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Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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Spanish Arms (Imports)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Spanish Government to his protest against the export of arms to Egypt by Spain.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the supply of arms to Egypt by Spain, and the representations which he has made to the Spanish Government on this subject.

In response to representations on this subject by Her Majesty's Government, the Spanish Foreign Minister gave an assurance to Her Majesty's Ambassador in Madrid on 21st June that the Spanish Government had decided, in view of the present disturbed international situation, to prohibit the export from Spain of all arms and munitions unless destined for N.A.T.O. countries.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether any arms have actually been sent by Spain to Egypt, and if so, as there are reports that they have been, does he not consider that the lifting of the ban on the export of arms to Spain was a mistake? Does it not show that every time a concession is made to Franco, he abuses the situation?

No, Sir. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would be gratified by this assurance. So far as reports are concerned that munitions of war have been sent to Egypt, we recently received information that a large shipment of Spanish arms was about to be made, and the Ambassador has accordingly reminded the Spanish Foreign Minister of this assurance. So far, we have no information that this shipment has gone.

While we are very pleased with the action taken and with the results that have been achieved, does it not show, by the tardiness of the action that has been taken—Spain has said that in view of the disturbed relations at the moment she has banned this export of arms, but have not the disturbed relations been in existence for a long time; have not our men been killed in Egypt, possibly with some of these arms?—that Spain is most unreliable and untrustworthy as a friend or ally? Would not the hon. Gentleman make representations to our American friends on these lines?

Suez Canal (Neutral Zone)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will discuss with the Egyptian Government the establishment of a neutral zone in the Suez Canal area, in view of the Commonwealth support for this proposal.

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government are not aware of any such suggestion by any Commonwealth Government.

Although this may not have been an official suggestion from Commonwealth Governments, is my hon. Friend aware that there was strong feeling in the Commonwealth that this solution, similar to that reached by the United States over Panama in 1903, might he a very useful one? Is he aware that if we had a separate nation there—a neutral nation, probably with an Arab prince as ruler—it would make for a much safer situation and command considerable support from the members of the Commonwealth?

We can deal only with the views which have been expressed by Commonwealth Governments, and, as I have informed my hon. Friend, in this case no Commonwealth Government has made any such suggestion.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the methods whereby the United States obtained control over the Panama region have not always been universally admired, and that there are many hon. Members who would not wish Her Majesty's Government to adopt the same methods with Egypt?

Strategic Action (Commonwealth Consultation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assurance that the final passage of the statement on seeking the direct agreement of Commonwealth Governments on occasions of the highest strategical importance, made by the Prime Minister on 8th May, 1946, remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 8th May, 1946, should be read as a whole. That statement continues to represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether that applies to the final part of the text and, therefore, whether we have sought and obtained direct agreement with the Commonwealth Governments before taking action in regard to the proposal now before Egypt to withdraw all our forces?

I think my hon. Friend has been informed that the Commonwealth Governments have been kept most fully and closely informed at every stage of these long negotiations, which have now extended over a period of years. That is our usual method of dealing with these matters. If any Commonwealth Government has any point it wishes to raise at any time it is fully within its power to do so; but it must speak for its policy. We cannot speak for its policy here.

Medical Facilities, Europe (Convention)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the case of a British subject, Mrs. Mary Mason, who was recently compelled to return to the United Kingdom from Belgium in circumstances liable to endanger her health, owing to her inability to pay hospital charges in Belgium; if he is aware that the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance is intended to cover such cases and that the delay in ratifying it is causing similar hardships to other British subjects; and when Her Majesty's Government propose to ratify the convention.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government will now ratify the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance.

I have no information about Mrs. Mason's case, but will be glad to look into the matter if the right hon. Gentleman will supply me with the necessary particulars.

As regards ratification of the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance, the text was laid before Parliament as a White Paper on 1st July. It is the intention of the United Kingdom to ratify the Convention upon the expiry of the customary period.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the case to which I refer is that of a British subject who felt herself compelled to return to this country from Belgium in a state of health in which she was not fit to travel because she was being required to pay £6 a day in a Belgian hospital? In view of the great generosity shown to foreigners under our Health Service, does not the hon. Gentleman think that we ought to get some reciprocity at least from our allies in the Council of Europe and the signatories to the Brussels Treaty?

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to reciprocity I must inform him that we can only ask that the Belgians, and other signatory Powers to the Convention to which I have referred, should provide for British subjects the same facilities which they provide for their own people. If they do not have a national health service such as we have, we cannot insist that such benefits should be provided.

Would it not be correct to say that all Western European countries make provision, at any rate for emergency medical attention, for people who have not the means to pay?

I will look into the case which the right hon. Gentleman has sent to me. It is possible that Mrs. Mason's case may be covered by the Brussels Convention, but as that deals only with lawful residents in the country, and if she was a tourist, I doubt it.

South-East Asian Security (Study Group)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the discussions of the Anglo-United States study group on a South-East Asian security organisation have been discontinued.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at what conclusion the Anglo-American study group on South-East Asian defence has arrived.

The report of the Anglo-American Study Group is confidential to Governments. I am not, therefore, able to make any statement upon its conclusions. The discussions were discontinued because the Study Group had completed its studies.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the members of the Study Group were in agreement and submitted an agreed report to their respective Governments? Can he further say whether, arising out of these discussions, Her Majesty's Government are planning to enter into any fresh commitments when the House is in Recess?

I can only say that we were satisfied with the result of the work of the Study Group, and that the commitments of Her Majesty's Government are those which have been already stated publicly in this House.

Can the Foreign Secretary at least say whether or not our American friends had a better understanding of what was meant by the Locarno Pact at the end of the activities of the Study Group than at the beginning?

Germany (Dr Otto John)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has concerning the disappearance in Berlin of Dr. Otto John, head of the German Office for Security of the German Constitution; and how far requests for diplomatic assistance have been made of the British representative in Germany by the German Federal Government.

Dr. Otto John left the hotel in West Berlin where he was staying on the evening of 20th July and went to the East Zone of Berlin. A statement purporting to have been recorded by him on 20th July was broadcast by the East German wireless on the evening of 24th July. The full facts are still not established and, in particular, the circumstances in which the broadcast was made are unknown.

The German Federal authorities are in touch with the Allied High Commission on the question of an approach to the Soviet authorities.

As it is stated in certain quarters in Germany that the appointment of Dr. John was apparently made on the recommendation of the United Kingdom Government of that time, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any vestige of truth in that allegation?

The appointment was, and is, a matter for the German authority although all three Western allies were, naturally, consulted at the time of his appointment in 1950; and the three Western allies raised no objection in view of his excellent anti-Nazi record.

Does the Foreign Secretary believe that there is any truth in the statement that Dr. John left West Germany because of the rise in power of the Nazis there now?

I find it impossible to comment on the information we have now got, and I should like to ask the House to show some restraint in this matter in these circumstances. A statement is being made this afternoon by the German Minister of the Interior, and in view of the responsibility which rests with him, I hope that the House will not wish to put any more questions until we hear what he has to say.

United Nations (Chinese Representation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the satisfactory settlement at the Geneva Conference, Her Majesty's Government will now support the application of the People's Government of China for membership of the United Nations at the next General Assembly of the United Nations organisation.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister's statement of 12th July, to which I have nothing to add.

Is it not the fact that since then we have had the outcome of the Geneva conference'? Is it not a fact that on a number of occasions spokesmen for Her Majesty's Government have said that the outcome of the discussions at the conference about Indo-China would be the ultimate test of the suitability of China for membership of the United Nations? If Geneva is to be the test of the suitability of membership, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not China who comes out of the test in any unfavourable light?

It is true, fortunately, that there has been agreement reached at Geneva; and if the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to look at the statement of the Prime Minister he will see that that is covered, and so are some other points.

European Security (Soviet Note)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals have recently been received from the Soviet Government for further big Power talks.

As the House will be aware, on 24th July the Soviet Government addressed Notes to Her Majesty's Government and to the United States and French Governments, proposing a conference of all European States and the United States of America to consider the Soviet proposals put forward some months ago for collective security in Europe. It is also proposed that the Chinese People's Republic should send an observer to this conference.

Her Majesty's Government will wish to consult the United States and French Governments as well as the other interested Governments, including their partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, about the reply to be sent to the Soviet Note.

In a matter of this kind, is it not most desirable that all the allies should consult together before sending a reply? Further, as this is a very long document, would it be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to examine it with great care to see whether there is in it any basis, or something new, on which there could be a "get together"? It has been suggested that this Note is merely a repetition of Berlin, but I hope that the very closest examination will be made of it before it is turned down out of hand.

The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that that is why my answer is so reserved. We want to make the most careful examination of the Soviet proposals. I should prefer not to make any hasty judgment upon it, whatever conclusions may form themselves automatically when one reads some of the paragraphs. I assure the House that we shall consult all our colleagues, particularly the N.A.T.O. Powers, before a reply is sent.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House hope that he will be as successful in this instance as he was at Geneva?