121

29th March, 1928

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

My dear P.M.,

I asked Harding [1] recently if anyone had yet given any thought to the possible date of the next Imperial Conference. He said that it had not yet been considered but that the delay in the work of the Committee that is preparing the material for consideration regarding Dominions legislation, etc., would, he thought, tend to put forward the date of the Imperial Conference. I wrote officially about this in my LON.730 of 6th March. Harding thinks that it would be rather futile to hold another Imperial Conference before the work put in hand by the last one had been completed.

The point is that the interdepartmental legal committee that is preparing the subject is finding that it is much more complex and difficult than expected, as it involves a complete survey of existing legislation over a wide field of important subjects.

Australia has been asked to forward any material that they think fit to prepare for the consideration of the expert committee. It had been hoped to collect, prepare and distribute to the Dominions the whole documentation by June 1928 at latest and then call the expert conference (with Dominion representatives) in this autumn, so that results would have been ready for the Imperial Conference if held in 1929. This programme, however, is delayed, as I have said.

Lloyd George [2] two days ago introduced a debate advocating a Ministry of Defence into the time allotted for the Consolidated Fund Bill. It was a palpable move to sow dissension amongst the Conservatives, many of whom are in favour of this type of centralisation, especially the disgruntled ex-officers who are now undistinguished M.P.s.

It amused me to hear from Hankey [3] that he had gone to see Lloyd George beforehand and got from him the line that he was going to take.

There were no new arguments. The Liberals obviously didn't mean the debate to be a serious contribution, but it had the desired effect of drawing a number of speeches from the Conservative back benches that were in conflict with Baldwin's [4] speech. The latter spoke adequately but without fire or conviction. He said to a friend of mine after the debate: 'Well, our Conservative soldier and sailor M.P.s may know something about soldiering and sailoring, but they don't know much about Lloyd George.'

The hardy annual appearance of this Defence Ministry debate always gets Hankey on the raw. As you know, he is strongly against it. He produced the arguments that formed the basis of Baldwin's speech.

Apart from his conviction that a Defence Ministry, on the scale that it would exist in England, would be a mistake, he sees in it a threat to the Committee of Imperial Defence which, at least, is the devil you know.

When the successor to a peerage makes a fool of himself in the House of Commons, the cliche is: 'Thank heaven for the House of Lords.'

Lord Rothermere [5], as you may know, has taken to himself the task of agitating for the revision of the Treaty of Trianon [6], and for the consequent handing back to Hungary of some at least of the territory that was taken from her and given to her neighbours, Czechoslovakia, Roumania and Jugoslavia. He uses the 'Daily Mail' and his other papers for his propaganda and he hires not over- conscientious publicists to write the subject up in the Reviews.

He is a great admirer of Mussolini, and this campaign, of course, suits the Italian book-anything that might reduce Jugoslavia is a gift from heaven for Italy. I send in another letter this week a personal interview with Mussolini by Rothermere, which sets out the Hungarian position.

I was at a luncheon yesterday at which the Duke of York spoke, and the hesitation in his speech was very evident and painful to listen to.

I enclose Low's [7] latest cartoon, the sentiment of which, I think, will appeal to you. Low is making a great name for himself here.

I send this week Hankey's very full lecture and chart of the Committee of Imperial Defence organisation. This completes the information about the organisation of Cabinet Office, Committee of Imperial Defence, as well as the office organisation of the Foreign Office and diplomatic posts abroad that I have sent out recently. This will all be useful information to have on file.

I am afraid the letters are very voluminous by this mail, but there is the accumulation of a fortnight to deal with.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 Sir Edward Harding, Assistant Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office.

2 David Lloyd George, Prime Minister 1916-22.

3 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

4 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

5 Proprietor of the Daily Mail.

6 The Peace Treaty with Hungary, signed in June 1920. See note 7 to Letter 119.

7 David Low, a New Zealander formerly with the Sydney Bulletin.