HC Deb 02 July 1958 vol 590 cc1306-11
13. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the situation in the Lebanon.

14 Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he will take the initiative in seeking to conclude an agreement between the permanent members of the Security Council interested in the Middle East, to wit, France, the United States of America, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, on applying to the Lebanon the obligations of the Charter prohibiting interference in the internal affairs of members of the United Nations;

(2) what communications have passed between the United Kingdom and the United States Governments, in pursuance of their joint membership of the military and subversion committees of the Bagdad Pact, relating to military action in the Lebanon in response to President Chamoun's request for help;

(3) what advice has been received from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld, on the question of whether or not the situation in the Lebanon is to be regarded as the internal affair of that country.

23. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government propose to take in regard to the Lebanon in view of the report by Mr. Hammarskjöld to the Security Council on his visit to the Middle East.

25. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the situation with regard to the Lebanon.

26. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what report he has received on the Lebanon situation from the Secretary-General of the United Nations; and what steps Her Majesty's Government will take, in view of such report, to relax tension in the eastern Mediterranean.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has now published a report on the implementation of the United Nations Resolution debated on 11th June. It was issued on 28th June. The text will shortly be available in the Library and, in the meanwhile, I have arranged that extracts from it should be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

A group of over ninety United Nations Observers is now deployed in the Lebanon. It is still too early to say whether this is adequate to fulfil the functions which were assigned to it by the Security Council Resolution. The Group is preparing a first report, which may be expected soon.

I do not consider that the initiative suggested by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) would help in view of the Resolution passed by the Security Council, for which the United States, France and the United Kingdom voted and upon which the Soviet Union abstained.

We have had no communications with the United States Government pursuant to our joint membership of the Military and Counter-Subversion Committees of the Bagdad Pact, which have not discussed the matter.

It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to do all within their power to see that the Security Council Resolution of 11th June is carried out. I would remind the House of the terms of the operative paragraph of that Resolution, which reads: The Security Council … decides to despatch an observation Group to proceed to the borders of the Lebanon to ensure that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other material across the Lebanese borders.

Mr. Henderson

Does the statement made by Mr. Dulles yesterday, that military intervention in the Lebanon was a policy of last resort, represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government? Are Her Majesty's Government in any way pledged to embark upon military intervention in the Lebanon even as a last resort?

Mr. Lloyd

I have not seen the actual words of what Mr. Dulles said. I heard something of it on the radio this morning and I heard nothing with which I disagree. I have pointed out before that Her Majesty's Government would not act contrary to the Charter or established rules of international law. I would not disagree with what I heard of what Mr. Dulles said. We have received no request for military intervention from the Lebanon.

Mr. Younger

Can the Foreign Secretary make that a little more precise? Can he assure the House that, apart from our general obligation under the Charter or under international law, we have not given any private undertaking which would fetter our complete discretion if we were to receive a request for intervention? Would we be quite free to take our decision then?

Mr. Lloyd

We would certainly have to judge any request when it came, but it is not advisable to speculate about hypothetical circumstances.

Mr. Bevan

Is it not true that the speculation is supported because of observations made elsewhere about military intervention being conceived of as an act of last resort? Would it not be better to back up the United Nations in this matter, having got a very good Resolution from the Security Council, rather than talk about alternative methods if that failed?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree. All the talk about alternative methods has not come from me. It has arisen from the Question asked. I have said again and again that I believe that we have to give full support to the Resolution of the Security Council and ensure that the group is able to do the job given to it.

Mr. Brockway

In view of the very considerable anxiety which has been caused by the massing of troops in Cyprus beyond the needs of security there and the indefinite reply which has been given from the Front Bench with reference to the statement by Mr. Dulles yesterday, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make a categorical statement that Her Majesty's Government will not act in the Lebanon without the endorsement of the United Nations?

Mr. Lloyd

I have dealt with that question again and again. I think I have made our position absolutely clear. I will not speculate about hypothetical circumstances, but I will give a pledge that we will not act contrary to the Charter or the established rules of international law.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of Press reports that there is danger to British subjects in the Lebanon? Will he give an assurance that whatever measures are necessary will be taken to defend the lives and property of these subjects?

Mr. Lloyd

The question of the safety of British subjects is a matter that we have constantly and anxiously under attention.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen reports in The Times and other newspapers that all the Western residents in the Lebanon are most anxious that there should be no intervention because they do not desire to share the fate of the British in Egypt eighteen months ago?

Mr. Lloyd

I have read a great many speculations and reports, many of them having very little foundation.

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the Foreign Secretary's repeated assurance that the Government will take no action contrary to the Charter, will he give a definite assurance that there will be no military intervention in the Lebanon contrary to the advice of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which was to the effect that this is an internal affair of the Lebanon?

Mr. Lloyd

We had all this last week. I said that the formula which I adopted was that which I believed any Government would adopt—I have said it again today—that we will not act contrary to the Charter or the established rules of inernational law.

Mr. Swingler

Why will not the Foreign Secretary say that Her Majesty's Government will deal with the matter only under the authority of the United Nations? Is it not clear that any intervention, or threat of intervention, only worsens the situation in the Middle East? Why cannot he add to the assurance about the principles of the Charter that Her Majesty's Government will deal with the matter exclusively under the authority of the United Nations?

Mr. Lloyd

Because there are certain other hypotheses and I do not think it profitable to speculate about them.

Extract from the Secretary-General's second report of 28th June on the implementation of the Security Council Resolution of 11th June.

As of 26th June, ninety-four officers from eleven countries were serving as military observers in the Lebanon. They have established a regular patrolling system of areas accessible and, since the implementation report of 16th June, have advanced further into areas outside Government control. Areas being regularly patrolled by the observer teams are the following:

Observer out-stations have been established in the following areas:

From these out-stations, patrol activities are extended into the surrounding countryside. Out-stations in several other places are now being established or are under consideration.

In visiting areas outside Government control, the observers have met local leaders and have discussed with them freedom of movement in the Bekaa area north of Baalbec, the Chouf area south of Beit el Dine, and the area north of Tripoli. It was reported from the headquarters of the group on 25th June that for the time being further efforts at moving deeper into such areas were deferred at the following main points:

The basic items of equipment for the observer teams are transport and communications, and arrangements have worked well for the delivery of jeeps and supporting transport at a rate compatible with the arrival in the area of the military observers. Thus, as of 26th June, there were seventy-four vehicles to ninety-four observers. A fully operating radio communication system has been installed for contact between the United Nations Observation Group in the Lebanon (UNOGIL) Headquarters, observer outstations and jeeps circulating within the areas assigned for observation.

At the request of the Group, United Nations Headquarters has obtained two small helicopters. The helicopters arrived in Beirut on 23rd June and, with Norwegian pilots, are now in operation, Four light observation planes have also been requested and will be on hand soon, These, as the helicopters, will be used solely for aerial observation in pursuance of the group's task under the Security Council resolution. The Governments of neighbouring countries have been notified by the Secretary General of these observation flights over Lebanese territory in the proximity of the borders.

Arrangements have been made by the group for receiving from the Ministry in charge of relations between the Government of Lebanon and the group, written communications on cases which the Lebanese Government desires to bring to the attention of the group. The group in turn submits these to independent study through its own means and in the light of supporting evidence provided. The group has received information concerning prisoners, said to be Syrians, taken by the Lebanese authorities. Such prisoners, when made available to the group, are being interrogated by the executive member of the group, Major General Bull, with the assistance of qualified military observers, concerning matters covered by the Security Council resolution.