Fruits of the Imperial Conference
‘Neither revolutionary nor reactionary,’ is the description given by this writer to the famous report on inter-imperial relations
J. A. STEVENSON
ANOTHER Imperial Conference has come and gone and constitutional pundits everywhere are busy taking stock of the fruits of its labors.
It accomplished a good deal of useful routine work, but attention is properly concentrated upon the portentous document known as the Report of a Committee on Inter-Imperial Relations which was appointed by the main conference to examine the problem of the constitutional arrangements of the Empire. Its chairman was Earl Balfour, and included in its personnel were all the Dominion premiers. They submitted the complicated problems involved to prolonged scrutiny and careful deliberation, and the report which they presented was formally adopted by the conference on November 19.
Concerning its contents an extraordinary diversity of opinion prevails. On the one hand it is acclaimed as an ‘epochmaking document’ and the ‘Magna Charta of the Empire,’ and on the other so high an authority as the London Times declares that ‘it is essentially a register of conditions as they exist already rather than a programme for the future; and the majority of the Conservative press of Canada regard it in the same light.
The London Economist suspects that the report was intended to produce both of these reactions, and discerns in it the hand of the politician as well as the hand of the constitutional lawyer. Some of its clauses will fill the lawyer’s soul with apprehension, but these will be a blessed boon to the statesman who has to pacify the restless souls of supporters of the extreme nationalist school. Verily, says the Economist ‘equal status’, like Mesopotamia, is a blessed word.
THE document, in its essence, is a report and not a statute or a constitution endowed with any legal sanctions, and the lapse of time, as well as the evolution of a variety of legislation which will be necessary to give some of its provisions practical effect in the administrative sphere, alone will make clear its true meaning and consequences. Early in its pages we find a definition of the status of ‘the group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions given as follows:
‘They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.’
The case of India is peculiar and was accorded special treatment.
Here, however, a governing principle is laid down and its application in two spheres — domestic and foreign-can be examined separately. In the former field, the first consequence is a comparatively insignificant change in the Royal Title which, after necessary legislation has been passed, will read as follows: ‘George V by the Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas King, Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India.’ The real change lies in the omission of the words ‘the United
Kingdom of’ before ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ and over it there have been some fierce mutterings in Northern Ireland.
Secondly, the report effects a change in the position of the governors-general of each Dominion. In future he will occupy ‘in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by his Majesty the King in Great Britain’ and it is laid down that ‘he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain or of any department of that Government.’ Therefore he will cease to be the liaison link of communication between the British and Dominion Cabinets and future intercourse will be ‘between Government and Government direct.’ But the governor-general will be supplied with copies of all important documents and kept fully informed about affairs of state, as the British monarch always is.
Thirdly, in respect to the problem of Dominion legislation, which offers many complications, a special committee of experts will be appointed to report upon the
numerous technical questions emerging in connection with such matters as the extra territorial effect of Dominion legislation and the Royal Assent to and the disallowance of Dominion legislation. However, the rule was laid down that ‘It is the right of the Government of each Dominion to advise the Crown in all matters relating to its own affairs’ and each Dominion Government is henceforth to be styled ‘His Majesty’s Government of Canada, or Australia’ as the case may be; furthermore, an existing practice is confirmed by a clause providing that ‘legislation by the Parliament at Westminster applying to a Dominion would only be passed with the consent of the Dominion concerned.’
The problem of appeals to the Judicial committee of the Privy Council was also considered, but was sidestepped by a negative declaration to the effect that, if any Dominion wishes to abolish the right of appeal it is at liberty to do so.
Changes in Treaty Making Procedure
IN THE sphere of foreign relations, the step toward the assumption of independent powers in the negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties which was taken by Canada in 1923 in connection with the Halibut Treaty with the United States, was confirmed and developed further. In future in the case of treaties affecting the whole Empire, the contracting party will not be described as ‘The British Empire’ nor will His Majesty be stated to contract on behalf of ‘The British Empire,’ but he will contract
(1) ‘for Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all parts of the British Empire which are not separate members of the League of Nations; (2) ‘for the Dominion of Canada’; (3) ‘for the Commonwealth of Australia;’ (4) ‘for the Union of South Africa’; (5) ‘for the Irish Free State’; (6) ‘for India.’
If the treaty applies to only one or more parts of the Empire, then His Majesty will contract only for these particular parts, and the ‘full powers’ issued by the King to plenipotentiaries for the negotiation and signature of treaties will be granted only ‘on the advice of the Governments concerned.’
Secondly, the question of representation at international conferences received consideration, and it was decided that where the conference is of a technical character the separate representation of each Dominion is desirable, but where its aspect is political, the special circumstances of each case must \>e considered. As regards the general conduct of foreign policy, it is recognized that ‘in this sphere as in the F here of defence, Ae major share of responsibility rests now and must for a time continue to rest with His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain.’ Having abolished the old link of communication via the governors - general, the conference pronounced itself in favor of developing a system of personal contact both in London and in the Dominion capitals, and, presumably at no distant date, an inter-imperial diplomatic service will come into being, but the details of the machinery have yet to be worked out.
It was agreed also that exequaturs granted to foreign consuls appointed t a Dominion will be given only with the approval of the government of that Dominion and will be countersigned by one of its Ministers, and the appointment of Canadian and Irish Ministers at Washington was ‘taken note of.’ A speech of Mr. Baldwin’s had forecasted that the relations of the Dominions to the Treaty of Locarno which raises the whole question of their responsibilities for British foreign policy would be one of the chief subjects of discussion, but it is now found that any definite declaration about it was carefully avoided, and the formal resolution which congratulated the British Cabinet upon the success of their Locarno policy says nothing about the acceptance of any obligation for it by any of the Dominions.
On Controversial Ground
HERE then is a brief record of the constitutional and political results of the conference, and for months and years to come a controversy will probably rage around them. The truth seems to be that, while they are neither revolutionary nor reactionary in their tendencies, they do set up a sort of political framework within which the Dominions can, if their people so desire, move to a status of complete independence without unnecessary friction. But, on the other hand, if the people of any or all of the Dominions feel that a status of independence will involve them in greater troubles and expenditure than its benefits would seem to warrant, the resolutions which have been passed need produce no serious impairment of the fundamental structure of the loose partnership in which the Empire now rests. It might be said that the conference has provided the Dominions with a springboard from which they can dive into the waters of independence, but, if these waters seem too cold and dangerous, they need never take the plunge.
But the conference evaded any pronouncement upon what is the most fundamental problem of all—the definition of the responsibilities of the partner communities for foreign policies which involve the issues of peace and war. Until 1914 it was always assumed that when Great Britain was at war, the entire Empire was at war; Laurier affirmed this doctrine and to-day constitutional lawyers, applying strictly legal tests, would assert that it holds good. But in September, 1922, this theory was put suddenly to the test and weakened greatly in connection with the Chanak affair when Premier Mackenzie King laid down another doctrine in the House of Commons at Ottawa in these words ;
“Under our system of government, the Canadian Parliament should determine, except in the case of threatened or actual invasion, whether the country should participate in wars in which other nations or other parts of the British Empire may be involved.’’
"Similar tendencies were visible in the attitude of Canjada and other Dominions to various schemes drawn up in Europe to deal with the problem of security and peace. •Canada’s attitude to the Geneva Protocol and the Rhine Guarantee Pact marked a definite divergence of viewpoint and policy upon a firstclass issue, and the conference "•has done nothing to reconcile the differences. But one ¡thing is certain-—a political society which is now frankly .discussing whether all parts of it are necessarily at war ¡at once or whether some of them can remain at peace while others are engaged in war is something radically different from the clearly defined united sovereign state of U914.
PROFESSOR ALFRED ZIMMERN, a well-known publicist, has just produced a notable book called ‘The 'Third British Empire’ in which he surveys the changed ¡situation and delivers the verdict that the Empire is to1, (day living under two distinct regimes. ‘It has,’ he says, •‘as it were, an old skin which it is engaged in casting and ¡a new skin which is forming as fast as the old disappears.’ "In his View of the old imperial constitution or the old skin, .only four main elefnents now survive: the Crown, the ■Crown’s representatives in the Dominions, the judicial Ibond and certain specific limitations of Dominion indevpendence and sovereignty. Of these the Crown is obviously -the most important and commands the greatest ¡popular respect. But Professor Zimmern, who wrote before the last conference has grave doubts about its efficacy as a permanent link and his misgivings would probably now be greater, when it is made clear that we are to have half a dozen different Crowns. The Crown is simply a constitutional organ which acts upon the advice of a responsible minister, and obviously the Crown, which acts upon the advice of a Canadian Minister, is only in name the same Crown which acts upon the advice of a British or Irish minister. In fact, the British Crown can now receive quite discordant advice from six different prime ministers; it could even receive advice to go to war upon itself and therefore behind the theory of the Crown as a link, there is an unsolved constitutional impasse.
Professor Zimmern holds, therefore, that the British jEmpire is in a state of disintegration and instead of being
a single state has become an entente of states. But he is not dismayed at the change for he sees in the League of Nations and’its covenant a workable solution of the impasse. It is a striking fact that Canada has given at Geneva pledges which she has refused to give in London. Under the League covenant she is doubly committed— first to refrain from belligerency on her own account, at least for nine months and secondly, to take action together with her fellow members in the event of a breach of the Covenant. Therefore, under the dispensation now existing, the separate rights of the Dominions in regard to the issues of peace and war can be boiled down to this that a lawbreaking state will receive from the members of the British Empire not one declaration of war but six which could be construed as offering an effective demonstration of the moral unity of the Commonwealth.
However, as far as Canada is concerned, there is one Unfortunate weakness in this theory arising from the fact that her nearest neighbor, a mighty power called the United States, is not a member of the League of Nations and, therefore, is not bound by its rules.
Summed up, it may be said that the conference has managed to effect a useful clearance of constitutional debris and a valuable clarification of some existing confusions and anomalies. But it has failed to solve the problem of foreign relations, and it has made no effort to de-vise any plan, supported by joint responsibility, which would enable the British communities to be sure of presenting a united front in any international emergency. Moreover, it was conspicuously weak on the economic side and there was but scanty consideration of effective policies for promoting inter-imperial migration and an increase of reciprocal trade. The Imperial Economic Committee which was set up in 1923, had at that time its scope of activity deliberately restricted to a specific inquiry about Dominion marketing methods in Britain and now, apparently, there has only been a very slight broadening of its terms of reference. But, Sir Alfred Mond, M.P., a great British industrialist and an able politician, has been demonstrating in articles dealing with the problem of ‘The Empire as an Economic Unit’ that a far-reaching economic reorganization of the British Empire on the lines of real co-operation between its partner units might produce for them, at the expense of some temporary sacrifice on the part of .certain interests, a common prosperity such as they have not thought possible in their wildest dreams and that, if such co-operative endeavor is not made, they must run the serious risk of becoming at no distant date economic appanages of the United States. Neglect of this problem was a serious omission.
The First Conferences
* I 'HE late conference was the tenth of its kind, and it is profitable to offer some account of the record of its predecessors whose work shows a curious variation of beneficial accomplishments and disappointed hopes. As institutions go, the Imperial Conference cannot claim the status of antiquity for it first came into existence in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The actual suggestion for a Conference came from a body known as the Imperial Federation League which had taken shape in 1884 and included such notable statesmen as Lord Rosebery and ‘Buckshot’ Forster, Gladstone’s Irish Secretary, as well as Canadians like Sir George R. Parkin. This body took advantage of the Indian and Colonial Exhibí tion of July, 1886, to hold a meeting which was attended by many overseas delegates; and in August a deputation of its members waited upon Lord Salisbury, the British Premier, to urge the summoning of an official conference with a view to the creation of an imperial council.
Lord Salisbury was a fine type of the Tory statesman and a great Foreign Secretary, but in the department of statecraft with which he was chiefly concerned, the colonies, notably Australia, had caused him a good deal of trouble, which was constantly chafing at French policy in the Pacific. So it was with some reluctance that he consented to the insertion in the Queen’s speech at the prorogation of a paragraph which was a prelude to the issuance of formal invitations to the colonies to a conference. It is noteworthy that they were extended not merely to the ministers, prime or otherwise, of the Colonies, but to general representatives: ‘leading public men, nominated by the different Governments.’ The representatives of Canada, for instance, were Sir Alexander Campbell, the Minister of Justice, and Sir Sandford Fleming who held no official position but was in the service of the Canadian Pacific Railway. At the opening session there assembled no less than 121 delegates representing thirty-five communities; twenty-five of these came from the self-governing colonies, thirty-three from twenty-three Crown Colonies and the balance were British politicians and officials, India being without a solitary representative. Lord Salisbury had consented to the conference but he was averse to wasting his time over it, and the Colonial Secretary, Sir. H. Holland, created later Lord Knutsford, had literally to drag him to the opening. In a letter consenting to grace the first meeting the old Tory wrote:
‘I will do my best to keep my temper, but the outrecuidance oí your greater Britain is sometimes trying.’
and a few days later he renewed his grumblings about the Colonials thus;
‘It does seem to me that they are the most unreasonable people I ever heard or dreamt of. They want us to incur all the bloodshed, the dangers and the stupendous cost of a war with France of which almost the exclusive burden will fall on us.’
Such were the sentiments of a British Conservative about the outer Empire forty brief years ago.
However, with Salisbury’s benediction the conference got down to business and managed to accomplish a substantial amount of useful work. To the disappointment of its promoters, the question of political federation was ruled out of the proceedings, but the problem of fiscal co-operation and preferences received a good deal of attention, Jan Hofmeyr, leader of the Dutch Afrikander party at the Cape, advancing the first practical proposal ever made in this direction. Free trade sentiment, however, was then omnipotent in Britain and the Hofmeyr plan made no headway. The questions of naval defence and the colonies’ contributions to it, of patents and postal arrangements, of the situation in the Pacific and kindred subjects were freely discussed, and Sir Sandford Fleming was able to do some useful spadework for his pet project, a state-owned trans-pacific cable.
Six years later a second Colonial Conference, as the gathering was then called, was held in Ottawa—the only occasion on which it has met outside London. The Hon. Mackenzie'Bowell, Sir Adolphe Caron, Sir George Foster and Sir Sandford Fleming were the Canadian delegates, and a notable figure was Sir Henry de Villiers, a great South African jurist who lived to adorn the British peerage. The British representative was Lord Jersey and, as there were only two non-official delegates, the conference began to assume the purely ministerial and governmental character which it has since preserved.
This conference of 1894 devoted the major part of its time to cable communications and steamship service, and Sir Sandford Fleming made some progress with his scheme, while a resolution advocating inter-imperial preference was carried.
Chamberlain and Laurier
'T'HE next two conferences, held in 1897 and 1902, respectively, met in an atmosphere vitalized by the presence of Joseph Chamberlain as their directing spirit. The great Birmingham Radical who had broken with his party over the Home Rule issue and had pursued thereafter an attitude of detachment through two Parliaments had consented to join the Salisbury Cabinet in 1895 and had deliberately selected the Colonial Office, which had previously been rated one of the lesser portfolios. He had gradually worked his mind round to the conclusion that the future of Britain as a world power depended upon her close co-operation with her daughter states, and the rapid development of their resources, and he was determined to make the Colonial Conference an agency of constructive policies. In 1897, too, new figures from overseas arrived to grace the council board at Downing Street. From Canada came Sir Wilfrid Laurier, fresh from the great victory which brought him to power, to captivate the British public with his personal charm and political finesse. From New Zealand came Dick Seddon, the bluff Lancashire miner, who for nearly twenty years was a sort of political czar in New Zealand. All the overseas delegates in 1897 were prime ministers, and the conference had now definitely taken the form of a meeting between governments and the idea of equal status had been recognized.
Chamberlain was intent upon achieving a better consolidation of the imperial fabric and his first appeal was for co-operation in the field of defence. But when he failed to make headway, he turned to the economic tack and began to travel the road which led to his resignation from the Balfour Government in 1903 and his great tariff reform crusade. Most of the overseas delegates were sympathetic to the idea of imperial preference and Canada was committed to the actual grant of a preference to British goods; a preliminary step, however, was the abolition of hampering treaties with Germany and Bel gium under which Britain had agreed not to accept any advantage in her colonial markets not extended to these countries, and the British Government agreed to the denunciation of the obnoxious pacts.
But the preferential issue was soon destined to become a counter in the game of British party politics, and it has never been able to shake off that fatal handicap. At the conference of 1897 Laurier was disposed to favor schemes, if not of complete consolidation, at least of closer co-operation, but in the interval before the conference of 1902 the South African War, which produced a wave of anti imperialist sentiment in Quebec, had been fought and won and Laurier had shed some of his earlier imperialist fervor. In 1902 Chamberlain had definitely decided to nail his flag to the mast of imperial preference; he was assured of the support of Seddon, of New Zealand, and the Australians and hoped for the backing of Laurier. But Laurier, fearful of the growth of the imperialist spirit in Britain, was now anxious for the return of the British Liberal party to power and skilfully threw cold water upon the preferential programme. The result was that the Conservative Free Traders secured the abolition of the special war tax on grain which was to have been the starting point of the preference, Chamberlain resigned office and embarked on his famous tariff reform campaign and the British Liberals won a smashing victory in the election of 1906.
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Their hold upon office was unshaken until the Great War had submerged all domestic issues, and as long as they were in command at Downing Street, imperial preference was easily smothered. At the conference of 1907 Alfred Deakin, the brilliant Victorian statesman who had risen to be Premier of the Australian Commonwealth, pleaded the case for preference in a speech still quoted by its devotees, but Laurier and General Botha who now appeared for the first time as a South African delegate, anxious as both were to keep the British Liberals in power, were unsympathetic and Winston Churchill, then a zealous Free Trader, was able to boast that he had ‘banged and bolted the door’ against preference. At the 1907 conference there were passed resolutions defining for the first time the constitution of the conference and proriding for a certain continuity between meetings through a permanent secretarial staff under the Colonial Secretary. But the latter project came to nothing and the only real result was the division of the Colonial Office into two sections, one for the Dominions and the other for the Crown Colonies.
Soon afterwards the menace of Prussianism began to loom up, and at a subsidiary conference on defence, held in 1909, the overseas delegates got their first inkling of the great upheaval that came in 1914. If the British Admiralty and War Office did not attain their full desires, some useful plans for the coordination of the military and naval organization of the Empire were approved of and Laurier was committed to the naval programme which helped to compass his downfall in 1911. But before it came he was yet to attend another conference in 1911 when he and Botha, with the cordial approval of British ministers, helped to kill a plan of full-blown imperial federation sponsored by Sir Joseph Ward, the Premier of New Zealand. Otherwise, defence problems provided the chief business of this conference, and for the first time the overseas delegates were taken fully into the confidence of the British Ministry and given information without reserve about the diplomatic, military and naval situation.
The Imperial War Cabinet
ANOTHER conference should have • met in 1915, but the various governments were absorbed in the furtherance of the war efforts of their respective countries and, although Ministers of the Dominions—as they were now generally called—frequently visited London during the early years of the war, it was 1917 before an Imperial Conference actually met in formal session. Side by side with it there came into existence another body called the Imperial War Cabinet, whose avowed object was to afford the Dominions a more direct share in the control of war policies, and in its councils Sir Robert Borden, General Smuts, and W. M. Hughes, of Australia, all played an effective part.
The Imperial Conference, of 1915,
however, gave prolonged consideration to a variety of political problems which had arisen from the war, and it reaffirmed the principle of preference and gave its endorsation to the famous Paris resolutions which had been drafted to thwart Germany’s aspirations for commercial ascendancy. To the question of inter-imperial relations it gave exhaustive consideration and recommended that their readjustment to meet new conditions should be the subject of a special constitutional conference to be summoned soon after the war ended. In regard to these declarations the delegates made the following important pronouncement:
‘They deem it their duty, however, to place on record their view that any such readjustment, while thoroughly preserving all existing powers of self-government and complete . control of domestic affairs, should be based upon a full recognition of the Dominions as autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth and of India as an important portion of the same, should recognize the right of the Dominions and India to an adequate voice in foreign policy and foreign relations and should provide effective arrangements for continuous consultation on all important matters of common Imperial concern and for such necessary concerted action founded on consultation as the several Governments may determine.’
A recommendation was also made that India should be adequately represented at all future Conferences.
The Imperial War Cabinet sat continuously until the end of the war, and in 1918 there was another meeting of the confer ence. Both bodies passed two important resolutions, the first to the effect that communications between the premiers of the Dominions and Great Britain should henceforth pass direct without the intervention of the Colonial Office, and the second suggesting that the Dominion Governments should nominate a cabinet minister who should reside permanently in London and provide a continuous link with the British Government in the intervals between the conferences.
Mr. Meighen and the AngloJapanese Alliance
'T'HE conference of 1921 saw Canada A sending a new representative in Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen, and he found himself immediately in conflict with the British, Australian and New Zealand Ministers on the subject of the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Mr. Meighen objected to its renewal on the ground that it was impossible for Canada to endorse an alliance which would be liable to incur for her the ill will of the United States, and eventually his powerful advocacy of his case carried the day. The AngloJapanese Alliance was abrogated and its disappearance made possible the disarmament conference in Washington a few months later. But the conference shirked its duty in one respect. Under the influence of Lloyd George and of Mr. Hughes, of Australia, who had become appalled at the difficulties involved and were fearful of the results for their own political fortunes, the delegates completely shelved the project of the special constitutional conference which had been recommended in 1917. As a substitute they fell back on what has been described by some authorities as a policy of imperial co-operation whereby it was agreed that the British countries should endeavor to maintain a common foreign policy by regular consideration and co-operation, but they virtually ensured the failure of their plan by separating without making any provision of adequate machinery to make co-operation effective. A good deal of discussion took place about the problems involved in the post war settlement of Europe, and after Lord Curzon had given an expression of British aims and policies, a resolution was passed supporting them. Plans were adopted for the encouragement of migration within the empire and the thorny question of Indians domiciled in South Africa and Canada, which was having serious repercussions in Indian politics, received some attention.
The 1923 Conferences
THE conferences were supposed to be quadrennial affairs, but the war had left such a large legacy of complicated problems that it was deemed advisable to hold another at shorter interval. Moreover, the economic plight of the world had suggested the advisability of calling a special economic conference to examine the possibilities of stimulating inter-imperial trade and general development. So, for the convenience of the Dominion premiers, it was decided to hold the two conferences concurrently in 1923. The principal delegates were members of both bodies, but they relied upon the assistance of different experts for each. On this occasion, • Premier Mackenzie King, and Mr. Bruce, of Australia, made their initial appearance at an imperial conference, and there was also present for the first time a delegate from the Irish Free State. Foreign policy occupied a good deal of time in the conference proper and problems of imperial defence were the subject of a long discussion. In a series of resolutions concerning the latter, the conference, while admitting that it was for each Dominion government to decide the nature and extent of its own action, outlined a number of what were called guiding principles including the primary responsibility of each part of the Empire for its own defence, and the need for uniformity in the training and equipment of air forces, Mr. Amery, the First Lord of the Admiralty, expatiated upon the necessity and merits of the projected naval base at Singapore, but found nobody save the Australasian delegates enthusiastic about it. There was a rather controversial - discussion about the status of Indian nationals in the Dominions and a subsidiary conference between the Colonial Secretary and a committee to be selected by the Government of India was arranged for. The most important fruit of the conference proper was a long resolution about treaty-making powers which gave formal sanction to a number of practices for whose inauguration Canada largely had been responsible.
The Economic Conference first discussed the problem of inter-imperial migration, and after agreeing that since the war plans for the redistribution of the Empire’s white population had been productive of poor results, considered ways and means of improving them. Mr. Amery, now Colonial Secretary, and other delegates argued that the success of emigration schemes was dependent upon a real preferential trade system which would give the produce of the Dominions a better chance in Birtish markets. Mr. Bruce, the Australian Premier, who held this view, sponsored an interesting scheme whereby Dominion produce marketed under a centralized system of producers’ pools should receive a preference in Britain, but the Baldwin Government could not see its way to accept it and, tied as it was by election pledges not to interfere with the fundamental structure of the British free trade system, could offer only preferences on a limited number of commodities, like dried fruit, tobacco, wine, canned salmon, etc. Considerable time was devoted to the question of communications, especially the possibilities of wireless as a link, and a report of the Imperial Shipping Committee in which Canada was specially interested was examined. With a view to better financial co-operation in imperial development, the British Government undertook to introduce legislation providing thí t a grant up to three-quarters of the interest charges for a period of five years be made toward schemes of public utility in the Dominions and India, and this resolution was later incorporated in the the Trade Facilities Act. Formal résolu tions about the immunity of state enterprises from taxation, commercial facilities, bills of lading, patents, the enforcement of Judgments and inter-imperial exchange were passed. A proposal to set up a permanent Imperial Economic Committee representing the various governments, to advise on economic and commercial problems submitted to it, was opposed by Canada but as the other countries wanted it, it was eventually set up.
When the two Conferences ended Richard Jebb saw fit to describe their results as “pitifully meagre,” which was
too sweeping a condemnation, and to assert that unless some life was breathed into it, the practice of holding an Imperial Conference might as well be abandoned as unprofitable. But the real truth was that as the result of the obsolescence of many of the domestic arrangements in the overseas countries of the Empire, the rising tide of nationalist sentiment had come to suspect the gathering as a subtle agency for committing Dominion statesmen to policies designed mainly for the benefit of Britain, and it was obviously the task of the conference of 1926 to make an honest effort to remove those suspicions by making some drastic adjustments in the imperial menage. Hence comes the report of the Committee on Inter-Imperial Relations and its adoption by the conference.