HC Deb 19 February 1951 vol 484 cc884-6
57. Mr. Russell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what contribution has been made by the United Kingdom to the Arab relief programme of the United Nations; and what proportion this sum is of the total amount subscribed.

Mr. Younger

In 1949, His Majesty's Government contributed £1 million to the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees, and in 1950 a further £3,200,000, including the £1 million interest-free loan to Jordan, to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. His Majesty's Government have offered to contribute £2,850,000 to the Agency's 1951–52 programme, on condition that other Governments make adequate contributions. Over the whole period covered by these programmes, His Majesty's Government's contribution amounts to about one-fifth of the total subscribed or promised.

Mr. Russell

Does that answer mean that many countries have been backward in making contributions? If so, what steps are being taken to persuade them to contribute?

Mr. Younger

Subscriptions to this very important fund have been rather disappointing and action to try to get further subscriptions has been taken by the General Assembly of the United Nations, who appointed a negotiating committee quite recently for the purpose.

Earl Winterton

In view of the fact that these unfortunate people have been in a refugee camp for the last four or five years, would not the most valuable contribution His Majesty's Government could make be to ensure the resettlement of them in, for example, some of those African territories where, I think, there is already an Arab population? Will not the hon. Gentleman at least give consideration to that point?

Mr. Younger

I will certainly give consideration to that. It is rather a wide question which the noble Lord has raised. Resettlement is a matter which the United Nations Agency wishes to pursue, but shortage of funds makes it rather difficult.

Mr. Mikardo

Can my hon. Friend say what contribution has been made to this fund by the Arab countries?

Mr. Younger

Not without notice.

Sir Ronald Ross

Has there been any diminution in the great stress from which these people have been suffering?

Mr. Younger

I could not, without notice, give an up-to-date answer about precise conditions.

Mr. Pickthorn

Can the House be told whether contributions so far have been actual or merely promises; and, secondly, what action the Foreign Office have taken to try to get the maximum of help for these people out of the Israeli Government?

Mr. Younger

I should want notice of the second part of that question. The total subscribed for 1949, I think, was £8 million, and approximately £15 million was subscribed for the following year.

Mr. Pickthorn

Actual or promises?

Mr. Younger

Actually subscribed, I think. The figure for the later year, including promises, amounts to about £12 million, but I have not got the proportion between the actual subscriptions and the promises.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that this money is being well spent? Is he aware that I recently visited a camp where 7,000 Arab refugees were living in intolerable conditions? What will be done to settle these people on the land and give them work?

Mr. Younger

Conditions out there are extremely difficult, particularly in view of the fact that the amount considered essential was about double what has actually been subscribed. We think that the Agency has done its best in this matter, but, undoubtedly, with the very large number of refugees involved, the conditions are not all that they should be.

Mr. Drayson

Can the Minister say whether Egypt has been called upon to make an adequate contribution?

Mr. Younger

I think that all countries have been asked to make a contribution, but I should need notice before I could give the result.

Major Legge-Bourke

Bearing in mind the considerable sums which His Majesty's Government have already given to this fund, will the Minister consider the desirability of achieving a more satisfactory machinery to prevent further outrages which cause the need for further funds, particularly in connection with the mixed Armistice Commission, which seems to be very ineffective at the moment?

Mr. Younger

That is another question.

Mr. R. A. Butler

In view of the great feeling on this subject which there is in all parts of the House, could not the Government make a considered statement about the present conditions of the fund, the possibility of resettlement and the general urgent needs in this connection?

Mr. Younger

I will certainly consider the right hon. Gentleman's proposal.