No. 541 NAI DFA 11/3

Memorandum from Frederick H. Boland to Francis T. Cremins (Dublin)

Dublin, 11 April 1931

Mr. Cremins,

1. The High Commissioner has been asked by Sir Maurice Hankey1 whether he will take Professor Smiddy's place on the 'Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence on the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments'.

2. This is a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence which is constitutionally an advisory and consultative body constituted by, and responsible to, the British Cabinet. The last report of the Sub-Committee, although signed by the representatives of other members of the Commonwealth (including Prof. Smiddy), was in the express form of a report to the British Cabinet. Canada is not represented on the Sub-Committee and South Africa, as Mr. te Water intimated to Mr. Blythe in Geneva last September, has grave misgivings about continuing her representation on it.

3. These are cogent reasons for Mr. Dulanty's returning a negative reply to Sir Maurice Hankey's enquiry.

4. There is a further reason, however. The Sub-Committee was set up in December, 1929, to 'study the various problems which will arise in the near future in connection with proposals for land and air disarmament'. In practice, the Sub-Committee has ranged over a considerably wider field but, in conception, it was a body to deal with the question of disarmament. Now, however, the British Government has set up a new body - a Cabinet Committee - 'to advise as to the policy to be adopted at the (General Disarmament) Conference and to direct the work of preparations as far as this country is concerned'. This new body traverses the same ground as the old and, accordingly, any purpose which we may have had in mind in agreeing to take part in the work of the old Committee will be achieved if we decide to accept the British Government's proposal to consult with the new.

5. The D.O. Secret telegram B. No. 8 of the 9th February leaves open the question what form the proposed consultation between the new Cabinet Committee and the Governments of the other members of the Commonwealth will take. If, as in the case of the C.I.D. Sub-Committee, it involves nominating representatives in London to attend meetings of a governmental committee in Great Britain and to become parties to joint recommendations to the British Cabinet, I do not think that there can be any doubt as to what our attitude to it should be.

6. On this point, I do not think that we can accept either the conclusions of the Department of Defence Memo2 or the reasons on which they are based. We can easily get the fullest 'information as to the British and Dominions views' on any point without being 'summoned' to the meetings of the British Cabinet Committee. In the second place, we must, I think, emphatically disagree with the view that questions arising out of Articles 6, 7 and 8 and the Annex of the Treaty 'might be easier settled at meetings with other Dominion representatives also present.' Finally, while the Treaty admittedly creates a special relationship between this country and Great Britain in matters of defence, furnishing a strong argument in favour of co-operation between the two countries in those matters, the relationship created by the Treaty is a political, and not a constitutional, relationship, and it is essential that we should not make it appear otherwise by choosing a method of co-operation which involves incorporating ourselves in a piece of British constitutional machinery.

7. If, on the other hand, the form of 'consultation' proposed in the D.O. telegram is merely that we should designate a channel in London through which the views of the Irish Government could be made available to the British Cabinet Committee, either directly or through the Dominions Office (and the latter method is to be preferred), the proposal is unexceptionable.3 It is part of the everyday functions of the High Commissioner to act as such a channel and, from the League of Nations point of view, it is generally recognised that direct negotiations between governments is a necessary and very desirable part of the preparation for the General Disarmament Conference.

8. All this leads up to the consideration of the question of our own preparation for the General Disarmament Conference. The documentary material for the Conference is already enormous and it is quite clear that if we are going to play any prominent part at the Conference, and if we are not to be in the hands of the British when technical questions crop up at it, we should start our preparation at once.

9. I do not think it would be possible to pursue our preparation for the Conference by means of interdepartmental correspondence. In the case of practically every clause of the draft Convention, technical, financial and political considerations arise and these three different aspects are so inextricably mixed up all through the draft Convention that decisions taken separately and severally with regard to them could have no finality. The only satisfactory method of procedure would be to set up a committee to take joint decisions on behalf of Defence, Finance and External Affairs. This Committee might take the form, either of an interdepartmental committee composed of officials of the Departments mentioned, or of a Cabinet Committee, consisting of the Ministers of those departments, with a Sub-Committee composed of officials. In view of the fact that the British Government has appointed a Cabinet Committee, I believe that we should adopt the same course. The Cabinet Committee would 'direct the work' of the sub-committee, which would prepare the ground and make final proposals to the Cabinet Committee.

10. In view of the foregoing, I submit:-

(a) that the High Commissioner (if he has not already done so) should inform Sir M. Hankey that the Government do not propose to be represented on the Committee of Imperial Defence Sub-Committee on the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.
(b) that a Cabinet Committee consisting of the Ministers for External Affairs, Finance and Defence should be set up with a joint secretariat or sub-committee consisting of officials of those three Departments.
(c) that the British Government should be informed, in reply to D.O. Secret Telegram B. No. 8 of the 9th February, that the Irish Government have appointed a Cabinet Committee 'to advise as to the policy to be adopted at the Conference and to direct the work of preparation so far as the Irish Free State is concerned'; that the Irish Government would welcome the fullest co-operation and exchange of views between the two Cabinet Committees and that the channel of communication for this purpose should, if the British Government so desire, be the High Commissioner who, with this object in view, will be kept fully informed as to the progress of our Cabinet Committee's work.

[initialled] F.H.B.

1 Sir Maurice Hankey (1877-1963), British Cabinet Secretary (1916-38), Secretary of Imperial Conferences (1921, 1923, 1926, 1930, 1937), Secretary of the London Naval Conference (1930).

2 See No. 522.

3 Handwritten marginal annotation: '?'.

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