177 Note by Bruce of Conversation with McVey

Extracts [LONDON], 31 May 1944 [1]

McVey came to see me prior to his departure for Australia, to let me know where he had got to in respect to the various activities he had been pursuing.

[matter omitted]

POST WAR CIVIL AVIATION I told McVey of the advice I had tendered to the Prime Minister with regard to sending Drakeford to America for the bilateral Conversations. [2] The Prime Minister had not let McVey know of his decision and McVey asked me whether Drakeford had yet been instructed. I said I thought not as McLaughlin [3] had asked me to confirm what I had said to the Prime Minister when I had seen him at the aerodrome.

I also told McVey of Evatt's telegram [4] and the advice I had tendered to the Prime Minister with regard to it. [5] McVey agreed that the conversations would have to be held and that Evatt's telegram was merely fractious.

I then asked him how he had got on in the conversation with Leathers [6] and rather to my disappointment he told me that Leathers had been so occupied in telling him, McVey, what should be done in regard to Civil Aviation that no real consideration had been given to McVey's proposals. [7] He said that Leathers was quite clear that he did not want to take over Civil Aviation until 6 months after the war was over. This confirmed what Leathers had said to me on the telephone.

I then asked McVey if he had seen Beaverbrook again and he said that he had yesterday and gave me an account of the conversation.

Apparently McVey took rather an attacking attitude and said that he was very disturbed that there was no plan here for post war civil aviation.

Beaverbrook's reply was that there was such a plan and he had submitted it at the Prime Ministers' Conference. McVey countered this by saying that he, Beaverbrook had submitted no plan at the Prime Ministers' Meeting and he knew perfectly well that he had not, and that he, Beaverbrook, had done this deliberately as he did not want a discussion. This, according to McVey, Beaverbrook admitted. They then went on to discuss the proposals which McVey has put forward, which are embodied in his four papers, copies of which he left with Beaverbrook. Beaverbrook was apparently very taken with the proposals and said he was going to put them through, and added that he would see that McVey got all the credit for them. He apparently then went on to one of his bell ringing stunts, sending for Masefield [8] his Personal Assistant and dictating instructions to him that immediate action was to be taken to give effect to McVey's proposals. He also asked McVey to take the matter up with Howe when he was in Canada, and endeavour to get Howe's agreement. This apparently McVey undertook to CIO.

I asked McVey if he knew what Hildred's [9] attitude was towards the proposals. McVey said he was not quite sure and expressed some doubts as to Hildred's capacity, describing him as a very formal minded Civil Servant. He said, however, he had discussed his plan very fully with Street [10] who was enthusiastically in favour of it.

We left the matter on the basis that I would take an early opportunity of seeing Beaverbrook and ascertaining exactly how things were going.

Both these matters that I discussed with McVey will have to be followed up. There is no doubt that McVey has a very great deal of capacity, but for some reason he leaves me with just a shadow of a doubt.

S. M. B.

1 This note was written on 1 June.

2 See Document 176.

3 F. A. McLaughlin, Curtin's Private Secretary.

4 Document 165.

5 Document 176.

6 U.K. Minister of War Transport.

7 Contained in papers (dated 15 May) prepared by McVey for Curtin in London, on aspects of post-war civil aviation. On file AA:A3095, 1/1/28. The first urged development of a British Empire plan, and the provision, in addition to ordinary commercial services, of a prestige, high-speed service on selected strategical routes, owned and operated by a British Commonwealth Corporation.

8 P. G. Masefield, Secretary of the U.K. War Cabinet Committee on Post War Civil Air Transport.

9 W. P. Hildred, U.K. Director-General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Civil Aviation. 10 Sir Arthur Street, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Air.

[AA:M100, MAY 1944]