Earlier in the session, Mr. Speaker, in response to a question from the hon. member for Russell (Mr. Murphy), I gave briefly some of the subjects that had been presented for discussion at the proposed Prime Ministers' Conference to be held in London in June of this year, and I intimated that should the agenda become at any time more complete or definite I would feel it my duty to so advise the House.
Last October I concurred in a proposal made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom that there should be held not later than June next a meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Empire. Since the last meeting at the Peace Conference in Paris there has been no opportunity for personal and direct consultation between the Prime Ministers on the broad issues of policy in such external matters as may be of common concern. Views were exchanged more than a year ago concerning the holding of such a meeting during 1920; but it was concluded at the time that this would be impracticable; and the same conclusion was reached when, later in the year, one of the other Dominion Prime Ministers suggested a meeting immediately following the first Assembly of the League of Nations. It now appears that the middle of June next is a feasible date for all concerned.
The proposal was made and accepted last October on the basis that the June meeting would be of a special and preliminary character having in view the necessity of discussing-
(1) Preparation for the special Constitutional Conference contemplated in Resolution 9 of the Imperial War Conference of 1917 to be held at a later date, this pre-
paratory discussion to include such questions as the meeting place, date, composition and agenda.
At the same time it was considered that the June meeting would afford an opportunity for discussing certain other matters of common concern which are of an urgent or important nature, such as-
(2) A general review of the main features of foreign relations, particularly as they affect the Dominions.
(3) The question of the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, which is indeed only a part of the general subject of foreign relations, but which is especially urgent since under the terms of the Alliance a decision should be reached this year.
(4) Preliminary consideration, preparatory for the proposed Constitutional Conference, of some working method for arriving at a common understanding as to policy in such external affairs as concern all parts of the Empire.
Since that time various other subjects have been suggested for inclusion in the agenda of the June meeting. These subjects, however, in view of their technical character and of the fact that they are not of the same urgency, would seem to belong to the agenda of the Imperial Conference proper whenever its next regular session is held; and since it is very desirable that the special meeting of prime ministers in June-which is not a meeting of the Imperial Conference-should not be of a prolonged character, it seems unlikely that any considerable attention can be given to such questions, which represent an extension of the original programme. The Canadian Government have already expressed a doubt as to the inclusion of some of these questions.
These additional questions, the first two of which were proposed by the Governments of Australia and India respectively, and the remainder by the British Government, are as follows:
(5) Inter-Imperial communications by land, sea and air.
(6) The position of British Indians in other parts of the Empire.
(7) Naval, military and air defence.
(8) The recommendations of the Overseas Settlement Conference recently held in London.
(9) The development of civil aviation.
(10) The reports of the Imperial Shipping Committee appointed as a result of resolutions 11 and 24 of the Imperial War Conference of 1918. '
(11) The findings of the Technical Commission appointed to discuss the question of Imperial Wireless communications.
(12) The question of German reparations, including the division as between the various parts of the British Empire of any amounts received.
(13) Imperial Statistical Bureau.
(14) Imperial patents.
In these circumstances it will be seen that the proposed agenda cannot be regarded as a hard and fast arrangement. It seems most likely that no subjects will be discussed that are not included in the above list; but on the other hand it seems most unlikely that all of these questions can be taken up, or indeed, in the view of the Canadian Government, that more than the first four will be closely discussed. Circumstances may develop which will render conclusions desirable on some of the other subjects. In respect of many of them, it would seem that the meeting could do no more than take cognizance of proposals to be considered later.
Later on as the result of the communications that passed between the leader of the Opposition and myself, I agreed that a day should be set for discussion-I think I agreed previously as well-or for an opportunity for discussion to be offered to any hon. members of this House who desired to make observations on the agenda or on the course that the representative or representatives of Canada should pursue at the conference, I now give notice that on Wednesday the House will be moved into Committee of Supply and such opportunity will then be afforded.
Subtopic: STATEMENT BY RIGHT HON. ARTHUR MEIGHEN