58 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Attlee

[LONDON], 14 October 1942

I went to see Attlee this morning. I asked him if he had suggested

to the Prime Minister that I should be present at the meeting on Monday night. [1] He said that he had, but that the Prime Minister felt the meeting should be confined to United Kingdom Members of the War Cabinet.

I asked Attlee what line he had taken with the Prime Minister on this point, and after some hesitation he said that he agreed with the Prime Minister.

I then suggested to Attlee that he and I had agreed in August that we would work together to try and implement without friction the arrangement made with the Australian Government but that if his attitude was that everything had to be discussed by the United Kingdom Members of the War Cabinet without my being present, I did not quite see how we were going to succeed in the task we had set ourselves. [2]

Attlee said that he did [? not] mean what I had suggested but when pressed as to what he did mean I had some difficulty in discovering.

I then put it flatly to Attlee that the position was becoming quite impossible and I could not go on being treated as a cipher.

He rather moaned that the position was very difficult, to which I replied that might be so but the United Kingdom Government ought to have thought of that before they agreed to give Australia representation in the War Cabinet.

I then said that quite apart from the meeting on Monday the position was getting quite intolerable as even papers to be considered by the War Cabinet were not distributed to me and I instanced Sinclair's paper upon which Lyttelton/Cripps Committee had been appointed. [3]

Attlee then tried to argue that that paper was one which merely concerned United Kingdom domestic productions.

When I put it to him that that could hardly be so as if I was right in my information the Committee's job was to determine the types of aircraft we were going to build on a long range programme. I pointed out that if that were so, the widest strategical consideration must come into the picture and we were vitally concerned in such consideration.

On the question as to exactly what the Cripps/Lyttelton Committee was going to do, Attlee appeared to be very confused and eventually I asked him to let me see the Minutes of the War Cabinet meeting appointing the Committee. This he somewhat nervously suggested he was hardly at liberty to do and our conversation ended by my saying that he had better look at the Minute and make up his mind if he could let me have a copy and if he felt he could not I would then have to take the matter up on a more official basis through Bridges.

I then again reiterated to him how impossible the position was becoming and showed him a copy of the letter I had written to the Prime Minister. [4]

At the end of the conversation I put it to him that the position was becoming so intolerable that I would have to seriously consider whether I could go on-that it seemed to me that it would be a great pity if I were forced to refuse to continue and it seemed to me absurd that such a position should be created where with a little good will the whole trouble could be overcome.

I put to Attlee why could they not let me see everything that was distributed to the War Cabinet. I had shown in the past, and I instanced the case of Torch [5], that I was extremely discreet and even by my nondisclosure of Torch to my own Government was running the danger of their considering I should have done so. If, however, they had not confidence in me then the sooner I got out and someone else tried to do the job the better.

Attlee's whole attitude was that of course I must not give up the job, but his contribution as to how my position was to be made less intolerable so that I could go on was not very helpful.

1 A few hours before the U.K. War Cabinet meeting on 12 October Bruce had told Attlee that the matter to be discussed, the shackling of prisoners of war, could not be described as one of U.K. domestic concern and asked him 'to have at the Prime Minister' and insist on his, Bruce's, presence at the meeting.

Attlee had 'very half-heartedly' agreed to do this. See Bruce's note of the conversation on file AA:M100, October 1942.

2 See Document 14.

3 Bruce had learned from Cripps on 7 October that War Cabinet had, the previous evening, appointed a committee consisting of Lyttelton, Cripps, Sinclair and Llewellin to further examine U.K.

air policy. Bruce found it 'interesting to observe that the Prime Minister did not invite me to this meeting, notwithstanding the fact that I have had more to do with stirring up the issue than anyone else'. See his note of conversation on the file cited above.

4 See Document 52.

5 The projected Allied landing in French North Africa.

[AA:M100, October 1942]