Wednesday, 11th May 1927

11th May, 1927


My dear Prime Minister,


During this week you must have been tremendously busy and also interested in the Canberra Celebrations. So far as one is able to gather from the reports in the British press, the whole of the ceremonies went off very well, apart from the deplorable flying accident. [1]

The event aroused great interest here and the press was very full of comment. I thought the ‘Times’ Special Canberra Number was excellent. In case you may not have seen them, I am enclosing three articles which I personally contributed, two of which appeared in the ‘Times’ Supplement and one in the ‘Manchester Guardian’. Two of them which I have specially marked in blue pencil are, I think, worth your personal reading. [2]


It is some time since I have sent you any report about the work of the Imperial Economic Committee, the reason being that the enquiry into fish has not been of a particularly interesting nature and also under Mackinder [3] the Committee has been tending towards stagnation.

During the past week Sir David Chadwick [4], together with myself and two M.P.s who are members of the British Delegation, have been discussing how to make the work of the Committee more effective and, as a result, Chadwick drew up some new ideas on procedure which he induced Mackinder to agree to and which have now been put before a little Sub-Committee on Procedure for consideration. I hope that, as a result, we shall succeed in making the Committee a much more effective working body in spite of the immense incubus of the Chairman.

Chadwick is certainly quite excellent and as he will be fully supported by the Committee who, while having no confidence at all in Mackinder, are gaining very considerable confidence in Chadwick, I think that the work will go ahead in a satisfactory way.

The idea will be to confine the main session of the Full Committee to a period from January to July, relegating to the Secretariat, assisted by a Permanent Standing Sub-Committee, the whole of the preparation of subjects for investigation and report. It is also proposed to take the bulk of the evidence on the various subjects under review in Sub-Committee and to reserve for the Full Committee discussions on the larger issues and the examination of only the very important witnesses.

You will realise that it is a decidedly uphill task to make the Committee a success at the present time but I feel convinced that it is essential that this should be accomplished and I intend to spare no efforts in the matter. Perhaps when you see Mr. Amery [5] in Australia, you would again take up the question with him of the personality of the Chair.

With regard to the Australian Delegation, as I have received no word from you as to any colleague for myself during the present investigation on fish and tobacco, I am assuming that you have decided not to appoint a second Australian representative during the present session. I would, however, suggest that, starting from next January or February, an attempt should be made to appoint each year someone who could collaborate with me and who could both assist the Committee and also receive valuable education which would be of value on his return to Australia.


You will probably remember that one of the Research decisions of the Empire Marketing Board was to make a grant of 4,000 per annum to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in order to enable the Director, or the Assistant Director, to visit the overseas parts of the Empire so as to advise on botanical questions and also to further effective liaison throughout the Empire.

About a week ago I received from Dr. Rivett [6] a personal letter in which he stated that the idea of the Director of Kew being able to visit the Dominions was one which was very warmly welcomed and he expressed the hope, on behalf of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, that Dr. A. W. Hill, F.R.S.

would visit Australia at an early date.

I immediately sent an extract of Dr. Rivett’s letter to Dr. Hill, who replied saying that he would particularly like to arrange to visit Australia at an early date. I am hoping that, as a result, Dr. Hill will make Australia the first place that he will visit under this new scheme and it may be possible to arrange for him to leave for Australia about the end of October.

With regard to the Tropical Research Station in Northern Queensland, it now seems possible that Dr. Martin Leake, who, until the last few weeks, has been the Director of the Imperial School of Tropical Agriculture at Trinidad but whose health the climate of Trinidad has detrimentally affected, may be available and I have been discussing with Major Walter Elliot [7] the practicability of the Empire Marketing Board offering to send Dr.

Leake to Australia in order to consult with the C.C.S.I.R. on the problems connected with the Queensland Tropical Station.

As soon as this matter has reached a slightly more advanced stage, I shall cable to Rivett for information as to whether a proposal from the Empire Marketing Board to send Dr. Leake for consultative purposes would be one which the C.C.S.I.R. would welcome.


The individual application from Schools for copies of the Highways of Empire Map and other reproductions of the Empire Marketing Board posters continue to come in at a very encouraging rate. At the present time about 8,000 individual applications have been received and it is rather interesting to note the Counties from which the bulk of the applications have come. At the moment Yorkshire stands first, Lancashire second, the County of London third and the County of Durham fourth.

In view of the immense strength of the labour movement in the County of Durham, it is very significant that more applications should have been received from Durham than from such Counties as Surrey or Warwickshire. I anticipate that, as a larger number of Headmasters learn about these reproductions, we shall get applications which will run up to about 20,000 and in that way introducing to the School a pleasant method whereby children may receive what might be described as lessons in Empire economic geography without tears.

The Empire Marketing Board is giving Mr. McCormack [8], the Premier of Queensland, a private luncheon next week and early in June will entertain the London representatives of the Overseas Empire Press.

The Empire Marketing Board has been doing no newspaper advertising for the last six weeks. We are starting again this month and, as a preliminary, full page advertisements will appear in the ‘Daily Herald’ (Labour) and in the more important Labour weeklies drawing attention to what Empire development means to the working classes of this country with special reference to trade with Australia and New Zealand. This Labour copy has been prepared by Mr. Tom Johnston [9] M.P. and myself and it was a source of great satisfaction to me to find how keenly Johnston cooperated in the matter.


On Friday, the 6th May, I went with Dr. Orr [11] to inspect certain new methods of treating grass land and also the conserving of young grass at Sir Alfred Mond’s place at Romsey. We had lunch at Mond’s palatial residence and after lunch Mond walked round his home farm with me discussing his recent speeches on the subject of free trade within the Empire.

I hope that I convinced him of the futility of preaching the gospel of the abolition of tariffs as between Great Britain and the Dominions and of the practicability of a modification of his scheme in the direction which I mentioned in my last letter to you.

Mond promised to send me further information about his ideas and asked me whether I would then comment upon them. I am, however, not quite sure how far Mond is a person whom one should use in this connection. He is personally very unpopular in the House and, although everybody recognises his ability, I found that many good judges regard him as a definitely dangerous man. It is, for instance, freely suggested that his commercial ties with Germany are very much stronger than appear on the surface.


The preliminary trade figures for April were published last night and I have prepared a statement about the 4 months trade of 1927 as compared with 1924, 1925 and 1926, which I am sure you will find of very considerable interest. On one sheet I have had set out the actual trade and on another the imports into and exports from Great Britain of manufactured goods both on the recorded values and also on values taken at the 1924 price level.

You will notice the steady growth of the imports of manufactured goods which have increased by 45% since 1924 and the much less satisfactory progress in the export of manufactured goods which, although they show a slight improvement on 1924, yet record a decrease of 6.3% since 1925. These figures appear to me to show that the case which we have been presenting is sound and that the cheerful anticipation of the restoration of British prosperity through the normal revival of world trade is an anticipation based on most unsatisfactory premises.

On this general question of trade, I am enclosing some rather interesting notes from the ‘Times Trade Supplement’ in which the statement issued by the British Delegation to Geneva is contrasted with the figures that I have been responsible for lately. [12]

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Parliament House, Canberra, was opened by the Duke of York on 9 May 1927. The ceremonies were marred by the crash of an aircraft taking part in a flying display.

2 The Times and the Manchester Guardian published special sections on 9 May featuring articles on all aspects of Australian life.

Only one article, ‘Trade Within the Empire-the Market in Great Britain-Effect of Voluntary Preference’, in the Times, was signed by McDougall. His other contributions were ‘Storage Problems and Transport’, in the Times, and ‘Organising Australia’s Development’, in the Manchester Guardian.

3 Sir Halford Mackinder, Chairman of the Imperial Economic Committee.

4 Secretary to the Imperial Economic Committee.

5 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs. He visited Australia in October and November 1927, during a tour of the Dominions.

6 David Rivett, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

7 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland; Chairman of the Research Committee of the Empire Marketing Board.

8 William McCormack, Premier, Chief Secretary and Treasurer of Queensland 1925-29.

9 Labour M.P.; Editor of Forward, a Glasgow labour paper.

10 Conservative M.P.; Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.

11 J. B. Orr, Director of the Rowett Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition, Aberdeen.

12 Times Imperial and Foreign Trade and Engineering Supplement, 7 May. McDougall had given a higher percentage for British exports to the Empire. It was explained in the article that the delegation’s figure included re-exports.