Wednesday, 24th October 1928

24th October, 1928

My dear Prime Minister,

There has been a gap in my letters to you, owing to my going to Rome for the General Assembly of the International Institute of Agriculture. I returned on Sunday, and found when I got to Calais that a first-class gale was blowing; I had a wretched cross Channel trip, the memory of which will remain with me for some time.


On the surface the Conference at Rome was extremely successful from our point of view. The British Empire Delegations, which consisted of four from England, one from Scotland, one from Northern Ireland, two from the Irish Free State, two from Canada, two from South Africa, two from India, and one from Australia, worked together in the closest harmony, and also established quite effective collaboration with the United States representatives.

As a result of prolonged discussions, both in the General Assembly and in the Commissions which were appointed by the Assembly, we got unanimous approval of a series of Resolutions which, if acted upon, will result in making the International Institute a far more effective body in the future. I very advisedly use the words ‘if acted upon’, because, although the Italian Delegation voted for our Resolutions, at the very last moment the chief Italian Delegate made a statement, on behalf of the Italian Government, to the effect that the Government felt itself entirely free to take any action it liked, and would not feel itself in any way bound by the votes of its Delegation.

The question really boils down to this-Is it possible to maintain an effective International Institution at the seat of Government of an intensely Nationalistic power? The key of the position is that the post of Secretary-General is vacant. A unanimous Resolution was passed, directing the Permanent Committee (the governing body) to proceed immediately with the appointment of a Secretary-General, and only to take into consideration the qualifications of the candidates, without any regard to nationality. The Fascist Government, however, takes the attitude that the Secretary-General must be an Italian, and that, of course, means an Italian in close sympathy with the Fascist regime.

These are only preliminary observations which I am sending you at the present moment, as I shall, of course, prepare a report on the meeting of the General Assembly and forward it to you with a covering letter in which I will go carefully into the more important points that arose. I am, however, delaying the preparation of this report at the request of the British Delegation, because they desire to send me a copy of their report before I prepare my own.

There is, however, one subject in connection with the Institute to which I should like to draw your attention. On the Permanent Committee of the Institute, and at previous General Assemblies of the Institute, Mr. R. J. Thompson, C.B., O.B.E., an Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, has acted as representative of both Australia and New Zealand as well as of Great Britain. Mr. Thompson is in charge of the statistical side of the work of the Ministry of Agriculture, and is a good conscientious creature who, without being very able, has most painstakingly done what he could to keep the Institute on the right track. I believe that Thompson has never received any official thanks from the Commonwealth Government for having acted on their behalf during the last three or four years, and I would strongly recommend that you send him a personal letter expressing, on behalf of the Government, your appreciation of the work which he has done in connection with the International Institute. [1]


In looking through the recent cuttings sent to me from Australia, I find that the ‘Argus’ published on 12th September a summary of my report to you on the meeting of the Economic Consultative Committee of the League of Nations. This is the first I have heard of my report having been made public, and if it has been printed or circulated, or if any extract has been circulated, I would be particularly glad if you would be good enough to ask one of your staff to forward two or three copies to me. [2]


You will remember you promised that I should receive a copy of the Tariff Report as rewritten by Brigden. [3] Up to the present time this has not arrived, and I should appreciate it very much if you would be good enough to arrange that a copy should be forwarded to me as soon as possible. I am, as you know, intensely interested in this subject and hope that when after the Election you come to make some definite arrangement about Economic Research, the plans which will be approved will have been framed after consideration of my suggestions for a certain amount of Economic Research on behalf of Australia being done in London, in connection with my office. [4] I will, however, try to write more fully on this subject by the next mail.

I came back from Rome to a tremendous mass of arrears of work, which will take some time to master, and as I have promised to give the first of a series of lectures on Empire Trade at Birmingham University tomorrow (mail day) my letters this week will have to be extremely brief.

I hope that when this letter reaches you you will be taking a very much needed rest after the exertions of the General Election.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL P.S. I am enclosing two cuttings-a third leader from the ‘Times’ on ‘Menus for Empire Dinners [5] which I think you may find amusing, and a most interesting article contributed to the ‘Times’ by Tom Johnston [6], M.P., about Canada.

_1 Bruce replied, on 10 February 1929 (file AA:M111, 1929), that he was quite unaware that Thompson had represented Australia and that he had arranged for a letter of acknowledgment to be sent to Thompson.

2 See note 3 to Letter 172.

3 J. B. Brigden, Professor of Economics, University of Tasmania.

See note 7 to Letter 188. In his letter of 27 August, Bruce undertook to send McDougall a copy of the redrafted report, which he regarded as ‘an incomparably better job of work than the original one’, and in which many of the points raised by McDougall (in Letter 168) were dealt with.

4 See Letter 170. In his letter of 27 August (file AA:M111, 1928) Bruce promised to consider the proposals outlined there.

5 A Book of Empire Dinners, published by the Empire Marketing Board, was reviewed in a Times editorial, 23 0ctober.

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

member of the Empire Parliamentary Association delegation to Canada 1928.