90 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram E22 LONDON, 26 October 1948, 3.3 5 p.m.

IMPORTANT SECRET

My immediatly preceding telegram. Following is text.

Begins-

COMMONWEALTH CONSULTATION Discussions during meeting have demonstrated the value to Commonwealth Governments of consultation with one another on foreign and economic affairs, defence and other matters of common concern. Although the exchange [of] [1] information is fuller at the present time than it has ever been, it is specially important that consultation should take place early while policy is still in formative stages. The meeting recommends, subject to endorsement by respective Governments, the following arrangements for Commonwealth consultation which in part reflect existing practice- 1. Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers will be held as often as is practicable;

2. In the intervals between those meetings Commonwealth meetings on foreign affairs will be held at Ministerial level at least once a year, and twice a year if possible. These meetings will normally be held in one or other of the Commonwealth Countries. The first of these meetings will be held in Ceylon;

3. Greater use will be made of facilities in London for consultation and the exchange of information. In addition to their contacts with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and his staff- (I) Commonwealth High Commissioners in London have direct access to the Foreign Secretary. Meetings between the Foreign Secretary and individual High Commissioners will be held more frequently.

Meetings between Foreign Secretary and two or more High Commissioners will also be arranged from time to time as occasion requires for the discussion of matters of common interest;

(II) Political Secretaries (or comparable officials) attached to Staffs of Commonwealth High Commissioners in London also have direct access to Foreign Office. Meetings between them and officials of Foreign Office, either individually or in groups will be arranged as required.

Other Commonwealth Governments will endeavour to make comparable arrangements in their capitals.

4. (A) Commonwealth meetings on economic and financial questions of common concern will be held at the ministerial level when required and practicable.

These meetings will normally be held in one or other of the Commonwealth Countries according to circumstances. Where a particular problem directly concerns only [some] of the Commonwealth countries the meeting might be confined to representatives of those countries;

(B) For the discussion of matters affecting only two Commonwealth Countries meetings of Ministers or officials will also be held as necessary and where appropriate formal machinery could be established for this purpose on the lines of recently constituted continuing Canada-United Kingdom Economic Committee;

(C) The existing contacts between officials of Commonwealth Governments concerned with financial and economic matters will be maintained and extended and in particular there will be more frequent interchange of visits;

5. (A) To meet present needs the existing Commonwealth Liaison Committee of the European Recovery Programme which includes officials of all Commonwealth Countries will, under title 'Commonwealth Economic Information Committee', serve in London as a clearing-house for economic information generally to provide a basis for inform[ed] consultation between Governments;

(B) Other Commonwealth Governments will endeavour to make comparable arrangements in their capitals;

6. In furtherance of the general aim of co-operation between all peace-loving nations to deter and to resist aggression there will be close consultation between the Commonwealth Governments to arrange co-operative action in matters of defence, including those matters which arise from a common interest in security of a particular region. The Military Advisers of those Governments win consult together to frame proposals and plans for submission to their respective Governments.

Meetings will be arranged on ministerial level as the occasion demands to discuss defence problems whether general or regional.

In the system of Commonwealth Service liaison officers there already exists machinery for the exchange of military information of general interest and Commonwealth Governments will consider how that machinery can be improved to render it fully effective as a means of exchanging information about the progress of the defence plans whether general or regional and securing the maximum appropriate degree of defence co-ordination.

7. The arrangements summarised above will supplement but will not supersede the existing channels of communication between Commonwealth Governments.

In London the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will continue to be responsible for relations with other Commonwealth Governments. [2] Ends.

1 Material in square brackets corrected from Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers, PMM (48) 13th Meeting, 21 October 1948 Annex.

2 On 13 December 1948 Australia notified other Commonwealth governments that it approved of the recommendations. On 24 December Australia advised Noel-Baker (cablegram 339) and Fraser (cablegram 246) that its approval of recommendation no. 6 was to be read as expressed in the detailed views given in the Attachment to Document 172 in Volume 12, and Documents 98 and 105 in the present volume.

The recommendations were approved by other Commonwealth governments except Canada and India which expressed doubts about some aspects, particularly the frequency of meetings dealt with in recommendation no. 2. The United Kingdom then suggested that meetings be amended to 'once a year or more frequently if occasion requires'. (See cablegram H2 from Noel-Baker, dispatched 1 January 1949 ) Canada subsequently decided to leave the matter in abeyance. 1

[AA: A1838/283, TS708/5A]