Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, on a question of privilege touching a matter in which the veracity of Sir Lyman Poore Duff, the former Chief Justice of Canada, and myself as Prime Minister of Canada, was called into question, I wish to draw the attention of the house to certain statements to which I am now in a position to give an answer which I hope will be accepted by the house without question.
The statements to which I take exception are the following, which refer to certain messages furnished by the government of the United Kingdom to the chief justice, as commissioner in the Hong Kong inquiry. Mr. George Drew is quoted in the Ottawa Evening Citizen of March 1, 1948, as follows:
Having regard to the messages which were placed before him, the finding of the commissioner is utterly incomprehensible . . . The impression is conveyed that the British government did not communicate any warning to the government of Canada. That is not so . . .
On March 2, 1948, as reported in Hansard at page 1771, on a question of privilege I spoke as follows:
In my opinion, such information as the Canadian government received, at the time, from the British authorities is in complete accord with the finding of the commissioner, Chief Justice Duff, in his report, namely, that "the best informed opinion available to the Canadian authorities was that hostilities would not arise in the near future."
In the Globe and Mail of March 3, 1948, Mr. George Drew is reported as follows:
Mr. King is simply piling falsehood on falsehood. The dispatches to which he refers left no doubt of the threat of war . . . That was the interpretation placed upon them by Major Power . . .
The house already has Major Power's statement, in which he said in this house that he did not state he believed war was imminent, that in fact he said in answer to a direct question that he thought war with Japan was not imminent.
However, as hon. members know, it was suggested that the British government should be appealed to direct, and asked the question if, since they were unwilling to have the dispatches made public, they would not give a definite indication as to the accuracy or the reverse of statements concerning their contents.
I rather hesitated to make any request of the British government in the matter. I felt that my word as Prime Minister of Canada would be accepted by this house and by the people of Canada. However, since there was always a possibility that the matter would be raised in the future and that there might be a doubt, I did eventually communicate with the Prime Minister of Great Britain in regard to the dispatches, and I have since received a reply from Mr. Attlee.
These communications were exchanged some little time ago; I did not bring them to the attention of the house at the time for the reason that the house had referred to the committee on printing the question of the advisability of printing the evidence in the Hong Kong inquiry. I felt that if I made public the communications before the committee had had its meeting, it might be considered that I was seeking to influence in some way the action which the committee should take. The committee's report was made to the house yesterday and I am now taking this immediate opportunity to place on Hansard the communications which passed between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and myself.
The following is the text of the telegram sent en clair by myself as the Prime Minister of Canada to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on April 13, 1948:
As you are aware there has been considerable discussion recently in the Canadian parliament on the question of publication of five telegrams exchanged between the United Kingdom and Canadian governments in 1941 with regard to the far eastern situation at or about the time of the dispatch of Canadian troops to Hong Kong which telegrams the United Kingdom authorities are unwilling to have published. On the 2nd March of the present year I referred in the House of Commons to a press Teport in which it was in effect alleged that one of these telegrams received after the government of Japan changed on the 16th October, 1941, and before the expedition sailed on the 27th October was in the nature of the most complete warning of the probability of early hostilities. I said that not only was such a statement not correct,
Hong Kong Inquiry
but that the fact was that before and after the expedition sailed, and indeed until the very eve of the Japanese attack, such information as I received from the British authorities was to the effect that an early attack on Hong Kong was not anticipated.
As the accuracy of ray statement has been challenged, I should be grateful for your opinion, which I might be free to communicate to our parliament, whether the information contained in .any of the telegrams, which the United Kingdom authorities communicated to the Canadian commissioner in the Hong Kong inquiry, on the condition that they would not be made public, is in any way at variance with my statement, and, in particular, my denial of the statement that after the government of Japan changed on the 16th October, 1941, and before the expedition sailed for Hong Kong on the 27th October, I received messages from the United Kingdom in the nature of a complete warning of the probability of early hostilities. What is obviously meant by early hostilities is hostile action by Japan directed against the United Kingdom, or, for that matter, against the United States.
The following is the text of the telegram from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to myself as Prime Minister of Canada. It is dated London, April 19, 1948:
I have carefully examined the telegrams with Tegard to the international situation in the far east which were shown to the commissioner in the Hong Kong inquiry. I understand that the question which lias been raised in Canada is whether these telegrams or any one of them gave warning that early hostile action by Japan against the United Kingdom or the United States was expected after the change of government in Japan on the 16th October, 1941, and before the Canadian expedition sailed for Hong Kong on the 27th October, 1941. As the Canadian government have been informed, and as has been stated in parliament here, the United Kingdom government regret that for reasons which have been made clear they feel unable to agree to the publication' of these telegrams. I can, however, confirm, that any such suggestion as has been mentioned is entirely contrary to the facts, and that none of the telegrams contained any warning that action by Japan of the kind was expected.
Subtopic: REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MR. DREW AS REPORTED IN OTTAWA "CITIZEN"