Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd January 1959.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what facilities have been given to authors and journalists to study documents relevant to the difficulties of the Treasury in maintaining the value of the £ during the Suez crisis.
Does not the Financial Secretary think that facilities should be given to journalists to clear up some of the mysterious incidents and show how the Treasury got involved in such a serious crisis? Would not they show that the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, got us into that terrible muddle and then had to advise the Government to yield to America?
It is not and never has been the practice to open contemporary official records of any kind to inspection by the public. On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I refer him to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 9th December.
Mr. H. Wilson:
Is it not a fact that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had a real responsibility for the strength of the £? By leading the Suez group in the Cabinet he gravely endangered the £—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—as we said at the time; we did not need Randolph Churchill to tell us—and it was his panic when he saw the effect of his action on sterling that caused the reversal of the attitude on the part of Her Majesty's Government?
Even if it were constitutionally proper for me to say what went on in the Cabinet, I regret to say that I was not there.
Why is it not possible for the hon. and learned Member to tell the House? The Prime Minister has. The Prime Minister informed the House of Commons that the decision to invade Egypt was taken unanimously by the Government.
I think it would be out of order if I merely repeated something that had been said before.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent he has studied the financial difficulties of the Treasury during the time of the Suez crisis, with a view to safeguarding the £ sterling in any future national emergencies.
My right hon. Friend studies all relevant sources of information and is confident of our ability to safeguard the £ sterling in all foreseeable circumstances.
Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer been studying the documents of this incident in order that he might find out whether, if he follows the example of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, he may become Prime Minister?
I do not think my right hon. Friend looks at his papers from that point of view.
Mr. H. Wilson:
Since it was the then Chancellor of the Exchequer's equivocal attitude on Suez which led to his becoming Prime Minister—as the Lord Privy Seal could confirm, I think—is what the Financial Secretary and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury are now telling us simply that we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who would veto such rash adventures, as we did not have in 1956?