HC Deb 14 June 1948 vol 452 cc19-21
24. Mr. M. Philips Price

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of the negotiations over the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

Mr. Hayhew

Yes, Sir, and as the answer is long, I will, with permission, give it at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Mayhew

With permission, I will make a statement on Question No. 24.

During the past six months His Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government have been discussing the measures of constitutional reform in the Sudan which the Governor-General has proposed for the purpose of associating the Sudanese more closely with the Central Administration of their country as a first step towards self-government. In view of the importance of these reforms, which include the establishment of an Executive Council and an elected Legislative Assembly, the Governor-General has communicated to both Governments the successive drafts of the Ordinance embodying the proposed reforms, and he has in turn received the views of the two Governments.

Latterly discussions have been taking place in Cairo between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and during the course of these talks His Majesty's Government have endeavoured to ascertain how far it would be possible to meet the expressed Egyptian desire to participate in the preparation of the Sudanese people for self-government. With the agreement of the Governor-General they suggested that a tripartite Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese Committee should be set up to supervise the progress of the Sudanese towards self-government, and that an Anglo-Egyptian Committee should supervise the elections to the Legislative Assembly. The Governor-General expressed his willingness to nominate to the Executive Council two Egyptians from the ranks of the Egyptian officials serving in the Sudan, and the Governor-General also agreed that the Senior Staff Officer of the Egyptian forces in the Sudan should attend all meetings of the Executive Council when defence matters were being discussed.

After protracted negotiations His Majesty's Ambassador at Cairo was able to report to my right hon. Friend on the 28th May that he had reached agreement on all points with the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the proposed constitutional reforms, though the latter still had to seek the endorsement of the Egyptian Government. Despite repeated requests from His Majesty's Ambassador and an urgent appeal from my right hon. Friend on 3rd June, we have received no answer from them regarding their willingness to co-operate in the proposed reforms on the basis of the proposals of the Governor-General.

His Majesty's Government therefore feel that they can no longer stand in the way of the Governor-General doing as he thinks fit regarding the promulgation of the Ordinance in accordance with his duties and obligations for the good government of the Sudan under the Agreement of 1899.

In conclusion, and in case there should be any misunderstanding on this point, I would like to emphasise that these negotiations covered only the practical question of the proposed Ordinance and were never intended to reconcile the conflicting views regarding the status of the Sudan on which both governments have previously and publicly reserved their positions.

Mr. Philips Price

In view of this very important statement by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, may I ask him whether, after the promulgation of the new Constitution in the Sudan, His Majesty's Government will continue to keep in contact with the Egyptian Government with a view to further discussion?

Mr. Mayhew

I can certainly give an undertaking to remain in contact. We are always glad to discuss and, if possible, to settle with the Egyptian Government, but we feel that interminable delay is unfair to the Sudanese.

Earl Winterton

In view of the importance of the subject matter of the hon. Gentleman's answer may I ask whether it is proposed to publish a fuller statement, including any relevant correspondence, in the form of a White Paper—or does the Foreign Secretary think that that is not necessary at this moment?

Mr. Mayhew

I will certainly consider that suggestion.

Mr. Chamberlain

As there have been variations in the set-up of the proposed Executive Council may I ask whether it is still proposed that there should be a number of Sudanese Under-Secretaries within that council?

Mr. Mayhew

Yes, Sir, that is so.