The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Bingham ) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 25—5:10 p.m.]
333. Your 193, July 23, 4 p.m. The Naval Attaché had an interview by appointment previously made, with my approval, with a high naval official of the Admiralty for the purpose of securing an elucidation of the First Lord of the Admiralty’s statement on July 22nd in the House of Commons. The Admiralty official stated definitely that the First Lord of the Admiralty had not intended in his statement to present any change in British naval policy; that is, the statement was intended to be in conformity with the understanding already reached during the Anglo-American naval conversations last December. It was conceded by the Admiralty that the First Lord’s statement was open to an ambiguous interpretation, but they reiterated that it was not meant to indicate a new departure on their part in naval policy. The Naval Attaché requested confirmation of our previous understanding with Great Britain that the effort would be made to have announced programs in place of the existing treaty ratios and he received unqualified confirmation of this view from the Admiralty official. The Admiralty admitted that the First Lord’s statement was the first clear declaration in Parliament that the ratio principle had been abandoned, but asserted that an understanding to that effect had been arrived at during the Anglo-American naval conversations, and likewise between the British and other interested countries, so that there was no intention on the part of the Government that the First Lord’s statement should portray a policy not previously communicated to us. The Naval Attaché touched upon the interest the United States Government feel in maintaining a mutual flow of information, particularly at this time, regarding future German naval building programs, beyond the German program announced for 1935. The Admiralty said the German and British programs and those of other countries for the future were necessarily indefinite at this time, being dependent upon what the programs of others would be. The [Page 82] Admiralty likewise referred to the necessity for the powers concerting their programs together before attempting to include them in one document, which the British visualize as a part of the proposed next general naval treaty. The Admiralty official referred to the memorandum on this subject which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs recently promised me (my 323, July 16, 8 p.m.42). The Naval Attaché was given to understand that this memorandum would soon be ready for delivery, and for this reason did not press for further details at today’s interview. No intimation was given as to the extent of the information the memorandum would contain. A complete copy of the Naval Attaché’s report of this interview to the Navy Department will be forwarded by mail.43
I am informed that the Foreign Office has confirmed to press representatives the view expressed by the Admiralty that the statement of July 22nd was not intended as a declaration of any new departure in British naval policy.
In my opinion, the foregoing represents with substantial accuracy the facts of the situation. While the statement of the First Lord unfortunately lent itself to ambiguous interpretation, it appears that what the British envisage is not the abandonment of ratios in fact, but a different procedure to arrive at the same end. In asking for announced programs of naval building they will endeavor, apparently, to keep those programs within the ratio limits set by the existing naval treaties.