HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc974-5
21. Mr. S. O. DAVIES

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, having regard to the statement in the report on immigration, land settlement and development presented to Parliament in 1930, to the effect that of the 86,980 rural Arab families in the villages of Palestine 29.4 per cent. were landless in that year, he can give corresponding figures for 1935; and whether he is aware that the situation from the point of view of the fellahin has during the intervening period gone from bad to worse?


The estimate to which the hon. Member refers is stated in the report to relate to families who live not directly by cultivation but by labour either in the village or outside and in many other ways, and was not intended to imply that all these families had previously been owners or tenants of land. No corresponding figure is available for 1935. From many points of view the position of the Arab fellahin has considerably improved since the issue of the report of 1930. I may mention in this connection the protection given to tenants under the Protection of Cultivators Ordinance; measures taken to meet the problem of indebtedness, whereby the indebtedness of cultivators in the Northern District alone is said to have been reduced by at least 60 per cent.; and the reform in the system of land taxation, which has reduced taxation payable by average cultivators of cereals by as much as 70 per cent. I am quite unable to accept the view stated in the last part of the hon. Member's question.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make some effort to obtain the comparative figures for 1935, as there is an arithmetical as well as a human problem here?


I do not see how it would be possible now that 1935 is past to make an assessment of how many Arabs were (a) employed on the land, (b) employed in industrial enterprises, (c) in villages and the like in that year. It is impossible to compile figures for 1935 comparable with those which were specially compiled for the commission in 1930.


Is it not the case that the strike of Arabs is based partly on the fact that they are being driven off the land?


I cannot accept that suggestion for one moment.