HC Deb 04 February 1948 vol 446 cc1794-5
44. Major Tufton Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many ships are known to have attempted to land illegal immigrants in Palestine since V.E. Day; how many have been intercepted; in how many cases legal proceedings have been instituted against the owners, masters or any members of the crews of ships carrying illegal immigrants to Palestine, and with what results.

Mr. Creech Jones

Fifty-seven ships are known to have tried to land illegal immigrants in Palestine since V.E. Day. Of these 40 were intercepted. Only four small ships have escaped interception since June, 1946. The High Commissioner is being asked for the information requested in the second part of the question and I will comunicate with the hon. and gallant Member on receipt of his report.

Major Beamish

Is the Minister aware that the weakness of Government policy in this connection has given encouragement to Jewish illegal immigration, and that at this moment preparations for illegal immigration are going forward on a larger scale than ever before; further, is he aware that if these preparations are successfully carried out they must have very grave repercussions indeed in the Arab world?

Mr. Creech Jones

I do not accept the imputation in the first part of the supplementary question. The Government are fully alive to the whole of this problem and have consistently taken the most active steps to prevent illegal immigration.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

Can the Minister say how many of these ships have been confiscated.

Mr. Creech Jones

I have promised to obtain that information and I will send it to the hon. Member.

Mr. Janner

Will the Minister circulate the Report of the United Nations Organisation in respect of this question of immigration, and also will he say when a port will be opened for immigrants in accordance with the request of the United Nations?

Mr. Pickthorn

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether we are to gather from his last supplementary answer and from his original answer that it did not occur to the Colonial Office to want the information requested in the last part of this Question until the Question was put down? Is that the conclusion that we are to reach?

Mr. Creech Jones

I thought that my information was incomplete, but I understand that between November, 1945, and November, 1947, one ship has been sold and 11 others have been forfeited at the instance of the District Court in Haifa.