Wednesday, 3rd February 1926

3rd February, 1926


Dear Mr. Bruce,

Since my last letter there have been several interesting happenings. Parliament reopened yesterday. The King’s Speech contained only two references of any interest from an Imperial view point: firstly, an announcement of the intention to introduce a Merchandise Marks Bill ‘to provide in suitable cases for marking imported agricultural produce and manufactured goods, so that they may be distinguished from the products of this country, and Empire goods distinguished from those of foreign origin’; secondly, a Bill to give effect to the proposal for a 10,000,000 loan for the development of British East Africa.

The omission of all reference to the schemes of educational publicity recommended by the Imperial Economic Committee may be serious.

Voluntary preference is at best a very dubious alternative to

either tariffs or import licences for assisting Empire products in the United Kingdom markets. If voluntary effort is to have a sporting chance of being effective, it is essential that the Government responsible for putting it into effect should adopt the plan with enthusiasm. If the Government continue to delay a decision I fear a ‘still birth’ for the proposals.


On Monday last I had an hour with Mr. Amery at the Colonial Office. He was in very good form. He asked me frankly to express my views about the Imperial Economic Committee and about Empire trade. I told him that of the four possible methods of helping Empire trade in United Kingdom markets (Tariffs, Import Licences, Subsidies and Voluntary Preference) the first three had all been rendered impossible for the time being by the action of the Government itself. He expressed great surprise about the effect of the Anglo-German Treaty. [2]

I told him that the Board of Trade quite definitely advised the Imperial Economic Committee that the Treaty blocked any possibility of using any form of prohibition on goods. He promised to look further into the matter. I told him that I felt that, under the circumstances, H. M. Government ought to embark with vigour upon the voluntary preference scheme. He agreed but indicated that there were diverse difficulties.

He asked me what sort of a report the Imperial Economic Committee was going to produce on Fruit. I told him that I hoped it would be a good one. He said he very much hoped so, for although he regarded the First Report as really good, the Meat Report had left no impression upon his mind. He then asked me what views the Dominion Representatives on the Imperial Economic Committee held about the proposed Executive Committee. I told him that, as I had said to him before, we all regarded it as essential. He expressed agreement and suggested that it should be connected with the Dominion and Colonial Office rather than the Board of Trade. I told him that the British representation on the Imperial Economic Committee was deplorably weak; a view to which he did not dissent.

I told him that if he did not disapprove, I proposed to do everything I could, in a quiet way, to make the back benchers of the Conservative Party challenge the Government to produce real and effective plans for Empire development and trade. He agreed that this was most desirable even if it meant that he would have to answer a host of questions which he would rather have left unanswered.

Finally I said that, in my opinion, the Government had not given the Imperial Economic Committee a fair spin and that, as the Committee’s scheme was the only available one, I hoped that he could arrange that, at an early date, the Prime Minister [3] could give the Government’s strong blessing to Educational publicity.

I spoke extremely frankly throughout this interview and Mr. Amery appeared to welcome this.


Through the good offices of Casey, I met Philip Kerr, who was Lloyd George’s [7] Secretary engaged with the Irish troubles and who has succeeded Grigg [8] as Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. He is one of the principal contributors to the Round Table. I had dinner with him and John Dove, the Editor, was also there. Kerr told me that the Round Table had decided that too long had they allowed Lionel Curtis [9] to keep the group away from Empire economics. They had, he said, come to realise that the real solutions of Empire politics were to be found in Empire economics.

He was proposing to write an article on the subject in the forthcoming number of the Round Table.

We had a long and interesting talk and finally Kerr asked me to criticise his article. This I have done, of course, without attempting to replace Kerr’s views with my own. The Round Table people have, in the past, been frigid to Preference and I think that his article will be a very useful start in a better direction. I told Kerr that, in view of the urgency of some action before the proposed Imperial Conference, one article in the Round Table would do little good and that vigorous propaganda was required. He agreed and promised to get Geoffrey Dawson [10] of the ‘Times’ to meet me in the near future and also to arrange a meeting with some of his left wing Conservative friends.


I enclose copy of an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 1st February. [11] I asked Archibald Hurd [12] to get Burnham [13] to let him write on this subject.


I enclose copy of the article to which I referred in my last letter.


You may be interested to have your attention drawn to the following paragraph in the King’s Speech: ‘Invitations are being issued to the Governments of Belgium, France, Germany and Italy to attend a Conference in London to consider the possibility of securing an effective international agreement for regulating hours of labour’. In a speech on the Address in Reply made yesterday, Mr. Baldwin stated that British ratification of the Washington Convention on Hours of Labour was conditional upon the successful termination of this proposed Conference.

In this connection I think you may care to refer to my letter of November 19th [14] in which I describe an interview with Mr.

Baldwin on the subject of the Labour Party Committee’s Report on the Importation of Sweated Goods and perhaps to the Report itself.

It is possible that the mention of this matter in the King’s Speech is connected with the Report.


Through the High Commissioner’s Office I received a memorandum from the Department of Trade and Customs on Australian wine and the Portuguese and Spanish treaties. This memorandum contained a request that the Australian Representatives on the Imperial Economic Committee should raise the question when an opportunity occurred.

As there is no chance of such opportunity in the near future, I propose to discuss the matter directly with Sir Sydney Chapman, the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

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

2 See Letter 50.

3 Stanley Baldwin.

4 A quarterly review of the politics of the British Commonwealth with a network of influential contributors throughout the Empire.

5 R. G. Casey, Commonwealth Government’s Liaison Officer in London.

6 Later Lord Lothian; Editor of the Round Table 1910-16; Private Secretary to Lloyd George 1916-21.

7 David Lloyd George, Prime Minister 1916-22.

8 Sir Edward Grigg, Private Secretary to Lloyd George 1921-22;

National Liberal M.P. 1922-25; appointed Governor of Kenya 1925.

9 Fellow of All Souls; Secretary of the British institute of International Affairs.

10 Editor of the Times.

11 The leading article argued that the Imperial Conference, proposed for October, should include discussion of Empire, trade as outlined in the First Report of the Imperial Economic Committee.

12 Member of the editorial staff of the Daily Telegraph.

13 Viscount Burnham, proprietor of the Daily Telegraph; President of the Empire Press Union.

14 See Letter 42.