Thursday, 5th March 1925

5th March, 1925


Dear Mr. Bruce,

Since last mail I have had two short preliminary talks with Sir Mark Sheldon [1] about Imperial Economic Committee matters. He is very busily engaged with other matters at the moment but I anticipate that next week we shall be able to get close to the subject.


I enclose a short memorandum which I have written on this subject drawing attention to two different plans. My own view is that the most effective way in which this all-important work could be achieved would be by an Australian body such as the proposed Australian Producers Advisory Committee being created in London and being placed in possession of sufficient funds to subsidise such a man as Dr. Haden Guest [2] to get the right propaganda inserted in the places to which he had special access. If, however, the creation of such a body is improbable in the near future, it would be of great interest privately to know how you regard the two schemes.

I have discussed Dr. Haden Guest’s plan with Mr. Casey [3] who agrees with me that it has very attractive elements.

I am sending a copy of the memorandum to Herbert Brookes [4] and to him only. I am doing this for two reasons. Firstly because Brookes is intensely interested in the question and, secondly, because if you felt that it was desirable that any action should be taken in Australia, you might feel inclined to ask Herbert Brookes to undertake interesting producers’ organizations. All that I shall say to H.B. is that I have sent you a copy.


The week’s developments have been interesting. Dr. Haden Guest brought the question of the attitude of the Labour Party on the subject of Safeguarding [5] before the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Dr. Guest’s motion was heavily defeated but Mr. Wheatley [6] then took up the running and moved for a Committee to consider the attitude of the Parliamentary Party to the importation of sweated goods. This resolution was carried unanimously and a Committee of seven, including Wheatley, Snowden [7], Webb [8], Henderson [9], Tom Shaw [10] and Tom Johnston, were appointed. Five ex-Cabinet Ministers in a Committee of seven.


A most interesting debate occurred on this subject last night. I have cut out the Hansard Report, which is enclosed. If you have time I would suggest that you should read the speeches of Lansbury [11] and Johnston which were both very able and Cunliffe-Lister’s [12] answer.


Last Friday Amery [13] casually mentioned that a Commercial Treaty with Greece was under discussion. I communicated with Casey who had not been informed thereof. On Monday I was lunching with Sir Sydney Chapman [14] and asked him for particulars. He told me that the subject was certainly under discussion and that, as Mr.

Baldwin’s [15] pledges prevented any increase of taxes, the British Government was prepared to give Greece a guarantee against an increase in the duty on currants for a limited period.

I asked whether you were being consulted, but that Chapman did not appear to know. I determined to cable you to-day but Casey has now rung me up to say that the Colonial Office is cabling you and asking for your comment on the Dried Fruit portions of the proposed Treaty. My view is that, in view of the developments on sweated imports in the Labour Party, any arrangement with Greece on currants should be subject to denunciation on six months’ notice.

If the proposed Treaty is to that effect, I will not cable, but if it is not, I shall communicate my view in regard to the Labour development, rendering six months’ notice desirable. [16]


I am enclosing a copy of an article from the Morning Post of March 4th on a scheme whereby farmers could insure against the price of wheat being below the cost of production.

If such a scheme were found workable, it would be an extraordinarily interesting development. Australian Insurance Companies are fairly go ahead and I think you might care to discuss the possibilities of some such idea.

If you could formulate a workable scheme on these lines for Australia, it would be extremely useful. Should you desire me to do so, I will collect all the information I can from the promoter Ruggles-Brise [17], whom I know, and from Insurance Companies. If you regard the idea as being of sufficient interest, you might care to cable me to get fuller information.

I am especially interested because I have been turning over the idea of the utilization of some portions of the 1,000,000 as insurance premiums either to provide cover for finance or to insure long term contracts with Dominion Boards against loss. [18]

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Prominent Sydney businessman; senior Australian representative on the Imperial Economic Committee.

2 Labour M.P. and writer.

3 R. G. Casey, Commonwealth Government’s Liaison Officer in London.

4 Victorian manufacturer and pastoralist; Australian delegate to the 1923 Imperial Economic Conference.

5 See note 7 to Letter 5 and note 8 to Letter 10.

6 John Wheatley, Minister of Health 1924.

7 Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1924.

8 Sidney Webb, President of the Board of Trade 1924.

9 Arthur Henderson, Home Secretary 1924.

10 Minister of Labour 1924.

11 George Lansbury, Labour M.P. and radical publicist, supported by Tom Johnston, Scottish Labour M.P., accused the Royal Commission of incompetence and bias. Lansbury also claimed that the Royal Commission was unnecessary, as government action was justified by existing evidence of food profiteering. See House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol. 181, cols 549- 99.

12 Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade.

13 Leopold Amery, Colonial Secretary.

14 Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade.

15 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

16 A cable was sent by Amery on 4 March, advising Bruce that a Commercial Treaty with Greece was being negotiated. The draft provided that the duty on currants imported from Greece to the United Kingdom should not be higher than the existing rate of 2/- per hundredweight. The duration of the Treaty was to be five years, with one year’s notice of termination. Sir Joseph Cook, Australian High Commissioner, cabled Bruce on 7 March and reported McDougall’s view, but commented that the issue was not important ‘as all sides definitely pledged not to increase duties on food’.

The cables are on file AA: A981, Treaties 282.

17 Presumably E. A. Ruggles-Brise, land agent and farmer.

18 See Letter 9.