HL Deb 01 August 1962 vol 243 cc286-92

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I think it may be to the convenience of your Lordships if I repeat a statement which was made some little time ago in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

The British and Malayan Governments have received and studied the, Report of the Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Cobbold which visited North Borneo and Sarawak earlier this year to ascertain the views of the inhabitants on the proposal to create a Federation of Malaysia embracing Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei. The Report is being published to-day and is now available in the Printed Paper Office.

The two Governments are most grateful to the Commission for their valuable Report and have accepted almost all the recommendations on which the Commission were unanimous. The two Governments have noted in particular that the Commission were unanimously agreed that a Federation of Malaysia is in the best interests of North Borneo and Sarawak and that an early decision in principle should be reached.

In the light of this Report and of the agreement reached between the Government of Malaya and the Government of Singapore, the British and Malayan Governments have now decided in principle that, subject to the necessary legislation, the proposed Federation of Malaysia should be brought into being by August 31, 1963.

To give effect to this decision, the two Governments intend to conclude, within the next six months, a formal agreement which, among other things, will provide for: first of all, the transfer of sovereignty in North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore by August 31, 1963; second, provisions governing the relationship between Singapore and the new Federation, as agreed between the Governments of Malaya and Singapore; third, defence arrangements as set out in the joint statement by the British and Malayan Governments dated November 22, 1961; and fourth, detailed constitutional arrangements, including safeguards for the special interests of North Borneo and Sarawak, to be drawn up after consultation with the Legislatures of the two territories.

These safeguards will cover such matters as religious freedom, education, representation in the Federal Parliament, the position of the indigenous races, control of immigration, citizenship and the State constitutions.

In order that the introduction of the new Federal system may be effected as smoothly as possible and with the least disturbance to existing administrative arrangements, there will be, after the transfer of sovereignty, a transition period, during which a number of the Federal constitutional powers will he delegated temporarily to the State Governments.

An Inter-Governmental Committee will be established as soon as possible, on which the British, Malayan, North Borneo and Sarawak Governments will be represented. Its task will be to work out the future constitutional arrangements and the form of the necessary safeguards.

The Minister of State for the Colonies, who will be the Chairman of this Committee, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Tun Abdul Razak, will proceed shortly to Sarawak and North Borneo to conduct discussions.

In order to maintain the efficiency of the administration, the British and Malayan Governments axe agreed on the importance of retaining the services of as many of the expatriate officials as possible. The Minister of State will discuss with the Governments of the territories and with the Staff Associations how this best can be done.

The British and Malayan Governments have informed the Sultan of Brunei of the agreement they have reached and have made it clear that they would welcome the inclusion of the State of Brunei in the new Federation.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Marquess for the statement. May I say to him, on behalf of all my friends on this side of the House, that we give a very warm welcome to this statement—a welcome, I must say, with some relief. There is a lot that could be said, but in view of the debate that is taking place in the House this afternoon I will be brief. We have had some experience of Federations in different parts of the world. We have had considerable disappointment. But it is significant that in this particular case the urge of federation has come from the parties concerned, and is not, shall we say, being imposed by the United Kingdom Government.

Under the section in which there is to be provision for the protection of religious rights and education, I think we can all be satisfied that these will be well safeguarded, because I believe—and I am quite sure the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, would agree with me—that Malaya has set an example to the would for a multiracial society. When some of us talk of multiracial societies we think in terms of Europeans living with the natives of the country; but in Malaya there are the Chinese, the Malays, as Moslem and the Hindu Indians, the Singalese and some of the Dyaks from Borneo, apart from a number of European countries, and all live in great happiness and contentment.

I believe that Malaya will set this example, and will set the pattern for the whole of the Federation. I believe that Singapore itself will gain from joining this Federation. But in giving this welcome, I think we must take into account the special burdens Chat the Federation of Malaya will be taking upon their shoulders, because Singapore has very grave economic problems. It has considerable unemployment, and the countries of Brunei and Sarawak are still to be developed. I therefore am glad that the other day the noble Marquess announced that the Colonial Development Corporation is to be changed and that it will be able to continue its work in these new territories. I would beg the Government to recognise that the Federation Government is taking on a very heavy task, and I ask that the Government will see that What aid they can afford is quickly given. I have only one last point. I hope that the Sultan of Brunei, when he has consulted on this Federation, will feel that he can bring his own country in. I believe this new Malaysia will be a great bastion for freedom and tolerance in South East Asia.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, on behalf of the noble Lords on these Benches, wish to welcome the statement and to confirm what has been said so aptly by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I feel that to-day is an historic occasion in your Lordships' House. We are debating matters here to-day which will affect the future of Europe and of a great part of the world. This statement also will affect a great part of the world. It will affect the stability and the well-being of South East Asia, and I feel certain that if there is no arrangement along the lines proposed for South East Asia then we cannot guarantee in any way either the stability or the welfare of that most important area.

I should like to congratulate the noble Marquess on being appointed Chairman of the Inter-Governmental Committee and wish him well in that highly important task. In view of the importance of it and the fact that time is short, may I ask him when he proposes that the first meeting of this Committee should be held? May I also ask him to bear in mind, when he is discussing with the various Assemblies concerned the future of the expatriate officers, the point I have often put to him—namely, that the only real solution for this vexed question is that Her Majesty's Government should make them all part of the Home Civil Service, and then they will not have to bother about their future and pensions? Finally, may we have an indication of whether His Highness the Sultan of Brunei has made any reply to the information which has been given to him by both the Malayan Government and Her Majesty's Government?

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am not sure that it is very proper for me to comment, but I want to add my congratulations on the statement and the success that it means for the Governments concerned. I want to do this because at the time when this all started I was in the position in which the noble Marquess is now. I want to make two comments: the first is that when one thinks of the Commission who have made this Report, the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, the former Governor of Sarawak and Sir David Watherston, who have the interests of these countries so much at heart, it is good to think that their recommendations have been adopted by the two Governments. Secondly I am delighted that the recommendations include a transition period to enable North Borneo and Sarawak to catch up, as it were, with Malaya and the other countries before they go into full Federation.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the way in which this statement has been received and for the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Ogmore, and by my noble friend Lord Perth. I was particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to the example set by the people of the Federation of Malaya of how a multiracial society can live happily. I remember very well my first experience of it alt a multiracial dinner at Kuala Lumpur and how conscious I was of the total absence of any racial feeling whatsoever. Of course the noble Lord is perfectly right when he says that the Federation of Malaya is assuming additional burdens. Her Majesty's Government are aware of it, and in our discussion with the Tunku we have made it clear that we wish to play our part in seeing that the future of this Malayan Federation is as successful as it can be. In this connection the changing of the Colonial Development Corporation into the Commonwealth Development Corporation is of great significance.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the Sultan of Brunei. I understand that His Highness has already expressed his desire to enter this Federation, and, as noble Lords are aware, we have communicated with him to signify how welcome his country would be. J would thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for his congratulations. As he may perhaps have guessed, all this entails certain alterations in the plans I had made, but, none the less, I go into this job realising how important it is, and satisfied that, working with the Tunku Abdul Rahman, I shall have a most co-operative colleague. It is his aim, as it is ours, that the special interests of the peoples of the territories shall be safeguarded. The noble Lord asked me the approximate date of the first meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee. I cannot give this precisely, but I expect to be leaving the country myself within the next fortnight.

As regards the expatriate officers, of course this is a matter of vital importance and it was referred to in the statement of my right honourable friend. One of the first things which I would attempt to do on arrival in the territory is to speak with the various associations, explain what arrangements we have made and work out further arrangements. We have given an undertaking that there will be compensation and we will work out the details together. We will do everything in our power to see that as many as possible of these vitally important people remain in the country for as long as possible. In conclusion, I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Perth. It was a kind and friendly thought of his to speak on this occasion, for I know full well that he had very much at heart the creation of what we all hope will be a happy, a successful, a prosperous and a free federation of peoples.