§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on Iraq and the Lebanon.
In my statement yesterday afternoon I promised to keep the House informed about the situation in Iraq.
The general situation in Bagdad and in Iraq as a whole is still obscure, but I have received today a message from Her Majesty's Ambassador. I regret to inform the House that it appears from this message that Colonel Graham, the Comptroller of the Household, has been killed and two other members of the Embassy staff injured. The relatives of these two members of the staff are being informed.
With these exceptions all British members of the staff of the Embassy, of the British Council, of the British Loan Personnel, Iraq, and of the Bagdad Pact Secretariat, are, as far as can be ascertained, safe and well.
The Embassy buildings in Bagdad have been looted and the residence of the Ambassador burned out. The buildings are now guarded by troops, with members of the British staff in occupation.
There is no report of any injury to members of the British community in Bagdad.
The Iraq Petroleum Company has had news from Kirkuk that all is well, and operations are proceeding as usual. Basra, too, is quiet, and operations there continue.
There is no change in the situation at Habbaniya.
Her Majesty's Ambassador has requested assurances regarding the protection of British lives and property.
I am also arranging for the authorities at present in control in Bagdad to be informed that Her Majesty's Government protest vigorously against the destruction of Her Majesty's Embassy and the treatment of its staff, and hold them responsible for the safety of British lives and property.
1014 There is still no reliable news of the whereabouts of King Feisal, the Crown Prince, and Nuri Said.
I wish now to refer to the Lebanon.
United States forces are landing at Beirut this afternoon at the request of the President of the Lebanon.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The Security Council is also meeting this afternoon, at the request of the United States Government, to discuss the situation.
The President has issued a statement, which has just been published in the last few minutes, giving the reasons for the United States action.
Her Majesty's Government have been in close consultation with the United States Government throughout the present crisis. They were informed in advance of the United States Government's intentions. They believe that the United States action is necessary to preserve the independence and integrity of the Lebanon in this very uncertain situation. This action has Her Majesty's Government's full support.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt understand that this is regarded on this side of the House as very grave news indeed. Would he be able to tell us what situation has developed in the Lebanon different from what it was to justify American intervention at this stage?
Secondly, can he give us an assurance that no British troops will, in fact, be used and that they will not be sent either to Iraq or to the Lebanon until the House of Commons has had an opportunity of considering the whole situation?
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman inform the House what the President of the United States has said to be his reasons for this intervention? Will he explain to the House why it is that, before a meeting of the Security Council, Her Majesty's Government approved the intentions of the United States?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I will attempt to deal with all those questions. I agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that this is a very grave situation. So far as the change in the situation is concerned, it is quite apparent, as the President of the United States has said, that, in the face of the tragic and shocking events which are occurring nearby, more will be required than the United Nations team now in the Lebanon to preserve the integrity of the Lebanon.
On the use of British troops, I have no more to say than I have already said. No British troops are being used in this operation.
On the question of the Security Council, in our view the situation does not admit of any delay. The United States Government told the Security Council of their decision as soon as possible after making it.
§ Mr. Bevan
If additional help was required in the Lebanon—all the evidence we had was to the effect that the situation was becoming easier rather than worse—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am speaking about the Lebanon—would it not rather be a matter for the Security Council to decide and not for the United States to decide unilaterally? If there was required a greater build-up of United Nations police forces in the Lebanon, was not that a matter for consideration by the Security Council? If intervention by one country unilaterally is just to take place in this way, how far could it be justifiably spread?
§ Mr. Lloyd
In this case there has been a clear request from the Government of the Lebanon for this assistance, to preserve the integrity and the independence of the Lebanon. If the right hon. Gentleman will study the President's statement, which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I think that he will see the reasons given there.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Without wishing in any way to interfere with questions which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will no doubt wish to put to the Foreign Secretary, and in view of his own admission of the gravity of the situation, would he not agree that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of debating this matter properly at the earliest opportunity? [HON. MEMBERS: "Today."] May I ask the Government, first, whether 1016 they would be prepared to set aside tomorrow for a full day's debate on this matter? In that event I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends would be prepared to co-operate in the passage of the Report stage of the Finance Bill.
Secondly, it is, unfortunately, possible that, as the result of the United States' action, oil supplies may be seriously interfered with. Has any undertaking been received from the United States Government that in that event dollar-free oil supplies will be made available to us in place of what we lose from the Middle East?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
The request of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition will certainly receive the immediate consideration of my right hon. Friends and myself. I understand that if we could have an early debate the Opposition would be willing to help us with the earlier passage of the Finance Bill. I now hear from the right hon. Gentleman that it would be so if the debate were tomorrow. The only thing I cannot give an immediate answer about is whether the debate should be tomorrow or perhaps a day later. I suggest that we discuss the matter in the usual way and make an early announcement about when we can meet the request of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I suggested a debate tomorrow because I feel that this is a matter which requires a full day's debate. It is not only a matter of United States intervention, but of the whole of the Middle East situation as it is developing. We feel that it will be better to do it then, but it must be done urgently. We do not know what may happen in the next 24 or 48 hours. I must, therefore, make it clear to the Leader of the House that our offer of collaboration was on the understanding that the debate will take place tomorrow.
§ Mr. Butler
The Opposition are perfectly reasonable in asking for time and suggesting that the business of the Finance Bill could be expedited. It is reasonable, also, that I should have a word with my right hon. Friends and see the Leader of the Opposition immediately afterwards in an attempt to agree to the suggestion that has been made.
§ Mr. Bevan
If we cannot get an assurance that the debate should be tomorrow there might be some desire to have it tonight, because it is a matter of the utmost urgency. The day after tomorrow will be too late, especially in view of the fact that no assurance has been given that British troops will not be moved into action either in Iraq, the Lebanon or Jordan before the House has had an opportunity of debating the matter. We really do insist that the debate should be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members will realise that Her Majesty's Government have already decided to support the action of the United States and that, therefore, this matter is of the utmost urgency. We would not wish to exert the rules of the House if we could have an assurance of a much more extentive debate tomorrow than we might be able to obtain tonight.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to bear in mind the importance of consultation with our Western European allies and whether any such consultation is going on in any action that is taken?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer the second question that I put to him, about oil supplies?
§ Mr. Langford-Holt
My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned that the whereabouts and position of the King of Iraq were at present unknown. In those circumstances, can he say whom we at present regard as head of the Arab Union?
§ Mr. A. Henderson
In view of the fact that, so far as we gathered from 1018 newspaper reports, United Nations' observers, in their report to the Security Council, found that there was no evidence of armed attack from countries neighbouring upon the Lebanon, would the Foreign Secretary consider publishing as a White Paper the full report of the United Nations' observers?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I will certainly consider the question of publication, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman should remember that the United Nations' observers were expressing opinions about matters which they had not observed because they were not in position at the time—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that at this moment they are only in position on a very short portion of the front. The information in our possession is that in recent days infiltration has substantially increased.
§ Mr. Grimond
May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether his decision to support American action in the Lebanon has the approval of the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland
Will my right hon. and learned Friend rest assured that public opinion will support resolute action?
§ Mr. J. Hynd
Is the Foreign Secretary not aware that the House regards his observations this afternoon as far too reminiscent of the Suez situation in his rejection of the report of the United Nations' observers and in his reference to the Commonwealth? Is he really assuring the House that because the Government of a country whose own army is not prepared to defend it cannot defend it, and is asking for our intervention, he is laying down a principle that we are prepared to intervene in any country whose Government cannot govern and asks for intervention?
§ Mr. Lloyd
We are not satisfied that this is only a question of internal politics in the Lebanon. We have believed that throughout there has been substantial infiltration from without and that the situation in the Lebanon would not have been created without outside interference. The hon. Member is taking a very narrow view of a very broad point.
Does the Foreign Secretary recall that the other day the Prime Minister gave me an assurance that Her Majesty's Government were in the closest contact with Commonwealth Governments? Will he say specifically whether Mr. Diefenbaker and others have been fully apprised of the intention of Her Majesty's Government to make this statement today?
§ Captain Pilkington
In view of what has been said by hon. Members opposite, does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that had Suez been completely instead of only partially successful, probably neither of the situations in Iraq or the Lebanon would have happened?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Before we leave the questions, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he has reached a conclusion on the request I put for a debate tomorrow? In addition, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether, since events may move very fast in the next few hours, he would be good enough to come to the House and make a further statement later tonight if there is any new development in the situation?
§ Mr. Butler
It is clear in considering the wishes of the whole House that it would be advisable to have this debate as soon as possible. I did not hear of the Opposition's suggestion, nor of their proposal that we should accelerate the business on the Finance Bill, until I came into the Chamber this afternoon. I have had the opportunity of exchanging a few words with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and we feel that the Opposition's wish should be acceded to and would be for the general convenience of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mrs. Castle
On a point of order. Do we understand from what the Foreign Secretary has said that he has given a definite assurance that British troops will not—
§ Mrs. Castle
On a point of order. In view of the fact that it is impossible to get clarification on this vital point, I beg to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the refusal of Her Majesty's Government—[Interruption.]—
§ Mrs. Castle
—to give an undertaking that British forces will not be used in the Lebanon or Iraq before this House is consulted.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Lady asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to give an undertaking that British forces will not be used in the Lebanon or Iraq before this House is consulted.
I cannot find that within the Standing Order. It is a refusal by a Minister to give an answer for which the hon. Lady has pressed. It has frequently been ruled that that is not a question which could be raised under Standing Order No. 9. As we are to have a debate tomorrow on this subject, I should be violating all precedents if I were to accept the Motion.
Following is President Eisenhower's Statement of 15th July:
Yesterday morning I received from President Chamoun of Lebanon an urgent plea that some United States forces be stationed in Lebanon to help maintain security and to evidence the concern of the United States for the integrity and independence of the Lebanon. President Chamoun's appeal was made with the concurrence of all of the members of the Lebanese Cabinet.
President Chamoun made clear that he considered all immediate United States response imperative if Lebanon's independence, already menaced from without, were to be preserved in the face of the grave developments which occurred yesterday in Baghdad, whereby the lawful Government was violently overthrown and many at its members martyred. In response to this appeal from the Government of the Lebanon the United States has despatched a contingent of United States forces to Lebanon to protec American lives and by their presence there to encourage the Lebanese Government in defence of Lebanese sovereignty and integrity. These forces have not been sent in any act of war. They will demonstrate the concern of the United States for the indepen
dence and integrity of the Lebanon which we deem vital to the national interest and world peace. Our concern will also be shown by economic assistance. We shall act in accordance with these legitimate concerns.
The United States has asked for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council which is being convened this morning as the United Nations Charter recognised there is an inherent right of collective self-defence. In conformity with the spirit of the Charter the United States is reporting measures taken by it to the Security Council of the United Nations and making clear that these measures will be terminated as soon as the Security Council has itself take the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.
The United States believes that the United Nations can and should take measures which are adequate to preserve the independence and integrity of the Lebanon. It is apparent however that in the face of the tragic and shocking events that are occurring nearby more will be required than the team of United Nations observers now in Lebanon. Therefore the United States will support in the United Nations measures which seem to be adequate to meet the new situation and which will enable the United States forces promptly to be withdrawn.
Lebanon is a small peace-loving state with which the United States has traditionally had the most friendly relations. There are in Lebanon about 2,500 Americans and we cannot, consistently with our historic relations and with the principles of the United Nations stand idly by when Lebanon appeals to us for evidence of our concern and when Lebanon may not be able to preserve internal order and to defend itself against indirect aggression.