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95 Attlee to Curtin

Cablegram 4 LONDON, 8 January 1943, 8.10 p.m.


Your telegram 2nd January No. 2. [1]

We are grateful for this very full expression of your views which we have read with great interest. We were particularly glad to have text of statement made by Evatt in House of Representatives on September 3rd which so largely corresponds with our own views.

We entirely share your view as to the importance of the issues raised by the colonial question and agree that the fullest possible discussion with the United States Administration is the essential preliminary to any statement on the subject.

As regards, however, your suggestion that question of any public statement might be held over until it has been possible to carry through a general discussion of the question of the post-war settlement, we feel this delay impracticable in view of the present state of United States opinion, which [may] [2] well poison the prospects of future co-operation between us and the United States.

Moreover, Mr. Hull has definitely raised the question with the idea of a possible immediate declaration in view, and within the last few days has again expressed to Lord Halifax his desire for early discussion. We feel, therefore, that we must pursue the matter with him on this basis without more delay.

Course of these discussions, as to which we will certainly keep Dominion Governments fully informed, will show whether it would be better to begin with two-party United Kingdom-United States Declaration or whether an attempt should be made to try to bring in from the beginning other colonial powers.

We agree, of course, as to the importance of avoiding any misunderstanding with them in the matter. We are glad to note that the general line of your suggestions in paragraph 7 of your telegram corresponds very closely with what we have in mind as regards the contents of the suggested declaration.

On one point, however, we have, after very full consideration, come to the conclusion that we are not prepared to contemplate the setting up of an International Colonial Commission on the lines corresponding to that of the former Permanent Mandates Commission to which parent states could be held responsible.

We do not think that such a measure would be practicable and our concern has rather been to secure full consultation and co- operation, on a regional basis, of those States which have a definite interest in the area concerned.

As regards paragraph 8 we agree that Colonial security would be a corollary of a general security system, but we have felt it necessary to introduce at this stage the defence aspect in relation to Colonial policy, since the burden of complaint against us in the Far East is that of failure adequately to defend the Colonial Empire.

It seems to us that any declaration as to future policy which bore no reference to this aspect of the matter would appear lacking in realism. We feel, too, that so far from prejudicing post-war general security arrangements, the reference to defence which we now contemplate putting forward in the proposed declaration would be helpful from the wider point of view.

As regards paragraph 9 of your telegram we have asked Mr. Bruce to repeat to you the replies from other Dominion Governments. [3]

In all the circumstances the Cabinet, after full consideration of all the issues involved and in the light of your views [and] those of other Dominion Governments, are disposed to authorise Lord Halifax to approach Mr. Hull on the basis of the revised draft statement, the text of which is set out in my immediately following telegram D.14. [4]

Should be very grateful if you would telegraph any further comments at earliest possible moment.

Matter is now becoming extremely urgent and we should like to send instructions to Washington early next week, Lord Halifax having promised Mr. Hull another conversation at an early date.

1 Document 94.

2 Words in square brackets have been corrected from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, January 1943.

3 See Document 94, note 3.

4 Document 96.

[AA:A989, 43/735/1021]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History