§ 18. Captain STRICKLAND
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now state when it will be possible to issue the report of Sir Felix Pole on the steps which should be taken to place the railways of Palestine on an economic and efficient basis so as better to serve the interests of the citrus industry and the chief centres of the population?
§ 17. Major PROCTER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the report of Sir Felix Pole on Palestine railway development was first available to the Colonial Office and the High Commissioner, respectively; and why its publication should be any longer withheld?
Mr. M. MacDONALD
Sir Felix Pole gave a draft copy of his report to the High Commissioner before he left Palestine early in February, and copies of the report in its final form were sent to Palestine on the 30th May. Copies were received in the Colonial Office on the 3rd April. I should explain that, arising out of a report of a local committee on road and rail transport, three expert swere invited to examine and report on three different aspects of railway communication in Palestine. Sir Felix Pole was asked to advise on certain specific proposals for improving the layout of the railway line (including station accommodation) in order to facilitate communication between Jaffa, Tel-Aviv 1031 and Haifa, comprising a scheme for the deviation of the main line. Mr. Jenkin-Jones, of the London and North Eastern Railway, was asked to advise upon development of traffic facilities, traffic organisation and rates; and Sir Laurence Halsey, of Messrs. Price, Waterhouse and Company, on the accounting system and the establishment of an adequate renewals fund. The recommendations of each of these experts contemplate expenditure of large sums. It will only be possible to reach final conclusions after a close study of all three reports, which, particularly in their financial effect, are closely inter-related. They are now under consideration by the High Commissioner, who informs me that he hopes shortly to submit his considered views and recommendations. When these have been received and duly considered in the Colonial Office, the question of publication of all or any of these reports will be decided.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
Seeing that it is now two months since the report was sent back to Palestine for the High Commissioner's recommendation, and in view of the urgency of the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman use every endeavour to get the matter brought up to date and the report issued as soon as possible?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
May the report be circulated which has been produced by three local experts who have been considering transport in Palestine since Sir Felix Pole was there?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
May I ask why road transport experts were not sent, and whether that would not have been much better than sending railway experts? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the Southern States of America, for example, the cotton growers use the roads very largely?
Railway experts were sent out because the questions which we were specifically asked to inquire into were railway questions. With regard to the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), I have said in my reply that the question of the publication of all three reports will be considered when we have heard from the High Commissioner on the matter. With 1032 regard to the first supplementary question, I can assure the House that no time is being lost unnecessarily. Although it is true that Sir Felix Pole's report was received a fairly long time ago, the other two reports, to which his is related, were only received in Palestine by the High Commissioner towards the end of May.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Will this be one of the subjects discussed with the High Commissioner when he comes to England; and when is his visit expected?
I anticipate that he will be here some time in August, and no doubt this will be one of the matters that will be considered, but I rather hope to have his recommendations on the matter before he actually arrives in this country.
§ 20. Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the amount of profit or loss on the operation of the Palestine railways for the past financial year; and whether he is satisfied that they have been adequately adapted and improved to meet the developments which have taken place in that mandated territory during the past decade?
§ 21. Mr. JANNER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the discontent with the present services provided by the Palestine railways; and whether he can now give an assurance that, as a consequence of the recent official inquiry into this matter, remedial action will be set on foot during the current year?
In the financial year 1934–35 the lines comprising the Palestine railway system showed a net deficit of £87,940. Until a few years ago the financial position of Palestine restricted expenditure on the maintenance and improvement of the railways, but additional revenue is now available and considerable sums have already been spent and are about to be spent for this purpose. Any further action which may be found to be necessary arising out of recent expert enquiries will be taken as soon as possible.
§ Mr. JANNER
Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind the fact that it is important to spend a large amount of money at present in order to keep the markets, particularly such as fruit, and 1033 any expenditure put into railways and roads will merely mean that we are minimising the effect of any trouble with regard to markets later on?