No. 268 NAI DT S3890

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs on revision of the system of consultation between Britain and the Dominions with covering notes by Sean Murphy and Diarmuid O'Hegarty

Dublin, 2 September 1924

I herewith enclose memorandum on the above subject for the consideration of the Executive Council at its next Meeting.

Seán O'Murchadha
t.c. Rúnaí

Mr. McDunphy.

A copy of this memo is to be circulated to each Executive Minister, & arrgts. made whereby any such Minister who has not yet had an opportunity of seeing the entire correspondence should be given our file on loan for perusal.

Diarmuid Ó hÉigeartaigh


The British Government in its telegram of the 23rd June point out that the present system of Consultation has two main defects.

1) Renders immediate action difficult, especially between Conferences,

2) Conclusions of Imperial Conferences are liable to reversal through change of Government.

It makes the following suggestions to meet these difficulties:-

1) In order to secure rapid decision on matters of foreign policy, a further examination of the Resolution on the Negotiation, etc., of Treaties, to consider how it can be supplemented and interpreted.

2) In order to make Imperial Conferences Resolutions effective suggests that future Conferences should not be confined to representatives of parties in Office. This course might tend to hamper frank exchange of views on matters of foreign policy and defence. Another method might be to obtain parliamentary approval beforehand for policy to be adopted. This might tend to diminish flexibility of Conference procedure.

The final suggestion is to have a meeting for the preliminary examination of these problems. October is suggested as a suitable time. The British do not consider the time has come for a constitutional conference or a special meeting of the Imperial Conference.

The aim of the British Government is obviously to create some system which will enable it to control foreign policy and which will at the same time prevent difficulties like those caused by the Lausanne Treaty and recently by the Inter Allied Conference.

The question of representation at International Conferences is also to be discussed at the proposed Meeting.

The Saorstát is the only member of the Commonwealth that has not replied to British proposals.

The Australian Government has taken the attitude that the present system will become effective in time and that undue haste will attain nothing. It does not propose to send representatives to the Meeting but will give the question careful consideration. It suggests the establishment of a foreign office branch in the High Commissioner's Office in London to keep the Prime Minister informed on questions of foreign policy. It advocates the establishment of a General Imperial Secretariat in London to deal with all matters of General Empire interest, such as the carrying out of Imperial Conference Resolutions. It does not favour the representation of all political parties at Imperial Conferences.

The British Government has informed the Australian Government of the replies of the New Zealand and Canadian Governments and the Australian Government has agreed to be represented at a preliminary conference and recommends some time late in November as most suitable to it.

The New Zealand Government agrees generally with the British proposals but suggest that a Committee of men not necessarily politicians should examine the problems and prepare a report for the next Imperial Conference.

The Canadian Government is in favour of considering the possibilities of extending the Negotiation of Treaties Resolution. The Government is not in favour of having all parties represented at Imperial Conferences, as they are Conferences of Governments each responsible to Parliament and in no sense an Imperial Council. The Canadian Government favours preliminary examination of the question and the preparation of a report for further discussion.

The Government of South Africa regrets that it cannot see its way to take part in proposed conference, and is of opinion that preliminary conference is unlikely to prove of any advantage for coming to a final decision.

The Government of Newfoundland are not in favour of having all political parties represented at Imperial Conferences or of obtaining approval of parliament in advance. The Government agrees to send a representative to a preliminary conference.

The Minister of External Affairs is of opinion that the Saorstát should take part in the proposed Meeting for the following reasons:

1) It seems inevitable that for some time to come the British Government will control the foreign policy of the British Commonwealth of Nations and so it is desirable that the various members of the Commonwealth should have as much influence as possible on the moulding of that policy.

2) The proposed meeting will not be final and the participation of the Saorstát will not prejudice whatever attitude the Government may decide to take on the questions of foreign policy or Imperial Conferences. On the other hand, it will give an opportunity to the Government of ascertaining the views of the various Governments on these questions and also of influencing the proposals which result for the Conference.

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