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243 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 105A LONDON, 1 August 1944, 8 p.m.


Addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin.

Post War Civil Aviation. Dominions' Office telegram D.1080. [1] Although I realise that the policy to be pursued with regard to Civil Aviation is entirely a matter for the decision of the Government and falls outside [my] [2] province, I have been so intimately concerned with all the developments to date that you will forgive me if I end you for your personal consideration my thoughts on the subject.

In my view Beaverbrook's suggestion contained in D.1082 [3] should be strongly opposed. The consideration of the subject of post war civil aviation, with all of the developments of which you have been kept fully informed, has shown the desirability of achieving the maximum degree of international co-operation. At the Anzac Conference in January, Australia and New Zealand endorsed the policy of full internationalisation of the great overseas routes.

[4] Owing to the improbability of the United States of America and United Soviet Socialist Republics accepting the policy of full internationalisation, the Empire Conference of October last endorsed the policy of rationalisation of such routes. [5] The Berle-Beaverbrook conversations [6] in London showed that America was out for 'free for all' competition in which America believed she would achieve a domination in post war civil aviation. In view of this position, McVey put forward his proposals [7] with the object of bringing home to America the unwisdom of her attitude, or, if that were impossible, of putting the British Empire in a position to meet the American threat of civil aviation dominance.

With considerable difficulty, the United Kingdom has been persuaded to suggest to the Dominions a meeting of Empire representatives to consider McVey's proposals. Just when this had been achieved Beaverbrook in America without any consultation with the Government [8] here has made his proposal for the indefinite postponement of the United Nations Conference on civil aviation and for the tabling of individual nations' plans for international air routes which they would respectively wish to operate. This appears to me a disastrous course to adopt until the United States of America has been forced at an international conference to declare her position. If the United States of America at such conference will not agree to rationalisation or some reasonable arrangement for the apportionment of the great international routes on an equitable basis between the nations concerned, we should reserve all our rights and make no disclosure of our plans.

If, on the other hand, America at such conference was prepared to be reasonable and agree to a fair arrangement then there should be the fullest disclosure of our plans which would be fitted in with the plans of other nations upon some fair basis of rationalisation. I do not share Beaverbrook's view that this question should be postponed until after the United States presidential election as I believe this controversial question is more likely to cause Anglo-American friction if postponed than if faced now. if, however, I am wrong in this and it is desirable that the issue should be postponed it should be possible to avoid calling the United Nations Conference until the election is out of the way.

I would urge the desirability of your giving this matter careful thought and if you agree with the views I have expressed that you should send an immediate telegram to the United Kingdom Government defining your attitude.

Since drafting the above I have been given the following justification of the line suggested by Beaverbrook which the Cabinet Committee on post war civil aviation have now endorsed. It is that the United Kingdom Government feel- (a) That it is essential to postpone consideration of this matter until after the presidential election.

(b) That the continuance of the American bilateral conversations with different nations is most dangerous and may lead to the establishment of a position where the United States of America will refuse to co-operate in multilateral United Nations Conference and will rely on advantages obtained under bilateral agreements.

(c) That Beaverbrook's proposal would remove the reason for the continuance of these bilateral discussions.

(d) That when all the plans for international air routes which the respective United Nations would wish to operate had been tabled it will disclose the necessity for rationalisation if chaotic conditions are not to be created.

With regard to the plans to be tabled, I understand that in spite of the concluding words of D.1082 which gave a different impression that the intention is that the plans which it is contemplated the United Kingdom and Dominions would table would be of the most general character merely indicating our interest in every route in respect of which we could have a conceivable interest.

It is frankly admitted that Beaverbrook's proposal is merely a staving off device and as such must be dodged. If your decision is to acquiesce in the course the United Kingdom is advocating I would suggest that your acquiescence should be conditioned upon the cessation of the American bilateral talks in respect to which the present position does not appear to me to be at all clear.

1 Document 240.

2 Corrected from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, August 1944.

3 Document 241.

4 See Document 26.

5 See Document 2, note 2.

6 See Document 159 and Document 165, note 3.

7 See Document 177, note 7.

8 A sign here indicated 'mutilated', although the text is identical to Bruce's copy on the file cited in note 2.

[AA:A989, 43/735/832/1, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History