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Israel (British Subject's Death, Compensation)

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1950

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23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that John Nixon, British Broadcasting Corporation's correspondent, was shot down and killed more than two years ago by an Israeli fighter while flying as a passenger in a Transjordan civil aircraft; that no compensation for his widow and two children has yet been received from either Government though a United Nations judicial inquiry found them both responsible; what steps have been taken to recover compensation; and what sanctions he now proposes in order to enforce payment of proper compensation.

Yes, Sir. As the aircraft in which Mr. Nixon was travelling was shot down by an Israel fighter, a claim for compensation was first lodged with the Israel Government, who eventually replied that they disclaimed legal liability but were prepared to make an unspecified ex gratia payment, provided that the Jordan Government made a like offer. This proposal was then put to the Jordan Government, who have not yet reached a decision on the matter. The question of sanctions does not arise so long as the matter is still sub judice.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that this delay in dealing with a grave injustice to a British subject is intolerable? Is he aware that in Hungary, when there was a great injustice to a British subject, a trade embargo was imposed? Why is not a similar course taken in this case?

The two cases are not at all comparable. We have made approaches to the Israel Government and, now, to the Jordan Government. We cannot force a country to act in this respect, but we are giving them time and hoping that as a result of our patience a better settlement will be made than if we took hasty action.

Does not the Under-Secretary think that two years is long enough and that it is time to bring great pressure to bear on people when injustice is done to British subjects?

That may be so, but our view is that in this case a better compensation would be received if we did not use the pressure to which the hon. and learned Member refers.

How do the Jordan Government come into the matter if this was a legal flight at the time?

That is where the difficulty has arisen, because the Israel Government claim that they had not been given notification of the flight of this aircraft.

In view of the reply which has been given, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.