HC Deb 17 July 1967 vol 750 cc1523-4
13. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will summarise the help given by the United Kingdom to Arab refugees since Palestine was partitioned; what is his latest information about their numbers and whereabouts; and if he will take the initiative in the United Nations by proposing that a fresh and major effort is made to solve this problem in the context of an Arab-Israeli peace settlement.

Mr. William Rodgers

Besides the emergency contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other emergency measures mentioned in my right hon. Friend the Minister of State's reply on 26th June to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, Her Majesty's Government has contributed over $95 million to the Agency since it was established in 1951. 1,300,000 refugees were registered with the Agency before the recent fighting and it is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 refugees have crossed from the East to the West bank of the Jordan following the recent hostilities. In addition there has been a substantial movement of refugees northwards into Syria from Israel occupied territory. In his speech at the General Assembly recently my right hon. Friend listed the problem of the refugees as the first requiring solution in a general settlement.—[Vol. 749, c. 16–17.]

Sir T. Beamish

Does the Under-Secretary agree that the Foreign Secretary's clear and welcome recognition of the need to improve Anglo-Arab relations whenever common ground exists and to take an important initiative to try to solve the Arab refugee problem should not be construed in any way whatever as contrary to the Israelis' legitimate interests?

Mr. Rodgers

I hope that it will be well understood outside the House that everybody here is very much concerned with the humanitarian problems, arising both from the recent fighting and from the conflict over a much longer period.

Mr. Strauss

Is my hon. Friend aware that nothing would better facilitate the orderly return of the refugees from the East to the West bank than discussions between representatives of the two Governments? Will he therefore, on humanitarian grounds, urge the Jordanian Government to hold such discussions as the Israeli Government have asked for and indeed pleaded for?

Mr. Rodgers

There are Questions later on the Order Paper dealing with some of the larger issues involved. I would only ask the House to recognise that this is a highly complex problem and that we must approach it patiently in order to achieve the sort of humanitarian results we want to see.