Editorial Note

On May 17 Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the following statement in Parliament on the proposed security pact for Southeast Asia.

“I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members for postponing these Questions until now.

“The Geneva Conference is now entering on its fourth week. The immediate object of the discussions about Indo-China is to bring the fighting to an end on terms acceptable to both sides. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is doing all in his power to help in finding an agreed basis for this, and I am sure the House would not wish that anything should be said which might make his task more difficult. Moreover, the situation is in constant flux. As those who have put these Questions on the Paper have no doubt seen for themselves, it has undergone changes even since last Thursday. I certainly feel sympathy with the desire of many Members of the House to discuss more fully than is possible at Question time the whole foreign situation in all its bearings, but I cannot yet fix a suitable occasion. It certainly would be a great advantage—I think we should all agree to this—if the Foreign Secretary himself were present to give his own account of the events which have taken place and set his own proportion upon them.

“All I will therefore say today is that until the outcome of the Conference is known, final decisions cannot be taken regarding the establishment of a collective defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. Meanwhile it will be clear from the statements already made [Page 835] that Her Majesty’s Government have not embarked on any negotiation involving commitments.

“These problems of future policy to which I have just referred are, of course, quite distinct from the question of the examinations undertaken without commitment by existing military agencies, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State referred in reply to a Question on 10th of May. They are equally distinct from the conversations which, as reported in the Press, have been in progress during the past few days between the United States and French Governments about the situation in Indo-China.

“In our consideration of all these matters, we are maintaining the closest touch with the Governments of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and also with the Government of Burma. All these Governments are being kept fully informed from day to day of the development of events at the Geneva Conference, since we fully realize that they will be closely affected by its outcome and may feel willing to make a contribution towards it. There is, of course, also very intimate consultation with the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand through their Delegations at Geneva as well as through the usual channels of Commonwealth consultation.

“It should not, however, be thought that the terms of this statement cast any doubt upon our readiness to examine, when the outcome of the Geneva Conference is clearer, the possibility of establishing a system of collective security and defense in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific within the framework of the United Nations. We shall certainly do so. But our immediate task is to do everything we can to reach an agreed settlement at Geneva for the restoration of peace in Indo-China. Her Majesty’s Government are resolved to do their utmost to achieve this aim and to exercise their influence to ensure that any acceptable settlement shall be backed by effective international guarantees.” (Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons. 5th Series, volume 527, columns 1692–1693)