HC Deb 19 February 1947 vol 433 c1177
55. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will now give the approximate strengths of the British Forces at present maintained in the United Kingdom, on the mainland of Europe including Greece, in the Near and Middle East including Palestine and in the Far East, respectively, in view of the decision at U.N.O. to take a census of all troops.

Mr. Alexander

No, Sir. It would be contrary to the general interest to give this information at the present time.

Mr. Wyatt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Mr Byrnes gave exact details of dispositions and numbers of all American troops overseas to the United Nations Assembly on 13th December, and Should we not do the same? Would my right hon. Friend also explain how this House can form an intelligent opinion on the necessity for keeping the vast Forces we have abroad, if it does not know where those troops are?

Mr. Alexander

The United Nations organisation have not decided to take a census of all troops as is inferred in the Question. The Assembly have merely called upon the Security Council to determine what information on this point will be required. The release of the information now would be to anticipate action by the United Nations, and I am unable, therefore, to give that information at present.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Does my right hon. Friend mean to say that this House is not entitled to information as to where our troops are situated?

Mr. Alexander

I have been in the House just about the same length of time as my hon. Friend. A Government must always be prepared to say, even to the House, that it ought not to give certain information if it is not in the public interest to do so.