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Commons Debates British Action on Egypt’s Seizure of Israeli Cargo

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Leading members of the Labor Party pressed the government in the House of Commons today to take steps to ensure freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal, and to prevent Egyptian seizures of Israeli cargoes in transit through the international waterway.

Laborite Arthur Henderson asked Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd whether he could now make a further statement regarding Israel’s recent complaint to the United Nations Security Council. The Israel complaint, filed at the UN while Britain’s Sir Pierson Dixon was president of the Council, alleged interference by the government of Egypt with two ships carrying cargoes that originated at Haifa.

Told by Mr. Lloyd that the Security Council had taken no action on this complaint, and that Israel had, in fact, not requested any Council action on the cargo incidents, Mr. Henderson pressed the questioning further. He demanded assurance that there can be no question about Security Council failure to take action on the issue under the United Nations Charter. Failure to take action, said Mr. Henderson, would allow the situation to deteriorate dangerously.

“The Government certainly do not wish this sort of thing to happen, ” replied Mr. Lloyd. “The matter is being handled now–I hope satisfactorily.”

Sidney Silverman, also a member representing the Labor Party, then asked Mr. Lloyd: “In view of the fact of the Government’s defense of its Suez Policy–that it was necessary to take this action in order to keep the Suez Canal free for shipping under the original agreement; and in view of the fact that this has now been handled by the Foreign Secretary for some six or seven years, without any result of any kind — will you say what is the policy of the Government with regard to freedom of passage through the Suez Canal?”

“Our view, ” replied Mr. Lloyd, “is that there should be free passage through the Suez Canal, So far as this particular matter is concerned, I did indicate that it was being handled in a certain way, and I do not think that questions in this House are going to assist the cargoes to get through.”

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