation to Malaya, but simply to give the opportunity for a short tour d'horizon. I was glad that both the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, agreed that that was desirable. Much has happened in Malaya since our last debate, and many important decisions on the part of Her Majesty's Government will shortly he taken which will profoundly influence the future of Malaya. I know that we on this side of the House will forgive the noble Earl opposite if he takes longer than usual in replying to this debate. If I may say so with the utmost respect to Lord Tweedsmuir, I profoundly disagree with him about his view of the constitutional relationship between Parliament and the Colonies. After all, Parliament is responsible for British rule in the Colonies, and Ministers are its servants. And Parliament can discharge that responsibility only if its views are expressed before ministerial decisions are taken.


Will the noble Lord forgive my interrupting him? I am not quarrelling for one moment about the right of one side of the House or the other, or of any noble Lord, to get up and suggest to the Government the course that they should take, before they have made up their minds. But you cannot have a debate, as I understand it, if you are questioning a Minister who, because a decision has not been made, cannot answer you.


I do not agree with the noble Lord, and again I say that with the utmost respect, for I agree with many of the things that he said in his speech. I do not agree with him that this is not a useful function for Parliament to perform. It is understood, I think, that Members of both Houses have the right to express their views before a Government decision is taken. I believe that is generally accepted on both sides of the House.

Your Lordships will remember that the Secretary of State's directive to General Templer laid down as his first objective "the restoration of law and order." The very great improvement in security that has taken place since General Templer went out to Malaya about two years ago is a remarkable tribute to his work, and I should like to associate myself with what Lord Tweedsmuir has said about the efficiency and vigour with which General Templer has discharged his primary duty, I am sure that when he returns to the Army, as he will do in June, he will leave Malaya with the heartfelt gratitude of most of its inhabitants, and with the thanks of Members on both sides of this House for having achieved so much in so short a time. But although there has been an abatement of acts of violence in the last two years, although the Communists are using propaganda rather than force as their main instrument, they are far from being beaten, and show no sign of disbanding their soldiers. The size of their guerrilla army is small. It numbers perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 fighting men—the noble Earl, Lord Munster, will correct me if my figures are not up to date, but I think that is about the size of the Communist army of uniformed soldiers. But, unfortunately, we still cannot trace the jungle hideouts of these men, and they will be able to carry on and to fight so long as they have arms and ammunition and can get food, money end recruits from the Chinese villagers in or near the jungle where they are operating. I think this is a very serious consideration indeed, and we are faced, therefore, by the prospect of many more years of "shooting war" in Malaya with its tremendous strain on the financial resources and manpower of that country, unless we can find a short cut.

The only possibility of such a short cut is to convince the population that the Communists are their enemies, not just the enemies of the Government and that anyone who helps them is a traitor to his fellow Malayans and not just a traitor to us. General Templer has rightly said that the main emphasis in policy to-day should be on—and I should like to quote his words: the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. If, as General Templer indicates, the strategy of our campaign in Malaya should now be political rather than military, what we have to do is to convince the population that we are really sincere when we say that our aim—this, of course, was mentioned in the Secretary of State's directive—is a self-governing Malayan nation. The only way in which we can prove our sincerity is by our actions. Words are not enough. We must show that the whole administration in Malaya is striving to the best of its ability to help the races in Malaya to become a united nation, to make the country economically viable and to associate ordinary people more and more closely with every level of Government.

I should like to ask the noble Earl what the Government have in mind; whether any new measures are envisaged; and what the Government are in fact doing in practice to achieve each of these three fundamental purposes of policy—racial unity, economic viability and political advance. In the long run, probably the most important factor in promoting racial unity and understanding will be a unified system of education in Malaya, in which members of all races will learn the same language and attend the same classes at primary schools. It will be a great step forward when Malay, Chinese and Indian children meet in the same schools and learn, while there, a common language. It is difficult for us, perhaps, to appreciate the importance of a common language for the unity of a country. But in countries where there are different races, a common language is a vital necessity.

Of course, no one would expect the present practice of providing separate schools for children of different races to stop immediately. But I should like to ask the noble Earl this question of which I have given him notice: What is being done to set up free national schools under the Education Ordinance of 1952? This programme of establishing free national schools for members of all races is a vital factor in promoting racial unity. Have these measures been postponed owing to the present financial difficulties in Malaya, or have plans already been drafted for the recruitment of teachers, the building of schools, and so on? There is one other matter in relation to education. There is, I think, urgent need for more equality of opportunity for higher education between the races. At the present time the Malays are seriously penalised, partly because they are poorer than the Chinese and partly because they live outside the town. The ladder between the primary schools and the University of Malaya is, in any event, extremely narrow, but I feel that nowadays far too few are able to get a foot on the ladder. Can the noble Earl say whether the Government of Malaya are planning secondary schools in rural areas?

Another matter vital to the first of these three principles—national unity—is the recruitment of members of all races to the armed forces and the police. Can the noble Earl say whether he is satisfied about the recruitment of Chinese to the ordinary ranks of the police? Up till now Chinese have been used as detectives in the police force, and only recently, under the inspiration of General Templer, recruitment to the ordinary ranks has been opened to Chinese as well as to Malays. Another question I should like to ask is whether the Chinese police, assuming, of course, that they have been recruited in sufficient numbers, are now being employed in the Chinese village settlements. A word about the armed forces. Hitherto, of course, they have been predominantly Malay, very fine and efficient, as my noble friend Lord Ogmore has said, and admirably suited to their purpose as a defence force. But is the noble Earl satisfied that the armed forces in Malaya are now developing on sound inter-racial lines? For example, can he say how many Chinese are included in all ranks of the new Federation Regiment? This was an innovation of General Templer—a regiment which could be recruited from members of all races in Malaya. We should all agree that if it is to become a truly national army, the Malayan army should include—like the old Indian Army, which the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, and other noble Lords will remember well—members of all races and religious faiths. An army of that kind is one of the surest supports for the security and the stability of a nation.

May I now say a word about the second of these fundamental principles of policy—a viable economy. The economy of Malaya will not be viable until it has been much more successfully insulated from fluctuations in world prices of tin and rubber. My noble friend Lord Ogmore emphasised that point, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, followed him. The effect of a sharp fall in the world price of rubber is painfully obvious at the present moment. Apart from the social danger of the heavy cuts in public expenditure, wage reductions and unemployment in the rubber industry which such a collapse of the price of raw rubber causes, the loss of revenue to the Government of Malaya (I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, gave the figures) is so substantial that they are frequently obliged to turn to the British taxpayer for assistance in meeting their commitments. Financial dependence cannot be squared with national independence. Malaya needs a much better balanced and more diversified economy. Surely this is the only way to make it less dependent on the earnings of these two highly volatile commodities for adequate supplies of food and the maintenance of its social services.

I think it is quite wrong that a country whose soil could easily produce enough rice to support the whole population is still importing about a half of its annual requirements of this staple food. In the last Annual Report on the Colonies, which appeared in May of last year, in the section dealing with Malaya there was a reference to die appointment of a committee by the Government of Malaya to inquire into the possibility of a quick increase in the production of rice. Can the noble Earl say—he is not here as the moment, but I gave him notice of this question and I think I should ask it formally—whether the committee have reported, and, if so, whether the Government of Malaya are now acting, or are proposing to act, on their advice?

Let me turn to the third of these three fundamental purposes—political advance. I do not think we can be complacent about the growth of self-government in Malaya. I am afraid in this matter I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys. The fact is—and it is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact—that almost the whole of the government of the country is still in the hands of British officials or of bodies nominated by British officials. The pace of political advance has quickened recently, but I do not believe it is fast enough, if we mean to outstrip the Communists. There is still a gulf between the people of Malaya and the Government. The closer association of the population of Malaya with the machinery of government at every level should go forward as rapidly as possible, at the top in relation to the Federal Council, then in relation to the Federal units—the States Governments—and at the bottom in relation to the town and village councils.

May I say just a word about local government, because I think we all agree that local government is the best preparation for democracy at higher levels? From this point of view, it is unfortunate that there is no tradition of local government in Malaya. Elections to local government bodies with control of policy and fixing of rates are something quite new. However, again rapid advance has been made in the last year or two. I should like to ask the noble Earl what changes have taken place in local government since local elections began, and whether he can tell us how long he thinks it will take before most of the towns and villages in Malaya have their own elected councils. Can he say, for instance, how many towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants still have no elected councils?

I move to the next level of State and Settlement Governments. We have, of course, a general obligation in relation to these Governments. Both we and the Malayan Rulers have pledged ourselves by the Federation Agreement to introduce legislation for elections to the Councils of the States and Settlements at the earliest possible moment, and preparations have been going forward for some time. I believe that committees of all the States and Settlement Councils and a joint committees of all the State and Settlement Councils have been appointed to secure agreement about procedure and qualifications in relation to the elections. May I ask the noble Earl whether the committees have reported and, if so, whether legislative and administrative preparations for elections to the State and Settlement Councils are likely to be completed in the present year or in the immediately foreseeable future? Can he say whether election dates can be forecast in any more of the Federal units? I believe that elections have already taken place to the State Council in Johore, but at present that is the only one of the nine Malayan States in which elections have been held.

The most important of all the points about political advance is that there is much more public demand for elections to the Federal Council than for elections to any of the State and Settlement Councils. The intense public interest in this question (although I have not been in Malaya recently, I have reliable reports that that is the case) shows that elections to the centre are identified in the public mind more than anything else with the advance to self-government. Our readiness to replace the present nominated Federal Council by a mainly elected body will be regarded in Malaya as the acid test of our intentions. Any unnecessary delay, any half-heartedness about the next move towards self-government, will surely make more Communists and drag out the shooting war.

The choice in Malaya after we are gone, as well as during our administration, is between democracy and Communism—there is no third choice. But everyone will agree that democracy cannot be imposed by British authority. It will never prevail or survive for any length of time in Malaya until it becomes a form of government freely chosen by the Malayan population, with its roots in their pride and self-respect as citizens of a growing nation in South-East Asia. That is why the Report of the Committee, composed of members of the Legislative Council of the Federation of Malaya, which was appointed to advise about the holding of elections, if it is wisely and speedily implemented, will be a landmark in the political history of the Federation. I do not, of course, expect Her Majesty's Government to express their opinions on this Report at the present time. The Report appeared only a little over a month ago and, as the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, has pointed out, the Government will have to collect the views both of the Government of Malaya and of the Malay rulers; and, in any case, this is not a matter about which a hasty decision should be taken. But as the decisions of the Government about this Report will be so momentous in their effect on Malaya, I have no doubt that the Government will take careful note of views expressed in Parliament at this time while the matter is under consideration.

I feel that those of your Lordships who have read this Report will agree that it is in itself convincing evidence of the political capacity of Malaya: it is a moderate, thoughtful, statesmanlike document, and communal prejudice is conspicuous by its absence. Cleavage of opinion in this Report, when it occurs, is never on communal lines. I am sure that, as my noble friend Lord Ogmore has said, everyone will welcome such proposals as the proposal to place all races on a common roll, and not on separate communal rolls. Everyone—except, possibly, the noble Lord, sitting on the Liberal Benches—will note with satisfaction that a simple majority vote in each constituency is preferred to proportional representation. Everyone—and this time. I think, including the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches—will agree with adult franchise for all, citizens of the Federation, with the proposal to allow the elected Council a lifetime of four years (that is about the right length of time) and the gradual introduction of Cabinet responsibility by giving elected members who sit on the elected Council authority over Government Departments.

Those are all matters about which the Committee are unanimous. On three important issues, however, the majority of the Committee differ from the minority, and this places a very special responsibility on Her Majesty's Government. When the members of a Colonial Legislature agree about the next step in constitutional development, it is almost a general rule that their advice is accepted by the Secretary of State and by the Government. But when they disagree then, of course, Her Majesty's Government have to act as the arbiter, or, indeed, propose a different solution of the problem. The views of the minority on these three issues deserve from Her Majesty's Government especially careful consideration, because it is probable that they reflect the majority opinion in Malaya. The minority members of the Committee represent the two largest Chinese and Malay political organisations—that is, the Malayan Chinese Association and the United Malay National Organisation. I am informed that the Malayan Indian Congress, which represents the political elements in the third largest race in Malaya, the Indians, supports the minority view, although, of course, not having any members on the Legislative Council, they were not represented on this Committee. But these three organisations, representative of the three main races, are, in fact, the mouthpiece of the politically conscious members of the three principal communities in the population of Malaya. For that reason, I hope that the noble Earl and the Government will weigh particularly carefully the minority recommendation.

I should like to say a few words about the issues dividing the Committee, mentioned in this Report. The Committee diverged about the limitation of the franchise to Federal citizens. The minority wanted it to include persons born and residing in Malaya, even if they could not qualify for Federal citizenship; and the majority wanted only Federal citizens to be included. The legislation of Malaya relating to citizenship is extremely complicated. I do not profess to understand it, but its effect is this. Many persons who in this country, for instance, would have the franchise, would not qualify to become Federal citizens and, therefore, to exercise the franchise in Malaya, British rubber planters and businessmen who have lived in the country for twenty years or longer will not have a vote, for they will not be eligible as Federal citizens. Chinese and Indians who have spent all their lives in Malaya but who were not born there, or who were born there but have one parent outside the Federation, will also be excluded. Nobody wants to provoke dissension between the Malays and the other races; we must go gradually in this matter of citizenship. But surely the recognition. jus soli which we have in this country, the right of all those who have made their homes in the country to have a vote, and to have the franchise, should sooner or later be accepted in Malaya.

The two other issues are, I feel, even more important. The minority element on this Committee wanted elections for the Federal Council to be held not later than November of this year. They wished to fix a date for the forthcoming elections, while the majority were in favour of leaving the election date open. The view of the majority, of course, was that nobody could foresee how long the legal and administrative preparations would take before elections could be held. I rather hope that Her Majesty's Government will not accept either of these recommendations, but will consider a Third solution of this problem of the election date. I feel that it is most important to fix a date, and not to leave the date open, because that would give the impression that we wanted, as it were, indefinite procrastination and delay about the elections; and that is exactly the impression that we should avoid in Malaya. I feel that there would be little 'risk in saying that elections will be held as soon as possible, and not later than the end of next year, 1955. Perhaps the Government will consider a solution on those lines.

Finally—and this is the most important issue of all—there is the question of whether the new Federal Council should have an elected or a nominated majority. The majority of the Committee favour a Council having a majority of nominated members, while the minority want it to have a majority of elected members. Everyone will agree that a substantial nominated element will be required in the Legislative Council in Malaya for a long time to come—unless, of course, it is decided to have a Second Chamber. This is a possibility which the Federal Council may wish to consider later on. But if there are more nominated than elected members, the effect would surely be this: that the Party which wins the next election will be prevented from carrying out its policy because it will not have a majority to support it in the Council. Such an impasse is bound to lead to frustration and, I fear, irresponsibility. The only serious argument against allowing the majority Party political power is that if a communal organisation like the Malayan Chinese Association, or the United Malay National Organisation, were to win the elections it would begin to discriminate against other races. But in fact neither of these parties has a racial policy, and they intend to fight the elections on a common programme. They are not even opposing one another in the constituencies.

I submit to the Government for their most serious consideration that, whatever decision they may take on this issue of an elected or nominated majority, there is no ground for considering that Malaya is unfit for another step forward towards democracy. Its population has a higher standard of living than other countries with fully elected Legislatures—Burma, Indonesia and India, for example—and the proportion of literates (and I should like the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, to take note of this) is one of the highest in Asia. No one who has listened to a debate in the Legislative Council at Kuala Lumpur can doubt the political ability of Malayans of all races or their understanding of Parliamentary procedure. My own view, for what it is worth, is that whatever risk there may be in allowing an elected majority in the Legislative Council after the next election, it is far less than the risk of strengthening Communists and weakening their opponents by turning it down. Above all, I hope that the Government will not decide these matters hastily or without profound reflection, because the consequences of these decisions will be vital for the future of Malaya, and will decide how soon the shooting war can be brought to an end and how soon Malaya will go forward towards a more developed and genuine democracy and a greater measure of self-government.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, the debate which we have had this afternoon on the noble Lord's Motion has, I think, proved to be extremely useful. It has certainly covered an enormous amount of ground, and many questions of considerable importance to both Malaya and Singapore have been addressed to me. In the course of my reply I shall endeavour to give as many answers to those questions as possible, but I hope that in doing so your Lordships will bear with me, because I have a large amount of ground to cover. Let me say at once that I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord and the noble Earl who have spoken in their praise for the High Commissioner. I believe it was an admirable choice that Her Majesty's Government originally made in securing the services of this very distinguished man, and I feel sure that everybody in this House, wherever they may sit, would express to him their best wishes in the new appointment which he is to take up during the early part of the summer this year. Much has happened during Sir Gerald Templer's term of office to which I shall refer in the course of my remarks. He has, indeed, as I know he would be only too ready to admit, received most valuable help from all ranks—if I may use that expression—of the civil and military staffs.

The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, pointed out in the remarks which he made to your Lordships, that he noticed, as indeed other noble Lords must have done, that these two constitutional Reports were published almost simultaneously. I believe it would be agreed, however, that the issues that are involved are quite separate and that the future of each territory must therefore be considered separately. But in considering them, we must naturally have regard to the overall interests of Malaya. At this stage, I should like to remind the Howe that at about the same time as these two Committees on Malaya and Singapore were set up, the two Governments decided to convene a Joint Co-ordination Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. MacDonald, to consider ways of improving the co-ordination of policy and administrative action. This Committee has not yet reported, but I am informed that it is performing very useful work as a means of contact between those responsible for the formulation of policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked me whether a united nation was to be formed. I would reply to him in this way. During my recent visit to Singapore I told a Press conference that the policy of Her Majetsty's Government is to favour a closer association or union between the two territories, but that the form and the timing of such association are matters which the Governments and the peoples of the two territories should work out for themselves. As regards the further question put by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as to whether, in the event of the ultimate formation of this union or association, other British territories in that area will be associated, I would say that I find it very difficult to-day to foresee what form any future association of the Federation of Malaya and other territories in South East Asia may take. Therefore, I should not like, even as the wildest guess, to suggest what might happen in the future with regard to closer association.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. Of course, one cannot expect him to tie himself or the Government to any particular plan. But I would ask the Government or bear in mind that it may be necessary not to do anything in their planning which will be found later on to prevent such an association. I think that is rather different.


I agree with the noble Lord that we must consider every eventuality, whatever it may be. I would add, however, that the almost simultaneous publication of these two Reports has not in any way altered the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which, as I say, I mentioned during my visit to Singapore. I suppose it would be true to say that the Report of the Federal Elections Committee and the Singapore Constitutional Commission have two things, and only two things, in common: they were both generally well received by the Press in this country and in Malaya, and they have both been the subject of considerable comment in the Press and, indeed, in your Lordships' House this afternoon.

Under the Federation Agreement of 1948, Her Majesty's Government are obliged to introduce elections as soon as possible into the Federation. The delay—and there has obviously been a delay—is due solely to the fact that, five months after this Agreement was made, the Emergency was declared and further constitutional development had unfortunately to be postponed. Nevertheless the Directive which we gave to the High Commissioner in February, 1952, instructed him … to promote such political progress as will without prejudicing the campaign against the terrorists further our Democratic aims in Malaya. Last year, when the emergency situation continued to improve, the Federal Government announced that they had decided to appoint a Committee to examine the question of elections to the Federal Legislative Council, and to report at the same time on what further constitutional changes would be required. The membership and the terms of reference were referred to the Conference of Rulers and they were debated in the Legislative Council. The Committee set up eventually consisted of forty-six members, under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary. Although in point of fact it was not a Committee of the Legislative Council, nevertheless every one of its members was of that body. It is interesting to note, as I think has been mentioned, that on that Committee forty members were Asians or Eurasians and only six were Europeans. It included representatives of the State and Settlement Governments, the main political Parties, chambers of commerce, the mining and rubber industries, the Malayan Trade Union Council, and members of the principal racial communities.

I am aware that there has been some criticism of the Committee's Report. I am not concerned with fair criticism. The Report, with its differences of opinion on certain important fundamental issues, is to my mind a very impressive document which can stand by itself. It is the product of a Committee which included, as I have said, a large proportion of acknowledged leaders of racial, political, and economic opinion in the Federation; and it was, as I say, as widely representative as possible. We know that the task of political evolution in Malaya at present is not an easy one. There is, as we all know, a multi-racial community whose everyday life has naturally been greatly affected by the outbreak of terrorism which has now been going on for some six years. All the members of that Committee have been concerned in this campaign against the terrorists, and I think it is hardly surprising that they have thought it wise to proceed with some degree of caution. The first meeting of the Federal Elections Committee took place last August, when a working party was appointed under the chairmanship of the Attorney-General. Although a very few individuals responded to an invitation to submit their views to the Committee, nevertheless numerous political and business organisations did respond; and their suggestions proved very helpful and valuable to the Committee.

I do not wish to go into that aspect in great detail, but I must just remind the House of the present system of government, and the recommendations of the Committee. The present Legislative Council consists of a Speaker and seventy-five members. The Executive Council is entirely nominated. The Committee—except for the three trade union members, who added a minority Report—recommended that for the next four years the Legislative Council should include forty non-elected members—that is to say, a Speaker, three ex-officio members, eleven representatives of States and Settlements, twenty representatives of commerce, three of racial minorities and two nominated officials. From then onwards, differences of opinion materialised. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, drew your Lordships' attention to the differences of opinion between the United Malay Nationalist Organisation and the Malayan Chinese Association. I need not go into that question—


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. I may be wrong, but I thought that both the Malayan Chinese Association and the United Malay Nationalist Organisation were in the minority. They were on the minority side in these debates and, in fact, upon the Report.


I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. They have formed themselves in alliance. They were in a minority. I was talking about them and the majority. So far as the Committee were concerned, one side advocated 60 elected and 40 non-elected members, and the other side advocated that, excluding the Speaker and the three ex-officio members, exactly half the Council should he elected. That is the difference between the two sides.

For the Executive Council, the Committee recommended against any prescribed proportion of seats being held by elected members, and were content to leave this to the discretion of the High Commissioner. At the same time, they wished to leave it to the High Commissioner to decide the exact relationship between the Executive Council and the Legislative Body. Finally, as Lord Listowel said, at the suggestion of the Alliance members the Committee discussed the date of the election. The Alliance thought it would be a good thing, barring unforeseen events, to hold the elections in November of this year.


I do not wish to interrupt the noble Earl unnecessarily, and I may have got this wrong; but as I read paragraph 34 of the Report the minority of the Committee wanted sixty unofficial elected members and the majority wanted 44. I thought the noble Earl said 50.


No, 60; 60 is quite right. Now for the date of the election. It was the view of the Alliance members, as I have said, that the election should be held in November of this year. On the other hand, the remainder of the Committee thought it would be inappropriate at that stage to suggest a precise date. I quite see the noble Earl's point that it would be a good thing if a date were definitely decided on, and although I cannot give him any guarantee now, I am quite certain that my right honourable friend will consider the points that he has raised.

Finally, on this question of the representatives on the Federal Legislative Council, as the House knows, Her Majesty's Government have for many years had treaty obligations to the Rulers; and discussions are now taking place with them and the High Commissioner. I am not, therefore, in a position to-day to make any statement of the views of Her Majesty's Government, but naturally the views which have been expressed by every member of the Committee who has intimate knowledge of life in the Federation will receive very careful consideration. Moreover, the views which have been expressed by noble Lords in this House to-day will also, I know, receive the attention of my right honourable friend. When, however, these discussions are over, and when they have been completed with the Rulers, the High Commissioner will report to my right honourable friend; and after he has considered the Report which is made to him he will announce his decision, Although I do not wish to be tied down as to exactly how that decision will be announced, I have not much doubt that he will take an early opportunity to discuss it in the future if your Lordships so wish. As I say, however, I think it would he inappropriate for me to comment further.

A large number of questions were directed to me dealing with the Federation. First, the noble Lord who moved the Motion asked a question about the tin Agreement. It is true that Her Majesty's Government have signed this Agreement and we hope that sufficient other countries will also sign it to bring it into operation and effect. We agree with the noble Lord that its operation is highly desirable in the interests of Malaya. It is unfortunate that the Government of the United States have announced their intention not to participate, but we sincerely hope that they may reconsider their attitude at a later date. Nevertheless, they have made it clear that they themselves have no wish to stop the bringing into operation by other countries of the Agreement, and they have further announced that they will freeze their own surplus stocks of tin. In view of the encouraging attitude of the Government of the United States, we see no reason whatever why this Agreement should not be brought into operation without the United States' partnership. Indeed, we shall do all we can to see that it is brought into operation and that it functions.

The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, also asked me questions about efforts which have been made to broaden the basis of industry in the Federation which, at the moment, relies to a far too great extent upon tin and rubber. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me whether the Committee which was set up to inquire into the possibility of increasing development had yet reported and, if so, what the Government proposed to do in the matter. The Rice Production Committee reported in March, 1953. The Report was in two parts, the second part of which has not been published. I understand that it contained only the statements of witnesses. The Report contains a list of 156 recommendations, most of which have been accepted, although for financial reasons it has not yet been possible to implement them all. The Federal Government spent 800,000 dollars in implementing the Report in 1953. They propose to spend 6,000,000 dollars in 1954. and just over 10,750,000 dollars next year. The additional funds over and above these sums which would be required to complete the implementation are estimated at about 2,500,000 dollars of capital expenditure, with increased recurrent expenditure of nearly 1,000,000 dollars a year. Ways and means of finding the money, or at least part of it, are now being studied.

We are, and so, indeed, are the Government out there, giving every encouragement to the conversion of land in suitable areas, now under rubber, to other crops, and grants are made from the Rubber Plantation Fund for such conversions. Experiments are being conducted—so far, I am informed, they are hopeful—in the introduction of cocoa. The Colonial Development Corporation are to put capital into this particular venture. With the assistance of overseas capital, two large new factories have been established during the last few years, one to produce margarine, edible oil, glycerine and soap, and the other to produce cement. The speed at which progress can be made will certainly depend, to a large extent, upon the increased provision of electric power. Considerable expansion is planned and the electricity board hopes to obtain £6 million new capital this year. It is also hoped that the International Bank Mission, who are now surveying the Malayan economy, will in their report suggest further methods of diversifying it. Therefore the House will see that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Federation are actively pursuing every line they can to bring new development into the Federation. A large number of questions concerning the Federation were addressed to me by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Let me see whether I can answer a number of them, of which he was good enough to give me notice.


Before the noble Earl leaves the economic side, as I take it he is going to—presumably he is going on to the details of the Electoral Reports—would he care to say a word about the serious rubber situation which has resulted since Mr. Justice Taylor's report?


Yes. I was going to deal first with the points raised by the noble Earl and was coming to the subject of rubber at a later stage. The noble Earl asked me, first, whether the Government are satisfied with the recruitment of Chinese to the ordinary ranks of the police force. I hardly think the noble Earl will be surprised when I tell him that we are by no means satisfied. The position has undoubtedly improved, but progress is remarkably slow. The noble Earl further asked me whether Chinese police are being employed in the Chinese village settlements. They are; but, of course, there is only a limited number of Chinese police, whom we are employing to the best possible advantage in towns and villages of substantial Chinese population. The noble Earl asked whether the Government are satisfied that the Federation army is developing on sound interracial lines. The answer there is certainly "Yes," but so far we have had a disappointing result from the Chinese community. The Regiment to-day stands at a strength of 550, of whom 99 are Chinese. They are 18 per cent. of the whole, instead of 50 per cent., which was the proportion planned for them.

Leaving the question of police and armed forces, the noble Earl raised questions on education. He wanted to know whether anything is being done under the 1952 Ordinance to set up free national schools. That Ordinance came into force in April, 1953, and every effort is, I am told, being made to implement quickly the policy that was laid down in regard to these national schools, but none can be established until the necessary staff are trained. The teacher-training course has, therefore, been accelerated and a new college will be opened this year. In the meantime, although no new national schools have yet been built, the existing Government and Government-aided schools are being progressively converted to national schools. The noble Earl asked, also on the question of education, whether it was proposed to establish more secondary schools in rural areas. It is proposed to do so, but, in point of fact, owing to financial reasons it has not been possible to do so

. I turn now to the political questions, of which the noble Earl was good enough to give me notice. He asked what advance had been made since 1951 in a number of elected local government bodies. I am told that 135 local village councils had been established by the end of 1953, and it is hoped to set up another 104 this year; fifteen towns had elected councils and five more will be established during 1954. The noble Earl asked how many towns of more than 10,000 inhabitants have not yet got elected councils. At the moment the answer is, we believe, nine—that is, the five to which I have immediately referred, together with four others. Of the Select Committees appointed by the State and Settlement Councils, so far the Johore and Pahang Select Committees have reported, and their reports have been approved by their respective State Councils. All the Councils have not yet reported, and I cannot at this stage give your Lordships an indication of when their reports may be expected.


Is it the case that none of the State Council Committees have reported except those in Pahang and Johore?


Yes, that is correct. The Select Committees appointed by the State and Settlement Councils are in Johore and Pahang.

My Lords, may I turn now to deal with the Report of the Commission of Singapore. The easing of the Malayan emergency and other factors led in 1952 to increased public interest in further constitutional advance in Singapore. In August of that year the Governor appointed a committee of the Legislative Council to consider whether the number of unofficial members to that body should be increased. The committee reported in February, 1953, recommending an increase, but adding that they recognised that the constitutional implications of their recommendation would in fact require close and careful consideration.

At this stage the Governor recommended to my right honourable friend, who accepted his advice, that a Commission under an outside chairman should be appointed to consider the whole question of constitutional advance. That Committee started its work last November under the chairmanship of Sir George Rendel. It was composed of eight members—namely, the Attorney General, the President of the City Council, five members nominated by the unofficial members of the Legislative Council from among themselves, and one unofficial nominated by the Governor. They were fortunate to obtain the services of Professor O. Hood Phillips as constitutional adviser. A large number of recommendations were made, the principal among them being that the Legislative Council should become mainly an elected body to be called the Legislative Assembly; that a Council of Ministers should take the place of the existing Executive Council and that a new island-wide authority should take the place of the present City Council and Rural Board. There was a further recommendation that an automatic system of registration of voters based on identity cards should be adopted. The report as a whole, as I think was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Jeffreys, and indeed as your Lordships know, suggests a very substantial measure of constitutional advance, and the recommendations are now under careful consideration. To assist in these discussions my right honourable friend has invited the Governor to return from Singapore so that he can have discussions with him. At this stage I am not really in a position to give the House any further information upon the likely result of those discussions.

Now we come to the question of rubber, As I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pointed out, since 1948 there have been many alterations in wages in the rubber industry. They reached their highest peak in January, 1951, but since that date there has been a series of reductions, the latest being in January of this year, under art arbitration award of Mr. Justice Taylor. That reduction has been accepted by the employers, but the unions took a ballot on the issue, and 98 per cent. of those who voted rejected the award, while 90 per cent. authorised the union leaders to take whatever action they thought fit, including, if necessary, strike action. There is some reason to hope that this threatened strike will not now materialise, and that both sides of the industry will agree to renew negotiations for a settlement and to establish some permanent negotiating machinery. As the position is very delicate, I hope the noble Lord will not press me to make any further comments on That question.

I turn now to deal with the second part of the noble Lord's motion—namely, that concerning assessors. Here let me say at once that I have discussed this matter with my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, who fully concurs in what I intend to say. It was my noble friend, Lord Tweedsmuir, who said that there were three things about this Report: there were those who were for it, those who were against it, and those who had read it. As I understood the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, he was against this Report, but I honestly do not think that he has read it.


I based my remarks to-day on the reply of the noble Earl himself to my Question. If he had not read the Report, then, of course, I am equally mislead.


I think the reply which I gave the noble Lord the other day was pretty nearly correct, but I am now dealing with the question of assessors on a far larger basis. I want to start by reminding the House how the assessor system worked before the reforms were made. In Malaya, but not in the two Settlements of Penang and Malacca, trial with the aid of assessors was mandatory for all charges involving the death penalty. All other cases were tried by a judge or magistrate only. In the Settlements of Penang and Malacca trial by jury has in fact been practised for many years. I suppose it would be true to say that the assessor system is an attempt to compromise between trial by judge alone and trial by jury. Any assessor has to be able to understand and to converse in the English language. Lists of qualified persons are published each year and the Registrar chooses and summons for each trial three or more, of whom the trial judge finally selects two. Although there was no legal rule about the race from which the assessors were to be drawn, the practice followed for many years was that at least one should be of the same race as the accused. After the case had been stated and evidence heard on both sides, the judge summed up and invited each of the assessors to state his opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused.


My recollection, from appearing over some years in a number of actions, is that there were always three assessors: there was a person of the race of the accused, there was generally one other person of an Asian race, and there was invariably a European. My experience of assessor cases in which I appeared is that there were always three. The number two is not in accordance with my recollection, although this practice may have come about in recent years.


My advice is that three or more were summoned to attend a trial, but invariably, so far as my knowledge goes, the judge selected only two. After the case had been heard and the judge had summed up, an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused was invited from both assessors. The opinions which they gave were duly recorded, and if the judge agreed with one or both of them he gave judgment accordingly, but if he was unable to agree with either of them a new trial had to be held, of course with two new assessors. Before the Emergency began, when the only capital offences were ordinary murders, if I may use the term, the system worked reasonably well, although even then the assessors tended to take an over-lenient view. Since the Emergency, however, assessors trying Emergency cases have often jointly returned verdicts which did not appear in any way at all to be in accordance with the evidence which they had heard, with the obvious result that a large number of retrials had to be ordered. Matters were brought to a head at the end of 1952 by the case of Lee Meng, which your Lordships will remember. At the first trial, both assessors, one Chinese and one Indian, returned verdicts of "Not guilty." The judge commented that he had no means of knowing how they had reached their decision, but he had no alternative but to order a new trial. On the second trial, one assessor was Chinese and the other European. The Chinese assessor found the prisoner innocent; the European assessor thought her guilty. The judge agreed with the European assessor, and the verdict of "Guilty" was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Moreover, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council refused leave to appeal.

In April last year, a Committee was set up by the High Commissioner. I apologise for going into this matter in great detail, but it is one of some considerable importance, and I want the House to be able to follow me. The terms of reference of that Committee were: To consider the mode of trial of all offences tried in the High Court in the Malay States and to make such recommendations as the Committee considers necessary and desirable to its reform, with particular reference to the practicability and desirability of introducing trial by jury and to the mode of trial of Emergency capital offences. The Chief Justice of the Federation was Chairman, and the Committee included one other judge, the acting Attorney-General, two lawyers, representing the Bar, and four additional members chosen for their experience and knowledge. The Committee reported in July of last year, and, from a detailed study of the figures, they confirmed that Asian assessors, for one reason or another, showed an inclination to acquit. They recorded that some cases had caused open scandal, because it was publicly believed that the findings of the assessors were not honest.

The Committee carefully considered whether the jury system, as it operates in the Settlements, should be introduced into the Malay States. They were unanimously of the opinion that it should not—and for four reasons. First, there are not enough suitable English-speaking people living within easy reach of an assize town; secondly, the jury system does not operate with notable success either in Penang or Malacca; thirdly, the introduction of the Settlement jury system would, in the opinion of the Committee, not avoid the possibility of retrials, which was one of the principal drawbacks of the existing system, for in the Settlements, when a jury convicts by a majority, the accused is convicted only if the judge concurs in the majority verdict and does not order a new trial. The fourth reason was that the Committee thought that if a jury system were introduced, jurors would necessarily be drawn from the same small number of people as assessors, and would be likely to show the same propensity to acquit. It was not probable, the Committee said, that a bad assessor would make a good juror.

The Committee unanimously recommended three amendments to the law. The first was that after the verdicts of the assessors had been given and recorded the judge should be entitled to ask them for their opinions on any matter of fact at issue, and their reasons for holding those opinions. All these questions and answers would be recorded. The judge would then give his judgment, but would not be bound to conform to the opinions of the assessors, even if they agreed with one another. This recommendation, as I shall show presently, was altered. The second amendment recommended by the Committee was that the provision 'by which a European defendant could be tried only with the aid of European assessors should be repealed. The third amendment was that there should be provision whereby one assessor should always, where practicable, be of the same race as the accused.

The Committee's Report was considered by a Select Committee of tie Legislative Council. It accepted the last two recommendations of the Committee, but considered that the first recommendation did not overcome one important objection to the existing system—namely, that assessors were expected to give what were, in effect, general verdicts of "Guilty" or "Not guilty," and that correct verdicts in complicated cases depended not merely on the answers to a number of questions of fact but also on the application of the law to those answers, which they said, was a matter of difficulty even for a trained judge. The Select Committee recommended that the assessors should not be required to give general verdicts, but that the judge, after he had summed up, should ask each of them to give his opinions upon specific matters of fact at issue and his reasons for holding those opinions. Naturally, the opinions and the reasons would ultimately be recorded. The judge should then give judgment, without being bound to conform to the opinions of the assessors, even if they agreed with one another

. The Select Committee, however, recommended two more important safeguards., both of which, as the House will see, are wholly in favour of the accused. The first was that if the judge disagreed with either of the assessors, he must record his reasons for so doing; and, secondly, that if he disagreed with both of them, the accused would automatically be considered to have appealed to the Court of Appeal.


On that point, I take it that the rules of the Court of Appeal are altered, because normally one can appeal only on a question of law, and not one of fact. Unless the decision of the jury is outrageous, it is very difficult to appeal on a question of fact.


I should not have thought that there was any necessity for the rules of the Court of. Appeal to be altered. What will happen is this. If the judge disagrees with either of the assessors, he will record his reasons for so doing. If he disagrees with both of them, then automatically the accused is considered to have appealed to the Court of Appeal. I think this matter proceeds in the same way as in the case of a man found guilty who has a right of appeal at a later date. I will look into the point, however, and if I am wrong I will certainly let the noble Lord know.


I do not think that the noble Earl has understood my point. It is very difficult, so far as my experience in the Court of Appeal goes, to upset a lower court on a question of fact. As the noble Earl is saying that the accused can appeal, probably on a question of fact, it does not seem to me a very great safeguard that he is enabled to appeal to the Court of Appeal.


Not being acquainted with the law as it is in Malaya, I will, if the noble Lord will allow me, inquire into the matter and let him know the result of my inquiries at a later stage.

To continue what I was saying. The Bill to implement these new arrangements was debated in the Legislative Council and was passed by a majority of forty-eight to fourteen. Twenty-seven of the fifty unofficial members of the Council voted in favour of the Bill. My right honourable friend considers that this is a matter which, so long as it maintains fully the British principle of law, is one in which local views, as they have been expressed in the Legislature, should prevail. He cannot see any reason whatever, so long as there is no serious objection in principle, why, in fact, he should seek to endeavour to alter the decision which the Legislative Council have reached. I do not wish to deal at any further length with the question of assessors. I have endeavoured to give the House a clear account of exactly what the procedure is to be; and, incidentally, that procedure, as I have said, has the support of my right honourable friend. I have tried to answer most of the questions which were addressed to me, but before concluding I should like to make a few very brief remarks on the present situation in Malaya.

As we know, the emergency is now in its sixth year. Since 1951 there has been a fairly steady decrease in the casualty rate among civilians and security forces; that amongst the terrorists has remained high and the proportion of Communist officers eliminated has increased. The monthly average of civilians killed was twenty-nine in 1952, and last year it was down to seven. There has been a slow but steady increase in the number of Communists who surrender. The monthly average in 1952 was twenty-one, but over the last six months of 1953 the figure had risen to thirty-three. Although the conditions in which the terrorists are now living in the jungle are known to be causing widespread despondency amongst them, there is as yet no sign of any general break in their morale. Johore remains a particularly difficult area. Both there and in the remoter parts of most of the other States the Communists undoubtedly retain their military potential. They still appear to be able to find recruits, and they are able to stage incidents at times and in places of their own choosing.

The terrorist forces are now thought to consist of a hard core of 500 fanatics and a supporting force of perhaps several thousand, many of whom are not Communists but criminals of one sort or another. In the past, most of those who went into the jungle had been convinced by Communist propaganda. We know that now only a small minority go for this reason. The rest are either blackmailed or forced into service. We believe that, if they dared, many of these men would surrender. For this reason psychological warfare is playing an increasingly large part in the present operations in Malaya. The object is to persuade those who wish to surrender that they will not be ill-treated, and to explain to them how to surrender, either individually or by units. A special operational force was formed last year in which surrendered terrorists can enlist if they wish to do so. Others can be enrolled in special settlements where they are receiving agricultural training.

Such evidence as we possess about Communist strategy suggests to us that it is now in a state of transition. As a result of the well-known directive of October, 1951, the armed terrorists withdrew to deep jungle bases, where they tried to support themselves by growing food, emerging occasionally in order to commit acts of terrorism which were carefully selected so as not to alienate the masses. Freed from the task of supporting the armed terrorists, the organised Communist sympathisers, the "Min Yuen," were to devote their energies to the tasks of subversion and infiltration. Perhaps because of the ill-effects of this policy upon terrorist morale, it appears that the Communists may be tending to return to a policy of more active and less selective terrorism. The pattern, however, is by no means clear. In their jungle fastnesses the Communists have been greatly helped by the aboriginal inhabitants of these remote areas, who act as their scouts and provide them with food. An important recent development is the establishment of seven jungle forts, supplied from the air, from which the aborigines can be provided with protection, medical services, trading facilities and elementary education. In this way the Government hope to regain the loyalty of the aborigines and to re-establish administrative control over these areas.

Other significant developments are the declaration of three "white" areas—the total population of which is about one-seventh of the population of the federation—in which all curfews have been lifted and all food controls revoked; the revocation of the emergency regulation which permitted collective punishment by areas, and the reduction in the number of persons under detention from 5,492 in July, 1952, to 2,225 in December of lag year. Of these 2,225, 822 were in rehabilitation centres. Of course, I cannot guarantee more than any other noble Lord that troubles with very serious consequences may not break out again. The emergency is by no means over, and we have no reason for complacency. There will be no slackening of the efforts which the High Commissioner and the military authorities are making to destroy this evil which is in the midst of the Federation. We shall pursue to the end the duties which lie clearly in front of us, to try as soon as possible to bring peace and happiness once again to the Federation and to the inhabitants of Malaya.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, will the House allow me to say a word in amplification of what the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has said? I should particularly like to address it to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, because I think it would be an unfortunate circumstance if it went out from this House that we thought in any way that the system of trial adopted in this territory was unfair to the accused. The whole question was most carefully gone into by the Select Committee, which consisted not entirely of officials and by no means entirely of Europeans—at least, the last-named member who signed the Report, Yap Mau Tat was not an Englishman. I do not know so much about the matter as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, but I do not think he was a Welshman either. The Select Committee represented all races, and they came unanimously to the opinion that this modified system of assessors was the right one to introduce.

The Special Committee Report was examined by the Select Committee, which took a great deal of trouble about it. In order to be quite sure, they invited the Chief Justice himself to come and amplify the Report and assist them. I should like to read one extract from their Report so that it may be on the Record of the House: For the purpose of giving the fullest consideration to this suggestion,"— that is, the suggestion of a modified system of assessors— which must so fundamentally affect the administration of justice, as well as our proposed modification in the draft provisions relating to assessors, we thought it desirable to have the views of the Honourable the Chief Justice, whom we invited to attend one of our meetings, an invitation which he was good enough to accept. The Chief Justice, in drawing attention to the terms of reference and the conclusions of the Special Committee over which he had presided, reminded us that that Committee had unanimously endorsed the opinion of the Judges and of the Bar Council, that the modified assessor system, which this Bill now proposes was the system most likely to produce real justice. If the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had been in this territory, practising at the Bar, and perhaps a member of the Bar Council, I do not think his opinion would have differed from that of his colleagues, and I beg him to say nothing which will suggest in any way, and which would bring headlines in the. Malayan papers, that this is not a fair and wise innovation.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I make no apology whatever for raising this subject, because I believe that the taking away of a right of trial, however small it may be, is an important matter, in which the onus rests on the Government. I am perfectly certain that your Lordships and the people of Malaya will be glad that I have done so. I raised the matter only in order to get an explanation from the Government. Now that we have had that, fortified by the opinion of the highest legal authority of this country, the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, I am sure that this debate will have done a great deal of good. I did not know there had been any headlines in Malaya, but there were certainly headlines in this country the other day—there was a long letter in The Times about this matter. If I have brought this to light, it also means that the ruling of the noble and learned Lord will be brought to light; and the people of Malaya will see that noble Lords in Parliament here assembled have considered this point, and are not prepared, without justification of the Government, to let an important matter of this kind go by default. If we in this House are not prepared occasionally to raise these things, then we may as well pack up as a House of Parliament, because that is what Parliament is for Parliament exists in order to get from the Government and the highest legal authority decisions on points of this kind. I say no more about it. I am sure your Lordships will rest content with the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. We all have the greatest confidence in him, and now that he has given his ruling on this point, we need not worry ourselves. If there are any Malayan journalists here who want another headline, they can say in Malaya that I have said so. I am happy to rest on the views of the noble and learned Lord.

As to the main problems, in a debate of this kind one rather tends to be critical, because, naturally, it is the critical points that come to mind. But I do not want your Lordships to think that these electoral Reports, even those parts that are common to both parties, so to speak, the majority and the minority, have not made an enormous contribution to the progress in Malaya. We are so accustomed in this country to thinking of ordinary electorates by territorial constituencies, and of universal franchise, that it means nothing to us. But I can assure your Lordships that it is a tremendous step forward in Malaya. I am sure that we all realise that the achievements in Malaya in the last few years have been very great. We all know that in Malaya, as elsewhere, "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance," and anything we can do to support the progress in Malaya in political, economic and social fields we shall be happy to do.

There is only one further thing that I should like to say. We are always grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Munster who takes a great deal of trouble in these debates. My noble friend Lord Listowel has asked me to join him this afternoon in paying tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Munster, for the great care he has taken in replying to our questions, and to thank him for the very comprehensive answers he has given. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, suggested that there is no value in this sort of debate. In my view, there is great value, even though the Government have not made up their mind. Even a Conservative Government are not so impervious to argument, or impervious to wisdom, that they cannot, perhaps, take a leaf from the book of noble Lords on this side—we hope so, at all events. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.