HC Deb 02 February 1953 vol 510 cc1471-4
46. 46. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister to make a comprehensive statement on his recent discussions with the President and former President of the United States of America, giving details of any change in policy that has been agreed or will follow upon these talks so far as foreign and economic policy affecting the two countries is concerned.

48. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister to make a statement on his recent conversations with the new President of the United States of America.

50. Sir I. Fraser

asked the Prime Minister to make a further statement on his recent discussions in the United States of America.

51. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Prime Minister what subjects he discussed during his recent visit to the United States of America with President Eisenhower and Mr. Dean Acheson; what was the agenda for these discussions; who else took part in them; and what is the result of them.

52. Squadron Leader Cooper

asked the Prime Minister to make a statement covering his recent visit to President Eisenhower.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

All my conversations with the members of both political parties in the United States were private and confidential, and I therefore do not propose to make any statement about them. I can, however, assure the House that no commitments, formal or informal, were entered into by me. I am sure that it was a great advantage to me to make or renew these friendly contacts, and I feel better equipped to form conclusions on the many complex issues on which cordial agreement between Great Britain and the United States is desirable and important.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Prime Minister, with all his vast experience, not realise that it is very dangerous to Commonwealth interests for him alone, and without expert advice, to engage in an international conference under the guise of a social event?

The Prime Minister

All these are matters of opinion.

Mr. Lewis

While thanking the Prime Minister for the little information contained in that answer, may I ask him whether his statement concerning there being no formal or informal agreement means that in no way has he agreed to any stupid action on the part of Chiang Kai-shek so far as an invasion of the Chinese mainland is concerned, and that there has been no alteration in our Far Eastern policy?

The Prime Minister

I consider that my answer was of such a comprehensive character as to cover all those aspects.

Sir I. Fraser

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in this country, and in the world, will be content to thank him for a good service well done?

Mr. H. Morrison

Would the Prime Minister be good enough to tell us—we should be very glad to know—what we have to thank him for? If there is no report, we cannot very well thank him for his report. Was this an official visit to the then President and the President-designate of the United States? Did the Prime Minister go in his capacity as Prime Minister? If so, is it not reasonable that he should give to the House a report of the subjects that were covered and of the conclusions that were reached, or at any rate some of the conclusions that were reached? Is it right that a British Prime Minister should go on a much heralded and, naturally, much publicised visit to the United States and then come back to the House of Commons and say that he has nothing whatever to tell us about it?

The Prime Minister

As I say, these are matters of opinion which can be dealt with in Parliament. I am perfectly prepared to take part in a debate on foreign affairs should it be raised at some future time, and I shall have the benefit of what I have learned in the informal private discussions, but I do not propose to depart from the general principle which I laid down in my considered answer.

Mr. Morrison

But how can there be an effective debate on foreign affairs covering this point unless the Prime Minister has first reported to the House so that we know what he has done? Would he tell the House, quite frankly, whether this was an official visit? Or was it only a holiday journey to the United States?

The Prime Minister

My visit to the former President of the United States, President Truman, to take leave of him on his quitting office was, of course, an official visit, but my discussions with the President-elect, and with other important personages in the United States, were not official and could not be official, if only for the fact that the President-elect had not then taken office as President.

Mr. Morrison

Will the Prime Minister answer the other point? We gather that matters of the highest importance were discussed with the then President-designate, who is now the President of the United States. How are we to accept the Prime Minister's invitation to discuss this matter in a foreign affairs debate if he does not report what has happened? Will he tell us that?

The Prime Minister

I think it would be a very great disaster for this country if all opportunities for confidential and informal discussions were stripped from our process of diplomacy.

Captain Pilkington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the majority of people very much appreciate the fact that he has been able to renew contact with the new President of the United States, and are very glad to see him back?

Mr. Wyatt

Cannot the Prime Minister at least say whether either the new President of the United States or the previous President of the United States indicated to him their intention to de-neutralise Formosa?

The Prime Minister

I have already said that I am not going to answer any questions connected with my private and confidential conversations in the United States.

Mr. Wyatt

But what about President Truman?

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Wyatt. No. 49.

Mr. Wyatt

What about President Truman? Did he say anything?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has already said he will not reply. I have called the hon. Gentleman to ask Question No. 49.