347 Cranborne to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 325 [1] LONDON, 14 November 1944, 2.05 p.m.


We have learnt with considerable surprise and concern of the statement issued on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Governments at the conclusion of their recent Conference on the subject of Colonial administration in which they declare their support for the idea of an international supervisory body with power to visit dependent territories and publish reports of its deliberations. [2]

As you will be aware from the discussion of the subject at the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in May this year, the United Kingdom Government held very strongly the view that such control by a central international body would be most undesirable and that its establishment would be contrary to the interests both of the dependent peoples and of parent nations and in particular of the British Empire. Indeed we understand from what passed at the meeting on 9th May that Mr. Curtin shared our view (see minutes of 10th meeting page 5 [3]). Recent proposals of this character have been ventilated in the United States and in view of this we were about to address to the Dominion governments a communication setting out our views in detail as to the future system of securing international co-operation in relation to colonial affairs in a form which we had hoped would be acceptable to Dominion governments and also to the United States Government.

This matter is of vital importance to the United Kingdom having regard to the immense extent of our colonial responsibilities. In our view, in a matter of this kind all members of the British Commonwealth ought to take every care to co-ordinate as far as possible their respective views before entering on public declarations of policy. We can only express our regret that this public announcement has been made on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Governments without any prior consultation with or warning to us. We fear that it may well lead to serious difficulty and embarrassment in our discussions with the United States Government and in the future treatment of this question. In view of what has occurred we fear that it may become necessary for us to make some public statement indicating our own attitude with regard to future policy towards colonial territories. This will necessarily imply, even if it does not directly state, our inability to accept. the views put forward at the recent Australian - New Zealand Conference on this matter.

1 Addressed to the N.Z. Govt as no. 265.

2 See Document 344.

3 See Document 344, note 2.

[AA:A989, 44/630/5/1/11/22]