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Nato Supreme Commander

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1952

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asked the Prime Minister whether any representations have been made by the United States Government to Her Majesty's Government on the likely resignation of General Eisenhower and his replacement by General Gruenther.

No, Sir. I do not think I could guarantee to make an announcement if representations were made to me, as the mere fact of having given a guarantee might preclude the making of such representations.

That is a most interesting reply, but has the right hon. Gentleman noted in the American Press that several senators have, because of the impending resignation of General Eisenhower, declared that the Supreme Commander in the West must be an American? Will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the fact that there is no hereditary principle involved and that there are high-ranking military officers in the United Kingdom who are competent to undertake this task?

I really do not think it would be advisable from any point of view for us to express very strong opinions upon this matter.

While appreciating that there is no need to express strong or violent opinions about it, I would point out with great respect that in the United States Government the competency of high-ranking military officers of the United Kingdom should not be in question. Although General Eisenhower was appointed because it was thought that he was the right man for the job, there is no reason to suppose that his subordinate officer, General Gruenther, might be able to fulfil the tasks allotted to the Supreme Commander as competently as some British officer.

We have had controversies on this point on another subject. It seemed to me quite natural that the British should have the command of the Atlantic, and I am bound to say that when we think of the great American Army and all that they are doing to support the front in Europe, if they have the slightest wish to have the command we should certainly support them.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for putting a further supplementary question, as this is a matter of vital importance. While I have no wish to speak in derogatory terms of any American military officer, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the desirability—I put it no higher than that at this stage—that before he comes to any decision about this, if representations in the ordinary course are made to him, the House might be entitled to express its opinion?

If I remember rightly, the decision about the Admiral of the Atlantic was announced without the House being told about it beforehand. The right hon. Gentleman must be very careful not, by a refinement of unreason to manage to be wrong both times.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is quite improper to take advantage of history in order to justify his present position?