HC Deb 09 November 1944 vol 404 cc1538-41
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

On Tuesday last, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister undertook to inform the House as soon as fuller details about the assassination of Lord Moyne had been received. It has now been reported from Cairo that the two prisoners have made the following confession: We are members of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel organisation and what we have done was done on the instructions of this organisation. The organisation is that known as the Stern Group. The prisoners stated that they were sent down by this group for the express purpose of murdering Lord Moyne. The reason they give is that he was head of the political department of the British Government in the Middle East, and was carrying out a policy which was against that of the Jewish Nationalists. The Stern Group, therefore, decided to kill him. The identity of the prisoners is still not established, but they have given their names as Mosche Cohen Itzak and C. Salzmann.

The facts of the murder, so far as they can be established, are these. Lord Moyne was returning in his car to lunch at his house at, approximately, 1.15 p.m. In the car with him were his lady secretary by his side, and, in front, his A.D.C. and driver. As the car entered the short drive leading to the front door, two men were noticed outside the gate. When the car drew up at the door of the house, Lord Moyne's A.D.C. got out to open the door of the house, and the driver to open the door of the car. It appears that the two men had followed the car up the drive. They shot the driver dead as he passed behind the car to get to the right hand door, and then fired through the door at Lord Moyne, hitting him three times. They then fled, mounted their bicycles and rode away. Neither the A.D.C. nor the lady secretary was injured. The former gave immediate chase to the assailants, while the latter summoned help which arrived within ten minutes. Medical assistance was on the spot within a quarter of an hour. The A.D.C. informed a police station close at hand, and the police from this station pursued the criminals, stopping a passing car for the purpose. Meanwhile, however, a passing Egyptian police constable on a motor bicycle was warned of what had happened, and promptly gave chase on his motor bicycle. He overtook the criminals at the entrance to the Bulak Bridge, where they opened fire on him, firing 15 rounds. He returned the fire, wounding one man, and then riding the other into the kerb. With the aid of other police who came up, he effected the arrest of both men. For his very gallant conduct this police constable has already been decorated and promoted, by order of King Farouk.

At one time Lord Moyne was regularly escorted by Egyptian police in a car which accompanied his own, and a police guard was stationed at his house by day as well as by night. Some months ago, however, the police escort car, and the day guard at the house, were dispensed with on Lord Moyne's direct instructions.

The investigation continues, and is being conducted with all vigour by the Egyptian authorities, in full co-operation with the Palestine police. Senior officials of the Palestine police are now in Cairo. Both King Farouk and the Egyptian Government have been most sympathetic and helpful throughout.

Earl Winterton

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will give consideration to publishing a White Paper on the full extent of the terrorism in Palestine, in view of the fact that malicious rumours are being put about in London that the Government have not dared to publish such a Paper, for fear of fomenting anti-Semitism here and affecting our relations with America; and also in view of the attempt recently made on the Governor of Palestine?

Mr. Eden

I think that all the information we have had has been made public in the Press. I would like to consider with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Colonial Secretary whether a White Paper could be published.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask whether the Government have considered making representations to the Jewish Agency in Palestine to take upon themselves the primary responsibility of rooting out this gang of terrorists?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend will understand that the Jewish Agency cannot take upon themselves the primary responsibility which is that, of course, of the governing authority of Palestine, but my right hon. Friend has already called for their co-operation in this work,

Major Markham

Have any steps been taken to arrest leaders of the Stern Group, pending investigation?

Mr. Eden

My hon. and gallant Friend knows this is a secret organisation.

Mr. Mander

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no body of citizens will more whole-heartedly condemn this brutal outrage than the Jews throughout the world?

Commander Galbraith

Could my right hon. Friend say whether he is receiving full collaboration from the Jewish Agency?

Mr. Eden

My right hon. Friend saw the representatives of the Jewish Agency recently, and full collaboration was promised by them.

Miss Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend give full publicity, for the benefit of the general public who do not follow these things, to the fact that not only the Jewish Agency, but all the responsible Zionists and Jewish bodies throughout the world, deplore deeply these terrorist activities of the Stern Group?

Mr. Eden

I have no doubt that the statements that have been made by these organisations will be fully published, but I think I ought to add that what we hope for from these organisations, and from all who have such sentiments at heart, is not only statements but active co-operation.

Mr. McGovern

Is it not the case that this terrorist organisation is a small organisation that has waged war even on the Jewish organisations in Palestine which speak for the Jewish people; that the crime itself is of a revolting character and that every intelligent person throughout the world will condemn the introduction of such methods into the political field?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I am in entire agreement with the hon. Gentleman.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think we had better get on to the next Business.