§ 2.36 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that all is well with the administration of the police in Malaya.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALY (VISCOUNT HALL)
My Lords, I Welcome this opportunity of praising the excellent work which the police forces in Malaya are doing under conditions of exceptional danger and difficulty. Concern has, however, been expressed in the Federation of Malaya regarding the administration of the force, and the Government of the Federation are arranging to secure from the United Kingdom the services of an independent and impartial authority with police experience to investigate the problems connected with the organisation and administration of the force. This action implies no lack of confidence in the Commissioner of Police or his staff. They have been under heavy pressure during the emergency, and they realise the need for the best expert professional advice on these problems, particularly in the light of the rapid expansion of the force which has taken place.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, whilst thanking the noble Viscount for that reply, may I ask him the following supplementary question? Are His Majesty's Government fully aware of the grave uneasiness which has been occasioned in Malaya by the recent resignations of several British police officers of rank, and the further resignations which are threatened? And do His Majesty's Government not agree that the inquiry to which the noble Viscount has just referred must be pressed forward with speed and firmness if the whole morale of the police force in Malaya at this critical time is not to be seriously prejudiced?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I cannot agree with the first part of the noble Lord's question. The number of resignations during the past three and a half years is not exceptional, taking into consideration resignations which may have occurred by way of criticism of the changes that have taken place. With regard to the latter part of the noble Lord's question, I will certainly convey his suggestion to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I entirely agree that we should expedite this inquiry as much as possible.
My Lords, will His Majesty's Government ensure that in future knowledge of one or other of the local languages, Malay or Chinese, shall constitute an important factor in promotion to the higher ranks of the police there?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, of course I cannot give any guarantee. I do not know whether there is anything in the suggestion which has been made by the noble Lord that the police officers are not competent to deal with any situation which might arise, but I will certainly bring to the notice of the Secretary of State the suggestion which he has made.
§ VISCOUNT MARCHWOOD
My Lords, I would like to endorse what the noble Lord said just now, because of the grave disquiet which exists at the present time. Some of the older police officers are greatly concerned at the position in which they find themselves to-day. There are rumours that many of them will be retiring from the service before long if something is not done.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I hope that the reply which I have given with regard to the expediting of the inquiry will allay some of the anxieties to which the noble Viscount referred. I can assure him that it is the desire of the Secretary of State that we should do all we can to improve conditions in the police force and so retain and build up confidence in the authorities.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I invite attention to another aspect of this matter which has not been mentioned? Is it not desirable that this inquiry should be expedited and its findings made public, not only on general grounds but in the interest of the officer in charge of the Malayan police? He has to bear a heavy burden at the present moment, and the Malayan papers have been full of criticisms which must reflect upon his management of the police. It is surely in the public interest that at the earliest possible date he should be relieved of these distractions from his normal duties which are essential to the public security of Malaya.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I thought the reply which I gave was an indication as to the confidence which His Majesty's Government, and indeed the Governor, have in the Commissioner of Police and his staff. If there is any need to strengthen that, I am sure my right honourable friend will do so.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT ADDISOK)
My Lords, in the interests of the House, may I intervene in these proceedings and observe, with regard to the intervention of the noble Viscount behind me and the noble Lord opposite, that it was agreed when these Starred Questions were instituted that they should not be made the occasion for short speeches on the subject? It is right that questions arising out of the answer should be part of our proceedings, but it will spoil the spirit of the understanding which the House accepted on all sides if noble Lords depart from this general rule.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I agree with the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. What he has just said will go on record, and I am sure that he does not intend to suppress the supplementary questions which are directly and 942 properly designed to elucidate the answer to the Question on the Paper
My Lords, arising out of the questions, and the answers which have been given, may I ask this simple question? In view of discouraging reports in the Press, which give the impression that the campaign against the terrorists is not succeeding, will the Government be prepared to make an early statement to the House on the whole subject?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I should say that that supplementary did not arise out of the original Question. I will, however, bring to the notice of the Secretary of State the point which has been put by the noble Viscount. At the same time I should like to say that His Majesty's Government cannot accept the noble Viscount's inferences from the Press reports. Progress in operations of this sort is necessarily slow, but I cannot agree that the operations are not succeeding.