HC Deb 27 May 1957 vol 571 cc13-5
17. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations to raise in the Security Council the matter of the export of arms by the United States of America to Saudi Arabia, in view of the threat to world peace involved in Saudi Arabia's declared intention to use those arms against Israel in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have studied some of the Saudi Arabian statements in this connection. The latest was in a letter dated 7th May from the Saudi Arabian Permanent Representative at the United Nations. In that the Saudi Arabian Government reserved their rights to take action to defend their interests in conformity with the United Nations Charter. In these circumstances, my answer to the right hon. Gentleman is, "No, Sir."

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the Foreign Secretary realise that the export of arms from any quarter to Saudi Arabia is just a repetition of the situation which prevailed before the Suez affair, when Egypt was provided with arms by the United Kingdom and other countries? As long as arms are provided in this fashion, without any assurance that they will not be used against any other State in the Middle East, is it not likely that there will be a repetition of what occurred?

Mr. Lloyd

I understand that these arms were supplied on the understanding that they should be used to …foster international peace and security within the framework of the United Nations.

Mr. Shinwell

Let us be explicit about this. Does that statement mean that arms furnished by the United States or any other country to Saudi Arabia will not be used in aggression against the State of Israel?

Mr. Lloyd

So far as concerns the agreement, or the exchange of letters, between the United States and the Saudi Arabian Government, there would clearly be a breach if the arms were used for aggression against the State of Israel.

Mr. Bevan

Is it not a fact that the arms are precise and deadly and the conditions ambiguous and innocuous?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that would certainly apply to the supply of Soviet arms.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that, under the recent American agreement with Saudi Arabia, American material help is now being given for the construction of a naval base at Aqaba for the direct purpose of threatening Eilat and once again strangling that Israeli port? Are not the Americans at this moment providing torpedo boats, naval instructors, patrol boats, and a whole flotilla of naval attack craft? Cannot we intervene in the matter?

Mr. Lloyd

With regard to the question of a naval base, I have no information to that effect. If the hon. Lady would care to table a Question, I will look into the matter. With regard to the supply of arms, the obligation which we have undertaken is to try to prevent an arms race. We have amplified that by saying that we will try to ensure that some balance is kept. I am not satisfied that the supply of these arms disturbs the balance.