HC Deb 11 March 1947 vol 434 cc1140-3
Mr. Eden (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any announcement to make on the recent statement by the Egyptian Prime Minister on the causes of the breaking off of negotiations for the revision of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The statement issued by the Egyptian Prime Minister on the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations stated that the final breaking off of these negotiations might be attributed only to the inability of Egypt to obtain satisfaction on the following two essential points: (1) The evacuation of British troops from Egypt. This evacuation must be immediate, complete and not conditioned by a treaty. (2) The maintenance of the unity of Egypt and the Sudan, self-government for the Sudanese and the restoration to Egypt of her rights in the administration of the Sudan in order to further the preparation of the Sudanese for self-government.

This declaration can best be judged in the light of the agreements reached be tween Sidky Pasha and the Foreign Secretary in London last October. These agreements provided for mutual arrangements for defence, arrangements for evacuation and for the Sudan. The agreements were initialled by the two statesmen in London ad referendum to their Governments. The Egyptian Government submitted them to the Egyptian Chamber of Deputies on 26th November, 1946, and received a vote of confidence. Thereupon the Egyptian Government in formed His Majesty's Government on 1st December that they were ready to sign the Treaty and the two Annexes dealing with evacuation and the Sudan. The Foreign Secretary in his statement in the House of Commons on 27th January, made quite clear the sole reason why the signature did not in fact take place, namely, the endeavour of the Egyptian Government to construe one phrase of the protocol on the Sudan as meaning that they could rely on the support of His Majesty's Government to deny to the Sudanese complete freedom of choice when the time came for them to choose their future status.

The British Government had already agreed, as part of the above arrangements, to the complete evacuation of British troops in Egypt by 1949. This is not an excessive period for the winding up of the immense commitments built up by the British Army in Egypt, which was its main base for the war in which British arms saved Egypt from being overrun by the Nazis.

As already indicated by the Foreign Secretary in this House, the British Government are also in favour of eventual self-government for the Sudanese, who, when the time comes for them to choose their future status would not be debarred from choosing complete independence or some form of association with Egypt or even complete union if they wished. It is not true, therefore, to say that "British policy is directed towards inciting the Sudanese to secede from Egypt."

The Egyptian statement also says that the Sudanese are a people of the same race, language and religion as the Egyptians. I should point out that the Sudanese comprise many races and types, Nilotic, Hamitic and Negro besides Arabs. Furthermore, out of approximately seven million Sudanese, more than two and a half million are not Muslim nor Arabic speaking.

It is also stated that the Sudanese will only be able to express their views freely when British troops have evacuated the Sudan. British troops, in common with Egyptian troops, are in the Sudan at the disposal of the Governor-General for the defence of that country. It is incorrect to say that the presence of either the British or the Egyptian troops makes it impossible for the Sudanese to express their views freely.

Mr. Eden

I think that, if I heard the right hon. Gentleman aright, he referred to notes of exchange between the Foreign Secretary and the Egyptian Prime Minister when he was here, as evidence that the Egyptian claim was ill-founded. I have no doubt that that was right. But I do not think the House has ever seen those notes, and would the right hon. Gentleman consider whether any further information can be given to us on the matter, perhaps in the form of a White, Paper?

The Prime Minister

I will look into that, and see what can be done.

Mr. Lipson

Will the Prime Minister say if the evacuation of British troops in Egypt is being continued, in view of the fact that the Treaty has not been signed?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.


Mr. Speaker

I think that the Prime Minister wanted to correct something which he said earlier.

The Prime Minister

I should like to correct an answer I gave in reply to a supplementary question by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), which might have been misunderstood. We have, of course, fallen back on our rights under the 1936 Treaty, and while we are evacuating from Cairo, we are going to the Canal Zone.