HC Deb 21 December 1938 vol 342 cc2871-3
65. Mr. T. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what grounds it has been held that to let into Palestine 10,000 Jewish refugee children from Germany might mean that the forthcoming conversations with Jews and Arabs would not take place; and whether, in fact, His Majesty's Government have been informed by the Arab representatives that, if the application in respect of these children was granted, they would boycott the discussions?

Mr. M. MacDonald

As I stated in reply to question on 14th December, the reason for His Majesty's Government's attitude on this matter is that to make any alteration in the existing rate of immigration now would be to prejudice the position regarding one of the main subjects for discussion in London. We have maintained this position in the face both of Jewish and of Arab claims. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

Mr. Williams

In view of the extraordinary circumstances obtaining in parts of Europe, do not these children constitute a problem totally dissimilar to the ordinary problem of immigration, and does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government ought to reconsider the question?

Mr. MacDonald

I have given that aspect of the matter careful consideration, and the Government have done the same. I can only say that, in the light of all the circumstances, we reached the decision which I announced last week, and we cannot alter it.

Mr. Williams

If His Majesty's Government are unwilling to receive the whole 10,000 children, would they not reconsider the question of receiving a few of them, say 5,000 or something like that?

Mr. MacDonald

We considered that possibility, but that would have been a breach of the principle which I laid down ill answer to the question. I would point out that the decision which has been reached is not a decision to exclude these 10,000 children from Palestine permanently but only a decision to postpone the question until discussions take place in London.

Mr. Williams

Should not one of the first questions submitted to the delegates be the question which is stated on the Order Paper, so as to ascertain whether the Arab representatives would concede that point?

Mr. MacDonald

I will keep that suggestion in mind.

Mr. Crossley

Will my right hon. Friend dissociate the troubles in Europe from the problem of Palestine; and does he not think that, Palestine having taken 292,000 Jews, that is a very fair contribution towards a very difficult problem?

Sir A. Sinclair

Will not the right hon. Gentleman at least discuss this scheme with those responsible for organising it, and show some interest in it and his willingness to bring it into effect at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. MacDonald

I have discussed the matter with a number of Jewish representatives, and shall be discussing it again with a deputation that is to meet me to-morrow. With regard to the other question, I have stated on behalf of the Government the view that Palestine cannot provide a solution for the whole refugee problem of Europe, though it can make a contribution.

Mr. Noel-Baker

As these refugee children would not affect the labour position, and, if necessary, the immigration rate could be adjusted in the light of the decision of the conference, will the right hon. Gentleman put this matter to the Arabs at an early date?

Mr. MacDonald

As I have said, I will bear that suggestion in mind.

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