THE floods and foreign\ policy have continued to engage the House of Commons this week. The first thorough debate on the flood damage was arranged for Thursday and was introduced by the tabling of a Government motion drafted in a way that was intended to fix in the public's mind, and in the records of the House, the scale of the disaster (for the Dutch and Belgians as well as for us) and the generosity that it unleashed. It was the longest Government motion sub- mitted in this Parliament, and it tried to do too much. The Government, in its efforts to thank everybody who had helped. thanked itself. Governments often do that, but the gesture might perhaps have been made in a separate and less exalted motion.
* * * * The House was alert on Tuesday when Captain Waterhouse, who presided over the Conservative Party conference last autumn, asked Mr. Eden for an assurance that the British Government interpreted the " independence " of the Sudan as including freedom to apply for Membership of the Common- wealth if she should so choose. Captain Waterhouse had evi- dently been shocked by General Neguib's statement that inde- pendence meant no such thing. Mr. Eden gave the assurance asked for. The agreement with Egypt has now been criticised, directly or indirectly, by two Conservative Privy Councillors, Captain Waterhouse and Mr. Assheton, and quite clearly Mr. Eden is being watched suspiciously by a section of his party—not violently assertive yet—which will follow the development of Anglo-Egyptian relations with serious misgivings.
This was the prelude to a half-day attack by the Opposition upon the Government for continuing to allow the sale of jet aircraft to Middle Eastern countries and particularly to Israel's enemies. The activities of the Arab League with Egypt at its head linked this debate with Captain Waterhouse's question. Mr. Selwyn Lloyd denied that the sale of aircraft on the scale now permitted (the number sent so far is less than half the number sent by the Labour Government to Egypt in 1950) was a danger to peace. Mr. Norman Smith, the Labour Member for Nottingham South, rubbed the bloom off the debate by saying that a vote on this issue would be " nauseating " since neither Tories nor Labour had clean hands. Ministers beat off Labour's attack with a majority of twenty-nine.
While Labour in the Commons was trying to prevent the sale of jets, Labour in the Lords, through the joint efforts of Lords Ogmore and Pakenham, was urging the Government not to allow the British aircraft industry to lose through lack of capital development the lead it now enjoys.
The degree of political passion that foreign affairs can stir up was emphasised this week in the contrast between the heat of Tuesday and the tepidity of Monday. The third reading of the Transport Bill on Monday was the first of the two great Days of Liberation which the Government has planned for the Commons this session. The road hauliers were at last as free as the Commons could help them to be. Yet when Mr. Ernest Davies rose to make the last speech for Labour there were less than fifty members in the House, about equally divided between the two sides. Mr. Gurney Braithwaite had a better House when he replied for the Government, but even so Mr. Callaghan was able to point to a figure on the Government bench and to whisper loudly: "Wake him up." Mr. Duncan Sandys cer- tainly appeared to be asleep, but one prefers to believe that he was thinking deeply about means of preventing the second Day of Liberation—the third reading of his Steel Bill—from becom- ing equally tedious. Mr. Churchill did at least pat the Minister of Transport on the back when all was over on Monday.
J. F. B.