§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
rose to move as an Amendment," That this House, holding that the evils of low-priced alien labour can best be met by legislation to prevent sweating, desires to assure itself 1063 before assenting to the Aliens Bill that sufficient regard is had in the proposed measure to the retention of the principle of asylum for the victims of persecution." He said: I have no doubt that we shall discuss this Rill with a complete absence of heat; but that is not the case outside this House. [Sir HOWARD VINCENT: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Sheffield is probably aware that most violent and shameful attacks have been made on those who think it their duty to oppose a measure of this kind. Among the documents that have been circulated to those who are supposed to be opposed to the provisions of this Bill are, for example, such a monstrous statement as is published in a daily paper in London, and signed by a gentleman who does not hesitate to put his own signature to a breach of privilege—It is hoped that every London newspaper under British control will publish a list of the traitors in Parliament who vote against this measure.That is not the frame of mind in which a measure of this kind ought to be discussed. While I am quite certain the Bill will be discussed in this House with calmness, I must warn Conservative Members who have thrown themselves into this agitation that they have raised a devil which they will find it difficult to lay. This Bill was originally a Socialistic measure, but it is now repudiated by Socialists who wisely became opposed to legislation of this description. It is something like what was forced on Louis Blanc in 1818; it was one of the four demands of the French Socialists which led to the break up of his Government, and which eventually led to his flight to this country where he arrived a destitute alien. It was rather unworthily suggested, I think, from the other side against those of us who oppose this measure that, as on the First Heading we did not divide the House, we dare not divide the House. It is not usual to divide the House against the introduction of a Bill; but I can assure hon. Members as far as I am concerned that they shall not be disappointed as to a division to-day, for it certainly is my intention to take the opinion of this House.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Tower Hamlets Division, who was a member of the Commission, has given an 1064 enormous amount of time, trouble, and consideration to this subject. I agree with him that a case might be made out for legislation of this kind. So far from being an advocate of laissez faire, I have been one of the strongest opponents of that principle since I have been in the House of Commons. It is to some extent, as the hon. and gallant Member has said, a question of numbers and proportion. The hon. and gallant Member in his admirable letter in to-day's Times, gives what is the case of the most reasonable supporters of this measure. He states very frankly that he is much more concerned with the attack on the destitute alien than with the attack on the undesirable alien. It is, from his point of view, a question of competition, and he attributes to their supposed increase, sweating in this country. Now the hon. Member for the Elland Division, who will do me the honour to second my Motion, has, like myself, interested himself in this subject ever since he came into this House. He has written on the subject and he has travelled the Colonies; and this enables him to speak with regard to the subject. If I thought the tendency of this immigration were to have that effect upon sweating which the hon. and gallant Member thinks, I should not have placed the Amendment upon the Paper. The hon. and gallant Member says that the destitute alien is ruining our people by what he calls competition of the severest kind, and he concludes his letter by saying that—These persons may be called victims of persecution if we allow that everyone in Russia is persecuted more or less according to our ideas.The letter appears to me to conflict with the leading passages of the Report of the Commission of which the hon. and gallant Member was a leading member. I shall ask the House to consider the Bill mainly on the lines of the Report and on the evidence of the witnesses before that Commission. As I read the Report of the Commission it is right in the teeth of the hon. and gallant Member. In the first place he assumes that the numbers we have to deal with in this country are very great, and that the proportion is greater than in other countries. I hope that hon. Members in this House who are 1065 going to take part in this discussion and in voting on this Bill have not long since made up their minds upon it. I hope they will examine the Report of the Commission and the evidence. I fully agree with the Commission on this question of numbers. They state their full reasons, which must lead us deeply to suspect any figures except those in the census, and they state the deductions which have to be made from the numbers that have been returned as alien immigrants; and they point out how the sailors affect the question. I have always been in favour of special legislation in regard to sailors. Then they point out the enormous number of persons who are travelling every year on business and pleasure—the number who are, in fact, merely passing through this country. They conclude, therefore, that although we cannot know for certain the exact number, the census is by far the best test that we have. There is an annual Return presented by the Board of Trade. It is a year since it has been distributed, and it is most unfortunate that we have to discuss this Bill in the absence of a continuance of that Return. But I think we may conclude in face of the evidence given by Mr. Llewellyn Smith before the Commission that there has been no change, and that the same tendency has continued. The facts brought out in last year's Return go to show an increased emigration of Britons from this country and a vastly increasing transmigration of aliens through this country, and not a constantly increasing number of aliens settled here. The Secretary of State for the Home Department in introducing this Bill no doubt unwittingly misled the House. He mentioned that the figures in 1901 showed an increase of 81,000 aliens, and in 1902 82,000, which is at variance with the evidence before the Royal Commission. The suggestion is that there was a large addition to the alien population of this country in recent years. The Board of Trade says—It must not be interred that these figures represent the real increase in the total number of alien immigrants who actually settle in this country.The Board gives the net increase in the alien population at 9,000 in 1901 and 8,800 in 1902, and shows that these numbers correspond exactly with the 1066 census returns, and also that the balance of emigration outward is increasing. There is, moreover, an enormous transmigration of aliens for the United States. The balance of this enormous and increasingly vast transmigration is increasingly a balance outwards. The Board of Trade point out that the figures which the Home Secretary quoted include all the third class passengers coming into the country at certain ports. All these are not destitute, and many of these who are destitute proceed to Canada. Again, I would call the attention of the House to the enormous extent of this traffic to Canada. It is not shown in the American Return. There are a vast number of people carried by the Beaver Line to Canada, and most of them pass through ultimately to the United States. I cannot but think that an incidental defect of these regulations will be to heavily discourage our shipping trade, and a very large trade this shipping trade in emigrants has now become. It may startle the House, which has often heard of the enormous emigration in the past, that the number of persons passing through this country to foreign lands is more than it has ever been. The number of emigrants leaving this country by British liners and steamers for lands across the distant seas is greater than it ever was, even in the Irish famine, or the days of the great gold rush to California and Australia. The number conveyed in 1902 was 387,000—a gigantic trade, a trade of great value to the port of Liverpool, and to British shipping. In 1847, the beginning of the Irish famine, there were 258,000; in 1848, 248,000; in 1849, 299,000; in 1850, 280,000; in 1851, 335,000; and in 1852, when the gold rush was at its height. 368,000. From 1852 down to recent years the traffic had fallen away. Now it has vastly increased, and is greater than it has ever been before. [Major EVANS GORDON: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member cheers that fact, but the balance outward is continually increasing, and this does not affect the figures he has in his mind.
The hon. Member for Stepney in his letter says it is a question of numbers and of proportion. We have seen about numbers; now about proportion. There is a very interesting official 1067 answer on this in the Board of Trade evidence. The percentage of aliens of any kind in this country is one-fourth of what it is in France. It is less than that in any Continental country, and is substantially not increasing, because the minute increase which is examined by the Board of Trade is more than accounted for by the increase in the number of rich men who have made London their home since London has become the fashionable centre in place of Paris. Not only is the proportion of aliens abroad larger, but, generally speaking, those aliens are poorer. They are, on the average, a less substantial class. As the hon. and gallant Member states in the second part of his letter it is a question of quality and proportion, I ask the House to consider what the percentage is. In Germany the proportion of aliens has increased. It used ten years ago to be 0.8, now it is 1.38; in Belgium it has also slightly increased. It was 2.6 and is now 2.82. In France it has slightly decreased, it was nearly 3, now it is 2½d. In Switzerland it was once 6½, it is now over 9½ In this country it was 0.58, now it is 0.69, an infinitesimal increase. The Board of Trade in making these statements, and the Commission in repeating them, very frankly face the facts, and the Commission in its Report says—It will be observed that the proportion of alien immigrants in this country is comparatively small.In regard to the infinitesimal increase in the total the Commission says—In regard to the increase of the alien proportion from 0.58 to 0.69 percent, some effect must be given to the evidence that greater care was taken in 1902 to ascertain the number of resident aliens than on previous occasions.Therefore the Commission did not itself believe there was any increase at all. Now it is undoubtedly a fact that once upon a time Members opposite did not share the view that this immigration was an entirely bad thing for the country. There has been a change of opinion, but not a change of facts. There is no increase of danger, but a change in the way in which that supposed or apprehended danger is regarded. There have frequently been times in our history when the number of destitute aliens in our country was infinitely greater than 1068 now. There were times when it was as great as it is now in those foreign countries where it is greatest. It was infinitely greater than now. At the time when the numbers were so great there was the same opposition to the aliens as there is now, but it is a curious fact that when we look back hon. Members are always inclined to give away the past. They are always inclined to say alien immigration was a benefit in its day. At the time when the Palatines were brought into this country under Queen Anne at the public expense there was great opposition, and I do not wonder at it. There were 10,000 brought to London in a single year all destitute and all without a trade; again in 1793 the proportion of aliens was great, and it was a mistake to suppose that they were all people of noble birth flying from France. The great majority, as Dr. Cunningham tells us, were people of low birth.
I said on the introduction of the Bill that we were an emigrating rather than an immigrating nation. It is an extraordinary position in which this Bill places the House. We spend public money on emigration. We keep up a public Emigration Office, and the President of the Local Government Board is always signing orders for the sending out of paupers at the expense of the rates. We still send millions of destitute Irish—some people think by the fault of our legislation—to seek the hospitality of the United States, and we are to decline on the mere ground of destitution those expelled from Russia by religious persecution, and who come here in the proportion of about one-tenth to those received by the United States. We want to know on what ground it is suggested this exclusion should take place. The hon. and gallant Member says it is because sweating is promoted by the reception of these people in this country. The Resolution we have placed on the Paper represents the views of the Member for Elland and myself, which are the views held by the most advanced men in the labour movement and by those most affected, viz., those in the tailoring trade, that the evils of sweating are best dealt with by legislation, and the enforcement of regulations of a different kind. This matter was inquired into by 1069 the House of Lords Committee on Sweating which reported on the point in these words—Undue stress has been laid on foreign immigration, inasmuch as we rind that the evils complained of obtain in trades not alluded by foreign immigration.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
The Committee reported in 1890. I suppose the hon. Member intends to suggest the evil has increased. There is no evidence to support that view. The evidence before the Commission is in the opposite direction, and the Report of the investigation in the East of London is diametrically opposite. We say this is a sham remedy for sweating, and that sweating must be met by other means, and above all by stringent enforcement of the workshop laws. There was a change made in the workshop laws in 1901, and some of us resisted the change, because we proposed a very different system which we believe would have met the position. In 1895 I had moved an Amendment which would have applied the New Zealand legislation directed against sweating, which has been adopted in other countries, and which a majority of those supposed to be most affected by this alien immigration themselves supported. Our case is that it is underpaid labour of English women and girls in those trades which is more responsible for the evils of sweating than the introduction of the alien. The Board of Trade, which issues to the House every year the interesting and valuable Paper of which I spoke just now, have not commented on that Paper since 1894 In 1894, when there was agitation on this subject, they commented on that annual Return. Going carefully into the evidence of Mr. Llewellyn Smith, who was responsible at the time, before this Royal Commission, which is before the House, Mr. Smith shows no sign of having changed his opinion.
The Board of Trade in 1894, reporting on the effect of destitute aliens on sweating, said that the worst of all the labour evils was the bringing in of married women to do men's work. 1070 That evil at all events has no place among the Jews. The struggle is—not between English non-Jewish men and Jews…English women and girls are more and more brought in at lower wages, that is in trades where women are not organised.When this matter was considered on the Amendment to the Factory Act of 1895, of which I have spoken, a great impression was made upon some of us by the statement of a delegate of the tailoring trade, which is the trade most affected by these changes. That delegate said—The blackleg is the alien, though he come from my own town.I do not wish to quarrel with the Report signed by the hon. and gallant Member. I think it is a very fair statement of the case. In paragraph 129 the Commissioners state that—The effect on the three main industries—tailoring, cabinetmaking, and shoemaking—in which aliens are employed, has been beneficial. It has increased the demand for, and the manufacture of, not only goods made in this country which were formerly imported from abroad, but the materials used in them. It has indirectly given employment to native workers.As to the displacement of native labour, they also say the evidence has been very conflicting. I do not think that is a Report from which the hon. and gallant Member can And much encouragement for his views as expressed in today's Times. There are 25,500 aliens in the United Kingdom engaged in the tailoring trade, and the cabinet trade with under 5,000 comes next. The Commissioners say of wages—It certainly appears that notwithstanding the influx of aliens there has been a general tendency to increase in the trades mentioned.What becomes of the interruptions of the hon. Member who asked for the date of the House of Lords Sweating Report, when, according to the Royal Commissioners themselves, there has been an increase of wages in the very trades which are supposed to be most affected by alien labour? Without going into figures at greater length, I may say that the tailoring trade is, by a majority, in favour of the principles which my hon. friend and I are putting before the House to day—viz., that the matter should he dealt with in a different way from the method of exclusion. As to the furniture trade there is mentioned in the 1071 evidence a very curious case which is typical of the state of things which prejudice has called into this question. It is the case of a man who came in as a destitute alien and who, in a few years, was possessed of a furniture factory in the neighbourhood of London, occupying thirteen acres of land, fitted with the most up-to-date machinery, employing 3,000 workmen (nearly all Christians), and doing an enormous export trade. The Board of Trade, commenting on cases of this kind in their scientific Report, said—The same, individual within a few years excites the hostility of his English neighbours for his pauperism and their indignation for his wealth.Now comes the question—whether if you are to have legislation of this kind it will be possible to retain the principle of asylum for the victims of persecution? The hon. and gallant Member for the Tower Hamlets Division, who has faced this question, says that he wants to keep these people out because of their competition, their numbers and their pro-portion, and he admits that all the population of Russia are victims of persecution. But the Jews are victims of persecution in a more peculiar degree than any persons in Russia, because in Russia other people have not been burned alive, or hunted through their towns as the Jews have been, and it amazes me that the hon. and gallant Member, who has seen Russia for himself, should class them with Russians as being victims of persecution. The words of which I am most afraid are, "likely to become a charge on public funds" and "having no visible or probable means of support." Let the House dismiss from its mind all question of getting rid of a special class of undesirable aliens. If that were all that was proposed, we might, and doubtless should, come to terms. The hon. and gallant Member admits that the one point on which he wants the Bill is not the undesirable but the destitute alien. The words I have quoted are not new; they were proposed and discussed in this House years ago, and they appear in the legislation of the United States. But in the United States they have led to legal decisions which are in the teeth of the official statement as to what is to be their meaning in our legislation. The 1072 point was considered before the Royal Commission, and representatives of the police said it would be very difficult to deal with, while Mr. Llewellyn Smith said it would be impossible. We are distinctly told that these words, if put into our legislation, will be interpreted to keep out persons who have no money in their possession. The provision as to having money in their possession was found in the United States to be dodged in the same way that the provision requiring Members of this House to swear they possessed an estate used to be dodged. The money was simply handed from one person to another. That is not the test in the United States. It has there been held that a man is not under the mischief of the law who has two strong arms and ten fingers, and who is willing to work—that such a man brings capital and property into the country. But that is not the interpretation to be put upon the words here, and the hon. and gallant Member has made it clear that he would not support this Bill unless it was intended to have exactly the opposite effect. These words, curiously enough, have fallen under the ban directly of Mr. Gladstone and indirectly of Mr. Disraeli. When the words were suggested in 1894 Mr. Gladstone simply riddled them and tore them to pieces, and Mr. Disraeli's contention was that the poor Jew brought to us the spark of genius which was too often wanting in our race. When asked what the words would mean, Mr. Llewellyn Smith, speaking for the Board of Trade, said—You may pretend to do it, but you cannot do it.That is, exclude them on the mere ground of absence of means. Without that exclusion hon. Members opposite would not give twopence for the Bill.
The hon. and gallant Member opposite said the question must be settled by quality and proportion. The question of proportion I have dealt with; as to quality, I would implore hon. Members before they pass a measure of this kind to read the weighty evidence given before the Royal Commission by impartial men, representing public bodies, who had no axe to grind and were not prejudiced on either side. I would instance the evidence of such men as the Chairman of the 1073 Whitechapel Board of Guardians, Canon Barnett, factory inspectors, and others whose evidence is altogether against the contention of hon. Members opposite. They say that sweating is declining, but, as I say, I would have stronger anti-sweating legislation, such as we have frequently proposed in this House, and in regard to which foreign countries are easily taking the lead of us. According to the evidence of Messrs. Vaughan and Herbert Evans, His Majesty's Inspectors of Factories, sweating is declining. Further, the evidence of Dr. Shirley Murphy, Medical Officer of Health for London; of Dr. Hamer, his assistant; of Dr. Niven, Medical Officer of Health for Manchester; of Mr. Ward, vaccination officer, and of all the Poor Law and school board authorities, is overwhelmingly against this Bill. Dr. Shirley Murphy, for instance, speaks of the regular lives led by these destitute aliens, and the total absence of drinking among them. Dr. Hamer speaks of their admirable lives, and I would particularly refer to Question 3963. He shows that the mortality, even where these aliens are overcrowded by no fault of their own, is much lower than among our own people. Captain Denniss, who has for ten years been chairman of a board of managers of the School Board in East London, gave evidence which was tremendously strong on the subject of the Jewish children in the schools, and he applied to them the very epithet which hon. Members opposite would be inclined to withhold. He speaks of their special "manliness," and as he is an officer of the Royal Engineers he knows what he is speaking about. The divisional superintendent of the Tower Hamlets Division, the chairman of the continuation schools committee and the headmasters of the Board schools to which the children go all give them the same character. The headmaster of the Christian Street Board School says—The Jewish children are above our boys.The headmaster of the Settle Street Board School says the same thing. The headmaster of the Betts Street Board School says of the Jewish children—They show better knowledge of English History than the English children. They are proud to become English.1074 That is the overwhelming evidence of every impartial witness but one who was called before this Commission. I appeal to those who are neither Jews nor persons in sweated trades—to those who represent public authorities who came before this Commission, school board people, Poor Law people factory inspectors, the clergy and such people. As I say in the present day hon. Members opposite, when we ask them about this exclusion of those who are victims of persecution, and put to them a case from the past, say, "Yes, it would have been shameful and wicked, and contrary to the interests of this country, to exclude the people you name, but we are now dealing with a wholly different state of things." I am not old enough to remember 1848, but I can remember the people who came over in that year, and the effect they had upon art workmanship in this country, and upon trades in Birmingham and London. At that time the feeling was such that had a measure of exclusion been proposed it would have been very difficult to get these aliens in. But in 1871, I remember very well that you would have kept them out. I remember the state of feeling in 1871. Take the case of the most distinguished ambassador in the world. You now think that you would have let him in when he came hither as a destitute alien in 1871; but I remember the feeling at the time. Hon. Members would have been more inclined to have boiled these men in oil. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I see the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield in his place. How many trades in Sheffield and how much improvement in Sheffield manufactures have been due to alien workmen? I know the hon. and gallant Member will give up the question in the fashion I have described. When he was at the head of the Detective Department in this country the hon. and gallant Member conceived a very strong opinion on the subject of alien immigration and he has maintained it ever since, and it fits in very well with the opinion which he holds on another subject. He made some years ago a great point in Questions to the Foreign Office about what he described as the monstrous and wicked case of the Spanish anarchists, referring to about twenty-eight people who came to this country in July, 1897, who were alleged to 1075 be anarchists to whom this country was giving shelter and protection. The hon. Member would have had them handed over to the Spanish Government to be hanged outside the lines at Gibraltar. We were not, however, satisfied with the character given to those men at that time, but had such men attempted to land in our country under the provisions of this Bill they would have undoubtedly been excluded and put on board ship, landed at some foreign port, extradited and hanged. It was a good job that we were not satisfied with the account given of their characters, because it was afterwards admitted by the Spanish Government that these men had been improperly charged as anarchists and that they had been tortured in defiance of the law. Two of them were actually paid their fares back by the Spanish Government, with apologies for having teen treated as they were. I am afraid that in this country, though not in this House, there has been an agitation kindled and fanned in the way I have described and that an anti-Jewish feeling has been aroused, it is impossible to close our; eyes to that fact. Those who read the newspapers which support this Bill cannot help seeing what the tone is. The faults which are set down to the Jews are caused by persecution in the past—the historical growth of the persecution of that race. The principle of the right of asylum, strong as it is, in the case of Jews ought to appeal with double strength to every one holding Christian principles, as a proper exchange for the hateful and shameful system of un-Christian persecution. And before you change these principles, of which the country is proud, in this matter an overwhelming case ought to be made out. I have examined the figures, numbers, and proportion alleged by the hon. and gallant Member, and I ask the House to say whether any overwhelming necessity has been established for this Bill.
MR. TKEVBLYAN (Yorkshire, W. R., Elland)
I beg to second the Motion which has been moved by the right hon. Baronet. I am aware that my task is not an easy one in view of the anti-Jewish feeling which exists in some parts of the country, but I hope that this House may be made to feel that a 1076 good deal of outside public opinion has placed far too high an estimate upon the social and economic effects of alien immigration at the present time. This Bill appears to have many of the characteristics of panic legislation. In many directions the evils complained of have been exaggerated. This measure has adopted in some cases remedies which I think I shall be able to show will be totally ineffective, and above all it ignores much greater evils which may result from the Bill. My right hon. friend has dealt so fully with the question of the number of aliens at present coming into this country that I shall not say anything on that point except that I think it is very unfortunate indeed that the Home Secretary, speaking with more authority than anyone else, when the measure was first introduced should have used figures which it is so utterly impossible to substantiate as those which the right hon. Gentleman put forward during the First Reading. He said that we had to reckon 81,000 aliens as having come to this country to stay in 1901, and 82,000 in 1902; and in another part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman told the House that the total increase of immigration of aliens from 1891 to 1901 was 68,000 less than what he alleged to be the total in either of the two years he had alluded to. It may be pardonable in a working man, after seeing a few streets filling up with aliens and whose purview is limited to the East End boroughs, to believe that the state of things he sees is happening all over the country, but it is unpardonable in those who are acquainted with the statistics which any of the Government Departments can supply. The Report, upon which the whole of this Bill is supposed to be based, gives the only figures that you can really take, and they are census figures. In judging of the number of aliens who come into this country according to those figures in the last few years there were only something like 7,500 aliens added to the population in the course of each year. Then there is another popular superstition about, the aliens, and that is that they are liable to introduce a large number of diseases into this country. If we read the papers which influence public opinion outside we read such phrases as 1077 "The small-pox epidemic was attributed to the scum washed on to our shores from dirty water coming from foreign drain pipes." Just to explode that illusion I will read the conclusions of the Report upon which this legislation is said to be based. The Report calls attention to the opinion of Dr. Williams, who is the medical officer of the Corporation of the City of London. He says—As to the health of the alien immigrant I should say it was fairly good. The number of cases of infection introduced that I have detected amongst these people has not been numerous, speaking as a whole. I cannot say that much infectious disease has come into the country among these people.This view is borne out by the report of the Poor Jews' Shelter, through which a very large number of foreign aliens pass. The officials at that shelter say that "During six years only one case of sickness has occurred amongst the thousands who have passed through the shelter." It is practically certain that disease is not a serious question of which the country need be afraid.
There is rather more of a case to be made out for a slight rise in the criminal statistics of this country owing to the number of aliens who come in. There is a larger proportion of the actual population of aliens who are convicted in the course of the year than the proportion of the general public. But it is pointed out in the Report that whereas the American alien is only 10 per cent, of the whole of the aliens, the American aliens convicted of criminal offences amount to 23 per cent., that is, most crime among aliens is to be found, not among that part of the alien population which it is particularly desired to exclude. But with regard to this question of excluding criminals there really ought not to be any difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. I think it may be said that there is hardly any one on this side any more than on the other side of the House who would not be delighted to exclude the persons in some of the categories in the schedule of this Bill. It is true that persons like criminals or prostitutes may be kept out by legislation, but I have shown that there are very few diseased persons to be kept out; if, however, these latter can be kept out so much the better. The experi- 1078 ence of America, whatever else it proves, proves that this legislation is perfectly useless to keep out criminals and prostitutes. Statistics of the last three years in America show that in these two categories only twenty in the one class and seven in the other were excluded. The present Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry, who gave evidence, with which Sir Edward Bradford concurred, said that he regarded it as impracticable to keep out criminals. Neither of these gentlemen could think of any way in which it could be done. I think most of us would agree with one of the clauses of the Bill with regard to criminals, and that is, that an addition to the sentence should be made if the alien is actually convicted in England. I cannot see any objection to that, and I think that would probably have the support of the House.
These questions to which I have alluded seem to me to be rather questions of minor importance. There are two great charges in the popular mind against aliens, which are, first of all, that they cause overcrowding, and, secondly, that they come in with low-class and low-priced labour in order to compete disastrously with English workmen. With regard to the question of overcrowding, my right hon. friend hardly spoke. What is the total of overcrowding in this country? I am not going into statistics, because the House for the last four years has been having theoretical debates on the question of overcrowding, and they have been given over and over again. In every one of our great industrial centres overcrowding is a terrible evil, but it is almost universal, and exists in English towns just as much as in those in which there is an alien population, There were figures given, I think, before the Commission in regard to London itself by the Assistant Medical Officer of Health of the London County Council. These showed that the worst overcrowding was not in the Jewish districts but in some parts of Lambeth, St. Pancras, and Kensington. But at any rate overcrowding is certainly as great in many parts of London and other towns where there is no alien question at all. What real difference in this great question can the addition of 7,000 foreigners a year make? Take London. According to the Commission Report the increase per 1079 year in London of the alien population is 3,800. The increase of the population of London per year is 90,000 or more. It is a mere drop in the bucket. It is inappreciable in dealing with the gigantic problem of overcrowding. Overcrowding cannot be dealt with by peddling exclusions such as are proposed in this Bill. It is an organic evil and the organic evil is the want of cheap and quickly built houses, and the want of building land. Nothing can be more futile than to try to shift on to the shoulders of these miserable foreigners the evils which really come to us owing to our system of taxation of houses and the difficulty of dealing with the question of land in this country.
Then I come to the charge that low-priced alien labour displaces the native worker, and here again it seems to me that alien low-class labour is a symptom and not a cause. Here again there has been a great deal of exaggeration. The Home Secretary in introducing the Bill told the House casually, though he did not dilate upon it, that a large amount of labour is displaced. My right hon. friend who moved the Amendment quoted some clauses of the Report, but he rather minimised, I think, the effect of one of the decisions of the Commission in paragraph 131. They said in regard to the question of displacement—On the whole we arrive at the conclusion that it has not been proved that there is any serious direct displacement of skilled English labour.they go on to say—Leaving the skilled market out of the question, we think it proved that the industrial conditions under which a large number of aliens work in London fell below the standard which ought to be maintained.They did not say any more than the Lords Committee in 1890 said. They did not say that there was any serious displacement of labour. The Lords Commit tee in 1890 said practically the same thing. Nowhere, I repeat, is it alleged that the Englishman is driven out of the market. On the other hand, the Reports of the Board of Trade inspectors declare that trades have actually been created. Export trades in mantles, boots, and shoes, have either been created or, at any rate, largely stimulated by the appearance of those foreigners in our midst. The point 1080 of the accusation against them is that they work under sweated conditions. Aliens coming into this country find a system of unregulated industry in existence. They find that they can work under filthy surroundings, that they can work for wretchedly low wages and in many cases no wages at all, and that they can work as long as they or their immediate masters please. That is an evil which exists, and many Englishmen do the same. Some thrive by it and rise out of the condition; others stick there; others sweat it out and die there. I do not see the point of making these unfortunate aliens the scapegoat for our own neglect in this matter. We ought to be thankful to them for turning the search-light of public reprobation on a system under which our own people suffer in common with them. This is not the place to discuss what legislation can be applied to the sweating industries of this country. Some of us believe in more stringent legislation than others, but at any rate I think we might all go far in the direction of bringing the sweated industries more directly under the active and effective control of factory inspectors. That is the least we can do. But it is really time that we did begin to consider what our colonists have been able to do in dealing with sweated industries before we go to new legislation such as this, with the faint-hearted idea that by excluding a few aliens we shall be able to make a difference in dealing with this problem. In the Colonies they dealt with sweating and completely wiped it out in many of the great cities of New Zealand and Australia.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Well, they do not try to go there in large numbers. I believe that a great part of this agitation is directed against one particular set of aliens, namely, the Jews, and I believe that this agitation is directed by those who are really forcing public opinion against those who cannot be called destitute as well as against those who are mean and poverty-stricken. All the evidence brought forward goes to prove that the great mass of these aliens do in the long 1081 run become good enough citizens, that they are fairly sober and industrious, that they have their vices, that they are gamblers, perhaps more than the average Englishman. Certainly they drink less than Englishmen. The evidence goes to prove that they love education, and that their children are active and clever in the schools. In that admirable report by the hon. Member for Stepney on the countries from which these unfortunate people come he has pointed out that in Russia one of the reasons which cause the emigration of the Jewish population is that they can not get good education under the Russian system for their children. No doubt they are people who are very often dirty, but it is rather difficult to establish the proportion of national filth amongst the poor of different nations. The authorities differ. Canon Barnett says that the only difference really to be found among the very poor and impoverished aliens and the English is that the English native sweeps the dirt under the bed and that the alien throws it out of the window. I remember reading in Robert Louis Stevenson's account of Edinburgh that in the old days the wayfarer in the neighbourhood of Canon-gate would be constantly warned to avoid the slops and dirt thrown out upon the streets from the upper windows. I think we may hope that as the conditions of life of those people improve they will be just as susceptible to improvement as ever the Scotch were or as ever the English were. The most that this Bill can effect is the exclusion of a few hundred people. Those people are largely, as is almost universally admitted, refugees from persecution, either direct or indirect. In Russia it is to a great extent very direct indeed. There have been massacres within the last few months. There are laws which have driven the population from the country districts into the towns, so that their miserable condition there is due very largely directly to the legislation of the Government under which they live. In Roumania for years they have been living in a condition of constant and deliberate persecution. The hon. Member for Stepney speaks of the malignant policy against the Jews. I think we ought to have a far deeper necessity if we are going just at this time to enter into legislation which may exclude the 1082 Hebrew from asylum here. I have no particular belief in Providential return for national calamity or personal welldoing, but I cannot help thinking that at this very time while Eastern Europe is in some cases hounding to death and in many cases to exile these people, that we should keep open the shelter which only a small portion of them are glad to take. We shall not as a nation be the losers by it. We cannot doubt that those who in future have the teaching of the Jewish population will inculcate patriotism to this country, where for a half a century they have found complete civic freedom as they have not been able to do in most parts of the world. At this juncture I most of all dread what may happen if we enter upon this policy of exclusion. Among many people already—not many in this House, but many people outside of it—there is a frankly anti-Semitic movement, and I deplore it. I believe this is an evil step in the same direction as the Governments of Russia and Roumania have been going. It may be that it is not intended, but the action of many Members of this House has been calculated to excite the feeling which we know to exist in part of our population, and with the case of the persecution of Dreyfus reverberating through the West of Europe there is no use saying that there is no danger of this kind in our own country. I think it is a fortunate thing that we have been peculiarly free from any anti-Semitic movement in England, and we have not lost by it. We have had statesmen, manufacturers, merchants, and the like who themselves, or their predecessors, came to this country as aliens exactly as do those people you now wish to exclude. It seems to me a useless and short-sighted, and at this moment very largely an inhuman policy, to keep out those who may after all be like those of whom I have just spoken.
To leave out all the words after the word 'That' in order to add the words this House, holding that the evils of low-priced alien labour can best be met by legislation to prevent sweating, desires to assure itself be fore assenting to the Aliens Bill that sufficient regard is had in the proposed measure to the retention of the principle of asylum for the victims of persecution.'"—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * MAJOR EVANS GORDON
The Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Baronet and by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire has undergone considerable changes since it was first put down on the Paper. The originalintention, apparently, was to move a direct negative to the Second Reading of the Bill; but wiser counsels have perhaps prevailed. In the course of these more neutral proposals laid before us, the right hon. Baronet has done me the honour to refer to a letter which appeared in The Times this morning above my signature. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should say—as he did say—that I would not give two pence for this Bill if it did not include the destitute amongst those with whom the measure now before the House is calculated to deal. I said, and I adhere to the statement, that I think a very important part of this question is its economic side, and that the destitute who come here do play an important part in rendering legislation necessary, for reasons which I will endeavour to describe. The Amendment on the Paper raises two questions: the prevention of sweating and the retention of the principle of asylum for the victims of persecution in foreign countries. I have never minimised the bad treatment of the Jews in Russia and Roumania, and I have no desire to see our doors closed to the genuine victims of persecution in those countries, provided the movement is carried on under proper and reasonable regulations, without inflicting detriment and hardship on our own people. I desire as ardently as anyone in this House to see an amelioration in the condition of the Jews in Eastern Europe, but I cannot countenance the transfer of their burdens to the shoulders of the poorest and most helpless of our own population.
I think, however, that the House should have some clear idea of what is meant when the word "persecution" is used and that we should realise bow far the principle of free asylum is likely to lead us. From an English standpoint everyone outside the official class in Russia is in a sense "persecuted." 1084 The law is harsh, stern, and uncertain in its operation; the lives and liberties of the people are almost absolutely in the hands of those who administer it. In any case it is not the Jews alone who are badly treated. The Roman Catholics throughout the Empire have almost if not quite as much to complain of, and the operations of the Russian Government in Finland, and among the Stundists and other sects will be fresh in hon. Members' minds. With regard to the Jews a good deal of misapprehension exists. The right hon. Gentleman's generalisations would lead anyone unacquainted with the facts to suppose that the whole of the five or six million Jews in Russia were the victims of persecution. This is by no means the case. A large number of them are prosperous merchants, bankers, and tradesmen; a still larger number make a good living as shopkeepers and artisans. With some exceptions they are compelled to live within the fifteen western provinces commonly known as the "Jewish Pale" and in the ten Governments of Poland. But this is a country 1,000 miles long by 1,000 miles broad, containing more than 356.000 square miles of land, and a population of 43,000,000 souls, of whom some 5,000,000 are Jews. In itself this would be no great hardship. There is room and employment to spare for the whole Hebrew population if they were free to inhabit any part of this vast territory. But this is not so. By the May laws of 1882, all Jews who could not prove their right to live in the country and whose names did not appear upon the village registers were compelled to move into the towns. These towns, with few exceptions, are in no sense industrial centres where employment can be found for large numbers of people. This produced an artificial congestion and is probably the cause of the westward flow of emigration from Russia which has since been going on. The stream is by no means all pure water; sometimes it contains deleterious and objectionable matter. The question before us is whether it should be filtered or not. With regard to the May laws, it is a remarkable fact that even where no restrictions as to residence exist, as in Poland and Austria, for instance, there is an inherent tendency among the Jews to herd together in the towns. As 1085 Sir Samuel Montagu told the Royal Commission, when the walls of the Ghetto in Rome were thrown down, the people refused to avail themselves of their freedom. The same thing is manifest in New York, in London, and in other industrial centres to-day. It is this characteristic which differentiates this class of immigration from any other form of migration in the world, and which presents the most difficult feature in the problem before us. The right hon. Baronet quoted certain figures which are quite illusory.
§ * MAJOR EVANS GORDON
What I object to is the inference which the right hon. Baronet draws from them. You must take into consideration that in France not 50 per cent, of the aliens are wage-earners; and there is nothing to compare in France or in any other country outside America, to the concentration of the immigration of aliens in certain areas of the East End of London. Although the May laws of 1882 press hardly on masses of the Russian Jews, they are not regarded as an unmixed evil by those unaffected by them. In the villages of the "Pale," nearly all the craftsmen are Jews, and the tailors, the shoemakers, the blacksmiths, who have been left in possession would not welcome an influx of their co-religionists which would expose them to serious competition. I do not desire to weary the House with a lecture on Russian methods of government. I have embodied the results of my personal investigations in a Report which is included in the evidence of the Royal Commission. Apart from deplorable outbreaks of violence, such as have recently occurred at Kischineff, which the authorities took no immediate or adequate steps to prevent, what we somewhat loosely call persecution here is a whole system of government in Russia, under which the entire population, and especially the Jews and other non-orthodox sects, suffer. I think it is a very large order, a very serious step to say that anyone who chooses to say that he is persecuted in his own 1086 country, should, irrespective of all other conditions, be allowed to come into this country, free from all other inquiry. We must remember that Russian methods are not our methods and that however much we may reprobate them, our first duty is to our own people. We have to safeguard them against becoming the indirect victims of the misgovernment of foreign countries.
In dealing with this question of the treatment of the Jews it is impossible to ignore the action of the Jewish authorities themselves. For years past they have found it necessary to repatriate large numbers of people, who, to quote the words of the Chairman of the Jewish Board of Guardians, ought never to to have come here. It is hard to believe, if the conditions were as bad in Russia and as good in England as is sometimes alleged, that such a course would be adopted. Why do these people come? They come because the elaborate machinery at Hamburg and elsewhere, which has been set up to meet the requirements of the American laws, is not put into operation in our favour. In 1899, 609 cases were repatriated. In 1900, an exceptional year, 1825 cases, and in 1903, 339 cases were sent back to their homes out of a total of 466 new arrivals who applied to the Jewish Board of Guardians for assistance. That is 78 per cent. The total number of repatriated cases in 1903 was 1151. These repatriated persons are not all new arrivals, many of them have been here for some years. What have they been doing during that time? They have been swelling the ranks of the unemployed, the sweated, and the overcrowded. They have been drawing upon charitable resources, and helping to drag down those who but for their presence might have prospered. I should explain that each "case" is estimated to average three souls, so that the number of people annually sent back to their country for one cause and another is considerable. The waste of money, the sorrow and disappointment caused by this useless travelling is deplorable to think of. The Bill before the House will put some check upon it, because by setting up a standard of health, character, and efficiency for those we accept, we shall 1087 deter those who do not reach that standard from coming, and shipping companies from bringing them.
It is sometimes asserted, I think I have heard something of the kind during this debate, that the undesirable among the immigrants are so few as to make no difference, that the industrial field in England is unlimited and that there is room for all who have come or who may come in future. On the other hand, we have evidence of the constant endeavours made by the Jewish authorities, not only to send these people back to their homes, but to emigrate them to America and South Africa, and by means of notices distributed abroad to prevent them leaving their native country. How in face of these facts can it be asserted that the influx from Eastern Europe is wholly desirable or industrially advantageous? Now, Sir, presumably the right of asylum for Hebrew immigrants is safe in the hands of the Jewish Hoard of Guardians, and I would ask the House what reasonable objection can there be to the proposed action of the State in doing in its own interests what the leaders of the Jewish community do to protect their co-religionists who have settled in this country. I may be met with the question, "Why, when so much is done by the Jewish authorities to relieve the pressure, is legislation necessary?" Sir, the answer is that the Board of Guardiaus and Russo-Jewish Committee only deal with such cases as apply to them and who consent to return when urged and advised to do so. Within my knowledge the least desirable among this class of immigrants absolutely refuse to return, even at the expense of other people. And here let me point out that the difficulty in securing the re-admission of these people into Russia, which is supposed to exist, is imaginary. The Russian Consul, when giving evidence recently in the Lord Mayor's Court, said that he had in a few months distributed 800 passports at the instance of the Jewish Board of Guardians for repatriation purposes. Moreover, these charitable bodies deal with people of their own faith only, and the most undesirable elements of all in our foreign population are not Jews. There are quarters in London infested and infected by the riff-raff and scum of all nations. 1088 I need not name their professions. A deputation which waited on the Home Secretary not along ago had something to say on this subject, and I sincerely trust that this Bill may be effective in ridding our streets of those elements which now render them a disgrace and reproach.
The right hon. Gentleman, and those who think with him, seem to be of opinion that this country should be an asylum for all who are dissatisfied with the laws of their own land—that the word "persecution" should be the Open Sesame irrespective of all other considerations —that it is a cloak which covers a multitude of sins—and that the comfort and the moral and economic welfare of our own people are quite subordinate matters. Where does the right hon. Gentleman draw the line? Does he draw it anywhere? Does he deny to us the well-known principle of international law that a nation has a right to exclude foreigners? Why should we not exclude foreigners who are diseased or of bad character, or hopelessly destitute? Or does he carry the doctrine of free asylum for the victims of persecution abroad to the absurd length of including foreigners who are manifestly objectionable? And is it fair or wise to permit the continuance of a movement which bears so hardly upon our own poor in many districts because there may at some uncertain date arise another disturbance like the Commune in France, when even then the permissive character of the Bill would safeguard political refugees. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman, safe in the sylvan seclusion of the Forest of Dean, to philosophise on the traditions of England and extol the beauties of free and unrestricted asylum to all and sundry. What part of the burden which this asylum imposes has he borne? Has he seen his friends and constituents driven from their homes and deprived of their work? Will he undertake to house 10,000, 20,000, or 30,000 foreigners in the homes of his constituents and seek to pacify them with speeches about the open door? Sir, the open door is a very fine thing so long as it is someone else's. Why are the sympathies of the hon. Gentlemen opposite reserved for the aliens? Are they aware of the conditions among our 1089 own people in the East End of London and in many other parts of the country due to this unrestricted influx? They demanded a referendum on the question of imported cheap labour in South Africa, where it is urgently required, where the employment of our own people is strictly safeguarded, and where not a single white man will be displaced either from his work or from his home. Will they take the verdict of a referendum upon the question of the foreign invasion of the East End? If not, why not? Why are they so anxious to exclude cheap alien labour from a land where it competes with no white man's work when they see no harm in the introduction of alien labour into the Lanarkshire mines or the Beckton Gas works where it competes with native workmen in the most direct and effective manner? Sir, there is ample evidence in the Report of the Royal Commission as to the evils arising from the unrestricted inflow. They are by no means confined to the East End of London. Complaints are made in many parts of the country and are increasing in number and in force. But it is upon the East End that the burden presses most heavily. There signs are not wanting that the oppressed of foreign countries are becoming the oppressors here.
The right hon. Baronet in his speech on the introduction of this Bill told the House that the whole agitation was directed against 20,000 tailors, 3,500 cabinetmakers, and 3,000 shoemakers. If this were so we may be certain that the recommendation of the Royal Commission would never have been made. But it is not so. I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Baronet and of this House to the fact that recently the Alien Immigration Committee of the Jewish Board of Guardians estimated the number of foreign workers in this country at 200,000. The question of numbers is a difficult one to decide. The Board of Trade figures make no pretence to accuracy and have given rue to some exaggeration. But neither the advocates for restriction nor its opponents can draw any valid conclusion from them. The census comes nearer the truth, but even the census does not give an exact picture of the facts. It shows that in 1901 there were 1090 54,000 foreigners in the Borough of Stepney alone; but this figure, large as it is, does not include the children of foreign parents born in this country. They are technically English. Sir, I do not desire to enter into any argument on this point beyond saying that had I been born in Germany, I should not have become a German. When, however, we are considering the effects of immigration, we must take into account the total increase in population to which immigration has given rise. If a couple go into a house to-day and in five yen's time have four children, a census of the house should show six persons and not two. A sample census was taken by the Registrar-General, which showed that an increase of 50 per cent. would have to be allowed if these children were included. Therefore it is safe to say that the real number of people of foreign extraction in Stepney in 1901 was nearer 80,000 than 50,000. Sir, what does this mean? It is impossible that a movement of this magnitude should have gone forward without an immense displacement of the native population. Mr. Harper, Statistical Officer of the London County Council, estimates that more than 52,000 native persons left Stepney in the ten years 1891 to 1901. Concurrently, according to the Chief Superintendent of the H Division, 107 streets in Stepney alone have in six years passed wholly into foreign occupation. And it is quite an error to suppose—as is constantly asserted—that the native inhabitants have been elbowed out by the pressure of commercial and industrial buildings. A prominent Jewish member of the Stepney Borough Council pointed out to the Royal Commission that, owing to the erection of large blocks of dwellings, the loss of house accommodation due to the erection of business premises has been more than counterbalanced. I have not time to dwell upon the hardship and suffering which this wholesale eviction has occasioned, or the bitterness of feeling which it has engendered, but I can assure the House, after long and close personal observation, that they are as real as they are under the circumstances natural. I am, therefore, quite at a loss to understand what the right hon. Baronet means when he says that the agitation is directed against a few 1091 thousand tailors and shoemakers. Clause 4 of this Bill will, I hope and believe, do much to put an end to an intolerable state of things disastrous to native and alien alike.
Sir, I have detained the House too long already, or I would deal more fully with the many other evils of which the concentration and incidence of immigration in certain localities have been the cause. These are the questions of overcrowding, of high rents, of low wages, of sweating and cheap production purchased at a ruinous cost in bad conditions, and there is the question of the local tradesmen who have, in many instances, been ruined, and in all much reduced in circumstances. Upon all these subjects much might be said. Of course, in a Bill of this nature much must depend upon the nature of the regulations which are made under it, and the manner in which they are administered. With sound regulations and wise and careful administration I believe the measure will do much to mitigate and remove some of the evils to which I have re1erred. For my part, and on behalf of my constituents, I thank the Government for introducing it, and I hope it will have the cordial support of the great majority of this House. I do not think that the doubts and fears expressed by the right hon. Baronet and the seconder of this Amendment have any foundation in fact. Nor do I believe that in the hands of the present or any future Home Secretary the enforcement of the provisions of this Act is in the least likely to err on the side of harshness or severity.
§ * MR. HAYES FISHER (Fulham)
said that every one of those who supported this Bill were in full sympathy with the historical aspect of the admission of the foreigner into England, and they agreed with the Report of the Royal Commission, which in one paragraph said: "We owe much to the foreigners, who have enabled us to become the manufacturers of the world." Neither were those who supported this Bill oblivious to the pathetic side of the case, which told them that England in all ages had been an asylum for those who had been driven from their own country on account of their religious, 1092 political, or social ideals. But he did not think, after reading this Bill, that the real right of asylum was to be taken away from those who might legitimately seek it. The historical side was very interesting and very beautiful, but no hon. Member could listen to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney without being convinced that for the last twenty years we had been confronted with the squalid problem of pressure of poverty upon subsistence affecting one large portion of London and, he believed, in a lesser degree many other towns throughout the country, and it was not to be expected that Englishmen who had suffered, as those in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney had suffered, should regard the foreigner with that favourable eye with which Englishmen formerly viewed him. They saw the foreigner coming here and displacing them in the labour market; demanding a share of our rates, lowering the level of our social life, and increasing the numbers of our criminal population. The right hon. Baronet no doubt would dispute that part of the proposition. He even denied that the numbers were increasing. In his opinion, however, they had undoubtedly increased. It was true that the proportion the alien population bore to the other population of this country was small compared with other countries. The Committee which sat in 1889 arrived at the conclusion that, although the percentage of increase was not alarming, still there was an increase of immigration, and nobody who had studied the figures in the Report of that Committee could come to any other conclusion than that there had been a steady increase in proportion to the English population, if there was no increase why was there this agitation? Why was the question before the Royal Commision and why was the Bill before the House. The right hon. Baronet had said the proportion here was not so great as in other countries, but even-foreign country, so far as he was aware and certainly our self-governing colonies, whatever the proportions might be, had taken means to regulate the immigration of foreign paupers.
This was not a "must and shall" Bill: it was a Bill which merely set up certain 1093 regulations under which aliens were to be admitted into this country in the future. It did not say they should be entirely prohibited: it merely said the Home Secretary should make regulations and conditions for their admission and residence. The right hon. Baronet had said that if this Bill were passed people like those who were admitted into this country in 1848 or 1871 would not be allowed to come here. He begged to differ. That matter would have to be regulated by the House of Commons, and such were the sentiments of this House that if this Bill were passed it would be very carefully watched in order to see what class of people were to be or might be, prohibited from landing on our shores. Who would be prohibited? Those who had been guilty of extraditable offences within the past five years; prostitutes and those who lived upon their earnings, a growing class unfortunately in this country. People of notoriously bad character would also be subject to regulation; to that everyone would agree. The hon. Member for Elland would not give this Bill a Second Reading, but if it was not read a second time how was it possible that any regulations should be drawn up to exclude these undesirable classes of people. He did not think there was any reason why under this Bill the right of asylum should be discontinued to all those who desired and deserved the right of asylum. He admitted this Bill might lead to the prevention of thousands of poor people being landed in this country. We had a right to consider our own people first. This was not a hard measure, and if the immigration of these people dislocated our own population he did not see why the Government should not have some power to regulate that immigration. Stepney was, after all, not Palestine, and these undesirables, might find their promised land elsewhere.
There were proposals in this Bill which might be very wisely used to prevent any great congestion, and nobody in the House when discussing this Bill in Committee would object to the clause which allowed a Court of Justice to repatriate a man who had been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanour and who had suffered a term of imprisonment. In fact, a strong opinion had been expressed by metropolitan police magistrates and judges for some power of that kind. 1094 When these points had been carefully considered in Committee, as they would have to be, he believed the House would come to the conclusion that the time had arrived when this country ought to possess, as all other nations possessed, the power of regulating the influx of aliens. The Bill was constructed on sound lines, because it would minimise the evils of which the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney and many others had so much cause, from the British point of view, to complain, and could be so revised in Committee as fully to safeguard that right of asylum which Englishmen, with their love of liberty, had always been wishful of according to all who deserved it.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I desire in a few sentences to explain the reasons why I shall certainly give my vote in support of the Amendment. This Bill, it must be conceded, is an entirely new departure in British legislation, for it gives to an officer of the Executive, by his own act, without any reference to a Court of law or to judicial procedure, power to prohibit admission to these shores of any person who is not a subject of the Crown, provided he comes within certain categories. This is a change in the law so drastic, so revolutionary in its character, that it behoves those who propose it to show a case of overwhelming necessity, to show that the evils to be met are not merely local or transient, and to show that there are not more satisfactory and less objectionable methods open to us for dealing with such evils as undoubtedly exist. I do not deny for a moment that there are evils, though to a great extent they are local in their scope, connected with the immigration of aliens into this country, to which I will refer in a moment, which demand consideration, and for which I will endeavour to show that very simple remedies, not at all of this revolutionary character, can be found.
There are certain remarkable features about this question. In the first place we have the Report of the Royal Commission leading to a series of recommendations the Report does not in the least justify, and then we have the Bill going far in advance of the—as I think—illogical recommendations of the Commission. 1095 I do not want to go into details or over ground already covered, but I will ask the House to consider what are the dimensions of the problem. We have at this time in the country an alien population, making the necessary correction for additions since the last census, of some 300,000 out of a total population of 42,000,000. I confess I was surprised at the small ness of the number, and still more when I found the Royal Commission Report, comparing decade by decade, gave the annual rate of increase between 1891 and 1901 as being smaller than that between 1881 and 1891. The numbers, as the right hon. Baronet has said, show that comparing our situation with that of other countries and particularly that of the United States, we have a far smaller proportion of aliens to population than any other civilised country in the world. We have considerably less than 1 per cent.; it rises to 2½ per cent, in France, to 9½ per cent, in Switzerland, and in the United States it is something like 14 per cent. If it be the evil it has been described to be, and I do not admit that to have an alien element in our population is an evil, then we are suffering from it to a much smaller extent than our commercial rivals in other parts of the world.
Then we proceed from numbers to quality—the social and industrial value of this element in our population. Pauperism has already been referred to, and here facts are significant and of more value than rhetoric; and it appears that though London is the only place where the matter assumes anything like a serious proportion—and even there it might almost be said to be confined to Stepney—only 2½ percent, are in receipt of Poor Law relief as compared with 8 percent, of the total population of the Metropolis. Then as to industrial capacity, I do not wish to use exaggerated language and I will not attempt to compare industrially the poor aliens that come from Russia, Roumelia, Poland, and the East of Europe with the Walloons who found refuge here at the time of the Reformation, and still less with the Huguenots who came from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. But at the same time it is an indisputable fact, which the evidence before 1096 the Royal Commission attests, that these alien communities, settling for the most part in the East End of London and to some extent in industrial centres like Leeds and Manchester, have introduced or revived at least three considerable trades —cabinetmaking, shoemaking, and tailoring—and in these have added to the export trade of the country, the increase in the tailoring trade alone between 1888 and 1902 being from £4,700,000 to £6,300,000. As the Royal Commissioners point out, by origination or development of trade, aliens have increased the export of British-made goods and have added to the demand for raw material. In paragraph 144 of their Report the Commissioners state that the evidence went to show that these aliens were sober and thrifty, and of the children a Stepney teacher of large experience among them said they were particularly punctual and regular in school attendance, the percentage of attendance being as high as from 90 to 95, and showed a ready response to the call for expressions of sympathy with the sick and afflicted. This is impartial evidence as to the value of the element this immigration introduces into our population.
It is suggested that these immigrants belong in greater measure than the persons of the corresponding social class in this country to the criminal classes. I will make this concession to the supporters of this legislation—that the evidence does show a larger percentage of crime among them as compared with the native-born population. But percentages in a matter of this kind are dangerous, and I think, if they were analysed, it would be found that the great bulk of the offences of which aliens are convicted are not of a serious character and are offences punished with relatively short terms of imprisonment. Under these circumstances, what case has been made out for legislation, above all for the kind of legislation proposed in the Bill?
Before I sit down I will indicate one or two changes which I think might with advantage be made. The Bill contains three provisions of an especially drastic; character—it gives power of refusal of admission and of expulsion to the Home 1097 Secretary, and it gives power to the Local Government Board to prescribe particular areas of alleged congestion or over-population, and to prevent immigrants from making their homes there. I confess, when I look at the schedule of the Bill and find power given to Executive officers, without any safeguards of judicial procedure or observance of the laws of evidence, to prohibit admission of an immigrant on the ground that he is likely to become a charge upon public funds or has no visible means of supporting himself or that he is of notoriously bad character, I am aghast at the administrative problem presented. I should have been prepared on this matter to take the opinion of those most conversant with our police and criminal administration. Take the case of "notoriously bad character." What does it mean? Notoriously to whom or where? How-are you going to tell that a person is of notoriously bad character unless you accept the testimony of the police in the country from which, in all probability, he has been expelled for religious or political reasons? Very much the same may be said of the other categories. How do you know what means of living a man has; how can you judge of the proba-ability of his requiring relief from the rates? I will undertake to say that many of the Walloons, Huguenots, and others who in days gone by established themselves here and contributed a most valuable ingredient to the industrial development of the country would have come under these categories. If this power had then existed they might have been excluded, not only to their own detriment, but to the infinite injury of the country which gave them hospitality. Look at the evidence before the Committee. Look at the testimony which is to be found in the dissentient Report—the only Report which seems to me to be founded upon the evidence—of Sir Kenelm Digby. First of all there is Sir Edward Bradford, who for ten years was at the head of the Metropolitan Police, and who in that capacity exhibited tact, judgment, and administrative efficiency, which it is impossible to eulogise too highly. He tells you that any provision of this kind is absolutely unworkable; 1098 and in that opinion he has the concur rence of the present Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry. Further support is given to that view by Sir Albert de Rut-zen, the chief magistrate of the Metropolis, and one whose experience is wider and longer than that of any other magistrate upon the Bench. It would be almost presumptuous to add any testimony of mine, but I do say that having myself in days gone by been responsible for these matters in London, I do not hesitate to say that I absolutely concur in the judgment of these experienced administrators. In my opinion it is impossible to carry out the scheme of this Bill and determine satisfactorily whether an intending immigrant belongs to one or other of these different categories.
I will dismiss in passing the proposal to schedule particular areas and exclude the alien from them, making them a preserve for British-born subjects. A more childish proposal, speaking with all respect of the authors of the Bill, his never been submitted to this House, and I will not waste words upon it. I may be asked, "Are you content to leave things entirely as they are?" I am not. But there is only one provision of the Bill to which I can give the faintest countenance. I would empower Courts of law before whom aliens are criminally convicted of serious offences to add expulsion to the sentence. I see nothing either administratively difficult, politically unjust, or from any point of view contrary to public policy in a provision of that kind. When a person abuses the hospitality which this country has offered by violating our laws I see no reason why we should burden ourselves longer with his presence. As regards overcrowding, it appears mainly to exist in the borough of Stepney, though it is also to be found in one or two other districts. There, again, the proper remedy is to be found in a slight amendment or a more vigorous enforcement of the existing law. If you were to bring these block-houses and tenement-houses under the by-laws of the local authorities, there is no reason why you should not deal with this question of overcrowding in a perfectly adequate and 1099 satisfactory way. As regards the other serious point, to which I attach the greatest importance, if it is proved that in some of these industries work is being done under insanitary conditions by methods which are compendiously described by the term sweating, the proper remedy is to be found possibly in an amendment, certainly in a more vigilant administration, of the Factory and Workshops Acts. I do not believe that, under the ample powers now vested in the Home Secretary, any of these evils connected with sweating and unregulated trades could not with an adequate inspectorial staff be properly dealt with. At any rate I am satisfied that there is no adequate reason for establishing an invidious, and, as I believe, perfectly unworkable system of inquisition for aliens arriving on our shores, setting at defiance one of the noblest and one of the most beneficent traditions of British policy.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has put the case from the point of view of those who are opposed to any legislation such as that which is before us with his usual eloquence and straightforwardness. But I venture to say, after listening to his speech, his recommendation comes to this—that in addition to a slight amendment of the criminal law the only change advocated is the change in the Public Health Laws which would enable the local authorities to deal by inspection with the tenement holders. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman is right in his assumption, and I have observed, as I daresay other Members have observed, how much more easy reform always seems to those who are not in office than to those who are in office, and are responsible for it. What is the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman? It is that we should make a very small amendment in the Public Health Laws, which I hope to have the opportunity of doing in a Bill which I propose to introduce this session. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that if local authorities have the power to make these by-laws and to subject the tenement or block-house to the same 1100 conditions of inspection which other classes of property are subject to, we shall deal with a great deal of the difficulty. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has had time in the many calls on him in his distinguished career, to look closely into these minor questions of local government. Let me tell him at once that he will find, if he goes closer into the problem, that the local authorities will join issue with him and with absolute justice tell him that the question of overcrowding of certain parts of the country by a particular class of resident is a general and not a particular question; a national and not a local one. On what grounds are you going to charge the local body at Stepney, or some other small area of London, with the extremely difficult, invidious, and in many cases very unpopular duty of dealing with these overcrowded areas—overcrowded by a particular class who are willing to submit to conditions of daily life which the ordinary native population will not tolerate. If it be right that they should come in and without any check being placed upon their arrival in this country, that is part of your national law, and the local authorities would say, "You have no right to cast upon us a duty which is in itself so difficult and so unpopular." The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by saying—and others have spoken in the same vein—that we are going to shut the door of this country, which has for generations and centuries been open to the down-trodden people of other countries, who have come here and found a home, and, as other speakers have reminded us, have left their mark on the industries and well-being of the country. I do not believe that anybody ran find in this Bill as it stands anything which is likely to lead to such disastrous results as these, and I venture to say that if it can be clearly shown that the Bill as drawn would be likely to have such results in the hands of a tyrannical Minister, such Amendment would have the approval and support of the Government. We do not want to check by any measure of this kind the legitimate and reasonable importation into this country of people who are in good health, who are of good character, and who desire to take their part in the industry of the country.
1101 The right hon. Gentleman said he stands aghast at a proposal which is quite new to our laws. It is quite true that as far as our laws are concerned it is new; but it is not new to other countries or to the majority of our colonies; and I confess that if he stands aghast at legislation of the kind now before the House, I stand aghast when I hear a distinguished member of the Party of progress and reform seek to bring discredit on the Unionist Government because we have taken a new departure and are making a proposal for which there is no precedent in our own laws. It is a novel kind of argument. Other countries have this legislation and apparently they have found no great difficulty in giving it effect. The right hon. Gentleman when he had got over his surprise and horror at the boldness of the Unionist Government in making a sudden departure of this kind, went on to ask how we were going to give effect to the conditions in the schedule, and how we were to find out the people who came under the description of the schedule. Really, does the right hon. Gentleman, who has himself been at the Home Office, believe it is impossible for the Secretary of State, in conjunction with his officers, to draw up regulations which will prevent conditions of this kind being improperly and unjustly administered? I wonder how many Members of this House have taken the trouble to go down to one of our ports where these men arrive and watch them as they disembark. I venture to say any man of reasonable experience in the work of inspecting this particular class of immigrant will have very little difficulty indeed in putting into force the special conditions under the regulations of the Home Office.
If you say the Bill is too drastic, if you say you must not run the risk, by carrying a measure of this kind, of shutting the door of this country to the foreigner who comes here with the intention and desire to become a good citizen, and if you say you cannot enforce this Bill what is the alternative? The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean said that we had no business to propose legislation of this drastic nature unless an overwhelming case were made out? 1102 What is the overwhelming case? The Member for East Fife told us that undesirable or pauper aliens are only to be found in London. I can assure him that he is mistaken. I assure him that this state of things is by no means confined to London or to any part of London. If the right hon. Gentleman will go to some of our seaports where this class of immigrants come in, he will find feeling and indignation quite as great as in Stepney, or in these parts of East London which are specially affected. I ask the House, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, is Parliament to do nothing because this question has not yet assumed sufficiently great dimensions? I am surprised at such a suggestion, because if it means anything it means that we are to wait until the condition of things already to be found in a great many of our large towns, and in a considerable part of the Metropolis, is no longer confined to those limited districts but has a much wider area and affects a much larger number of the people, and if we wore to take his advice and postpone our legislation until this evil was to be found in a much larger number of places, legislation of this kind would be perfectly useless, and the condition of things would be such that the feeling of the people of this country would lead us to close the door altogether to people coming from other countries, and practical legislation would cease to be possible. There is already a strong enough feeling in the poorer parts of London. Let hon. Gentlemen do the kind of work which it is my lot to do in my Department.
We have all heard Gentlemen on both sides of the House make eloquent and often pathetic speeches upon the housing question. We have been told what a disgrace it is to this country that at this time in our history it should be difficult for working men to get decent houses, and there is a great deal to be said in support of that view. But if it is a disgrace to this country that the working classes should find it difficult to get decent houses at decent rents because the increase in the population has been so rapid and because the difficulty of providing them has been so great, is it not a still greater disgrace to this country that wherever there are those homes and 1103 houses, men of British origin who are ready to pay a fair rent for their houses, provided they are allowed to live in decent conditions, should be turned out of them at the shortest possible notice. By whom? By the landlords who are aliens—in order to put in occupants who are aliens. I have wondered when these stories have been told, when I found that they rest not in imagination or exaggeration but upon bare facts, at the moderation and self-control of the people who are exposed to these difficulties.
We cannot stand where we are now, and we cannot do nothing. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dean would not meet the case in any degree. If you are simply to add expulsion to the power of imposing sentences, which already exists, and if you are, in addition to that, to content yourselves with an amendment of the Public Health Act, you would not touch even the fringe of the question. I believe that the provisions of the Bill can be enforced. I believe that the power to be given to a single Minister is not too strong a power to be entrusted to the hands of any official without some intermediate power being given to, I presume, a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. I am quite aware that the Committee recommended that the cases should be dealt with by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. We did our best to apply that recommendation of the Committee, and we only abandoned it and substituted for it the provision in the Bill because, if the House will stop to think for a moment of the way in which this law is to be applied, they will find that if the case went before the local police magistrate, great difficulty and delay would be attendant on that course, and would cause much greater trouble and inconvenience to these people. What is wanted in their own interest is not that they should be turned out of this country without rhyme or reason when they come under none of the descriptions applied to aliens. What we want is that there should be a power to check and regulate. This is not a Bill for their total exclusion; it is not a Bill to stop aliens coming into this country, it is a Bill to check and regulate the immigration of aliens—a Bill to give 1104 power to an Executive officer to compel the removal of an alien if he comes under certain special descriptions. Outside the Metropolis there are not many of our large seaport towns into which many of these aliens come. Go to the Poor Law guardians of a great city like Liverpool or Hull. They will tell you—not now for the first time, for they have been saying it for years—that it is a monstrous injustice to saddle the rates of those towns with the cost of maintaining these people who arrive destitute and within a few hours of their arrival are obliged to take refuge in the local poorhouse. If it is right for them to come in—if you are to say that the character of your country for hospitality stands so high that you cannot afford to let it be lowered in that respect, then at all events if you are to maintain the principle for the sake of your national character, pay for it out of your national Exchequer: you have no right to maintain the character of your country as a whole at the expense of a board of guardians here or there who are specially affected by this continuing, and, in many cases, growing evil. I believe this is no Bill for the exclusion of foreigners when they are persecuted or when they merely come here because they think that there is a better opening for their industry and brains than there is in their own country. It is a Bill to give moderate powers, to be reasonably applied. If we had adopted the suggestion of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction I think the result would have been delay without any greater security for the alien.
After all, it would not be difficult for the Secretary of State to draw up the necessary regulations, and it would not be difficult for an officer acting under these regulations to ascertain what wore the character and occupation of the people on board these ships. We are asked, for instance, as to the case of a man or woman who would have no manifest means of subsistence. What happens at the present time? At the present time thousands of these people are given money enough to provide themselves with a living for the first fortnight or three weeks in this country. Surely if they arrive without any friends to whom they can apply, without a penny in their 1105 pocket, and without any means whatever of subsistence, and can only get a living by one of two ways—by underselling labour in the neighbourhood or begging in the streets—surely that is not a case in which they are coming either to benefit local industry or to do any good to the national character of the country, and surely there ought to be a check on their numbers and a power to send them back. When you deal with the worst classes there can, I take it, be little difficulty in ascertaining whether they come within that category or not. I have already dealt with the third and fourth categories. I do not know what means the Home Office and their officials have of ascertaining whether they are notoriously of bad character or not, but I fancy it would not be difficult for the officers who would have to discharge duties under the Bill, in conjunction with the police, to fairly and reasonably satisfy themselves on that point. The right hon. Gentleman, in opposing the Bill, gave an extreme case. He asked how the character of these people was to be ascertained. Was it to be ascertained from the police and the officials of the Government of the country which had driven them out? If the same persecution were going on such as we have been recently familiar with, and which we have all deplored—if there were the same persecution going on in a foreign country against some particular class of the people, of some particular faith, is it likely, for a single instant, that it would not be known long before we had to deal with the oases on our shores? Is it likely that it would not be perfectly known to the Government of the day and their officials that a particular class were being driven out from one particular country, and, that, therefore, particular care should be exercised here, having regard to the fact that they were fleeing for their lives from a country where they were being tyrannically treated? These would be special cases which would require special treatment, but in the average case I believe, having seen these men land on our shores, having seen them arrive in the ships, and having made myself as well acquainted as I could, both from the evidence given before the Royal Commission, and by interviews with men 1106 that have been personally acquainted with these cases in this country—I believe there is nothing in this Bill which would justify the extreme description given of it by Gentlemen opposite. On the other hand, we have made proposals in which the House will find a reasonable basis for the future settlement of this question. We, of course, are not foolish enough to ask that our proposals should not be subject to amendment. On the contrary, we are quite ready to consider any suggestion which would have for its object the improvement of this Bill in order that it should secure the end that we all have in view.
In asking the House to pass the Second Reading, we ask them to adopt the principle and to express the decision that the time has come when this question of alien immigration cannot be left where it is, when it must be dealt with by regulations which have to be rather Imperial than local in their character. We say that we cannot leave the local authorities to deal with it them selves. You must go beyond the local authority, and deal with it from the point of view of the Government. You must see that there are certain conditions which would make the immigration of these people impossible. We provide the means by which that should be enforced. We mean no tyranny and we should sanction no tyranny. While we are willing to offer an opportunity to the industrious, the thrifty and the well-conducted of other countries to work with our own people, and to help us in making the industries in this country prosperous, we do not care any longer to allow the unrestricted importation of those who come under the different categories of this Bill, and who, on all sides, must be admitted to be an undesirable addition to the population.
§ * MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)
said that in rising to support the Second Reading of the Bill from those Benches, it must be painfully evident that he was somewhat in the position of a political alien.
§ * MR. NORMAN
said that the case was even worse than that. He was in fact, a species of Ishmael, for he found himself unfortunately differing from almost everybody. He differed strongly from his hon. and gallant friend opposite, for example, in his allusions to the question of Chinese labour. Many of the reasons which caused him to support the Second Reading of this Bill were similar to those which induced him to oppose the introduction of Chinese labour into the Transvaal. He differed from his right hon. friend the Member for East Fife and from his hon. friend the Member for the Elland Division. Again, he differed in one respect from the Report which he himself had signed. That might seem an extraordinary thing, but it was perfectly simply explained. The House would not be surprised to learn that the differences of opinion amongst members of the Royal Commission were very sharp, and if every member had insisted either in imposing his own views on the other members or in writing a separate Report there would had been a series of personal Reports and the labour of the Royal Commission would had been thrown away. His point of difference was in the matter of the prohibited areas, for he did not see how that scheme could possibly work. He signed the recommendation for the reason which he had given, and in order that the matter might be discussed in the House. The speech of the right hon. Member for East Fife was a very strong attack, and he heard it with the respect he felt for anything that fell from his right hon. friend; but he thought that one or two of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were hardly sound. A great deal of time was given by the members of the Commission to the consideration of the question of Poor Law relief. Why was it that so many of these aliens took a comparatively small proportion of Poor Law relief? It was because of the extraordinary Jewish charities. The Jewish charities in the East End of London were probably the most lavish, most generous, most kindly, and certainly the most highly organised in the world. Any hon. Member who would take the trouble to look at his cross-examination of one of the gentlemen 1108 closely concerned in the administration of these charities and the long list which this witness before the Royal Commission gave of these charities, would see that what he had stated was the simple fact. It was surely a little late in the day to introduce the argument about the Walloons and Huguenots. If his right hon. friend or other hon. Gentlemen who used that argument had been, as he had been, in the cities of the "Pale" in certain parts of Russia; if they had spent days, as he had done, in the purlieus of Berdicheff and other towns which sent their due quota of immigrants to the East End of London, he did not think that they would have been so ready to draw a parallel between the Walloons and the Huguenots.
In regard to the question of deciding who was an undesirable alien, he thought it was essential that that should be arranged by a Court of law. He would disapprove giving such authority to any single administrative official. It was impossible for him to support the Amendment of his right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean, because it was divided into two dissimiliar and unconnected parts. He should like 10 support one part, but not the other. He yielded to no man in his desire that the right of political asylum in this country should not be restricted in the slightest degree. There was no desire, he believed, on the part of any hon. Member of the House to do so. They all wished that the right of political asylum should be continued unimpaired. It had always been our glory to accord that right. But with regard to the other part of the Amendment, which said that many of the evils complained of could be dealt with by the ordinary legislation to prevent sweating, that had come before the Commission again and again. His own opinion was that that was not so. A great deal of evidence on the point had been given, and the impression left on his mind was that it was practically impossible to turn the whole excessive alien population in the streets at the same moment, and unless this were done, the process would be as a witness had said, merely putting a "legal ferret" into one burrow when the rabbits would all bolt into another. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of the value to the United States 1109 of the alien immigrants there; and in a passage of some eloquence had referred to "the strong arms and deft hands." of these immigrants having rendered great service to the American people. Ho would like to show the right hon. Baronet the other side of the picture. In the 27th Annual Report (1901) of the United Hebrew Charities, which was the representative Jewish body in the United States, and corresponded to the Jewish Board of Guardians in London, the following passage occurred—A condition of chronic poverty is developing in the Jewish community of New York that is appalling in its immensity. Forty-five per cent of our applicants, representing between 20,000 and 25,000 human beings, have been in the United States over five years, have been given the opportunities for economic and industrial improvement which this country affords, yet, notwithstanding all this, have not managed to reach a position of economic independence. 2,585 of the new applicants, representing 7 per cent, of the Jewish immigration to the United States during the year, found it necessary to apply at the office of the United Hebrew Charities within a short time after arrival. The statement can safely be made that during the year from 75,000 to 100,000 members of the New York Jewish community are unable to supply themselves with the immediate necessaries of life.and then the report went on to speak of—The horrible congestion in which so many of our co-religionists live, the squalor and filth, the lack of air and sunlight, the absence frequently of even the most common decencies, are too well known to require repetition.and next the report went on to refer in very striking terms to—The results accruing from these conditions—the vice and crime, the, irreligiou ness, lack of self-restraint, indifference to social conventions, indulgence in the most degraded and perverted appetites which are growing daily more pronounced and more offensive.There was, he thought, a very striking contrast between these facts and the glowing eulogy of the right hon. Baronet on the, "strong arms and deft hands" of the alien immigrants to the United States. There was no reason whatever why British shipping interests should be injured, for a perfectly simple arrangement could be made for any amount of genuine transmigration properly supervised. He had come to the conclusion, alter cross-examination of witnesses before the Royal Commission, that the figures in the census returns were wholly untrustworthy, while those refer- 1110 ring to transmigration were farcical. He had tried to get in a paragraph to that effect in the Report, but his fellow-Commissioners thought it too strong. His hon. friend the Member for Elland Division said that aliens became "good enough" citizens. He knew what a good citizen was, and what a bad citizen was; but not what a "good enough" citizen was. He asked himself what sort of "good enough" citizens lived under the conditions here existing. If his hon. friend would go a couple of hundred yards from the House, take a ticket by railway to the East End of London, which would be reached in twenty-five minutes, he would find railway time tables posted up there in Hebrew characters, the bills of the places of amusement distributed in the streets printed in Hebrew, and the public entertainments given in Yiddish. If he pursued his investigation a little further, he would discover a foreign Press of the most extraordinary character in this country, of which little was known—a Press in which was advocated with great impunity all kinds of revolutionary doctrine. He could not see how "good enough citizens" could be raised in such conditions.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean drew an accurate picture of what took place in regard to the Spanish anarchists; but an inaccurate picture of what would take place under this Bill. The right of asylum was rooted in the minds of the British people; and any Home Secretary, or anybody else, who set himself at defiance of that opinion would be swept out of office under all circumstances. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean made one remark which struck him as unjust and unkind. He was sure that it was not only contrary to the right hon. Gentleman's nature to make ah unjust charge, but that it was not what the right hon. Gentleman meant to say. The right hon. Gentleman stated that those who supported this Bill were anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic. That was a great mistake; and he repudiated it. To him anti-Semitism was a most deplorable and abominable prejudice, and he would, under no circumstances, take part or lot in it. He always refused on the Commission [...]o 1111 use the word "Jew" in connection with alien immigration. It was a matter of indifference to him what were the religious views of these aliens. He judged them by their own personal character and their effect on this community; and he regretted that his right hon. friend should, in an unguarded moment, have made that charge. It should be remembered by those who opposed the Bill that a number of the most influential and enlightened members of the Jewish community were in favour of some measure of restriction. He stated that as a fact within his own personal knowledge. As an example of the mistaken views which prevailed among the opponents of the Bill, he might quote his hon. friend the Member for the Elland Division who said—Nobody would desire not to keep out certain classes of those aliens mentioned in the schedule.His hon. friend was not informed on this point. Let him look at the evidence given before the Commission by the Medical Officer of the London County Council. An answer given to a question put to him was an interesting example—he said it from no want of respect to that distinguished official—of what sort of position hide-bound red-tapeism led a man to take up. He asked the witness whether he would be willing to exclude certain persons on the ground of being personally diseased, and the witness answered, "Certainly not." He next asked if any person suffering from a contagious disease such asophthalmia should be excluded, and the witness replied, "No, certainly not." He went further and asked if the witness would exclude men suffering from a loathsome contagious disease, and again the reply was, "No." Then he asked whether the exclusion should apply to persons suffering from any conceivable disease, and the reply was that it should not apply to any persons suffering from any disease that existed in this country, but only to cases of bubonic plague or similar diseases that did not exist here. That was an example of the extraordinary attitude taken up by certain opponents of restriction.
Looking at the provisions of this Bill, he honestly found it difficult 1112 to understand the attitude of anyone who opposed it. Surely the onus of proof ought to be with the other side. Why should England alone receive this unrestricted immigration, a large part of which was so undesirable? He made these remarks with the conviction that this immigration would increase very largely. There was no doubt whatever but that in the not distant future the flood of these undesirables would increase a hundredfold, unless restricted. Why should we alone be willing to receive them? Why should we alone suffer from their competition—in so many cases a very unfortunate competition? Why should we alone give up a whole quarter of our capital city to them? Why should we alone be compelled to employ a large proportion of our criminal administration to deal with them? And, lastly, why should we neglect the urgent warning of almost the entire body of metropolitan magistrates? If every country received its share of these alien immigrants it would be our bounden duty to accept our fair share of the burdens and to offer a helping hand, but it did not seem right that we, and our criminal administration, should bear it entirely alone. There was one other point which had not occurred to some of the opponents of the Bill, and that was the question of affording these aliens an asylum without any kind of questions being asked. Under existing circumstances prosecution or persecution of these people in foreign countries would be likely to continue, but if the refuge given by this country were to be closed, it would compel the authorities abroad to yield to the pressure of civilised opinion and to do something at home to mend matters. It had to be borne in mind that the restriction could not be estimated by the number of people actually turned back at the ports of landing, and that there were thousands of people who were deterred from starting by the American law. Then, again, the House should remember that we were sending abroad many of the best classes of our own people. Whole shiploads of our skilled mechanics emigrated to Canada, and if we continued to export of our best, and to receive the worst of other countries it would not be long before the quality 1113 of our own people would be seriously impaired and deteriorated. For the reasons he had advanced, he would support the Bill, although he could not by any means regard it as a perfect measure, and ho was ready to justify his action before, any meeting of the working classes of this country.
§ * MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said this was a subject in which he was deeply interested and to which he had given most anxious thought. He had approached the question without any feeling of bias, on the ground that a number of persons who might be restricted from landing in this country might be persons of the community to which it was his pride to belong. He had approached the subject as far as he could from the economic point of view, which he believed to be the only point of view from which it should be approached, and from which alone it could be properly solved. And let him say that he had not been thirteen years in that House without knowing that at all events inside those walls there was not a suspicion of what was called anti-Jewish feeling in the minds of any Member of that House. He did not think there was such an entire absence of prejudice against his community throughout the country. He believed there was in several places what was to him, and what he believed would be to many hon. Members, an unpleasant trace of that feeling, and he thought that feeling had been fed, if it had not been absolutely created, by the misleading statistics which had been disseminated throughout the country by popular speakers addressing platform audiences. He had had a good deal of experience of platform audiences, and the character and style of speeches and statistics which were addressed to those audiences. He knew that they must be prepared for misrepresentations, and if they wanted correct statistics they certainly did not go for them to a popular meeting on Alien Immigration, or Chinese Labour, or Public Education.
§ * MR. COHEN
Or even on tariff reform. He was glad to be reminded 1114 of that, because it was the last subject on which he should go for enlightenment to a popular meeting. He distinguished, however, between observations made in speeches to popular audiences and statistics given in the British House of Commons by the head of a great Department of State, and one, moreover, who was so invariably moderate in his language and accurate in his statistics as the Home Secretary. Therefore he did regret that in that House, with his authority, the Home Secretary should have given currency to statistics which were not slight exaggerations, but had been used by speaker after speaker to exaggerate actual facts by 1,000 per cent. He was quite sure his right hon. friend would be the very last man to mislead the House, and therefore he should look with great interest for his explanation. The only thing that occurred to him was that the right hon. Gentleman had totalled up the monthly Returns, which his hon. friend the Member for Sheffield was very fond of quoting, and that the Home Secretary had disregarded the warning published with those Returns, and which was repeated by the Royal Commission, who said that the net increase of the foreign population in this country of all classes was, in 1891, 9,000, and in 1892, 8,800, just a tenth part of what was represented. There was a statement in the Royal Commission Report to which he wished to draw the attention of his hon. friend the Member for Sheffield—It therefore appears that the number of persons shown in the Return as being alien immigrants in the sense above mentioned is of little value as a guide to the number of aliens remaining in this country.That was the subject into which alone they had had to inquire, and that was the subject which was alone any guide to legislation, and to giving effect to the diminution of the so-called too many aliens at present in this country. No doubt some hon. Member would say—I am sure my hon. friend the Member for Sheffield will say—"Even taking your view, an increase of 7,000 aliens in a year is too many. "It seemed to him, however, that 7,000 aliens in a population of 42,000,000 or 43,000,000 was an item which was not worth considering. The total foreign 1115 population of this country was only five-eighths per cent., and it was a matter that need concern them but little. But numbers was not the only ground upon which legislation was desired. It was stated What there was congestion and that the immigrants displaced native labour and added considerably to the numbers of the criminal classes. He admitted a state of congestion both deplorable and discreditable in the East of London, but denied that it was greater, or even so great, as in other parts of London which were not affected by these immigrants. He knew something of this congestion, because for thirteen years he was president of the Jewish Hoard of Guardians, which had struggled day after day and year after year against this evil and which had at least done a little more than the local authority in arresting it. But when they desired to cure an evil they should correctly diagnose the cause, and in his opinion if they ousted a few immigrants they would not to any appreciable extent alleviate this frightful overcrowding in many parts of London, for the reason that they were not the cause of it. This overcrowding was caused by the erection of factories the invasion of railways, and by the difficulty of the workpeople to find, as they must do, quarters in which to live near their work. It was there and there only must they seek for the cause. He did not consider the demolition of slum property an unmitigated evil, though it took away a great deal of the dwelling accommodation of these people, because it got rid of a lot of insanitary places.
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON
pointed out that one of the most important witnesses before the Royal Commission, Mr. Councillor Lewis, stated that the increase in the number of large industrial dwellings counterbalanced the dislocation caused by the erection of the factories.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said the question of overcrowding was not material except in so far as it was alleged to be caused by the pressure of aliens.
§ * MR. COHEN
said with regard to the displacement of labour it was not disputed that these immigrants had created an industry which did not before exist and 1116 had not therefore caused a diminution in the scale of wages. He did not say that some of them did not live in a disreputable way. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had shown that they had increased the exports of furniture, boots, and ready-made garments, and contributed to the prosperity of those employed in those industries. He had argued he hoped temperately, and from the point of view of numbers cogently, against the proposals of this Bill, nevertheless, he was not prepared to vote against it, for the reason that it sought to accomplish, though he doubted of its doing so, an object which had his most earnest support, namely, to keep criminal and other dissolute classes out of this country, and any Bill that tried to accomplish that was one which he would not vote against, however much he might differ from some of its provisions, and from this Bill he differed strongly in several points of method. The speeches of the right hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Elland incorporated one Amendment, but affirmed two points which he did not feel able to support. The hon. Member for Elland was opposed to making poverty a reason for exclusion. He could not conscientiously support that attitude. During the time he was president of the Jewish Board of Guardians they had continuously refused their support to any immigrants who, after being here, failed to find any means of support. Although, as the House must know, these people were not cast on the public rates, the Guardians had always set their face against those who did not leave their country on account of persecution, but who came over here to better themselves, as the phrase went, and failed. He could not therefore associate himself with the hon. Member for Elland. He did not desire those to remain who could not maintain themselves and whose presence in this country could not do otherwise than add to the destitution and poverty already too rife. The right hon. Baronet had opposed this Bill because he was not satisfied as to the retention of the privilege of this country as an asylum to the victims of persecution. If he shared the view of the right hon. Baronet he would vote with him but he did not. 1117 He did not believe it possible that any Party in this House would attempt to withdraw from this country the brightest jewel in its crown, and to reverse the traditions on which the history and glory of the country had been built. He believed the greatest protection against any such attempt would always be found within the four walls of the British House of Commons.
§ MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel),
speaking as a Jew, thanked the House for the sympathetic reception it had accorded the remarks which had been made in deprecation of the outrages in Russia and elsewhere; and cordially agreed that there was not the slightest trace of anti-Jewish feeling in the House, nor, speaking generally, in the country at large. The President of the Local Government Board, in opening his speech, said he hoped to make out an overwhelming case for the legislation now proposed, but so far from doing that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to make out any case at all. He had referred to the evils of overcrowding. Everybody would be in favour of the present condition of things being remedied, but it could not be said that that overcrowding was due to aliens. According to the Report of the Royal Commission, there were districts in Holborn where the percentage of aliens was only 3.29 of the population, while the overcrowding was 34.2; whereas in Whitechapel, with a percentage of aliens of 18, the overcrowding was only 12 per cent. Therefore, if the Government intended to proceed with their provisions regarding "prohibited areas," they ought to extend the restriction to natives—a proposal which would not be tolerated for a moment. If a Bill of this kind was to effect any good it was necessary that it should relieve a certain portion of the population of burdens under which they now suffered. The hon. and gallant Member for Stepney had referred to the matter in his letter to The Times as though the destitutealiens were the principal point involved. In the whole of Stepney the total number of cases in receipt of Poor Law relief, excluding medical relief of aliens in 1901 was 526, and in 1902, 521. The ratio of percentage in Stepney generally was 7.9, whereas, among aliens 1118 alone it was only 3.7. Moreover, between 1870 and 1900 the decrease in Poor Lawrelief throughout England and Wales was 23 per cent., and throughout the Metropolis 19.5 per cent., but in Whitechapel, the centre of the alien population, it was 60.8 per cent.
The next point was as to aliens being the propagators of disease. In the course of six years, no fewer than 27,000 aliens had passed through the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter in Stepney, and there had been only one case of sickness. That was surely a remarkable proof of the healthiness of those who arrived on these shores. Further testimony was afforded by the Jewish Home for Incurables, which took out of the workhouses all incurable cases other than those of tuberculosis and cancer. The total number of patients at present in that institution was only fifty-five. With regard to workmen being ousted from their occupation by aliens, it was difficult to arrive at any conclusion from the evidence given before the Royal Commission. A certain number of men must be displaced by any competition, but he submitted that, as the aliens were largely employed in work which the British workmen would not, and in many cases were not adapted to undertake, the competition was reduced to a minimum. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Bill might be modified in Committee. If the Government were to reconsider the questions of the prohibited areas, and of whether or not an alien was a suitable person—a point which went necessarily beyond the purview of any official, and would be the first step towards establishing a bureaucracy in this country—many of the objections to the Bill would disappear. Every well-conducted citizen would desire to see criminals excluded from this country, but at the same time care should be taken not to be unjust to those who had the same right to trial as every other person in the land. He hoped the Government would see their way to modify at any rate the two objectionable provisions to which he had referred.
§ * MR. FORDE RIDLEY (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
said the Amendment which had been proposed was couched in very 1119 mild terms, but in view of the speeches to which the House had listened, be could only express his surprise that the right hon. Baronet and his friends had not kept their Motion in the stronger form in which it was originally drafted. Hon. Members opposite ought to have had the courage of their convictions, and opposed the Bill openly. The right hon. Baronet, in explaining why he did not divide on the First Reading of the measure, said it was not usual to take a division on that stage of a Bill. Nevertheless the right hon. Baronet was one of those who voted recently in the division on the First Heading of the Licensing Bill.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I did not give that as the reason but as a reason. There are occasions when a Bill is so undoubtedly objectionable that it is advisable to divide against it upon the First Reading.
§ * MR. FORDE RIDLEY
said that was the only reason the right hon. Baronet gave why he did not divide on the First Heading of this Bill, and he said it was not usual when he had not seen the provisions of the Bill. One thing to which the right hon. Baronet referred in criticising the statistics of the number of aliens who arrive in this country, was the question of the sailors. He referred to a large number of sailors being included in the figures which had been quoted. He had taken means to find out the number of sailors included in those figures, and he could only say that the result of his investigations had been that the number of sailors remained stationary from year to year. Therefore any increase in the figures could not be attributed to the fact of sailors being included amongst the figures given. The figure of 8,000 which the right hon. Baronet quoted of course applied to the increase and the increase only, and it did not apply to the total number of aliens, although from the way the figures had been used, many hon. Members might have been misled into thinking that 8,000 was the total number. Then the right hon. Baronet also referred to the children in the schools and to the Jewish boys in the Board schools in the East End of London. No one would be more ready than he to agree that 1120 Jewish children born of Jewish parents whether they lived in the East End of London or any other part of the country, were really good specimens of humanity. They were British subjects because they were born in this country, and he believed they grew up and became loyal British subjects. He did not think it was at all necessary for them to emphasise the fact that they were courageous and made thoroughly good English citizens, for when the right hon. Baronet referred to that matter and thus introduced the racial question into the discussion, that was something which he very much deplored. He knew it was difficult and almost impossible to keep this question out, but when they spoke of the opinion of the Jew and the Gentile and made statement; as to what the opinion was of a Jewish child as such, he thought that it was only fair that they should always bear in mind that whatever the Press might say—and the right hon. Baronet had referred to most unfortunate letters and statements which had been published wherein the Jews as Jews had been adversely criticised, and the character of themselves and their children also called into question—he thought that the right hon. Baronet would do them the credit, at any rate, that on this side of the House they had done all they could to prevent this question being imported into the discussion. These scurrilous suggestions and abominable publications were in no way owing to any action, or words which they had given expression to either in this House or outside upon the platform. He would remind the right hon. Baronet before he passed from this point that if these complaints were made he should recollect what a very great influence the Jewish community could claim to have upon the British Press and what a very large control they possessed over the newspaper industry in this great city.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Elland Division referred to what he called the very slight rise in criminal convictions. Was he aware that from the year 1900 to 1903 there were no less than 13,000 convicts, or an increase of 50 per cent, in the occupants of our prisons? That is to say that in the four years from 1899 to 1903 no less than 13,000 criminals were detained in His Majesty's 1121 prisons, and the cost of this large criminal class was not less than £30,000 a year. Hon. Members would see that this was not a slight matter and it was not a slight rise in criminal convictions. These criminal statistics were so grave a matter that they alone would be sufficient to justify His Majesty's Government in taking some steps to put a stop to this evil. The right hon. Baronet admitted the overcrowding, but other hon. Members who had spoken had attributed overcrowding to other causes than the influx of aliens, and had suggested that the question could be dealt with by the local authorities without the intervention of Parliament. If there was one advantage in a measure such as this, it was that it went to the root of the matter, and once and for all removed the cause which had had such a disastrous effect on overcrowding. The rector of Spitalfields, the Rev. Mr. Davis, who of all men in London, or in the East End of London at any rate, knew this question to the backbone, said—In regard to overcrowding, they are content to pay an exorbitant rent because of having secured rooms, and they intend to live under forbidden conditions. The landlord knows this when he lets the house to the tenant, because the lent he is to receive compels him to know it. The tenant knows it when he takes the house with the intention of subletting so as at least to live rent free, and the sub-tenant knows that the taking of a lodger or two in their rooms will not be forbidden.These are the words of the rector of Spitalfields, and no stronger words could be used to show what the effect of this overcrowding was, and how it did really succeed in forcing up the rents in those parts of London where the poor congregated, and where it was impossible for them to pay what was absolutely prohibitive and unfair. The result of this had been that largo numbers of the British population had been turned out of those neighbourhoods in which it was absolutely essential that they should live in order that they might be near their work. He was sorry he did not see the hon. Member for Whitechapel in his place, but he knew, if any one knew, what an over-congested district was, and what overcrowding was. He represented a constituency which was entirely alien, and where they would hardly see the English 1122 language written either in newspapers, posters, or timetables, or in any other printed matter, but where Yiddish was the universal language and where they might just as well be in Palestine as in London. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton had spoken weighty words upon this question and the effect it had had upon the working classes, and he knew this question thoroughly, for he had travelled widely. He was himself a member of the Royal Commission, and had himself studied and investigated all the evidence that was brought before the Royal Commission. The standard of living was undoubtedly lowered by the influx of these unfortunate creatures. Their standard of life was of course entirely different to that which was adopted by our own fellow-countrymen, and he believed there was not an hon. Member in this House, on whichever side he might sit, who would desire to see the working classes of their great city forced to live under such conditions as did these unfortunate aliens. By the very state in which they arrived they must of necessity fall a ready prey to the sweater, for they could do nothing else. At the very most they had a few shillings at their command, and it was a notorious fact that as soon as they arrived in this country they were preyed upon—he was afraid generally by members of their own community —and sweated, and they had to work long hours day and night for a starvation wage on which no British workman could possibly live and support a wife and family. This was a shocking state of things, and although they had had Committees and Commissions on sweating, they still had sweating with them; and if they were ever to put a stop to this disgraceful state of things which existed in the large overcrowded cities, it could only be by going to the fountain head, and cutting off the supply of these unfortunate people who came here without any visible means of subsistence, without a knowledge of the language, and who became a prey to unscrupulous employers who desired to enrich themselves at the expense of these unfortunate people.
There was one other point in regard to the question which had not been referred 1123 to by other speakers, and that was the effect this was having in certain districts, and especially in East London, upon Sunday observance. It was a most deplorable tiling that Sunday should not only be turned into a day of ordinary commerce like any other day of the week, but that it should be the day on which of all others there should be more business done both in the streets and in the shops, and on which the people of whole neigh bourhoods came out in their thousands to do their business. Not only did these aliens make it a day of business themselves, but they compelled, by the unfair competition thus set up, those who would like to spend Sunday as a day of rest to open their places of business in self defence in order that they might not lose their trade. He thought that was a point that should not be lost sight of in connection with this question. He desired to express his thanks to the Government for having introduced this Bill. He would just like to say that it did seem strange that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who but a few-weeks ago were expressing themselves in the most violent language against the introduction of alien labour into the Transvaal should this afternoon be found expressing themselves in equally violent terms in favour of introducing alien labour into their own country. Note the difference in the two cases. In the colony where they so much objected to the immigration of alien labour it was admitted that there was a great dearth of labour, and that it was necessary for the prosperity of the colony that there should be some means of stimulating industry, whereas it was admitted, on the oilier hand, that in this country the unskilled labour market was so overcrowded that it was almost impossible for our own people to find a subsistence. That was a strange anomaly, and one worthy of consideration when they thought of the great agitation supported by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite regarding the introduction of Chinese labour into the Transvaal.
He hoped that this measure would receive the support not only of Members on that side of the House, but also of a great many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, for, after all, it was not a Party question, it was a question 1124 which was outside ordinary politics. It was one which seriously affected the welfare of the working classes of this country. There was one suggestion he would make to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. He should be only too pleased if he would add a provision to the Rill that the fines imposed by the local magistrates should go in relief of the local rates, and not to; the Metropolitan Fund. That would assist those who were anxious to deal with the question of overcrowding. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give that matter his careful consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife referred to the obtaining of proof as to whether immigrants who arrived in this country had a visible means of subsistence. He did not think it; was necessary to worry them selves about any question of that kind. Surely the onus of proof should be thrown upon the immigrant himself. Why should the authorities be put to any trouble to obtain that information? It was because he believed this was a wise and comprehensive measure, and one which would deal with a grave and admitted evil, and would be of the greatest possible benefit to the working classes of this country, that he would support the Second Reading.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said he was one of the few on the Opposition side of the House who, though he did not altogether agree with the Bill as it stood, intended to give it support on the Second Reading. Although he represented an East End constituency, it was one which had practically none of the aliens of the class in question. Therefore he was entirely free in regard to that matter. Knowing something of the East End he felt bound to vote for this Bill, because he believed that the evils arising from the ever-increasing importation of aliens was doing an immense amount of damage to the working classes in that part of London. A great deal that had been said regarding the Bill exaggerated its scope and importance. To his mind it was not a Bill that would keep out all aliens, nor did he think that was the intention of it. He supported it because he believed that if it was administered in a proper spirit 1125 it would do much to discriminate between those who proved most undesirable additions to overcrowded districts and those who, for political reasons, sought an asylum in England. Ho was quite sure that no man in the House had any racial or sectarian feeling in this matter. They desired to deal with it on economic grounds, and not with respect to the race, language, or nation of the immigrants. A great deal had been said against the Bill, especially by the mover of the Amendment, in regard to the right of asylum. He did not think anybody believed that the right of asylum should be invalidated in any way at all. He agreed with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton when he said that this Bill like previous Bills, would be administered with common sense, and while it would keep out those who formed the great exodus from Eastern nations, he hoped it would in no sense prevent the real political refugee from taking refuge in this country.
His right hon. friend the Member for East Fife made a great deal of the fact that the number of aliens living in this country was small as compared with the whole population, and that the annual immigration was not very extensive in actual numbers. He did not deny it for a moment. No-body would deny that if the annual influx of aliens was scattered over all localities there would be no grievance, and that the Bill would be unnecessary. But they all knew that the difficulty arose from the fact that there was congestion of population in certain districts. He was not himself concerned to dispute the question of figures. He thought the figures given by some of the speakers were ludicrously small both in regard to the number of aliens in the country and the annual addition which was taking place. What the Commission said in their Report made it quite clear that the numbers now were much in excess of those in previous years, and that they were likely to show not a diminution but an increase. There had been a great deal of historical reference to the immigrants who came here in past times, but they were on a totally different plane from the class of immigrants to whom they were now referring. It was not a question of what happened 100 or 200 1126 years ago. It was unfortunately, a question of the last twenty, and especially the last ten, years. The kind of immigration had entirely altered, and in his opinion it was much more objectionable now than it was before. There were, however, two very serious blots on the Bill he would assist in removing in Committee. Far too much unrestricted power was given to the Secretary of State, and the provisions for dialing with the housing question were almost ludicrous. The principal objections to the unrestricted influx of aliens arose from the fact that in the last few years they had come, not from the Western countries from which in days gone by our industries had received assistance, but they came in increasing numbers from Eastern Europe, and were in religion, blood, character, social habits, and political ideas, antagonistic to British feeling. Taking the figures given in the Report for 1893, compared with last year, the total immigration of Poles and Russians had increased from 8,000 to 28,000, while the immigration of Germans, French, Norwegians, and Italians had all diminished. That was a very significant fact. The increase, so far as it went, was of the worst class of aliens, while the better class of immigrants was decreasing.
There was another point which had not yet been made by any previous speaker. They were told that the very large number of these immigrants to this country were only in transit to America. That was perfectly true, but what did it mean? The bulk of the immigrants had through tickets for America; and a very large number besides, as soon as they could save enough money, also went to America. That was to say, all the best and most enterprising of these immigrants went to America, and it was the refuse of the refuse of East Europe that remained in this country. That was a point of great importance. A great deal was talked about American competition, but if America was to be our great competitor, surely it was not desirable that America should obtain the best alien immigrants and leave the worst for this country. This was not a question of the whole country; it was a question of localities, of the increase of pressure, and the congestion which 1127 was taking place in certain areas throughout London. In 1861 the foreign population of the Borough of Whitechapel was 7.7 percent.; in 1881 it had risen to 13 per cent.; and at the present time, according to the Report of the Royal Commission, was 37 per cent That surely was a very serious matter for that part of London. But that was not the worst of it. The foreign aliens were gradually absorbing fresh streets and fresh localities. Some connections of his own who were in business in the East End of London twenty years ago, built a street of houses for their workmen. At that time the alien immigration was limited and for many years they tried to resist it, but at the present moment there was not a single workman in these houses, and the street was full of Polish and Russian Jews. That showed how alien immigration was spreading gradually over the East of London, and absorbing street after street. They had heard something that afternoon in regard to the housing question. That was one of the most difficult problems which had to be faced. The London County Council had gone to great expense in dealing with the housing question, and at the present moment in their model dwellings in Boundary Street no less than 24 percent, of the residents were aliens. He objected, as a ratepayer in London, being called upon to go to the expense of providing model dwellings for the unhoused population of the East of Europe.
With regard to the question of wages, his hon. friend had endeavoured very much to minimise it; that was to say, his hon. friend contended that the pressure on wages, sweating, and the conditions of employment could be dealt with in another way and that it, did not increase in regard to particular trades. In some respects he endorsed his hon. friend's argument. But it was obvious that the Russians and Poles, coming to this country illiterate, ignorant of our language, and penniless, were bound to be the victims of the sweater, and, moreover, the conditions of life and labour to which they had been accustomed in the Ghetto were such that the pittance which the sweater gave seemed to them a satisfactory and reasonable wage. They had had a good deal 1128 of queer economics of late, but it was new to him that when within a particular and somewhat restricted trade, there was an enormous influx of cheap labour that would not have a serious effect in breaking down the rate of wages in that trade! He agreed with his right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean that more might be done by factory legislation to deal with sweating; but that did not go far enough. If they could get rid of one reason for the existence of the sweating system, they would increase the likelihood of other legislation being successful. In regard to the practicability of dealing with this question, he had endeavoured to show that there was really a very strong case for dealing with it, not by way of absolute exclusion but by discrimination, and by discouraging undesirable aliens coming to this country at all.
They had been told, especially by his right hon. friend the Member for East Fife, that the scope of this Bill had been very much exaggerated, that all that was wanted was to lay down the legal proposition that we would not have undesirable aliens. That had been done in the United States, and it came out very clearly in the Report that the result was, not that many aliens were excluded from America—only 300 were sent back last year—but that at the source from which aliens were shipped, there was a filtering process which kept back those who were not likely to fulfil the requirements of the American law. He did not think himself that our position was exactly the same. At present there was every inducement to the alien to come to this country when he was driven out of his own by persecution, conscription, or by distress. His friends encouraged him, and sent assistance to him to come here where he could obtain a good rate of wages. Again, the cheap-ness and the facilities of the means of transit had enormously increased of late years. It was absolutely the interest of the steamship companies to get as many of these aliens as passengers as they could, because there was no liability on them at all. If this Bill passed, and the general principle was accepted, it would be found that the position would be reversed. The undesirable alien would be discouraged from coming by the 1129 stringent regulations governing his admission, and the steamship companies would have an enormous inducement to select only the best class of immigrants, in the knowledge that, if they brought any who were undesirable, they would be under the obligation to carry them back to the port whence they came. It was rather curious to learn from the Report that at Hamburg there were now two descriptions of emigrants—those for America, and those coming to this country. Both were under control, but the shipping companies discriminated between them. The former were carefully selected before being despatched, while the latter were not; and it was not too much to say that some who were rejected as unfit for America were sent over to England.
There was great exaggeration in regard to the difficulty of carrying out this legislation. There were practically only seven ports in this country at which immigrants arrived, and only four from which they came. Three of the seven ports might be left altogether out of account. Hull and Grimsby were merely ports of transit, so that Leith, London, and Newhaven were the only ports which would have to be looked after in regard to administration when the Bill passed. No less than 74 percent, came to London from Bremen, Hamburg, and Libau. There were practically only eleven steamers a week which brought these immigrants; so that the administration of the Bill would be restricted to a comparatively few places and a few-ships, and could be carried out without the stupendous difficulties that had been suggested by his hon. friends. He had to consider what to do on this Second Heading of the Bill, and as the Amendment of his right hon. friend, to the terms of which he did not strongly object and with part of which he thoroughly agreed, was a hostile Amendment which if carried, would destroy the Bill, he could not see his way to vote for it, though he should not vote against it. He should certainly vote for the Second Reading of the Bill which, in his opinion, contained the right principle and to which he trusted improvements in detail would be made in Committee.
§ * MR. PEEL (Manchester, S.)
said that in one sense the Bill had been very 1130 vigorously dealt with by Members on the other side. Those who had listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for South Wolverhampton and of he hon. Member for the Poplar Division of the Tower Hamlets would be relieved of any anxiety they had in supporting the Bill. It was quite true that a very different speech was heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fifeshire, but he by no means showed a very close acquaintance with the subject, which he treated in far too comfortable and far too easy a fashion. They not only wanted to establish some kind of filter for aliens who came from other countries, but they wished to prevent the backflow into this country of that particular class of aliens who had been rejected by the restrictive legislation of other countries. It was admitted that they had the right, if they liked, to prohibit altogether, or to restrict, the immigration of aliens into this country. What they had to decide, looking at all the facts of the case, and not looking only to the welfare of these aliens in other countries, was whether unrestricted immigration was or was not an advantage to this country. He had no objection of any kind to the mere coming in of Jews, and he thought it was rather unfortunate that the subject was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, because this was a much broader question than that of anti-Semitic feeling on which the right hon. Baronet said the objection to aliens was based. If they examined the principal trades in which these aliens were employed when they came into this country they would find, on the evidence of the leaders in those trades, that it was not in the more skilful branches, but mainly, if not entirely, in the unskilled portions that they were employed. In some cases, owing to the low wages which they accepted, the aliens could produce work more cheaply than it could be done by the improved processes and new machines which had been introduced. Could anybody point to any new process or to any new trade which had been introduced in the last twenty years by aliens? Several claims had been set up on their behalf, but in the case instanced of the ready-made clothing trade, and the cigarette-making 1131 trade, they could not claim the credit for their initiation. The most important ground on which support should be given to the Bill was the necessity of keeping up the standard of living in this country. The difficulty of administering factory laws and of enforcing the sanitary regulations was enormously aggravated by the concentration in particular parts of towns of people who knew nothing at all about these things. Their whole standard of living, in fact, was entirely different from that of the people among whom they took up their residence. In considering this question the House was bound to pay regard to the effect that this state of things would have, by lowering the standard of living generally on the health of the people, and, in the long run, on the industrial superiority of this country.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.