560.AL/2–2346: Telegram

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

us urgent

2233. For Wilcox and Brown from Hawkins and Catudal.

We had long talk with officials from Board of Trade, Ministry of Works and Conference Department of Foreign Office regarding site for preliminary trade meeting. Board Trade is very reluctant to consider London for site for several reasons particularly that if meeting [Page 1293] were held in London it would throw a double burden on their officials who would find it practically impossible to escape from their desks.
Accordingly British have diligently explored possibilities of holding meeting in a provincial town, but they would have a most serious problem of rehabilitating suitable hotels (which have in most cases been used for military purposes) in site chosen in view of acute shortage of labor and other difficulties. Oxford was abandoned because not available for more than two months. Thereupon, the possibilities of Brighton, Bournemouth, Blackpool and Southport were all investigated and for one reason or another each has been found impossible within time available. However, Ministry of Works people have heretofore been working on assumption meeting would take place around June 15.
Liesching indicated that the British would consider London as last resort if necessary rather than abandon idea of holding meeting in England but they would be most reluctant to do so. However, regardless of whether held in London or elsewhere, British feel it essential that a definite date be fixed immediately in order to give them time to make the necessary arrangements. If the meeting were delayed until August 1 or September 1 it would probably be possible to complete necessary rehabilitation work in one of provincial towns mentioned (probably Brighton or Southport) if they have notice at once.
British have asked us to get a decision from Washington on a definite date within a week in order to give them time to plan and make arrangements. Despite the desirability of holding preliminary trade conference at as early a date as possible, we are impelled, if we must fix on a definite date at this time, to suggest September 1 as perhaps the earliest date which we could feel reasonably certain would not have to be postponed. We consider that the British request for an immediate decision is a reasonable one in view of their manpower and other difficulties. The September 1 date would give sufficient leeway to permit delaying the issuance of public notices so as not to adversely complicate other current matters and would also give all countries available additional time for preliminary work. The Department will, of course be in a better position than we are to take into account all the factors involved. [Hawkins and Catudal.]