Thursday, 5th November 1925

5th November, 1925


Dear Mr. Bruce,


The Committee resumed its sittings on Tuesday November 3rd at least a month later than could easily have been arranged had the Chairman [1] felt so disposed.

The first meeting was chiefly occupied with an interesting discussion on the attitude of the Government to the first report.

The Chairman was asked for information and did not furnish much.

Members appeared to feel that the attitude which the Government tended to take was not one which would lead to the satisfactory carrying out of the Committee’s recommendations. It was therefore unanimously decided to give the Government an opportunity of learning the views of the Committee in an informal manner.

It was first suggested that the Chairman should be asked to do this personally. Wiser thoughts, however, prevailed and it was finally decided to submit to Cabinet a section of the Minutes of the meeting dealing with this subject. For your personal information I enclose this section as prepared for submission to Cabinet. [2]

During the discussion the Chairman very skilfully skated over the thin ice covering an awkward situation so far as he was personally concerned. He had, I believe, told the President of the Board of Trade [3] that the Imperial Economic Committee would be quite content with Departmental Administration in place of an Executive Commission.

As regards the Canadian Cattle business [4], the Chairman’s statement was again a masterpiece of phraseology to cover an awkward personal situation. I felt, however, that it was much better to support the Chair provided one could feel sure that the Committee intended to make its decisions perfectly clear. I therefore helped to make Mackinder’s path easy.

The discussion was striking as showing a definite intention on the part of the Committee to be master of its Chairman.

With regard to future work, it was decided that the full Committee should now undertake the fruit enquiry. As the trade in Bananas with the West Indies and West Africa presented points of special difficulty, it was decided to constitute a Sub-Committee to investigate the position and to report to the Main Committee. I was asked to serve on this Sub-Committee and although I felt that the additional work would be a considerable burden, yet as no other representative of a Dominion was on it, I felt that it was expedient to demonstrate a proper Empire spirit and I therefore agreed.

A Drafting Committee was also set up for the Fruit Report, to consist of Sir H. Mackinder, Mr. Gubbay [5], of the Indian Delegation, and myself.

In regard to the status of the Imperial Economic Committee, it is a body responsible to the Prime Ministers of the Empire, while the Indian and Crown Colonies’ Delegations are responsible to the Department concerned. There is, however, a marked tendency to regard it as an Empire Committee, working under the President of the Board of Trade. This attitude is strengthened by the fact that the Chairman reports to the President rather than to the Prime Minister. I quite realise that, for convenience, this may be desirable but in view of the wide separation of Departments in this country, I feel that the Imperial Economic Committee should be clearly marked as a Prime Minister’s Committee.


I enclose my notes on the Economic position of the Australian Dried Fruit industry, to which I referred in my last letter. I have not included the appendices which are purely of technical interest.

I also enclose a copy of the notes on Preference which I forwarded as a confidential document to the Chairman of the Board [6] in Melbourne.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Sir Halford Mackinder.

2 The Minutes (Cabinet Paper 458(25)) demonstrated a general concern that the United Kingdom Government might underestimate the strength of the Committee’s views that the Executive Commission to be established should be independent of detailed control by Treasury or other departments, that the proposed publicity campaign should concentrate on direct advertisement of specific goods and that 650 000 was not an excessive sum for the advertising campaign. This paper was submitted for consideration together with the recommendations (Cabinet Paper 446(25)) of the inter-departmental committee formed to consider the First Report of the Imperial Economic Committee. The matter was not fully considered by Cabinet until February 1926.

3 Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister.

4 See Letter 27 5 M. M. S. Gubbay, former Financial Secretary to the Government of India.

6 Presumably the Chairman of the Dried Fruits Control Board, W. C.

F. Thomas.