This matter has been discussed with the oil companies concerned. They, of course, look forward to the day when they will be able to operate Haifa at full capacity again, but they do not feel that in present circumstances the situation would be assisted by Government action. I agree with this view and do not, therefore, propose to take any action at the moment.
The premise upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) bases his Question is not correct. The British Service authorities are not exercising full control at Port Said or Suez.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider expediting this matter, particularly in view of the fact that, for effective defence in that area, it is necessary to have as much crude oil refined in Haifa as possible, and because of the large loss of revenue to this country consequent upon the fact that the oil is not going through?
The hon. Gentleman knows that this is a very complex matter now with many ramifications, in which I must take account, amongst other considerations, of the views of the oil companies concerned.
The position at the moment, as I said in my answer about what the oil companies wish to do, is that control at both ends of the Canal is still, as I have explained, in the hands of the Egyptian authorities.
Are we to understand that the control is to remain there if there is any change on the part of the Haifa refinery people? Suppose they want to effect some modification of the present position, will the embargo placed on the passage of vessels through the Suez Canal continue?
We have always said, of course, that we do not recognise the embargo, as the right hon. Gentleman knows from the days when he was a member of the Government; but I was asked about the position of control, and I said that, at the present time, the physical control at each end of the Canal is in the hands of the Egyptian Government.