9th July, 1925


(Due to arrive Melbourne-9.8.25)

My dear P.M.,

The new Committee of Civil Research (the 'Civil C.I.D.'), with Tom Jones [1] as Secretary, is getting into its stride.

I enclose copy of Lords' Debate in which notable speeches by Lord Haldane [2] and Lord Balfour [3] were made on this subject of the Committee of Civil Research. My letter No. 76 of 28th May dealt with the formation of this Committee. [4]

I have often wondered whether some such organisation as this, or a cross between this and the C.I.D., under the title of (say) Permanent Development Commission or Commonwealth Development Committee, would not be of assistance to you in Australia. It would really be like a Permanent Royal Commission with the Prime Minister as Chairman, some capable M.H. R. or Senator as President, and a first-class Secretary. These would be all the permanent members; other members of the Government (and, for that matter, of the Opposition), as well as business and technical experts, would be co-opted from time to time in accordance with their special aptitude to deal with the particular question under discussion.

Such problems as the Northern Territory, Industrial Arbitration, Railway Gauge Co-ordination, Commonwealth Railways, Defence of Australian Ports and Migration might be referred to it. The Committee would calmly and at leisure, and with the best expert advice procurable, thrash out, or at any rate work up to fairly fine points, the plus and minus of these and other great problems.

Hoover's [5] activities in America as Secretary of Commerce are working on something like these lines.

One has been hearing for some time that the Liberal Party in this country has lost its vigour and will disintegrate between the upper and nether millstones of Conservatism and Labour. Certainly the loss of Asquith [6] to the Lords, and Grigg [7] to Kenya, has sapped its vitality. One can get no evidence of the rumoured division of the Party into two -the 'right' going to the Conservatives and the 'left' to Labour. Any sloughing off of Liberal members to one party or the other must, I think, necessarily be by groups, as the stigma that would attach to individual secession would be too obvious.

There was a debate in the Lords two days ago on the Pact [8], in the course of which Asquith practically gave it his blessing. I know that Asquith and Balfour lunched together a day or so before and thrashed the matter out as to the Liberal Party's attitude in the Lords on this subject.

The apparently growing tendency in this country to take selected members of the Opposition into at least the minor councils of the Government is thought to be useful. Even before the war, John Burns [9] was made Chairman of a C.I.D. Sub-Committee to enquire into the question of diverting traffic from the approaches to London in case of invasion. Sir Alfred Mond [10] (Liberal) is being made a member of the Committee of Civil Research. Several Labour men and Liberals are at the moment on various Government Sub-Committees and Commissions. You sent Charlton [11] to Geneva last September. President Wilson's failure to take a Republican delegate to the Peace Conference led to his undoing.

One would think that it would tend to smooth out some at least of the bitter party feeling, as well as educate the other side in the difficulties of Government.

The 'Brisbane' incident showed, if proof were needed, that there is no 'dictator' in H.M.G. [12] It is almost impossible to get a rapid authoritative decision from any individual Minister. They insist on consulting their colleagues before committing themselves. Which is a good thing, I expect, but it does slow things up.

I have been trying to read into H.M.G.'s attitude towards China and Russia in particular some sign of a settled policy, but it is hard to discover. 'Close touch but non-interference' must certainly keep other countries guessing. It keeps a number of people at home guessing too!

General Spears [13], who writes an article 'A Basis for European Security' in the current Review of Reviews (going to you in news cuttings this week), may not be known to you. He was a protege of Lloyd George. His father's name was Speyers or Spiers. On changing his name to Spears he adopted the crest of a hand grasping six 'spears'. His critics say he should at the same time have adopted the motto 'Dum spero spiras'. He is not altogether trusted and is known generally as a wire puller. He writes a good deal, travels in France and Germany, and speaks both languages very well; is 'clever'. He married the woman who wrote 'Jane, our Stranger', a very well-known novel of life in Paris, which is said to have enraged the French. [14] His article on 'European Security' merely sketches a scheme of demilitarisation in the Rhineland.

Winston Churchill [15] finds himself in some difficulty in his efforts to reduce expenditure. As far as I can gather, it is a fact that the expenditure of Government Departments (other than the Fighting Services) is cut to the bone. Still further minor pruning would reduce the efficiency of the machine. It is a matter on which I am unable to comment, as to whether or not it would not be possible to eliminate certain Government Departments altogether, but this is a matter of high policy and the Government are apparently not looking in this direction. The only real trees worth pruning are the Fighting Services and they fight like wild- cats against it. Winston has the name of being a good fighter too, up to a point, but he is said to be liable to break down at the last moment. His position is not an easy one. He is not quite persona grata with the body of the Conservative party. He is regarded by his fellow Ministers as having got rather a bigger plum than he deserved in the Chancellorship. And the Treasury people are not too pleased with his being there. They realise that if they had (say) Austen Chamberlain [16], he would resign rather than give way on some all-important point, whereas they feel that Winston would protest up to the last and then put the responsibility on the Cabinet, and retain his job.

I am celebrating my centenary this week-my hundredth letter goes by this mail.

I am, Yours very truly, R. G. CASEY

1 Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet.

2 A Liberal M.P. for twenty-six years until his elevation to the peerage in 1911, Lord Haldane had been Secretary for War 1905-12 and Lord High Chancellor 1912-15 and in 1924. In 1925 he was a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

3 Lord President of the Council. Lord Balfour had been Prime Minister 1902-05 and had held other portfolios subsequently, including that of Foreign Secretary 1916-19.

4 Established in 1925 along the lines of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Committee of Civil Research was suggested by Haldane and sustained by the enthusiasm of Balfour. In 1930 it was transformed into the Economic Advisory Council and that body was in turn forerunner to the Cabinet's Scientific Advisory Committee of 1940.

5 Herbert Hoover, subsequently President of the United States 1929-33.

6 Herbert Asquith, who had been Liberal Prime Minister 1908-16, had been elevated to the peerage as Earl of Oxford and Asquith in February 1925.

7 Sir Edward Grigg, appointed Governor of Kenya in May 1925.

8 The Locarno Pact.

9 President of the Local Government Board 1905-14 and President of the Board of Trade in 1914.

10 Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.

11 Matthew Charlton, leader of the federal Labor Opposition 1922- 28.

12 Casey's point is obscure. Earlier in 1925 an Australian cruiser, H.M.A.S. Brisbane, attached to the Royal Navy for training, had been involved in conflict with Chinese revolutionaries threatening British lives and property in Canton.

Labor Party leaders in Australia had strongly condemned use of an Australian ship in what they saw as a British imperialist war.

13 E. L. Spears, Head of the British Military Mission in Paris 1917-20, and M.P. 1922-24.

14 Mary Borden, American-born novelist, who married General Spears in 1918, published Jane-Our Stranger (Heinemann, London) in 1923.

15 Chancellor of the Exchequer.

16 Foreign Secretary.