HC Deb 13 April 1965 vol 710 cc1153-5
Q1. Viscount Lambton

asked the Prime Minister if Her Majesty's Government are still committed to the tripartite agreement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The Tripartite Declaration of 1950 was intended to express the policy of Britain, France and the United States at that time. It has not been retracted. I expressed the Government's deep concern for the peace and stability of the Middle East when, in the course of the Foreign Affairs debate on 16th December, 1964, I endorsed Mr. Macmillan's statement of 14th May, 1963.

Viscount Lambton

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply and at the same time congratulate him on the fact that his illness was not of the type to necessitate his having a rest. Does his reply mean that England and France still stand by all the intentions of the tripartite agreement?

The Prime Minister

However hard the hon. Member tries he will not manage to attack those who sit on this Front Bench with the vehemence he used in attacking those who preceded us. The noble Lord will realise that at the time of the 1950 Declaration there was a very different situation, in that the three Powers virtually controlled such arms movements as there were. There is now a big difference in the situation, but we feel that the statement made in 1963 is the right one for us to follow, and I give the assurance for which the noble Lord asked.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are differences of interpretation in respect of the tripartite agreement? In the book which I understand my right hon. Friend is now reading on the Suez crisis—or what was alleged to be a crisis—he will find that President Eisenhower and the late Mr. Dulles gave a quite different interpretation from that given by Mr. Harold Macmillan or the United Kingdom Government. Will he take an early opportunity of defining the meaning of the agreement?

The Prime Minister

I went to some lengths on this matter in the debate a fortnight ago on the Middle Eastern question. Certainly in all our contacts with Middle Eastern countries we have been emphasising—particularly in what is the most vital issue at the moment; the question of the water scheme—the need for maximum restraint by all the countries concerned.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that it is just because the situation is so different now from what it was when the agreement was brought up that we feel that it should be renegotiated? Am I right in thinking that the agreement is an agreement to maintain the frontiers of Israel, and that if it were invoked we might be forced to go to the aid of one side or the other to put back a frontier, quite irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the initial controversy which had led to the violation of that frontier?

The Prime Minister

The original Declaration, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, was signed at a time when the signatories could regard themselves as virtually the arbiters of Middle East policy. This is no longer the position today, partly because of the intervention of the Soviet Union and other countries, partly because of certain aspects of Israeli and Arab nationalism going far beyond national frontiers in the area. We regard our interest in it now as going far beyond the maintenance of particular frontiers, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, and certainly if the circumstances became appropriate, I am sure that there is nothing that the House would like better than to get some kind of agreement on arms supplies, arms control and the banning of nuclear weapons in that area.