chapter  1
13 Pages

THE ORIGINS OF THE COLONIAL DEVELOPMENT BILL

Amery’s continued tenure of the Colonial Office in the 1920s enabled him to apply lessons learned from his negotiations over the East Africa guaranteed loans in subsequent initiatives. The need to do so was for Amery all too apparent, since he remained convinced that imperial economic development was the only answer to Britain’s economic problems. Although a backlog of orders in heavy industry after the General Strike allowed unemployment to dip briefly below 10%, Britain did not greatly benefit from the recovery in world trade during 1927-29. It could therefore be less easily claimed that the trade cycle was merely at a temporary nadir, nor was there much sign that the return to the gold standard had been of advantage. A structural economic problem was exposed, to confirm Amery’s earlier analysis of the long-term difficulties from which the country was suffering. As he put it in a memorandum to the cabinet in July 1928, ‘Hard facts are beginning to compel us to realise that our troubles are neither temporary nor due to purely external causes, but are fundamental and inherent in our own national policy’.1 Accordingly Amery continued to press for the extension of tariff protection with imperial preferences and the sustained funding of empire settlement programmes.2 Moreover, Baldwin’s government had set up an Empire Marketing Board in 1926 with a nominal annual grant of £1 million. Its purpose was to encourage an increase in the consumption of imperial products by financing research into problems of production and marketing, by providing information services and by conducting publicity campaigns for imperial goods. The financial arrangement for the spending of the E.M.B.’s grant was of particular importance to Amery. Although the size of its annual grant was fixed only after negotiations with the Treasury, the money obtained came under the control of the Secretary of State for spending at his discretion, without being subject to close Treasury scrutiny. Frequently in the past Amery had toyed with the idea of a colonial development fund: the virtues of the E.M.B.’s fund in his eyes renewed the attractions of the idea, particularly in contrast with the

vexatious control retained by the Treasury over the guaranteeing of loans to East Africa.3