HC Deb 03 December 1928 vol 223 cc827-30

asked the Prime Minister whether the Committee of Imperial Defence approved the strategical disposition of the British naval forces which would have resulted from the recent Anglo-French conversations; and whether, in view of the failure of these negotiations, the Committee of Imperial Defence has formulated any alternative proposals?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I think that the hon. Member is under some misapprehension. No question affecting the strategical disposition of the British naval forces could have arisen as a result of the Anglo-French conversations.

46. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister what reply, if any, he is making to the cable he has received from the chairman of the Committee on naval affairs of the United States House of Representatives, suggesting a meeting on Canadian soil between the Committee on naval affairs and a Select Committee of the House of Commons, with a view to solving out-standing questions between the two nations?


asked the Prime Minister whether he has received a communication from Mr. Britten, chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, proposing an Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the subject of Anglo-American equality in sea power; and what reply it is his intention to make?


The following is the text of the telegram received from Mr. Britten: Recalling your publicly expressed desire of 13th November for more frequent personal discussion between American and British representatives and remembering very pleasantly my personal participation in inter-parliamentary conferences both here and in Europe I am impelled to suggest a joint meeting of the Committee on Naval Affairs of the United States House of Representatives and a select committee of Members of Parliament for the purpose of friendly discussion and the hearing of testimony in connection with applying the principle of equality in sea power between Great Britain and the United States on all ships of war not already covered by the Washington Treaty. Meetings to take place preferably in Canada after 4th March, 1929, and each committee will report with recommendations to its respective Government just as may now be done annually by the various groups of the inter-parliamentary union. Where there is so much genuine regret among the people of England and America over the failure of the last Geneva Naval Limitation Conference surely some way should be found for a meeting before 1931 when the five leading naval powers will again assemble at Washington. I will respect your personal desires in connection with these suggestions. The following is the text of the reply sent to Mr. Britten to-day: I have learnt with great interest of your proposal for a joint meeting of members of the United States Congress and members of the British Parliament for a friendly discussion on the question of the limitation of naval armament. I cordially reciprocate the spirit which inspires your suggestion, and I share your earnest desire for a complete understanding between our two countries. In my speech of 13th November, however, I was speaking not of the legislatures but of the executives of Governments and it was the absence of facilities for personal intercourse between Ministers which I regretted. Except to remove this possible misunderstanding of my speech I feel that it would not be consistent with the courtesy which I owe to the United States Government to express any further opinion on a proposal about which, as I understand it, they have not been consulted. I would therefore only repeat my appreciation of your friendly sentiments.

Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that reply was sent direct? Is it untrue, as some of the newspapers have stated this morning, that the reply was originally sent through our Ambassador in Washington to the American Secretary of State?


The reply has been sent direct to Mr. Britten.

Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY

Has there been any reply or note on this suggestion made by His Majesty's Government through His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington?


Of course, as a matter of courtesy we keep the Governments advised.

Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement in the Press that His Majesty's Ambassador took certain memoranda from himself to the Secretary of State?


The right hon. Gentleman has nothing to do with statements in the Press.


Would the right hon. Gentleman be willing to refer this matter to the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union?


No. I do not think the hon. Member quite realises that this offer came from a private individual. Communications between countries can only take place between Governments.