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External Affairs

Volume 149: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1921

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I come now to the question of external affairs. The position of the Dominions in reference to external affairs has been completely revolutionised in the course of the last four years. I tried to call attention to that a few weeks ago when I made a statement. Since the War the Dominions have been given equal rights with Great Britain in the control of the foreign policy of the Empire. That was won by the aid they gave us in the Great War. I wonder what Lord Palmerston would have said if a Dominion representative had come over here in 1856, and said, "I am coming along to the Conference of Vienna." I think he would have dismissed him with polite disdain, and wondered where he came from. But the conditions were different. There was not a single platoon from the Dominions in the Crimean War. It would have been equally inconceivable that there should have been no representatives of the Dominion at Versailles or at Washington. Why? There had been a complete change in the conditions since 1856. What were they? A million men—young men, strong, brave, indomitable men—had gone from all the Dominions to help the Motherland in the hour of danger. Although they came to help the Empire in a policy which they had no share in passing, they felt that in future it was an unfair dilemma to impose upon them. They said: "You are putting us in this position—either we have to support you in a policy which we might or might not approve, or we have to desert the old country in the time of trouble. That is a dilemma in which you ought never to put us. Therefore, in future, you must consult us before the event." That was right; that was just. That was advantageous to both parties. We acceded to it gladly.