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199 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Bridges

[LONDON], 26 May 1943

I had about half an hour's conversation with Bridges following on
my talk with Attlee. [1] I told Bridges of the latter conversation
and said that all I wanted to do was to put into his mind what I
had said to Attlee, so that if and when Attlee approached him he
would have the necessary background.

I then took Bridges over the position down the lines that my time
was running out; that I had certain hesitancies in either
accepting a continuance of my time, or recommending my Prime
Minister to go on unless we could clear up a few points. I told
him that I had already given my Prime Minister an indication of
the position as it stands and I outlined to him what I had said in
my letter to the Prime Minister. [2]

I then stressed to Bridges that I was not very worried about the
subject of attending Cabinet meetings, but that I was concerned
that I should receive full information as to the matters that were
being considered by the Cabinet, and the results of the

I told him I recognised that this raised the issue of the United
Kingdom Cabinet having an opportunity of reaching agreement in its
own ranks before the Dominions were approached with regard to
questions. I pointed out to him, however, that we had all been
doing a little crooked thinking on this matter for the following
I pointed out that everyone is now convinced of the necessity of
the Empire speaking with a united voice after the war, as the
United Kingdom is not strong enough by itself to maintain the
position of leadership that it is essential she should hold; that
the ideal way theoretically to achieve this would be to have
something like an Empire Council sitting in London, composed of
the Accredited Representatives of all the Dominions. I said,
however, my experience had shown me that this was quite
impractical because not all the Dominions would be prepared to
take the responsibility involved and even if they were, it would
be the exception to the rule that you would find a Dominion
represented by a man of the calibre who would be able to make any
really valuable contribution and carry his Government with him. I
said, however, that from time to time, as at the present moment
was the case with Australia, certain Dominion Governments would be
insistent upon having a greater voice in the Empire's counsels,
and in the framing of the Empire's policy. This situation, it
seemed to me, could only be met by according to the representative
of the Government taking that view a special position, and making
available to him information not available to the representatives
of the other Dominions.

I pointed out that that was in fact what was happening at the
present moment, in that I had access to and received information
which was not available to the representatives of the other
Dominions. I pointed out that this, in fact, was not working badly
with regard to most matters and I told Bridges frankly that with
regard to all strategical and operational questions I was probably
better informed than most of the members of the Cabinet.

Owing to the way we have been thinking in the past with regard to
the United Kingdom Government making up its mind before the
Dominions were approached, we were not getting on as well as I
we might with regard to matters of this character. I said that in
practice I generally knew all about what was happening a few days
after the matter had been mooted, but that that was not very
satisfactory. The solution, I suggested, was that I should be
informed of any matters that were being dealt with by the War
Cabinet and that all the papers should, on issue, be sent to me.

This at first sight seemed to cut across the right of the United
Kingdom Cabinet to deal with matters for itself, before consulting
the Dominions, but did not in fact if we considered what would
happen if there were an Empire Council sitting in London. If there
were such a Council matters would not be considered for periods of
weeks and months, as in regard to post-war air transport, by the
United Kingdom Cabinet, but would be brought up on their
initiation for a general discussion in the Empire Council. There
might then be a certain pause while the matters were considered by
the Cabinets of the individual Empire Governments, but the point I
wanted to make was that one Government in the Empire would not
exhaust its consideration of a subject before the other
Governments heard anything about it.

I made clear to Bridges that I was not suggesting that any more
should be done than that I, owing to the attitude adopted by my
Government, being in a special position, should be treated in a
special way. I added that in order to make the thing work I would
be quite prepared to undertake not to pass anything on to my
Government unless I specifically raised the question of my doing
so. I also added that they had had enough experience here of my
discretion and willingness to try and play in and make the thing
work for them to be free from any apprehension that any serious
consequences would flow from my having the fullest possible

In the course of the conversation we discussed the different
points that I had raised, but there is no necessity to record
these discussions as I have given the broad picture above. It is
now in Bridges' mind and he should, I think, be helpful when
Attlee raises the matter with him.


1 See Bruce's note of 24 May on file AA:M100, May 1943.

2 Document 132.

[AA:M100, MAY 1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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