The British Embassy to the Department of State


His Majesty’s Government have in the past experienced some difficulty in advising aviation firms seeking advice and anxious to avoid participation in an illicit traffic as to how to proceed, particularly in the case of civil aeronautical material which can be applied to police service without any alteration whatever; but there has hitherto been no suspicious trade in such articles and it has not been found necessary to take any special measures for controlling it. Recent developments however in regard to the aeronautical industry have made it necessary to reconsider the position.

In July last the British Air Attaché in Berlin was requested by the German Air Ministry to transmit to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom a request for permission to buy 25 to 50 British aircraft for police purposes. The request was accompanied by an intimation that if British aircraft were not forthcoming the German requirements would be met from elsewhere.
In August His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs telegraphed to His Majesty’s Chargé d’Affaires in Washington informing him of the above and adding that His Majesty’s Government had had under consideration the most effective means of preventing the sale of aircraft and engines, and of manufacturing rights in such aircraft and engines, for the purposes forbidden by the Paris Air Agreement of May 7th, 1926,27 to which the Governments of France, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Japan and Germany were parties. Sir John Simon stated that if the other governments concerned were ready to take corresponding action His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to request British [Page 489] aircraft and engine manufacturers not to conclude any agreement for the sale of such material, or of the manufacturing rights thereunder, to the German Government direct, or to any German Ministry or public authority, or to the German police, unless they should have received a categorical written assurance from the German Government that the material or the rights in question would not be used for any purpose forbidden by the Paris Air Agreement.
In view of the unfortunate effect which any German re-armament might be expected to have on the Disarmament Conference, Mr. Osborne was instructed to enquire whether the United States Government would be prepared to take similar action. His Majesty’s representatives in Paris, Rome, Brussels and Prague received similar instructions. Mr. Osborne spoke to the United States Under Secretary of State in the above sense on August 4th last; and on August 10th Mr. Phillips informed Mr. Osborne that he had discussed the matter with the President, that the United States Government had in fact no powers to prevent sales of the nature in question, but that in practice the policy initiated by the last Administration and continued by the present one was to express disapproval of any aircraft sales to Germany, and that in practice, before making contracts with Germany, United States firms would ask the State Department if they had any objection and would be told that the Department would not approve.
Mr. Osborne duly informed His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of what Mr. Phillips had told him. Sir John Simon has now pointed out that His Majesty’s Government for their part also would not rely in this matter on legal powers but on methods similar to those which Mr. Phillips had said were applied in the United States. The procedure, however, which Mr. Phillips had outlined, namely, to inform American firms in reply to their enquiries that they were not to sell any aircraft to Germany, went considerably further than the scheme propounded by His Majesty’s Government and might perhaps even be difficult to justify if the German Government were to complain of the discrimination involved. The system proposed by His Majesty’s Government on the other hand provided for no more than a written assurance from the German Government in the event of sales of aircraft or aeronautical material to the German Government themselves, or Government departments, including the police, and would leave completely free the ordinary trade between private firms. His Majesty’s Government did not envisage so drastic a measure as the total prohibition of the sale of aircraft to Germany.
The proposals submitted by His Majesty’s Government have now been agreed generally by the French, Belgian, Italian, Polish and Czechoslovak Governments; and Sir Ronald Lindsay has consequently been [Page 490] instructed to enquire whether the United States Government would not reconsider their position, and to urge the desirability of their adopting the same procedure as that of the above mentioned governments in order that the German Government may find that the policy of the principal manufacturing countries is identical.
  1. May 7, 1926, is the date of the signing of the protocol; the agreement was dated May 22. See League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. lviii, p. 331.