500.A15A4 General Committee (Arms)/117: Telegram

the Chargé in the United Kingdom (Atherton) to the Secretary of State

91. Department’s 40, March 2, 3 [2] p.m. In the House of Commons yesterday Simon answered a question in the following terms:

“The view of His Majesty’s Government in regard to local inspection in connection with agreed limitation of armaments remains unchanged, but the draft convention to which my honorable friend refers has nothing to do with arms limitation, and in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government simpler and less elaborate methods of compiling results are to be preferred than would be suitable when the due observance of agreed arms limitations has to be checked.”

In a conversation with the Foreign Secretary this afternoon I pointed out that nothing in Minister Wilson’s discussions last autumn in London on the American draft convention indicated that Great Britain would take the position Stanhope had assumed in Geneva. [Page 30] Simon gave me to understand he was not the last authority on this matter, which I know from other sources has been the subject of great controversy in the Cabinet. He briefly outlined the British position, however, as follows: Great Britain did not want to cede the right of inspection at the present time, since in any final limitation of armaments negotiation it was one of the things that the French most insistently demanded and would be one of the levers that Great Britain could ultimately use in obtaining concessions from the French Government. He pointed out that inspection merely to check reports filed at Geneva was quite a different matter from inspection to check fulfillment of an international agreement on limitation of armaments. He said that if Great Britain agreed to inspection now she would have to lay in great stocks today of certain phases of war materials which she did not possess, “merely for the purposes of window dressing”. He added that although English research in material was very great, this was not one of the main reasons for the English position but rather the extent of inspection proposed at Geneva at the present time was such that to cover inspection of all parts manufactured would involve a survey of English manufacture which she was not prepared to accept at the present time and would only grudgingly submit herself to in order to obtain a substantial limitation agreement. He repeated several times that inspection merely for checking “to lighten the darkness” would not be entertained by Cabinet, its policy now being that inspection on the spot must be in fulfillment of an agreement on limitation. He felt that no modification of Stanhope’s position was likely under present conditions.

I learn from other sources that the fighting services, more particularly the air service (which as long ago as my despatch No. 407 of January 2d, 193452 on page 2 I pointed out had overspent its allowances) were adamant in refusing a reversal of Stanhope’s position and also that the War Office, strong in certain features and neglected in others, had supported the Air Minister. The compromise policy was as stated by Simon in the House of Commons.

Repeated to Geneva.