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Anglo-Egyptian Negotiations

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as a result of the events of the last few days in Egypt, what further instructions he is giving to the British negotiators upon future arrangements in Suez.

It is too early yet to say what, if any, effect the recent developments in Egypt may have upon our negotiations. Her Majesty's Government's policy remains as set out in my speech in this House of 17th December last.

Do not the events of the last few days demonstrate the chronic instability of the Revolutionary Council in Cairo and the military junta that is dominating it; and in those circumstances will any agreement that may be reached after these protracted negotiations be worth the paper it is written on?

There is certainly evidence of instability in Cairo, but it still remains the fact that it is in the general and Allied interest to get a settlement on Anglo-Egyptian issues if we can. I hope the House will not ask me to limit our diplomatic activity to those governments which have a stable parliamentary situation because, if so our progress is likely to be somewhat limited.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, as a matter of interest, when the answer to this Question was prepared, and which are the "few days" referred to in the Question?

May I ask my right hon. Friend if it is true, as announced on the tape, that the Head Inspector of Police in Khartoum was murdered this morning, and whether he has any news from there about the Minister of State?

I wish my right hon. and gallant Friend would ask me a Private Notice Question. This is a question of a slightly different character, and I am reluctant to make sudden statements on matters of importance in the House without notice. I have had a number of messages from Khartoum, but they require confirmation, and I should be reluctant to give information to this House which might afterwards be found to be untrue. I only know that a state of emergency has been declared by the Governor-General in Khartoum and that the opening of Parliament arranged for this afternoon has, in consequence, been postponed.

Have I your permission, Sir, to put a supplementary question to my right hon. Friend?

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the instability of the Egyptian Government, does he think it might be useful to put off further negotiations on this matter until there have been free elections in both countries?

I think the hon. Gentleman can have great confidence in Her Majesty's present advisers.

Does the right hon. and gallant Member desire to ask a supplementary question to the Question on the Paper?

I wanted your guidance, Sir, as to whether I might ask a Private Notice Question on this important matter either today or tomorrow.