HC Deb 07 April 1936 vol 310 cc2608-9
Mr. CARTLAND (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Dr. Ahmed Maher and Nekrashi Bey, members of the Egyptian delegation at present taking part in the Anglo-Egyptian conversations, were tried in March, 1926, for complicity in the murder and attempted murder of certain British and Egyptian subjects; and that on 2nd June, 1926, the High Commissioner, under authority from His Majesty's Government, informed the Prime Minister of Egypt that His Majesty's Government declined to accept the acquittal as proof of the innocence of the individual in question: and will he make a further statement on the matter?


Yes, Sir. The facts as set out in my hon. Friend's present question are correct. I should, however, make it clear that, as my right hon. Friend stated yesterday, Dr. Ahmed Maher and Nekrashi Bey were not tried for complicity in the murder of Sir Lee Stack.


While thanking my Noble Friend for the answer—and I accept, naturally, fully the facts as he has stated them to be—may I ask whether these facts were known to the Foreign Secretary when he accepted the personnel of the Egyptian delegation; and also whether he thinks that it is advisable that these men, in view of their record, should negotiate with His Majesty's Government?


Yes, Sir, the facts were known. It is quite obvious, I think, to the House that these facts are not a recommendation for any delegate, but, at the same time, I would point out that it is not the first time that these two, Dr. Ahmed Bey Maher and Nekrashi Bey, have been delegates in negotiation with the British Government, and they were so engaged in 1930.


May I ask my Noble Friend whether there is any reason why the National Government should follow the footsteps of the Socialist Government, particularly when the methods of that Socialist Government ended in the failure of the negotiations?


I think it is the desire of Members in all parts of the House that these conversations should lead to a fair and lasting settlement between the two countries. I suggest that it would surely be unjustifiable to prejudice the success of these conversations by objections to two comparatively unimportant members of the delegation.


Does my Noble Friend really think that permanent goodwill between Great Britain and Egypt will be achieved by weakness in this particular case?


No, permanent goodwill will be achieved by the success of the conversations.


Are we to understand from the reply that the statements contained in the question yesterday to which exception was taken were in fact inaccurate, and that these two gentlemen were not charged with complicity for the murder of Sir Lee Stack? May I ask further, whether it is not a well-known principle of British law that men are considered innocent until they are proved guilty?


With regard to the first part of the question of the hon. Gentleman, I think the position is made perfectly clear by my answer. With regard to the second part of the question, it is true that these gentlemen were not proved guilty by an Egyptian court.


Is it not a fact that the only inaccuracy of my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cart-land) was that he suggested that they were guilty of complicity in one murder instead of six?