HC Deb 29 July 1936 vol 315 cc1510-5
25. Miss WARD

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, when the Royal Commission to inquire into affairs in Palestine is appointed, it is his intention to retain the present regulations for the entry of Jewish immigrants into that country?

27. Major PROCTER

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the proposed Royal Commission to be appointed to investigate the situation in Palestine will be instructed to ascertain to what extent, if any, the riots were supported by financial assistance from outside the mandated territory?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give an assurance that, until the proposed Royal Commission on Palestine has reported, no changes will take place with regard to Jewish immigration into Palestine?

Lieut.-Commander FLETCHER

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he intends to suspend Jewish immigration into Palestine pending the report of the Royal Commission which is to be set up; and whether he will now announce the composition of the Commission and its terms of reference?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is to be the composition of the Royal Commission dealing with the situation in Palestine; on what approximate date it is proposed that it should leave for Palestine to carry out any necessary inquiries; and whether any approximate indication can be given of the time which will elapse before the report of this Commission can be made available?


With the permission of the House, I will take the opportunity to make a comprehensive statement. His Majesty has been pleased to approve the appointment of the following to serve on the Palestine Royal Commission:

The Right Honourable Earl Peel, G.C.S.I., C.B.E.

The Right Honourable Sir Horace Rumbold, Baronet, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., M.V.O.

Sir Laurie Hammond, K.C.S.I., C.B.E.

Sir Morris Carter, C.B.E.

Sir Harold Morris, M.B.E., K.C.

Professor Reginald Coupland, C.I.E.

Lord Peel will be Chairman of the Commission and Sir Horace Rumbold Vice-Chairman. Mr. J. M. Martin of the Colonial Office will be Secretary.

The terms of reference of the Royal Commission will be as follow: To ascertain the underlying causes of the disturbances which broke out in Palestine in the middle of April; to inquire into the manner in which the Mandate for Palestine is being implemented in relation to the obligations of the Mandatory towards the Arabs and the Jews respectively; and to ascertain whether, upon a proper construction of the terms of the Mandate, either the Arabs or the Jews have any legitimate grievances upon account of the way in which the Mandate has been, or is being implemented; and if the commission is satisfied that any such grievances are well founded, to make recommendations for their removal and for the prevention of their recurrence. It is not yet possible to state on what date the commission will leave for Palestine, but it is not proposed that the commission should begin its work in Palestine until order has been restored there. When a Royal Commission has been appointed it has complete control over its own proceedings, so it would be impossible for me to give even an approximate indication of the time which will elapse before the report of the commission will become available. As regards the suggestion that there should be a temporary suspension of immigration while the commission is carrying out its inquiry, I am unable to add anything to the full reply which I gave on 22nd July to the question by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams).

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the grounds for this humiliating and almost insulting exclusion of Members of this House from the Royal Commission; whether there is any precedent for the exclusion of Members of this honourable House from a Royal Commission; and, further, why is the House of Lords contributing as chairman one whose record and convictions are so strikingly pro-Moslem?


I resent very strongly the suggestion that any member of this commission is either pro-Jewish or pro-Arab, or anti-Jewish or anti-Arab. Lord Peel has served the State in many offices, and because he happens in the course of a long public career of undoubted impartiality to have served once in the India Office, it is a most unfair suggestion to be made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. With regard to the representation of Members of Parliament, I did think it most desirable that it should not be suspected either by Arabs or Jews that there was any political aspect in the matter of a commission of this kind. There are many precedents in the case of commissions of this kind in this delicate work for not including Members of Parliament, because if one includes Members of Parliament one has to include representatives of all parties, and that would make the commission unduly large.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that some of the reasons for disaffection in Palestine may be connected with the conditions of women, and does he not think it would be desirable to appoint a woman member of the commission? If he is not going to appoint a woman member of the commission, will he not at least undertake to appoint a woman as technical expert connected with the commission, so that half of the Palestinian population may not be left wholly out of account?


I am satisfied that the Women's Arab Committee will be willing to give evidence before the commission. Some weeks ago in the House I gave the reasons why, on inquiry of the High Commissioner, it was considered undesirable to appoint a woman on the commission. There were reasons of religious sentiment which I do not share, but those being the feelings of, not, I will say, a majority but of some persons in Palestine, I did not want to prejudice the work of the commission by causing offence to anybody.


Have any members of the commission any acquaintance with questions of labour and wages, seeing that one of the particular difficulties in Palestine is the question of wages and conditions of employment between Arabs and Jews?


Sir Harold Morris is chairman of the Industrial Court, and his recent work has been almost entirely concerned with industrial questions affecting employers and employés in relation to wages. Similarly, Sir Morris Carter's record is very largely that of an expert in land questions.


May I ask whether, if the commission issues an interim report recommending, for example, a temporary cessation of immigration, it may be possible for the Govern- ment to take action on that interim report?


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the possibility that he may offend more people by not appointing a woman on this commission than he would have offended had one been appointed? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, there is a very strong feeling about this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] In Palestine. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman further, if he has finally decided that women cannot serve, or are not to be allowed to serve, on this commission, whether he will consider appointing some women or some representatives of labour to advise the commission as to evidence and other matters?


I recognise that it is true that for a number of reasons a large number of people would have welcomed a woman member on the commission, especially the Zionists and some of the modern Arabs, but there are religious-minded Jews, more particularly in Jerusalem, who would resent it very much, and a considerable number of the Mohammedan population would also resent it. It is one thing to give a certain sense of grievance to one side, but it is quite another thing to offend deeply-held religious susceptibilities, and to do so is merely asking for trouble in a country like Palestine.


May I ask whether either the Government or the Royal Commission—


We have already had a large number of supplementary questions on this subject.


May we ask when this Motion is coming forward?

28. Major MILNER

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, before finally deciding not to include a woman on the proposed Royal Commission on the affairs of Palestine, he will make further inquiries from persons of experience in that country as to the reality of the alleged prejudice against such an appointment among Arab leaders?


I have just informed the House of the composition of the Royal Commission as approved by the King. As regards the inclusion of a woman member, I can add nothing to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) on 30th June.


Has the right hon. Gentleman made any further inquiries, and if not, will he consider acceding to the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) as to attaching women to the Commission as technical advisers?


I really do not think that technical advisers from this country are needed. In Palestine there are women and there are labour leaders who could serve in that capacity.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that women were attached to the Franchise Committee which went out to India and that the result was very successful and satisfactory; and will he not bear that precedent in mind?


Arising out of the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, who are the persons of experience and knowledge in Palestine who were consulted on this matter, because a great deal of information on the other side of the question has come to me?


I asked the High Commissioner for Palestine for advice as to views among the various communities in Palestine and to give me information on the subject.