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Letter from Lady Pethick-Lawrence to Lord Pethick-Lawrence


Fourways. May 14./46

Dearest of All?

Another most interesting letter from you dated May 5 {1}. In a day or two we expect to hear definite tidings of the present situation—the deadlock for the present in Simla, and a forecast concerning future plans. In the meantime we possess our souls in patience. As I told you in advance, Christopher {2} spent the first of the May Festivals {3} with me. It was a perfectly heavenly day, the peak of the early summer which I look for about the 18th or 20th of the month, but which this year came a week earlier. Lydia & I met Chris at Guildford at noon. May was away for the weekend[.] We had a delicious little Feast, a chicken with breadsauce that would have delighted your taste, & asparagus followed by a perfect gooseberry tart with cream. The gooseberries are quite large—we shall have to relieve the bushes of them, & start bottling in a few days. We drank to you with sherry! After lunch we opened the West Verandah wide & sat in the sun. Chris was in a very happy mood, all smiles & laughter—very sunburnt & rejoicing in a lazy time. (He is working single handed on his Farm. Cannot get Labour, or accommodation for Labour.) But for a few hours he reverted to his real “Diogenes” self. I was that way myself when young—& knew what it was to desire nothing but sun & solitude! For that afternoon Chris was like the Baby in his Pram, that only wanted to be “a buttercup in Auntie Emmeline’s garden”[.] After tea we took him back to Guildford to catch an early train to Petersfield to feed his animals, and on the way home, we called to see the ecstatic little family of 3 Wilkinsons & one pretty little Nurse, & were in time to see the Infant in his Bath beholding all the wonders in company with his adoring parents! The Child is in splendid condition—sunbrowned all over & full of joy & vitality. He is much improved in looks. They have some really lovely photographs of him—one in particular, a perfect picture.

We came home for supper, & I fell into a very sentimental mood & should have written to you that evening but for the fact that I had sent you a long letter {4} by the mornings post.

But Sunday evening was the climax. On Monday the North East wind began to blow, & today the world Clad† in full summer vegetation strives under a blast that is far from kind.

Dorothy Plowman came to lunch today, on her way back from visiting her Mother at Worthing. She is full of life & interest & is preparing new volumes of Mark’s poetry & essays. She has a very keen publisher in Daker, & the Letters have been well received {5}. On June 6th I have been asked to speak about him with Middleton Murray† {6}. Dorothy was greatly interested to hear all about you & specially sent you her love. Piers is engaged in extremely interesting work, connected with Theatre. I have joined the Guildford Repertory Theatre Club & had taken tickets for a Shaw Matinée this afternoon, but of course I ’phoned the Director that I could not come (in case anyone else could use my tickets.)

I had a most interesting letter from Madeleine Doty this morning. She has actually pulled off her plan, & has 45 College Students for Geneva coming on Sept 1st. Will she I wonder get the L. N[.] Buildings & create an International University!! I shouldn’t wonder!

May 15—I received 2 letters from you this morning—May 8 & May 10 {7}—and am thrilled to know that we may have you with us again by May 26. Of course one cannot count on anything. I shall await with eagerness the promised announcement from the P. M. in the H. of C. tomorrow. All the snapshots in the Press are excellent. Joan Coxeter called to see me last evening, looking radiant & lovely. I read the descriptive parts of your letter {8} from Kashmir & Simla. She was thrilled & sent you her very special love. May arrived this morning after a week in London. She has at last had a surgical belt fitted, & is more comfortable than she has lately been. We all send our love. And this one sends her heart & all.

Your own.

It strikes me that you will have to keep all my letters in a big envelope (as I keep yours) to read as light literature in the plane on the way home!


{1} PETH 6/166.

{2} Christopher Budgett, her nephew. His farm, mentioned later on, was Lords Farm, Sheet, near Petersfield.

{3} 12th.

{4} Not extant.

{5} Andrew Dakers Ltd had issued Dorothy Plowman’s edition of her husband’s letters in 1944, under the title Bridge into the Future.

{6} Middleton Murry’s book Adam and Eve: An Essay towards a New and Better Society had been published by Andrew Dakers Ltd. in 1944.

{7} PETH 6/167 and 6/168.

{8} Possibly a slip for ‘letters’.

† Sic.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

The Cabinet Mission have been refreshed by their stay in Kashmir. Encloses a copy of a proposal put before Jinnah, and gives an account of negotiations on the composition of an interim Government.



25th April, 1946.

Personal and Secret

My dear Clem,

Your good wishes for our Kashmir trip were amply fulfilled. We had a thorough break physical and mental and a most enjoyable time. The Maharaja and his Prime Minister were most assiduous in providing us with entertainment.

While there, we made up our minds to try one more expedient to achieve agreement which Stafford put before Jinnah informally last night. I enclose a copy of this and you will see that it is a partial return to the Cripps proposals of 1942. Jinnah was noncommittal and there is a remote possibility that it will find acceptance by both sides. Otherwise it will go into the limbo of fruitless efforts.

Failing success in that we shall revert to the need for formulating proposals of our own. These will recite our attempts to obtain agreement and make an award which we shall submit to you before publication.

Apart from the communal difficulty over Pakistan, there will arise certain grave difficulties over the Interim Government which I feel it is important you should appreciate in advance. The first point is the composition of the Executive (communally and otherwise) on which I need not dilate. The second point is the quantum of power which the Executive will possess.

I have told Congress that in the interim period the existing constitution must remain. That is to say that constitutional safeguards will continue—the Viceroy’s discretionary powers and his power of veto and the Secretary of State’s overriding authority. The reaction of Maulana Azad (President of Congress) to this announcement was one of violent dissent. “Plenary power must be transferred immediately”. “The India Office must cease to exist forthwith”. “All contracts must be instantly transferred to the ministerial Government”.

I explained very politely to Azad (too politely the Viceroy told me afterwards) and later to Gandhi how unreal their attitude was. Not only must the Government of India operate under the existing constitution until it is changed by Parliament, but the vast machinery of Government of the India Office could not physically be transferred to a newly installed Government in India in a moment. I could not divest myself of my responsibility for the I. C. S. and others without a proper agreement. Other matters will also require adjustment etc. One of the functions of the Interim Government will be to reach a settlement for orderly transfer of powers at the proper time. I appeared to make no impression and I am convinced this matter is likely to be a serious bone of contention when the Pakistan issue is finally settled.

On the principle of the matter I do not see how we can possibly give way particularly if Jinnah does not come into the Executive or is in a minority on it for in such a case the Viceroy’s veto will be essential to protect Muslim interests in the interim period. But it may be that Congress would be willing to accept some comforting assurances regarding the use of the powers of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State. Stafford and I are disposed, when the time arrives, to consider carefully how far we can go to meet Congress susceptibilities in this matter. Alexander will probably not dissent from our view. The Viceroy appears to think that he can stand pat on an unequivocal refusal to budge an inch.

It is plain to me that if and when the Interim Executive comes into being (with or without any such assurances) the position of the Viceroy during the year or more of its existence will be one of extraordinary delicacy. He may be periodically threatened with the resignation of his ministers, and all the time the essential administration will have to be carried on.


P.S. Since the above was typed Nehru has told Stafford that there would not be the least chance of Congress agreeing to the enclosed proposal.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

Urges him to say something ‘positive and constructive’ about Russia and the hydrogen bomb in his forthcoming broadcast.



16th. February, 1950

My dear Clem,

May I venture to hope that you will find it possible to say something positive and constructive about the question of Russia and the Hydrogen Bomb in your broadcast on Saturday night.

I am fullu† conscious that it is much easier for a Leader of Opposition to throw out superficially hopeful suggestions than for the responsible head of the Government to expound a carefully thoughtout† statesmanlike course. Nevertheless there is among men and women of all parties widespread anxiety at the grave potentialities of the latest scientific discoveries and I am convinced that they will not be satisfied by merely stating that we are waiting for a sign of a change of heart on the part of Russia, and still less by the attempts in to-day’s “Daily Herald” to ridicule the need for a new approach to the question.

Can you not at the least say that if confirmed in power you will take the earliest opportunity of discussing with the American President (or Government) in the light of the latest scientific developments whether the time has come for a new approach to the grave problems that threaten international peace.

Yours ever,

All power to your elbow & personal good wishes

Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee,
10, Downing Street,
London, S.W.1.


† Sic.

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

Proposes various measures in connection with the War Savings Bill.



21st. August. 1940.

Dear Clem,

I had a talk with Kingsley yesterday about the War Savings Bill, and as you probably know we are proposing at the Party Meeting to-day to appoint a small committee to go into this.

As you will remember, this question arose out of the talks that we had with the Policy Committee of the T.U.C. regarding the Keynes plan and the T.U.C. rightly maintained that before they could possibly associate themselves with the recommendation to the workers to save during the war, they must be assured that such savings would not be used when the war was over either by the employers or by the State to reduce the position of the workers.

It is therefore essential in my mind, that it should be new savings and not transferred capital that should form the basis of the Government promise, and any proposal to transform the Bill into a general disregard of all savings, including pre-war, would entirely fail to meet the case though possibly some arrangement might be come to with regard to holdings converted up till last week’s debate.

On the other hand, I am quite sure that the real gravamen of the heat developed in the Labour ranks, is due to our old enemy the Household Means Test, which so long as it remains, will be a constant irritant.

I therefore suggested to Kingsley, that he should seriously consider some gesture with regard to this vital matter and I would like you and he and Arthur to put your heads together to see whether something of this kind could not be done. I am turning over the matter in my own mind. I do not believe that it necessarily need cost a very great deal if it were done on reasonable lines.

I know of course, that the Labour Party have maintained that there ought to be no Means Test of any kind at any rate for Unemployment Assistance, but I do not think that this can be defended either for Unemployment Assistance or for Old Age Pensions. On the other hand, it is humiliating that a member of the household of the applicant should have to undergo a detailed examination of all his resources including savings before the grant to the old person or unemployed living with him, is considered. After the holiday is over, this matter must be faced and dealt with.

I hope you will get something of a change while Parliament is not sitting.

Yours sincerely,

Rt. Hon. C. R. Attlee, M.P.,
House of Commons,

P.S. In turning out my papers & clearing my desk I came across the enclosed which came a few days back. I cannot help feeling it is a most valuable suggestion


The postscript is handwritten.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

Margesson is disappointed that the compromises negotiated at the Speaker’s Conference have not been incorporated in the new Representation of the People Bill.



17th. February, 1948

Dear Clem,

I have been reading the account of the debate in the House of Commons yesterday.

You will remember that I was the leader of the Labour Party group in the Speaker’s Conference; and that it was I who negotiated with Margesson the compromises to which I obtained the consent of our group.

These compromises included a large number of points, among others the redistribution of seats, the University representation, the business vote, and the City of London.

The understanding was that if and when the subject matter of the Conference came before the House of Commons that both sides would support the findings of the Conference, and this was done.

Nothing was ever said about the length of time that should elapse before a further Representation of the People Bill might be introuduced†, and neither side gave any undertaking that in a fresh Parliament further changes should not be introduced.

A few days ago Margesson took me aside for a little talk on the issue and expressed regret that the Government had found it necessary to depart from the compromises of the Conference. He said that he had not any strong feelings about the City of London but he did think that the University seats would have been allowed to stand. I said in reply that I did not consider that any breach of faith whatever was involved in the present Bill, and to this Margesson readily assented, but said that did not alter his feeling of regret that our compromise was so soon to be modified.

I think you will like to have this background though I do not suppose you will need to mention me at all. In any case my talk with Margesson was of course strictly private and confidential; but if you feel it necessary to say anything about me either by name or inference, you are quite at liberty to say that I have told you there was nothing said in the Conference or implied in the pourparlers between the two sides binding either party not to make further modifications in a later Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. Since dictating the above in reply to “The Evening Standard” London Diarist gave him the substance of the 2nd half of the last paragraph.

Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee, M.P.,
Prime Minister & Minister for Defence,
House of Commons.


† Sic.

Letter from Clement Attlee to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

10 Downing Street, Whitehall.—Accepts his resignation, and thanks him for carrying on during the difficult period of the change in the Viceroyalty. Praises his work as Secretary of State and as a member of the Cabinet.

Letter from Clement Attlee to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

10 Downing Street, Whitehall.—Thanks him for his letter (of resignation). Is grateful that he agreed to carry on during the last few months. Praises the courage, endurance, and skill he showed during the mission to India, and thanks him for his support and counsel as a member of the Government.

Letter from L. S. Amery to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

112 Eaton Square, S.W.1.—His own view of the circumstances under which Churchill became Prime Minister has been corroborated by Brendan Bracken.



112 Eaton Square, S.W.1.
12th October, 1948.

My dear Pethick,

I shall be interested to see your letter in The Spectator. Curiously enough I had information directly contrary to your conclusion only three days ago. Brendan Bracken told a friend of mine that on the evening of May 9th 1940 Attlee told him that he would be willing to serve under Halifax but not under Winston. Bracken vigorously argued about this and ended by shaking Attlee considerably. In any case the decision, if it had been subjected to a Parliamentary vote, would certainly have gone to Halifax as the overwhelming majority of the Conservatives would have preferred him, as a safer man. Don’t forget that up to the last Winston was widely distrusted on all sides.

Yours sincerely,
L S Amery

The Rt. Hon. Lord Pethick-Lawrence of Peaslake.

I fear the above is confidential so I cannot use it to reply to your letter!

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