HC Deb 12 December 1956 vol 562 cc433-5
45. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister on what date it was finally agreed with the French Prime Minister that. as the United Sates Government would be unlikely to agree to the invasion of Egypt, that Government should not be informed of our action.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on the subject of communication with the United States Government in the course of debate on 31st October.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the French Prime Minister on 9th December announced that the reason the United States were not informed was that the British and French Governments knew that they were opposed to this operation and that if they were informed they would try to stop it? Does that reply not convict the Government of once more telling the House what the rules of order compel me to refer to as monosyllabic synonyms for terminological inexactitudes?

Mr. Butler

I cannot, as usual, follow the hon. Gentleman in his reason, but in answer to the substantive part of his question, I would refer the hon. Member first of all to the Press reports which appeared of M. Mollet's speech, of which I have a full account here, and secondly to the Prime Minister's speech on 31st October, in which he gave an answer on behalf of the British Government. There was no agreement at all, as is referred to in the Question which the hon. Gentleman has asked. We have stated our attitude, and M. Mallet has stated his attitude. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who was correct?"] It is not for me to answer for the French Government.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

In the answer to which the Lord Privy Seal has referred us, the Prime Minister said there was no time for consultation. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last Wednesday the Minister of Defence told us that we had on 26th October true knowledge that an Israeli attack on Egypt was about to be made? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In view of the fact that there were those three days in which we could have consulted the United States, what explanation does the Lord Privy Seal give?

Mr. Butler

The explanation that I give is perfectly consecutive, namely, the terms of the Prime Minister's statement of 31st October, which reads as follows: The moment the French Government and ourselves had reached conclusions as to what we should do, I authorised the despatch of a full message to the United States explaining our action, before even coming to the House" —[OFFICIAL REPORT. 31st October, 1956; Vol. 558, c. 1455.]

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