HC Deb 24 October 1956 vol 558 cc612-3
8. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by what authority a spokesman of the British Embassy in Damascus told newspaper correspondents in July, 1956, that the Foreign Office has empowered him to deny information to the effect that the Western Powers would start a campaign against the Arab States with a view to combating the Arab economic boycott against Israel.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)

In July certain Syrian newspapers reported allegations of a Western campaign to paralyse the Arab boycott of Israel and of the opening in London of an Israeli office which was supported by Foreign Office officials.

Since both these allegations were untrue, Her Majesty's Ambassador in Damascus was authorised to deny them.

Sir L. Plummer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the terms in which the official issued the denial were regarded by the Arab peoples as being in condonation of the attitude of the Arab countries towards Israel and were in fact encouraging them in their boycott? Would he not, therefore, ask his right hon. and learned Friend to give instructions that when embassy representatives make statements of this kind they should do so with the utmost tact and caution?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I shall, of course, look at the point. As he well knows, the Government neither accept nor condone the Arab League boycott, and protests, on one occasion at his instance, have been made to the Arab States concerned when the rights of British subjects have been affected.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the hon. Gentleman doing anything more than protesting? Has he considered, for example, having some kind of boycott against the Arab States which are in fact boycotting us?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I do not think two wrongs would make a right in that case.