HL Deb 28 November 1956 vol 200 cc633-5

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is true that the Egyptian Government have decreed the immediate expulsion of all British subjects from Egypt; and if so, what countermeasures Her Majesty's Government propose to take.]


My Lords, your Lordships will have seen the statement made by my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in another place on November 26. According to reports which have been received since my right honourable friend made that statement, the Swiss Government have now received an assurance from the Egyptian Government that no mass expulsion of British or French subjects has been ordered. The position is somewhat confused but, on present information, it seems that, even if no formal and general order has been given by the Egyptian Government for the expulsion of British subjects, the Egyptian police have issued expulsion orders to a large number of individuals. Her Majesty's Government hope that the assurance given by the Egyptian Government to the Swiss Government means that these expulsion orders will be revoked where the individual concerned does not want to leave Egypt. Her Majesty's Government in any case reserve the right to claim compensation on behalf of British subjects in Egypt when the true status of legislation against British and French subjects becomes clear.

As regards the second part of the Question, I do not think that the House would wish Her Majesty's Government to take the Egyptian action as a model in handling the situation. In any case the immediate position is so unclear that I can at this stage say nothing more definite.


My Lords, I thank the noble Marquess for his Answer, which shows that there has been a change, perhaps for the better, since I put down my Question. At the same time (I do not want to make a speech), to-day's Press reports the summary expulsions, women stripped and all their jewels taken from them. Arising out of the reports in the Press, before the noble Marquess made his reply just now I had it in mind to ask him whether we have in contemplation any plan for assisting those unfortunate and innocent British subjects, many of whom, apparently, are being thrown out of the country at a moment's notice, deprived of all their possessions and their women stripped to the nude and altogether treated in a most barbarous manner. I want to ask whether we have perhaps set up a committee or done something. We are already doing something of the sort for another country—and quite rightly. Have we in contemplation any plan, committee or system to cope with such of these unfortunate people of ours as leave Egypt, their home, with no means of livelihood and with nothing at all to look forward to? I should very much hope that we have, and I ask the noble Marquess whether some such plan could at least be considered.

My second question has, to some extent, been met by what the noble Marquess has already said. I was going to ask: are we really prepared to take this insult lying down? From what the noble Marquess has said, I gather that we are. All I can say is that I am distressed and sorry for it. The last question I would ask the noble Marquess is whether there is any form of international custom or manner of dealing with mad dogs.


My Lords, certainly the position of such people as come out will have to receive very careful attention; and that it shall have. At the present moment it is very difficult to say, because we do not know how many people are coming out; we do not know who they are or into what categories they fall. But the point which the noble Lord has made has certainly not been overlooked. As to the second of his questions, the noble Lord seemed to say that it requires no further answer after what I have said. On the question about mad dogs, I think I must take that as being in the nature of a rhetorical question to which it would be a little difficult to give an answer in terms of International Law.


My Lords, apropos of my first question, may I ask the noble Marquess how we propose to deal with these distressed British subjects? I happen to remember that when the British police were thrown out of Egypt some years ago, a committee was set up which dealt with their cases and in many instances helped materially to get them alternative employment. Perhaps something of that sort might form a precedent.


That certainly shall be considered in the general context of what can be done.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware of the immense importance of prestige in the East? It is of far greater importance in the East than it is in other parts of the world. Is the noble Marquess aware that, if our nationals have to put up with insults and affronts of the nature that has been described, it would do the position of our country an enormous amount of harm, certainly in the East and in the eyes of all the Arab nations?


My Lords, the aspect of prestige has certainly not escaped the attention of Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I should like to ask whether it would be in order to put on record the appreciation which I am sure we all feel towards the Swiss Government for their good offices in helping us in this question.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. I think steps may well be taken on the lines he suggests.

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