No. 631 NAI DFA 11/3A

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S. 9/4/Conf.8) (Confidential)

Geneva, 6 February 1932

Disarmament Conference

After a luncheon today Sir John Simon had a conversation with Sir George Perley (Canada), Mr. te Water (South Africa), Sir Granville Ryrie (Australia), the Aga Khan (India) and myself. Others present were Mr. J.H. Thomas, Mrs. Corbett Ashby, Lord Londonderry, Sir Harry Batterbee, and Mr. Cadogan.

He outlined the general terms of his proposed speech on Monday morning, indicating that he would not make any specific proposals but would refer generally to the more recent developments in the means of warfare, to the fact that all-round security could not be based on armaments in one country much greater than in a neighbouring state. He would also mention how British armaments had been reduced since the War without making any comparisons.

In reply to a question by me he said the speech would be prepared that afternoon. He expected Mr. MacDonald would come out later and make another declaration, probably more detailed.

Mr. Thomas, referring to the fact that Sir John Simon would speak first, remarked that 'the French have done the dirty on us' - he was referring to the tactics in getting their proposals before the Conference before the British delegate spoke, and thus confirmed our own view as already reported.

The Dominion delegates were asked if they had any observations to make on the proposed speech and there was a general indication of approval of the outline. Mr. te Water said that if Britain said she could not disarm further it would have a bad moral effect but Sir John Simon replied that he did not propose to say that.

When I was asked I said I did not think it was necessary (in fact I really did) to ask Sir John to bear in mind that he would not be speaking for any of us; that any wording tending to imply that would be most undesirable as well as wrong in principle. Sir John immediately replied that he would of course speak only for Great Britain. I then said that as he had been good enough to ask our opinion I thought his general proposals were excellent as an opening speech.

Sir John Simon had already made it clear that each Dominion would have its own views to express, but said he hoped very much we would all be able to cooperate. Britain's position was very difficult as both France and Germany were looking to her. He also mentioned that the reduction in British strength had unquestionably made a difference in the present position at Shanghai.

[signed] Seán Lester

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