In October, 1951, an understanding was reached between the two Governments under which the use of the bases in an emergency was accepted to be a matter for joint decision by the two Governments in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time. This understanding depended upon no formal document, but was accepted as a mutually satisfactory arrangement. It was subsequently confirmed in the joint statement issued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and President Truman in Washington on 9th January, 1952.
If there was no formal document is not this a matter which is so serious that there ought to be much more clarity than there is at present? Are we to understand, from what the Prime Minister said earlier in answer to Question No. 45, that the control of these machines based in this country is, in fact, a subject for discussion in Paris in the next few days?
That is another matter. I would just point out that this agreement was made by Mr. Attlee, as he then was, in 1948. It was not until October, 1951, that the understanding was actually made by him as to their use. Some two-and-a-half years passed before it was brought to the degree of an understanding. Then it was more closely defined after the visit of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford in the communiqué jointly issued by him and President Truman. Now the hon. Gentleman asks me whether it is better to rest on this understanding, which was perfectly clear, or to try to turn this into a kind of long, legal, treaty document. There are arguments both ways. Experience is that it is much better to rest on a close understanding, perfectly well understood and obviously honoured by both Governments, than to enter into long negotiations which may not have exactly the result that we would wish.