Advisory Committee on International Questions

Scope and Content

Memoranda drawn up by the Committee on specific subjects to be presented to the Party's National Executive Committee and guide thinking on foreign affairs.

Administrative / Biographical History

When the International Committee (along with the Advisory Committee on Imperial Questions) were formed in 1918, a criticism often made of the Labour Party was that it had no background or expertise in "foreign" affairs. Both committees were established to give advice to Labour's National Executive Committee. The actual phrase used was:

"To consider, report and advise upon International policy and all questions of an international character, and to watch and advise upon current international developments. Further to consider and advise on international questions of an economic character, jointly with the Committee on Trade policy and finance, or through a joint sub-committee".

The aim was to develop "the formation of an instructed, co-ordinated and democratic foreign policy – a thing that Great Britain has never yet possessed". A secondary aim was to provide Labour speakers and publicists with information and "ammunition" on the subject of foreign affairs.

In many cases a paper on a specific topic would be drawn up by a committee member and then commented upon. The revised paper would go to NEC and would come back as party policy. Many of these documents were drafted by Leonard Woolf, D. Graham Pole, GDH Cole, Lewis Namier, Capt. Haden-Guest, Arnold Toynbee, George Lansbury and Sidney Webb, amongst others.