HC Deb 07 November 1955 vol 545 cc1449-51
1. Mr. P. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how far Egypt is now allowing freedom in the use of the Suez Canal; and what further action is proposed to ensure that this obligation is honoured.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The restrictions applied by the Government of Egypt as part of the Arab blockade of Israel remain in force. With regard to the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) to a similar Question on 6th April.

Mr. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that, as there is no freedom of navigation of the Canal, there is developing an unpleasant situation in the Middle East and that the time has now arrived for Britain to cease withdrawing her troops from the Canal Zone?

Mr. Macmillan

Those are rather different questions. Actually, I am told that there is more traffic through the Canal now than at almost any time in history. But I must make it clear that Her Majesty's Government do not accept the legality of the restrictions placed by the Egyptian Government upon Israeli traffic.

Mr. Janner

Cannot something be done to remove this violation of international rights? Surely it is time that the Egyptians were told that they are not to do precisely what they choose in such violation of rights?

Mr. Macmillan

We have made our position clear and our protests patent, but it is a matter that is not easily dealt with in existing conditions.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since it is now more than four and a half years since the Prime Minister, when sitting on these benches, denounced this situation in the most uncompromising terms, is it not time that Her Majesty's Government should have done something about it?

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the fact that Her Majesty's Government have been well aware of the restrictions on freedom of navigation in the Canal, why was it, in spite of this violation of international usage, that the Government persisted in sending arms to Egypt?

Mr. Macmillan

I think that is quite another question. What we are hoping for, and I think the House hopes for, is that a general settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute will bring an end to this problem, with many others.

13. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government has taken in regard the new regulations announced by Egypt on 11th September for ships entering the Gulf of Aqaba.

Mr. H. Macmillan

When these regulations were published Her Majesty's Government made it clear to the Egyptian Government that they do not recognise the legality of the blockade of Israel nor the right of the Egyptian Government to grant or withhold permission to ships to use the international channel at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. In the course of the discussions which are still in progress, the Egyptian Government have indicated that these regulations may be modified, and I hope that an acceptable arrangement may soon be arrived at.