HC Deb 05 November 1936 vol 317 cc250-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make any statement regarding immigration into Palestine during the sittings of the Royal Commission?


On 19th June and 22nd July I informed the House that His Majesty's Government could contemplate no change of policy whatsoever with regard to Palestine until they had received and considered the report of the Royal Commission. On 22nd July I also said that, as regards the suggestion that there should be a temporary suspension of immigration while the Commission is carrying out its inquiries, I was not at the time in a position to make any statement as to the intentions of His Majesty's Government beyond saying that their decision would be taken in due course on the merits of the case. As the House is aware, the Royal Commission is leaving for Palestine today and His Majesty's Government have carefully considered whether or not there should be a temporary suspension of immigration while the Commission is carrying out its inquiries. They have decided that a temporary suspension of immigration would not be justifiable on economic or on other grounds. It is the view of His Majesty's Government that, if any drastic departure from the immigration policy hitherto pursued were now to be introduced in advance of the findings of the Royal Commission, this would involve an alteration in the existing situation and might be held to prejudice the inquiries of the Royal Commission, which will be directed, among other matters, to the very important question of immigration generally.

At the same time, His Majesty's Government have thought it right in the present circumstances obtaining in Palestine to ask the High Commissioner to take a conservative view of the economic absorptive capacity of the country. He has accordingly recommended that the six-monthly Labour Immigration Schedule, which was due to be issued last month, should be fixed at 1,800 certificates: this recommendation has been approved by His Majesty's Government. This figure compares with a Schedule of 8,000 in April, 1935; 3,250 in October, 1935; and 4,500 in April, 1936. The new Schedule of 1,800 certificates includes a special allotment of 300 certificates to provide for registration as immigrants of the German-Jews in possession of a capital of £1,000 already in Palestine who will have been unable as yet to transfer from Germany the qualifying capital within a prescribed period of twelve months. The total increase, therefore, in the Jewish population resulting from this schedule will not exceed 1,500. It will be appreciated, however, that immigration is not confined to those persons who receive certificates under the Labour Schedule. The categories under which other immigrants enter are as capitalists (that is to say, persons in possession of not less than £1,000) and dependants of such capitalists, of persons authorised to enter under the Labour Schedule, and of persons already resident in Palestine. Taking into account all forms of Jewish immigration, it is expected that the total for the six months from October, 1936, will be substantially below that for the preceding six months.


Do we understand that the conservative estimate of the absorptive capacity of immigration for a short period is only intended to apply during the sittings of the Commission?


During the sittings of the Royal Commission and the consideration by His Majesty's Government of its report, and pending the issue of their policy for the future with regard to immigration.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what adverse developments in the economic situation of Palestine justify cutting the immigration by between 50 and 75 per cent.?


The general disturbance of the country and the interruption of industry, commerce and communications.


Is the reply to convey that the German Government are refusing to hand over to these German Jews the property to which they are entitled?


There is a special arrangement with the German Government with regard to this particular category of German Jews in possession of £1,000 which will allow them to get this amount into Palestine. That arrangement is somewhat complicated and has involved delay in these cases. I think that they will eventually get their money out, but these 300 have not got it out in the time normally allowed, and they are therefore to be treated technically as if they were labourers under the labour schedule.


Will the report of the Royal Commission be issued before the Commission return to London or only after they come backs?


Obviously it will be after they get back. They are going to Palestine to collect evidence, and I should imagine that they will write their report when they get home.


As it has hitherto been the policy of the Colonial Office to leave the question of absorptive capacity to the High Commissioner, are we now to understand that the Home Government is undertaking the duty of judging?


The numbers were fixed by the High Commissioner as usual on the advice of the technical commissions dealing with the subject, and the figure was not fixed by the Home Government. In so far as the Home Government interfered, they did so only to say that it was their wish that, in view of the conditions obtaining in Palestine, the High Commissioner would take a conservative view on this occasion.