HC Deb 25 February 1952 vol 496 cc705-7
53. Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a record of conversations on 5th and 6th June, 8th July and 3rd and 14th August, 1950, between Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, Mr. Chapman Andrews, British Minister in Cairo, Sir Ralph Stevenson, British Ambassador, Air Commodore Hayes and Moustafa el Nahas Pasha, Mohamed Salah ed Din Bey, Moustafa Nosrat Bey, and Group Captain Ibrahim Gazzarine, he will publish a record of these and subsequent conversations as a White Paper.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

No, Sir. As the hon. Member will be aware, subsequent Anglo-Egyptian conversations on the defence of the Suez Canal and on the Sudan were recorded in a White Paper (Command 8419) presented last November. The conversations to which he refers were of an informal and technical nature and no agreed records were kept.

Mr. Brockway

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the record, as published by the Egyptian Government, is accurate, particularly in respect to the alleged statement of Field Marshal Slim that a conflict between Russia and the capitalist countries is inevitable and that Russia is preparing to attack Egypt?

Mr. Lloyd

The account given was not an accurate or agreed account.

Mr. Shinwell

Was the Government informed by the Egyptian Ministry for External Affairs that they intended to publish these informal conversations?

Mr. Lloyd

The answer is, "No."

Mr. Shinwell

Is that not rather serious? Is it not serious if we cannot trust the Egyptian Government in matters of this sort—conversations between accredited representatives of this Government or, at any rate, the Government of this country and the Egyptian Ministry for External Affairs? Surely they should not have published a record of these informal conversations without at any rate acquainting this Government of their intentions?

Mr. Lloyd

What the right hon. Gentleman has just said may well be so; but I do feel that at the present time no useful purpose is served by delving into what happened in August, 1950.

Mr. James H. Hoy

What steps have the Foreign Office taken either to correct or to deny the reports which have been published?

Mr. Lloyd

A White Paper was published in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not about this."] It was about a subsequent discussion that took place. But I do suggest that at the present time no useful purpose is served by going into it.

Mr. Hoy

In view of the statement attributed to Field Marshal Slim would it not have been advisable if the Foreign Office had issued a statement in contradiction of that report?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In reference to the supplementary point made by the ex-Minister of Defence is it not a fact that Socialists used to stand against secret diplomacy?

Mr. Shinwell

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman understand that the purport of my question is to ascertain why these informal conversations, which were apparently regarded by Field Marshal Slim and his associates as private in character, were placed on record by the Egyptian Government and given publicity, despite the fact that this Government were not informed?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said but I still adhere to the view which I stated previously, that the present time is not a very suitable one for ventilating this kind of controversy.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

In view of the present international situation is this not strictly a matter on which the right hon. and learned Gentleman should state, on behalf of H.M. Government, that they do not accept any suggestion that war is inevitable between the West and Russia? Does he not think they should issue a statement saying that the statement credited to the C.I.G.S. was inaccurate?

Mr. Lloyd

My first answer to the first supplementary of the hon. Gentleman opposite was that the account of the conversations was inaccurate.