HC Deb 11 June 1941 vol 372 cc187-9
45. Mr. Granville

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent declarations by Dominion statesmen with regard to Dominion representation in London, he is now prepared to invite Mr. Menzies and other Dominion statesmen to visit London for the purpose of a meeting of the Imperial War Council?

46. Sir T. Moore

asked the Prime Minister whether any approaches have been made to or by the Governments of the Dominions, in regard to the formation of an Imperial War Cabinet, or whether he has given further consideration to this question in the light of recent events in the Mediterranean?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

I should warmly welcome a meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers should this be found possible, and I am, of course, in constant correspondence with them. The House will, I am sure, realise that each Dominion is differently circumstanced in this matter, and that it may not be easy to arrange for all the Dominion Prime Ministers to visit this country at the same time.

Mr. Granville

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the recent statement by the Australian Prime Minister and other political leaders in Australia; and will he take fully into consideration the strong public opinion which desires a more direct representation in the conduct of the war?

The Prime Minister

I think matters had better be treated generally in relation to all the Dominions. But I have noticed various statements.

Sir T. Moore

In view of the fact that there is an Imperial General Staff in existence to direct military operations, and that there is already an Imperial Defence Committee to direct strategy, surely it is logical that there should be an Imperial War Cabinet to direct the whole war effort?

The Prime Minister

That is a very large question, and I am not prepared to deal with it now. I think it would be very desirable to have an Imperial Conference to see what could be arranged, but it is not easy to have an Imperial Conference. We must remember that these Dominion Prime Ministers are persons of the highest consequence in their own countries, that they have the highest affairs to settle and legislatures to wait upon constantly. It is not easy for them to find the opportunity, much as they would wish to do so; but if we can get them here in the course of the summer or the autumn these matters can be discussed. Meanwhile, they are not much helped by questions of this sort.

Mr. Shinwell

In order to clear this matter up, may we be told whether in fact there have been any official requests from the Dominions, either individually or collectively, for the formation of a War Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir; I have seen no official request of that kind.

Mr. Granville

Would my right hon. Friend accept the assurance that there is a considerable public opinion which requires this, but which does not desire to bicker or to hinder the Prime Minister in the conduct of the war? Will he bear in mind that I am merely following the writings and the precepts of Winston Churchill?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that at times that gentleman was very annoying.

Viscountess Astor

Is it not a fact that in the last war the Dominions and Colonie, did not press for an Imperial War Cabinet, but that the initiative came from the Government here? Will the right hon. Gentleman satisfy the country that this Government will do all it can to have an Imperial War Cabinet, because I am perfectly certain that until he does so there will be great dissatisfaction?