1. Yesterday I attended a meeting with Bevin, McNeil, Addison and representatives of the Dominions, at which the peace treaties with Germany and Austria were discussed. The basis for discussion was Dominion Office telegram D.1167 containing the agenda for Moscow meeting and also the invitation to London meeting of Deputies which I presume you have already received from Washington whence it was to be sent out.
2. Bevin indicated that it was his wish to obtain as a start at the meeting here the general views of all the countries which participated in the war against Germany. The Deputies would then report these views to the Foreign Ministers when they met in Moscow. He could not say at this stage to what extent agreement would be reached at Moscow on the different aspects of the German settlement and by way of explanation of his disinclination to prophesy recalled that Molotov had not been in favour of a preliminary meeting of the Deputies and had only yielded on the point after British and American insistence. It was difficult therefore to say what degree of co-operation might be expected from the Russians or what new proposals they might have to make.
3. On the general question of procedure Bevin suggested first that it was desirable that the Dominion Governments should make known their views as soon as possible even if all or some of those views were to be repeated subsequently at the Deputies meeting. Secondly he intimated that the Foreign Ministers would want to refer back to the Allied Council and Deputies on particular problems and in fact there might be a protracted exchange of views with all interested parties. Thirdly he does not dismiss the idea that there may ultimately be a third wider conference after the London and Moscow meetings.
4. My impression of meeting was that Bevin had vague idea of what should be done but the United Kingdom could not give confident positive lead because they do not know how Russia or even the United States may react.
The New Zealand representative had no observations to make as he had heard nothing from his Government and South Africa does not wish to make any comment until she knows more of the plan to be followed.
The Canadian representative, Robertson, urged that no public statement which might fix the procedure too rigidly should be made in the early stages as he thought the best arrangement might be evolved as the talks progress. He also said that whereas Canada might not be particularly interested in specific points to be settled there was question of political prestige at home which necessitated that Canada should take full part in the settlement or none at all.
5. I reminded Bevin that a lot of trouble at Paris had been due to the fact that big four had presented other countries with pre- agreed decisions which had given rise to objections. Now it appeared that big four entertained the idea of carrying other nations along with them as they constructed treaty piece by piece.
I pointed out that we might wish to present our case personally as the discussions proceeded and criticise proposals made by others.
However apart from saying that he wished to avoid criticisms such as had been made of the procedure at Paris and referring to the possibility of a third meeting, he was unwilling to be drawn further at this stage.
Bevin referred to the cost to Britain of the administration in Germany and questions which might have to be answered in the House. In reply to this and to Robertson's remark about domestic political considerations I argued that we all had an interest in the peace of Europe and that the Australian Government had Australian lives to answer for. We should be able, if we wished, to fight against any proposal for settlement which we thought might eventually threaten the peace of Europe.
6. If our Government has any views regarding procedure it would be wise to state them now. Such a statement would provide a foundation upon which we can build here or better still give a firm line which we can take.