HC Deb 27 November 1956 vol 561 cc226-7
45 and 46. Mr. Pitman

asked the Prime Minister (1) what information he has concerning the allegiance, obedience, and command of the troops of the United Nations Force in Egypt: and whether he will agree to withdraw all British troops from Egypt only when assured that the Force will be organised in direct relationship only to the United Nations;

(2) what information he has concerning the status of the United Nations Force; to what extent they are situated in Egypt as potential combatants or only as observers; and whether he will withdraw all British troops only on condition that it is as potential combatants that such troops are stationed.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply. The status of the United Nations Emergency Force is governed by various reports of the Secretary-General and Resolutions of the General Assembly. According to the Resolution of 5th November, the basic function of the Force is "to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the 2nd of November, 1956."

The troops of the Force are under the command of Major-General Burns who was appointed the chief of the United Nations Command by the General Assembly's Resolution of 5th November. There is no question of these troops coming under any other command or having any direct relationship with anybody other than the United Nations.

Mr. Pitman

Does that mean that if, say, a Danish soldier under the command of General Burns were to do some damaging action, recourse would be by action against General Burns, the King of Denmark, or against the soldier?

Mr. Butler

This is a matter of intense complexity, and I would rather give my hon. Friend and the House a considered reply.

Mr. Usborne

While appreciating the temporary urgent use of this Emergency Force, would not the Lord Privy Seal agree that it would be a good idea if the United Nations could recruit a constabulary of its own on a permanent basis and directly recruited?

Mr. Butler

One of the results of Her Majesty's Government's action and policy has been that a United Nations Force has been established. With the evolution of time and the development of international law and the development of the United Nations itself, something on the lines of the hon. Member's suggestion might well emerge.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not a little strange that, instead of merely proposing in the United Nations that there should be such a force, Her Majesty's Government had first to invade another country?

Mr. Butler

If the right hon. Gentleman had read the excellent speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the English-Speaking Union, he would not be so back-wardly informed as to make an intervention of that sort.

Mr. Baldwin

When the Anglo-French forces are withdrawn from Egypt, will my right hon. Friend endeavour to transfer them to Hungary to stop the slaughter which is going on there and to keep the peace until the United Nations can make up its mind what it wants to do?

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that not only have we read the Foreign Secretary's speech but also the report of a speech made by the Minister of Education last night, in which he is stated to have laid down certain conditions about this Force which must be observed before Her Majesty's Government agree to the withdrawal of our troops? Is that the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and was that speech made with the right hon. Gentleman's approval?

Mr. Butler

I have had an opportunity of reading a full version of my right hon. Friend's speech, and it corresponds exactly with the statements I made in the House on Thursday of last week.