Thursday, 20th March 1924

20th March, 1924

Dear Mr. Bruce,

Since last mail day, I have been seeing a number of Members of Parliament, through Sir Howard d’Egville [1], who is most kindly doing everything possible to assist me. I need not worry you with details but I think you will be interested in a brief report under a few heads.


On March 14th I had a long interview with Lord Arnold, the Under- Secretary of State for the Colonies, on this subject. Lord Arnold is a very rigid Free Trader but he became decidely interested in the Committee and asked me to prepare a short memorandum on the subject, which he promised to also place before Mr. Thomas. [2] I enclose a copy of this memorandum.

On March 17th, at Sir H, d’Egville’s request, I talked to the Empire Parliamentary Association Sub-Committee on Trade and Communications about the Economic Committee. Most of the Members to whom I have spoken profess blank surprise at Mr. Thomas’s answer in the House [3] The only reasoned objection I have heard came from Mr. J. Muir, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions, who is a Glasgow Labour Member. He said that in the present state of negotiations with foreign countries, the Government could not afford to give the idea that they were out to push Empire Development.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore [4] assures me that Mr. Thomas, after taking office, was in favour of the Committee and invited him to accept the nomination of representatives for the Crown Colonies and Protectorates.


I have had a very interesting talk with General Seely [5], who promised to vote and speak in favour of preference. I am under the impression that about 10 Liberals will vote for most of the proposals, a larger number voting for the preferences that mean no increase in duty.

The Labour position is much harder to gauge and will depend largely upon the attitude of the Government.

Dr. Robert Donald [6] called on me about a week ago and asked me for some brief letters on Dried Fruits, Canned Fruits and the Murray generally-so that after conversation he could place them before the Prime Minister. [7] I enclose copies of these letters.


Dr. Haden Guest, M.C, M.P., now proposes to take up this matter seriously. He is a very capable man and I have suggested to him that he is peculiarly fitted to lead Labour ideas into proper channels on Empire development.

Dr. Haden Guest is considering the immediate formation of a Parliamentary Empire Group and also of propaganda for the Constituencies. I hope to be able to report a definite development by next mail. If we can persuade a section of the Labour Party to really take an interest in Empire economics, it would be, as I feel sure you will fully realise, of the utmost value for the future.


I enclose a copy of a letter signed by Lord Parmoor to a Yorkshire paper. It is an amazing document and, on seeing his letter, I immediately drafted a letter (copy enclosed) which I submitted to Sir Joseph Cook. [9] Sir Joseph asked Senator Wilson [10] to sign the letter and it has today been dispatched to the Times. [11]

I have discussed this matter with Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame [12] and I believe he will arrange for a debate on Lord Parmoor’s statement in the House of Lords.

I enclose copies of articles I have written for the Manchester Guardian and the Daily Herald.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Secretary of the United Kingdom branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association.

2 J. H. Thomas, Colonial Secretary.

3 On 25 February Dr Chapple asked the House whether any decision had been reached as to the functions and scope of the Imperial Economic Committee. Thomas answered that the Cabinet had decided that ‘a standing Economic Committee with general terms of reference would not really assist co-operation between the [Dominion] Governments’ and that ‘in all the circumstances [Cabinet] cannot support adoption of the recommendation’. See House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol 70, cols 12-13.

4 William Ormsby-Gore, Conservative M.P.; Parliamentary Under- Secretary for the Colonies 1922-24 5 J. E. B. Seely, Liberal M.P. and former Minister.

6 journalist; Chairman of the Empire Press Union; Chairman of the Publicity Committee, British Empire Exhibition, 1924.

7 Ramsay MacDonald.

8 Lord President of the Council.

9 Australian High Commissioner.

10 R. V. Wilson, Honorary Minister and Australian delegate to the 1923 Imperial Economic Conference; Australian Commissioner, British Empire Exhibition, 1924.

11 Writing to the West Yorkshire Pioneer as President of the North-Western Free Trade Union, Parmoor argued that effective Imperial preference would damage Britain’s foreign relations. In his reply, published in the Times on 20 March, Wilson argued that British Dominions and most Imperial powers had long maintained policies of preference without damage to their foreign relations.

12 Conservative M.P.; President of the Board of Trade 1922-24