HC Deb 28 April 1948 vol 450 cc375-7
11. Mr. Cocks

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, under the agreements to supply given quantities of arms to the Arab States, His Majesty's Government have guaranteed to deliver these arms by certain fixed dates; and whether, in view of the publicly announced intention of these States, or some of them, to invade Palestine after 15th May, he will suspend for a period further deliveries of such arms.

Mr. Bevin

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." But I must point out that the Governments concerned, who are under an obligation to ensure that the armament and essential equipment of their forces shall not differ in type from those of our own forces, naturally expect that when they place contracts in this country we shall carry out the contracts as speedily as is technically possible. With regard to the second part of the Question, it is impossible to forecast the outcome of the United Nations discussions on Palestine and the future of the country is so uncertain that it is impossible to take decisions now as to the action which may be required in respect of the period after 15th May.

Mr. Cocks

In view of the fact that no fixed dates are set down for the delivery of the arms, that the Arab Council held a meeting this week in Transjordan, and the reports from Cairo, Syria and Bagdad that action is contemplated in the next few days, will the right hon. Gentleman suspend delivery of these arms or allow the Jews to have arms with which to defend themselves?

Mr. Bevin

From all my information about Palestine at present, it seems to me that the Jews are the better armed of the two, but I cannot draw a distinction, and I have no intention of interfering until I get the decision of the United Nations. From that I refuse to move.

Mr. Cocks

The right hon. Gentleman will let people be murdered before he arrests the murderer.

Mr. Bevin

No. I appealed to both the Jews and the Arabs in London and warned them that we would leave Palestine. We must remember that the British sergeants were not hanged from the tree by Arabs.

Mr. Edelman

Is it not a fact that under the Anglo-Transjordan Treaty the arms of the Arab Legion may not be used in Palestine without the consent of His Majesty's Government?

Mr. Bevin

I must have notice of that Question.

Dr. Segal

In view of the reports that British arms may be used, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether His Majesty's Government intend to give any advice to King Abdullah to restrain him from taking any warlike action?

Mr. Bevin

I do not think I should assume any such thing until King Abdullah indicates that he proposes to do it. Why should I assume that he is going to do these things? I have had no indication of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "He said he was going to."] At the same time, I have had experience of other people taking this action.

Mr. Janner

May I ask my right hon. Friend to treat this in the serious manner in which it deserves to be treated? Will he please say definitely to this House whether he has any information at all about the meeting which was supposed to have taken place, or did take place, at Amman, what was the result of the deliberations, and will he take steps to prevent the use of arms supplied by us to kill people in Palestine?

Mr. Bevin

I have no information about that meeting. I say to the Jews and Arabs—the Arabs are not in this House—I say to the Jews and Arabs: the way for both of you to settle this is to stop fighting.

Mr. John Lewis

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker; am I in Order in asking the Foreign Secretary what he meant by the reference to the fact that the Arabs are not in this House?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of Order.