3 Mr J.S. Duncan, Acting High Commissioner in London, to Mr J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Cablegram 3 LONDON, 6 January 1939

SECRET

 

Reference Dominions Office telegram, unnumbered, 24th December, regarding General Act for Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. [1] There seem to be differences of view between Ministers here. Some feel that denunciation would lend itself to misrepresentation and raise important political issue and that Government would be attacked for 'abandoning the buttresses of peace'. Others feel that changed attitude of nations in relation to Article XVI provides sufficient reason for denunciation. Former school feel that if war came General Act and Optional Clause would probably go by the board whether preliminary action had been taken or not and therefore that no action is necessary at present.

I understand that French Government which was sounded about same time as Dominions views sought has replied semi-officially that it does not favour proposed action, urging that if war broke out whole situation would be changed and it would then be easy to let the General Act go by the board. They point out also that Italy notwithstanding that she has left the League still adheres to General Act and proposed action would encourage her to denounce it.

Probable that United Kingdom Government may decide to take no steps at present.

Hope this confidential information may be useful and will assist in formulating your views whether or not you desire at this stage to do more than express agreement with view that on matter of this nature similar action should, if possible, be taken by all British Commonwealth Governments.

DUNCAN

1 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol 1, Document 337. The cablegram was in fact numbered 126.

[FA: A2937, PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES]