Thursday, 4th August 1927

4th August, 1927


My dear Prime Minister,


I am forwarding, under separate cover, the final draft of the Fish Report. I do not anticipate that you will feel inclined to spend much time reading it until it reaches you in the printed form. The text has now gone for printing and it is anticipated that it will be ready for issue on about the 1st September. I may possibly be able to obtain printed copies for despatch to you a little earlier.

Should you feel inclined to spend any time looking at the report in its draft form, I would suggest that the most important paragraphs are those from No. 72-97, dealing with research and organisation, paragraphs 125-134, particularly No. 134, which deal with fish meal, and paragraphs 139-142 where the Australian Fisheries are very briefly touched upon. The summary of conclusions and recommendations at the end of the report is full and gives the gist of the report in a few pages. I am sending copies by today’s mail to Gepp [1] and to Rivett [2] but am telling them both that this draft must be regarded as secret and that, under no circumstances, must any reference be made to it in the press until the printed copies arrive.


During August there will not be any meetings of its two Main Committees. There are, however, two Sub-Committees which are continuing to function, namely the Press and Poster Sub-Committee of the Main Publicity Committee, and also a new Sub-Committee, which has only so far held 3 meetings, which has been set up to deal with the important and interesting subject of agricultural economics.

I am the Chairman of this Sub-Committee and the Members consist of the Representative for India on the Empire Marketing Board [3], Mr. Orwin [4], who is in charge of agricultural economics at Oxford, Mr. Venn [5], who holds a similar position at Cambridge, Mr. Enfield [6], of the Ministry of Agriculture, and Mr. Guild [7], of the National Farmers’ Union.

Our immediate purpose is to draw up a report on agricultural economics from an Imperial point of view for presentation to the Imperial Agricultural Conference in October. At the first meeting we had a much larger body, all the available experts being present. It became obvious to me, both at this first large meeting and the second meeting of my smaller Sub-Committee, that the very vaguest ideas were held even by the economists as to the real meaning of agricultural economics and I made my Committee stick to the question of defining the scope of agricultural economics so far as the Empire is concerned. We, therefore, arrived at a list of all the subjects that might usefully be regarded as falling within the scope of agricultural economics and then proceeded yesterday to decide as to which of these subjects could be dealt with on an Imperial basis.

By the next mail I hope to be able to send you some more information on this subject, which I feel sure you will realise is one of very great importance to Australia.


It has been a great pleasure to meet Sir George Pearce and I have had two or three short talks with him since his arrival. He told me that he was making a tour in the North of England and asked me for some suggestions in regard to speeches.

I told him that, in my opinion, it would be useful to recognise the changing atmosphere in this country to Imperial questions and to express the great satisfaction of the Commonwealth Government of the way in which the British people were at last beginning to realise the significance and meaning of Empire development. I am quite sure that something of this sort would be not only appreciated but would, also serve a very useful purpose today.

I have told Sir George that Major Walter Elliot [9] will be one of the British Delegation to Geneva and I am trying to arrange for Elliot to call and see Sir George before they both leave for Geneva. I hope that at Geneva they will make an opportunity to have several talks about the development of scientific research as between the Commonwealth Council for Scientific & Industrial Research and the Empire Marketing Board.


The Dominions Office informed me yesterday of the recent cables that had been interchanged on this subject and I was very glad to hear from them that you felt that Amery’s [10] visit will afford some excellent excuse for a temporary postponement of the Business Delegation.

I gather that Lord Lovat [11], who, as you fully realise, is a man of great energy and of very considerable influence, intends to take a very active interest in the selection of a first class team to visit Australia as soon as London resumes activities after the August and September holidays. I feel quite sure that if Lovat throws his weight into the selection of a first class team, it will be more effective than anything that Amery is personally able to achieve.


In my last letter I drew your special attention to the suggestion made by Mr. A. V. Alexander [12] M.P., in the debate on the Board of Trade Vote to the consultation between Great Britain and the Dominions on the distribution of secondary industries. I hope that this suggestion may receive your very careful attention. I am not at all sure that, given a spirit of reciprocity in Great Britain, some such subject might well be the basis of an Imperial Economic Conference in 1929.

I have drawn Sir George Pearce’s attention to this particular reference and shall endeavour to collect opinions from persons of importance as to the possibility of some development along these lines.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 H. W. Gepp, Chairman of the Commonwealth Development and Migration Commission.

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

3 H. A. F. Lindsay.

4 C. S. Orwin, Director of the Institute for Research in Agricultural Economics at Oxford University.

5 J. A. Venn, Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge; lecturer in the history and economics of agriculture.

6 R. R. Enfield, Principal at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

7 J. B. Guild.

8 Senator and Vice-President of the Executive Council; leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations Assembly 1927.

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

10 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs, visited Australia in October and November.

11 Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office.

12 Co-operative (Labour) M.P.; Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade 1924. See note 12 to Letter 119.