HC Deb 13 December 1956 vol 562 cc622-3
47 and 48. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister (1) why he will not publish in HANSARD the correspondence which passed between him and the President of the United States of America, on or about 6th September, 1956, concerning the Suez Canal crisis, and Britain's desire at that time to use force to resolve this difficulty;

(2) whether, without revealing the detailed contents of the correspondence which passed between him and the President of the United States of America, on or about 6th September, concerning the Suez Canal crisis, he will explain why he suggested taking aggressive action then against Egypt; and the nature of the President's reply to this suggestion.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

The contents of confidential personal communications between heads of Governments are not made known. To make them known in any manner, whether by publication or by placing them in the Library, would defeat their purpose. I am not prepared to follow the hon. Gentleman into the maze of suppositions which he makes.

Mr. Lewis

Can the Lord Privy Seal explain why he refuses to publish this correspondence here when it has been published in the American papers, where it has been said, and not denied by the Lord Privy Seal during Questions in the House, that on 6th September the Prime Minister wrote to the President of the United States threatening to use force against Egypt to resolve the Suez Canal crisis, and that President Eisenhower replied stating that if that happened, Britain would have to "go it" alone? As he has never denied that, neither in reply to Questions which I put last week nor now, can we take it that that report in the American Press is true?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I have enough difficulty confirming or denying reports in the British Press, and I shall certainly not take on the responsibility for answering questions on behalf of the American Press.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Without pressing the Lord Privy Seal to reveal the confidential discussions between the Government and the United States Government, may I ask whether he can tell us whether the United States Government were given a full report of the meeting in Paris on 16th October between the British and French Prime Ministers?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 31st October that throughout this period, in the communications we have had with the United States, we have made it clear why we thought that decisive action would have to be taken, and I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend's speech.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are we to understand from that that a full report of the meeting of 16th October—and the decisions arrived at—was conveyed to the United States Government?

Mr. Butler

I have already said in my original Answer that the contents of confidential exchanges between Governments are not made available, according to precedent.