Wednesday, 15th May 1929

15th May, 1929


My dear Prime Minister,


I do not think that there is any doubt that the Second Session of the Economic Consultative Committee, although apparently a little barren of results, will lead to a greater sanity of outlook in regard to the economic tasks which the League of Nations can properly undertake.

I found myself rather in the position of acting as the spokesman of those who are opposed to the League tying itself up with free trade dogma and I certainly was regarded as the principal protagonist of the view that the League should concentrate as largely as possible on the provision of a highly intelligent service of information.

While Sir Arthur Salter [1] is by no means entirely in sympathy with me in the first of these matters, he is keenly anxious to see a really good information service developed. He pointed out to me that the Economic Organisation is already obtaining a very large amount of information which is not published and that, for a very modest additional expenditure in staff and printing, it would be possible greatly to improve and increase supplies of interesting information. He said, however, that if a change in this direction was to be accomplished, it would be essential that our point of view should be effectively expressed at the Assembly, particularly on the Second and Fourth Committees. [2] He vigorously urged that it would be of great value if an arrangement could be made whereby I attended the Assembly as a Substitute Delegate for Australia.

I told Salter that I imagined that the position of Delegates or Substitute Delegates to the League of Nations was a prize which was rather eagerly sought after by people in Australia and that I thought it highly probable that the Government would have already completed their selection for the Assembly this coming September.

Salter immediately replied that, although it had been the custom to limit the number of Delegates to 5 i.e. 3 Delegates and 2 Substitute Delegates, there was nothing beyond custom to justify this and he suggested that I should remind the Commonwealth Government that there was nothing to debar them from appointing a third Substitute Delegate, particularly for any special purpose.

On the 18th April I wrote to you making the suggestion that it might be useful if I were to attend the Assembly as a Delegate but pointing out that, from a personal point of view, I was by no means anxious to do so. [3] This position still stands but it might be desirable for you to consider whether you would care to appoint me as an additional Substitute Delegate to deal solely with matters concerning the economic activities of the League of Nations. If you thought this wise, it would not be necessary for me to go to Geneva for the first week of the Assembly when the set speeches are being delivered but I could go at a later stage and speak on behalf of the Commonwealth on this subject on the Second and Fourth Committees.

You may perhaps think that I am putting too much emphasis on the point of being appointed actually a Substitute Delegate. I do not, however, think that this is the case. It would be quite easy, of course, to arrange for me to go to Geneva for a few days in September to act as an expert and advise the Delegation in regard to this matter. I have, however, had a sufficient experience of acting as an adviser to members of Committees to know that, on technical matters such as the one under discussion, it is a pretty hopeless task and that, if it should be desired to press home the point about economic activities, it would probably be a waste of time merely to go as an expert adviser.


Since dictating the foregoing, I have seen the High Commissioner [4] and mentioned this subject to him. I found him strongly in agreement with my point of view and he told me that he would write formally making the suggestion that I should be appointed as a Substitute Delegate to deal simply with the question of the League’s economic activities. [5]

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Director of the Economic and Financial Section of the League of Nations.

2 The work of the Assembly was divided among six committees, member states being entitled to send one delegate to each. The Second Committee dealt with the technical organisations, including the Economic and Financial Section. The Fourth Committee supervised the budget and finances of the League.

3 See Letter 222.

4 Sir Granville Ryrie.

5 Concerned about possible League ambitions in the economic sphere, Bruce consulted his Cabinet and had McDougall attend the League Assembly’s 1929 session as second substitute delegate.