Discussion in the House of Commons Relative to Publication of the Quebec Agreement

(As taken from Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Commons Official Report (Volume 483, No. 40, Tuesday, January 30, 1951—page 718)

atomic energy (anglo-american arrangements)

Mr. Blackburn6 asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that the relationship of equal partnership between America, Britain and Canada over the development and use of atomic energy still subsists.

The Prime Minister: As I stated in the course of the debate in the House on 14th December, there was a war-time partnership between the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada for the development of the atomic weapon. By agreement between the three Governments, the nature of these war-time arrangements has not been revealed on grounds of public policy. The position of the United States Administration in many of these matters is now regulated by legislation enacted in the United States since the end of the war, and the war-time arrangements have been modified accordingly. But partnership between the three countries for certain purposes in the atomic energy field continues.

Mr. Blackburn: Is the Prime Minister aware that in 1945 President Truman himself recognised that this relation of equal partnership then existed, and may we not be assured that the relationship [Page 692] of equal partnership, which subsisted in 1945, still exists today, in 1951?

The Prime Minister: If the hon. Member had listened to my reply—

Mr. Blackburn: I did.

The Prime Minister: —I said that the partnership between the three countries for certain purposes in the atomic energy field continued.

Mr. Churchill: There was an agreement about this in the war, and now that that agreement has been, as I understand, revoked by the Prime Minister and the Government, is there any reason why its terms should not be stated in public?

The Prime Minister: That would be a matter which would have to be agreed with the United States Government.

Mr. Churchill: Yes.

The Prime Minister: I could inquire into that, but at the present time I am precluded by that agreement from announcing what those arrangements were on the grounds of public policy as agreed with our co-signatories.

Mr. Churchill: I understand that the right hon. Gentleman will inquire from the United States Government whether there are any reasons why the war-time agreement should not now be made public?

The Prime Minister: I am prepared to inquire. I would like perhaps to have a word with the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. It is, as he knows, rather complicated and rather delicate.

Mr. Emrys Hughes:7 Is the Prime Minister aware of the recent statement by the Leader of the Opposition that this country has not the secret of the atomic bomb? If this is so, is this equal partnership?

The Prime Minister: I am not aware of that statement.

Sir Herbert Williams:8 May I ask whether I am to understand that for the first time in history we are bound by treaties which have not been published?

The Prime Minister: This was not a treaty.

Sir H. Williams: Surely, the definition of a treaty being an agreement between this country and another country, it must be published in peace-time, otherwise it is not valid?

Mr. Churchill: The point I was venturing to make is that the treaty—or not a treaty—the agreement, had been revoked, not that it had been maintained and kept in secrecy. It has been revoked, and having been revoked I do not see why the secret should not be revealed.

Mr. Blackburn: I understood the Prime Minister to nod his head. Do we understand that the treaty has in fact now been revoked?

[Page 693]

The Prime Minister: I have tried to explain twice that there was no treaty—it was a question of agreement. That agreement—[Interruption]—there is a great deal of difference between an agreement and a treaty. There was an agreement, but the agreement has been changed and altered and new agreements have been made.

  1. A. Raymond Blackburn, Independent Member of Parliament.
  2. Labour Member of Parliament.
  3. Conservative Member of Parliament.