HC Deb 11 March 1953 vol 512 cc1289-92
Mr. McNeil (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered reports alleging that General Neguib has complained of breaches of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan and whether he has any statement to make.

The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Yes, Sir. I understand that General Neguib held a Press conference yesterday, in which he is reported to have made a number of allegations about breaches of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan. I have asked for full information from the Governor-General on all these allegations. I have little doubt that they will prove to be quite unfounded. There is, however, one with which I wish to deal today.

It has been said that we are delaying the elections in the Sudan by refusing to accept the two Sudanese members of the Governor-General's Commission nominated by the Sudanese and approved by the Egyptian Government. The facts are as follow.

On 25th February a meeting of representatives of all four Sudanese Northern political parties voted upon the names of five candidates for the two places to be filled by Sudanese on the Governor-General's Commission. Of these five candidates, Mohammed el Hassan Diab received three votes, Ibrahim Ahmed two votes, and the remainder one vote each. The parties sent the Governor-General and the Egyptian Staff Officer in the Sudan a letter informing them of this. On 2nd March Her Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo formally proposed to the Egyptian Government the nomination of the two candidates who had received three and two votes respectively.

So far as I am aware the Egyptian Government have not formally nominated any candidates. Meanwhile, however, they have been seeking to promote the candidature of a new candidate, Dardiri Mohammed Osman, who, I understand, supports a closer association between Egypt and the Sudan; one of the original candidates who had received only one vote has stood down in his favour. No votes have yet been cast for Dardiri Osman by any of the Sudanese political parties.

It will thus be seen that Her Majesty's Government have throughout supported the wishes of the Sundanese themselves and we hold the view that, unless the representatives of the political parties inform us that they have altered their decision of 25th February, the candidates who then received most votes should be nominated.

Far from any delay having been caused by Her Majesty's Government, the delay over the appointment of the Sudanese members of the Governor-General's Commission appears now clearly to be due to Egyptian unwillingness to accept the candidates proposed by the Sudanese themselves.

I should like to add that Her Majesty's Government strongly deprecate this attempt to conduct diplomacy by means of statements to the Press. If the Egyptian Government have complaints to make, they should be made either to the Governor-General of the Sudan direct or to Her Majesty's Government through normal diplomatic channels. I have this morning made strong representations to this effect to the Egyptian Ambassador in London, and Her Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo has been instructed to do the same to the Egyptian Government. It is absolutely untrue that Her Majesty's Government are failing to carry out the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan in good faith.

I would also recall the statement of my right hon. Friend on 12th February to the effect that it is the resolve of Her Majesty's Government that the Sudanese shall freely decide their own future. That statement stands and we are determined to ensure that the Sudanese shall have the right to express their views free from interference or unfair pressure from any quarter.

Mr. McNeil

While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his forthright and expansive statement, may I put two points to him? Will he convey by our Ambassador, or other diplomatic methods, to General Neguib that in the matter of the Commission and in other appropriate matters the wishes of the Sudanese must remain paramount and cannot be set aside for Egyptian prejudices or wishes, or, for that matter, the wishes of Her Majesty's Government? Secondly, will he tell General Neguib that progress will not be achieved in the Sudan or in other allied matters by partisan and ambiguous statements, and that Her Majesty's Government cannot proceed with the negotiations unless that is clearly understood and acknowledged.

Mr. Lloyd

The statement which I have made covers the right hon. Gentleman's second supplementary question. As to the first, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that we have made that matter quite clear to the Egyptian Government and that we shall certainly continue to do so.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that in respect of both adherence to the Agreement and impartiality the Egyptians have much to learn from the British officials in the Sudan?

Mr. Rhodes

Is this not another example of the importance of the House having an opportunity of discussing the matter and of stating its view that the Sudanese should be free to obtain their independence without interference and that British personnel, after 50 years of sterling service in the Sudan, should be allowed to continue, at any rate for the next three years, without being subjected to these scurrilous attacks?

Mr. E. Wakefield

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if there is to be any real hope of the Sudanese people achieving effective, and not merely theoretical, independence, it is vitally necessary to maintain, and even to strengthen further, the relations of mutual confidence and good will which exist between Sudanese political leaders and British administrative personnel? Is it not abundantly clear that General Neguib is flagrantly trying to undermine those good relations? Will my right hon. and learned Friend ask his right hon. Friend to send a message to British officials in the Sudan to the effect that, as long as they stand by the Sudanese, Her Majesty's Government will stand by them?

Mr. Philips Price

Are not General Neguib's tactics connected with his own political instability at home and with his need to satisfy the Cairo and Alexandria mobs?

Mr. Lloyd

In reply to the supplementary questions which have been asked, I would say that I have made a carefully considered statement about the matter which, I believe, covers them, and that I consider it would be wise not to depart from the terms of the statement.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us when he hopes to be able to make a further statement on the other points raised at General Neguib's Press conference?

Mr. Lloyd

I shall certainly make the statement as soon as I can, but I cannot say when.