Thursday, 8th November 1928

8th November, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,


I have at last been able to complete my report on the General Assembly of the International Institute of Agriculture at Rome and I am forwarding the document by today’s mail. In view of the delicate relations with the Italian Government, I suggest that the report should be regarded as confidential but I should be glad if you would arrange for Dr. Rivett [1] to see the document. The report with its appendices makes a bulky mass of papers and I am therefore enclosing a copy of my own statement, together with the report of the British Delegation, so that you can read these without being burdened with extraneous matter.


The report on the Wine situation, to which I referred in my last letter, has now been completed and I have advised Trumble [2] to forward it to you as a report which he considers might be regarded as being for the confidential information of Ministers.


Last Sunday the ‘Observer’ published an article by Garvin [3] on the political prospects of parties at the next General Election here. The article seems of sufficient interest to forward to you.

Garvin seems to anticipate a heavy revival of the Labour forces;

if this occurs, it will be mainly due to the Government’s sins of omission rather than those of commission. I was stimulated by Garvin’s article to do a little political statistical research into the political situation with the following results. I divided the seats held by Tories into four categories:

(a) those in which the Conservative majority in 1924 was over 3000 (b) -do- -do- between 3000 and 2000 (c) -do- -do- between 2000 and 1000 (d) -do- -do- under 1000.

I obtained the following results: Seats held under (a) 283 (b) 47 (c) 50 (d) 33 My present impression is that the Government stand to lose the majority of seats held by a majority of 2000 and under. Naturally they will not lose all these seats but then they will lose some in which the majority is greater. If therefore for the purpose of a forecast, one assumes that the 83 seats held by majorities under 2000 are lost, the result would be the return of Baldwin [4] to power with a majority of about 49. I agree with Garvin that there are no visible signs of a Liberal revival.

The most formidable fact in connection with the whole British political situation is the growth in the unemployment figures.

Last week saw another 30,000 added to the total which now is well over 1,350,000. As a result of this increase in unemployment, particularly in the coal mining and iron and steel trades, I am told that the Conservative members representing industrial constituencies are up in arms over the Government’s hesitation to promise any bold move in regard to the safeguarding of iron and steel. Whether this feeling will become a formidable revolt or not is, I think, impossible to gauge but I wish that Walter Elliot’s [5] really bright idea of applying poor law conditions to industries applying for safeguarding was likely to obtain careful consideration. Personally I think it is too novel and bright an idea to receive anything but cold water from Cunliffe-Lister. [6]


The overwhelming victory of Hoover [7]in the Election was very unexpected here. The papers had been forecasting a really close fight. It now remains to be seen what action Hoover will take in order to attempt to liquidate his promises in regard to the assistance to agriculture. I certainly think that it is possible that action taken by the United States may considerably increase the economic significance of the next Imperial Conference and it has occurred to me that you may consider whether it is desirable to ask Dow [8] in New York to keep a pretty careful watch on the development of measures to assist the farming community and perhaps to send copies of important papers and statements to you and also to me.

What I have in mind is that Hoover may find it essential to try and bring into operation some measure to take the place of the McNaryHaugen Bill [9] which, as you know, passed both the Legislative Chambers but received the veto of President Coolidge.

Any really large scale move in the United States to assist the American wheat farmer in regard to the marketing of his products might have such repercussions as almost to force an Imperial Conference to take a bolder attitude in regard to Empire economic developments.


While in Rome I discussed with the British Delegates and also with some of the representatives of the Dominions and India, the desirability of arranging for a quarterly meeting in London at which the representatives of the Dominions might meet Thompson [10] who, at the present time, acts on behalf of all the Governments of the Empire on the Permanent Committee of the International Institute. I found general agreement that some such arrangement was desirable and I have therefore written to Sir Charles Howell Thomas, who was the senior British Delegate and who is the Permanent Head of the Department of Agriculture, suggesting that he should take the initiative in arranging for such meetings.

I enclose a copy of my letter to Sir Charles Thomas.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 David Rivett, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

2 Thomas Trumble, Official Secretary to the High Commissioner.

3 J. L. Garvin, Editor of the Observer.

4 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

5 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland. See Letter 175.

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

7 Herbert Clark Hoover was elected thirty-first President of the United States on 6 November. To American farmers, beset by over- production, rising costs and falling prices, he had promised a farm board, aid to co-operatives, protective tariffs and the reorganisation of marketing.

8 D. McK. Dow, Official Secretary, Office of Commissioner for Australia in the United States.

9 See note 13 to Letter 2.

10 R. J. Thompson, Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture.