HC Deb 14 March 1938 vol 333 cc40-4W
Mr. R. Beaumont

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any decision has yet been taken by His Majesty's Government with regard to the control of immigration into Palestine after the 31st of March next?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Yes, Sir. The decisions which have been taken by His Majesty's Government have been embodied in a despatch to the High Commissioner for Palestine, which is quoted below:—Downing Street, 10th March, 1938. Palestine. No. 248. Sir, I have the honour to inform you that His Majesty's Government have recently had under consideration the question of the procedure to be adopted for the regulation of Jewish immigration into Palestine on the expiry of the special restrictions which have been imposed for the eight months period August, 1937, to March, 1938, in accordance with the terms of paragraph 6 of the Statement of Policy of July last (Cmd. 5513). 2. I desire, in the first place, to explain the grounds on which His Majesty's Government felt it necessary to propose, in the Statement of Policy, that Jewish immigration during the eight months period August, 1937, to March, 1938, should be subject to an overriding maximum of 8,000. You will be aware that in Part II (Chapter X) of their Report the Royal Commission recommended that a 'political high level' of Jewish immigration should be laid down by His Majesty's Government and that the high level for the next five years should be fixed at 12,000 per annum. But Part II of the Report presupposed the continuance in operation of the existing Mandate, and its major recommendations have not yet been adopted by His Majesty's Government, who came to the conclusion that the best and most hopeful solution lay in a scheme of partition on the lines recommended in Part III of the Royal Commission's Report. 3. It was clear that the decision of His Majesty's Government in favour of the policy of partition could not be translated into action until after a further period of investigation and preparation, and it became necessary to consider the question of the steps to be taken to regulate Jewish immigration during the interim period. In Chapter XXII of their Report the Commission dealt with the transition period 'in the immediate future if it should be agreed to terminate the Mandate and establish a treaty system on a basis of partition. For this period the Commission proposed that instead of the 'political high level' there should be a territorial restriction on Jewish immigration. 'No Jewish immigration into the Arab area should be permitted.… The volume of Jewish immigration should be determined by the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine less the Arab area.' 4. The Commission had not, however, made any recommendation with regard to the control of immigration during the immediate interim period between the issue of the Statement of Policy and a final decision with regard to partition. As the prospective boundaries of the Arab and Jewish areas could not be predicted and must remain uncertain until a decision has been taken on the Report of the new Commission which will shortly visit Palestine, it was not practicable to adopt the procedure recommended by the Royal Commission in respect of the 'transition period' to which they refer in Chapter XXII of their Report. 5. Seeing that the declared object of their policy, as set out in the White Paper of July last, was a scheme of partition under which Jewish immigration would be confined to a limited area, His Majesty's Government felt that it was impossible, during the interim period of preparatory investigation, to allow immigration to be determined by the economic absorptive capacity of the whole of Palestine, and that a temporary and admittedly arbitrary restriction of immigration was inevitable. It was in accordance with this view that an overriding limit of 8,000 immigrants was laid down for the eight months August, 1937, to March, 1938, and powers for this purpose were conferred upon the High Commissioner by the addition of a new section (.5 A) to the Immigration Ordinance. 6. Section 5A of the Immigration Ordinance, which empowers the High Commissioner to prescribe the maximum aggregate number of foreigners to be admitted to Palestine as immigrants during any specified period, to prescribe categories and to fix the maximum number of persons to be admitted in respect of each category, expires on the 31st March, 1938, or on such later date as the High Commissioner in Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State, by notice in the Gazette may appoint'. After full consideration. His Majesty's Government have decided that there has been no such change in the situation since August as would justify withdrawal from the High Commissioner of the powers of prescription conferred upon him by Section 5A, and that the validity of this section should be extended for a further period of twelve months. If, at the end of that period, it is still considered essential that the High Commissioner should retain these additional powers, the necessary legislation will be enacted. At the same time, His Majesty's Government desire to make it known that it is their intention, once the boundaries of the various areas under an equitable and practicable scheme of partition have been defined and so long as the existing Mandate continues in operation, that the entry of Jewish immigrants shall be regulated, so far as concerns the non-Arab areas, by the principle of economic absorptive capacity. 7. Consideration has also been given to the question of the specific application after the 31st March next of the powers conferred by Section 5A of the Immigration Ordinance. This section is purely permissive, and His Majesty's Government have decided that in the first instance the power of prescription should be exercised by the High Commissioner for a period of six months only, from April to September, 1938, leaving open for later consideration the procedure to be adopted after that date. 8. As regards the restrictions to be imposed, the attention of His Majesty's Government has been drawn to various representations received from the Jewish Agency and from other sources; and they realise that there is considerable force in the contentions which have been submitted in favour of the more generous admission, on economic grounds, of persons of independent means and, on grounds of humanity, of the class of dependant defined in Section 2 (1) of the Immigration Ordinance, that is to say, wives and children of immigrants. 9. With these considerations in mind, and with a view to diminishing to some extent the element of arbitrariness which is involved under present temporary arrangements while at the same time avoiding any considerable change in the total rate of immigration in the immediate interim period. His Majesty's Government have decided that the following procedure shall be adopted for the six months period April-September, 1938: (a) Persons of independent means. (Category A (i)—capital of £1,000.) His Majesty's Government have decided that 2,000 shall be fixed as the maximum number of immigrants of this category. There will, however, be no objection to the admission, if you see fit, within this quota, of ten pensioners (Category A (iv)) and twenty agricultural settlers with capital of not less than £500 (Category A (v)), whose admission was recommended by your predecessor. Categories A (ii) (members of professions with capital of £500) and A (iii) (persons skilled in trades or crafts with capital of £250) will remain closed. (b) Students. (Category B (iii).) Students as defined in Category B (iii), that is to say, 'any student whose admission to an educational institution in Palestine and whose maintenance is assured until such time as he is able to support himself/ will be admitted without numerical restriction, subject to compliance with the conditions imposed in the Immigration Regulations. Categories B (i) (orphans) and B (ii) (persons of religious occupation) will remain closed. (c) Labour immigrants. (Category C.) I understand that, according to estimates prepared by the Government of Palestine, Arab unemployment in seven selected towns amounted to 21,000, and Jewish unemployment (combining whole and part time unemployment) amounted to 12,000 on the 31st December last. In the circumstances, it is obvious that at the present time the admission of additional immigrants of the labour class is not justifiable. His Majesty's Government have, however, approved of your fixing a quota of 1,000 for this category on the understanding that it will be left to you to decide, in the light of economic circumstances, whether any labour immigration shall be permitted during the six months period, and if so, when and to what extent. (d) Dependants. (Category D.) Near dependants, as defined in Section 2 (1) of the Immigration Ordinance, that is to say, wives and children, both of new immigrants and of immigrants who have already entered the country legally, will be admitted without numerical restriction subject to proper inquiry and investigation. As regards other dependants (parents, etc.), a quota of 200 will be allowed in order to meet individual cases of exceptional hardship. 10. I shall be obliged if you will take such legal and administrative action as is necessary to give effect to these decisions. You may furnish the Jewish Agency with a copy of this despatch, which should also be published in the Gazette. I have, etc., (Sgd.) W. ORMSBY-GORE. High Commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael, K.C., M.G., D.S.O.