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Colonial And Middle Eastern Services

Volume 320: debated on Monday 22 February 1937

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £106,620, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants in Aid."

6.2 p.m.

The amounts for this Supplementary Estimate are set out in pages 6, 7 and 8 of the White Paper, and all that I need do, in opening, is to explain exactly how the sums have been arrived at. The first three items, namely, Somaliland, Malta and Kenya, and the second item on Malta, arise directly out of the Italo-Abyssinian War, which continued during last spring and summer after the regular Estimates for the year had been prepared and laid before Parliament.

Somaliland is put down first. Somaliland is a grant-in-aid territory. It does not pay its way, and therefore any additional expenditure has to be voted by this House. The additional cost is due to the appointment of additional officers for frontier patrol and to the calling up of the reserve company of the Somaliland Camel Corps, in order to prevent incidents on the frontier between Italian and British Somaliland. As a matter of fact, the British taxpayer will not be called upon to pay more money in respect of British Somaliland during the present financial year because the transit trade from Abyssinia through British Somaliland to Italian Somaliland has increased considerably and the revenues of the territory have therefore gone up proportionately. We calculate that the increased revenue will, in fact, pay for the increased protective services which we have had to provide there.

Next, Malta. Supplementary Estimates have already been presented, last autumn, for naval, military and air expenditure at Malta, under the heading of better defences during the time when there was tension in the Mediterranean during the Italo-Abyssinian War. This Vote is for the amount spent at the same time upon improved civilian defences. For instance, we had to send out quickly to Malta anti-gas respirators for the civilian population. We had to establish an anti-gas school and train people in passive defence of Malta in case an attack had taken place during the sanctions period. There were also certain special arrangements which had to be made involving the expenditure of money in connection with the preparation of hospitals in case of attack.

Coming to subhead (b) this item has nothing to do with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, but arises out of the fact that the Turkish Government in 1934 passed a new law, in the Turkish Parliament at Angora, limiting to Turkish subjects the right of people to follow certain professions and occupations. The result of the coming into force of that law was that a considerable number of Maltese resident in Asia Minor, who are British subjects, were thrown out of work. Owing to the densely populated character of Malta, it was impossible to repatriate them all at once. The total number was, I understand, about 1,250, who lost their means of occupation in Turkey. We hope gradually to absorb them and get them into work, but meanwhile they have to be paid subsistence, as they were reaching the point of destitution. The British Government and the local Maltese taxpayers are each paying a percentage of the cost of maintaining these British subjects.

The next item, Kenya, undoubtedly arises out of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. The largest proportion of this sum is for increased frontier patrols that had to be sent out. There is also an item for expediting what we have for some time intended to do. The tension made us expedite last year what we had intended to do this year, namely, to improve the preparations for the coast defences of Kenya Protectorate. It involves sending out certain special personnel to train coast defence personnel out there, and to make the necessary surveys and reports for the improvement of the coast defences.

There is an increase of £3,000 for telegraphing, which is almost entirely due to the enormous mass of additional telegraphing that we had to do during the constitutional crisis here last October, in keeping Governors informed of what was going on in regard to the Abdication of King Edward VIII, and in telegraphing our instruction with regard to the Accession of King George VI. As that exceeds our original telegraphing Vote, an extra Vote has had to be made.

Of course, the largest gross item in this Supplementary Vote, as it appears in the Paper, is in respect of the sums necessary to be paid to defray the cost of sending large reinforcements to Palestine during the disturbances up to October last year. The bulk of it, as the Committee will see, is received back again from Palestine. There is a slight difference. The gross amount is £1,105,000, and we get back from Palestine only £1,084,410. The difference is in respect of Transjordan and is due to the fact that, under the approved allocation, the cost of the Air Force garrison in Palestine and Transjordan is divided equally between those countries, except as regards the works services. The cost of the works in Palestine is charged to Palestine, and the cost of the works in Transjordan is charged to Transjordan. The revenues of Transjordan are insufficient to meet the expenditure without an Exchequer grant-in-aid, and it is necessary therefore to make provision in the Middle Eastern Services Vote for Transjordan's share of the total cost of the Royal Air Force garrison. The difference to which I have referred is caused purely by the fact that Transjordan's revenue is unable to meet the cost this year.

There is a Vote in the Supplementary Estimate for an advance on loan to the cultivators of Transjordan, of money to buy seeds, owing to the very bad crop season last year. There was a bad drought in the winter last year and the cultivators were in great difficulty. It is a very poor country and it is only right that we, as the Mandatory Power, should help them out. I am glad to say that the rains this year have been very different, almost excessive, and I have little doubt that, as on a previous occasion, the small advance will be paid back.

Although we get the money back from Palestine, the Committee are entitled to know how this large sum is arrived at and what is the basis. The additional cost of troops is obviously to be explained by the large temporary increase in garrisons, but since the cessation of disorder, in October last, it has been arranged to reduce the emergency garrison to seven battalions, at which it stands to-day, and they are being retained there. The items which make up this large amount are as follows: The largest is in respect of sea transport. The cost of conveying troops to Palestine and bringing a large proportion of them back came to no less than £284,000. The next largest item is for accommodation. Buildings had to be taken over, huts erected, and the like, to provide accommodation for the additional troops. That cost nearly the same amount, namely, £283,000. Movements inside the country, to Egypt and the like, cost £225,000, and supplies and remounts £153,000, while additional pay and allowances to the troops for service overseas, against what they get in this country, amounted to £128,000. That is the cost which, as I have said, has to be voted now, and is recoverable from Palestine.

It will be realised that the cost of suppressing the disorders in Palestine is throwing a very considerable burden on the finances of Palestine. Palestine has considerable surplus funds, accumulated during the last three years, and, as Palestine has got the money, it is perhaps natural in the circumstances that Palestine should be asked to pay the difference between the cost of maintaining the troops at home here, where they would naturally be, and the cost of maintaining them in Palestine. I want to take this opportunity of saying that I do not preclude myself from examination, in consultation with the Treasury and the Palestine Government, the possibility of reconsidering the exact proportion of defence expenditure recoverable from Palestine next year and in subsequent years, in the light of the territory's financial position when this can be more accurately gauged. All that I know is that, in consequence of the disturbances, the revenue of Palestine is going down, which perhaps is natural in the circumstances, and that the financial position of the Palestine Government to-day is, in consequence of the disturbances, very different from the comparatively favourable financial position of a year ago.

Of course, it is clear that the financial position of Palestine in the future must depend on various factors, at present unascertained and unascertainable. In the first place, the decisions taken by His Majesty's Government on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, when these are known—and I have no means and shall have no means of knowing what they are likely to be until they are presented—may have a bearing upon the finances of the country as well as upon the political situation. It would be out of order for me to say anything more than that on the matter. The whole question of the future of Palestine being sub judice before Lord Peel's Commission at the present moment, it is obvious that I cannot prophesy as to how much money will be required next year to finance the defence of Palestine, or whether that will fall upon the Palestine taxpayers at large or whether it will be necessary to come to the House of Commons for a Supplementary Estimate in due course to deal with that matter.

6.20 p.m.

I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I move this reduction, not because I wish to disturb the right hon. Gentleman in paying his debts or in improving the services in the Near East, but because we are perhaps entitled to a little more information that he has seen fit to give us at the moment. Before, however, dealing with either the Malta, Kenya, Somaliland or Arabian Votes, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the statement at the bottom of page 5 of the Estimate, where we are informed that:
"Expenditure out of these grants-in-aid will not be accounted for in detail to the Comptroller and Auditor-General."
Is that a precedent? Is it an innovation? If that should be the case, we shall certainly be entitled to know why such expenditure is not to be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is true that the expenditure is described as being due to special causes, or for special purposes, but I do not quite see why this innovation should happen without some adequate explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. In the second place, I should like to know who is responsible for the publication of this Supplementary Estimate, for I notice that the items under Sub-head A—Somaliland, Malta, and Kenya—and part of that for Arabia, are described as arising out of the Italo-Ethopian dispute. I went to the Library to consult a dictionary to see exactly what a dispute was. I found varying interpretations, and I recall the right hon. Gentleman's own description, "the Italo-Abyssinian war." This document, however, under the signature of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, states that this special expenditure is due to the Italo-Ethiopian dispute. I discovered that "dispute" is interpreted as a controversy, a debate, a heated contention, a quarrel, a difference of opinion; and in another dictionary I discovered that to quarrel was to throw darts at each other. It seems to me that this was not so much a dispute in the ordinarily accepted sense of the term, but was a war, an open defiance of international law, brutal cold-blooded murder, territorial acquisition if you like to put it in that way. Why the Financial Secretary should describe as a dispute something which involved this nation in the expenditure of considerable sums of money, I do not know. I cannot understand his tenderness for Mussolini, who is generally known to be not too friendly to this country or to the Empire. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether the terminology is recorded here at the express wish of His Majesty's Government, or whether the term that he himself used, namely, "war," ought not to be recorded in any subsequent Supplementary Estimate.

The expenditure of £30,000 for Somaliland, £40,000 for Malta, £24,530 for Kenya, and £4,000 for Arabia is, the right hon. Gentleman tells us, due very largely to special causes arising out of that war. The frontier patrols had to be increased in Somaliland and elsewhere, and one can appreciate that special measures of some kind would have to be taken in any such circumstances by any Government, but what I am unable to understand is whether we employed special frontier patrolmen to assist Mussolini. From the smallness of the expenditure, I cannot understand how it could have been of real value as a safeguard to this country, for instance, and, although the sum that we are called upon to vote is only about £94,000 for these special measures, I recall that last year the Home Secretary said, speaking from that Box, that he would not endanger the life of one British soldier or one British ship for Abyssinia. Now the Colonial Secretary tells us that we sent more frontier patrolmen right on to the borderline of this war. It has often been said, and I suppose it is generally understood, that Ministers are entitled to say what they like, although they are all supposed to accept collective responsi- bility for the decisions of the Government. The decision in this case apparently was to recruit more frontier patrolmen and to spend a goodly sum of money in order to send them right into the heart of the danger zone, and yet the Home Secretary said he would not risk the life of one British soldier. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary will tell us whether the Home Secretary was not expressing a purely personal opinion when speaking for the Government—in a Debate on a Vote of Censure, be it understood—or whether he was actually expressing just the mind of the Home Secretary and of no one else.

These sums are comparatively small, and they do not seem to me to represent any real defence or safeguard for the country. I recall the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he sent a letter to his constituents, after his resignation, informing his constituents that he, and presumably the Government for whom he spoke, were afraid that, if they applied oil sanctions to Italy, Italy might attack Malta or Egypt. There has been so much advancing and retreating that we do not quite understand where the Government are on this question. Certainly an expenditure of £94,000 could not help Abyssinia very much, it could not hinder Mussolini very much, and it was not a very big safeguard for the Empire. While one appreciates the desire to improve our defences at Malta, a most vulnerable spot from the point of view of Italy, £40,000 seems a very small sum compared with the very grave fear and anxiety expressed by the First Lord of the Admiralty.

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, aware that very large sums have already been voted for naval, military and Air Force purposes.

I quite appreciate that this is a Supplementary Estimate in the fullest sense, and is a matter of secondary consideration as compared with the first, but still this £40,000 is for providing gas masks, building hospitals and providing such accommodation as was necessary in case of an attack. If we were so afraid for Malta, this seems a very small preparation to make for safeguarding—

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman; I hope he will not think I desire to be personally discourteous to him; but surely we cannot raise, on this Estimate, the whole question of the defence of Malta? This Estimate deals with certain measures for the protection of the civilian population, but the hon. Gentleman is dealing with the whole question of the defence of Malta. If he is going to make a speech on the whole Italo-Abyssinian question, others no doubt will want to reply.

I was just about to stop the hon. Member. While he is in order in just touching on that matter, he must not develop it.

I was only intending to touch upon it, and I have no objection to the Noble Lord raising the point. I do not want to enter into a general international Debate, and it was not my intention to do so. With reference to the taking of these preliminary precautions at Malta, I should like to know to what extent pressure from within Malta itself prompted the action of the Government in spending this £40,000. We know that there are very doubtful elements within the island, and they are not all of them remote from the Cathedral. We know that the Constitution of Malta is suspended because of interference in politics. I do not want to enter into a Debate on those lines, but only to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when this fear dominated the mind of the First Lord, the international dangers had anything to do with his state of mind or with the expenditure of this £40,000, because we know what has happened quite recently in another part of Europe, where certain people in high office, nominees of His Majesty's Government, have endeavoured to participate in a civil war in another country. I should like to ask whether or not those internal dangers are constantly kept in mind by the Governor and the administration that has been set up there.

With regard to the expenditure on what they call special causes, we ought to know a little more about the steps that were taken when the increased frontier patrols were recruited, and exactly what their position was. Were they ever placed in danger, and, if so, why were they placed in danger after what the Home Secretary said? With regard to the question of Palestine, perhaps the less one says in this Debate, in view of the sittings of the Royal Commission, the better. What we all desire to see there is that they should settle down to make the best of the position as rapidly as possible. This colossal expenditure of over £1,000,000, which is to become a burden upon the actual victims of the riotous conduct, is going to be a fairly hefty burden. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman said we shall put up the money in the first place and Palestine is going to repay it. That means that some part of the surplus that has accumulated, which ought to have been expended on, shall I say, education, the social services, improving transport and generally helping the country to develop on right lines, is to be diverted to meeting this liability.

It is going to be a grave punishment on the loyal people who never lifted a hand against the Government but all the time were more or less the victims of the conduct of a certain section. The money has been expended and I am not sure that the delay in dealing with the riot, or rebellion, has not increased out of all proportion the expenditure that might have been necessary to prevent an extension of the trouble. As is always the case, I know that those who inspired this unfortunate rebellion, the people at the top, will escape, and the rank and file will suffer indirectly through loss of the social services, educational institutions and the rest. I hope that that sort of thing is not going to be allowed to be repeated and that there will be no necessity for further expenditure on these lines.

I agree that Transjordan is a very poor country and, if the weather conditions are unfavourable, the inhabitants are very quickly in a parlous plight. It may be true that, as the mandatory country, we are obliged to go to their assistance and act when the necessity arises, but I should like to ask on what they base these loans at 4 per cent. Is it based upon the current value of money? Has it a relation to the Public Works Loans Board, or just how does it fit in? I am not objecting to these people borrowing at a reasonable rate of interest, but I should like to know, in view of the rates that are charged to some local authorities in this country. If we can provide cheap money for Transjordan, we might also consider the advisability of providing cheap money for our own local authorities and Special Areas. Having touched upon one or two points relating to the amount of the expenditure I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us why these accounts are not to be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General and whether it forms a precedent or not.

Secondly, who is responsible for this description, "Ethiopian dispute" instead of the plain, blunt truth, Italo-Ethiopian war? And will the right hon. Gentleman tell us further whether they sent British frontiersmen into the danger zone when they were increasing the numbers in Somaliland, in Kenya, or in Arabia? On the reply will determine whether or not the Home Secretary was strictly speaking the truth when he said he would not endanger the life of one British soldier for Abyssinia. That is all one wants to say unless satisfactory explanations are not forthcoming with regard to what might have been, in view of our known friendship towards Mussolini, a waste of £94,000. We shall await the right hon. Gentleman's reply before we decide whether to take this to a vote or not.

6.37 p.m.

This Supplementary Estimate, which does not seem to cause very great interest in the House, is an example of our immense responsibilities and especially of the responsibilities of the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly it is a proof of our far-flung Empire. Here we have items dealing with Somaliland, Malta, Kenya, Palestine, and Transjordan. If evidence of the activities of the right hon. Gentleman's office are required, they are to be found in Item G, which shows that the original Estimate for telegrams on Colonial service oversea and telephone calls increased from £9,000 to £12,000. It shows that the holder of this great office cannot take his responsibilities lightly. He has always to be active, he constantly has difficult decisions to make, and on his efficient administration depends the well-being of millions of His Majesty's subjects of various race, religion, colour and location. The items of expenditure on Malta and Kenya and Somaliland arise out of the Italo-Abyssinian war. I have no doubt that the word "dispute" was put in by an official in accordance with the tradition always to use words in a Government document of as little significance as possible and really to gloss over the importance of an item.

But I think the Committee would be shirking its responsibility if it did not refer to this very large sum that has been spent in Palestine. The fact that we have not to find the money ourselves does not lessen our responsibility. It would be out of order to refer to the Royal Commission and, even if it was not, it would be very undesirable to anticipate or in any way to embarrass its conclusions. Anyone who studies the literature that is circulated to us will realise how important it is to weigh one's words in speaking about this little country at the end of the Mediterranean. Phrases used and questions asked in this House are cabled there and appear in the local Press, often distorted, and some innocent remark is given excessive importance. It is not always realised that here in Committee we talk freely and frankly, not always in carefully prepared speeches. I shall be very careful, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will interrupt me if I have been indiscreet. It is very easy on the Floor of the House or in an arm-chair to criticise those who are responsible for administration. They have a most difficult and delicate task which requires the greatest judgment, tact and wisdom.

General Wauchope has been criticised by both sides. He has had to guide the country through one of those crises which only too often have happened since we undertook the responsibility of the Mandate. I believe he has endeavoured to hold the scales evenly between the two sides. If one has to find fault, I think perhaps it might be in the direction that he has shown excessive patience. On the great occasion when the trouble arose last April we know that the authorities had ample warning, through a small disturbance, some days before the first serious outbreak took place. What one wants to guard against is that the Government should be caught napping again. In April no steps were taken either to increase the number of the police or to provide them with arms.

On a point of Order. Can we discuss the whole Palestine administration on this Vote? I understand that there is nothing included in the Vote for the Police. I rise only because some of us will have something to say on the other side.

I was only going to say that, if some of these troubles had been forestalled, it would not have been necessary to employ such large armies at a later date.

I am sure the hon. Baronet will confine himself to what he said he was going to do and will not go any further than that.

Surely if all this money has been spent because the police have not been given the equipment that they should have been given, we are entitled to discuss that? It is nonsense to say that, because there is a general Vote for Palestine, we cannot discuss the question of the police. The police are concerned in this expenditure. The Debate should not be limited in this way. We should he able to talk of the things that have happened.

I do not say that I differ from the hon. Member but, if we are to have a Debate on the whole question, we should be told so.

This is quite clearly a Supplementary Estimate, and it is not in order to discuss what comes within the four corners of the original Estimate but only what is dealt with in the increased sum that is being asked for to-day.

This is what we have to-day. Let us put ourselves into the position as though this money was being spent in this country to make provision for troops. Surely, we should be justified in saying that it was unnecessary to provide such a very large army involving the country in excessive expenditure, if the police were properly organised and equipped. Would we not have been justified in taking this line if it had applied to this country, and surely we are justified in doing so with regard to a country for which we are responsible?

The hon. Baronet should be able, in a sentence or two, to make a point of that nature, but he should certainly not attempt to go into any details.

I was really going to say—and I have very nearly finished—that the reason why our police were not armed and organised in a way to deal with this outrage was because of the tradition which we have always had in this country of not arming our police. I impress upon the right hon. Gentleman and those responsible for the utilisation of troops, that it is far better, more economical and satisfactory for the permanent pacification of that country, to see that our police are properly equipped, organised and trained to deal with situations as they arise rather than having to call in the military. The charge, if there is a charge, is one of excessive patience on the part of the authorities. If they had not waited five months but had acted earlier in this very small country, if they had taken the advice of some people on the spot, it would not have been necessary to have sent this immense army. It was because they waited five months before taking vigorous action, that it was necessary to send such a very large force to restore order in the country.

Do I understand the hon. Baronet to mean that we should advocate the arming of the civil forces of the country?

I do not go as far as to say that. All I say is that they should be organised and equipped.

The long delay gave time for the Arabs to organise, equip and make themselves a really dangerous force. It was not until 30th September that martial law was declared. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was not declared."] That makes the matter worse. Powers were taken to declare it, but they were not exercised. It had a very salutary effect. When the Army was brought into the country, it was done very thoroughly. It was a very big army—23 battalions—for the purpose of keeping order in a very small country, which is a little larger than Wales. I should like to pay tribute to the skill of the general in charge and to the English soldiers who did their work skilfully and with great forbearance. That much is due to them because British soldiers are always equal to any occasion and we can rely upon them to do their duty. Is it true, as I am informed, that the Arab bands are being allowed to retain their arms? After all the trouble they caused, the large loss of life and the immense expense involved in Palestine, I am informed that there are still large bodies of Arabs, who are organised and equipped with arms, ammunition and power to spread devastation and trouble in that country. I have seen in the Press that there are still daily acts of murder and terrorism in Palestine. They are not directed so much against the Jews as against the more orderly element of the Arab population. A form of terrorism is still going on in Palestine among the Arab population who are peaceful, law-abiding and anxious to support authority and earn their living in a peaceful way.

I have been told—I hope that it is not true—that there is a possibility of renewed outbreaks once the orange season is over. That makes it more likely for a steady stream of illicitly imported arms over a more or less unguarded frontier. If that is true, it is really asking for trouble, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy not only the Jews, but the peaceful Arabs that a very strict control is being exercised on the frontier to stop the importation of arms. I am all for patience and tact. General Wauchope should be supported, as the man on the spot, in his desire to bring the two nations together to work in harmony and good will, but we must make it clear—the right hon. Gentleman cannot make it too clear not only to this Committee, but to the world—that force and violence will not be tolerated. The Jewish people went to Palestine more or less at the invitation of the British Government and under the auspices of the League of Nations, and we have, therefore, the responsibility to see that they should not be rendered liable to terrorism and to the horrors that undoubtedly took place in the early months of last year, when peacefully cultivating the land.

The hon. Baronet should not go into the whole of the history of the matter.

I will not say more, because the last thing I wish to do is to say anything that may stir up feeling.

On a point of Order. I understood the hon. Baronet was referring to what happened last year, and are we not voting this money for purposes dealing with the events of last year?

We are dealing now with the Supplementary Estimate and not the original Estimate, and it is only in so far as hon. Members want to refer to the extra money now required that they can raise this matter in the Debate to-day.

I understood the hon. Member to be pointing to the fact that people who were living there and were desirous of pursuing a peaceful life might find themselves being shot down, and that as a consequence all this money was being spent because of the weakness of the administration in dealing with that situation.

The last thing I want to do is to dispute your Ruling, Sir George. I have made my point, and I do not want to over-emphasise it.

It is extraordinarily difficult for some of us to keep silent after so many very tendentious remarks which have been put forward. With every desire not to raise any single question which touches upon the work of the Commission, I know that one very tendentious remark was made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and one or two of the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), who is now in possession of the Committee, cannot be regarded as otherwise than tendentious, and I would ask him not to do this sort of thing.

Hon. Members will agree that nothing should be said which would interfere with, or might make more difficult, the work of the Coin-mission, and I am sure that all hon. Members will carry that out in any speeches they may make.

I do not know what the hon. Member means by tendentious. I have never said anything that would be provocative to any law-abiding peaceful citizen in Palestine, whether Arab or Jew. All citizens living in Palestine, of whatever race and religion, should be allowed to live in peace and security. The right hon. Gentleman made it quite clear that it really is the excess of the cost which the troops would have entailed in this country if they had remained at Aldershot, the difference of transporting them to Palestine and maintaining them there. This is a very big sum, and Palestine suffers as the right hon. Gentleman rightly points out in both ways. Firstly, these disorders mean a decrease in the revenue of the country, a loss of trade and of business, and, on the other hand, it may mean that much money which otherwise would be available to develop the country, improve education, roads and social amenities, is diverted to this miserable conflict and misuse of force. It is a tragedy in a country which, to all people in every part of the world and of every religion and race, is the Holy Land. I can only hope that under the wise administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Holy Land may at last become a land of peace.

6.57 p.m.

I apologise to you, Sir George, and to the Committee for raising some points of Order. I want to say very deliberately that I have had information from high official sources in Palestine, that one of the primary causes of the revolt last year was the one-sided attitude taken by the Committee of the House of Commons. I do not propose to comment upon that except to say that when my hon. Friend beside me took a certain line he was submitted to interruption which caused the Arabs to think that the whole Committee was against them. It would not be in order to discuss that matter, but I venture, with great respect, to say—I do not think that there is any personal feeling in this matter at all, and, indeed, I hope, no political feeling—that it would be deplorable if we had on this occasion a full debate on the subject of the Palestinian situation. I said in an interruption that if it were to take place we should claim to have some say, and we could keep the House sitting until midnight if we discussed the whole situation very fully with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I warn this Committee most solemnly that they are playing with fire in a way that perhaps no Committee of the House of Commons have had to do since the time of the Irish trouble.

I am quite sure that the Noble Lord cannot direct one word of censure to hon. Members on this side of the Committee for any malice aforethought. We have refrained from uttering one sentence that would do so. The Debate or Debates last year actually took place after the outbreak of violence.

No, not before the main outbreak. I was not attacking the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I never attack him in these Debates, because I appreciate the balance of argument that he attempts to use. I object to only one thing he has said, and I must reply to it. I deny that this was an inspired revolt. It was something much worse, to refer to which would be out of order. He used the words "inspired revolt," and I wish categorically to deny that that is an accurate statement. In my opinion, based on some knowledge of the country—I am one of the few Members who has fought over every inch of it—I would say that the potential gravity of the situation in Palestine to-day, making allowance for the geographical difference of the two countries, is exactly equal to that of Ireland in 1919. For that reason the Vote is justified.

On a point of Order. If this is in order surely we can go on? I can reply to the Noble Lord perfectly well if he is going to compare Palestine with Ireland.

I should have stopped the Noble Lord. I only wanted to hear the end of his sentence. I thought he was referring to it only in a sentence in passing.

I said for that reason the Vote was justified, and that is all I propose to say. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was right to stop me from going any further. But that is the answer to those who object to the payment of this sum. There is another thing that is clearly in order, because it is referred to in the Supplementary Estimate, and that is the action of the right hon. Gentleman in causing the inhabitants of Palestine to have to pay the expenses for this extra number of troops. That is fully justified. People cannot have their cake and eat it. A country which is in a state of revolt must pay the price of that revolt, which is what this Supplementary Estimate is asking the Committee to sanction. I hope there will be no question of any attempt to tone down the financial burden in any way. It is proper that the financial burden should be borne by Palestine. It would be improper that the British Government, as well as having to find an additional large Force, should also have to ask the taxpayers of this country to pay for this deplorable state of affairs. I think the general concensus of opinion in the Committee is that we should not discuss the whole matter until the report of the Royal Commission is out. The sooner it is out the better, and the sooner we can discuss the whole matter the better it will be.

I should like to break a lance on behalf of the Government with the hon. Member for Don Valley, though I always hesitate to attack him as he is so courteous a debater. But he was not fair to the Government on the money that was spent on necessary precautionary measures in countries contiguous to Ethiopia. Had it not been for the action taken by the Colonial Office, serious difficulties might have arisen between our own tribesmen and those on both sides of the border. I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on being able to say that it will not be necessary to have a Supplementary Estimate of this kind in future, because the Government have now come to an agreement with Italy in regard to frontier protection for two years. That is a satisfactory state of affairs. It would have been easy for the state of tension to have remained.

The only other question to which I would like to refer is Malta. I understand that this Estimate has nothing to do with the naval or military defence of Malta, but that all the Government are asking authority for is a sum of money to put the civilian population of Malta in such a position that, had the worst happened and there had been an outbreak of war in the Mediterranean, they would have been protected. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not object to the expenditure of that money?

Perhaps I was not clear enough, and I accept full responsibility for that. I felt it was remarkable that, if the danger were such as the First Lord of the Admiralty told his constituents, it appeared a weak-kneed policy to provide Malta with gas-masks and hospitals only instead of the real defence they were entitled to expect.

That is the whole point. You cannot discuss that on this Vote. If we had been discussing the whole defence of Malta, I would have been glad to reply to the hon. Member, but I think it well that the impression the hon. Member created should be dissipated. The Colonial Office did all that was necessary for the defence of the civilian population against gas attack. The rest of the expenditure appears on the Naval or the Air Force Votes. As regards Transjordan, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is making the grant he is doing. I hope it will be possible to avoid it in future, and I understand it is likely that that will be so if the harvests in the next year are better than they have been in the past. Transjordan has gone through a period of calamity owing to a terrible drought. Hon. Members would sympathise with those unfortunate Arab cultivators, who are miserably poor at the best of times, and will be glad that this small sum is being voted to assist the administration of that country. I am extremely glad that something is being done for Aden, which at one time was under four separate administrations and which now is, happily, under one.

Conditions under the previous administrations were a series of firsts of April. I have visited the place on two official occasions and it was like a comic opera. There was the Government of India, the Government of Bombay, the Colonial Office, the War Office and I think also the Air Ministry. I hope everything possible is being done to improve the accommodation there, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the need for making the amenities of the place as good as they can be.

7.10 p.m.

I wish to take up a matter with the Noble Lord opposite. He warned us that the Debate in this House about nine months ago has been said by many of the officials of the Palestine Government to have been a cause of the troubles in Palestine. We have all heard that, but we have not heard it so loudly from the Arab source as we have from our officials in Palestine. I wonder whether those officials are not in a state of almost perpetual warfare with Parliament. It is their opposition to Parliament which is making the trouble.

I am sorry to have to play the same trick on the right hon. and gallant Member as he played on me, but I suggest that we are not now discussing the civilian administration of Palestine. There is nothing about it in the Vote.

I was allowing the right hon. and gallant Gentleman only just enough time to answer the Noble Lord.

I want to explain why we have to be careful with free speech in this House. The sole useful purpose we serve in all these Colonial matters is that of expressing British public opinion to the people who are being governed, and to the Governors in those countries.

I am grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving me the opportunity of making my point clear. The objection was not to the Debate but to the one-sided nature of the Debate. My hon. Friend beside me was interrupted, and it was said that it showed there was no friend of the Arab people in the House of Commons.

I remember the Noble Lord saying to me how much he differed from me on nearly every point of view but what a useful thing it was that there was always one man in Parliament to stand up for any cause, however unpopular. We must express the public view of Great Britain to the natives of these countries, and the officials. If we were not here, and that was not done, the divergencies in policy between the Government and administrators in distant parts would be greater than they are now. We serve as a useful safety valve for all these questions.

I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Colonial Office still maintains the helpful old practice of charging every deficit on a Colonial budget, not as a grant-in-aid but as a loan to be recovered, and if so which of these items are classed as loans to be recovered and which are a dead loss? The second Malta Vote seems to be a little out of the ordinary. I am not certain what is meant by "non-Malta born Maltese destitute in Turkey."

We have a Vote now for £15,000 for British subjects who lost their jobs in Turkey, because of laws passed in Turkey. May I ask whether the Colonial Office made representations to the Turkish Government before we were put to this heavy charge, which, I gather, is an annual charge so long as these people are destitute? It is a considerable unemployment dole of £15,000 a year. Are they remaining permanently in Turkey, and, if so, are they permanently to be maintained by us? I understand that £15,000 is only half the amount, and that the other half comes from Malta. Therefore, we are paying £30,000 a year to servants of the Turkish Government, whether in trade or commerce, people who were thrown out of their jobs without pensions. Surely, this is the first time that that sort of thing has happened in the British Empire. It should be inquired into. Are we to maintain our Indian or African fellow-subjects if they lose their jobs in a foreign country?

I gather that it is to be on the non-contributory basis. As far as the grants-in-aid to Kenya and British Somaliland are concerned, I understand that there is no dead loss to this country, but the money being voted now is being recouped by increased Customs revenue from those two countries. That means, I am afraid, that during the Italo-Abyssinian War a great deal of war stores were passing through British Somaliland, and I suppose going to the Italian Army.

I should like to remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that when Sanctions came in it was definitely declared and made public that munitions could go through British Somaliland to Abyssinia, and a certain number did, but no arms or munitions went to the Italians. The Sanctions and the embargo covered only certain categories of goods. Certain supplies did go through to both sides.

I am afraid that the root of the evil was petrol going to the Italian Forces through British Somaliland. I hope that it was not so, but I should like to know whether we were clear of the charge of supplying those munitions to Italy.

We are clear in regard to petrol, but not clear in regard to meat, flour and other things of that kind.

Now I come to the Palestine Vote. My objection to the Vote of £1,084,000 is that the money has been wasted. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether the military, when they got to Palestine, had the free hand that they expected and were intended to have in putting down the troubles in Palestine. I should like to know, further, what is General Dill's opinion of the use to which the Army was put in Palestine, and whether this money has been advantageously expended in order to produce such results? The right hon. Gentleman says that the troubles were over when the Army got there, and that martial law was not proclaimed because all is well.

The right hon. Gentleman must have seen from day to day the accounts of the murders of Jews, the murder of the Mayor of Haifa, the continued murders in Haifa and elsewhere of Arab notables who refused to supply funds to the ruffians, and the regrettable persecutions and shootings of Christian Arabs, which means that we are apparently developing exactly the same spirit between Moslem and Christian Arab that we have seen in Iraq, which ended in the massacre of Assyrians in Iraq. When we see these developments and these threats we are, unhappily, conscious of the fact that more trouble is developing in Palestine.

Seeing that we are asked to vote this money in respect of the British Army in Palestine I should like to know whether the Army has now a free hand, and when will martial law be proclaimed? Have the military received orders never to fire unless they are first fired at? Has General Dill the powers necessary to suppress the disorder which has been going on in Palestine?

I was on the point of reminding the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that this is only a Supplementary Estimate, and that there are limits to the extent to which his arguments can go.

It is a large Supplementary Estimate for £1,000,000 for one particular purpose.

It is not a new service, but has the money been wasted or not? My contention is that it is money which has failed, whereas if the military had been given power in Palestine, order would have been restored with far less expenditure, and much earlier. Therefore, I feel bound to criticise this large total of expenditure. There is also the question of it being transferred to the Palestine funds. Fortunately for this country, Palestine had a balance of £6,000,000, but not so fortunate for Palestine. It was an accumulated balance extending over four or five years. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that this sum of £1,000,000 is the difference in the cost of maintaining these troops in Palestine and the cost of maintaining them in Aldershot. But some of these troops, if I am not mistaken, came from Egypt. Is it the difference between maintaining them in Egypt and maintaining them in Palestine, or between maintaining them in Palestine and maintaining them at home? Years ago the Egyptians paid the cost of the troops stationed in Egypt, but that has not been so for many years. The cost of the troops in Egypt is certainly larger than the cost at Aldershot, and the additional burden, in fact the whole burden, has been borne by the British taxpayer for the troops in Egypt. Now that these troops in Egypt have been removed to Palestine, does the taxpayer in this country reap the benefit of not having any longer to pay the increased charge that he paid before? Is this a case solely of extra expenditure involved to this country by the trouble in Palestine, or is it something more than that by what would otherwise be paid extra for the troops in Egypt? These points seem to me to be worthy of consideration.

I should like to say something about the Transjordan grant-in-aid. My hon. Friend and the Noble Lord agreed with the recommendation of this loan of £11,500 to Transjordan, and particularly that part which goes to provide seeds for the Transjordan fellaheen. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point. When I was in Palestine I was told that the seed was given to the landlord, who then supplied it to the tenant farmers, who are paid on the metayer system. The metayer cultivator pays one half or one-third of his crop to the landlord, so that he gets no benefit whatever from the free seed. The seed was in that case in Palestine a gift to the landlords, and the demands of the landlords on the peasant were as heavy as ever. That seems to me not to be a fair way of dealing with what is a gift from this country. The gift should go to the people who need the seed, and not to the middlemen who farm out the land to people whose condition is almost that of serfs. I have nothing further to say. The main point about the Supplementary Estimate is that we ought to be assured that this sum of £1,000,000 has not been wasted, and that the work that it was intended to do will be done at the earliest possible moment.

7.27 p.m.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asks whether the money we are now approving was wasted. When revolts break out in any part of the British Empire they have to be put down. This one was put down, and it was put down certainly with great moderation. I believe that no shot was fired by a British soldier in Palestine before shots were fired at British soldiers.

Those were the orders and that was the policy, and I think it is a policy highly worthy of our country. It shows our desire to make friends with the population of countries in which we are sometimes compelled to put down revolts. If the right hon. Gentleman does not think that the spending of this money on the British army in Palestine has gone some way towards that end, I should like to embark upon one very short but strictly relevant story, which shows how the British Army was appreciated by the Arabs. The day after the revolt was finally called off, after the strike was called off, three young British officers went out shooting partridges and took with them an escort of five private soldiers, with rifles. As a result of their day's shooting they got three partridges, and they were returning and descending a hill when they saw an armed Arab band. The armed Arab band saw them at the same time. There was no retreat, so the British soldiers took up a position and lay in wait to see what would happen. The Arab band steadily extended until they nearly surrounded them and then started to close in upon them, but when they got within 100 yards one of the Arabs advanced, holding a white handkerchief, and said to the chief of the three officers, in English: "We understand that you are out shooting for pleasure; go in peace." I think that is a little testimony to the way in which the British Army were appreciated by the Arabs.

Does the hon. Member think that that increased the Arab respect for the British Army?

I do not think the British Army gains respect by adopting Prussian methods, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman apparently likes. During all the time that the utmost bravery and determination were displayed by the British Army, at no period were they other than courteous to the natives. That is a fine tribute to the British Army, and is much more likely to bring about peace in Palestine.

7.31 p.m.

I am not quite clear from the White Paper whether the increased revenue is due to the improved conditions in Somaliland. If it is, then it is a matter for congratulation that things are improving. I am not quite clear also whether the frontier patrols have been completely withdrawn. With regard to the greater part of this Vote we have to go further back than the Somali dispute or the Palestine dispute. This expenditure of money is the result of something that happened in the years gone by when we should have dealt with the causes which have led to this unsatisfactory and deplorable expenditure that we have now to consider. The reason why we are engaged in passing this Vote, as far as Ethiopia is concerned, is that we did not keep the promise we made to Italy—

The hon. Member will agree with me that that is clearly outside the scope of this Vote.

We have to look ahead and see what the expenditure is likely to be in the future. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said can lead us to believe that there is likely to be any diminution in the future.

I think the hon. Member will realise that on this Vote we cannot deal with the future or with the past.

If one cannot deal with the future or the past I do not know how we can deal with the present. The present depends on what has happened in the past and what is to happen in the present is going to have a very serious influence on the future.

7.33 p.m.

I want to challenge the doctrine that when a Royal Commission has been appointed on any subject the questions which the Royal Commission have been asked to consider must be regarded as sub judice. I should never dream of accepting any such doctrine and, in fact, such a doctrine has never been observed. I say that with special reference to the fact that we are not supposed to comment on matters contained in the Supplementary Estimate because a Royal Commission is inquiring into the affairs of Palestine. I was in Palestine at the beginning of this year and I found on all hands a general criticism of the Government in this country in sending military forces to Palestine and of the way in which the whole situation was handled. There was the greatest resentment among both sides of the population at the way in which things had gone, and now the Government are adding to the difficulties of the situation by saying that the people of Palestine are to be responsible for all this expenditure of money. Nobody in Palestine believes that all the soldiers were sent out there in connection with the troubles which had arisen. They believed that it was a part of the Government's policy in connection with their general Imperialist interests. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that was the idea held in Palestine.

I should like to ask whether the administration in Palestine suggested to the Home Government that anything like this number of forces was required to deal with the trouble. Who was responsible for the estimate as to the number of troops which would be necessary? It may be that the administration in Palestine was responsible for the advice. We have heard from an hon. Member the doctrine that you must trust the man on the spot; and how wonderful the High Commissioner has been. As I listened to the hon. Member I wondered that there could be any trouble in Palestine at all, when everybody was so anxious to do the best for everybody concerned. I gathered from the people in Palestine that this expenditure which we are being asked to vote to-day was quite unnecessary and that it was largely undertaken because the administration in Palestine had proved itself inefficient. We have also been warned as to the tension which exists there and the necessity of not saying anything which would create a difficult situation in Palestine. As a matter of fact, many things are being said. There is the evidence given to the Royal Commission and statements made by the Press which is circulating in Palestine.

The hon. Member cannot discuss the evidence given before the Royal Commission, because it has not been published yet.

There have been Press statements published of the evidence which has been given before the Royal Commission, and I am only drawing attention to the fact that while there is this difficult and dangerous situation in Palestine a great deal of humbug is being uttered to the effect that you must not say anything, you must keep quiet, and not give expression to any views on the situation. That is how the trouble arose which has been responsible to a large extent for this expenditure of money. It is much better to get as much public attention drawn to what is happening in the country in order to make such expenditure unnecessary in the future. The general criticism in Palestine was that the trouble was due to the weakness of the administration. We had an evidence of the kind of administration there is in Palestine from the way in which my colleague the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) was refused an opportunity of expressing some views on the situation, largely by Government Departments and I think the Chief Secretary. If the way in which the broadcasts are handled is an illustration of the way in which government is carried on generally in Palestine, then I have no doubt that the feelings expressed to me by both Arabs and Jews were fully justified.

I am interested in the loan to the Government of Transjordan for Arab cultivators. I am in thorough sympathy with that money being voted, but I also found that some of the trouble which has led to this expenditure of money and the sending of troops to Palestine was due to the way in which the Arab cultivators had been treated by the administration. There was a lack of consideration. All this money has been piling up and the Budget surplus should have been used to make things better for the Arab peasantry in Palestine. I am against the action of the Government in deciding beforehand that the people in Palestine were in the wrong. The question is whether the administration was not in the wrong. I do not know what the Royal Commission will report, but I think that the administration was more responsible for the situation which resulted in this expenditure than the people of Palestine, and if it was the consequence of the administration placed upon them by the Government in this country then the people of Palestine should not be called upon to pay the charges which are involved in this Vote. Unfortunately the Secretary of State has prejudged the case by deciding, by means of this Vote, to tell the people of Palestine that they are to be mulcted in millions of pounds in connection with the sending of soldiers to Palestine.

I believe that the administration largely contributed towards making the situation what it was. From what I have seen and heard in Palestine, I believe that the administration acted in the weakest possible fashion, and I protest now against the way in which the Government are throwing this charge upon the people of Palestine. If such Supplementary Estimates are to be made unnecessary in the future, the administration must spend the money of the people of Palestine in such a way as to make development possible for both sections of the community, in a manner in which they have not done in the past. There must be development of roads and Many other things. I shall welcome the opportunity, which I hope will arise at an early date when we have the full Estimates before us, of being able to deal with all questions of policy fully, for I believe that, although the Royal Commission is sitting, it is urgent that we should have an opportunity of discussing that policy in view of the possibility of there being worse troubles this year than last year.

7.47 p.m.

I listened with astonishment to the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), because I remember that in the days of my youth, when I was beginning to turn to the fields of revolution, I used to hear of a great and energetic anarchist who was opposed to all authority—

And now, behold the anarchist saying that there was not enough military power exerted against the Arabs in Palestine. Truly the world moves, and those within the world also move in very strange ways. I wish to take the greatest possible exception to the general accusations which have been made and which have suggested that this fine body of people, the Arabs, are murderers and blackguards. [Interruption.] That suggestion was made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who was talking about murderers and so on.

I have not heard the whole of the Debate, but I have not heard that anybody said such things. In any case, the question does not arise on this Vote.

It has been said that they are ruffians and murderers, and I object to that. We are here dealing with a Supplementary Estimate which arises from the trouble in Palestine. The Arabs are not ruffians and bandits. An hon. Member opposite told a story that should have a lesson for all of us. If a body of Englishmen under the leadership of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had had a small body of Arabs encircled, would they have said, "You are out shooting for pleasure; go in peace"? No, the Arabs would have gone in pieces. It is possible that, arising out of the troubles in Palestine, there may have been people who took advantage of the situation and played the part of ruffians. If we have a demonstration in Glasgow, and some trouble takes place in connection with it, there are always people having nothing to do with the demonstration who take advantage of the trouble in that way. The trouble in Palestine brought with it the necessity for the Arabian people to make a splendid demonstration and to fight to maintain their independence. That was the question at issue.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said that maybe the money was wasted. I am positive it was wasted. I do not wish to go outside your Ruling, but I am sure you will permit me to say that if, instead of spending this money in the way in which it was spent, it had been spent in setting up a Legislative Assembly, there would have been no trouble in Palestine. Probably there will be more difficulties as the result of the situation there, but if it is a question of ruffians, I would recommend the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to give his attention to Mr. Jabotinsky and his Fascist organisation, who are deliberately carrying on provocation. The Colonial Secretary cannot deny that. What is he going to do about it? I suggest that this money has been wasted, and that it could have been spent in a much better manner. I suggest to the Colonial Secretary that, in view of the fact that this is the Mother of Parliaments, a democratic institution, and that he claims to represent domocratic institutions, he should, in such cases, go to the limit in the use of democratic institutions before he brings in the bayonet and the bomb.

7.52 p.m.

I will deal briefly with one or two of the points that have been made, without going into the wide questions of policy. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) asked a question about the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I can assure him that there is no innovation and no new practice, and that the insertion of this item arises merely from the fact that when money is voted as a grant-in-aid in such a case, it is accounted for and the auditing is done by the Director of Colonial Audit or the Auditor-General of Malta. It would be impossible to have to bring the whole of it to the Public Accounts Committee here. I assure the hon. Member that there is here no departure from a long-established practice. The hon. Member also referred to the words "dispute" and "war." I admit that I was responsible for both words. We all know that these people were not sent to help Mussolini or to help Abyssinia, but quite frankly they were sent to prevent our nomadic tribes in Somaliland and on the Northern frontier of Kenya from getting into trouble. When there is a war in an adjoining territory, one has to take steps to protect oneself, particularly in that sort of country. We took these steps entirely in the interests of our own tribes and in our desire to prevent incidents which might have led to trouble taking place.

I am glad my Noble Friend alluded to the fact that during the last few weeks the Chief Secretary for British Somaliland, accompanied by an official of my Department, has been to Rome and that they have fixed up, for two years, an amicable agreement in regard to the Southern frontier of British Somaliland concerning the grazing rights and rights to visit wells inside what is now Italian occupied territory. I hope this will lead to less tension on the frontier. In the past it has been the practice of the Somalis both on the Abyssinian and Italian side of the frontier on the one hand and ours on the other hand to cross the frontier at different times of the year for grazing and so on. There has been frequent danger of incidents, but I hope the position will now be altered. I will give a case to show why it is necessary to do these things even when we are not actually engaged in a dispute. I was talking to the Swiss representative on the Permanent Mandates Commission in Geneva, and learned that, although Switzerland was neutral in the Great War, he was called up as an officer to serve on the Swiss-German frontier to defend the integrity and neutrality of his country. That is an inevitable consequence of war in any part of the world.

I have been asked what was done to defend the civilian population in Malta during the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. Large sums of money have already been voted in order to send some of our newest and best anti-aircraft guns to defend Malta, and an increased number of submarines was sent. The hon. Gentleman opposite, in the course of his remarks, made a reference which, I think, is entirely out of proportion, and which I will correct now because it may do a great deal of harm to our whole position in Malta and to the attitude of the overwhelming majority of Maltese towards him and the House if it is not put straight. The Maltese are, practically without exception, devout Roman Catholics.

No, but they are devout Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic Church is the established Church in Malta just as the Presbyterian Church is in Scotland, and the Anglican Church in England. Malta is the one place in the Empire where the Roman Catholic Church is the established church. When the hon. Gentleman talks about the Italian clergy being nominees of the British Government, and says that because the Roman Catholic Church is established in Malta the British Government become responsible for everything that every Maltese bishop or dean says, it is fantastic; and I think it would do a great deal of harm to Parliament if the hon. Gentleman took up the line of argument that it is up to me or the British Government to make promises one way or the other because the Roman Catholic Church is established in Malta and to that extent the ecclesiastical dignities there are nominees of the British Government. May I give this example? The Bishop of Birmingham, Dr. Barnes, is a nominee of the Crown in the See of Birmingham. I periodically read his sermons and his speeches, and I do not think I ever agree with his theology, his politics or his science, and I do not think he ever opens his mouth without my violently disagreeing with him.

Although I think that personally, I do not think it is proper and right that, as a Member of the Government, I should give expression to that view. Therefore, I appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to adopt that line of argument, because I do not think it will have the effect in Malta, which I am sure he wants to have, namely, of maintaining the loyalty of the vast mass of the Maltese people to the British Government.

I readily respond to the right hon. Gentleman's statement. Personally, I have no animosity to the established religion in Malta, Quebec or Timbuctoo. The reference I made, however, was only to the action of the leaders of the Church when they deliberately set out to support a Government directly contrary to the expressed policy of His Majesty's Government. Beyond that I do not intend to go, and I hope I did not go in the observations I made.

The hon. Gentleman referred to it again in connection with the defence of Malta, and I am sure that, if the inference he wished to draw was that I ought to have said something against the Bishops and Clergy of their own church in Malta it would have been most unfortunate and unhelpful to the general situation.

It is essential that the position of the ecclesiastics in these churches should be made clear and that it should be understood that I cannot take responsibility for what they say as ecclesiastics.

Do I understand that the Colonial Secretary is entitled to condemn the Bishop of Birmingham and not the Bishop of Malta?

No, I say that I am not entitled to condemn him as representing the Government; I am not entitled to interfere with him or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The right hon. Gentleman must agree that there is a vast difference between a sermon or a speech delivered by the Bishop of Birmingham, or any other bishop in this country, and the leaders of the Church in Malta organising the whole island for a day of prayer and using that incident to send a telegram to a participant in a rebellion in another country.

I will not pursue it, but I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that the religious susceptibilities of people in a varied Empire with different creeds and races must not be challenged in this House; and because a church is established, it is no reason why the Minister in charge of the Colonies or the Dominions should be held responsible, as the hon. Gentleman tried to hold me responsible, for something which an established church clergyman says or does not say.

I thank the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) for his personal references to me. I do, I think, go round the map every morning in dealing with a great variety of human beings and a multiplicity of problems. I thank him for what he said about the wisdom of restraining our language in this House on the subject of our policy in Palestine until we have had the report of Lord Peel's Commission. I have realised, ever since I set up that Commission, that until it has reported I cannot begin to make up my mind as to the policy that should be pursued in Palestine because the Commission was asked to go into the underlying causes. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has his views as to the weaknesses of the administration. I wish to know the views of the Royal Commission, and I wish to hear their comments on the situation. The hon. Member for West. Fife (Mr. Gallacher) asked why we did not have a legislative council. I was not Colonial Secretary at the time of the Debate on Palestine before the disturbances broke out, but I understand that it largely turned on the question of a legislative council, and nobody in the House in any part would have it, and no one was more strong against it than the party opposite. That being so, it is hardly fair for the hon. Gentleman to charge me, when he did not support the legislative council on that occasion—

I am not holding the Minister responsible. I am asking whether he does not agree that this £1,000,000 could have been better spent on setting up a legislative assembly than on the military.

This money had to be spent, and was quite rightly spent, after the disturbances had broken out with a view to bringing them to an end, and I entirely disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that the money was wasted and that the sending of the troops was wasted. He seems to have at the back of his mind that it is wasting money on troops unless they kill a lot of people.

I do not think that the troops are wasted unless they kill a lot of people, but I think they are wasted unless they can achieve what they were sent out for, that is, to stop the riots and the trouble.

Before that division went to Palestine, there was a universal Arab strike, a refusal to acknowledge and to co-operate in any way with the British Government, and attacks on Jewish settlements, transport, railways and telegraphs. That sort of thing was going on and increasing seriously. On 12th October it stopped. The strike ceased, transport began again. I do not say that all crime stopped, but there has been far less of it. There has been co-operation with the Commission, which was able to proceed to Palestine to hear the evidence. No doubt we shall see that evidence in due course. I have not seen it yet, but only what the newspaper reports have published. I say that the sending of the troops was abundantly worth while because it did that. I will definitely state with full authority, in reply to the hon. Member for Camlachie, that we had no ulterior motive in sending the troops. Why we should have had an ulterior motive, I cannot think. They went in September, the last of them arriving in the last few days of September, and the bulk of them got back by Christmas.

Yes, but let me be strictly accurate and straight with the Committee; they were not asked for in quite such large numbers. I take full responsibility for sending a complete division to act and work as a whole, after consultation with the General Staff here. We had a discussion with the General Staff, and as there was a martial law Order in Council ready, it was felt that if we were to have full martial law and the partial setting aside of civil administration in Palestine, it was desirable and necessary to have a division to deal with the situation.

There is a constitutional point of great importance here, and my right hon. Friend inadvertently may have said something that will be criticised in Palestine. He said "I took full responsibility." Surely only the Cabinet could take responsibility for action of this kind?

I wanted to make clear that the responsibility was not on the Palestine administration, but on the Government here, and I was speaking on behalf of the Government. Of course, it was a Government decision and it was well known in Palestine that it was a Government decision. My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) drew attention to a point in my opening remarks in regard to Aden. From 1st April this year Aden becomes a colony and is transferred from the Government of India. This Supplementary Estimate is for improved accommodation for the British personnel in Aden who will have to administer not only the colony, but the sphere of influence in the neighbourhood.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with my question whether the Arabs have been allowed to retain their arms?

There are a great many arms illicitly held by both Arabs and Jews in different parts of Palestine. Efforts to control the inflow of arms last year failed, and we know that hidden here, there and everywhere in Palestine are large numbers of arms and considerable amounts of ammunition. That is why we are continuing to keep considerable Forces in Palestine. We cannot be sure that there will not be further outbreaks. That these arms have been coming in for some time—not so intensively last year, but for some time before—is known to us, and it is impossible to get them short of adopting very difficult and drastic measures in collecting them. It is extremely difficult to get rifles which are hidden away in villages. It is not a case of armed bands possessing rifles. We had armed bands, of course, particularly from outside Palestine, but the problem now is the very large number of arms in the possession of the civilian population generally, and that has been the case since the War. A very large number of the rifles which were captured were old British and Turkish rifles, and there were a good many French rifles which came through from the Hauran at the time when the French had their difficulties at Damascus. That is the problem with which we are faced. In Palestine you are not dealing with a normal democratic country, but with a country in which there are two great historic races, with all the feelings which they have inherited from the past and as my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham pointed out, a situation of very serious racial and religious tension.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the number of arms held both by Arabs and Jews. Does he really compare the position of the holding of arms by people who only use them and only could use them in defence, with the position of people who use them to commit murder?

I shall not at this time attempt to answer so unwise a question. It could do nothing but harm if I attempted to answer such a question. All I say is that, according to the law, no citizen in Palestine unless he is authorised by the Government ought to be in possession of arms. A considerable number of arms are held on both sides, and I leave it at that. I think I have covered all the points of substance which have been raised, except possibly that relating to the loan of the Transjordan Government. Owing to a series of crop failures, in the winter of 1935–36 in Transjordan it has been necessary, in order to prevent destitution among certain cultivators of land, to lend them money to purchase fresh seed. The loan is administered entirely through the Transjordan Agricultural Bank which is under the supervision of the Government. A previous loan of this kind was made in 1933 and 1934, and has been entirely repaid, and we have no reason to anticipate that the present loan will not be repaid quite soon to the Government.

By the cultivators. I have no knowledge that the métayer system which exists on some Arab lands in Palestine obtains among these cultivators in Transjordan but I will make inquiries. As far as we can gather the agricultural bank there operates rather on the lines on which the agricultural bank in Egypt used to operate, and deals directly with the cultivators.

Is it not communal cultivation there? I am sure hon. Members opposite would not object to communal cultivation, that is, cultivation by the whole tribe.

In what I may call the outlying districts which are tribal, that is so, but round about El Hasa and in the Jordan Valley are settled peasant cultivators who are no longer tribal. I would not like to generalise or to say that they are not being assisted as well as the tribal cultivators. I think I have now covered all the points which hon. Members raised.

As I said, the Turkish law was only passed in 1934, and came into operation at the end of 1935, and it is hoped that this is purely a temporary problem and that it may be possible to get these Maltese out of Asia Minor and settled elsewhere. I agree that the action of the Turkish Government was not directed against the Maltese, but rather against all and sundry. They passed a law requiring that all the people in certain professions or occupations should be Turkish subjects. I think I remember that at the time considerable protests were made, but the Turkish Government were entitled in the exercise of full sovereignty in their own country to pass such a law, and they did pass that law, and we have to follow it.

Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £106,520, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.


"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £106,620, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants in Aid."

put, and agreed to.