HC Deb 06 April 1936 vol 310 cc2398-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the differing interpretations of important clauses in the Locarno Treaty; whether he is aware that to a considerable degree the differences are due to the fact that the French copy alone is binding; and whether he can undertake that no further treaties will be signed which are binding only in a foreign language and that the English copy alone shall be held to bind the British Government?


In the case of bilateral treaties, it is the practice to make the English text equally authentic with the foreign text. If His Majesty's Government were, however, to make it a rule that they should only be bound by the English text of multilateral treaties, it would be open to the other Governments concerned to make a similar rule in respect of their own language. It has, however, been found to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to draw up equivalent texts in more than two languages, and it is therefore, in such cases, the practice to consider the text in one language only as binding on all the parties. I regret that I am, therefore, unable to give any such undertaking as that suggested.


Having regard to the vital necessity of carrying British public opinion with British treaties, is there not a case which has developed in recent years for insisting that such treaties should be in the English language?


I have explained the difficulties, and I think that when the hon. Member studies my answer he will appreciate them.


Is it not a fact that the translation in this case was not made in Great Britain by the Foreign Office but at Geneva by the officials of the League, and would it not be possible to ensure that translations in future are made by officials of the Foreign Office and not by League officials, who are not responsible to His Majesty's Government?


I am confident that the translations are always checked by us.


Is it not a fact that all the documents of the League have, according to the arrangement, to be in English and French?


Yes, that is so.

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