HC Deb 18 December 1956 vol 562 cc1100-2
51. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library of the House of Commons a copy of the letter which he sent to the President of the United States of America, on or about 6th September, concerning Britain's intended action of using force against Egypt in connection with the Suez Canal crisis and also a copy of the President's reply to this communication.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the reply given on my behalf by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal on 13th December.

Mr. Lewis

Will not the Prime Minister confirm or deny that such a letter was sent? Will he confirm or deny that threats were used long before any question of separating the combatants was concerned, and will he also confirm or deny that the reason why he will not publish the letter and the reply is that he was told that if Britain used force against Egypt we would have to go it alone? Will he confirm or deny that?

The Prime Minister

It has never been the practice to give any information about communications between Heads of Governments. I am certainly not going to start breaking that practice now.

Mr. A. Bevan

In view of the fact that the President of the United States himself stated during a broadcast that his allies had wanted to use force on several occasions, does the Prime Minister not consider it desirable to clear up the matter from this end?

The Prime Minister

What has been stated by the President of the United States—I speak from recollection—and Mr. Dulles and by other people in this country, was that the use of force could not be excluded. That, I think, was stated in one form or another several times.

Mr. Bevan

That is not the answer to my question: the President did not use that language at all. What he said was that or several occasions efforts had been made to get agreement about the use of force which had, in fact, been prevented by the other side of the Atlantic. Would it not be very much better if the right hon. Gentleman presented a White Paper to the House setting out all these facts in order that the reputation of this country might be cleared in the matter?

The Prime Minister

I am certainly not going to lay as a White Paper any documents exchanged between Heads of Government. That has never been done and would make all such discussion in future utterly impossible. To put our position fairly, I think the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) should be good enough to look at what I said in this House on 30th October. I dealt then very fully indeed with the American position, what our view of that position was, and the reasons for it. I do not think I can be expected to go beyond that.