§ Dr. SHIELS
His Majesty's Government have been impressed by the feeling shown in the House of Commons on various occasions, and especially in the debate on the Adjournment on the 7th May, with regard to the correspondence which took place in 1915–16 between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sherif Husein of Mecca. They have, therefore, thought it necessary to re-examine this correspondence fully in the light of the history of the period and the interpretations which have been put upon it.
There are still valid reasons, entirely unconnected with the question of Palestine, which render it in the highest degree undesirable in the public interest 903 to publish the correspondence. These reasons may be expected to retain their force for many years to come.
There are not sufficient grounds for holding that by this correspondence His Majesty's Government intended to pledge themselves, or did, in fact, pledge themselves, to the inclusion of Palestine in the projected Arab State. Sir H. McMahon has himself denied that this was his intention. The ambiguous and inconclusive nature of the correspondence may well, however, have left an impression among those who were aware of the correspondence that His Majesty's Government had such an intention.
§ Dr. SHIELS
I think my hon. Friend will be aware that it is impossible to carry out a request of that kind, because, in a case like this, you cannot publish partial correspondence; you must either publish the whole or none.
§ Mr. McSHANE
With regard to the latter part of the Under-Secretary's statement, is not this precisely what happened? I have here paragraph (1) of the second letter of General McMahon, in which he guarantees to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs; and would it not be better, therefore, that at any rate the relevant parts of the letters should be published, because very soon this question has got to come before the House for settlement?
§ Dr. SHIELS
All these points have been taken into consideration. The main grievance that was expressed in the debate to which I have referred in my reply was that this Government had adopted a continuity of policy without themselves making a full investigation into the subject; and, in response to the request that was then made, the whole subject has been very carefully gone into again. It has taken a lot of time and trouble, and all these facts which my hon. Friend points out have been taken into consideration. I am afraid that I cannot promise that anything more may be done than is expressed in the reply which I have given.