Tenancy Of Shops (Scotland) Bill
Lord John Hope
"to make provision with regard to tenancies of shops in Scotland," presented by Mr. Woodburn; supported by the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, Mr. Thomas Fraser and Mr. J. J. Robertson; read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 49.]
Business Of The House
Lord John Hope
Proceedings on any Motion for the Adjournment of the House moved by a Minister of the Crown exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for One hour after Ten o'clock.—[The Prime Minister.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Whiteley.]
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
At the outset I should like to thank the House for not pressing for a Debate on this subject last week. As I then said, His Majesty's Government welcome the opportunity to state again the policy they are pursuing, not only in regard to Palestine, but to the whole of the Middle East area. Some of those who have asked for this Debate, I understand, wish to question the policy of His Majesty's Government in the whole of the Middle East since we took office. In this Debate, therefore, I am unable to confine the matter within the narrow limits of the conflict which is going on at the moment in Palestine, but rather must take the subject on the wider basis.The United Kingdom has interests, obligations, and responsibilities in maintaining security and stability in the Middle East, and it is the deliberate purpose of our policy to be faithful to those obligations. In dealing with this problem we have steadily supported all the resolutions of the Security Council as regards both sides in the Palestine dispute. From that policy His Majesty's Government are not going to be deterred an inch. I am sure that we shall have the support of all those with real experience of these problems, and with knowledge of what is at stake in the Middle East, in carrying out this purpose. From 1919 to 1945 there has been within successive United Kingdom Governments a conflict of policy, and, as far as I can trace it, there was never unanimity about how to deal with the problems of the Middle East, and especially with Palestine. As a result of the break-up of the Turkish Empire, several independent Arab States were formed; but in Palestine the policy was to create, in fact, a bi-national State. It seems to me that during all that period this country has been trying to ride two very difficult horses at once, and we have always been balancing ourselves only with very great difficulty. Speeches have been made in all parties pledging support to one or other solution of the Palestine problem, now to the Jews and now to the Arabs. Most of the proposals made were incompatible with our obligations under the Mandate and were not realisable in practice. I have always been willing and eager to take note of and to consider any constructive proposals put forward, in this House or elsewhere, for trying to grapple with this problem. I have also been confronted with attacks, untruths, half-truths and abuse, reflecting not only on me personally, but on the British people who have done so much for the Middle East and for Palestine. Some of these things I must deal with today, although I have tried to keep mainly to a factual account, in the hone that this Debate may still contribute to a final settlement and to understanding between these two Semitic peoples. For a long time the United States and ourselves have seen eye to eye on a basic Middle East policy of increasing the economic well-being and sense of security in the Middle East. The fact that we and the Americans have similar interests and objectives in this vital area is a matter of very great importance. The further fact that we have from time to time differed on the best means of achieving peace and a lasting settlement over Palestine in no way affects our basic aims. There has been the danger that the Middle East might become a second Balkan area torn by internal dissensions, and the scene of international rivalry. We, for our part, are determined to do all in our power to prevent this from happening, and in this endeavour we work in close co-operation with the United States. While it was made in a wider context, I want to take this opportunity in this House of welcoming the important declaration of President Truman in his inauguration speech in favour of a bold new programme for assisting other countries in economic and social developments. I welcome it as a courageous aim to which we for our part are determined to make the greatest possible contribution. The importance of the problem covering this vital area of the Middle East was such that immediately I took office I called into conference all our representatives throughout the area both to discuss Britain's position there as it resulted from the war and to consider what contribution we should make to the stability of that area. That was in 1945. After examination of the problems, we realised that, apart from the political issues, action must also be taken in the economic field. Great work had been done, but somehow we had not reached the hearts and minds of the common people, nor had many of the benefits which had flowed to that area achieved the purpose of raising the standard of life and improving the health of the people as we should have liked. In fact, a few people had become very rich but the masses had not. Many schemes were therefore discussed, including large scale plans for irrigation and flood control in Iraq. There was also the desire of the Persian Government to meet the new demands of their people for a higher standard of life, which has now resulted in a great seven-year development plan. In this work we have been asked to provide experts in the Middle East. We provided every person we could possibly obtain to help, and I am glad to say that we are beginning now to see definite development. I am not claiming for a moment that we started all this; it was disturbed by the war and had to be got going again. It is very difficult to get the experts for all the projects we have before us from time to time but we did all we could to find as many as possible for that area. I followed this up by personally discussing it very fully at a later stage with Mr. Marshall. I felt that we ought to create a pool of consultants and that we ought to try to join together in the development of the area and seek United States aid. He saw the importance of it, and a good many views have been exchanged since. I am now hoping that, as a result of President Truman's declaration, there will be further progress with United States encouragement and help, not only in this area but in many other projects of development in which we shall be mutually interested. The Middle East is buttressed on the north by Turkey and Greece, and I must say a word about what has been done there. Turkey was one of the first countries subjected to a war of nerves, and Greece has had to suffer a civil war fostered from outside. We felt that all this affected the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East itself. After her war efforts, Britain could no longer carry the burden alone, and we therefore welcomed President Truman's famous declaration about the security and economic well-being of both Turkey and Greece. The aid and support which the United States and we ourselves have been able to give to Turkey and Greece have been an important contribution to the stability and security of the whole area. I am glad to say that the United States have also shown their interest in the maintenance of stable conditions in Persia and in assisting the economic development of that country. We have very great interests in Persia, and with the full encouragement of His Majesty's Government, the Anglo-Iranian Company have made a big and increasing contribution to the economic and social progress of that area. The Middle East area includes, of course, Afghanistan, and now stretches to Pakistan which has emerged to full independence as a great Moslem Power. As a great Moslem Power, Pakistan takes a vital interest in what is happening in the Middle East, and I would emphasise that it would be foolish to overlook the importance of the position she will occupy in the future in the politics and development in that area. The recent Asian Conference in New Delhi is a phenomenon which it would be very unwise for this country to ignore. We believe that we can maintain friendly association with the people of Asia but we must recognise that Asia as represented at the New Delhi Conference ranges from Burma to Turkey and Egypt. This conference represents the calling together for the first time of countries which I believe will play a very big part as a cohesive power in the years to come, both in the United Nations and elsewhere. This group of countries looks west to the Arab lands as well as east to Indonesia, and I ask the House to pause and reflect on the significance of these new developments. Our vital interests spread through the whole of that area, and we have to remember this when we are considering the whole problem of our relations. There is also a keen interest in Palestine among the many millions of Arabs in North Africa. The problem closely affects France, our partner in Western Union, who shares our own special concern over the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places. It is against this background that this country has had, and still has, to deal with the Palestine problem. I should like now to turn to the Jewish problem itself. I think everyone in this country has understood the national and religious aspirations of the Jews, and over a long period no country has shown in a more practical form its sympathy in their efforts to achieve a better future. As I said in the House in November, 1945, the Jewish problem is a great human one. The Jewish people have suffered such terrible persecution for so long. We in Britain have done much to improve their lot. There has never been in this country the anti-Semitism which we have unfortunately seen elsewhere, and I hope there never will be. However, it has been said that His Majesty's Government muddied the waters and that they have not handled the Palestine problem with dignity and consistency. I am often told that I have not sufficient dignity. I always console myself that what I lack in that field I make up in weight. The Government did not create the Palestine problem. I do not want to arouse controversy, but ever since I have had anything to do with it I have been conscious of one fundamental fact, that the Balfour Declaration promised the same thing to two peoples. If partition is difficult now it is because the statesmen in those days did not face the problem fearlessly, resolutely and finally. If they desired a National State for the Jews and not, as they said, a National Home I cannot understand why they did not carve out a piece of territory and then say, "This is Jewish and that is Arab." They were dealing at that time with a fluid situation and it was no service to posterity to take refuge in contradictory statements to Arabs and Jews, leaving this problem to go on for 32 years under successive Governments and never bringing it to a final issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was Colonial Secretary in 1922 and I admire his extraordinary ingenuity, but can he deny that he, too, was faced with a problem to which there was no real solution? In his Memorandum in 1922 entitled, "British policy in Palestine." which was officially communicated in the name of His Majesty's Government in June of that year to both the Zionist organisations and to a Palestine Arab Delegation then in London, it was stated:
I think he, too, is responsible for the rather undefined formula "of economic absorptive capacity." It is a commentary on this statement that today—"It is essential to ensure that the immigrants should not be a burden upon the people of Palestine as a whole and they should not deprive any section of the present population of their employment."
Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
"Up to the limits of economic absorptive capacity."
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction.
"Up to the limits" is an important part of the phrase.
It is an important commentary on this statement that over half a million Arabs have been turned by the Jewish immigrants into homeless refugees without employment or resources.
Those half a million Arabs came in during the period of the 25 years of British administration, and were an addition to the Arab population, getting employment under the conditions we created.
I am adhering to my statement. Throughout the 'thirties successive Governments tried and failed to solve the Palestine problem. I am only dealing with the point that the criticism of this Government is that we have been unable to settle in three and a half years what everybody has been trying to solve by a succession of Commissions and White Papers. It was made immensely more difficult by the Hitler persecution in Germany and increased pressure for Jewish immigration into Palestine. In 1939 another White Paper was issued which, although often attacked, did at least hold the position just before and during the war. This White Paper looked towards the establishment of an independent Palestine within 10 years, the Jewish element in the population having been brought up to approximately one-third of the total.The proposal to push on towards independence was undoubtedly sound, but the Second World War and the increased persecution of the Jews in Europe by the Nazi authorities created a new situation almost overnight. At the end of the war the pressure on Jewish immigration was greater than it had ever been, and the Government of Palestine were forced to take costly and unwelcome measures to control it. Jewish immigration was allowed to continue after the limit laid down by the 1939 White Paper, which was 70,000, was passed. I repeat that the professed aim of the Balfour Declaration was the establishment of a National Home, and when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and I came to deal with this problem we were faced not with a demand for a National Home but for a Jewish State.
Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
What is the difference?
The hon. Gentleman has got a home in Scotland, but he does not own all of it.
His spiritual home is in Moscow.
This development made a more intense conflict with the Arabs inevitable. It also meant we would have to do a thing not contemplated by the Balfour Declaration nor by the League of Nations. It has been suggested that His Majesty's Government have been opposed to the establishment by the Jews of their own State of Israel in fulfilment of centuries of national and religious aspirations. Our original objective, which has been the objective of other Governments since 1917, was to persuade Jews and Arabs to live together in one State as the Mandate charged us to do. We failed in this. The State of Israel is now a fact, and we have not tried to undo it.At the same time, the tide of Arab nationalism has been running high, and this has not been merely representative of Effendis or wealthy people. I can assure the House that this intensity of feeling on the part of the Arabs at the moment has bitten deep into the ordinary young Arab people, and it will produce a very serious situation unless handled with great care. At the same time it has been extremely difficult to get the Arab States to agree among themselves. There have been quarrels in which the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Iraqis have been involved. That is the situation we found ourselves in up to the point when we tried to grapple with this problem. Let me, therefore, just say one or two words about Israel's neighbours, the Arabs. I think they have a case which has got to be considered. I do not think they can just be dismissed because of what has taken place. They have to be taken into account. The Arabs, like the Jews, are a proud people with a long history and great traditions. They have long been friends of this country. Many of them fought with us in the 1914–18 war. Even when the United States and Russia were neutral and we were facing the Nazis and the Fascists alone, at least King Abdullah and the Senusi fought with us loyally.
So did the Jews.
I have just dealt with the Jews. Let me say a word for the Arabs on their own. After all, this is my speech.It was in Arab countries that the Eighth Army was based and equipped, and without the help the Arabs freely gave us, I doubt whether the North African campaign could have been fought and won in spite of all that might be said about them. We depended on them for communications, and for many resources. If we had lost the Suez Canal we might have lost the war. I do not think that it is in the tradition of the British Army to forget their friends, and I am certainly not the Foreign Secretary who is going to make a start in that direction. The Arabs feel as profoundly as the Jews that in the problem of Palestine right is on their side. They consider that for the Arab population, which has been occupying Palestine for more than 20 centuries, to be turned out of their lands and homes to make way for another race is a profound injustice. We understand how this strikes the Arabs—all the Arab people, not only their Governments—and we should consider how the British people would have reacted if a similar demand had been made on us. Suppose we had been asked to give up a slice of Scotland, Wales or Cornwall to another race, and that the present inhabitants had been compelled to make way. I think there might have been trouble in this House, and possibly outside. We cannot handle these problems unless we put ourselves in the other fellow's place and just see how he looks at the world. The Arabs believe that for what they regard as a new and an alien State to be carved out of Arab land by a foreign force, against the wishes and over the protests of the inhabitants, is a profound injustice. The Arabs believe that it is contrary to the right of self-determination and to the principles of the United Nations. I am giving the House and the country their arguments, because there is so much propaganda on the other side and I think it is sometimes forgotten that the Arabs are in the world. They point to the fact that since Britain gave up the Mandate—and I repeat the figure I gave just now—500,000 Arabs have been driven from their homes. In Jaffa, which was an Arab town of 70,000, allotted to the Arabs by the Assembly Resolution of 1947, there are now, so I am informed, only 5,000 Arabs.
Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I apologise for interrupting, especially at this point, but I do hope that my right hon. Friend will not continue to lend the weight of his authority to the suggestion that it was the Israeli Government or the Israelis who drove anybody out. I am sure my right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that, so far from driving anybody away, they did their utmost to persuade them to stay, that those who did stay were very well treated, and that it was my right hon. Friend's agents on the spot who did more than anybody else to persuade the Arabs to leave.
I am thankful for the assistance I am getting from all sides in this business. The fact is that 500,000 Arabs are gone; they are refugees; and I do not think they walked out voluntarily. I really do not think that it is any good either side being touchy. I am trying to make a balanced speech, and when I get through it will be found that I have done so. However, I cannot accept the position that when anybody mentions the Arabs he is—[Interruption.]—well, I will leave it at that; I will not use the phrase I was about to use.Do let us be fair and just. If we proceed on those lines, then I think that in the end we shall get a solution. But I must state the facts, and the fact is that there are over 500,000 Arab refugees, and the marvel to me is that the conscience of the world has been so little stirred over that tragedy. I hope that there will be a greater response to the appeal for funds that is being made for these people. Up to now the money that has been poured out to help them has come mainly from His Majesty's Government alone. I do not think there should be any belittlement of that. I hate the refugee problem; I think that the driving of poor innocent people from their homes, whether it is in Germany by Hitler, or by anybody else, and making the ordinary working people of the place suffer, is a crime, and we really ought to join together to stop it if we can. Let those who want to quarrel, quarrel; but why visit spite and hate on ordinary people who are doing nothing but earn their living? The tragic problem of Palestine is to find some solution for these conflicting points of view without the Middle East sinking into chaos in the process. I should perhaps explain to the House that the Coalition Government did discuss this problem and came to a view that partition might be the only practical solution of the Palestine problem; but this could be done only by force. Was this country at the end of the war justified in using and being ready to use British troops for this purpose? If, on the other hand, we had decided on partition at that moment and walked out of Palestine there would have been the same situation in 1945 as had faced the world in 1948. His Majesty's Government also had to take into account public feeling after the assassination of Lord Moyne; and the House knows of subsequent incidents of that kind. Feeling was running pretty high in this country at the way in which Britain was being treated in this matter. I trust that we have seen the end of all this, but I repeat that it has caused great anxiety and heartburnings, and I will not accentuate it. No doubt I shall be asked: In view of the Coalition Government's approach to the problem why did we not push it through? Well, as I unfold this I think that some of the factors will become clear to the House. His Majesty's Government were at this stage faced with a problem which had never faced Governments before the war. The United States had long been interested in Palestine, but it was not until 1945 that American interests in Palestine and pledges made in America became one of the determining factors. I have to be very careful what I say here, or I shall be accused of disturbing relations with America; but in defence of His Majesty's Government I ask the House to realise that at this point the whole question of who should be elected to certain offices in the United States turned on this problem, and the United Kingdom had very little latitude after that time. We had to consider the matter on an entirely different footing. After consideration of the problem we proposed the establishment of an Anglo-American Commission. If I remember rightly, when this was announced to the House it was welcomed as a first step towards getting Britain and America into collaboration on the Palestine issue. That Commission reported, but they did not recommend a Jewish State: they recommended a unitary State of Arabs and Jews. Their recommendations were largely on the same footing as His Majesty's Government's approach to the problem. We were ready to accept the recommendations as a whole but the United States would only accept one point, the immediate immigration of 100,000 Jews. But to flood the country with a large number of immigrants without financial and other arrangements having been worked out would have created for us very difficult problems indeed. I then tried to see whether we could take this report as a basis and see if a special committee could work on it to produce an agreed solution. They produced what was called the Grady-Brook Report, which really amplified in detail the Anglo-American Report and showed how it could be put into effect. But that was rejected, and so the problem went to the United Nations. It has been suggested that His Majesty's Government first attempted to prove in New York that partition was impossible and that we obstructed the work of the Palestine Committee. Those statements have been dealt with in previous Debates and I do not want to go over them again. I am only making a statement on them now in view of the misrepresentations, not so much against me as against this House, the Government and the British people. It is totally untrue, as has been alleged, that His Majesty's Government attempted to prove in New York that partition was impossible, or that they obstructed the work of the Palestine Commission. On the contrary, His Majesty's Government did all in their power to help the Commission with information, preparatory work and advice. At the time we laid down the Mandate our policy had been directed to maintaining law and order and to handing over to the new authorities an orderly, going concern. It is my view, and I believe it will be the view of all parties in this House, that the Governor-General, the High Commissioner and the staffs of the Palestine Administration did a magnificent job under very grave difficulties. I include the work of Sir Alan Burns at the offices of the International Organisation in Jerusalem. It was largely owing to their success in laying these foundations that Israel was able to create the machinery of a State as quickly as it did. I want to give an answer to another assertion that has been made, with a good deal of looseness, I am afraid. It is equally and absolutely untrue that His Majesty's Government encouraged the Arab Governments or forces to attack Israel. In the Debate before the Recess it was suggested that I had selected the wrong people, backed the wrong horse, or some phrase like that, and was surprised that they did not win. I did nothing of the kind. I uttered every warning I could to Arab Governments not to indulge in this business, but feelings ran so high and the situation was so tense that I am afraid it would have been of little use doing other than what happened. In the United Nations Assembly in the autumn of 1947 a plan for partition with economic union was worked out and adopted. This plan never came into force. His Majesty's Government did warn the United Nations at the time that whatever the merits or demerits of the plan might be on paper, it would lead to fighting unless the United Nations created some force of their own to put it into operation. I shall not recite the history of recent events except to say that when fighting began after the end of the Mandate it was His Majesty's Government who introduced into the Security Council the resolution for a truce which was adopted on 29th May. It was His Majesty's Government who proposed the appointment of a Mediator and urged that he be given full authority. When the first four weeks' truce broke down and the Arab Governments resumed fighting, it was His Majesty's Government who supported and voted for the Security Council resolution of 15th July calling for a cease-fire and providing for action under chapter VII of the Charter against either side which refused to comply. In the first period of three months our effort was mainly to induce the Arabs to stop fighting. In the second period, from July, 1948, until now, the effort has been to stop the Jews from fighting. On 14th October the Jews attacked Egyptian forces in the Negeb in violation of the truce. At the end of October they attacked Lebanese forces in Galilee and occupied 15 villages on the Lebanese side of the frontier. They refused to comply with the Security Council resolution of 4th November and with the orders of the Acting Mediator. Meanwhile, Count Bernadotte, the United Nations Mediator, had stated that he considered the Assembly plans of November, 1947, to be unworkable and he made alternative proposals. The United States Government considered Count Bernadotte's proposals, and on 21st September Mr. Marshall announced publicly in Paris that they had the approval of the United States Government in their entirety. I should like to emphasise that fact. I was shown the document in which the announcement was to be made that afternoon at three o'clock. I undertook to put it before the Cabinet and, if necessary, to put it before this House, which I did. I think I am entitled to take notice of a man of Mr. Marshall's status and position. When he tells me that that is the policy of the United States I am entitled to take that statement as a fact without questioning it at all. Therefore, I reported that that was the position, and His Majesty's Government adopted it. I felt for the first time that we had a really agreed policy. Many hon. Members opposite have spent weary hours with maps considering the issues involved in partition. I thought that Count Bernadotte had put forward a more homogeneous plan. There were no enclaves and no corridors, and it gave the Arabs access to the sea. It also afforded communication between Egypt and Transjordan. I thought it was a clearer and cleaner arrangement than the plan of 1947. In this new plan the Arabs lost Jaffa and Western Galilee, which went to the Jews. In return for the Negeb the Jews had a more fertile area given to them. As this movement of Arabs had taken place we felt that this was a tidier proposal. Having accepted that assurance and got His Majesty's Government to agree to it I reported it to the House. However, at the General Assembly later we were told that the United States could not support the original decision. It is no good crying over spilt milk; the situation has been altered from September. Again we went into discussion and again a new decision was arrived at and embodied in the Resolution which went before the Assembly and which I understood was then agreed. That failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority and was superseded by a new proposal which holds the field today. It is that a Conciliation Commission should go to Palestine to take over the work of the Mediator and his powers and should promote negotiations and endeavour to get a settlement of the problem. The Conciliation Commission, as elected, consists of representatives of the United States, France and Turkey. That is the position as we left it at the Assembly. Only 11 days after the appointment of the commission another attack was launched in the Negeb. It is rather significant that the United Nations' Mediator, Dr. Bunche, who has done a very great work in this matter, could find no provocation at all for this attack. I want to put a point to the House. We are members of the United Nations and if the United Nations are ever going to do anything, or to succeed, I think some means must be created by which there is to be respect for the decisions of the Security Council. We should accept them whether they are for us, or against us. As a government we have done many things we did not like in order to accept the decision and we think it is a pity that it was not accepted all round in this case, and that this infringement should not have been made. It was over this that the real difficulty arose. In the course of their attack the Jewish forces penetrated 10 or 20 miles into Egyptian territory. Previous Jewish patrols had crossed the frontier of Transjordan and following the reports at that time, I began to wonder whether, in the exuberance of victory, things were not getting a little out of hand and when these things get out of hand one does not know where they are going, or where they may finish up. We kept in daily touch. Another very serious matter was that United Nations observers were refused access to the Jewish side. I do not know what deduction was expected to be drawn from this by members of the United Nations. These observers were appointed by the United Nations and they were put off. It makes one wonder. We have to couple with that the fact that, apart from what has been said by the Government of Israel, a good deal of propaganda has been put out by the Revisionist Party claiming the whole of Transjordan which suggests on the face of it the beginning of another aggressive mentality. I only hope that now negotiations have started, the people of Palestine, with us, will see that they are brought to success. These events had their repercussions in Arab countries and created problems of internal security. It may be asked, what has that to do with us? Internal security and stability of the Middle East is a very vital matter to this country because if this region is to be forced into chaos I think the whole of our strategic position, which was made perfectly clear, is in danger. Demonstrations and riots took place in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, and in Egypt the Prime Minister was assassinated. They always seem to select Prime Ministers; I am thankful it is not Foreign Secretaries. A lot of people wish that it was Foreign Secretaries, judging by some sections of the Press which I have to watch now and again. When those Governments fell and the Jewish incursion into Egypt took place, we took up the matter with the United States. The incursion into Transjordan and the situation which was developing in that vicinity caused King Abdullah to appeal to His Majesty's Government, under the Anglo-Transjordan Treaty, for British forces to be sent to Aqaba and also for arms that he might be in a position to defend himself if an attack was made on his forces. We agreed to send a force to Aqaba, but, in view of the United Nations arms embargo, we did not deliver arms to the Arab Legion. It is perfectly true that we put arms into Amman under our own control, but we have not issued any arms to the Arab Legion and we hope no necessity to do this will arise.
Mr. Warbey (Luton)
Did not the Resolution of the Security Council of 29th May, to which my right hon. Friend referred, place an embargo on the introduction of military personnel into these States?
It placed an embargo on all of us, but we were the only party to observe it. Arms were pouring into the other side and we had a treaty. We considered all these factors and felt that we would be attacked for not doing our duty if, knowing of what was pouring into the area from Czechoslovakia, we did nothing. Whatever might have been done to cast round for arms in different parts of the world, it is another matter when Czechoslovakia, a member of the United Nations, deliberately sends in arms in contravention of the Security Council's decision. While we would not deliver arms, we put in men in order to indicate to the world that we were going to be there if our treaty rights were challenged, or if there was a further attack.
Mr. Blackburn (King's Norton)
As I have asked the question before, I would be most grateful if my right hon. Friend could confirm this fact, which the parents of the deceased officer are very anxious about, that the Spitfires which shot down our fighters in Palestine were provided from Czechoslovakia.
I do not want to be led into a discussion of that character. I am trying to give the reasons why we took our decision. The invasion of Egypt, the threat to Transjordan, made us feel that, unless action were taken, a serious situation might develop, which might have grave repercussions on the stability of the Middle East. I feel convinced that one of the principal factors in getting negotiations going seriously at Rhodes was the transfer of this force to Aqaba after months of provocation. I hope that, as a result, it will lead to a final settlement.I want to make this clear: this area, as I have said, is very vital. In fact, to us, it is an area which has a tremendous importance, not only to the safety of the territory itself, both East and West, but to the safety and defence of Western Europe. If there is any danger, or when we see danger, we must react quickly. I must ask for the support of the whole House and the nation to this principle that if this area is endangered, we shall always react quickly. [An HON MEMBER: "Which area?"] The Canal Area and the Middle East Zone. With regard to the making of the inquiries by the Royal Air Force, it was reported to us that the invasion of Egyptian territory had taken place. We took the question up with the United States. If we had accepted the information given to us without testing it that, I suppose, would have been regarded as a very wrong thing to do. Therefore, the Government decided that we would see, within Egyptian territory, what was really happening, and that we did. Had we stood by and done nothing and the thing had got out of hand, we should have been accused for that. The Cabinet and the military authorities felt that the R.A.F. was the best means of getting the correct information. They had every right to fly over Egyptian territory and, in the light of the Security Council Resolution, Jewish forces had no right to be there. They had no right to be fighting within many miles of that spot. We think the steps we took, both with the United States and by ourselves, helped to bring the thing to a head and to get negotiations going. Any Government with responsibility would have taken the same line. I am glad to say that the United States Government reacted to this event as determinedly as we did. The President immediately intervened and made representations as emphatic as the action we took; and there was grave concern on the part of the United States Government as to what might have developed. Another thing which contributed I think, to this trouble, was the delay in setting up the United Nations Commission which was appointed by the Assembly on 12th December and is only just establishing itself in Jerusalem. Frankly, I do not think the United Nations Organisation has come out of this thing too well. We have recently seen in the Press that the Commission has only just established itself. In my view it should have been at work many weeks ago, gripping the problem and helping to produce a settlement. I have been constantly urging on all concerned the importance of this conciliation Commission getting to work without delay and we have also been urging all contestants with whom we have any influence to respond and enter negotiations. The only thing now, I think, that is likely to prevent a settlement if the Commission gets to work promptly is if there is renewed fighting on either side. If it were to break out again not only would the hopes of an early settlement be extinguished but this Middle Eastern area might be put in danger. If fighting were to break out again, I am afraid it would be difficult to stand by indifferent or inactive. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have been inactive long enough."] I hope that the fighting has now ceased, that the truce has been fixed up and that the different fronts will be maintained. We shall do all we can to make the negotiations a success. It has to be remembered, however, that the talks at Rhodes are so far only between the Jews and the Egyptians. It is urgently desirable that the scope of the negotiations and conciliation should be extended to bring in the other Arab Governments concerned. These negotiations will have to cover the unsettled question of an international regime for Jerusalem and the Holy Places, the future of the port of Haifa and the airfield at Lydda and the boundaries of Israel. It is not for me to forecast what lines further talks may take but among other principles which might be applied is that to which reference was made by the United States representative at the General Assembly in Paris last Autumn and which was recently endorsed by President Truman, namely, that if the Jews are to retain part or all of Galilee, Jaffa and other portions of Palestine which the Assembly Resolution of 1947 recommended should be Arab, then the Jews should give the Arabs compensation elsewhere and so make the necessary adjustment. I understand that that is the policy of the United States Government. I feel that very little will be gained if a settlement is made which is so manifestly unacceptable to one of the parties that all the energies of that side are devoted for years to come to undoing it. A settlement is needed that will be a basis for peace and co-operation, not for irredentism and boycotts. As I have already said, there is the tragic plight of the Arab refugees, who must be allowed to return to their homes, or else some compensation and provision must be made for them. Another point which has been concerning the House is the question of the recognition of Israel. This matter has been under our attention for a long time. The way this question was treated initially was a little unfortunate. I will not take the trouble to go into it in detail now. The United Nations made a decision. The next morning a State was declared. We had been working together on this problem of Israel with others but recognition was given without any notice. Indeed, recognition was given before the man on the United Nations Delegation knew about it, and a peculiar situation was developing. There was a good deal of competition between two great Powers in this business which I do not think was the right way to deal with it. Recognition by this country of another country is worth something, and we have not been in the habit of dealing with this matter in a lighthearted way. We want to know first what the country is, what its frontiers are, and what its status is presumed to be. Those States which accorded their recognition have not recognised the State of Israel, but the Government of Israel, without prejudice to frontiers, as did the French Government. We have had a man in Haifa—[Laughter.] We have had a man in Jerusalem—[Laughter.] What is wrong with that? I should like to see the joke. We have had representatives there who have been in touch, and they have rendered great service. The question is whether or not we should have recognised the Government of Israel de facto. There are interesting views about this problem, and we have been in touch the whole time with others who in that matter have been in exactly the same position as ourselves. I know that the French Government, with 25 million Arabs, have been in great difficulty over this matter, just as we have, and we have felt that to plunge into recognition in the way suggested would not help us with the Arabs or contribute to a peace settlement. We were convinced that it was better to deal with it in the way we did. The second point we must bear in mind before giving our recognition at the moment is that United Nations resolutions are being ignored—one cannot, I suggest, treat the thing quite so lightheartedly as that. We have therefore been considering when would be the appropriate moment to give de facto recognition. We had made up our minds that it should be at about the juncture which my hon. Friend would have indicated when winding up the Debate before the Recess had he been given time. He said that we were not averse from considering this matter. We felt that when the negotiations for peace had started—and there was evidence of the end of the fighting on both sides—that was the time when we should bring this matter to a head. If we had recognised the Government of Israel at any time before, it would have been misunderstood over a wide area in the Commonwealth. [An HON. MEMBER: "South Africa?"] Wait a minute. The Commonwealth includes not only Australia, New Zealand and Canada. There is South Africa. There are three other States. Have hon. Members heard of India? India happens to be a part of the Commonwealth. So does Ceylon. So does Pakistan. They are important factors. I realise that the entry of Ceylon into the United Nations has been duly vetoed, but she is still an independent State within the Commonwealth, she comes to her own conclusions, and has a particular point of view on these matters. The situation, therefore, is that South Africa and Canada have accorded recognition, as they have a right to do. Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ceylon have not done so, and some of these Governments have had strong views, as shown in their speeches at the Assembly and in their actions. Now that armistice talks are at last proceeding, His Majesty's Government have considered whether the time has come when de facto recognition might contribute to peace and a settlement. I am glad to say that the United States government have indicated that they intend to recognise the government of Transjordan, and this also is a material factor. His Majesty's Government have been in consultation with those Commonwealth governments which have not yet recognised Israel about de facto recognition of the Israel government, and we are in close consultation with them at this moment. We have also been in consultation with our Brussels Treaty Allies, and this matter will be discussed with the Foreign Ministers at the meeting in London tomorrow. I should explain what I said a moment ago, that recognition would not prejudice the question of the boundaries between Israel and her neighbours, and any recognition that might be given would be on that basis. I am sure that the House will join with me in expressing the hope that, if recognition is now accorded by His Majesty's Government and other governments which have not yet done so, the Government of Israel will respond on their side by showing that they wish to make their contribution to a wise settlement and peaceful relations with their neighbours As far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, I wish to restate three main points. I am not now announcing de facto recognition until I have replies from those Commonwealth countries and the other countries I have named, but I am assuming that those replies will be in during the next few days when a final decision can be made. I would repeat that the security and stability of the Middle East are of vital importance to His Majesty's Government, and we intend to be faithful to our interests and obligations. Secondly, there must be peace and no more fighting. Thirdly, the settlement with Palestine should be on lines most likely to afford a hope of stability throughout the Middle East as a whole. On these aims I ask the support of the House. I wish to pledge the utmost endeavours of His Majesty's Government in the promotion of security and economic and social progress in an area which is vital to us and vital to world peace.
Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The right hon. Gentleman has covered a wide field, both in the extent of the topics with which he has dealt and in the period of history which he has taken into consideration But I have been asking myself, as I listened to this statement of historical facts and so many arguments which one approves of as such and in their places, what was the conclusion that the Foreign Secretary was asking the House to draw from the statement which he has just made. It seems to me that it would not be doing him any injustice if I said that the conclusion to which he wishes to lead us is that the conduct of this matter and the policy pursued by the Government for the last three and a half years could hardly have been bettered. All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and all kinds of arguments can be used with all kinds of varying emphasis at every stage and aspect of the story.I shall have to tell some of this story, though I trust at not undue length. But before I plunge into it I must make one general remark about the right hon. Gentleman and his policy. We have supported the main principles and structure of the foreign policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and everyone is glad that he has had the patriotism and courage to take a firm stand in these last years against the vile and wicked brutalities and manoeuvres of Communism, which threaten not only the peace of the world, but even more important, its life and freedom. In this connection I see that one of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's bishops, or perhaps his only bishop, has lately been eulogising the humanistic virtues of Soviet Communism, while all the time at least 12 million people are being toiled to death as slaves in the Soviet concentration camps.
That is not true.
Such an example of mental and moral obliquity on the part of a prelate deserves at least the passing notice of thinking men. As this might be considered to reflect upon a Member of the other House, I shall avoid your rebuke, Mr. Speaker, by not pursuing the topic or the prelate any further.We must not forget, and we do not forget, that the Foreign Secretary, supported by the British trade union movement and by the present Socialist Administration and Labour Party, has not hesitated or failed to draw an impassable line between the professional Communist adept and other human beings.
That is me, I suppose.
We are glad of that. We also respect the Foreign Secretary's British outlook. He represents many of the virtues and some of the weaknesses which have enabled our people to make a tolerably collective presentation of their character to the rest of the world in many years of history. There is also, of course, the sense of war comradeship, which although it must not be allowed to interfere with the proper, due discussion of current affairs or with party strife at a time like this, is nevertheless a subsisting element between many of those who sit on the Front Benches of this House.I wish to say that, because I make it perfectly clear that in the general policy which the right hon. Gentleman has pursued—I am not talking about the methods but the spirit of the general policy he has pursued—in resisting the Communist menace and encroachment, and in cultivating ever closer and more friendly relations with the United States, we have given him our support, and we do not withdraw our support at the present time. But it is on this basis and with this background that we are forced this afternoon to consider the right hon. Gentleman's astounding mishandling of the Palestine problem. We feel that this has been so gross and glaring that we should fail in our duty if we did not expose it in the plainest terms. We shall not only do that in Debate; we shall support our criticism in the Lobby. Only in this way can we make an effective protest and lead public opinion to the true conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman's Palestine plight is indeed melancholy and cannot be covered up with wide generalities. No one ever made such sweeping declarations of confidence in himself on this point as the right hon. Gentleman, and no one has been proved by events to be more consistently wrong on every turning-point and at every moment than he. Every opportunity for obtaining a satisfactory settlement was thrown away. Immediately after the end of the Japanese war, we had the troops in the Middle East and we had the world prestige to impose a settlement on both sides. That chance was missed. Instead, an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was set up to examine the problem. It was on that occasion that the right hon. Gentleman staked his political future on solving the Palestine problem. No more rash bet has ever been recorded in the annals of the British turf. Luckily, it is not intended that the wager shall be paid.
May I ask whether it was greater than that which the right hon. Gentleman undertook when he went after Denikin and Koltchak?
I certainly did not stake my political reputation upon the successes which those generals would have, but I think the day will come when it will be recognised without doubt, not only on one side of the House but throughout the civilised world, that the strangling of Bolshevism at its birth would have been an untold blessing to the human race.
Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
If that had happened we should have lost the last war.
No, it would have prevented the last war.Let me return to the more peaceful paths of Palestine and leave these furious controversies of a bygone period. When this Anglo-American Committee reported, its recommendations, although accepted by Mr. Truman, were rejected by His Majesty's Government.
Well, were not effectively accepted.
We accepted the ten points. Mr. Truman only accepted one—the 100,000. We accepted the lot.
If I may quote the right hon. Gentleman, "This is my speech." No agreement was reached upon this issue. At length, in February, 1947, the right hon. Gentleman announced that he had decided to refer the matter to the United Nations. But having done so, what happened? A United Nations Committee was set up to examine the matter. It recommended the termination of the Mandate, and, by a majority vote, it recommended the policy of the partition of Palestine.This decision was endorsed by the United Nations Assembly on 29th November, 1947. Yet, though they had referred the matter to the United Nations for a solution, His Majesty's Government were not prepared to accept their decision. Indeed, they refused to allow the United Nations Palestine Commission to enter the territory of Palestine until a fortnight before the termination of the Mandate. And so it went on. His Majesty's Government were always one, or even two, and sometimes three, steps behind.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I think that, for the sake of accuracy, this rumour, which has been so often repeated, should be denied. The British Government suggested that it would not be wise for the Palestine Commission to go to Palestine more than a fortnight before the Mandate came to an end. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I met the Palestine Commission on behalf of the Government and discussed their entrance into Palestine, and it was understood that they would come to London at the end of March and discuss with us their entrance into Palestine which would probably be sometime in the early part of April. That was four or five, possibly six weeks before the Mandate expired.
Mr. Creech Jones
I think this untruth ought to be completely repudiated. What happened was that the Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council that they could not implement the Resolution of 29th November. Subsequently, the Security Council summoned a Special General Assembly in order that the whole Resolution of 29th November should be brought into review.
The Foreign Secretary will be grateful for the chivalrous aid which his colleague from the Colonial Office has brought to his notice. In the long interruption which he made, I did not gather from him at what date before the evacuation, the United Nations Commission actually began to travel about Palestine.
Mr. Creech Jones
The Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council that it was quite unable to implement the Resolution of 29th November and accordingly remained in New York because it could not implement the Resolution which had been passed.
It is quite simple. They did not go. And so it went on. I am sorry if hon. Gentlemen do not like the argument I have to unfold. They must not shrink from bearing these strokes. We bear with what fortitude we can summon the heavy blows struck us by the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and others, and similar equanimity and toleration should prevail in the ranks of our opponents. His Majesty's Government, in the whole of this matter, have always been one, or even two, and sometimes three, steps behind the march of events. When the State of Israel was proclaimed, it was recognised at once by the Americans. His Majesty's Government could at least have accepted the principle of partition laid down in the United Nations Resolution. When they finally accepted that principle in the Bernadotte Report of September last, why could they not have faced reality and accorded de facto recognition to Israel?I have told the tale of different aspects of this story so often that I can but mention today the salient features. These have led us, through vast waste of money, to the repeated loss of British lives, to humiliation of every kind, to the fomenting of injurious hatreds, to a position where Britain has given up every interest she possessed and abandoned the task for which all parties in this island had laboured for a quarter of a century, and has quitted—or half quitted, because in some ways we have not; we still manage to get the disadvantages—the scene of so much valuable work and achievement, amid the scorn and hatred of Arab and Jew and the contemptuous disdain of the civilised world. That is what we are asked to believe deserves our general confidence and approbation as the victory of patience and phlegm in the long run. But with us it is not a case of being wise after the event. It was more than a year before I realised that the Foreign Secretary and the Government had no plan or policy. It took another year after I had urged the Government to quit Palestine if they had no plan for them to take the decision to go. They took it a year later when everything was more difficult. Great opportunities were cast away. They took it in such a way as to render themselves unable to bring perfectly legitimate pressure to bear upon the United States to leave the sidelines and come into the arena of helpful action. They lost the opportunities of that year of waste since they were told they had better go. And we paid the bill of £80 million for the troops alone for maintaining order under most trying conditions and facing the horrible murder of many of our brave soldiers. All that is in the past. We have at length evacuated Palestine. Yet we still find ourselves involved in its problems. This fact has furnished the Foreign Secretary with the opportunity for making further public blunders and committing himself to more painfully obvious misjudgments. There never has been, in my belief, the slightest comprehension of the Palestine problem by the right hon. Gentleman. Every word that he says in his speech is known, by those of us who have lived our lives with this great problem for many years, to be subject to wrong emphasis. Nor will he take advice. Six weeks ago we formally advised the Government to make a de facto recognition of the Israeli Government. The right hon. Gentleman brushed our proposal aside. What is he going to do now? It is difficult to discover, from what he said, what he is going to do. Perhaps he has not yet made up his mind? Perhaps it is a question of how much pressure is brought to bear upon him before he does so? He has lost opportunities and argued for delay and for putting off the action which the great majority of the people know it would have been wise and practicable to take. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have to recognise the Israeli Government, and that it cannot be long delayed. I regret that he has not had the manliness to tell us in plain terms tonight, and that he preferred to retire under a cloud of inky water and vapour, like a cuttlefish, to some obscure retreat. De facto recognition has never depended upon an exact definition of territorial frontiers. There are half-a-dozen countries in Europe which are recognised today whose territorial frontiers are not finally settled. Surely, Poland is one. It is only with the general Peace Treaty that a final settlement can be made. Whoever said, "How can we recognise a country whose limits and boundaries are not carefully defined?" I am astonished to find the right hon. Gentleman giving any countenance to it. What trouble, what inconvenience, what humbling rebuffs should we have avoided if the Foreign Secretary had taken the sincere advice tendered to him from this side of the House. The only reason, or certainly one particular reason, offered by him was irrelevant and incorrect. He talked about the mistakes which some countries have made in hastily recognising Indonesia. Recognition, or hasty recognition, he thought, would be a bad precedent, but how absurd it is to compare the so-called Republic of Indonesia with the setting-up in Tel Aviv of a Government of the State of Irael, with an effective organisation and a victorious army. Whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not, and whether we like it or not, the coming into being of a Jewish State in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective, not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years. That is a standard of temporal values or time values which seems very much out of accord with the perpetual click-clack of our rapidly-changing moods and of the age in which we live. This is an event in world history. How vain it is to compare it with the recognition, or the claims to recognition, by certain countries, of the Communist banditti which we are resisting in Malaya or of the anarchic forces which the Dutch are trying to restrain in Indonesia. No one has done more to build up a Jewish National Home in Palestine than the Conservative Party, and many of us have always had in mind that this might some day develop into a Jewish State. [Interruption.] I am speaking for myself, anyhow. The hon. Gentleman always seems to be faced with the difficulty of knowing which side he is on in any controversy, and of always being faced with the danger of trying to be on both sides at once. I will not discuss the matter any further, but I warn him to be a little more careful. I say that the Conservative Party has done a great task over 25 years, with Parliaments which had a Conservative majority, in trying to build a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and, now that it has come into being, it is England that refuses to recognise it, and, by our actions, we find ourselves regarded as its most bitter enemies. All this is due, not only to mental inertia or lack of grip on the part of the Ministers concerned, but also, I am afraid, to the very strong and direct streak of bias and prejudice on the part of the Foreign Secretary. I do not feel any great confidence that he has not got a prejudice against the Jews in Palestine. I am sure that he thought the Arab League was stronger and that it would win if fighting broke out, but I do not suggest for a moment that he wished to provoke war. He was quite right in saying, in effect, that, in that particular quarrel, they needed very little provocation, but the course he took led inevitably and directly to a trial of strength, and the result was opposite to what I believe he expected it to be. I will say no more than that. Everyone has his feelings on this subject, and there is no unanimity of opinion on either side of the House, but, at any rate, the course he took led directly to a trial of strength and it turned out in the opposite way to that which he, acting on the advice of his military advisers, I have no doubt, and against the recorded opinion of Lord Wavell as to which side was the stronger, expected. I certainly felt that the spectacle of the Jewish settlements being invaded from all sides—from Syria, Transjordan and Egypt—and with a lot of our tanks and modern tackle, was, on the face of it, most formidable, but I believed that that combination would fall to pieces at the first check, and I adhered to the estimate I had formed in the war of the measure of the fighting qualities and the tough fibre of the Zionist community, and the support which it would receive from Zionists all over the world. But the Foreign Secretary was wrong, wrong in his facts, wrong in the mood, wrong in the method and wrong in the result, and we are very sorry about it for his sake and still more sorry about it for our own. We have so managed our affairs as to find ourselves arrayed in this matter on the opposite side to the United States, to Soviet Russia, to the Palestine settlers and to Zionist supporters all over the world, and without—and I want my hon. Friends on this side to realise this—doing the slightest service to the Arab countries to whom we have very serious obligations. This is not at all a favourable conjunction for British interests, and it should have been the careful aim of the Foreign Office to avoid its being brought into being. It makes our position a very weak one and it predisposes U.N.O. against us on numbers alone. Our influence is therefore at a minimum as a result of our improvident diplomacy. This is a poor and undeserved result of all that we have created and built up in Palestine by the good will and solid work of 25 years. We have lost the friendship of the Palestine Jews for the time being. I was glad to read a statement from Dr. Weizmann the other day pleading for friendship between the new Israeli State and the Western world. I believe that will be its destiny. He was an old friend of mine for many years. His son was killed in the war fighting with us. I trust his influence may grow and that we shall do what we can, subject to our other obligations—because we cannot forget those other obligations—to add to his influence. I hope that later on, a truer comprehension of the Zionist debt to this country will revive. Here I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman—I trust it will revive; but for the present we seem to have deprived ourselves of all the fruits of the past. Moreover, as I mentioned just now, the Foreign Secretary's policy has been the worst possible for the Arabs. I am sure we could have agreed immediately after the war upon a partition scheme which would have been more favourable to the Arabs.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he thought that could have been done, why did he not do it after the war? He was in power.
No. The world and the nation had the inestimable blessing of the right hon. Gentleman's guidance. I am sure that we could have agreed immediately after the war upon a partition scheme which would have been more favourable to the Arabs than that which will now follow their unsuccessful recourse to arms.
Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
Agreed with whom? Would it not have led to a major war in the Near East if partition had been pursued?
I give my opinion. I am sure we could have made better arrangements for the Arabs at that time—I am not talking of the Jews—than will be possible after there has been this unfortunate recourse to arms. Indeed, the scheme of partition proposed by U.N.O. was better than what they will get now, after their defeat. We are evidently in the presence here of prolonged, repeated and serious miscalculations on the part of the Foreign Secretary and his advisers and colleagues.I do not pretend or propose to enter tonight upon the drawing of frontier lines or the details of any partition for which we should use our remaining influence, such as it is. I will, however, say that we ought not to grudge a fair share of the deserts of the Negeb to the Jews. It is nearly 30 years since I came officially and responsibly into this story. I have always felt that the Negeb should afford a means of expansion to the Jewish settlers in Palestine and offer future prospects to Zionist movements. But it is impossible to fly over these regions low down, as I did before the Second Great War, or travel through them to Petra and other places without seeing how fierce and barren these regions of the Negeb are. And yet they once held great cities and nourished important populations. The Jews, by the gift they have and by the means which they do not lack, have a way of making the desert bloom. Those who have seen it can testify. The Arabs, with all their dignity and grace, are primarily the children of the desert, where they dwell, in this part of the world at least, and for the most part, the desert lands do not become reclaimed while the Arab control is complete over them. Here let me say a word about how the British have treated the Arabs. I take up the cudgels not for one party or Government; I speak of 25 years of British policy and the settlement made after the first World War, supported by a Parliament with a great Conservative majority, in which I was prominently concerned, and which placed Feisal on the throne of Iraq—and his dynasty is there today. I myself, with the advice and guidance of Lawrence, took steps to put Emir Abdullah at Amman, where he is still after 25 years of shock and strain, always a good friend. We took all pains when we liberated Syria during a difficult moment in the last war to make sure that the Syrian Arabs had their full rights and independence, and although it meant bitter controversy with General de Gaulle we insisted upon that at a moment when, as everyone knows, our margin of control and subsistence was not large. I will not have it said that we have not behaved with loyalty to the Arabs or that what has been asked for the Jews, which was supported and sustained by the Conservative Party for so many years to say nothing of the party opposite, has gone beyond what was just and fair, having regard to the fact that both these races have lived in Palestine for thousands of years side by side. Hon. Gentlemen do not seem to realise that Jew and Arab have always been there. They say, "How would you like to have a piece of Scotland taken away and to have a lot of other races put in?" The two races have always been there, and I trust always will be there, happily. In the Negeb there is at least an opportunity and indeed a hope of affording a refuge to the survivors of the Jewish community who have been massacred in so many parts of Europe and letting them try their best—and their efforts are amazing—to bring back into economic usefulness lands which the world cannot afford to leave lying idle. It is obvious that both Jews and Arabs must have access to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba. This has figured in most of the schemes of partition and it should be possible to reconcile competing claims with justice. The Gulf of Aqaba is in fact to the Red Sea, although on a smaller scale, what Trieste is to the Adriatic. The outlet here should certainly not be monopolised by either of the races who have dwelt together so long in this vast hinterland. It is therefore a place of special significance. I do not intend today to try to judge whether the Government were right in the prevailing circumstances and in the aftermath of their evacuation of Palestine to send an armed British force to Aqaba. However, in view of our obligation to Abdullah and our treaty with him, I entirely agree that we could not disinterest ourselves in his fate or in that of his country. I should not like to see us repeat in Transjordania the behaviour the Government adopted in respect of our treaty obligations with the Indian Princes, and in particular with the Nizam of Hyderabad. I hope the Emir of Transjordania will have a better tale to tell of us. The act of sending a force to Aqaba did, however, wear an aspect of decision unusual in recent British policy in Palestine. I hope that, having gone there, we shall stay there, and keep an ample margin of force there, until the whole question has been finally decided by the United Nations organisation and until their award has been accepted and obeyed by both Jews and Arabs. We should support any steps taken to that end. We feel bound to make our protests and to dissociate ourselves from a policy of folly, fatuity and futility the like of which it is not easy to find in modern experience, for which the right hon. Gentleman and the present Cabinet are responsible. But inside this large parade and presentation of mismanagement and misfortune there is an inset, a cameo, of inconsequence and muddle which cannot, I think, be matched. Here we have wrong thinking and imprudent acting presenting in miniature a working model of what all persons concerned in public affairs should strive to avoid by all means. A truce had been arranged and a cease-fire was to take place at 2.0 p.m. Yet in the morning the Government—the Prime Minister very properly took full responsibility—sent a reconnaissance into the battle area or the fighting area, of Royal Air Force planes which had on preceding days been flying in conjunction with Egyptian planes which were hostile to the other side, the Jewish forces. The pilots were, I am told, to a large extent, trainees—we shall know more about that from the inquiry—and were the product of the Air Ministry in its decline since the war. They were sent out under conditions which exposed them to the maximum danger. This was no high altitude photographic operation. They were to fly low over areas where they knew hostilities were in progress. No warning had been sent to the Israeli forces, but restrictive orders were given to our pilots about not firing their guns except after having been fired upon effectively by others. The first reconnaissance was sent out on a wholly unnecessary mission, because there was a cease-fire that evening. The second reconnaissance was sent out in order to ascertain what had happened to the first, but before the second could have got back, the cease-fire between Jews and Arabs had already taken place. Why expose our Forces, our young men, to such risks as that? It was in these circumstances that we had to endure the affront and injury for which our two young airmen lost their lives. When we turn to seek redress from U.N.O. or from the Commissions on the spot, the international bodies, when we look to other nations for sympathy in the matter, we are asked certain questions. For instance, Why should we go—this is one question—why should we go out over this area at the very moment of the ceasefire? It is said on our behalf in reply that the Jews were invading Egypt and that they had no business to be there. But had not the Egyptians already invaded Palestine some time before? We are told also that the Jews had refused the United Nations observers the right to go to the area to see for themselves. I am told—I may not be correctly informed—but I am told on good information, as far as I can judge it, that the United Nations Palestine Commission has special aeroplanes painted white and known to both sides as entirely neutral and outside the conflict. Is that so? If it is so, why were they not used? Why were our planes used? A British reconnaissance at this moment was very inconsistent with the general purposes of the United Nations and detrimental to a peaceful settlement. Then it is said the Americans encouraged us to find out what was going on. But is that, if true, a wholly convincing reason? If I criticise His Majesty's Government it is by no means to declare that the action of the United States in all these months has been impeccable. Considering the interests, sentimental and other, which they have in Palestine and Arabia they should have come to our aid two or three years ago, and I believe that if our policy had been wise and wisely conducted, and proper contacts made and developed, we should have had their assistance, as an alternative to the evacuation to which we were eventually forced. Curiosity to know what was going on would certainly not justify doing a thing so improvident as this sortie of aircraft at such a moment. I say it was the quintessence of maladresse of which the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, who takes the responsibility, were guilty. And now poor old Britain—Tories, Socialists, Liberals, Zionists, anti-Zionists, non-Zionists alike—finds herself after our men have been shot down in an air skirmish, snubbed by the Israeli Government, who said, "We understand you do not recognise us," and with a marked lack of support from the international bodies upon which we depend so greatly and whose opinion we value so highly. During all this period the Foreign Secretary has not been able to inform Abdullah, our faithful adherent, where he stood or what he would be wise to do. He has had to wait and guess. I am sure Abdullah would have done everything in his power to work for a peaceful solution with the Jews. I believe that the Government of Transjordan would have been glad to see His Majesty's Government having an effective representative in Tel-Aviv during these difficult times. I am sure that Abdullah has done everything to work for a peaceful solution, which is in his interests, and to maintain his loyalty to the British who placed him in his seat at Amman and his brother on the throne of Iraq. No fault can be alleged against him. If any attack were made across the Jordan, we should be bound to go to his aid by every obligation of treaty and of honour. There is this question—I think the last important one to which I wish to refer—of the Arab refugees, on which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt with emphasis and with indignant eloquence. Certainly, it involves much human suffering. The right hon. Gentleman's remark about the policy I put in a memorandum in 1922 shows how very superficial is his knowledge of this question. The whole point of our settlement was that immigration was to be free, but not beyond the limits of economic absorptive power. We could not have had it said that newcomers were coming in, pushing out those who had lived there for centuries. But the newcomers who were coming in brought work and employment with them, and the means of sustaining a much larger population than had lived in Palestine and Transjordan. They brought the hope with them of a far larger population than existed in Palestine at the time of Our Lord. One has only to look up to the hills that once were cultivated and then were defaced by centuries of medieval barbarism, to see what has been accomplished. In 25 years the Jewish population of Palestine doubled or more than doubled, but so did the Arab population of the same areas of Palestine. As the Jews continued to reclaim the country, plant the orange groves, develop the water system, electricity, and so forth, employment and means of livelihood were found for ever-larger numbers of Arabs—400,000 or 500,000 more Arabs found their living there—and the relations of the two races in the Jewish areas were tolerable in spite of external distractions and all kinds of disturbances. General prosperity grew. The idea that only a limited number of people can live in a country is a profound illusion; it all depends on their co-operative and inventive power. There are more people today living 20 storeys above the ground in New York than were living on the ground in New York 100 years ago. There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied under conditions of peace and justice. When the British Government quitted the scene and the Arab Armies from Syria, Transjordania and finally in considerable strength from Egypt rolled forward to extinguish the Jewish National Home, all this Arab population fled in terror and took refuge behind the advancing forces of their own religion. Their condition is most grievous, and I agree that it should certainly not be neglected by the Government. The one great remedial measure is peace and a lasting settlement. The Jews need the Arabs. If we can get peace, the problem of the refugees will be reduced to one-third, possibly to one-quarter, perhaps it will disappear altogether. I do not think we shall find—I make this prediction—that there will be, once the fighting stops and some kind of partition is arranged, any difficulty in the great bulk of the present refugees returning to do work essential to the growing prosperity and development of the Jewish settlement in Palestine. I thank the House very much for allowing me to speak at such length on this topic with which I have been connected for so many years, and on which I feel so very strongly and have always tried to form my own opinions. All this Debate is, of course, on a small scale compared with the sombre march of events throughout the world. But it is a disquieting thought that the mismanagement we notice here in the working model, may perhaps be typical of what is proceeding over much wider spheres under the present Government. However that may be, His Majesty's Opposition cannot allow themselves to be involved in this Palestine fiasco and muddle. We must take this opportunity of severing ourselves beyond all doubt or question from these latest acts of mismanagement on the Palestine question. But also we must tonight make our protest against the course of action prolonged over nearly four years which has deprived Britain of the credit she had earned, and of the rights and interests she had acquired, and made her at once the mockery and scapegoat of so many States who have never made any positive contribution of their own.
Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The position of the third speaker is always a difficult and unenviable one, especially when one has to follow two such speeches as the House has heard this afternoon; but especially is it difficult today inasmuch as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been present in the House for something like three-and-a-quarter hours, which is putting a very heavy physical strain upon them.When the House assembled last week, we were all shocked by the news of certain serious events which had taken place in the Middle East. My colleagues and I felt that a Debate should have taken place immediately—a full and wide Debate, and not one limited to any particular incident. At the urgent request of the Government, both the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the House put upon us the dreadful responsibility that if we dared to intervene with a Debate at that particular time, the peace might be endangered, but I have heard nothing this afternoon to show that what has happened in the meantime might not have occurred if this Debate had taken place last week. Practically no reference has been made to the fact that at Rhodes the two parties confirmed the short truce which they had made for a cease-fire, and nothing, I imagine, would have been said in this House which would have prevented that from taking place. Like the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), I also wondered what was the conclusion which the Foreign Secretary wished this House and the country outside to draw from his long statement today. The only conclusion, I feel, that one can draw from it was that he desired everyone to know that he was a much maligned person, very much misunderstood, that unfortunately the other nations of the world, without any exception, were all to blame for not agreeing with him, that the position today was due to them, and that nothing he could have done or said would have got them to change their policy. It is a very serious matter for the right hon. Gentleman to blame his colleagues of the United Nations Organisation. He has certainly awarded blame to the United States of America, but there has been not one word of apology or criticism about the policy which has now landed us in this situation. He began very rightly by criticising previous Governments for their vacillation and the fact that they had no definite policy. I was rather surprised that the right hon. Member for Woodford suggested that the Tory Party had a wonderful and perfectly clean record in regard to establishing a home for Jews in Palestine. I well recall the criticism which he used to hurl at the Government in 1937, in November, 1938, and especially in May, 1939, when we had the Debate on the White Paper. I refreshed my memory by reading the right hon. Gentleman's words only this morning in those three famous Debates when he accused the then Government of vacillation, infirmity of purpose, lack of policy and lack of decision. Throughout he has had a great and noble record with regard to the whole of the Middle East. He differed from his present colleagues in his fairness of purpose and decision on what might have been done. If they had only listened to him, as I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have listened to the speech and advice which he has given today, we would not have been in this position. It is indeed a melancholy and sad story going back over a number of years. A situation has been created which is not only lamentable but tragic; it started from the very moment when the world first heard of the Balfour Note with such very high hopes not only among the Jews but in every nation of the world at that time. For many years our record was excellent. Then, as the right hon. Gentleman described in his speech, came that bad period of vacillation, infirmity of purpose, lack of policy, and lack of decision. All that the Governments in the 1930's could suggest was to fall back upon that refuge of all weak governments, a Royal Commission. First we had the Peel Commission which was hailed as wonderful, and which was said to have done marvellous work. But before its conclusions were accepted, it was decided that another Commission, the Woodhead Commission, should be sent out. That Commission came back and reported that the Peel Commission had talked nonsense, that what they had suggested was impossible, and could not be carried out. Then we had the Debate of November, 1938, when we were told that what the Government suggested was that people should go and start discussions. Before we could be informed of the results of those discussions, the cruelly unjust and dreadful White Paper of May, 1939, was issued. In the Debate that followed, the right hon. Member for Woodford delivered what was undoubtedly one of his greatest speeches in this House. Then came the war. What happened? In spite of the White Paper, who still remained the friends of Britain? The Jews in Palestine, in particular. I listened to the recital of events put forward by the Foreign Secretary. There was great sympathy for the Jews for what they had suffered, but, with regard to the Arabs, there was great credit for the position they had occupied throughout. One could not but notice that there was a sharp distinction between his attitude towards the one and the other. When the war came, the Jews were naturally on the side of the Allies. Six million of those of their faith had already been murdered and cruelly tortured by Hitler at that time. There was no doubt about which side they were on. But what about the Grand Mufti, and the part he played throughout the war? Where was he, and which side did he want to win? What is more, which side did King Farouk want to win? We had to surround his palace one night with British troops and guns because he would have betrayed us to the enemy at the most dangerous moment of our occupation of North Africa. When we are reciting those things, let us not forget the part played by those people. What happened at the end of the war? I well remember the speeches made during the 1930's by right hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Government Front Bench when they were leading the Opposition. No one denounced with greater ferocity than the present Leader of the House the vacillation of the then Government. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite remember the resolutions that were passed by their party with regard to what was to happen in Palestine, and the promises that they made during and before the 1945 Election. What has happened since? More vacillation. Because of the position which had arisen, a vast army had to be maintained in Palestine at an enormous cost, and British lives were lost. Ultimately, ignoring the agreement made with America for the Anglo-American Commission, we came to the conclusion that this was not a British question, that it was not solely an Arab or a Jewish question, but a world question. We then handed back the Mandate to the United Nations and asked them as a world body to deal with the position, and to try to find a settlement. What did we do then—we who, as the right hon. Gentleman said, have played a nobler and greater part than any other race with regard to the Jews? We were the first to offer them safety, to draw no distinction between them and the Gentiles or Christians in any country, and to allow them to occupy positions, not only in this House, but in the Executive or the judiciary. We were also the first to suggest the opening of a home for them in Palestine. The right hon. Gentleman said that we promised the same thing to both Arabs and Jews. I do not know how he comes to that conclusion. When one reads the evidence afterwards given by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, one finds that he pointed out that at the moment when the promise was made, there were very few Jews in Palestine. They could not possibly have formed a Government. The object was to encourage them to go there, and when, ultimately, they were in a position to do so, a State might then be formed. That was the history of this country in relation to the Jews. We were the first to propose the Jewish home, the first to ask for the Mandate; it was we who took on the Mandate from the United Nations, and, as I have said, we carried it out with an excellent record. Then came the period when we said we were going to hand it over. We handed over on 14th May. Under what conditions did we walk out? We had stopped the Jews, as much as we possibly could, from getting arms. What they had was largely what they had got surreptitiously, or, in many cases, stolen. We had stopped immigration as much as we could. The White Paper still existed, but what had we done about the Arabs? We had armed and trained them, and done everything we could with regard to Egypt. We had not done our duty to the fellaheen, but we had helped the landowning class in Egypt until they were wealthy and in a position, as they are today, in which they could afford to be arrogant and insulting. They were fully armed and trained by us. The same thing happened in Transjordan. We entered into an agreement to subsidise them, and to keep British officers there to train their men. As I have said, on 14th May we walked out and left the Jews to their fate. That day they declared the State of Israel, and the next day seven armed Arab nations attacked them. Was there a word of protest about aggression from this country? There was not a sound. In spite of our past record, all we did, as far as I can see, was to follow the horrible example of 2,000 years ago of taking a bowl of water and washing our hands of the whole thing. The State of Israel was proclaimed, as I say, and they were attacked by seven nations. Then a miracle happened, such as we have read of in the Bible—a miracle of Gideon, which believing Jews think has been repeated in their time. We are reminded of stories, such as the great one which Byron put into one of his poems:
Arab armies disappeared overnight. They were held back. Jerusalem was relieved, and by 10th June who was asking for a cease-fire? Not the small number of Jews. Put them all together, and even now there are only about 700,000. There are 40 million Arabs. Divide the 700,000 by half, men and women, and it is 350,000. Divide again to allow for the children, and the total army comes to between about 100,000 and 150,000. They held back the Arabs. Then came the cry for a cease-fire, and the Jews assented. Later on, when the Armistice was still going on, the United Nations Organisation asked for an extension of the ceasefire. Much praise has been meted out to the Arabs, but not a word was said about the fact that the Jews agreed and the Arabs refused. On 8th July Egypt attacked again, this time with the boast that they were going to drive every Jew into the Mediterranean. They did not even ask for help from the other Arab States, they were so certain of themselves. Was there a protest from us? Were the Egyptians accused of aggression when they bombed Tel Aviv which had been built up by these hard working people who had known what persecution was and who were realising for the first time what freedom meant? Not a bit. The bombs were supplied by Britain in planes supplied by Britain. Was there a word of protest about that? Egypt expected to be victorious. But she was soundly beaten and again asked for a truce. On 19th July came the second cease-fire, and again the Jews accepted. Again they said. "Now we hope that this will be the precursor of permanent peace." It is rather interesting to note that at that particular moment King Abdullah sent a request for armed troops to be sent. He then began to put out feelers as to whether he could make a peace separately and on his own account with the Jews. Did he receive any encouragement from his allies who had made a treaty with him—from this Government? Is there on record a word of encouragement to him to make the peace? He and his people are the most concerned. It has been suggested—and I will come to it in a moment—that the Arabs remaining in Palestine will come under his jurisdiction He will have to work in the closest collaboration, certainly in the closest contact with this new State of Israel. Has he received any word of encouragement to continue and make peace? So far as I know, if rumour is true, he has not been encouraged, but rather the reverse. Passing over the intervening time, when Egypt again began bombing in September, the United Nations Organisation asked that Egypt should allow a Jewish convoy to go through to certain beleaguered people. The Egyptians refused. What would anybody have done under those circumstances? The Jews said, "Our people are starving, we will take a convoy through"—and they did. They said that they were free to act, and they did act. Fighting again broke out, and again the Egyptian forces were beaten, for the third time. It simmered down a little until 22nd September, when it broke out much more fiercely, and again Egypt was defeated. Her forces were partly surrounded, and it was then, and then only, that they were pursued out of the Negeb into their own territory. Incidentally, the Negeb has been suggested by the United Nations Organisation as Jewish territory. How could anyone, as he travelled along the desert in a jeep, or whatever it was they were rising, where there are practically no landmarks, say where the Negeb ends?"The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold."
Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to go a step further, and say definitely that the United Nations Organisation with a proper majority defined the Negeb as being part of the Jewish area, and that that has not yet been changed?
I said so. That was my last sentence but one. It will not gain any force by my repeating it, but the hon. Member is quite right. This time they crossed the border, and when they did that, what did the right hon. Gentleman and his Government do? At once they protested that the Jews were the aggressors. There was not one word of protest about the Egyptians having been the aggressors in going over into the Negeb. But the moment the Jews, in pursuing them, crossed over, the situation was different. They were now the aggressors.
Mr. T. Reid
Does the right hon. Gentleman assert that the Negeb was given by the 1947 Settlement to the Jews?
That was the suggestion, as the hon. Member knows, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman referred to in his speech—that the Negeb should be given to the Jews. Then when Count Bernadotte reported, he suggested that there should be an exchange—and the suggestion commended itself to the Foreign Secretary—and that a more fertile area in the North should be given to the Jews in return for part of the Negeb being handed back.
Mr. T. Reid
Is it not a fact that hundreds of square miles of the Negeb were given to the Arabs under the 1947 Settlement, particularly in the North, including Beersheba and Faluja, and that the United Nations Organisation never gave the whole of the Negeb to the Jews?
Very well, I have defined it. Let me go on, because I do not want to keep the House too long on this matter.On no single occasion after 10th June, when the cease-fire took place, did any of the Arab States, other than Egypt, take any active part in hostilities except up in the Lebanon. Nor did any one of them respond to any request that Egypt made. As I have said, Egypt started by thinking that she herself could throw every Jew into the Mediterranean. When she found she was defeated she sent out an S.O.S. to the other Arab States. Not one responded. Let us look at the other side. Arabs are fighting in the Jewish forces today. Bedouins have asked for the protection of the Jewish forces. They are capable of living and working together, and they need not be fighting and murdering one another. All along, Transjordan have obviously been anxious for a direct settlement and an end of hostilities. Quite clearly, there is very strong disagreement between King Farouk and his Government and King Abdullah. May I tell the House one or two interesting items? On 1st December a number of Palestinian Arabs chiefs met at Jericho and unanimously came to the conclusion that the man they wanted at their head was King Abdullah of Transjordan. This was communicated to him, and naturally he was thrilled and said that he would take on that great position. When this came to his knowledge, King Farouk of Egypt denounced the action on 11th December and said that he would not accept the unification of Palestine and Transjordan under Abdullah. Those are the two we are supposed to be helping for the same purpose. They were already quarrelling. On 12th July the theological authorities met in Cairo and supported King Farouk and reprimanded—theologically I suppose —King Abdullah. What did King Abdullah do? He has a radio station at Ramallah and he has been broadcasting news for a considerable time. He was the first to give the news of their defeats to the ordinary Egyptians. He gave a very short announcement, but he warned the Egyptian Government and King Farouk that if King Farouk went on like that he would tell the Egyptians the full story about what had happened and the thrashings they had had, which would cause such dissatisfaction that they would rise en masse and turn out King Farouk and his Government. Those are the people we are supposed to be bolstering up in defence of British interests. Having been defeated on 4th January, Egypt applied for a cease-fire. Hostilities were continuing but we knew that an application had been made for a ceasefire and that the chances were that that would be granted. That was the moment we chose for the criminal act of sending boys on a low reconnaissance over a dangerous area which led to their death. It was a criminal act from the point of view of the boys themselves, and a much more substantial apology ought to have been made to their sorrowing parents. What has been happening throughout is on the lines of the statement to which I drew attention in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, when I said that he praises the Arabs and has only a little sympathy for the Jews. He deprecated that 500,000 refugees had left Palestine. He disagreed with the sending away of ordinary people who desired nothing but peace. I agree, but I do not remember a very strong protest coming from the right hon. Gentleman when Poles were driven back from East Poland because it was the desire of our then ally, Stalin, that they should go. I do not remember a very strong protest when ordinary workpeople and farmers were driven out of East Prussia. If the Foreign Secretary is going to make a general statement as to what is justice, he should not distinguish between one class and another. Hold out one standard for the whole lot of us. What have we been doing? Whatever rumour has come against the Jews, we have believed it at once and spread it at a very inconvenient time for the Jews. On 8th June we spread the rumour that the Jews had invaded Transjordan. It was untrue. We even associated Dr. Bunche the acting-Mediator, with it, but the moment it came to his knowledge he denied it and said that he had seen the parties concerned after the supposed event and that they had made no complaint to him. The extraordinary thing was that we spread that rumour in Paris at the very moment when Israel was applying to the United Nations for membership and it helped to defeat the application. Then on 29th December when the Jews were chasing the defeated Egyptians into Egyptian territory, we chose that moment to say, "They have gone into Egyptian territory and are aggressors, and goodness knows what they will do." That was just in time to help us with our resolution in the Security Council to censure the Jews for what they had done. What are we doing even today as shown in answers to Questions today in this House? Where did the Jews get their arms? From Czechoslovakia. How did they get them? They have Spitfires. One hon. Member suggested that the Spitfires must have come from us via Czechoslovakia and must have been sent there to help the Jews in breach of the Declaration of 29th May. The right hon. Gentleman would not answer that definitely. He knows that a good number of the Spitfires which the Jews are using have been captured from the Egyptians and repaired. While the Government are blaming the Jews in that way, have they said one word about the arming of Egypt with Spitfires—exactly the same Spitfires as the Jews have—or has one word been published to the world of what they have said to Transjordan? No. There is again a clear distinction between the two sides. What conclusion must inevitably be drawn from a recital like this? It is a conclusion which we do not want to draw. It is sheer pretence that we have been acting throughout as the honest brokers. It is sheer hypocrisy to say that we are desirous of holding the scales evenly. I am afraid that that is happening not only throughout the Government Front Bench but also the Foreign Office. In any event, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford asked, have we done anything by our attitude for which the Arabs are grateful? Why, the Egyptians themselves are blaming us for their defeats. What is more, they are held up as the people whom we should help and maintain. We have helped Egypt ever since 1881; we have helped her very considerably in every way, and yet the one desire of the Egyptian Government is that we should quit Egypt, the Sudan and the Canal area. At the present moment there is not a single Arab State which trusts us, and never was our prestige lower in Egypt than it is today. The Egyptians are not only arrogant to British people, but are insulting to those who have helped them so far. In the meantime, there is not one hon. Member who did not expect the right hon. Gentleman, who has had a further week, to announce that he was now going to recognise Israel de facto. Every hon. Member expected that the Foreign Secretary was holding that announcement back for a week when he asked that the Debate should be adjourned last week. What is happening? Even today he has said "No, I want to think more about this; I want to draw others in, and then we will consider it further." In a moment of aberration he said that the State of Israel is a fact. It is a fact, and it has been a fact, and people have been dying for it since 14th May. Israel has now been recognised by 23 or 24 States. States are continuing to recognise Israel. In the period between Christmas and the meeting of this House last week—which the right hon. Gentleman says was a difficult period and the wrong period in which to consider it—Canada came to the conclusion that she should recognise Israel. Are America and South Africa to be flouted? There is General Smuts, who was a member of the War Cabinet when this promise of a home in Palestine was first made. What about the attitude of Australia and New Zealand? In every instance when some resolution from the British Foreign Office has been brought forward, an effort has been made by Australia and New Zealand to tone it down so that it should not be so harsh against the Jews. What do those countries say? Then there is Russia. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh yes, two great nations rush in so that neither shall be left out." Does the right hon. Gentleman think for a moment that that argument weighed with General Smuts or with the Government which has succeeded his in South Africa? Is it an argument that weighed with Canada? Is not the truth that a great number of nations have been waiting for us and have held back because we have refused to take this step? Is not the Foreign Secretary's own admission today the same as saying that the chances are that when he calls them together this week and next week, because we are now ready to grant de facto recognition, the whole of them will follow our lead? Why was this not done months ago, so that all this trouble could have been avoided? Then it is said, "Ah, yes, but Russia is the real danger there. This may become a Communist State." The young men who are fighting in the air for Israel fought on the side of the Allies during the last war. Most of them came from this country and from the Commonwealth or from the United States. The language they talk is English and their briefing is in English. Yesterday they had elections. I do not know what happened, but there is today not a Communist in the Government and there was one only in the last assembly. But if this Government desire to create a Communist State in the Middle East, the way they have gone about it is undoubtedly the best way to do it. Instead of being friendly they have been unsympathetic and now they complain of the natural result of their policy. What has been the position with regard to Aqaba? We entered into an agreement on 29th May, 1948, at U.N.O. It is well that the House should be reminded of that. The Security Council called upon all Governments and authorities concerned to order a cessation of armed force for a period and here I will quote:
In case there is anyone in the House who does not know it, Aqaba is in Transjordan. The Security Council Resolution also states:"calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to undertake that they will not introduce fighting personnel into Palestine, into Egypt, into Iraq, into Lebanon, into Saudi Arabia or into Transjordan."
and so on down the same list of countries, including Transjordan. We had, of course—"It further calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to refrain from importing or exporting arms and material into Palestine"
Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is slightly misleading the House when he omits the important words, "during the cease-fire."
I was coming to that, if the hon. Gentleman would allow me. Hon. Members seem anxious to interrupt me. It is perfectly clear what was in the mind of the American Government, because through the Under-Secretary of State we were told, "Do not do anything to make the position worse. Do not send personnel or arms." That was said, whether it was a cease-fire or not. It was not intended that this should be limited to a mere four weeks. It was perfectly obvious that it was intended as the best way of securing peace. We were entitled, when Transjordan asked us to send troops, to do so under our treaty obligations, and, indeed, it may be our duty to do so, but why choose this moment? Undoubtedly, protests have come from other Governments and certainly from America.The movement of troops to Aqaba was not the only thing. There was all the activity in the Mediterranean. Is it or is it not true that it was intended at one time to land troops in Gaza and then, because of protests, it was thought better not to? Is it or is it not true that protests are being made and have been considered, not only by America, but by France and other countries to the effect that this, instead of helping the situation, was a risk which might lead to far graver consequences? There is not one of us who does not remember that the shooting of an Archduke in Sarajevo led to the murder of millions. Once this kind of thing starts, we do not know when it will end. The Foreign Secretary referred to the question of the planes. Again why did we choose that moment to send these planes out and who gave the order? I believe that the movement of the troops to Aqaba was settled by the Defence Committee and had the full consent of the Cabinet. Is it or is it not true that in this case those planes were ordered out on reconnaissance—which led to the death of those boys—without the Secretary of State for Air knowing anything at all about it and that he was only told later? I mention this because it shows the whole trend of our policy. It may be that even today, there is a change in what the Government propose to do and it may be that they will now give recognition to Israel. What is more important is whether there is going to be a change of heart. That is the real thing. If there is, then again the friendships which have been lost can be regained. We have not got one friend in that important area today. There was a suggestion at one time that when the State of Israel was formed it might become part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That was the suggestion put forward by some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen from this side of the House. There is still that hope if there is a change of heart of His Majesty's Government. If they do it, then I look again to the day when this desert will become a fair and flowering land, in which will be found a free and contented people, enjoying, not only their lives, but their freedom and their religion.
Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
I cannot match the eloquence of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), but I intend to question some of his statements, because he did not submit the whole of the facts about matters to which he referred. He said in the course of his speech, "Do not do anything to make things worse." The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a very violent attack on—the Egyptians, which will most certainly make things worse.
Mr. C. Davies
They could hardly be much worse.
Our objective is to form a lasting peace between Arab and Jew, and the recent contribution of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will make things worse because he delivered such a direct attack on the Egyptians and Arabs in that part of the world. I listened very attentively to the resumé he made of the tragic sequence of events concerning Palestine right up to the beginning of the last war. I recognise, with him, that the sequel to the handling of the Palestine question before the last war resulted in a tragedy. I suggest that in those days the right hon. and learned Member's party bore a considerable responsibility for the development of the tragic position which arose at the beginning of the last war. I believe the Foreign Secretary described it as an attempt on the part of those then in power to ride two horses at the same time.Promises were made to the Jews that a home, or even a Jewish State, would be established in Palestine. The right hon. and learned Member said that compared to present-day numbers there were very few Jews living in Palestine at that time. At the same time that his party was telling the Jews that they supported the idea of a Jewish National Home and State, they were telling the Arabs that substantially their authority and position in Palestine would not be disturbed. The Foreign Secretary very succinctly described their attitude when he used the metaphor of their trying to ride two horses at the same time. Among many incidents and dates which the right hon. and learned Member mentioned he quoted the affair of 8th July and the refusal of the Arab Forces to renew the cease-fire agreement. That particular incident deserves a more detailed description than was accorded it by the right hon. and learned Member. I am told that the reasons the Arabs refused to renew that cease-fire agreement were very potent and clear. During the time of the cease-fire agreement the Jews continued to import large quantities of arms, materials and men.
Were not the Arabs continually importing arms? And, what is worse, importing them from this country?
I do not think that was the position at all. The trouble arose between the two belligerent parties because at that time the Jews were able to procure considerable quantities of arms, munitions and men, whereas, owing to the boycott on the sending by this country of arms and munitions to Egypt, the Egyptians suffered, comparatively, considerable disadvantage by the continuation of the cease-fire agreement.
Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Surely my hon. Friend is aware that the Egyptians, for instance, purchased a large number of Italian planes, and that the "black market" which went on was a "black market" which sold, with strict impartiality, to anybody who paid the price—to both sides?
I am quite sure that the position on 8th July was as I have suggested: that during the cease-fire agreement the Jews had been successful in re-arming and increasing their armaments to a considerably greater degree than had the Egyptians. In those circumstances, it was quite understandable that the Egyptians should refuse to renew the cease-fire agreement.
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend again, but does he really suggest that the Government of Israel has more arms than Egypt, even today?
What I am suggesting is that at 8th July the quality of the arms imported into Palestine was considerably better than the arms available to the Egyptian Forces.
Mr. Turner - Samuels (Gloucester)
What grounds has my hon. Friend for saying that?
Quite a lot.
Give us one of them.
Let me go on to the other arguments adduced by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery which I particularly noted. He was challenged on the question of the Negeb by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) and, I think very successfully, by the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) on his statement about the Negeb. I am quite sure that the answer he gave failed to meet the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon; the right hon. and learned Member avoided the issue completely.
Mr. C. Davies
If I am wrong then the Foreign Secretary is wrong, because I repeated exactly what he said.
According to my recollection, the right hon. and learned Member said that the Negeb was allotted in its entirety to the Jewish authority in Palestine. Later on he qualified it slightly, but not to an extent justified by the facts.I listened very attentively to the Leader of the Opposition, and I am sure that at the close of this Debate my right hon. Friend will have a very easy task in answering the substance—quite apart from the trimmings—of the right hon. Member's speech. That speech could, I think, be described in the very words used by the Leader of the Opposition himself, when he said that he did not want his speech to be thought to be that of one who was wise after the event. It would not be unfair to describe the right hon. Member's speech as being one that was, in fact, wise after the event. It consisted principally of problematical timings. It was, understandably, a speech of automatic opposition to the Government's attitude and policy, but it was very unconvincing, even to the majority of the right hon. Member's supporters. I am sure that at the conclusion of his speech the majority of the hon. Members sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition were unconvinced of many of the things he had been saying. Criticism has been levelled, and regularly levelled, at the Government on the ground that their policy has been so vacillating. Our foreign policy is governed by factors similar to those which govern the foreign policy of other countries. We are very much concerned not only with what we particularly desire but with what we believe other countries desire. Our foreign policy in Palestine and the Middle East is a combination of what we think is desirable and an attempt to bring unity of view in all the countries concerned. Any appearance of vacillation can be explained by the urgent need for unity among the Powers in the area.
I should like to know which countries the hon. Gentleman is talking about. There are 24 countries that have recognised Israel. Which are the countries with which the hon. Gentleman wishes to work?
When speaking of countries with which we must form a united policy to obtain a lasting peace I am thinking of the great Powers and of the smaller Powers intimately involved in the Middle East, plus America, this country and Russia. Our foreign policy must be modified considerably to obtain the maximum agreement among all the countries concerned in this very knotty problem. I remember very distinctly promising seriously during the last General Election that I would do my best to support the idea of the development of a Jewish home or State in Palestine. If it came to a question of the desirability of a State I was quite prepared to support it. I remembered when making that promise something of the tragic history of Jewry through the ages. I understood that it was under the protective umbrella of this country that the Jewish home in Palestine had developed to what it is today. Because of the protection and support given by us in the past, Tel-Aviv is one of the finest cities in the Middle East.Another thing that comes into my mind and influences my judgment in this matter is the position of our British soldiers during the earlier period of the Palestine troubles. Our local regiment, the Sherwood Foresters, was stationed in Palestine. I had many requests from Nottingham parents to do everything I could to bring the local boys back home. It was with the greatest difficulty that we restrained our troops from making violent reprisals for the cowardly attacks to which they were subjected. That great provocation, sacrifice and danger experienced by our troops was permitted by this Government in the interests of the establishment of United Nations authority to take the place that we had held for so many years. Our position had been made untenable by the riotous and unseemly behaviour of the residents of Tel-Aviv and of Palestine generally. We endured that provocation and exposed ourselves to danger for that purpose. Many times after our decision to leave Palestine we were approached by many of the great Powers to remain in the country.
Mr. S. Silverman
Which of them? Which great Powers approached us after we left to persuade us to go back? This is a new point which many of us have never heard about. If my hon. Friend knows about it he should tell us.
Mr. Hicks (Woolwich, East)
It shows you what you have missed.
My description was not quite what is suggested in the question addressed to me. I did not say "after we had left Palestine." I said that we were approached by many great Powers after we had given our decision that we were going to leave Palestine, and they wanted us to remain there.
Say which Powers.
I have not time to mention some other matters which are well within the knowledge of the House. I received a telegram from the General Federation of Jewish Labour, Palestine Political Committee, which says that it is
that Israel Labour follows the persistent policy of the British Government of hostility and obstruction in regard to the State of Israel. It goes on to say that we are using the occasion of British airmen being killed in a reconnaissance flight as a pretext for increasing our hostility to the State of Israel. Some of the things which I have mentioned before make it impossible for me to believe the allegations in a letter or telegram of that description. I had a letter the other day from one of my constituents suggesting that the Foreign Secretary was deliberately responsible for creating the States of Syria, Iraq and Transjordan for the sole purpose of injuring the setting up of a Jewish state in Palestine. My point in quoting that letter and the telegram is that I cannot believe that anybody, knowing anything of the history of Palestine during the last 40 or 50 years, could seriously accuse this country and this Government, under any pretext whatever, of deliberate hostility to the idea of a Jewish State or a Jewish home in Palestine. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then why do we not recognise it?"] The point of recognition is an entirely different matter. Recognition is only a matter of obtaining the acquiescence, as far as possible, of other members of the British Commonwealth. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which we would be expected to recognise this State of Israel immediately—"with deep concern and amazement"
Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
The hon. Member said it was months too late now.
—when we know that there is no precedent whatever for pressure being brought on any one to recognise a country without defining boundaries.
I cannot let that pass. If the hon. Member studies this matter he will find there is good precedent for it. Our English judges have declared that the boundaries need not be defined before a State is in existence and recognised.
I would suggest that the recognition of a State without any boundaries being defined is a most unusual state of affairs. We should tone down considerably the violent and frenzied propaganda surrounding this question. I can see the possibility of circumstances arising, when the question of Palestine is more or less permanently settled, in which the ill-feeling caused by this propaganda will be a detriment to goodwill and peaceful understanding.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House because I realise, what the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Harrison) apparently has not realised, that there are a great many hon. Members who want to take part in this Debate. I shall not be a propagandist either for the Jews or Arabs. I shall try to look at this question as one with which our own country is primarily concerned and in which our own interests are at stake. I remember very well, when the late Lord Balfour started the idea of a Jewish home in Palestine—
Mr. S. Silverman
Sir C. Headlam
It would not have gone far without his support. I remember that some friends and I who were then in Flanders were discussing the matter decided that it was a sensible thing to do. We did not realise all the troubles it would lead to. We believed that the Balfour policy merely meant that a home would be found for as many Jews from other countries as might care to go to Palestine and that they would form part of the population of the country. Afterwards Britain accepted the Mandate for Palestine. I always visualise, and shall continue to visualise, what might have happened had things been better managed. I remember that during the administration of Lord Samuel and Lord Plumer, it looked as if it might be possible for the Jews and Arabs to settle down amicably together, and for the state to go on as a united State shared by the Jews and Arabs. Then, unfortunately, politics queered the pitch, and I have no doubt that the Italian and German propaganda amongst the Arabs was one of the causes that made for the disorders in Palestine.The Foreign Secretary, in his long and somewhat laborious apologia this afternoon, sketched out all the troubles and difficulties that had been in his way since he told us that he would risk his political future on his success in Palestine. I will not go into his gloomy story because it has been well disposed of by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I will only say what I believe to be the best policy for this country now. We ought to have recognised the Israeli Government before we left Palestine. I am sure it was a mistake not to have done so. We are told that recognition was difficult because we had to get the concurrence of so many other States before we could settle it. I think that this difficulty is greatly exaggerated and might easily have been overcome months ago, as it presumably will be overcome in the coming week. If we had recognised the Jewish Government, it would have been much easier for us than it has been. It is absolutely essential for this country that we should have peace in the Middle East and we cannot have that so long as the Jewish State is not recognised. It might have been different some time ago but, as things have gone, it is clear that we must recognise the Israeli Government as speedily as possible. Then, when it conies to delineating the frontiers between the Arabs and Jews, I do not think the difficulties will be so great as some people fear. We must be prepared also to maintain our treaties with the Arab States with which we have contracted agreements. It would be wholly wrong if we did not carry out our promises, and I am sure that no hon. Member on this side of the House would wish us to do so. We want a Jewish State in Palestine such as that which Dr. Weizmann envisaged in his recent excellent message, in which there shall be peace for Palestine and, more important still from our point of view, in which the Jews in Palestine will look upon us as their friends. Those who are leading the Jews there now are, in the main, men favourably disposed towards this country. But there must also be in Palestine an immense number of Jews who are foreign to this country and know nothing of the traditions of friendship of the British towards the Jewish race. No doubt many of these people are bitterly disposed towards us. They do not appreciate what Britain has done for Jewry in the past and they do not appreciate the ideals of freedom for which we stand. It is essential to us that this new State, in its early beginning, should be favourably disposed towards us. If we play our cards properly, if we do not stand on our p's and q's, if we do not get excited on one side or on the other, and if we are determined to have peace, I have no doubt that we shall secure it. That will make our military and political position in the Middle East safer than it is today. That area is the most important part of the world for the maintenance of the communications of our Empire. Unless we can secure the friendship and confidence of the peoples there, we shall never have real peace.
Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I should like, first, to say to the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) that I think I agree with every word he said and especially with the way he said it. In that light I should like to take up one of the points made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). His speech was very powerful but at one point there seemed to be a party polemic which was quite unworthy of him. One thing which is clear is that the Opposition on this issue has nothing upon which to congratulate itself for the last two and a half years.I can recall the time when, from these Benches, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and I moved the Adjournment of the House for the first time on the Palestine problem. That was on the day after the beginning of this disaster, the decision by the Government to arrest 3,000 Jewish leaders, men who were for the most part good, sound trade unionists. Practically all the present Government were arrested at that time in order to break the Haganah. Some of us on this side gave warning and said, "You are going the way of South Africa and the way of Ireland. These people will fight for their natural rights and if you do this in the end you will lose." I should like to quote what I said at the time:
I suggested that this action of the Government—the arrest of the Jewish leaders—would ultimately isolate us from the great community across the Atlantic whose financial backing we badly needed; that it would isolate us from the world more than any action since the war; and that for God's sake we should stop that drift to isolation. That was said by a few people on this side of the House and by one or two Liberals, but, as I remember, it was not said by a single hon. Member opposite. Now the Opposition, after three and a half years, stages a death bed repentance beside the rotting corpse of the Foreign Secretary's policy which it supported for three years—one or two individuals were exceptions I agree—but I did not hear very loud or brave voices raised when we tried to protest and warn this country where it was going."I suggest that in this action of the Government we are drifting into war. We are drifting first into war with the Jews and after that into war with the Arabs. We are losing every friend we had in the Middle East.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st July, 1946; Vol. 424, c. 1876.]
Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
The hon. Gentleman is not putting this very fairly. I do not in the least mind that we should be accused of having a bad record on Palestine simply because in one moment we had supported the present Foreign Secretary. The hon. Gentleman must be quite clear, however. We have consistently supported the Foreign Secretary when he has taken steps to deal with violence, because we did not believe that any cause was served by allowing violence to go unchecked. Most of us on these benches have, equally consistently, pressed for a complete change of general policy.
Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
Whenever did the right hon. Gentleman support his views by vote?
If the hon. Member will refer to any of our Debates on Palestine in the last two years—
Sir R. Acland
Three years, not two.
If we are now to be blamed for not voting because we tried, as long as we possibly could, to keep a common policy on Palestine, I am glad to hear it. As regards speeches, however, if the hon. Gentleman will look at any Debate we have had on Palestine he will see that I am justified in what I say.
I am sorry that I raised this controversy for I did not want any party point scored from either side of the House. I regret, however, that the right hon. Member for Woodford had deliberately scored such party points on an issue which is far too important for party policies and in which this House and the country as a whole have been behind the Foreign Secretary in what he did. Only a very few of us have consistently opposed him.I want to analyse his mistakes because it is relevant, in looking into the future to see what went wrong. I believe that we can trace in the mind of the Foreign Secretary two stages. The first was a very natural one when he came to see the Palestine problem. I think he said to himself, "I am a very experienced negotiator. Surely, this is not beyond my power. Jews and Arabs are ordinary, reasonable human beings. After all, I have had more difficult trade union negotiations to deal with and I will have a try. I will get them round a table and persuade them to agree." That was a worthy ideal. Some of us knew, however, that from the start it was absolutely hopeless to believe that the method of solving problems in industrial affairs in Great Britain could be applied with the faintest hope of success in the atmosphere of Palestine. Out of the Foreign Secretary's disappointment at the failure of his negotiations grew what I describe as the second stage of his development, which can be summed up in that Irish expression:
That is to say, he continued to say and, I think, to believe that we were neutral, but every action he took, whether he thought so or not, seemed in Palestine, in Lake Success and, if I may say so, in every capital of the world, to be somewhat less than neutral and to be somewhat hostile against one side. His speech this afternoon was a crowning example of that attitude, a complete unconscious disclosure of his gross partiality. I will quote just one minor point. He listed the magnificent exploits of the Arabs at El Alamein and when pressed by an Opposition question, "What about the Jews?" he said, "Oh, that is coming." But it never came, because it was not in his mind. It happens that 30,000 Palestinian Jews joined the British Army. That figure is an extremely high percentage of the male population of a country which, incidentally, was under the 1939 White Paper and which was suffering the gravest injustice. 30,000 Palestinian Jews joined and fought in the British army. Hundreds of them were parachuted behind the enemy lines and died from horrible tortures. One cannot call someone impartial if he delivers a speech which would have been quite acceptable at Lake Success if delivered by the Foreign Secretaries of one of the minor Arab States. That is the kind of speech it was. It was a statement of the Arab point of view by a man who thought he was being impartial. That is a most dangerous frame of mind, and it is that frame of mind which drives people frantic in Palestine today. I am told there is grave alarm in this House, and I share it, about the growth of terrorist tendencies in the people of Israel. If any single man is responsible for the growth of Fascism, on the one side, and Communism, on the other, it is the man who has conducted British foreign policy towards Israel during the last three years. I had the privilege recently of staying with Dr. Weizmann. No statesman's policy has been more deliberately ruined by this country than Weizmann's. He stood for the British connection and lived here for 42 years and served this country well. I will quote one anecdote to show the small mean things which matter so very much. When he left this country to become President, he decided to return his passport to the Home Secretary. He wrote a dignified and long letter of thanks for his 42 years in England, during which time he had contributed in no little way to the assistance of this country. He did not receive even an official acknowledgment. That is the kind of thing which bites very deep. That is what I call "neutrality against the Jews." Add those little things together and we get this dreadful unconscious drift into a blind prejudice, covered by a cloak of self-righteousness. That is what we have got instead of a policy today. Here we are as a nation totally unaware that in the outside world the decision of a British Labour Government, in the middle of a baking summer, to send three shiploads of Jews back to Belsen was not called strict neutrality but was thought to show a certain feeling against one side. Those things are not forgotten in Palestine, nor in the Middle East, nor all over the world. We have to face the fact in the Debate, as the right hon. Member for Woodford said, that our Middle Eastern policy is in ruins today. We have temporarily lost the friendship of the Jews, but it is going to be far easier to restore friendship with Israel than with the other countries of the Middle East. On that tragic 7th January, when our aeroplanes were shot down, the really important factor was the refusal of the Egyptians to ask for our assistance under the 1936 Treaty. Their armies had been utterly exterminated and considerable Jewish forces were threatening Egypt, but, so great was the animosity towards Britain that they preferred to come to what might be humiliating terms with Israel, than to accept assistance from us. That was the measure of our policy in the Middle East and I saw it again when I talked with one British pilot who was shot down in Israel. I asked how he had been briefed and he said, "Of course we were warned about 'gyppies'." I asked "What do you mean?" and he said "Because they always try to shoot us down and I was surprised that the Israelis did it." One of the planes actually was shot down by Egyptian antiaircraft fire. Our men knew perfectly well that it was safer to land in Palestine than in Egypt because they were liable to be torn limb from limb in Egypt. The only possible justification might have been that it would bring us the solid support of the Arab League, but the Arab League no longer exists. The Foreign Secretary himself described how they were all quarrelling with one another, yet only a few months ago one of the things most emphasised by Government spokesmen was the impregnable unity of the Arab League. Those are the measures of the disaster we are discussing today. Not only in the Middle East have we suffered defeat but we have to face the fact that we are isolated on this issue from every other country in the world. The Arab States are against us. Spain and possibly, Belgium and Holland are with us; but France ran away from us the day before yesterday, while the Dominions have been openly fighting us at U.N.O. month after month. In this relation I wish to say a word about America. It is easy to make gibes about votes in New York and to insult the President of a great Republic, but, if we had had a million Jews in this country, our Cabinet might have been slightly more careful to keep their election pledges. Do not let us attack American politicians for what we ourselves would have done. The fact that there are so few Jews here that they can safely be disregarded electorally, does not make us moral and the Americans immoral for having regard to the Jewish vote. It is the greatest misunderstanding of America and of the Dominions to say that it was the Jewish vote that made them Zionists. The overseas settler has a different attitude from the natives like ourselves. We are like the Arabs, while the New Zealanders, like the Jews, have gone across the seas and they cannot take the same attitude of saying that no one can ever be allowed to go into anyone else's country. After all, the British Empire was made that way, and so was America. Anyone therefore who thinks that it was just the Jewish vote in New York that made Mr. Truman a sincere and ardent Zionist must be very badly informed; and anyone reckless enough to take the word of a State Department official who thought that he would wangle the White House into letting down the Jews, cannot have had much experience and should not have believed it when he was told. America could have nothing but a Zionist policy in Palestine. Politicians have to face the facts, and we ought to have faced the fact that America could not be persuaded to condone the destruction of Israel, or its over-running by the Arabs, or anything of that sort. Our third and greatest loss was the loss of our own integrity, the blindness which came upon the Government as the only alternative to admitting their mistakes, their refusal to hear the real facts, and their readiness to believe sheer propaganda. I want to make a list of some of the fantastic prejudices which have gone by way of Intelligence. Here, I regret to say, Foreign Office officials in the Middle East and the Middle East High Command are gravely responsible for misleading the Government time after time with so-called Intelligence reports which were nothing but pro-Arab propaganda. The first and basic instance was referred to by the right hon. Member for Woodford and it was summed up to me by David Ben-Gurion who said to me, "When you go back to London you may think of Whitechapel and then think of us and believe we are the same, but we are not. We are the people who decided that Whitechapel was not good enough for us, who decided to be real men. Think of us as like yourselves and ask what you, a Britisher, would do in our position and you will get it right." He also said, "I may have to be the Jewish Churchill," and that has come true. In this little war—though for them it was a very big war—a most heroic war for sheer existence with virtually no equipment at all to start with—in this little war, David Ben-Gurion led his people and at first they really had to fight with bottles of kerosene against tanks. Later they got an army, but they won the war not by American dollars or Red equipment and not by the Spitfires—and, by the way, it was mostly British equipment—but by the spirit of resistance they showed. It was the spirit of the Battle of Britain, the spirit of the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford about the beaches and the streets. But there it was not merely a figure of speech—it was actually taking place. Every village, every settlement, every street in Israel has been fought over, and fought over by people who had a rifle—a Bren gun only if they were very lucky. Why did they fight? Heavens above, they had escaped from pogroms and ghettos. To where else could they escape? They had come either to the final dead end, or to the beginning of a new world and they were not going to lie down and have their throats cut to make a Roman holiday for our strategic convenience. How can we regard as aggressive or imperialist a little people which, by a miracle, came through this terrible war. They were not fighting with their backs to the wall, but with their backs half way through the wall, and nowhere could they be more than about 10 miles from a battle front. But they are told, "Now you have your backs two inches from the wall, you are wicked aggressive imperialists if, in the course of trying to get at one of the people who hit you on the head, you go two feet inside his territory." And they turn to us and say, "We cannot understand you British. Have you not enough imagination to see what we have been through? Can you not have imagination to see what we have been through? Why should you accuse us of all these things?" There is the first prejudice. The second is this stuff about Communism in Israel. The first thing I am always told is that they come from Russia and that, therefore, they must be Communists. I hope that every Member of this House will read a book by Dr. Weizmann, his autobiography, in which he points out that the Jew who comes from Russia is not Russian because he has not been allowed to be one. Nor would one have any feeling for Communism if one was a Zionist in Russia, since Russian Communists always prosecuted Zionism as a "bourgeois aberration." All the great leaders of Israel come from Eastern Europe. They had to, because they were Zionists who were opposed to Communists. All their lives they have had a tremendous veneration for this country. It is precisely because of their hatred of Russian dictatorship that they looked afar to the island of liberty and later worshipped it as the country which originated the Balfour Declaration. They said "This is the one country that is fair to the Jews." Perhaps they are sentimental, but it is deep in them and they believed in our freedom and in Britain's fair play. Why then does the Foreign Office accuse them of being Communists? They went to Palestine to be real Jews not emigré Russians. That is the spirit of Israel. But I cannot find a trace of a quaver of a notion in the Foreign Secretary's speech of the real character of the nation he was talking about. This may be unfair, but not one Member of the Government Bench has thought it wise since 1945 to go to Palestine to see for himself. Other Members have made the journey. Without having done so, one cannot understand the miracle which has happened. One cannot understand the Israeli people unless one is prepared to disbelieve some of the reports coming from our Cairo and Bagdad embassies and see the facts for oneself. Then there is the "Red" Air Force. I happened to meet a great many members of it. As I have publicly stated, 85 per cent. of their planes are British. That is not because they buy them from here but because they are flown by ex-R.A.F. pilots who do not like flying Messerschmitts—British, Australian, New Zealand, South African and Canadian Jews who have seen a cause worth fighting for, and have fought with incredible gallanty in old broken-down planes against the latest equipment sent against them by the Arab States. They are angry about one thing—being called Communists by the British Press. Israel does not want Communist pilots: they do not need them. People are better trained in the R.A.F. I quote the telegram which the Israeli Fighter Command sent to 208 squadron of the R.A.F. after the incident:"He grew neutral against the Jews."
That is not the telegram of a Red Air Force."Sorry about yesterday. You were on wrong side of fence. Come over and have a drink. You will meet many familiar faces."
Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
How does the hon. Member expect British fighters to defend themselves when they are briefed not to fire their guns unless they are attacked? The least that the hon. Member could do would be to give to the people who saved him and this country in 1940 credit for that.
Let us get this matter clear. These poor chaps were much too young for that. The Israeli Air Force would have been the first to say that they had not won a victory or anything of that sort. In fact, they said they were sorry. I quoted the telegram to show that the idea of a Russian Air Force in Israel is a malignant invention of the Foreign Office propagandists.Here in Israel is a social democratic State if ever there was one. They are akin to us in all their outlook. Their only difference is that they are to have a socialised agriculture and a free enterprise in industry for reasons which are special to their country. Yet we are told that we cannot trust them, that they are all crypto-Russians. If anything could have driven them into accepting Russian support it would have been the policy of this country during the last three years. The tragedy is what we have missed. In 1946 I talked with Weizmann, BenGurion and Shertok. They said, "We cannot hope yet for Dominion status. That will possibly come in a year or two. But if you grant partition there can be a British base at Lydda, a British port at Haifa and British Forces in the Negeb, of course." Now that has all gone. We could have had it in 1946. They wanted it then. But we compelled them to fight for their independence. We threw away a Dominion. I know that this will not please the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills). They were loyal to us. They wanted to be on our side, they wanted to be British. We said, "You cannot be British because we cannot give you that much for fear of offending the Arab League." That was done owing to the lack of a correct estimation of the Jews on the one side and the Arabs on the other. We often accuse Mr. Molotov of creating precisely the things he fears, of creating Western Union because he is afraid of it. That is exactly what our policy in Palestine has done. Because the Foreign Secretary was afraid of a Jewish State he has created one. Because he was afraid of terrorism he has made terrorists. Because he was afraid of immigration he has achieved the immigration of 140,000 people in nine months. Because he wanted to build the Arab League it has gone in ruins. Everything he tried to do has failed. Everything he tried to prevent has come about. That is what I would call a serious collapse of foreign policy and for us, what is of vital importance is to face it. I went to see a new telecommunication centre in Tel Aviv, in which Coventry is interested. It is being built by American R.C.A. Israel has to order two million dollars' worth of telephone equipment also from R.C.A. because they could not order from G.E.C. in this country. Peugeot are supplying trucks to the army instead of this country supplying them. There are millions of pounds' worth of development for which dollars will be paid. But we threw Israel out of the sterling bloc. We said, "We do not want you, for fear that we shall upset the Arabs." Haifa refinery has never less than one-third of its oil in any one year brought in by tanker. Two-thirds comes down by pipeline. Because the pipeline has stopped operating there is no reason why oil should not be brought in by tanker except to appease the Arabs. We hold up the whole of the Marshall Plan in Europe by refusing to send tanker oil to Haifa because of political considerations which are completely nonsensical. I wish to stress that it is not too late for reconciliation. There is still, I stress and repeat, a deep underlying devotion to this country. It is covered over by a bitterness all the more bitter because of the expectations that existed. As some Jew said to me "We would not have minded this if Hitler had done it but for you to have done it, to whom we owe everything in the world!" If, despite this bitterness, there came a new magnanimity in British policy I am completely confident that, not within months but within years we could re-establish the relations of that great period when we had vision in which we saw a splendid future, when we believed in a new civilisation, when we built the Mandate and ourselves helped the Arabs with the help of the Jews. We could go back to all this quite easily, on the one condition that some people here admit, not publicly but privately, that they have been wrong—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not publicly?"]—it is difficult to ask them to do it publicly—that they will in their heart of hearts analyse what went wrong and draw the conclusion that we have to make a change. What is no use is a grudging halfhearted recognition by men who still believe their own propaganda. We used to say during the War that what got the Germans down was that they believed their own propaganda. The danger here is the same that the Government believe all their propaganda about an aggressive Imperialism, and vast Jewish forces that are to overflow the whole Middle East, although there are 800,000 Jews, 40 million Arabs and quite a lot of British about. If all that prejudice and propaganda could be done away with, if people here could see the realities, it would mean a great deal. But, as an hon. Member says, I am dubious if we shall get it from certain individuals on the Government Front Bench. May I take the test case of the Negeb, mentioned by several speakers? The Negeb comprises over half the territory allocated to Israel. The Foreign Secretary, very typically, said that it would be "tidier" if the Jews were given Western Galilee and lost the Negeb, which meant losing half their territory. Does he expect the Jews to find it "tidier" when they are already the smallest country in the world and they are asked to halve the size of that country? And why? Because we want a friendly desert, because we want to ensure that from Egypt round the Gulf of Akka, there shall not be any cities or towns or unreliable Jews, but just a nice big desert where we can feel quite safe, because apparently in the Middle East we only feel safe in a nice big desert. Who is the imperialist? Is it the man who wants to preserve a desert for purely military considerations, or the man who wants to populate the desert and make it happy and fertile? Who is the imperialist in the real old-fashioned sense of the word? That is the question the Jews of Palestine are asking about the Negeb. It is fatal to let strategy determine policy. Of course we must have a friendly area North of Suez. But why not have a friendly area of Jews who feel gratitude to us, instead of a desert and, on the North, Jews who are bitterly alienated. This bogus strategy and very bad politics are at the heart of the Negeb problem.
Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
The hon. Gentleman claims that the Negeb was allocated to the Jews. May I ask him when and by whom?
The 29th November Resolution by U.N.O. I am taking the Negeb as defined by that Resolution.
That is another matter.
That is what I am talking about. That is the area which was modified by the Bernadotte Plan. The area I am talking about is that allocated to the Jews on 29th November.Let us consider Aqaba. We talk about it as a port. It is not a port. It is deep water where there could have been a port but nobody built it. For 25 years we have been there and built nothing. Next door to Aqaba there is five miles where the Jews have got their little place by the sea. Because they want to build a port so that they can bring in their fish and ship their potash they are called aggressors. That is all they want. They just want to build a port to be able to fish and to get the potash down. They have lost the northern end of the Dead Sea and they want to get the potash down from the southern end to Aqaba by rail and not by sea. This country is desperately short of potash, and that might have been of some interest, but no; it would offend the Arabs. I am not saying that I am unprejudiced. Of course, I am prejudiced. I am trying to state a side which has not been stated even in one glimmer, by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench. This leads me to the problem of the Palestine Arab, and I want to say a word to the Leader of the Opposition. I fear that he is far too optimistic. As the Foreign Secretary said, the problem of Arab refugees is a desperate and tragic problem. I went to Jaffa which is now an entirely Jewish city. Thousands of immigrants are there already in houses. Haifa is also already a Jewish city. Only in Acre is the old city reserved for the Arabs. [Interruption.] Beersheba is a military area. I am dealing with areas of ordinary civilian occupation. With thousands of immigrants coming in, the return of the Arab is impossible as the Jews have taken over their houses. These immigrants come in, put up curtains and try to make a life of it in the evacuated Arab houses. The war between Arab and Jew in Palestine was far more violent than people here seemed to realise. There were murder gangs in many Arab villages for months on end after 29th November and the Jews reacted. The Jews were not gentle; they were very ruthless. They wiped out villages where there had been violent resistance from strongpoints. They said, "General Montgomery taught us that. That is what he did in the Arab revolt. When an Arab was difficult he blew up the house." Great demolitions have taken place in Arab villages. An hon. Gentleman asked whether the Arabs left voluntarily or compulsorily. In many cases the Arabs were taken away with the Arab army. When the Iraqi army went, they took the Arabs back with them. In many cases they fled through fear. I do not think that they were ever pushed out by the Jews. They were frightened out, for many of them had murdered Jews for months. There was a war on. It was a cruel war on both sides. Every civilian had a gun. If an Arab had been firing at the Jews and the Jews won, he left the gun and ran away. Only 70,000 Arabs survive in Israel today. These 70,000 are a privileged and pampered minority. They are receiving £1 18s. a day for unskilled work picking citrus. They have been given the same wage rates as Jewish labourers. They are doing well, but I do not think that we can hope for a mass return. Nor do I think that it would be wise. The problem of Arab and Jew in a mixed community was always difficult. Since this tragic war has separated them, it might be better to leave them separated and only permit Arab minorities of say 150,000 in Israel and have the rest resettled in Transjordan. I believe that the task we have to do is to persuade the Jews—they do not need much persuasion—that it is their responsibility to resettle these 700,000 Arabs. They must bear the cost and give the technical skill, the "know-how" of agriculture and building. They would be delighted to do it, because that would give them the co-operation between Transjordan and Israel which is needed. They say how stupid it would be to move them back. After all, these villages were only mud huts anyway. They were terribly bad villages full of vermin. Give them better houses in their own Arab community either in the Arab triangle of Arab Palestine or in Transjordan. That would seem a far more attractive suggestion which we as a democratic nation could accept. I want to conclude with these words. I must say that this Debate marks the end of a quite disastrous period in our Middle Eastern affairs. We have wasted not only money but British lives in a futile attempt to keep deserts deserted and to stem the tide of progress for strategic reasons. Prejudice, to my mind, has blinded the Foreign Secretary, his foreign advisers and his military advisers, and compelled this country to accept a grave diplomatic defeat and humiliation. I would say this. It is not the first time this has happened. It happened to us with the American colonies under Lord North; it happened to us in South Africa, and it happened to us in Ireland. But on each occasion before, a unique British greatness was displayed—magnanimity in defeat. It is very easy for a great Power to be magnanimous when it has won; but the greatest quality is for a great Power to be magnanimous when it has been defied by a small one, and the small Power has pulled it off. That is the mark of greatness—whether at that point the great Power shakes hands and does it openly and frankly. That is the issue. Today I waited and waited, wondering whether the Foreign Secretary could be big enough to do that. He staked his career, his personal career, on solving the Jewish problem. He could be remembered as the man who staked all, lost everything down to the last penny, and then, with the last penny, won the whole thing back again. But can we believe him? Do his words give us the justification for feeling that that change of heart has happened? If they could, I would vote for the Government today: since they cannot. I shall be unable to do so.
Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) began by accusing the Foreign Secretary of partiality, but in my view, it was a case of the kettle calling the saucepan black, because the hon. Member had shown that he certainly is not impartial. He has made a partisan speech. I thought he went too far when he accused the Foreign Secretary of being responsible for the increase of terrorists in Palestine. Of course, if this country had forgotten all her obligations to the Arabs and had conceded everything that the Zionists in Palestine wanted, there would have been no terrorists, but would this country have thought that that was an honourable course to pursue? That would have been appeasement on a scale which this country has never practised and which I hope it never will.I believe the hon. Gentleman was wrong when he spoke about the attitude of Egypt towards this country. The hon. Gentleman is a very clever speaker and is able to use his arguments, and sometimes his facts, to suit his own purpose. He deduced from the fact that the Egyptians were not prepared to invoke their Treaty with us, that it was because they were unfriendly towards us. I wonder if he read an article in "The Times" a few days ago, written by their special correspondent in Cairo, who was able to show what a remarkable improvement there had been recently in the relations between Egypt and this country. Everybody knows that during the past few years there have been differences of opinion between Egypt and this country over the Sudan and other matters, but I think it will not help international relations to suggest that the relations between this country and any other are worse than they actually are. and, I believe, in point of fact, the hon. Member is wrong there. I share the anxiety of a great many other people at the way in which relations between the Government of Israel and this country have developed, but where I differ from the critics of the Government's policy is that I refuse to blame the Foreign Secretary and accuse him of being chiefly responsible for what has happened. Of course, he has made mistakes, but what Foreign Secretary who had to deal with a complicated and difficult problem like this could have avoided making mistakes in matters of detail? Let us be fair to him. Personally, I think one bad mistake was when he agreed to the air reconnaissance. I think the fact that the United Nations observers were not allowed to go to the battlefield was a matter which should have been dealt with by U.N.O. itself, which should have taken appropriate action. It was quite wrong, therefore, for us to take unilateral action in this matter. The result, as we all know, has been unfortunate. On the other hand, it might be argued that a mistake was made by him when partition was being discussed and we observed an attitude of neutrality. It might be argued that it would have been fairer to the Arabs if we had come out strongly against partition, in which case it is quite likely that the partition proposal would never have been carried by the Assembly. It is only fair to remember that we have a definite obligation to the Arabs in Palestine to look after their interests, so far as lies within our power, for the reason that it was this country which issued the Balfour Declaration, which, in a way, really began the state of affairs which has led to the present position. If there had been no Balfour Declaration by this country in 1917, this present Palestine problem might never have arisen. Having issued the Declaration and having stated in it that certain rights of the Arabs were to be respected, I feel that we were in honour bound to see that those rights were upheld and maintained so far as lay in our power. It is only right that the critics of the Government should recognise the obligations of the Foreign Secretary and the British Government in this matter. I believe that the gravamen of the charge against the policy of the Foreign Secretary is that, in the opinion of his critics, it has failed. In my view, it is too early to say whether his policy has failed or not. The Foreign Secretary has said again and again—and I believe that he is right—that the only way in which we can get a permanent and satisfactory solution of the Palestine problem is by way of agreement between the Jews and Arabs. Today, it looks as if that agreement is being arrived at. It is true that it has been reached by a circuitous route, but I believe we are today nearer agreement between Arabs and Jews than at any time since this problem began, and that is one of the hopeful facts about the present situation. It is an unfortunate fact that mankind will learn only by suffering, and it may be that Arabs and Jews have had to go through this period of tension, strife and struggle, and perhaps, have to show their respective military strength before a peaceful situation could possibly be brought about. I am not prepared myself to condemn the Foreign Secretary because his foreign policy, in the opinions of his critics, does not appear to have reached the objective at which he aimed or to have been as successful as he would have liked it to be. Rather I think that we should be aware of the difficulty and complexity of the problem. One of the difficulties has been that there has been a difference of view between the United States and ourselves. I am hoping that, now that we have reached a stage when some of the major obstacles to understanding between our two countries have been removed, it may be possible for us to have closer agreement with the United States so far as Middle East policy is concerned. I believe that to be the best hope and guarantee of peace in the Middle East. There are certain features of recent events which are very disturbing and ominous for the future. One is that an issue which ought to have been settled on the basis of right and justice has, in point of fact, been settled by military force, and that is a matter which must cause concern. Another is that Israel has been able, on a number of occasions, to flout the resolutions passed by the United Nations. The moral that we must draw from that is that if the United Nations is to be effective—and many of us believe that the best hope of world peace is to be found in an effective U.N.O.—and if it really is to do what it is intended to do, it must be given armed forces to enable it to implement its decisions. I hope that the Governments represented on the Security Council will realise that from a world point of view—and I think that we might try to learn some lessons from what is happening in Palestine with regard to the bigger problem of world peace—the question of the United Nations being given an international police force is of the highest priority, and I hope that another effort will be made to secure agreement about such a Force. I do not believe that anything is to be gained by recriminations with regard to the past. I trust that we shall have more regard to the present and to the future. I say to the Israeli Government and to the people of Israel that I hope that they will remember two things: first, that it was this country which, by issuing the Balfour Declaration, took the initiative which has made the present State of Israel possible; and, secondly, that they will remember that it was the stand which this country made in 1940 against Hitler which saved the remnant of world Jewry from complete destruction and prevented the complete ruin of everything that had been accomplished in Palestine. I would also say to them that they have won a surprising military victory, but the greater task still lies before them. They have paid a very big price for this victory. It has been a great strain on their financial and economic resources to have to keep so much of their manpower under arms. The cost of living, due to inflation, in Palestine is extremely high and must press with special severity on the great masses of the people. They have, therefore, great internal problems with which to deal, and, apart from that, the outside world perhaps does not realise how much destruction has actually taken place as a result of the fighting that has been waged in Palestine. The Israeli Government must also realise that they have difficult external problems. I hope and pray that they will not let their military success go to their head. Their truest interest lies in cultivating the best possible relationship with their Arab neighbours, and I trust that they will not be led astray by their hotheads to go beyond whatever boundaries may be laid down for them by the United Nations. I say in defence of what has been done recently that the policy of the Foreign Secretary, which his critics have described as being intimidation and threatening the State of Israel with war, and the possibility that if they went too far, military action might be taken by this country to defend Transjordan or elsewhere, may have been very helpful to the more moderate members of the Israeli Government against their extremists who may have been prepared to go too far. That is a factor which ought to be taken into consideration. It may have served a salutary purpose from that point of view. Now I hope that the Government of Israel will realise that their best interest is to be content with the boundaries that will be laid down. Lastly, I trust that they will remember this: I believe that Great Britain today is and always will be the best friend that Jewry has, and that the State of Israel should realise that they have much to gain from cultivating the friendship and goodwill of this country. I hope that they will bear these things in mind and that the dead past may be buried and a better and more hopeful situation with regard to our relations with Israel may follow. The State of Israel is a fact. I think that we must recognise that. We can only hope that its future will justify the high hopes and expectations of all those who have helped to build it.
Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham South)
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) raised two most important points which I propose shortly to follow up. He will forgive me if I first turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). While I was listening to my hon. Friend's speech, which was full of accusations of prejudice against my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I wondered where on earth was the constituency that sent my hon. Friend to the House of Commons, because the essence of what I propose to say is, firstly; that the views expressed by my hon. Friend, which, after all, were only his own prejudices with regard to this matter, do not represent the opinion of the ordinary Englishman in the street and particularly the working-class Englishman and woman; and, secondly, that Zionism is in itself inherently a wrong thing. Behind all the speeches that have been made tonight against my right hon. Friend and in favour of the Israeli State lies the cold, calm assumption that Zionism in itself is good and, therefore, ought to be supported.
Is my hon. Friend now arguing that he is supporting the Foreign Secretary because the Foreign Secretary, like him, holds that Zionism is an evil thing?
No, I am glad that the hon. Member asked that. I am supporting the Foreign Secretary's policy, because it has throughout been marked by resistance to aggression, and it is the point of view of the ordinary Englishman that aggression should be resisted. The English have political maturity and commonsense, a combination that exists nowhere else in the world to the same extent. This combination of political maturity and commonsense has led Englishmen in crisis after crisis to resist aggression and, therefore, to align themselves behind a foreign policy aimed at restraining aggression, as in this case.
Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
We have heard a lot of views expressed in the House tonight, and they have all been based on the gratuitous assumption that Zionism is a good thing and therefore ought to be supported. I believe that Zionism is a bad thing. What is Zionism but the expressed belief of certain fanatical Jews that they are the Chosen People, who ought to have a national State in Palestine, a country which they left 20 centuries ago? This belief of the more fanatical Jews is a belief backed by big money in various parts of the world, particularly in the United States. I could not help feeling amusement at the emotional argument with which the hon. Member for East Coventry sought to arouse the sympathy of the House for this small nation, which has been backed by the two greatest Powers in the world today, Russia and America, whose support of Israel is the only thing they have in common with one another.The actual evidence that Zionism is essentially aggressive goes back a long way. The Zionist movement only began in my lifetime. The first Zionist Congress was held in 1897, and that Congress started the technique of deceit which has been characteristic of Zionism ever since. It started—
The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) has been interrupting all the afternoon. It is about time he restrained his enthusiasm.
Will the hon. Gentleman say what he understands by "Zionism"?
I actually have the quotation in my pocket. Israel Cohen's "The Zionist Movement" quotes Herzl's private diary written immediately after the first Zionist Congress, held in 1897 at Basle, had defined the aim as
But the private diary said:"A home in Palestine secured by public law."
The founder of Zionism says privately, quoted by one of his most enthusiastic admirers and biographers, "We want a Jewish State." All the way through the piece ever since, at Labour Party Conferences no less than anywhere else, the Zionists have practised this singular piece of deceit—they have interpreted the "Home" and the "State" as meaning one and the same thing. Zionism is not only characterised by deceit in its methods; it is also characterised by its violence. There is a type of man who, when he feels weak, cringes, but who, when he feels strong, bullies, and there is the Zionist from whom, when he is weak, we hear about the ills the Jews have suffered. They say they want the National Home. I am in my 42nd year of membership of this party. Before I joined it, I was a fervent admirer of a great, far-seeing statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, who, in the early days of the Zionist movement, took them at their word and offered them territory in East Africa, what is now Uganda, land since much sought after by affluent people in this country who can pick and choose where they would like to go. But the ensuing Zionist Congress turned down the offer of land in Uganda because it was not Palestine. It did not suit the religious fanaticism which was, in fact, the mainspring of their movement. They could have had a beautiful settlement in what is now Uganda had they liked, but their fanaticism restrained them. In those days, they were weak; in those days they cringed. But when, after the last war, they began to feel strong, they pursued their ends with a ferocity paralleled by the ferocity with which my right hon. Friend has been assailed in this House today. They pursued it with a ferocity that involved the introduction of new kinds of violent crime, for example, the use of the postal explosive with murderous intent, than which I can imagine nothing more cowardly. Theirs was the idea of putting booby traps on the bodies of men they had hanged in cold blood for doing their duty, than which I can imagine nothing more beastly. My hon. Friend for East Coventry said that the Jews remember, but so do the English working-class remember. I wish that the hon. Member for West Leicester would do what I do, maintain social contacts with his constituency. I spend many Saturday evenings in working men's clubs and other social organisations with my constituents. It would surprise the hon. Member for West Leicester and the hon. Member for East Coventry if they knew what ordinary people were saying about Israel, not because people think Zionism is wrong—they probably know nothing about it—but becouse they know of the violent methods which the Zionists have used to attain their ends, and they naturally hate people who use those methods."If I were to sum up the Basle Congress in one word—which I shall not do openly—it would be this: at Basle I founded the Jewish State."
I will not give way. The hon. Member has been interrupting all the evening.I want to refer to another favourite technique of deceit practised by the Zionists. It is much resorted to in this Parliamentary Labour Party. If a member of this party disapproves of Zionism and approves, as I do, of the Foreign Secretary, they are told that they are anti-Semitic. Some hon. Members confuse anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. I am not an anti-Semite. I have many good friends among Jews in this House and out of it, and I resent the imputation of anti-Semitism. The English working class are a kindly, tolerant, friendly people. There is still no anti-Semitism rampant in England today. There is a feeling against the State of Israel, but no anti-Semitism, thanks to the decency and the political maturity of the English people. However, there are many Labour supporters among the working class who do wonder just for what purpose some hon. Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are in this House. Now I want to come to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). He referred to the Balfour Declaration. I do not think that many hon. Members of this House really understand the circumstances in which that rather discreditable incident cropped up. The evidence is on record. It was given by the late Mr. Lloyd George to the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937 and is quoted in the report. It is worth while to quote it because Mr. Lloyd George referred particularly to the timing of the Balfour Declaration. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) said just now that when in Flanders he did not know what it meant. Nor did I in Flanders know what it meant at the time, but I know now because Mr. Lloyd George told the Commission in 1937. The Balfour Declaration came at a very critical moment during the First World War. Russia had fallen out of the fight, the Rumanian Army had been dispersed and Italy had suffered the crowning humiliation of Caporetto. It was at that time, said Mr. Lloyd George:
The Balfour Declaration was issued at that time in order to get the more active co-operation of America in the war. There was no American election at the end of 1917; it was not a case of enlisting the support of the New York voters. What did the words "American Jewry" at that time actually imply? What could those words have implied except the influence of those Americans who were able to exercise influence by virtue of their wealth? It was the wealthy Zionists in the United States whose aid was invoked in the First World War, and that was the purpose of the Balfour declaration. The Balfour Declaration, safeguarding Arab rights, was used at one Labour party conference after another to bring my party in on the side of Zionism. I believe it true to say that no single Labour Party Conference speech by any speaker on behalf of Zionism ever referred to Zionism or the aims and objects of the Zionist movement. No speaker ever told the Labour Party, "We are Zionist Jews because of our fanatical religious aims; and, because of the craving for power on the part of some of our wealthy co-religionists across the Atlantic, we want the Jewish State in Palestine." That was never said; they always appealed to the broad humanity of the trade unionists. Of course, they got it, and my party became committed. When in 1945 the Election came I had a visit at Nottingham from the rabbi and one of his congregation, to whom I felt quite cordial. I said I supported the principle of the Balfour Declaration. I support it still, but I am bound to admit that the Balfour Declaration was a very equivocal document issued in very fishy circumstances, not a credit to this country. It was that which queered the position all the way through the peace and made things difficult if not impossible for my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) mentioned the United States. In this connection the United States means wealthy Zionist people whose influence is exerted by virtue of their control over finance. In 1917, as Mr. Lloyd George said, American Jewry was influential. It was no less influential in the early days following World War I. We all know as a matter of history that it was the insistence of America that this country should repay her war loan in gold that weakened this country, that gave us a perpetual unemployment problem for 20 years, and when Hitler came to power left us without the financial and economic resources to re-arm except after long preparation. My case against Zionism is not only that it is of its nature aggressive, not only that it is of its nature murderous, but also that Zionism in America has used its wealth ever since World War 1 to weaken this country in the world; with consequences which my right hon. Friend finds himself up against today. In this Debate we have had a most extraordinary development, which I for one had not anticipated. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his speech not only reiterated what everybody knew—that at the end of World War 1, if he had had his way, he would have strangled Bolshevism at birth—[Interruption]—yes, one can argue that. He not only did that, but also said that what ought to have happened was that in 1945, when we had troops under arms in Palestine, we should have used them to compel a settlement of this Israel problem. If that means anything at all, it can only mean that in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition we should have used troops in Palestine to oppose the Arabs and establish the Jewish State. What else could it mean? The right hon. Member for Woodford went on to commit the Conservative Party, so far as I could see, hook line and sinker to the Zionist cause. I think I detected a good deal of consternation on the other side of the House, because it is well known that the Leader of the Opposition is a Zionist. One would expect him to be. There is a widespread superstition that the Leader of the Opposition is popular with the party opposite. It is not true. There is a widespread superstition that the Leader of the Opposition is a great British leader. It is not true. He is a great Anglo-American leader, which is a very different thing, and in his case no doubt natural and appropriate. But I am an Englishman. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is an Englishman, and I am sure that the House will forgive us if we look at this question as Englishmen. We do not favour Israel, because Israel is the creation of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. What about the U.S.S.R.? The hon. Member for East Coventry talked ignorantly about the part played by the U.S.S.R. in the creation of Israel. Those of us who were on the Estimates Committee, and went to Austria in 1947, learned something of this at first-hand. Unofficially we visited a Jewish camp near Graz, a few miles towards Vienna. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) was our chairman. In that camp we saw about 3,000 Jewish refugees who had come from Russia. If there is one thing above all others which the Soviet does not do, it does not part with able-bodied men. If an able-bodied male is on the wrong side, that is to say the Soviet side, of the Iron Curtain, there he has to stay. Yet this tremendous migration of able-bodied Jews had originated from Soviet territory. The few of those men whose language I could understand—it was the English of New York—said they had originally been citizens of Eastern Poland, and were deported to Russia when Russia went into Poland in September, 1939. I said, "Where are you going now?" They said, "We would like to go to the United States." Those who spoke English wanted to go there more than anywhere else. But the Zionists had arranged otherwise. The Russian part was this. Russia, contrary to practice, had allowed these able-bodied men out merely to embarrass Great Britain. America and Russia both want the State of Israel, because neither of them is interested in maintaining the strength of this country as a leading great Power. But the Foreign Secretary and I and most working men in my constituency, and most Labour Members in Westminster, are interested in maintaining the strength of Great Britain as a great Power. We have now arrived at the stage at which we are compelled, by force majeure, to recognise Israel. The thing is there. Let us now face up to the question of what has now to be done."No American divisions were yet available in the trenches. In this critical situation it was believed that Jewish sympathy, or the reverse, would make a substantial difference one way or the other to the Allied cause, In particular, Jewish sympathy would confirm the support of American Jewry."
Dr. Segal (Preston)
We are compelled because we are not strong, and faced by American wealth and Russian malice, we have not been able to prevent the illegal immigration which has been the Zionist weapon throughout. There the thing is, and we have to consider now what we are going to do.I would submit that, if it were not for this religious fanaticism which is the mainspring of Zionism—but which the Jewish hon. Members of this House are careful never to say anything about—if the Jews would be willing to accept national homes here, there and everywhere, the thing would fit in very conveniently with the latest Truman policy, which is to develop the backward areas of the world with the aid of American capital and, no doubt, in accordance with our own Colonial policy. As any member of the Estimates Committee who investigated colonial policy, last year, knows, the economic future of Great Britain depends on the development of Africa, which supplies a good strategic reason for my right hon. Friend doing what he is doing. President Truman comes along with his new doctrine of developing various parts of the world. Why do not the Jews find their opportunity in that? They would do so, were it not for this religious fanaticism. But there is another motive at work, the dependence of Zionist Jews on Jewish finance, which happens for the moment to be located in New York more than anywhere else. Because of that, the whole system is queered. I would say to the Foreign Secretary, let not his heart be troubled. His position is secure in the esteem of most of his fellow countrymen, and most of all in that of the working class people whose political instincts, so much more mature than the political instincts of any other people, lead them always to support a foreign policy which will go on keeping England strong—England, the historical opponent of dictators; England, now the repository of all that is politically decent against the forces, on one side of Russian Communism, and on the other side of Zionist finance located in the United States.
Mr. William Teeling (Brighton)
I have been privileged tonight to listen to two speeches from two hon. Members representing Nottingham. The first was from the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Harrison) which, quite frankly I did not understand at all. The other, from the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) seemed to be the first from the other side of the House in full support of the Foreign Secretary. I am inclined to think that it might be in some ways embarrassing. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman said that we are forced, or are about to be forced, to recognise Israel. That seems to be a most fatal approach to make to the whole matter. Why must the idea be put forward that we are being forced? The speech of the Foreign Secretary did nothing to alter that impression. It gave one very genuinely the impression that most reluctantly he was agreeing—not even yet fully agreeing—to the possibility of recognising Israel.Other hon. Members criticised the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) suggesting either that it was a party speech or that it was not supported by the main part of this party. I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I, at any rate, fully support it. Furthermore, although I have not myself spoken on this subject for a year or two in this House, I am inclined to think that if we had heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford in the past two years a little more on this subject, there would have been no need for the speeches today, for we would not be in our present difficult position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford put forward a brilliant case in a brilliant speech which will be read throughout Europe and in Israel also. It will bring great encouragement to those people who want to be friends of Great Britain. It will be considered much more the voice of England than will the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I often follow the Foreign Secretary in different parts of Europe, and I hear impressions about him, and in other parts of the world in the last few months his prestige has been going down very much indeed, whereas without any doubt the prestige of the speeches and utterances on foreign affairs of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford has been going up all the time. That cannot be denied by any one who travels abroad. I also believe that great friends of this country like Dr. Weizmann will be particularly happy that at long last my right hon. Friend has spoken in the House in the way he has done, for they have been just waiting and hoping that their great friend of the past would speak out in their favour. Nearly two years ago when I spoke here I prophesied what has now hap- pened and suggested that we need not wait so long. There is no need to boast about that prophecy because it was very easy for me. I was brought up and lived off and on for 30 years through all the troubled times in Ireland, and I have seen things happen there on similar lines to what is happening today in the Middle East. Some people might say that the two could not be compared, but we must remember that certain Jewish elements have compared the situation in the two countries and have been convinced that Ireland showed them the best method of winning. I am now referring to the extremists. We had our extremists in Ireland in the I.R.A. They were not Communists and not necessarily Right Wing, although there were probably elements of both. As we know, eventually the Government of this country gave way to them. It looks as if the Government will have to do the same with Israel. If an earlier British Government had given Ireland Home Rule there would not have been the present difficult position with regard to the completely lost Southern Ireland. The positions with regard to Israel and Southern Ireland are similar. It is true that when recognition was given, the I.R.A. became great heroes and were given pensions, and some achieved office, but very soon the more levelheaded elements in the country got complete control, and today there is very little talk of extremism in Ireland, although there was during those days when they were fighting Great Britain. We shall find that once Israel has been recognised the Communist element will be pushed very much into the background instead of getting into control. It is a favourite fear of a large number of people that if we recognise Israel we shall be putting her almost into the hands of the Russians, but I believe that speeches such as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford will give a fillip and a chance to the people in Israel who want to work with us. That is also why I feel so very critical of the Foreign Secretary's policy over the last year or so with regard to Israel. All the good that was done in the past in the way of achieving friendship has been whittled away as far as it could be by what the right hon. Gentleman has been doing. I cannot understand why on earth he should choose to be so particularly friendly to Egypt. He was not here when the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) pointed out how the Foreign Secretary tried to praise Arab acts in his speech and did not refer to what had been done by the Jews. However, I can remember when the King of Egypt inspected British troops and deliberately came in a car presented to him by Hitler. Recently I have been thinking of a constituent of mine who was one of the two pilots shot down and killed on 7th January. Only a few months earlier, on 29th April, 1948, he wrote to his family from Cyprus where his squadron was then stationed. He wrote:
These were Egyptians fighting this poor boy who was killed by the Israelis later and was forced to take part in that reconnaissance beside Egyptians, again just a few hours before the truce. All of us who are connected with the Royal Air Force feel very strongly about that, and feel very definitely that the Members of the Government who were really responsible for those orders have something very much on their consciences. Why should we send out boys to take photographs when we know perfectly well that they cannot both take photographs and defend their aircraft? How could the Israel Radar tell who they were? They were only 400 ft. above the ground. It was definitely asking them to commit suicide. A few days ago the right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that he was letting a certain number of able-bodied males leave Cyprus. It seems that that was to be a gesture to show that things were moving in a more friendly manner. He should also remember that there are some Afghan Jews at present in India. They have been allowed to stay in India over a short period, but India have now said that they must go to Israel by 31st January. They have their visas and everything else necessary for the journey, but they are routed via Cyprus and as transit visas there have been scrapped they are not allowed to go there. Therefore, these 300 Afghan Jews are left high and dry in India. There are many thousands of Jewish Italian subjects in Tripolitania who want to get either to Israel or to Italy, but no exit visas are allowed. Also there are about 4,000 frightened Jews in Aden, many of whom are able bodied, but because of this they are not allowed exit visas. Surely, something ought to be done to alter that situation. We are already allowing men out of Cyprus, and that should be permitted in the other cases. What I am trying to get at is that if the Government are going to do something as a gesture they should do it properly and thoroughly."The Egyptian Air Force Spitfires raided our 'drome dropping some small bombs and straffing the aeroplanes. The first two temporarily grounded 32 squadron Spitfires with hundreds of bullets and shrapnel holes in them. But we were lucky. Most of our kites escaped unscathed. Consequently we put up a constant patrol, and later, as you know, the Egyptians returned and were all five of them shot down, one by ground fire. The Egyptians claim that it was a mistake owing to bad weather, but we never get bad weather out here; the visibility is always unlimited. I just cannot imagine why the Egyptians did this because they knew that we were leaving the next day and they certainly did not gain anything from it."
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)
I can give the hon. Gentleman the answer to that question now. Following the decision on Cyprus, there have been consequential decisions covering Tripoli, Germany and elsewhere to bring our policy into line with that of Cyprus.
So all these people will be allowed to go free?
I am glad that that has been done, but it was not mentioned before.I want to switch to another point which I raised in my previous speeches, which concerns the more mundane side—the business side. There are tremendous possibilities in trading with Israel. Is the Foreign Secretary closely in touch with the Board of Trade on the subject? I have already frequently criticised as well as asked him questions on the subject of Japan and the Far East. I have always had the impression that the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office do not always see eye to eye, and that they look at such matters as we are discussing now in completely different ways. We do not seem to bother about the questions of trade and industry with Israel. We ought to. There are tremendous opportunities there. I believe there is something like £90 million sterling belonging to Palestine in this country. If that could be released it would be of immense value in the development of Israel and in purchases from this country. There could also be the development of our shipping and air services. Lastly I would make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. It looks now as if Israel must in the end be recognised. I have always openly advocated that that would happen. I believe that Israel can be a great friend to this country still and to all that we stand for. I believe that it will in no way interfere with our friendship with the Arabs. I am quite sure that we can work with both together, but I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman was not able to come down to this House today and tell us that Israel would be recognised. He has told us that one reason is because he will have to come to an agreement with Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan on this particular subject. Surely that could have been done already. Is it possible that the Foreign Secretary, because he knows that an election has just taken place in Israel and does not yet know what the results will be—whether it might be to the extreme right or left—is hoping that there is one last chance not to recognise an extremist Israel?
I see the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, and I am glad he does not feel that. Many of us on this side of the House want to work with the right hon. Gentleman. We greatly admire him and some of his work. I have felt particularly miserable of late at the way in which our prestige in Europe and throughout the world has been gradually going down. Under the present circumstances, and to counteract this I hope he will make a gesture soon to Israel, and that when he does recognise Israel, he will do it in a big way.
Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
The last two speakers from the Opposition have been very moderate in what they have said and their speeches were in marked contrast to those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), who spoke from this side. The speech of the latter was one of the most moving and brilliant pieces of partisan advocacy I have ever listened to. As he began by criticising the Foreign Secretary for partiality, I began to wonder how he was going to justify his own speech, until at the end he threw away any pretence at impartiality and came out openly as an advocate of the Zionist cause. How partisan that speech was; can be shown by the statement he made giving a very exaggerated view of our relations with Egypt, because his information came from people who had been fighting recently and whose views were likely to be inflamed. Because of this, he said, our whole standing in the Middle East had deteriorated to the lowest point it had ever reached.It is only necessary to point out firstly that Egypt is only one country in the Middle East; secondly, it has never been, of all the Arab countries, in very close association with the others; and, thirdly, the Middle East includes other countries besides the Arab countries with whom I think it is true to say that our relations are better than they have ever been. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) surely realises that our relations with India and Pakistan are better than they have ever been.
Mr. S. Silverman
That is hardly the Middle East.
As the Foreign Secretary said today, India was one of the key countries of the Middle East.
I always thought that India was the Far East.
The hon. Gentleman was alone in that thought. He will see that the Middle East includes Persia, Afghanistan and India. The ties of India are infinitely closer to the Arab countries than they are to China and Japan which countries are usually thought of as being in the Far East.There were many other inaccuracies and partisan statements in the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry, and one can only conclude that it is the speech of a man who is openly prepared to ignore one of the sets of pledges which the British Government have made. An entirely Zionist view can be taken if we are prepared to ignore the pledges to the Arabs given in the Balfour Declaration and repeated in the Mandate. No British Government could, in fact, take that point of view. I am one of those who think that it is to the credit of this Government that, in spite of having taken too extreme a view when they were in opposition they had the courage to admit the fact that they had obviously been mistaken, and had taken a more balanced and responsible attitude when they came into power.
Mr. S. Silverman
Does the hon. Gentleman not believe any more in partition?
Yes, in partition, but that is a point to which I will come.I believe the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry was more effective than that of the right hon. Gentleman th··e Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). The right hon. Gentleman made one remark in his speech, which lay at the root of the whole of the problem which we have had in Palestine. He said that there had always been Jews in Palestine and he hoped there always would be. So do I. He inferred from that that it should have been possible—and it should be possible still—to make Jews and Arabs agree. The rather naive hope that lies behind that idea has, in fact, been the source of most of the trouble that we have experienced in Palestine. It is perfectly true that there have been 80,000 Jews in Palestine for many generations. That argument does not stand any test whatever. For many generations there were hundreds of thousands of Germans in Czechoslovakia but the Germans and Czechoslovaks do not get on. There have been many thousands of Poles in Russia and Russians in Poland but the Poles and the Russians do not get on. The real truth about the Jews from Europe who came into Palestine under the Balfour Declaration—an idea which I still support—was that they were in character and in civilisation as alien both to the Arabs in Palestine and to the original Jewish inhabitants as any other European or Western race could have been. The only hope of the Balfour Declaration being peacefully implemented obviously lay in Arab acceptance of it, and right at the beginning there was this chance that King Feisal would after all accept it. If he had reached an agreement with Weizmann it is arguable that Feisal might have carried the rest of the tribes with him and a Jewish National Home would have been founded within a greater Arab independent state. That was the original understanding in 1919–20, but from the moment that that Arab acceptance broke down, as a result of the failure of ourselves and the French to implement our pledges, then, as was so clearly recognised by the Peel Commission, all chance of peaceful implementation of the Balfour Declaration disappeared. It was the failure to recognise that fact, not merely by the right hon. Member for Woodford but by one Government after another, of both parties, that led to the series of prevarications which characterised the whole of this Palestine question between the wars. Even when the Peel Commission came out flatly and said that the Mandate itself was unworkable and advocated partition, the Government of the day were not prepared to make up their minds or to take a decision. Yet today the right hon. Member, with all that experience behind him, still says that in his view it would have been possible, after this war to get the Arabs and Jews to agree; that we alone could have got them to agree to a solution. Now I think that that confession on what he would have done, really invalidates what might have been a sound criticism of the policy of this Government, because it can easily be argued with force, not that they could have got the two sides to agree to a solution, but that after the war it might have been possible to impose partition by force. There were very few—I think the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was one—who did advocate that policy. Although that was arguable, there were very few people who did advocate that policy, and there are very few people who can level that criticism at the Government now.
Mr. S. Silverman
I never advocated a partition of Palestine imposed by force by anybody. I do not think that would have been necessary if we had made up our minds.
Then I did the hon. Member an injustice in thinking he was more clear-sighted about that than is in fact the case. The arguments against such a policy were, of course, exceedingly strong. First there was the fact that the Zionists, in America in particular, were at that time saying that partition would in their view be a betrayal of the whole of the Zionist cause, and they were believed—I think with some justice—to have the support of the American Government behind them. As AngloAmerican relations were obviously the key to the whole future of Europe and the Western world at that time, the position was very delicate. Secondly, there was the obvious fact that to impose partition after the war would have meant keeping a large force of British troops in Palestine for many years, and there would have been very few hon. Members on either side of the House who, after the end of the war, would have voted for a policy of that kind. Those who now say that that is what should have been done, should have said so then.What in fact happened was that, when the Foreign Secretary adopted a policy of trying to bring the Americans in on the solution for Palestine, he was applauded on all sides of the House; and not least, as the event showed, by the hon. Member for East Coventry. Of course, once the decision not to impose partition by force had been taken, there was only one alternative open to the Government. It had been complained for a long time that the greatest obstacle to getting a settlement in Palestine was the fact that American Jewry was constantly raising the claims and the ambitions of the Jews in Palestine, and yet was quite unwilling to accept any responsibility for a solution of the problems of that country. Therefore, if we were not in a position to impose a solution ourselves there was only one Power in the world which could impose a solution and come to our assistance, and that was the United States of America. Unless the issue was to be left to be decided by war there was only one thing to do, and that was to try to bring the United States in on finding a solution. That is what the Foreign Secretary did; and that is what at the time he was applauded for doing. And, of course, he was quite right. All through, that has been the real basis of this Government's policy towards Palestine: to get the United States to understand that in an international case of this delicacy a world Power of the character of the United States cannot whole-heartedly take one side and yet decline to take any responsibility for finding a solution. That, of course, is a delicate point. It is, and has been, quite impossible for this Government to be as blunt about that as it would like to have been. AngloAmerican relations are thick and sound, but we are so dependent on American goodwill and help that naturally, if we are to bring them round to accept that point of view, we have to work quietly and tactfully behind the scenes. Thus, it has been quite impossible for this Government to blazon abroad and to publicise its policy in a way that would have made it clear to the whole world. That is the main reason why it has been difficult, on the whole, to see the thread of policy through the last three years. The policy to bring the United States to accept its share of responsibility failed at the first phase. Direct effort failed, in spite of the fact that President Truman was got to agree to send two commissions to Palestine. When the plan they put up was refused by both sides, and when it became clear that force would again be necessary if a settlement was to be achieved, President Truman backed down; he said he could neither support nor reject the proposed federal plan, and he advised the Mandatory Power to do what seemed best to it. Well, the first attempt had failed. What was the alternative? There was one other hope of bringing pressure to bear on the United States without letting the issue be decided by war, and that was to go through U.N.O. It is perhaps a valid criticism of the Foreign Secretary that he did not immediately send the question to U.N.O. That was a criticism I myself held at the time. But having already seen how reluctant the United States was to accept any share of real responsibility for enforcement, he must have known very well that the chances of bringing any successful pressure to bear through U.N.O. were very remote indeed. In those circumstances it is difficult to blame my right hon. Friend for trying once more, with his own great experience of negotiation, to make the parties agree. I myself never thought that he would succeed, or that he had a hope of success; but at least he did so knowing that sending it to U.N.O. had slender chances of achieving a solution. Well, it went to U.N.O., and I shall not go into the many detailed criticisms of our attitude towards what happened at U.N.O. The fact remains exactly the same: the United Nations failed to find a solution for this problem because they never at any time faced the one thing that mattered, which was that any proposed plan had to be imposed by force. When it became clear that no Power, except Russia, which was unacceptable to the United Nations, would support or would supply a force with which the United Nations' plan could be enforced, then I believe we were absolutely right, first of all to point out that they were making just the same mistake as we had made for 20 years in believing that this problem could be solved by getting both sides to agree, and secondly to reserve our position in the event of one of these plans being accepted by the United Nations without any force being provided to enforce it. That is what we did, because, of course, there was the very real danger that if we were still there—though we said we were going to go—we should become involved in policing Palestine alone on behalf of the United Nations. When the right hon. Member for Woodford asked why we did not allow the United Nations Commission to go earlier, the fact is that they said they would not go because there were not sufficiently peaceable conditions in Palestine to allow them to operate. The right hon. Member is simply suggesting that we should have stayed there and policed the country in order that the commission should have been able to do their work. Had we accepted that position it would have made it extremely difficult for us to leave Palestine at all, and the Foreign Secretary would then have been guilty of putting this country in the position of alone doing the dirty work for the United Nations. It was because he was afraid that that position might arise that he, in my opinion quite rightly, reserved his position and said that he would judge any plan on its merits, and on whether it had a plan for enforcement. As we all had foreseen, and not merely those who oppose the Government, when the United Nations plan failed for that reason, the issue came to the test of war. In that situation, British policy was clear. It was, first to try to confine the war to as narrow an area as possible and to bring it to an end as soon as possible; secondly, it was to try to continue to bring pressure on the United States to exercise at last its influence upon the Jewish side, hoping that we could exercise some influence on the Arab side to bring a final measure of restraint, and to give a guarantee that whatever settlement was arrived at as a result of the war, would, in fact, be observed. It does not matter what agreement we hope is to be signed at Rhodes; unless the United States make it plain that as far as they are concerned whatever treaty is there signed is to be kept and that further support of Israel will not be given if the treaty is broken, there will be no peace in Palestine, whatever treaty is in fact made. I would say that throughout the war, although I think there were mistakes made, we succeeded on the whole in both those tasks. It is an absolute travesty of the truth for my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry to write and to say that this Government encouraged the Arabs to make war. He has not so far adduced one shred of evidence to support that statement. [An HON. MEMBER: "We supplied them with arms."] My interrupter says that we supplied the Arabs with arms. We supplied them with arms for a certain period under our treaty obligations which had nothing to do with Palestine at all, but when the United Nations embargo was put on, we immediately cut that supply off. By using our influence to restrain the Arabs we introduced the truce, which nobody will deny was very much against the Arabs' interests, because during that period the Jews were able to import a large quantity of arms, and the balance of power was in that time very largely reversed. The fact is that we have done our utmost to restrain the Arabs and that by our influence we have very largely confined this war to the narrowest possible area. A further fact, which is at last becoming plain to the world, is that by this policy of persistently trying to make the United States see that they must accept a measure of responsibility for any future solution in Palestine, we have at last brought them to the point where they have told the Jews that unless they observe certain undertakings which the United Nations have imposed, they will lose United States' support. That is the most encouraging sign which has so far been given to us in this whole matter. Once the United States will really stick to that point of view and will accept a share of responsibility, without force and by the use of sanctions, it can see that expansionist aims in Israel are not allowed to win the day in that State. It is all nonsense to say that Israel is likely to go Communist. Israel is wholly dependent upon American capital for its very existence. One word from the United States is literally bound to determine the policy of that country. In spite of very definite mistakes every now and then, and incidents which are regretted, I think the main lines of the Government's policy on Palestine have been right. Secondly, though we failed to get the United States to accept responsibility, which they must accept, by our direct action, we were the first Government to try to do that. That failure was no worse than the long series of failures of both parties between the two wars in declining to take a decision, when one commission after another had said that only a firm decision could solve this Palestine problem. When history comes to be written, difficult and delicate, as our position has been in this matter, I think that the world will be grateful to the Foreign Secretary and to this Government for the way in which they have persisted in an exceedingly unpopular policy. I think it will be found that it will have helped to preserve the Middle East as an area which is permeable to Western ideas and to have served the cause of Western civilisation.
Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I wish I were not a professional historian. Perhaps I should be able to indulge in that pleasure indulged in by almost everybody else, of assuming to foretell what history will say when it comes to be written. Being a professional historian I am bound to say that the more I have seen of great affairs from as near to the centre as I have humbly got so far, the more dubious I become whether what history will write when it will come to be written will be any evidence about the facts when they happened.This is to me almost the most terrible of all subjects. I have spoken on this subject in almost all the Debates in this House for a dozen years and more, never with any pleasure, at least to myself and I suppose a fortiori not to others, and always with an extreme sense that it is very easy to say something extremely foolish and that it is almost impossible to say anything that has not been said five times before without saying something extremely provocative. I speak tonight for one reason only, and it may seem a very vain and personal one. It is that if we are to have a Division on the Adjournment, which is a kind of token Vote of Censure, I suppose that one or two individual people besides the great men ought to be allowed to explain what it is a token of in their case. I should hate it to be thought that whichever Lobby I go into—and hon. Gentlemen may amuse themselves guessing about that if there is no other amusement—it will not, I hope, be supposed that I do so for the same reasons as all those who have been most assertive in recommending that Lobby. I think that some of the assertions made have been very excessive, particularly those of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I am sorry that he is not here yet. He must be having a better dinner than I did. I thought that by now he might have finished his dinner. Some of the things he said I really think ought to have some comment, and I hope the House will bear with me if I am rather long. I do not propose to debate the general matters of principle and history tonight. If it matters to anyone, I have said what I think necessary to say on those things, and it is on record. Some of the really personal things which the hon. Member said tonight ought to be underlined by someone who is rather critical. I return to Coventry. The hon. Member rather twitted the rest of us about our not having or at least about having his personal local knowledge. He said that one can understand these things much better if one goes to see them. There is something in that, but it is not awfully easy to go to see these things. One must, as a British Member of Parliament, feel it doubtful whether and when one ought to go as a guest. For example, I have an old acquaintance with Dr. Weizmann. I hope that he would speak kindly and candidly of me, as I speak of him, but it seems to me that it has not been plainly easy, lately, for one to go to stay with Dr. Weizmann. One of the kind of difficulties which one might get into was demonstrated by another remark of the hon. Member for East Coventry. He gave us an account of a kind of examination which he had conducted of a British pilot who had been shot down by what are called Israeli forces. That seems to me to show that such visits may land oneself in a position in which one may have an almost infinitely difficult moral duty of deciding whether it is right or proper to get and use such evidence. The hon. Member for East Coventry did not find that moral difficulty excessive. I am bound to say myself that I should find it daunting. We all know how difficult it is to report these conversations fairly. We all know how almost inevitably unfair is the evidence of what A said that C said to B. However, the hon. Member for East Coventry has been the guest of Dr. Weizmann and Dr. Weizmann, being the head of what is alleged to be a State, is in possession of a British subject who had been shot down in a one-sided battle. And the hon. Member found no difficulty in examining that young man and coming here and giving us an account of what that young man said. These are sad results of Zionism and those who, like myself—I was a young Staff officer when all this began in 1918 and I advised—Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) wish to address the House?
Mr. S. Silverman
No. I was not even listening.
I thought not, but I would rather not, if I could avoid it, listen to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne while I am making my speech. I have sat quietly all day.
I have not interrupted the hon. Member.
I do not know what else he has done.
I was talking to the hon. Member beside me.
Talk, if it is done with more than a certain loudness whatever it becomes in law, according to the opinion of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, does in fact constitute interruption.
Get on with it.
I shall get on with it in my own way. If it is not liked by those whom I would not wish to like it, I shall not mind. I was a little surprised and puzzled also by the hon. Member for Coventry telling us about how lately Mr. Ben-Gurion was still pro-British, almost British. I am open to correction, but the dates he gave seemed to me to be dates after those on which His Majesty's Government had accepted evidence of Mr. Ben-Gurion's activity in the Irgun. I should have thought it was a little difficult to describe that as the most effective form of pro-British activity.There are several other things which he said on which I should like to comment, but I will comment on only one—his assumption that the defeat of the Arabs is final. It is a very fatal—no, that is a foolish thing to say—it is a dangerous thing to assume the final defeat of anyone. Once upon a time the final defeat of this country was assumed—perhaps it may be being again assumed in some quarters now. The final defeat of the Ottoman Turks was assumed in 1917, but they revived. Defeat is a great tonic—not a tonic which I would wish to see applied to my country—but it is a great tonic. We were twitted more than once today with having thought the Arab League would win—those of us who are not wholly Zionist. I have never thought so. I always said I thought the first campaign would end in complete success for the Zionists. I am not the least surprised that that has happened, but anybody who really believes that there can be—how many think that Palestine can hold two million or three million Zionists—what is the maximum? I should think probably not much more than two million on anything like a genuine economic basis; anyone who supposes the Zionists can stay there surrounded by dozens of millions of persons naturally longing, if not for revenge, at least for revanche in the other French sense, for the return match—and it cannot but be so, I sadly think—I do not see how anyone can suppose that a society of two million can maintain itself there without force, and I do not think anyone does. However, some people are foolish enough to suppose that the almost incredible coincidence, by which at this moment the Zionist Government has on its side both the United States and Soviet Russia, will go on indefinitely. Some are too clever to make that supposition, but they suppose that whichever they reckon the stronger of those two forces at any rate will continue to be on the Zionist side. No doubt there are differences of taste about which is likely, or which is desired, to be the stronger; but it is certain that, unless one of these parties is still there, actually or potentially, and plainly with irresistible force, this cannot be the end of the story. This is the beginning of a story, a story which, I much fear, will have as much blood and as many tears as the story of the last 30 years. I wish to express disapproval of His Majesty's Government and of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I wish to indicate some of the reasons why. I think it is a fundamental error of his and theirs to suppose that you can from outside the Middle East, or any other region, manage economic improvement and that thereupon peace will follow of course. It is not unnatural, from their background, that they should come to great affairs with that prejudice. I believe it to be a very foolish prejudice. I believe that our countrymen ought not to trust them with high politics until they publicly renounce that prejudice. I believe also that they cannot be trustworthy with foreign affairs until they get out of this self-pitying querulousness of always saying how badly somebody did 10 or 20 years ago. I was always against the Balfour Declaration but that line is no good now for the Foreign Secretary and the rest of his colleagues—they asked for power, they got power—knowing all about the Balfour Declaration, knowing all about the other human misrule of which the years have been sadly full—the Balfour Declaration was a comparatively tiny bit of it; they knew all about that when they asked for power. They must not now, when told they are not fit for power, say, "The reason for which you think us unfit for power is the blame of Mr. Arthur Balfour"—or Cardinal Wolsey or somebody else—"had made mistakes"; it does not matter whether they were during 30, 300 or 3,000 years of Toryism. They cannot have a foreign policy till they stop using that argument. I think, again, that he cannot be defended—neither he and, still less, his colleagues—on this ground: the 1939 White Paper. I wish to be fair to him and I am sorry he is not here to correct me if I give his words wrongly, but he had a sentence this afternoon, which I could not get down accurately, about the 1939 White Paper. I think I am putting it fairly if I say that he gave the impression that he thought that, on the whole, the 1939 White Paper was more or less sound, was the best thing that could have been expected, and so on. He and his colleagues were wholly estopped from ever giving effect to that, policy after the war because—why? Because for a lifetime they had been promising the Zionists the moon, the stars, the earth and everything else without bothering to look into the topic. They started looking into the topic after they got into office; then they started going back and reading these things. Now they come and say, or he says, they believe that the best moment was, perhaps, the 1939 White Paper. That is not what his colleagues who were here at the time said then. None of the hon. or right hon. Gentlemen opposite—or very few and, for this purpose, insignificant exceptions—really have any freedom of decision in this matter and for that reason, if for no other, I think that they ought to be condemned as unfit to conduct foreign policy. There is another reason why I think that they ought to be condemned. Incidentally, the hon. Member for East Coventry talked today about the religious urge in this matter and advised us to read Dr. Weizmann's reminiscences. I have not got the book but I have an extract here from it from one of the newspapers. This is what Dr. Weizmann says:
that is, the Jews in the religious sense, the members of the Jewish community in Palestine before the Balfour Declaration—"Historically speaking they—"
If that was a possible view for a Zionist leader to take it ought to have been known and most of the arguments we have had for political Zionism from the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought never to have been addressed to us. Nor ought much of the argument about Jewish refugees. The right hon. Gentleman told us today that the pressure of Jewish immigration became much greater after 1945 than it had been before. Then what becomes of the argument that we must have political Zionism to make a home for Jewish refugees from Hitler? That had been dealt with. I think the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ought to be censured about the Arab refugees and here I very particularly wish to be fair, and to be fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State. I am quite sure that they have been much disturbed by the condition of the Arab refugees. I do not really think it will do to say that the Arab refugees went out of their own will. I do not think there can be any doubt that they were expelled, if not by actual physical force, by extreme terror, and not unreasonably. How many people are going to vote in the General Election in the Zionist State? Does anyone know? Is it as many as the number of refugees from that territory? I think not. I bet it is not greater, or not noticeably greater at most. I say it was His Majesty's Government's duty to make sure that it was as widely known in this country, in the world, and in the United Nations and so on, that the plight of these Arab refugees was as well and widely known in all those places, and as fully understood and as much regretted, as any other plight of any other refugees had been; and I say that has not happened. I say further that in so far as the practical care of Arab refugees—I cannot have direct information, obviously no one can—but I believe that until very recently it was true that the main difficulty was not the want of money or material things, blankets and kettles and so on, but that the main lack was a lack of organisation. I believe that His Majesty's Government's officers and officials have all of them done their very best throughout. But I believe they have felt there was not that assistance from the United Nations on the side of organisation that might reasonably have been expected, on grounds of humanity if on no others. If that is not true, that impression of mine, I think it is a matter of public importance enough to say I hope it may be corrected. And if it is true, I am sure it ought to have been within the competence of His Majesty's Government—we know they are not now as powerful as the United States Government and we know we must not expect too much, but it should have been in their power—to make sure that the Arab refugees' difficulty was as fully understood by everyone who could bring attention to it as it could be made; and I say that has not been done. But I do not wish for myself—and I speak only for myself—to censure His Majesty's Government and the Foreign Secretary for not having been Zionist enough. That is not the reason why I wish to censure them. I hope I have indicated the kind of reasons why I do, and there are one or two others. I think they ought to have taken more trouble than they have to explain what recognition means in those circumstances. It is a most difficulty question, and very dull and dusty when one looks it up in the books. For instance, is it a new thing to have a State with a personal instead of a territorial name? It is all very well to say that a State can be recognised whose frontiers are not known, but I do not think that is the whole truth of the matter. I do not think it has been usual or normal to recognise a State whose alleged frontiers were not more or less known and whose admissable or claimable frontiers were not known by the people next door. Poland, for instance, and Spain were used as examples, but Spain was an entity of which, whether or not the frontier it claimed at any given moment was exactly understood, Spain was a geographical entity—[An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."]—Yes, yes. The hon. Gentleman has interrupted quite enough all day. I will not speak for long and I am not going to give way. I will finish as quickly as I can. I am asking for information, and I hope that perhaps we shall get somebody to tell us: is it a new thing that there should be a State which has not got a geographical name? This has not; it has a personal name. It is called the Israeli State, I gather. Is it a new thing again—and the answer to this must be known, because the Foreign Secretary himself used the distinction this afternoon—is it a new thing to recognise in such circumstances a Government as distinct from recognising a State? Is that new or is it old? And, in either case, what difference do the Foreign Office think it makes? That must be known, because it was the Foreign Secretary himself who drew the House's attention to the distinction. I hope he will tell us what the answer is. I feel bound to say one very offensive thing before I finish—[Interruption.]—one very offensive thing. I am sorry, but I do. I am trying to explain my reasons for voting against the Foreign Secretary. It is not because I think the Foreign Secretary is a worse man than those around him. I think he is a better man than almost any of them. I think he is an almost infinitely better man than the one most canvassed as his possible successor. But I feel bound to say this: One must expect a certain degree of personal competence from a Secretary of State, especially a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The House has endured the right hon. Gentleman's speeches off and on for three and a half years and, quite honestly, it really will not do. They really are not endurable. It is almost impossible to sit and listen to them; and I defy anyone who does not pretty accurately know before hand what is he going to say to pick up the gist as he goes along. You really cannot conduct the Government of this country by Parliamentary forms unless you can find men with more Parliamentary competence. I think it was time that was said. Another part of the gravamen of my charges against him is that I do not think he has been as successful as he ought to have been in persuading the Americans of what I believe was in any case in their own best interests. How can I judge whether he does it well or ill? I can only judge whether he does it well or ill by what I read in the newspapers and by the performances which I see him put on here. When I think of that awful little joke he had this afternoon about murdering Prime Ministers rather than Foreign Secretaries, or that stuff we had this afternoon about, "Of course, naturally when the Secretary of State tells you something is this country's policy, you really think it is," and so on—honestly, I have never had experience of conducting great affairs on the highest level, but, from all I have been able to read in the books, I do not believe that a man who does that kind of thing can be successful at that kind of work."Historically speaking they had been the expression of the undying Jewish attachment to Palestine, but in an age which has to witness the reconstruction of the Jewish homeland, they were a useless and even retarding element."
Dr. Segal (Preston)
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick-thorn) seems to imagine that it is difficult to visit the State of Israel today. Let me at once reassure him on this point. Today nothing could be more easy than for any Member of this House to pay a visit to the State of Israel, whether as the guest of the President of that State or not, and, so long as he confines himself to the Jewish part of Palestine, let me assure him that he can have absolute freedom of movement. I know perfectly well that the hon. Member for Cambridge University has no fear whatever about his own personal safety. But in case I might happen to be wrong, again let me assure him that, from the moment he lands in Palestine, he can have for his own personal protection a Jewish bodyguard in the same way as the British Vice-Consul in Jerusalem had a Jewish bodyguard when he came to visit me in Jerusalem, and just as in the same way as Count Bernadotte himself was offered a Jewish bodyguard which, unfortunately, he refused. If, perhaps, he had decided otherwise, I believe that he might well have been alive today. Again, if the hon. Member for Cambridge University has no faith in a Jewish bodyguard, I will go to the length of offering myself to participate as a member of his bodyguard.May I just refer to some of the remarks made by the hon. Member who reminded us of our pledges to the Arabs? During the whole of today's Debate, no reference has been made to our pledges to the Palestine Arabs, and I would very much like to ask the Prime Minister when he replies to the Debate tonight to give us a clear statement. During the whole of our 25 years' trusteeship as the Mandatory Power for Palestine, we tried to hold the scales of justice evenly between Jewish claims and Arab claims. We have recognised the claims of the Jews to a National Home, and we have recognised equally the claim of the Palestine Arabs to national independence in at least part of Palestine. Where do we stand tonight? Do our Government still support the national claims of the Palestine Arabs to a part of Palestine territory as their own, or have we abandoned entirely those claims, for which we have sacrificed so much to preserve them through 25 years of our mandatory trusteeship? Have we entirely abandoned our support of those claims in support of the claims of Transjordan to occupy part of the highlands of Samaria? Have we abandoned the claim of the Palestine Arabs in favour of those of another State of the Arab League—the State of Egypt—to parts of the Negeb and the coastal plain? I think that tonight we are entitled to know where we stand. Have our Government abandoned the claims of the Palestine Arabs in their hour of need, when they need support more than at any time in the recent history of Palestine? If we have, indeed, abandoned the national claims of the Palestine Arabs, what moral justice remains for our policy in Palestine today? After the last 25 years, what has happened to cause us to give up the ghost and leave the Palestine Arabs to suffer the torments of hunger, disease and famine, while we are now supporting the claims of Transjordan to part of Palestine territory? It almost seems today as if the only country to support the claims of the Palestine Arabs is the State of Israel itself. At least, those Arabs who have remained within the State of Israel are given some form, if not of national independence, of economic independence. Those of them who are working in Nazareth, Jaffa and other parts of Jewish Palestine, are receiving today, as the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said, a wage of 35s. a day, which to them at least ensures economic independence, and which, to my mind, is the first and most essential step before they can ever achieve full national independence. I would say again that we want from the Government in this Debate a clear statement whether or not we are still supporting the claims of the Palestine Arabs to national independence in at least part of Palestine. Then there is the problem of the Arab refugees, to which many hon. Members have referred today. I believe we have failed utterly and hopelessly to solve the problem of the Arab refugees. I will concede to the Government that with their gesture of a million pounds of aid for Arab refugees, they have done almost all, if not actually all that they could have done towards a solution of this problem. But that is not nearly enough, and today, as we all know, there are thousands of Arabs dying on the uplands of Central Palestine and in the camps of Transjordan. We made a gesture towards their help, but with what result? The rest of the world practically looked on, and some countries rather belatedly offered their assistance, but the plight of the Arab refugees today remains almost as desperate as ever it was since the beginning of the Arab evacuation. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us during a Debate on this subject that there were only 15 voluntary relief workers engaged in administering relief among a population of 750,000. Just think of that—one relief worker to supervise the relief of no fewer than 50,000 refugees. Small wonder, then, that ugly rumours were current in Palestine of relief convoys being intercepted before they reached Amman. Many of the relief goods found their way on to the black market in Amman itself. I believe that today we have tried almost to our very utmost, to help the cause of the Arab refugees, but I can only tell the House this: I was surprised, almost delighted, to discover among the Jews in the State of Israel today responsible for framing the financial policy of the State, an actual recognition of the fact that the State of Israel, in order to prosper itself, cannot allow this tremendous refugee Arab population to exist in the territories adjacent to it. I believe that there was a willingness on the part of the State of Israel to assist the Arab refugees in their plight, and I believe that it is only the State of Israel that can really solve the problem of the Arab refugees. I was very soon made aware of the fact however that the State of Israel will not lift a finger to assist the plight of the Arab refugees as long as this war in Palestine is allowed to go on. I believe that they will not help the Arab refugees except as a purely voluntary gesture. If we use our influence or ask them to help the Arab refugees they can give various replies, but if we leave it to them, fully conscious of their own obligation in the matter, I believe that an ultimate happy solution will be found of the problem of the Arab refugees. When I was in Cyprus I was surprised to find there a camp of 400 German Christian refugees from Palestine. These 400 Christian refugees had in their possession no less than £3 million allowed to them by the State of Israel as compensation in return for their property confiscated in Palestine. These 400 refugees were arranging to emigrate to Australia, but they refused to go by ship and were anxious to go by air. They said that they had money in their possession so why not let them travel in comfort? This is typical of the humane attitude of the State of Israel today towards any refugees for which this terrible war in Palestine may conceivably have been responsible. Above all, let us be careful not to use these hapless Arab refugees as pawns in any political action in the Middle East. Can His Majesty's Government say how many of these refugees want to go back into the State of Israel? How many of them want to be an Arab minority in a vast and growing Jewish State? How many of them would perhaps prefer to settle down among their own people in the adjacent Arab countries? After all, let us accept the fact that if the States of the Arab League were willing to sacrifice themselves and the lives of their troops in defence of the rights of Palestine Arabs, surely they would be willing to sacrifice a small part of their vast Arab territories in order to resettle these Arab refugees in a normal, healthy Arab environment. If we are going to have a final solution to this terrible problem, which seems to be getting gradually worse as the winter goes on, let us at all costs have a settlement by consent, and allow the Arab refugees to decide where their own future must lie. I also wish to direct one or two questions about our present task force which has landed in Aqaba. I would like to challenge the Prime Minister, or whoever is going to reply, to say how many Dominion troops are represented in that task force. We know, as a matter of fact, that the Dominions were consulted before that force was landed at Aqaba. Is there a single Australian, New Zealand, South African, or Canadian soldier representing his Dominion as an integral part of that force now landed in Aqaba? Those of us who served in the Middle East during the war know of the tremendous sacrifices that Australia and New Zealand especially made in defending those territories, not only in the last world war, but even in the first world war. We know of the heroic resistance of the Australians in Tobruk, and of the gallant actions they fought in Syria. Have they not the right to be consulted before we decide to land a British force in Transjordan? What was the result of our consultations with our Dominions? Why did they not land their troops at Aqaba with us? I believe that we are isolated today in our Aqaba policy, and that we have been abandoned by those Dominions who themselves made such tremendous sacrifices to defend our interests in the Middle East. The Arabs today accuse us of betraying them. I believe that today we are in grave danger of betraying the Arabs so long as our task force remains in Aqaba. We have said that it was at the request of King Abdullah that we landed our troops there. May I put a plain, straightforward question to whoever is to reply on behalf of the Government? If King Abdullah asks us now, or in the future, to withdraw our troops from Aqaba, shall we willingly accede to his request? I believe it is more than likely that today King Abdullah recognises that he must come to terms with the State of Israel, that he is fully aware that he is much more likely to get better terms from the State of Israel if he has not behind him the moral pressure of a British force in Aqaba. Again, what is the use of trying to exert our influence on the State of Israel by a show of force? As we all know, the foreign policy of the State of Israel up to now has been cleverly balanced so as not to antagonise either Russia or the United States of America. I believe that is a policy which they will continue to maintains. How, then, can we hope in any way to try to force their hand by a show of force so long as they know they have at the same time the full moral support of America and Russia behind them? May I, in passing, refer to a remark made by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) when he spoke of the religious fanaticism of the Zionists? I can only say that I was amazed on visiting Christian churches in Jerusalem to see notices posted outside them on which were the words in Hebrew, "Entry strictly prohibited." I was amazed to see that not only were those notices scrupulously observed, but that people walking past actually wondered why the notices had ever been put up. If one asked them why, they would say, "Well, it is only to impress the foreign representatives." Can we in this House actually imagine that the Jews in this new State of Israel, for which they fought so bravely and sacrificed so much, have nothing better to think about than to desecrate the Holy Places? Are we to imagine that they are indifferent to the cries of thousands of their tortured brethren in prison camps over Europe? Are we to imagine that they are indifferent to the soil of Palestine crying out aloud to be tilled and watered and enabled to bear fruit, and that the uppermost thought in their minds is to desecrate the Christian Holy Places? Yet, when Christian pilgrims seek to make their way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to celebrate their Christmas, who is it who allows them free passage? The troops of the State of Israel. Who is it who bars access to Bethlehem? The troops of our Egyptian allies. Yet we are fully prepared to concede the holy part of Jerusalem to the troops of King Abdullah and the Arab Legion. Would it not be better to say that they are safer in Jewish care and Jewish guardianship? I believe that today there are only two policies left to this country in the fact of hard reality. One is to begin now to get a period of Anglo-Israeli friendship, to hold out the hand of friendship to them, to recognise that they have already made a good beginning, and to give them every encouragement, moral and material, to go on and carry out the work for which they have sacrificed so much. The, other policy is the half-hearted policy to lie low for a while. It is the worst policy, but it is a tenable one. It is the policy of the successor to the Foreign Secretary as Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union when he advised the International Federation of Trade Unions to suspend its activities for 12 months. I believe that it would result in an enormous saving to the British taxpayer. It would be a bad policy to my mind, but it is the only practical alternative to the other policy. We have already made one gesture to the State of Israel in releasing the Cyprus refugees. Today there is rejoicing in those camps. Let us hope that their wishes will come true. What we need today in our country is a new heart and a new spirit towards the State of Israel. Let us hold out a real helping hand towards them, because their hand is stretched out towards us, and if we do not grasp it then other nations will grasp it in our place. Let us give our own Labour Government the opportunity of providing a clear example to the rest of the world in leading the way to extending real friendship to the State of Israel.
Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) too closely, because I shall get involved in an argument with him which will not be material to the main points contained in the few remarks which I wish to make. But before I pass on I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the action of the Government in sending troops to Aqaba was taken under a treaty. I always understood that we in this House were the first to insist that this country kept its treaties.
What about the Palestine Arabs?
I heard the remark of the hon. Member about the Palestine Arabs. This particular treaty was between this country and Transjordan, and Aqaba is. I understand, in Transjordan and it was to that place that I was referring. What the action of the Dominions on that particular point has to do with our honouring a treaty which we have made I do not understand. I imagine that the Government consulted the Dominions at the proper time. It seems to me perfectly right, and a natural and correct thing that troops were sent there when they were asked for. We have been told several times that they were asked for, The hon. Gentleman over-stated his case against the Government, as so many of his hon. Friends do, when he stressed the very humane attitude of the Israeli Government towards the Arab refugees. I understand that the Israeli Government have refused to have any Arab refugees back in the territory at present occupied by their troops.In referring to the policy of His Majesty's Government, I want to make it clear that though I have strong objections to that particular part of the policy of the Foreign Secretary, I do not thereby associate myself with the remarks of the Zionists who have stated their case from various quarters of the House. The criticism of the way the Government have carried out their so-called policy towards the problems of Palestine is a criticism that can be made not just by Zionists or pro-Arabs but mainly by men and women who are interested in the future prestige of this country and particularly in this country's position in the Middle East. Once the United Nations had agreed to their partition resolution on Palestine in November, 1947, all the old arguments we used to have in this House about federalism and being pro-Arab or pro-Jew became irrelevant, and the problem with which the Government had to deal was how that resolution would be implemented. It became clear at once that the United Nations itself would not implement it. That has been the difficulty, and His Majesty's Government never properly faced up to it. Once we left Palestine there would be a vacuum there—a power vacuum, perhaps. Somebody had to take our place, and of course somebody did, and a war followed. It has seemed to me all along—it still does—that the only chance of avoiding the bloody conflict which has taken place, and which we hope is nearly at an end for good, was for this country and the United States to agree on a policy. I realise the difficulties but I do not think that the Foreign Secretary has handled the relations between this country and the United States with any finesse at all, and when I listen to his speeches in the House I am rather doubtful whether he is really clear in his own mind what he is intending to do. Today we heard from him that the object of the Government's policy was to get peace and to have stability and security in the Middle East. That always has been the policy of His Majesty's Governments of whatever nature they were. What this House wants to know is how these worthy aims are to be achieved and what steps the right hon. Gentleman is taking now to achieve them. We never hear that. The right hon. Gentleman cannot explain it to us, or does not know what those aims are, or does not think we ought to know. I do not see how any of us can be expected to back the policy of the Government in this matter or in anything else when it leads to the disastrous results—to which I shall refer in a minute—unless the Government can explain to us very carefully and in detail what they are trying to do and how they are trying to do it. They have completely failed to do that; they have failed in working out their methods. For some time during this Debate we have not come back to the main point which has disturbed public opinion in this country, particularly public opinion which is not particularly interested in the pro-Jew case or the pro-Arab case. As a result of the Government's policy or despite the Government's policy, during the last few months the Jews have been able to expand the territory allotted to them in the partition resolution, and have been able to disregard and flout the Security Council resolutions. The Holy Places, for which we have been responsible for so many years, have been subject to a continuous threat and their future is still not decided. The arguments still go on in this House whether the Jews or the Arabs shall look after them. I understood it was always our policy that the Holy Places should be entrusted to an international organisation. How has the policy of His Majesty's Government contributed towards that end? Now, after the loss of five aircraft and the deaths of two R.A.F. pilots we have reached the stage where this country, with its great prestige in the Middle East, in India and in the Far East, is entirely unable to make a protest. At the end of all these things, we are told that this time His Majesty's Government have decided at long last that recognition is to be given to the Government of Israel. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman stated that he thought a prerequisite of recognition was that the Jews and the various Arab States should seek peace. Is there a great difference between the attitude of the various parties now and at the time when they accepted the various decisions adopted by the Security Council? Was not that just as good a time to press for the recognition of Israel by ourselves and the various Commonwealth countries who are interested in this matter? I cannot understand the Government's policy over these questions. I do not think there has been any really positive direction anywhere. I hope the Prime Minister will explain a little more carefully when he winds up what exactly the Foreign Secretary meant when he referred to de facto recognition—and I am only dealing with de facto recognition—of the Government of Israel. The part of his speech in which he referred to this subject was very difficult to understand. A moment ago I referred to the problem of Jerusalem and the Holy Places. On that I hope we shall hear something from the Government. I see no chance of a secure and proper international organisation to look after the Holy Places and Greater Jerusalem unless we and the United States get together very soon indeed. I hope we shall insist that it is an international organisation, and that neither the Jews nor the Arabs shall be given the task of looking after the Holy Places. I notice that Mr. Ben-Gurion recently said that the Jews will never abandon their claim to Jerusalem. If that is the attitude of Mr. Ben-Gurion—and I hope it is not—I trust that the Government of the United States and of this country will not be slow to see that the position is made clear, and the sooner that is done the better for all. Lastly, I refer to the R.A.F. incident. We have had far too little explanation about exactly what did occur. During the war I had some dealings with the Royal Air Force, and when it was necessary I used to ask them for reconnaissance photographs, but unless we made a special request for low obliques I do not remember an aeroplane flying at a height of 400 feet; they flew at 10,000 or 20,000 feet. I do not understand why on that particular day, when the truce was ended, these aeroplanes were sent out to fly at a height of 400 feet, with the orders with which they were sent, over an area in which hostilities must have been provoked. The Government still have a lot to explain about that matter before they satisfy me. That is my position. I feel greatly dissatisfied with the Government's policy, and I shall therefore vote against them.
Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
For something over six hours we have had a repetition of the many Palestine Debates that have taken place over the past three years. I do not see much point now in going over all those matters. If at any time during the past three years the Opposition had challenged a vote against the Government's policy on Palestine, I should have gone, although not very cheerfully, into the Lobby with them. But tonight I cannot do that.If the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) had gone on only another five minutes, with that persuasive eloquence of which he is one of the greatest masters in the history of the world, I think he would have persuaded me in the end that the White Paper of 1938, which he then described as the greatest betrayal in history, had been written by the present Foreign Secretary. But it was not. It was written by the Conservative Party; and the great mistake, as I think, that this Government have made in this matter has been in not sticking to their own policy instead of following the policy of the Opposition, which they opposed at that time. In those circumstances I cannot cast a vote to endorse the Conservative Opposition's clean sheet in this matter. I do not think they have a clean sheet; I think they have supported the Foreign Secretary in all the things of which they now complain, and a vote from them against him today is really a rather ungracious thing. I do not withdraw a single word of the criticism of the Government's policy that I have made during the past three years. I think they were wholly wrong, very unwise, and that the results have been more disastrous to our own country than to anyone else. What worries me tonight is that there has been no recognition by the Government of the new situation—or at any rate no sufficient recognition. A great new historic fact has happened. Hardly a speaker in the Debate has not said: "I am in favour of a Jewish National Home." There is now only one way in which there can be a Jewish National Home. Whatever may have been true in the past, whatever may have been true at any moment during the past three years, now, after the events which have happened, whoever may have been right or wrong so far, the State of Israel is a fact; it is an enduring fact; and if there is to be a Jewish National Home in the world it can only be in the State of Israel. That affords a golden opportunity to make a new start. I do not care what anyone may think about what has happened so far. Some things were inevitable, others not, but I dare swear that there is not a Member in this House today who looks with any content or happiness on the history of Anglo-Palestine relations in the past three years. We are all unhappy about it. I think the Foreign Secretary is unhappy about it. I am sure that the Prime Minister is unhappy about it. Let us not try tonight to forecast the verdict of history. Let us try to make history on the basis of the facts that are now established. I feel sure that if the Prime Minister will say tonight: "We recognise this little State. It has our support. It has our friendship and our encouragement. It cannot live in the Middle East without stability, security and peace in that great region. Its interests and our interests there are the interests of peace and stability, and neither that stability nor peace can be achieved except by a development of the area such as the Jews alone have shown can be carried out"—if he will do that, I think we shall be at the beginning of a new era which will not only help the Jews in what they need, the Middle East in what it needs and this country in what it needs, but it will be a definitely new contribution to the civilisation of the world.
Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
During the past three years I have had many opportunities, I sometimes think too many opportunities, of listening to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) intervening in Debate. I always failed to agree with him but, up to now, I have always succeeded in understanding him. Tonight I have failed. I could not understand the reason why he would have voted against the Government on any other occasion had a vote been taken, but on this one occasion when a vote is to be taken he feels unable to do so.
Mr. S. Silverman
I have voted against the Government many times and—
The hon. Gentleman has already taken more than the time he promised to take for his speech so I cannot give way to him.We are coming to the controversial end of a controversial Debate. We are used to such occasions in this House. They are occasions which usually we enjoy, but there is tonight a difference. Normally, on occasions such as this, either we attack with alacrity or we defend with enthusiasm. Tonight everyone of every party who has either spoken or, after the Debate, is going to divide, has been oppressed with feelings of anxiety, feelings of regret, and I am sorry to say, feelings of humiliation. I want first to deal with something which has not been touched upon a great deal in this Debate, and to which perhaps I attach an undue importance, because to me it is one of the most important and one of the most humiliating events which have occurred since I have been in this House. That is the air incident of 7th January. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) described it as a cameo of inefficiency. I should put it much higher than that. I should say it was a disastrous culmination of a disastrous course of action. What are the facts? On 7th January five British planes were shot down with loss of life, and the consequences of that were so grave that this House is entitled to be told fully the circumstances under which it occurred. Do not let us be blind to what those consequences are. In the first case it was a great national humiliation. Five of our aeroplanes, acting under the orders of His Majesty's Government and therefore, presumably, on their lawful occasions, have been shot down. What has happened? Has there been any apology for it, any compensation for it, any offer in some way to repair the damage that has been done? It is true that a communication has been addressed to the Israelis. It has been contemptuously rejected. There has been no action by ourselves; as far as I know, no appeal by us for the support of others in using the machinery which the United Nations organisation provides. Only one consequence so far has resulted from this incident although another is shortly promised. The only thing that has happened since the Israelis shot down our aeroplanes is that we have granted to them a concession which for some nine months we have been refusing obstinately. On Tuesday last the internees in Cyprus were released. That may have been right or wrong; perhaps they ought never to have been there, perhaps it was right to keep them there. But what has happened certainly is that we thought it right to keep them there until these aeroplanes were shot down. It was only afterwards we decided it was wrong, and now we have promised—because that it what it has amounted to—later in the week that another thing which has been refused for months is now to be granted. I happen to be one who thought that recognition was right and should have been granted before, but, even feeling that, I hate to think that recognition when it comes now should come under such circumstances. What can these things do except to encourage the belief that Great Britain will yield to force what she obstinately declines to concede to argument? Alongside this great national humiliation has been a particular humiliation for the Royal Air Force. It is the bald fact that will be blazoned abroad, the bald fact that five of our aeroplanes have been shot down without loss to the attackers. We here in this House may suspect, we may know the truth; we may know that this has been caused not by any lack of enterprise or efficiency on the part of the Royal Air Force itself, but by orders from above; that in the mission they were called upon to undertake, impossible handicaps were imposed upon them. That I believe and that, indeed, I hope will emerge clearly from the questions I intend to ask and the answers I hope I shall receive. We may know that, Mr. Speaker, we may believe that, but do you think that in the world our enemies will stress that? What will go out into the world, what they are interested in blazoning to the world, are the naked facts, not the extenuating circumstances. And so this incident will ring round the world and thereby encourage our potential enemies and discourage our potential friends. We are entitled to a full explanation. I am glad it is the Prime Minister who is going to give it, because this is no departmental matter. It is a matter of high Government policy. The answers to questions from the Secretary of State for Air show that he had little to do with it and, apparently, knew little about it. I want, therefore, to address three questions to the Prime Minister; first, with regard to the nature of the orders which were given; second, with regard to the steps taken to ensure a proper legal basis for our action; and, third, the reason why we ever had to take this action at all. With regard to the first, the nature of the orders: I am not competent to deal with the technicalities of high-level or low-level photography. I happen to have served under the officer who is now commanding in the Middle East and I have the greatest possible respect for his capacity and qualities. What I want to know is, What chance he was given, under what orders he had to act and what discretion he was allowed; because certainly it would appear, on the face of it, that the Government in this case have committed what I believe to be a fundamental error—that is, to give to people an order to carry out what is potentially a warlike operation and at the same time refuse to allow them to take ordinary wartime precautions. I shall be quite frank. At the beginning of the war I saw, from both ends, the giving and the receiving of orders of that kind, but I thought that what we had learnt in the war had emblazoned for ever upon our hearts the consequences of this sort of action. These people were ordered to get these photographs. To carry out that order meant their appearance in the battle zone. It does not matter, from my point of view, whether there ought to have been a battle or not; the fact is that a battle was going on and the Government knew that that area was a battle area. As the Prime Minister knows, people who are in battle areas, engaged in battle, are apt to be trigger-happy; they are apt to shoot first and ask afterwards. These people were ordered to go into that area, ordered to run that risk. As far as I can understand, they also received orders that they must not fire first and that they must not in any circumstances cross some imaginary border in the air. That is a splendid double option for politicians, but it means certain failure for the service men on the spot. I want to know whether that was the character of the orders that were given. Secondly, with regard to the legal basis; how were we there? Were we entitled to be there as part of a training flight? No one is going to suggest, surely, that we flew 400 feet above combatant trenches as part of a training flight, although we understand that some who were ordered to do it were, in fact, trainees. Was it part of the Egyptian treaty? But the Egyptians never invoked their treaty rights. Was it to do something for the Mediator? But the Mediator never asked that this should be done. As far as I can make out we did not even take the precaution of warning the Israelis that we were going to do it, so that if any incident happened it could not be the result of a mistake. None of these precautions, as far as I can see, was taken. The result therefore, is that we were left out on a limb by ourselves on something which was no particular business of ours. We had no support from others in something that was a matter of concern to all. Thirdly, I want to ask what was the reason for this action at all? When we had got these photographs what were we going to get out of them? I suppose it will be said that we were going to get proof that the Israelis were over the Egyptian border. What were we going to do with that proof? I suppose the answer will be that we should take it to U.N.O. but, as I understand it, the Israelis never denied that they had been over the Egyptian border. Their defence has been not that they never crossed the border, but that in the circumstances they were entitled to do so; that the Egyptian border was crossed by the Egyptians in the course of their offensive and in the battle they were perfectly entitled to cross the frontier in their reaction. But above all, what about the time? An action was ordered at the time the cease-fire was being discussed, due to come into operation the very afternoon that this sortie was undertaken and fighting was due, therefore, to stop before any results of a successful sortie could have been received. I was not in the House this afternoon at Question Time when the Secretary of State for Air was answering his Questions, but it has been reported to me that he stated categorically when questioned on this point that not only did Middle East Command not know that a cease-fire was coming into operation, but that he did not know it himself here in London.
The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
I was drawing on my recollection when I answered that Question this afternoon. I have since had an opportunity of checking up. It is quite true to say that the Commander-in-Chief, according to what he has reported to me, did not in fact know that the truce was to commence at two o'clock on the 7th, but, as far as I am concerned, I have since checked up and I find I had official knowledge of the fact of the truce by 11 o'clock on the 7th which of course was after the "recce" had started.
Of course we want to know from the Prime Minister why this information was not known. It was known by everyone else; why was it not passed on, why could not the A.O.C. in the Middle East have received the information at the same time as it was received by the Secretary of State for Air? This House will expect, this House will look forward to an explanation from the Prime Minister of what at present appears to me, and I think appears to nearly all hon. Members, an ill-considered and unnecessary and, in its results, disastrous action. This particular incident and its distressing and humiliating consequences is not intelligible except as a result of equally faulty decisions in the past.The Foreign Secretary gave us a speech this afternoon which was largely a recital of the difficulties which he had encountered—a hard luck story in a big way. Of course I am not going to pretend for one moment that the task with which he has been coping for the last three years has been an easy one—of course it is not. It is not only that the problem itself was intrinsically difficult, but its difficulties have been added to by others and, let me say in fairness, not least by the Israelis themselves who on so many occasions either have been un- willing or unable to control their extremists and on so many occasions have alienated sympathy and postponed decision. But in the realm of high politics in which the right hon. Gentleman moves, he does not expect it to be easy. The task of a Foreign Secretary is not that of choosing between an obvious and easy course and a difficult and dangerous one. It is to choose the least dangerous and the least disagreeable among courses, all of which present dangers and all of which appear disagreeable. Of course, there is another way and that is not to take any decision at all. But that way out is seldom right. It certainly has not proved right in this case. I do not want to go right back over the history of the last three years. I start, I confess, with a different approach from that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I have never been a Zionist in the sense that I have never felt particularly the emotional appeal of the Zionist cause. Before the war, when I had my share of responsibility, my concern was more to try to see in the circumstances of the time what appeared most likely to conduce to the peace of the region. As such, I say at once I voted in 1938 for the White Paper. Afterwards, at the Colonial Office, I came to the conclusion that in fact the only practical solution for this problem would be that of partition, but I was not blind to its obvious difficulties and its real dangers. I did not blame people who did not immediately agree with me. I did not blame my hon. Friends who wanted to search, quite rightly, for other alternative courses in which the dangers might be less and the difficulties slight. Therefore, although perhaps I should have acted differently myself, I am not today blaming the right hon. Gentleman that when he first came into power he did not keep immediately his Election pledges. That does not matter to me; he has to answer for that to his own friends behind him. I am not blaming him that, faced with responsibility of office, he took time to consider, time to see the alternatives. My complaint comes later. My complaint is that, from then on, he has remained obstinately and deliberately blind to the facts of the situation as they have developed and the realities as they have become more and more apparent. The real point is that there has now been for several years a Jewish State in Palestine. We may like it or not. We may think it is a good thing or a bad thing, but it has been there. We have had there now, for three years at least, a compact body of determined men, men who regarded themselves as a State, men who organised themselves as a State, men who have been determined not to accept any other fate from the future except that of a State. Once that reality became a fact, there was only one way to prevent what at that stage was merely a spiritual, subjective feeling becoming the open objective fact—only one way, and that was to exterminate the people who felt like that. That was a thing that nobody was willing—nobody should be willing—to do. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) that even if at that early stage one had doubts, even if later one still hesitated, the moment the United Nations organisation came to their Resolution of November of last year, that was the conclusive date. I am not concerned with the size of the majority. I am not concerned with the methods by which it was obtained. The fact is that once a large number of States of the world, including some of the greatest Powers, had voted that in fact Israel should be a State, what chance was there of all the people who longed for that destiny ever being prepared to accept anything else? Yet that Resolution had no effect upon our conduct. From then on, we were willing to wound, although we have been afraid to strike. The Secretary of State for the Colonies intervened to correct my right hon. Friend about permitting the representatives of U.N.O. to enter Palestine more than a fortnight before the determination of our Mandate. Quite true, changes were made at the last moment, but he did not tell the House why the changes were made, or that it was the settled policy of the Government not to admit this United Nations Mission. It was only because of a Debate in this House and the pressure put upon him from all sides that that decision was subsequently changed. Apart from that, will the Prime Minister tell us why, when we were evacuating Palestine step by step, we took no efforts at all to facilitate the assumption of the responsibilities which we were laying down by the people into whose hands they were going to be given? The Prime Minister will interest us and relieve us by telling us what those steps were and how far, during the process of evacuation, we kept in touch with the people who, as soon as we went out, would obviously take responsibility for the area which U.N.O. had allotted to them. The consequences of all this have been tragic. It has only been to encourage an opposition to a settlement, an opposition to which, when it came, we were either unable or unwilling ourselves to support. Who has gained from all this? Is it the Arabs? If it is the Arabs, have we, by this action, in fact got for the Arab States a better settlement? Have we, in some way done any more to protect the interests which we were bound to protect and which for our own sakes we ought to protect? If so, there would be some argument for the policy, but what have the Arabs gained from this? The Jews today are in military occupation of far larger areas than those assigned to them by the United Nations Resolution. Arab States have suffered heavy military defeats, which may have grave consequences on their national stability, and, above all, 700,000 refugees are now a problem, intractable and intolerable, placed upon the shoulders of the Arab States. They have not gained much from the action of the Government. Nor have the Jews. It is true they have had some military victories, but at the cost of great economic strain, and, above all, at the cost of a lasting bitterness which they cannot afford to have around them. Certainly, we have not gained very much either. We have forfeited the friendship of Israel without gaining the gratitude of the Arabs. As for the United Nations, all they got was six months in which every decision has been set at nought and flouted by both sides. Only one set of people has gained from this vacillation of the Government since the U.N.O. Resolution, and they are the set of people who profit from chaos and confusion wherever it happens in the world. If Communism ever does come in Palestine, the right hon. Gentleman and his policy will have done most to encourage it. I support the right hon. Gentleman in his fight against Communism, and I wish him success in it, but I hope he will remember that a Communist fight is not only a fierce one, but a clever one. [Interruption.] I except the hon. Gentleman. I am talking about the people who really direct this Communist fight. They are clever, and if we are going to beat them, we cannot beat them just by brute force, but only by being a little cleverer than they are. Those are the circumstances in which we are asked to admire the conduct of the Foreign Secretary. These are the circumstances in which we are told that we ought to be grateful for the prudence and patience which has at last brought this intractable problem to a satisfactory conclusion. Is this then the solution on which over three years ago he staked his reputation? If so, perhaps it is just as well that he did not tell us that at the time—a solution that in the end Jew and Arab should fight it out and, in the process, we should incur the enmity of both. It did not need a statesman to bring about that result. What we did want a statesman for was to prevent that happening. I have only two minutes left to speak of the future. This region above all needs peace. These people have got to live together whatever happens. I do not believe that either side can afford to live perpetually either in open or in hidden enmity. It is our obvious task to try to help them to get peace. That means that if we are to do anything at all, we have to use influence with both sides, and in order to use influence with both sides we must have influence with both sides. If this recognition of Israel is to come, no good whatsoever can be got out of it unless we can again establish some influence with the Israeli State. Is this recognition going to be a genuine thing or not? If it is going to be merely a grudging concession through pressure from the benches around the Government, well then, even from the point of view of our relations with the Israelis, it had really better not be given at all. Is this just the end of the chapter "to be continued in our next" in the same old style, the same old story with the same old ending, or are we today shutting the book on all the difficulties and mistakes of the past and trying to open a wholly new story for the future? Similarly with the Arabs I do not believe our influence lies in giving encouragement to courses to which when undertaken we can give no support. Where our influence lies is to define exactly the security and support which all of us, irrespective of party, are prepared to give to these Arab States. It may be that we cannot do it ourselves now; perhaps only time can smooth down the feelings about the past, but we can do a good deal to allay the anxieties of the future. If we could, with the United States of America—whom, without recrimination, one cannot absolve of some responsibility for the difficulties caused—join in guaranteeing to these Arab States that the new frontier, a reasonable frontier, will not be allowed by the United States or by us to be encroached upon, that, I think, would go some way, at any rate, to allay anxiety. As I have said, most of us now are more interested in the future than in the past. We want to look forward, but we cannot look forward without one last look at the past, because there is not very much hope for the future unless we are going to learn the lessons of the past. So tonight when I go into the Lobby, I shall do so not only because I think that the past conduct of the Government deserves censure, but also because I believe that it is the only way to shock the Government out of its tragic complacency, the only way to ensure that a new spirit and a new method will enable them to seize a fleeting opportunity while there is still time—and there is terribly little time.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I find a good deal of difficulty in reconciling the views put out by the different Members on the benches opposite and the views that they have expressed in the past. What the right hon. Gentleman has been telling us now might have been said a good many months ago, and I am going to look back a little bit before I look at the present. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, very wisely, perhaps, that the worst thing was to do nothing at all. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that this matter was considered in the Government which he led and of which I was a member, whether action could be taken. He said himself he could have taken action, but he did not take it.What was the action that he suggested? He said that we could settle the question immediately after the war, when there were plenty of troops there. He said we could have imposed a settlement. Well, there were several months at the end of the war when the right hon. Gentleman was in the position to do that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Several months?"] War in the West had finished. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about France?"] I know, but the war in the West had finished. The right hon. Gentleman could have settled the question. He could have laid down a policy while we were still united in that Government. He did not do so. It does not lie in his mouth to say that we have succeeded in doing nothing. The right hon. Gentleman knows—every hon. Member opposite knows—that the right hon. Gentleman shirked the question. What is the real difficulty about this? It is this: We do not believe that we will get an enduring settlement when that settlement has been made by force, any more than we believe in other parts of the world that is the way to settlement. What we have been trying to do throughout has been to get an agreement. Now, that is an extremely difficult thing, because there are feelings that are very exacerbated on both sides. We have to recognise there are two sides. Everybody must have great sympathy with the Jews, after their terrible sufferings in Europe, the long history of the dispersal of their race, the magnificent efforts made in building up the Jewish home in Palestine, the fight many of them put up in the war, the many personal friends we have among the Jews. We have very great sympathy with the Jews and with their ideals. On the other hand, we have to recognise that there is a case for the Arabs. There is no good condemning the Arabs because you do not like their particular rulers or do not like their upper classes. Some people take that line. I am thinking of the ordinary cultivators of the soil. One must have sympathy with the people and it is one of the most difficult of problems when one gets separate peoples, with separate cultures and religions in any one territory. This is not the only case in the world where this occurs, and where there has been bloodshed throughout. My right hon. Friend has been endeavouring to get this settlement, and, I believe, with the encouragement of this House. It is all very well to taunt him with the failure of his efforts. I was glad to find that the right hon. Member for West Bristol, who wound up for the Opposition, and who seemed willing to put everything at my right hon. Friend's door, did admit there might have been some mistakes by other people. There have been mistakes by the Jews, by the Arabs, there have been mistakes by the Americans, and, in the course of years, there have been mistakes by all parties on this question. The attempt is being made tonight to foist it all on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. As a matter of fact, my right hon. Friend tried to get Jews and Arabs together. He also saw the great influence of the United States. There was set up a special commission which issued the Anglo-American report. Unfortunately, the United States did not accept that report except for one particular item. I am sorry that the recital of facts by the right hon. Member for Woodford was so extremely imperfect. He made a number of errors and then slipped and slithered away to another misstatement. That was one, although it was not a fact, that the United States accepted that report and that it was we who turned it down. We have been trying to work with the United States. My right hon. Friend came to agree with the Bernadotte Report and it was not we who stepped aside on that occasion. We stood where we were, but the Americans unfortunately as they were quite entitled to do, took a different view. It is not fair always to suggest that it is always British vacillation. Let me now nail another mistake which has had great circulation. That is the suggestion that His Majesty's Government urged the Arabs to take military action, and that they believed the Arabs were strong enough to conquer Palestine. This is utterly untrue. The Arabs were never given such advice by our military advisers. Nobody with any knowledge of it would make such a statement. What did we do after we found we could not settle the matter under the mandate under which we were answerable for what we did? Under that mandate we had an obligation both to Arabs and Jews. When we handed back the country there was meticulous care taken in handing over to local authorities throughout Palestine, and the right hon. Gentleman must have followed what was said at the time, and this handing over went extremely smoothly in the Jewish areas. I do not know why he should now suggest that we ran out and left the Jews in the lurch. A great deal of his strictures on His Majesty's Government might have been made at the time and not now. The right hon. Gentleman said we ought to have gone out long before. Then he would have said, "You have scuttled away from your responsibilities." He cannot have it both ways. We took great care in the handing over, and we urged repeatedly on all the Arab States the folly of taking military action. That they did so is not our fault. They did take military action. They went into the parts of Palestine which under the United Nations plan were allotted to them. Subsequently they have been driven back from many of these, and there has been fighting which we all regret. We have done everything we can to ensure an armistice, but there are extremists on both sides, among the Arabs and among the Jews. I think we might have got a reasonable settlement with reasonable people in Israeli, if they had not had their plans upset over and over again, by the action of the extremists. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the dangers of that action. There have also been Arab extremists, and on both sides, unfortunately, there has been the staking out of far too wide claims. The extremist revisionist claims for the whole of Transjordan, for instance, naturally upset the Arabs; the persistence of the claim of the Arabs for the whole of Palestine upset the Jews. It is not so awfully easy, as has been suggested, to get a settlement of this matter. I am now going to deal very briefly with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to that very regrettable incident about the Air Force. What was the position? The position was that it was reported that there was an invasion of Egyptian territory. We have responsibilities in that area; we have troops on the Canal, and this invasion was taking place while there was actually in existence an armistice imposed by U.N.O. which was being disregarded by the Israelis. I do not want to exacerbate these things, but everybody knows there was a truce which was broken by the Arabs. We brought every possible pressure to bear on the Arabs, and the breach of the truce was stopped. This breach of the truce was going on in defiance of U.N.O., and it is very doubtful when these things happen how much control there is over these forces, and where they will go. We were, therefore, entitled to find out just what was happening. I am not quite sure what the right hon. Member for Woodford thinks, because, having condemned us for taking precautions with regard to the invasion of Egypt, he seemed to condemn the Egyptians' action of going into Palestine, but seemed to approve the Transjordan entry into Palestine, and suggested that, of course, we should fight for Transjordan. I am not quite sure where he stands on this matter. The fact is that there was this breach of the truce, and actually the observers were withdrawn. Everyone was anxious to find out the true facts, and, therefore, orders were sent for, these reconnaissances to be made. Of course, the details of the reconnaissance were not laid down in London; they were naturally left to the Air Officer on the spot. The Air Officer's instructions, which he knew perfectly well, were that he was not to go beyond the boundary of Egypt and that he was not to engage in combat unless the people were attacked. The suggestion is somehow made that these reconnaissances were specially ordered by this Government when this Government knew that we were within two hours of a cease-fire. Nothing could be more untrue. A general order had been given with regard to the reconnaissance, to the timing of it, and the account of it was, of course, in the hands of the Air Officer on the spot. It had been reported to him that there had been a very serious new incursion into Egyptian territory—something like 150 lorries of troops—and it was his duty to look into the matter, which he did. The fact that the cease-fire followed immediately afterwards was a matter he did not know, and could not posibly have known, at the time. [HON. MEMBRRS: "Why?"] Because this was made, I understand, by one of the U.N.O. representatives locally, without Arabs and Jews and this report came through. The first news that was known in Egypt was in the papers the day after these affairs, and the news had not got through to the Air Officer Commanding until after the "recce" had already taken place. Therefore I am not prepared to say and to agree that this has blackened our face in the eyes of the whole world. I think it was a very difficult task. I am not prepared for a moment to shelter behind the Air Officer Commanding. I think he carried out his task and the men carried out their task. There will be an inquiry into any details, but so far as the "recce" took place, I consider that we were right to do it. I do not know what might have happened with such a grave incursion. We might have had an invasion right down to the Canal Zone, and we might have been involved in war. I think we were perfectly right in making this recce. I wish to deal with another matter. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that suddenly—he always thinks that we do these things suddenly—we yielded with regard to the refugees in Cyprus. As a matter of fact, we have for months been trying to get them back. It was a difficult matter, because there were fighting men among them, and there was a feeling on the Arab side that this would be a breach of the truce if they were brought out. For days and days we had been trying to get this thing going, and we got it going at last. If we do it we are told, "You are running away." If we do not do it we are told, "You are obstinate." Always the right hon. Gentleman seems to have his own knowledge of the exact time to do it.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? I should like to know what was the new circumstance which made it possible to decide last Tuesday to do something which he had been trying unsuccessfully to do some weeks before?
The Prime Minister
Because at last we had got these peace negotiations going, and this, we thought, would help forward those peace negotiations that were going on.I would say a word about recognition. I was interested in the question put by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) as to whether we can recognise a Government without that Government having a country. I have not had time since he made that speech to look up the questions of precedent, but as a matter of fact we recognised quite a large number of Governments during the war who were out of their countries—[HON. MEMBERS: "Provisional Governments."]—and we did not know what country they were in. There can be de facto Governments and provisional Governments. There are varieties of recognition. We are now told that we ought to have recognised them earlier. It was a difficult thing because we have been trying all through to act with the United Nations organisation. I think that it would have been ill-advised to rush into this recognition. We have now been engaged in talks to see whether now is the time when we should get de facto recognition, because now I believe it would contribute to peace and to a settlement. I would like to repeat what my right hon. Friend said. His Majesty's Government have been in consultation with the Commonwealth Governments who have not yet recognised Israel, as to the de facto recognition of the Israeli Government and we are in close consultation with them at this moment. Is there anything wrong in acting with the Commonwealth Governments? We have also been in consultation with our Brussels Treaty Allies, and this matter will be discussed with their foreign ministers who are meeting in London tomorrow. There is the question, I agree, of recognising a Government, and recognising a Government where there is a country with fixed boundaries. Therefore that recognition will not prejudice the question of the boundaries between Israel and her neighbours. Let me say at once that the difficulty in the past of recognition—which I think it was suggested ought to have been taken months ago—was because there were no boundaries, because there was no clear idea of what the demands were because on one side or the other they were demands for all Palestine.
Mr. S. Silverman
Subject to this quite understandable reservation about frontiers, are we to take it that the question of the de facto recognition of Israel has been settled in principle?
The Prime Minister
I say that we are now discussing this very matter with the Commonwealth Governments and our Brussels Treaty Allies with a view to settling it.
Mr. Platts-Mills (Finsbury)
Does that mean that the Belgians are going to be asked to help us make up our minds?
The Prime Minister
We have accepted it in principle long ago. It was a question of the time and the doing of it. We are now in consultation about it. I am quite sure that we should have been attacked from the other side if we had gone off and done it without having an consultation with the other Commonwealth countries. That would have been the stick used to beat us.
The Government made a decision.
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Member for Woodford seemed to me to make a number of contradictory statements, and he had very scant regard for the facts. I rather wondered just why he was taking this action. I think that it seemed to him that it might be useful to make an attack on my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. It has been suggested that the policy followed in Palestine or anywhere else in foreign affairs is the personal, individual policy of the Foreign Secretary. That is entirely untrue. Foreign policy is naturally discussed by the Government, the Government take decisions and the Government stand by the Minister who has to carry out those decisions. The second thing was that a suggestion has been made—I am not sure that the right hon. Member for Woodford did not make it—that my right hon. Friend was actuated by a dislike of the Jews. That is entirely and utterly untrue. My right hon. Friend has many good friends among the Jews—
Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
That is what Mosley said.
The Prime Minister
—and I imagine that the same applies to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. My right hon. Friend has been thanked very often for his services to the cause of the Jews. He has been thanked for his work by Jewish labour for helping them in forming their federation and getting them into the International Labour Office. Indeed, I have seen a paper circulated in which my right hon. Friend is put down with many other eminent people as one of the architects of Zionism. Yet there is this vendetta against him.Why has this attack been launched tonight and why are we going to have this vote? The right hon. Member for Woodford is a very old Parliamentary hand. He is a very experienced campaigner and he sees a General Election not so very far away—in 18 months. He thinks, "What a good thing it would be if we could remove from the Government such a prominent person as the Foreign Secretary." He argues, "Here is a subject which engages the emotions of many people on the Labour benches. if only we could get them to abstain we will issue a three line whip." My hon. Friends will have noticed what the right hon. Gentleman said, that he was going to take this as a cameo of his objection to the Labour policy. It is not really the Palestinian policy. It is every policy we follow. There is a very true saying in the old Book,
I do not think my hon. Friends will be deceived by this very palpable"In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird."
Division No. 43.]
|Agnew, Cmdr P G||Crowder, Cap'. John E||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Cuthbert, W N.||Harris, F W. (Croydon, N.)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Davidson, Viscountess||Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot Univ.)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Haughton, S. G.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon R||De la Bère, R||Head, Brig. A. H.|
|Astor, Hon. M||Digby, S. W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Dodds-Parker, A D.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Donner, P. W.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Beechman, N. A||Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Hogg, Hon Q|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Dower, E. L G. (Caithness)||Hollis, M. C.|
|Birch, Nigel||Drayson, G. B||Hope, Lord J.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D C (Wells)||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Howard, Hon. A.|
|Boothby, R||Duthie, W. S.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N J.|
|Bossom, A C||Eccles, D. M||Hurd, A.|
|Bower, N.||Erroll, F. J.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J A||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr E L||Hutchison, Col. J. R.(Glasgow, C)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Jeffreys, General Sir G.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J G.||Foster, J G. (Northwich)||Jennings, R.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col W.||Fox, Sir G.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Bullock, Capt. M||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Kerr, Sir J. Graham|
|Butcher, H. W.||Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)||kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A (S'ffr'n W'Id'n)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Lambert, Hon G.|
|Byers, Frank||Gage, C.||Lancaster, Col C G.|
|Carson, E||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Challen, C.||Galbraith, T. G. D (Hillhead)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K|
|Channon, H.||Gates, Maj E. E||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Glyn, Sir R.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Conant, Maj R. J. E||Granville, E. (Eye)||Lloyd, Setwyn (Wirral)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gridley, Sir A.||Low, A. R. W.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Grimston, R. V.||Lucas, Major Sir J|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt Hon. H F. C||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O E||Harden, J. R E.||Lyhelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
manoeuvre of the right hon. Gentleman in which, by working on the natural feelings of people, who are very much worked up on this, he hopes to snatch a victory for the Conservative Party. Anyone on this side of the House who knows the Conservative Party with its record of always being in the wrong, sees that here we have a party manoeuvre by the right hon. Gentleman. In this matter, of course, a vote on the Adjournment is a vote of confidence in the Government. I am quite sure we shall get that vote in ample measure.
Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
In the moment that is left may I say that many of us here are not concerned with what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) may have said or what the Conservative Party has said. I want to see my party come out of this, and I beg the Prime Minister at this juncture, whatever may have happened in the past, to recognise the State of Israel. There is no need for an appeal to the Commonwealth on this issue.
Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."
he House divided: Ayes, 193; Noes, 283.
|MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Pickthonn, K||Stuart, Rt Hon. J (Moray)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Pitman, I. J.||Studholme, H. G|
|MacDonald, Sir M, (lnverness)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|McFarlane, C. S.||Prescott, Stanley||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|McKie. J. H. (Galloway)||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Teeling, William|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Thomas, J. P. L (Hereford)|
|Maclean, F. H R. (Lancaster)||Raikes, H. V||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|MacLeod, J.||Ramsay, Maj. S||Thornton-Kemsley, C N|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Rayner, Brig. R||Thorp, Brigadier R A F|
|Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Renton, D.||Touche, G. C|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. W||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Turton, R. H.|
|Manningham-Buller, R E||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Vane, W. M. F|
|Marlowe, A. A. H||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)||Wadsworth, G.|
|Marsden, Capt. A||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Wakefield, Sir W W|
|Marshall, D (Bodmin)||Robinson, Roland||Walker-Smith, D|
|Marshall, S. H (Sutton)||Ropner, Col L||Ward, Hon G. R|
|Maude, J. C.||Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)||Watt, Sir G. S Harvie|
|Mellor, Sir J||Savory, Prof D L||Wheatley, Colonel M. J (Dorset. E.)|
|Molson, A H. E.||Scott, Lord W||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Morris-Jones, Sir H||Segal, Dr. S.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Shepherd, S. (Newark)||Williams, C (Torquay)|
|Morrison, Rt Hn W S (Cirencester)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C E||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Neven-Spence, Sir B||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Nicholson, G.||Smithers, Sir W.||York, C.|
|Nield, B. (Chester)||Snadden, W. M||Young, Sir A S L. (Partick)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Spearman, A C M|
|Odey, G. W.||Spence, H. R.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Osborne, C.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Mr. C. Drewe.|
|Peto, Brig. C H M||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Gunter, R. J|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Guy, W H.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Cove, W. G.||Haire, John E (Wycombe)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Crawley, A||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cripps, Rt Hon SH S||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Daines, P.||Hardman, D R|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C R||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Hardy, E. A|
|Awbery, S. S||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Harrison, J.|
|Ayles. W. H||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Bacon, Miss A||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Haworth, J.|
|Baird, J.||Davies, R. J (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Rt Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Balfour, A.||Deer, G.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A J||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Barstow, P G||Delargy, H. J||Hewitson, Capt M|
|Barton, C.||Diamond, J||Hicks, G|
|Battley, J. R||Dobbie, W.||Hobson, C. R|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Donovan, T||Holman, P|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Dye, S.||Holmes, H E (Hemsworth)|
|Benson, G||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Hoy, J.|
|Berry, H.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hubbard, T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hudson, J H (Ealing, W.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Binns, J||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hughes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Hynd, H (Hackney, C.)|
|Blyton, W R.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Evans, S. N (Wednesbury)||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H W||Ewart, R||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G A|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Fairhurst, H||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Farthing, W. J||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Fernyhough, E||Johnston, Douglas|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W T||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Burden, T. W||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Keenan, W.|
|Callaghan, James||Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Kendall, W. D|
|Carmichael, James||Gibbins, J||Kenyon, C|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Gibson, C. W||Key, Rt. Hon. C W.|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Gilzean, A||King, E. M.|
|Champion, A J.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Kinley, J.|
|Cluse, W. S||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Greenwood, A W. J (Heywood)||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon D|
|Coldrick, W.||Grey, C. F.||Lavers, S.|
|Collindridge, F.||Grierson, E||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J J|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Griffiths, D (Rother Valley)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Cook, T. F.||Griffiths. Rt Hon. J (Llanelly)||Leslie. J. R.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Paton, Mrs. F (Rushcliffe)||Symonds, A. L.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pearson, A||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lipson, D. L.||Peart, T. F.||Taylor, Dr S. (Barnet)|
|Logan, D. G.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Lyne, A. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|McAdam, W.||Price, M. Philips||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)|
|McAllister, G.||Proctor, W. T.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Pryde, D. J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|McGhee, H. G.||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Tiffany, S.|
|McGovern, J.||Randall, H. E.||Timmons, J.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Ranger, J.||Titterington, M. F.|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Rankin, J.||Tolley, L.|
|McLeavy, F.||Rees-Williams, D. R||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon.|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Reeves, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Macpherson, T (Romford)||Rhodes, H.||Viant, S P.|
|Mallalieu, E. L (Brigg)||Richards, R.||Wallace, G D. (Chislehurst)|
|Mann, Mrs J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Wallace, H. W (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Robens, A||Watkins, T E|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Watson W M|
|Marshall, F (Brightside)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon George||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wells, P L. (Faversham)|
|Mayhew, C P.||Royle, C.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Medland, H. M.||Sargood, R.||Wheatley, Rt Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Sharp, Granville||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C A. B|
|Monslow, W.||Shurmer, P||Wilkins, W A.|
|Moody, A. S.||Silkin. Rt. Hon. L||Willey, F T(Sunderland)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B||Simmons, C. J||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Morley, R.||Skeffington, A. M.||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Skinnard, F W.||Williams, R. W (Wigan)|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Smith Ellis (stroke)||Williams, Rt. Hon T (Don Valley)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, E.)||Smith, H. N (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Mort, D. L.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Willis, E.|
|Moyle, A.||Snow, J. W.||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Murray, J. D||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wilmot, Rt Hon J.|
|Nally, W.||Sparks, J. A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Stamford, W.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Steele, T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E)||Yates, V. F|
|Noel-Baker, Rt Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Young, Sir R (Newton)|
|Oldfield W. H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon G. R. (Lambeth)||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Oliver, G. H.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Summerskill, Dr. Rt Hon. E|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Palmer, A. M. F||Sylvester, G. O.||Mr. R. J. Taylor and|
Aden-Nairobi Air Service
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The matter to which I wish to bring the attention of the House tonight concerns an attempt by a British State corporation, with the full knowledge and support of at least two Government departments, to crush out of existence a small, private enterprise company in the Colonies. The case that I shall make will show quite clearly where the responsibility lies. It lies with the Government, and particularly with the department of the Minister of Civil Aviation. The story is laid in East Africa and begins in the summer of 1947. The R.A.F. were then still operating the regular air route between Aden and Nairobi, and were very anxious to get rid of this demand. At that time, between 70 and 80 per cent. of the traffic was official—mainly military, and the bulk of the traffic, I believe, is still military.At that time the American Government, operating from Abyssinia, offered to run a service from Somaliland to Nairobi. The British authorities naturally preferred a British company handling their transport needs, and they asked the Director of Civil Aviation in Nairobi to arrange this, if possible. So, C.L. Air Surveys, a British company operating a charter service, was asked to operate a regular service, and, in the meantime, to run a service on a charter basis. My information is that the Director of Civil Aviation actually instructed C.L. Air Surveys to apply for a licence to operate between Aden and Nairobi; the sole condition was that C.L. Air Surveys should provide sufficient aircraft and handle all the traffic on the route. They were made to sign a bond of guarantee which made them responsible for fulfilling the complete R.A.F. demands. Nobody would be so foolish as to undertake a service of this description without some sort of ordinary protection and safeguard; I think that hon. Members will agree it would have been sheer nonsense if Lieut.-Colonel Lloyd, head of C. L. Air Surveys, had not asked that there should be a reasonable guarantee that British Overseas Airways Corporation would not come in on the route as soon as his company started to cover it. Twice he obtained from the Director of Civil Aviation—once in the presence of a witness—an assurance that B.O.A.C. was not interested in the route. He was assured that there was no question of the Corporation operating on it; certainly there was no likelihood that the Corporation would do so within so short a time as that with which we are concerned. The Director of Civil Aviation passed that same information on to the Royal Air Force. Accordingly Colonel Lloyd applied for a licence, and the application was heard by the East African Air Transport Advisory Board, which recommended that C. L. Air Surveys should be given a licence valid for one year on condition that the company undertook to provide the necessary carrying capacity. This was indicated orally to Colonel Lloyd in September. The services were started immediately. At a meeting on 29th October at the Directorate of Civil Aviation, Nairobi, it was decided that the new services would from 9th November, under the name of Clair-ways, take the balance of the traffic still carried by the R.A.F. Dakota service. They took over the whole of the service. At the time the traffic licence was issued a draft was in being, but subsequently, as I shall show, that draft was changed. The licensing authority for East Africa clearly intended that the licence should be exclusive over the period of its validity. This was made obvious to Colonel Lloyd in that he had to provide all the planes to handle the traffic and to sign the bond of guarantee I have mentioned. It is also made plain by the tenor of a letter that they wrote to the comparable authorities, an extract from which I have sent to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the course of correspondence which we have exchanged. Having purchased the necessary planes to carry out this commitment, Colonel Lloyd received an offer of financial support from Skyways, and came home to England to complete the negotiations. While in England he visited the Commercial Director of B.O.A.C. in order to obtain their advice, and in doing so he relied completely on the assurance he had received from the Director of Civil Aviation in East Africa that they were not interested in the route. He told them in all good faith that he had decided to accept Skyways offer. The Commercial Director of B.O.A.C. threw up his hands in horror and said, "Don't do that, hold your hand"; and went on to say that Skyways were not in favour with His Majesty's Government. In view of that appeal from a State Corporation, which Colonel Lloyd believed to be disinterested, he broke off negotiations with Skyways, and accepted another offer he had received. Imagine his feelings when he arrived back at Nairobi and found that B.O.A.C. had in the meantime indicated their intention to obtain a licence to operate the same route. The application was registered on 2nd December, and it was not until 11th December, a month after Colonel Lloyd had started operating, that his licence was issued. When it was issued it was different from the original. It was on the basis of the original document that he had increased his fleet and entered into long-term agreements. This altered licence specifically mentioned B.O.A.C.'s application to operate. Without an ultimatum, B.O.A.C. entered into what one might call a war of aggression against Clairways, a firm that had put their confidence in B.O.A.C. And for what object? The object was to clear the way for a company that B.O.A.C. intended to form and to create a monopoly, not only for themselves, but for another company in which they would have a partial interest. Is that the correct way to use the taxpayers' money? Surely the fair thing would have been to buy Clairways out, or, alternatively, to have taken an interest in the company. What in fact did B.O.A.C. do? One would have thought that a State corporation with the prestige and position of B.O.A.C. could have afforded to fight this fight cleanly. I am sorry to have to tell the House that the business morality of B.O.A.C. on this occasion fell far short of the normal standards one expects from private enterprise. Let me give examples. First of all, at the hearing of B.O.A.C.'s application for a licence by the East Africa Transport Advisory Board, their manager said that the Director-General of Civil Affairs (Middle East) had told him that the Army would not give B.O.A.C. any preferential treatment. That was promptly denied by the officer in person. In fact during the first three or four months of their operations B.O.A.C. did receive preference. What is more, an instruction which I understand emanated from the Ministry of Civil Aviation—at least, they must have acknowledged it—was sent out to the Civil Affairs Branch (Middle East) to the effect that no more contracts for regular services or chartered services should be entered into with Clairways. Worst of all, even after the official preference for B.O.A.C. had ceased, it continued in fact for some time under circumstances which strongly suggest that the B.O.A.C. were influencing a non-commissioned officer in charge of air movement at Nairobi and later at Mogadishu to disregard orders. This N.C.O. was suddenly posted away on the ground, I understand, of ill health. I think that after the dressing down he got, he would have been in ill health. The second thing that B.O.A.C. did was to give an assurance to the Air Transport Advisory Board that they would, charge the same fares as Clairways. The manager promptly cut passenger fares, without giving Clairways any notice at all. Later he claimed he had cut them in order to comply with A.I.T.A.'s conditions. After all, the very least he could have done was to notify the Advisory Board or the Director of Civil Aviation that, on account of B.O.A.C.'s membership of A.I.T.A., he was not in a position to keep his word. Thirdly, B.O.A.C. was granted its licence on condition it ran only one service a week. Since this same individual was proceeding to break that condition, Clairways made a formal complaint to the Air Transport Advisory Board. As was proved at the hearing, an additional service had already been advertised in the "Somali Courier." The manager first of all denied it, then said it was a mistake, and finally he went straight out of that hearing and sent a cable cancelling the service. This same individual gave an assurance to A.I.T.A. that B.O.A.C. had no intention of running Clairways off the route. In what sort of faith he gave that assurance is amply proved by his actions. The whole of this man's attitude towards an official board demonstrates only too clearly the contempt in which he held the board. Why, indeed, should he care about the Advisory Board in East Africa when B.O.A.C. was so powerful that no action it took, however reprehensible, could be challenged by the East African Government. It is part of a Minister's obligations and duty to see that State corporations are not above the law or below the ordinary decent standards of conduct. If he fails to do that, the small chances that nationalisation has, in any case, of succeeding, are doomed indeed. I took up this matter with the Minister of Civil Aviation on 27th October, and after an exchange of correspondence and two interviews, in which, I am bound to say, the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman listened to my argument carefully and treated me with great courtesy, I received a letter on 22nd January from the noble Lord denying responsibility. The Minister relied on three arguments. He said, first, that neither the Director of Civil Aviation in East Africa nor anyone else was instructed or authorised by B.O.A.C., to give an assurance that B.O.A.C. had no intention of operating on that route. But under the Civil Aviation Act, B.O.A.C. has to submit its development plans to the Minister for prior approval. It is not the responsibility of B.O.A.C. to inform the Director of Civil Aviation. It was the responsibility of His Majesty's Government to make certain that no British subject should be encouraged, as Colonel Lloyd was, to invest money in a project which B.O.A.C. intended to enter upon themselves within a matter of three months. There seems to me to have been the same shocking lack of liaison, about which we heard in an earlier and more important Debate, between the Colonial Office, the Minister of Civil Aviation, the Air Ministry and the War Office. The noble Lord goes on to evade the issue by claiming reciprocity as between Nairobi and Aden. He argued that if he has the right to license Clairways to operate to Aden then the Director at Aden has the right to license B.O.A.C. to operate from Aden to Nairobi. I am astonished at such an argument. With all due deference to the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman it does appear to me to be cant and hypocrisy. I would remind the House that it was generally agreed before Clairways received their licence that there was then, and is now, sufficient traffic for one operator only. Indeed the Chairman of the East African Advisory Board has stated publicly that if they had known of B.O.A.C.'s intention they would not have given Clair-ways a licence. This implies that B.O.A.C. could not be refused. Yet in asking the Aden Government to agree to Clairways operating, the Director of Civil Aviation said that it was in the interest of His Majesty's Government that every encouragement to a British company should be given. I stress the words "a British company"—not two companies. One of the main purposes of licensing boards is to regulate licences granted in accordance to the available traffic to prevent uneconomic competition. It is pure hypocrisy to talk about the principle of reciprocity on a route which everyone knows has only sufficient traffic for one operator. The Director of Civil Aviation in Nairobi still declares that to be the case. What is to happen if, as the hon. Gentleman, I fear, hopes, and intends, Clairways are forced to pack up through their losses? One of two things must happen. Either B.O.A.C. continues to be based on Aden and has a monopoly, or its successor has a monopoly; and where is reciprocity then? Or else B.O.A.C. enters into a reciprocal agreement for through traffic with another operator. It is very unlikely that the Board in Nairobi will license another operator in view of the present experience. Clairways has already ceased to operate as far as Aden. Therefore the reciprocity argument is absurd. I should have liked to put further arguments, but to my mind the case is absolutely overwhelming. I expect that the hon. Gentleman has been briefed to say "No," but I hope that he will undertake to consider the matter further, and not to give an ill-considered decision which would so gravely prejudice private enterprise in the Colonies in the future.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Lindgren)
I should like to explain to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) that I have a certain disability of my right hand, and I have not been able to take all the notes that I should have liked. Therefore if at any time he feels that I am missing a point that he has made, and will interject, I will give way in order to meet that point.This is a dispute between two air line operators, and it is a matter which concerns neither my own Ministry nor the Colonial Office. If the company conconcerned feels that it has any case at all, that is not a matter for this House; it is a matter for the courts of this country or any other country where the company feels that it has a case. However, Clair-ways and the hon. Gentleman having brought the matter to the notice of my noble Friend, the hon. Gentleman being good enough to admit that my noble Friend had met him generously and considerately in this matter which he—
Perhaps not generously without qualification, but certainly generously in the time he gave to this case in relation to the general responsibilities which he has to carry. My noble Friend has examined the matter in great detail. Moreover, in the Christmas Recess, I had an opportunity to visit East Africa and I went into the question on the spot. Neither from the diligent inquiries which my noble Friend has undertaken, nor from the investigation which I personally have undertaken, do we see any cause whatever for the Minister to intervene.But in view of the allegations against B.O.A.C. which have been made by Colonel Lloyd, the chairman of Clair-ways, and the allegations which the hon. Gentleman has made this evening, I should like, because the Corporation cannot here reply, to deal with the case on general grounds. First of all, if the operator of an air line or any other concern intends to go into business, one would expect him to understand the general terms and conditions which apply in that particular business. In air line operations the fundamental principle throughout the whole world is that, if there is an air line operating between two territories, each of the two territories has reciprocal operating rights. Therefore the idea of an exclusive service between Nairobi and Aden is a misconception. If there is a service between Nairobi and Aden, it follows from the fundamental principles of air line operation, that there is a right for a reciprocal service between Aden and Nairobi. B.O.A.C. have not applied for nor secured a service or a licence for a service between Nairobi and Aden. What they have applied for, and what they have secured, is a licence for a reciprocal service between Aden and Nairobi. That is a normal procedure, and one would have thought that any firm entering the air line business would have known that a service one way implied a reciprocal service in the other.
Even if there is only enough traffic—and it is known that there is only enough traffic—for one operator?
Let me give another example. If we obtain a licence between London and Paris, that action immediately gives the French the right to a licence between Paris and London. Whether or not there is sufficient traffic on the route is a question for the operators to determine. This principle is true for all forms of transport; bus, train, sea or air: that frequency on the route does not actually determine the traffic available on it, but that frequency creates traffic rather than diminishes it.B.O.A.C.'s intention to operate on the Aden-Nairobi routes had been well-known since 1946. That is a plain statement of fact. The complete failure of those engaged in private enterprise to ascertain that fact shows that they are unfitted to have the responsibility at all. If they had wanted to know B.O.A.C.'s intentions, surely one would have expected them to go direct to B.O.A.C.; but they never at any time made an approach to the Corporation on this point. It is alleged—and there are contradictory statements about this—that they approached the local Director of Civil Aviation, East African Airways and all sorts of other people, but they never at any time went to B.O.A.C. They must therefore take responsibility for their own lack of business integrity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Integrity?"] I mean general "savvy" in regard to running any commercial business at all—acumen.
Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that where you have a nationalised monopoly and a private enterprise company, the Director of Civil Aviation must speak for the nationalised industry.
The Director of Civil Aviation is not associated with this Government. He is appointed by the East African High Commission to look after general civil aviation matters in that territory, and we have no responsibility in my Ministry for him. But to return to my theme, if anyone wants to know the intentions of another business concern—
Sir W. Wakefield
It is not a business concern, it is a State monopoly.
B.O.A.C. is an airline operated—
Sir W. Wakefield
By the State.
Not by the State. If the hon. Gentleman does not know the terms and conditions under which the three Corporations operate he ought to, and I cannot spare time this evening to instruct him. I would emphasise that in this particular operation, Clairways had six months on the route before B.O.A.C. even entered.
Sir W. Wakefield
To lose more of the taxpayers' money by cutting fares.
The more interjections the hon. Gentleman makes, the less time I shall have to deal with the fundamental issues. Clairways had six months in which to give good service to customers and secure the traffic on that route. Starting off with four aircraft, this firm had mishaps likely to occur to any other undertaking and they lost two aircraft.
Mr. N. Macpherson
There were six aircraft.
My information is that they started with four, and had two crashes; with one plane undergoing maintenance checks it meant there was only one on the route. Clairways lost the traffic not because of the operations of B.O.A.C., but because they had crashes and lost the capacity to provide for the route.
That is a gross misstatement of fact. It is a fact, as I have already pointed out, that 80 per cent. of that traffic was military traffic, and a vast proportion was given on orders of B.O.A.C. to start with.
My information is that they originally had four aircraft and lost two in crashes. As soon as they got a licence they tried to sell it to Skyways, from whom they had an offer which they did not accept, and then they tried to sell it to Airwork. I have recently seen papers relating to C.L. Air Surveys, which owns £10,000 in shares in Clairways and which has now "gone broke." C.L. Air Surveys are in the hands of the official receiver, and what are they putting in as their assets? They submit as an asset the probability of getting compensation because they operated a route under the title of Clairways in East Africa. I do not want to be unkind, but all sorts of allegations and insinuations have been made against B.O.A.C. I say that this is a financial racket in which a group of people took a risk, failed in that risk, and tried to get back their losses by a very speculative operation in East Africa. I challenge the hon. Gentleman and his associates outside to prove that they have any case at all. If they think they have, they can go to the British Courts of Justice which will doubtless clarify the matter.
The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned at Eighteen Minutes to Twelve o'Clock.