HC Deb 18 July 1924 vol 176 cc749-51
Sir PHILIP LLOYD-GREAME (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make as to the representation of the Dominions on the Inter-Allied Conference?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. F. H. Thomas)

There have been several communications with the various Dominion Governments concerned, and it was found impossible to arrive at definite arrangements before the Inter-Allied Conference opened. I have now the great pleasure of announcing that it has been settled that representatives of any of the Dominions so desiring and of India shall become members of the British Empire Delegation at the Conference on the panel system, and it has also been arranged for the representatives so appointed to be present at the meetings of the Conference on days when it is not their turn to sit as members of the British Empire Delegation. This will ensure that they are fully acquainted with all that goes on in the Conference. The plan adopted is a special one for this particular Conference, and is not to be regarded or quoted as a precedent.

The reason for informing the House at this stage is that there has been an unfortunate controversy taking place in Canada, and statements have been made also in the Press here. It was within the last hour that we not only settled a plan, but got Canada to acquiesce, and everything is now straightened out. I take the earliest opportunity of announcing the fact to the House.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what o is the exact position of Senator Belcourt? Is he now regarded as an official member of the Delegation?


The position of Senator Belcourt is that he was sent to this country to represent the Canadian Government, taking the place in the ordinary way of the High Commissioner. Whilst he was on the high seas correspondence, of which he was not aware, was taking place between the Canadian Government and ourselves. It is only fair to say that, although certain statements appear and are attributed to him, I have his assurance and authority for saying that he was not aware of the correspondence when lie made the statement. It is sufficient to say that he is the Canadian representative, and will take his place on the panel with the other members representing the Dominions.


Do we understand that the representatives will attend both the Commissions and the Plenary Sessions?


The arrangement is that they will have an opportunity of being informed of everything that is taking place. It does not help to show differences, and Canada and the others acquiesced in the special arrangement made, which ensures their attendance as British Empire delegates, and also their attendance as listeners to the general Debate.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the newspapers this morning there is published an official list of the delegates, in which the High Commissioners of the other Dominions are mentioned, but there is no mention of the Canadian representative? Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to have that list amended in the published edition?


The statement in this morning's Press appeared prior to the agreement with Canada. Every other Dominion had agreed except Canada, but we were not going to make any announcement until we had settled the matter with Canada. Therefore, this morning's statement was prepared before the agreement was reached.

Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY

Is it true that the Canadian Government received no information except that given to them through the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian Parliament, owing to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had not communicated with the Canadian Government.


I saw that statement, and I very much regret it. I can only conclude that if Mr. Mackenzie King made that statement, it was certainly contrary to the facts, and it may have been due to his being unaware that we were communicating with his High Commissioner. There was no delay whatever. On the contrary, the Commissioners have been sitting daily, including Canada, to help to straighten out the situation, which is now happily settled.

It would have been unwise to communicate with Canada while negotiations for an arrangement were in progress with all the High Commissioners.