[This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty’s Government.]



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SECRET 12


IMPERIAL CONFERENCE


1926

INTER-IMPERIAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE



REPORT, PROCEEDINGS AND MEMORANDA


E (I.R./26) Series

(WITH SUBJECT INDEX)



[This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty’s Government.]
Printed for the Imperial Conference. November 1926

__________________________________________________________________________________________



SECRET Copy No. 142

  1. 129.



IMPERIAL CONFERENCE, 1926.

_____________________________


Inter-Imperial Relations Committee.

_____________________________




REPORT.

CONTENTS.

________

Page


I.INTRODUCTION 1
II. STATUS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND THE DOMINIONS 1
III. SPECIAL POSITION OF INDIA 2
IV. RELATIONS BETWEEN THE VARIOUS PARTS OF THE

BRITISH EMPIRE 2



(a.) The Title of His Majesty the King 3

(b.) Position of Governors-General 3

(c.) Operation of Dominion Legislation 4

(d.) Merchant Shipping Legislation 5

(e.) Appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council 6
V.RELATIONS WITH FOREIGN COUNTRIES

(a.) Procedure in Relation to Treaties 6

(b.) Representation at International Conference 8

(c.) General Conduct of Foreign Policy 9

(d.) Issue of Exequaturs to Foreign Consuls in the Dominions 9



  1. Channel of Communication between Dominion Governments

and Foreign Governments 10
VI.SYSTEM OF COMMUNICATION AND CONSULTATION 10
VII. PARTICULAR ASPECTS OF FOREIGN RELATIONS

DISCUSSED BY COMMITTEE –



(a.) Compulsory Arbitration in International Disputes 11

  1. Adherence of the United States of America to the Protocol establishing
    the Permanent Court of International Justice 11

(c.)...The Policy of Locarno 11

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IINTRODUCTION.

We were appointed at the meeting of the Imperial Conference on the 25th October, 1926, to investigate all the questions on the Agenda affecting Inter-Imperial Relations. Our discussions on these questions have been long and intricate. We found, on examination, that they involved consideration of fundamental principles affecting the relations of the various parts of the British Empire inter se, as well as the relations of each part to foreign countries. For such examination the time at our disposal has been all too short. Yet we Hope that we may have laid a foundation on which subsequent Conferences may build.

II. STATUS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND THE DOMINIONS.

The Committee are of opinion that nothing would be gained by attempting to lay down a Constitution for the British Empire. Its widely scattered parts have very different characteristics, very

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different histories, and are at very different stages of evolution; while, considered as a whole, it defies classification and bears no real resemblance to any other political organisation which now exists or has ever yet been tried. There is, however, one most important element in it which, from a strictly constitutional point of view, has now, as regards all vital matters, reached its full development—we refer to the group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions. Their position and mutual relation may be readily defined. They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

now, as regards all vital matters, reached its full developmentwe

A foreigner endeavouring to understand the true character of the British Empire by the aid of this formula alone would tempted to think that it was devised rather to make mutual interference impossible than to make mutual co-operation easy.

Such a criticism, however, completely ignores the historic situation. The rapid evolution of the Oversea Dominions during the last fifty years has involved many complicated adjustments of old political machinery to changing conditions. The tendency towards equality of status was both right and inevitable. Geographical and other conditions made this impossible of attainment by the way of federation. The only alternative was by the way of autonomy; and along this road it has been steadily sought. Every self-governing member of the Empire is now the master of its destiny. In fact, if not always in form, it is subject to no compulsion whatever.

But no account, however accurate, of the negative relations in which Great Britain and the Dominions stand to each other can do more than express a portion of the truth. The British Empire is not founded upon negations. It depends essentially, if not formally, on positive ideals. Free institutions are its life-blood. Free co-operation is its instrument. Peace, security and progress are among its objects. Aspects of all these great themes have been discussed at the present Conference; excellent results have been thereby obtained. And though every Dominion is now, and must always remain, the sole judge of the nature and extent of its co-operation, no common cause will, in our opinion, be thereby imperilled.

Equality of status, so far as Britain and the Dominions are concerned, is thus the root principle governing our Inter-Imperial Relations. But the principles of equality and similarity, appropriate to status, do not universally extend to function. Here we require something more than immutable dogmas. For example, to deal with questions of diplomacy and questions of defence, we require also flexible machinerymachinery which can, from time to time, be adapted to the changing circumstances of the world. This subject also has occupied out attention. The rest of this report will show how we have endeavoured not only to state political theory, but to apply it to our common needs.

IIISPECIAL POSITION OF INDIA.

It will be noted that in the previous paragraphs we have made no mention of India. Our reason for limiting their scope to Great Britain and the Dominions is that the position of India in the Empire is already defined by the Government of India Act, 1919. We would, nevertheless, recall that by Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference, 1917, due recognition was given to the important position held by India in the British Commonwealth. Where, in this Report, we have had occasion to consider the position of India, we have made particular reference to it.

IV.RELATIONS BETWEEN THE VARIOUS PARTS OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE.

Existing administrative, legislative, and judicial forms are admittedly not wholly in accord with the position as described in

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Section II of this Report. This is inevitable, since most of these forms date back to a time well antecedent to the present stage of constitutional development. Our first task then was to examine these forms with special reference to any cases where the want of adaptation of practice to principle caused, or might be thought to cause inconvenience in the conduct of Inter-Imperial Relations.



(a.)The Title of His Majesty the King.

The title of His Majesty the King is of special importance and concern to all parts of His Majesty’s Dominions. Twice within the last fifty years has the Royal Title been altered to suit changed conditions and constitutional developments.

The present title, which is that proclaimed under the Royal Titles Act of 1901, is as follows: —

“George V, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.”

Some time before the Conference met, it had been recognised that this form of title hardly accorded with the altered state of affairs arising from the establishment of the Irish Free State as a Dominion. It had been further ascertained that it would be in accordance with His Majesty’s wished that any recommendation for change should be submitted to him as the result of the discussion at the Conference.

We are unanimously of the opinion that a slight change is desirable, and we recommend that, subject to His Majesty’s approval, the necessary legislative action should be taken to secure that His Majesty’s title should henceforward read: 

“George V, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.”




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