§ Mr. Clement Davies (by Private Notice)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the reasons why British Armed Forces have been sent to Transjordan, Egypt and/or Palestine, areas where under the decision of the Security Council of 29th May, 1948, no Armed Forces were to be sent, and whether the prior consent of the Security Council was obtained before such Armed Forces were sent; and further, whether he will give an assurance that British Armed Forces will not be ordered to engage in military operations in this area and that no further Armed Forces will be sent into this area.
§ Mr. Bevin
Having regard to the statement I have just made, I would deprecate having to go into details regarding the circumstances which led the Government of Transjordan to ask, under the 38 Anglo-Transjordan Treaty, for the stationing of British Forces at Aqaba. His Majesty's Government took the view that under the Treaty this was a request we could not refuse in the light of all the circumstances and events at that moment.
As these troops were sent to Transjordan territory and no troops have been sent to Palestine, there was no obligation upon us to seek the assent of the Security Council.
As regards the second part of the Question, our future action will be determined by our treaty obligations and United Nations decisions. We have no obligation or intention to engage in any offensive or aggressive action. We hope that the truce which now exists will be maintained and that no further question of military operations will arise.
§ Mr. Davies
Obviously there will have to be a much fuller statement than that which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman. I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said in reply to the earlier Question put to him, but this matter is very urgent. It is one which is causing very grave anxiety. Is it not possible, Mr. Speaker, in order to avoid having to take any other action, to have a promise made that this question can be debated tomorrow or Thursday or on both days? There is real, grave anxiety not only throughout the country but throughout the world with regard to the present position. I urge that upon the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I am naturally anxious to meet the wishes and convenience of the House. I thought myself that, if there was a Debate next week, it would be better than having one today, but I am not prejudicing any issue that may be raised with you, Mr. Speaker, although, perhaps, we could get a tidier or more comprehensive Debate if we had it next week. I should be happy to arrange through the usual channels that that should take place. If I may say so, I think it would be too early tomorrow. Things are moving, and let us hope that the situation will be better. I really think that it would be better and more expedient in the public interest for the Debate to take place on a suitable date 39 next week, as to which we should be happy to enter into conversations through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Davies
I want to ask two questions arising out of the Foreign Secretary's statement: first, whether the Lord President is aware that there is a Debate in another place tomorrow upon this very matter, and why should that other place have priority over this House? Secondly, even if that be so, will the right hon. Gentleman say, with the responsibility of the Cabinet, that, in the interests of peace, and lest there should be anything said which might in any way jeopardise that peace, it is in the interests of everybody that this Debate should not take place until next week? Will they take that responsibility?
§ Mr. Morrison
That is a perfectly fair question, and, on behalf of the Government, I do give a statement and an assurance to the House that, in our opinion, from the point of view of peace and a satisfactory settlement, it would be more satisfactory if the Debate took place next week. With regard to the proceedings in another place tomorrow, I am conscious of the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. I think it will be the case, quite probably, that whilst there will be a Debate on Foreign Affairs, I am very doubtful whether it will cover this particular ground, at any rate, to any material extent.
§ Mr. Churchill
We are content on this side of the House that the Debate should take place next week. May I ask, however, whether we can have an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that, in the interval, having gone to Aqaba, we do not scuttle from it under any threat of mere violence? We would like to have that assurance. May I also ask if the Foreign Secretary will consider whether a British representative to the de facto Government of Israel is not greatly needed to be sent at the present time?
§ Mr. Bevin
That may be, but the right hon. Gentleman has been in office as well as I have, and he knows that these 40 things are not easy. The only thing that I regret in my life is that I have never had the chance—possibly it will be given to me some day—to sit where the right hon. Gentleman is and have a go at him sitting here. I am perfectly sure that I should have his assistance in most ways, but what I am sometimes afraid of is that his indiscretions will sentence me to this side for life. In any case, on this question of recognition, it is not an easy matter, and we cannot take one State in an isolated way. There is another part of the world where the whole question of de facto recognition has created very serious trouble.
§ Mr. Bevin
In Indonesia, where very serious troubles and very great difficulties have arisen on questions of sovereignty and so forth. Therefore, it is not an easy matter, and we have been trying to arrive at an arrangement on the basis of the United Nations decisions. We are only trying to get this matter cleared up. With regard to scuttling, I can think the right hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to realise that I am almost too fat to scuttle anywhere.
§ Mr. Janner
While appreciating the belated consent to be given to the victims in Cyprus to proceed to Israel, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, pending the Debate, he will see to it that no steps are taken of a unilateral nature which will further complicate the position, and that no troops or forces will be sent to that part of the world in order to encourage, or to appear to encourage, an attitude against Israel which is not the correct one, and will he definitely support the negotiations taking place between the two interested parties?
§ Mr. Bevin
My policy since I have been in office has always been that this problem will never be settled—I repeat will never be settled—unless by agreement between the two parties. It has been my policy that force on either side will not finally settle it. We shall have trouble for years if we do not recognise that fact. I have been encouraging, helping and trying to get the negotiations going. On the other hand, there will be no need to move any troops at all, and no need to do anything, if both sides now keep the truce, and I shall be against either side that breaks it.
§ Mr. Churchill
May we be assured that the Foreign Secretary will feel under no restrictions or impediments for taking any necessary measures to procure the safety and effective action of the troops which the Government have sent to Aqaba, and that that does not depend upon any other issue than what is considered necessary by His Majesty's Government?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
May I ask the Foreign Secretary if he can give an assurance that the Commanding Officer in the Canal Zone has been left entirely responsible for looking after the local security of the British troops in the Canal Zone?
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask the Foreign Secretary if it is not the case that Transjordan is not in these discussions for an armistice, and would it not strengthen the possibility of an armistice and of lasting peace, particularly with Transjordan, if there were de facto recognition of the Israeli Government?
§ The fact is that Transjordan troops have never yet entered any territory allocated to the Israelis by the United Nations.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
May 1 ask the Foreign Secretary one question regarding his statement about Cyprus? Does he say that the release of these men is taking place with Arab consent?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
While endorsing what my right hon. Friend has said about there never having been an invasion from Transjordan into the area allotted by the United Nations to Israel, is it not equally true that there has never been any incursion from the State of Israel into any part of Transjordan, and in these circumstances was it necessary to send any troops at all?