No. 220 UCDA P150/2179

Letter from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Secret and Confidential) (Copy)

London, 9 May 1934

On my return from Dublin after my interview with the President on the 19th April I found that an attempt was being made to try to induce the British Government to come to an understanding with our Government on the question of the South Wales coal trade. The people chiefly concerned in this appeal were a Mr. Owen Jones, an important Labour man in South Wales, Mr. D.R. Grenfell, MP, and certain business men in South Wales. They had approached Mr. Arthur Henderson, MP, with a view to securing his assistance and he had replied that he would like to be associated with them and would do all that he could to help.

The initiative having thus been taken by this South Wales group, I thought it advantageous to make immediate contact with Mr. Grenfell. He has been rather more conspicuous in the House than any member of his party impressing for a settlement of our question. In the Labour Executive, for which an election is held all over the United Kingdom, Mr. Grenfell recently polled third from the top in the list of the twelve successful candidates. I gather from people likely to know that he is highly esteemed by all parties for his integrity, his quiet unostentatious work and complete absence of any wish for personal advancement.

Mr. Grenfell and I had a long conversation yesterday morning when he told me that he had seen Mr. Thomas and asked him whether there was much chance of anything being done with regard to coal. Mr. Thomas said it was not easy to say without going carefully into the matter but he would be glad to see Mr. Grenfell, Mr. Arthur Henderson and the others, if they wished.

I then put it to Mr. Grenfell that, speaking entirely for myself and being of course unable to commit my Government, I thought he might consider the possibility of an arrangement on a quid pro quo basis being made between Britain and An Saorstát for other commodities and not simply for coal alone; I could not pledge anybody but I thought there might be a chance of my Government agreeing to a reciprocal trade agreement which would, in return for trade concessions to An Saorstát, give Great Britain the benefit of Irish orders now enjoyed by other countries.

Mr. Grenfell thought that this was a much better plan than merely going to Mr. Thomas about South Wales coal. He thought there was more chance of a response on those lines and also that his South Wales people would derive greater benefit from a more comprehensive agreement. I said that if there was any tendency on the part of the British Government to impose conditions concerning either financial or political considerations there would be no chance whatever of my Government agreeing. Mr. Grenfell asked me what was the position of my Government about the Oath, the Annuities, the proposed reform or abolition of the Senate, and Northern Ireland, which information I gave him. Mr. Grenfell said he had no doubt he could ascertain Mr. Thomas's present views on these points, and he left me to see the latter gentlemen yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Grenfell saw me again first thing this morning and gave me an account of his conversation last evening with Mr. Thomas. He said that he (Mr. Grenfell) was willing to do whatever he could in the direction of initiating conversations with a view to a settlement, but he wanted, before beginning, to ask Mr. Thomas for answers to certain questions. The first was 'Would I be wasting my time?' to which Mr. Thomas answered 'Certainly not.' He had great confidence in Mr. Grenfell and the moment he thought there was no use exploring the possibilities of settlement he would immediately so inform him. Mr. Grenfell said that he had been having confidential talks with certain people whom he did not name and he would like to take up the question now of a general trade agreement, not merely of coal, but before doing so he would like to get Mr. Thomas's views on certain outstanding question between the two Governments. These were:-

No. 1 The Oath

No. 2 The Annuities

No. 3 The proposed changes in the Senate

No. 4 The question of the Six Counties.

(So that there should be no misunderstanding I have taken down what Mr. Grenfell told me were Mr. Thomas's answers. The following paragraph is therefore in Mr. Grenfell's own words, which, as I say, I wrote at his dictation.)

No. 1. Mr. Thomas stated with regard to the Oath their view that this question was not a serious impediment at all and could be got over.

No. 2. On the Annuities the British knew there was no money available and that they would not make this a stumbling block nor insist on any hard terms.

No. 3. The Senate did not present any serious difficulty.

No. 4. On Northern Ireland the British position was that if and when the Six Counties of their own free will voted themselves into the Free State there would of course be no objection but rather satisfaction from the British side. Mr. Thomas then went on to say in this connection it would be vitally necessary if a statement were made on behalf of the Saorstát Government to indicate the position which Ireland desired to take up within the British Commonwealth and that if a satisfactory statement on that point would be forthcoming, he, Mr. Thomas, speaking not only for himself but for his colleagues, could almost promise that the other matters which are outstanding could be determined by negotiation, and that there need be no delay in attending to the several problems. Mr. Thomas went on to say that the sooner this was done the better because of the hardening process now going on in the British agricultural community. This was being more and more reflected in Parliament and he thought that the Cabinet might not be able to ignore that pressure if it increased, as it looked like doing, when they, the Government, were dealing with questions of Irish imports.

(I read this paragraph back to Mr. Grenfell and he passed it as representing as near as he could give them Mr. Thomas's own words.)

Mr. Grenfell is keeping his conversations with me entirely secret, nor1 informing even his own Party Leaders.

(Sgd.) J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner

Later Mr. Clynes telephoned to me just now on a personal non-political matter. I made no reference, of course, to my talks with Mr. Grenfell but I asked Mr. Clynes for his opinion of Mr. Grenfell. He said that in Parliament and in the Labour movement his experience of Mr. G. was wholly satisfactory. He was a genuine man, very sane and dependable and had a high standing for character. In S. Wales there was probably no man in any political party who had a higher reputation. He is about 42 or so years of age and was a miner.

1 Should read 'not'.

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