London (Feb. 19)
Palestine had suffered from economic pressure common to other agriculture-producing countries, and as a result it was not possible for Palestine to balance her budget without some assistance in the way of a redistribution of the increase of the defence costs, as between Palestine and His Majesty’s Government, Dr. Drummond Shiels, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, said in the House of Commons this evening, in explaining the vote for Palestine and Transjordan in the Supplementary Estimates for Colonial and Middle Eastern Services.
His Majesty’s Government, he proceeded, has decided to retain in Palestine for the present two battalions of infantry, and in addition two squadrons of aircraft and four sections of armoured cars were stationed in Palestine and Transjordania. A Royal Army Service Corps unit with suitable transport, he went on, has recently been sent there with a view to avoiding the present expensive system of hire.
The sum the House was asked to provide, he continued, was Â£42,000, against which there was a set-off of Â£16,000 saving in the cost of hire. The Palestine Government also contributed a further Â£43,000 towards the cost of defence. The grants-in-aid towards the Transjordan Frontier Force amounted to Â£148,000. The reallocation of the cost of this Force had been made as from the 1st. April, 1930, whereby Palestine would bear one quarter of the recurrent cost and the whole of the cost of capital works services in Palestine, and the Home Government would contribute three-quarters of the recurrent cost and the whole of the cost of the capital works services in Transjordania.
With regard to the grant-in-aid for Transjordan Administration, Â£24,000, the original estimate was Â£16,000. The increase was due to a drop in the revenue due to (1) the difficulty of the collection of taxes in certain areas, owing to damage to crops by locusts estimated at Â£12,000; (2) increase of expenditures on measures to combat the locust invasion – Â£4,000; (3) tribal control measures costing about Â£8,000.
The original estimate of Â£32,000 was included as Palestine’s defence contribution, so we were now receiving in cash a total of Â£75,000. In addition the Palestine Government was charging to its own account the cost of certain local services amounting in 1929 to approximately Â£30,000 and in 1930, up to September, to Â£40,000.
WHATEVER POLICY MIGHT BE IN PALESTINE MR. AMERY SAYS IT SHOULD BE INSPIRED BY CONSIDERED OPINION OF GOVERNMENT AND NOT INFLUENCED BY LOCAL DISTURBANCES: BETTER TO ERR ON SIDE OF PRECAUTION AND MAINTAIN ADEQUATE FORCE.
Mr. Amery, former Secretary of State for the Colonies, said that whatever the policy in Palestine might be, they were all agreed it should be inspired by the considered opinion of His Majesty’s Government, and should not be influenced by local disturbances. It was better to err on the side of precaution and maintain an adequate force.
Commander Kenworthy asked what was to be the future of Transjordan. That country involved a very heavy cost to this country, he said. Year after year they were asked to vote considerable sums for the upkeep of the Force in Transjordania. They must look twice at every item of expenditure of that kind. The country should be opened up for settlement by emigrants from overcrowded Palestine. A bold policy in this regard was wanted.
Major Hopkin (Labour) said that Transjordan was a country of great possibilities, and he hoped that something could be done to encourage people to go there, so that the Government of the country would be able to have some money to balance their budget.
With regard to Palestine, he asked how far the system of allowing the Jewish colonists to have arms under lock and key was being continued and he suggested that it should be extended. Many of the Jewish Colonists were ex-soldiers, he said, and it should be remembered that in the recent disturbances not a single Arab village was attacked by the Jews.
Major Ross (Conservative) said that anyone who was taking an active interest in the difficult situation in Palestine must welcome the fact that a considerable force of Crown troops was being quartered there, and that the keeping of law and order had now been handed over to a force that would be appropriate for the purpose. He asked if the troops were members of the regular army, and if so, where were they taken from. Did that mean the re-embodiment of two or more battalions that had been disbanded during the war, or did it mean the raising of fresh troops?
Sir Henry Betterton, the Conservative member of the Shaw Enquiry Commission, said he was one of the members of the House of Commons who went to Palestine in the Autumn before last, to enquire into the disturbances of August 1929, said that country and this country owed a great debt of gratitude to the Transjordan Frontier Force. The Force consisted of four companies, three horse and one camel, and at the time of the outbreak three of the four companies were in the desert about 100 miles away from Jerusalem. The Force consisted of 630 men. The officer commanding that Force had created a fine spirit of esprit de corps among the troops, and they as members of the Imperial Force owed allegiance to the King, so that they had nothing to do with local politics.
The Jewish community were very appreciative of the services rendered, Sir Henry said, speaking of the work of the Force in Palestine. He read in this connection a letter written on behalf of the General Council of the Jewish Community thanking the British troops. British police and officers of the civil service had volunteered for special work, he went on, and at the risk of their lives restored order. He read another letter written on behalf of the Jewish Workers Federation, conveying thanks to the Commanding Officer and men of the Horse Company for their devoted work and kind behaviour while restoring order. It was a matter for congratulation, Sir Henry said, that in all these operations not one of the people had been killed or injured. He himself had seen those forces and was always impressed by their appearance and general behaviour. They were a fine force of which the Commanding Officer might be extremely proud, and of which that House and the country should be proud.
QUESTION OF SETTLEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSJORDAN CONSTANTLY BEFORE COLONIAL OFFICE DR. SHIELS SAYS IN REPLYING TO DEBATE: HOLDS OUT PROSPECT ONCE COUNTRY FREED FROM IRRITATION OF FRONTIER RAIDS AND COUNTER-RAIDS: VOTE AGREED TO.
Raids and counter-raids had become traditional, especially on the Southern frontier of Transjordan, Dr. Shiels said in replying to the debate, but it was hoped that with a mobile force and better transport facilities an improvement would be effected. If the country were freed from this irritation there would be an opportunity for the settlement and development of Transjordania. That was a matter which was constantly before the Colonial Office.
I thank members for their well-preserved tribute to the Transjordan Frontier Force, Dr. Shiels concluded. It has been tried and not found wanting, and undoubtedly has been the means of saving many lives.
The Middle East vote was then agreed to.