HC Deb 24 March 1955 vol 538 cc2270-1
51 and 53. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister (1) why he decided to publish the correspondence of January this year between himself and the then Prime Minister of France;

(2) if he will make a further statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to ratification of the Paris Agreements in the light of the unusual terms used in his letter to M. Mendes-France, dated 12th January of this year.

The Prime Minister

An extract from my letter in reply to one from M. Mendes-France was read in confidence, without my being consulted, to the French Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs on 10th March by the French Foreign Minister. Various garbled versions of the extract without reference to its context immediately appeared in the Press all over the world.

I felt that the House might expect to be as well informed of a communication by a British Minister as the Parliament of another country. I, therefore, in reply to a Question, said that I would ask M. Mendes-France whether he had any objection. Before, however, I had written to him he informed our Ambassador in Paris that he intended to release the text of our exchanges to the Press. This was done on 21st March and I therefore published them here at the same time and issued a White Paper on the 22nd. As M. Mendes-France is a supporter of ratification, he must have felt that the publication would be helpful at this moment. I agree with him, and I hope it will very soon be seen that we were right.

I have no further public statement to make upon the subject.

Mr. Wyatt

Will the Prime Minister say what he means by the policy known as the "empty chair," to which he refers in the letter?

The Prime Minister

It has nothing to do with the "empty seat."

Mr. Bellenger

Is any way known to the Prime Minister by which confidential exchanges of letters between heads of States can be kept confidential and not be made public by fortuitous publication to the Press, which, I think he will agree, does harm to all countries?

The Prime Minister

I think that the evils, when they become noticeable, are very likely to breed their own cure.

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