HC Deb 19 April 1950 vol 474 cc112-4
8. Mr. Hugh Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to persuade the Egyptian Government to observe Article IV of the Suez Canal Convention and so permit the passage of oil tankers from the Persian Gulf to the Haifa refineries.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Davies)

His Majesty's Government have made repeated representations on this subject to the Egyptian Government which have taken up a definite position in relation to the Canal Convention. They are well aware of His Majesty's Government's attitude, but so far they have not been prepared to modify their own. My right honourable Friend still hopes that it will be possible to find a friendly solution.

Mr. Fraser

Considering that no state of war exists in the area now, what possible argument can the Egyptian Government put forward for keeping the Canal closed?

Mr. Davies

That is for the Egyptian Government. An armistice exists between Egypt and Israel at present, but it is only an armistice.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Has the hon. Gentleman obtained an assurance from the Egyptian Government that arms being supplied by this country to Egypt will not be used to enforce a blockade of the Suez Canal against British shipping?

Mr. Davies

No, Sir. No conditions have been demanded in return for the fulfilment of our Treaty obligation to Egypt to supply her with arms.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Is not it the case that, during both world wars, neutral vessels were allowed the use of the Suez Canal without let or hindrance, despite the fact that this country and her Allies commanded the approaches of both Port Said and Suez?

Mr. Davies

Yes, Sir; that is a fact.

Mr. Janner

What expenditure on dollar oil is being incurred by Britain in conseqence of this stoppage?

Mr. Davies

That is another question.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Egyptian Government have said that if the armistice between themselves and Israel becomes a peace settlement this passage will be permitted again? Have they made that observation?

Mr. Davies

As far as I am aware, they have not been asked for that information.

Mr. Fraser

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of this matter, I give notice that I shall raise it again on the Adjournment.