Thursday, 6th October 1927

6th October, 1927


My dear Prime Minister,


The whole of this week has been very fully engaged with the Imperial Agricultural Research Conference. The Plenary Sessions are being held in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall, which forms an imposing setting. In spite of the fact that the English Ministry of Agriculture, which is a highly inefficient body, has control of the arrangements for the Conference, I think we can anticipate a very useful and interesting Conference which should advance the cause of agricultural research throughout the Empire to a very considerable extent. Already the Plenary discussions have been most useful and after tomorrow we shall get to grips with subjects in Committee.

Last Monday the Australian delegation and myself had a long preparatory discussion and I suggested to Julius [1] that he should cable you asking leave to extend, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, an invitation to the Conference to hold its next meeting in Australia. We were very delighted to receive your immediate response, which was communicated to Bledisloe [2] and Lovat. [3] The real discussion as to future Conferences will not occur until towards the end of the Conference but I hope that it may be possible to get a provisional acceptance of the idea of the next meeting being held in Australia.

On the first day of the Conference Walter Guinness, the Minister of Agriculture, addressed the Conference and the same evening the Government gave a banquet in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords where Walter Guinness again was the chief speaker. I listened to him with feelings of the deepest regret that it was not possible for you to have delivered one of the speeches. It was a magnificent opportunity such as you would have availed yourself of in the most effective way but Guinness was uninspiring and not very effective.

You will be interested to hear that the only overseas delegate who has been asked to initiate a discussion in the Plenary Conference is Julius. He is to speak on the question of the interchange of information this afternoon.

I enclose copy of an article on the Conference which I wrote for Hilton Young [4], who is, as you know, the Editor in Chief of the ‘Financial News’, and which he published on Wednesday as the leading feature of that day’s issue.


This morning’s ‘Times’ published a cabled summary of the Tariff Board’s Annual Report. From that summary it appears as if the Tariff Board had strongly stressed the danger of indiscriminate Protection. [5] If this is the case, it is very satisfactory to think that the Tariff Board itself is becoming aware of how unsound such a policy is. There is, however, one phrase in the summary which rather startled me. The ‘Times’ report refers to ‘the ever widening gaps between the standards (of living) maintained in the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom’.

This suggests that the standard of living in Australia is continually rising while the British standard of living is either stationary or at least not increasing at the same rate as that in Australia. I very much doubt whether it is possible to substantiate this statement if it was actually made by the Tariff Board. [6]

With the difference in the cost of living between Australia and Great Britain and with the undoubted fact that if you take the remuneration of the whole of the working classes of Great Britain into account, that remuneration has definitely increased during recent years. I should imagine that the difference in real wages between Australia and Great Britain has tended to narrow rather than to be an ever widening gap. That question is of sufficient importance to make it worth while to attempt to obtain true facts and I shall try to get further data on the subject which I will forward to you.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 George Julius, Chairman of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

2 Lord Bledisloe, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

3 Lord Lovat, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Dominions Office.

4 Sir Edward Hilton Young, Conservative M.P.

5 The Board was reported as noting ‘a tendency to abuse the policy of protection and, by forcing the pace, to endanger its efficiency’, with the result that many industries were in jeopardy and unemployment serious.

6 The words quoted in the Times were used in the Board’s report (p. 18), reaffirming a warning given in 1926 ‘as to the danger of the Tariff being used to bolster up an ever-increasing cost of production’.