Oral Answers to Questions — United States Aircraft (United Kingdom Bases)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 12th December 1957

asked the Prime Minister if he will give to the House the principal headings of the agreement made with the United States of America in 1952 under which strategic bombers are now based in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

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.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

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?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

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.