Release of Suez records

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The Dean Memorandum

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Before the Suez records could be released to the public, officials had to decide how to deal with the Dean Memorandum. This document, consisting of seven typed pages, had been written by Sir Patrick Dean in 1978 on the advice of Lord Trend, the former Cabinet Secretary, following the publication of Selwyn Lloyd's book on Suez. The memorandum gave a full account of the meeting at Sèvres on 24 October 1956 and the hastily arranged visit to the Quai D'Orsay on the following day. The purpose of the visit on 25 October, it was revealed, was to destroy all copies of the Protocol that Dean had initialled the previous day.  Written in French and typed in three copies, the Protocol set out in precise detail the plan agreed by the three governments to attack Egypt. In addition to Dean's signature, the Protocol bore the signatures of Christian Pineau, the French Foreign Minister, and David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel. For Eden, the existence of the Protocol was a catastrophe: a smoking gun that exposed the full extent of collusion between Britain, France and Israel. Once completed, the Dean Memorandum was locked away in the Cabinet Office, its existence confined to a select handful of officials.

It was not until 1986 that the question of its status was raised with Sir Anthony Acland, the new Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office. Acland was informed that as part of the Suez review a number of particularly sensitive papers had been discovered; foremost amongst these was Dean's memorandum. In discussions with Sir Robert Armstrong, consideration was given to releasing the Dean Memorandum at the same time as the other Suez papers. There were two main arguments supporting this course of action. First, no historical account of Suez would be complete without knowledge of the events described in the memorandum and its release would be in keeping with the spirit of the decision to release most papers relating to Suez immediately. Second, knowledge of the memorandum, or a version of it, would damp down speculation that papers and records relating to the Sèvres meetings had been withheld or destroyed. Against this was the concern that Dean's memorandum was not a contemporaneous record but had been written 22 years after the events it purported to describe. It was never intended to be an official document and the author, Sir Patrick Dean, would be 'horrified' if it was ever released.

If the arguments for and against release were finely balanced, there was no doubt that the memorandum was an important historical document and that the information it contained, if not the document itself, should be in the public domain. One means of achieving this objective was presented by the forthcoming biography of Eden by Robert Rhodes James, the Conservative MP for Cambridge, which was due to appear in the autumn. It was agreed that the Dean Memorandum should not be shown to James but that he should be encouraged to talk to Dean or Logan or both. The information about the second visit to Sèvres, which would appear in Rhodes James's book, did not need to be attributed to them. Although, if asked about it following publication, they could confirm it was correct. In July 1986, James had lunch with Dean and Logan and prepared a passage to be included in his book. The paragraph appeared on page 532 of Rhodes James's book and read as follows:

"The sequel of the meeting [Sèvres] was even more remarkable. Eden was dismayed that any written documents existed, and ordered Dean and Logan to return to Paris on the 25th to destroy the record. They were left for several hours by themselves, inside locked doors, in the Quai D'Orsay while the request was being considered. They were eventually told by Pineau that the request had been refused, and that in any event a copy was already on its way to Israel. It did not require too much ingenuity to deduce that Pineau had been telephoning Tel Aviv. At Eden's insistence, the British copy of the 'Protocol' was sent from the Foreign Office to 10 Downing Street, and has not survived. The others have."