HC Deb 08 June 1967 vol 747 cc1289-91
Q6. Mr. Dickens

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the new evidence from Mr. A. Nutting, details of which are in his possession, he will now commission an official history of the British military intervention in Egypt in 1956.

The Prime Minister

As the Answer to this Questioa is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Dickens

Is the Prime Minister aware that we shall await with great anticipation this statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT? Is he further aware that many of us on this side of the House feel that the present climate in the Middle East certainly calls for an official inquiry and an official history into the events of 1956?

The Prime Minister

The reason for the length of my statement is that I am taking the opportunity of my hon. Friend's Question to report to the House further on the question of the control by representatives of all parties on new proposals for a new range of official histories. With regard to my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the House is in due course to debate this whole issue, as was promised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. [Interruption.]

While resisting the temptation to enter into this subject at the present time—I do not think that it would help my right hon. Friend in what he is trying to do—I do not believe that the House will be pressing for inquiries into the action of Her Majesty's Government in the 1967 crisis, this year or in 11 years' time, because we have given the House the fullest information in our power; nothing has been withheld and there has been no attempt on the part of Her Majesty's present Ministers to mislead the House.

Mr. Powell

Is the answer to the question—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to hear the cut and thrust.

Mr. Powell

Is the answer to the question "Yes" or "No"?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure which question the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. The answer to the Question whether I will now commission an official history of the British military intervention in Egypt in 1956 is, as I have said many times, that we saw no need for an official history because so many distinguished persons connected with that episode have since turned Queen's evidence.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does not my right hon. Friend think that, even prior to the publication of this fascinating history, there is a very sharp distinction between the situation today and the situation in 1956 in the sense that, whereas in 1956 a British Government helped to start a war, on this occasion we are helping to stop one?

The Prime Minister

That may well be considered to be a fair point. I do not think that it is appropriate at this moment, when we have these very great difficulties, to enter into certain questions which are relevant from 1956 to the present situation, or to enlarge on the difficulties which 1956 caused in the Middle East and for Britain in the handling of this crisis at this time. There will be a time to say all that later.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman ascertained whether the United States and Russia entered into an agreement on recent events in the Middle East without informing the Foreign Office?

The Prime Minister

There is certainly no question of that. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained to the House yesterday about the agreement reached at the Security Council in which our representative, Lord Caradon, played a very full and significant part.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are past Question Time.

Following is the answer: The House will recall my announcement of 10th August last that a standing inter-party group of Privy Counsellors was to be established to consider proposals for a new range of official histories covering selected periods or episodes of peacetime history. I am happy to be able to tell the House, following consulations between the parties, that this standing group has now been constituted. Its members are, for the Government, and to act as Chairman, the Right Hon. Patrick Gordon Walker, Minister without Portfolio, for the Official Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and for the Liberal Party, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. The particular suggestion contained in my hon. Friend's question would be one for consultation with this group, but the House might well feel that it would be unwise for the Government to commission a work of this kind at the present time, when all our efforts should be directed towards reducing the tensions in the Middle East.
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