HC Deb 18 November 1960 vol 630 cc718-36

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Gibson-Watt.]

12.0 noon.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I am glad that the Lord Privy Seal, who is really our Minister for European affairs, has passed to the Ministry of Education the task of replying to this debate, and I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary, with whom my own relations are the cordial relations of two sparring partners from time to time, for undertaking to reply. Nevertheless, at the beginning of this debate I would point out that while the issue I am raising is primarily cultural I believe its implications are both European and international.

There are three or four great rivers in the world which have been the cradles of art and science and of civilisations. Perhaps the most important of these is the River Nile. It was there that the passage of time was first measured. It was there that the great Pharaohs and the even greater Moses lived and gave the world a rich legacy, the Pharaohs of art and science and Moses of law and religion. On its banks some thousands of years ago the genius of man erected buildings, carved statues and inscribed records which are an important part of the cultural heritage not only of Egypt but of all man everywhere. The beauty of the sculpture may have been equalled in later days, but it has never been surpassed.

Along the middle Nile are some of the most precious of these treasures of the architecture and sculpture of the Pharaohs. In addition, on the same spot there lived prehistoric man thousands of years before the conquering Shepherd Kings invaded Egypt. Here on the banks of the middle Nile as yet unexplored and unexcavated are ancient living grounds which contain invaluable material for the study of human prehistory. It is known that in the area of which I am speaking there are twenty-five Pharaonic temples, some as big as Gothic cathedrals, countless tombs and chapels, rich in carvings, twenty early Christian churches, over 1,200 Greek inscriptions and a vast area of unexplored architecture and fields which may be sites of profound importance to us if we can only explore them.

In the next five years, unless the world does something about it, all these treasures will be lost for ever. They include two particular ones of which I wish to speak for a moment, the Island of Philae and its temple of Isis, picturesquely named over a hundred years ago the Pearl of Egypt. I am conscious of my limitations in this debate and feel that for once the debate needs to be illustrated with colour films as I am speaking. This is an island of temples and colonnades, the, Mecca of all who worshipped Isis and love and beauty some 2,000 years ago.

Even greater and more wonderful is the temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel carved out of a single rock over 3,000 years ago and embellished by gigantic statues at the entrance, four colossi each 67 ft. high; each, to adapt Joyce's superb description of Michelangelo's Moses: a stony effigy in frozen music, of the human form divine, which, if aught that the imagination or the hand of sculptor has wrought that deserves to live, deserves to live. I ask the House to try to imagine our own Westminster Abbey or Westminster Hall carved out of a single stone, its walls lined with massive statues also carved out of the same single rock, and on the walls profoundly important historical inscriptions one telling the story of a great battle, the Battle of Kadesh, fought 3,245 years ago. Just as the exquisite hieroglyphs of the ancient scribes became for 2,000 years a mystery, so Abu Simbel lay buried in sand for nearly 2,000 years until discovered by a young Swiss explorer, named Burckhardt, in 1813. Gradually the drifting sand was swept away until it was revealed in all its glory in 1910.

Egypt is engaged in building a high dam at Aswan which will raise the water level for some 180 miles of Southern Egypt and 150 miles of Northern Sudan, and the middle Nile of which I am speaking will become a vast lake 300 miles long and up to 25 miles wide from Aswan to the Dal Cataract. And beneath that new lake will lie Abu Simbel and the Island of Philae, ruins, as a poet said of Petra, "half as old as time."

In April last year the United Arab Republic asked U.N.E.S.C.O. for international action to preserve these treasures and in October of the same year the Sudanese Government made a similar appeal. U.N.E.S.C.O. responded enthusiastically and at the end of last year launched an international campaign to save the Monuments of Nubia.

Already, in conjunction with the two Governments, U.N.E.S.C.O. has carried out preparatory measures, including photographing some of the carvings and inscriptions. A new technique, called photogrammetry, has been discovered. By this stereoscopic photograms can be taken which show accurately the contours of solid objects. From these photograms facsimiles of sculptures, and even a whole temple, can be made which are perfect in every detail. I understand that they can be accurate to within one-fiftieth of a millimetre.

It is certain that by this new scientific discovery we can preserve for all time copies of treasures which otherwise might pass from the ken of man. U.N.E.S.C.O. appointed a committee of experts to survey the whole ground to see exactly what could be done to preserve some of the treasures involved. Before I consider that, let me say that there can be no question of interfering with the Aswan Dam. Only a sentimental antiquarian, or a selfish artist like George Moore, who thought that the beauty and majesty of the pyramids compensated for all the human misery that went into their construction, would hesitate if he had to choose between the treasures of ancient Egypt and the building of the Aswan Dam, which will improve the health and happiness and raise the standard of living of ail who dwell in the Nile Valley. But that is not the choice before us. We are asking that men shall do what we know can be done to preserve this part of our cultural heritage, without interfering with the needs of modern Egypt and modern Sudan and the march of the Middle East towards a better standard of living.

I wish to show what can be done. First, the most important works of art can be saved in situ. At Abu Simbel surveys have shown that it is possible, by building an earth and rockfill dam, to keep intact the cliffs from which this massive temple has been hewn out. That dam, plus a pumping station, can preserve the temple and its colossal Guardians for ever. Philae is an island which is already submerged three-quarters of the year by the seasonal variations in the height of the Nile and by an earlier dam at Aswan. However, we are told that it would be possible to create an artificial lake with regular water heights and to have a system of dykes to link the island to the right bank of the Nile, and so to restore the treasures of Philae above water for all time.

The most important need is to raise enough money to achieve these two prime objectives. Secondly, smaller monuments and their priceless frescoes and hieroglyphic inscriptions and small temples could be carefully taken to pieces, carried away and re-erected in some safe place. A list of such artistic and archaeological treasures has been drawn up by the experts. Thirdly, there is the need to intensify the photogrammetry and photography of which I have spoken and, fourthly, to excavate a number of prehistoric sites. This must be done swiftly and intensively before the new waters cover them for ever.

The two major proposals are costly. Perhaps 4 million dollars would be sufficient for the Island of Philae and 40 million dollars for the Temple of Abu Simbel. Such sums are beyond the capacity of the United Arab Republic and the Sudanese Government, but they are not beyond the capacity of the civilised world. They perhaps represent the cost of one American submarine and one Russian submarine. U.N.E.S.C.O. is asking the world for gifts from individuals, foundations, institutions and from nations. For their part, the two Middle East Governments offer that half the products of excavation should go to the finders, except that naturally they would reserve certain pieces of supreme national importance for their own nations, and they offer the cession—one might say to humanity—of monuments which otherwise would be doomed to destruction by water.

U.N.E.S.C.O. has set up an international committee of distinguished experts in engineering, in art, in archaeology. Among them is our own Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Professor of Archaeology at London University. They are to carry out what has been called the "Tennessee Valley Authority of Archaeology", a really epic operation of rescue in the sphere of culture. It has also set up a comité d'honneur, of distinguished patrons with Gustav VI Adolph. King of Sweden, as President. Among its members are Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Serge Kaftanov, head of the Russian broadcasting system, and our own Sir Julian Huxley, who was formerly Director-General of U.N.E.S.C.O.

This appeal wants help both in cash and skilled labour. Belgium has already voted 1 million Belgian francs. Some United States universities have promised teams of archaeologists, India a group of experts, and Spain, I understand, is sending a salvage ship.

Parliament comes particularly into this because, at its meeting in September last in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe unanimously adapted a resolution calling on Europe, on the Council of Ministers and the Parliaments of Europe, to throw their weight behind the U.N.E.S.C.O. appeal. As a member of the British delegation to the Council of Europe, this debate to me is an attempt to further that resolution which we carried at Strasbourg. I speak in this debate for all hon. Members on both sides of the House, indeed for Members of both Houses in that delegation.

Incidentally, I hope that from time to time our members of the "Parliament of Europe" will be pressing here for the implementation of some of the unanimous recommendations made at Strasbourg, if desired, outside the main question of the Six and the Seven. I believe that would be good for Europe, good for international understanding, and good for the unity of the free world. This appeal which the Council of Europe supports is not particularly European. Art is indivisible. There is no German Beethoven, only Beethoven, no Russian Dostoevski, only Dostoevski, no British Shakespeare, only Shakespeare. Great art is not for an age, but for all time. It is not for this or that side of the Iron Curtain, but for all men.

I once said here in an East-West trade debate that commercial travellers are ambassadors for world peace. So too, speaking right across the ages, are the artists. I believe that the more mankind shares its common cultural heritage, the nearer we shall approach world understanding and world peace. Therefore, later I intend to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what the Government have done so far and what they propose to do in support of the U.N.E.S.C.O. campaign. I ask him to urge the Government and our representative on the Council of Ministers if they can to put teeth into the Resolution which was passed at Strasbourg by the Council of Europe.

A number of hon. Members who are unable to be here today have expressed support for the appeal I am making. The hon. and gallant Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) asked me, if I had an opportunity, to read from the letter he wrote to me. In that letter he said: Future generations would utterly condemn a twentieth century so materialistic that monuments which are unequalled in the world and which have stood for thousands of years should now be sacrified for economic reasons, however admirable in themselves. I think that our Government should take a much more vigorous lead in this matter. Much more important than the remarks of two back benchers of this House is the fact that world leaders of opinion have also spoken in support of this appeal. I shall quote one or two of them. Dr. Veronese, Director-General of U.N.E.S.C.O., said: So noble a cause demands no less generous response … it is fitting that from a land which throughout the centuries has been the scene of, or the stake in, so many covetous disputes, should spring a convincing proof of international solidarity. Colonel Nasser, the head of the United Arab Republic, has said: Our own heritage consists of only a small part of the heritage of mankind. Our love for the heritage of mankind is based on the living link which unite generations to each other by a secret uninterrupted thread. The parallel in the French Government to the Minister of Education, M. Andre Malraux, French Minister of Culture, said: This appeal is historic … because through it the first world civilisation publicly proclaims the world's art as its indivisible heritage … For the first time all nations, at the very moment when many of them are waging secret or proclaimed warfare, are called upon to save together the works of a civilisation which does not belong to them … For the first time man has discovered a universal language of art. To me it would be a wonderful thing if one day there could stand by Abu Simbel—safely protected against a risen Nile which will have added to the wealth of Egypt—Russians and Americans, Egyptians and Britons, Indians, Frenchmen and Germans, who could say, "These two things we have achieved together. We have given more abundant life to the peasants of the Middle East and we have preserved a thing of beauty which otherwise might have been lost forever."

When Caesar watched the library of Alexandria burn, it was not Egypt, it was not even the ancient world, but it was all of us who shared in that loss. Similarly, if the U.N.E.S.C.O. campaign saves the monuments of Nubia, the gain is one for all men, both now and for centuries ahead. It is in that spirit that I urge the Government to play a leading and active part in U.N.E.S.C.O.'s appeal, to make a grant from Britain and to back to the hilt in this country all private and institutional efforts for this great cause.

12.21 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) on having raised this subject today, and I congratulate him even more on having chosen a day when there is ample time to discuss it.

Like him, I welcome the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education for the debate, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will impress upon his right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary the importance of some of the arguments which are being advanced this morning, because the Ministry of Education is the Government's agent in certain departments of policy, and U.N.E.S.C.O. is the instrument of a far bigger and more important organisation which concerns itself with the whole scope of the future of humanity; and it is as part of the work of the United Nations that we should like to refer to the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. in this respect.

My hon. Friend said that he wanted to look at this matter in the broadest light, and he will probably forgive me if I extend the range of his observations a little. It seems to me that this case, supremely important as it is on its own merits, of great urgency as it is on its own merits, yet has strangely broad and symbolic importance in many of its aspects, not least in that it seems to symbolise at this moment the age-old struggle between the hunger of some and the culture of others.

We have to bear in mind that this is perhaps another example of the recurring tragedy in history of mankind in which man has failed to ensure the continuity of his own culture and his awn experience, and knowledge which had been available has been lost because the hunger of some has driven them on occasions in the past to take violent action against a civilisation which they thought was not in their own interests.

In our own lifetime we have known of the man who said, "When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my gun". Hunger is not the only enemy of culture, nor is fear; a sense of inferiority is often the enemy of culture. People who have been told that they are inferior and have been treated as if they were inferior, and who have been deprived of the elementary necessities of life, will not listen patiently sometimes when foreigners talk sentimentally about old ruins or old relics.

There is, however, fair evidence all over the world that this point of view is disappearing. Indeed, some of the most inspiring and encouraging things in the life of this planet at present are the spontaneous movements towards understanding the cultures of the past which are going on in many parts of the world, contrasted with the strange and terrifying crises into which we are constantly plunged. We learn this morning that many people in the North American continent are convinced that only their own Government prevents them from being invaded by Chinese barbarians in the Caribbean, and yet in that enormously complicated area, with its many problems of different origins, surely there must be some better explanation. If one nation can make to itself an image of danger from another people whom it regards as barbarians in such a short time, surely the sort of vigilance and the work which my hon. Friend has been describing acquires greater urgency and greater importance.

I remember taking a long car journey with a Chinese professor, about six years ago. He told me of his previous work as a professor in Shanghai, and I casually asked him when he had joined the Communist Party. He replied, "Late in 1949". I said, "Did you feel it to be the great surrender, turning your back on everything which you had lived for in the past?" He sat up most alertly and said, "Oh, no. Quite the opposite. It was a liberation for me. It was you in the West who had always told me that we should never make motor cars in China. It was you in the West who said that Chinese medicine was superstitious nonsense and that we should have to send more boys to the mission schools in order that they might go to the West and learn Western medicine. Now I know that I can look into my own culture and that of my own people and draw inspiration and interpretation for the present and future. Now I find that even American research workers in medicine are suddenly interested, because they have been developing a technique of the stimulation of nerve endings in treating certain diseases and they are suddenly interested in the possibility that a system employed by the Chinese doctors many hundreds of years ago, of sticking pins into people's limbs to cure them of certain internal ailments, might, after all, not be as ridiculous as has been suggested. It might be an indication that there has been knowledge in human experience which has been forgotten and which could be useful if it could be brought out again."

During the Recess I had the happy opportunity of a peaceful holiday thousands of miles away from trouble—in Samarkand. I hope that my hon. Friend will not mind if I take an example from as far away as that. It is only "as far away as that" in our image because we have always regarded Central Asia as a very inaccessible place, but the people who live there seem to think that it is quite near.

It is a pleasant place in which to spend a holiday, not only thousands of miles from the problems here but right away from the ideological disputes which are bedevilling relations between East and West and, indeed, between some sections of the West not very far from where I am standing. These problems have not suffered interference by outside influence. There is none of the wounds of ideological strife such as we have in some of the nearer territories, where there is conflict between Communism and the Western way of life at the moment.

I had a chance in Samarkand to see what had happened after forty years of fairly steady, uninterrupted endeavour. I suppose that most of the older people among us read a generation ago about the fierce struggles in that area at the time, of the campaign to get the veils removed from the women, to destroy the old influence of the reactionary priests, and so on. It was presented to us at a vast distance in a somewhat crude form, but there is no doubt that it was a very vigorous struggle. But the struggle is over, water has flowed under the bridge and the records of it are enshrined in the museums and in the memories of some who took part in it. It seems to have very little effect on life as it is today. The important point is that they seem to have solved, at the same time, the problems of hunger, literacy, ignorance and culture on equal terms.

The interesting thing is that they have been fortunate in having natural resources to develop. Perhaps they did very well during the war, as farmers did all over the world if they were producing raw materials. None the less, they laid the foundations for it by their educational programme. They now have a higher proportion of university graduates and technologists than we have.

I went to see the cultural monuments. I always like telling stories against myself. One always asks silly questions in the early stages. When I went to see the archaeologist and director of the Academy of Research, I asked him whether he had any difficulty in recruiting students to do his work. I wondered if the competition of the faculties of science and technology was too great. He laughed his head off and said that he had never heard of any such difficulty.

One very soon realised that the rediscovery of their own culture had clearly played an enormous part in raising the morale of the people of the area. It was a great joy to see them restoring the monuments, which had been neglected for so long. It was a great joy to see them digging like excited schoolboys to find traces of the city which Genghis Khan had destroyed. It was even more interesting to see their enthusiasm for digging up the remains of Tamburlaine to see if he really had been lame.

Even more important than restoring Tamburlaine, making a statue of him and reminding people that they once had great leaders, was their rediscovery of Tamburlaine's grandson, Ulug Beg, the astronomer. They had pleasure in taking visitors deep into the earth to examine the sextant which had been dug out of the earth to enable that astronomer of those days to study the stars in daylight and make the mathematical calculations which were so important. It is very nice for them to be able to say to visitors from Moscow, "You are now studying the navigation of outer space. So did Ulue Beg. What were you doing in Moscow at that time?"

This may seem a slightly childish and propagandist view to take, but it is of tremendous importance in restoring the notion of common humanity, dignity and equality. It is of tremendous importance in destroying the remnants of racial antagonisms and doctrines of superiority and inferiority which are still too much alive in the world.

It is a very encouraging experience when one sees people who have become completely released in this respect and where there is no trace of the old antagonisms. One hopes that it is a process which will be recognised as psychologically tremendously important throughout the world. After all, there was a tremendous amount of mathematical and astronomical research done in that area of the world in addition to the artistic work of which my hon. Friend spoke. That was the area in which man learned to make the calculations necessary to find his way about the calendar, as well as to find his way about the earth. That was where man learned to make his calculations about when the floods could be expected, and so on.

There is no reason why pride in these matters should not be shared by all the successors of those civilisations. One hopes that all over Africa research will continue to encourage this feeling of an original community of cultural interest which has been broken only by tragic accidents of history in the intervening centuries.

It is fortunate that we are on the Adjournment, otherwise I might find some difficulty in convincing you, Mr. Speaker, that any references to problems in my constituency came strictly within the scope of the argument my hon. Friend advanced earlier. Yet I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education will miss the point that, when there are tensions in society—when there are crises developing, whether they be inside certain of our own communities which, we hope through temporarily environmental problems, are experiencing difficulties, whether they exist in my constituency or anywhere in the world, at the level of the borough council or of the United Nations—we still have the common problem, which we must tackle, of showing people that they belong to something.

Is not the shortest way to take the chips off people's shoulders and get them into a constructive mood of co-operation to establish this common unity of humanity, this common cultural background? Is it not equally important as part of our efforts to solve our own social problem that we should bring back into the community these people who are being squeezed out, for reasons which differ from those which appeared to be the reasons a generation ago?

I have mentioned hunger. We often used to think that it was economic problems alone which caused the social problems in our country. Now we know that it is not. We know now that in addition to hunger—the problem of the daily bread and butter—there is the greater problem of making them realise that they do belong to a community and that that community is as good as the community to which they used to belong. It is possible to maintain this continuity of human culture without once more going through the tragedies which the world has seen when, through misunderstandings, great advances in human knowledge and understanding have been nullified by a conflict, a war, an invasion, a wiping out of previous experience.

We know full well that any further outbreak of that kind may well be the last and may well be the final disaster, the final failure of humanity to learn how to live together.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will recognise the urgency, on the broadest possible grounds, of giving all the support to this that is possible, not only for the reasons advocated by my hon. Friend for the preservation of the monuments in this particular area but for the contribution it can make to the efforts of mankind to save itself.

12.39 p.m.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious to give the House some good news. I will, therefore, occupy only a few minutes in supporting the plea made so eloquently by my learned and hon. Friend the. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King).

Dr. King

Not learned.

Mr. Warbey

I think that my hon. Friend deserves the title of "learned" as much as the lawyers.

It is not often that the House has the opportunity to discuss the achievements of the human race over a period of a hundred generations or more. It is a good thing that we should do so occasionally and remind ourselves that, if we are to have a proper sense of wisdom in dealing with current events, we should bring to our judgment of current affairs something of the perspective of history.

It has been suggested that there need be no conflict between the claims of material living and the development of science and technology and those of the enjoyment of mankind's cultural heritage. In fact, there is the danger that today we may be so obssessed with the claims of material needs, and the Ministry of Education may be so pressed by the demand for developing in the fields of science and technology, that we may be inclined to neglect those other important fields of art, culture, archaeology and history, which may not appear to have immediate material values, but which, nevertheless, are a very important part of the development of the whole man and of mankind.

Without that preservation, we might very well go far wrong in dealing with the problems of the present and of the future. In fact, we cannot really have a future for mankind unless we have a sense of the past. I very much hope that we shall make our contribution towards making it possible for present and future generations to be able to live in touch with the history of mankind. Here we have not merely written records or guesses about the past but tangible history. The present generation in this country, with the modern development of transport, should be able before long to go in considerable numbers and as a matter of course to parts of the world like Egypt and the Sudan, put their hands on the carved rock and feel that they have contact with what man achieved in greatness and beauty, and also a little of the folly and grandeur of a hundred generations ago.

If all this is to be preserved, and not sunk beneath the waters, action must be taken, and taken quickly and generously. There are only four years in which to carry out this project. It needs experts, it needs excavating labour, and it needs money. While we are very glad that individual British archaeologists and Egyptologists are lending their support, we would like to feel that support is being given by this country as a whole; that the Government, as representing the nation, are making their contribution towards this great example of international cultural co-operation, and that they are prepared, as a Government, to make a financial contribution towards the very substantial resources needed to make this project successful. This is, indeed, a case where he who gives quickly gives not twice but twenty times. I hope that we shall have a favourable response from the Parliamentary Secretary.

12.45 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Thompson)

He would be indeed a very poor Minister of Education who found it either possible or desirable to cavil at anything that has been said in this discussion so far, and I join with those who have congratulated the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) on the felicity of his choice of subject for a day on which there is ample time for the various and all-important considerations to be discussed.

If I may say so, I support entirely his approach to this subject. I can assure him and his hon. Friends that there is no disparity of approach to this subject between the Department on behalf of which I speak and the Government as a whole, including the Foreign Departments, on which there lies a collective responsibility. This is not a matter of politics, in the sense that politics are used to divide men, but rather a matter of world politics in which men ought to be and in this case happily are, broadly united.

The hon. Member has described the sequence of happenings that has brought this to our modern generation as a modern problem to be solved by the combined use of modern resources—for there is no other way. The United Arab Republic proposes to build this great high dam at Aswan in order to raise the level of the waters of the Nile, so creating in the United Arab Republic in Egypt, and beyond the border in the Sudan, this great lake, which will be about 300 miles long and, in parts, 25 miles wide. The consequence of the raising of the level of the river at this point will be that all these great monuments, representing the visible and tangible evidence of what men did 5,000 years ago, will be submerged, probably for ever, beneath the waters of the Nile.

I subscribe to the hon. Gentleman's views, supported by his hon. Friends, that no arguments could be adduced to deter the Egyptian Government from building the dam and from flooding this area, to the great material benefit, as we believe, and, consequently to the social and cultural benefit, of the people who live in that area. The dam is to be built, the area is to be flooded, and the monuments are to be submerged if they cannot, before that date, be preserved.

That being so, the United Nations and U.N.E.S.C.O. commonly have set about the task of seeing how the best can be made of these two conflicting interests. The Committee of Patrons, established in Paris under the presidency of the King of Sweden, represents, I believe, the collective voice of mankind that something should be done at the highest possible level, and should be seen to carry with it the esteem associated with the greatest names in the various lands that are represented. Below that, there is the working machinery to devise what can be done and, below that again, to get it done. There are, therefore, expert committees whose job it is to consider the issues involved, and working committees in Egypt and the Sudan.

I am happy to inform the House, not without some pride, that the British contribution to every one of these processes up to now has been not only direct, but abundant in every respect. The seconding of personnel, the recruitment of experts and the provision of advice and guidance from this country have been not less than but more than has been given by any other country, and has certainly set an example that most of the other countries interested will wish to emulate, if they are able to.

Mention has been made of the name of Professor Emery, who is our representative on the committees that are considering the processes involved and doing the actual work on the sites in Egypt and the Sudan. I imagine that, by common consent, there is no one of the stature of Professor Emery in this kind of work anywhere in the world today, and we Should take this opportunity to pay tribute both to the position that he has established for himself in this sphere and for his present work on this project. We have no cause to be other than proud of what he is doing, in our name, in this important and urgent task.

I understand that the first approach to the problem must be to decide what can be done. The hon. Member for Itchen described what is desired to be done at Abu Simbel and at the Island of Philae—the great temples of Rameses II at Abu Simbel, and the Graeco-Roman sanctuaries at Philae. In each case it is proposed to protect them from the waters by building great retaining dykes—at considerable cost in money, engineering skill and in physical labour in order to preserve them where they stand. That is very expensive and difficult work.

The figures mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, of as much as 40 million dollars for the Abu Simbel site and a sum of about one-tenth of that for the protection of the Island of Philae, will obviously require a considerable international effort to produce. I will come in a moment to the steps that are being taken to try to achieve that end.

The second category of monuments which may be preserved are those which can be cleared and removed stone by stone, piece by piece and fresco by fresco, from the site where they now stand in peril of the waters, to other sites necessarily not dissimilar from the sites where they now are but where they will be protected from the rising river.

Thirdly, there is a great effort needed to make quite sure that the other treasures not yet properly identified or uncovered in other parts of this great area shall be excavated, archaeologically examined and, where desirable and possible, removed to safety.

Fourthly, there is the process, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, of photogrammetry by which, whatever may happen to the monuments below the water, we shall always be able to have a permanent and realistic record of what they were, and, as a result, time to translate and interpret what they meant in the days when they were built and what they may possibly mean for us in our day and generation. Those four processes are the ways by which this problem is to be tackled.

The working committees in Egypt and the Sudan, working under the licence and with the co-operation of the national authorities of those two countries, are actually engaged on these tasks so far as this is possible: I understand that a project has been carried out, as far as it is possible to carry it out in today's circumstances, to examine the engineering problems of the Abu Simbel and the Island of Philae sites, and proposals have been put forward which, if finally worked out in greater detail, will result in their being preserved. Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, a very famous British company, have played a considerable part in this preparatory work.

Other work is going on to identify the suitable monuments which can be moved away, and there are a number of teams—not least prominent the British teams, those of the Egypt Exploration Society—working in Egypt and the Sudan. The British teams are working mainly in the Sudan at present, because that is the part of the task which fell to us to deal with first. Our teams are working now on the temple of Buhen, in the Sudan, the sanctuary of which was founded by Senusret I. The stone-built parts of Hatshepsut's temple are well preserved and the reliefs are considered by Professor Emery to be the finest in Nubia. The Sudan has plans to remove this memorial stone by stone to a site at Khartoum if it should prove possible to do so. I understand that there are reservations about whether the stone will be in a condition to enable the temple as a whole to be removed and rebuilt elsewhere.

From Buhen, the British teams will go to Meinarti, the island at the head of the Second Cataract, which has never yet been archaeologically explored. It is believed that here there may be found useful traces of the "X-Group" period which would provide information about one of the least-known periods in the history of this area. Britain's archaeological teams, limited only by the availability of skilled archaeologists and Egyptologists, are doing their utmost at present in those fields where the work is actually being carried on.

The House is right to ask what is the financial contribution which Britain is making. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury informed the House in July that the Government were increasing the grant to the Egypt Exploration Society so that it would have available to spend over the next two years a sum of £20,000, which is a considerable increase on anything the Society has had up to now and is, I understand, enough to enable it to occupy as fully as possible all the skilled Egyptologists that it can employ. That compares—I do not say this in any national sense, for it would be foolish to do so—with the Belgian contribution to which the hon. Gentleman referred of 1 million Belgian francs which, I understand, represents about £7,300 in sterling; so that we are fairly well in step with those of our fellows from other countries who are trying to get the job done.

I should like the House to be assured that we enter this project neither as Egyptophiles nor as Phillistines. The considerations which the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) so eloquently expressed, and which aroused a sympathetic response from both sides of the House, are very much in our minds. We believe, as he does, that we cannot face the problems of today except with the knowledge of how mankind in previous times has faced his problems, and draw perhaps for our benefit the lessons which his experiences produced for him.

There will be other advantages to us as a result of our co-operation in this matter. I understand that we will get a share of the products of the digging and research that will be made on the various sites in the area. We will have our share, and, indeed, all mankind will have its share, of the knowledge of what has gone before. I understand that the Government of the United Arab Republic and the Government of the Sudan have agreed that those who dig now will have consideration for the grant of licences in the future once this exercise is accomplished which will be of great advantage to us.

I very much hope that the work to which the United Nations and the committees of U.N.E.S.C.O. have set their hand will find a ready response among those who will be called upon to give, as individuals or institutions in this country, so that when the time comes for us to see what remains to be done, the Governments of all the countries in the world will know how far they may help still further.

In that sense, I hope that the House will agree that we are doing what we can in the cause to which reference has been made and we have an open mind as to what may follow before the task is ended.

Question put and agreed to

Adjourned accordingly at two minutes to One o'clock.