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Orders of the Day — War and International Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th September 1944.

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Photo of Hon. Harold Nicolson Hon. Harold Nicolson , Leicester West 12:00 am, 29th September 1944

I hope indeed that my right hon. Friend will allow himself to go to Paris, because there is certainly no man in Europe, or indeed in the whole world, who has so well justified in the eyes of the French people the right to pass under their Arch of Triumph.

There was, however, one passage in the Prime Minister's speech on France which I did not understand. He implied that we would recognise the Provisional Government of France once a "Legislative" Assembly had been created. I think it is possible—perhaps my right hon. Friend will confirm this when he answers—that the Prime Minister used the word "Legislative" owing to a slip of the tongue or a slip of the pen or a slip of the typewriter because, as a matter of fact, there is no Legislative Assembly and there will be for some time no Legislative Assembly in France. What is provided under the ordinance of 21st April is that the present Consultative Assembly shall, on the liberation of France, go to Paris, extend itself by the inclusion of responsible people drawn from the Résistance and the old parties, and then become not the Legislative but the Representative Assembly. The representatives will then have their mandates confirmed by the electorate of the Departments which have been liberated. The Assembly, however, will only become constituent, and therefore Legislative, when the prisoners and the workpeople have returned to France and general elections can be held. I think even the most optimistic among us believe that that will not occur for at least 18 months from now, and if the Prime Minister's statement is left without correction, it means that we are not going to recognise the French Government for 18 months, and I am sure that is not what he meant.

I do not myself attach the slightest importance to this recognition and I think all the Governments are being unduly pernickety about it. We were not like that in 1870 when we recognised a far more provisional Government, a far less representative Government, and never withdrew our Ambassador at all. I do not know why they are making all this fuss, and anyhow I do not think it is very important. What I feel is vitally important is that we should not begin to decide affairs affecting the security of France and of the French Empire without France being a partner to those discussions.