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Palestine

Volume 436: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1947

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Terrorist Damage, Haifa

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of the damage resulting from the oil installation fire at Haifa caused by terrorist activity; and what steps he is taking to raise the money in Palestine.

No accurate estimate of the cost is available, but the Shell Oil Company, whose installations were those damaged in this terrorist outrage, has through its representatives in Palestine expressed the opinion that the ultimate cost of restoration, including the value of the oil stocks destroyed, will be not less than £400,000. No financial liability for damage done by terrorists is accepted by the Palestine Government. The question of possible steps to recover the cost of this damage is still under consideration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the best means of restraining terrorists is by means of a communal fine and insistence on its being paid?

Illegal Immigrants (Cost)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the total number of Jews now accommodated in the camps at Cyprus; what is the cost of these camps to date; how much does it cost a month to administer them; for what number of persons were these camps originally designed; what steps it is proposed to take this year to accommodate the increasing flow of Jews to Palestine; and whether the executive and legislative councils have made any representations to His Majesty's Government on these matters.

The total number of illegal Jewish immigrants now accommodated in the camps in Cyprus is 14,434. The estimate of £1,900,000 given in my reply to the hon. Member on 17th December as the cost of the camps up to 31st March, 1947, has proved to be excessive, but I am not yet in a position to give an exact figure of expenditure up to that date. The cost of administration for the numbers now in the camp is approximately £45,000 a month. In addition £50,758 has been spent up to date on local purchases for welfare purposes. The camps were originally designed to accommodate 10,000 persons, but have since been extended. His Majesty's Government have under constant review the provision of accommodation to meet the number of arrivals expected. No representations on these matters have been made by the Executive Council to His Majesty's Government.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say how much of this expenditure falls on the taxpayer here?

In view of the fact that this figure of 14,000 is very much below the figure of 100,000 which every investigating authority has fixed as the figure which can be permitted to enter Palestine without affecting the political and economic balance, would it not be cheaper for Palestine and this country to allow these 14,000 people into Palestine now?

That raises the whole problem of illegal immigration which is a different question from that on the Order Paper.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether this cost includes the cost for the British soldiers who have to guard and administer these camps?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Palestinian Jewish settlers themselves are prepared and anxious to help these people to regain their moral and mental status and are prepared to pay in order to see that these people shall be restored in this way? Will he take steps to give them the opportunity of doing that?

I am fully aware of the point. As I have said, the supplementary questions now put to me relate to the whole problem of illegal immigration which is apart altogether from the problem of the camps in Cyprus.

Are illegal immigrants given a priority for legal admission into Palestine over the women, orphans and children still remaining in camps in Europe?

There are admissions of 750 a month which form part of the quota for Palestine.

Administration Costs

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the present revenue and expenditure of Palestine; to what extent is the cost of administration, including expenses, arising from maintaining large military, naval and air services in that country, borne by taxpayers in Palestine and this country, respectively; and what are the sums involved.

The estimated revenue and expenditure of Palestine for 1946–47 are £25½ million and £22 million respectively, but this estimate does not take into account several major items of expenditure such as the cost of the Cyprus camps, possibly amounting in all to £3 million, which will fall to be met from Palestine funds. The cost of civil administration, including the police, is borne by Palestine. The cost of military, naval and air forces is borne by Imperial funds with the exception of a contribution of £42,797 by Palestine in respect of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force. Questions regarding the cost of military, naval and air services should be addressed to the Ministers concerned, but I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the answer given on 6th March to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Will the Minister say if either of the first two figures he has given includes the cost of the administration of the Palestine railways?

Does not the Minister agree that the last answer provides an admirable illustration for His Majesty's Government that while it is always more honourable for any Government to keep its promises it is also sometimes cheaper as well?

Is not the basis of taxation per head in Palestine a good deal lighter than in this country, and how large is the bill for Armed Forces compared with the entire revenue of Palestine?

I should require notice concerning the amount of expenditure on the Services. Questions regarding the Armed Forces should be addressed to my Service colleagues.

Could not the Minister answer the first part of my question with regard to the rate of taxation?

I think that Palestine is heavily taxed at the moment, but how this compares with taxation here I cannot say.

Could not immense economy he effected and greater justice achieved if the Government reverted to their pre-governmental policy in this matter?

Who will bear the cost of compensating the dependants of British soldiers murdered in the course of their duties?

Railways (Protection)

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what measures are being taken in Palestine to safeguard the permanent way and protect express railway trains against sabotage by terrorists.

The measures at present in force to protect the permanent way and trains of the Palestine Railways. against terrorist outrages include patrols, guards, frequent examination of the lines, and the restriction of traffic to the hours of daylight. In addition, a curfew prohibiting all movement outside built-up areas is imposed as the situation demands.

Would the Secretary of State consider sending out scientific experts to assist the local authorities to deal with these mines?

I think it will be appreciated that this kind of sabotage is exceedingly difficult to detect, but the local authorities are taking all precautions and all possible steps to deal with it.