No. 250 NAI DFA D3904

James McNeill to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)

London, 11 July 1924

My dear Minister,

As directed I attended the Conference at 2 p.m. in the Prime Minister's room in the House of Commons to-day. Present - The Prime Minister, Mr. Thomas, High Commissioners of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and Lord Olivier, Secretary of State for India. Sir Maurice Hankey and Mr. Harding also attended.

The Prime Minister briefly explained the European position and the need for a speedy understanding. Unless the Dawes Report could be put in operation without delay the present French Government would go under and Germany would collapse economically. As to representation the Prime Minister was sorry that there should be any trouble. He laid stress on the facts that the position remained as under the Versailles treaty, and that the decisions of the Conference in themselves would involve no military or economic commitment. He wanted the whole question of representation to be considered at an Imperial Conference in the near future, but meantime the gravity of the position necessitated special arrangements. The Allies and other conferring powers had not categorically objected to the full representation of Dominions, but as this would raise the British Commonwealth representation so greatly as compared with others mainly interested there was no hope of a speedy consent and delay would be disastrous.

The High Commissioners were asked to state their views. Each of the others expressed dissatisfaction with the position, though New Zealand took care to state that his Government assented. There was a sort of general discussion, in which I took no part, as to the possibility of some alternative to separate representation of each Dominion. Canada stated that his instructions were to the effect that Canada could not assent to secondary representation, as in the Canada premier's despatch, but was ready to consider and transmit suggestions. I said my instructions were definite and stated them briefly. I added that I was not authorised to depart from them or to express any opinion as to alternatives. There was some more discussion, not always pertinent, and a suggestion was made that the High Commissioners might jointly send a representation to their Governments. I explained that I could not join with the others in making a representation to my Government as I knew the latter would disapprove of my associating other views with my own or of addressing other Governments. Mr. Larkin1 said he would have a similar difficulty. Apart from sending a communication there was some discussion as to whether in a telegram to be sent by the Prime Minister to the President and Premiers, it would be proper to state that the High Commissioners favoured any alternative. Again Mr. Larkin and I felt it necessary to state that our instructions forbade.

You will have received the Prime Minister's telegram.22 It is the result of a long discussion of which the object was to ensure that the message contained nothing likely to cause complications in the dominions. I think some of the High Commissioners were eager to advise.

There was much discussion as to whether the Dominions could accept either the High Commissioner of Canada or the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Thomas) as a joint representative. My instructions again compelled me to state that I could not go beyond them. I could not undertake to commend any alternative.

The Prime Minister seemed to be genuinely sorry that any question as to representation should have to be raised. Briefly, he said that the exigencies of the European situation and the great danger of delay in seizing on the present chance of making a great change for the better, including the re-entrance of Germany into international politics, compelled him to ask the Dominions to agree to a proposal which ran contrary to his own views and could not become a precedent. He seemed to be really convinced that French adhesion to the Conference was secured with difficulty and that Poincaré and others would get the better of Herriot and the moderates if the Conference could not meet and arrive at decisions at once.3

The suggested alternatives to direct representation were representation of Dominions jointly by one of three representatives assigned to the British Empire and the presence of delegations from Dominions with which the three representatives should be in constant communication.

I have written this hurriedly to catch the mail. I was to some extent pressed to commend to you the consideration of the alternatives. I said that my instructions were what they were and that I would report and that if I offered advice I did not think my doing so would be helpful to anyone.

Yours sincerely,
[signed] James McNeill

1P.C Larkin, Canadian High Commissioner in London (1922-30).

2Not printed.

3Raymond Poincaré (President of France) and Edouard Herriot (French Foreign Minister).

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