The Suez file: correspondence between Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice and the Attorney General, November 6-7, 1956

by Carl Gardner on January 2, 2017

From the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file I’m today reproducing (with permission of the image library of the National Archives) a letter dated November 6 1956 to the Attorney General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, from the Foreign Office Legal Adviser Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice; and the Attorney General’s reply of the following day.

Fitzmaurice tells the Attorney that he’d been asked by Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd to comment on a letter from the Attorney (which must be his letter of November 1).

Apart from saying that the views of the legal advisers here entirely coincided with yours as to the absence of any legal justification for our present actions in Egypt,

he writes,

the comments I made related mainly to the constitutional position.

The extracts he then repeats to the Attorney show him stressing to the Foreign Secretary that the Law Officers, not the Lord Chancellor, are the government’s legal advisers.

As I understand it, the Lord Chancellor is not invested with any actual function of this kind …

It is the Law Officers—i.e. the Attorney and Solicitor General—who are the highest legal authority in government, he says.

The Law Officers therefore have an absolutely unanswerable case over not having been consulted.

The Attorney’s answer is short and approving.

Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice later became a judge at the International Court of Justice, and at the European Court of Human Rights.

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