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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

211 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

page 183

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

16 April 1943

I regret that for the time being I am unable to provide an answer to the question raised in your telegram of 14 April as I have undertaken to consult Parliament before any such decision is given. It will be necessary, therefore, for me to make arrangements for a special meeting of the House of Representatives, which would normally meet on 19 May, and I am afraid that this will not be possible before 5 May. I would like your immediate advice whether a decision could be delayed until then.

A sudden summons of Parliament for next week might give rise to undue alarm and speculation in the country, and I am reluctant to create such a situation. In view of the utmost secrecy which must attach to the movement to which you refer, a meeting at such short notice might be most unwise. Reference to the project would of course be made only in general terms as a request for the use of our troops in Europe. Again, another factor which I must necessarily consider is the effect of any secret session thus summoned on the annual Labour Party conference at Easter, and while I could call the House before then if necessary, there are, I feel, sound reasons why I should not.

Perhaps I should explain that the situation upon which a decision on this whole matter rests, arises from the last meeting of Parliament convened specially to discuss and approve the policy of the Government in relation to the armed forces and manpower generally. As I have already indicated to you in my telegram of 19 November,1 there is, and has been, considerable feeling and difference of opinion both in the country and in Parliament as to the future role of the 2nd Division—a question again brought to the forefront by the announcement of the return from the Middle East of the last of the Australian forces.

The Government's manpower proposals, which included the reinforcement of both our Divisions for the rest of the year, were finally approved by the House after a full discussion of the role of the 2nd NZEF, during which I gave an undertaking that its retention in North Africa, its participation in a European campaign, or its return to New Zealand would be considered at the end of the Tunisian campaign, and that there would be no question of our men being used in any other theatre without the prior knowledge and approval of the House.

page 184

I would be glad if you could discuss the matter with Mr. Jones, our Minister of Defence,1 who should still be in London, and acquaint him with the terms of this message.