HC Deb 20 May 1930 vol 239 cc216-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state how many men and women are now on hunger-strike in Palestine prisons; how long their hunger-strike has lasted; how many of the prisoners are in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa; on what charge these persons have been imprisoned; what is the nature of the demands in support of which they are hunger-striking: and whether any deaths have recently occurred in prison attributable to the effects of hunger-striking?


I understand that these strikes are now over. There were 43 strikers at Jerusalem, 19 at Acre and 11 at Jaffa. The strike at Jerusalem lasted from the 5th to the 14th of May and those at Acre and Jaffa from the 7th to the 15th of May. The strikers had been imprisoned for participation in illegal assemblies or belonging to illegal societies or being in possession of seditious literature or assaulting the police. Their demand was for special treatment as political prisoners. None of the strikers died, and the condition of all of them is satisfactory.


In view of the fact that the main purpose of the hunger strike was to serve as a protest against the conditions imposed on political prisoners, cannot the hon. Member do something to mitigate those conditions?


May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman has taken into account the associations of the place where these events occurred?


I have already stated that steps are being taken to improve the prison system in Palestine. I may also point out that no such term as "political prisoner" is recognised.


Is it not a fact that this protest was the outcome of these people being taken to prison in chains? They have protested against that in the only way that they can.


No, I do not think that is so.


Is the right hon. Gentleman acquainted with the special Regulations which were drawn up in the Home Office some years ago in regard to cases of criminals whose offences did not involve any moral turpitude?


No, Sir, I cannot say that my attention has been specially drawn to them, but now that the right hon. Gentleman has brought them to my notice I will look into the matter.


As the right hon. Gentleman was a specialist in the administration of the "Cat-and-Mouse" Act during the suffragist campaign, does not my hon. Friend think that he had better consult him as to its operation in Palestine?