207

24th January, 1929

My dear Prime Minister,

There is one point connected with the economic side of the Imperial Conference which I had intended to write to you about before, namely, the relationship between Lord Melchett's [1] proposed Empire Business Conference and the Imperial Conference.

I wonder whether you have considered whether the Melchett Conference should precede or follow the Imperial Conference. I tend towards the idea that both on the grounds of expediency and of practical effectiveness the Imperial Conference should come first. Presumably only some 15 months now separate us from the Imperial Conference. The preliminary arrangements for the Melchett idea have not yet commenced. A conference of Empire commercial and economic interests would be futile without sound documentation, and I feel it would be almost impossible to hold the suggested conference within a year. It also seems to me better that the Prime Ministers of the Empire should generally survey the economic position, adopt certain general resolutions, approve of the idea of the Melchett Conference, perhaps refer certain subjects to that Conference, and almost certainly instruct the Imperial Economic Committee and Empire Marketing Board to prepare certain documentation for that Conference.

If this procedure were adopted, the Melchett Conference might occur, say, from six to 12 months after the imperial Conference, and might have its energies canalised along useful channels; and might have its significance enhanced by certain direct references from the Imperial Conference. If the Melchett Conference was held before the Imperial Conference, the discussions might be expected to be vague and amorphous, and perhaps even dangerous. It is also probable that an early Conference on the Melchett plan might decrease public interest in the economic side of the Imperial Conference.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

1 Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. It had been proposed that a commercial and industrial conference be held immediately before the next Imperial Conference. Whether the proposal was initiated by Lord Melchett was debated in some quarters. See Letter 209.