HC Deb 17 July 1967 vol 750 cc1510-7
3. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made towards a settlement in the Middle East including Israel and the Arab States.

8. Mr. Rose

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

15. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement about the present situation in the Middle East.

55. Mr. Dickens

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in the Middle East.

58. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the situation in the Middle East.

64. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress he has made in his efforts to secure a settlement between Israel and the Arab States.

Mr. George Brown

As I have said, we believe that the primary responsibility for finding a lasting settlement in the Middle East rests upon the international community acting through the United Nations. Although none of the resolutions before the General Assembly secured the necessary majority there was an impressive consensus on the elements that should go into a settlement. Meanwhile, after incidents in the Suez Canal area on the 8th of July, Israel and the United Arab Republic have accepted the stationing of United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation observers on both sides of the Suez Canal and this is now being put into effect.

Mr. Campbell

In view of the latest outbreaks of fighting and the statement issued in Cairo yesterday by five Arab Prime Ministers, should not some action now be taken to mediate internationally and to find the basis for talks between the antagonists?

Mr. Brown

I would not read too much into the stories which we are getting about what is supposed to be going on, but I certainly agree that we must discuss with what the hon. Gentleman calls the antagonists. It is absolutely important to get the observers into position as soon as we can and to let them operate.

Mr. Rose

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there can be lasting peace in the Middle East only if the Arab States recognise the right of Israel to exist? What has he done in the past and what does he intend to do in future to bring about a different state of mind among the Arab leaders following their military failure?

Mr. Brown

If the situation were as simple as that, we could of course solve it overnight. There are problems either way. There is more than one way of settling the issue. As I have repeatedly said, there is not only an Israeli case, but there is an Arab case. We are concentrating on getting a situation in which we can move from a cease-fire to a consideration of a long-term settlement, and if my hon. Friend would support me on that, we might move faster than he thinks.

Mr. Blaker

Does the right hon. Gentleman have any information which he can give the House about Russian arms supplies to the Arab countries in the last few weeks as regards both their quantity and quality?

Mr. Brown

No. I cannot give that kind of information, for obvious reasons. I still think that our obvious course is to concentrate on the policy which we are now following.

Mr. Lubbock

How many United Nations observers have been posted into the Suez Canal area? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the number is sufficient to guard against any resumption of hostilities?

Mr. Brown

They are not there to guard against a resumption of hostilities—they are not a United Nations expeditionary force. They are there to observe and to warn and to alarm, and I think that there are enough of them.

7. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has made to the Governments of the kingdom of Jordan and of Israel as to the possibility of a federal administration of the west bank territory of Palestine previously annexed by Jordan and currently occupied by the Israeli army.

Mr. George Brown

None, Sir.

Mr. Rose

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the original partition plan involved the idea of an independent Palestinian Arab State? Would he not agree that this may be one of the methods of solving this difficult problem, because some sort of confederation would be of enormous benefit, not only to Jordan, but also to the Israel and Palestinian Arab refugees?

Mr. Brown

If such an agreement were acceptable to the States concerned I see no reason why we should object to it, but I would not have thought that it is an argument which we should put forward.

Mr. Henig

Since my right hon. Friend has recently been saying that it is a principle of Her Majesty's Government that war should not lead to territorial gains, would my right hon. Friend explain how it is that apparently Her Majesty's Government recognise that the west bank of the Jordan is part of Jordan, the Gaza Strip part of Egypt, even though these, by international agreement, were supposed to have been part of the Palestinian Arab State?

Mr. Brown

It depends where one decides that history begins. I am certainly sure that the recent war should not result in territorial aggrandisement.

24. Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the total cost of damage to British embassies and consulates abroad due to public disturbances during the recent Middle East crisis.

Mr. William Rodgers

It has not yet been possible to conduct a detailed survey of some of the damaged buildings but the total is likely to exceed £120,000, of which about £80,000 is for property owned by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

In view of the fact that this is becoming an increasingly popular form of protest in Asia and Africa, would it not be better to house our ambassadors in anonymous buildings in side streets rather like Members of Parliament working in their desk rooms?

Mr. Clark Hutchison

What action is being taken to recover the moneys which have been lost as a result of this hooliganism?

Mr. Rodgers

We are in very close touch to make sure that this damage is repaired as soon as possible. To mention one example in which progress has been made, the Tunisian Government are already reinstating the Embassy in Tunis where damage is estimated to be in excess of £20,000.

25. Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs w hat was the cost to Her Majesty's Government of arrangements made for the evacuation of United Kingdom subjects from the Middle East during the crisis of May-June.

Mr. William Rodgers

The cost so far has been something over £107,000. This covers most of the expenditure but a number of bills are outstanding.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

In view of the enormous sums we have spent on our military presence in the Middle East, which have led to a situation in which e are perhaps the most unpopular country there at the moment and in which we cannot protect our own subjects in time of crisis, what is the point of going on with a military presence in an area like that?

Mr. Rodgers

The important point arising from that question is that we did protect our subjects in a time of crisis and were able to make arrangements to evacuate them from territories where we thought there was real risk if they remained.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I was in Tunisia a few days before tourists were withdrawn? Was it not an error of judgment to bring back British tourists from Tunisia, particularly as the Government lifted their ban within a week of its being imposed?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think it was an error of judgment, but there are very difficult problems in this sort of situation. What the Government have to do is not to spread alarm and despondency and unnecessarily encourage people to abandon their homes. On the other hand, we would be exposed to severe and proper criticism if we did not issue warning when we thought that warning was required.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the foreign exchange earned by selling arms to the Middle East has been greater in amount than the loss due to the recent war, including the closing of the Canal and the oil ban—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must not be too wide of the Questions on the Order Paper.

26. Mr. Marquand

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many countries severed their diplomatic relations with Great Britain during the period of the recent hostilities between Israel and Arab countries.

53. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with which Arab countries, who had recently broken off diplomatic relations, those relations have since been restored.

Mr. William Rodgers

There have been no further developments to report since my right hon. Friend the Minister of State's replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) on 15th June and to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) on 26th June, except that the formalities of the breach of diplomatic relations with the Sudan have now been completed.—[Vol. 748, c. 123; Vol. 749, c. 16.]

Mr. Marquand

Can my hon. Friend tell us approximately how many of those countries have received economic aid from Britain in the past?

Mr. Rodgers

I am afraid not without notice.

Mr. G. Campbell

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many of those countries there were, such as the Lebanon, whose ambassadors were withdrawn, but where diplomatic relations were not severed? For example, has there in any case been reciprocal withdrawal of ambassadors?

Mr. Rodgers

Yes, I think I am correct in saying that in all these instances, including the Lebanon, reciprocity has applied.

Mr. Whitaker

In view of the importance of building economic bridges, other than political ones, in the Middle East, will the Government take a lead in effective negotiations for the building of desalination plants, which could provide work for the refugees?

Mr. Rodgers

This is a most interesting suggestion, but I do not think it is directly related to the breaking off of diplomatic relations.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the hon. Gentleman undertake to publish in suitable form in respect of the countries which have severed diplomatic relations with Britain the amount of economic and financial aid which they are still drawing in this year—not in the past tense, as asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand)?

Mr. Rodgers

Certainly we would seek to meet the wishes of the House in this matter.

33. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is now taking to secure compensation for the damage suffered by British subjects in Egypt, Syria and Jordan in recent weeks.

Mr. William Rodgers

All British subjects evacuated under official arrangements from countries in the Middle East and North Africa, are being invited to inform the Foreign Office of any loss or damage to their property. Steps have also been taken to let those who left the areas under their own arrangements know how to notify their losses.

We have also taken appropriate action to reserve the rights of Her Majesty's Government to claim compensation on behalf of British subjects in respect of personal injury or loss or damage to their property.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is it the intention to make payments at once to those who have been forced to leave their homes and businesses through no fault of their own? Is it also the firm intention of the Government to obtain compensation from those countries whose action in spreading the lies which they spread about our Government's action caused the trouble?

Mr. Rodgers

We will certainly, when we have the details of the loss and damage, be taking every step that we can to make sure that proper compensation is effected for it. On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, of course, we have a great deal of sympathy, as has the House, for all those who suffer through no fault of their own. Although there were special circumstances, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, after the 1956 affair, it is not customary for the Government to make advances on account of possible compensation being received by owners in future from a foreign Government.

Lord Balniel

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that sympathy does not really go far enough and that we are extremely concerned about the inadequacy of the help given to the refugees who have come to this country? Will he, for instance, consider making to these people ex gratia loans repayable when compensation is paid from the Middle East?

Mr. Rodgers

I want to make it quite clear—I think my original Answer did so—that we are, of course, looking into this, and we are also in touch with everybody concerned. I do not think that they feel that in this respect they are being neglected. I agree that sympathy is not enough. As to ex gratia payments, I have made clear what has been the normal procedure about this. Certainly I will look into the matter, although detailed questions about the refugees who have already arrived here is a matter for the Home Secretary.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Would the Minister not agree that one of the more helpful things the United Nations could do would be to establish an international insurance compensation fund which could deal with this type of damage to persons as well as damage to property? The insurance fund could operate on the basis of contributions assessed not, as usual, on the wealth of the countries, but the liability of this type of incident taking place within their boundaries.

Mr. Rodgers

I think it would be wrong of me to give an immediate reply to that suggestion. It seems to me an interesting one. I will look into it and will write to the hon. Gentleman.

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