Hugh Gaitskell condemns Tory War Decision as
AN ACT OF DISASTROUS
A slashing indictment of the Tory Government's "disastrous" policy in Egypt and the Middle East, was delivered by Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Commons on October 31st, 1956, a few hours after British armed forces began their attack in Egypt. Mr. Gaitskell, in a speech which brought forth loud and prolonged applause, described the Government's armed intervention in Egypt as "an act of disastrous folly ".
Below is the text of the speech.
Mr. Gaitskell said:—
LAST night, we begged the Government to give us an undertaking that they would refrain from using armed force until the Security Council had completed its deliberations or we had had another chance of discussing the matter here. I must say for myself that I had hoped, even after the Government's refusal to give us that undertaking, that wiser counsels might still have prevailed.
We are this afternoon still left to some extent in the dark about what Her Majesty's Government have done. I must ask the Prime Minister now to repair the omission from his speech and to tell us, " Yes " or " No," whether, on the expiry of his ultimatum, instructions were given to the British and French forces to occupy the Canal Zone.
Hon Members: Answer!
The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to read the statement which the French and our Government issued at the conclusion of our meeting yesterday — (Hon. Members: "Tell us."); I have not the words with me here — he will see perfectly clearly that we made it apparent that if agreement was not reached we should consider ourselves free to take whatever action —
Hon. Members: Answer!
Mr. Gaitskell: Of course, we all know that that is true, but what the Prime Minister did not say in that statement was whether such action would be taken immediately upon the expiry of the ultimatum.
The Prime Minister: I now have the words here.
Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East): But what has happened?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is a master at sitting and shouting. He seldom stands.
Mr. Callaghan: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I should like to ask him a question to which 50 million people in this country will want to know the answer. Are British troops engaged in Egypt at this moment? Have they landed, or where are they?