HC Deb 30 January 1952 vol 495 cc159-60
1. Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if it is proposed to allow Haifa-bound tankers through the Suez Canal now that the terminal ports of this international waterway are under the control of British Service authorities.

15. Mr. Barnett Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether vessels carrying oil for the Haifa refineries are now permitted to pass through the Suez Canal.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)

This matter has been discussed with the oil companies concerned. They, of course, look forward to the day when they will be able to operate Haifa at full capacity again, but they do not feel that in present circumstances the situation would be assisted by Government action. I agree with this view and do not, therefore, propose to take any action at the moment.

The premise upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) bases his Question is not correct. The British Service authorities are not exercising full control at Port Said or Suez.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the action of the Egyptian authorities in denying passage to these tankers is a continuing breach of international law?

Mr. Eden

I think my views on that subject are very much on record.

Mr. Janner

Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider expediting this matter, particularly in view of the fact that, for effective defence in that area, it is necessary to have as much crude oil refined in Haifa as possible, and because of the large loss of revenue to this country consequent upon the fact that the oil is not going through?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman knows that this is a very complex matter now with many ramifications, in which I must take account, amongst other considerations, of the views of the oil companies concerned.

Mr. E. Shinwell

Are we to understand that there is going to be no holdup so far as the Haifa refinery is concerned because of any embargo placed on the passage of tankers through the Suez Canal by the Egyptian authorities?

Mr. Eden

The position at the moment, as I said in my answer about what the oil companies wish to do, is that control at both ends of the Canal is still, as I have explained, in the hands of the Egyptian authorities.

Mr. Shinwell

Are we to understand that the control is to remain there if there is any change on the part of the Haifa refinery people? Suppose they want to effect some modification of the present position, will the embargo placed on the passage of vessels through the Suez Canal continue?

Mr. Eden

We have always said, of course, that we do not recognise the embargo, as the right hon. Gentleman knows from the days when he was a member of the Government; but I was asked about the position of control, and I said that, at the present time, the physical control at each end of the Canal is in the hands of the Egyptian Government.

Mr. M. Philips Price

Is not the legal position in this matter a matter of considerable uncertainty?

Mr. Eden

I would not go so far as to say that, but certainly it is—shall we say?—one of complexity.

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