HC Deb 01 December 1959 vol 614 cc1011-3
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of the House, I wish to state that at two o'clock this afternoon a joint announcement by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United Arab Republic was issued in the following terms: The Governments of the United Arab Republic and the United Kingdom have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations at the level of Chargé d'Affaires.

Her Majesty's Government welcome this development.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of all the work done by the Swiss authorities in looking after our interests in the United Arab Republic during the last three years. We are deeply indebted to the Swiss Government, to the Federal Political Department, to the Swiss Ambassador in Cairo and all the Swiss staff concerned.

Mr. Bevan

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that we on this side of the House appreciate the intense enthusiasm with which this statement has been received by hon. Members sitting behind him? Does he also realise that we appreciate the modest way in which he has made his statement, that we are very glad indeed that diplomatic relations, even in this modest way, have been established with Egypt, and we express our appreciation of the fact that after the long and unnecessary journey the right hon. and learned Gentleman has now returned to his point of departure?

Despite the fact that there may be differences of opinion between the two sides of the House, and in the country, about the political and ethical questions involved in the whole incident, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepare a White Paper for the House, setting out the balance sheet of the whole incident so that we may know, if not the courage or the wisdom, at least the prudence with which the Government have exercised their judgment in these matters?

Will the right hon. Gentleman then also inform the House whether any attempt has been made to secure the release of a British subject still in prison in Egypt on a charge, I think, of espionage against that country and, if so, what success has attended his efforts?

Finally, may I say that we on this side also wish to express our deep appreciation of the energetic efforts of the Swiss Government on our behalf over these years.

Mr. Lloyd

I listened with interest to the right hon. Gentleman's appreciation of the quality of modesty.

With regard to Mr. Zarb, I gave an Answer to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) the other day, to which I have nothing to add.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman associated the Opposition with my tribute to the Swiss authorities.

The balance sheet of the past I have discussed on a number of occasions on certain public platforms during the last two months—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am ready to debate the past with anyone at any time. However, I think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would be better advised to look to the future.

Mr. Bevan

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is precisely about the future that we now have apprehensions? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends behind him consider that the verdict of the General Election was an endorsement of what happened at Suez, are we now to expect a repetition of the same folly? Is it not desirable that all the facts should now be known, so that the British people can appreciate what price they have had to pay for the barbaric folly of the party opposite?

Mr. Lloyd

We have heard all that from the right hon. Gentleman before. I think that we should now think about the future.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the Foreign Secretary now use his influence with the Egyptian Government to get back the jobs of British Suez Canal pilots who lost their jobs as a result of his folly? In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's explanation that we went into Egypt to prevent Communist influence there, will he tell us who is now building the Aswan Dam?

Mr. Lloyd

By protecting people from the consequences of nationalisation I should—[Interruption.] The position of Her Majesty's Government about the Aswan Dam was made clear at the time. The purpose of the step which has been taken today, with, I believe, the approval of most hon. Members on both sides of the House, is that we should improve our relations with the Egyptian Government. That will be done—I think that both nations should face the fact—on the basis of action leading to more confidence between the two countries. We must try to move forward to a position in which there is greater confidence between the two countries.

Mr. Wade

What effect will the reestablishment of diplomatic relations have on any outstanding claims by those unfortunate British subjects who had to leave Egypt as a result of the events at Suez?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that it will make it easier to handle those claims. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been a Property Commission in Egypt, but the establishment of full diplomatic relationships will help the solution of those problems.