asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the proposal that all income arising from harbour, wharfage, storage, and other charges in connection with the Tel-Aviv harbour undertaking are to be collected by the Government of Palestine, although the undertaking is owned by the Marine Trust and the cost of its construction and running have been defrayed out of public subscriptions not invited on a commercial basis, no contributions whatsoever being made by the Government; and whether, in these circumstances, arrangements can be made to call the deferred conference in order to regularise the position?
Mr. M. Mac Donald:
The latest information on the subject in my possession is a report dated 25th March from the High Commissioner, stating that arrangements in regard to financial procedure to be followed as between the Marine Trust Limited and the Government Departments concerned were then under negotiation. I am asking the High Commissioner for information regarding any later developments.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, (1) who provided the funds with which to open the port of Tel-Aviv; and what assistance has been provided by the Palestine administration, in view of the situation existing at Jaffa following the rebellion;
(2) on how many occasions since 1920 the port of Jaffa has been temporarily closed owing to terrorism or internal strife; and why the port of Tel-Aviv was opened in 1936, and the relationship between the temporary Marine Trust, Limited, and the Palestine administration?
I am not in a position to say how often the port of Jaffa has been temporarily closed owing to political causes, but the port was virtually closed for several months during 1936 as a result of the general strike which began in April of that year. At that time certain Jewish trading interests promoted a scheme for the construction of an independent alternative port at Tel-Aviv, and the Marine Trust Limited was incorporated in 1936 to undertake these developments. It is an entirely private concern. The Government have provided no financial assistance, and approval for the construction of the port was only given on the understanding that no expenditure would fall upon the Government or upon municipal funds, and that the cost of any additional Government services would be refunded. The port has now been opened for the admission of all classes of goods and the landing of passengers and the Government of Palestine have made arrangements for the provision of Customs and other necessary services.
As the port of Jaffa was closed owing to a strike and private persons found the money to provide this temporary port, which the Government suggest will have to go out of existence later on, on what ground of equity or fair play can the Government now claim to collect all the dues from this port?
I do not think they are making that claim. They are making the claim that they should be compensated, in effect, for losses which they have sustained, but the whole matter is under negotiation now. At least, I have not received information yet regarding the ending of the negotiations between the Government and the company. I have asked for a report, and perhaps my hon. Friend would await that information.
In the meantime, would the right hon. Gentleman insist that those persons who put up this money, without any hope of securing any return or any profit from it, will have returned to them by the Palestine Administration at least such moneys as they have expended?