Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for Sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants-in-Aid.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
It is customary on these occasions for the Minister responsible for bringing before the Committee a Supplementary Estimate to explain how it is that the original Estimate, which was approved by Parliament last summer, has been exceeded. Although the net result of unexpected windfalls and under-spending under various heads is such that the net amount is only £10, the Committee will see that the Supplementary Estimate does involve variations under a number of headings. In accordance with the practice of Parliament, it is my duty to explain why the Estimate has been exceeded under some of the heads. Taking them in the order in which they appear on the Paper, the first is Somaliland, but I think it will serve the convenience of the Committee if I deal with the Votes for Somaliland and Kenya together, since they are for the same object at the same time, namely, the maintenance of Abyssinian refugees.
Ever since the troubles in Ethiopia, there have been successive influxes into neighbouring territories under British control of refugees from different Abyssinian tribes, and obviously, owing to the continued unsettlement in that country, it is quite impossible to say what will be their ultimate destiny. Though we may have more or less, still more is it quite impossible to forecast 1738 what the charge will be. Into Somaliland last April, after the Estimates had been presented, there was a further influx of hundreds of Abyssinian refugees, who had to be accommodated in camps and provided with food, medical attention and humanitarian care. In different parts of the long Kenya-Abyssinia frontier there have been infiltrations which could not be foreseen. More particularly because the old relations between the Abyssinian tribes and the Kenya tribes on our frontier have not been too happy in the past, due to mutual raiding, it has been necessary to segregate the refugees and to make camps for them. We are now maintaining at our expense in different parts of Kenya something like 6,000 men, women and children, who have come over the Abyssinian frontier into the Northern territories of Kenya. We have to bear the charge for this humanitarian work.
The next item relates to British Guiana, and it is to clear up an accounting matter in connection with the League of Nations Commission. That Commission carried out an investigation in British Guiana in order to ascertain whether anywhere in that Colony it would be possible to find a home for the Assyrians. The League paid the bulk of the cost, but there was certain local expenditure in connection with the inquiry and the League undertook to pay only a part of it. It is therefore only right and proper that this incidental expense should fall upon the Imperial Government. Guiana is a country, the size of England, with a population of about 300,000, and naturally it was thought, on looking at the map, that if a place for the possible settlement of the Assyrians could be found the matter was worth investigating. But we could not take the responsibility alone, and we asked the League to appoint an independent body to see whether there was suitable land.
They came to the conclusion that both on scientific and economic grounds such settlement was quite impossible. The Assyrians are hillmen, accustomed to live in a dry upland climate, and are habituated to a particular form of agriculture and life, and an attempt to settle them in one of the wettest and most tropical ranges of forest close to the Equator is out of the question. A full survey and investiga- 1739 tion were made in the dense tropical forests. The bulk of the existing small population of the Colony is not in British Guiana, as one would expect, but on the edge of it. The League Commission conclusively proved that the idea of settling human beings now or in the near future in the hinterland of British Guiana, unless they were a purely forest people habituated to damp tropical life, was out of the question.
The next item relates to British Honduras. It is a sum of £8,000, the first instalment of a project for the improvement and development of that little Colony, our only Colony on the mainland of Central America. It has only 55,000 inhabitants, of whom the bulk are aboriginal Indians. In 1907 the then Liberal Government gave a grant to start the first railway in the Colony. That railway failed in its purpose and until to-day it has been run at a loss. We, therefore, had an expert inquiry undertaken. It came to the conclusion that in 1907 there had been every reason to attempt development and the opening up of the interior by constructing a railway; but the railway aged fast, it never could pay, and the only thing to do was to pull it up and build in its place a proper road suitable for motor traffic. It was a difficult business building a road in the Colony, which has very slender resources and a small revenue. Therefore we proposed that there should be a loan and that as interest and sinking fund could not be paid in the first few years we should undertake certain additional charges. This road will serve to bring down to the coast the bananas and the chicle, the raw material for chewing-gum. On these exports the economic life of the Colony is based.
The next item relates to Boundary Commissions. It has been very difficult to forecast in each year what expenditure will be incurred. There was an international convention ratified in 1929 between Brazil and this country, regarding the rectification of the southern frontier of British Guiana and the northern frontier of Brazil. The actual work of marking that frontier has been going on for some time. It has been a much more difficult and expensive job than was anticipated, and has been carried out in very difficult, uninhabited country. Major expenditure has increased this year unexpectedly, because we have had a big team of sur- 1740 veyors and assistants at work trying to get the job completed as quickly as possible. I hope that we shall soon reach the end of the business, because once we have ratified an international treaty involving the delimitation and marking of a boundary the erection of the necessary boundary marks and pylons should be done for all time.
Now I come to Aden. The Committee will remember that until 1st April last the Government of India, or more correctly the Government of Bombay, was responsible for administration in Aden, and that on 1st April Aden became a colony and protectorate under the Colonial Office as a result of the passing of the Government of India Act. It had then a new Governor for the first time. It was impossible, when the Estimate was originally framed, to say exactly how much the cost of this change would be. This is a Vote for individual officers' accommodation, such as bungalows, and for the cost of establishing under the Colonial Office the civil administration in Aden and the Protectorate. I do not think anything significant arises on the Vote.
We now come to the three Palestine Votes. I shall briefly explain the Estimates and then hear what the Committee wish to say on the subject before I reply in general terms. The first Vote is for troops and troops only. It represents the cost of the extra military garrison in Palestine. When the original Estimate was made in the Spring of last year it was quite impossible to foretell what the situation would be in Palestine. The Royal Commission was still in the country and no one had any idea what its recommendations would be. Undoubtedly when the Commission was there it looked as if the disturbances of 1936 would not be repeated. The country was in a very much better state and it seemed that after the general strike it was to settle down. Indeed that state of affairs did to a certain extent exist until last Autumn. It was not until last Autumn, after the League Council had met and the Debates had taken place in this House, that we had the great recrudescence of trouble, which started with the murder of Mr. Andrews, a very remarkable and able District Commissioner. From that day to this there has been the sad sequence of events which have necessitated the maintenance and the use of large numbers of British troops in that 1741 country; and this is the Vote for the cost of the troops.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The normal garrison in Palestine consists of two battalions of infantry. The reinforcements consist of four additional battalions, and, in addition to those, there are a field company of Royal Engineers, a railway company of Royal Engineers, detachments of the Royal Corps of Signals, the Army Ordnance Corps and the like, two squadrons of the Royal Air Force, and an armoured car company. There is, in fact, the equivalent—without artillery, which would be quite valueless for this purpose—of two brigades operating in different parts of that very disturbed country.
The next Supplementary Estimate which I wish to explain concerns a new service, namely, the hydrographic survey. This survey is being pushed on with all possible speed. It arises out of the report of the Royal Commission, and it is essential to the effective working of the new Technical Commission about which I shall have a word to say in a moment. It is obvious that we cannot present either to this House, as we are pledged to do by the Resolution of last July, or to the League of Nations, a full picture of the possibilities of partition in Palestine unless we can provide all the data necessary for forming judgments regarding the possibilities of further irrigation. By that I mean data concerning further sources of water, either from wells or from the diversion of wadis by canals and the like, which will give some idea of the economic possibilities both in Transjordania and Palestine of the settlement of people, whether Arabs or Jews, as cultivators.
The population of Palestine has been growing rapidly since our occupation—the Jewish population by immigration and by natural increase, and the Arab population by a remarkable natural increase, and to some extent as the result of improved health services and the like. There being no mineral wealth with the exception of Dead Sea salts, the real wealth of the country must necessarily be in its agriculture, and the possibility of any successful development of that country still lies in agriculture. 1742 Hitherto the main efforts of Jewish settlers and Arabs for economic improvement have been centred near the coast and in the plains where it is known that water exists underneath the soil. The great increase of Arab and Jewish citrus groves round Jaffa and the Vale of Sharon has been a remarkable feature of the economic development of Palestine. Much has been said about the possibilities of the Jordan Valley or what is called the Negeb, the semi-desert low rainfall area between the Egyptian frontier and the Gulf of Akaba, and also of certain valleys in Transjordania. Before the Technical Commission can pronounce on these questions, it is essential to have further data regarding the possibilities, because there is a great conflict of evidence. That is why we have pushed forward the scientific investigations which have now been going on for the last few months, and this Vote is for that purpose.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
It is difficult to say. The bores are going down and the wells are being sunk at this moment. Surveys are going on, but, of course, it is very difficult to reach finality. Certain key points are now being investigated, and it is all-important that we should get as early as possible data regarding these areas.
Mr. Lloyd George
Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to the next matter, would he mind telling us whether any examination is now being conducted into the strategic possibilities of the frontiers which are suggested? As he knows perfectly well, they are regarded as indefensible. Is there any military commission inquiring into that matter?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
There is no item in the Supplementary Estimate in regard to that matter, and it would, I presume, be out of order to discuss it. That is a question for the General Staff.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
It is obviously a matter for the General Staff experts. It 1743 is for them to advise the Government on strategic matters. It is ultimately a matter for the Chiefs of Staff as advised by the staff experts. I do not know whether it is irregular to say so or not, but, as a matter of fact, they have already been asked to provide data in that respect.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The Technical Commission are not military experts, and will not be responsible for saying anything about strategy, but they will obtain from military experts opinions on anything of that kind which arises. As regards the cost of the commission, this Supplementary Estimate was submitted to the Treasury in January. It now turns out to be unnecessary, because I do not think any of this money will be required in this financial year. The arrangement was that we should pay the cost of the commission's passages and subsistence allowances, but that the Palestine revenues should bear the cost of office accommodation and expenses while they were in Palestine. This £500 was estimated on the assumption that they would have sailed before the end of this financial year.
I have to explain why it is that I have now to come forward to ask for money which will probably not be spent in this financial year because the Commission are not now going until next month. I had hoped that they would be able to start in March, but, as a matter of fact, not only hydrographie data but other data which are being prepared for them are not yet ready. Also I had to consult the personal convenience both of the members of the Commission and of the new High Commissioner. I thought that to send out these people to make investigations in Palestine on complex terms of reference, almost at the same time as a new High Commissioner, who had never been there before, was taking over, was rather hard on the High Commissioner. I thought it all-important that he should have, at any rate, a few weeks before the Commission arrived. Obviously, they would want to turn to him from time to time for assistance, and would put up requests for information. It also happened that the chairman of the Commission, who has had a long and dis- 1744 tinguished service, ended up only at the end of last year as No. 2 to Sir John Anderson in the Governorship of Bengal, and after a long period in Bengal he really deserved a little leave which he is now having. For that reason the Commission put off their departure.
I do not think at this stage it is necessary to explain in detail the nature of the Estimates. I do not know what points will be raised on them, and I would prefer to reply to such questions as may be put to me later. As I have explained, the hydrographic survey and the expenses of the Technical Commission are new services. The remaining Estimates are supplementaries and I have given the reasons why it was impossible to estimate what the expenditure would be under these heads thus involving the necessity for these Supplementary Estimates towards the end of the financial year.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £5.
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in a detailed examination of the various sections of this Vote outside that relating to Palestine, except to say that I was particularly interested in his reference to British Honduras. Requests have been repeatedly made for some expenditure in the direction which he indicated, and I believe that those who are interested in the devlopment of British Honduras will be pleased by the provision made in this Vote. I listened with great care to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say with regard to the items which he has laid before the Committee relating to expenditure in Palestine. He will forgive me if I say bluntly to him that, for the life of me, I cannot discover whether the Government have any policy at all to announce to this Committee. What are all these soldiers for? Surely you do not send soldiers to Palestine for the love of the thing? They must be there for a purpose, and the question that arises is whether we are justified in allowing the Government to provide these vast sums for armed forces, if the Committee has reason to believe that an alteration in the policy of the Government would make those forces largely unnecessary. So I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should take it for granted that all he had to do was to commend to the Committee the expenditure of so many 1745 thousand pounds on sending soldiers to Palestine without saying a single word as to the reason for doing so or what the Government propose to do to deal with the situation which has given rise to the necessity for sending those soldiers to Palestine. I really must say again that the right hon. Gentleman is treating the Committee a little inadequately, not to use too harsh a term. Last July he gave to the House a White Paper—
§ Colonel Clifton Brown
On a point of Order. Is this Debate to cover the whole policy of the Government in regard to Palestine?
§ The Chairman
I have been listening very intently to the hon. Gentleman, and the subjects he is raising are subjects which I could not have allowed the Secretary of State to deal with at length in reply. This is merely a Vote for an increase in the number of troops in Palestine. The discussion on the purpose of the troops generally and the administration generally will have to come on the main Estimate.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
May I put a point of Order to you, Sir Dennis? You suggest, quite rightly, that we are asked this afternoon to agree to an extra amount of money to be spent to meet the charge incurred by sending an extra number of troops. Am I not entitled to ask for an explanation why the troops are necessary?
§ The Chairman
Yes, if the answer is a short one. I cannot allow it to develop into a Debate on general policy.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I gave it. I said that when the original Estimate for troops was framed, we were justified in believing that the result of our policy would be a better position in Palestine. Unfortunately, however, last autumn there was a great recrudescence of violence in that country necessitating increased expenditure.
Mr. Lloyd George
It is rather important that we should have a definite Ruling as to the limits beyond which we must not travel in this Debate and the 1746 extent to which we are allowed to investigate and explore the position. I have a White Paper in my hand issued on 23rd December, 1937, and this is the first opportunity we have had of discussing it. It was not issued on any particular Estimate, but it deals with what is happening in Palestine. I should like to know to what parts of this document we shall be entitled to refer. Although it has been issued for two or three months, this is the first opportunity presented to Parliament to find out what has happened and what the White Paper really means. There has been considerable delay, and the first question is whether we are entitled to ask, to begin with, the reason for the delay in procedure. Otherwise, I really do not know what we can discuss. Here is an item of £400,000 for troops sent to preserve order in Palestine. The disturbances are entirely due to policy, and it is rather hard on the House of Commons that it should be asked to vote a large sum of money for additional troops—for more than double the troops that were there—without being entitled to investigate the policy which has forced the Government to send them there.
§ The Chairman
I gave careful attention to this matter before we met this afternoon, because this is not a mere trifling increase. The right hon. Gentleman asked me especially with regard to the White Paper on policy in Palestine, and the title at the head of that Paper really gives the key to the situation. Quite clearly this White Paper as one on Government policy in Palestine is not one to be discussed on a Supplementary Estimate. The occasion for discussing it is on the next main Vote. The Vote to-day is for an increase, not for sending out troops for the first time, but for an increase in number of the forces already out there. It is not for sending out troops for the first time. It is merely an increase. The right hon. Gentleman's ingenuity is no doubt beyond mine, but I am bound to confess I cannot see that there will be very much opportunity for long or wide debate on this Estimate. The discussion must be confined simply and solely to the increase of troops and the alteration in certain conditions out there causing such increase, but not to the existence of those conditions which caused the first troops to be sent there.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The increase is not due to new battalions being sent out. When the original Estimate was framed in January, 1937, it was contemplated that during the year the garrison in Palestine would be reduced. As a matter of fact, however, the garrison which was there in 1936 has had to be maintained and the battalions have had to be kept up to strength. There have been no new units. Battalions have been withdrawn and replaced by others, but there has been no total increase in the number of troops actually in Palestine. The expectation that the garrison would be reduced has not been realised.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
May I put two points? The first is that we are surely entitled to argue that the troops are in Palestine because of a failure of policy. The second point is that we are not only discussing troops, but we are discussing Items H.5 and 6. Item H.6 refers to the Palestine Technical Commission, and it has a most direct reference to this White Paper because it is the paper, as I conceive it, which lays down the terms of reference for the Commission. I submit, therefore, that we cannot very well discuss this item unless we are entitled to discuss the terms of reference under which the Commission is to operate.
§ The Chairman
I was not thinking when I answered before of the additional item with regard to the Technical Commission. So far as that is dealt with in the White Paper, no doubt it will be in order. As the Secretary of State himself told us, it is in the nature of a new sub-service. With regard to the original question which the hon. Gentleman put to me, I must adhere to my decision that the whole question of the use of troops in Palestine and the necessity for their being in Palestine can be discussed only on the main Estimate. The increase although it be a substantial increase, which is necessary for the maintenance of troops in Palestine, is not a sufficient reason for going into the question of the policy which necessitates the presence of troops.
§ Mr. Crossley
May I ask whether all the matters dealt with in paragraph 6 of the White Paper from sub-paragraph (a) to sub-paragraph (j), including practically everything in the administration services in Palestine, are in order?
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I have not re-read those particular paragraphs, and from the hon. Member's description of them I cannot say whether they can be discussed. So far as the Commission is concerned, that is in the nature of a new sub-service, and can be discussed fully.
§ Captain Sir Derrick Gunston
Paragraph 5 of the White Paper refers to the practical possibility of a scheme of partition. Are we entitled to discuss partition in relation to the White Paper?
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
Am I right in inferring that we shall not be in order in discussing the volume of migration into Palestine?
§ Mr. Denman
With regard to the Technical Commission and the object of their work, this is the first time the Committee of Supply has had the question of partition before it. If we do not want to spend £500 on this Commission and do not want a Technical Commission sent at all, surely it necessarily involves discussion on the merits of partition?
§ The Chairman
I do not see at the moment that this Commission has to deal with partition at all, although to some extent their work will be supplementary to it and may have to be considered by them.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I understand that the Ruling is that it will be out of order to discuss the principle of partition, but that we shall be in order under Vote H.6 in discussing the terms of reference set out in the White Paper. Those terms of reference include the recommendation of the Royal Commission as to the partition, the requirements which the boundaries should fulfil, and the economic and financial questions involved in partition. I presume we shall be in order in discussing those questions.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Baronet may, perhaps, try to do that later on, but there are obvious limitations which occur 1749 to my mind in reading these words. If he will read them, he will see that what the Commission have to do with regard to partition is very limited. They have to take into account certain things which are beyond their powers to deal with.
§ Major Procter
If part of this money is to be spent in the production of water, surely it is right to assume that water is for the use of people going into Palestine—
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that on that reasoning there would be no end to the subjects which one could drag in—even the position in Spain—but I am in the position of having to enforce the customs and Rules of the House, and in regard to Supplementary Estimates they are very strict, and always confine Debates within much narrower limits than enthusiastic Members who are interested in matters to which they relate—of that I am quite aware.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox
Are we to be allowed to dicuss the policy which necessitated these extra troops in Palestine?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Are we entitled to discuss the imaginary policy which has necessitated an expenditure which was greater than had been previously expected?
§ Mr. Denman
I should like to point out what has been described as being the function of this Technical Commission:To consider in detail the practical policies of a scheme of partition.I hope I can assume that as long as we confine ourselves to questions which come within that description we shall be in order.
§ The Chairman
I very much think the hon. Member will not be in order, but we shall see at the time. I have given my ruling as clearly as I can, and it is scarcely helpful for Members of the Committee to put hypothetical points to me.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Before the discussion opens—or, shall I say, closes?—may I point out that this Committee has certain rights? I have been well acquainted with those rights for 32 years, and among those rights is that the Chair shall allow discussion on those subjects which arise directly out of the money which is being 1750 voted. In spite of any communications between yourself, Sir Dennis, and the Treasury Bench, it is for the Chair to decide. We have certain rights. We have the right—
§ The Chairman
Order. I must interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, because he has made a reference which, if he will forgive my saying it, I rather resent. It was his reference to communications with the Front Bench. Except that the right hon. Gentleman came to my assistance to point out something—
§ The Chairman
—my communications with the Front Bench have been confined to telling them what I propose to do and the reasons for it, and what I regarded as being out of order.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
If I said anything to offend you, Sir Dennis, I withdraw it at once. I was referring to the momentary conversation between the Secretary of State and yourself, not, of course, to any previous conversations. But I do put it to you that this Committee has certain rights. It has the right of inquiry into the reasons for the expenditure of this large extra sum on troops in Palestine above what was anticipated when we voted the original sum. When we granted the original Vote we supposed that after the Peel Commission Report had been received and acted upon things would get quiet in Palestine, and that this extra money would not be wanted. Now it has been found to be wanted, and I do think that we are entitled to call attention to what the Government have done since the acceptance of the Peel Report, and since that money was voted, which has caused the extra expenditure.
§ The Chairman
I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is perfectly right in that. In the exercise of his ingenuity he may be able to make a brief speech, but I have an idea that the temptation may come to him to go a little bit beyond what I should hold to be in order. As long as he confines himself simply and solely to the reasons for there having to be an increase, he will be in order.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I will do my very best to keep clearly in mind the Rulings 1751 which you have given, Sir Dennis, though they will involve, I am afraid, some readjustments of what I had intended to say, but I still hope I shall say something relevant to the Vote before us. As I understand it, we are entitled to discuss in relation to Section H.6 the terms of reference under which the Palestine Technical Commission has been set up. I invite the Committee to look at page 2 of the White Paper, where they will find it stated thatit is necessary to emphasise certain implications of the acceptance in principle by the Government of the recommendations contained in Part III of the Report of the Royal Commission and to dispel, if possible, the uncertainty which appears to exist in some quarters with regard to the course of action which His Majesty's Government have in view.Clearly one of the functions of the Commission is to assist the public at large, and this House, too, in resolving some of the doubts and difficulties which have arisen from the Government's policy. I am basing this observation upon what fell from the Secretary of State himself at the Permanent Mandates Commission last August when, in reply to the Chairman of the Commission, he said that at the present moment two things remained beyond dispute, first, that the Balfour Declaration is still binding upon the Government, and, second, that the Mandate is still in being. If that be true, what is the case for sending this Commission to Palestine at all? I think I am entitled to argue that point. It is important to dispel doubts and difficulties which may be in the minds of people who study this problem. I would suggest that, in point of fact, the very terms of reference of the Commission make it impossible to dispel doubts but, on the contrary, increase doubts. I must recall to the Committee where the House of Commons stands in this matter. When we discussed it in July last the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, spoke to a Motion which invited the House to give a general approval to the recommendations of the Peel Report—I do not say particular, but general approval. The House, after a very close examination of the arguments addressed to it, specifically and with some determination withheld either approval or disapproval of the recommendations.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I will do so with pleasure. The more it is read the better I shall like it. It is quoted on page 5 of the White Paper:The House of Commons, on the 21st July, 1937, passed a Resolution to the following effect: 'That the proposals contained in Command Paper No. 5531 relating to Palestine should be brought before the League of Nations with a view to enabling His Majesty's Government, after adequate inquiry, to present to Parliament a definite scheme taking into full account all the recommendations of the Command Paper.'Therefore, I am strictly within the truth when I say that the House neither approved nor disapproved of the Commission's report. What they did say to the Government—it was said specifically across the Floor of the House—was that if the Government desired to go to Geneva and to say that the Government qua Government wished to endorse the Peel Commission recommendations that was for them to decide, but that the House reserved to itself freedom in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman went to Geneva, and the late Foreign Secretary went also. One of them addressed the Permanent Mandates Commission and the other the League Council, and at one or, other of those gatherings the announcement was made that a Technical Commission was to be sent to Palestine, and this, I take it, is the Technical Commission.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The Government take this Resolution of the House of Commons as meaning that before they would pronounce on the question of partition, aye or no, and before they debated the question of partition again, they wished to have another inquiry, and this Technical Commission is the inquiry which Parliament asked for to produce a definite scheme. We put that point at Geneva, and it was accepted at Geneva.
§ Mr. Jones
No, the words were "after full inquiry," and I am not sure that anyone would imply that there should be a special commission such as is now being 1753 sent. That is not the inquiry which people had in their minds. We do not need more knowledge on Palestine. Palestine has been examined, re-examined and re-reexamined over and over again. It is not information we wanted but an inquiry as to the implications of the Peel Commission's report, because the report was presented to the House rather hurriedly. It was in the hands of the Government for about a fortnight. They quickly came to a decision and the House was, if I may use a common expression, rather rushed into the decision. What the House meant was that there should be further examination into the facts pro and con partition as suggested by the Peel Commission. Then the Commission was announced, about August last, and now we are asked to provide money in this Supplementary Estimate for this further expenditure. But I understand that, after all, none of this money is to be spent this year.
I am speaking now as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and it seems rather odd that the Government should be asking for money in a Supplementary Estimate when they do not propose to spend it. It is a bad practice. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that Supplementary Estimates are asked for only if there is a definite assurance that the money is to be spent, but we are now told specifically that it is not to be spent. I will not prejudge or anticipate what the Public Accounts Committee may say a year and a half hence. That Commission was announced in August, and now we are in the month of March, about eight months later, and not one step nearer to seeing this inquiry put on foot. We are told that they may, or will, go next month. I accept the word "will." They will go next month. That is to say, the Government have either spent or wasted nine months in proceeding with an inquiry which they suggest is inevitable in order to arrive at conclusions. I really must tell them quite frankly that I do not understand this dilatoriness in arriving at a firm decision upon this matter. Let me remind the Committee what this procrastination really means. Look at the steps to which we are being committed before there is anything like finality as to the Government's policy in this matter. Several of them are cited in the White Paper towards the end.
1754 But look at the circumstances. First we are appointing a Technical Commission, and here it is to-day. This Commission is to demarcate the tripartite partition and examine the financial and economic conditions involved in partition. That will take some time. Secondly, when they have done their job, the Government will have to consider the recommendations of the Commission, and if the Government accept the recommendations of the Commission, it will have to go again to the Council of the League of Nations. Then you come to the third step. The League enters into the discussion, and will have to examine with the same care as the Government have done the recommendations of the Technical Commission. Thus the League's approval will be asked for and accepted or rejected to any new system of government that the Technical Commission may suggest. Where are we getting to? In July, 1937, we started by the House of Commons refusing to bind itself one way or the other in the inquiry, but the Government itself takes nine months before it sends this Commission to Palestine. Then there are various steps following on that, and then we come to the fifth step. When the League has given its approval, if it does give its approval, to a new system of government to be set up in the areas concerned, the two parties, Jews and Arabs, I presume, will have to agree, and the Government will have to open up negotiations with Jews and Arabs for the delineation of the respective independent States. Then there is the possible new establishment of independent States, of a new administration of the Jewish and Arab areas under separate mandates or a system of cantonisation. On top of that, the latter stage, when we finally reach it, is the establishment of the independent States.
I must ask the Government what is going to happen in the country while all this discussion, examination and reexamination are taking place? No one can deny that it will take up, perhaps, two or three or more years. We come now to the first element in the discussion. Already in this interregnum we are asked to provide an extra sum of money for extra troops. Now this is caused, of course, by a certain amount of disturbance, rowdyism, violence and even murder. Shall we turn for a minute to the previous point I was making? This 1755 Commission, we were told a minute ago, is not going to be assisted in so far as its own personnel is concerned by anybody with knowledge of strategy, or of the difficulties of defence that might arise in connection with the delineation of boundaries which must obviously be discussed.
I cannot understand how a Commision of this sort can do its job unless it has very particular regard to the defensibility of these various countries. One of the arguments we had, among others, last July was that the proposal for sending a Commission should be supported because there are areas which could not be defended, do what you would. But what help is this Commission to have? As far as I know, there are three members being sent, quite distinguished gentlemen. I know one of them, a very excellent gentleman. But, so far as I know, not one of them possesses any military knowledge or technical knowledge on questions of defence at all, and, therefore, unless they are assisted by that type of person, their work will lack definiteness. There is no provision except, I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say, the chief or the High Command, here or there.
§ Mr. Jones
Does the right hon. Gentleman really contemplate that these next three or four years are going to be years not characterised by any uneasiness at all? Does he think the people will be content for all this time to wait for some decision of some sort given by some body? Clearly he is riding, it seems to me, for the most perilous disaster. You cannot expect people in this situation to go on year by year in a state of high tension as they are now with, perhaps, feelings exacerbated on both sides. Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that you must take some sort of decision if only to remove these causes of dispute and disunion between the two races?
I cannot now discuss that as fully as I would like, but let me carry the point a little further. The right hon. Gentleman, I thought, indicated—I hope I did not misunderstand him—that there is a 1756 trial boring being taken not only in Palestine in the part we are discussing now, but that actually soundings are being taken and borings made in the Negeb. I am very glad indeed to hear that, because I am one of those who take the view—let me state it quite bluntly—that you are not going to do much good by going back upon the Mandate question. That is my own view. I do not see that you will get internal order any better by tripartite division than by holding to the Mandate as it is. But that is not the argument now. If there is to be partition I hope the Commission will be absolutely free to make a determination in relation to this area which we call the Negeb. If there is to be increased immigration at a future time—this is the only point I shall make on immigration—I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is going to happen at the end of this month, because it was intended that they were to limit it until the end of March. It will remove a lot of feeling, apprehension and anxiety if it can be stated with the Chairman's permission.
If partition is to take place, then, it seems to me that this Commission will be performing a very valuable service indeed if they examine with perhaps special particularity the possibilities of this Negeb area. That is, as hon. Gentlemen know, a sort of triangle, with one point at the Gulf of Akaba, another point at the Dead Sea, and another point at the Mediterranean. This triangular portion if taken over for settlement by Jewish people would involve no difficulty or violence to anybody. I understand you would not find more than perhaps 1,000, at the very most 5,000, Bedouins living in the whole place—and 5,000 is, I believe, a grotesque exaggeration. But supposing we take 5,000 in an area that we know from records has at one time in its history probably found place for certainly 100,000 people in days of earlier occupation. If this Commission would examine this very carefully, and if their recommendations were favourable, it might perhaps be useful by way of providing a compensation for the outrage which I consider partition involves.
I think I have nearly covered the whole of the points which I am entitled to put, though not all the points that could be put by any means, and I will only say that for my part I deplore very much that it has not been possible for us to 1757 examine more fully the conditions which seem to me to give rise to this necessity. I may perhaps be allowed to make this observation. I repeat that the right hon. Gentleman in set terms explicitly reassured—I believe it is in the White Paper quoted—he reassured the Mandates Commission that these two points, namely the Boundary Commission and the Mandate, still remain until there is a change binding upon the Government. I can only express the hope that so long as these two facts remain binding upon the Government the administration will so conduct iself as to make it possible for that Mandate to be more easily worked at any rate in future than it has been in the recent two or three years.
I am not at all sure that we are not being asked to send extra troops to Palestine largely because of the failure of the administration itself to be loyal to the Mandate as originally adumbrated and conceived in the Balfour Declaration. I am not speaking without my book when I say—and if my proposition is true I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with it—that here the question of what policy is to be applied in Palestine does not belong to the Civil Service. It belongs to this House. We are accustomed in this House to avoid making attacks upon the Civil Service because we assume loyalty on the part of the Civil Service to the policy laid down by Parliament and so long as that is true they are entitled to be free from criticism. They can be free from criticism, however, only so long as the final decision as to policy remains with this House of Commons, and if people feel that they cannot carry it out conscientiously, they know what to do; they can easily hand in their resignations and give place to others who will be more loyal. So long as this is the policy of Parliament, it is the business of people in Palestine and here in London to be loyal to the decision of Parliament, which is that Palestine, which is so dear to the minds and hearts of the people of all races, should be administered for the common good and wellbeing of all.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
While we are discussing several Supplementary Estimates to-day, the interest of the discussion seems to centre round those which are concerned with Palestine, and I will mainly concern myself with them. I hope 1758 to say nothing which will in any way embarrass the new High Commissioner in Palestine. He has gone out there with a very difficult task in front of him, and he has already, in his broadcast, shown himself independent and just in his outlook, and we can only look to his future administration with favourable anticipation. I may say the same of the new commanding officer who has been sent out to command the troops. We hope that he and the High Commissioner will be able to work in close unison for the betterment of conditions in Palestine.
As regards the three items which are on the Order Paper for discussion, I should like to deal first of all with the one which provides for a hydrographic survey, which is very important. Sir John Hope-Simpson, in a report published in 1930, urged such a survey, and, as was shown by the Secretary of State this afternoon, the Peel Commission quoted that report and added:Very little has been done by the Government to discover water in Palestine.The Peel report went on to recommendthat an authoritative estimate be made of the practical possibilities of irrigation,and I am very glad that this recommendation is now to be carried out, because the progress of Palestine depends very largely on the supply of water. In the last 10 years new sources of water have been discovered there which will make a very great difference to the development of the country. Some 10 or 15 years ago families in Palestine could only live on an area of 300 dunams of land; to-day families are being settled on areas of from 20 to 30 dunams. The irrigation work has so far been done mainly by philanthropic corporations and several smaller Jewish enterprises, but it is interesting to note that in the last 10 years 400 wells have been bored, which can irrigate 325,000 dunams of land, and this, of course, is only a fraction of the work that remains to be done. As has been pointed out, the survey which is being undertaken will be invaluable for the whole of Palestine, and particularly so if the water table of spring and artesian water is actually located, and also if all sources of irrigation are studied with a view to making the scientific and economic use of water possible in all regions.
I may say that, in full agreement with the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. 1759 Morgan Jones), I view with pleasurable anticipation the effect this survey will have on the Southern district of Palestine. I refer to the large uninhabited district lying South of Beersheba going by the name of Negeb, and it is interesting to point out that in this district three civilisations have flourished in the past—the Semitic, the Roman, and the Byzantine. In the Byzantine period six large towns flourished in that district, and the population has been estimated at 100,000 people. Obviously, with a proper irrigation system prosperity might again prevail. That the soil is capable of development has been shown by the experiments which have been made by Colonel Jarvis, which have enabled the growing of a great variety of crops.
We are asked to sanction two other items. One, as has been pointed out, is a very large increase for defence, and the smaller sum of £500 is necessary for the fact-finding Commission, the terms of reference of which are set out in the White Paper. The White Paper has also an important bearing on the question of security, because it confirms the impression of uncertainty with regard to the future of Palestine, and thus it has to a certain degree encouraged terrorism and increased the need for defence. I should like to point out that, although the Committee is asked to vote this sum for defence, it is stated in the White Paper, but I regret that it has not been stated here this afternoon, that it will be repaid by the Palestine Government. I think that is a very interesting point, and I am glad to bring it to the notice of the Committee, if it has not been read in the White Paper, because it shows that the Mandate is not costing this country large sums of money. But whoever pays for these Estimates, whether it is the Home Government or the Government in Palestine, it is a heavy price indeed to pay for terrorism, and a price to which we must add the cost in lives, British, Jewish and Arab.
Now, if I may go into the disturbed condition in Palestine, which has been described by the right hon. Gentleman, I would draw attention to the fact that last year, in 1937, although there was no strike, there were 194 murders committed, 281 attempted murders, daily hold-ups, mining of railways, and nightly attacks on property, and it is regrettable 1760 that in the past—and it may in some measure account for the increase in these Estimates—the civil and military authorities have revealed a singular lack of cooperation. As I have already said, I hope that under the new administration there will be a closer co-operation between the civil and military elements.
Palestine, owing to its geography, is well adapted to banditry, and it appears that the present terrorism reigning there is in a large measure spread by bands from outside. It is alleged and believed in Palestine that the Mufti, who is at present residing in Beyrout, is receiving every month a subsidy of £5,000 from outside sources, and it may well be possible, because if you read the papers of yesterday, you will see that in the last outrage by an Arab band which took place, machine guns were used by the Arabs, and 9,000 rounds of ammunition were captured, last week-end. It is very doubtful that these large armaments were purchased by impoverished Arab villagers; it is much more likely that what is believed in Palestine, namely, that large sums from outside are being disbursed, is true. What is certainly true is that the Mufti's emissaries are keeping him in touch with developments in Palestine and elsewhere, and I may in passing draw the attention of the Committee to one fact, namely, that Nuri Pasha, when he came here and was received by the right hon. Gentleman, returned to Palestine and to Syria and reported to the Mufti in Beyrout. Small wonder that the people in Palestine, the terrorists and the villagers who are concerned, should think that the British Government are once more prepared to deal and have flirtations with the Mufti in Beyrout. The Mufti is reported in Palestine to have said:Terrorism has killed the Mandate; terrorism will kill partition.In the old days the Sultan in Constantinople issued his edicts, and his firman used to run throughout the Turkish Empire. To-day the Mufti issues his firman from Beyrout, and his writ runs in the British mandatory territory. Can we wonder that we require a further large sum for the troops that are necessary in Palestine? The danger which exists in Palestine is one which must not be minimised. The Mufti has said also, and it is believed in Palestine: 1761Concentrate on the British in Palestine; they are our enemies.After the tragic murder of Mr. Andrews we had that of Mr. Starkey, a distinguished archaeologist, who was a perfectly harmless personage and a great friend of the Arabs, who had spent the whole of his life in trying to develop Arab culture and to discover the treasures of old Palestine. It is one thing to be asked to vote £423,000 for a certain purpose, but it is another thing to carry that purpose out, and I hope I shall be in order in saying that, as long as Arab extremists find terrorism successful, for so long will this money be expended in vain, and for so long will the courage of officers and men be useless.
The Arab Press declared as early as September last that the Cabinet were divided on the question of partition. No one in this country knew anything about it, but there is apparently a sounding board in Beyrout for even the most secret transactions of our Government. When the White Paper which we are discussing to-day was published, those newspapers claimed that their forecast was confirmed. The delay and lack of decision which are displayed in this White Paper are the sort of thing which encourages terrorism. It is therefore urgent that the fact-finding Commission which has been sent out should arrive at its conclusions as quickly as possible in order to put an end to the procrastination. The White Paper proposes that action should be only exploratory in character for some time to come, and it is full of uncertainties. It says that the work of the Commission may take some months, and that if, as a result of the Commission's investigation a scheme of partition is regarded as equitable and practicable by His Majesty's Government, and if the League of Nations approves of it, even then a considerable period must elapse before a new system of government can be set up. Behind all these "ifs" there is the suggestion of cantonisation.
I agree with other hon. Members on this point. Is it conceivable that the population of Palestine, seething as it is, will wait patiently for this conclusion to be come to? Terrorism thrives on this uncertainty, and that is why we are faced with the Estimate to-day. The Mufti claims that terrorism has paid in the past; it may be claimed that it is paying to-day, 1762 I do not want to touch in any way upon the question of immigration, except to say that the Balfour Declaration is still binding and that it is a triumph for the extremists and the terrorists that immigration should now be suspended or should be reduced to an exiguous trickle.
The expenditure which we are asked to sanction figures under the heading of "Defence," and not under that of "Security." And rightly so. Foreign subsidies are being given to the Arabs; therefore, in fighting terrorism, we are fighting the enemies of our own Imperial interests. We know from the Italian papers that they are in favour of a Jewish State: but a Jewish State anywhere but in Palestine. Why? Because the Italian dictator knows the value of Palestine and of Jewish loyalty to Great Britain in strengthening British Policy and in safeguarding Imperial communications. Recent developments which have taken place in Egypt and Abyssinia show that strategical considerations, which first became apparent during the War, are more important to-day than they ever were.
One of the terms of reference of the fact-finding Commission is:to take into account representations of the different communities.I humbly submit that that is impossible while terrorism is rife. I believe that in the case of the Peel Commission there was a delay because it was considered that they could not arrive at any conclusion while terrorism was so rampant. To-day there is very much the same position. Moderate Arab opinion is prevented from finding a means of expression; it is well known that moderate Arabs are being terrorised in Palestine, and that many moderate Arabs have left the country. One imagines that it will be very difficult for the Commission to get into touch with the other and most valuable elements in Palestine with whom it could be hoped that the Jewish population would come to a friendly agreement on the basis of good understanding and unity in contrast to their present condition of fear and oppression. The chief task of the Commission is the delimitation of boundaries. I shall abstain from discussing partition, but I agree with the hon. Member for Caerphilly that the Mandate can still be worked. It is by the carrying out of that great promise which was made by the British Government that the future of 1763 Palestine could be assured in the most peaceful and happy way to both sections of the population. Moreover, in accepting responsibility for this tripartite partition arrangement, the Government may incur not only a heavier responsibility but heavier expense in treasure and in men than they have paid up to the present.
§ When the question of partition is looked into, due regard must be paid to the economic strength of the two States. The Arab State will be surrounded by friendly neighbours with whom it will be culturally and economically associated and by whom it will be fed economically, and by the great hinterland of Arab-speaking countries which will surround it. The Jewish State will be isolated, and it is therefore essential that it should be large enough to make sound economic development possible. Its whole existence will depend on the size of its boundaries and the possibility of its being developed economically. I regret that it will at first be surrounded by States which are at the present time disinclined to co-operate. I hope disinclined for a time only. It will therefore have to be self-supporting, and every acre of cultivable land is of the utmost importance. The Commission will also have to deal with a very extended range of matters: finance, railways, ports, postal services, customs, industrial concessions, changes of population, rights of minorities and so on. Their main task is that of the boundaries and of settling boundaries which will not create impossible conditions.
§ It would be the height of folly if the Jewish people and their leaders undertook to work a Jewish State unless it were adequate in every way. I believe I have spoken not only for myself in what I have said but for my hon. and right hon. Friends whose political home is on these benches, but I should like to say on my own behalf that I am glad that the Jewish population in Palestine are being allowed to take part in defence. A large number are now enrolled as supernumerary police and they feel keenly the loss of life among the British Army and police. If the Government are successful in carrying out the policy of partition, the Jews will be prepared to assume responsibility for law and order. I believe they are not unmindful of the part which the British Empire has played in their own history and in the establishment of the Jewish 1764 national home. And I trust and believe that any Jewish State which may be set up will follow the example which has been set to it by this country, by England, in extending just and liberal treatment to all its citizens of whatever race and whatever creed.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
Before I speak upon the major subject of to-day's discussion I wish to say a word on the item relating to British Guiana and our responsibility to the Assyrians. I entirely agree with the conclusion of my right hon. Friend that the suggested area of settlement in British Guiana would not be suited to a people accustomed to a much colder and drier climate. All I should like to ask him is that, when replying to the Debate, he should give the Committee an assurance that the British Government have not abandoned their sense of responsibility for those people, who gave us such devoted and valuable service during many years, and who have suffered so terribly, largely because they were one of the instruments of British rule during the years when we were carrying out the administration of Iraq. We have undertaken, in conjunction with Iraq and in some measure with the League of Nations, to find large sums for them which, owing to the failure of a particular scheme, are not now required. I hope that that does not mean that the British Government think they can wash their hands of responsibility for the Assyrians, either those who are now settled, we hope permanently, in the north-eastern corner of Syria, or those who are still in Iraq. There is still an obligation of honour and conscience that we should enable this small remnant of a once great Christian people somehow to find a tolerable life within the two countries in which they are now resident.
I would begin, turning to the major subject of Palestine, by re-echoing what the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) said just now about the good wishes from every quarter of the House that must accompany Sir Harold MacMichael in undertaking a task of extraordinary difficulty for which, both by temperament and training, he is exceptionally fitted. The task of restoring order, as has been truly said, is an essential element in any settlement, whatever the terms of that settlement may be. I 1765 hope I may also be allowed to add just one word about his predecessor. It may be that his hopes of maintaining good will in all parties by a policy of leniency have been frustrated by the result; history alone will judge of that period of Sir Arthur Wauchope's administration; but I think it is worth while recalling to the Committee that for something like five years he administered Palestine with the affectionate and enthusiastic support of all sections of the community. They recognised his sincerity, his deep interest in all their problems, and his genuine love of the peoples of both races in Palestine; and it is, I think, significant, and not without hope for better things, that, in spite of the recent troubles, Sir Arthur Wauchope has taken leave of Palestine amid manifestations of genuine affection from every section of the people.
With regard to the work of the Technical Commission, I do not think it is necessary for me here to argue the general case for or against partition. On a previous occasion I have given the reasons why, with regret but still quite definitely, I have accepted the policy of partition, not as in itself the best, but certainly as the best in the circumstances which have come about. There is just one thing that I should say. The Peel Commission did not recommend the solution of partition as a device for abandoning the pledges that we have given to the world, or to the League of Nations, or to the peoples concerned. The Commission did not conceive of partition in that spirit, nor, I am sure, have His Majesty's Government accepted it in that spirit. It was conceived as an alternative method of implementing those pledges, a method more workable and more acceptable to both the parties most concerned. The basis of it still remains the fulfilment, if not of the literal terms, at any rate of the spirit of the Mandate, and it seems to me to be clear that, in addition to the detailed items given in the terms of reference the spirit of the Mandate must be the general basis governing the work of the Technical Commission. Partition is not a means of liquidating the Mandate in order to divide Palestine as between the Jews who are now there and the Arab population.
This is a point which necessarily arises when we deal with some of the actual sub-heads of the terms of reference. 1766 Under (1, b) you have the point of the inclusion of as few Arabs and Arab enterprises as possible in the Jewish area, and vice versa. If it were a question of dividing Palestine as between the Jews now there and the Arabs, obviously you would draw a boundary as closely round the existing Jewish settlements as you could, and leave every substantial body of Arabs without that boundary. But that would not in any sense be carrying out the spirit of the Mandate, because it would obviously preclude any such development of Jewish immigration as would make the Mandate policy possible, or would give to the Jews in any sense the equivalent of what they would have got in immigration if the Mandate had been loyally and consistently fulfilled. Clearly, therefore, the question of the Arabs that may be included within the boundary of the Jewish State must not be judged by reference to the number of Jews who are now at this moment in Palestine.
It is absurd, I think, to talk as if it were the case of the inclusion of 300,000 Arabs, shall I say, in a State containing 400,000 Jews. The true perspective is the relation of whatever Arabs it may include at this moment to the eventual total Jewish population of the new Jewish State; and, indeed, I assume that, the moment a boundary is accepted by the Government, they will take every step to discourage Jewish settlement in the area outside that boundary, but also to encourage to the fullest possible extent Jewish settlement within that boundary, so that, before the period of transition is over, the relative proportions of the populations will have entirely changed. Therefore, I should like my right hon. Friend to make it clear in his answer, and to give the Committee an assurance, that the general basis upon which the Technical Commission is appointed is the fulfilment of the recommendation of the Peel Commission, not so much as regards the exact boundaries, but as regards a partition carried out in the spirit of the Mandate, and not a partition to liquidate and abandon the Mandate by dividing Palestine with reference to the existing distribution of population.
From that point of view the boundary which the Peel Commission themselves suggested, although open to criticism on points of detail—a matter with which I have dealt on another occasion, and with 1767 which I do not desire to deal now—can be regarded, broadly speaking, as a fulfilment of that general overriding consideration, and I hope that my right hon. Friend can give the Committee the assurance, with reference to the work of the Technical Commission, that there is no question of that broad general basis, as recommended by the Peel Commission, being transformed into something inconsistent with the spirit of the Mandate, and, therefore, naturally, wholly unacceptable to the Jews.
Passing to the question of the mandatory responsibility of His Majesty's Government, the Committee will remember that the Commission recommended the retention of mandatory authority by His Majesty's Government, not only over the city of Jerusalem and the cities of Bethlehem and Nazareth, but also over a strip of territory between Jerusalem and the coast. I am not sure that in that recommendation there was not a certain confusion of thought, to which it is very important that the Technical Commission should give special attention. There are certain purposes for which it is essential that the Holy Places should be under absolutely neutral and impartial control—not only the purposes of law and order, but cultural purposes and for the preservation of the dignity and amenity of the Holy Places themselves. On the other hand, it seems to me very doubtful whether it is necessary to set up, in a little strip a few miles wide between Jerusalem and the coast, or in Jerusalem itself or in Nazareth or Bethlehem, a separate agricultural department, a separate educational system, or a separate railway administration, in one case less than 10 miles in length, and whether it would not be better to divide the country completely for ordinary purposes of political government and administration, retaining as an overriding measure the complete mandatory control over the Holy Places themselves, with a complete right of the mandatory to secure free movement for its troops and for everyone concerned, not only along the strip between Jerusalem and the coast, but over the whole of both areas.
It seems to me that on such lines a simpler and more effective administrative solution is likely to be obtained than by setting up small areas to include every phase of the activities of government. 1768 Moreover, that would be carrying out the spirit of the Commission's report, which is to give self-government as soon as possible to all concerned, both Arabs and Jews; and it would also make it possible for the Arabs in Jaffa or in the Arab districts round Jerusalem, and, conversely, for the Jews in the great Jewish suburb outside Jerusalem, to live for all other purposes, except law and order and cultural purposes, as free citizens in their own States. In that way some of the numerical problems in Jerusalem and elsewhere will be more easily dealt with, and the mandatory authority can confine itself strictly to the particular purposes for which it is mandatory, namely, law and order and the preservation of the Holy Places, leaving such questions as education, agriculture and all the rest to the communities concerned.
There is, however, in that aspect of the matter, one exception for which a strong case can be made, and to which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has already referred—the case of the Negeb. That can only be a white elephant if added to the Arab State. Its coastline is purely fictitious as a coastline; there is not the slightest possibility of the Arab State being able ever to create a port there, or of that port having any trade or any communication behind it. Moreover, whoever occupies that territory will have a number of difficult frontier questions to deal with. There is the frontier of Egypt; there is a frontier with the Hejaz about which there is a certain amount of contention over Akaba; there is the frontier between the Jewish State and the Arab State; there are possibilities of smuggling on the coast and so on. From all these points of view it would, I think, be better that that region should be retained under direct mandatory administration, and perhaps worked in fairly close conjunction with the Sinai administration. In that case the question whether the area might possibly become eventually an area of closer settlement is one that could be left over, the necessary research and administration could be carried on under the auspices of the British Government, and any proposals for its development could be considered on their merits.
That is all I wish to say except just this with regard to the task before the technical commission. The report of that Commission, and the decision of the Gov- 1769 ernment upon it, will decide one way or the other whether the great experiment upon which we embarked at the close of the War is going to be something that will sooner or later peter out for want of roots, or whether it is on a sufficiently broad foundation for the eventual fulfilment of the aims that were in the minds of those who launched it.
If the base is adequate it will enable us to do something substantial to mitigate the suffering of a race which in wide areas of Europe to-day is undergoing a measure of oppression, humiliation and degradation such as few of us would have thought conceivable only a few years ago. If it succeeds we may have in that part of the world a prosperous, virile, strong community, bound to this country by ties of gratitude which I believe would prove lasting; an ally who, in some moment of difficulty, may well repeat the old fable of the lion and the mouse, and render services out of all comparison with their actual numbers, or even with the efforts we may have made on their behalf. From a point of view even wider than that of the British Empire, I know that it was in the mind of Lord Balfour, and others when they gave their pledge that the establishment of a Jewish national home—
§ The Deputy - Chairman (Captain Bourne)
The right hon. Gentleman is now getting on to questions of general policy.
§ Mr. Amery
I only tried in my last sentences to emphasise the importance of the boundary which the Commission are now going to recommend. The concluding point I was going to make was that what is now done will affect the whole question of whether that community will be able by its influence—by what it brings of Western culture, Western enterprise and Western thought into that part of the world—to play a part in the regeneration of the Near East by fruitful and practical co-operation with its neighbours, because I am convinced that sooner or later—and I hope it will be sooner—co-operation will follow partition. I may, with your permission, Captain Bourne, draw just one parallel from the past. There have been two great efforts in the history of the past to bring the West to the Near East. There was the effort of the Crusades, which petered out for want of support and the inade- 1770 quacy of the area which the crusading armies tried to hold. There was the conquest of Alexander many hundreds of years before, which brought to the whole of that Near Eastern world the benefit of Greek thought and Greek culture, which was followed by nearly a thousand years of prosperity and happiness in an area which for so many centuries since has lain derelict. The decision of the Technical Commission, and the decision the Government have taken on that, will decide one way or another for us whether we embark on an experiment on which the word "failure" must ultimately be written, or an experiment so successful that it will not only help the Jewish people in the hour of their dire need, not only contribute to the strength of the British Empire in a vital part, but also contribute to the regeneration of a great region of the world, once highly prosperous and civilised, the source, indeed, of all our Western civilisation, and, I hope, yet destined to be an integral and leading part of the civilised world.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I am not going to detain the Committee many moments, because so many hon. Members wish to speak, and also because the speech that I desire to make would be completely out of order, according to the Ruling of the Chairman, but I wish to join those who have made an appeal to the Government on behalf of that small band, the Assyrians. The position in which they find themselves is really terrible, and I should like our Government to deal with them generously, irrespective of what any other Government might feel. We are rich enough ourselves to deal with them, and I think we owe a duty to them, and a duty to ourselves, to see that they are rescued from the position that they are now in. With regard to Palestine I wish to ask that you, Captain Bourne, or whoever occupies the Chair when the Minister comes to reply, will make it possible for him to tell us something about immigration into Palestine.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman addressed a question to me. I must hold that this is a matter to be raised when the main Estimates come up.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I am speaking now with regard to the fact-finding commission. It is rather an appalling picture that my 1771 hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) and other hon. Members have drawn as to the possibility of it taking a couple of years before this matter can be brought to a head. The Minister was, I think, at Geneva when these questions were discussed, and must have heard or read the speeches of the Polish delegates and others on the urgency of coming to decisions in regard to Palestine and immigration. Anyone who knows anything about Central Europe knows of the thousands of poor Jews, living horrible, destitute lives, who are hoping and praying that by some means the avenues for entering Palestine will be opened wider than they are at present. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to expedite the work of the Commission and the consideration of their report. After the Commission have reported, it takes so long for the report to go to the League of Nations, and then from there to somewhere else. I am pleading for expedition in the matter, in order that thousands who are living in semi-starvation may have some chance of going into that country.
§ 6.9 p.m.
In regard to the Assyrians, I feel that we are under a particular obligation to them, and we must not put off either the expenditure of money or the taking of whatever action would be possible and right simply on the ground that other countries have not made up their minds, or are not prepared to consider it. The decision must be ours, even if we have to pay more than we ought because other countries will not pay. With regard to Palestine, I hope I shall keep strictly within the ruling of the Chair. Two subjects that arise are, of course, law and order and policy. The position in regard to law and order has been largely influenced, of course, by the fact that in past years there has been either vacillation of policy or lack of policy. But, even then, I do not think that is any excuse for the long chapter of murders which have taken place in Palestine, not only in the last two years, but over a great many years. It seems that there must be something fundamentally wrong in the administration of a country which is only the size of Wales in which, at certain times, 11 British battalions have been garrisoned, and in which we are yet unable to prevent an average of three murders a week.
1772 The right hon. Gentleman made reference, on one item of the Vote, to the maintenance and use of troops. He has told us that in the last year or 18 months there have never been less than six battalions in Palestine. Why is it that a force as large as that has been unable, if it has been profitably and efficiently used, to prevent this sad sequence of events? It seems to me that either they have not been used as they should have been, or something else is lacking. I do not suppose that under this Vote we are entitled to talk about the police; but it will be remembered that the Palestine Army was abolished in 1926, and that since then the police force has taken on a totally different complexion from that it had before. It seems to me that the police force in Palestine is not the right kind of body.
I will only say that, whatever may be the position in regard to the police, the military have not been able to contribute as they should have done to the maintenance of law and order. I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons is that there has been a lack of co-operation between the military and civil powers in Palestine. I hope and trust like all Members in all parts of the House, that with the appointment of a new High Commissioner, that lack of cooperation will cease. I cannot believe that the force of six battalions, two Air Force squadrons, and various ancillary troops, which my right hon. Friend told us was working in close conjunction with the police and civil authorities, will not be able to establish law and order in Palestine. It does not matter whether it is partition or a return to the Mandate or the federal state; whatever policy is finally decided, unless law and order is established, you are not going to be able to put it into execution. I believe that a return to law and order would be as welcome to the Arabs in Palestine to-day as to the Jews and Christians.
I think it is a great pity that on the new Technical Commission there is not one member of the old Royal Commission, in order that a sequence of policy may be carried out. There have been many doubts expressed as to the intentions, and the work which this new Commission is to do in Palestine. I confess 1773 at once that when the White Paper of 6th January was issued, it certainly caused great dismay throughout the whole community in Palestine. Without doubt it acted as an encouragement to all those elements who either did not want partition or a settlement of any kind. It breathes delay and procrastination almost on every page; if that is just estimation of the White Paper, one can feel some sympathy with those who do not regard this Commission as a fact-finding Commission but rather, as it has been named out there, a repeal Commission.
The Government have given us, I am glad to say, a number of specific answers to questions, and I hope and trust that these definite answers will allay some of the very natural suspicions which, at first reading, the White Paper engendered not only in Palestine, but outside as well. It is quite right that questions of boundaries, railways, revenue, customs, central courts, rights of minorities, and so on, should be investigated, but there must not be any tampering with the boundaries which were put forward by the Royal Commission. No doubt there may be certain alterations of minor details, but I am convinced that, if there is any fundamental change, for example, the exclusion of a large part of Galilee, or some fundamental alteration of that nature, the Jews would have an absolute right to refuse partition, and I for one would heartily support them in doing so.
I cannot understand the reason for this long delay. There is no country in the world where so many surveys have been made as have been made in Palestine. Every orange grove has been noted and the inhabitants of every village have been checked and counter-checked time without number. A delay of months and months is not necessary. Somebody today has mentioned a period of two years; surely, a delay of that kind is not required if the Government themselves want a decision on this matter. I ask the Government to expedite a decision. Of course, any one can always invent and find reasons for not coming to a decision. It is always easier to put off a decision if it is likely to entail trouble or difficulties, but I believe that in the East, and in Palestine more than perhaps anywhere else, it is vital, if you want peace and good will, to come to a decision. I am 1774 quite sure that only when that decision is made, and the two separate sovereign States are set up as foreshadowed and promised in the report of the Royal Commission, and as endorsed by the Government at Geneva, will we get what all of us have so ardently desired in Palestine, namely, a measure of good will between the Jews and Arabs.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) has been the fifth consecutive speaker who is known to very strongly favour the Zionist point of view. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) achieved in his peroration the greatest effort on a Supplementary Estimate that I have ever heard, and it is a little difficult for us who have no wish, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothchild) who spoke for the Liberal party, said at the beginning of his speech, to make things more difficult in Palestine at the present day, to prevent ourselves from replying to some of the criticisms which we have heard inserted into the detailed business of a Supplementary Estimate. I am going to try to keep to the point. But there is one general remark which I should like to make to my hon. and gallant Friend. He criticised the Army in Palestine at the present moment and could not understand why it had not completely stopped terrorism. He spoke of a country the size of Wales.
I did not criticise the Army. I said that, as there were six battalions there, surely, it must be because the Army had not been used as it should be used, and we know that the battalions have been kept in barracks during the whole of the last 18 months. It was not a criticism of the Army.
§ Mr. Crossley
A criticism that the Army may not have been sufficiently used. I certainly do not wish to misinterpret what my hon. and gallant Friend said. He should picture for himself the Palestine which he knows, all the months, except in the winter, when men can lie out on the hills. He should picture a country which is not unlike Spain, which he also knows, a country of scrub and boulders, easy for snipers and easy to hide in, a country the size of Wales, but perhaps longer, and he should 1775 then think of the six battalions with a few auxiliary troops and aeroplanes in a country where aeroplanes cannot see very much below. I do not think that the officers and men of these troops would complain that they have not been used enough. I believe that the criticism is ill-founded because my hon. and gallant Friend has not quite properly visualised the difficulties before the troops which are as great as the difficulty of working the Mandate itself.
There is one other criticism I should like to make of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones), who spoke for the Labour party. He did not exactly attack the Civil Service but he did the nearest thing to it I have ever seen. He became extremely heated, raised his voice very loud and thumped the Box very hard. What was he doing it for? He said that if civil servants were not loyal they could be dismissed and that others more loyal should be found. Why did he say that if he has not some disloyalty in mind? Does he mean that there has been some disloyalty, because if so I take him up very strongly and say that I do not believe there are a more loyal body of civil servants than the civil servants who serve this country in Palestine and the civil servants in this country who have to administer an extremely difficult Mandate.
§ Mr. Crossley
Then the hon. Member does directly attack the fairness of the civil servants. I am entitled to my opinion and I say that I believe they are as fair a body of civil servants as have ever acted in any Department of State.
I want to make a few general observations upon the work of the Technical Commission. I shall try to keep in order. I am very glad to see that the States which are to be outlined are to be self-supporting. I want to take up my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook on two points about the actual divisions of the States. He said that he thought that at least there should not be any such nonsense as to talk about 300,000 Arabs in a State containing 400,000 Jews. That was not the spirit of carrying out the Mandate which we were to carry out in 1776 the future as in the past, and which should be implicit in any scheme of partition. He said further—and I do not want to misinterpret him—that it would be reasonable if the boundaries laid down for the Jewish State were considerably wider than the tentative boundaries suggested in the report of the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Crossley
Am I right in interpreting my right hon. Friend as having said that it would be nonsense to talk of 300,000 Arabs in a State which contains 400,000 Jews; that that was a proper argument to put forward? I would like to put this argument forward in direct reply to the argument put forward by a number of speakers about the Negeb. I do not think it nonsense to talk about a particular part of the area which contains 50,000 Arabs and under 1,000 Jews, and I am relieved to see in the terms of reference that the actual number of inhabitants in each area should be carefully considered. I hope very much that Galilee will not remain, as it was outlined, in the Jewish State, because up to now not 1,000 of the emigrant Jews who have come over there during all these years have taken the trouble to go and settle there. Northern Galilee remains a purely Arab area. I am also exceedingly relieved to find the inclusion of sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph 6 of the White Paper "the possibility of voluntary exchange of land and population." I am particularly glad to see that, because it appears to exclude the possibility of compulsory exchanges of land and population. I am not sure whether I am right in that interpretation, but I think that if that is what is implied it will relieve the minds of many Arabs about a matter which they have taken very much to heart.
I am very glad also to see that there are to be very effective safeguards for the rights of religious and racial minorities. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook spoke about the permanent British Mandate for the Holy Places. I hope that that Mandate will not be smaller but larger in fact. Whatever the rights of the population may be in the Mandated territory, and however much they may be affiliated to their 1777 respective States, Jewish or Arab, for certain matters and certain aspects of their lives, I hope very much the territory will in fact be larger. I hope that it will be larger from the strategical point of view, but that I cannot go into now. I hope it will be larger because I see the proposal for a permanent British Mandate in that area as a real safeguard for the future security and well-being of both the Arab and Jewish race. I believe that in the first years at any rate the Jewish State will need that safeguard.
I do not think the Jewish people in Palestine have ever displayed anything like sufficient gratitude to His Majesty's Government for what they have done for them in the past, and the vast amount of money which this country has spent upon Palestine. It always seems to me such a false position to stress the loyalty of the Jewish people to this country, as has been done over and over again in this House, and forget that the Arabs are potentially just as loyal, just as devoted and just as great friends to this country, and that their friendship in the Near East is, to put it at its lowest value, not less important to us in the future than the friendship of the Jews.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
We have had some extremely interesting speeches, although the scope of the Debate is necessarily limited. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) made a specially important contribution, because he indicated that the Technical Commission might review both the character and the extent of partition to a degree which no other speaker has suggested. I hope the Secretary of State, when he replies, will indicate as far as he can, what the Technical Commission can do, and especially the order of its procedure and probable duration. One knows that the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer with precision, but our desire in this Debate is to help, not hinder him. We want to help him to produce some clarity into a very dark situation, to provide what the Prime Minister is always justly praising—the quality of confidence, so that the people may have a certain number of certainties from year to year, that they may know what their chances are likely to be for the next 12 months; their chances of living or of moving, and, in fact, whatever may affect their daily 1778 life. The Secretary of State has told us that the survey has been going on and is not yet near completion, but he used very specific words when he said that until an effective picture of partition was provided by some such survey, you cannot with any certainty suggest conditions; you must know what population a given area can sustain before you can intelligently fix boundaries. That is obviously so, and the survey must reach a very advanced stage before the Technical Commission can decide on boundaries.
Boundaries are the first and most fundamental duty of the Commission. Obviously the financial and administrative provisions cannot be considered until you know within a reasonable proximity what the boundaries are going to be. I am amazed to hear that a high and valued Treasury official can be spared for the next month to this Technical Commission, because I should have thought that the kind of financial and administrative problems which he is so well able to consider will not be nearly ready for him to work upon. Until you have the boundaries—a highly contentious and difficult problem—fairly clearly in your mind, until you know that they will receive a reasonable acceptance on the part of many interested parties, including this House and the League of Nations, these financial details are extremely difficult, and it is perhaps almost useless to dwell upon them. However that may be, we must all feel that the process begun by the Technical Commission must be a lengthy and slow one. Indeed, if the work is to be properly done it is worth doing carefully, with great attention to detail, and with every attempt to get the best possible views that can be obtained upon it.
What we desire is that until this procedure is complete we shall have a definite assurance that the Mandate will be kept in full and effective operation. That, to us, is fundamental. I should be extremely reluctant to agree to voting this £500 unless we are sure that this expenditure and subsequent expenditure on similar objects, is accompanied by an effective administration of the Mandate until we reach the goal at which the Commission is aiming. When I speak of an effective administration of the Mandate I have specially in mind 1779 Article 6, under which it is our duty to facilitate Jewish immigration.
§ Mr. Denman
I am not going into detail, but I am saying that I shall be reluctant to agree to this sum unless we have an assurance that the Mandate will be properly administered meanwhile.
§ Colonel Clifton Brown
Does that mean without any consideration for the rights of the existing population?
§ Mr. Denman
I do not mean to exclude any other provisions of the Mandate. My only other point is the matter of security. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) suggested that it was a hard task for a small body of soldiers to keep order in a large and difficult land. We shall all agree with that. But is it not better that we should economise on this Vote by importing Jews, by allowing the many more Jews in the new territory to provide their own police? I suggest that this is important as a matter of security, and also as a matter of economy. If instead of 100 soldiers we had 10,000 Jews, who are easy enough to come by, to provide their own police, we should effect better security at great economy—
§ Mr. Denman
They would provide their own effective police, and the police are armed in Palestine. I say that this would be more economical, and would be far more effective as a weapon to maintain order than sending out troops from this country. Those are the only points I desire to put before the Committee, and I hope that the Secretary of State will give some attention to them.
§ 6.41 p.m.
Mr. V. Adams
May I say to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) and to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) how much I admire the skill with which they have made speeches of wide implications in a grievously confined area. I wish to endorse and emphasise in the few moments I propose to speak, something which has been said by the hon. Member for Central Leeds. We are 1780 discussing to-night a Supplementary Estimate for increased defence. It is a substantial sum—£423,000. I suggest that it is a regrettable step, and one which could have been avoided if we allowed in Palestine a larger Jewish population by enlarging the volume of immigration. I know from a Ruling we have had earlier in the Debate that I must not develop that point, but I think it is relevant to say that if the Jewish population in Palestine were increased, the administration could recruit from it a Jewish defence force. I would go further—
I am merely amplifying something which has been said by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) when he argued that by this means we should avoid losing a single Gentile English life. That, of course, would need a homogeneous population which could not be achieved overnight, but that is another reason why I should argue in favour of something which, I understand, is also out of order. More relevant, however, is the matter of boundaries which is mentioned in the terms of reference for the Technical Commission. It is to be regretted that the matter of boundaries has to be contemplated at all in the terms of reference. The Negeb, whose irrigation and consequent development may be contemplated under sub-paragraph H5 of the Supplementary Estimate, has been stated by some authorities to contain oil, although I believe the Secretary of State for the Colonies was sceptical earlier in the day about the presence of mineral wealth. But if there is a possibility of oil, there it is clearly something which needs industrious exploitation, and the Jewish record on the soil and in Tel-Aviv is evidence of what could be done in the Negeb. If the Jews are excluded, as they would be by inference, from the Negeb under the system of partition—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is now anticipating what the partition may be. He must not anticipate the findings of the Commission, which has not yet come to a decision.
I appreciate that point. What I wish to say is that I do not want the whole purpose of the hydrographic 1781 survey to be vitiated in advance. These are the only two points I have to put before the Committee, the first being that the expenditure on defence would really not be so necessary if we enlarged our policy and faced this problem with a greater determination and resolve to treat a population, which is at present suffering extreme tribulation throughtout the world, with a full measure of decency. May I be allowed to say that I hope His Majesty's Government may be able to stretch decency to the Jews even to the point of generosity?
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I know what will be said about this Debate in Palestine. They will say that, as usual, the Members of the House of Commons put only the Jewish case, and that the Arab case was not given. They say that every time. But the Arab case cannot be put in the British House of Commons, for their case is that they want to get us out of Palestine, as they have got us out of Iraq, Egypt and Transjordan. Therefore, it is impossible for a British Member of Parliament to get up and support that case. We heard the speech of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), but he did not put the Arab case. That case is simple, and is known to everybody in this country.
§ Colonel Clifton Brown
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman allowed to discuss whether we may put the Arab case or not?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) was not allowed to put that case.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I thought the hon. Member for Stretford was given free leave to state his case. I am bound to say that he and I are almost perennial flowers which blossom every time Palestine is discussed. As I am a shareholder of Crossley Brothers, I wish he would not put his case so forcibly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I am sorry. I was trying to make a mild joke, and did not mean a serious reflection on either of us. The real audience in this very serious Debate is not the Arabs in Palestine, but the 18,000,000 Jews and half-Jews throughout the world. They are the only people who will read the report of the Debate and the people who must listen-in. They 1782 will read the report of the Debate because, of those 18,000,000 Jews, only 5,000,000 are safe in Great Britain and in the United States of America. The remainder are waiting to hear what we say in this Parliament, and what the right hon. Gentleman will say in 15 minutes' time. They are waiting with the noose round their necks. It is their fate which is in the balance, and we have to them a responsibility far beyond even responsibility to the British Empire.
To-day we are not allowed to discuss the question of immigration; but the only question in which those 18,000,000 Jews are interested at the present time is not partition, not the future government of Palestine, but whether they will be allowed one place on this earth to which they can go. That we are not allowed to discuss to-day; but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies that we have on the Order Paper notice of a Motion, for which we shall ask an early day, urging that at the end of this month the mandate should be restored and immigration should again be allowed on economic absorptive capacity. That is what the Jews want, and all the other matters which we are discussing are of comparatively minor importance to those 18,000,000 people.
Why is it that we are being asked to vote this extra sum of £100,000 for troops in Palestine? Why is it that the Government's Estimate, which we voted previously, and which anticipated the reduction of the troops to two battalions, has failed? It is because, when that Estimate was made, it was supposed that the Royal Commission's report was going to be carried out, and on the basis of that report the troops were to be reduced. It is because that report has not been carried out that we have not only to vote this money, but see a continuation of trouble in Palestine. I draw the attention of the Committee to a passage on page 140 of the Royal Commission's report, in which the Commission say:Our point, once more, is that conciliation, like impartiality, has failed. If the patient treatment of the Arabs last year has been sharply criticised, its critics must confess that it had at least this merit. It proved to demonstration that conciliation is no use. It has now been tried for 17 years, and at the end the Arabs, taken as a whole, are much more hostile to the Government than they were at the beginning.1783 Everybody knows that that sentence, which has been endorsed over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman, is true; but what is the limitation of immigration to 12,000 a year except an attempt to conciliate Arab opinion? I shall be glad to know of any other grounds for that limitation, which is called the political high level, save an attempt to conciliate Arab opinion. I pass to another phase. The report animadverted very seriously on the memorandum that was submitted by 137 senior Arab officials and judges, urging the Government to change their policy in Palestine. That memorandum was followed by a further memorandum from 1,200 junior officials, and by an even more mutinous memorandum from the Arab judges of the Sharia Court. The Royal Commission remarked with some surprise that those memoranda were all received by the Administration—
§ Colonel Clifton Brown
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain where this comes in the Supplementary Estimate?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We are voting money because the Government have not carried out the recommendations of the Royal Commission's Report. The attempt to conciliate the Arabs has continued. It was only after many months that the right hon. Gentleman got rid of the Mufti, and only during last month were powers taken to remove some of those officials whose conduct was criticised by the Royal Commission nearly a year ago. Hon. Members opposite—and I think the Secretary of State—have criticised my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) for venturing to question the loyalty of the officials in Palestine; but their loyalty was criticised by the Royal Commission. Over and over again, I have asked the right hon. Gentleman what action he proposed to take in regard to those judges in Palestine, and the answer has been that he was perfectly satisfied with their loyalty. Having given that answer—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the right hon. Gentleman is going beyond the subjects which he may raise on the Supplementary Estimate.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I think, Captain Bourne, I am within my rights in pointing out that the failure to carry out the 1784 recommendations of the Royal Commission has involved this country in more expenditure and Palestine in more disorders. Those three issues—the attempt to continue to conciliate by making concessions to the Arabs, to retain an administration which has proved lacking in some sense of duty, and to rely continually on the present police force, are certainly some of the reasons for this enormous additional expenditure. I will draw attention to one other statement of the Royal Commission, and it is in connection with martial law. They say that:Such a situation can, in our opinion, only be remedied by the introduction of martial law.As soon as the Commission's report appeared, the troubles simmered down a little, and the right hon. Gentleman thought that there was no need then to carry out that recommendation of the Commission and to establish martial law in Palestine. The trouble to-day is worse than it was before. Our six battalions there have more work than they can do, and there is not that full co-operation between the civil authority and the military authority which is necessary for the pacification of the country. How can the Government complain that law and order are still disturbed and that they are impotent to meet the situation, when they still refuse to give the military the right and the power to pacify the country? Recently, there have been no less than four incidents in connection with the Arab police. I will not go into the details of them now, although they are all germane to the question. In connection with the first three of them, I addressed questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, asking him why it was that the Arab police were surrendering and handing over their rifles and ammunition—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman is now criticising the general administration of Palestine. He must raise that subject on the main Colonial Estimates.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We are at present being asked to vote an additional sum for British troops to keep order in Palestine, and that those troops would not have been necessary if there had been in Palestine a police force which was reliable. Why we cannot have a police force in Palestine which is reliable is a question 1785 which we are entitled to ask and to which we are entitled to have from the right hon. Gentleman a straight answer. There are already 40,000 Jews capable of bearing arms, and I am glad to say that most of them are armed. Why cannot those men have the opportunity of defending themselves and protecting the country? Why cannot this necessary work of preserving law and order in Palestine be given more to the Jews, who are in the country and who could be armed to defend themselves at a much smaller cost to that country and to ourselves than is involved in employing British troops to do the work? Again, the report of the Royal Commission urges reforms in that direction, reforms which have been partially carried out, but only partially. It is not much use improving your police service unless at the same time you improve your judiciary service. We have those amazing figures of the amount of crime and the number of people actually convicted of crime which were given by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), and the even more remarkable figures given before Christmas in answer to a question—424 murders and seven death sentences, of which only one has been carried out. While you have a judiciary in which the Government Advocate is an Arab and his representative at headquarters is an Arab—
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I have already told the right hon. Gentleman that the Prosecutor has ceased to be Prosecutor and that on the recommendation of the Commission two British counsel were substituted, but he goes on repeating these misstatements again and again.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I asked for his removal a great many times before you granted it, and I understand that the man still draws his pay and is not doing the job. I am sorry to have drawn blood in that way, but when you have an official who is animadverted on by the Royal Commission as being of doubtful utility, when you have the Royal Commission pointing out that the police are not reliable and that the policy of conciliation has failed, and when we find the Government continuing for eight months after the Commission's report to retain the same High Commissioner, and 1786 continuing the same policy, and when we now see the bill come in to be paid, I think it ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman to treat this matter lightly and to regard it as our duty to pay up £400,000 because he has not carried out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but has delayed the matter and is only now sending out this fact finding Commission.
I will now turn to the fact finding Commission itself. This Commission is going out under the terms of reference contained in the White Paper. No one reading that White Paper can fail to see that it is a watering down of the recommendations made by the Peel Commission, which were put before the League of Nations and this House. Wherever in the original report a Jewish State was spoken of, the words "a Jewish area" are substituted. Special attention is called in the White Paper to the necessity of excluding certain Arab areas and we are told now unofficially that that involves the exclusion of Galilee and Haifa from the Jewish State.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
There is nothing in the Estimate to show what funds, if any, are voted for this purpose, and I have already ruled that we cannot anticipate in this Debate what may be spent in the future.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
In the White Paper there is a definite reference for the first time to the need of seeing that the maximum number of Arabs are excluded from the Jewish State and vice versa. That is new in the White Paper. It is in the terms of reference for the first time, and anyone reading that sentence must say to himself, Does this exclude Galilee? because we have had during these last nine months much agitation directed from the administration in Palestine in favour of excluding Galilee. We have the White Paper before us, and it mentions many other things which are a change on the original position. Is the Government now in process of changing its mind about partition? Is the Government anxious that the Jewish organisation should now reject partition? I do not know, but it is remarkable that the Peel partition has been opposed throughout by the Arabs—partition of any sort. They want to be self-governing. The Arabs have been opposed to partition right through, and because the Jews accepted partition it looks to me as if they are thought to be more squeezable and that by making a 1787 few more concessions, we might again conciliate Arab opinion and manage to secure a partition scheme which the Arabs would accept, but which the Jews would reject. Well, I think that is dirty work at the cross-roads, and I am quite certain that the House of Commons—not merely those here in the Committee today, but the House of Commons itself—would resent bitterly and will not accept terms of partition which are unacceptable to Dr. Weizmann and the Zionist Organsation.
Personally my own view, and I think the view of most of my colleagues on these benches, is that we do not want partition at all, that we want the Mandate carried out, that we want Jews imported into that country, and we do not want to vote £500 for a fact finding Commission which could find out all the facts here without going to Palestine. We intend to have no part in evacuating the British Empire at the orders of the Mufti or the Arab kings. And, as for the future, I think we shall find that the more the Government press forward this question of partition and the more facts they find, the more opposition they will discover to it—opposition not only in this House, not only among Jews, but opposition among the officials in Palestine. A more impracticable scheme for solving difficulties and cutting the baby in half I do not know.
Solomon's solution, I believe, was that one party would make any sacrifice in order to save the baby. In this case neither party is prepared to sacrifice what they have. All the Jews ask for is the Mandate honestly carried out. All the British ask for is the Mandate, and all the Arabs ask for is that we should clear out, and we cannot afford to do that. But with this prospect before us of keeping in Palestine indefinitely a large British force at the expense of the British taxpayers, I think we must ask the Government, without all this undue delay, to make up their minds on one matter only and that one matter will seal the whole question. If they will make up their mind that the Jews shall be immigrated into Palestine—the largest possible number in the shortest possible time—if they will make up their mind to face Arab opinion on that, to cease conciliating their enemies and try to conciliate their friends, then you will find that the expense will vanish, but our good name will be restored, that 1788 the Jews will be saved, and that the right hon. Gentleman may yet preserve a reputation for humanity, for justice, and for common sense.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I am amazed at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's first line of attack on me was that there had been delay in carrying out the recommendations of the Peel Commission—why had I not gone forward immediately and with decision to implement the Peel Commission's Report? What does the Peel Commission recommend? Partition. And the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf, not only of himself, but of all those of the Labour party, says that they are still opposed to any form of partition. Let us know where we are. The Labour party in this country are opposed to the policy of partition.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
No, I did not say the Labour party. I said I believed the majority of my colleagues.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The majority. As the official spokesman of the Labour party in winding up this Debate, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the majority of his colleagues are opposed to partition, and he blames me for not hastening on with partition! As usual his idea is to pick and choose those parts of the Peel Commission's report that suit his wholly one-sided view of the situation in order to do what? To make it more difficult for the British Government either to carry on the Mandate or to maintain law and order in that country and bring peace to Palestine.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I say that it is, and that the right hon. Gentleman's whole attitude on this question of Palestine is one of the major causes of embarrassment and difficulty of successive British Governments.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Successive British Governments. He utterly fails to accept what was laid down first quite clearly by the Labour Government in 1929 and 1930, of which he was a supporter, 1789 which went to the League on this proposition that the Mandate, which he wishes to see implemented, but implemented in his own way, was a dual Mandate, with equal obligations to Jews and Arabs. Now, really, I ask the Committee to recollect his speech this afternoon. Was there anything but the utmost bitter contempt and hostility to Moslems in Palestine and a suggestion that the whole of the right was on the Jewish side, ignoring every Article of the Mandate which implies that we have an equal duty to all the native inhabitants of Palestine? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman stands up for native rights everywhere except in Palestine.
§ Colonel Wedgwood rose—
§ Mr. Buchanan
On a point of Order. Far be it from me to wish to see two elder statesmen quarrelling in this way. But may I point out, Captain Bourne, that earlier in the Debate I heard successive Rulings—to none of which I take any exception—which ruled out specifically any discussion on the general question of policy and confined us narrowly to the Estimates. I am wondering whether those Rulings were intended to apply only to humble back-benchers or whether I shall be allowed to make a speech in reply to the Colonial Secretary, on the question of general policy which is now being raised by him?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going too much into general policy.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I am sorry to have to force the right hon. Gentleman to listen to me for one moment. I do protest against the idea that Jewish immigration into Palestine is bad for the native Arab. It has raised the standard of wages and the whole position of the Arab population.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
That clearly is out of order, but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has made an attack on me personally and I have every right to reply to it.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
All along, in connection with Palestine the right hon. and 1790 gallant Gentleman makes continual attacks on me, personally, and represents me as an enemy of the Jewish people. That is not so, and such statements are most unfair. With that I propose to leave the right hon. and gallant Gentleman because his speech dealt entirely with generalities. There was one exception. He asked us why we did not withdraw the British troops, arm the Jews and let them fight it out with the Arabs. That is a policy of complete despair.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
If there was one thing that was made clear at Geneva and elsewhere, it was that Article 1 of the Mandate imposed on the mandatory Power, and the mandatory Power alone, the responsibility for maintaining law and order in Palestine. The mandatory Power in Palestine is this country. The task of maintaining law and order is a hard task indeed. I think these continual attacks on the troops, and attacks made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Civil Service in Palestine, tend only to make the responsibility of the mandatory Power for maintaining law and order more difficult. Palestine is a heavy burden. We have in open rebellion and violent activity Arabs of Palestine and Arabs that have come into Palestine to support their coreligionists there. Yet successive Governments have had nothing from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman but criticism of the kind to which we have listened this evening—and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman claims to speak for the Jews. We have, as I say, a heavy task. We will discharge that task, and we will discharge it in the terms of the Mandate as they are, and not as they are read by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, until such time as the League of Nations sees fit to withdraw the Mandate.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I really think the right hon. Gentleman is now going too far into general policy.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Therefore, it is essential that British troops should be in Palestine, and that this Supplementary Estimate should be presented to the Committee. As long as conditions obtain in Palestine such as those which obtain at present, these requirements are necessary. 1791 I was asked certain specific questions with which I should like to deal at once, as I understand this Debate is to end at half-past seven o'clock.
§ Mr. Attlee
There has been no agreement that the Debate should close at half-past seven. We know that it is to be interrupted at that hour, but it is for the House of Commons to decide whether it wants to continue the Debate later on or not. There has been no agreement on this side.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I understood from the Chief Whip of the Opposition that it would be convenient for the Opposition that this Debate should close at half-past seven o'clock and that a Vote should be taken before the consideration of the Private Bill.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) asked a question as to the basis of the terms of reference of the Technical Commission, and it is important that I should clear up these matters, because there are misunderstandings. The basis of the terms of reference of the Technical Commission is the Peel Commission's Report. I wish to make it clear that the Government stand exactly where they stood in the Debates last July. They still believe in partition; they are still determined to see the policy of partition through, but, in addition to the terms of reference necessitated by the recommendations of the Peel Commission, we have had to take into account the recommendations of the Permanent Mandates Commission at Geneva, and those are very important.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Technical Commission is bound by the Peel Commission Report, does he imply that they are committed to a form of partition, and not 1792 necessarily to the Peel Commission's particular form of partition?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
They are committed to the underlying principles. I cannot quote the exact words, but they are on record. They are not committed to the particular details which the Peel Commission themselves said were only tentative. They are not committed to the precise form of corridor suggested between Jerusalem and Jaffa if any form of corridor should be found necessary. At Geneva it was made clear by the Mandates Commission that they were not going to be rushed. Let us remember that we are not dealing here with a part of the British Empire. We are not dealing with British territory over which we have sovereign and final sway. We cannot carry out whatever policy we happen to like in regard to Palestine. We must have regard to the fact that this is not merely a mandated territory but an "A" mandated territory, and the first function under the Mandate is to prepare it for self-government. Self-government is the keystone of the Mandate.
It was, therefore, essential that we should take into account, in framing the terms of reference and in making clear the basis of those terms of reference, the views of the Mandates Commission. I will not quote them at length, but they are set out in full on page 230 of the report. They draw attention to the fact that the Council of the League in 1931, on the recommendation of the Permanent Mandates Commission, determined that before they would allow self-governing states to be set up and the responsibility of the mandatory Power to be diminished in any way, certain conditions should be fulfilled. Those were conditions dealing with minorities and with finance and other matters to which the Mandates Commission attached the utmost importance and they had to be fulfilled before any autonomous state could be set up. The terms of reference were drafted taking into account the Peel Commission's recommendations and the recommendations of the Mandates Commission. I hope that the Commission will be successful, but it must be recognised that this is a complicated and difficult matter.
Let me make another point clear. The counting of heads is not the only thing to be taken into consideration in drawing the line. Security has to be taken into 1793 account. I have given one reason why the Government think it is better to take the advice of military, naval and other experts who have been paying attention to this problem of Palestine rather than to put one colonel, say, on the Commission itself. They are satisfied that the course which is being taken in that respect is the wise course. Equally they have to take into account questions of economics and finance. I am sure that the step which we are taking in setting up this Technical Commission is in accordance with the specific Resolution of this House last year, in accordance with the pledges and directions given at Geneva, and that it is an essential step towards appeasement in Palestine. Meanwhile, the firm re-establishment of law and order in Palestine by British agencies under British responsibility and British control remains our watchword. That cannot be delegated to any other authority. I want to make that point perfectly clear. There is no change in policy whatever, and we are following the procedure recommended by the League of Nations.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
In view of the limited purpose for which the money is asked, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. In that last sentence does he mean that the immigration policy is to be the "political high level" or that the old policy will be restored?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I have made it abundantly clear that we have never adopted the recommendations of the Peel Commission's report in favour of the "political high level." We adopted a purely arbitrary level while conditions were being restored. There will have to be another arbitrary period. What that will be I shall announce in due course when it has been decided. It has not been decided yet.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not know, Captain Bourne, what are the limits of your Ruling on this subject, or how far I shall 1794 be allowed to reply to the right hon Gentleman. I think it will be admitted that he covered a very wide ground, and I do not know whether I shall be allowed to go over the same ground and to point out the difficulties of the Palestine situation. But I wish to comment upon the fact that one of the protests made by the Minister was that he had been attacked by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). Since when has it become a theory in the House of Commons that Ministers should not be attacked? Is this some new attempt by Ministers to provide themselves with immunity badges? The theory that a Minister should not be attacked may be a nice thing for the purpose of getting through Supplementary Estimates, but—
§ It being Half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.