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Historical documents

67 Cablegram from Harrison to Spender

London, 16 May 1950


Your telegram No. 20451

Just after I had received your telegram this morning with a further message for Bevin2 I was asked to call on Younger,3 Minister for State, to receive a reply to your last message to Bevin, who regretted that he was unable to see me himself. This message is in the form of a personal letter reading as follows:�


Dear Mr. Spender,

The Resident Minister has handed me your message. I need not tell you that we too recognise the importance of the Sydney Conference and the need for action to deal with the situation in South and South East-Asia.

Lord Macdonald is fully empowered to deal with your proposals. You will find him ready and anxious to help tackling the problems of the area resolutely and effectively. I fear I cannot give you an assurance at this stage that we shall necessarily feel able to accept in detail all the proposals in the Australian Government's telegram No. 106.4

I am sure that you will appreciate that the limitations upon the contribution which we in the United Kingdom can make spring from the burden thrown upon our resources by our vast expanding commitments in all parts of the world, including South and South-East Asia. I hope, however, that the Conference will produce a constructive plan of action on which work can be started speedily.

Kind regards and best wishes for a successful Conference.

Yours sincerely,

Ernest Bevin.


2. I did not hand your latest message to Younger but said that I felt I should see Bevin himself with it even though he might not be able to see me today. My talk with Younger in any event convinced me that he is not very familiar with the subject so that it was preferable to wait, quite apart from the fact that your message is addressed to Bevin himself.

3. I thought it wise however to take Younger up right away on the phrase of 'limitations upon the contribution' mentioned in the second paragraph of Bevin's letter. I said that the suggestion of this phrase cut right across the statement that 'Lord Macdonald is fully empowered'. I stressed that is was months since Colombo where decisions on broad objectives had been made and that we certainly expected that Ministers at the Sydney Conference would have the necessary authority to make that immediate start which was so urgently necessary, however much wider the full programme that would be worked out might prove to be in the end.

4. Younger insisted that Lord Macdonald was authorised to deal with all questions but added that nevertheless he would obviously have to refer back to details for consideration by the Treasury. I emphasised that while this would of course be necessary for long-term commitments in the programme, we were convinced that in view of the Colombo decisions, their reception by public opinion, the passage of time since, and above all the urgency of the situation, we must make an immediate practical start.

5. Younger said that he would be seeing Bevin briefly later today and would press my request for an early opportunity to hand Bevin your latest message. If I do not in fact see him till tomorrow there will be time for you to amend the message if you wish to do so in the light of his letter. I f I am able to see him today I will hand him the message as in your telegram 2154.5

[NAA: A3320, 3/4/2/1 part 1]

1 Document 63.

2 Document 66.

3 Kenneth Younger, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, UK Home Office.

4 Document 58.

5 Document 66.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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