With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will make a further statement on the Israel-Egypt situation.
Since the House met on Saturday the General Assembly of the United Nations, meeting in emergency Special Session, has passed three resolutions.
The first was sponsored by a number of Asian and African states. This called for a cease-fire, the halting of the movement of military forces and arms into the area and the withdrawal of all forces in the area behind the armistice lines. It authorised the Secretary-General to obtain compliance.
The second resolution was sponsored by Canada. It requested the Secretary-General to submit within 48 hours a plan for the setting up, with the consent of the nations concerned, of an emergency international United Nations force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with the terms of the ceasefire resolution of 2nd November.
In a telegram received yesterday morning the Secretary-General of the United Nations drew the attention of Her Majesty's Government to these resolutions and requested all parties to bring a halt to all hostile military actions in the area by 8 o'clock Greenwich Mean Time yesterday. Her Majesty's Government had already invited the French Ministers to come to London for consultations. They informed Mr. Hammarskjöld of this fact and explained that it was not possible to give him a definite answer to his message within the time limit which he had stipulated. As a result of their consultations with the French Government they sent a telegram to the Secretary-General very early this morning. This read as follows :The Governments of the United Kingdom and France have studied carefully the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly passed on 3rd and 4th November.They warmly welcome the idea which seems to underlie the request to the Secretary-General contained in the resolution sponsored by Canada, and adopted by the Assembly at its 563rd meeting, that an international force should be interpolated as a shield between Israel and Egypt pending a Palestine settlement and a settlement of the question of the Suez Canal. But according to their information 1957 neither the Israeli nor the Egyptian Government has accepted such a proposal. Nor has any plan for an international force been accepted by the General Assembly or endorsed by the Security Council.The composition of the staff and contingents of the international force would be a matter for discussion.The two Governments continue to believe that it is necessary to interpose an international force to prevent the continuance of hostilities between Egypt and Israel, to secure the speedy withdrawal of Israeli forces, to take the necessary measures to remove obstructions and restore traffic through the Suez Canal, and to promote a settlement of the problems of the area.Certain Anglo-French operations, with strictly limited objectives, are continuing. But as soon as the Israeli and Egyptian Governments signify acceptance of, and the United Nations endorses a plan for an international force with the above functions the two Governments will cease all military action.In thus stating their views, the United Kingdom and French Governments would like to express their firm conviction that their action is justified. To return deliberately to the system which has produced continuing deadlock and chaos in the Middle East is now not only undesirable, but impossible. A new constructive solution is required. To this end they suggest that an early Security Council meeting at the ministerial level should be called in order to work out an international settlement which would be likely to endure, together with the means to enforce it.This message to the Secretary-General crossed a telegram from him informing Her Majesty's Government of the passing of a third resolution. This referred to the Canadian resolution, which I have already described, and to a preliminary report from the Secretary-General on the plan to set up an emergency International United Nations Force. It called for the establishment of United Nations command to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the earlier cease-fire resolution. It appointed General Burns, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, Chief of Command on an emergency basis.
It authorised General Burns immediately to recruit from the Observer Corps of the Truce Supervision Organisation a limited number of officers who shall be nationals of countries other than those having permanent membership of the Security Council and further, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to undertake the recruitment directly from various Member States other than the permanent Member States of the Security Council the additional number of officers 1958 required. Finally, it invited the Secretary-General to take such administrative measures as may be necessary for the prompt execution of the actions envisaged in this resolution.
Her Majesty's Government abstained from voting on this resolution. [HON. MEMBERS : "Shame!"] They fully approved the principle of an International United Nations Force. But although the steps called for in this latest resolution might be considered to be a beginning, they are not in themselves likely to achieve the purposes set out in our message to the Secretary-General. We do not know that hostilities between Israel and Egypt have ceased or that they will not be resumed. The measures to be taken under the latest resolution could not be sufficient to ensure that.
It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the Israel forces withdraw from Egyptian territory. We have also told the United Nations that we believe it is necessary to secure the speedy withdrawal of Israel forces. But we cannot ensure that the Israelis withdraw from Egyptian territory until we are physically in the area to keep the peace, to give the necessary guarantees and to prevent a repetition of the events of the past few years.
There must also be immediate means on the spot to take the necessary measures, as I have said, to remove obstructions and restore navigation through the Suez Canal, and to promote a settlement of the problems of the area.
It will, of course, be a matter for the Security Council, if our proposal for an early meeting at ministerial level is accepted, to consider what part the United Kingdom and France should play in achieving all the objectives to which I have referred. Meanwhile, Her Majesty's Government believe that the Anglo-French forces, once they are established in the area, will be the best guarantee that these purposes will be effectively and speedily achieved.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The House has heard with astonishment the statement of the Foreign Secretary on why Her Majesty's Government abstained from voting on the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly setting up an international force. Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the Resolution was sponsored by 1959 Canada, that New Zealand has already said she is prepared to contribute troops to this force—[An HON. MEMBER : "So are we."] On the contrary, the Government have just explained that they could not support this proposal.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman also aware that the United States Government, whilst accepting the proposal that the force should be composed of the troops of countries which are not permanent members of the Security Council, has nevertheless made it plain that she will make available aircraft and supplies for this international force? Can we clarify a little more the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the international force proposal?
Therefore, the second question I ask is this : is it not the case that in the first Resolution, again introduced by Canada, the purpose of this force was defined as of secure and to supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with the terms of the Resolution of 2nd November ; that is to say, the cease-fire, the withdrawal of the combatants to within their own territories and the absence of any other intervention by any other party? If that is the case, why did Her Majesty's Government, in replying to the Resolution passed by the Assembly, suggest that the idea of the international force was not merely to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities but also to secure a final settlement of the Suez Canal problem?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that by imposing that particular implication the effect is to confirm in the minds of the whole world that the real reason for British and French intervention here was not to separate the combatants but to seize control of the Canal? Is he further aware that if Her Majesty's Government insist that the purpose of the international force under the United Nations must be to deal with the Suez Canal problem, they will effectively sabotage the whole idea of that force?
With regard to the question of the Resolution, the right hon. Gentleman has asked why the representative of the United Kingdom abstained. First, we could not vote for a proposition which excluded detachments of the forces of the permanent members of the Security 1960 Council from this international force. [HON. MEMBERS : "Why not?"] The reason for this is quite simple—that there has to be some reality about the situation. One has to consider the people who are able effectively to contribute those forces.
If hon. Members opposite still think that a few officers—because that is all that the Resolution amounts to—rather fewer than there have been in the Truce Supervision Organisation already, are going to solve this problem, they are quite mistaken. This Resolution may be a beginning but it will not solve this problem unless the international force is constituted to a much greater extent than is envisaged by the Resolution.
The Leader of the Opposition made a second accusation that we had done wrong in suggesting that the problems of the Suez Canal should be included to be settled whilst the international force was there. I should have thought he would have understood that the blockade on the shipping of a certain country going through the Canal—[Interruption.]— is one of the matters a settlement of which we have to try to get out of this situation. As for the talk of people being humbugs or hypocrites—[Interruption.]— those words apply to the people who for the past four years have consistently urged forcible action to deal with this matter.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Are we to understand from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said that when Her Majesty's Government, in their reply to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, made reference to the settlement of the Suez Canal problem, all that they had in mind was ensuring the free passage of Israeli ships?
Certainly not. We had in mind all problems affecting the free and open transit through the Canal guaranteed by the 1888 Convention.
§ Mr. Elliot
Is it not a thousand pities that this positive, constructive proposal for an international police force, which may well be the key to the problem, should not receive much more objective treatment than apparently it has received up to now? In particular, the many points—major points, but still points of detail—such as the composition of the international force, could well be examined with an open mind, because 1961 all of us would agree that there should be reality in this business and not merely imagination. It is also very desirable that the four belligerents should not find themselves actively engaged in a police force, if that proves to be possible.
Surely, the Leader of the Opposition is at fault in suggesting that the six principles which were voted by the United Nations in its consideration of this very question should be left out altogether when the international police force is being considered. Therefore, from all these points of view, I beg that it might be possible for the House to examine this—it may be the only solution for the problem—without the terrible heat which seems to be creeping into it just now.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
For my part, I entirely agree that we should examine this proposal objectively. I assure the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) that I was endeavouring to get clarification of the Government's view on it. I must, however, also say this and I put it in the form of a question. Is the Foreign Secretary aware that it is vitally important to distinguish between the setting up of an international force to deal with the Arab-Israeli question and an international force to impose on Egypt a solution of the Suez Canal problem? Does the Foreign Secretary realise that it is because I feel that this distinction is vital that I am pressing the difference between the two proposals?
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any information about where the proposed international force would be stationed? Is he, for instance, in agreement with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is reported as saying today that he presumed that the force would be stationed on the border between Israel and Egypt?
May I also ask the Foreign Secretary—again, pursuing what the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove described as objective examination—why Her Majesty's Government, in their first reply on this matter, made their consent to—and, indeed, their acceptance of—the United Nations Assembly Resolution conditional on Israel and Egypt both accepting the idea of an international United Nations force, whether they still adhere to that view and whether, if Egypt accepts, as she has done, it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that 1962 nothing further can be done about this unless Israel also accepts? Could the Foreign Secretary enlighten us on these points?
On the first point, with regard to the question of imposing a settlement of the Suez Canal issue, there is no question of imposing a settlement. I should have thought that every sensible person would have agreed that these things having happened, it was wiser that there should be a settlement of all those matters before the international policemen were removed. With regard to where the international force is to be stationed, I think that that would be a matter for the force commander himself to discuss with the Governments concerned.
Thirdly, with regard to the matter of acceptance by Egypt and Israel, I should have thought that as a practical proposition it would very much facilitate the development of this idea if those countries did agree to accept the international force, as it would have very much facilitated matters had both countries accepted our request of last Tuesday.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Is it still the case that, as stated on Saturday, Her Majesty's Government's attitude to the proposal for an international force depends upon the acceptance by Israel and Egypt of this proposal?
§ Mr. McAdden
Will my right hon. and learned Friend urge upon our representative at the United Nations that in any future discussion on this subject, the test as to the composition of this United Nations force should not be whether those prepared to participate are small Powers who cannot provide the forces or large Powers who can, but should be the willingness of the nations concerned to accept United Nations observers and a police force in their own country?
§ Mr. Benn
Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether he authorised the broadcast from Cyprus yesterday at 0545 1963 hours by the Supreme Command to Egypt? It ran as follows :It means that we are obliged to bomb you wherever you are. Imagine your villages being bombed. Imagine your wives, children, mothers, fathers and grandfathers escaping from their houses and leaving their property behind. This will happen to you if you hide behind your women in the villages … If they do not evacuate, there is no doubt that your villages and homes will be destroyed. You have committed a sin—that is, you placed your confidence in Abdul Nasser.In view of the fact that I received this text from the Foreign Office this morning, will the Foreign Secretary take responsibility for it and explain whether it does, in fact, lie behind the policy of Her Majesty's Government?
The hon. Member said that this was something which had been issued on the authority of the Supreme Commander.
§ Mr. de Freitas
On a point of order. [An HON. MEMBER : "A real one?"] This is only the second point of order that I have raised in eleven years. The Foreign Secretary must have knowledge of this. He has just denied knowledge, but surely he must have knowledge of it. Is not this the very broadcast which the 1964 United Nations representative, Colonel Eley, protested about, as it would bring war on Egypt.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman says this is only the second point of order that he has raised. It is certainly not a point of order, so there is only one to his credit.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friends. Since the Minister of Defence is to make a statement to the House later, in the course of this Sitting, and since he is responsible for the Allied Command, do we understand that he will reply to this question in the course of that statement?
§ Mr. Benn
A moment ago the Foreign Secretary purported to give the House the conditions under which he would be willing to order the cessation of hostilities from Cyprus. As a result of his denial of responsibility for what the Supreme Command do, are we to understand that he is in any position at all to give orders?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is rather complicated point of order. I had called Sir James Hutchison. I think that he should be given a chance to speak.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, in what again seems to me to be an unprecedented situation. On the eve of Prorogation, how is the House to deal with a serious situation of this kind when, on two occasions within the last 10 minutes, we have been told that responsibility for things done in the name of the Government was not accepted by any Minister of the Crown?
§ Sir J. Hutchison
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the fact that this country has, in principle, agreed to the proposals of the Canadian Government for a police force—and many of us hope that details can be worked out—blows to smithereens the allegation that 1965 we were using this situation only as an excuse to hold on to the Suez Canal zone?
§ Mr. Bevan
In view of the question which has just been asked, may I ask the Government to give their attention to what appears to be becoming apparent in almost all quarters of the House, that the war aims of the Government are being elicited from them day by day, and that they are being changed day by day? [Interruption.]
I earnestly suggest to hon. Members opposite that some of us are trying to maintain an objective attitude in this matter. It is extremely difficult to do so in face of the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman comes here without being armed with the information he ought to possess. If it is being said that the main objective of the Government has always been to separate the Jewish and Egyptian forces and not to achieve any objective beyond that, how does it come about that the Supreme Command uses this language in a leaflet :One thing which you can do is to wear civilian clothes. And go to your homes to see if any soldiers or tanks are concealed in your villages. Tell them to clear out before we come and destroy those villages. If they do no : evacuate, there is no doubt that your villages and homes will be destroyed. You have committed a sin, that is, you have placed confidence in Abd Al-Nasir and believed his lies. Now you are hearing the truth.This is the Supreme Allied Command, addressing Egyptian soldiers, sailors and pilots. In my respectful submission we have here not a military action to separate Israeli and Egyptian troops ; we have a declaration of war against the Egyptian Government, in the most brutal terms. Surely it is very hard indeed for one to use moderate language to describe behaviour of this sort. Will the Government stop lying to the House of Commons?
The purposes which the Government have in mind in undertaking this action are to stop the hostilities, to prevent their resumption, and to procure a settlement of the problems of the area. The directive to the Supreme Commander was to avoid civilian casualties. The test is what has actually happened—and that is what has happened.
§ Mr. Bevan
May I, therefore, ask a question? What we are having is almost 1966 a serial story. Will the Government give an assurance to the House of Commons that they will issue a White Paper setting out these various pronouncements to the Egyptian people, so that we may study them? Surely it is necessary that the House of Commons should know what is being said on its authority and behalf. After all, the guilt will be ours ; it will not be that of our soldiers, or the Supreme Command. Will the Minister therefore give a guarantee that this information will appear as early as may be in the form of a White Paper?
§ Mr. Bevan
On a point of order. We are asking today what would, in fact, be asked even upon quite an unimportant occasion, in order that we might be acquainted with what is being done. Now, however, we have what purports to be a series of definitive war aims appearing in a series of propaganda leaflets from the Army. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite must surely be more jealous of the rights of the House than this. Are not we entitled to receive from the Government an assurance that we shall have a White Paper setting out these pronouncements, so that hon. Members opposite might be less ignorant than they are now?
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)
I should like, if I may, to have an opportunity to examine the various matters raised on this issue and to consider a reply. [HON. MEMBERS : "When?"] Meanwhile, I think that the House would wish to know that I have had a flash signal from the Commander-in-Chief in the Eastern Mediterranean which affects even the discussion which is now taking place. That is why I intervened, as I know the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will understand.
This is the flash signal, which is, of course, subject to confirmation :Governor and Military Commander, Port Said now discussing surrender terms with Brigadier Butler. Cease-fire ordered.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, order. If we adhere to the programme laid down, we have only a short time left before Prorogation. It is very difficult to discuss this matter by question and answer. If anyone moved the Adjournment of the House, we could have a proper debate in the time that is left, if that suggestion is agreeable.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
We are working in difficult circumstances owing to the Prorogation today. The Minister of Defence has still to make a statement, and if he might make that statement I think it very likely that we shall reach nearly five o'clock. We shall be ready to move the Adjournment, if so desired.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
We have not finished asking the Foreign Secretary questions. The Prime Minister has intervened with an important statement and we must really be allowed to ask him supplementary questions about it.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If the Prime Minister's statement means that there has been a general cease-fire in Egypt and that all military operations have ceased, then, for my part, I am only too delighted. But in that case I want to ask the Prime Minister whether, in his announcement. he meant that it was a local cease-fire or a general cease-fire, whether military operations are continuing elsewhere or not? If, indeed, this cease-fire is general, will he undertake to carry out the rest of the United Nations Assembly Resolution and withdraw our troops from the area?
§ The Prime Minister
I read out the signal as I received it, because I thought that the House ought to have immediate information of the news at my disposal. Quite clearly, I cannot possibly know 1968 how wide or narrow—[HON. MEMBERS : "Why?"]; no, I cannot—is the area covered by the cease-fire ; but I should have thought every one of our fellow countrymen would have been delighted it has taken place.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I understand that the Minister of Defence has a statement to make. There are only 25 minutes left, so that if we do not start upon it we shall not get it at all.
§ Mr. Healey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Before we leave this matter, is it possible for the House to discover whether the Prime Minister has exchanged congratulations with Marshal Khrushchev?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I would rather the right hon. Gentleman did not speak to me like that. That remark was really unjustified. I have a very calm temper ; you know that very well.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was trying to answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), if I may. Of course, I cannot answer him ; but I do think that, with the limited time that we have, if we are to hear the statement by the Minister of Defence, we ought to have it now and have questions on that. Mr. Head.
§ Mr. Hale
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance. Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I regret raising a point of order with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as you have so recently come to occupy the Chair, but I rise to make the point that there are many hon. Members who have risen to their feet every few minutes during this last hour and ten minutes, and have done so throughout Question Time this last week. If it is necessary for me to grow to more than 16 stone in order to attract Mr. Speaker's eye. it may injure 1969 my health considerably. There are some back bench Members, who have equal rights in the House, who have not been permitted to make any observations at all at any time this week. I have risen every minute for the last 65 minutes to put a very important question, and I should be glad to have the opportunity to put it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am entirely in the hands of the House. Prorogation is to come at 5 o'clock. If the House would rather continue with questions instead of the statement by the Minister of Defence, I am quite willing ; but I thought the House would be anxious to hear the statement.
§ Mr. Hale
Further to that point of order. I rose to put a supplementary question to the Foreign Secretary, who has never answered a supplementary question from me. I rose on a point of order. How, in those circumstances, can we leave the Foreign Secretary merely because he is knocked out of the ring?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am having a point of order put by the Leader of the Opposition. I can have only one at a time. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
May I suggest that the simplest solution would be for the Minister of Defence to make his statement, and for my hon. Friends to be allowed to continue to put questions to the Foreign Secretary as well as to the Minister of Defence.
§ Sir C. Taylor
May I point out, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair fictitious point of order after fictitious point of order was raised by hon. Members opposite. They were 1970 used as a ruse to stop other hon. Members asking questions which they were perfectly entitled to do and as a trick to get in and catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Has the Chair or the House any means of preventing these fictitious points of order being raised?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that I am quite able to answer points of order and to say if they do not arise, or whether they are points of order or not.