Macdonald Quizzed in Commons

Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald returned to Commons yesterday to face a barrage of questions and criticism on Palestine.

Mr. MacDonald, who defended Britain’s new Palestine policy before the Mandates Commission last week, was taken sharply to task for his special broadcast on the policy from Geneva to the United States following completion of the hearings on June 20. Tom Williams, Laborite, declared the broadcast constituted an ex parte statement on a subject concerning which Commons was keenly divided. Mr. MacDonald replied that the address conformed to precedent.

Geoffrey Mander, Liberal, urged early publication of the Mandates Commission’s report to enable Commons to discuss it before adjournment in view of the worldwide interest in and anxiety over the future of Palestine.

Sir Ernest Bennett, National Laborite, demanded action to suppress the Irgun Zvai, Jewish semi-military organization in Palestine in connection with its alleged criminal activities. Mr. MacDonald replied that the organization was being closely watched and the Government would act whenever necessary. He added that a considerable number of Jewish extremists were under detention and, in reply to a query by Laborite Josiah Wedgwood, revealed that 95 Jews were being held in prison camps under the emergency regulations.

Conservative Ian Hannah, declaring that the Negeb, in Southern Palestine, had been one of the most flourishing provinces of the Byzanthine Empire, urged that the Government make the district available for refugee settlement. Mr. MacDonald replied that the description was exaggerated but that the possibility of refugee settlement was not excluded although recent water borings showed almost entirely negative results.

Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson, Conservative, drew attention to former Colonial Secretary William Ormsby-Gore’s evidence before the Mandates Commission in 1937 to the effect that there was immediate room in the Transjordan for 100,000 families. He urged that Mr. MacDonald consider an increase in the immigration quota to include that territory. The Colonial Secretary answered that the possibilities of the Transjordan had been examined by the members of the Woodhead Partition Commission last year, who reported that the Land was able to support only a small agricultural population and refused to consider increasing the population.

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