266 Note by Mr M. MacDonald, U.K. Secretary of State for the Colonies, of Conversation with Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

LONDON, 19 September 1938

SECRET

I had a talk with Mr Bruce following the meeting with the High Commissioners this afternoon. I said that I recognized that none of the Dominions-not even Australia-were likely to bind themselves beforehand to support us if circumstances required that we should carry out our guarantee to a reconstituted Czechoslovakia. Even if Mr Lyons [1] were inclined to do this, I suppose the Labour Opposition in Australia would arouse such an agitation that the country was badly split on the issue, and more harm than good would be done. In the next General Election the Labour Party might well become the Government and repudiate the obligation.

Mr Bruce agreed that this was the position, though he repeated what he had said at the meeting with the High Commissioners, that he would like to see the Dominions join with the United Kingdom in accepting the obligation.

I said that I thought there was something which Mr Lyons and other Prime Ministers might do, short of getting their Governments to assume an obligation, which would support us in the present situation. Could Mr Lyons make a speech immediately after the publication of our guarantee saying that the United Kingdom had done the right thing in all the circumstances and that what we had done had the warm approval of Australia? I thought Mr Savage [2] might possibly say the same sort of thing. If the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand made declarations like this, it would avoid any suggestion of Commonwealth disapproval of our taking on an obligation in Central Europe and positively add to the force of what we were doing. It was hopeless to expect that the Prime Ministers of Canada [3] and South Africa [4] would go so far as this. I would be more hopeful of Mr De Valera [5], and thought it might be possible to get him to say something helpful.

Mr Bruce replied that he thought Mr Lyons might well make a statement of this nature. He agreed that it would be very useful.

I observed that it would be unwise for any hint in this direction to be given to Mr Lyons in a telegram from the United Kingdom. If he was to make any such statement, he must be free to say that he had made it on his own initiative, without any suggestion from the United Kingdom Government.

Mr Bruce agreed, and I have no doubt that he himself will make the suggestion to Mr Lyons.

M. M[ACDONALD]

1 J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister.

2 Michael J. Savage, New Zealand Prime Minister.

3 W. L. Mackenzie King.

4 General J. Hertzog.

5 Eireann Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

[PRO : DO 114/94]