HL Deb 02 August 1956 vol 199 cc596-627

4.24 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, may I say, in the first place, how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, that the scheme which he mentioned should at least have serious study? I would go on to say, if I may, that it was a great mistake on our part, when Neguib and Nasser first brought off their coup, not to have acted then; and acted quickly. We had certain obligations which were obligations to the legitimate Government of Egypt. We had no obligations whatever to a revolutionary Government. We then had the troops on the spot, and we could have acted, and acted effectively. I think it is a great pity that we did not do so. Now, Nasser has brought off another coup—another "try-on", I should call it, because that is what it is. If, again, we do not act, further coups will be made possible—to begin with, the seizure of such installations as we have left on the Suez Canal. But certainly other coups will be brought off or attempted.

The word has gone round in the East that we are weak, and that we do nothing more than talk when we are affronted or when injuries are inflicted upon us. That is a fatal reputation to have in the East, at any rate, and the sooner we show that it is not correct the better it will be for us and our Allies. We must show that this seizure of the Canal Company is going beyond the limit. We must act firmly; and not only firmly but quickly, to stop it. I would say that there must be no argument as to whether there was any legal right on Nasser's side. The Suez area, prior to the formation of the Canal, was barren desert with no inhabitants. The Canal is not a natural feature of Egypt in any sort of way. Its construction is due, first of all, to the genius of M. de Lesseps and to European, largely French, enterprise, and to European skill. It is not due to Egypt in any sort of way.

The argument that the Canal Company is an Egyptian company is, I think, based on the fact that at that time in the 1860's —at the time of the Canal's formation—this was thought to be a method of internationalisation of the Company, because at that time Egyptian companies were practically unknown; there were practically no such things in Egypt at all. Nasser knows very well that this action was unjustified. Not only was it unjustified, but he knows that this country is now the largest shareholder in the Canal since the purchase of the Khedive's shares by Mr. Disraeli. I would venture to say that firm action must be taken, and taken quickly, to stop it. The right of shipping to pass through the Canal is of the utmost importance, not only to Europe but also to Australia and New Zealand, to name only two of the countries to the southward and eastward of the Canal.

Then there are the oilfields. These are of importance, not only to Europe but to America as well. If America is not ready to co-operate to the full with us, we must act without her. We know that it is the year of the Presidential Election, and that at such a time America is traditionally against strong action. But we have no such handicap, and we should act at once and, if necessary, alone, though no doubt France would be on our side. Whilst agreement amongst the Powers is highly desirable, and agreement with the United States particularly so, yet time is passing; and all delay, I would say, encourages Nasser. If we do not stop him, our interests, and Western interests in general, will suffer. All the Arab States are watching to see if we take this lying down—because that is what it comes to.

Let us have no conferences, international or otherwise; no conferences of the United Nations and no conferences of any kind. Let us act. Conferences merely waste time. Let us have action. If the United States will not co-operate, I suggest that we act alone, and quickly; for immediate action is necessary, with no further delay and with no concessions of any kind to Egypt. If there are any appreciable concessions to Egypt of any kind, Nasser will use them as an argument and say, "Well, at any rate, we have gained something." During the war, when we needed United States money, troops, ships and air power, we made several bad mistakes, owing to United States influence and advice. We must make no more mistakes now. Colonel Nasser must gain absolutely nothing by his action—that is very important.

I venture to say that, if Colonel. Nasser will not agree to our terms, we should treat him as we treated Arabi in 1882. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, referred to Arabi. if I may venture to say so, I think, he made one slip, at any rate, in referring to the Royal power of Egypt which Arabi was working against, because there was no Royal power in Egypt in those days. It was the Khedive of Egypt who was the Viceroy of the Sultan of Turkey. It was not a Royalty at all. We should, I think, if necessary—and I am not saying that it will he necessary—treat Colonel Nasser as we treated Arabi.


We sent Arabi to Ceylon. How are you going to get Nasser to Ceylon?


I am saying that we treated Arabi by making war against him, and, if necessary, we should make war against Nasser, if he will not come to heel. For that purpose, we should make the fullest use of our Armed Forces, on land, on sea and in the air. If anyone should ask in what manner Armed Forces could be used, my reply would be that that is a matter for the Chiefs of Staff, whose advice should be taken. The essentials are that action should be immediate and not in any way delayed, and that the forces employed should be adequate. We mast not think that, because we have, perhaps, not a very high opinion of Egyptians or their fighting power, two men and a boy, or the equivalent, will be sufficient for the purpose. I venture to urge that we should act very strongly and immediately, because every delay counts in favour of Nasser and against us.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that there is one comfort in considering the political acrobatics of Colonel Nasser to which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has drawn attention, and that is that, with differences of emphasis, we in this country are agreed; and when the three political Parties find themselves in agreement, it somehow restores our confidence. It seems to me that on big occasions—and surely this is a big occasion—we find suddenly that we become both the servants and the masters of international destiny. It is in the light of standing up to that kind of test that we have to make our contribution. It is tempting to take the line which the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, has advocated, to react at once to injury and insult. Our instinct is to "go it alone," if necessary, while others perhaps argue and dispute. It is as making a contribution to an international settlement of an international problem that I believe that we shall be judged in future years.

In any argument I can contribute I am anxious to start by being scrupulously fair to Egypt. For example, I want to tackle the question which has been raised several times in the debate about Egypt's action in relation to Israeli ships passing through the Canal. I do not think it is entirely fair to Egypt to draw attention to a contravention of the 1888 Convention. After all, through two world wars the enemy did not observe the freedom of the Suez Canal, and if, by chance, the Germans had found themselves in the position of holding the Canal, does anybody suppose that we would have refrained from bombing the Canal in honouring the 1888 Convention? Egypt's position in relation to an armistice has always been that an armistice is a pause in a situation of war and not a step towards peace. It is no good the Security Council or anybody else lecturing Egypt. Egypt says, "It is our right to hold up ships passing through the Canal on the way to Israel." I think that is a fairer way—and I am going out of my way to be fair to Egypt—to regard Egyptian action in relation to Israeli ships passing through the Canal.

Secondly, in general terms it is strangely true that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, said. Egypt is still able to deny that she has broken any international agreements. I find the situation in which two companies, one in Paris and one in Cairo, both claim to be the Suez Canal Company extremely bewildering, but the experts will tell us that that is due to a gap in international law. Therefore, if we were to use immediate force to restore the situation, we should technically be the aggressor and the whole of the Arab world and indeed the Bandoeng world would be the first to draw attention to that position. Thirdly, in being fair to Egypt, in spite of what the noble Marquess told us about American aid, I am not entirely convinced that there is not ground to suppose that the Americans had led the Egyptians to believe that they were going to receive some 50 million dollars over several months for the first stage. I shall not stress that point, but I believe that that is the kind of attitude to which the Egyptians would draw our attention

It seems to me that the Government are perfectly right in attempting first to seek an international background to any action that is taken. Before we say more about the international content of such action, I should like to look back for a moment and try to analyse in some detail the situation to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred. May I fill in the figures? In Alexandria Colonel Nasser, in taking this action, said that he was raising money towards the construction of the High Dam. The sum that Egypt would have to raise without international contribution would be in the region of £300 million to £500 million. In 1955, after meeting all costs and allowing for depreciation and new improvements in the Canal, the Suez Canal Company paid £10,704,000 to its shareholders. Therefore, that is about the sum that can be regarded as available towards the High Dam. But, as has been pointed out, compensation has to be paid at the same time to the founder shareholders, and the price of those founder shares on the Paris Exchange on July 26 was £81,724,000. To that you have to add £3 million in payment of the debentures. In all, a sum of about £85 million would have to be paid, and a rough calculation shows that the surplus profits presumably would have to be used to pay off the shareholders for the first eight years or so after nationalisation

Meanwhile, of course, improvement has to go on. The 60,000 and 80,000-ton tankers which are now going through the Canal, or are attempting to do so, all the time demand that the Canal should be widened and deepened. Colonel Nasser was clever enough to say that he regarded the nationalised Canal Company as a contribution towards the cost of building the High Dam. Well, you can take one Egyptian pound and put it into a High Dam account and regard it as a contribution. The deduction, surely, is, as the noble Marquess has hinted, that Colonel Nasser knew as well as anyone else that the Canal revenues could never really make any impact upon the building of the High Dam, and that the refusal of American aid was an excuse to take a step which may or may not have been contemplated, but which, as we know, represents an appeal to national hysteria such as small men thrive on in their quest for popularity

I repeat that we seem to have arrived at the position not so much of two alternative approaches, but of two aspects of the same approach. In the first place, we can "go it alone," but in the conditions which operate we may not be able to do so. We have the Commonwealth to protect, we have the oil of Europe going through the Canal, as well as the oil of the North Atlantic Powers. All this is part of the general standard of political morality which we are facing. The modification which it seems to me Her Majesty's Government are contemplating is to organise international support. Where would that first course lead us? We should be involved in a landing again—a re-occupation. It may solve the problem for a year or so. But should we not be back again in the old cycle? Suppose that such action led to the disappearance of Nasser, who would take his place—the Wafd? More emphatically, where should we then be in 1968 if, in the meanwhile, we had been unable to establish what is so urgently needed—namely, some permament international responsibility for the Suez Canal, and with it, I suggest, an international responsibility for other such waterways as the Isthmus of Kra?

I speak of an international dispensation, but I do not necessarily invoke the aid of everybody. I suggest that it is logical to suppose that the aid and interest of those who use the Canal should be invoked. We do not presume to tell the Soviet Union or the Soviet satellites how the Danube shall be used.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. The Danube Convention has been one of the most controverted international matters in the last twenty years.


I apologise to the noble Viscount if I have made a mistake, but I have never of recent years seen in the newspapers any reference to the Danube Convention I am not aware that any British ships use the Danube.


The Danube was internationalised after the Crimean War, and after the last war there were many discussions. I do not know what the situation is now, but the internationalisation of the Danube was one of the most debated questions in Europe.


Then I put it this way: that if there were a controversy on the Danube, I do not believe the British Government would bother very much about it. The argument has been used—and it is a forceful one—that if Egypt were in sole control, then no Middle East State with oil would escape this nationalisation infection; that the process which was initiated by Dr. Mossadeq would receive a fresh impetus. It is a logical argument. But I do not suggest that the use of force immediately is the only answer, or that force is necessarily the only limiting factor in the spread of this fever of nationalisation. For myself, I doubt whether any of the oil States would be really anxious to nationalise their oil if they knew that the only circumstances in which the oil could be nationalised were that the profits and the personnel and everything would be subject to international control. In passing, I am reminded that there is a method for dealing with Middle East oil which has, as yet, I believe, not received prominence—an alternative even to the canal which Lord Hore-Belisha has suggested. I am told that it is perfectly feasible from the technical point of view to consider the piping off of oil in the Middle East—and I think particularly of Iraqi oil—into Turkey and removing it from the Turkish port.

I have one reflection which covers all action, whether it be action by force or by diplomacy or by one Power or a number of Powers. I believe that any decision taken will fall down if no steps are taken simultaneously to defend and explain it before a watching Arab world. I am going to make a practical suggestion—namely, that at least one million Arabic pamphlets should be printed, telling the Arabs the truth about the Canal and its construction. This is rather a different note of truth from that to which the noble Viscount referred. It may be too late to tell Egypt and the Egyptians, but there are a few million Arabs in the surrounding countries who have never been told that, had it not been for one Frenchman and his initiative, enterprise and energy, the Canal from which Egypt hopes to gain these profits would never have been built. Why not go further while we are about it? Why not also tell them that a few Englishmen in Egypt managed to double the acreage of crops, harness the opium trade, build railways, organise the police and build the first Aswan Dam? That is only the truth.

The Egyptian Government speak direct to the people of other Governments with the language of diabolical misrepresentation. We have not yet started to speak the language of truth. I suggest that we could make a start by jamming the "Voice of the Arabs." Perhaps that is not quite the note upon which to end a plea for international intervention. Once before. in 1882, an international convention was summoned, and we and I think the Italians and the French were supposed to take action. Finally, for various reasons, we were left alone to "face the music." Let us hope and pray that that may not happen again. Certainly, so far as the French are concerned, it seems that they will stand by us. Let us regard this matter as a challenge and our chance to create and not merely accept in international affairs this international responsibility and interest. But if we fail, and if, in accommodation of international political interests, one country or another fails us, then I am sure that there would be no alternative but to act alone on behalf of an international family incapable of decision. If it came to that, I am quite certain that we should all be behind Her Majesty's Government.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is right to try to sort out, as several Lords have done in this unfor- tunate episode, the international and commercial aspects, and to distinguish them. But first we must all recognise—and I think in all parts of the House everyone has recognised—that this action by Colonel Nasser is a blow to good will. It is even worse than this. It is done, if not with malice aforethought, at least in utter disregard of the effects that the action may have on other peoples. In effect, Colonel Nasser says, "If I can't have what I want, then I will do as much damage as possible, irrespective of the people to whom that may bring disaster."

Now this is the kind of action which provokes war, and in terms of international morality, which the United Nations is trying to maintain. I think we should say that it is a criminal act. It is a criminal act to take action which, because of its consequences, may bring war. If such an act is deliberately done, the perpetrators have no right to complain if force is used against them. But this may not be the best way, and I believe that Her Majesty's Government are right in exploring an approach which does not involve the use of force. at any rate in the first instance.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Would he help myself and other noble Lords on this point? Does the noble Lord argue that what has already been done is a breach of International Law?


My Lords, I think it is a breach of what I may call the international morality which we are trying to build up through the United Nations, that no-one should act in a manner likely to bring, war between peoples. If someone behaves so recklessly as to have no regard for the rights of other nations, then retaliation in the form of force is likely to be provoked. I hold that it is a criminal act to act in a way which may bring about such a state of affairs. I am looking at this action, for the moment, from the point of view not of International Law but of international morality which we are seeking to build up in our support of the United Nations Organisation. It is the purpose of that Organisation to lead the nations so to conduct their affairs that they do not act in a way regardless of the consequences upon other peoples. I believe that this act is therefore to be condemned on the grounds of international morality as a criminal act.

Having said that, I should like to look for a moment at the international and commercial aspects. The international obligation appears to be to maintain freedom of passage through the Canal. We may con rider that this freedom of passage through the Canal is in jeopardy, but it has not yet been stopped. I know that International Law is very different from private law, and I would ask whether, in circumstances of jeopardy, application can or cannot be made to the International Court with any prospect of success. If security is put in jeopardy in the control, for example, of a borrower, it is possible, in a national court, to plead that the security is being placed in jeopardy.


My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord is alleging a breach of the Convention of 1888?


My Lords, the answer to that question is: perhaps not yet, but a breach is threatened. I want to ask if, prior to a deliberate breach, when it is thought that there is likely to be a breach of rights under an international Convention, a plea of jeopardy can be made at the International Court. If that cannot be done, I suggest that the machinery which exists for the settlement of disputes is deficient. One of the main purposes of the United Nations Organisation is to provide an alternative to violent action, and it is leaving things too late if one has to wait for a breach to occur. A breach may clearly be threatened, as in this case. Is it possible to take a case of jeopardy to the International Court? I should like to know the view of Her Majesty's Government on this matter. I should also like to bring it to the attention of those who are interested in international organisations charged with the duty of preserving peace.

Next, I should like to say a few words on the commercial aspect. Here we must emphasise—and I am very pleased to do so from these Benches—how undesirable and dangerous it often is, even if, a Government are acting within their sovereign rights, to nationalise an industrial enterprise. Immediately after nationalisation, any commercial act of buying, selling or fixing prices or charges for services becomes a Government act, with possible international repercussions. With all due respect to what was said by the noble Marquess in distinguishing this case from other cases of nationalisation, I think my argument applies. There is always export business to be considered. When a private person charges what is thought to be too much, that does not cause international repercussions; but when a Government charges what is thought too much, a friendly country often feels that it is being held to ransom.

It is a very topical question for, obviously, one of the possible reasons for nationalising this Canal is to put up the dues. By a company under Egyptian sovereignty that is an act which may cause international repercussions. The act of nationalisation takes it beyond the field of ordinary commercial activity. Irritation over prices can thus become an affront by one nation to another. It is a lesson which we should all be careful to learn: that it is better for Governments to keep out of business and leave it to private citizens to conduct their business on commercial principles within the law.

If the Suez Canal Company threatens to exploit its customers, those customers will soon find an alternative. It may well be that the action of the Egyptian Government has focused attention upon this desirability. It might be as well to draw the attention of the great Arab oil States to the fact that oil has an economic price in competition with other fuels. If the cost of transit is increased, those Arab States which produce oil may be faced with a fall in their revenue, if not immediately, then in the near future. If this is understood, other Arab States may well rue the day when Egypt dealt them this blow. The oil interests are resourceful and can be relied upon to take care of any commercial difficulties raised by the Egyptian action.

This does not, however, absolve successive British Governments from a charge of lack of foresight. Over a period of many years British Governments have been in negotiation with the Egyptian Government on the subject of the Suez Canal. The British Government also have a substantial direct holding in the oil industry and appoint directors to some of the most important oil companies operating in the Middle East. Being involved in this way, they must show reasonable business foresight, and I should like to ask what consideration has been given to the arrangements that they thought would have to be made in 1968, when the present Concession comes to an end. At least it was necessary to foresee a rearrangement of the Concession terms in 1968. I should like to ask whether it is the purpose of Her Majesty's Government to try to negotiate or to take part in negotiations, during the proposed International Conference which they are calling, for a new Concession relating to the maintenance and management of the Suez Canal, or whether the International Conference is to be concerned only with the guarantee of freedom of transport, leaving the Concession arrangements to be commercially negotiated'? I think it is important that the international aspect and the commercial aspect should be kept distinct.

One final word. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will confine their action to the international issues involved without engendering too much bitterness by action against individual private citizens in respect of their private money and accounts. I hope that, as soon as plans have taken shape and have been set in motion by Her Majesty's Government, exchange regulations applicable to private citizens will be cancelled.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, if I were an enemy of this country I should feel that the time had come for me to walk extremely carefully when I saw all three Parties in this country in complete agreement. Ours is a country which enjoys free speech and criticism, and Oppositions do not lightly give up the right to criticise Governments. What has happened means that the red light has appeared. It is evident from this debate in your Lordships' House, and from what little some of us have been able to hear this morning in another place, that the main issues are extremely plain in all our minds. It may be that neither in another place nor here have Her Majesty's Government yet been able to say very much but their attitude is clear. I know I am speaking for your Lordships in saying that we are very well satisfied and very happy about that attitude.

We have had laid before us a picture of a threat to communications of vital importance to a great part of the world, of a threat to the lifeblood of countries living on both sides of the Canal. The threats have been both commercial and strategic in their nature. We have seen how your Lordships are most profoundly unimpressed by the promise by Colonel Nasser of free passage through the Canal and of compensation. After all, as we know. Egypt in the past has denied the right of the use of the Canal. She tore up the Treaty of 1936. She is now tearing up the Concession twelve years before it expires. We know perfectly well that she lacks the wherewithal—even if we thought for a moment that she had the will, which we do not—to pay. Finally how can we expect a decent, proper or efficient arrangement after the way in which the announcement was made in the speeches of Colonel Nasser which we have read since? There was no warning and no discussion there was insult and vituperation. It was obvious from the beginning that this was a very definite and very conscious challenge, a challenge to our prestige and to the prestige of the whole West. It is a bid—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Viscount, Lord De L'Isle, both said—by an Egyptian dictator for leadership, as he himself said, from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf.

If this bid succeeds—let there be no illusion about it—we shall mean nothing from then onwards in the Middle East. Nor can we hope to isolate the effect upon our prestige merely to the Middle East. In addition, every oil agreement in existence will be in danger. Every trade agreement also will be in danger. Every friend of ours in that part of the world will be thinking how he can get on to the right band waggon, which he will not consider to be ours. Every enemy will be considering how he can take action with the least danger and at the greatest profit to himself at the expense of ourselves. In fact, the challenge is a challenge to our communications, to our oil supplies and to our strategical existence. Above all, in this part of the world it is a challenge to our prestige. That, I think, is quite clearly recognised. Almost every noble Lord who has spoken has emphasised it.

There is, however, one point which has not been made so far in the debate and which I think is worthy of your Lordships' attention and consideration. One reads that Arabs and certain colonial peoples are taking great pleasure at the present moment in what they feel to be the humiliation of the West. I am informed—I did not hear it myself—that on the radio this morning there was a report of a speech by Mr. Nehru it which he said that this is only another example of the weakening hold of the West. Do not those countries, which for the sake of brevity I will call the under-developed countries, realise that to no one more than themselves is this a greater blow? Every agreement of this character that is broken is against their interests. Every time there is an Abadan or a Suez episode. it must make it harder and harder for them to get the money and the skilled assistance they need for their development.

I am informed that, even now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade financial houses, not only in the City of London but in other great financial centres also, to invest money in under-developed countries. This includes even our Colonies. This situation can become only more acute as self-government grows. How, for instance, does the Gold Coast hope to get the money it wants for the Volta scheme if confidence in under-developed countries is destroyed by actions such as that of Colonel Nasser? I hope that our information services are taking note of this matter for use in all under-developed countries. This conflict may be carried on as a cold war or as a hot war. Certainly alt of us hope that it can be settled in terms of a cold war. If so, this is a very important point, and every effort should be made to mobilise opinion in the vast mass of under-developed countries.

We shall, I hope, hear a little later of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It may be that we shall hear of it later this evening, or it may be that we shall have to wait a little longer. But I think it is clear from what the Prime Minister has already said that it can be summed up shortly in the words, "international control, in some form or another, of the Canal." There is such full agreement on that point that I will not weary your Lordships with any comments on it, but I would add that, if force is required, it is essential to exercise it. There is a general feeling in the House which the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, tried to ridicule. What we are all saying is that the Government should be firm. The noble Viscount is right. We are all agreed that that is our desire. It is an easy thing to say, but no one has a right to make such a request of the Government unless he is prepared to back, the Government if they are driven to the use of force, realising that, once a start on the use of force has been made, it is impossible to say where it might stop.

Having said that, I do ask the Government to be firm, if possible in concert with the United States of America. But if the United States of America will not come with us, I trust that we shall not allow ourselves to be deflected from our right policy. Finally, may I reiterate the hope expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that Her Majesty's Government will not hesitate to call the House back? I should like to support that plea especially if, for any reason, the Government feel driven to take a less firm line than we have to-day been given the hope that they will take.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to endorse from these Benches every word the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, has said. We are strongly behind the Government, as I think are the majority of the Labour Party, in whatever measures they may care to take. I agree with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord De L'Isle, when he says that this is probably the gravest event that has happened since 1938. I think that it will go a long way towards increasing tension in the Middle East, and in many ways the results in the future may be incalculable. On the other hand, it has probably done one good thing—it has opened our eyes to Colonel Nasser. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, put it very well when he said that he thought that up to this coup Colonel Nasser had been regarded as a "blue-eyed boy".

I have recently returned from a visit to Israel and I can assure your Lordships that they saw through him a long time ago. They regard him, and have regarded him for some years now, as a kind of Arab Hitler who is out to destroy them. In fact, he tells them so through his "Voice of the Arabs" almost every day. I think that the danger to Israel has increased greatly since this coup. If strong measures are taken against Colonel Nasser, it may be necessary for him to try to bring off another coup; on the other hand, if they are not taken, he will be encouraged all the more. Whatever happens, the danger of war in the Middle East has greatly increased. I do not want to anticipate in any way what the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, will say, except to hope—if I may say so with the greatest respect—that he will say more than the noble Marquess. Lord Reading.

I think there is one thing that the Government can do: that is, to send defensive weapons to Israel. I simply cannot understand the Government, and certainly no one in Israel can, when they keep on maintaining this farce that the balance of arms is still on Israel's side. What do they mean, when enormous quantities have been sent by ourselves and by Iron Curtain countries to Egypt in particular and to other Arab States? I can only assume that they are taking into account the superior calibre of the Israeli soldier. I can think of no other reason. I think we should send Israel sufficient defensive weapons to act as a deterrent. I know that there are some people who would say that this would lead to an arms race, but we had a kind of arms race after World War Two when we formed N.A.T.O That was an arms race, but it did not lead to war; on the contrary, it preserved the peace. And this is what Israel wants at the moment—sufficient arms to deter Nasser from attacking, so that he will know that if he attacks them. he will get hit back, and hit back hard. I beg the Government to take that into account and not depend on the blood of the people of Israel, even though they may have soldiers superior to those of some of the Arab States.

I believe there is a feeling, too, that Israel herself might be aggressive. I do not know on what that feeling is based. The "Voice of the Arabs" broadcasts aggressive anti-Israel propaganda almost daily, saying frankly that they wish to destroy Israel and give the refugees back their stolen lands. In parenthesis, I would say that I have a great deal of sympathy with the refugees, although Israel's offer to give them compensation as part of the general peace settlement has never been accepted. But it is said quite categorically on the Arab radio every day, "We are going to attack and destroy Israel". Colonel Nasser said it the other day, as the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, pointed out. On the other hand, when has Israel said that she is going to attack one of the Arab States or that she is going to expand her frontiers? I can only think of cases when Israel sometimes strikes back, usually as a defensive measure, against these constant infiltrations across the borders. It is really a case of Cet animal est tres méchant; Quand on l'atttaque il se défend. That, with due apology for my French accent, is how Israel is regarded by Her Majesty's Government. Her ships are blockaded from passing through the Canal. We are getting worried now that our ships may be stopped from going through the Canal, but it has been happening to Israeli ships and to the ships of other nations going to Israel for some years now. We did nothing about it, but when it happens to one of our own ships, it is very different. Whatever long-term action the Government may take, as their immediate policy they should try to repair this balance so that Israel is less at a disadvantage. I am glad to see that they have at last seen the light so far as Egypt is concerned and have stopped sending arms to her. But I think that it would now be a stabilising factor in the Middle East if Israel had sufficient arms to defend herself, particularly against any coup which Egypt's dictator might be planning at present.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I doubt whether any of us has ever listened to a debate in which there was a greater unanimity of opinion. The only breach of that was the difference of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I have heard some observations from his own immediate vicinity which go much further than I, and I should think a good many others, would wish to go.


I am sorry for that, and I hope that nothing the noble Lord hears from me will prompt such an observation from him. I believe, in spite of what the noble Lord. Lord Pakenham. has just said, that there is a general feeling among your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government are handling the present crisis with patience, skill and steadfastness. For my part, I would go a little further than that and say—though I know that not every noble Lord would agree with me—that Her Majesty's Government have no cause whatever to stand in a white sheet for any part of their policy towards Egypt and Colonel Nasser in recent years. I do not believe that the Agreement of 1954 was a mistake: and I do not believe, for my part, that if we had 80,000 troops now beleaguered in the Zone it would have made any difference to Colonel Nasser's action. I think the only effect would have been that our continued presence in the Zone would have been a great source of irritation, not so much to Colonel Nasser, because I do not think that that matters, but to large sections of public opinion in this country, and to a great many people among our Allies abroad. Her Majesty's Government may well be disappointed in the results of the Agreement of 1954, but the fact that they sincerely endeavoured to tread the path of friendship with the Egyptian dictator has beer of great advantage to us in the new situation which faces us to-day. If it had not been for that, I very much doubt whether we should have the unity that we have to-day at home, or that degree of unity which I hope we have among our Allies.

What is the new situation that faces us? I think the first and most striking thing about it is that it is not a new situation at all; it is an old one; it is twenty years old. We have all of us been this way before; we have all of us seen these things before. We have seen the battery of microphones, the gesticulating puppet behind them, the crowds roused to frenzy and intoxication, intoxicating in their turn, until they drive beyond the bounds of reason the dictator himself. We have seen before the sudden violent act and then the soft words; the reasonable explanations. the pleas of justification and the promise how, now that this matter has been settled. everything will be all right in the future. What we are seeing to-day is the Rhineland, twenty years later.

If I say that I greatly enjoyed the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, I hope he will not think it an impertinence on my part. I do not know when I 'have ever enjoyed a speech more. But I do not know when I have ever listened to a speech which was so unconstructive and so irrelevant to the serious problems we are discussing. I thought that the speech of the noble Viscount was wrong for two reasons. In the first place, he was examining the situation under a microscope. You can, perhaps, examine a legal situation under a microscope with profit; but I do not believe you can examine a political situation under a microscope, because you do not see it in its whole perspective.

The second reason why I found his speech unconstructive and ineffective was this: I had heard that speech, too, twenty years before. If only you transpose the name "Nasser" for the name "Hitler". and the Egyptians for the Germans, your Lordships will remember hearing that speech many times in January, 1936: "What is the charge against them? Going into their back garden. What is the court you are going to haul them before? There is none. You cannot understand Hitler unless you understand the German people and how they have been oppressed and how they have suffered." This is the Rhineland again. I think there is no doubt of this, at any rate: that if we had acted in January, 1936, with firmness. we should have avoided the Second World War. It may be that we had even more time than that, and that if we had acted later with firmness we should have avoided it but it is certain, I think, that if we had acted with firmness in 1936 we should have avoided the war. We failed to take that chance, and it was, perhaps, the last chance we had. This may be the last chance we have now of avoiding a Third World War.

To say, as the Government do, that the action of President Nasser has got to be upset is not Jingoism; it is not talking about national honour. It is true, as my noble friend Lord Reading said earlier on. that British prestige is important; but this is something far more important than British prestige. It is fundamentally and simply a question of checking, before it is too late, international anarchy; and if we do not check it we acquiesce in the destruction of Western civilisation: indeed, I believe that we promote it. The path on which we have embarked, as my noble friend Lord De La Warr reminded us, is a dangerous one; it is filled with peril and risk. But if we do not tread that path, and tread it firmly to the end, it is not just a question of risk but a question of suicide—suicide for the West.

I think that most of your Lordships agree that the objective of Her Majesty's Government is the right one: to put this Canal under international control. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, raised the question of the Soviet Union, and said that he would like to see the Soviet Union on the Board of Control. So would I. I have always wanted and hoped to see the Soviet Union co-operate in international bodies—in the United Nations, for example. But what we have to consider is something more than whether it would be agreeable to have the Soviet Union associated with the management of the Canal. What we have to consider, first and foremost, it seems to me, is whether the Soviet Union, associated with the management of the Canal, will co-operate to make the international venture successful, or whether they will use it once again as an instrument and a sounding board of propaganda. Unhappily there is not much comfort to be derived so far from what has been said in Moscow. If we decide that the Soviet Union would only use this new international instrument as a propaganda sounding board, then, in my judgment, it would be folly to associate them with it.

I am sure that the goal which the Government have set before themselves in this matter of international policy is the right one. I think it would have been well if we had done that, not two years ago, but when the war came to an end. I thought then that that is what we should have done. I still think that that is what we should have done. For it seemed to me, as it must have seemed to many of your Lordships at that time, that the old conceptions of the nation State were outdated; that if we did not watch out the new wine would crack the old wineskins; that a new international society was in travail, and that it was much in our interest to assist its birth.

Now much has been done since then, and the degree of international cooperation is very great. But it seems to me that the moral which Colonel Nasser points very clearly is this: Western civilisation—and I include in that term not only European peoples and peoples of European descent but peoples all over the world who have absorbed European ideas of freedom and forms of Government— is opposed by a vast monolithic power. It is not opposed by Colonel Nasser; it is opposed by a vast monolithic power which stretches across the world and which will use Colonel Nasser or any other puppet that it can get hold of. I do not, for my own part, believe that we are going to be able to compete with that power unless we achieve a greater degree of unity than we have to-day.

This is one of the great climacterics of history. What we know as Western civilisation has always been outnumbered in the world, but until now it has always been secure because Western techniques have assured us of our security. But now the whole world has those techniques, or is getting them. Our civilisation, which has always been outnumbered, is in danger now of being out-classed as well. And it seems to me to be absolutely vital for the future of this country, of Europe, of the United States and, as my noble friend Lord De La Warr reminded us, of India and the economically underdeveloped countries, that we should somehow achieve a degree of political unity such as, even with the great advances made since the war, we have not yet achieved.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, at this late stage in the debate there does not seem to me to be much that I can add to it. My view has been largely expressed by my noble friend Lord Silkin and, in an admirable speech, by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. I was struck by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine; it seemed to be a forceful speech, taking a wide view; and I think that we have to take a wide view of this problem. It is part only of a very much wider problem, and I entirely agree with the view that has been expressed by the Government as to what our objective should be. Our objective should be that this great waterway should be open and free to all nations, and should not be used, as it might be used, as a method of blackmail for levying money out of other nations. I think it is worth while remembering in that respect that it is not just a matter of Britain, or even a matter of Europe. We must remember that, if we are dependent on oil coming from the Arabian States, those States, equally, are dependent on selling that oil; and a blackmail might be levied on them just as much as on us.

What seems to me to be outstanding in this matter is that if our objective is an international waterway, our means of attaining our end must also be international. I was struck by what was said in another place. If we allowed this to be a purely British move, or even an Anglo-Franco-American move, we should lay ourselves open to the charge of carrying on what is regarded as an old Imperialist tradition in which, in the past, we had certain possessions which we kept to our own advantage. Therefore, it is essential in this matter to carry the greater part of world opinion with us, and also to see that any actions we take are consonant with world opinion.

I was a little disturbed by some of the speeches I heard, which seemed to indicate that we must take action in our own interests, regardless of International Law. The fact is, as I think has been brought out, that the mere fact of nationalisation by Nasser is not a breach of International Law, and we should be very chary of putting ourselves in a position in which we might be charged with aggression. After all, only a few years hence and this waterway would have passed to Egypt by ordinary process of law. That position would have to be faced by people in charge of our affairs at that time. How would they face it? Clearly, I think, it must be dealt with on the ground that, whatever may be the national claims of Egypt, this is a matter of such vast importance to the whole world that it cannot be left with a single Power. Therefore, we must act through the United Nations.

The one thing missing from this debate —and I think we are all conscious of it—is that we are without any knowledge of what action is to be taken, whether by us or by anybody else. It is still under discussion, and whether we shall be told at the end of this debate what is proposed, I do not know. Of one thing I am sure: that nothing would be worse than for us to plunge into this business on our own. I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, said about the change in the world. I agree with him. Perhaps we might have acted sooner. The fact is that, much as we may object to Nasser—and I think he is a thoroughly objectionable type of dictator—we must act within the sphere of International Law. I am bound to say that I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, with interest, and to his comparison with what happened twenty years ago. I could not help being reminded, also, of the debates that we had about arms for Republican Spain. There, again, we were told, You must not have a race." With regard to Israel, we have been constantly told, "You must not join in an arms race in the East." That is all very well. Of course, it is not a race if one gets left at the post because he is tied and the rest have a long start. That is exactly what is happening with regard to Egypt and Palestine.

I believe that there is a strong case now for a complete change of policy—not that we should endeavour to make Israel pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us, but that they should be in a strong enough defensive position to stand against the aggression of the Egyptian dictator. I myself think that, if we had taken a stand earlier on the question of the passage of ships through the Canal, and the tiring on our ships in the Gulf of Akaba, we might have been spared this trouble. That has not been done and we now have to face up to a worse situation, as this is. My only point would be that, without subscribing to the somewhat bellicose statements that I have seen in some papers, we support the Government in whatever action is necessary, provided that we act within the sphere of International Law, because this issue is something which transcends our British interests: it is an interest of the whole of the civilised world.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say the last word in this important debate. At times of international tension, and especially during very delicate negotiations, I believe it is a golden rule that the less that is said the better. I shall, I hope, therefore be commendably brief. But, equally, I would freely agree that in times of national anxiety it is not unnatural—indeed, it is entirely right—that Parliament should regard it as its duty to obtain as full information as is possible on matters of grave moment to the country. And especially must this be true when Parliament is just about to rise for a long Summer Recess. In that connection, I should like to say immediately, in answer to a question that I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in his opening speech, that if the situation should require it Her Majesty's Government will not hesitate to recall Parliament at any time that it may be necessary. As I have said, the situation is inevitably at the present time delicate, and I am quite sure that your Lordships will understand if I appear to be particularly careful to avoid skating on too thin ice. But, within that limitation, I can assure your Lordships that I shall try, so far as I am able, to deal with at any rate some of the points that have been raised.

As to the broad facts of the situation, I think there is very little I need add to what has already been said by my noble friend Lord Reading. The action of the Egyptian Government in taking over the assets and operations of the Suez Canal Company came, I think, as a surprise and a shock to most people. I make no apology that that should have been so. It is indeed possible—in fact, I think it is probable—from the speed with which this manœuvre has been carried through, that plans for the eventual nationalisation of the Canal had been prepared some time ago—that, I think, is the conclusion that most of us will draw from what has happened—and probably they were prepared deliberately as a means, or partially as a means, of humiliating the West. But it is equally possible, if we look at the personality and character of Colonel Nasser, that he seized the issue of the Aswan Dam as an excuse for putting his plans into effect. To that extent, it probably was a sudden decision. It was, if I may put it in this way, the violent way in which a violent man reacts to unwelcome news.

In any case, whatever the explanation, if he will forgive my saying so, I could not quite accept the picture which was painted for us this afternoon, interesting though it was, by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate; and in one particular I should just like to say a word. I do not know from where he got the story, if I understood him aright, that the loan for the Aswan Dam was to be made dependent on peace with Israel. I would assure him that there is no truth whatever in any such suggestion.


No. That was what the Colonel told me. He named number of different reasons which he alleged were obstacles. That is where the story comes from.


Far be it from me to contradict Colonel Nasser, but I would say that it is what might be called a subjective view. In any case, whatever view anyone may hold as to these negotiations for the High Aswan Dam, I quite agree with what has been said by almost every speaker this afternoon: that no one must underestimate the gravity of the issues that have been raised by Colonel Nasser's action. He has struck a savage blow, in my view, at good faith in public engagements, which, if it were allowed to go unchallenged, would certainly be the precursor of others, possibly even more serious, either by himself or by others who sought to profit by his example. To my mind, it never has been more necessary that we should maintain a firm front. That determination, as I see it, should inform our every action at the present time.

I have been asked a number of detailed questions and I will try to answer them, though some of them perhaps are not entirely relevant to our main theme. Two questions were raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. First, he asked what had happened to the Committee of Agents which was appointed so many years ago under the 1888 Convention. I am sorry to tell him that, from inquiries I have made, the Committee may indeed have sat, but at any rate it was abrogated as far back as the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904. He may tell me that that is a great pity. That may very likely be true, but I hope he will not blame the Government, or indeed his own Party, for that.

Then he asked what is the position with regard to the Gulf of Akaba. Is it an international waterway? The answer, as I understand it, is this. These Straits of Tiran have always been an international waterway, in exactly the same way as every other international waterway —that is to say, the right of innocent passage is applied to it. It is true that a practice grew up of giving notice of a passage of ships.


That is it.


That practice began when the late Labour Government were in office: I do not know the reason. The noble Viscount is probably in a better position than I am to find out.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, spoke of the interference with Israeli ships, and there has been further reference to this matter in later speeches. As your Lordships know, that Egyptian interference began, I think, in 1948, and in 1950 the Government of the day—the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will correct me if I am wrong—put the matter into the hands of the United Nations. As we all know—or, at least, all those of us who have had anything to do with such matters—resolutions have been passed by the United Nations Organisation from time to time calling on the Egyptians to stop interfering with these ships; but no effective action, I agree, has been taken by the United Nations oil this particular matter. Perhaps I may make just this one comment —it is really a repetition of what has just been said by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Once the matter has been referred to an international body, it becomes a matter for that international body as a whole; and although all members must take their share of responsibility, the full responsibility does not rest with any particular member. Therefore, that being the case, to try to suggest, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, did, that the whole responsibility rested on the British Government was, I think, inaccurate and misleading.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess. I did not suggest that. I merely tried to point out that we did not get worried until we saw a threat impending to our own ships.


The noble Lord says "we"; but, of course, it is in the hands of the United Nations. 'The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, usually request that this and other questions should go to the United Nations; but when the United Nations do not do what they want, they are rather inclined to throw the blame back on the British Government. That is perhaps human nature, but I felt it necessary to say just a word about it.

Then, the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, again raised the extraordinarily ingenious plan which he put forward the other day for the building of another Canal into the Gulf of Akaba. Whether or not that is a practical proposition I am not in a position to tell him, because, in any case, I am not an engineer. Of course, this is an immense proposal, requiring the most careful consideration; and no doubt it could be carried through, if it was carried through at all, only as an international undertaking. However, my noble friend Lord Reading told the noble Lord that the matter was under consideration with all these other and varied solutions which must come before Her Majesty's Government and every other Government in connection with this difficult position, and I can repeat that assurance to him this afternoon.


I am much obliged. Does that apply also to the pipeline?


I should think it would apply to every proposition there could possibly be in this extraordinarily thorny situation.

There are one or two other things I ought to say. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister explained in another place this morning. Her Majesty's Government have thought it necessary to take certain precautionary measures of a military nature. The object of these measures is purely and simply to strengthen our position in the Eastern Mediterranean area and our ability to deal with any situation that might conceivably arise. As my right honourable friend said, these measures include the movement from this country of certain Naval, Army and Air Force units, and the recall of a limited number of Section A, Category reservists, and also a limited number of officers from the Regular Army Reserve of Officers. In addition, we shall, I am afraid, have to recall a strictly limited number of men who are specialists and skilled in certain essential tasks. I am told that these men are in Section B of the Regular Army Reserve and in Category II of the Army Emergency Reserve. This recall necessitates the issue of a Proclamation, notice of which was given to your Lordships only a short time ago by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.

Finally, my Lords, I was asked certain questions—or, at any rate the matter was raised frequently—about the legal position with regard to the Canal. As we all know, Colonel Nasser has claimed that he is acting completely within the law. I have been asked certain questions about this. Of course, the legal aspect, as nearly always happens in my experience when we touch the sphere of International Law, raises every kind of intricate consideration. My noble friend Lord Reading has already dealt with it broadly, and he is far more qualified to do so than I am, because I am not a lawyer, and I advance on such issues only with great preoccupation. But, very simply (and perhaps I may say this especially to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who mentioned the legal aspect), the considerations present themselves to me particularly in this way. It seems to me that the sole purpose of the granting of a Concession to the Suez Canal Company—indeed, the sole purpose for which the Suez Canal Company was originally formed—was to create and to maintain a great international waterway.

As I see it, that fact was underlined and buttressed by the signature in 1888 of the Suez Canal Convention, which gave international authority and protection to its operations. It was for that purpose that capital was raised which alone made the project possible. It clearly follows, therefore—at least, it does to me—that for the Egyptian Government unilaterally, and without agreement, either with the Company or with the signatories of the Convention, arbitrarily to take over the Company for the purpose of diverting its funds—which should be used for maintaining the waterway—for completely different purposes at the whim of that Government, is entirely contrary to the basic purpose for which the Concession was granted and for which the Company was formed; and contrary, I should have thought, to every possible principle of equity, which is the basis of all the civilised life which we enjoy. To my mind, that would apply equally whether Colonel Nasser needed that money for the purchasing of arms from Russia or for the building of the High Dam at Aswan.


This is very important. Would it be possible to submit a case to the Brussels Court, so that we may know clearly whether he is infringing International Law or not?


I think the noble Viscount meant the International Court at The Hague.




One of the difficulties is that the Egyptian Government have not signed the optional clause, so that it would be clearly in their hands as to whether they go into any International Court or not. I should think the chances of their availing themselves of the opportunity were remote.


That is not so clear. The Court at The Hague is, I understand, a Court for Governments. Would not the Government be able, with the consent of the Egyptian Government, to have this important issue clarified? It is a most important issue.


My Lords, I do not think I can go any further than I have done at the moment. Moreover, to my mind—and I was saying this, too, to the noble Viscount—this does not seem to me merely a legal question; it is a political question, as has been said frequently in the debate. It might also almost be called a moral question, for what is inherent in it, in effect, as I see it, is the whole issue of international good faith. Is it to be accepted as an ordinary principle of public life that Governments can tear up agreements into which they have solemnly entered whenever it suits them, for reasons of national policy? That is a general proposition and, as we all know, this is not the only time that that particular issue has been raised in the life of most of us. We can all think of other cases, though I have mentioned only the one.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, whose thoughtful speech, I think, impressed us so much, my mind turned immediately, when I heard of the action of Colonel Nasser, to the case of the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. There was a case where a Government which had solemnly undertaken not to remilitarise an area of its own territory, as soon as it was convenient, broke its word and did what it had undertaken not to do. I cannot help thinking that this, in many ways, is a similar case to-day. As I see it, if we allow that action to pass unchallenged we shall debase the whole currency of international relations. And, moreover, we know, from our bitter experiences in the past, where passive acquiescence is likely to lead us.

So far from disaster being averted by methods such as that, the offending Government has always merely been encouraged to worse breaches of conduct; and then, when, in due course, a stand has had to be made, there has occurred a disaster far more terrible than if we had stood firm in the earlier stages. If Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal and his breach of agreements to which his country was a party were acquiesced in now, to my mind the whole stability of the Middle East would be placed immediately in mortal peril. I have no doubt that we should see similar steps taken by other Governments, one after another; and when, ultimately, a stand had to he made, we should all bitterly regret that we had not stood firmly now. It was for that reason that, in a statement made by the Prime Minister on Monday, Her Majesty's Government made it quite clear—and I will repeat the words which have already been quoted to-day [OFFICIAL REPORT, (Commons) Vol. 557, No. 202, col. 923]: No arrangements for the future of this great international waterway could be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government which would leave it in the unfettered control of a single Power which could, as recent events have shown, exploit it purely for purposes of national policy. By that statement we stand, and for that principle we are prepared to take all such measures as may be necessary.

As your Lordships know, that is the situation which has been under consideration during the last two days by the representatives of Her Majesty's Government and the Foreign Ministers of our two Allies, Mr. Dulles and M. Pineau, who have underlined the importance which they attach to this issue by coming themselves to discuss what should be done about it. Those talks are still going on. and I am afraid it is clear that there is nothing more I can say to-day. It is for that reason that I shall refrain from following the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, into the very interesting issues which he raised in his speech this afternoon. That does not mean that I do not agree with a great deal of what he said, but I am afraid that in such a situation I am not in a position further to develop the theme. I am sure that the noble Earl will understand that, and I mention it only because I am most anxious he should not feel that I am guilty of any discourtesy to him.

Then the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, delved into the future. He asked me a number of pregnant questions as to what Her Majesty's Government propose to do. I do not think the noble Viscount really expected an answer to those questions. I feel hey were what I was taught at school to call rhetorical questions, and the great point about such questions is that they do not require an answer. I do not regard the noble Viscount's questions as requiring an answer, arid I am afraid that he will not get one.


My Lords, the noble Marquess has reverted to the charming badinage of his more pedestrian style. The issues I raised were what is to be the result of a conflict with Egypt with all that group of Powers in the East called the Bandoeng group. That is a question to which the noble Marquess can give a general answer and which cannot be evaded by a rhetorical flourish.


My Lords, I do not think anyone can give an answer to that question. 'The noble Viscount asked other questions about what Her Majesty's Government were going to do, and I cannot answer them either. I have done my best to answer those questions which I can. The last thing I wish to say, and one thing I would establish beyond any doubt, is that this is not a matter on which we can or will weaken; and I hope that we shall receive the support of everyone who believes, as I do most profoundly, that it is only on a broad base of good faith between nations and peoples that a new and better world can ever arise.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, the debate that we have just had was bound to be of a limited character, but has been none the less valuable for that. We have clarified our minds on a great many questions connected with this problem. Some of us have come rather fresh to it while others 'have lived with it for a long time. I believe that the result of this discussion has been that we are now all much more familiar with the situation and we have been given many facts of which we were not before aware. It is true that Her Majesty's Government have not been able to give the House a clear statement as to what was going to be done, but obviously they cannot, and I make no complaint whatever. They are in consultation with our friends and are not able to make a statement alone.

One of the values of this debate has been that it has enabled some of your Lordships to express your views to Her Majesty's Government. I feel we should all agree that, on the whole, the feeling of your Lordships' House is pretty solid, There has been a difference of emphasis here and there, but by and large we are all agreed on what Her Majesty's Government seek to achieve, and there has not been a great deal of difference as to the method. There I would leave it, except to congratulate the noble Marquess on having put forward to this House a legal explanation which I rather hesitated to do. If the noble Marquess does not mind my saying so, that was exactly what I had in mind; but with rather more courage than I possess he explained the legal position to your Lordships. I believe he is right. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.