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Egypt, Canal Zone (Conversations)

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance namely, the conversations taking place today between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Egyptian Government concerning the proposed evacuation of British Forces from the Canal Zone.

The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of public importance namely, the conversations taking place today between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Egyptian Government concerning the proposed evacuation of British Forces from the Canal Zone. I must rule, I am afraid, that that Motion would be out of order. "Conversations" and "proposed evacuation" are not definite matters, and the rule applies to a single definite act. I must point out, also, that the proposed discussion could not take place without ascertaining what were the instructions to the Ambassador. A Motion cannot be moved to obtain information—that is laid down. Therefore, on two counts, I cannot accept the Motion.

While not in any way disputing your Ruling, Sir, I should like to ask the Leader of the House whether he can give an assurance that before this matter is carried to a definite conclusion the House will have an opportunity of discussing the question in its general terms. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not aware that although the treaty-making power of the Crown is in no way challenged, nevertheless it is customary for the Government of the day, as far as possible, to carry with them the opinion of Parliament, upon whose judgment they depend?

I have had no notice that this matter was to be raised. Since the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) rose in his place I have tried to get in touch with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I would not like to make any statement on the matter until I have had an opportunity of consulting my right hon. Friend upon it. I recognise the seriousness of the issues which are raised and the great interest taken by both sides of the House in the matter.

Perhaps I might put a Private Notice Question to the right hon. Gentleman tomorrow?

On the point which the Leader of the House has raised, I wish to say that it was only at a quarter to midnight last night that the seriousness of the situation was presented to me. I then telegraphed to you, Mr. Speaker, and raised the matter at the earliest possible moment this morning. I apologise that there was no longer notice.

I do not think there need be any apology. The Leader of the House made no complaint of discourtesy at all. As far as I know it is quite understood.