HC Deb 03 April 1957 vol 568 cc392-3
40. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what are the technical grounds on which Her Majesty's Government have advised British ships not to use the Suez Canal for the time being.

Mr. Watkinson

I would refer the hon. Lady to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) on 27th March.

Mrs. Castle

Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that British shipping will not be prevented from using the Suez Canal because of arguments over the payment of tolls? In trying to settle this question with Colonel Nasser, will he represent to his right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary that the payment of tolls provision, which we insist upon, should not violate the agreement which was reached on 2nd November with the representative in Egypt?

Mr. Watkinson

That has nothing to do with my Answer, which dealt with quite reasonable doubts that may still exist as to whether the Gulf of Suez is not still mined to some extent and whether the technical equipment of the Canal is yet complete.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Could my right hon. Friend say whether he has any fresh information, or when any further information will be forthcoming, as to the state of affairs regarding mines in the Gulf of Suez?

Mr. Watkinson

Mr. HammarskjÖld was asked to take up that matter with the Egyptians and we are awaiting his reply.

Mr. E. Fletcher

In view of the fact that other ships are passing through the Canal, does the Minister seriously think that there are any technical reasons, apart from the question of the payment of dues, which prevent British ships from using the Canal?

Mr. Watkinson

What I seriously think is that the Egyptian Government in November broadcast a warning that a certain area of the Gulf of Suez was mined. We are still waiting for them to withdraw that statement.

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