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Historical documents

90 Evatt to Chifley

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


My immediatly preceding telegram. Following is text.


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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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