§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I have not changed the views which I have repeatedly expressed to this House about the events of October and November of last year, but I do not propose to cover that ground again today. I propose to concentrate in what I have to say on the present position and on the future. I think that we all have to remember that this debate is taking place at a particularly critical time because, on almost every point, crucial negotiations are taking place now.
However, I will begin with one topic where some negotiations have just 1318 reached a conclusion, and that is the question of Jordan. As the House knows, an Agreement has been signed with the Jordan Government terminating the Anglo-Jordan Treaty of 1948. The terms of the Agreement are that the British forces shall withdraw from Jordan within six months, and will remove or dispose of military stores in Jordan within that period. The Jordan Government will take over our military installations in Jordan and certain quantities of equipment, stores and ammunition which we have agreed to sell to them.
In respect of this, and in full and final settlement of all the claims between us based on the provisions of the 1948 Treaty, the Jordan Government will pay £4¼ million. Three million pounds of that sum will be paid in six equal annual instalments, the first to be payable on 1st May, 1958. Of the remaining £1¼ million, about £650.000 will be paid in cash on 1st May of this year, and the balance of about £600,000 will be set off against part of the subsidy payment for February —a payment which, in fact, was not made. It has been agreed that there shall be no subsidy payment for March. The balance of the February subsidy payment, amounting to about £240,000, will be set aside in a special fund to be held in this country for the settlement of outstanding Jordanian liabilities, including claims by seconded and contract officers whose services with the Jordan armed forces were terminated.
There is, in addition, a subsidiary agreement relating to the sale of a certain quantity of ammunition. It is a matter upon which agreement was reached too late for it to be included in the main Agreement. It relates to the payment of a sum of £350,000 for certain ammunition over a period of seven years. We are removing from Jordan substantial quantities of equipment, stores and ammunition which we need for our own purposes, and that movement has already started on a considerable scale.
The subject matter of this Agreement concerns what has been left behind, and in deciding how much shall be paid by the Jordan Government we have had regard to the condition of the equipment left, our need for it, the cost of moving it, and the extent to which it is realisable. For example, the prospects of realising in 1319 the open market a runway on an airfield are not very large. Obviously, that has to be disposed of to the Government of the country in which it is situated. Taking the Agreement as a whole, although we have tried to treat Jordan with generosity, we have been mindful of the interests of the taxpayer, and we have also, of course, had to have some regard to Jordan's capacity to pay.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but will he elucidate one point? Are we leaving any of our aircraft in Jordan, aircraft that were in the possession of the R.A.F. there?
§ Mr. Lloyd
No. I will lay a White Paper which will contain the details of this Agreement which are, I admit, somewhat complicated, but, to express an opinion generally, the Agreement marks the end of a chapter in Anglo-Jordanian relations. Over the years our relations with this State, for whose creation we have so large a responsibility, have, naturally, undergone changes. We were deeply affected by the summary treatment meted out to General Glubb, a devoted servant of Jordan, and we have greatly admired the way in which he has not allowed any words of recrimination or bitterness to pass his lips since his dismissal. Harsh things have been said about us by many Jordanians. Nevertheless, we wish to terminate this Treaty in a spirit of good will. Of late, it has not been of strategic value to us, but has involved us in onerous and extensive commitments. Therefore, we are glad to terminate it by mutual consent.
The negotiations have been carried through in a spirit of friendliness. I think that the result is a fair one and quite satisfactory. In the past, our alliance has been the main buttress of the independence of Jordan. The Jordanians, however, have frequently expressed their desire to stand upon their own feet. Well, they will now have the opportunity, and we hope that without us they will succeed in becoming a viable State and in maintaining their independence. After thirty-five years' association, and particularly remembering the friendship of a great man, King Abdullah, I am sure that all quarters 1320 of the House would wish to King Hussein and to his country good fortune, and to express the hope that our friendly relations will be re-created.
That is one of the matters where, as I have said, some negotiations have come to a termination. Now I come to the question of the Gaza strip. The facts about the Gaza strip seem to me to be these. No country has legal sovereignty. By the Armistice Agreement of 1949 the Gaza strip was not demilitarised. Egypt was left in military occupation. Since then, until October, 1956, Egypt exercised de facto authority, but the provisions of the Armistice Agreement were, of course, dictated solely by military considerations, and other matters were excluded from its scope. During the recent hostilities, Israel captured the area.
The other relevant fact is that from the Gaza strip there have taken place over a period of years what would appear to have been organised fedayeen raids across the border into Israel. The view of Her Majesty's Government is, as we have frequently said, that we thought Israel should withdraw from the Gaza strip, but we hoped that there would emerge a constructive solution. And the solution which we have favoured has been the placing of the strip, both from the military and civil point of view, under some form of international control.
I told the House on 3rd December that we believed that the strip should be made a United Nations responsibility. That would not involve a loss of prestige for either side; in fact, it would relieve them both of considerable burdens. It seems right also to us that the United Nations, in view of the failure to solve the Arab-Israel problem over the years, should assume a more direct responsibility. We thought that this solution would be a constructive experiment. I believe that it would materially improve the prospects of the refugees. As I say, it would bring the United Nations into the area in a positive role. That has been our view, and that is still the view of Her Majesty's Government.
I am afraid that the position of the United Nations in this matter cannot be stated in such simple terms. Anyone who has tried to study the various reports and resolutions will agree with me on that point. In fact, I might also almost say 1321 that the first prize seems to be for ambiguity in these matters. However, Israel, by her withdrawal has fully complied with the first resolution of the General Assembly on 2nd February. Right hon. and hon. Members will remember that on that date there was also a second resolution. In our view, those two resolutions were inter-related, and we certainly would not have voted for the first unless we thought that the second would be passed, although we were not even satisfied with the precision of the second resolution; but it was better than nothing.
According to the second resolution, the General Assembly stated that, after the full withdrawal of Israel, the scrupulous maintenance of the armistice arrangement required the placing of U.N.E.F., the Emergency Force, on the armistice line and the implementation of other measures as proposed in the Secretary-General's report of 24th January. It is true to say that in that report the Secretary-General stated that any assumption by the United Nations of civil responsibility for the area beyond that which was already exercised would require the agreement of Egypt.
On 22nd February, the Secretary-General made a further statement to the General Assembly. He said that the takeover of Gaza from the military and civil control of Israel would be exclusively by U.N.E.F. in the first instance, and then—this a very important statement—he said that the Government of Egypt had expressed their willingness to make helpful arrangements with the United Nations.
After speaking of the deployment of the force and the assistance of the United Nations and its appropriate auxiliary bodies towards putting a definite end to the raids and incursions, the Secretary-General went on to say:Furthermore, with reference to the period of transition, such other arrangements with the United Nations may be made as will contribute towards safeguarding life and property in the area by providing efficient and effective police protection as will guarantee good civilian administration, as will ensure maximum assistance to the United Nations refugee programme, and as will protect and foster the economic development of the territory and its people.In other words, there is clearly contemplated a transition period during which the Government of Egypt have expressed their willingness to make helpful arrangements with the United Nations.
1322 In his report to the General Assembly on 8th March, the Secretary-General quoted a declaration by the Commander of the United Nations Emergency Force that it had resumed responsibility for civil affairs in the Gaza Strip. The report went on to suggest that the choice of other measures to implement the task given to him in the second resolution of 2nd February had, in his view, been left to him.
The situation is still obscure. There are statements coming out at almost every hour from one side or the other as to what the position is. We can but hope that the United Nations will succeed in working out with both the Egyptian and the Israel Governments a pattern of administration in the area which will cover the transition period, and, we hope, last until there has been a permanent settlement.
But the latest news is disturbing. It appears that agitators in the Gaza strip have been inciting the local population, which otherwise welcomed the Emergency Force, to demonstrate in favour of Egypt. On 10th March, a crowd of demonstrators tried to force their way into the United Nations headquarters in Gaza. They had to be dispersed. Dr. Bunche, of the Secretariat, who was out there, first of all stated that there were no casualties, but subsequently it has transpired that one man was killed.
Nevertheless, it appeared at one time that the Egyptian Government, apparently without consulting the United Nations. had declared their intention of taking over the Gaza civil administration forthwith. They have appointed a general as the Egyptian administrative director, and complained to the Secretary-General that the United Nations Emergency Force was exceeding its functions.
These actions would seem to have been inconsistent with the assurances given earlier to the Secretary-General on which he based his statement of 22nd February to the Assembly. I believe that the latest information, which has just reached me, has not made it quite so clear that it is the intention of the Egyptian Government immediately to take over the administration.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question on that?
1323 He says that the situation is not clear. Has he any comment to make on the report that Dr. Bunche observed that he was perfectly willing to collaborate in the take-over of the civil administration by Egypt? That is what I think alarms many of us in the House. I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has an observation to make. I should have thought it was only too ominously clear what that might mean.
§ Mr. Lloyd
On that point, my latest information is that Dr. Bunche has denied categorically that he ever made any such statement. However, the Secretary-General is considering the matter now with his advisory committee and I understand that he is to go to the Middle East this week-end. I think we can wish him well, because I still believe that the international solution would be in the interests of both parties, and certainly as much in the interests of the Arab States as of Israel.
Although the Israel Prime Minister has stated that Israel has no territorial ambitions, the Arabs remain fearful of Israeli attack and Israeli expansionism, and one way for them to have the position secure in a critical area would be for the United Nations to assume responsibility. Some people take a very pessimistic view of the situation. However, perhaps I might quote from a leading article in The Times, of 12th March:The United Nations—fumbling, divided, fearful of responsibility—left the gates to Gaza open, and Egypt has driven a horse and cart through…a great opportunity has been missed. For years Gaza was the hot-bed of disturbances…Its 200,000 refugees were already a United Nations' responsibility. If it could have been administered as a whole by the United Nations for some time ahead, there would have been far greater security against raids and counter-raids between Israel and Egypt.I think that the view expressed in that leading article will be widely shared, and I hope that that is a solution which, for some time ahead, at all events, will be achieved. So much for Gaza.
Now for the Gulf of Aqaba. There is no doubt in my mind that the prevention of free passage through the Straits of Tiran has been a major cause of friction between Egypt and Israel. Again, in this matter we have made our views clear from time to time. We believe that this is an international waterway. The fact 1324 that the entrance passes through the territorial waters of two neighbouring countries does not mean, in our view, that there is no right of free and innocent passage. And other maritime countries have indicated a similar approach.
For example, in a declaration by the United States Government on 11th February it was stated:…the Gulf comprehends international waters, and that no nation has the right to prevent free and innocent passage in the Gulf and through the Straits giving access thereto.In that statement by the United States Government, reference was made to a communication made by the Egyptian Government on 28th January, 1950. At that time, the Egyptians, after occupying the two islands of Tiran and Senafir at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, said:This occupation being in no way conceived in the spirit of obstructing in any way innocent passage through the stretch of water separating these two islands from the Egyptian coast of Sinai, it follows that this passage, the only practical one, will remain free as in the past in conformity with international practice and recognised principles of the law of nations.The United States Government statement went on to say that the United States was prepared to exercise the right of free and innocent passage and to join with others to secure general recognition of this right. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of State made a similar statement to the General Assembly on 4th March, saying that Her Majesty's Government will assert this right on behalf of British shipping and that they are prepared to join with others to secure general recognition of this right. That is where we stand. I hope that there will not be difficulty about that matter.
Now I come to the Suez Canal. So far as——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that point, may I ask whether his statement means that if there is obstruction we shall send a warship through?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think it would be most unwise for me to enter into any public discussion of the measures which might have to be taken. But certainly, we shall stand by that declaration and we shall 1325 consult with our allies about the means of giving effect to it.
So far as the Suez Canal is concerned, it would appear that work is beginning on the last wreck obstructing the channel. General Wheeler has said that it will be open to traffic by 10th April. Nothing has happened during these clearing operations which causes me to change my view, or the estimate which I gave in January, that had the Anglo-French salvage fleet been allowed to go on with the task straight away from 6th November onwards the Canal would have been cleared by the end of January.
The subsequent delay has been due, in part, to the slow start made by the United Nations Salvage Organisation. That was not altogether its fault, because it had to mobilise its resources and create an organisation. On the other hand, a considerable proportion of the delay has been due to deliberate tactics on the part of the Egyptian Government.
This has involved considerable hardship for the Arab States, like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the States of the Persian Gulf. It has adversely affected Moslem countries like Pakistan and Iran; and it has adversely affected India, apart from the effect on Western Europe. Egyptian action in delaying the press of clearance, for obvious political reasons, has given a great impulse to moves for alternative means for effecting the transit of oil. So far as a long-term settlement is concerned——
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South) rose—7—
§ Mr. Lloyd
If I may just finish with the Canal, I will then give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
I believe there is, nevertheless, a basis for a long-term settlement of the Canal problem. Egypt has already declared her intention to abide by the 1888 Convention. Egypt has accepted the six principles unanimously passed by the Security Council on 13th October: free and open transit without discrimination; the sovereignty of Egypt should be respected; the operation of the Canal should be insulated from the politics of any one country; tolls and charges should be fixed by agreement; a fair proportion of the dues should go to development; and unresolved disputes between the Canal Company and the Egyptian Government to go to arbitration. If the 1326 Egyptian Government will accept all these principles, I believe that agreement can be achieved.
In the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and Dr. Fawzi, on 24th October and 2nd November, Egypt indicated her willingness to negotiate a final settlement. But I think that the fact must be faced by any Egyptian Government that the confidence of the users of the Canal was impaired by their action of 26th July, and has been further weakened by Egyptian interference, for political reasons, with the process of clearance. I think it is widely felt that the Government of Egypt intend to use their physical control of the Canal to exercise political pressure on the States with which they have differences.
That is a matter upon which, I think, in the interests of the Egyptian Government themselves, they have to make clear their position, because the prosperity of the Canal is an important element in the economy of Egypt. Benefit comes not only from the Canal tolls, but from the indirect revenue from the services supplied to ships, from tourists and the rest of it. If the Canal is to be developed, it can be done only by foreign capital. That development will directly benefit the Egyptian Government, and if Egypt will not enter into reasonable arrangements, her action will be self-defeating. All the other nations of the world will be driven the more quickly to provide alternatives—larger tankers, pipelines, and so on.
In the meantime, before that final settlement is reached—though I think it obvious that no final settlement can be reached before the Canal is opened—there has to be some sort of interim settlement. We have sought to obtain an interim agreement which would take effect immediately, and would safeguard the interests of the Canal users for the future. With that object certain proposals were conveyed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations last month, from the Governments of the United States, France, Norway and the United Kingdom, and Mr. Hammarskjold has communicated those proposals to Egypt. There have been reports, some contradictory, in the Press about Egypt's reception of these proposals and Mr. Hammarskjold, although he has asked more than once, has not yet received any official reply from Cairo.
1327 I am aware that British shipowners wish to have a clear indication of the view of Her Majesty's Government on this problem before they decide whether to send their ships through the Canal again. Our attitude will be determined in consultation with the other three Governments, and also the Governments of other user countries, and after taking into account the views of the Users' Association. But I think that in this matter the important thing is to try to establish, both in the interim period and for the final settlement, some arrangement which will command the confidence of the users, as well as have due respect for the legitimate interests of Egypt. Now I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
The Foreign Secretary has repeated what he has said before, that the major part of the blame for the delay in opening the Canal is due to the United Nations—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Was it not——
§ Mr. Lloyd indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The work of the United Nations did not begin until the end of December. Was not that due to the fact that the United Nations Resolution has always made plain that clearance of the Canal could not begin until the British and French troops had been brought away? Did not the Foreign Secretary vote for a Resolution which said that on 24th November? Was not the delay, therefore, mainly due to the fact that we took seven weeks to bring our troops away?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I said specifically at the beginning of my speech that I did not want to go into controversies. May I repeat what I said? I said that the subsequent delay was due in part to the slow start made by the United Nations Salvage Organisation, which was not altogether the fault of the organisation, because it had to mobilise resources and create an organisation. But to say that I was suggesting that the major part of the delay was due to the United Nations is not correct.
I will pass on, if I may, to the wider issues beyond the specific matters of Gaza, the Straits of Aqaba and the Canal. I think that the events of October, and November have given a new opportunity 1328 for the settlement of some of the more permanent problems. Obviously, that will depend on how matters work out over these specific issues with which I have been dealing, but we think that the basis for a settlement between the Arab States and Israel is along the following lines.
First, there must be guarantees to the Arab States against Israeli territorial expansion. That is a very real fear in the minds of many Arabs. Secondly, there must be guarantees to Israel against extermination. The United Nations accepted the creation of the State of Israel, and it cannot, it seems to me, permit its destruction. Thirdly, there must be compromise settlements on the following matters: refugees, frontiers and water. Fourthly, and meanwhile, preservation of peace on the frontiers is essential. Many people seem to think that all was peaceful and quiet in October last. Nothing is further from the facts.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), writing in the News of the World on 24th February, stated:The relations between Israel and Egypt before the Anglo-French attack were loaded with menace. Raids and counter-raids on peaceful civilians had become almost daily events. It was clear to anyone who took the trouble to study the situation that war was bound to break out if nothing was done to separate the combatants.I have already told the House on a previous occasion how, between 10th September and 10th October last year, 160 men, women and children were killed on the frontier of Israel and Jordan alone. I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that, above all, we have to prevent such a situation developing again.
Ground for hope lies in the constitution of the United Nations Emergency Force. If we are to prevent that serious situation from being re-created it is important that the United Nations Force should stay there. Therefore, it is in the interests of both sides that there should be some give and take with regard to the stationing and functions of the Emergency Force.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has had notice of the fact that I might ask him this question. On 7th March he took part in a broadcast in which he appears to have revived the fears which were aroused by a speech made by 1329 Sir Anthony Eden, in 1955. Sir Anthony Eden then said:Well, as you know, one side says that it must be the 1947 line and the other says that it must be the 1948 line.In his Guildhall speech, Sir Anthony Eden stated that his belief was that we had to have some form of compromise.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think—and I believe that anyone who has seen them would think—that the present frontiers between Israel and the Arab States are nonsense. Anyone who has made the journey from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem must realise that there cannot be permanent peace with the present demarcation line.
I have been very careful not to specify the nature of the compromise—how much should be given or taken by either side—but that there must be a compromise, and that those frontiers must be redrawn. I am certain.
§ Mr. Bevan
There has never been any doubt about this at all. Neither Israel nor anyone else who has made any comment upon the matter, so far as I know, has ever denied that there must be a mutually agreed rectification of the frontier lines. But it has been stated with the utmost firmness by Israel that she cannot agree to the surrender of any substantial parts of her territory. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman revive fears that that might be the Government's view?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not believe that it is possible to arrive at a permanent settlement except by agreement, and it seems to me that that ought to cover the position of both sides. I am not talking of an imposed settlement in any sense, but it is in the interests of both sides that there should be some give and take over this matter, because these frontiers have to be rectified. It is in the interests of one side to give in one place, and the other to give in another place.
§ Mr. Bevan
I do not want to return to this matter in my speech; I would rather have it cleared up now. [Interruption.] I am quite prepared to do so, however, if hon. Members want me to. I want to have it clear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, in his reference to the speech of Sir Anthony Eden, he is not desiring to arouse today the fears that that speech aroused then.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman look again at the phraseology he used when he said that there ought to be guarantees? The first point he made was that the Arabs were entitled to be guaranteed against any territorial ambitions by Israel—and I make no comment upon that.
But his second point was that Israel was entitled to be guaranteed against extermination. Is that really all? Is it not to be guaranteed in its territorial integrity, subject to frontier rectification? Is it not to be guaranteed recognition as a State upon the same basis—[Interruption.] It is extremely difficult to make myself heard. It takes very much longer when there is this childish background of catcalls going on.
Is Israel not to be guaranteed, further, that there shall be no continuance of the economic blockade, which is bound to lead to further unrest, and the interference with the passage, across neighbouring territories, of people who happen to be Jews?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House is getting a little impatient with the length of the intervention. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are not."] Hon. Members on one side of the House may not be, but I am concerned with both sides. If the hon. Member can put his point shortly I am sure that the House will listen.
§ Mr. Silverman
If you think that I am taking too long in putting what I consider to be an extremely important point, Mr. Speaker, I can only say in self-defence that it may sound a great deal longer if you add to the number of minutes I have taken the number of minutes taken up by interruptions. I certainly have no desire to debate the matter at this moment but, if I may say so with the greatest respect, my intervention would have been over in half the time that it took me to make it if I had received the same protection as that which is being given to those who have interrupted.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I said that the Arab States should be guaranteed against Israeli expansion, and I then used a phrase which has been in the mouths of certain Arabs, about the extermination of the State of Israel. I said that, the State of Israel having been created, we could not permit its destruction. When a frontier settlement has been made any guarantee must include guarantees of the frontiers for both sides. That point should be made clear. I believe that all the other matters referred to by the hon. Gentleman are necessary ingredients of a final settlement.
I now come to an exercise in politics, namely, the Soviet Note about the Middle East. In our view, that Note was a propaganda exercise. It was published almost immediately after its delivery, and it contained attacks upon Western policy which were obviously designed for popular consumption. Any idea that the Note was a serious diplomatic initiative is, in our view, quite misconceived. Had the Soviet Union meant business they would have approached us in different terms and by different methods. The Soviet Note contained the enunciation of certain principles, admirable in themselves but which the Soviet Union have not been observing.
The suggestion was made of a ban on arms to all countries in the Middle East by the four great Powers. That would have left it open to the Soviet Union to continue its present practice of supplying huge quantities of arms through the satellites. On the question of the supply of arms to the Middle East, all that the Soviet Union has to do to reduce tension in the area is to exercise the same restraint over the supply of arms as we have done 1332 over a period of years. The Note took no account of the rights of Middle Eastern States. Whether they approved of the ban on arms, the liquidation of bases or the dissolution of alliances was, apparently, a matter of indifference to the Soviet Union.
In our reply we stated the facts, having regard to the views of our allies in the Bagdad Pact. This reply is not a rejection of the principles contained in the Soviet Note. As we say in the last paragraph of our reply, if the Soviet Union will conduct itself in a manner conforming to the general aims set out in its Note, that will be a major contribution to peace.
Co-operation, however, between us must be based upon confidence and good faith. We have not great confidence in the professions of the Soviet Union in that area. Therefore, in those circumstances, I think that we are right not to get entangled in their propaganda exercises. There are many difficulties ahead. Obviously——
§ Mr. Lloyd
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will listen for a moment. I was saying that, obviously, there are many difficulties ahead. There is plenty of room for anxiety at present. There are the bitter resentment of the Arab States against Israel, the great inequalities of wealth in the area, the emotional nationalism of the Arab world, the extent of Communist penetration, and the fact that it is impossible for any Government to accept huge quantities of Soviet arms without becoming tied to Soviet policy. Those are the difficulties.
On the other hand, there are certain hopeful features. There may be some controversy about this, but I think that events have diminished the underlying desire for hostilities and the belief that they are inevitable. I think that over the years there has been, in certain quarters, an underlying desire to bring the matter to the issue of arms. I think that events have removed that desire and that it no longer exists. The belief that war is inevitable is no longer there.
Secondly, the United Nations has been put in the position that all its members must realise that its prestige will be 1333 vitally affected if it does not procure at all events an easement in the situation. I do not think that all members of the United Nations want its prestige fatally to suffer. I believe that there are certain people who, over an issue like Hungary, for example, did not care whether the prestige of the United Nations suffered or not, but the majority of members of the United Nations do not wish it to fail in this issue. That is a hopeful feature.
Thirdly, there is more chance than before for the alignment of Western policies, both short-term and long-term. I think that the United States is now more conscious of the difficulties in the area; that fact has been demonstrated by the Eisenhower doctrine, which we welcome. Greater thought is being given to the overall economic problems of the area and there is no doubt that the cooperation of Iran. Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey within the framework of the Bagdad Pact has been a substantial stabilising factor in the area. That is also one of the hopeful features.
I fully acknowledge that those hopes may well be frustrated if one or all of these immediate problems cannot be faced and overcome. The test of this is whether those who brought such pressure to bear upon us, upon France and upon Israel, will face the facts of the situation and undertake a proper share of responsibility for securing a solution. We certainly shall try to play our part. It is wrong for anyone to underestimate the extent to which we can help.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
While the issue is still fresh in our minds I should like to revert—I am sorry to have to do so—to the interrogation that just took place about the statement made by the Foreign Secretary in the course of a B.B.C. interrogation. I find his statement today still unsatisfactory. We would like to have it cleared up.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that the issue that was raised by Sir Anthony Eden was that he thought there should be a compromise between the 1947 line and the 1948 line. That means that Israel will be expected to surrender territory. That is the clear meaning of it. For instance, he said:Thirdly, there has got to be a compromise on the permanent frontiers between the Arab States and Israel.1334 Was all he meant by that what we have always agreed, that there should be a rectification of the absurdities of the frontier line as it existed when the armies stopped? There are houses on one part of the line and gardens belonging to the houses on the other part. All of us who have walked along those frontiers know how absurd they are. Israel has always made it clear that she desired rectification of the line, which means a compromise by going back here and going forward there merely to make a sensible line. We say now that there can be no compromise on the frontiers of Israel as between the 1947 and 1948 lines. That is quite clear. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman stand there? Let us have an answer.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
The answer is what I said in my speech. I have answered the question of the right hon. Gentleman about four times. If he will study HANSARD he will see that the answer is quite clear. There is nothing sinister about this, and those who suggest it do their country a very ill service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Once again, what we want is a settlement between the two sides. I still take the view that there must be a compromise on frontiers if there is to be that settlement. I have never been so foolish as to say how much territory one side or the other would have to give up.
§ Mr. Bevan
Government supporters ought not to cheer a Minister whenever he suggests that what has been said on this side is deleterious to the welfare of the country when, of course, the Suez maniacs were the patriots. [Interruption.] If Government supporters want to have this debate conducted in the best interests of the nation they should be a little hit more restrained in their conduct. It does not come well from guilty people to misbehave in the dock.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has left the matter still obscure. I am only anxious to make it clear. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's language is clear. He returned to it on two occasions. He revived it deliberately—unless what he said was off-the-cuff, in which case we are prepared for him to say that the language was not particularly felicitous. If it was deliberate, then he has revived the same fear today as 1335 Sir Anthony Eden did in the speech before, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman should take an early opportunity of putting it right. If he does not, what does he once more do? This is why we are anxious about it. He arouses Arab expectations and stimulates Israeli fears. He once more helps to create the impression, wittingly or unwittingly, that the Arabs can still gain substantially at the expense of existing Israeli territory. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Really, hon. Members are not doing themselves justice.
If all that the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant by what he said is that he thinks that there should be a rectification, mutually agreed, to remove the anomalies of the existing frontier, he only has to say that and it is all finished. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not said it, and hon. Members know very well that he has not said it. I hope that he will return to it and make the position rather clearer than his speech today, accompanied by his broadcast remarks, leaves it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman started his speech, I thought, by almost beginning to trail his coat. He said that he has not changed his views about the events of last year. I am not sure which of them he has not changed. He has so many of them at so many different times, and it is not quite clear to us on this side where he stands. Of course, the Government may stand where they did, but the territory on which they are taking their stand is dwindling day by day, as the by-election results have shown.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman comes to the House of Commons today and says to us that, as far as major policy is concerned, the Government are unrepentant. They stand exactly where they were last year. I hope that we shall not discuss that any more today, because the country is discussing it and the verdict is being given as the days pass. It would be a very great mistake if hon. Members imagine that the country will forget; it will not. On the contrary, the full significance of what was done is now being learned by the country.
In my view, it would not be a good thing or in the interests of this nation or the peace of the world for any Minister or other Member of Parliament to 1336 spend what time he has in this House merely making derogatory remarks about the United Nations or just sneering at the United Nations because it was not more precise. The fact, as has been said so often, is now becoming clear. The United Nations is what the member States make it, and we were not particularly helpful. The United Nations was faced with a very difficult and delicate situation, which it tried to resolve. It could not accept the situation that Israel should benefit by an act of aggression. Though we may have understood why Israel did what she did, nevertheless it was perfectly sound United Nations doctrine that a nation should not have any advantage from an act of aggression.
At the same time, it was also quite clear that it would be quite intolerable if the situation in that area merely relapsed to the state it was in before the act of aggression. This was a difficult situation, and we had an exchange of views between the two sides in the House of Commons, and I thought that we had reached agreement; that is to say, we believe that the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip should be accompanied by the establishment of conditions there which would not give rise to the circumstances existing before the attack. In other words, the two operations should take place simultaneously, and both sides would save their faces. Neither side would be asked to make concessions to the other.
This had to be done by means of a device which, of its very nature, lends itself to ambiguity and obscurity, because the United Nations could not lay down in its Resolution the precise circumstances that would be imposed upon the previous belligerents without appearing at least to accept the view that Israel was laying down conditions for withdrawal, and, therefore, they proceeded by what I must admit was a highly dangerous device—that certain assumptions could be accepted and that Israel could have faith in certain expectations. We may say that that is not a very good method at all, but, at the time, it seemed to be one of the most agreeable and the only one upon which a resolution could be accepted.
Therefore, what we have to do today, in my view, if we want to be helpful, is not to deride the ambiguity of the expectations but to underline their 1337 authority, because it must be accepted that Israel physically acted on the basis of those assumptions. She withdrew, and, therefore, by that very act, attached as much tangibility to the promise made as could possibly have been made in the circumstances. On both sides of the House, I think that we expect that the United Nations will see to it that Israel's act of courageous faith will not go unrequited.
It would be an appalling event, in my view. It would strike a blow at the confidence of statesmen all over the world if Mr. Ben-Gurion, who took his political life in his hands in persuading his countrymen to retreat on these conditions, now finds himself faced with what could only be described as an act of faithlessness on the part of those who persuaded him to do what he did.
It is also essential for us to point out to Egypt that the whole world has the right to expect from Egypt obedience to these expectations, because, after all, she was the beneficiary of the United Nations intervention. The troops were removed from her soil—French, British and Israeli troops—at the request of the United Nations, and, therefore, if there is one nation in the world which should be grateful now to the United Nations it is Egypt.
It would, therefore, seem to us to be reasonable that, of all the nations, Egypt should be permitted to co-operate to the utmost in maintaining the position in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Mr. Hammarskjöld himself informed the United Nations in the report subsequently adopted as a resolution that he had received assurances from Egypt to that effect. So we are not merely faced now with a certain private arrangement, but faced also with the statement by the Secretary-General, and embodied in the resolution, that Egypt has promised to co-operate with the United Nations in preventing a recurrence of hostile acts. Quite frankly, it seems to us, if I may use a figure of speech which is not very elegant, that the ball is in Egypt's court. We now have to wait to see what she will do, and I have said earlier that the best thing is for us to expect her to behave herself.
About the Gulf of Aqaba, the position appears to be much clearer. It will, indeed, be unforgivable if, after all this, shipping is interfered with in the Gulf.
1338 I should have thought that the right thing to do was not to send a warship. I should have thought the right thing to do was to take immediate advantage of any civil commerce that could be conducted in the Gulf to send civilian ships there as quickly as possible, to assert the right of maritime nations to innocent passage in the Gulf and to do it at once—not to wait for an aggressive act like sending a warship out, but to act on the assumption that the United Nations has laid down, which has been underwritten by us and by the United States, and to which, I should have thought, a nation could not take any exception at all.
I should have thought that the right thing to do was for the Israeli Government to be able to obtain, at once, the full resumption of normal commercial undertakings that existed before the act of belligerency. In other words, she should be able to enjoy such commercial credits as are necessary for the exchange of goods and any other economic assistance that we were prepared to give before. In other words, it seems to us that what we should do, in every way we possibly can, is to try to prevent the re-creation of the circumstances as they existed before the outbreak of violence.
Now, about the Suez Canal. Of course, it may be quite impossible for Egypt to say that she is going to do now what she did not do before. It may be that if President Nasser were asked to agree to Israeli shipping using the Gulf or to Israeli shipping going through the Canal, he would be asked to admit defeat. That would be difficult for him to explain to his friends in the Arab world, because then they would want to know from him what he had gained by his original act of seizure. But what we do expect is that Egypt shall behave as though she accepts the fact that innocent passage through the Canal is an international concern to which she herself should be obedient.
We have stated our views on this side of the House over and over again. It does not seem to us, whatever the law might be, that there is any reason why the law should not be brought into accord with international realities. The overriding international reality is that nations should be permitted rights of innocent passage through the Canal, Israel as well as every other nation in the world. It also is our view that if Israel tries to send ships 1339 through the Canal, and they are stopped, Egypt will be using the Canal for political purposes.
This is a matter in which, in our view, the good faith of the United Nations is involved, because it does not seem to us that Egypt can defend such a position. She cannot, on the one hand, call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from her territory and, at the same time, behave as though she is in a state of war with Israel. She must accept one position or another. The two positions together are untenable. Whatever may be the political reasons why Egypt cannot say that in so many terms, there is every reason why she should behave as if it is so, and, therefore, we are expecting that the Canal shall be free for passage.
Once having said that, however, we cannot express equal concern about the ownership of the Canal.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I agree with every word that the right hon. Gentleman has said so far about the Canal. He has spoken of what we expect from Egypt. If Egypt does not fulfil those expectations, however, what would the right hon. Gentleman do then? That is the interesting point.
§ Mr. Bevan
There is nothing more foolish in public life than to imagine all the various alternatives that may happen and then try to find an answer to each one of them. We cannot go into negotiations with anybody with a shillelagh in one hand and an olive branch in the other. They cancel each other out. The best thing we can do is to behave as though the other fellow will be as decent as we hope we will be.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is a matter of vital importance. It is the whole crux of the problem. Would my right hon. Friend not agree that if Colonel Nasser does not respond to what he describes as the correct international relationships—my right hon. Friend has stated the position very well, and I agree with every word of it—surely, then, the responsibility rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Bevan
I thought that I had said that. I thought that I had made it quite clear. [An HON. MEMBER: "The right 1340 hon. Gentleman dodged it."] No. If hon. Members would do me the honour of reading what I have said, I said precisely that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I did not do it, I will say it now. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to see that freedom of innocent passage through the Canal is accorded to all nations, Israel included. I did not want to weary the House with repetition. That is the position as I understand it.
In reply to the intervention, I would say that if we are to consider what would happen in the event of this series of negotiations failing we shall live with calamity three times—one in anticipation, one in realisation and the other in recollection. It is far better now that we should imagine we will be sensible.
Now I come to another aspect of the matter. I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side were woefully disappointed by what could only be described as the barrenness of the last part of the Foreign Secretary's statement. I was rather alarmed by the note of what I thought almost complacency which crept into his speech. The right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the prospects of war had receded. I do not know what made them recede. That is precisely what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the prospects of peace were higher. I wish I could take that view. I wish I could take the view that because we are in the immediate aftermath of a piece of folly, similar folly will not be repeated. I cannot see that at all. It may be that for a while the clouds are dispersed, but they might easily gather, because all the elements that led to the previous outburst are still there. They have not been removed.
It may be that the authority of the United Nations, if we are faithful to our duty, will be asserted more self-confidently, but the major problems are still there. We on this side would like to see the whole problem tackled purposively over a long period of time when there is no immediate act of violence being committed in order to anticipate what might eventually occur.
What is our main interest in the Middle East? Our primary interest is not to secure the alliance of any Middle Eastern countries. It is to secure the uninterrupted flow of oil.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Surely there is something much more permanent than oil: that is, human beings and, indeed, races. Surely it is much more important to ally ourselves, if we can, with the nation that will be the strongest nation in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Bevan
I said that as a nation our primary interest in the Middle East is oil. We believe that oil can only be secured from the Middle East if the Middle East is at peace. We do not believe that the Middle East can ever be at peace if it is regarded as an area for plotting between the great Power blocs. We believe that oil can be secured and the peace of the Middle East preserved only if we try to adopt an entirely new policy, a policy entirely different from the one we have followed in the past.
Surely, what last year proved was that oil cannot be secured by an act of war. It can be lost by war, but not preserved by war. It is quite correct to say that some other nation, by an act of war, could stop us having the oil. All that that means is that we both do not get the oil. But what stands out overwhelmingly clearly, I should have thought, is that this particular commodity cannot be obtained, and we cannot ensure its passage to us, by any other than civic means, by commercial negotiation, by the pacification of the area and by preventing national quarrels in the area from being blown up. It is the only way in which it can be done.
The noble Lord endears himself to us by his idiosyncrasies and a certain capacity for being off the beam. Nobody would suggest that as a means of obtaining the oil our policy was particularly successful.
If it be the fact, therefore, that what we ought to be doing in the Middle East is to try to create conditions which will preserve and ensure the passage of oil, then we ought to consider why it is that we have not been so successful. I should have thought that the reason is that we have not recognised that Middle East nations will not permanently accept a subordinate position. Nationalism in the Middle East is so much a feature of the whole area that no nation there will accept the status of a second-class nation.
1342 The national independence of the Middle East and of the States in the Middle East is, therefore, a sine qua non for us getting the oil from them and for the peace of the area, but, at the same time, unfortunately, the Middle East nations are exceedingly poor and the standard of living is exceedingly low, and it is necessary that those nations should receive economic help from the outside world.
How can economic help be provided in the Middle East without subordinating the nation States of the Middle East to an inferior status? That is the problem. We did not face it. We have just heard today that the Treaty between us and Jordan has been wound up. We provided very large sums of money to Jordan, but the provision of large sums of money——
§ Mr. Bevan
—and military help, by Great Britain to Jordan, did not help us. Even if it had been accompanied, as it was now and again, by economic aid, it would not have helped us either, because the bilateral relationship between us and Jordan put Jordan in a subordinate position in which the functions of her national economy became a function of our annual Budget. That is not a situation which, if it is extended to other nations in the Middle East, will preserve the peace there.
We have these three conditions: nationalism, fervent, perfervid nationalism, irridescent nationalism, poverty; and yet, at the same time, the necessity for the outside world to give economic help. I believe that the problem has to be approached from that point of view. How can the potentialities of the Middle East be developed and the standard of living of the Middle East be provided with sufficient anonymity that the patronage of no particular nation is seen to be at work? I believe that those are the elements of the problem. I am not saying that they are easy to tackle, but I do not believe that any nation, however rich, will be able to preserve the peace in the Middle East merely by substituting her patronage for ours.
Although, obviously, any economic aid is better than none at all, nevertheless I should have thought that our interests are deeply engaged in seeing to 1343 it that such economic aid as can be provided reaches the Middle East without wounding their national pride.
I should have thought that there is only one way in which it can be done. We have done a very successful job within the limits of our resources under the Colombo Plan, and we have done a very successful job, in many instances, in Africa. I should have thought myself that the Government were not acting up to this magnitude of the problem when they summarily rejected the Soviet Note. What is the use of talking like that? For heaven's sake, what is the use of preaching homilies?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was most Pecksniffian. He told us that he told the Russians that we would judge them by their behaviour. Does that come well from him? The right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to consider that the other fellow can answer him back. While I will not say a single word of commendation—on the other hand, I would say every single word of condemnation—of the conduct of Russia in Hungary, I would also say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that as we visit other countries today we are made deeply aware of the extent to which the conduct of himself and his colleagues has reduced the status of Great Britain abroad. It is no use the right hon. and learned Gentleman and hon. Members opposite denying that.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself knows that to get the voice of Great Britain heard in the United States it has to be heard vicariously. We are no longer in the position where we were standing on our own feet, because the rejoinder comes straight from the mouth of the others before we have made our own speech. I myself should have thought that what we ought to have done was to have examined the Russian proposals for what they are worth.
Of course, they are accompanied by propaganda. So was our reply. In fact, it is becoming the habit now to make offers to other nations accompanied by all sorts of tendentious propaganda—and not only tendentious, either; often it becomes completely brutal and clear. I should have thought, therefore, that when the Russians said they were prepared to discuss with us the provision of economic 1344 aid to the area, we ought to have jumped at it. We ought to have asked them what they meant by it. It was not necessary for us, at this stage, to assume that the winding up of all the treaties in the Middle East and the abolition of all bases immediately is a condition of an agreement; because that is far too ambitious a project to be realised in one bite. Nevertheless, it might have been possible for us to have reached agreement with them over an agency for the canalising of economic aid in the Middle East without the aid being tainted with any imperialism behind it.
It should have been possible for us here to have taken the initiative and to have called for the creation of a United Nations agency, charged with the responsibility of formulating plans for the Middle East and also of making those plans concrete. Those of us who have been to the Middle East, and have given time to the study of the problem, know very well that there are many plans in advanced stages of preparation. All that is needed is political co-operation and the money behind them. And should we not have very much better propaganda in the Middle East if our broadcasts were, day by day, stating the advantages of those plans for the people of the Middle East rather than the claims of this or that bloc of nations for the fidelity of this or that nation in the Middle East?
We have not made a positive approach to the problem at all. We recognised it and ran away. We wait for another emergency, and then react to that. This accusation is as true of the United States as it is of ourselves. It has been made by commentators in the United States. It is not enough all the while to wait for trouble to happen and then to try to put out the fire. It is our duty in this House to think of forward plans to deal with this problem.
Let me conclude by saying this. We are not entitled to expect the people of the Middle East to see wealth flowing from their countries indefinitely and to ask them to accept a standard of life lower than that which we ourselves enjoy. How are we to answer the problem? We cannot do so merely by doling out grants here and there and asking for assurances that, for the money received, they will be faithful allies. The only way, I am convinced, is to accept the 1345 equality of the Middle East and of the countries of the Middle East; to accept their need for economic aid and to see that it reaches them without any of the taints of that imperialism against which they are now revolting.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) ranged very wide. I sometimes wonder whether all the problems on which he touched are, in fact, quite so simple as he made them out to be. I am quite certain that he himself is not quite so guillible as he made out this afternoon. He talked about the Soviet plan for bringing economic assistance to the Middle East. What sort of economic assistance does he think that the Soviet Union is likely to be able to bring? The Soviet Union is already trying to undertake the supply of industrial equipment both to China and India at the same time. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that it would also be in a position to provide, from its own industrial output, further equipment for the needs of the Middle East?
He used the phrase "through an international agency." I think he chose the phrase well, because what the Soviet Union in fact would do were it in a position, within the ambit of a United Nations agency, to provide any economic, or so-called economic assistance, to the Middle East, would be to use not the agency but agents who would infiltrate into the countries concerned; and in a very short time the Governments of several Middle East countries would have a very different political colour from what they have now.
Again, I did not really quite understand why he laboured so heavily the point about the frontier compromise. Having admitted that there must be a compromise on the frontiers between the Arab States and Israel, I do not myself quite understand the difference between frontier rectification and a compromise. It seems merely to be splitting hairs. In any case, the fact is that there are not any proper frontiers at all. If my recollection is correct, there are no frontiers in the strict sense but only an armistice line, which the Egyptians, for their part, have never accepted, because they have never accepted the armistice settlement.
1346 That is the basis of their claim that a state of war still exists between themselves and Israel.
The right hon.Gentleman spoke of driving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That drive itself makes nonsense of the existing so-called frontiers or the so-called demarcation line, and he admitted that the line will have to be altered so that individual holdings are not bisected by a so-called frontier. If he admits that, he must admit a rectification of the so-called frontier, which means a compromise. I do not know why he wanted to labour this point quite so much.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I remember the speech. I remember listening to it on the wireless and reading it later. I also listened recently to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in "Radio Link", and, from what the right hon. Gentleman himself said, I could not understand why he thought that either my right hon. and learned Friend the other day or Sir Anthony Eden three years ago had ever suggested anything other than a compromise on the demarcation line, which is a quite artificial one between Israel and her Arab neighbours.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
What we are really discussing this afternoon is whether or not the United Nations, under the leadership of the United States, is capable of solving the problems of the Suez Canal area. If the United Nations fails to ensure the free passage of ships of all nations through the Canal; if Gaza is again to become a base for further guerilla operations against Israel; if no progress is to be made over the question of refugees, and if we are to revert to what the right hon. Gentleman rightly called the status quo ante, then, whatever the merits and aspirations of the United Nations, I am afraid that we shall have to admit that it is not capable, as at present constituted, of dealing with the sort of international situation now persisting in the Suez Canal area.
§ Mr. Fell
When my hon. Friend says if the United Nations is riot capable of dealing with raids across the frontier, 1347 is he aware that already there have been at least six such raids across the frontier—in fact, I believe there have been far more—and that all of them have been through the United Nations lines?
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I was coming to that point. I was about to say that, to be quite frank about it, the omen that the United Nations is capable of settling these problems is not so good. I was about to refer to the raids that have already taken place through the U.N.E.F. lines up to now.
It must seem to many that the United Nations Emergency Force has really been nothing more than the tool of Egypt. It has done for the Egyptians what the Egyptian Army could not do, namely, to get the Israelis out of Egyptian territory. Colonel Nasser has dictated the pace at which the Canal is to be cleared, and has also said which ships of what nations are to be used in the salvage work. He claims that U.N.E.F. is in Egyptian territory only by kind invitation.
Here, I think, we come up against one of the rocks on which, hitherto, all attempts at action by the United Nations have foundered. It is this problem of national sovereignty. The United Nations is composed of a large number of nations which have not by reason of their membership of the United Nations in actual fact abrogated by one single degree their own national sovereignty, and nobody has been able to define at all clearly the precise legal basis for any United Nations action.
This is half the difficulty. The whole position of U.N.E.F., if Egypt likes to stand on the narrow letter of national law, absolutely bristles with difficulties. The Yugoslav Government are reported as saying that if the Egyptians are claiming that U.N.E.F. is exceeding the instructions given by the United Nations, they will withdraw their contingent.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
As the main burden of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that all these problems could be solved by U.N.O., it is only fair to 1348 point out some of the practical difficulties involved.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
When the right hon. Gentleman was asked what he would do in certain circumstances, he said "Do not let us worry about future difficulties until they arise."
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
What will happen if the Egyptians should try to prevent the passage of an Israeli ship up the Gulf of Aqaba? Of course, the situation is full of difficulties. The whole status of U.N.E.F. in Gaza bristles with difficulties because nobody knows to what extent sovereign rights are being infringed. But this is the organisation on which the United States is endeavouring to base its policy in the Canal area. I am not certain that the United States would base its policy exclusively on the United Nations in any other part of the world where it thought its vital interests were involved. I rather wonder.
Much as I like the Americans, if there were some trouble in Panama or in the Far East, in a part which was of vital interest to the United States, I doubt whether they would necessarily obey to the last letter everything that the United Nations General Assembly said. I am not so sure.
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about action through the United Nations, he must make sure that he knows exactly what he is proposing. Action in the Security Council is hamstrung by the veto. So far as the General Assembly is concerned, it works backwards and forwards on this mathematical formula of a two-thirds majority. As my right hon. Friend said in his broadcast the other evening, in order to get the two-thirds majority, nations vote on issues for which they have no responsibility whatever and not necessarily very much knowledge.
In any case, when there is a two-thirds majority decision in the General Assembly, if I understand the position correctly, it is not legally binding on anybody. There may be a moral obligation, but there is not a legal obligation. A two-thirds majority resolution in the General Assembly merely makes a recommendation. It is not binding on anybody.
1349 In order to get a two-thirds majority now, with the extra number of members of the United Nations there is a new kind of hidden veto. The Afro-Asian bloc, aligned against any given resolution with the Communist bloc, can prevent any other group of nations from getting a two-thirds majority. It is, in fact, a veto. When Nehru refused to vote for a resolution in favour of United Nations observers in Hungary, it was because he did not want any U.N.O. observers in Kashmir. One cannot call that sort of organisation a supra-national moral authority.
There is one point we ought to note about the Israeli withdrawal. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Israelis did not withdraw because they had an assurance from the United Nations. They withdrew because there was some kind of an unofficial assurance, or at least an assumption, given not from the United Nations but from the United States, that Gaza would not be allowed to be used again by the Egyptians as a base for further operations.
With regard to the British position, we certainly got an assurance from Mr. Hammarskjold, but it was an assurance given in writing by Mr. Hammarskjold to our representative at the United Nations, which appears to have been given to him verbally by Colonel Nasser. This is the position as I understand it.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in answer to a Question on 11th February, said:Following is the text of a statement given to Sir Pierson Dixon by Mr. Hammarskjold on 1st December.The answer went on to give the text, and explained thatEgypt has repeatedly reaffirmed its intention to implement freedom of passage as established in the 1888 Convention. There is, therefore, nothing that should cause us to believe that Egypt, after a withdrawal of the British and French forces, would interfere with British and French shipping through the Canal in violation of its undertakings under the convention."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 905.]That is because Egypt does not claim that we or France are at war with her. That is all right so far as it goes, but not long afterwards there was a report of a Press conference given by a Lebanese deputy named M. Bustani who is known to some of us in this House. I have not got the actual Press cutting with me, 1350 but I do not think I am misquoting him when I say that when he was asked whether Colonel Nasser would discriminate against British and French shipping in the Canal M. Bustani said, in effect, that so far as British ships were concerned it would be all right, but that he was not so sure about the French because they had aligned themselves with Israel at the United Nations.
What is quite clear is that, whatever may be the legal difficulties, the United Nations is under a great moral obligation first to make certain that there is freedom of passage through the Canal of ships of all nations and, secondly, that neither Gaza nor Sinai can be used as bases for further Fedayeen operations against Israel. That is the immediate short-term objective which the United Nations must discharge on moral grounds, and nothing less than that would suffice.
So far as the longer-term objectives are concerned, first of all the United Nations must make one more effort to solve this problem of the refugees. Their condition is morally as well as physically bad. Year after year we are spending far more on relief in order to keep them alive than we are spending on resettlement. It is time that the United Nations made one more attempt to deal with this problem. I am well aware of the difficulties. I know that in one sense it is a kind of "hen and the egg" argument.
On the one hand, it can be argued that until the problem of the refugees is solved, we shall not get any political settlement between the Arab States and Israel. On the other hand, it is frequently argued by the Arab States that if the refugee problem were settled prior to a political settlement they would be giving away their main bargaining point.
The fact remains that the Arab States have used these unfortunate refugees as a kind of political pawn in this long drawn-out game. We should not mind whether it is the hen or the egg. We should not insist that there should be a settlement of the refugee problem before any other settlement. It does not matter which way round it is done, but negotiations afresh should be embarked upon about the refugee problem in conjunction with other negotiations for a longer-term settlement.
1351 As regards the frontiers—I do not want to get involved in another argument with the right hon. Gentleman about this—I do not believe we can have a permanent settlement between Israel and her Arab neighbours when feeling on both sides of the frontiers is at boiling point. We must allow the temperature to drop a little, and the temperature cannot drop, nor can racial feelings become more reasonable, unless there is some international force between the two sides. That is why I am quite certain that the longer the U.N.E.F. can stay in Gaza and in Sinai to separate the two potential raiders, the better chance there will be for a long-term settlement of the frontier question.
Equally, there will be no settlement of these problems until the Israelis have a guarantee from the United Nations, in quite clear terms, against what Nasser has openly called a desire to obliterate Israel. They must have that. The Arab States are perfectly entitled to have a similar guarantee against further territorial expansion by Israel at the expense of the Arab States. There must also be some form of joint agreement about the use of the Jordan waters.
All these are difficult problems, but we have not much time to play with them. Feelings between Israelis and Arabs are running too high. I hope the United Nations can solve them. It must begin soon and must show that it is likely to be more successful than it has been hitherto. If it cannot solve them, we shall have to do some fresh thinking, and do it without delay.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I should have liked during this debate to have made some comment on the events leading up to the closure of the Suez Canal and the economic results of the disastrous Suez war, particularly since these matters have been of intense concern and interest to my constituents. However, as this is my first speech in the House I wish to make it as non-controversial as possible in a debate on the Middle East.
During the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), I detected agreement on all sides that the fundamental problem facing this country is the supply of oil. I should 1352 like to refer to some of the import figures for oil, confirming what my right hon. Friend has said. In 1935, imports into this country of crude oil and refined petroleum products totalled 10 million tons. In 1945, the total had reached 16 million tons. In 1955, over 36 million tons of oil and oil products were imported. Our need for oil and oil products is great and is increasing.
The same applies to Europe's need and Europe's consumption of oil. In 1948, and each year since, the annual increase in consumption of O.E.E.C. countries has been no less than 14 per cent. In 1955, the consumption of O.E.E.C. countries became 98 million tons. According to the O.E.E.C. Oil Committee's Report published last September, it is estimated that overall oil consumption for the O.E.E.C. countries will rise to 150 million tons in 1960, and the probable demand in 1975 will be 335 million tons.
Where are there sufficient reserves to satisfy this tremendously increased demand for oil? The answer lies in the Middle East. The Middle East is the only part of the world which can satisfy this demand. We have it on the authority of the last report to a Congressional Committee of the United States investigating the problem a report presented by a Mr. Pratt, that over three-quarters of the proved reserves of oil outside the Soviet bloc are in the Middle East. The question is whether we can rely on the present organisation of the oil industry to safeguard our interests and protect the interests of the producing countries.
The experience of the last few years shows that we cannot. Oil in the Middle East is dominated by a few giant international oil combines buying concessions from feudal regimes and, with the exception of our shareholding in the British Petroleum Company, there is no element of public control. The situation is such that, for instance, in Saudi Arabia one company has obtained the major concessions to the years 1999 and 2005, covering an area of 450,000 square miles with twice the proved reserves of the whole of the United States. It is not in the best interests of the oil industry or the future of the Middle East for one company to have such tremendous, irresponsible economic power.
If we examine the price policy of these oil cartels, we gain some idea of the 1353 danger to our economy and to free international trade. Production costs of Middle East oil are about one-third of those for North American oil, according to a Report published by the Economic Commission for Europe in March, 1955. But the price we as consumers pay for oil products is brought up to the Western hemisphere price, and there is no corresponding advantage to the producing countries. According to the Report of the Economic Commission for Europe to which I referred, the price charged on sales to European countries from the Middle East could be significantly lowered without adverse effects on the future development of crude oil production.
Another element which works against the interests of consumers in this country and in Western Europe generally is the stranglehold which the oil cartels have on transportation and on markets. Our only real chance to safeguard our interests is to work through the United Nations for an international oil convention which would supervise the operation of the oil companies and ban monopoly, ensure equal access to oil supplies and abolish price discrimination. Such a convention could ensure also that part of the profits from the exploitation of oil reserves is ploughed back in the development of the welfare of the people of the Middle East who live in conditions of absolute poverty.
I understand that the International Cooperative Alliance is seeking to place this question on the agenda of the 24th Session of the Economic and Social Council which opens in Geneva in July. It is to be hoped that the Alliance will succeed, for an international oil convention would be a real contribution towards securing our interests as consumers of oil, protecting the producing countries and alleviating tension, and would prove an important factor in the maintenance of peace in this vital area.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Captain Charles Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
It is a great privilege to be able to congratulate the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) on an admirable maiden speech. He started by reminding the House that he must not be controversial. I can tell him quite definitely that there have been many controversial speeches made by his immediate predecessor in this House. The hon. Member made his speech with great 1354 charm and had evidently taken great trouble to acquaint himself of the facts, he spoke with a confidence which many of us in this House do not feel and feel that we show we do not feel when we speak in this House. I hope that on many occasions later the hon. Member will take part in these debates, when I am quite sure he will not hesitate to enter heartily into the controversies which divide this House in a healthy way.
I do not want to detain the House too long, but there are certain points I want to make. One or two of them have not yet been touched on, although many of them are necessary reiterations of points which have been made, probably better, in other parts of the House. I am very much impressed and surprised at the equanimity with which the country has taken the fact that the Canal is not yet open and not even yet cleared. As my right hon. and learned Friend has said, we know it might have been cleared if we had gone at it full bat. If General Wheeler had taken all the available British aid he could have got, probably it would have been open by the end of January, and open to all classes of shipping early in February. We know now that it may well be Easter before ships begin to go through again.
One cannot help wondering how this has come about, whether General Wheeler was not quite so efficient as we hoped he was, whether he was under Nasser's thumb because he wanted to put himself under Nasser's thumb, or was directed that he had to obey Nasser on every point. Some time, I think, we ought to be told that, or our representative at the United Nations ought to inquire on that point, so that we can be quite clear and lay the blame where the blame is due, because I believe much blame is properly due in this regard.
Some four months ago Sir Anthony Eden, speaking with the authority of Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box, said very clearly to this House and to the world that' never would we accept the unfettered control of the Canal by any one nation. That included Egypt and, naturally, was directed at Egypt. I do hope that when my right hon. Friend winds up this evening he will give us a little more assurance than my right hon. and learned Friend gave us when he opened the debate. My right hon. and 1355 learned Friend said that Britain's attitude towards the dues was yet to be determined. What exactly did he mean by that? I pray God he did not mean that we are going back from what Sir Anthony said and that we may be prepared to allow Egypt to have unfettered control of the Canal. If that were so it would indeed be a humiliation.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) spoke, I thought wrongly, about our prestige in the world today. It is true that I have not personally been abroad since the happenings of last autumn, but friends of mine who have been abroad and returned—especially from the Middle East—do not at all hold the views of the right hon. Member. People may dislike us or disagree with us, but that our prestige has gone down because of that I do not believe to be true. I believe the bulk of the people throughout the world would rather respect a Britain which tried although she failed than a Britain which never tried at all.
I come back to the point, and want to emphasise it to my right hon. Friend, that in my opinion, for what it is worth—it may not be worth very much, but I believe I am expressing the opinion of many people throughout the country—if we are forced into the position of having to advise our shipping to pay all its dues to Egypt we shall have put ourselves in a more terrible spot than we were in before.
What is going to happen if we do not pay and Egypt refuses to allow certain ships through the Canal? The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale came up to that fence with a great bluster, riding like mad, and suddenly stopped when my right hon. and learned Friend asked what he would do. He was asked a second and a third time and at last said "I would hand it over to the United Nations." He said that with an air of finality. Did he mean hand it over in the same way as the fate of Israeli shipping was handed to the United Nations four, five and six years ago? Did he mean really to hand over in the same way as Kashmir was handed to the United Nations, or as the question of Hungary was handed over? If that were the threat of the right hon. Member it was a very poor one, and he knows it was a very poor one.
1356 All this bombast, all this fine stuff, this rhetoric—which I much admire and wish I had a fraction of it—was really eye-wash when it ended with the declaration that he would hand the issue back to the United Nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "What would you do?"] I have no authority. but what I would advise my right hon. Friends to do would be to declare a boycott of the Canal by British shipping and by the shipping of all our friends for as long as that happened. We are not doing too well now, but we might be doing worse. I would rather suffer as we are suffering now than suffer the grave dishonour of accepting unfettered control of the Canal by Egypt.
I should be prepared to do what America was prepared to do over Quemoy when it was threatened and, after consultation with our Dominions and our friends, to blockade the Canal altogether and shut out all shipping will-nilly from either end. I should be prepared to go as far as that. These things may come about, and I want to urge my right hon. Friends to realise the possibility of such happenings and forthwith to be taking steps—perhaps they are doing it already—to rally public opinion for action by Britain if Britain has to take action.
As the House knows—those who were good enough to hear what I said some months ago—my difference with the Government of the day some little while ago was not on the action they took but their failure to prepare themselves and the world for such action. I hope we shall be warned now, that the Prime Minister will mention that possibility to America and that we shall consult with the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
Before leaving the question of the Canal, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say what he means by a blockade? Does he mean a physical blockade, or an economic boycott?
§ Captain Waterhouse
I mean, first of all, that I should certainly be prepared to have an economic boycott by us and by as many friends as I could urge to do so. I personally would be prepared to support Her Majesty's Government if they decided to have a physical blockade—put ships at either end to stop other ships going through.
§ Captain Waterhouse
The Foreign Secretary said that he thought there was a decrease of danger in the Middle East. I was glad to hear him say that, because I have a tremendous respect for him and for his judgment, but I cannot feel that it is so. I think the threat of a blow-up with Israel has very definitely diminished. I do not think there is any material threat of trouble to Iraq, but I do think there is real threat of trouble while Syria is being fed by Russian arms in the north and Saudi Arabia, which is going to be equipped by American arms in the south, and, between those two, Jordan, which very unwisely has parted with its best friend, Great Britain.
The fact that we were running the Arab Legion was a quietening factor in the whole of that part of the world. Now that that has been dissipated, I am afraid that the danger has definitely increased. I do not think of Egypt as a menace in war, because I know that Egyptian soldiers will not fight and Egyptians officers cannot lead and Egypt is in a plight that does not enable her to go to war with anybody face-to-face. She can fight a back-stairs dagger war, and do it very well by long and horrid experience.
I take the position in Gaza today to be a terribly serious one. It seems to me a fearful thing that an encouragement or implied assurances should have been given to Israel and should have proved to be worthless. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Perhaps I should have said that it would be a tragedy if the assurances had proved to be worthless. We hope that they may not be so, but all the indications are that they will be. We have seen these things happen in this way before, and I am afraid that we shall see them happen in this sort of way again.
I have said that I am not fearful of an Egypt at war, because Egyptian soldiers will not fight and Egyptian officers cannot and will not lead them. I would not be fearful of the Egyptian position in the Middle East if we could handle it in a different way. It is we in this country—early Governments as well as recent Conservative Governments—who have boosted up Egypt. When 1358 Lord Stansgate was first sent out to negotiate our withdrawal of troops from Cairo and ships from Alexandria, we at once gave a great strength to the Egyptian position and increased her prestige, and from that time to this, in a succession of events, we appear to have caved in to Egyptian wishes. With the Sudan, the Canal and one thing and another, we have given way.
I cannot think that the position of Egypt or of Nasser can be a very strong one. It seems to me peculiar to imagine that three or four kings can go to Alexandria or Cairo and sit down in perfect amity with a man who has destroyed one king by a palace revolution and has turned out his leader. Each king must know jolly well that Nasser would get rid of him too if he could possibly do so. I cannot think that each of these kings goes back to his palace and says, "Nasser is a fine man. I will trust him with all that I have got and follow him wherever he wants to go." They are more likely to think, "The sooner that we get rid of that man the better for our country."
If Colonel Nasser is allowed to continue uncurbed and Egypt is not brought to her senses, I fear this sequence is not finished. I think that within a measure-able and quite short time, in one way or another, Egypt will assail both Libya and the Sudan. It may be by subversive influences from inside. It may be by revolution and it may be by palace killing, but, somehow or other, Nasser, who cannot afford to stand still, will try to push out in one or eventually both these directions.
What then shall we do? Will we say again, "Hand it over to the United Nations"? Do hon. Members on any side of the House think that that is the line that we can take? Can we really say to Egypt, "All right, we welcome you, with your Russian friends and your subversive elements, on the borders of Kenya and Uganda"? If we did that, our whole position in Africa might be turned and disappear within a decade. That is the real danger that I foresee and the real dread that I have had ever since I took an active interest in this Egyptian vortex some five years ago. The real danger is that the Egyptians will get down to the Sudan and make our position in the whole of Africa untenable. That would be not merely a great misfortune 1359 to us but a misfortune at least as great for all the coloured people who now inhabit those parts of the world.
I want to close on a rather different note. I want to refer, though not in detail, because the matter has been discussed at great length in another place quite recently, to the position of those who have had to leave Egypt. They are of various categories. Some have lived out the greater part of their lives there. Others have served Governments there and others have served Her Majesty's Government there. I know that Her Majesty's Government have done quite a lot for them. I am not saying that there is anything more that they should do just at this moment, but I am asking that every effort should be made to meet our obligations to these people to the full. We must do it handsomely and quickly.
In due course, claims and counterclaims will be made between this country and Egypt. They will amount probably to hundreds of millions of pounds, but do not let us think for one moment that we shall get anything out of Egypt in the way of cash. We have considerable assets of hers here. I hope that we shall conserve those assets and on no account let them be frittered away. But if we imagine that we can get anything out of Egypt we are fooling ourselves. I do not think that she has anything with which to part. In the last statistical returns of the United Nations, Egypt has a trade deficit of £40 million on a total export of £137 million. Making all allowances for her invisible exports due to the Canal and the rest, that is a stream which cannot readily be bridged. The chances of her being able to pay anything are negligible. We therefore have to shoulder, as usual, the whole burden ourselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Gosford, speaking in another place a fortnight ago, laid great stress on our position as world bankers and how important it was that we should not disturb our credit as bankers. Therefore, he rather implied, we had to be even more jealous of the accounts of Egyptians here than of the accounts and rights of British subjects in Egypt. I do not want Britain to become the banker for burglars. We must be the banker for honest traders. Our 1360 first duty must be to our own citizens. However, I do not want to delay the House any longer on this subject, which perhaps is only marginally within the Vote.
The troubles that we have had in Egypt and through Egypt in the Middle East have been grave, but I am perfectly certain that we will minimise those troubles in the future if we put a bold face on our actions and meet our difficulties as they arise.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I should like to add my tribute to that paid by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester. South-East (Captain Waterhouse) following the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house). I am particularly glad to do so because my hon. Friend and I are neighbours in the East Midlands.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East put his finger right on the main difference between the Government side and the Opposition with regard to the way in which we should deal with these international problems. He rather rebuked my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) for wanting to hand over, as he put it, to the United Nations the problem when it arrives at a particularly difficult stage. I do not think that criticism is quite effective, because I listened with great expectation in the hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would himself tell us what he proposed to do and that it would be something much more difficult, dangerous and dramatic than might be done by the United Nations. All that he could say was that if he had the power he would advise his friends to establish an economic blockade. There is nothing particularly dramatic about that.
§ Mr. Henderson
A physical blockade is within the power of the United Nations to impose under Article 41 if it so desires. The main difference between the two sides of the House is that we wish to work within the Charter of the United Nations whereas the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and many of his hon.
1361 Friends prefer, if necessary, to work outside the Charter and, if necessary, go it alone, or, as he said, go it with other friends who might agree with us.
§ Captain Waterhouse
May I make one correction of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said? We would not prefer to do that. We would much prefer to see it done by all the nations, but we believe that the other nations would not work with us and it would have to be done by one or two determined nations.
§ Mr. Henderson
The answer to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is that the United Nations has already made it quite clear by vote in the General Assembly that it believes that the Suez Canal should be an international waterway. Only two months ago it passed another Resolution requesting the Canal to be cleared as soon as the cease-fire had taken effect and the troops of the other nations, France, Britain and Israel, had left Egyptian territory. So I do not think there is any reason to advance an hypothesis of that nature. Certainly, there is nothing that I know of which would justify it.
Nor is there any difference between hon. Members on the other side and those on this side of the House as to the way in which Colonel Nasser has behaved. I certainly cannot think of anything more contemptible on the part of anyone who seeks to work on the basis of good neighbourly relations with other countries than for Colonel Nasser, as he did last year, without any warning to the Governments concerned and with whom his Government was in friendly relations and with whom he had had negotiations only two years before, when he had put it on record that he recognised the importance of the Suez Canal as an international waterway from the point of view of the British Commonwealth, then, without any warning, at a mass demonstration at Alexandria, to announce that he was going to nationalise the Canal.
Certainly we have no reason to have any particular liking for Colonel Nasser. Where we differ from hon. Members opposite is that we do not believe that a sovereign Government exercising its rights in a most contemptible way perhaps, is debarred from carrying out the policy which Colonel Nasser sought to 1362 do by his decree in nationalising the Canal.
What I would suggest for the consideration of the House is that we have to look at the source of these troubles. The Foreign Secretary suggested that we ought to deal with these matters from the point of view of the present and the future. It is quite impossible to do that without examining these problems in the light of past events. For example, the Foreign Secretary criticises the United Nations on the ground that it had fumbled in its handling of the Middle Eastern problems. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) tonight referred to the fact that the United Nations is weak and ineffective, the General Assembly is too large, that there was too large a representation of Afro-Asian nations who might have a veto, but he omitted to put on record what, in fact, the United Nations has accomplished during the last four months.
After all, we are told, the General Assembly can do nothing more than make recommendations, but we have to remember why this problem ever got to the General Assembly. It was because on 31st October the French and British Governments exercised their right of veto and frustrated any action by the Security Council. Thereupon, the Yugoslav delegate pressed that the matter should be taken to a special session of the General Assembly. If we are told all that the General Assembly can do is to pass recommendations, let us see what has happened. It passed a resolution first of all calling for a cease-fire. It passed a resolution calling upon the French, British and Israeli forces to evacuate Egyptian territory. It passed another resolution establishing the United Nations Emergency Force.
I shall come nearer, perhaps, to the point of view of hon. Members opposite in what I am about to say. Those resolutions had been complied with by those three Governments.
§ Mr. Henderson
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says "Of course". That does not alter the fact that those recommendations certainly had some value because they had been complied with by those three Governments. The Government of Egypt, on the other hand, 1363 has failed to comply with resolutions which had been passed by the United Nations as far back as September, 1951. I would be the first to agree that it would be a gross travesty of justice if the United Nations were now to fail to compel the Government of Egypt to carry out resolutions that have been passed, as I say, in days gone by, and resolutions which may be passed in the next few days. I believe that this will be a vital test for the United Nations. I hope that I have made my point clear. I am trying to make the point that it will be the duty on the part of the United Nations to secure the carrying out of its resolutions in so far as they require action by Egypt.
Let me take the case of the Suez Canal and the claim of the Egyptian Government to exercise belligerent right against Israel. In September, 1951, the matter came before the Security Council following a ban on Israeli shipping. The Government of Egypt took the view that they were exercising their belligerent right and that therefore they were entitled to ban Israeli shipping. What was the view of the Security Council? In its resolution it said this:The Security Council … Considering that since the armistice regime, which has been in existence for nearly two and a half years, is of a permanent character, neither party can reasonably assert that it is actively a belligerent …That is a clear indication that so far as the Security Council is concerned—and this resolution was passed unanimously—Egypt had no right to exercise or seek to exercise belligerent rights in respect of the Suez Canal and to debar Israeli shipping from passing through the Canal.
The very next day, I believe it is on record, a spokesman of the Egyptian Government said, "Oh, the resolution of the Security Council is only a recommendation and we do not propose to take any notice of it". It has been suggested in some quarters that the resolution is no longer valid. I hope that is not so. If it is so, I hope that steps will be taken to pass another resolution compelling Egypt to face up to its responsibilities and to cease claiming that it has belligerent rights at the present time. The same thing applies to Egypt's action in the Gulf of Aqaba. It claims again belligerent 1364 rights and, therefore, the right to ban Israeli shipping.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I follow what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, and I agree with him. Would he express the view whether, if this case went to an international court, that court would uphold or reject Israeli rights?
§ Mr. Henderson
Lawyers, like other persons, differ. I have in mind an excellent article which appeared in The Times last Friday written by a special correspondent who, I imagine, must be well versed in international law. The writer definitely takes the view that the operation of the 1947 Armistice Agreements prevents any of the five Arab countries who signed those Armistice Agreements, or Israel on the other side, from exercising belligerent rights. Incidentally, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Windsor said earlier, those Agreements are binding on the Government of Egypt because that Government signed one of them alongside the Government of Israel. I do not want to take up the time of the House, but I would point out that this article is well worth studying, because it makes quite clear the fact that in the view of the writer Egypt does not enjoy belligerent rights as against Israel in view of the operation of those Agreements.
Then take the position in the Gaza strip. The Foreign Secretary has already indicated that this is not territory which formerly belonged to Egypt. It was part of the old Mandate of Palestine and merely fell within the military lines of the Egyptian Army on the day on which the Armistice was signed. I believe that the United Nations Emergency Force should stay in the Gaza strip, and I agree with the view of the Government on this point. Indeed, I would welcome administration of the Gaza strip by the United Nations itself. However, other views are apparently to prevail. Yet I think it would be a calamity if the United Nations Emergency Force were to be taken out of the Gaza strip before a final peace settlement is achieved. I believe that the dangerous situation which still exists, to some extent, would become infinitely more dangerous if the Emergency Force were taken away from that area.
1365 The Government of Egypt cannot escape responsibility for all the raids made by the Fedayeen which have taken place during the past four years. Again it is a well-accepted axiom of international law that a Government is responsible for any forays of force, armed or otherwise, that take place from its territory into the territory of another country.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Is Israel working with the Mixed Armistice Commission, or not, on the matter of border raids?
§ Mr. Henderson
She has been in the past. I cannot say what has happened since the incidents of the last three months, but there were many meetings of the Mixed Armistice Commission prior to last year. However, that is irrelevant to my point, which is that the Egyptian Government cannot escape responsibility for the Fedayeen raids, and I believe that it would be asking too much, and it would be a gross betrayal of Israel, if it were to be made liable again to these raids from the Gaza strip.
§ Mr. Barnet Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Would my right hon. and learned Friend not go a step further in order to satisfy the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates), by pointing out to him that the Fedayeen have been trained by the Egyptians to commit murder on the other side?
§ Mr. Henderson
I thought that was more or less an established fact. Whatever responsibility may have been allocated in the past, and I want to be fair, the Security Council has attributed blame on some occasions to the Government of Israel in respect of reprisal raids, just as it has to the Government of Egypt and, possibly, to the Government of Jordan. That does not alter the fact that anyone who looks at the map can see the finger known as the Gaza strip going up the coast at the back of Israel. If, therefore, there is a desire on the part of the Government occupying that strip to make things difficult for its neighbour, the fact that it occupies that strip of territory makes it very much easier.
Again I find myself in partial agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite in saying that I believe the United Nations, having brought pressure to bear 1366 on the Governments of France, Britain and Israel, must now ensure that its Resolutions applying to Egypt are carried out.
§ Mr. Fell
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but he has said repeatedly that the United Nations must compel Egypt. How is the United Nations to compel Egypt? Supposing it came to a vote in the United Nations on something like he has been talking about and a sufficiently large section of the Assembly defeated the vote, what would he suggest should be done then?
§ Mr. Henderson
We cannot both speak at the same time. We cannot advance a hypothesis as to what we should do or should not do in certain circumstances. [An HON. MEMBER: "Pass another resolution? I can take a test case. I will take the case of the Suez Canal or of the Gulf of Aqaba. I agree strongly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale that we should not send a warship. I would send a ship manned by Israeli volunteers to Aqaba and also in due course to the Suez Canal when that is completely cleared. If the Egyptians used force to hinder the Israeli ship on its lawful occasions, as justified by the rule of international law and in accordance with a decision of the Security Council, then I believe that the United Nations should either call upon——
Mr. Kenneth Piekthorn (Carlton)
The volunteers of Ebbw Vale—what would they say?
§ Mr. Henderson
We would be testing whether the Government of Egypt intended to interfere with it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Supposing it did?"] Once it is established that it is going to interfere, I would report that to the Security Council, and then the Security Council could take action.
§ Mr. Henderson
But I say that the United Nations would face up to that responsibility. There is no justification for saying that it will fail in its responsibilities. After all, it showed itself pretty firm in dealing with the actions of the British and the French——
§ Mr. Henderson
It is no argument to say "monstrous". Let me refer to the vote. The hon. Gentleman said that it was the United States, but the vote was 60 to 4. I am afraid that suggestion will not do. I am not afraid to accept the challenge of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends as to whether the United Nations will allow Egypt or any other country to bring the entire affairs of the world into a state of chaos.
I realise the position with regard to Hungary. We must face it. The United Nations has not the authority or power to deal with possibly the most heavy armed country in the world, and a founder-member of the United Nations, which takes it upon itself to defy and ignore resolutions passed by the United Nations. I am not prepared to accept the view that we are heading for disaster because we want to work within the Charter of the United Nations upon the problems of the Middle East.
I will sum up what I have said. I have referred to the immediate problems. As was said by the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, we shall not solve them unless we face up to the causes of all the trouble in the Middle East. There are the questions of boundaries and refugees. The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East referred to the expulsion of British subjects. I have the greatest sympathy for them in view of the way they have been treated by the Egyptian Government. I should also like to put in a word for the 20,000 Jews who have been persecuted and expelled from 1368 Egypt. I am informed that another 20,000 are liable to be expelled in the near future. That is action on the part of the Egyptian Government which is contrary not only to the Charter of the United Charter but to the Convention on Human Rights which they have previously accepted. I am not under estimating, in making that reference, the terrible tragedy of the 900,000 refugees.
After visiting Israel last year returned with a very fixed view about the Israeli Government. Time and time again they have asked for a peace conference. They are ready to discuss the reshaping of the boundaries, without mutilation, and by agreement, to get rid of some of the anomalies. I believe the Israeli Government would be prepared to make a very substantial contribution towards the financial settlement of the 900,000 refugees.
I believe that a great deal can be done by means of co-operation in schemes for using the waters of the Jordan and in securing the development of the Middle East through the agency of the United Nations. Whatever suspicions we may have about the Soviet Union, if we are to seek a solution through the agency of the United Nations we cannot exclude Russia from playing her part in the great work of reconstruction which is so essential if we are to get rid of the festering sore of war in the Middle East.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) that this will make or break the United Nations. He did not use those words, but I put my interpretation on what he said. We shall all hope and pray that it will make the United Nations rather than break it.
If the United Nations fails to carry out the task with which it is faced in the Middle East, I see nothing but chaos and turmoil ensuing. I am not one of those who rail at the United Nations for being only partially effective. It is partly our responsibility to make it effective. I should like Her Majesty's Government to be even firmer in their expressions of determination to make the United Nations take the jump in front of it. If it does not take the jump, all will be over for peace in the Middle East. Something will have to take its place if it fails, some 1369 union or body representing the democracies which are willing to boar their share of world responsibility.
But I did not rise to talk merely about the United Nations. I rose chiefly to say how perturbed I was at something said by the Foreign Secretary. I am very much surprised that subsequent speakers have not taken up the point. My right hon. and learned Friend laid down certain conditions for a settlement between Jews and Arabs. He said that there must be guarantees to the Arab States against Israeli aggression, and guarantees to Israel that she shall not be exterminated, and compromises on the question of refugees, water, and peace on the frontiers. I am entirely in agreement with those condition's, but my right hon. and learned Friend spoke about "an agreed settlement" and, almost under his breath, said that he was not in favour of "an imposed settlement".
I am perturbed, indeed appalled, by that approach. It seemed to me to reek of unreality. It was the same sort of thing that might have been said by any Foreign Secretary over the last eight years. We have all seen the result of waiting for an agreed settlement between Jew and Arab since the setting up of Israel. It must be an imposed settlement. If anybody thinks that we shall get Jew and Arab to sit round the same conference table, he is very much mistaken and had better think again. Anyone who has travelled in those parts of the world would, I am sure, agree with that view. The settlement must be imposed.
§ Mr. Janner
Does not the hon. Gentleman think it is worth while trying to arrange such a round table conference? Does he not think that the Foreign Secretary's statement the other day about the Guildhall speech might be interpreted as something which would prevent such an arrangement?
§ Mr. Nicholson
If a round table conference could be arranged, of course, it would be worth trying. However, the hon. Gentleman knows quite well that no Arab leader would dare, of his own volition, to go to a conference with the Israelis. Consequently, I say that this must be forced upon them by an imposed settlement. If we are to face the facts, we must recognise that under present circumstances we shall never get the two 1370 sides even in adjoining conference rooms, much less in the same conference room.
The hon. Member also asked for my comments on the reference to the Guildhall speech. I agree that we shall never get the Israelis to yield substantial portions of territory. They will fight to the death, to extermination, rather than yield much territory. A few hundred square yards here may, of course, be exchanged for a few hundred square yards there in order to remove some minor frontier injustice, but we shall never get Israel—I am not taking sides in this—to make substantial concessions of territory. When the word "compromise" is used, we must give up the idea that it concerns large cessions of territory.
It concerns only, I believe, the question of refugees. The whole thing turns on the question of the refugees. In spite of all our sympathy with Israel in the light of the great achievements which have been carried out by the Jews, we must recognise the fact that grave wrong has been done by the Jews to the Arabs. I do not wish to open up that old and barren controversy, but 900,000 Arabs have been driven out of Palestine. It is useless for apologists to say that they went of their own accord. They want to go back, but cannot. As I said last July, Israel is littered with the ruins of Arab villages, and it is not a pleasant sight.
I have no difficulty in taking up an attitude of complete impartiality. Had I been a Jew, I should have acted just as the Jews did. Equally, had I been an Arab, I should have acted just as the Arabs did. The balance of right and wrong is very even. It is one of the ironies of history that so often one cannot attribute praise or blame. There is something inevitable about historical processes that drive perfectly good people into untenable positions. But the whole thing turns on the solution of the refugee problem. Israel and the friends of Israel all over the world must recognise that this grave wrong must be righted; and the Arabs must recognise that the unfortunate refugees cannot be kept as a political pawn in the game. They must make some effort at a settlement of them. As I have said before in this House, the only way out, as I see it, is by a settlement imposed by the United Nations, and 1371 a large United Nations loan to Israel of £200 million or £300 million to be used to settle the Arab refugees in the Arab lands.
If one says that may be ideal but that we can achieve such a solution by a solution by an agreed settlement between Jew and Arab, I say it is nonsense. Such a tremendous budget of concessions on both sides will never be achieved by agreement. It must be achieved by an imposed settlement, and such a settlement can be imposed only by the United Nations. That is why I was so deeply perturbed and grieved to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that he was against an imposed settlement. If that is the best this country can do in the way of a policy, we must think again. We must face the fact that we shall never get an agreed settlement between the two.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The point of view of my hon. Friend is extremely interesting. Does he envisage a repetition of the tripartite guarantee, the imposition of a settlement guaranteed by a group of Powers thereafter? Is there to be a settlement on existing or approximately existing boundaries, or is the settlement to be after a major reconstruction? Surely my hon. Friend must take into account the kinetics of the Middle Eastern situation? It is no use imposing a settlement as if it were a static society now.
§ Mr. Nicholson
All frontiers are static, or meant to be. My noble Friend asks if I envisage a return to the tripartite settlement. Certainly I do not envisage that. I do not see any group of a few Powers that would carry out the requisite procedure to impose that sort of settlement. That is why I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton that this will make or break the United Nations; and if it breaks the United Nations nothing but disaster can ensue in the Middle East and to the world as a whole. That is why it is so vital that we should try to force the United Nations into committing itself far more deeply in the Middle East than it is now. The present committal is a token committal, and it must be a wholehearted committal, right up to the hilt. As I say, I cannot envisage, in the name of reality, major concessions of territory by Israel. I think that should be a sufficient answer to my noble Friend.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
We have had experience of this, surely. We tried to hold a mandate in Palestine and we could not do it. Does my hon. Friend think we should go into that all over again?
§ Mr. Nicholson
I am not suggesting that we should hold a mandate all over again. Heaven forfend. I am not suggesting that we should hold a mandate. I suggest this is a task which can be carried out only by the United Nations, and if the United Nations fail, then heaven help us. I do not think I am called on to hazard a conjecture about what would then be the right course to take.
There is one other thing I wish to say, and I should not have taken so long had I not been interrupted. We have all had experience of the emotional sympathy for Israel over the events of the last two months——
§ Mr. Nicholson
—but let us beware of danger of becoming anti-Arab. Let us recognise the fact that Arab nationalism is a most powerful force and that it would be a fatal mistake for this country to fall into the same trap as that into which France has fallen. France is at war with the whole Arab world, and unless we take care, because we are quarrelling with Colonel Nasser we shall find ourselves quarrelling with the whole Arab world, or most of it. Let us remember that Arab nationalism, pan-Arabism, is a wholly admirable movement——
§ Mr. Nicholson
—and we should be among the strongest of its supporters. I have the deepest sympathy—I do not say this in any patronising manner—with hitherto second-class nations that want to become first-class nations.
§ Mr. Nicholson
It may have been, but we cannot expect such nations as Indo-China, or the Arabs, or any one else, not to be infected by the germ of nationalism that works so powerfully. We had a narrow escape from losing a lot 1373 of the Commonwealth through not recognising the existence and force of nationalism. At the last moment we avoided making that mistake. We have provided a magnificent example of how to treat a young nation by what has happened over Ghana, and I am proud of our record. Just because the Arab States are not part of the British Commonwealth, do not let us fall into that mistake about them.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I did not say that we should impose a settlement, I said that the United Nations should. I apologise for detaining the House for so long, but I feel deeply about these things and I should be grateful if hon. Members would consider my words.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
I do not wish to take up all the points made by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) because I shall cover them in my speech. But I found myself in disagreement with him over one thing and in almost complete agreement over another. He said that had he been an Arab, or an Israeli, he would have behaved exactly as did the Arabs or the Israelis. I am bound to say that had I been either Arab or Israeli, I should not have behaved like either of them, if hon. Members can accept a simplification of that kind.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about an imposed settlement, I am in a measure of agreement, but I think it a most difficult thing. I doubt whether it is wise at this moment to say that there may have to be an imposed settlement. Some of us know enough about these parts of the world to know that there is often complete disagreement among these nations on the same point, and to get them to agree on a large number of points might prove very difficult. I believe that I have the solution, and I propose to tell the House about it.
I wish that the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) was present in the Chamber now because I should like to say something to him as well. I think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should go back to school. I do not wish to be offensive, but I think it disastrous that a person of his standing should 1374 for a single moment contemplate carrying out the violence which he contemplated over the Canal. It seems absolutely fantastic in 1957—[HON. MEMBERS: "What violence?"]. If he is proposing to use a warship for the purpose what is that but violence?
§ Mr. Stokes
I asked him whether he meant a boycott or a blockade and he said "Both."
We must remember that Canal nationalisation did not happen out of the blue. There are certain events which preceded the nationalising of the Canal and in saying that I am not condoning the action of Colonel Nasser who has done a great deal of damage to the backward peoples of the world for reasons which I do not propose to go into now. But has the House forgotten the action over the Aswan Dam? There was a monument which I thought absolutely unsound. There was this monumental thing which was to be a pyramid for all time for the National Council of the Revolution agreed to by the Americans with a loan of £150 million and backed by us to the tune of about 10 per cent. of that amount. Colonel Nasser then told the people that there would be enough water for hydro-electric power in consequence; all the water they needed for twice the present population, and enough of the artificial poison made by Imperial Chemical Industries to poison their food for all time! And then, twelve days later what happened? The Americans withdrew their offer of £150 million. I understand their point of view, but the silliest thing ever done —and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will tell his right hon. and learned Friend this—was done by the Foreign Secretary. If he had not withdrawn our £15 million there would not have been this row at all. The only reason why he did it was that he had promised the Americans he would. I cannot imagine a Foreign Secretary acting with more irresponsibility. Instead of following suit twenty-four hours later, as he did, he could at least have taken six months arguing about it, and the situation then might have been quite different.
As I suppose most hon. Members know, I have just been for one of my 1375 many trips as far east as Teheran—not to see Dr. Mossadegh—and back as far west as Rabat. I was received in a very friendly fashion and was astonished that nobody spat at me. I wish that the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East were here——
§ Mr. Stokes
The reason for my friendly reception was not my popularity. The friendly feelings for us which undoubtedly exist in the minds of most people in the Arab States can be put down to the fact that they all realise that there was no unanimity in this country over the Government's action in regard to Suez. The right hon. and gallant Member had better face that fact. Every Arab thinks there was collusion, but I have come to the conclusion that there was no collusion between us and Israel, not because of anything which was said by Government representatives, but for different reasons altogether.
I want the Joint Under-Secretary to tell the Foreign Secretary that it is about time he changed the whole Foreign Office system in regard to the rota for moving people round. It is just too silly. We have some very fine people in our Embassies in the Middle East. I am not criticising individuals, but there is a rule in the Foreign Office that nobody must stay anywhere for more than two years, and all because it seems to be regarded as inclement for people to stay behind the Iron Curtain for two years. So, because it is Buggins' turn to shift from Russia, the whole organisation does a general post. It is no use people from Bogota sitting down in Damascus. They have not the faintest idea of what is going on. As a commercial traveller, I should like to go to many different parts of the world. I want to go to them, but I know that I should not be of any use if I did. I am only of use in places where I am known. I am not ragging about this matter; it is quite serious. I got into trouble before, because everybody laughed when I made a speech. I want to impress upon the Foreign Secretary the importance of this matter. There used to be what was called a Levant circle—people who occupied places in the Middle East and who shifted round in a small orbit.
1376 It is no use having good ambassadors if we do not consult them. The whole House knows that not one single head of mission in the Middle East was even told about the Suez affair before it took place. The Ambassador in Cairo heard it for the first time on the wireless. We in this House have been afflicted with speeches made from the Dispatch Box by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary telling us of the tremendous plot unearthed as a result of our action and about the enormous quantity of arms discovered. I got into trouble last time because I called one of them a name which we are not allowed to use, and I had to apologise. Actually, I was absolutely right. Let us face it. I did not find anybody in the Middle East who had the remotest idea that there was likely to be a general conflagration, and I travelled among responsible people. Where did Her Majesty's Government get it all from? They never consulted anybody in the Middle East; nobody on the spot, who should have known, could have given it to them. It was a complete figment of their own imagination, thought up in order to excuse them doing what they wanted to do. That is the only conclusion anyone can come to.
All I can say about what was supposed to be the great Russian infiltration into Syria is that when I asked about it I was told, "Probably there are 140 Russians there altogether." From what we were told, it sounded as though the whole army was being run by Russian personnel. Admittedly Colonel Seraj is a Communist and we know that there are large quantities of arms sent in from Russia. But they are mostly out of date. Russia has 16,500 Mig 15's which she must get rid of somehow, and it is not surprising that she should have put some in the desert.
If we tot up all the arms that we discovered—I do not mean small arms and ammunition, but aeroplanes, tanks and all the rest—there was nothing we did not know about. In those days I had something to do with defence, which I no longer have, and I think that we were only five aeroplanes and 25 tanks out in our estimate of the total number that Russia had delivered. I agree that we had not spotted the one million blankets. On 8th November last, the Chancellor 1377 of the Exchequer said that our action at Suez had disclosed everybody had been armed to the teeth by Russia.
As for the Suez Canal, I agree almost entirely with what my right hon. Friend said earlier. I have always taken the view that once we took our troops off the Canal bank it was no longer of any strategic use to us. From that moment we ought to have gone in for larger and faster tankers. With great respect to the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East, I believe that that is the way to deal with Colonel Nasser. If we build larger and faster tankers which are too big to go through the Canal Nasser will have to make it wider and deeper, or the tankers will go round the Cape. The Suez Canal is not so important as we thought. Although all the row was apparently about the Canal, the Minister of Transport has come to that conclusion. According to the Financial Times, he said yesterday:The use of the Suez Canal is far less vital to Britain than many people thought a few months ago. We are certainly not in the position of having to use the Canal at the earliest possible moment, or on the most unfavourable terms.I entirely agree. The Financial Times shows conclusively that provided we use 65,000-ton tankers, of which there are a considerable number either built or building, we do not need to use the Canal.
I now come to the question of capital being required in order to keep the Canal open, which was the Foreign Secretary's point of view. I do not know from where he gets his information. Why should there be any question of foreign capital? What foreign capital, in fact, has been put into the Canal? I know of none, except when it was first started. In a few years' time it is expected that no less than 100 million tons of oil will go through the Canal each year. The Canal dues amount to 6s. 3d. a ton, which will provide a total of roughly £30 million a year, all of which can be used to widen and deepen the Canal. Let us remember that in 1955, the best year for dues, Egypt received only £700,000 from the Canal. That is the most the Egyptian Government ever got. Economically, in fact, the Canal did not matter very much to Egypt, except that it brought in a certain amount of services. Its dues did not amount to anything great to her.
In my view, it is no use our black-guarding Nasser. We do the same thing over and over again. We did it during 1378 the war. We blackguarded all the other leaders, and we ourselves made Hitler and Mussolini heroes. Every time we blackguard the leader of another country we make him more popular in that country. The only people who can get rid of Nasser are the Egyptians. If we want to take a hand in it, the way to do so is to apply economic sanctions, by making ourselves independent of the Canal. Then the whole thing will right itself.
We are not the only people who suffer. All the Arab nations do. And what is going to happen to Pakistan, India and all the rest, for Asiatic nations are very much concerned? They all need to export, and they will now have to send their exports round the Cape, and they all have to import large quantities of goods in order to improve their conditions of life. There should be a combination of economic pressure upon Nasser and pressure from his friends to keep the Suez Canal open. That would probably be the most likely way to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
I disagreed with all the interruptions that went on at an earlier stage of the debate about the United Nations. It is much better to talk about things than to have a war about them. After all, the United Nations is the best thing we have had so far, and to bawl it down is stupid and irresponsible. It may be true that it is not yet very effective, but it is up to the members of the United Nations to make it effective. I do not think that it has done so very badly up to now.
What is the solution of the Arab-Israel question? The Arab is naturally mistrustful about the promises made to him. In 1916 we wanted the Arabs to come into the war and help us to kick the Turks out of Palestine. We promised them that that land would be restored to them. In 1917, when we were short of cash, Lord Balfour wrote what is now known as the "Balfour Declaration" to Lord Rothschild, and more or less promised part of the same land to the Jews. But it was stated in the Declaration that the civil and religious rights of the indigenous population would be preserved. In those days the persecutions of Hitler had not taken place.
We come to the mandate for Palestine which we had after the 1914–18 war, and then to the Resolution of the United Nations in 1947. People now forget the most disreputable things that were done 1379 over that Resolution. On 26th November, 1947, when the vote ought to have been taken at the United Nations, it was found that those who wanted the partition of Palestine were going to be three short of the necessary quota to give them their two-thirds majority, so Palestine would then not be made a State. What happened? The vote was put off!
President Truman then suborned the representatives of Haiti, the Philippines and Liberia. He said, "There is no more cash for you unless you vote for this Resolution." Whereas on the 26th November 30 would have voted "for" and 19 "against", on 29th November those three States went the other way, and 33 voted for and 13 against. That is no way to make the Arabs like the United Nations. When the 33 voted for and the 13 against, one observer said:Gasps of satisfaction greeted the affirmative vote of Haiti, Liberia and the Philippines".That is what makes the Arabs distrustful of promises that are made to them.
§ Captain Waterhouse
Was not the right hon. Gentleman just commending U.N.O. as the best thing we had had?
§ Mr. Stokes
Yes. It is the best so far. The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East wants to go right back to the dark ages. That would be very disagreeable. The United Nations may not yet be very effective, but for Heaven's sake let us not chuck it now. That would be a perfectly assinine thing to do. I say that without any disrespect to the right hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
My right hon. Friend has said that we ought to accept a United Nations decision because that is the best thing we have got. Does he now justify the Arabs in not accepting it, for the reasons that he gave?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am not trying to justify the Arabs. I am what is called a "pro-Arab." I am not anti-Jew. I am certainly anti-Zionist, but that is quite a different thing. I do not agree with the Zionists. All my friends in Arabia are anti-Zionist. When I first went to Baghdad there were 80,000 Jews living there peacefully with Arabs. The Zionists have made the Arab hate the Jew. There is now a great opportunity for a general settlement.
1380 Several points have to be settled about the recent war, or whatever we call it, and I want to enumerate them briefly and say what I think should be done. At the time I started thinking about making this speech the Israelis were still on the Gulf of Aqaba and in the Gaza strip. Mr. Ben Gurion, rightly and courageously, has taken his troops out. It is now up to us and the other nations of the world to say, "After the series of rows we shall put United Nations troops here in sufficient numbers to control the frontiers and ensure peace while outstanding points are settled."
These points are four. The first concerns the refugees or expellees. Every Arab, especially in a responsible position, talks about the 900,000 refugees. That is a running sore which will have to be healed. The United Nations passed a Resolution years ago that any of these refugees who wanted to go back to Israel should be allowed to do so, but from what I am told the proportion would not be more than 5 per cent. That might help to get a resettlement elsewhere of the remaining 850,000. They will have to settle elsewhere, and not stay in miserable camps where their conditions are deplorable.
The second point is compensation, on which the United Nations has also passed a Resolution on compensation for loss of property. The Arabs do not care twopence who pays. It is not a question of shall Israel pay? A subscription fund may have to be opened up to settle this matter. It might be a very satisfactory way of dealing with it. The third point is frontier adjustment, which has been called "rectification" and "compromise" here this afternoon. There are ridiculous anomalies and perfectly silly situations, such as where a house is in one country and its land in another. They must be put right. The fourth point is about Jerusalem becoming an international city.
It is often said that peace is possible. The first thing that must be done is to make it abundantly clear to the Arabs that there will be no more Israeli expansion into Arab land. Rightly or wrongly, the Arabs fear Zionist expansion, and we cannot blame them. They have seen it happening and they are always afraid that more and more Jews will pour in from all parts of the world. In July, 1950, the Knesset decided that every Jew 1381 had a right to settle in Palestine known as "The law of Return". What the Arabs want to hear now is not only the Eisenhower doctrine, which they recognise is useful—though more useful to Europeans and to Arabs—but that there will be no further Israeli territorial advance. They will not accept anything but that.
I have talked to all my Arab friends, and I have even made speeches about this subject in public. I have told them, "You have to accept Israel." Even the most responsible of them still talk about throwing the Jews into the sea, and when I say to them, "You cannot do that," they reply, "Yes, we know, but we cannot say that." We should say to them that, first of all, they are totally incapable of throwing the Jews into the sea, to use the vernacular; secondly, that if they were capable of doing it, all the European nations and others would stop them, and so, therefore, the best thing for them to do is to accept the situation on the basis of assurances that there will be no further expansion into Arab lands on the part of the Jews. If that was done, we might begin to work towards a solution which might perhaps bring about a state of peace in these parts.
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
I thought the right hon. Gentleman jeered at me, or at any rate disagreed with me, on the suggestion that the solution should be an imposed settlement, which is not very much different from the line which the right hon. Gentleman is now laying down. Does he suggest that it would be an agreed settlement through the United Nations or that there should be some imposed settlement?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am sorry if the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) did not listen to what I said. I was very interested in what he said, and with which I largely agree, but I felt it was unwise to say it at this moment. [Interruption.] I cannot help it; I have no control over what the hon. Gentleman says. He has said it already, and, of course, I know and appreciate it, but I do not think that it is a very good way to start negotiations to say that we are going to impose the solution. I do not think that a solution will be found that way, and I cannot see that a solution produced by that means will bring peace to this area.
I should suggest the method of the round table conference or a talk round 1382 the table, making it clear that the Arabs will accept the Israelis and that the Israelis will not expand into Arab territory. On that basis, I think it will be quite possible to start to work for a solution. Whether we shall get a decision or not, I do not know, but I am quite sure that we should begin to pay a little more attention to the fourth arm— the blare of the wireless.
Those of us who have been to these territories realise that, unfortunately, about 95 per cent, of the population do not read, but they all listen. And they do not drink. [Interruption.] I know, everybody has different views about that. They sit in the coffee shops and listen to the "Voice of Cairo" and voices from elsewhere blaring at them all day long, and we answer three days later by putting up someone with a Suffolk voice to do it. I have a great affection for Suffolk, but it is just no use trying to sell our policy to the Arabs by means of a chap with a Suffolk voice talking Arabic.
What we really ought to do is to take more trouble to find competent people with the right voices, the right method, the right language and right kind of expression on the spot, wherever the spot may be. I do not know how these things are arranged, but I am quite certain that we ought to do these things at once, not the day after tomorrow or next week, but that we should be answering more quickly the lies put about by the "Voice of Cairo." I do not need to enumerate the untruths that are told by Cairo Radio. Everybody knows the sort of stuff now put out by it in Cairo and elsewhere, but everybody listens to it and it does an enormous amount of harm.
Finally, I want to say a few words on an entirely different matter. I did not go to Egypt this time. I am sorry that I did not go, but it was for reasons I need not go into now. I have had a very considerable number of reports as to the condition of things there at present, and I say that the plight of the women and children there is becoming quite terrible.
There are simply no medical stores, and medical arrangements have broken down. You cannot get medical stores in Cairo unless you belong to the armed forces, and I should have thought that it would be a very wise move on our part to send a ship with, perhaps, £2 million worth of medical stores to 1383 Alexandria. Whether the offer would be accepted or not, I do not know, but at least the gesture would be there, because the situation which we find there is no more the fault of these people than it is of our own people.
§ Sir R. Boothby
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman realises that the plight of the Jews in Egypt is now frightful, and that the Egyptians are doing things to the Jews in Egypt today which are only comparable to the things which the Nazis did to the Jews in Germany during the war?
§ Mr. Stokes
Of course, I do not know that, but it is quite certain that if Egyptian women cannot get medical stores, the Jews in Egypt will not be getting them either. I am not suggesting that if we send medical stores there, they should not be given to the Jews. It is not my responsibility, but I do not see that because the Jews will not receive them is a reason why we should not send them at all.
§ Mr. Janner
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the kind of thing he is now saying is likely to incite the Arab world if heard on the radio? Secondly, why does he not inform himself about what is happening in a country like Egypt? The right hon. Gentleman asks questions, but does he not realise that between 18,000 and 20,000 people have been driven out of Egypt and that everything has been taken from them, in exactly the same way as occurred under the Nazis in Germany?
§ Mr. Stokes
This is just what happens when you start making war, and I did not start this conflagration. I say that nothing is going to incite the Arabs, or the responsible people among the Arabs, who will be fairly successful in understanding what I am saying. I am sorry if I have not made myself clear to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) but the Arabs will understand what I am trying to say.
If these four points which I have been talking about could be taken up, in view of Mr. Ben-Gurion having done what he has done, very courageously and gallantly, although in the face of great opposition from his own people, and could be settled, and undertakings given on the part of the Arabs to accept Israel and on the part of Israel not to expand 1384 into Arab territory, then I believe that we should have a far better chance of bringing about a reasonable peace in the Middle East.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
Some of my friends in the Home Guard during the last war told me that they had a weapon which was capable of firing large salvoes in all directions, and it was called the Stokes gun. I think we are all very grateful to the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for a forceful speech, and I myself am extremely grateful for the thumbnail sketch of himself which the right hon. Gentleman provided when he said that if he were an Israeli he would not behave like one, and that if he were an Arab he would not behave like one either. I do not know whether this is the right hon. Gentleman's definition of Socialism.
I should like to adopt a rather more serious note. I myself was rather impressed with the leading article in The Times today, which described the situation in the Middle East as being somewhat fluid. For myself, I think that that situation is perhaps better described by the story of the man who went to a cinema, who went to sleep and found when he woke up that the picture was at the same stage as when he came in.
Before pursuing that particular line of thought, there are two things in the speech of the right hon. Member for Ipswich to which I should like to refer, because they are of very great importance at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman first of all referred to the Foreign Office personnel in the Middle East, and I should like to underline and endorse everything he said. From my own personal experience gained in travelling in that part of the world, I can say that there seem to be far too many unnecessary changes. I should like to add that there also seem to be far too few of our representatives in the Middle East who are really proficient in the Arabic language.
I should also like to say something on one of the many solutions which the right hon. Gentleman proposed for this problem in connection with larger tankers. I have put down one or two Questions on this subject, and I have received long letters from the Chancellor of the 1385 Exchequer. I think the difficulty there really is that we are all looking for a solution in the fairly near future. If we are realistic about this we shall agree that we shall not be able to build these very large tankers for many years. If the right hon. Gentleman really considers this matter of a large number of tankers of 65,000 tons plus, he will find that that is a slight exaggeration.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the Financial Times of 12th March containing a beautiful diagram showing the number of tankers built, the number building, the number which would go through the Suez Canal and so on, and the leading article said that there is no shortage of oil in Europe.
§ Mr. Gough
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. However, I do not want to enlarge on this subject.
A great deal has been said about the United Nations. The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), who is not present at the moment, placed far too much reliance upon what the United Nations might do. He seemed to place a great deal of reliance on the fact that the United Nations has gravely passed resolutions and has said on many occasions to Egypt that Egypt should not do this, that and the other. It seems to me, however—and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson)—that we are now in a position in the Middle East where the United Nations, as he put it, will be either made or broken. At the moment the two countries which perhaps could do more than any other country in helping the United Nations to find a settlement are cold-shouldered, and not included in the United Nations Force in the Middle East. I refer to our country and to France.
In that connection I would say a word, which I hope will come to his notice through the OFFICIAL REPORT, to the new American Ambassador. I am sure the whole House will join with me in wishing him the very best of good fortune in his new and most responsible task. It lies very largely not with the American people but with the State Department that the British and the French at the moment are not in the picture so far as the United Nations is concerned in the 1386 Middle East. I believe that the American Ambassador has been and may still be a very good polo player. I have only played polo a few times in my youth. In that game there is one facet which is called "riding off." I would remind him that there is nothing more infuriating for a small person who is rather a good polo player than to find himself being "ridden off" by a large person for the whole of the game. I suggest with respect to the American Ambassador that that is rather what we have been feeling in the last few months.
It seems to me that if we ourselves—and this is what I am hoping the Prime Minister is going to achieve by his visits to the President of the United States—can come back and accept our responsibilities jointly with the other United Nations countries, then perhaps something can be done. What are those responsibilities? The right hon. Member for Ipswich has put his finger on it there. In the first place, our responsibilities are governed by parallel obligations. In the past we have given a definite assurance to the Jews, on the one hand, and we have given an exactly opposite assurance to the Arabs.
§ Mr. Stokes indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Gough
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but that is the way in which it is interpreted in those various countries. It may be wrongly interpreted, but that is what bedevils the situation today.
I do not think I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham that we should immediately be fatalistic and say that a settlement must be imposed between the Israelis and the Arabs. Of course, we have got to do everything we can to bring these two sides together, but I do not believe that the United Nations —I would almost call it the "so-called United Nations"—as it is constituted today without the French and the British could even begin to succeed.
If we are realists—and I am trying not to be controversial—let us see what is happening. The United Nations gave an assurance to ourselves, to the French and, far more important, to the Israelis that when the Israelis moved out of the Gaza Strip and out of Aqaba the United Nations would take over. That is how I as an ordinary person understood it.
1387 What happened? Up bobbed Colonel Nasser. What did the United Nations say to him? It said very little indeed.
It seems that there must be the authority of the large number of the free nations of the world represented in the United Nations so that Colonel Nasser will realise that because those free nations, including Britain. France and Israel, being law-abiding countries, agree to accept the United Nations settlement, he himself has also got to accept it.
There are several things that we ourselves can do, but first we should also look to our other responsibilities. Our responsibilities in the Middle East are not only the obligations which we assumed—the Arabs on the one side and the Jews on the other. We also have an obligation with regard to the fuel oil which is coming to this country, and that is a very serious matter.
I would ask the House to turn its mind to the other side of the Middle East, to the Persian Gulf. We ought to give a bouquet where it is due, to those small Sheikhdoms of Bahrain and Kuwait which have supported us and have not deserted us during these trying months. This is particularly the case in Bahrain, where there was a tremendous infiltration of Colonel Nasser's agents. They dealt with that matter and it now looks as if that little State is on a very firm footing.
I have heard during this debate that so many of these Arab States do not look after their people and that their people live in misery. That is unfortunately true, but it is not true of those two Sheikhdoms, both of which have accepted their responsibilities and are doing their best to raise the standard of their people.
What can we do here at home to ease the situation relating to our terrific need for the products of the Middle East? When we need a product which comes from the Middle East, when our whole lifeblood depends upon it, we are in a difficult position when it comes to getting round the bargaining table. The late Mr. Bevin emphasised that fact. The best way of bargaining is to be strong. Our position at the moment is lamentably weak in that every part of our industry is dependent utterly and completely upon the flow of oil, most of which comes from the Middle East.
1388 Two points emerge in this connection, and I hope that they will be passed on to the Ministers concerned. The first one —I hope I am not outside the rules of order, because this concerns the flow of oil from the Middle East—relates to the way in which we waste the oil when it comes here. I cannot develop this argument now, but when we are told that we are not able to spend sufficient money on improving our roads so that we may avoid these traffic jams, it seems to me that we are also imposing a self-inflicted wound on ourselves. We are wasting thousands of millions of tons of fuel oil in this country, and it is all having to come to us perhaps in those large tankers which the right hon. Member for Ipswich mentioned or through the Canal when it is opened. That is on the one side.
On the other side, as was said by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) in his impressive maiden speech, we are finding that year by year the tonnage of fuel oil from the Middle East is increasing sharply. Therefore, if any of our industries could utilise another form of power—and I am not saying that we should wait for the atomic age—in order to ease that load, then we should be in a far stronger position.
I ask my right hon. Friend to draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister of Power to the development of methane gas in the countryside. I will say no more on that subject now, except that if this source of power were pursued with energy it is possible that we should be able to save ourselves an enormous amount of fuel oil and thereby put ourselves in a stronger position.
I also want to refer to the contribution that we could make in the matter of defence if we were brought back fully into the United Nations. I recently went with a Parliamentary delegation to Kenya, and I have been studying the effects upon us of the last crisis which we suffered. It seems to me that there is a possibility —I say no more than that—of the whole of the southern Mediterranean seaboard falling into the hands of people hostile to us and to N.A.T.O. Had that situation arisen, our present position in Cyprus and Malta, and, indeed, throughout the Mediterranean, would have been extremely gravely jeopardised. I believe that if we are to play our part in the 1389 Middle East settlement we can do more for the defence of the Middle East by building up military headquarters—naval, air and land—in Kenya.
With the United Nations as it is now constituted, with France and ourselves outside it, I do not believe that any sort of settlement will be reached in the Middle East. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham that as a result of that the United Nations will be broken in the process. If that happens, it will be one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century. On the other hand, if we are brought back and given a chance to play a full part in United Nations affairs and in United Nations deliberations about the Middle East, I believe there is a very good chance, through patience and through using our persuasion to bring Jews and Arabs together, that a lasting peace can be achieved.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
A great deal of what has been said from the other side of the House is very alarming. There is general agreement about many desirable objectives in the Middle East, but how are we to reach those objectives? It is the Government's policy to reach them through the United Nations. Yet when the Foreign Secretary was speaking I felt that he himself had no faith in the United Nations. I have also felt that practically every other Conservative hon. Member who has spoken since has no faith in the United Nations.
It seems to me that we are making exactly the same error as led us into Suez. We continue to invoke words in which we have no belief whatever, and when the crisis comes we shall no doubt say that we never believed them after all. It was the same with the Tripartite Declaration before Suez. It was quoted as being the cornerstone of the Government's policy, until a situation arose in which it had to be invoked, and then it was not invoked.
If it really is the view of the Government that the United Nations is not capable of carrying out its policy in the Middle East, it would be better for them to say so. We might then consider whether there is another way of doing it. It is conceivable that we might have another declaration of a sort, something on the lines of the Tripartite Declaration. It creates a dangerous situation to 1390 go on saying that it would be a tragedy if the United Nations failed, implying all the time that United Nations is something quite separate from us and that it will be no concern of ours if it fails. It is the only instrument that we have for carrying out our policy.
If we are to work through the United Nations—I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) that it is very undesirable that we should be pushed out of it; nevertheless, we have put ourselves in some difficulty by our actions in the last three or four months —and if we are to go back into it, I believe we must go back into it as part of the Commonwealth. There has been very little mention in the debate of the rôle which Canada, for instance, is playing and can play today. It is an extremely important one. If we want to make our weight felt, we must get a common policy with Canada.
I would go further than that and say that if we are to work through the United Nations in the Middle East we should make every effort to work with India. So far India has not been mentioned. I know there has been a feeling that India at the time of the original Suez trouble was very disloyal and so forth, but, looking back, I am rather of the opinion that we should have paid much more attention to Mr. Nehru's proposals. We should now be very unwise to sweep India aside on the grounds of Kashmir and say that her influence is of no value to us.
Whether we think the United Nations is a good or a bad instrument, it is today an immensely important factor in American life. When the Joint Under-Secretary of State goes to America, I hope he will look into this aspect. The United Nations has a far greater significance in American life in many ways today than Congress has. It is televised all over America. It is news. Its headquarters is a place which people visit. It is a living entity in a way which it is not in this country.
We ought to send to the United Nations people who are capable not only of putting our point of view, but of getting it across. I do not know whether we are achieving that now. At the time of Suez I was in New York, and I know that we left it to a civil servant who 1391 was most admirable but did not have the standing to enable him to get our point of view across. At one time, we had Sir Gladwyn Jebb there. He is the sort of man to use the United Nations as a platform and put the British point of view. I believe that we have to use the United Nations. I believe it will develop.
Another very important matter to which little attention has been paid in this country is the changing rôles of the Assembly and the Council. Some people feel that the Assembly has far overstepped its true function. That may be so. At all events, the United Nations itself is obviously undergoing change, and it is vital that we and the Commonwealth should make our views known there at this moment.
Another thing that we must do very quickly is to have some plain, friendly speaking with the Americans about "colonialism." This 'bedevils a great deal of our relations, and the sooner we get some agreement on it the better. I think we can get it, because it is largely a misconception. In the light of what has happened in Ghana, it is absurd to pretend that we are the oppressors of all the coloured nations.
Clearly, in the Middle East itself the major objective of Britain is stability, partly so that we can obtain oil, and the major conflict in the Middle East is Arab-Israeli hate. I notice that Mr. Macdonald, when giving evidence before a Senate Committee, said that we must:… recognise that Israel/Arab understanding is an essential preliminary to effective measures for the defence of the West's vital interests, including oil.I do not think this can be done quickly. A great deal of misconception is spread about by the feeling that we can do something in a few months, by some gimmick, to settle the problem, but that cannot happen. It is we who have created the problem, although from the best of motives. The Jews did not create it. The Arabs did not create it. All the irritation that is engendered between Jews and Arabs has been started by the Western world and the Russians, because we persecuted the Jews and then shipped them to Palestine. We should look forward to the day when Israel becomes a genuine Middle Eastern country and takes a lead there. So long as she is 1392 regarded as an outpost of what is called "Western colonialism", there will be trouble. She must become the leading nation in the Middle East and a part of it.
§ Mr. Grimond
I am grateful. I was referring to the Western world as a whole.
I hope the Foreign Secretary is right in saying that there is a slackening of tempo. I should have thought that the developments in Jordan were rather dangerous. I believe that Glubb had a restraining influence on the frontiers there. I should have thought that there is every sign that there may be a breakup with Jordan, which we should very much regret and which we hope will not happen, but if it happened it might well start all sorts of movements on both the Arab side and the Israel side.
Therefore, I believe that it is very vital indeed to throw the whole weight of the Commonwealth into the United Nations in order to achieve some of the things to which reference has already been made. If we can only get a few refugees settled we may start a trickle. Even if we settled quite a small number of refugees and they were contented and prosperous and messages came back to the camps to say "So and so is doing well and making a good living", we would break the log jam. With money, I believe that, even against the hostility of the Arabs, a beginning could be made.
Have we now given up any hope of the United Nations, through, say, the World Bank, actually buying part of the Gaza Strip or of the Sinai Peninsula? This did seem a possible way of easing Colonel Nasser's ego—giving him some money to spend on dams and so on and, at the same time, making a base there. I believe that the United Nations has to stay along the frontier. We have, of course, to have small adjustments, but the United Nations must then impose peace along the frontier.
One read in the newspapers only today that the "Voice of the Arabs" says:The Gulf of Aqaba will be closed to the ships of Israel and our commandos will continue to sow terror in Israel.1393 Therefore, I add my voice to those hon. Members who have spoken; we have not much time to lose, and we must make it clear that the United Nations will build up a force which will stay there for a very considerable period.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The hon. Member has just been saying that the situation is extremely fluid, that Jordan may break lip at any moment, and that there may be great movements. What sort of situation is he trying to guarantee? Does he really want to put these troops all round the frontiers now, keeping that part of the world permanently in the exact geographical state that it was in after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948?
§ Mr. Grimond
I agree that we have to develop machinery, through the United Nations, for changing the situation, for altering the frontiers and for ringing the Arabs and Jews together, we hope, in the long run, and finding a permanent settlement. But that is a very long job. Meantime, we have to put a strong observer force or troops along the frontier to prevent a recurrence of conflict. I should have thought that Mr. Ben Gurion had every right to demand that as a minimum, and I should have thought that the sooner it was done the easier it would be.
As to the Canal, I understood from the Foreign Secretary that we are going back to the proposals of October which. I am sure, is the right starting point. But we have made no progress about the dates and to when they are to be paid; and I was not quite sure just what the position of the Suez Canal Users' Association is in this. Are we to be told whether it is still in existence, and, if it is, its present purpose?
I would agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse), that if the worst comes to the worse, so to speak, there is a great deal to be said for moving our shipping round the Cape. I cannot go so far with him as to say that we should actually blockade the Canal, because we ourselves are extremely vulnerable to blockade, extremely vulnerable to a cutting off not only of our oil but also of our dollar flow. But we should put more round the Cape, though I am afraid that with the increasing demands for oil we shall need the 1394 Canal also, if we can get it. Nevertheless, I should have no objection to that sanction.
The need for stability and the Arab-Jew situation is tied up with the internal conditions of the Arab States themselves. In the Arab States there is the danger of Communism internally, and also a danger of anarchy. Personally, I think the danger of external attack by Russia has been greatly exaggerated. As Mr. Macdonald said:Communist Russia has no need now for military aggression in the Middle East. It can wait confident that its subversive tactics—if uncountered by the West—can achieve the replacement of Western influence by that of the Kremlin throughout the Middle East.We have inevitably brought Russia into the Middle East, as we have brought in the United Nations. I was against bringing in Russia. But now that she has come in, and must come in, it would be much better to accept the fact, bring her in openly and try to negotiate with her. I am in entire agreement with those who say that the counter to Communism is greater technical aid. The Arab States do not need money so much as the technical aid to enable them to spend it properly. Iraq actually had some oil revenues unspent because she has not that means to spend them.
I also agree that propaganda is extremely important, but I do feel that what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has said about the Russian proposals needed saying. Except for one, I cannot see how we can possibly object to those proposals. The first is for the settlement of all outstanding issues through peaceful negotiation. We can have no objection to that. Then, there is non-intervention in the domestic affairs of countries.
The only one, I suppose, that we could object to is the dropping of attempts to involve Middle Eastern countries in military blocs. I should have thought that a negotiable point. I am not quite clear whether we gain as much as we lose by involving ourselves in these blocs. If the Russians attack the Middle East, we have the Eisenhower doctrine and the ultimate deterrent of the hydrogen bomb. Do we really need to be directly involved in these blocs, or is this a negotiable matter? I should have thought it worth calling the Russians' bluff, as it were.
1395 I certainly believe that it is not really worth while to keep our actual bases there in the old way. In such places as Iraq it would do far more harm than good, and the time has come to withdraw them.
As for the Eisenhower doctrine, it does give us the assurance of the ultimate backing of America, but it does not meet the difficulty of internal Communism. That has to be met by paying a fair price for oil and seeing that the proceeds are used for genuine development.
It is very important not to let down Iraq and Pakistan, but the northern tier is not a direct Iraqi concern at all, and her contribution is very small. It is all a question of whether we do not lose more than we gain by these alliances in their present form. If we could get some quid pro quo from the Russians, and if the flow of arms were really stopped and we could make bargains in other parts of the world, I should have thought these proposals would open up possibilities and should not be rejected out of hand.
Finally, I would just say this about oil. We have to buy the oil. We must get back to the position of buying things and paying a fair price for them, and not going in and claiming sovereignty over the countries producing them. But oil is of such importance to the Middle East countries and to ourselves that there is a lot to be said for having the arrangements now existing between the oil companies and the producing States brought under some form of international treaty. I believe that there is everything to be said for setting up, under the United Nations, a development board of some sort to apply the oil proceeds. I do not entirely share the confidence expressed by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) about Kuwait and Bahrain. It is true that they are very rich, but it is very difficult to believe that they will indefinitely continue to exist as small autocratic entities on the edge of the coast and will not one day be nipped off unless, in the meantime, we spread the oil revenues further among the Arab States and bring them into political association with their neighbours.
We have to help in the Middle East, but we have also to stop identifying ourselves with particular political parties in Arab countries. We are stopping that 1396 now, but we used to do it, and it is futile. The Arabs, whether we like it or not, mean to run their own affairs. We have to go in, as equals, to help them. We have to protect the Jews against aggression and we have to make the United Nations work.
I repeat what I said at the beginning—if we really have no faith in the United Nations, let us say so now and see if we cannot get something else to work, but if we are to pin our policy on to the United Nations, we have to go in with India, Canada and the Commonwealth as a whole, and see that the very desirable objectives about which we have heard today are actually realised.
§ 7.29 p.m.
Lieut,-Colonel Wentworth Schofield (Rochdale)
Nearly every hon. Member who has spoken today has referred to the question of oil in the Middle East, and it is to that particular topic that I wish to devote my remarks this evening. It is becoming more clear every day how the mind of Colonel Nasser has been working. The moment that he claimed sovereignty over the Canal it was clear that he wanted the Canal not for the revenue which he could thereby obtain but for the power which possession of the Canal would place in his hands. Every step he has taken since he became the dictator of Egypt has been designed to that end. First, it was necessary that he should get the British forces oat of the Canal Zone. After he had accomplished that, it was merely a matter of time before he took the next step, the so-called nationalisation of the Canal. He took that step in July last year by simple declaration claiming sovereignty over the Canal and declaring that it was the property of Egypt. Subsequent events have shown how great was the power which he then acquired.
The closing of the Canal more than anything else has brought home to the people of Europe, and of this country in particular, our absolute dependence on oil from the Middle East. That is not to say, of course, that we are not dependent also upon other things which are carried through the Canal. That is why there must be guarantees for keeping the Canal open. What has been made crystal clear is that nothing which comes through the Canal has such an immediate effect upon the economy of this country as a stoppage or delay in the flow of oil. No one knows 1397 this better than Colonel Nasser. Ever since the United Nations recognised his right to determine when and how the clearing of the Canal should be effected, he has been able to dictate every move. Since the British and French forces have left Port Said, we have seen how the Canal can be put out of action and, indeed, kept out of action by the whim of one man in delaying its clearance. We have seen how Colonel Nasser has been able to hold to ransom not only Europe but the United Nations as well until he got his own way. I submit that, unless some alternative means of getting Middle East oil to Europe can be found, we shall always be in danger of suffering the great humiliation of being under the thumb of the Egyptian dictator.
Means must be found whereby the vital supplies of oil can be brought from the Middle East to this country, by-passing the Canal. It is my view that the days of the Suez Canal are numbered, certainly as a profitable enterprise. Once there are large super-tankers in sufficient numbers, tankers such as those which are on the stocks today and which will go on the stocks in greater numbers, carrying or capable of carrying 80,000 to 100,000 tons of crude oil, it will be found much more economical to send them round the Cape than to send oil by the smaller type of tanker which, has to go through the Canal.
Before we look at the possibility of alternative means, let us first consider the Canal, its background and its disabilities. As hon. Members may be aware, because of the vastly increased oil traffic through the Canal in recent years, it has been found necessary on several occasions to widen or deepen the Canal in order to keep pace with the growing demand.
For the most part, the Canal will allow ships to proceed in one direction only at a time. This, of course, necessitates an elaborate system of convoys. The speed of passage through the Canal is virtually limited to 7 knots, and only ships drawing 36 ft. or less can pass through the Canal at all. By 1955, which was the last complete year we can take for the supply of oil coming through the Canal because the year 1956 was a broken year, oil traffic through the Canal represented 67 million tons out of a total of 107 million tons of all shipping which passed through the Canal. In other words, two-thirds of 1398 the total tonnage which passes through the Canal is oil.
At present, the only alternative to the Canal is the long route via the Cape. I suggest that another means could be provided by running an oil pipeline from the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba to the East Mediterranean coast in the region of Gaza, the pipeline running through a strip of Sinai territory about 20 miles wide which runs along the Israeli-Sinai border. The territory through which the pipeline would pass should, in my opinion, be owned and administered by some international authority, for preference the United Nations organisation. I was pleased to hear this afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary say that he felt that the Gaza Strip should be internationalised. I would take it further by carrying the strip 160 miles along the Egyptian-Israeli border.
Such a pipeline laid through that strip would provide a trans-shipment route for part or, if need be, for the whole of the oil which normally passes through the Suez Canal. Tankers from the Persian Gulf could discharge their oil cargoes at the Aqaba end of the pipeline. The oil could be pumped from there direct to tankers in the Mediterranean in the region of Gaza because, fortunately, the Gulf of Aqaba at the terminal point of the pipeline is blessed with very deep water indeed, certainly sufficient to accommodate any type of tanker. If my memory serves me aright, the depth is no less than 65 ft. close to the shore. At the Gaza end of the pipeline the coast is straight and shelves uniformly to a depth of 60 ft. within one mile of the coast. That again is deep enough for any tankers.
At the Mediterranean end of the pipeline, there would be no difficulty in pumping the oil direct into the tankers. All that would be necessary would be an extension of the pipeline by submarine pipes from the shore end at the Gaza terminal, and the actual connections could he made to the tankers by flexible hose. There is nothing new in this. The method is already being used about 250 miles further north at Banias, which is the terminal end of the pipe coming from Kirkuk, operated by the Iraq Petroleum Company.
I am informed by experts of great experience in the laying and operating of pipelines in the Middle East that the 1399 scheme is both practical and sound. It is estimated that the scheme would require three pumping stations dispersed along the pipeline to pump the oil from the Aqaba terminal to the Mediterranean. These, together with four 30-in. diameter pipes, 160 miles long, complete with storage tanks, jetties, submarine pipes, and encampment dwellings for staff could be put down at a cost of approximately £60 million. Given priority, the whole installation could be completed in a matter of eighteen months. The estimated cost of conveying oil by this method of a pipeline from Aqaba to the Mediterranean would be less than that of taking the oil through the Canal.
§ Mr. Janner
I am very interested in the point the hon. and gallant Member is putting. The only modification I ask him to consider is that, in the event of any interference with the terminal in the Gaza Strip, I think he will agree there is a possibility of a terminal being placed somewhere else leading into the Mediterranean. This is an extremely important matter with which the hon. and gallant Member is dealing.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Schofield
I quite agree with the hon. Member, but as I develop my agrument I think he will find that I have provided for that.
Before the Canal was closed, the toll charge was 6s. 3d. a ton. It is absolutely certain that when the Canal is opened the charges will go up. Someone will have to pay for this long stoppage, the extra maintenance, deepening and one thing and another which will have to be done. We can be absolutely certain that the Canal charges will go up. The figures I have given are not just a rough and ready calculation. They have been properly costed, the area has been surveyed and this has been discussed with members of the oil industry, who have much experience of constructing and operating pipelines in the Middle East. They have agreed that the figures given are substantially correct.
The one essential for its success, however, is that the strip through which it must pass shall be an international buffer zone between Egypt and Israel. The reason I have suggested that it should be twenty miles in width is to provide for diversions of the pipe to circumvent 1400 obstacles which may be found in that area. In addition, it would provide a buffer zone which, more than anything else at present, is required between Egypt and Israelis.
It has also been costed out that it would be possible to pump oil from the Aqaba end to the Mediterranean terminal at no less than 2s. a ton cheaper than taking it through the Canal, based on the pre-stoppage Canal charge of 6s. 3d. I put forward this suggestion, not only as one which would provide a buffer zone to keep the Israelis and Egyptians apart, but also as a business proposition for bringing the oil in the cheapest possible way from the Persian Gulf to this country.
I feel that so long as Egyptian and Israeli forces are able to face each other there will always be a serious risk of war. This neutral territory could be put between them and, if thought necessary, it could be manned by United Nations police or troops. The scheme could be self-supporting. The money obtained by pumping the oil would provide for any occupation of the zone. It is a business proposition from every point of view. I hope the Foreign Secretary will take note of it because some day a settlement will have to be made. We understand that the United Nations is engaged in trying to find a settlement. This is one way in which it could use its authority to bring such a settlement about.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. and gallant Member for Rochdale (Lieut.-Colonel Schofield) has made a businesslike, practical speech with a limited end. During the first half of his speech, I thought it might well have been a speech made by the managing director in a difficult moment to the assembled shareholders of the Suez Canal Company, but, as he proceeded, I thought he had a wider aim and was really putting out the prospectus of a new company to carry on the work of what he regards as a defunct commercial concern.
I do not say that disrespectfully. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will believe me when I put it that way, because it seems to me that what the House of Commons is concerned with in dealing with these matters is not any 1401 of the individual questions which give so many of us real anxiety. The menace to this country and the menace to the world is not the Suez Canal question, or even the passage of oil, or even the Israeli-Arab conflict. All those are symptoms only. They would not matter in a healthy world. They matter only because we are living in a world which is divided, which is not spiritually at peace although it is not actually fighting, and where actual peace is precarious.
If war, the dreaded third world war, were to break out within the next ten years, I suppose the Middle East is the most likely area which would provide the pretext on which the organisation of world peace would break down. It seems to me that we have to consider all these questions against that background. I thought my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was absolutely right when he condemned the speech of the Foreign Secretary, in so far as it dealt with ultimate policy, as barren in the extreme. The most disappointing part of what otherwise has been a well-informed, a well-balanced and a most interesting debate, is that no other hon. Member who took part in it referred to that aspect of the matter at all until the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), speaking for the Liberal Party a little while ago, brought our attention back to what actually is the really fundamental problem in this matter.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) who—if I may quote myself on a previous occasion—has again blown in, blown off and blown out, made a speech in which he declared himself to be a pro-Arab and an anti-Zionist. He added, and I for one believe utterly in his sincerity in what he said on this matter, that he was not anti-Jew and saw no reason why being pro-Arab should make a man anti-Jew, although he thought it might make him anti-Zionist. It will not take anyone in this House by surprise when I say that I am not impartial in this matter. I am a Jew, I am a Zionist, and it is only right that it should be made clear that I approach the problems of this part of the world with, as it were, a preconceived sympathy. Why should I not?
I do not agree with the hon. Member who said that it was the Western world that had created Zionism or had created 1402 the State of Israel and that it was persecution alone that made Jews wish to recreate their nation and give it a place in the world where it could live normally as other nations live. I believe that if there had never been any persecution at all, at any time, the Jews would still have wanted and ultimately still would have succeeded in establishing for themselves what is essential for them as for other people. I do not think that it is a question of what Mr. Speaker referred to earlier today as "pugnacious nationalism". It is a desire to be normal —perhaps the most fundamental of all human desires.
But by the time we had reached the year 1945, with all that had happened in the six years of war and, in particular, with what had happened to two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe in the concentration camps in which people who had survived miraculously against all reason were still dragging out hopeless, miserable lives, there had come about a situation in which the creation of the State of Israel became a political inevitability.
It seems to me that that fact will have to be recognised by the Arabs. It will have to be accepted as a fact that the people of Israel have established their nation in their State and that they cannot be overthrown or driven into the sea. But that does not mean at all that anyone in his senses can conceive of the possibility of Israel maintaining a permanent existence on the basis of permanent hostility to all her Arab neighbours. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was right when he said that it is a condition of the continuance of a Jewish State in the Middle East that it shall be a Middle Eastern State, living in Middle Eastern conditions, living at peace with its neighbours, and making its contributions to world civilisation through and in that area.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member is perfectly right, and I am delighted to find myself for once in full agreement with him. It is a great mistake to suppose, as many people have supposed, that there is some permanent irreconcilability between the Arab and the Jewish outlook.
§ Mr. Philip Bell
The impression that I have, and perhaps the hon. Member will contradict it, is that the State of Israel is not really viable and cannot live on its trade and possibly will be forced to expand its frontiers. That is what the Arab thinks.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. and learned Member will do me the honour of hearing the rest of what I have to say, and if by that time I have not dealt with that point, I shall be delighted to answer it, but I do not want to deal with these matters piecemeal because that would make my speech too long. I think that there is no ultimate irreconcilability between Israeli and Arab interests involved in this matter at all, and no racial antagonism.
§ Mr. Silverman
They are, of course, racial cousins. Their languages are not the same, but they are certainly closely allied. They have, in many ways, a common background and, but for circumstances for which neither is responsible, there is no reason in the world why Israel should not be able to form, some day, some part of a general Arab Middle Eastern federation and play a loyal part with cousin Arab States in such a situation. That is perfectly true, and it is exactly what I was trying to say. It is equally true, of course, that that is not the present situation. We have a long way to go before the Arab States, certainly under their present leadership, can be brought to appreciate that that is really the only ultimate way out.
There is a long way to go, indeed, and therefore, while one begins by recognising that there is not any kind of fundamental antagonism or any kind of ultimate irreconcilability, there is at this moment the greatest difficulty in the world. The Israelis' immediate difficulty is to survive at all. Just as one cannot conceive of a State of Israel living in permanent hostility to all its neighbours, so indeed those who wanted to establish a State to go on and make its own renewed contribution to the civilisation of the world never expected it to endure on the basis of depending on foreign economic help or foreign military alliances in order to maintain a precarious security on the edge 1404 of the sea, surrounded by a ring of hostile neighbours.
The foundation of the State of Israel was not a foundation by the United Nations. The State of Israel exists because it established itself by its own efforts. The United Nations was brought slowly, reluctantly and with difficulty to recognise the accomplished fact but, after all, it had to be accomplished first, and it was accomplished first. In that situation, Israel has been compelled to live in conditions of indescribable insecurity as well as in conditions of the greatest economic difficulties ever since its foundation in 1948. Its Arab neighbours have refused to recognise its existence at all. They have made no secret of their ambition to do some day soon what they failed to do in 1948—that is, to exterminate the State altogether and drive its inhabitants into the sea.
I cannot understand how anyone in those circumstances ever brought himself to describe what the Israelis did at the end of October, 1956, as an act of aggression. This is the greatest nonsense in the world. Even technically it is the greatest nonsense in the world. An act of aggression can only be an act of war committed by one State upon another State. Nothing else in international law is recognised as aggression. And since Egypt has always said, and still says, that Israel does not exist at all as a State, she is in a difficult position if she says that this non-existent State committed, under international law, an act of aggresion upon her. If we get over that technical difficulty, we are bang up against another equally insurmountable difficulty, because it is not possible for Egypt to claim at one and the same time belligerent rights and immunity from attack.
If it is said that one can keep Israeli ships out of the Suez Canal because one is exercising normal belligerent rights and can blockade the Israelis in the Gulf of Aqaba by the exercise of belligerent rights, then one cannot claim at the same time that the people against whom one is exercising belligerent rights have no right to fight back and if they do fight back they are guilty of aggression. That is complete and utter nonsense, and always was.
It can be said—and one must be absolutely fair and frank about it—that there undoubtedly was at the end of October a 1405 breach of the armistice agreement, but a breach of the armistice agreement is not an act of aggression necessarily under the United Nations Charter. Of course it is not. Everyone knows that so far as the Gaza Strip is concerned the armistice agreement had been a dead letter for at least four or five years, so really this notion that there was some great act of aggression committed by Israel and that the United Nations had the same right as it had against this country and against France seems to me to be complete nonsense.
If Israel made any mistake, it was not a mistake about international law. It was a political mistake, and it may have been a political mistake of very great importance. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who spoke for the Liberal Party, when he asked to what this hatred—if that is the right word— this deep-rooted suspicion, this determined hostility of the Arab world to the State of Israel is due if it is not due to racial incompatibility or any real conflict of interests. As the hon. Member said, and as another hon. Member implied in an intervention just now, it is due to the feeling in the Arab world that the State of Israel is not a genuine State at all; that it is an artificial affair created by the Western Powers for their own purposes in order to provide the colonisers and the imperialists with a spearhead or a bridgehead with which they could again enter, as it were by the side door, the area from which they had been expelled at the front.
I entirely agree that conditions of understanding and co-operation between Israel and the Arab world will never be achieved until somehow or other that obsession has been removed from the Arab mind. I should have thought that if there was a mistake made by the Israelis it was a political mistake of either being in connivance or in collusion, or seeming to be in connivance or in collusion, with Britain and France at a time when Britain and France were indeed acting without legal authority under international law and without any real need.
It will be all the more difficult for a generation now to persuade the Arabs that their obsession was ill-founded, because they will say, "When we were in our greatest need the Israelis were found 1406 fighting at the same time side by side with those whom we most feared." I say that because I think that it is probably true. I am not saying that Israel is to be blamed for it; not at all. In the circumstances in which she was placed obviously she had to act, because her very security has been imperilled over all these years. That was the situation.
What is the situation now? Now the United States of America has come in to play the part that this country played with such ill-success for the better part of two generations. Now it is being said —the Foreign Secretary himself said it—"Of course you must look forward as we do." One remembers how this whole controversy in its most critical phase was bedevilled by the late Ernest Bevin who went on declaring day in and day out on suitable and unsuitable occasions, "There will never be any settlement to which the Arabs do not agree." We said to him, "What you are doing by saying that is to give the Arabs a veto on any settlement at all, because if there is not going to be any settlement unless they agree, all they have to do is to fail to agree and the settlement is postponed to the Greek Kalends."
It seems to me that peace will have to be maintained in the end by an imposed settlement for a limited period on something like the lines set out by the Foreign Secretary, although I am bound to say I was horrified at what led to the interruption which caused a certain amount of impatience among hon. Members opposite—to hear the second terms of his offer: a guarantee to the Arab world against Zionist expansionism. Of course they are entitled to that. Then he looked to the corresponding guarantee to the State of Israel, and what was it? It was to be guaranteed against extermination. It seemed to be a minimal guarantee. I cannot understand why that kind of language was used unless it was used in order to maintain in the Arab mind the hope that short of extermination they could have territorial sacrifices at Israel's expense.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
Is my hon. Friend aware that under the Three-Power Declaration there was a guarantee of the armistice lines against aggression? If that has gone, what has been put in its place by the Government?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not going to concede, and I hope that no one is going to accept it yet, that the Government have withdrawn from their guarantee under the Tripartite Agreement of the frontiers as they stand. I hope that perhaps we may have some statement about that at the end of the debate, but I am bound to say that if that wording was not intended to convey the impression that I have somewhat cynically and perhaps brutally set out, if it was not intended, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said, to arouse all the doubts and suspicions that were aroused by Sir Anthony Eden's Guildhall speech, I cannot understand how they brought themselves to use such unfortunate phraseology. I hope that if it was used inadvertently, although I cannot understand how such language came to be used inadvertently, a correction will be made at the end by whoever is to make the final speech for the Government.
Finally, I would say that if we are to read any sense whatever into the Eisenhower doctrine, it can only mean that the United States of America is going to play the extremely sinister part in its effects—I am not talking about intentions—which this country has played in this matter for the past twenty years, and that is to play off Jew against Arab and Arab against Jew; this part of the Arab world against that part of the Arab world.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is true. I can well conceive that there might be different views about the degree of intention behind it. There may be different views about the motives, there may be different views even about the historical necessity, but I cannot conceive that there can be any different view about the facts. It is so. It is so, and under the Eisenhower doctrine this is exactly what will be done all over again.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the noble Lord thinks it worth while to take up time by verbal dialectics of that kind, he must do it for himself later in the debate if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if there is any time left.
1408 I hope that what I am saying is reasonably clear. The facts I am talking about are the facts in the past. What I am saying is that I cannot conceive that the Eisenhower doctrine makes any sense unless it makes the sense that it is proposing to do in the future along those lines what we have done with such ill-success, and with such tragic results for ourselves, over the past twenty years.
I think most people would concede what I said at the beginning of my speech about the exceptionally critical nature of international problems in the Middle East. If we add to that the fact that we cannot keep the Soviet Union now out of the Middle East whatever we do—I am not arguing the rights or wrongs of it, they are there; they cannot help but be there, and the Foreign Secretary has admitted repeatedly in answer to questions in this House that obviously they have legitimate interests there—if they have legitimate interests, if we have legitimate interests, if the Americans have legitimate interests, there are only two ways of dealing with the matter.
One is to let each back his own interests against the other, reckless of ultimate consequences. In that way lies ultimate disaster. The other way is to get together and see whether the various conflicting interests can in any way be reconciled. If ultimately, after a genuine and sincere attempt, it turns out that the legitimate interests cannot be reconciled, then we are no worse off than we are now, never having made the attempt. I cannot conceive that any human being, conscious of what might depend upon right or wrong decisions in this matter, would be so irresponsible as to say that if the offer is made of an attempt to reconcile conflicting interests, we should not accept that offer or try to see what can be made of it.
Yet that is exactly what the Foreign Secretary has done in the note delivered to the Soviet Union, and the French Note is to the same effect, as is also the American Note. If we do that, and make no attempt to reach an agreement, what is the alternative? We must expect that they will try to infiltrate as we tried to infiltrate, as the Western nations tried to infiltrate.
Oil is our greatest interest and we are entitled to try to secure it, are we not? There are important strategic and tactical 1409 matters to be considered in this part of the world. Are we not going to consider them? The only question is whether we consider them alone or with our immediate allies or whether we attempt to consider them with others. To say that we will not consider these matters with them at all because we are not sure that their practice lives up to the precept contained in the Note, seems to me to be the sheerest hypocrisy, having regard to all that has been going on since October of last year.
So I say to the Government that if they are to discharge the responsibilities of Government for any time longer, they will take a heavy responsibility before history if they allow the opportunity which has been presented for consultation and agreement to pass without being fully tried out. Let them try it out sincerely. If they fail, they will have done their best, and their consciences will be clear. But to go on in this way, stumbling from crisis to crisis until they are submerged by ultimate catastrophe is to incur a responsibility that no sane man has the right to incur.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) certainly does not put a blind faith in the United Nations as does the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). When he opened the debate for the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman posed the problems, but then he skirted happily round how we were to meet them and said finally, "Right, let us send these to the United Nations."
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) asked have we, or have we not, got faith in the United Nations? I think we have to face the matter with realism. The United Nations was a complete failure in Hungary, and this is the last test as to whether it can live up to its obligations. At this late hour I will not go into all the questions of the Suez operation, except to recall to the House that the very reason for the Anglo-French intervention was because the United Nations had, over a period of months, indeed years, failed to solve the problems of the Middle East.
History may well judge the timing of our operation, and certainly the Government's public relations. Yet I am sure that two-thirds of this country were 1410 behind Sir Anthony Eden at that time. We realise perfectly well the immense difficulties that confront our Foreign Secretary now. It seems that America, as the prime mover in seeking the withdrawal of French, British and Israeli forces, has taken on the final responsibility. Indeed, the B.B.C. the other day put rather nicely, I thought, the French reaction to America at that time. It reported that what the French had said could be summed up in three sentences: "We told you so. Now you know where you are. The baby is yours."
It is said that private assurances were given to Israel by the United States that her future security from Egyptian attack would be upheld. Yet it appears that Egypt will shortly demand the withdrawal of United Nations Forces. I am supported by a powerful letter in The Times signed by such eminent people as Professor Gilbert Murray, Lord Halley, Lord Hankey and others which reads:It cannot be contended that the United Nations will be carrying out the Charter and its duty to maintain international peace and security by restoration of the old frontiers without powerful safeguards.I want to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of State whether, when he replies to the debate, we could have clarification of some of the points raised by the Foreign Secretary earlier. What exactly has happened to the Suez Canal Users' Association? What exactly is the Government's view about the six points adopted by the United Nations? Above all, can we have some more definite assurance about the Government's attitude towards the payment of the Canal dues? If we are, even in a hidden way, to pay the Canal dues to Colonel Nasser, then that really is a final defeat.
As I ventured to say in a debate in November, the United Nations is not an alibi for evading responsibility, and I think that a great many countries which opposed us at the start are beginning to harden to our view. It is a great temptation for all nations to shelter behind the United Nations, and, however much many sincere people in this country may want it to work, I for one do not think that in its present form it can. It is not a judicial body, as we all know. There is no body of law to which all the nations are obliged to conform.
The Charter lays down that only the Security Council can act and the 1411 Assembly can recommend. When Russia used her veto consistently, it was agreed that a new procedure should come about and that the Assembly should be able to make a recommendation on a two-thirds majority, but no nation has ever undertaken to obey the resolutions of the Assembly. Therefore, action can, in fact, only legally be required by the Security Council.
Therefore, this country, as well as many other nations is asking the United Nations to take executive action which is not written into the Charter so far as the Assembly is concerned, and that is the reason for our weakness in the Canal Zone and in Gaza today.
The Labour Party held a campaign in the country saying that we want "Law, not war." The United Nations has no force in law, but I would agree with the Labour Party that we certainly want to do everything we can, and that is very limited, to ensure respect for international obligations, although that is a different question. In this context, America may be cautious now, but I submit that the Afro-Asian group will respect her and those members of the United Nations who are ready not only to honour international agreements between them but to see that they are enforced.
The other day the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. St. Laurent, said in the Canadian House of Commons that unless Egypt freely agrees to the voice of the United Nations majority in getting the Suez Canal functioning, the only alternative is the use of force. He said he hoped that this would not be necessary. When he was challenged on this point the next day he said he thought he was pointing out an alternative that could not be considered. But, of course, law is no good unless it is enforced. We in this House might just as well face what the United Nations is and does and know exactly where we stand.
Take, for instance, the position of the United Nations Emergency Force, which is now a very critical one. Very shortly, apparently, we shall have two military governors in the Gaza strip. This tiny force is in Egypt only by Egypt's consent. Again, that pinpoints the weakness of the position of Britain as well as that of the other nations under the United Nations Charter at present. People say, "Let 1412 us build up this force." Are we being realistic? Can there really be a police force for one country and not for another? What about turning Russia out of Hungary or America out of Formosa? What vast size of police force would be necessary to enforce action demanded by the Security Council if the veto was not used? Even if such a force were raised, would it be right for an organisation constituted as it is to have so vast a power?
What, then, is left? We have all to recognise that the United Nations has done a very great deal of useful work in many ways, but on the prime issues of war and peace among the great Powers, for the reasons that I have given, the United Nations has not the authority or the moral force. Morality, the ideal, can have influence only if all the nations, great and small, are sure that they have fair and equal justice.
This country has tried, to its peril, to make the League of Nations work, and no man has striven harder than Sir Anthony Eden in that cause, or in the fresh hope given by the United Nations. His going is not only a personal tragedy, but masks the shattered belief that all Governments sincerely want peace. We have now to temper that desire by realising not only that some Governments do not, but that they think they can use the United Nations as they will.
In fact, at present the real power to keep peace rests among those countries which hold the hydrogen bomb as a deterrent. As time goes on more countries will seek protection from those who wield the authority of nuclear power. Equally, we can never escape the fact that if we try to impose economic sanctions, they can really be imposed only on vulnerable countries, not least ourselves.
Therefore, so far as our particular problems in the Middle East are concerned, our only hope at the present time is for America to use her undoubted influence with realism throughout the area, and for ourselves again to take a lead, in both ideas and experience.
I shall not in the short time available try to give the answer—nor do I believe that any other hon. Member would—to the problem of how to keep the world at peace. After all, this is the endless question which mankind has posed since the beginning of time. However, I would 1413 at least ask the House to see the United Nations for what it is, a great endeavour that in some form some day may yet succeed, but which at present is not an alibi for evading responsibility.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
In the very few minutes left before the big guns start booming down below, I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) upon putting very fairly the prevailing view of the Tories about the United Nations. I have never heard anything more defeatist. I should very much like to know whether the Minister of State repudiates or confirms the defeatism of the Government backbench Members.
Because we are discussing the future of the United Nations, I want to spend my few moments discussing the Gaza Strip. The Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) were right in stressing that success or failure in the Gaza Strip in the next four or five weeks will probably decide whether the United Nations can go forward or will be smashed. I do not take a very optimistic view at the moment.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that this was a unique opportunity for an experiment in international government. Gaza did not belong to either side. It could have been developed as an international area, independent of Egypt and Israel. Throughout we had from Mr. Lester Pearson, of Canada, most constructive proposals along those lines. But those proposals were defeated without even being put to the United Nations, because America had no confidence in them and preferred a weak, watered-down resolution. After that, we had American pressure on Israel to get her out without guarantees and with mere assurances.
I put it to the Minister of State that three facts have recently developed, each very depressing. First, Israel was perfectly prepared to keep her civil administration going and have it slowly removed by stages while an international administration was substituted. That was turned down.
In the second place, U.N.E.F. brought with it, when it entered, no administration at all. One cannot run the Gaza Strip without any preparations beforehand, and 1414 if one wanted to make the experiment fail, then the way that the United Nations entered the Gaza Strip seemed almost deliberately intended for that purpose. It made inevitable what is actually happening. We were glad to hear that Dr. Bunche has denied saying that he handed over gladly to the Egyptians the civil administration. He has not denied saying —I think I am right in saying, and I think the Minister of State will agree with me —that international government is impossible in the Gaza Strip without Egyptian consent. We all know what that means. It means that, sooner or later, and probably sooner, Egyptian administration will come into the Gaza Strip. It has to be ruled by someone. It has either to be ruled by Israel or Egypt or by an international administration, and if Israel is forced out and U.N.E.F. does not rule it then the Egyptians ultimately will.
I wish to make a reference to the leading article in The Times this morning which I think contains a fallacy commonly shared in this House. It states:The real test will come if Nasser demands the withdrawal of the United Nations force.I only wish that were true. Nasser would be delighted to have the United Nations force guarding the Gaza Strip and protecting his Fedayeen schools from interference by Israel. He is in a much stronger position if there are no Egyptian forces in the Gaza Strip to be cut off by the Israelis and if his Egyptian administration can be guarded by the United Nations force. I ask the Minister of State whether it is a fact that without Nasser putting a single soldier in the Gaza Strip he could achieve a victory there for Egypt through the United Nations? Could anything be more ironic than that a so-called international police force, which should be there to enforce justice on both sides, should be used cold-bloodedly and skilfully to restore the status quo under which the Fedayeen gangs can proceed with total impunity night after night to enter Israel because they are protected by the United Nations?
§ Mr. Crossman
I ask the Minister of State, what are the Israelis to do when faced with this situation? I should not be surprised, nor could I blame the Israelis, if they decided that they had been double-crossed by the Americans; that 1415 the assurances that they were given meant absolutely nothing, and that they were entitled, in order to survive, to call the Egyptians' bluff and throw them out of the strip.
Someone has said that we cannot do that. I look back to the Korean war when the Chinese Communists decided that they had, in their own self-defence, to chase MacArthur out of the northern part of the peninsula and so safeguard their own security. They did it very satisfactorily from their point of view. They came half-way down the peninsula, and then there was an armistice and they could not be defeated. I would not blame the Israelis if they felt it their duty, even though U.N.E.F, is there, to drive the Egyptians out and clean up the Fedayeen.
I make one other suggestion to the Minister of State. If the United Nations is not going to enforce law and order; if it is merely to be a smoke-screen under which Egyptian aggression can be prepared all over again, it would be far better for the United Nations to withdraw altogether from the Gaza Strip. I think that is something which the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said in his speech. If the United Nations cannot do its job, let it get out, because it is the worst thing of all for the prestige of the United Nations to pretend to do something honourable and to be an accomplice in something totally dishonourable and totally unjust. As a believer in the United Nations, I want to see U.N.E.F. withdraw altogether, if there is no chance of imposing an international regime on Gaza.
It may well be that it really is impossible. Very well. If it is, if the Assembly's Resolutions make it impossible, let there be no U.N.E.F. at all. Let the Egyptians and the Israelis settle this in the old-fashioned way.
Does anybody doubt what would happen in the Gaza Strip if this were settled in the old-fashioned way? It would not last four days like the Sinai campaign; it would last six hours. The strip would be cleaned up, and there would be no more trouble. I know that this is an unpleasant thing to say, but, frankly, I think that would be less unjust, less hypocritical and less unpleasant than the 1416 introduction of an Egyptian administration into the Gaza Strip under cover of an international army.
Let no one believe that because the Egyptian army has not come back the Egyptians will be unhappy. They are delighted. They are not very good at being defended by their own army. They lose every battle. But they have a strange skill at winning each diplomatic move with the help of other people. They win because the Americans have learned nothing from our mistakes. We all know why this appeasement is going on. It is because the Americans have taken over the patronage of the Middle East; the job of bribing the Arabs on to our side by sacrificing the essential rights of the Jews. The Americans are repeating on a vaster scale the mistakes of successive British Foreign Secretaries, and the result will be even vaster failures. That is why I feel so miserable that we have a Government who do not believe in the United Nations, who do not believe in British Imperialism, who do not believe in anything except tagging along behind another great Power which is going the same way to disaster that we went over the last thirty years. For God's sake let us have a Government who believe in the United Nations, because we could save the United Nations if we believed in it, and were determined to have international government in the Gaza Strip.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
Before I make any comment upon the brief but remarkable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), I should like to touch upon a topic which has not so far been mentioned, although I believe that it falls within the rules of order. I should like to hear whether I am right in believing that news has just reached London from Cyprus of a new truce offer by Eoka, and that this offer is now being studied by Field-Marshal Sir John Harding. If this information is correct it seems to me that it may offer the Government an opportunity—for which we hope and believe they have been looking for some time—to reopen negotiations.
My hon. and right hon. Friends have on several occasions urged upon Eoka to act in this way as a step towards negotiation. We think that there have 1417 been previous occasions when the Government have thrown away certain chances, but I beg them not to throw away this one. I appreciate that the Minister cannot give us a considered policy statement at such short notice, but I very much hope that he will give us some interim assurance that if this offer has really been made it will receive the most careful study, and that there will be no hasty rejection of it.
I turn now to the subject of our debate. For my starting point I want to take the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house). It will be within the recollection of the House that we on this side were all delighted when he appeared here a few days ago, and having heard him today we are even more delighted that he is among us. He spoke briefly—which is always acceptable in this House—and thoughtfully, and showed himself to be well-informed about a most important aspect of Middle Eastern affairs which very few other hon. Members have mentioned, namely, economics. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said something about it, but it has not taken as big a part in this debate as it might have done.
I think that we all appreciate that if we are to solve the problem of the relations either between the Arabs and the Western world or between the Arabs and Israel there must be a big transformation in the Middle East, and probably the biggest agency for this over the years is economic development. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale made two concrete suggestions and a third which was rather more tentative. He suggested that there might be an international scheme on the lines of the Colombo Plan, and a little later he referred to the possibility of a United Nations economic agency. I hope that we may have some comment from the Minister of State. who has just returned from the United Nations, upon one or other of these proposals.
My right hon. Friend also suggested that we should probe Soviet intentions in the economic field. He was rewarded by being told by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) that he was very gullible. The hon. Member for Windsor appeared to think that if we entered into any kind of arrangement for economic aid in which the Soviet Union 1418 was involved, the countries receiving Soviet aid would shortly find themselves changing their political colour. Surely that is much more likely to happen if we do not have an arrangement with the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union cannot be prevented from giving aid to the Middle East, whether it be military or economic, and if she does it on her own it will undoubtedly provide a means of bringing political pressure to bear. Surely this is just what a United Nations agency might prevent. Indeed, the United Nations is partly designed to prevent any appearance of political pressure either from the Soviet side or from the side of the Western powers.
Sir C. Mott-Radelyffe
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how a United Nations agency could prevent Soviet aid from going into undesirable channels?
§ Mr. Younger
I cannot suggest that a United Nations agency would prevent the Soviet Union from dispensing other sums through other channels at the same time. but if there were a major scheme under a United Nations agency, which would be highly acceptable to people in the area, and if the Soviet Union were offered an opportunity, as of course she would be, of joining in, she would have the alternatives of contributing, in which case she would have a minimum of opportunity of using her money for political purposes, or of refusing, in which case she would lose a considerable amount of face and influence among the recipient countries.
It was the view of the Foreign Secretary, on the question of the Suez Canal, that we are now back as near as may be to the position of last autumn. He referred to the Resolution of October and to the subsequent exchange of correspondence at the beginning of November. He said—I have not HANSARD, but I have a note—" If Egypt now accepts the six principles of 13th October, a settlement can be achieved." I hope that may be so, but without unduly raking over the old embers we are entitled to point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to his colleagues that if that is to be the basis—it is probably the best basis we can get and is not altogether unsatisfactory—we were practically home on that negotiation before the fatal adventure of 1419 the Anglo-French expedition to Egypt took place.
If we keep this matter on the plane of negotiation and do not resort to force, as we did last autumn, we shall find an enormous number of people ready to support us, including the oil-producing Arab States, and countries like India whom we succeeded in ranging against us at that time. I entirely agree with my right hon. friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that in negotiation we can have the support of a wide range of countries in all parts of the world. That will be a far better guarantee of the implementation by Egypt of any agreement we may arrive at than any formal safeguard.
We ought to guard against the danger of talking as though Colonel Nasser were in art altogether commanding position in these matters. It is true that he has physical possession of the Canal, but I understand he is in considerable financial difficulty. He is also under financial pressure owing to the risk that if he is intransigent some other way of getting oil from east to west will be found, either by building new tankers or by getting a pipeline overland from Eilat to the Mediterranean. He will also find that some of those who have been his friends at the United Nations will fall away from him, if he proves diplomatically intransigent.
Turning to the Arab-Israel problem, I shall not take up the Akaba question. This is one of the problems in which there is least difficulty about enforcement, and I propose to leave it on one side and turn more to the question of Gaza. Many speakers have mentioned the hard decision that Mr. Ben Gurion took when he decided to order his Israeli troops to withdraw. We know the political difficulty that has caused him at home. He did it on the basis of assurances which have been described as informal. That is fair enough, in the sense that they were not incorporated in any precise way in a resolution of the United Nations. It is now the responsibility of the United Nations to see that these assurances, whether informal or not, are implemented, and not only for the sake of Israel, but also for the sake of the future of the United Nations itself.
I think it would perhaps be worth while if I were to ask the House to bear with me while I put on the record of the 1420 House some at least of the assurances which are incorporated in the Reports of the Secretary-General. It may be that other and even less formal assurances were given by the United States. I do not know what was said, nor do I know what importance can be attached to anything that may have been said in that way. What I propose to read out, however, appears in official United Nations documents in the form of reports by the Secretary-General to the United Nations. The first is dated 11th February, and the relevant part reads as follows:The General Assembly has stressed the key importance which it attaches to the scrupulous observance by both parties of the terms of the Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel. In this regard, the Secretary-General is able to report that the Government of Egypt reaffirms its intent to observe fully the provisions of the Armistice Agreement to which it is a party"—and that agreement, of course, excludes forays across the frontier—as indicated earlier in its acceptance of the Resolution of 2nd November, on the assumption, of course, that the observance will he reciprocal. Attention should be drawn in this context to the statement made in paragraph 22 of the last Report from the Secretary General, reporting the desire of the Government of Egypt to put an end to all raids and incursions across the armistice line in both directions, with effective assistance from the United Nations auxiliary organisation to that effect.If that report by the Secretary-General of an expression of intention by Egypt is accurate, there can be no doubt about the obligation under which the Government of Egypt is today.
May I now rub that in by one further quotation, which comes from a statement made by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the 22nd February, part of which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary quoted? After referring to an expression of opinion by Egypt that it wanted to see a peaceful settlement and that it was prepared to co-operate over refugees, he went on:…the arrangement for the use of U.N.E.F. in the area should ensure its deployment on the armistice line at the Gaza Strip, and the effective interposition of the Force between the Armed Forces of Egypt and Israel. Similarly, the assistance of the United Nations and its appropriate auxiliary bodies would be enrolled towards putting a definite end to all incursions and raids across the border from either side. Furthermore, with reference in the period of transition"—1421 and this, I think, was the part which the Foreign Secretary quoted—such other arrangements with the United Nations may be made as will contribute towards safeguarding life and property in the area by providing efficient and effective police protection;and so on.
I fully recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East may be all too right in the pessimism which he showed about what may happen in the coming weeks in the Gaza Strip, but, if it should happen, nothing could be clearer than that Egypt will be in direct violation of undertakings officially reported to the General Assembly and accepted, I have no doubt, by the members of that Assembly in taking the line they did about the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. I do not really want to make any further comment upon what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East said, except that I am inclined to agree with him that, if it should turn out that, despite the presence of U.N.E.F., breaches of all these armistice undertakings cannot be prevented, I think it would perhaps be less of a hypocrisy if the U.N. Forces were to go.
Like everyone else, I want to see the U.N. Forces stay as long as possible, but not on the basis of being unable to control the situation and merely providing cover for people to carry on in breach of their undertakings. Egypt, the United States, this country and indeed all the members, including the Afro-Asian members of the Assembly are deeply corn-mated to making these undertakings effective, and if they fail to do so, it will be a near-mortal blow for the United Nations.
There have been a number of questions asked today, some of them couched almost in the form of jeers, to the effect: "What will you do through the United Nations if all these obligations are broken? Where are the sanctions? "I am not going to speculate any more than did my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale about all the different possibilities that may arise, but I think that it is right to point out, because this does not seem to be appreciated by those who were jeering, that the difficulty about sanctions is not one that affects the United Nations alone. Who else, do they think, would be able to obtain a 1422 long-term settlement by the use of armed force and armed sanctions? Certainly, we will not do it. We have already tried it. and I do not think we are likely to try it again. Israel cannot do it. No Israeli whom I know thinks that the long-term future of Israel can be secured by armed force. I am quite certain that the United States would not use it, except in so far as force may be in conformity with the United Nations Charter.
We must remind ourselves that, in addition to armed force, there are many other sanctions of a diplomatic kind that can be used if a sufficient number of nations in the world are determined to use them. I think that the United Nations provides the best existing machinery for mobilising pressures of that kind from many quarters.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East in what he said to the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir)—indeed, it was the same comment as was made by the Leader of the Liberal Party—that those who do not believe in the United Nations should not go around the country pretending that they base their policy upon it. For quite a long time I have been in some doubt whether I aught to appear jointly on United Nations platforms with Conservatives. I shall not appear with the hon. Lady if I am ever asked to do so, and there are a lot of other hon. Members of whom I would say the same.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
That would be a great deprivation for myself. It is only fair to point out that I was not jeering at the United Nations. I was pointing out the facts of its constitution, and what it can and cannot do. It is no good burying one's head in the sand about it.
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. Lady was doing a good deal more than that. What she was really doing was appearing to kill it with kindness.
I want to say one more word on the United Nations side. There have been many criticisms of the Secretary-General, Mr. Hammarskjold. I do not subscribe to them. It is quite true that he has bees what one might call meticulously correct in sticking to the letter of the resolutions regarding Israel's withdrawal, but I think it is true that in his position he had to do this. It was the only way he could 1423 establish the good faith of the United Nations as a mediator. His position in this respect is infinitely more restricted than that of the Foreign Secretary of any of the member States of the United Nations.
Now, it is time to turn to the other side of the penny: namely, Egypt's obligations. I think the fact that the Secretary-General has so far been so correct will turn out greatly to strengthen our hand now that we turn to the other tasks. Israel has now complied with the armistice. In fairness to her and to the United Nations, we have to try to see that the obligations are observed by others.
On the long-term Arab-Israel dispute, I want to say these things which, though platitudinous and often said, constantly seem to be forgotten. The basic factor, I think, is that Israel's existence depends upon peace, whereas on the other side the Arabs have shown that they prefer to maintain a state of war and they continue, right up to recent days, to proclaim their intention of destroying Israel if they can. That is the situation which somehow or other, over a period, we must try to change.
The respective fears on the two sides are in no sense equal On Israel's side, the fear is of actual extermination; she fears for her survival. On the Arab side, the worst that can be said is that there are fears about Arab prestige and about interests which the various Arab States may consider important, but which are certainly not life and death interests. We have been told on several occasions that the Arabs are afraid of Zionist expansion, and a most extraordinary statement is attributed to President Nasser, in, I think, The Times today, in which he claims that an attempt is being made to establish an Israeli Empire from the Euphrates to the Nile.
§ Mr. Younger
In Arab propaganda. this is often associated with Western Imperialism as well.
Surely, after the events of the last six months, that fear ought to have diminished. The fact is that two of the leading European Powers entered Egypt with their armed forces, and so did Israel. All three of them were eventually made 1424 or persuaded by world opinion, principally using the United Nations, to withdraw.
Surely this ought to be a lesson not only to Colonel Nasser but to anybody else who may share those fears of Zionist expansionism that if they will play their part in supporting the United Nations, in turn they can get protection from it. That is what they have had, particularly Colonel Nasser, in recent months.
Despite the objections raised to this by the hon. Member for Windsor, I must press the Minister of State for a moment on the reference to the Guildhall Speech. The hon. Member for Windsor still does not seem to understand why we object to the phrase which was used in the original speech and which was repeated by the Foreign Secretary about a compromise. Surely if we talk about a compromise between these two settlements, if we can call them settlements—that of 1947 and that to which the Foreign Secretary referred as of 1948, although I think it was 1949—then whatever that means, surely it cannot mean the sort of minor frontier rectifications on which we are all agreed. Those two settlements are many, many miles apart and to talk about a compromise between them cannot be taken as meaning frontier rectifications which enable certain fields to be reunited with the villages in which their cultivators live.
It was certainly not so taken by the Arabs, as I can say having made a personal investigation in official Arab quarters. They took it to mean that we were prepared to make Israel give up a large part of the Negev. Rightly or wrongly, they took it to mean that, and I am convinced that they believed it rightly, because I have seen what I believe to be genuine sketches of plans which have been put forward at various levels from this country, and no doubt from others too, which involved a very substantial deprivation of Israel territory in the Negev.
Why did the Foreign Secretary repeat this error and why, when he was pressed today, was he not prepared to state quite straightforwardly that what he meant, whatever he may have said, was frontier rectifications, as we understand that term. This is not constructive talk, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), who said that 1425 no settlement can lie this way. I hope the Minister of State will see fit to bury this old blunder when he replies. He can do it quite simply by saying what the Foreign Secretary meant and what he did not mean.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to speak about the position of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. The speeches in this debate have shown that on this side of the Committee it is the very general feeling that the presence of the Soviet Union in the area cannot diplomatically be ignored. I saw no sign of that in any of the speeches from the other side of the Committee. Surely the fact is, is it not, that one of the main causes of the crisis of last autumn was that in the previous autumn, at the end of 1955, the Soviet Union went into the Middle East, as it were, with the arms deal with Egypt? Whereas previously we had been able as Western Powers more or less to control the balance of arms, we then lost control and it was because arms were pouring into Egypt and we could do nothing about it that Israel eventually took the action she did. We were unable to stop the flow of arms. It rendered the Tripartite Declaration largely ineffective, even if we had sought, as I do not think the Government did, to maintain that Declaration in its full force. We are told that Soviet arms are now beginning to enter the area again. How do the Government propose to stop this if not by trying in some way to deal with the Soviet Union?
This brings me to what is known as the Shepilov note, the Soviet Note sent some weeks ago, to which there has just been a reply. The foreign Secretary dismissed the Soviet Note by saying, "We are right not to get entangled in their propaganda exercise." It is perfectly true that this document was a mixture of points which I think are acceptable to many of us and many very objectionable comments. No doubt in part at least it was a propaganda document. Even so, I cannot accept the reply which we sent on 11th March as being adequate. It was a wholly negative reply, and the Foreign Secretary's speech on this point this afternoon was every bit as sterile as the written reply.
Surely, if we do not like Mr. Shepilov's proposals, we can make our own. On the points upon which we think it important 1426 to try to negotiate —and, in particular, I am thinking of the supply of arms to the Middle East—if we think that he has formulated it wrongly, let us turn down that proposal and make our own. But we have heard nothing from the Government, either at Question Time or today, of any proposals from our side in regard to what we understand is becoming the somewhat dangerous situation of Soviet arms coming into an area without our having any control over it at all.
We do not even know whether that part of the Tripartite Declaration dealing with foreign arms is considered to be still in force. If it is still in force, how, in the Government's view, can they possibly make it effective, because arms are now coming in not from three sources as before, but from four, and the fourth is not in the deal.
I admit that if one gets into negotiations like this one may get led on into discussion of military arrangements and so on in the Middle East, and in that, as the Foreign Secretary said, we must take full account of the aims and desires of our friends in the area, including those in the Bagdad Pact. But here it is not enough to bring out, as our written reply did, a whole lot of clichés about the sovereignty of the countries within the area. May it not be that there are some nations—and I am sure that there are—who, in the full exercise of their sovereignty, would be very glad indeed to undertake some form of military non-commitment, between the blocs, if thereby they could get a better security than they have today?
This is the sort of thing which is becoming widely and most responsibly discussed in Europe, and when it is said in our Note, as I think it was—or in the Foreign Secretary's speech today, I forget which—that we could not ask nations in the Middle East to undertake this sort of experiment when no one else undertakes it, it is not really true. The Austrians were very ready to undertake a form of neutrality, because they got a great deal in return.
Surely what we are doing is to hide behind an artificial conception of the complete sovereign independence of those nations which might very well, in their complete independence, want to take part in such a scheme. Nobody asks us to surrender initially any of our positions.
1427 military or otherwise, except as part of a negotiation. All we ask is that the Government should show some sign of attempting to deal realistically with the undeniable presence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East.
In conclusion, I only want to say that, obviously, both of these problems—the problem of the Soviet Union and the problem of the Arab-Israel settlement—are bound to be very long jobs. I do not believe, and I do not think that anybody, on this side at any rate, believes that either of them is likely to be achieved by military force. I think that the use of force in the autumn of last year in fact set back to a considerable extent the solution of both problems.
It increased the participation of the Soviet Union in the Middle East, and it exacerbated the already bad relations and mutual suspicions between the Arab States and Israel. I think that patient negotiation at that time might, perhaps, have advanced a solution, but I am under no illusion that there can be any really rapid advance at all to a final solution. It will be a slow business.
Therefore, while we may talk in terms of ultimate sanctions, including military sanctions, at some time having to be used for some purpose which we cannot quite foresee, and whilst we must recognise that if such a situation arose it might prove extremely difficult to exert sanctions through the United Nations, I suggest that what we have now to consider is not primarily that problem at all but a problem of diplomacy, of negotiation rather than ultimate military sanctions. And, as I have already indicated, I believe that if that is the real task, then the United Nations does provide the framework within which we are likely to get the widest support for our legitimate objectives in this area.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Commander Allan Noble)
This is the first full debate on the Middle East which has been held in the House since 6th December. It seems to me that the atmosphere here today, and indeed in the Middle East, is a good deal calmer than it was then. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) tried to raise the temperature a little today, but he gave us some very 1428 good advice when he told us never to reply to a hypothetical question. should like to add my congratulations to those which have already been given to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) on his maiden speech. He combined the three prerequisites of a speech in the House—brevity, clarity, and knowledge of his subject. We were all very fond of his predecessor, and we look forward to hearing the hon. Member again.
We have had a good debate today. I hope that the House will agree that conditions in the Middle East do show a considerable improvement over three months ago. Much has happened since 6th December. The French and British forces on the Canal were replaced before Christmas by the United Nations Emergency Force, and that Force has now in turn replaced the Israeli forces which have completed their withdrawal to behind the armistice line. That is not, however, the only improvement that we can recall. Prior to 29th October there was no effective guarantee of peaceful conditions along these armistice lines. It is true, of course, that the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation was in the area, but although it could investigate and report it was powerless to prevent any raids. Now, however, the United Nations Emergency Force has been created. It is at present in the Gaza strip, which was formerly the main base, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, for the organisation of Egyption Fedayeen raids into Israel.
Thus, the position along the frontiers is considerably better than before the Israeli attack took place. The position in Gaza, as has already been said, is admittedly a little uncertain, but that is, in the circumstances, hardly surprising. My right hon. and learned Friend went into that in great detail. Perhaps I could just emphasise that the armistice agreement was dictated exclusively by military considerations, and rights, claims and interests of a non-military character were excluded from it. Neither Egypt nor Israel has asserted sovereignty over the strip. The final disposal of the strip remains to be determined in a peace settlement. For the time being, therefore, the sovereignty is in abeyance. The armistice agreement said nothing about the civilian administration of the Gaza Strip.
1429 Generally speaking, a military occupier should, in principle, not interfere with ordinary civilian administration, except in so far as it may be necessary to make arrangements for the maintenance or security of his troops, lines of communication, etc. The United Nations, however, in approving the reports of the Secretary-General of 22nd February and 8th March, recognised that the take-over of Gaza from the military and civilian control of Israel would, in the first instance, be exclusively by the United Nations Emergency Force, that is, by a military force. The question of what sort of civilian administration should be established in the Gaza strip is, therefore, still to be worked out.
It has not, I think, besen mentioned in the debate today that the Secretary-General in his report of 8th March made it clear that, in his view, U.N.R.W.A. had an important part to play in this respect. It is now up to the United Nations to arrange such subsequent steps as may he necessary for the civilian administration of Gaza, pending the peace settlement, and it has the right to expect full co-operation in this matter from Egypt as a fellow-member of the United Nations, who, incidentally, agreed to these arrangements.
We have just received an unofficial and unconfirmed report that Lieut.-Colonel Hatem, Egyptian information Director, has said today that "full co-operation "—and I quote—existed between the Egyptian authorities and the United Nations Emergency Force.
§ Commander Noble
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to go on. I understand that Colonel Hatem said:Egypt does what she can to help U.N.E.F. carry out the duties placed on their shoulders by United Nations Resolutions. The inhabitants of Gaza look upon U.N.E.F. as friendly forces and co-operate with them for the sake of peace and order.I understand that Colonel Hatem also added that the inhabitants of Gaza co-operated with U.N.E.F.so that the mission entrusted to it by the United Nations may be realised,
§ Mr. Crossman
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman quoting all this to make us feel that there is evidence for 1430 his previous statement that the situation has greatly improved in Gaza? This is a very important question. Up to now the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not made a clear answer. Is he saying with that statement that he is absolutely happy about everything in the Gaza Strip and that it gives him any confidence whatever that Fedayeen raids will stop in view of the statement made the same day that the Egyptians are determined to continue their Fedayeen raids?
§ Commander Noble
I merely give that quotation we have heard from Egypt. We must of course improve on this position, as several hon. Members have said, by searching for a final settlement of the Palestine problem which will allow both the Arab States and Israel to develop their own resources in peace and security. As hon. Members have said, that is clearly a most difficult problem. Her Majesty's Government are ready to help in any way they can towards a general settlement. The first stage in preparing the ground must be, as I have said, a period of peace along the borders. The United Nations Emergency Force is there and that is a positive gain.
Again as hon. Members have said, we must not forget the passionate feelings that this problem arouses throughout the Middle East. Hon. Members who have recently visited some of those countries will have experienced that at first hand. I can testify to the passionate feelings which the very existence of Israel arouses, even in the Parliamentary atmosphere of debates in the General Assembly of the United Nations. As the House is aware, I have just spent more than two months at the United Nations, a job which previously has been done by certain right hon. Members on both sides of the House. Perhaps in passing I might say how many people spoke to me about our late colleague Hector McNeil, who seemed to have made as many friends there as he did here.
There are many underlying causes for this intense Arab animosity towards Israel, but one unquestionably is the problem of the refugees. That has been raised several times in this debate. It was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) by the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) although I am afraid I did not 1431 hear his speech—and by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). In connection with the problem of refugees, Her Majesty's Government regret that in spite of the efforts of U.N.R.W.A. under the able direction of the Director, Mr. Labouisse, no significant progress has been made in this matter. It should be recalled that Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government between them contributed about 90 per cent. of all U.N.R.W.A. funds. Last year Her Majesty's Government contributed nearly £2 million, which proved to be more than 23 per cent., and we are paying a similar amount this year.
I am glad to say that during the recent debates in the United Nations on the U.N.R.W.A. Report the Arab host-Governments promised full co-operation with the director of U.N.R.W.A. and we hope that during the coming year he will extend the scope of his rehabilitation programme. I think that also is encouraging.
In his speech, my right hon. and learned Friend has stated the present position about the opening of the Canal as we see it today. As he has said, we with other Governments have made certain proposals to the Secretary-General about the interim opening of the Canal, that is to say, the interim arrangements to be made when the Canal is first opened.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said, we have pressed the Secretary-General for a reply on this but, as I understand it, he has not yet had a reply from Egypt. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the final settlement of the Canal will be based on what has become known as the six principles, which were agreed to by Egypt, and also the correspondence between the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Secretary-General. One of these six principles, and it is just as well to remind the House of it, is that the operation of the Canal should be insulated from the politics of any one country.
The House will remember, in addition, that the Resolution adopted by the Assembly on 2nd November urged thatupon the cease-fire being effective steps be taken to re-open the Suez Canal and restore secure freedom of navigation.1432 It also requested the Secretary-Generalto observe and report promptly on the compliance with the present resolution to the Security Council and to the General Assembly for such further action as they may deem appropriate in accordance with the Charter.Hon. Members on both sides of the House have had some things to say about the United Nations. Some were critical and some were not. In that connection, I would say that the United Nations has taken on great responsibilities in the Gaza Strip in preparing for an eventual final settlement of the Palestine problem, in clearing the Suez Canal—which is nearly completed—in preparing interim arrangements for the opening of the Canal and, to quote the Resolution,…restore secure freedom of navigation to the Canal.This answers to some extent the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), and again I am sorry that I did not hear his speech.
§ Commander Noble
All except the two that I have mentioned.
The United Nations now stands at the bar of world opinion and will be judged by the success of the action which it is now taking in settling these problems. Several hon. Members have said that. It is now deeds and not resolutions that will count. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) in, if I may say so, an admirable speech——
§ Commander Noble
And also my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), whose speech I also heard——
§ Mr. Bevan
I am not sure whether in his reference to the hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was referring to the form of the speech or to the content of the speech. If it was to the form of the speech, the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East always speaks agreeably, but if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was referring to the content of the speech, does he associate the Government with that content?
§ Commander Noble
I, of course, admired the form, and I did not think that I disagreed a great deal with what my right hon, and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East said. He said that we should be considering what we should do if the United Nations failed in this respect. I will say straight away that I do not think we should assume it would fail, but we must have that possibility in our minds and we must work out a policy in consultation with others concerned in the proposals that we made in the United Nations last month.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles Mac-Andrew)
If the Minister does not give way, the right hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Commander Noble
Hon. Members may be interested to have the latest news from the Canal. If I may read that out, perhaps the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale will not object.
General Wheeler has reported to the Secretary-General that the Canal proper with its ports, harbourages and by-passes is cleared of wrecks, with the exception of two in the south—[HON. MEMBERS: "We have heard all that."]—and the two in Port Said which are not an obstruction to normal traffic.
I hope that hon. Members will not go away from the House with a false impression of what General Wheeler has been trying to do. He has discharged his task with tact and energy, and if the Canal is cleared on time it will be largely due to his own efforts. I should like to associate myself with what the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said about 1434 the Secretary-General. Great tasks have been assigned to him, and he is carrying them out with great skill.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me at the beginning of his speech about a certain rumour on the tape concerning Cyprus. I am afraid that I cannot answer him very fully, but it is my information that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has this evening heard from the Governor that some leaflets of this kind have today been distributed. I need not say that Her Majesty's Government would most gladly welcome any genuine move which would lead to an end of violence in Cyprus. Hon. Members would not expect me to say more tonight than that the House need not fear that Her Majesty's Government will show any lack of imagination in their handling of the problem.
Reference has been made to our reply to the Russian note on the Middle East, and it has been suggested that we should have probed their suggestion about economic aid to the Middle East. As far as economic aid to the Middle East is concerned, we have for years done what we could with our limited resources to assist the economic development of the countries in that region according to their need.
We have provided technical experts through the Middle East Development Division and otherwise. We have yearly paid substantial contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Arab refugees. We have made a development loan to Jordan. We have given the utmost assistance to other countries of the region in carrying out their plans for using the sterling they receive from their oil royalties.
Since the inauguration of President Truman's Four Point Programme, the Americans too have disbursed large sums in technical assistance to the Middle East, apart from their contributions for the Arab refugees and other forms of aid to Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia; and now there is the Eisenhower Doctrine, which I will refer to in a minute.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale seems to think that the main problem is making our aid to those countries acceptable and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich condemned the reluctant decision of the 1435 United States Government and of Her Majesty's Government and of the International Bank to withdraw the Aswan Dam offer.
§ Mr. Stokes
I did not do anything of the sort. I said that the whole scheme was ridiculous and we ought never to have supported it, but having done so Her Majesty's Government behaved like a set of lunatics in withdrawing it. That is not exactly what I said, but it is something like it.
§ Commander Noble
It is roughly what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say. I do not think that the problem was to devise an acceptable means of offering it. but rather of getting such Governments as Egypt to accept it on reasonable terms and to pay their own shares.
While we are talking about Russian economic aid in the Middle East, perhaps we can just have a look at what the Russians themselves have contributed in the past in the Middle East—nothing except arms for Syria and Egypt and, of course, free Communist literature. Yet they now recommend the precise course which we ourselves have been following as if it were some new initiative. It is hardly surprising that we do not take this approach very seriously.
§ Commander Noble
Perhaps I may remind the right hon. Member for Grimsby what he himself said at the United Nations in 1950 when he was speaking on the subject of international co-operation for reconstruction and development and referring to the relief and rehabilitation programme. He said this:To all this great international work the Soviet Union has contributed not an idea, not a man, not a rouble.
§ Mr. Younger
That is true, but are we to understand that the Minister is now depressed at the thought that the Soviet Union might conceivably start to contribute? I think that we ought at least to try to get it in. Whether we succeed or not, is another matter. But why does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman object to that?
§ Commander Noble
If the right hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe 1436 anything. Let us look at the Russian contributions in the last few years—7—
§ Commander Noble
Because I think it is worth putting them on record in view of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, nil. The United Nations Refugees Emergency Fund, nil. The United Nations Korean Relief and Reconstruction Agency, nil. The Russians did start to contribute to the U.N.E.T.A.P. in 1953, but their contribution was in unconvertible roubles, which meant that they could only train people in Russia.
§ Commander Noble
Perhaps I might say a word about the Eisenhower doctrine which, so far as the United Kingdom Government is concerned, is very welcome. We also have wide economic interests in the area. We also wish to prevent Soviet penetration. We have political obligations under the Bagdad Pact and to States in treaty relations with us. The Eisenhower doctrine recognises the Communist danger and it provides for economic assistance. Whilst it involves the United Kingdom in no new obligations, it indicates a willingness on the part of the United States to undertake greater responsibilities in this area. At the Bermuda Conference, the President and the Prime Minister will, of course, discuss the problems of the Middle East.
In conclusion, whatever we may feel about the past, it is obvious that we can no longer rely on the system of military bases and old-fashioned defence treaties which established our influence in the area between the two wars. The Bagdad Pact is the model of our new relationship with the States of the Middle East. It is a free and equal partnership between independent sovereign States, and its strength has been proved by the way in which it has survived recent strains. It is still intact. We recognise that some are still opposed to it, for reasons of their own, others simply because they are opposed to any form of co-operation with the West.
It is wrong to accept the contention, largely emanating from Moscow, Cairo 1437 and Damascus, that the Bagdad Pact countries are isolated in their goodwill for the West. Generally, the area from Morocco to Muscat and from Iran to the Sudan is basically prepared to co-operate with the West and with us. It is, therefore, wrong to talk sweepingly of Nasser arid the Arabs as if they were one. The Arabs may be united in their stand on the Palestine question, but this certainly does not mean that the great body of Arab opinion accepts Nasser's pretensions, or agrees with his foolish association with Russia and his hostility to the West.
It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage these friendly links, and we are confident that as time goes on the peoples of this area will more and more come to realise that their interests lie in free and equal association with the West.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I was glad to hear my right hon. and gallant Friend say that the Government considered the position in the Middle East to be very much better than it was before last October. That is what I sincerely believe. I think that far too many people in this country, and many of them are on the Opposition benches, are inclined entirely to forget that for ten years before last October the United Nations had been striving without the smallest effect——
§ Mr, Longden
—to bring; peace and settled conditions to the Middle East. In nine years the Security Council had had no fewer than 200 meetings——
§ It being half-past Nine o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply), to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Resolution under consideration.
§ Question, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution, put and agreed to.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith, with respect to each of the remaining Resolutions reported from the Committee of Supply but not yet agreed to by the House, the Question, That this House doth agree with the Committee in that Resolution.