HC Deb 28 November 1956 vol 561 cc376-7
16. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will give further details of the steps taken to prevent the loss of human life during the bombing operations undertaken during the recent state of armed conflict in Egypt.

Mr. Birch

Casualties to Egyptians during bombing operations were kept to a minimum by careful choice of targets, by accurate bombing and by radio warnings. The targets were selected to achieve the maximum destruction of Egyptian war material with the minimum loss of life. According to all reports and photographs the accuracy of the bombing was very high. Warnings were given by radio of attacks made by Allied Air Forces and these were repeated at frequent intervals. There is evidence that they were heeded by the Egyptian population.

Mr. Hughes

Has the Secretary of State not seen some of the photographs which are appearing in the American Press of the wholesale destruction of buildings, which must have involved great loss of life? Does he really suggest that this operation was carried out with the minimum amount of destruction?

Mr. Birch

Yes. A great many untrue stories about this matter have been circulated, but what I have said is perfectly accurate.

Captain Duncan

Is it not a fact that if the attacks had been made against any country but Egypt, the risks to our own airmen would have been very much greater?

Mr. de Freitas

Although what evidence we have shows that the bombing was extremely accurate and that the R.A.F. deserves the greatest credit—after all, it was not its policy, it was carrying out its orders—civilians were killed in these bombing raids. Can the Secretary of State give us any idea of how many?

Mr. Birch

I cannot give a figure.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend convey the feelings of thankfulness of the majority of the House that the Air Staff planned this operation so efficiently and aircrews carried it out so efficiently that not only were there small Egyptian casualties, but none on our side?

Mr. Birch

Certainly the operation was carried out with great skill and care.

Mr. Jay

Can the Minister tell us how soon the Government will be able to give the real figure both of Egyptian and British casualties?

Mr. Birch

Not without notice. I have not the figure here. We will give it as soon as we can.

17. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Air how much petrol and oil fuel was consumed in the recent armed conflict in Egypt; and the estimated cost.

Mr. Birch

I regret that this information is not readily available.

Mr. Hughes

In view of the great public interest in how petrol is consumed and how it is being wasted, does not the Minister think that he could provide this information? Is he aware that in his Memorandum on the Estimates, we are told in the first page that £38 million was received from America? Can he tell us whether any of this sum was used for supplying oil, equipment or anything for this bombing operation, and whether he expects to get another £38 million on false pretences?

Mr. Birch

I am pretty certain that I am right in saying that none of that money has been devoted to oil.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Would not it be quite easy for the Secretary of State to find out from the Command in Cyprus how much fuel was used in this operation and tell the House, in view of the great interest in the fuel situation of this country?

Mr. Birch

I hardly think that it would be an easy calculation to make. With his experience of the Air Ministry, the right hon. Gentleman should know that.

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