Volume #13 - 134.|
EUROPEAN PEACE SETTLEMENT
WITHDRAWAL OF OCCUPATION FORCES
Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to High Commissioner in United Kingdom
PERSONAL AND SECRET||
March 14, 1947|
Dear Norman [Robertson],
I am sure that you have been somewhat perplexed over the manner in which the discussion has developed here, both in Parliament and in the press, concerning the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Germany. You know as well as I do, however, that decisions concerning tactics in debate have a way of being made informally at the last minute, and often without there being an opportunity for full consultation between members of the Government, members of Parliament and the civil servants most directly concerned. You know, also, how debates in Parliament sometimes focus on points that are somewhat irrelevant to the main issue.
Mr. Graydon first suggested on Friday February 28th that a debate on Canadian participation in the German and Austrian settlements might take place immediately on that day but it was finally agreed at Mr. St. Laurent's suggestion that the proposed discussion should stand over until Monday, March 3rd.35 We set about preparing some notes in the Department for Mr. St. Laurent's use in the debate, and I am enclosing a copy of these notes† in order that you may see what we originally had in mind. In the latter part of his address he followed this paper fairly closely, although he used it as a set of notes rather than as a manuscript. The first part of Mr. St. Laurent's statement, in which he developed his ideas concerning the international legal position that had been established by the various agreements amongst the Big Powers at Moscow, Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam, was made on his own initiative, and was given from notes which he wrote at his seat in the House during the earlier part of the debate.
It was inevitable, of course, that the question of withdrawal of troops from Germany should be raised in the debate. It was our view in the Department that the only answer needed to this question was that it was not relevant to the discussion in hand. There was no evidence that the position of Canada in relation to the settlement with Germany would have been improved by the presence of Canadian troops in the British zone and, in fact, such evidence as existed pointed to the conclusion that The situation had not been affected by the withdrawal. In a general way this was the line taken by Mr. Claxton in his statement in the House, and it was our understanding that he was to accept responsibility for dealing with this point. I had talked with him about how this might best be done. At the last moment, however, the Prime Minister asked me to request Mr. St. Laurent also to include some reference to this question in his statement. It was in this way that the suggestion was introduced into the debate that Canadian troops had been withdrawn because of the inadequate provision made for Canadian participation in the control of Germany. Mr. St. Laurent made this aspect of his case even more emphatic in his reply to Mr. Graydon's question at the end of his statement. Attention was further focussed on the point, of course, by the unhappy controversy as to whether Mr. St. Laurent said "kicked out" as was reported in the press, or "left out" as appeared in Hansard.
The United Kingdom people here were, for obvious reasons, very unhappy about this part of the debate. Garner pointed out to Riddell36 in conversation immediately afterwards that at no point in the telegraphic exchange between Mr. Attlee and Mr. King had the question of Canadian participation in the control of Germany been raised. There was no suggestion in these telegrams that we would have been willing to stay had we been given a zone of our own, or had we been enabled in some manner to participate in the decisions of the Control Council.
It was not surprising that the question should have been raised again in the House and a motion calling for the tabling of correspondence was a perfectly natural development. Again we considered, in the Department, that a short answer pointing out the privileged nature of the documents and referring to explanations made when the decision was announced would have been sufficient. At first we thought that Mr. St. Laurent would make this reply himself and a brief statement for this purpose was prepared in the Department. In the event, however, the Prime Minister decided that he would make the reply37 and a statement was prepared for him in his office, which included the memorandum we had drafted for our Minister, and a copy of which I had sent to Mr. King. At that time I was in Washington and the Prime Minister's office did not consult anyone else in the department concerning his statement, though I believe the Prime Minister himself told Mr. St. Laurent of his intentions. For some reason, though no one in the Department of External Affairs knew that the Prime Minister intended to make the statement, Earnscliffe had been informed and Garner was present in the Diplomatic Gallery. His appearance there, together with the fact that Pickersgill38 was seen somewhat ostentatiously handing him a copy of the text which had been prepared for release to the press, led the Press Gallery to conclude that Mr. King was making his statement as a result of protests from the United Kingdom Government.
The inclusion of extracts from two telegrams was also decided upon in the Prime Minister's office without consultation with officials of the Department, and the question of compromise of cyphers unfortunately was never considered. We have written to the United Kingdom authorities about this aspect of the question, and a copy of our letter has already been sent you.
The statement itself was, it seems to me, a fair summary of the course of events when the decision was made to withdraw troops from Germany, though it had the immediate effect of undermining Mr. St. Laurent's suggestion that the decision had been the result of dissatisfaction over arrangements for the control of Germany. I do not suppose, however, that we have heard the last of this controversy and there has already been a rumour that Mr. Bracken39 will attempt to secure an explanation of the apparent inconsistency between the statements made by Mr. St. Laurent on the one hand and Mr. King on the other. The continuation of this discussion is particularly unfortunate from our point of view, I think, since it will divert attention from the important current question of Canadian participation in the German settlement, in which an active interest has developed both in parliament and in the country at large.
35Voir Canada, Chambre des communes, Débats de la Chambre des communes, session 1947, volume I, p. 971.
37Voir Canada, Chambre des communes, Débute de la Chambre des communes, session 1947. volume II, pp. 1194-1197
38J.W. Pickersgill, cabinet du premier ministre.
39John Bracken, chef de l'opposition.