HC Deb 16 April 1951 vol 486 cc1462-4
52. Mr. Hollis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in what ways the money contributed by His Majesty's Government for the relief of Arab refugees in Jordan has been spent.

Mr. Younger

The £3.2 million contributed by His Majesty's Government to the relief of the Palestine refugees during the period January, 1950, to June, 1951, includes the £1 million interest-free loan to Jordan. The latter is being spent directly by the Jordan Government on road construction, agricultural development, surveys, re-afforestation and housing. The balance of £2.2 million is being spent by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It contributes to the cost of feeding and giving employment to refugees in Jordan and elsewhere, and of proving resettlement possibilities on the land in Jordan. Feeding the refugees in Jordan alone during the 18 months period costs about £6 million. Employment projects undertaken by the Agency in Jordan include road construction, reafforestation, housing and workshops for refugee artisans.

Mr. Hollis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when the matter was recently debated in the House several very disturbing complaints were forthcoming from hon. Members in different parts of the House about the energy of the United Nations not being put into their task? As his reply has by no means reassured the House, would he see whether we can be reassured that these activities are being carried out with appropriate energy?

Mr. Younger

I tried to explain in that debate, which was very brief, some of the difficulties the Agency has been meeting, which have been both financial and political. I think I can give the House the assurance that the Agency is showing a great deal of energy. Since the principle of resettlement has been accepted—I think in November last year—by all the Middle Eastern States, in the relevant resolution of the United Nations, we hope that the political difficulties are largely out of the way.

Mr. Pickthorn

May the House be told what proportion of the refugees have been in any sense resettled up to date; and, second, when we shall have a really complete account?

Mr. Younger

As to the second part of the supplementary question, I will do my best. We tried to give as much information as could be given in the recent debate, but no doubt another account could be given when there have been further developments. As regards the proportion of those who have been resettled, I understand that about 100,000 have been resettled in Jordan, mostly, of course, by their own efforts. Those who had capital have been able to resettle themselves. The Agency itself has not yet been able to settle very many.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Has this country any representation on the Agency in order to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers?

Mr. Younger

Yes, Sir.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply indicates that the sum of £2.2 million is being entirely used for subsistence alone, and that the fund is rapidly running out? Can he say what is being done to settle this matter on a permanent footing, and to provide the houses where resettlement cannot be arranged elsewhere?

Mr. Younger

I have tried to explain the projects which are being undertaken, but the fact is that the subscriptions have fallen and that the money has first to be used for subsistence purposes, to keep the refugees alive. There has not been very much left over for other major development schemes.