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Suez Canal (Restrictions)

Volume 486: debated on Monday 16 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British ships have been affected by the restrictions put on traffic through the Suez Canal; and what port facilities have been refused to them.

Every ship, under whatever flag, which has passed through the Canal since May, 1949, has been affected in some degree by the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian Government since that date. At the present moment the only vessels whose passage through the Canal is forbidden by the Egyptian authorities are those carrying to Israel goods on the Egyptian contraband list. This list has, since September, 1949, been confined to oil and military equipment. As regards the second part of this Question, the only case which has come to my notice is that of a ship which, in December last, was refused permission by the Egyptian authorities to load cargo at Port Said.

Could the hon. Gentleman say if any of these ships have attempted to get through, and, if so, what facilities have been denied to them to prevent their getting through? Are the facilities being denied by the Suez Canal Company or by the Egyptian Government?

I cannot say how many ships, knowing of the restrictions which existed, made other arrangements for their facilities. I have said that there is only one instance of which I know where facilities were actually refused.

As these transactions are entirely illegal, why is it that our tankers, going to Haifa, have not been escorted by a destroyer, or even a couple of gunboats?

I do not think that is a question I am prepared to answer without its being put upon the Order Paper.

Would the hon. Gentleman say what is the attitude of the British and French directors of the Canal Company?

I cannot say, without notice, what is the personal attitude of the directors.

Would the hon. Gentleman reveal a little bit more clearly what is stopping the ships getting through?

Will the Government bear in mind that the recent disturbances in Persia make it all the more urgent to clear up this matter?