HC Deb 29 January 1902 vol 101 cc1269-91
(4.24) MAJOR EVANS-GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

Sir, I rise to move the Amendment which stand in my name, with great regret, because we, and there are many of us on both sides of the House who attach very great importance to this question of alien immigration, had hoped that some mention of the subject would be made in the gracious Speech from the Throne. We have been disappointed and consequently we take the earliest opportunity of bringing the matter forward, and of obtaining from the Government an expression of their views and intentions. It cannot be said that we, or the people we represent have been impatient in this matter, or that we had not good reason for entertaining the hope I have referred to. In proof of this let me very briefly remind the House of the recent history of this subject. In 1888–9 a Committee of the House considered the question, and fully recognised the injury which a large number of destitute aliens would inflict on working class society in this country. The Committee reported that the state of parishes in the East End indicated an increase of pauperism due to crowding out of English labour by foreign immigrants. They believe this immigration had deteriorating effect upon moral, financial, and social conditions of the people. They noted that the Whitechapel Guardians deplored substitution of foreign for English population, which resulted in lowering of the general standard of life. The Committee concluded by advising prohibition. But they somewhat inconsequently reported— While your Committee see great difficulties in the way of enforcing laws similar to those of the United States and certain other countries against the importation of pauper and destitute aliens, and while they are not prepared to recommend such legislation at present, they contemplate the possibility of such legislation becoming necessary in the future, in view of the crowded condition of our great towns, the extreme pressure for existence among the poorer part of the population and the tendency of destitute foreigners to reduce, still lower, the social and material condition of our poor. In July, 1894, the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, introduced a Bill dealing with the matter. It was read a second time, but went no further. In 1896, Lord Rosebury placed the checking of Importation of Destitute Aliens in the Ministerial programme, and it appeared in the Queen's Speech as a measure which had been prepared Nothing further was heard of it except that in February, 1897, the present Secretary for the Home Department, then President of the Board of Trade, said that the Government were quite alive to the evil—that individually and collectively they were pledged to some legislation on the subject, that they did not desire to depart one iota from those pledges, and that he hoped at no distant time to propose in Parliament legislation in the direction desired. Sir, I submit that nothing could have been more definite than that promise, yet five years have elapsed since it was given and we are still waiting for its fulfilment. Why? In 1898 Lord Hardwicke carried a Bill through all its stages in the House of Lords, but again it went no further. Yet to judge from his speeches the opinion of the Prime Minister had undergone no change, for we find him characterising the immigration of destitute aliens as "an evil of a very real and genuine kind" which "Parliament ought at the earliest opportunity to courageously deal with." Sir, in view of this opinion, the highest and most authoritative in the land, I hope it will not be said that in moving this Amendment we are guilty of any want of loyalty to our leaders or our Party. An Amendment to an Address, I am aware, implies a want of confidence in the Government—but can it be denied that the course taken by Ministers in this matter has been calculated to shake our confidence? I may be permitted to remind the Government that, relying on their pledges, many of us stand pledged to our constituents on this question. In 1889 a Committee of this House foresaw the time when legislation would be necessary. In 1894 Lord Salisbury on a full review of the facts stated that that time had come. Has the danger and evil decreased? No, sir, it is beyond all question and comparison far worse now than it was then.

On what do I base that assertion? The House will perhaps want figures. Let me say at once that no reliance whatever can be placed on such figures as are available to either the opponents or the advocates of restriction. It is impossible, from the statistics collected by the Board of Trade, to say with anything approaching certainty how many of the very large number of aliens who are known to arrive here remain in this country. They are divided under heads such as: i.e., (1.) Those who come to settle; (2.) Those who are en route for America and other countries. While, therefore, we cannot say how many remain of those who declare their intention of remaining, neither can we state with any certainty how many of those said to be en route for other countries actually move on. The census may be quoted. But in a matter of this kind even the figures of the census are not wholly reliable, because with people of this kind there is every inducement to conceal the place of their birth, and every desire to become British subjects as far as possible, to get on the register, and so on, and every wish to conceal the number of persons living in the different houses. In addition to that, there is the well-known repugnance of these people to everything in the nature of enumeration. Consequently, I should look on the figures even of the census with grave suspicion. But what do those figures disclose? Of Russians alone, there were in London in 1891, 12,034; in 1901, 38,117. Then, speaking of the East End, and especially of the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney; which embraces five Parliamentary divisions, the number of foreigners enumerated in the recent census were no fewer than 54,310, the vast majority being Russians, Poles, and Roumanians. These are most startling facts.

But there are other means of judging of the volume of immigration, and the rapid and alarming increase of the foreign population. I speak especially of East London, where I am familiar with the circumstances, but I believe that other districts of the Metropolis are affected, as also are certain of the great provincial towns. No one acquainted with East London, whether he be for or against restriction, can be unconscious of the immense and constant displacement of the English population which is going on. Not a day passes but English families are ruthlessly turned out to make room for the foreign invaders. Many of these have been occupying their houses for years. It makes no difference. Out they have to go to make room for Roumanians, Russians, or Poles. Rents are raised 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. and a house which formerly contained a couple of families living in comparative decency, is made to hold four or five families living under conditions which baffle description. In Stepney, my own constituency, street after street has, in my own experience, extending only over four years, been de-populated and re-populated in this way. On this matter of the spread and increase of the foreign population, let me quote MR. H. S. Lewis, of Toynbee Hall, a distinguished member of the Hebrew community, and a strong opponent of restriction. He finds that the foreign element is rapidly spreading northwards to Bethnal Green and Shoreditch, southwards to St. George's, and eastwards to Mile End. Take St. George's in the East. The Medical Officer of Health, in his report for 1900, stated that the foreign characteristics of the parish were becoming annually more pronounced, and that it was only a matter of time for the population to become entirely foreign. MR. Lewis tells us that a similar process of transformation is taking place in Mile End, and that while in Bethnal Green, in 1891, only 970 persons born in Russia were enumerated in the Census, the increase of foreigners must since have been extremely rapid, and the "Consequent displacement of the English population has caused much bitter feeling against the new arrivals."

There is another means of judging of the enormous increase of these people. Take the Board Schools. There are numbers of Board Schools in the East End in which few English children are to be found. I will give only one instance of many which I could give. In the Boys Department of Baker Street Board School, Stepney, in 1895, there were 206 English boys against 72 foreigners. In 1901 there were 280 foreigners as against 29 English. For the whole school, boys and girls, the figures to-day are 86 English and 991 foreigners—by foreigners I mean children born abroad, or of parents born abroad. While on this point, let me remind the House that we shall probably be told in this debate that the foreign population does not come upon our poor rate. Few foreigners are to be found in the workhouses though even these institutions have their foreign inmates. On the other hand, it can be conclusively proved that the rates are burdened with the education of thousands of the children of foreign parents. I have said enough perhaps to prove that there is a very large foreign colony in London, and that it is rapidly increasing. I would remind the House that the increase is due to two causes—the inflow from abroad, and what MR. H. S. Lewis calls the "abnormal rate of natural increase," which is so remarkable a characteristic of the immigrants.

It may be argued that though the foreign population is large and increasing, it still remains small in proportion to the total population of Londou and insignificant in proportion to the population of the United Kingdom. This is so, but as these foreigners congregate in certain quarters of certain towns the effect of their coming is out of all proportion to the numbers who come. Ten grains of arsenic in 1,000 loaves would be unnoticeable and perfectly harmless, but the same amount if put into one loaf would kill the whole family that partook of it. In the same way the alien invasion, if spread over the whole kingdom might not be of great consequence. It is the concentration in certain towns and in certain districts of those towns which makes it so disastrous. To people turned out of house and home by aliens and strangers it is no consolation to be told they only represent 5.8 of the entire population.

There is probably not much difference of opinion as to the existence of a large and increasing foreign population. Advocates and opponents of restriction part company on the effects which this population produces. We say it is evil, they say it is good. In view of the clear opinions which ministers have from time to time expressed it would be an impertinence on my part to attempt to say what they have said on this point with so much more force and weight than I am able to command. I will therefore, rely on one or two quotations to support my side of the case.

Lord Salisbury admits that the influx of foreigners is a real and genuine evil, which, as far back as 1898, needed speedy and courageous handling. In dealing with the question of the effect on the rates, and the competition set up against our own people, Lord Salisbury says;— And do not imagine that because you do not find the names of pauper aliens on the workhouse lists that therefore they exercise no influence to the injury of your own population. It is these people who diminish the chances of earning a livelihood which your own population feels so much. He dwelt on the belief among workingmen that the introduction of these aliens has a tendency to drive our own population out of employment and increase the hardship of the battle they have to finding a means of living. He went on to say that:— It is a matter of no small consideration that this is the belief they (the working-classes) themselves entertain, that the Government of this country does not sufficiently safeguard their interests by preventing a competition to which they have a right to object. I have not time to quote the words of the Colonial Secretary, which are as strong and emphatic as those of the Prime Minister. On the other side we have Lord Rosebery, who in a speech said:— I take it, if there is one certainty in the world it is this, that with the immigration, and with the continual closing of the confines of States to the destitute immigrants of other countries, there is no country in the world which will not be compelled to consider and reconsider its position with regard to pauper immigration, unless it wishes permanently to degrade the status and the condition of its own working-classes. These quotations will perhaps satisfy the House that in the opinion of ministers at all events, a great evil exists, but there is one point with which they do not deal, and to which I must refer, namely the disastrous influence which this invasion from abroad has upon the Housing problem.

In spite of all that has been attempted, in spite of all that has been done by the County Council, by private enterprise, by Act of Parliament, the congestion in East London is not only unrelieved, but is growing steadily worse. And I would ask the House to consider what possible hope there can be of relieving it so long as, in addition to our own people, we have to provide for the unexhaustible army of the houseless poor from Russia, Poland, Roumania, and the whole of Eastern Europe. Yet this is what we are attempting to do. Have we any right to attempt it? Many causes are doubtless at work which increase the difficulty of the problem. Houses are being destroyed annually for factories, for railway companies, for hospital extensions, for Board Schools. No one says that the aliens are the sole cause of the congestion, but no one can deny that they add enormously to the difficulty. Cheap transit may do something, increased accommodation may do something, more favourable terms for building loans may help; but what are all these in face of the steady inflow from abroad?

Everything that is done is in practice merely another bait to attract the poorest people to our shores. The whole problem becomes absolutely insoluble. I have shown that English families are being turned out by hundreds to make room for foreigners, and when accommodation has been thus found for them, under what conditions do these strangers within our gates live? Here is Mr. Lewis' statement on the point. He, at all events, is not a prejudiced witness:— The main cause of the present unpopularity of aliens in East London remains to be stated. The inflow of the foreign Jew has brought with it an immense amount of overcrowding, the direct and indirect effects of which have been alike injurious. The number of families occupying one-roomed tenements is very great, too many lodgers are received and illegally occupied basements are far too common. Then he goes on to say:— It is significant that some East End landlords, and not Jewish ones only, have publicly announced that they will not accept Christian tenants. The undoubted cause of this discrimination is that only Jewish tenants will be able to afford the rents demanded and, will pay these rents by overcrowding their houses. The bitterness of feeling caused by this infamous state of things can be readily imagined. I should have a word to say about the bitterness of feeling, but I think that I have said enough to prove that these people are displacing our own people, and that the conditions which result from this displacement are of a serious and most dangerous character. The, aliens, it is true, have brought the cheap clothing trade, but at what a price! Sir, the evil done in respect to the Housing problem alone is immeasurably greater than any advantage conferred on the community by the introduction of boots and clothes made for the most part by sweated labour. Moreover, these trades would in no way suffer by restriction. The supply of foreign labour already here is more than sufficient to maintain them, and the families of the immigrants will yield enough recruits without any further enlistment from abroad. Do hon. Members suppose, does the Government suppose, that the people in East London are comforted or consoled by such a discussion on the housing question as we listened to a night or two ago, in which the real cause of their trouble and misery and anxiety was never as much as mentioned?

Does anyone believe that an inquiry into the time for repayment of loans, which may possibly produce a reduction of 6d. per week in the rent of rooms as yet unbuilt, is any consolation to the people who week by week are being driven from their homes to make room for aliens and strangers who are huddled together, young and old, of both sexes, in defiance of decency and of sanitary regulations? If so they are making a terrible mistake. And do not let it be supposed that this pressure and displacement can go on in one district without affecting the whole metropolis. The families driven out have to find accommodation else where; a double strain and responsibility is thus placed upon us, and the disturbance commencing in East London is felt throughout the suburbs and the town.

I have left myself no time to touch upon many other points which I hope will be brought out in the debate, such as the character of the immigrants. There are some who would have us believe that they are nothing but bad, others that they are nothing but good. Sir, the truth lies between these two extremes. If there are many who are thrifty, sober and industrious, the Police Reports and Quarter Sessions show that among the thousands who come here there is a considerable proportion of bad characters, and that the competition with home industries extends to burglary and other cognate crimes: I should have thought we had enough criminals of our own. The police regulations of France, Russia, Germany and Austria in this respect replace the restrictive legislation which is necessary here. Surely the Executive Government should have the power to deport such persons as were recently referred to by the Chairman at Clerkenwell Sessions, who stated that foreign criminals "had recently been landing by hundreds in London," formed themselves into gangs and carried on systematic series of burglaries. As to a remedy for the evils I have attempted to describe, that is a matter for the Government. I understand them to admit the evil, and it is surely not beyond their powers to devise a cure. They have their own Bills to begin with. They may say such legislation would be ineffective, but, Sir, is has never been tried! They have the example of every civilised country in Europe, as well as America and the Colonies, before them. It is said that the American law has not kept many aliens out, but no one can say what the position would have been in America if no restrictive legislation had existed. Moreover, we know from President Roosevelt that the law is to be strengthened. Will the Government look ahead a little and ask themselves what the end is to be? It is, as Lord Salisbury has said, a mathematical certainty that the more other channels are stopped, the greater will be the flow down the channels which are open. Sir, there is only one channel open and it leads to these shores. A steady stream flows along it now, and it is liable to be swollen at any time. Fresh legislation in America—a turn of the screw in Russia—a bad harvest in Eastern Europe—such disturbances, as we have lately seen in German Poland—will certainly and inevitably add largely to its volume. Can anyone, I don't care whether he is in favour of this Amendment or against it; can anyone who looks even a little way into the future contemplate a certain increasing and concentrated addition to the poorest and most helpless of our population without the gravest anxiety? The danger is not an imaginary one. It is here upon us now, and everything which other countries are doing points to its inevitable and certain growth.

It has been said that this movement and agitation is aimed against the Jewish race. Sir, it seems hardly necessary for me to repudiate so monstrous and groundless a charge. Does any sane man believe that these immigrants are objected to on account of their religion? They are objected to not because they are Jew or Gentile, but purely on social and economic grounds. The Jewish people who are already here are as much interested in restriction as any other part of the community. As the numbers coming from abroad increase, so their chances in life diminish. Employment, house accommodation, the means of earning a living grow, less and less. And though the charity and benevolence of the Hebrew community is as boundless as their wealth, that too has its limits which must soon be reached. It is that very charity, indeed, which among other things attracts so many of their co-religionists here, and I do not doubt but what those who dispense it regard the future with grave misgiving. We look with confidence for the support of the leaders of Jewish opinion in this matter; indeed, in many instances, we have it already. They know better than anyone else the evil and dangers which the influx, if continued much longer, will entail. If they range themselves against the natural and rising feeling of the people on this subject, then, indeed, there is a grave risk of an anti-Semitic colour being imparted to this controversy. We appeal to their English citizenship, to their patriotism, and Imperial spirit to help us in dealing with what they I am sure they will admit is a situation of extreme gravity.

It is indeed earnestly to be desired that all sections of the community, that all parties in this House and in the country, should combine to find a solution of this problem. It is not an ordinary natural movement and interchange of popula- tion with which we have to deal. It is an organised deportation and importation from Eastern Europe to these shores of masses of human beings, and a deliberate transference of the burdens of foreign nations to our shoulders.

Local opinion is practically unanimous as to the existence of the evil and the necessity for a remedy. The Borough Council representing five Parliamentary divisions in the Tower Hamlets have passed a resolution by a large majority urging the Government to take some action. Meetings have been held all over East London and they culminated in a great demonstration at the People's Palace on the 14th of this month at which some 6,000 people were present. No such gathering representing all classes, creeds, and every shade of political opinion and religious belief has ever come together on any question before. Eight Members of this House were present, and can testify to the enthusiasm and unanimity with which the resolutions were passed. But this movement is not confined to East London. There are districts such as that behind Regent Street and Soho, and at Saffron Hill, where there are large and increasing foreign colonies of the worse class. These are the haunts of foreign prostitutes and souteneurs of gambling dens and disorderly houses. A band of several hundred Italians, everyone with a knife, which he is too ready to use, is at this moment I believe causing great anxiety so the County Council, and it has only just come to my knowledge that aliens from Poland have established themselves in North East Lanark and are entering into competition with the miners there and lowering their standard of life and wages.

Sir, where is this going to end? After years of patient waiting the feeling of the people is aroused. An agitation is in progress which will not again cease until, some measure to safeguard our working class is devised. There is dangerous discontent, and resentment which is bitter and deep. Under such circumstances as I have endeavoured to describe is it to be wondered at? The working classes in East London, and indeed in other parts of the town and the country, know that the aliens are increasing in thousands year by year; they know that new buildings erected are not for them, but for strangers from abroad; they see rents rising enormously; they see families evicted daily; they see notices that no English need apply placarded on vacant rooms; they see the schools crowded with foreign children, and the very posters and advertisements on the walls in a foreign tongue; they see lines of employment, formerly open to them, closed; they see small shopkeepers brought to ruin; they see themselves deprived of their Sunday, for that, too, is gone, and it is no longer within the power of an English working man in many parts of East London to enjoy his day of rest, however much he may desire it.

Knowing all this, seeing all this, feeling all this, is it to be wondered at that their temper should rise? I do not wish to appear as an alarmist, but I can solemnly assure the Government and the House of Commons that a storm is brewing which, if it be allowed to burst, will have deplorable results. It is in the earnest hope that we may do something to prevent such a catastrophe that we bring this matter forward today.

Sir, we in this House, and tens of thousands of men and women outside, who take a deep interest in this question, and who earnestly believe in its profound seriousness and gravity, wait anxiously to hear what the Government has to tell us. Will they repeat the promises of legislation so often given, and, pending that legislation, will they appoint a Royal Commission to report, as early as possible, on what form a restrictive measure should take? I cannot answer for my colleagues, but, personally, my action on this Amendment will depend upon the reply I may receive.

*(4.57.) MR. FORDE RIDLEY (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

In rising to second the Amendment, I would ask hon. Members to grant me that kind indulgence which they are ever wont to extend to one who ventures to address this august Assembly for the first time. As the representative of a constituency in the East End of London, composed entirely of the working classes, I should fail in my duty if I allowed this opportunity to pass without associating myself with my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Stepney in all he has said upon this momentous question. What is the great difficulty in the housing problem with which we are faced at the present time? I submit it may be summed up as follows: A large proportion of our working classes are compelled to live in certain districts of our great cities within easy access of their work. They are obliged to do so because it is absolutely necessary, by reason of the nature of their employment, that they should live within easy reach of it. The question they have to face is whether a house or room can be obtained there at a rental within reach of their very slender earnings, and I submit that the chief difficulty of the housing problem which confronts us in London to-day is that these people are not able to obtain such accommodation owing to this vast alien population. The reason is not far to seek.

If we look at the Board of Trade returns for the past year we find that 150,000 of these people entered this country, of whom 79,000 are stated to be en route for America or some other place; this leaves 70,765 who have come to these shores definitely to reside. I do not accept those figures as correct. I believe if it were possible for us to obtain correct figures as to the number of foreigners arriving here we should find it to be a far larger number than that stated in the report. But even assuming that these figures are correct, what do they mean? I put that question to the serious consideration of members on both sides of the House. An additional population of 70,000 persons, all of the very poorest class, is arriving here annually. That is a very serious danger. If these 70,000 persons are crowded into these already congested districts, and they increase very rapidly, it follows of necessity that the effect on the rentals in those parts of London and other great cities must be to abnormally advance them. The result is that the slum landlord finds that he can obtain twice or three times as much rent for his property, by letting it to the sweater who preys upon these poor destitute folk, as he would obtain from the British working man, who has the greatest difficulty to support himself, wife and family, on the slender earnings he is able to gain. The British workman is thus squeezed out of his home, and what happens? The house is immediately taken by five, six, eight, or ten of these aliens, who herd together under conditions which are at once degrading and insanitary. I know it has been said by some people that this is a racial question, and that we are trying to stir up anti-Semitic feeling. I will not detain the House going into such a question. The reverse is the fact. No one deplores more than I do the attitude taken up by some foreign countries towards the Jews. I am quite certain that I am voicing, not only my own opinion but that of the hon. members associated with me on the subject when I say that we are anxious to protect the Jewish working man quite as much as the Christian working man. This is not a question of Jew or Gentile. We are speaking of foreign paupers and aliens as a whole. When I use the word aliens, I refer not only to Russians and Poles, but also to Austrians and Italians—of whom there is a large colony, chiefly ice cream vendors and organ grinders, in Hatton Garden—and to the French immigrants in the neighbourhood of Soho. It is unfortunate that the racial question should be introduced into the matter, but it is difficult for us to enlighten the uneducateed classes of this country upon the subject. All they know is that they are being turned out of their homes and the neighbourhoods in which they are obliged to live, in order to carry on their work, and that their places are being taken by Russian and Polish Jews, and you cannot persuade them that it is not a racial question. They naturally take a hatred to the Jewish people. It is for the Government to prevent that anti-Semitic feeling which, if something is not done to check the influx of aliens into this country, must inevitably result in an outbreak of very grave proportions. It is argued by some that if a foreigner can live on so much less than an Englishman, then it is high time that the British working man went to the wall. I do not think that is an opinion which will commend itself to hon. Members on whichever side they may sit.

The degrading conditions under which these people live are not such as, I am sure, we should desire to see the rising generation of English people brought up under. These unfortunate people live under conditions which are bad in every way—morally, physically and socially. I have had to consider this question by meeting it face to face and day by day in my own constituency. No one benefits by this influx of aliens but the slum landlord and the sweater, and no one else can benefit by it. I appeal to the Government before it is too late to give us some assurance that they will take this matter into their very serious consideration, and take steps to initiate legislation without further delay.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,— But we humbly represent to Your Majesty the urgent necessity of introduceng legislation to regulate and restrict the immigration of destitute aliens into London and other cities in the United Kingdom:"—(Major Evans-Gordon:

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


I sympathise with much, though perhaps not all, that has fallen from my two hon. friends who have introduced the subject to the notice of the House. I am sure that nobody, whether he agrees with them or not, can complain of the tone in which they have dealt with this matter, which so properly and deeply interests them. My hon. and gallant friend, the Member for Stepney, made some complaint of remissness on the part of the Government with regard to the subject of alien immigrants. It is perfectly natural that hon. Gentleman who are interested in particular measures, when they find that measures of that nature are not brought forward by the Government, should feel inclined to charge the Government with remissness. I can, however, assure my hon. and gallant friend that there is no change in the general attitude of the Government in respect to this question. We are still of opinion that great evils have followed in the train of unrestricted alien immigration, the gravity of which it is impossible to deny, and that in certain contingencies, by no means impossible, the dangers and inconveniences attending that immigration might suddenly and rapidly increase. We think it is anomalous that in this country, almost alone I think among civilised countries, no power should exist of excluding or expelling any alien or class of aliens, however injurious their presence may be to the community, and we remain of opinion that that anomaly is not one which can be allowed permanently to continue. But while there is no change in the general attitude of the Government on this subject, we cannot entirely leave out of sight the element that has been introduced by accumulating experience, and especially the experience of America, of the great practical difficulty of dealing with the subject of alien immigration.

The time at my disposal is very short, and I will not follow my hon. friends into the statistics of this question of alien immigration; those statistics, no doubt, may not be perfect, though they are the best which the Board of Trade can provide, having regard to the limited powers at their disposal. But I think everybody will agree that in the first place the area over which the evil extends is a comparatively limited one. It is confined, to all intents and purposes, to London, and in London to certain areas, especially the borough of Stepney. Within that area there is no question whatever that the gravest evils have arisen from unrestricted alien immigration—[An Hon. Member: "Leeds"]—I hear an hon. Member behind me mentions Leeds. There are a certain number of aliens from Eastern Europe in Leeds, as well as in London; but, during the 15 years I have represented Central Leeds, I am bound to say I have not received more than half-a-dozen representations on the subject. It is not a burning question there, but in the East End of London it is an extremely burning question. In respect to the extent of the evil there is a certain amount of difference of opinion. Without arguing the question, I will only say that, in my judgment, there is not any sufficient reason to show that the presence of these aliens either increases in relative volume pauperism or crime, or that it has tended to the lowering of wages through over-competition. The real evils are those on which my two hon. friends have rightly laid great stress—namely, insanitation, overcrowding, the enhancement of rents, and the displacement of the native population.

The really essential question is as regards the possible remedies by means of which we can deal with this subject. My hon. and gallant friend has referred to the Bills which have been brought into Parliament in the last ten years, with the view of dealing with the evils. Now, what have been the provisions of those Bills? The proposal has been to empower the inspectors of the Board of Trade to board vessels at certain ports, and to prohibit the landing of certain classes of immigrants. These classes are idiots, insane persons paupers, persons likely to become a public charge, and persons suffering from dangerous, contagious, and infectious diseases. Now, it stands to reason that the great evils of immigration referred to by my two hon. friends would not be removed in any measure by the mere exclusion of persons suffering from diseases, who could not number more than a few hundred in the course of a year. I go further, and say that a measure to enable Board of Trade inspectors to exclude destitute persons would entirely fail if its intended effect is to exclude the large proportion of the poorer classes of immigrants who now come from Russia, Poland, and Roumania, and settle in the East End of London; the remedy would be wholly illusory. In this connection the experience of the United States is very interesting. That country has long had laws against alien immigration far more stringent and severe than any laws it has hitherto been proposed to enact in this country; yet the number of aliens who are prevented from landing in the United States is less than 1 per cent. of the entire number. My hon. friend says that although the number actually excluded is small, yet the mere existence of these laws has a deterrent effect. I am afraid I cannot adopt that opinion. I do not think it is true that these laws have very much diminished the number of pauper immigrants entering the United States from the Continent of Europe. I must point out to my hon. friend that at the present time the influx of aliens into the United States from Russia, Poland, Roumania and Italy is far greater than the immigration to this country. During the last three years Russian and Polish immigrants to this country numbered, in 1898, 15,000; in 1899, 20,000; and in 1900, 25,000. These, no doubt, are considerable figures, and they show an increase as the years go on. But the emigration from Russia and Poland to the United States was, in 1898, 34,000; in 1899, 60,000;and in 1900, no less than 90,000. Precisely the same complaint, though in a less degree, as has been made by my hon. friend comes to us from America, that these immigrants segregate in certain districts of the large cities, and that the same evils are produced there by these foreign colonies as exists in the East End of London. So much so that in the Annual Report of the Commissioner-General of Immigration of the United States, a proposal is seriously put forward to compulsorily accomplish the distribution of the immigrants who arrive so that they shall no longer settle down in one area and so produce public mischief.

What conclusion do I draw from this? I have spoken of the difficulties of any remedy. But I do not think it would be right for the Government or Parliament to embark on drastic legislation to cope with the evils of alien immigration to this country without a further inquiry into the facts, and such inquiry I am prepared, on behalf of the Government, to offer. It is, of course, possible (I do not wish to prejudice the inquiry) that the conclusion to which any Committee or Commission might arrive would be to show that these particular aliens could only be dealt with, not by restrictive provisions at the ports of entry, but by increasing the powers of local authorities under the Public Health Acts. On the other hand, there are circumstances which rather forbode that this difficulty is likely to increase rather than to diminish. I had an interesting pamphlet sent to me the other day in which it was stated that the Jewish authorities in New York had intimated to the Jewish authorities in this country that they intended to prevent the further immigration of Jews into the United States. It is here that the danger is threatening us—from the proposed action of the Jews themselves on the other side of the Atlantic; and, if I may judge from a passage in President Roosevelt's Message to Con- gress, the American Jews will not have much difficulty in persuading the authorities of the United States to increase the stringency of the immigration laws. My impression is that the immigration laws in the United States have been inoperative and ineffective, but if these laws were strengthened so as to become operative and effective, there is no doubt in the world a very considerable portion of the vast stream of emigrants which flowed from all parts of Europe, especially from Eastern Europe and Italy, to the United States would be turned to the shores of this country; and everyone must admit that, in these circumstances, we must in some way or other adopt measures of self-preservation.

*(5.25.) MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)

said that as the representative of a constituency in which a large number of those aliens resided, he welcomed an inquiry on the part of the Government. He should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the demand for legislation on alien immigration was based upon the statement that the returns of the Board of Trade were incorrect, and that the Census returns showing that the number of foreigners in London was 135,000, which confirmed the returns of the Board of Trade, were also incorrect. He had every reason to believe that any inquiry that might be made would simply confirm the official returns. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green said that 70,000 aliens came into London last year; but 89,600 foreigners migrated in the same period, therefore the balance was against the aliens. In 1891 the Census returns showed that there were 95,000 foreigners in London, and now ten years after they numbered 135,000. The hon. member's statement made outside this House, that 60,000 foreigners came here to settle every year, therefore, received no confirmation. The total number of foreigners receiving poor law relief in London in 1900 was 2,015 individuals, of whom 1,100 were Russian and Roumanian, and in Whitechapel the total number of people relieved in 1899 was 725, of whom 570 received only medical relief, whereas in 1900 the total had decreased to 494.

SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether these figures include the number relieved by the Jewish Board of Guardians?


said he was speaking of the burdens upon the public funds. He had shown that these immigrants did not, to any extent, become a burden on the public rates. Time did not permit him to go into the question further, but he held that any fair inquiry would result in the disproval of the assertions made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.


I beg, with the leave of the House, to withdraw the Amendment.

(5.30) MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

May I ask the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade whether the proposed inquiry will extend to the district of Park Lane?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolved, that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—

Most Gracious Sovereign.

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

To be presented by Privy Councillors and Members of His Majesty's Household.

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