HC Deb 02 June 1954 vol 528 cc1254-5
2. Mr. D. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if Her Majesty's Government will now resume negotiations with the Egyptian Government concerning the base in the Suez Canal Zone.

21. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are at present being taken to reach a solution for the future of the base on the Suez Canal.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) on 31st May.

Mr. Healey

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the regrettable incidents to which he then referred and which have occurred on both sides in the Canal base will be difficult to stop so long as 80,000 British troops are cooped up in the Canal base against their own will and that of the local population? Is he further aware that whenever he decides to stand up to the resistance of the rebels on his own back benches and resumes negotiations for a peaceful settlement of this problem, he will have support from this side of the House?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that certain conditions would have to be established before negotiations could be re-opened. One of those conditions was the maintenance of law and order.

Captain Waterhouse

Is it not a fact that these crimes of violence and murder, as distinct from ordinary thefts, are inspired and that those who perpetrate them are to a large extent armed and trained by the Egyptian authorities? Is not the man who directs the crime even more culpable than the man who uses the knife?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend that the extent to which the Egyptian authorities co-operate in tracing the perpetrators of these crimes is very important to the future of Anglo-Egyptian relations.

Mr. Grimond

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that we are in a vicious circle and that it is in British interest that the number of troops we keep there should be greatly reduced? If we are not going to be able to enter into negotiations with the Egyptian Government, can he say what other proposals he has?

Mr. Lloyd

It is still the intention of Her Majesty's Government to seek to reach a suitable agreement with the Egyptian Government, but there is not much point in having negotiations just for the sake of having negotiations. The point is to have negotiations which one thinks will lead to a successful conclusion.

Captain Waterhouse

My right hon. and learned Friend has spoken about the extent to which the Egyptian authorities co-operate in tracing the perpetrators of these crimes, but would it not be much better if they collaborated in preventing the crimes?

Mr. Lloyd

In the last five or six weeks there has been much more satisfactory co-operation. I said that a very important thing for the future of Anglo-Egyptian relations will be the extent to which the Egyptian authorities help in these cases.

Mr. Shinwell

If negotiations are not to be resumed on the invitation of Her Majesty's Government, may I ask how long it is the intention of the Government to retain such a large body of troops in the Canal Zone? Can we afford it?

Mr. Lloyd

That opens very much wider points. We still desire, when suitable conditions exist, to reopen these negotiations and push them through to a satisfactory conclusion, but, of course, if that does not prove to be possible the whole situation will have to be examined.