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57 Memorandum From Waller to Watt

Memorandum, London, 8 March 1951


Before you receive this you will, I hope, have had the official United Kingdom reply to your telegram No. 1071 about the Pacific Pact.[1] This is long overdue as Cabinet has already looked at the proposition three times. In case, when the final reply comes in, it is not all-embracing, it might be helpful if I gave you a little background at this stage.

My impression is that opposition to the Pact comes almost entirely from the Foreign Office. Through the Defence Liaison people we have had a peep now at the Chiefs of Staff appreciation which simply said that they would welcome anything to make Australia feel more secure and therefore more able to honour her Middle Eastern commitments. The appreciation concluded by saying that the actual decision whether or not to support it must largely be a political one. The Far Eastern Department which, in this case, means R. H. Scott[2] are absolutely and entirely opposed to the 'island chain' pact and it is they who have sabotaged it during Bevin's absence. They claim that they did not intend to make the impression on Dulles that they did, but admit that Gascoigne was not instructed to mention a Tripartite Pact. They claim that there is no objection to this provided the Philippines are not included. If, however, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand are guaranteed and not Malaya, they claim there will be a public outcry here that the United Kingdom has deserted the Empire. For the life of me I cannot see the logic of this argument and have argued against it ad nauseam on a variety of [levels].[3]

I gather that at Cabinet level a different view is taken. Bevin has only just returned to the Department and Scott admitted frankly last night that he had always favoured a Pacific Pact. He even proposed one in 1945 or '46 but this was torpedoed by Dr. Evatt.[4] Scott claimed that Bevin still wants such a Pact and I gather that the Far Eastern Department may be fighting a rearguard action to save some mythical question of prestige on the Asian mainland.

The Resident Minister saw Gordon Walker this morning. GW told him that they were very annoyed with Williams for sending out a departmental telegram in the form of a letter to the Prime Minister.[5] From the way he spoke it sounded as if it might well cost Williams his job. GW professed great sympathy with the idea of a Pacific Pact and said that anything we felt would make us more secure was agreeable to the United Kingdom. I rather fear that the actual reply to your memorandum may, however, be somewhat less enthusiastic.

From things which have been said to me in the C.R.O. I gather that the Prime Minister had someone's head on a charger over the Williams' letter of 8th February and that he spoke sharply about the practice of making high level communications to Australia which had not been cleared at Cabinet level.

1 The response to Cablegram 1071 (Document 51) was not in fact received until 14 March (see Document 60).

2 R. H. Scott, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office.

3 Word in square brackets added by hand.

4 This is presumably a reference to exchanges in 1946 between the Governments of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States on bases in the Pacific (see Volumes IX and X of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy, 1937-49).

5 See Spender's criticisms in Document 51 of the language and tone of Document 43.

[NAA : A6768, EATS 77, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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