Sabah and Sarawak (Voluntary Workers)

Oral Answers to Questions — Technical Co-Operation – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Colin Turner Mr Colin Turner , Woolwich West 12:00 am, 30th July 1964

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation how many young volunteers from this country are working in Sabah and Sarawak; and how many will be going there under the programme for 1964–65 and 1965–66.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

23. Under the 1964–65 programme, 34 volunteers have been recruited for Sabah and Sarawak. The numbers for 1965–66 have not yet been settled.

Photo of Mr Colin Turner Mr Colin Turner , Woolwich West

Does not my right hon. Friend feel that this is an extremely disappointing total, bearing in mind the vital importance of these two territories in South-East Asia at the present time? Has he any other ideas for encouraging recruitment?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

My main ideas are to increase the numbers of volunteers who are leaving this country. That we are doing. The numbers have risen from about 300 to 800 this year, going up to about 1,300 in a year's time. I hope that these important countries will share in that increased total in the future.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Would my right hon. Friend consider the idea that persons serving with Voluntary Service Overseas could serve for a period shorter than the calendar 12 months?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

A few of the cadet volunteers do serve for a shorter period, but I am afraid that service of less than a year is really not very satisfactory, as these people take a few months to get acclimatised. On the contrary, what we are hoping is to increase the number of people who are prepared to serve in the future for two years rather than one. As I say, a few can serve for nine months, but I think that to shorten it beyond that would result in a lack of useful work?

Photo of Mr Paul Williams Mr Paul Williams , Sunderland South

Will my right hon. Friend say exactly what is done by career officers, and other people like that, to create interest in the scheme in schools all over the country?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

This is a job for the voluntary societies, because we do not send out these young volunteers under any Government agency. The Government provide the voluntary societies with valuable financial and' other support and encouragement, but it is for the voluntary societies to undertake this work, and I know that they are doing a lot about it. In addition, we are preparing a recruiting film which will, I think, assist them in that way.

Photo of Mr Colin Turner Mr Colin Turner , Woolwich West

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation how many British personnel are currently serving in Sabah and Sarawak under the Overseas Service Aid scheme; and whether this number is likely to increase or decrease over the next year.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

There are about 295 and 375 such officers in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively. It is impossible to forecast how many of these officers will exercise their right to give notice of retirement in the coming year, but the Governments concerned wish to retain the services of British officers and we shall do our best to keep up the numbers by fresh recruitment where necessary.

Photo of Mr Colin Turner Mr Colin Turner , Woolwich West

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in view of the threat to these territories and of the fact that vast parts of these territories are being infiltrated for the first time by agitators from Indonesia, it is absolutely vital that the number of officers available in these territories should be greatly increased over the numbers available in the past, in order to counter this influence? Can he give an assurance that we are making every effort, with other Commonwealth countries, to recruit further personnel?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

While I agree with almost everything that my hon. Friend says, I am sure he will be the first to realise that the first step is for the Governments of the territories concerned to decide how many people they want. I can only say that the more they decide on the better, and we shall certainly do our best to fill the vacancies.