27th November, 1931.
My dear Clark,
The Statute of Westminster Bill is safely through - or rather I should say I hope it will be next Tuesday - after tremendous battles in the Commons and in the Lords. The situation was really quite serious on Friday, after Winston's most powerful but mischievous speech, which stampeded all the younger Conservatives. We got to work at once with the Press and really drove into them how serious were the issues at stake. They played up magnificently, and even the "Daily Express" completely came round within twenty-four hours, which was something of a feat.
In the meantime Harding had been very busy with Dulanty, and as a result Dulanty crossed over to Dublin and saw McGilligan and Cosgrave. The fruit of his visit was seen in the letter from Cosgrave to the Prime Minister, which Thomas read with great effect on Tuesday's Debate.
As a result of all this, the atmosphere on Tuesday was entirely different, and two powerful and excellent speeches by J.H. and Baldwin reinforced by an appeal from Austen Chamberlain completely brought the House round. J.H. demolished Winston by a most telling quotation from Winston himself when resisting a somewhat similar amendment on the Irish Treaty Bill. I have never seen a man more crushed or more angry. He insisted on going to a division, but was heavily defeated by 350 to 50.
We expected great difficulty also in the Lords, but strong representations made to Salisbury on the night before led him to veer round. In his speech immediately following the Lord Chancellor's, while making it clear that he was not enamoured of the Bill, he urged on the House that they would be making a great mistake in rejecting it, and in particular urged that it would be unwise to attempt to include in the Bill any clause dealing with the Irish Free State.
I hope therefore that the passage of the Bill is now assured, and that it will become law in the course of the next few days.
To add to our other troubles, New Zealand have gravely embarrassed us at the last moment by a request that they might be taken clean out of the Bill altogether. We have pointed out to them that this would mean that they would be a Colony and not a Dominion, and further have urged that it would be calamitous to the future of the Empire if an impression were to get abroad that New Zealand attached so little value to the preamble about the Crown that she did not think it necessary to be associated with it. I hope therefore that they will give way.
This is a very hurried note, but I hope to send you next week a more considered memorandum giving the story of the last few days.
|Top of page | Close|