HC Deb 22 March 1955 vol 538 cc1874-7
49. Wing Commander Hulbert

asked the Prime Minister what requests seeking the approval of Her Majesty's Government were received from the United States Government before they published the Yalta Papers on 16th March; and if he will make a statement.

50. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he now proposes to publish the full report of the Yalta Conference, in view of the fact that it is being published by the Government of the United States of America.

55. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Prime Minister what length of notice was given by the United States Government in respect of the publication of their account of the Yalta conversations before publishing it.

The Prime Minister

I dealt with this matter on Thursday last week at some length. I may further explain that the Foreign Office was informed last summer of the United States Government's wish to publish collections of documents relating to the Malta, Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, and that the galleys of the Yalta book have been in our possession since December. It is not, of course, my duty or that of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to read in detail such a vast mass of material about the past. The material is Departmentally studied, and any points requiring executive decision are referred to Ministers. I was consulted in a few points of detail.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with my complete agreement, sent a reply deprecating on general grounds detailed records of important international discussions being published so soon after the event. On 12th January, 1955, the Secretary of State told Mr. Dulles that whilst he did not suggest that publication should be abandoned, he thought it most undesirable at present. On 11th March the United States Government informed us that they had decided not to publish. But on 15th March we were told that publication could not be resisted any longer. Twenty-four hours later it occurred.

It has now to be decided whether we should publish our own reports of the plenary conferences and Foreign Secretary meetings of the Yalta Conference. These documents closely resemble the United States account and most of the differences appear to arise from the inevitable variations in the records of the meetings. I am having the two versions carefully examined to see whether a separate publication is necessary. Personally, it seems to me that we come out of it very well; but that in no way removes our conviction that the publication was untimely.

Wing Commander Hulbert

Will my right hon. Friend again emphasise to the State Department the undesirability of publishing these documents on a unilateral basis? May I also ask him if he will again emphatically deny the remarks attributed to him with regard to our gallant Polish Allies?

The Prime Minister

I have already done that. I certainly do not remember making any such remark, and if so, it must have been completely out of its context. But anyone who cares to read the documents which are now becoming more and more available in this country can see how again and again I fought for the interests and rights of Poland, both at Yalta and Potsdam.

Mr. Attlee

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is undesirable that within quite a short space of time general discussions of this nature should be published in extenso in which far too great an importance may be given to casual remarks? In view of the indications that there may be publication of subsequent occasions, such as the Potsdam meeting, would it not be possible to have some kind of agreement as to what statement should be issued, because when ex parte accounts of these conferences are issued, it is bound to cause a good deal of international tension?

The Prime Minister

I think what has occurred may have been influenced by accidental circumstances, and it should not be judged as a definite policy on the part of any other country. We know, as a matter of fact, that in the United States Yalta is a party matter, and sometimes people go quite a long way about party matters, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. Certainly I think that what has occurred, and the publicity which has attended it, will undoubtedly lead to much closer concert and consideration in the future.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these documents include a report of a tripartite dinner at which a toast was given by the Prime Minister to the proletarian masses of the world, and that after this dinner there was vigorous disagreement between the Foreign Secretary and himself? Does he not think it would be a good thing to have a full verbatim report of that remarkable dinner?

The Prime Minister

I have not made a complete search into our archives myself, but I do not imagine that we took or kept any record of private and casual conversations after a dinner. On general principles, it is a practice to which I should find myself opposed.

With regard to there having been a serious difference between the Foreign Secretary and myself on the question of representation, there was no such difference. We may have looked at it from two different angles but we agreed entirely as to what should be done, as we shall always do.

Mr. Sorensen

Has the right hon. Gentleman made any representations to the United States Government with a view to securing agreement about reports in future dealing with any past matters?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. They know our views. We are in very close and intimate friendly touch with the United States.