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British Ambassador, Usa (Speech)

Volume 452: debated on Monday 14 June 1948

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the announcement of Sir Oliver Franks, in Washington, on 8th June, in reference to our attitude to Russia, was made on the instructions of His Majesty's Government and represents their policy.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the speech made by the British Ambassador in Washington to the National Press Club on 8th June last was made on his instructions and represents the policy of the Government.

The remarks made by Sir Oliver Franks to which the hon. Members refer were not in the form of a prepared speech or made as a result of instructions from His Majesty's Government, but were in answer to questions at a lunch at the Washington Press Club. They are in line with the views expressed by my right hon. Friend in his speech in the House on 4th May, when he spoke of a "war of nerves" and indicated that the Soviet Government are indulging in a form of cold war against the United Kingdom as well as against other Powers, including the United States.

Even if these remarks were in the nature of an impromptu speech or reply, does not the Under-Secretary think it is most unwise and unfortunate that we should be represented as lining up with America in a cold war against Russia?

I do not think the fact that these remarks were impromptu is relevant because, as I have explained, they are in line with my right hon. Friend's speech.

Is it not in accordance with the practice of this House, Mr. Speaker, that Questions should not be addressed in regard to remarks of Ambassadors?

I think not. An Ambassador as a rule expresses the policy of His Majesty's Government, and therefore to pick out an Ambassador and make uncomplimentary remarks about what he has said is undesirable, although it cannot be prevented at the Table.

Is it not clear that I made no uncomplimentary remarks about our Ambassador, but merely asked whether what he said represented the view of His Majesty's Government?

An Ambassador comes within the category of people who may not be adversely criticised without putting down a Motion. Judges, His Majesty's Ambassadors, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Deputy-Chairman and various other people are protected unless there is a definite Motion put down in the House.

Is it not in Order, without making any adverse comments, to inquire whether a statement made by an Ambassador represents the policy of His Majesty's Government?

That is the same thing as asking whether a Minister's statement made in the country represents the policy of the Government. Without making adverse comments, I think it is correct.

May I ask whether the remarks made by this Ambassador are not absolutely correct?

In view of the need to ease the tension between ourselves and the U.S.S.R., will not the Foreign Office consider giving instructions to Ambassadors and high-ranking military officers against making provocative speeches?

Surely that is a direct breach of what you have just laid down, Mr. Speaker? You have just said that one cannot make charges against Ambassadors, and yet the hon. Member has described the action of an Ambassador as provocative. I should like to know exactly where we stand in the matter.

The noble Lord was sitting far nearer to the hon. Member than I am. I did not hear a word that was said.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this informal method of expressing the policy of the Government and the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the British people is a very helpful method in a country like America?