740.00119 Control (Italy)/7–1045

The British Embassy to the Department of State


His Majesty’s Government have carefully considered the State Department’s Aide-Mémoire 740.00119 (Control) (Italy)—5/1545 of May 26th and the proposals for an approach to the Italian Governments in regard to local Government or Regional decentralization, which were communicated by the United States Embassy in London on June 6th. His Majesty’s Government have also given further consideration to the State Department’s proposal for a joint Anglo-American statement about the “institutional question” and to their own suggestion for an Anglo-American statement welcoming the holding of early elections. All these proposals have been affected by the formation of a new Italian Government, by Signor Parri’s inaugural broadcast address, and by the new Government’s programme announced on June 26th.

As regards the State Department’s proposals concerning local Government, while His Majesty’s Government do not question the desirability of the Italian Government taking early steps to reform [Page 979] and decentralize the machinery of local Government and put this on a proper democratic basis, they already had grave doubts as to the desirability of Allied Government “advising and urging” the Italian Government to take any particular steps in that direction or to institute any particular measure of reform, as the United States proposals advocated should be done by the United States Ambassador in Rome with the co-operation of his British and Soviet colleagues. It seemed rather that it must be for the Italian Government or for the Constituent Assembly to decide what specific steps should be taken to reform local government, and that any action by the Allied Governments beyond indicating to the Italian Government in general terms the advisability of giving early consideration to the problem of local government would lead to difficulties and be liable to misinterpretation.
His Majesty’s Government are fortified in this view by the fact that the new Italian Government in their programme speak of “the setting up of local representative bodies appointed by the people’s will” and of “municipal and provincial administrations being speedily reformed by means of elections and a large measure of regional autonomy”. This seems a clear indication that the new government intend to proceed to the early reform or decentralization of the local machinery, and His Majesty’s Government are disposed to think therefore that action in the sense suggested by the State Department has been rendered superfluous. They would be glad to learn what action the State Department propose to take, though His Majesty’s Government desire to make it clear that they would not feel able to instruct Sir N. Charles to do more than impress on the Italian Government in quite general terms the importance of early action to reform and decentralize the local government machinery.
As regards the further proposals contained in the State Department’s Aide-Mémoire His Majesty’s Government are very doubtful whether any statement or statements on the lines suggested are now either necessary or desirable in the light of the new Italian Government’s own pronouncements. The Italian Government have pledged themselves to summon a Constituent Assembly, to set up the necessary electoral machinery for this purpose and to proceed to democratic reforms. For the Allied Governments at this moment to issue a statement on the lines suggested in the State Department’s Aide-Mémoire might imply a lack of confidence in the value of the assurances of the Italian Government or in their ability to implement them. If any statement of the kind is to be issued, His Majesty’s Government feel it should be quite short and should be limited to taking note with satisfaction of the Italian Government’s undertakings about elections, and to saying that the Allied Governments for their part would naturally [Page 980] be glad to see these elections held as soon as practicable since they are anxious to see the terms of the Moscow Declaration fulfilled.
His Majesty’s Government do not think it necessary for such a statement to contain any reference to the institutional question. Signor Parri has already given the usual pledge not to raise the matter and his action has not, it is understood, aroused comment in Italy. To make any reference to the matter in a public statement would, therefore, seem unnecesary and only likely to attract undue importance to the matter.
His Majesty’s Government hope that the United States Government will agree that in the altered circumstances arising from the new Italian Government’s own announcements any statement by the Allied Governments is now unnecessary. If, however, the State Department attach importance to issuing some statement, His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to agree to a brief statement on the lines set out at the end of paragraph four above. They have an open mind as to whether such a statement should be issued at once in the name of the United States and United Kingdom Governments, or after the three power Conference in the name of the United States, United Kingdom and U.S.S.R. Governments. It is suggested that there might be some advantage in the latter course.