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Volume 439: debated on Wednesday 9 July 1947

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English Books (Translations)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Arabic and Hebrew translations of books by English authors have been published in Palestine during the past five years; what assistance was given by the Palestine Government or the British Council; and what further steps are contemplated to spread a knowlege of English literature in Palestine.

Five Arabic and ninety. Hebrew translations of books by English authors were published in Palestine during the past five years. Financial assistance by the Government and the British Council has been confined to books of specific educational value. Instruction in English is included in the curricula of the Arab and Jewish schools and in general both Arabs and Jews who receive a higher education read English books in the originals. There is no shortage of English books in the shops and libraries. The British Council is active in promoting increased study of English through its Institutes and libraries and lessons in the English langage are broadcast by the Palestine Broadcasting Service.

I did not quite hear the right hon. Gentleman. Was I right in thinking that the figures were five and 90 and, if so, can he explain this apparent discrepancy, and will he place in the library a list of English books of educational value which have been translated?

I am unable to explain these circumstances, except to say that these books are published by private publishers, but if it is possible to obtain the list required, I will do so and put it in the Library.

Major Farran (Arrest)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why Major R. A. Farran, of the Palestine police, was recently arrested.

The circumstances of Major Farran's arrest were given in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 2nd July, to which I have nothing to add.

Could my right hon. Friend ask the authorities concerned to make up their minds as quickly as possible about the charge on which this officer is to be tried, and that the trial, when it does take place, should be held in public?

These factors are being inquired into by the Palestinian authorities.

Underground Water Supplies


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what opposition to the draft Palestine Water Ordinance was expressed when it was first published in 1942; what steps have been taken to meet such objections in the law in this regard promulgated recently; and what was the urgency that required the promulgation of that law at the present time when the problem of Palestine and the future of that country is under inquiry by U.N.O.

the Irrigation (Underground Water) Bill which was published in Palestine on 19th June, is based upon similar legislation in other countries. In drafting it consideration has been given to the objections raised by the Jewish Agency and the General Agricultural Council of Palestine to a Bill prepared in 1942. But the objection to the principle of public control of underground water resources cannot be accepted. The absence of such control was in fact criticised by the Anglo- American Committee of Inquiry. The urgent need of powers to control distribution and exploitation of underground water supplies, and to collect information on which to base planned development of water resources as a whole, has been again emphasised by the recent abnormal drought and by the inauguration of certain schemes for the supply of water to new areas. Public control of water is essential and the administration cannot wait longer before tackling this urgent problem.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter has been on the tapis for a long number of years and that this is an inopportune moment when the United Nations Committee of Inquiry is sitting to crystallise this point? Is he further aware that this is one of two suggestions contained in the Anglo-American Committee's Report which are being put into effect, although my right hon. Friend said that none would be put into effect without the others?

The action does not, of course, depend on the Report of the Anglo-American Commission, but I think it will be appreciated that with the increasing population in Palestine and also the effects of the recent drought, some action has become imperative, and it is therefore inevitable that the Government should act now in regard to bringing the water resources of Palestine under some degree of public control.

Can my right hon. Friend say why this matter has been delayed so long seeing that many years ago the Palestine Government got an expert irrigation engineer from India to submit a system for the control of the water supply of the whole of Palestine?

I can only imagine it was because a Labour Government was not in office.

Has the Labour Government only come into Office this week? And what happened during the two years it has already been here?

Will my right hon. Friend allay the fears that are held in consequence of the fact that this Bill has suddenly been published, the fears of the Jewish population that their plans and arrangements for water supply will be interfered with?

This has not been suddenly brought into force. Discussion in regard to these projects were going on for quite a long time, but the situation is so rapidly deteriorating that action must be taken.

In view of my right hon. Friend's last answer but one, can he tell us on what date the Labour Government decided to change the policy of previous Governments, and whether this applies to anything else in Palestine besides underground water?

Will the Minister assure the House that all proper steps in this matter will now be finalised?

Jewish Immigrants, Cyprus (Camps)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how it is proposed in future to meet the cost of camps in Cyprus for illegal Jewish immigrants, which already exceeds £1,000,000.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17th June to the hon. Member for Bermondsey, West (Mr. Sargood), to which I have nothing to add.

British Guiana (Development)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if there is any likelihood of initiating a scheme of State development of part of the hinterland of British Guiana on the lines of the East African groundnut undertaking.

The question of the development of the interior of British Guiana will receive careful consideration by the Commission of Inquiry which is shortly to visit the Colony. On the information at present available, it does not seem probable that anything on the lines of the East African groundnut undertaking would be practicable, but I shall await the report of the Commission.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that all previous attempts to settle the Rupununi hinterland, even with Syrians some 30 years ago, have always failed because of very bad health conditions and bad transport?

We are very well aware of that, but we must await the report of the Commission.

Hong Kong (Chinese Nationals)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will offer sanctuary in Hong Kong to those Chinese professors, lecturers and students from the National Wuhan University, Wuchang, recently raided by Kuomintang police, who desire to enter the University of Hong Kong.

There is no restriction upon the entry of Chinese nationals into Hong Kong. So far as the Hong Kong Government is concerned, therefore, the persons to whom my hon. Friend refer: are at liberty to proceed to the Colony at any time they please.

In view of the very serious effect this particular incident had upon the students and professors of the University, would the right hon. Gentleman offer sanctuary in the University itself to those students who desire to pursue their studies further?

As the hon. Member is aware the question of the University in Hong Kong is now under consideration, but it is quite possible for students to proceed to Hong Kong.