HC Deb 28 March 1956 vol 550 cc2146-9
39. Sir R. Boothby

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further progress has been made in the discussions in Washington about methods of implementing the Tripartite Declaration on the dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours.

40. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make a statement on the recent discussions in Washington on the implementation of the Tripartite Declaration, 1950.

51. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, pending a decision of the Security Council on measures to deal with the dispute between Israel and the Arab States, the signatories to the Tripartite Agreement have now decided how to implement the provisions of that Agreement in the event of aggression by any of the Arab States against Israel.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) on 21st March.

Sir R. Boothby

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the continued deterioration of the position in the Middle East is due largely to the absence of any policy on the part of the West? If we cannot persuade the Americans to agree upon a joint policy and joint action, would it not be better to produce a policy of our own?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that my hon. Friend is failing to draw a distinction between policy and the means of implementing policy. Our policy in the Middle East is perfectly clear. First, we wish to strengthen the means of keeping the peace on the frontiers of Israel—and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that that is the right thing to do—and, secondly, as we have made perfectly clear again and again, we stand by the spirit and letter of the Tripartite Declaration.

Mr. Robens

Is the Foreign Secretary not aware that the failure to give an indication as to how the Tripartite Declaration is to be implemented is one of the main causes of trouble in the Middle East that neither the Arabs nor the Jews have any faith in this as a Declaration, and that he should make it perfectly clear where we stand, as a country, in relation to its implementation?

Mr. Lloyd

That has been made clear again and again, and I really think that it would be most unwise to indicate the action which might be taken in hypothetical circumstances.

Mr. Shinwell

But how can the right hon. and learned Gentleman claim that this matter is being raised in hypothetical circumstances? Already the representatives of the Soviet Government have declared their intention of vetoing any decision by the Security Council on this matter, and if there is a danger—which is apprehended by many persons concerned—of the Security Council discussions breaking down, what is to be the position of Her Majesty's Government? Are they to implement the provisions of the Declaration in whatever way is open to them, or are they to leave matters as they are, with all the dangers that are entailed?

Mr. Lloyd

The Tripartite Declaration refers to action both within and without the United Nations, and we have made it perfectly clear again and again that we do reserve the right to take action without the United Nations.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be a little more explicit and to indicate to hon. Members what kind of action he contemplates? If the peaceful efforts break down—and that may happen—what action is to be taken? Are the provisions of the Tripartite Declaration to be implemented, and will he make it perfectly clear to all States in the Middle East, including Israel and Egypt, that in the event of any aggression or the threat of aggression, the provisions of the Declaration will be implemented?

Mr. Lloyd

We have said that again and again. [Laughter.] I do not see why that should be the cause for mirth, because it is a very serious obligation which might have very serious consequences, and it is certainly no laughing matter.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Will my right hon. Friend be able to make a statement soon as to how the aggressor would be determined in the event of an outbreak, and whether, in the event of such an aggressor being determined, positive action would be taken, and whether a joint declaration to that effect cannot be made, on the principle that we certainly cannot "go" this matter alone?

Mr. Lloyd

The obligations are laid down in the Tripartite Declaration, and those obligations will be honoured.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the admittedly serious situation which exists on the borders of Israel and the Arab countries—we are told in The Times that three regiments of infantry, with armoured support, have been deployed in the Gaza strip by the Egyptian Government—is not this problem one of great urgency? As these discussions have been going on for nearly six weeks without any sign of being terminated, can the Foreign Secretary tell us when he expects the conference to come to a decision?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course the matter is one of the greatest urgency, and we have said that repeatedly. But these discussions deal with methods, and I have said to the House before that I think that in any event it would be most inappropriate to have public statements about the methods to be adopted.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Foreign Secretary saying that the discussions have now been concluded but that he does not want to reveal their outcome? May I ask him whether he does not feel, in view of the enormous importance of making it perfectly plain to all parties in that part of the world what we are going to do, that, despite the need for some degree of security in military matters, a precise indication should be given as to what we will do in the event of a violation of the frontiers?

Mr. Lloyd

The discussions have not been concluded—they are continuing—but I still think that it would be most unwise to indicate what precise action is to be taken in a hypothetical situation.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that unless he gives some precise indication—or some fairly precise indication—of what he and Her Majesty's Government will do, the parties to this dispute will not believe that any action is to be taken?

Mr. Lloyd

I really do not think it possible publicly to disclose plans.