No. 613 NAI DFA 19/6

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

London, 5 December 1931

Sir Harry Batterbee came to see me this morning to renew the request for facilities for one of the British Air Squadrons, on which matter I am reporting separately.1


I reminded him of one or two matters which were outstanding between us, and in apologising for the delay in the Dominions Office he said that his desk was littered with work which he had not been able to touch owing to pressure caused by the Statute of Westminster. In confidence he said that Australia and New Zealand had been wiring them for last minute alterations which they, the Dominions Office, had resisted. I asked him whether these were alterations of form merely or of substance. He said they were all designed further to strengthen the status quo between those Dominions and Great Britain. They had resisted them on the ground that there was not time to deal with them because, though they were described as draft alterations simply, questions of principle might well be involved, and there was neither time nor inclination in Whitehall to deal with them.

He then went on to refer to the unfavourable atmosphere which the Second Reading debate of the Statute of Westminster Bill had created in the mind of the Conservative party. The only man who could deal with the threatening storm was Mr. Baldwin, and Sir Harry Batterbee said that he hunted up Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd M.P., Parliamentary Private Secretary, and said that no matter what Mr. Baldwin's engagements in the country may be they must be cancelled and Mr. Baldwin must be brought back to London. This was done, and the whole of that week-end Mr. Baldwin he said was occupied with certain people of importance politically and with nearly all the important Press. The Lord Privy Seal2 saw personally several Editors and did not conceal from them that he took a most serious view of the situation that would arrive if there were any hitch in the passage of the Bill. He warned them that it would be a return to 1776 unless the right view were taken and he thought it was not too much to say they might be facing the break-up of the Commonwealth. The steady support of the London 'Times' he had no doubt was entirely due to the strong line taken by Mr. Baldwin with the Editor of that journal.

Sir Harry Batterbee said that they were nervous about the line Lord Salisbury3 would take, and when he asked that he might be allowed to talk to Lord Salisbury it was not sanctioned because it was thought to be too dangerous.

At the dinner to Mr. Bennett however Sir Harry Batterbee met Lord Salisbury and spent half an hour with him, at the end of which he secured Lord Salisbury's acceptance of the view that the Imperial connection might well be jeopardised by Mr. de Valera's winning the next election. 'Then if you want to prevent that', said Sir Harry Batterbee, 'you must do all you can to help through the Statute of Westminster and at this point he produced a copy of the President's letter.4 Lord Salisbury read the letter and said that he had already written out his speech, and whilst he would not modify certain parts of it he agreed that the Government view should be supported in the Lords and he would resist any amendment qua the Irish Free State.

Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Dominions were of opinion that the President's letter was not merely successful in achieving the particular object for which it was written but was even more successful in the creation of a far more friendly atmosphere both in the Lords and Commons than would otherwise have been possible.

He referred also to the valuable help which Lord Londonderry had given in acquainting his fellow Peers with his own view about the Statute of Westminster and also the view of Lord Craigavon. (I could not help reflecting, though I said nothing, that it was a significant change from his action not many years ago when, as Viscount Castlereagh, he resigned his commission in the Guards in order to join 'Carson's Army' and vowed that he was prepared to go any lengths.)

With his customary reiteration of the fact that he was speaking only personally and in strict confidence, Sir Harry Batterbee went on to say that he supposed their best line about the Privy Council was to accept the view that the Irish Free State Government must do what it thought best.

He hoped however that there would be nothing done which might disturb feeling here for the next three or four months.

[signed] John W. Dulanty

1 Not printed.

2 Viscount Philip Snowden (1864-1937), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924, 1929-31), Lord Privy Seal (1931-32).

3 James Edward Hubert Gascoyne Cecil, Fourth Marquess of Salisbury (1861-1947), Lord Privy Seal (1924-29), Leader of the House of Lords (1925-29), Leader of opposition in the Lords (1929-31).

4 See No. 602.

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