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Indo-China (Diplomatic Exchanges)

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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50.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding the consultations which have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Burma regarding the future of Indo-China.

No, Sir. These diplomatic exchanges are confidential. If this confidence were not respected the exchanges would be seriously impaired.

Is it not a fact that the attitude of Burma to a proposed alliance on Asia is vitally important? How can the right hon. Gentleman expect this House to make any assessment of the future policy of the Government unless we are in possession of this vital fact?

I was speaking about our duty to preserve the confidence of those with whom we have had confidential discussions. It is not our business to make them public to the people of Burma over the heads of the Governments concerned.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the visit to this country recently of the Burmese Foreign Minister was extremely welcome to the many people who had the opportunity of meeting him?

52.

asked the Prime Minister what answer Her Majesty's Government has received from the Prime Minister of India in reply to the request for his views on any future guarantees affecting Indo-China.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 10th May on this point.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answers he has just given to Questions Nos. 50 and 52 and consult the Governments concerned to see that we have the maximum amount of information available compatible with the ordinary diplomatic confidences?

Yes, Sir, I am very anxious that the House should be carried along with the Government in any matters of foreign policy, especially as there is such a large measure of agreement on important issues. I do not think we can begin by loosely and curtly publishing documents which were considered to be private and confidential by the Prime Ministers and the Governments to whom we had addressed them.

As the Government of India have just published the essence of their views on this question, why is Her Majesty's Government suppressing the Indian view? Is it because they do not like the views of India on this matter?

Anything the Indian Government have declared publicly is published and might even be read by Members of the House.

The Prime Minister has promised that he will answer Questions Nos. 48 and 51 next Monday. Can we take it for granted that Her Majesty's Government will not commit themselves to any proposal until we in this House have had an opportunity to discuss it?

No, Sir. I certainly would not give any such undertaking. The responsibility in these matters always rests with the Government of the day, and the House can do as it likes with them when all the facts are before it.

As there has been prolonged and what one might describe as hesitant negotiations, discussions, consultations and conversations on this matter, ought we not to be allowed to express our views about the outcome before we are faced with a fait accompli?

I think a statement can be made on Monday which will say all that there is to say on these difficult matters, which are in a very indeterminate position at the present time.