Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Yesterday my right hon, friend, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) referred to a news 'broadcast from Rome on the evening of Wednesday, June 17, which stated that the Canadian council of ministers at a meeting held the previous day, that is June 16, had decided to favour the abolition of sanctions. I replied that I would make inquiry as far as possible to see if there was any ground for believing that this statement indicated knowledge in advance of the policy of the government announced in the House of Commons on June 18. I do not think it does.
The statement quoted is incorrect since as a matter of fact the question was not discussed in council at all on June 16 as stated. The general position had been discussed some days earlier, and council's decision reached at the time, but the final wording of the statement of the government's position was taken up at the special meeting of council on the morning of June 17. I notice in the Montreal Star of June 16 the following disipatch from Ottawa:
It is understood that the government is giving consideration to-day to its position in respect to sanctions against Italy. What precisely will be the attitude is not officially determined. It is believed, however, that the government is practically certain to join that section of British thought which favours the lifting of the penalties.... Discussion is tentatively fixed for Thursday. The Prime Minister on that occasion is expected to define the attitude towards a continuance of sanctions. Inasmuch as these penalties in time of active war did not frustrate the annexation of Ethiopia by Italy, their continuance, in time of peace, may be regarded as futile.
I think there is little doubt that the statement to which my right hon. friend referred was simply a more positive expression of the above, or similar anticipations. For some days before the announcement of the United Kingdom government the press contained similar surmises as to the decision which would be announced.
I may repeat that there is not the slightest indication that the decision of the government was communicated to any outside person.