HC Deb 19 December 1956 vol 562 cc1240-1
10. Mr. Benn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date agreement was reached with M. Mollet that the United States Government were not to be consulted about the Anglo-French decision to intervene in Egypt.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) on 12th December.

Mr. Benn

While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that Answer, may I ask him if he can help the House? The Prime Minister said on 30th November that we had consulted the United States; on 31st November he said that there was no time to consult the United States; on 9th December M. Mollet said that they had agreed with the British not to consult the United States, and on 12th December the Leader of the House said that there had been no agreement of any kind with regard to consultation. Can the Foreign Secretary advise us which of these stories we should believe?

Mr. Lloyd

The fact is that there was no consultation because there was no time to have consultation.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Since the Minister of Defence told us that we knew on 26th October that Israel was going to attack Egypt, did we have no consultations with the French Government about the action we should take in that emergency; and, if we had consultations, did we agree not to tell the Americans, with whom we had meetings on 28th October and 29th October?

Mr. Lloyd

The meetings on 28th and 29th October were tripartite meetings.

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is precisely the point. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will answer the first part of my question. Since we knew on 26th October that Israel was going to attack Egypt. did we not consult with the French before 30th October on what we should do?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not know what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence did say, but if the right hon. Gentleman will study the speech which I made in the last debate which took place, he will see very precisely set out the extent of our knowledge. Of course, anyone knew—any sensible person knew—that in that situation there was the possibility of an attack. There was a possibility of an attack by Israel against any of these countries: there was a possibility of attack by one of the Arab countries upon Israel. There has been general discussions about these eventualities time and again, both with the United States and France.

Mr. Benn

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment, to clear the Prime Minister's name.

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