Wednesday, 20th February 1924

20th February, 1924

Dear Mr. Bruce,

Several interesting developments have occurred during the past week. In my last letter I omitted to tell you that Sir Sydney Chapman, the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, strongly advised me not to prepare a general circular on the preference question for Members of the House of Commons.

On February 14th, the Rt. Hon. L. S. Amery [1] attended the meeting of the Council of the British Empire Producers’ Organization [2] and a full discussion occurred on the best methods of influencing the House of Commons and it was decided that the Organization should take a deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer [3] (if he would receive it) and also prepare a statement to circulate to the Members of the House. I am providing the Organization with a good number of facts and figures to fortify their statement.

The Hon. F. C. Wade, the Agent-General for British Columbia, has suddenly started to take an active part in pressing for the fulfilment of the preference proposals particularly in relation to apples and canned salmon. I had a long interview with him on February 16th and I am enclosing herewith two memoranda that he has prepared and is circulating to the Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. He also prepared another memorandum on canned fish which I do not think would be of any particular interest to you. I was told by several members of the Liberal Party that Mr. Wade’s action in circularising the House is resented and that [a] question on the propriety of his attitude would be asked.

On February 18th the Times published a statement that Lord Beaucham [4] had decided to move in the House of Lords on Wednesday, the 20th, to draw attention to the high tariffs levied on British goods in India and in the Dominions. I regarded this as a most excellent opportunity for educational propaganda and got into touch with Mr. J. C. C. Davidson [5] and Mr L. S. Amery on the subject. They decided to try to arrange to get Lord Birkenhead [6] to undertake the work of dealing with Lord Beauchamp and wanted me to place the necessary information before Lord Birkenhead. Unfortunately Lord Birkenhead has been away and the matter was referred to Lord Curzon [7] who decided that the Duke of Devonshire, as the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, was the proper man. Yesterday I met Lord Curzon and the Duke of Devonshire in the former’s private room in the House of Lords and fully discussed the question. The Duke has asked me to assist him further to-day but I fear that he will not be able to make anything like the effective speech on the subject that would have been possible had Lord Birkenhead been available.

On February 18th I had a long discussion with Mr. Amery on the subject of propaganda. I supplied him with a list of 73 articles of British exports in which Australia in 1922 purchased larger values of the aggregate purchases of all foreign countries. Mr.

Amery has asked the Unionist Headquarters to prepare a list of questions to the President of the Board of Trade [8] based on this list. This should be very useful propaganda both in the House and in the country.

I mentioned to Mr. Amery the idea of my preparing a short booklet on the subject of the value of Empire Trade and Mr. Amery is quite anxious that I should do so.

The chief difficulty in the way of preparing a book of this description is time. I am, however, making a start in collecting the necessary information and I enclose, for your information, a tentative synopsis of contents.

On February 19th, under the auspices of Sir Howard d’Egville [9], I met Dr. Chapple [10], M.P., who is the Chairman of the newly constituted Liberal Colonial group. This was a particularly interesting conversation. I gathered from Dr. Chapple that the Liberal Party is very nervous of being branded as the chief anti- Imperial Party in England and that Mr. Asquith [11] has decided that it is important that the Liberals should provide themselves with an Imperial Economic Policy. Dr. Chapple impressed upon me that the Liberal Party regarded themselves as tied to free trade but that they were prepared to explore every other avenue by which actual preference could be given to the Dominions. He suggested preferential treatment in docks, harbour facilities, shipping, freights, assistance in credits and encouragement of orderly marketing. I drew his attention to the Imperial Economic Committee and Dr. Chapple stated that he was keenly aware of the possible benefits of this [to the] Party and had already put down a question in the House to ask the Government its intentions as regards implementing this Committee. I stressed to Dr. Chapple the importance of the preference proposals and I gathered from him that he was personally in favour of the whole of the preference proposals being implemented but that he did not think his party would go with him as far as that but I rather gathered, although he was decidedly non-committal on the tariff preference question, that even the Liberals will think twice before voting against the proposals that mean no increase in taxation.

I have promised to keep in touch with Dr. Chapple and to meet any Members of his Liberal Group who desire to discuss economic policy and the Empire.

I cannot help regarding this change in attitude on the part of the Liberals as being very significant. Dr. Chapple told me that Members of the Party bitterly resented the accusation of being anti-Imperial.

If, as I believe, your educational speeches have caused this change of heart, or if not change of heart at least nervousness, about Imperial matters in the Liberal Party, you have indeed achieved something very remarkable.

I enclose a copy of a memorandum which I have prepared for Sir Howard d’Egville of the Empire Parliamentary Association. I am providing Sir Howard with 50 copies of this memorandum which he can give to Members of the House who desire information.

Mr. Amery asked me to draw your attention to the enclosed cutting from the Morning Post. I have marked the portions that Mr. Amery particularly desired you to notice; the most important point being that the Party has adopted a resolution asking that the settlement of British agricultural problems should be connected with those of the Dominions. [12] It. appears from this that the idea of Empire agriculture has taken root and this again must be almost entirely attributed to your own teaching.

I am forwarding herewith copy of the McNary-Haugen Bill [13] which you may find of some interest.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

[Handwritten postscript]

I enclose under separate cover a copy of Production as it gives the text of my lecture at the Colonial Institute, which may be of interest to you. [14]

_1 Conservative M.P.; writer and advocate of tariff reform; First Lord of the Admiralty 1922-24. Amery had been Parliamentary Under- Secretary for the Colonies 1919-21.

2 Advocates of preference for British and Dominion agricultural produce.

3 Philip Snowden.

4 Governor of New South Wales 1899-1901.

5 Former Conservative M.P.; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1923-24.

6 Lord Chancellor 1919-22.

7 Foreign Secretary 1919-24.

8 Sidney Webb.

9 Secretary of the United Kingdom branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association.

10 W. A. Chapple, former medical practitioner and New Zealand M.P.

11 Herbert Asquith, Leader of the Liberal Party; Prime Minister 1908-16.

12 Morning Post, 14 February. An official report of a meeting of the Central Council of the National Unionist Association included a resolution that ‘a settlement of the British agricultural problem is necessary in the interests of the whole Empire, and should, if possible, form part of a general scheme for Imperial development’. Another resolution urged on the Executive Committee the duty of ‘educating the electorate’ in favour of the protective tariff and Imperial 13 A controversial Bill, introduced into Congress in January 1925, it proposed the establishment of a Commission which could purchase agricultural products at adequate prices. The Proposals were designed to provide emergency relief for depressed commodities, but were criticised as likely to stimulate overproduction and encourage systematic dumping. The Bill was vetoed by President Coolidge.

14 For the address, ‘True Value of Empire Trade’, see Empire Production and Export (the journal of the British Empire Producers’ Organisation), no. 90, February 1924, PP. 47-53.