HC Deb 13 July 1955 vol 543 cc1914-6
19. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received to the protest made to the Egyptian Government at the firing upon and interception of s.s. "Anshun" on 3rd July.

27. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on his protest to the Egyptian Government in respect of the attack made upon the s.s. "Anshun."

Mr. H. Macmillan

A note of protest was delivered to the Political Director of the Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 6th July. The note made it clear that Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the Egyptian claim to obstruct the right of innocent passage through an international channel even though it lies within Egyptian territorial waters.

It referred to the protest made in the case of the s.s. "Argobec" which was stopped by shots across her bow on 10th April in the Enterprise Channel. It went on to point out that the present incident was even more deplorable since the fire of the shore batteries was evidently turned directly upon the vessel. It ended by making an emphatic protest against the unwarranted action of the Egyptian shore station in firing upon a British merchant vessel exercising her undoubted right of innocent passage, and by insisting that the Egyptian Government should issue the clearest instructions to the Egyptian shore station to prevent any recurrence of this and the earlier incidents. The right to claim compensation for damage was reserved.

No reply has yet been received from the Egyptian Government.

Mr. Davies

Since the facts in this case seem to be quite clear, is not this delay inexcusable? Are not the incidents likely to continue, however much we protest, if Egypt insists on continuing this illegal blockade of these waters? What steps are the Government taking to bring Egypt's attention to the need to bring this illegal blockade to an end?

Mr. Macmillan

We have, of course, pressed for an early reply to our note, which was delivered on 6th July, and the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs has informed Her Majesty's Embassy that the reply to our note, although not yet ready, will not be long delayed.

Mr. Janner

If a satisfactory reply in respect of these acts of piracy is not received, will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that the matter is again brought before the Security Council of the United Nations? Will he also make certain— and will he tell us how he can make certain—that none of the arms that Great Britain or the United States of America supplies to Egypt are to be used against our vessels when they pass legally upon their lawful occasions?

Mr. Macmillan

I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that perhaps the best thing to do would be to wait to see the reply before deciding whether or not it is satisfactory.

Mr. H. Morrison

Whilst I agree with that up to a point—it depends when the reply comes and what its nature is—is it the case that we are still supplying arms to Egypt? Ought we to go on supplying arms when Egypt does this sort of thing? Is it not time, after all these years, that we challenged the blockade which is going on and which sooner or later will lead to a warlike situation?

Mr. Macmillan

That is a rather wider question on which I think the right hon. Gentleman would not like to press me in answer to this Question. In regard to this matter, I feel that though we have waited six days it is not unreasonable. We must press for a reply, and base our action on the character of that reply.