No. 247 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S32

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

London, 14 December 1934

I received a letter yesterday morning from Mr. Thomas telling me that he had asked Mr. Elliot to discuss with me the question of the earlier dating of the additional 20 per cent of fat cattle and the further question of increased quantities in all categories. I got through to Mr. Elliot immediately and arranged an appointment in the evening of the same day.

I met the Minister for Agriculture in his room at the House of Commons late last night, Sir Charles Howell Thomas, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, and Mr. A.W. Street, Principal Assistant Secretary of the Ministry, also being present.

He spoke at some length of the difficulty involved in taking any additional meat imports on the British market. Their January, February, and March programmes of imports with all the foreign countries had been communicated to their representatives in London some time ago. That very day he had attended a meeting of the Council of Agriculture for England where he was pressed on all sides by British farmers to do something to improve the distressingly low price of beef.

The question as to how far he could take another ounce from us depended entirely upon his success in negotiating for a reduction of imports with other countries - whose programmes had already been fixed. The market position being what it was he certainly could not defend any increase from An Saorstát unless there was a corresponding decrease from some other source. Asking other countries to send less when simultaneously the port returns indicated clearly to them that he was taking more than our known quota from us was an impossible position to him.

I pointed out that the answer to any criticism about revising the programme of An Saorstát livestock exports to Britain was that the 50 per cent cut on fat cattle had been a severe, not to say a savage, cut. Mr. Elliot responded that there might be something in my point if the prices had improved, but despite what he had admitted to have been a severe reduction of our supplies the price was still bad for them and equally bad for us.

I naturally made the rejoinder that this increase in the quota of cattle was in return for an equivalent expenditure by us on the British coalfields. He said 'I don't want to prolong a trade war with Ireland, nor do I want to start a trade war with Brazil'.

Mr. Elliot and his experts placed such emphasis on the necessity for securing the assent of foreign countries to a reduction of imports before anything could be done about increasing ours that it was impossible for me not to doubt whether the 20 per cent increase intimated by Mr. Thomas in his note of November 30th was not a firm and final offer but was subject to the result of the aforementioned negotiations. I therefore made it clear that I had crossed to Dublin to acquaint An Saorstát Government with the intimation that the British Government were prepared to take a 20 per cent increase in fat cattle as from about the beginning of April. It was surely not to be suggested now that this offer was conditional upon factors which Mr. Thomas had not mentioned? Mr. Elliot immediately said that he would stand by the offer of 20 per cent as from the 1st of April. (The conversation at this point left on my mind the impression that Mr. Thomas in his note of 30th November had been somewhat in advance of Mr. Elliot's position on this matter.)

I said that An Saorstát Government recognised the cogency and the immediacy of the British contention that it was necessary to maintain, and if possible increase, their current market price. But the original proposal of the 20 per cent increase on fat cattle, plus the suggestions which when in Dublin last week I had been authorised to put to the British Government1 so as to make it worth our while to buy their coal as against the coal of other countries, represented altogether a negligible quantity for their market. Its relativity in annual figures could hardly be regarded as a serious price factor. On our side we were prepared to begin ordering the coal forthwith. If the British could not see their way to date the additional fat cattle as from the 1st January, what date earlier than April would they propose? On this point a lengthy discussion ensued, and ultimately Mr. Elliot promised to try to date the increase for the fat cattle as from the 14th February. In the event however of his not being able to reduce the programmes of other countries then any fat cattle above the existing quota shipped between the 14th February and the end of March would have to count against the already agreed additional quota from the 1st April onwards.

Turning to the question of stores, Mr. Elliot said the price having gone down so badly he was afraid he could not do much in this category. Further, he said that anyhow there would not be any considerable buying of stores until March. I pointed out that the peak figures no doubt were in March but I quoted figures for January and February for the past few years that showed we made substantial shipments in those months. I understood also that a large part of the additional stores which we were proposing to ship in the first quarter of 1935 would not reach the British market until the Autumn.

The hour was getting late and Mr. Elliot was due on the Front Bench. To avoid a rushed or inadequately-considered decision (which looked then as though it would be one we would not welcome) I proposed that I should meet Mr. Elliot's experts, together with an expert from our own side. To this proposal he cordially agreed.

The experts will be, I think, Sir Charles Howell Thomas, and Mr. A. W. Street, and they both intimated that they would be glad to have a talk with Mr. Twomey. I trust that this may be arranged.

Finally I said that whilst we had no complaint to make of the action of the British Ministry in declining to accept as 'store' cattle which were unmistakably 'fat' we did think that some easement on the legitimate forward store was needed. Mr. Elliot said that he would meet us on this point if it were possible, and asked his experts to report to him on it after our conference next week.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner

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