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Civil Estimates, Supplementary Estimate, 1938

Volume 345: debated on Monday 20 March 1939

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Class Ii

1. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £14,400, 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, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies."

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,044,710, 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, 1939, 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."

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

8.28 p.m.

I do not desire to provoke a Debate on this Supplementary Estimate, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. In view of the highly complicated situation in the international field, and particularly in Eastern Europe, would it not be in the best interests of all parties concerned, and especially of the Government, if the Government were to defer the question of Palestine until the atmosphere in the international field is much clearer and easier than it is at the moment? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will express an opinion upon that matter.

8.29 p.m.

I have no desire to raise the wider questions involved by the Palestine Conference, but there are one or two questions that I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The conference has come to an end, and I should like to know how far that sum of money has actually been expended. It may be that the conference has gone on rather longer than was expected. I understand that the Jews have paid their own expenses, and that the whole sum has actually been spent upon the Arabs. I should like to know whether that is the case, as that will to some extent affect the amount of money that must be available. One cannot help feeling that the situation in Palestine is very largely due to the same causes which are creating trouble in the whole world at the present time. I am sure the Secretary of State —whether he feels inclined to say anything or not I do not know—knows as to the amount of money that has been spent and the interference there has been in Palestine by Germany and Italy with the deliberate object of making things as difficult as they can for the Government of this country carrying out a most difficult task there. The question which has been asked by the hon. Member is a very interesting one and certainly requires careful consideration at the present time. In the ordinary way the Government were to make an announcement in the course of a. few days as to their policy. There have been suggestions, for which I cannot think there is any foundation, that there may be something which will be regarded as in some sense a repudiation of the National Home for the Jews. If that were so, it would only be regarded as a surrender to violence and would have a disastrous effect upon our friends all over the world, particularly at a moment like this when we want all the friends we can find. I hope the Secretary of State will bear that point in mind, and perhaps it may influence him in saying that he does not consider this to be a particularty appropriate moment for opening a controversy, which, I am afraid, in any case will arise when the declaration of the Government comes to be made.

8.32 p.m.

I have been:asked two or three questions and I will reply to them straight away. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) suggested that the total expenses of this conference had been on account of the Arab delegates in view of the fact that the Jewish representatives had met the expense of their own hospitality in London. It is true that the Jewish representatives chose to do that and that none of this money has been spent on their hospitality or entertainment in London outside St. James' Palace. A good deal of expense has been incurred in St. James' Palace on account of typing, messenger staff, extra telephone provisions, and so on in connection with the Jewish discussions, just as these extra expenses were involved on account of the Arab discussions. Therefore, it would not be true to say that the whole of the sum which has been spent has been spent on account of the conferences with the Arab delegation. With regard to the question whether seeing that these discussions continued rather longer than we hoped, the expenses are being kept within the Estimate, we have not yet got the final figures, but I understand that they will show that despite the greater length to which the conferences ran, we shall be comfortably and reasonably within the Estimate of £14,400. With regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), I would only say now, that we have that matter in mind and are giving it very careful consideration.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Second Resolution agreed to.