HC Deb 25 April 1956 vol 551 cc1749-50
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secre-of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on Government policy in the Middle East, giving details of recent changes, and of recent action taken to enforce that policy.

10. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the position in the Middle East.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

I have no further statement to make at the present time.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister not realise that one of the most important problems in that area is the balance of arms? Has he nothing to say about that? Does he realise that unless that matter is handled in a statesmanlike way, it may make all the difference between the consolidation of peace and the outbreak of widespread war?

Mr. Nutting

I do not for a moment dispute the hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation of the arms question. The policy and practice of Her Majesty's Government in this matter have been made plain on numerous occasions in the House, and I have nothing to add to the statements that have been made.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the endeavours of Mr. Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, have as yet proved successful or moderately successful, and has he taken note of the recent incident in which four Israelis were ambushed? Can anything be said about the measures being taken to stop that sort of thing?

Mr. Nutting

The measures being taken are a matter for the United Nations observers and the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation on the spot. As to the Secretary-General's mission, I think that the whole House will welcome the fruitful results that it has achieved so far, and we hope that those results will be maintained.

Mr. Robens

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, apropos of the original Question and the Answer which he gave to my hon. and learned Friend, whether the Government have considered the points made in the House in relation to quality arms to Israel as distinct from quantity? Have any steps been taken in this matter?

Mr. Nutting

Yes, Sir. Quality as well as quantity form the criteria upon which Her Majesty's Government decide what arms deliveries should be made on both sides.

Mr. C. Davies

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this rather noncommittal attitude taken by the Government all the time does not embolden the Egyptians to take part in incidents, such as the one which occurred the day before yesterday, and to continue to do so, as long as they believe they have a preponderance of arms, and that the only way to stop them is to restore the balance under the Tripartite Declaration?

Mr. Nutting

I would not agree that the policies under which Her Majesty's Government act under the Tripartite Declaration embolden either side to be aggressive in this matter. I think that the Tripartite Declaration has done valiant work in maintaining peace in the Middle East.