Oral Answers to Questions — MR. Acheson's Speech to Members (Publication)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1952.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne 12:00 am, 7th July 1952

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now arrange with the United States Government to publish as a White Paper or otherwise make available to Parliament the speech made to Members of both Houses by the United States Secretary of State, including, if possible, the questions asked and Mr. Acheson's answers.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Would the Prime Minister be good enough to explain what reasons there are for withholding from the public in this country information which he told us last week had already been published in the United States of America? Is it because publication of the document would show, quite clearly, that there is a fundamental cleavage of policy between this country and the United States with regard to the Far East, which only the continuation of the Korean war serves to disguise?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

I do not think that I need add anything to my very full answer.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not asking the House to agree that a mere negative is a sufficient answer to it for being denied facilities given to another country of having in front of it information which, after all, was in the first place given in this country and to Members of both Houses. Ought not he to reconsider what is becoming with him an habitual contempt for the rights of this House in this matter?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Arising out of the reticence of the Prime Minister and expressing the wish that it might have been retrospective, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that all my hon. Friend is asking for is the simple, physical facility which is quite frequently asked of Ministers when important documents are published on the other side of the Atlantic, that we should have them available here? Is that unreasonable?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

The passage was released to the Press by the State Department on 1st July and that is what I read to the House in the debate on that date. It was closely relevant to the Motion before the House, and these were the circumstances in which Mr. Acheson agreed to its being published. The speech as a whole was made off the record. I think the practice of inviting distinguished foreign visitors to speak on this basis to Members of both Houses is generally convenient and advantageous, and I should be sorry to take any action which might prejudice the frank and confidential character of such addresses in the future. No complete text of Mr. Acheson's speech was available as far as I am aware, and no record was taken of the questions asked and the answers given.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Will the right hon. Gentleman make further investigations and find out whether the whole statement has not been published in the United States? We are, of course, not anxious to break the pledges given at meetings of this sort, but we understand that the whole statement has been published in the United States, and we should like to see it here. That is the only point in the Question, apart from the questions and answers to questions.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Did not the right hon. Gentleman tell us in his speech last week that the whole speech had been published in the United States of America, and was it not that which gave rise to a certain unfortunate altercation that took place on that occasion? Is he not further aware that on the occasion when the speech was made every single word of the speech and of every question and answer was taken down by a stenographer who was there for the purpose?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Before we proceed to the next Question, Mr. Speaker, may I give notice that in view of the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the answer to my Question I shall raise the matter again at an early opportunity?