HC Deb 06 March 1957 vol 566 cc346-9
10. Mr. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what approaches he has made either to the United Nations or the Egyptian Government, with a view to normalising relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government and resolving the Suez Canal dispute; and to what extent he has been successful in his endeavours.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

As regards the resumption of normal relations, I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member on 7th February, except that the Egyptian Government have as yet made no reply. As for action in the United Nations to resolve the Suez Canal dispute, there is nothing to add to the reply given to my noble friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) on 20th February.

Mr. Lewis

May I take it from the Foreign Secretary's Answer that the British Government would be willing to normalise relations if we could get a settlement of all the outstanding difficulties now confronting us. Will he try to achieve a solution of these problems in an endeavour to get peace and understanding in the world, and particularly in the Middle East?

Mr. Lloyd

We certainly want a settlement of the problems in the area, and that settlement must include what the hon. Member calls a normalising of relations.

Captain Pilkington

Since Egypt originated the dispute, is not it about time that she took some action?

Mr. Lloyd

We cerainly hope that an initiative towards the settlement of the dispute will be taken by Egypt.

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the Foreign Secretary say when the United Nations will resume discussions with a view to the permanent settlement of the Suez Canal trouble, and what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to that end?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman that. It is not quite certain at the moment what the next steps to be taken will be. I think it is appropriate that there will be a resumed debate on the Middle East, either tomorrow or on the following day, after which it may be that the Secretary-General will make certain moves. I cannot add publicly to the information already given.

21. Captain Pilkington

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can yet say when the Suez Canal is to be reopened.

40. Mr. Fell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the clearance of the Suez Canal.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The latest information I have received from the United Nations is that apart from the vessels "Edgar Bonnet" and "Aboukir", on which the United Nations salvage team has not yet started work, the Canal has been cleared of all other wrecks which could impede the passage of normal traffic. This means that as soon as these two wrecks are removed, ships of at least 30 ft. draught could pass through the Canal. I cannot give a precise date when the Canal will be open again. When it is opened the lighting, telecommunications and workshop facilities will have been restored.

Captain Pilkington

Why has it taken two months longer for the United Nations to get the Canal open than it would have taken us? Is it because the United Nations cannot do the work any more quickly or because Colonel Nasser has ordered it not to do the work any more quickly?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly would not like it to be thought that there is any reflection upon the technical skill of the United Nations team. I think it has done its very best, but certain limitations and delays have been imposed upon it.

Mr. Fell

Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is a ridiculous position that the Egyptian Government are deliberately holding up the clearance of the Canal? Will he please ask Mr. Dulles to explain why America seems quite prepared to adopt direct economic action against Israel but that when the question is one of stopping Egypt from dragging its feet over the clearance of the Canal, Mr. Dulles adopts the unctuous rôle of Pontius Pilate and palms the whole thing off on the United Nations.

Mr. Lloyd

It is not appropriate to comment in those terms upon the representative of a friendly State. I must say that. I would ask my hon. Friend, and all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen at this moment to exercise some restraint in this matter. It looks as if there is a certain easement in the situation. We very much want some agreement which will be in the interests of all the parties.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the pressure that has been brought to bear upon the State of Israel to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations and in view of its agreement to do so, what is going to be done about the attitude of the Egyptian Government? Is no pressure to be brought to bear upon that Government to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations? Are we to have one United Nations law for the State of Israel and quite another for Egypt?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly do not accept that position. It would be wrong for the United Nations or for any country to accept the position that there should be different standards. We have sought in this matter to get an international set-up for the Gaza Strip, and to get the right of innocent passage through the Straits of Tiran recognised, and also that there should be no discrimination against ships going through the Suez Canal. We shall do everything possible to see that those objectives are attained.

Captain Waterhouse

is it not a fact that for three, four or five years we have constantly been asked to restrain ourselves in respect of adverse comments upon Egypt? Is it not high time that this House, the United States and the United Nations made it clear to the world that the Egyptian attitude in the Middle East is utterly disastrous to progress and to peace?

Mr. Lloyd

There is a time for adverse comment, and I have not abstained from adverse comment upon one Government or another from time to time. At this particular time I do not think that it is appropriate for us to go too far into this matter.

Mr. Bevan

Would it not be the wisest and most dignified posture for this House to adopt to assume that the Egyptian Government will now accept the authority of the United Nations and allow clearance of the Suez Canal without further hindrance, and not to make any assumption that Egypt will hold out any more against what she should do?

Mr. Lloyd

I believe that the Egyptian Government have already stated—I do not see why they should not keep their word on this matter—that there will be no discrimination against British or French shipping. That is the position at the moment. So far as Israeli shipping is concerned, the Egyptian Government have said that they would accept the six principles unanimously passed by the Security Council in October. That means that the Canal should be kept open to the shipping of the whole world. That is the present position, and that is how we should leave it.

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