HC Deb 23 November 1938 vol 341 cc1743-5
62. Mr. David Grenfell

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any further statement to make regarding the proposed discussions on Palestine?

Mr. MacDonald

Yes, Sir. Formal invitations to send representatives to the proposed discussions have now been issued to Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Transjordan, and to the Jewish Agency. We are still in communication with the Yemen on the matter. As regards the Palestinian Arab delegation, I have informed the High Commissioner that His Majesty's Government desire that all the important leading groups in the country should be represented, and have asked him to endeavour to arrange for this in consultation with the groups or individuals concerned, and to report to me as soon as possible. I have already informed the House of His Majestys' Government's attitude towards the present Mufti of Jerusalem. But as regards individuals who are at present deported or are the subject of an exclusion order, if, as a result of the High Commissioner's consultations, it is proposed that any of these should be amongst the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs, His Majesty's Government will give facilities to these individuals to proceed to London for the purpose of the discussions.

Mr. Grenfell

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect the first assembly to take place, and how long does he expect the investigation or inquiry to last?

Mr. MacDonald

I cannot give any date until the delegations have been finally fixed up, but I hope the discussions will start within the next few weeks; and, as was stated in the statement made by His Majesty's Government, we do not intend that the discussions shall last for more than what is a reasonable period to allow for some understanding or agreement being reached in that period. If some such understanding is not reached, then the Government, in the light of their examination of the question and of the discussions, will announce the policy that they propose to pursue.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any representations as to the advantages which would accrue if the Mufti were allowed to be present at this conference; and is the decision which he has announced concerning the attendance of the Mufti to be regarded as final?

Mr. MacDonald

The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the first part, I have received a good many expressions of view from individuals, some in favour and some against, but I have received no official representation.

Mr. Mander

In view of the great interest of this matter to the United States. will not the Minister consider the advisability of inviting representatives—

Mr. Speaker rose