§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)
May I ask a question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, without losing any hopes which I may have for the future? I thought that it had been considered that possibly it would be more easy for both sides of the House to make this short debate useful if we began with a Ministerial statement.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)
I am perfectly agreeable to that, if it is the wish of the House. Some 10 days ago at Question Time, I was invited to make a considered statement, and I have been preparing to do so.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I asked the hon. Gentleman to do so, and I am most obliged to him.
§ Mr. Younger
I want to keep the statement as short as I can, as there is not much time to cover the whole ground. The House will realise that the whole of this tragic problem arises from the Palestine conflict. I hope that we shall be able to keep as much as possible of the old discussions about that conflict out of the debate tonight, because if we are to solve the problem of the refugees it is important that there should be an atmosphere of increasing conciliation and that we should not revive old memories unnecessarily.
It may be remembered that in the early months of 1948, the problem of the refugees who had just left their homes had to be shouldered by the Governments of the neighbouring countries. But that could not last long—their resources were too limited—and as early as 1948 the Distress Relief Project was organised by the United Nations Mediator. In November of the same year, the General Assembly of the United Nations took a hand and established the first of the major organisations—the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees—which carried on until April, 1950, working with a number of voluntary organisations.
1869 In the meantime, the United Nations Economic Survey began in the Middle East and reported on this matter, among others. As a result of the recommendations of that mission, the present organisation, called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees was founded. This agency took over in May, 1950. It is under the direction of a Canadian, General Kennedy, who is assisted by an Advisory Commission on which His Majesty's Government are represented by Sir Henry Knight.
The size of the refugee problem is such as to make it not only a very serious human problem but a grave political problem affecting the stability of the entire area. Approximately 850,000 refugees are at present receiving relief. That is a reduction of the figure which was once over one million—not a very large reduction, but one that should be noted. Of that 850,000, some 450,000 are in Jordan alone, 250,000 in Gaza, 120,000 in Lebanon and 80,000 in Syria. Up to the time when the present Agency took over in May of last year, international assistance took the form exclusively of direct relief. Although this was a prime necessity, it was by itself quite inadequate. Mere relief in the long run demoralises those who receive it if they have no other prospects than to continue to receive it.
§ Mr. Younger
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not make those remarks, because I am trying to be as helpful as I can.
Mere relief did not solve the problem and there was the prospect of it going on indefinitely. Therefore, the General Assembly authorised the present Agency to carry out works as well as relief, and it has managed to give a certain amount of useful employment to a number of these refugees, which at the same time has helped to increase the productive capacity of the area.
Under the most recent resolution passed in the General Assembly in November, 1950, the scope of the Agency's work was increased to cover projects for the permanent re-establishment of refugees in Arab countries and in Israel. The idea that they should be re-established in other countries was, of course, without prejudice to the right which they claim 1870 to repatriation and to compensation for loss of property. It is significant, however, that the resolution incorporating the idea of what has been called re-integration not only in Israel but other countries was supported by delegates of all the Arab countries and also of Israel. That is one of the more encouraging features of the present situation. That is relatively recent—November of last year.
Clearly, although its task is not political, the Agency is bound to be handicapped by the absence of an over-all political settlement between Israel and the Arab States. In the absence of such settlement little could be achieved either by repatriation or by re-settlement in Arab countries. One country in the area which has from the first been prepared to accept these refugees for re-settlement has been Jordan, which has borne the main burden of housing the refugees at the present time. It is an unfortunate fact that her facilities for successfully resettling these people are extremely limited. We are hoping, now that all the other Governments have accepted the principle of re-settlement, it may be possible to achieve better results.
May I pass now to the question of finance, which has been a very difficult one indeed for this Agency? It was estimated that the equivalent of 54 million dollars would be required for the 1950–51 programme. It was hoped that that would include not merely relief, but also a considerable amount for relief works which would permanently settle some of these refugees. In fact, only 43 million dollars of that amount was subscribed. I am sorry to say that there were many Governments which did not subscribe at all. The figures subscribed, largely in kind or in services, by the Middle Eastern Governments amounted to about 2 million dollars.
There was a further difficulty. It soon became apparent that even this considerable figure of 54 million dollars which it was hoped would have been enough was calculated on the basis of 650,000, whereas it turned out that the Agency had to take over no fewer than 950,000 refugees when it began. I think we can say that the Agency has, in the face of these tremendous problems, succeeded in its first task of providing relief, as well as to some extent managing to provide works.
There has been a good deal of concern shown in the House and elsewhere for 1871 the health and general condition of the refugees. No one can pretend that they are wholly satisfactory, but I am informed that on the average it can be said that those in the care of the Agency have a standard of health which is as good as, and in some cases better than, that enjoyed by the inhabitants of the area, the standard, of course, not being a very high one. The real difficulty has been owing to the short-fall in funds, which has inevitably meant that the full works programme has suffered most—relief had to be carried on in any case for obvious reasons.
Some of these schemes which have been developed, such as road-making, have given temporary work to the refugees and have also had some effect on the resettlement problem. For instance, they have opened up certain areas on which it is possible for additional population to settle, which could not have stood any increase in population but for the roads. We have to admit that on that side of the work the Agency has inevitably not been so successful as on the other sides. It has, however, generally gained the confidence of most of the Arab Governments, which is an absolutely essential pre-condition for increasing the tempo of re-settlement—that can only occur with the good will of the Governments.
There have been suggestions made from time to time that the Agency has been extravagent in its administrative costs. The Government do not think that that is a very fair criticism of the Agency today. It has greatly reduced the international staff it inherited from its predecessors. The amount expended upon administrative costs is not at all unreasonable. I am told there are at the moment 116 foreign staff on the pay roll, which is almost exactly half the number of the foreign staff which was inherited a number of months ago.
The 1951–52 programme aimed at was 50 million dollars, but only 34 million dollars have so far been promised. Unless we can get that amount increased, the funds available for large-scale re-settlement will once again prove to be quite inadequate. As to the physical capacity of the neighbouring countries to accept these settlements, there are undoubtedly possibilities, but I should like to say one word about the possibility in Israel.
1872 Whatever one may think about the moral merits, the fact seems to be that there is no prospect of large-scale resettlement within Israel, and His Majesty's Government believe that it is in conformity with realism and in the interests of the refugees themselves that the majority of them, without prejudice to their right to return or to have compensation for their properties, should, in fact, make up their minds to settle amongst their brethren in Arab countries rather than in Israel or in the much more remote parts of the world, which have been suggested from time to time.
The Israeli Government have now offered and reaffirmed their willingness to pay fair compensation for abandoned land, and to pay a sum on account into the Reintegration Fund to help with resettlement. The machinery for that, which is a difficult matter to arrange and work out, is in the hands of the Palestine Conciliation Commission, and His Majesty's Government very much hope that the Israeli Government, in cooperating with the Commission in that matter, will decide to give the most generous compensation possible.
Finally, I want to say a word about our contribution in this matter, which has been considerable. From the very start we have tried in every way in our power to promote an international solution of this problem. We were first in the field with the original fund, and our contribution to assist the relief work and the first relief organisation was over £1 million. I think, indeed, it was £1.1 million. We contributed £3 million to the 1950–51 programme of the Agency, and we have promised nearly £3 million again to the 1951–52 programme. We have also provided practical assistance and seconded experts from our Middle East Office.
By the political and diplomatic means at our disposal, we have done everything we can to encourage all Governments, including the Middle East Governments, to make their contribution. This is a thing to which we attach the greatest importance not only, as I said earlier, upon human grounds, but also because of the serious implications to the stability of the Middle East if we do not find a rapid and satisfactory solution.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)
I hope it will not be supposed that because of 1873 any facetiousness into which I may seem to have slipped, or may be about to slip, that I do not feel very deeply the tragedy of this, as well as the guilt upon us all. I do not say that nobody could feel it much more deeply than I can which might seem to boast of my sensibility, but so far as my capacity for depth of feeling goes, I could not feel more deeply than on this subject, and if I smile or snigger I hope hon. Members will assume that like the man in the play, I laugh to avoid weeping.
I agree with one of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions: I would not go back into the Palestine conflict and all that, but that we should do all we can to increase conciliation. I feel bound to say, on that account, that the hon. Gentleman omitted something from the reasons he gave at the end why His Majesty's Government had done their best to persuade and encourage other Governments. From the reasons he then adduced he omitted what should be perhaps the most important reason. His reasons were first the ordinary humane grounds, second that we should all feel the danger of this inflammable material lying about the Levantine powder magazine. We all agree about that. What he left out is that if any of these supra-national organisations, U.N.O. and all the rest of them, are to provide the moral and intellectual justification for a world policy, the only hope that that could happen is that, with the help of those supra-national organisations, we should provide as much humanity as the old Government were capable of, and that we should be doing as much to avoid unnecessary cruelty and suffering as was done in the bad old days of dynastic policies and secret diplomacy.
I regard this problem, in its direct and indirect effects, actual and potential, as no less important than any other single problem in the whole international field. I was therefore a little bit depressed that the hon. Gentleman should not have mentioned that consideration, if he was going to mention general considerations at all. I was also a little depressed that he should have been unjust to remind us—to mark the point on the billiard marker in the corner of the room, so to speak—that we were the first in the field. If we had not been we should have deserved to be despised. Whatever view we may take about these things, there is surely one thing to be said about 1874 imperium in this connection. Where we have had power to protect people and we have decided that it shall come to an end, the duty is upon us that the ending shall not be more maleficent than on any doctrine, imperialism could have been.
I am a little sorry that the Treasury Bench should have found matter for self-congratulation there. I was a little sorry—but this I do not complain of because I am going to fall into the same error myself. I have spoken too long on general grounds but I have not had an opportunity to prepare—sorry that we did not get more definition of the exact way in which this money is going. I am bound to say that I have no great confidence in my own ability to read this kind of note and that I do not find Note J on the first part of page 13 at all easy to follow. On some occasion we ought to have it really plainly set out. Time is so short now, that I cannot go through it, but I should say that it is not possible for anybody to go through it plainly, and to be sure that he has read it correctly.
Perhaps it may be possible to give the hon. Gentleman 10 minutes at the end extra, to say what this sum of money is doing which was not contemplated in the original Estimate. I take it that this is what this kind of Estimate is mainly for. It says "further provision now required" at the bottom of that note. I am not quite sure what "further provision" means. Is it provision on top of the £3,250,000 which has been the maximum commitment of His Majesty's Government to date, I think? Or is it merely that within the present financial year further provision is required on top of what has already been spent, or what?
Then I think we ought to have sometime again—if not tonight certainly sometime—more explanation about how much of this money has gone and is going into what might be called day to day administration, the kind of relief which the right hon. Gentleman himself said in the long run perhaps does more harm than good. How much is going into that and how much is becoming, so to speak, in effect, capital? How much of that money is going into such improvements of the human material or such provision of material not human as will increase earning capacity in the future? We ought to have that explained to us some- 1875 time. It is clearly in everybody's interests that the maximum proportion should be of the second kind. Very few of us have any direct information, but what we have rather leads us to fear that it is almost all of the first kind.
I think tonight was the first time that we have had the admission that the number of Arabs concerned is over one million. I can certainly remember mentioning the figure of 700,000 and being checked from the other side of the House and told that it was not more than 600,000 and that kind of thing; but we are told now that it is something to have got it down to 850,000. We ought sometime to know how certain that figure is and how certain it is that there is nothing happening the other way: is it true that 5,000 more Arabs were extruded from Palestine last summer? and, whether or not that is true, are His Majesty's Government now confident that more such extrusions will not take place?
The right hon. Gentleman did not mention what is sometimes called the Clapp Programme. Hon. Gentlemen who are interested will be familiar with what I mean. That programme, which was meant to make sure that the money did tend mainly towards productive employment and re-settlement, was to have been finished by June, 1951, and we ought to be told whether it is still supposed that something of that sort will happen, or, if not, what alternative dates are now thought of, and what report on those and similar questions has been received from Sir Henry Knight; and are the rations now being received there, in cases where they are by way of pure relief, adequate?
We know that a very short time ago the rations were not adequate. Are they now adequate, and are we sure—I would wish, if I may, without presumption, to associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman's words of gratitude to the Kingdom of Jordan—are we sure that all that can be done has been done to help them? When we reckon that they had been given £3 million to help half a million refugees—that is to say, £6 per head per annum—it does not allow for a very high level of rationing. When we take out of the £6 such proportion of it as is to be spent on equipment and resettlement, the rationing, if adequate, can, I think, barely be luxurious.
1876 What is being done about the Gaza strip? The people in the Gaza strip are nearly hopeless, worse than "eyeless in Gaza," wedged between the deep blue sea and Israel? What is being especially done for them? They are quite plainly a very special case and something specially apt and urgent ought to be being done for them.
Lastly, as I have just mentioned Israel, what about the so-called "abandoned land"? The right hon. Gentleman referred to a sum in advance. What sum? I had thought it was £1 million. Is that right? If so, why was not he specific? Have His Majesty's Government any estimate of what the total sum would be likely to be on terms of fair compensation? I mean, is it £1 million, or £100 million, or £1,000 million? That may be a sort of guess, but is there any sort of guess? And have we agreed with the Zionist Government about what the word "abandoned," in this highly technical connotation, means? If I am pushed out of my garden, or even if people are thrown down the well at the bottom of my garden, till I choose to leave it am I to be regarded as having been forced to leave the garden, or have I abandoned it? What definition is there to be of "abandoned"?
§ Mr. Younger rose——
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I must not give way. I have been 10 minutes and I propose now to sit down. I hope the questions I have put are fair; I think they have been plain.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
Like my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, I also hope that in our short discussion we shall not say anything to revive old bitternesses about this matter. At the same time I hope this discussion will make it clear to all of us how deep is our responsibility for the fate of these Arab refugees.
It happened that last autumn I was out in the Middle East, and under the old Roman walls of Damascus, close to the spot where St. Paul is said to have been let down by a basket, there is an Arab refugee camp. I went over it. There are many hundreds there and thousands elsewhere. There are 80,000 altogether in Syria who are living in the poorest possible conditions. I will not describe to the House what I saw—it would take too 1877 long and others wish to speak—but I can assure the House that the conditions were extremely bad.
There are 120,000 in Lebanon across the border, where conditions are more difficult still, because Lebanon is a very crowded country. Incidentally, the majority of the population are Christian Arabs and they feel as bitterly about it as the Mahommedans. In Syria there is a prospect of the settlement of these people but unfortunately public opinion is bitterly against it. I spoke with Syrian politicians and statesmen and I could get nothing except, "These people were turned out of their homes, they have to go back, but you are responsible for having allowed it to take place." The feeling against Britain is bitter, but perhaps it is even more bitter against the Americans. I could not argue with them.
Something might be done if we could get the Israeli Government to agree to their responsibility to pay compensation. I know they have their troubles, but they do not show much sign of doing anything. If they took some practical steps, public opinion in the Arab countries might adopt a more realistic attitude to this refugee problem. The same thing is true in Iraq, which is much farther away, of course. It is a country where there are possibilities of settlement and it might be possible for it to take a considerable number of these refugees in time.
I believe the most hopeful place is the Jezire region of Syria, in the corner between Turkey, Iraq and Syria, near the middle waters of the Euphrates, where there is considerable cotton development taking place. I did not go there myself, but I saw a number of Englishmen and others who had been up there recently. If one could get over the public feeling in Syria, it might be possible to get these refugees settled out there. At present, public opinion is such that these poor wretches have to remain there living on day-to-day relief. I feel very strongly that that is not good enough.
In the Vote, £2½ million of our money is to be expended. Like the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), I should like to know what proportion of that is to be devoted to capital purposes and what proportion to relief. I should like the bulk of it to go in capital expenditure for settling these people. I agree that, whatever may be the morality of the whole thing, there is no chance for them 1878 to get back into Israel again. They have to make homes elsewhere, and we must try to get over this very strong feeling in the Arab countries—it was much stronger than I realised until I went there—to enable them to settle once more on the land.
There are these regions in the Middle East, particularly in the Jezire region, which has a moderate rainfall and is in the famous Green Belt, where cotton can be grown and where developments in the near future are quite possible. I hope, therefore, that the question will be approached, not only from the financial side, but with a view to seeing what can be done politically and diplomatically to persuade the Arabs that something will be done to help them to settle these people on the land, and that Israel may be made to shoulder their responsibilities as soon as possible.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Baker White (Canterbury)
I have only a very little to say, but I have been following this matter since the day on which I waited for one of those pleasant second adjournment debates which we used to have before 10 o'clock during the life of the last Parliament. I agreed at that time that the first contribution towards easing this problem had been made by His Majesty's Government. I said then, and I repeat now, that our record in this matter is probably better than anybody else's, but we all still bear a very heavy responsibility.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), made the point that I intended to make, that the countries of the Middle East, who really should have done most, have done precious little. The hon. Member has come up against—as I also have encountered in the Middle East—what I call a lack of social conscience, where people can live in luxury but with dreadful poverty next door to them and yet have consciences that do not prick.
I agree with the Minister of State that the bulk of these people cannot go back to Israel. The people of Israel are apt to forget what a small country theirs is, and I think I am right in saying that the Israeli Government are now having to control the immigration of Jews into that country. Not only is it a small country, but much of it is not at present fertile. I agree that the Israeli Government should 1879 try to make their contribution towards helping these people, the only future for whom, I feel, is on the land in the Arab States. The majority of them came off the land. They were born and brought up on the land, and not in other work, and they should go back to the land.
The question is, where should they go? Certain places have been suggested. There is that great area that lies around Homs and Hama, south of Aleppo, where somewhat indifferent crops of corn are now grown. The area is largely empty because the soil is largely wasted and worn down. I. remember that during the war the British Army had a farm near Hama and increased enormously the fertility of the soil. Instead of the place crawling with goats, which destroy the fertility of the soil in the Middle East, it had good beef stock. I do not know what has happened to that farm—it may have reverted to its original state; but I believe that a lot could be learnt from that experiment and that many of these refugees could be settled in that area if we could get the good will of the Syrian Government. Then there is the area south of Homs, on the Damascus road, where, again, what was once fertile soil has been wasted and worn down. I believe it is to that area that we can look, provided there is good will, to settle a large number of these people.
What part are these people to play, if any, in the future defence scheme of the Middle East? Many of these Arabs come from families with whom the profession of arms is an honourable one. Is there any place for them in any democratic defence force which is being built up in the Middle East? I do not know, but I hope there may be. First, we must get them back on the land, as there is nothing more discouraging and demoralising than having refugees living in camps with nothing to do.
§ 9.16 p.m.
Mr. Grossman (Coventry, East)
I wish to say a few words in this debate and first to answer the question of how much U.N.O. has done for settlement and relief. This Christmas I went to Jordan to make a special study of the problem. I felt when listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) that it is much easier to speak quietly about the subject when one 1880 has actually seen it. I went to Jordan, which used to be a country of 300,000 Bedouins east of the Jordan and which was then doubled by 300,000 Palestinians and then more than doubled when nearly 500,000 refugees came in. Half the population are refugees today. When I asked a U.N.O. official how many refugees he had directly settled he had to admit that the number was zero. Not one Arab refugee family had been settled in Jordan since U.N.O. took over.
This is not merely a tragedy, it is a catastrophe for the democratic defence of the Middle East. For two years half a million Arab refugees have lived in camps in Jordan—I only speak of the country I have actually seen—maintained by U.N.O. in those camps living with soup kitchens and feeding on soup in terrible areas of destitution. I motored, as many hon. Members have done, from Jerusalem to Jericho and, as hon. Members will remember, on the left on the way to Jericho there is a great stretch of sandy desert. There I saw 30,000 Arab refugees who had been in tents for two years. I made inquiries and they told me—I do not know if it is true—that none of these U.N.O. officials of which my hon. Friend spoke so highly had found time ever to go to that camp. They had been left there with the soup kitchens, and 800,000 dollars a month is being spent in Jordan alone in maintaining refugees in destitution and complete demoralisation. In addition to the 500,000, or 450,000 technical refugees, there are what I must call the settled refugees.
There are unfortunate villagers on the frontier who, owing to the frontier demarcation, are on one side of the Jordan while all their lands are in Israel. I stood in a village called Querguilya, which has a population that has trebled since the demarcation of the Frontier. There the people look 200 yards across barbed wire to see the Israeli picking oranges in their orange groves, but with no form of maintenance for themselves except a soup kitchen. But they are not refugees because they are living in their village. It is not the fault of Israel but the fault of the Jordanian officers who, when they cynically drew the line of demarcation in the Armistice negotiations said, "Give us the villages, which are on the map, and the Jews can have the lands."
1881 That is the situation, and U.N.O. has done nothing whatsoever for the serious resettlement of these refugees. In my belief, as long as we rely on U.N.O. to do anything whatsoever for serious resettlement we shall simply be deceiving ourselves, because U.N.O. is a political organisation. There is the Arab League, and all the politics of the Arab League. The Arab League needs the refugee problem in order to keep the division against Israel. The resettlement of the refugees would, of course, from the point of view of the Arab League, remove its major complaint. Secondly, a peace between Jordan and Israel would, from the point of view of the Arab League, be highly embarrassing in breaking the embargo on Israel which now exists. That seems to me the deadlock we have to face today.
I thought that my hon. Friend was quite unrealistic in saying that we have done our duty by contributing to U.N.O. Quite honestly, if the funds we have paid out already had been paid direct into Jordan to resettle the refugees in the area which is our main responsibility, it would have done infinitely more good. One thing that is fortunate for us is that the hatred of Britain has now been surpassed by the hatred of U.N.O. in the Arab mind, for U.N.O. divided Palestine and U.N.O. is leaving the Arab in the soup kitchens, and Britain is now still a possibility of hope. I beg the Government to give funds direct to the Jordan Government and to send British technicians and officers out there to do the job ourselves.
I am glad of what has been said by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) about the defence of the Middle East. The only reliable ally we possess in the whole Middle East is the tiny Kingdom of Jordan. We are spending £6 million a year on the Arab Legion as a force which could be allied with us in defence of the Arab world. No soldier of the Arab Legion could be permitted to leave Jordan at the present moment owing to the internal security problem created by the refugees. What is the good of spending £6 million on the Jordan Army and then permitting a social disintegration in Jordan, which is completely immobilised from the point of view of any useful purpose to ourselves. What is the good of saying we will wait for U.N.O. to do this?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for telling me.
What is the good of appealing to U.N.O. all the time when we are chiefly responsible for what happens in Palestine, and when what we do in Jordan and Israel determines whether we get the friendship of those two countries'? We can never achieve friendship between Israel and Jordan unless we are prepared to create in Jordan economic and social conditions which enable them to remove the feeling of resentment over the refugees and so bring the two Governments together. I suggest that £10 million invested in helping the refugees in Jordan would be the beginning of peace between Jordan and Israel; would recover the British good name in the whole Arab world; would be understood in Israel as a real contribution by Britain to breaking down the division between Israel and the Arab world; and would be a basis of building our Middle Eastern defence. As long as we go on relying on U.N.O. and international organisations I believe that we shall be able to do nothing at all for the refugees, and nothing at all for defence.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I shall exercise my ingenuity so as to allow the hon. Gentleman a few minutes to reply. I will simply say to the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), that he has done a service in bringing this matter a little more to the front of our minds than was done by his hon. Friend. The statement of the Minister was quite accurate, and we acknowledge what the British Government have done in their contribution. In fact, they have made a real effort, but there was not sufficient in the speech of the Minister of State to indicate the really serious human considerations which ought to face the House this evening.
We are facing here a tragedy of the first magnitude, and although I disagree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East, in his reference to the Arab League and to the Political Committee of the Arab League, I think he did a service in giving 1883 us his personal impressions, and showing us the horrors that exist. After all, there are in Jordan at present, disregarding the Gaza strip to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) referred, some 102,000 refugees living in camps quite without any proper shelter, 29,000 of them living in ditches and holes. At the same time, we are told that there are some 300,000 of these refugees who, according to the description of the "Manchester Guardian" correspondent at Amman, are living:clustered into the towns and villages. Squatting in backyards and sheds or on the niches and crannies of caves and ancient ruins, their conditions are often much worse than those in the camps where some medical care and sanitation is provided.Those in the Gaza strip are simply living on the sand dunes with practically no hope of future existence at all. That is the human problem we are facing.
The hon. Gentleman was less than fair to the Political Committee of the Arab League, because they made a decision on 2nd February last first, that all Palestinian refugees should endeavour to be settled immediately in countries, without prejudice to their rights of repatriation and compensation. Secondly, they passed a resolution that there should be cooperation with the United Nations Refugee Organisation. But the third point is the most important of all. It is that more funds than those already allotted under resettlement schemes should be provided. That was their decision.
My concluding appeal to the Minister is that this is a question of increased funds, of more money; of providing the money where it is really needed. This is a great human problem. The Government have made some sort of endeavour, but we are nowhere near its settlement and, if we do not settle it, Communism will come and plant itself in the Middle East.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Younger
I honestly cannot answer in the two minutes which are available all the questions which have been asked. I thought that I had been asked to give a factual statement to begin with, and if I did not put as much emotion into it as some people would have liked, I ask the House to accept my assurance that it is not because the Government do not feel as strongly as others 1884 about this matter. I cannot accept the view that it would be far better to deal with this on our own in Jordan. The resettlement facilities or possibilities in Jordan are far too limited. One need only look at the subscription lists to see what a tremendous loss there would be if we tried to do this on our own without inviting a very considerable subscription from all parts of the world, above all from the United States of America.
The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Phillips Price), said that they would have hoped that a very high proportion would have been spent on resettlement rather than on relief. I am told that, in fact, 70 per cent. had to be spent on relief in the last year and only 17 per cent. on works; but the truth, of course, is that it is no use spending a lot on capital works if all the refugees die in the meantime. If we have not got funds for this, we must give top priority to keeping them alive. I think it is no criticism of the United Nations Agency that that should have been done.
Obviously, I cannot attempt to answer all the other questions in the one minute I now have left. I am told that the rations, poor as they no doubt are, are reasonably balanced and are not altogether inadequate by comparison with the general standards in that part of the world. That, again, is no doubt partly a matter of the total funds which are available for these various purposes.
I was asked what had happened to what was called the "Clapp Programme." The Clapp Mission was the United Nations Economic Survey Mission to which I referred. That set out an 18 months programme which it was hoped would finish in the summer of this year. Because it has fallen so far behind, owing to shortage of funds, the United Nations Assembly continued it for a further year; and it is for a further year that the new fund is being asked for from all members of the United Nations.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Might I ask the hop. Gentleman whether His Majesty's Government can give an assurance that they will do everything in their power to stop further Arab inhabitants of Palestine—or Israel as it now is—being driven out of their country, because very nearly 7,000 have gone in the last year?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being half-past Nine o'Clock,Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No.16 (Business of Supply) to put forthwith, with respect to each Resolution come to by the Committee of Supply and not yet agreed to by the House, the Question,"That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."