Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1967.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk 12:00 am, 20th July 1967

I am well aware of my lack of knowledge of foreign affairs and general matters connected with this debate. I would, therefore, hate to try to praise or criticise any of the speeches made today. I am only one of many millions of people who fought in at least one war and who desires never to see another war. I am always intensely interested in these foreign affairs debates, and today we have heard some excellent speeches from both sides. I rise to raise two points which have been brought to my notice in recent days.

The first point concerns a constituent whose son is on the "Scottish Star", one of the Blue Star Line, lying in the Suez Canal. She wrote a fortnight ago asking me to find out, as a matter of urgency, the whereabouts of the boy, the state of his health and when he was likely to get home. I understand that the boy is aged 18 years or under. I phoned the Foreign Office and after some time got in touch with an emergency call unit. The lady there appeared to have no knowledge whatever of conditions in the Canal. It seemed as though we had no contact at all, at least directly, with the ships there.

I received another letter from my constituent this morning. She had received a letter, dated some three weeks earlier, saying that her son was well, but there seemed to be no information as to when the ships would be freed or when the crews could hope to be replaced by fresh crews from home. I again phoned the Foreign Office and received the information that the person concerned had gone on leave and that the papers had been lost. I was later put in touch with the Commonwealth Office, where someone told me that it was understood that the Canadian Government were looking after our interests but that the Canadians themselves could not get on board the ships to find out what was happening.

As these ships have now been held in the Canal for several weeks, I think we should have far closer contact with those on board them. I know that the Foreign Secretary had many subjects to deal with in a short time, but I hope that later in the debate the Government spokesman can refer to this matter. It is a human problem, and we should assert our authority in one way or another, to bring home those people on the ships or, at any rate, to assure their parents or other relatives that they are well.

A day or two ago I met a gentleman who had just come back from Jordan. He is director of an organisation there called M.B.D.T., which I understand is a medical research unit that has a lot to do with the treatment of burns. He had spent a long period in hospitals in Jordan giving advice on the treatment of the burns of some of the wounded.

We must keep a link with the Arab countries. I think that most people in this country and in the House were very pleased that Israel had achieved what she set out to do. Sympathy with her was overwhelming. On the other hand, we have many good friends in the Arab countries and Jordan may prove to be our best link.

The gentleman with whom I talked told me that what was badly needed in Jordan was a small hospital unit, costing some £30,000, which could be provided almost immediately from stocks in this country and then go with the team he had already organised for the treatment of burns. I gathered from him that the friendship for Great Britain of the ordinary people, and the doctors, and so on, in the hospitals is extremely great. A gesture such as providing a hospital could help to keep our ties with the Arab countries intact and would do a great deal for our future friendship with them.

I do not intend to enter into the great debate on foreign affairs, but I tope that something can be done about the two matters I have mentioned. In particular, if something can be said about the men on the ships, and the ships, now held up in the Canal, I shall be very grateful.