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Historical documents

296 Note of Meeting of U.K. and Dominions Representatives

LONDON, 30 September 1938, 11.30 a.m.

MOST SECRET

PRESENT

Malcolm MacDonald, acting for Secretary of State for Dominion
Affairs
S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner for Australia
C. T. te Water, High Commissioner for South Africa
Vincent Massey, High Commissioner for Canada
W. J. Jordan, High Commissioner for New Zealand
J. W. Dulanty, High Commissioner for Eire
The Duke of Devonshire, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs
Sir Edward Harding, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs Sir Harry Batterbee, Assistant Under-Secretary of
State, Dominions Office
E. G. Machtig, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Dominions
Office
N. E. Archer, Dominions Office

MR MACDONALD gave an account of the circumstances in which the
news of the signing of the Agreement had been received in the
Dominions Office after midnight on the previous day, and expressed
the view that the most important result of the Agreement might be
an improvement in the general atmosphere now that both the
Dictators and the Leaders of the democracies had got to know each
other. Although the Agreement appeared to be satisfactory, there
would probably be a considerable measure of attack when it was
debated in Parliament on Monday [1] and the Prime Minister [2]
might then have a roughish passage.

MR MACDONALD said that he had been wondering whether it might not
be possible for something to be done from the Dominions' side
which would help the Prime Minister in this eventuality.

There was general agreement that it would be of advantage if the
respective Governments could send messages expressing their
support of the Agreement before a critical attitude developed in
this country, and despite the possibility of political
difficulties in certain Dominions, the High Commissioners (after
some private discussion with Mr MacDonald) made it clear that they
intended to take steps to apprise their Governments of their own
views in this respect.

(Whilst the meeting was in progress, messages from Mr Mackenzie
King [3] and Mr Lyons [4] to the Prime Minister were brought in).

At the end of the meeting each of the Dominion representatives
expressed his great satisfaction with the information which had
been supplied to his Government from the Dominions Office
throughout the crisis and with the help which had been given to
him personally. They also paid a tribute to the Dominions Office
officials for their unremitting work during the last few weeks.

MR MACDONALD said that he felt (and could say so as he was not now
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs) that the Dominions had in
many cases received fuller and earlier information than even most
of the members of the Cabinet here, and concurred in the view that
the functions of the Dominions Office had been carried out in a
very satisfactory way.

MR DULANTY remarked, amid general laughter (with reference to Mr
Hughes' recent attack on the Dominions Office) 5 that it was a
good achievement for an office that was not wanted!

1 3 October 1938.

2 Neville Chamberlain.

3 Canadian Prime Minister. Message not printed.

4 J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister. See Documents 294, 295.

5 W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs, in an address to
the National Council of Women on 8 August 1938, criticised the
Dominions Office as an anachronism and M obstruction to effective
consultation with the Dominions, causing unnecessary delays in
receipt of information. While allowing that geographical distances
posed a problem, he said that if the Dominions were to have an
effective voice in moulding British foreign policy, messages must
all be sent direct from the Foreign Office or the Prime Minister
to the Dominions Prime Ministers, a practice which was not
impossible as it was often followed at present. See the Times, 9
August 1938.


[PRO : DO 114/94]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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