Thursday, 22nd October 1925

22nd October, 1925


Dear Mr. Bruce,


Since my last letter no definite change has come over the situation. The Inter-Departmental Committee is still considering what action to recommend to Cabinet on the reports of the imperial Economic Committee. I gather that there are now three conflicting points of view.

1. That of Cunliffe-Lister [1], desirous of including British manufactures and British agricultural produce in the expenditure from the 1,000,000 grant.

2. That of the Dominion and Colonial Office, who want to see the report implemented as it stands.

3. That of the Treasury which wants to whittle away the grant and to reduce expenditure.

I had a long talk with Mr. Ormsby-Gore [2] yesterday. He is frankly alarmed at the way in which the Board of Trade and the Treasury are looking at the promised Annual Grant. I am also to see Mr. Amery [3] on Monday. A Cabinet meeting made my meeting him this week impossible.


In my last two letters I have mentioned that I have been trying to impress on the British Government the need for planning ahead on Empire economic relations, I have made some further progress with this and have found very strong opinion held in quarters that one must regard as being authoritative that at the present time Winston Churchill [4] is the snag. I am not altogether inclined to put all the blame for lack of zeal on Empire matters down at Churchill’s door because I think quite a number of the Members of the Cabinet are rather lukewarm.

At the recent Conference of the Conservative Party held at Brighton [5], practically nothing was said or done about Empire and Empire trade. When I commented on this to my Conservative M.P.

friends, they said ‘What can you expect of a party that has F. S.

Jackson’ as Chairman?’ I discussed this question also with Mr. Ormsby-Gore yesterday and he told me that he was going to spend the last weekend in October at Hatfield, where Mr. Baldwin [7] was also to be a guest, and he promised to do everything in his power to make the Prime Minister see the importance of the Conservative Party placing Empire and Empire trade in the forefront of their programme.

I shall spare no pains to try to galvanise the Government into a more lively interest than they are shewing at the present time.


On Thursday, October 15th, I received an urgent message from Mr.

Tom Johnston M.P. saying that he was leaving for India the next day and would I have breakfast with him at 8 a.m. at Euston Station on his arrival from Glasgow. I met him and had an extraordinarily interesting hour.

To begin with he was very anxious for my approval of his calling on the Scottish Bakers Trade Union to refuse to handle Greek and Smyrna dried fruits. [8] He had corresponded with me about this and I had told him quite definitely that Australia had far too small stocks to meet a very great public demand and that any such idea would be most unfortunate at the present time. I convinced him at our meeting that this was the case. He said that there would be no difficulty in getting all the bakers’ workmen in Scotland to refuse to handle Greek and Smyrna fruit. I am not at all sure, however, that this is a desirable way of obtaining Imperial preference. It is certainly not one that I have ever dreamt of encouraging. It came quite spontaneously from the Clydeside Labour Members. I think nothing will be said about this for the next few months and perhaps at your leisure you might care to comment thereon.

A much more important question brought up by Mr. Johnston was that of the Labour Party Committee’s report on the ‘Importation of Sweated Goods’. [9] I referred to this report in my letter of the 20th August [10] and the ‘Daily Telegraph’ published a most interesting comment from you on August 12th on the subject. [11]

According to Mr. Johnston the position now is this: the free importer section of the Labour Party, including at least four of the signatories of the report, are most anxious that the report should be buried in oblivion. Johnston, who is a strong and determined man, is equally anxious that this should not happen and I am fairly confident that, in the long run, Johnston will win but Johnston is anxious to make progress and he therefore made the following proposal to me. He wants me to find a method of interesting Mr. Baldwin in the Labour Party’s report and to get Mr. Baldwin to publicly express an interest therein and even to go so far as to send the Minister of Labour [12] to Geneva to discuss with the International Labour Office the possibilities of action along the lines of that report. He also desired me to get the suggestion made that the Government should invite Mr., Philip Snowden [13], as the Chairman of the Committee responsible for the report, to accompany the Minister of Labour on the suggested visit to Geneva.

Johnston’s view was that if action of this sort could be taken, Philip Snowden and the other free importers such as Tom Shaw [14], Sidney Webb [15], and Lord Arnold [16] would be forced to back the report on their own signatures.

I think you will agree that this is rather an amusing proposition but one also of very great interest and I am very tentatively exploring possible methods of getting the idea taken up.


With regard to the advertising proposals of the imperial Economic Committee, I am extremely keen on getting a general background of really first class importance and dignity to any propaganda which may be adopted and in case you are interested, I enclose a brief memorandum on the subject which I have prepared for the Imperial Economic Committee and also for the Board of Trade.


The Australian dried fruit industry started this morning a press campaign to popularise the idea of an Empire Christmas Pudding. I enclose a copy of the advertisement which appeared on the front page of to-day’s ‘Daily Mail’. You will be interested to know that 60,000 copies of this re-print have been sent to grocers in the United Kingdom. In this way I hope we shall get full value for the 1,400 which one insertion on the front page of the ‘Daily Mail’ now costs.

A most tragic fact about this season’s dried fruit operations is the low quality of the Australian currants. Had they been good, we should be obtaining far better prices and would have been able to make quite sure of putting over the idea of using Empire instead of foreign dried fruits.


In the ‘Sunday Times’ of October 18th Mr. Harold Cox again attacked Australia and the Australian tariff. I wrote a reply which Sir Joseph Cook [18] has, I believe, approved and sent to the ‘Sunday Times’. I enclose a copy of the reply.

I am forwarding herewith copy of some remarks made by Mr. Amery about the Australian tariff, which will be of some interest to you.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade.

2 William Ormsby-Gore, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Colonies.

3 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

4 Chancellor of the Exchequer.

5 The Conference opened on 8 October.

6 Conservative M.P.; Financial Secretary at the War Office 31 October 1922-15 March 1923.

7 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

8 See Letter 19.

9 An interim report of the Sweated Goods Committee, ‘Sweated Imports and International Labour Standards’, can be found in AAV:B4242, vol 1.

10 Not found.

11 Bruce had stated that while Australia wished to assist British industry by means of the preferential tariff, ‘the Government is considerably embarrassed … by the fact that Britain herself is doing nothing to prevent her own industries from being undermined by countries which permit a low standard for their workers’.

12 Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland.

13 Labour M.P.; free trader; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1924., 14 Minister of Labour 1924 15 President of the Board of Trade 1924.

16 Under-Secretary for the Colonies 1924.

17 Editor of the Edinburgh Review; writer on economic matters.

18 Australian High Commissioner.