HC Deb 20 April 1948 vol 449 cc1611-3
26. Air-Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for War if the statement issued by Field-Marshal Montgomery to the Press, on returning from his recent visit to Germany, regarding his negotiations with Marshal Sokolovsky, was made with his authority.

Mr. Shinwell

This was, I understand, an impromptu statement to reporters made by the Field-Marshal on arrival at Northolt, and, naturally, I was not consulted in advance.

Air-Commodore Harvey

As this statement was made only two or three days after the unfortunate accident to the Viking aircraft, would it not have been better for the Field-Marshal to have said nothing on that occasion, and will the right hon. Gentleman ask him in future to be very careful before making statements to the Press?

Mr. Shinwell

There was nothing in the Field-Marshal's statement that could be regarded as objectionable. It was a quite friendly statement and, as I happen to have read it, I endorse it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the fact that this was a friendly meeting at a time of great international tension, will the Minister encourage our generals to have further friendly meetings?

Air-Commodore Harvey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the impression given by the statement was that everything was perfectly all right, when, as a matter of fact, it was not, and that General Robertson in Berlin was left to clear up the mess?

Mr. Shinwell

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to imagine that some serious statement was made, I had better read it, as it was reported in the Press. This is what the Field-Marshal said: It was a very good dinner, with excellent company. I had a long talk alone with Marshal Sokolovsky after dinner. Everybody was most friendly. Why should they not be? May I add—Why net?

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Minister commend the Field-Marshal for his moderation, and also commend his conduct to General Robertson, who was loudly cheered on the other side of the House for an anti-Soviet speech?

Earl Winterton

Would the right hon. Gentleman make quite clear that he entirely agrees with the statement made by the Foreign Secretary that he—the Foreign Secretary—is the sole medium for discussions on high policy with Russian officials?

Mr. Shinwell

I am not aware of the statement made by my right hon. Friend. There was nothing, I am quite sure, in the statement that precludes Field-Marshal Montgomery, when he is abroad from having conversations with officers of other nations.