Thursday, 10th December 1925

10th December, 1925


Dear Mr. Bruce,


British Government’s Intentions

There is still no further news as to the Cabinet’s intentions in respect of the First Report. I gather the Cabinet has not made any definite decision and, as Mr. Amery [1] left for Geneva on the Mosul question [2], it seems probable that no statement may be made this session.

It is a little hard to understand why the Government is postponing a decision, especially when you remember that, when I got back from Australia in January of last year [3], both Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister [4] and Mr. Amery were tremendously keen on advertising and, in the case of Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, insisted that more good could be done to help Empire trade by using the bulk of the 1,000,000 grant on publicity than by means of the preferences that had not been put into effect. I disagreed with that view then and I do not know that I am completely converted now but apparently the forces of indication in the Treasury are proving a very formidable obstacle.

Sir Halford Mackinder [5] showed me a short letter which he had received from Mr. Mackenzie King [6] thanking the Committee for their work and expressing appreciation of the First Report. Sir Halford stated that he wished to publish this but would much prefer to do it in conjunction with some cabled message from you and he therefore asked me whether I would be prepared to cable you on the subject. After some consideration, I sent on 2nd December the following cable:

Canadian Prime Minister has written Chairman Imperial Economic Committee expressing appreciation published reports. Chairman desires publish letter but would much prefer to have cabled message from you also. In view Home Government’s attitude consider cable would be useful.

As I understand that Sir Halford Mackinder has not received any message, I presume that you did not consider it desirable to cable him an encouraging message at the present juncture. [7]

Work of Committee

The work of the Committee is absorbing a very large percentage of my time at the present moment and from the general trend of the evidence and of recent discussions of the Committee, I am now quite confident that the Fruit Report will be of considerable value.

The Committee has decided that it is necessary to give the utmost support to producers’ organisations and have therefore decided to make some form of recommendation deprecating finance of fruit shipments by British Brokers and Commission Salesmen. I think that, when finally drafted, the report will prove a most useful support of the policy of orderly marketing, with which you have so closely identified yourself.


On December 1st I had a very long conversation with Mr. Ormsby- Gore. I think I have already told you that he is quite alarmed with the way in which Treasury influence is able to hold up progress of Empire questions, so far as this Government is concerned.

He told me that he had recently had a long talk with Mr. Baldwin [9] at Hatfield and had strongly urged upon the Prime Minister the necessity of working out the possibilities latent in a forward policy on Empire development. Mr. Baldwin agreed and suggested that a Cabinet Committee might be the best way of dealing with it.

To this Mr. Ormsby-Gore said that he disagreed on the ground that Cabinet Ministers were too much engaged on detail work to give the necessary time and thought to so important a subject.

Apparently nothing definite transpired as a result of Mr. Ormsby- Gore’s talk with Mr. Baldwin and he and I discussed at considerable length how it would be possible for Mr. Baldwin to clear up, in his own mind, as to what could be done, and came to the conclusion that a private Committee of really first class men appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him would be the most satisfactory method.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore said that, although disappointing, it was almost inevitable that the Secretary of State for the Dominions (Mr.

Amery) should find himself so immersed in immediate problems that he was unable to give the sustained thought to the larger issues.

He rather indicated that Mr. Amery allowed himself to work too hard on detail to the detriment of bigger things. He also expressed the view that the Board of Trade under Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister was not developing the enthusiasm for Empire trade that was necessary if definite progress was to be made.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore urged that the best way of making progress was by demonstrating, through questions in the House of Commons to the Government, the active interest that members of all parties were taking in Empire affairs. I am enclosing a number of parliamentary questions and answers which have appeared in Hansard since my last letter.


On December 7th Sir Thomas Allen, the Co-operative member of the Imperial Economic Committee, and myself addressed a meeting of the Labour Commonwealth Group in the Empire Parliamentary Association Rooms. There were about 40 Labour Members of Parliament present and we had a most interesting and successful meeting. Sir Thomas Allen spoke first for about twenty-five minutes and I followed for about twenty minutes. After that, we had a long discussion during which the Division Bell sounded three times and the really keen interest that the Members of the Group showed in the discussion may be gathered from the fact that they returned after each journey through the Division Lobbies.


I am sending you a copy of the ‘Contemporary Review’ for December as it contains two articles to which I particularly want to draw your attention. The first is an article by Professor Ramsay Muir [10] on ‘Empire trade and Empire Settlement’ in which he discusses my book ‘Sheltered Markets’. Ramsay Muir was a Liberal Member of the last Parliament and will stand again on the first opportunity.

He represents a very good type of Liberal Free Trader, taking a vigorous interest in the Empire, and I think you would be interested to read the article.

The other article that I think you might like to read is the first one in the issue by Professor Gilbert Murray [11] on ‘What Liberalism stands for’.

This has no bearing on Empire economic affairs but is of really quite substantial general interest.

I am also enclosing a review of ‘Sheltered Markets’ by Harold Cox [12] which appeared in the ‘Sunday Times’ last week.


I am enclosing an outline suggestion of the Empire Producers’ Conference which I mentioned in my last letter. I do not know whether the idea will recommend itself to you or not; it seems to me on closer study to have some good points and quite numerous difficulties.


I have just at this moment heard from the Secretary of the Imperial Economic Committee [13] that the Prime Minister has received a cable from you enquiring as to when His Majesty’s Government will announce its decisions on the First Report of the Imperial Economic Committee. [14] am very glad to hear this news.

I have also been told that the Cabinet has referred the First Report to a Committee of Churchill [15], Amery and Cunliffe- Lister.


I met Sir George at lunch on Monday and had a very interesting talk. He has asked me to keep in touch with him. He is better after his severe illness but has lost 20 lbs in weight.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs.

2 See note 8 to Letter 34.

3 McDougall obviously meant January 1925.

4 President of the Board of Trade.

5 Chairman of the Imperial Economic Committee.

6 W. L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada.

7 Bruce did, however, cable the Dominions Office regarding the Committee’s work. See note 13.

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

9 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister.

10 Former Professor of Modern History, University of Manchester.

11 Australian-born Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University;

Chairman of the League of Nations Union.

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

13 H. Broadley.

14 The cable read, in part: ‘The Commonwealth Government notes with pleasure the advances made towards the furtherance of Inter- Imperial trade as evidenced by the publication of the recommendations of the Imperial Economic Committee. We note with pleasure the affirmation of the principle of the consumption of Empire produce in the United Kingdom’. After inquiring about the proposed future of the imperial Economic Committee, it concluded:

‘My Government sincerely trusts that this important subject will not be allowed to rest at the stage reached namely mere publication of the resolutions, but that such resolutions will be translated into action. We confidently hope that steps will be taken immediately to give effect to the spirit which animated the proceedings of the Conference and set up machinery for the furtherance of Inter-Imperial Trade’. De-code of cablegram sent by His Excellency the Governor-General to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, London, 7 December 1925, on file AA:CP78/22, 224/1926.

15 Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

16 Consulting engineer specialising in harbour and transport works.