800.796/10–2144: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

9064. Captain Balfour replying to questions on civil aviation in the House of Common yesterday said that the Government had endeavored to give a lead in the White Paper. They wanted to abandon subsidies as soon as practicable and provided that the process could be carried out by international agreement in such a way that this country was not at a disadvantage. The Government maintained that a nation should have sovereign rights of the air over its own territory. To put forward anything else at the Chicago conference would be like a lone voice crying in the wilderness. They wanted the maximum degree of freedom in the air. In the White Paper they had laid down the four freedoms and they wanted to see the world accept them. But they were not prepared to concede them except as they were part of an international regulatory system. At Chicago they wanted to see that the interests of the British Empire were adequately looked after.

The Dominions were in agreement with the policy which was to be put forward. A civil servant would lead the British delegation at the Montreal conference which was to be a conference at the official level. To the best of his knowledge Lord Swinton would be back in ample time to study the situation and to be present at the Chicago conference. The Government’s proposals allowed subscription to an international convention to take any form a nation liked; it could have private enterprise or a state corporation. Lord Swinton would confer with whom he liked. As a Cabinet Minister he had had various papers supplied him and he would be right up to date when he arrived in this country and would have some days in hand to consult whom he wished.

There was no conception of the limitation of aircraft. They wanted some measure of agreed control of frequencies. The termination of frequencies would be based on a formula which had yet to be agreed on but the Government would like to see it based on a formula [Page 567] taking into account traffic actual and potential but not based on the supply of available aircraft. There was no truth in the rumor referred to by Lady Apsley.98 Construction of the aircraft in question was being proceeded with so far as diversion from the military effort would allow.

  1. i.e., that American opposition was preventing a British firm from building “a magnificent post-war civil air transport plane” for which plans had been ready for a year and which was “too far ahead of any design” that the Americans had. See Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 403, cols. 2760–2762.