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Commons Chamber

Volume 529: debated on Monday 5 July 1954

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House Of Commons

Monday, 5th July, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o' Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business




As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

British Transport Commission Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act,1936, relating to the British Transport Commission," presented by Mr. J. Stuart; and ordered (under Section 7 of the Act) to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 138.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Germany (Occupation Costs)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what agreement has been reached with the West German Government on the subject of occupation costs after 1st July last, when the present arrangements expired.

Discussions between the allied authorities and the Federal Government about the arrangements for occupation costs after 1st July, 1954, are now taking place. I regret that I cannot yet tell the hon. and gallant Member any more.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that the belated completion of this arrangement has not been held up by the truculent ultimatum of the German Chancellor last Friday?

The position of Her Majesty's Government is fully preserved in the meantime.

Military Attache, Mexico City


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the last date upon which Her Majesty's Military Attaché at Mexico City visited Tegucigalpa and Guatemala; the duration of his stay in both capitals; and if he is satisfied that this officer can deal effectively with the military aspects and potentialities of the seven Republics to which he is accredited.

The former Military Attaché at Her Majesty's Embassy at Mexico City visited Guatemala from 3rd May to 8th May and the capital of Honduras from 9th May to 10th May of this year. His successor, who arrived at Mexico City on 28th May has been trying for some time to reach Guatemala City, but has not yet reported his arrival.

The arrangement by which this officer is appointed to seven Republics is normally satisfactory and must be accepted, given the need for economy in Government expenditure overseas.


Her Majesty's Representative


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Her Majesty has been represented in Guatemala by a Chargé d'Affaires during the present emergency; and what steps he has taken to secure representation by a fully-accredited Minister.

Mr. W. H. Gallienne, who had been Minister at Guatemala City since 1947, left on 17th March to take up his appointment as Ambassador to Cuba. His successor, Mr. R. H. S. Allen, left the United Kingdom on 29th May, but owing to the disruption of communications, he was not able to reach his post until 2nd July.

Does not that answer, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer to the previous Question, show that Her Majesty's Government were grievously lacking in information about all the affairs that took place in Guatemala at this time? Will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake to publish as a White Paper the full information that he obtained either from the Guatemalan Government or from such representatives as he may have had in Guatemala during that period?

I should like to repudiate straight away any suggestion that Her Majesty's Government were not appropriately represented during this period. Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires was a very experienced and able officer, and I am perfectly certain that he represented us in the best possible manner.

There are later Questions with regard to that matter. There was a public communication, I think in January of this year, by the Guatemalan Government.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think it is a good thing that there should be an interval when a new Minister is appointed so that more junior members of the Diplomatic Service may have an opportunity to prove their worth?

Un Security Council Discussions


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, following the abstention of the representative of Her Majesty's Government on the Security Council with regard to the matter of the invasion of Guatemala, he will now instruct Her Majesty's representative that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that any country has the right to appeal to the Security Council under Article 35, even though that country is a member of a regional arrangement.

The abstention recorded in the Security Council on 25th June by the United Kingdom representative in connection with the Guatemalan question in no way indicated that Her Majesty's Government consider that membership of a regional arrangement impairs the right of appeal to the Security Council under Article 35 of the United Nations Charter.

The reasons for the abstention in question were explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) on 30th June.

If the Minister is now accepting what we have said on this side, that Guatemala had every right to bring her case before the Security Council, does he not think that it was most unfortunate that we appeared to equivocate at the important time?

I do not agree. There is the right referred to, under Article 35 of the Charter, to bring a matter to the attention of the Security Council. That was done.

Does not Article 39 also impose an absolute duty on the Security Council to determine whether or not there has been an aggression?

It certainly leaves it quite open to the Security Council to decide by what method it shall come to a conclusion on that point.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the Press reports, to the effect that the total invading force consisted of one colonel, 38 other ranks and one radio transmitter, are true or not? Are not they less numerous than the whole Security Council put together?

I think it is quite clear that the whole business has been grossly exaggerated.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that it is necessary to determine by what method an aggression took place, and can he answer my previous question, which was whether he will publish the information which he obtained from this naval attaché in charge during the period?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is getting a little muddled. There was no naval attaché in charge during the period, but there are later Questions on the Order Paper about the publication of a White Paper, with which I am going to deal.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish a White Paper on the discussions in the United Nations Security Council on the events in Guatemala, similar to the one that was issued on events which led to the United Nations action in Korea.

Will it not be forever to our shame that when this small country came to the United Nations Security Council with its complaint we did not act with the speed which the United Nations Charter requires, but shared in the equivocation and delays suggested by the United States, so that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter may be, we shall be forever on record as being prepared to act quickly when Communists undertake aggression but not when it is suggested that others may have?

That is, of course, a wholly misconceived comment. What happened was that on 20th June a suggestion was made for immediate action by a body already in existence to find the facts, namely, the Organisation of American States, and it was a Russian veto on 20th June that caused the delay.

In view of the aspersions that have been cast upon a religious institution known as the United Fruit Company will the Minister of State undertake in the White Paper to tell us something about the United Fruit Company, how much of the land it owns, whether it is a monopoly, and whether the whole affair has not been organised in the interests of monopoly to overthrow a democratically elected Government?

I have promised a White Paper on the discussions of the United Nations Security Council on the events in Guatemala.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend possibly indicate whether the treaties and international agreements of this century have done anything, in effect, to modify the Monroe doctrine of the last century?

There is a strong feeling among Latin American States that the Monroe doctrine still exists and this Organisation of American States, which includes Guatemala, is in existence. Guatemala thereby pledges herself to take these matters first of all to the Organisation of the American States.

Is the Minister aware that these events have been described by Mr. Dulles as a splendid victory against Communism, and that the Foreign Secretary has been specifically congratulated by Mr. Dulles for his success in preventing them being investigated by the United Nations? Does he not realise that a British policy which deliberately condones invasion by proxy by America and causes millions of men to die for invasion by proxy by Russia is something which brings this country into utter disrepute?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."]—and I believe that when this White Paper is studied, and the course of events is seen, very few people will agree with the hon. Gentleman.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the action of the Security Council in relation to the Guatemalan question.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on further action taken by the Security Council of the United Nations regarding the invasion of Guatemala.

The position remains as stated in my reply to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), on 28th June.

As there is little doubt that this attack on the Guatemalan Government has been launched from bases outside the country, and that the Security Council's appeal for a cease fire was ignored, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why the British representative did not urge the Security Council to intervene with the same speed as it intervened in the case of the Korean aggression? If the Minister says that this incident has been exaggerated is he saying that it was only a little murder and that, therefore, we should not bother much about it?

What I say is that when the matter first came before the Security Council on 20th June action was taken, supported by Her Majesty's Government, which, I believe, would have resulted in the facts being found very quickly, but that resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Then, on a later occasion, on 25th June, an attempt was made to bring the item before the Security Council again. The hon. Member does not need much imagination to see what might easily have happened, and, in the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in doing what they could to urge the Organisation of American States to send out a Fact-Finding Committee. In fact, the whole thing has fizzled out,

May the House take it that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the outcome of the revolution in Guatemala will not be allowed to impede the consideration of the matter by the Security Council after it has received the report of this Fact-Finding Committee? Can we take it that the question whether or not there has been an act of aggression will not be ruled out by the fact that the revolution is over?

We have always said that the sending out of the Committee by the Organisation of American States should not exclude the matter from the Security Council. The matter would obviously have to be considered again by the Security Council in one form or another.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take note of the fact that his hon. Friends on this side of the House do not share the apparently unanimous regret of hon. Members opposite at the disappearance of a Communist régime hostile to this country?

May we take it from the Minister's reply that it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that if an aggression succeeds quickly enough it has the full approval of the Government?

Not at all, but one has to seek to take such action as is possible in the circumstances. The simple and the best form of action was vetoed by the Soviet Union on 20th June.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of how the British representative voted on each complaint of a threat to her security made by Guatemala to the United Nations organisation during the last two years; what were the dates; and what action was taken.

The only occasions in the past two years on which the Guatemalan Government have asked the Security Council to take action to put an end to threats to her security were on 19th June and 22nd June of this year. These requests were considered by the Security Council on 20th June and 25th June. The House has already been informed of the way in which the United Kingdom delegate on the Security Council voted on those two occasions and of the action taken by the Council.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that the sacrifice of a vital principle of the United Nations cannot be excused by saying that the Guatemalan war is only a small war, and that a small war is much more easy to regulate and prompt action is more easily effected? Is the Minister not aware that to refer to the bombing of an open town, the invasion of a country, and the sinking of a British ship as a matter which is fizzling out is a little unusual in this House, and that we heard it with regret? When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks of exiles invading from without, might not a similar description be applied with equal accuracy to a war by Formosa against China?

I do not think that I referred to any of the matters as fizzling out. It appears that hostilities have terminated. They have fizzled out and, as has been suggested, the two colonels now are in comparative amity.

Can we take it from all these Questions and answers on this subject that it is now the policy of the Government that the United Nations organisation as such should only deal with aggression when the aggression arises from Communist countries?

Not at all. We wish the Security Council to operate in accordance with the terms of the Charter. On 20th June there was one veto on a certain course of action and, as I say, I do not think it requires much imagination to understand what would have happened. I am convinced that the course we took was the right one.

Will the Government insist that the Fact-Finding Committee shall give us the full facts of what occurred?

We certainly shall endeavour to find out the full facts. We have no power to insist.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, as one who was on the staff of the legation in Guatemala for some years, I feel that it is fortunate for British interests and for the interests of everybody in Central America that the disorders have ceased so quickly? Will my right hon. and learned Friend, therefore resist attempts to transfer the fighting to the Floor of this House when it can do nothing but harm to the interests of this country and of the Central American countries?

British Property (Damage)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the effect on British interests of the situation in Guatemala and on the report of the Fact-Finding Commission.

As the House has already been informed, a Shell Company installation outside Guatemala City was machine-gunned and damaged, and the British vessel "Springfjord" was bombed and burnt out at the port of San José. I have received no other reports of damage to British property in Guatemala.

As far as the Fact-Finding Committee is concerned, I believe that Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala have now withdrawn their charges, but this has not yet been confirmed. The Committee returned to Washington on 3rd July from Mexico City, and an announcement may be made tomorrow.

Apart from the fact that a British ship was sunk after being bombed, has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the statement in "The Times" today that had it not been for the fact that Colonel Armas had the services of a number of foreign aircraft the Government of Guatemala would have been able to deal with the situation very easily? Is it not essential, in view of this, that the public should know the identity of the aircraft, where they came from and where the bombs came from? In those circumstances, will the Government press for the Fact-Finding Committee to establish the facts?

Her Majesty's Government will certainly seek to find out what the facts were, but I quite agree with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said on the point. As far as the Committee and its movements are concerned, I think we must await its report.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend in agreement with me when I say that this was a typical Central American revolution, and, that being so, that the whole incident has been grossly exaggerated, largely, it is suspected, on account of anti-American prejudice?

I certainly think that hon. Members would be very wise not to draw a conclusion contrary to that of my hon. and gallant Friend without knowing the facts.

If it is merely a question of a Central American revolution of the musical-comedy type, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman deny that American planes and pilots bombed and machine-gunned Guatemala?

New Government


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what Government he now recognises in Guatemala.

The constitutional position in Guatemala is not yet clear. No new request for recognition has been made. In the meantime, Her Majesty's representative has been instructed to deal with the authorities in Guatemala City on a de facto basis.

In view of the report in "The Times" already quoted by my right hon. and learned Friend, has the Minister any doubt that we are here dealing with a situation in which an elected Government has been overthrown by a revolutionary force vociferously encouraged and militarily sustained from outside? Is that not exactly what we complain about regarding the Communists all over China and Asia, and had we not better be very wary about recognising the outcome of this lamentable state of affairs?

I certainly agree with the hon. Baronet that we should try to ascertain more about the facts before we proceed to deal with this new Government except on a de facto basis. On the other hand, it is quite clear that what took place was a revolt by Guatemalan exiles against the Government.

Aircraft Attacks


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the bombing and sinking of a British ship near Guatemala.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct Her Majesty's representatives in Honduras, Guatemala and the United States of America to conduct inquiries as to the country of origin of the Thunderbolt aircraft used by the insurgents in the recent Guatemalan civil war that made attacks upon British shipping; the country or countries which granted the export licence to enable these aircraft to be supplied to the insurgents; and the country or countries from which these aircraft took off for their incursions into Guatemala.

As I have informed the House, the British steamer "Springfjord," on charter to the United States Grace Line, was bombed and set on fire on 27th June off the port of San José, Guatemala, when she was taking on a mixed cargo. Her crew are safe. Although badly damaged, Lloyds' Agent in Guatemala reported that the ship was still afloat on 29th June.

Immediate inquiries were addressed by Her Majesty's representatives in neighbouring countries to the Governments of El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua in an endeavour to establish the facts about the attacking aircraft. These Governments all stated that they had no information. The Guatemalan Government informed Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires on 28th June that the aircraft belonged to the insurgent forces.

A claim for compensation has been presented by the owners to the Guatemalan Legation in London.

Is the Minister aware that this was an American-type aircraft and that it must have taken off from territory other than Guatemalan? Does he intend to adopt the same attitude towards the loss of this British ship as the Chancellor of the Exchequer used to adopt during the Spanish civil war, or will he stand up for British interests?

I should imagine that there are very few aeroplanes in this part of the world that are not of American type.

Will the Minister verify from the Fact-Finding Committee which has gone out, I understand, on behalf of the United Nations, what the aircraft was, who gave the licence for its purchase and whether the United Fruit Company had anything to do with it?

Certainly. We shall try to find out whatever we can about an aircraft which, to whichever side it belonged, did a very wrong thing.

If the Minister of State tells us that we should proceed on a de facto basis, should we not address our communications to the United Fruit Company?

We have no reason to believe that there is any truth at all in what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. Of course, one advantage of the present de facto set up is that it appears to be a coalition of old and new elements in the Guatemalan Government. In those circumstances, we are pressing our claim with the new Guatemalan Government.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the two colonels concerned have been photographed kissing each other, so is not the show all over?

Will the Minister say where the 39 men—whom he has accepted in this "much exaggerated" event—obtained the napalm bombs which were put down on the British ship, and how the aircraft came into the possession of the rebels? Will he not ask the United States Government if they sold the ammunition to the rebels?

This is a matter to be investigated, but the hon. and learned Gentleman, in assuming that the United States Government are responsible in some way for this, is. I believe, stating something which is wholly divorced from the truth.

After the British ship had been bombed did the right hon. Gentleman instruct the new British representative to fly at once to Guatemala or did he tell him on no account to interrupt his holiday?

That is quite an unfair remark. The British representative was doing his best to get to Guatemala City, but it was impossible for him to get there. He was not on holiday at all, and I think that it is a quite irresponsible smear to have made a remark of that sort. The minute this incident happened Her Majesty's representatives in all these countries were instructed to make urgent inquiries.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action the Security Council took with regard to the complaint made by Guatemala regarding the machine-gunning and bombing by foreign aircraft of Guatemala's civilian population; and what part the British delegate took in the discussion of this matter.

The complaint of the Guatemalan authorities was considered by the Security Council on 20th June. A resolution referring the complaint to the Organisation of American States for urgent consideration and requesting the Organisation of American States to inform the Security Council as soon as possible on the measures it had been able to take was vetoed by the representative of the Soviet Union. The Security Council then unanimously approved a resolution calling for the immediate termination of any action likely to cause bloodshed and requesting all members of the United Nations to abstain from giving assistance to any such action.

Will the Minister be good enough to answer "Yes," or "No," to a simple question? Is it a fact that American aircraft, manned by American pilots, machine-gunned Guatemalan civilians and dropped napalm bombs on Guatemala, and that Her Majesty's Government were well aware of that fact?

That is certainly not the case. Her Majesty's Government have no information of that kind whatsoever.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of all the answers to all these Questions about Guatemala, may I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that if the matter is not otherwise debated between now and then it shall be debated for at least two hours on the Adjournment for the Summer Recess?

I shall consider that question along with the many other requests which I have received.

Disturbances (Information)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he received from the Government of Guatemala prior to the recent disturbances, indicating the danger of armed attack and the details of the bombing of open towns and villages with consequent danger to British subjects; and whether he will publish the whole of the correspondence as a White Paper.

Last January, Her Majesty's Legation at Guatemala City received a copy of a statement which the Guatemalan Government had issued to the Press about the plans of Guatemalan exiles. No other communication received before the disturbances began indicated the danger of armed attack.

As I have already said, I am issuing a White Paper on this subject.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that he received, during the disturbances, cables stating exactly what was happening and what risks were being undergone by British subjects in the territory? Is he aware that it is important that the fullest information should be made available, so that we should know whether this was an old type of civil war of insurrection, or whether it was the iron heel in action?

I certainly think the hon. Gentleman's request is very reasonable, and I will seek to give the fullest possible information in the White Paper.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks of getting the facts from the Fact-Finding Committee, is it not a fact that now that the aggression has paid, the Fact-Finding Committee is to be wound up?

I have never limited myself to saying that we only seek to get the facts from the Fact-Finding Committee. In answer to an earlier question, I said that we had no power to insist upon that, but we will certainly do all we can to see that the full facts are found.

I understood the Minister to say that Her Majesty's Government did not intend that the outcome of this revolution should prevent the Security Council from inquiring into this question whether there had been an act of aggression. How can they do that if there is no report of the facts received by them? Are we to understand now from the Minister that the Fact-Finding Committee has been wound up and that there is no independent body making any investigation into the facts in Guatemala?

I think the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. All I was saying, in answer to the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), was that Her Majesty's Government were not limiting their sources of information to anything that might be discovered by the Fact-Finding Committee. To my knowledge the Fact-Finding Committee has not been wound up, but has simply returned from Mexico City to Washington.

Official Correspondence (Publication)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will publish a White Paper containing the correspondence, diplomatic notes and other correspondence which have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Guatemala from April, 1953, to the present date.

I will consider this in connection with the White Paper to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that reply. Will he be good enough to include in that statement all the Notes which were issued following the bombardment of Corfu? Before congratulating himself on the fact that the Guatemalan aggression has fizzled out will he bear in mind that it was this kind of fighting which led to the First World War, and what is now happening in Guatemala might produce a similar result?

If any White Paper covered all the similar incidents which have happened in the past it would be a very long one indeed.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the replies which he has made on the question of Guatemala this afternoon indicate that Her Majesty's Government's policy is that intervention by the United Nations in cases of aggression is premature before that aggression has succeeded?

The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that that is not the position. In this case there is a body of the States concerned, of which Guatemala is a member and to whose charter she has subscribed, and that body was admirably placed to take such steps as were necessary. As Argentina and Mexico are both members of the Organisation, I should have thought there could be no doubt about the balance of opinion in the Fact-Finding Committee.

Does the Minister agree that, summarising the Questions which have been asked by the party opposite, it is the opinion of that party that we should intervene in a civil war?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the action of the British delegate on the Security Council was designed to give time for this aggression to succeed, and that if this country had wished to avoid delay in the handling of this matter the best way would have been for the Security Council to have handled it itself, in which case Russia would not have vetoed the proposals?

The hon. Lady is misinformed. The Russian veto took place on 20th June. The British Government took the action they did because there was no other way in which progress could have been made. I do not believe that any other resolution would have escaped a veto.

Anglo-Chinese Trade


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress is being made in the negotiations for the restoration of normal trade with China.

Her Majesty's Government are not at present engaged in any negotiations about trade with China. The hon. Member no doubt has in mind the talks between the Sino-British Trade Committee, representing various prominent British manufacturing and trading organisations, and a party of Chinese trade experts. It is too early yet to assess what progress is being made in these talks. The Chinese delegation is at present visiting factories, and talks will be resumed on its return to London.

In view of the fact that there has been an armistice in Korea for two years, is it not high time that trade relations with China were normalised, or at least put on the same basis as with the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? What steps are the Government taking towards this end?

I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Korean armistice was a step in the right direction. I think that the next step to take is to stop the fighting in Indo-China.

Is there not a Chinese delegation in this country at the present time—I think it arrived the other day—and would it not be desirable, apart from manufacturers here receiving its members, that they should be received by the President of the Board of Trade, or by an appropriate Government Department?

That is a question for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

As trade with China is on a different basis from East-West trade generally, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the visit of the President of the Board of Trade to America was in connection with trade with China?

If it is a matter for the President of the Board of Trade, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on behalf of the Foreign Office, make it quite clear that the Foreign Office would raise no objection if the President wished to see the members of this delegation?

I will certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now initiate discussions in the United Nations to modify the resolution of 18th May, 1951, regarding trade with China, so that strategic controls on exports to that country are brought into line with those on exports to Eastern Europe.

No, Sir. We must await the outcome of the Geneva Conference before we can consider whether any such discussions should be initiated.

Does that answer and that given to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. William Warbey), mean that the Government insist on awaiting a political settlement in Korea before considering that reasonably normal trading relations between China and Britain are possible? If so, does it not give Syngman Rhee a veto?

I said that we should await the outcome of the Geneva Conference, which is dealing not only with Korea but with Indo-China.

But since the boycott was put on in 1951 because of aggression in Korea, and since fighting has stopped there, is there any good reason why relations with China should not be on the same basis as those with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?

British Foreign Policy


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the five principles of peace recently agreed between the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers, a copy of which has been sent him, form part of British foreign policy.

British foreign policy is based upon the principles set forth in Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. The five principles to which the right hon. and learned Member refers seem to be generally consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter.

Greek Diplomat, London (British Claim)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the case of the diplomat in the Greek Embassy in London, particulars of which have been sent to him, against whom a common law claim by a British subject for damages for personal injuries caused by his negligence in driving a motor car in England has been made but who pleads in defence diplomatic immunity; and what steps he intends to take to enable justice to be done to the British subject who has been so injured.

Yes, Sir. I have studied the information which the hon. and learned Member has so kindly forwarded to me. The diplomat concerned left the United Kingdom in May last on the termination of his appointment at the Greek Embassy. He is no longer regarded as having any immunity from the jurisdiction of the English courts.

I am informed that the diplomat carried automobile insurance against third party risks, but that the insurance company concerned has failed to meet the claim. Inquiries are being made as to the grounds on which liability has been denied. Appropriate measures will be taken in the light of the information obtained.

Will the Minister say what are the appropriate measures designed and calculated to protect the British citizen who was injured, and see that the doctrine of immunity is not carried too far in this matter?

I will do that. It may interest the House to know that an arrangement has been in force since 1935 under which all companies have given an undertaking not to avail themselves of diplomatic immunity in order to evade compliance with their obligations under automobile policies.

Burma (Chinese Nationalist Troops)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Chinese Nationalist troops have been evacuated from Burmese soil in pursuance of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations; how many still remain; and whether the evacuation is still continuing.

I have received no report of further evacuation since my right hon. and learned Friend informed the House on 2nd June that 6,900 persons had been evacuated, including about 1,400 dependents. General Li Mi, the former commander of the troops in Burma, announced on 30th May that his headquarters had been disbanded because all the troops answering his orders had been evacuated. No further evacuation is in progress.

Am I right in understanding that the Committee set up at the request of the United Nations Assembly is still in existence, and that if further evacuations are required they will be carried out?

Yes, Sir. As I understand, under the resolution debated by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8th December, 1953, it is primarily the responsibility of the Government of Burma to report on the situation to the General Assembly if they so desire.

Did the Foreign Minister of Burma, when in this country, say whether he was satisfied with the arrangements made?

I have no information on the point, but I will make inquiries and let the right hon. Gentleman know.

Is the Minister aware that the Parliamentary delegation which recently visited Burma was unanimously of the opinion that the evacuation of these troops had been of the greatest possible help in the matter of the restoration of law and order there—which is a British interest—and that a good many guerilla troops remained? Will he see that everything in our power is done to get them taken away?

Is there not a difference between the number evacuated and the number originally there? Will the Minister look into the matter and give us some figures at a later date?

I think that the estimate of 12,000 as the total number of K.M.T. in Burma was never sacrosanct. It has never been possible to make an accurate check as the troops included a considerable number of local adherents who either dispersed or reverted to banditry with the removal of the hard core of foreign troops.

Bacteriological Warfare Convention (Nato Ratification)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which of the Governments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have not yet ratified the convention agreeing not to resort to bacteriological warfare.

As Her Majesty's Government have ratified the anti-bacteriological convention, does not the Minister think that we should approach both Iceland and the United States so that there can be some co-ordination of policy on germ warfare among all the countries in N.A.T.O.?

No. The convention in question is the Geneva Protocol, signed on 17th June, 1925. As far as the United States Government is concerned, it is as anxious as any other to achieve the prohibition of this type of warfare. Its position has been explained to the Disarmament Commission. They themselves proposed in 1952 that the disarmament Commission should provide for the elimination of all major weapons of destruction, including bacteriological weapons.

Anglo-Egyptian Relations


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any further statement to give the House in respect of Anglo-Egyptian relations.

As I said in reply to a Question in this House on 2nd June, it is still the intention of Her Majesty's Government to seek to reach a suitable agreement with the Egyptian Government. I have nothing to add to that at present.

Would the Minister at least indicate chronologically what progress has been made? Are we likely to have the result announced in the relatively near future?

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen a statement in the Press purporting to be from a speech delivered by a high-ranking Egyptian spokesman the other day to the effect that when the British troops evacuated the Suez Canal Zone that would be a useful opportunity to make an attack on Israel? Has he seen that statement? If so, what is his comment on it?

I have seen that statement. I think it would be very much to be deplored if that was the view of the Egyptian Government.

We have no reason to believe that the gentleman in question did not make that statement.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that the statement by Major Salem, that

"We cannot fight in Palestine with the British lurking behind our backs"
creates conditions in which it is very difficult indeed to negotiate with the Egyptians about a withdrawal of British fighting troops from the Canal Zone?

Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the present position in respect of a settlement of the Anglo-Iranian Oil dispute.

Negotiators representing the eight oil companies went back to Tehran on 19th June and have resumed discussions with the Persian Government. These continue in a most cordial atmosphere and progress has been made on a number of matters.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what is happening to the oil installations? To what extent are they working?

United Nations Charter (Chapter Viii)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what at present are the competent regional arrangements or agencies within the meaning of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace or security and through which the Security Council can encourage the settlement of local disputes; and what was the date of recognition of each such arrangement or agency.

The United Nations Charter does not provide for the recognition of regional arrangements or agencies. In practice, the Organisation of American States has been regarded as such an agency and is the only one in respect of which Her Majesty's Government consider the position to be clear. The Charter of the Organisation of American States came into force in 1948.

Are we to understand, as the Question takes the precise words of the Charter, that no other member of the United Nations was ever aware that Her Majesty's Government recognised this organisation until the moment when recognition was effected and that the matter has never been brought before the full Council or the Security Council until this reference was made?

I do not think there is any provision in the Charter for this process of recognition.

Edc Treaty (Ratification)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the nature of the communication sent jointly to the Government of France by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States of America in regard to the ratification of the European Defence Community agreement.

No such communication has been made. The view of Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government on the question of ratification of the European Defence Community Treaty is set out in the statement issued in Washington on 28th June by President Eisenhower and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman telling the House that a decision with regard to Germany was arrived at in Washington but was not communicated to the ally who, perhaps, suffered more than any other ally in the last war?

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will read the statement which has been issued he will see exactly what it says.

South-East Asia (Regional Organisation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take the initiative in having set up a regional organisation for South-East Asia, confined to and including all States in that area, of a type similar to that existing on the American Continent to which the Security Council can delegate its authority.

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his speech on 23rd June.

The Minister has just said that a regional organisation is the simplest and best method of dealing with these matters. Will he not now use his initiative in setting up, for the South-East Asian States, an arrangement of a type similar to that of the Monroe Powers on the American Continent, to which all such matters can be referred?

What I have said referred only to the Organisation of American States. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will read what my right hon. Friend said, he will see what kind of arrangements he had in mind as being suitable for South-East Asia.

Bbc Overseas Broadcasts


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many programme hours per week the British Broadcasting Corporation was transmitting overseas in 1947; the number currently broadcast; and how this compares with the number of programme hours broadcast at that time and now by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellites.


Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the very large increase in the number of broadcasts by the Soviet Union and the satellite countries, and the decrease in the number of broadcasts by the B.B.C., it would be very unwise further to reduce B.B.C. broadcasts? Can he give an assurance that the proposal to reduce or eliminate certain European services will not be carried out?

I cannot give any such assurance at the moment, but I think the House will be interested to know that the Government of which the hon. Member was a member reduced the programme hours from 713 in 1946 to 564 in 1951, since when they have been slightly increased. At present, the total number of external broadcasts by the free world still greatly exceed that of Soviet Russia and her satellites. In 1952, Russia and her satellites together put out 1,175 programme hours weekly, whereas the total for the N.A.T.O. countries, together with Yugoslavia, was substantially over 2,000 programme hours weekly.

Among the broadcasts from the free nations to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, is it proposed to broadcast the speech of Mr. Dulles, in which he said, in regard to Guatemala:

"The events of recent months and days add a new and glorious chapter to the already great tradition of the American States."?

Ministry Of Food

Trichinosis, Liverpool (Compensation)


asked the Minister of Food in how many cases compensation has been paid to persons who contracted trichinosis in Liverpool recently: and when he decided that his Department was liable.

In no case has liability been admitted or compensation been paid by my Department.

Is the Minister aware that it has been stated that in two cases compensation has already been paid by his Department? Will he look into this matter carefully because there are about 90 cases, and if liability is to be accepted in some the others ought also to be considered?

I think there is some misunderstanding. I believe that two claims have been made against the retailer—the Liverpool Co-operative Society—and it may be that they have been settled, but no claim has as yet been made or sustained in regard to my Department.

Will the Minister confirm that the pig responsible for this outbreak of trichinosis was the responsibility of the Ministry of Food, that the Ministry has already accepted responsibility, and that it was because of that fact that the Medical Officer of Health's Department in Liverpool was unable to trace the pig past the abattoir?

The Ministry will not deny anything which is its proper responsibility, but in the circumstances I suggest that it would be wiser to say no more at present.

Food Hygiene


asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to ensure that food is handled in as clean a manner as possible.

Although the responsibility rests primarily on local authorities the Ministry encourages and helps; for example, it lends films and exhibition material, it issues model byelaws, working party reports and such publications as "Clean Catering."

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the whole House appreciates his personal interest in this matter? Is he further aware, however, that there is now a widespread feeling that the Government are not going to proceed with the Food and Drugs (Amendment) Bill? In view of his personal interest in the matter, will he set about his more reactionary colleagues and try to save this Bill?

The hon. Member will realise that that is a matter not for me, but for the Leader of the House. Secondly, he will remember the statement which I made in the discussions on the Slaughterhouses Bill last week.

Sausages (Meat Content)


asked the Minister of Food what action he is taking to provide that the meat content of sausages is brought to the notice of consumers.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. and gallant Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) on 15th June.

As the trade and the consumers wish to have this protection, does the Parliamentary Secretary not think that it would be worth while to hold further discussions with the trade to see whether or not it could be enforced in one way or another?

Advice on this point has been offered to the trade and the trade organisations have passed that advice to their members.

As the matter cannot be properly dealt with until we have the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill, cannot the hon. Gentleman ask the Leader of the House whether we are likely to have the Bill this Session or not?

Bulletin (Publication)


asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of its general value to the food industry, he will continue the publication of the Ministry of Food Bulletin.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that this is a first-class publication, and that, although a great deal of the Ministry's responsibility will cease with the end of rationing, it might still serve a useful purpose and, therefore, be worth while continuing, at any rate for a time?

I agree that has been a quite useful publication, but two-thirds of the copies have gone for internal distribution, and, bearing in mind that the loss has been about £50 an issue, it seems that with the end of rationing this is an, economy we could usefully make.

Meat Supplies, East Scotland


asked the Minister of Food what complaints he has received from the east of Scotland regarding the quantities of beef, mutton and pork available during the last 10 days.

The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Associations has complained of a low proportion of beef in the final meat allocation.

Taking things broadly, is it not very satisfactory that these few days at the end of rationing and beginning of derationing have passed off with so little dislocation?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, while there may be complaints about the quantity in East Scotland, according to reports today the quantities of meat at Smithfield Market were actually excessive, but that the prices were the highest ever known in the history of the trade? Can he suggest how to bring the prices down in the interests of the consumers?

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should not jump too speedily to condemnation of the first day of freedom.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am not condemning anybody or anything? I am only asking whether, in view of the high prices recorded at Smithfield Market this morning, the hon. Gentleman can suggest how to get the prices down.

My suggestion is that we should wait for a few days to see from experience the prices at which meat is sold.

Food And Drugs Amendment Bill (Consultations)


asked the Minister of Food what further consultations he has had with the catering trade regarding the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill; and what changes have been made in the proposed regulations as a result.


asked the Minister of Food whether he will announce the result of his discussions with catering trade organisations on food hygiene.

A revised draft of proposals for food hygiene regulations was circulated to representative organisations, including those representing the catering trade, on 31st May. It is too soon to say what changes, if any, will result, as many replies have still to come in.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether it is true that more than half the valuable safeguards originally contained in the regulations have been dropped in view of the pressure of the catering industry? Does he propose to bring forward the attenuated Bill later this Session?

It is true that after the first series of proposals a revision was made for the second version, in the light of the comments and criticisms received. It is the second version that is now the subject of the criticism of the associations of local authorities and other bodies concerned, and we shall continue this practice of consulting those affected.

Has not the Government's abject surrender to the catering trade pressure dealt a very damaging blow to the clean food campaign? Will the hon. Gentleman now make it quite clear that it is not the intention of the Government so to allow the regulations to be whittled down as to continue to make it easy for dirty food to be served in dirty cafés?

A study of the second draft of the proposals would reveal that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion of an abject surrender is contrary to the facts.

In view of the fact that the Leader of the House has persistently and obstinately declined to inform the House what the prospects of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill are, could the Parliamentary Secretary, with his greater knowledge, put the House out of its misery by telling us about the state of the Bill, because he obviously knows better than the right hon. Gentleman, who often is not fully up to date with Parilamentary business?

Is it the Government's policy now that the standard of hygiene shall be as high as the lowest of the dirtiest firms in the catering industry?

No. The right hon. Gentleman is making a completely unfounded suggestion. It is right and proper that when proposals for new standards are brought in they should be submitted for the comments and views of all those concerned. That is what is happening in this case.

Ministry Of Supply

Bacteriological Trials, Bahamas (Report)


asked the Minister of Supply to what extent Her Majesty's Government propose to make available to the other Governments of the United Nations the results of the recent experiments in bacteriological warfare in which H.M.S. "Lomond" took part.

The report upon the results of the trials is not yet completed. Until I receive it, I cannot say whether it would be suitable for publication.

Rof Superintendents (Salaries)


asked the Minister of Supply whether the claim of the superintendents of Royal ordnance factories for a revision of salaries has yet been settled.

If, by the word "settled," the hon. Member means accepted, the answer is, No, Sir.

In view of the fact that it was thought advisable to have the matter referred to arbitration, is there any reason why that should not be done?

That would not be the normal practice in cases of this kind. It would be a complete departure from the procedure that has been followed previously.

Motor Industry Council


asked the Minister of Supply when the National Advisory Council for the Motor Industry last met; and which of its recommendations he proposes to publish.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, 28th April. The answer to the second part is, None, Sir.

Is it not the case that this potentially valuable body has been allowed to become moribund under the present Government? Will the right hon. Gentleman not take steps to issue regular reports and to call regular meetings and to strengthen this body by increasing its trade union representation?

I do not know why the hon. Member thinks it has become moribund. It met about two months ago and is to meet again at the end of this month.

Departmental Functions (Transfer)


asked the Minister of Supply what functions it is proposed to transfer away from his Department in the foreseeable future; the approximate date of the transfer; the Departments to which they are to be transferred; and the number of staff which will become redundant.

The allocation of functions between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Supply, in certain spheres where they converge, is at present being studied. No decisions have yet been reached.

Will the Minister give an assurance that any transfers of work that may eventually be decided upon will be discussed with the Staff Side of the Departmental Whitley Council at the earliest possible moment, and the further assurance that staff at present employed on this work will be transferred with their work to the Board of Trade, as there is a fear that functions will be transferred and the staff will be declared redundant?

I explained that no decisions on this matter have yet been reached. I do not propose to go into the details. Questions dealing with the allocation or transfer of responsibilities between one Minister and another ought to be addressed to the Prime Minister.

While I understand that the Minister cannot go into the details now, may I ask whether he will consider informing the staff of his own Department who are concerned about this and so, perhaps, clear up many of their worries?

Before any decision is taken about any transfer of responsibilities it would obviously be quite improper to discuss it with anybody.

Requisitioned Properties


asked the Minister of Supply how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.

The number of properties held under requisition by the Ministry of Supply has been reduced to 89. The need to retain these is reviewed about every six months. Since requisitioning does not affect ownership, the last part of the Question does not arise.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is the most satisfactory reply I have ever received from any Department on this subject?

Comet Aircraft (Tests)


asked the Minister of Supply what progress has been made in the Comet tests undertaken by his Department.


asked the Attorney-General what results have so far been achieved in the technical investigations into the causes of the recent disasters to the British Overseas Airways Corporation's Comet jetliners.

I will, with permission, answer together Question No. 44 and Question No. 47, to which I have been asked to reply.

The technical examination of the Comet by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough is making good progress. The wreckage recovered from the sea near Elba has been most thoroughly examined; and an extensive programme of trial flights and experiments has been carried out on Comet aircraft withdrawn from service. In particular, the wings, tail and main structure have been tested for metal fatigue and for possible weaknesses; the strength of the pressurised cabin has been exhaustively tested; and trials have been carried out to discover whether excessive pressure might have been built up in the tanks through the use of high pressure fuel pumps. These and other tests are still proceeding. It would, therefore, be premature to announce the results obtained.

When the investigations are completed, all information will be submitted to the Court of Inquiry. Meanwhile, the manufacturers are being kept fully informed so that they may consider what modifications may be necessary.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any idea when the tests are likely to be completed and when everybody will know where they are? Secondly, has anything been shown so far, as a result of these tests, which is likely to dispel the right hon. Gentleman's hope, which I think he expressed in the House a little time ago, that the manufacture of these planes might perhaps be resumed before very long?

First of all, dealing with how long these investigations will continue, I think my answer must be that I am hopeful that it will not be many weeks more; how many weeks I am not prepared to say. As I explained in my reply, these investigations are still going on and I would, therefore, prefer not to speculate in any way about the results which may emerge; but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that nothing has happened and nothing has emerged which makes me more pessimistic or less optimistic than I have expressed myself to be on any previous occasion.

When the final conclusions are reached, will the Minister so inform the House?

In view of the report which the Minister has given, would he try to make it possible to find alternative work for the people who are being displaced as a result of this trouble, especially in Northern Ireland? Instead of allowing them to become unemployed and breaking up an efficient team, would it not be a good idea to try to find temporary work for them and not allow them to become unemployed?

The best thing we can do, in the first place, is to press ahead with these investigations.

In view of the very serious effect on unemployment in Northern Ireland owing to the suspension of work on the Comet, is my right hon. Friend aware that nowhere would an early statement be more welcome than in Belfast, particularly in East Belfast?

As the Minister has been good enough to give some indication of the various forms which the inquiry has taken, could he say whether the Royal Aircraft Establishment is making any inquiries into the allegation which I saw in the Press, suggesting that the stalling speed of the Comet is much greater near the ground than it is when it is high up?

I could not answer that. The accidents happened high up, and not near the ground.

Has the right hon. Gentleman made any efforts, in association with his right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour, to deal with the very great problem of employment in Northern Ireland which has resulted from the Comet troubles?

I am not running away. I was about to say that I have been looking at this matter very closely. We have been doing everything we can, but it has not been at all easy to find additional work, which might be only temporary, for an aircraft factory at short notice.

Army And Air Force Expenditure, 1952–53

Committee to consider the surpluses and deficits upon Army and Air grants for the year ended 31st March, 1953, and the application of surpluses to meet expenditure not provided for in the grants for that year upon Thursday.

Appropriation Accounts for the Army and Air Departments [presented 25th January] referred to the Committee.—[ Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]

Orders Of The Day



Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Civil Estimates

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a further sum, not exceeding £70, be granted to Her Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Civil Defence for the year ending on 31st March, 1955, namely:—

Civil Estimates, 1954–55
Class III, Vote 1, Home Office10
Class III, Vote 2, Home Office (Civil Defence Services)10
Class I, Vote 25, Scottish Home Department10
Class III, Vote 15, Scottish Home Department (Civil Defence Services)10
Class V, Vote 4, Ministry of Health10
Class V, Vote 1, Ministry of Housing and Local Government10
Class VII, Vote 1, Ministry of Works10

Civil Defence

3.55 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

This is the first opportunity that there has been in this Parliament for a full debate on civil defence.

On 18th July, 1952, we had an interesting debate on a Motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) and on 20th April, 1953, we had a short discussion on the Adjournment at the instance of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) supported by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), but the scope of those debates was necessarily limited, and I am glad that today the Committee has the opportunity of a fuller discussion of this important subject.

For many reasons it is desirable that the House should from time to time receive progress reports on civil defence, and such occasions are particularly to be welcomed because they are the best means of assisting the country as a whole to obtain a balanced view of this subject and of affording encouragement to those thousands of public-spirited volunteers who are giving up their time to this work.

All previous occasions, whether in this Parliament or before, have been characterised by complete agreement in principle between the Government of the day and the Opposition. I hope that this will be the case again today, and, though there may well be differences of approach and criticisms of detail, I am sure that we shall find ourselves in broad agreement as to the general policy to be pursued.

I should like to start by a few quotations to illustrate my point that there is no major difference between the policy of the present Administration and that of its predecessor. On 29th January, 1951, the right hon. Gentleman, the present Leader of the Opposition, in the course of a statement about the defence programme of the Government, used these words:
"This defence programme is designed to deter aggression, and we have therefore placed the emphasis upon the strengthening of the active defences. There must be limits to the resources which can be applied to defence purposes in time of peace, and we do not propose any general acceleration of civil defence preparations. We shall, however, press on with civil defence planning; and we shall accelerate those civil defence measures which directly support the efficiency of the Armed Forces."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 583.]
The right hon. Gentleman went on to mention a number of specific measures to which priority was being given.

Statements on very similar lines have been included in the successive annual statements on defence for which the present Government have been responsible, and I would quote, in particular, from paragraph 86 of the statement for the current year, which contains the following sentences:
"Civil defence is an essential, integral, and continuing part of our defence preparations for any future war. In the development of a policy which gives first priority to preparations designed to deter a would-be aggressor, the rôle of civil defence is necessarily a secondary one, and its contribution to that policy must inevitably be through the indirect support which it can give to increasing the efficiency of the Armed Forces."
The statement goes on to give particulars of measures which had been taken during the preceding year and explains that it is intended to make further progress with them in the present year.

Similar statements have been made by Her Majesty's Ministers on a number of occasions, and it has been made abundantly clear that the general programme of priorities in the field of defence preparations has been based upon a policy which is directed to the prevention of war and not to preparations for a war considered to be imminent or inevitable.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted paragraph 86 of the White Paper on Civil Defence in particular, but surely he must, in fairness, quote from the earlier paragraphs of the White Paper, which make it abundantly clear that in fact the atomic bomb is playing a major part in our defence policy?