Thursday, 18th March 1926

18th March, 1926


Dear Mr. Bruce,


On the 13th of March I received the following cable from you:

Reply your telegram, Government never contemplated Britain would not have representative on Executive Commission. You can tell Amery [1] that as I indicated in my telegram [2] we are prepared to accept their proposals as a temporary method of dealing with position and that the rest of my telegram was merely designed to set out the position as we saw it-Bruce.

On Monday morning I had an hour with Mr. Amery and after my interview I sent you the following cable:-

Have seen Amery. He considers proposed Executive Body will not be departmentalised and as the grant is not to be returnable he feels there will not be the ordinary Treasury motives for postponement of expenditure. Amery personally most anxious eventually to secure assent to making up grant to full average of 1,000,000 annually but is not sanguine of immediate success. Treasury have published estimates including 500,000 for Empire marketing. This item has not yet been noticed by the press. South African Government have cabled agreement with Amery’s plan. No further answers received.


Mr. Amery told me that, although he had not yet answered your cable of March 6th, he had written you a personal letter about the Imperial Economic Committee and the Executive Commission. He was glad to have the information that your cable to me enabled me to give him. He stated that he had personally taken it for granted that you did not exclude British representation on the Executive Commission but the precise information would be useful with his Cabinet colleagues.

He told me that South Africa had cabled their agreement with H.M.

Government’s proposals but did not tell me anything further as to South African views. I gathered from him that if Canada alone proves obdurate, he is prepared to go ahead without Canada.

Mr. Amery then asked me to let him have my views as to the methods of working of the proposed Executive. We discussed several points and I promised to write to him at once giving him my personal views. I enclose copy of my letter to him on this subject. I am taking it for granted that you will wish me to co-operate as fully as possible with Amery in order to get early and fruitful action on the Imperial Economic Committee’s recommendations.

Mr. Amery also asked for my views on publicity. I told him that I had given this subject much thought and felt that, while there were obvious dangers, these could be avoided and the campaign made most fruitful if certain points were clearly seen. These points included:

(a) the avoidance of all exaggeration or of appeals based on false fact or sentiment.

(b) clear realisation of the aims of the campaign (1) to induce the United Kingdom consumer to transfer his custom from foreign to Empire goods and not just to increase the total consumption of fruit or any other articles.

(2) to awaken an Empire consciousness among people in this country.

I told him that I had gone carefully into the question with some friends, who were advertising experts, and that they had worked out a general memorandum, a copy of which I would send to him. He asked me whether these views coincided with those of Mr. Crawford [3], the Advertising Expert Member of the Imperial Economic Committee. I told him that Crawford had only contributed to the Committee one brief and very vague memorandum, with which the Committee, as a whole, was in disagreement because Mr. Crawford based his ideas upon an emotional appeal.

I am enclosing, for your information, a copy of the memorandum on publicity, which I sent to Mr. Amery. I hope you will find time to glance at it and to let me know something about the way it strikes you.

Please understand that I accept no responsibility for the figures and statements. These were prepared by David Allen Ltd and I have not checked them.

Mr. Amery asked me if I did not think that the time had come for Empire Economic Committees to be established in Australia and the other self-governing Dominions in order to increase the sale of Empire goods in Dominion markets. He said he would like to see in Australia a Committee with New Zealand, Canadian and Indian, as well as United Kingdom, representatives to increase Empire trade.

I told him that I very strongly felt that the essential preliminary to any such, move must be that Great Britain herself must ‘show willing’. Up to date Great Britain had not given any really substantial evidence of an intention to prefer Empire goods. I felt that a move, such as he mentioned, would not be well received until Great Britain had demonstrated effectively her intention to assist the Overseas Empire. I think he agreed that my view was sound.


There is no news of particular importance about the work of the Committee this week. Yesterday we had a full dress debate on the Publicity Section of the Report in which, after several hours, the proposals of the Drafting Committee were approved, subject to certain small amendments.

As you will have very clearly realised that Voluntary Preference is the only method at the present moment available for assisting Empire products in this market, this Publicity Section becomes of special importance and I am very glad that the Committee have decided to state quite clearly that a publicity campaign must appeal to the reason of the people and not to their emotions.

I am enclosing, for your information, the Minutes of the three meetings, at the first of which Mr. Amery was present and [at] the other two Mr. Amery’s proposals were discussed by the Committee.


I am enclosing copy of a report of the Committee of the Independent Labour Party which has been considering the attitude of labour to the British Empire. I have marked the pages in which reference is made to economic relationship but I fancy that you will be interested to glance through the whole of the report. Mr.

Snell [4], the Chairman of this Committee, is a friend of mine.

The I.L.P. is, on the whole, the section of the Labour Party most affected by international socialism and therefore this report seems to me of rather particular significance and shows that the idea of Empire economic relationship has made very considerable progress in soil much less suited to the growth of our ideas than among trade unionists.


I enclose cuttings from the ‘Times’ giving an article by the Rt.

Hon. G. N. Barnes [5] on this subject, a leading article from the ‘Times’ and the report of the opening meeting of the International Conference in London. [6] I think that you will be interested in this.


As I believe you are aware, the ‘Times Trade Supplement’ is going to publish on April 17th a very important Empire Products Special Supplement dealing with the British Empire. I believe that this Supplement will be very good and attract widespread attention both in this country and in the Dominions.

As a prelude to the publication, the paper is publishing a series of articles on the economic problems of the Empire and I enclose a copy of the article that appeared last week. [7]

I am also enclosing a very striking leading article on the Annual Grant under the title of the ‘Gift Horse’, a rather curious coincidence to anyone who has seen your cable of March 6th.

The Leader Writer has taken just the opposite point to yourself and criticises the British Government for looking the gift horse in the mouth before making the gift. [8]

I also enclose, from the same paper, a short comment on the new Merchandise Marks Bill. [9]


I enclose a report of a speech which I made at Bournemouth and a copy of a leading acticle from the ‘Bristol Times & Mirror’ about my article in the ‘National Review’.


I enclose several Parliamentary questions and answers of interest in connection with the Imperial Economic Committee.


In my letter of February 17th [10] I gave you some figures about British trade and commented upon the optimistic talk which was then current. There has been rather less obvious optimism during the past month but everyone still seems to take an improvement of trade for granted.

The February trade figures give little encouragement so far as the British export trade goes. The total value of exports of British produce and manufacture was 62.8 millions in February as against 60.3 millions in January 1926, but in February 1925 the figure was 69.3 millions; so, although February showed a small increase over January, exports were 6.5 millions down on February 1925.

The decline in imports noted in January 1926 continued in February, the January total being 117.6 millions and for February 96.8 millions. So far as the first two months of 1926 go, the position is as follows:-

1924 1925 1926 (2 mths) (2 mths) (2 mths) Imports 197.8 mill. 239.0 mill. 214.5 mill.

Exports 132.2 “ 138.3 “ 123.1 “


A group of the younger Left Wing Conservative Members have asked me to dine with them on March 22nd and to address them on the subject of Empire Economics. They intend to work at the subject and have appointed a sub-group of four members with a Secretary (a son of Sir Rennell Rodd, late Ambassador at Rome). These members are very intelligent but tend to be too ‘high brow’. I hope, however, that they really mean to work for I have so often been disappointed with promises of work from Tories.

Their idea is (1) to get a grasp of the situation (2) to start a campaign in (a) Parliament (b) the Press in favour of a successful Imperial Conference on the economic side.

I propose to point out to them methods of clearly apprehending the present position in the following sequence:

(a) a study of the post war competitive situation in the world’s markets which British industry must face. For this purpose I have prepared some figures from the most recent foreign statistics which are striking. I enclose a copy.

With a little knowledge of world trade and a study of these figures, it becomes clear that, whereas in 1913 Great Britain had only two serious industrial competitors, today France, Italy, Belgium, Japan and Czechoslovakia have also to be reckoned with.

I would recommend to your attention the final column of this table which shows that, in contrasting the export trade of 1923 with 1925, the progress made by Great Britain is almost negligible whereas every other one of these countries have made substantially greater progress.

I have also prepared figures on the export of manufactured goods which, although less complete, are equally striking. I enclose this table also.

When one considers the depressed state of the British iron and steel industry, it is extremely significant to note that both Germany and France have between 1923 and 1925 doubled the quantity of iron and steel products exported.

(b) A study of the comparative value of markets to Great Britain illustrated by the facts that I have so frequently utilized.

(c) From (a) and (b) a clear idea can be obtained of the Economic importance of the Empire to Great Britain.

(d) How to speed up Empire development.

(1) I shall urge them to satisfy themselves as to the present practicability of Tariff Preference, Import Licences, etc.

(2) Urge that they study the possibilities of Voluntary Preference.

(3) Realise the many and grave limitations of Voluntary Preference.

(4) Work for a reconsideration within the Unionist Party of the whole question of Empire Economic Development.


I am not forwarding any further ideas on this point. Just at present I am working until about 11 p.m. every night and have not the opportunity of giving this important subject the attention it requires. As soon as the Fruit Report is signed (I hope next week), the extreme pressure will be relaxed and I shall be able to collect my ideas.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

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

2 Bruce’s cable of 6 March; see note 3 to Letter 58.

3 W. S. Crawford, United Kingdom representative on the Imperial Economic Committee.

4 Henry Snell, Labour M.P.

5 Former Labour M.P.; Minister of Pensions 1916-17; Minister without Portfolio 1917-20. Barnes’s article, published in the Times of 15 March, explained that a Convention had been drawn up at the 1919 Washington International Labour Organization Conference, limiting hours of labour, with some exceptions, to forty-eight per week. The Convention had not yet been ratified by major industrial nations, partly because of fears of the advantage to be gained by non-signatory competitors. A leading article in the same edition stressed the importance of the question for workers.

6 Times, 16 March. Delegates at the Conference on Hours of Labour represented the five major industrial nations of Europe: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

7 ‘Economic Problems of the Empire. 1.-Critical Period of Transition’, Times Imperial and Foreign Trade and Engineering Supplement, 13 March.

8 ibid. The article criticised the British Government’s apparent reluctance to hand over the 1 million promised to improve marketing of Empire products.

9 An editorial comment pointed to a need for a more precise definition of terms in the draft Bill, and suggested that foodstuffs recommended by the Imperial Economic Committee should be the first to be dealt with under the terms of the Bill.

10 Letter 55.