HC Deb 08 May 1913 vol 52 cc2253-70

I make no apology for referring to Imperial questions, for I think when we remember the title of this Parliament it is desirable that Imperial questions should sometimes have consideration. I cannot help thinking that the question of Imperial organisation is likely to be of such importance in the next ten years that it is our duty when we have time to consider all those various great questions which unfortunately, I think everybody will admit, receive too little attention owing to the fierce party questions which are now before us. I know that it is frequently urged by some that sentiment is quite sufficient where the British Empire is concerned, and that there is no need for the Government to depart from the policy of laissez faire. I do not minimise in any way the value of sentiment in the British Empire, because without that sentiment, I think it can hardly be denied that we should not be as unified and as united even as we are to-day in the absence of good organisation. But I would remind the Government that those who base their contention on allowing sentiment alone to hold the British Empire do not do very much in order even to increase the sentimental value of the British Empire. We only have in that connection, although it may appear a small thing, the fact that the Government refuse to fly the flag on Government buildings on Empire Day. Though it is only a small question, it is at the same time one of far reaching importance throughout the whole of the British Dominions and the Crown Colonies, and when the Secretary of State for War has received such wonderful assistance from the Dominions beyond the Seas in the formation of universal service, freeing him from a great many cares and troubles with regard to the defence of those Dominions, and when he remembers that in every one of those Dominions that sentimental idea of the flag is one which is regarded as of the utmost importance, I really think we might have been spared the suggestion of the Secretary of State for War that he did not know what Empire Day was. I think, too, that the Government might give instructions, and it would not be very costly, that the flag should be hoisted on all Government buildings on Empire Day.

I think it will hardly be denied that sentiment is not sufficient in future if we are really to give attention to the British Empire. Sentiment is a very valuable thing in many cases. A mother may have a great deal of sentiment for her children, but unless she is able to wash them and feed them and clothe them and put them out in the world it is not of very great value. When once the children are out in the world no one will deny that a pennyworth of practical help is worth a bucketful of tears of either joy or sorrow. We must look at Imperial affairs from more than a sentimental point of view if we are to keep those great countries to hold together working out common purposes of civilisation in the days to come. The British Empire, I think we can say, is the greatest business concern that the world has ever known. At the present time it is worked and run by a dozen boards of directors, and when I realise that in this House there are very many business men I think they will not deny that such an arrangement with regard to those affairs which are necessary for the Empire as a whole is not conducive to economy or to efficiency of working, and, what is more, that it but leads to friction and misunderstanding. I therefore submit, in the interests of cohesion and well-directed energy, it is time that the Government of the British Empire should come together and should establish a permanent Council in order that the best brains of the Empire may come together to co-ordinate their schemes of defence, and acquaint themselves with the motives of our foreign policy, and to discuss questions of trade which affect all parts. How is the vast machinery of the British Empire run? Once in every four years an Imperial Conference is called together, and for a few weeks the statesmen of the Empire sit round a table and offer suggestions, after which the shop is practically closed down for another four years, and the result is that the Empire is not kept in touch in the intermediate time except to a very small extent.

I think everyone will agree that the Imperial Conference—or Colonial Conference, as it was called originally—was admirable in its inception, but I think no one will deny also that things have moved at such a pace that that machinery is no longer adequate to fulfil the functions required. I venture respectfully to suggest that the time has come when the Imperial Conference should be turned into a permanent advisory Council for the British Empire as a whole. In this connection I think, if I may say so, that the Government made a tremendous step in the right direction with regard to the Committee of Imperial Defence. I think that was a great move, and in future, at all events, the representatives of the Dominions are to be invited to sit upon the Imperial Committee of Defence, and, with regard to that vast subject, there is going to be some consultation between the various parts. But defence alone is not sufficient. The force of circumstances are far too strong, for we find in the last two or three years there have been two or three things happening of the utmost moment to the whole British position, both in regard to defence and in various affairs. Canada, in the last few years, has practically taken to herself the power of making separate trade treaties. The Secretary of State for the Colonies will not deny that there is in that the possibility of grave difficulties in regard to our treaties with foreign countries, and that the whole network of those treaties might possibly be snapped by some individual work on the part of Canada. That I think proves the necessity for continual consultation upon foreign affairs; then there need be no difficulty. Again, in Australia, you have the question of the Australian Navigation Laws. Nobody who has studied that question will deny that it contains elements of grave international difficulty, unless there is frequent consultation between the Home and the Commonwealth Governments. More important still is the movement in the direction of separate Fleet units. From time to time the Fleet may be called upon at a moment's notice to fulfil some diplomatic mission. I am not criticising the determination of the Dominions, but the Australian Fleet unit might suddenly have to be used by the Government of Australia. At once you get questions involving foreign affairs and the need for closer consultation.

Lastly, in this connection, I would mention the present impasse in the Canadian Parliament. I am not going to take sides on that question. I regret that anyone in this House should have seen fit to do so, when we know perfectly well that both parties in Canada have one object, and one object alone, that of contributing their share to Imperial defence. At the same time, it cannot be denied that if there had been some machinery by which the Dominion representatives were in closer consultation with the Home authorities, we should have had a succession of Governments in Canada, Liberal and Conservative, who understood the general policy of the Empire, and we probably should not have had what is distressing to every man in this country, the present intense party feeling in the Canadian Parliament over an Imperial question. As an instance of how difficulties occur, I might refer to the difficulty which arose over the Declaration of London. Here we had a question more or less rushed through without any real consultation, although a vigorous protest was made by Australia. Is it not grotesque that such a question; involving every single citizen of the Dominions Overseas, should be rushed through Parliament here without deliberate and frequent consultation between the various parts of the Empire? No one is very much to blame, because the machinery does not exist; but I think it proves the necessity of having such machinery in the future. I am one of those who look forward to the day when we shall have a great Imperial Parliament, which will deal solely with questions common to the Empire as a whole, and relieve those questions from the stress of party politics. At the same time I fully recognise that it is a question which ought not to be in any way hurried. But I do not believe it is so distant as many people think. Opinion in the Dominions has changed. Especially in Canada I found a wonderful change in the direction of some closer community in the matter of consultation between the various parts of the Empire. But for immediate purposes it seems to me that the time has come when an Advisory body should be permanently established, in order that there may be continual consultation between Ministers of the Home Government and Ministers of the Dominions Overseas.

I turn now to the question of emigration. Since the present Government came into power in 1906 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer shed the sunshine of his hopes into the cottages of the country, 1,400,000 of our citizens have emigrated. One in every thirty-one of the population has left our shores. I have reached that stage of opinion where I do not greatly regret a man's moving from one country to another, provided he is going to get better wages and continuous work, and remains under the British flag. But I think the time has come when the Government should take some steps to keep emigrants as far as possible within the British Empire, rather than allowing them to go to foreign countries. During each of the last two years 50,000 emigrants have gone to the United States of America. Every one of those people had cost this country something like £200, in education, clothing, housing, food and insurance. The elder men had cost considerably more. If an emigrant goes to the United States or any other foreign country, he goes to build up the trade of that country, to lend it the skill which he has learnt in this country, to use the brains which have been developed here, to pay for the "Dreadnoughts" of that country, and possibly to serve in that country's Army against this country; whereas every emigrant who goes to another country within the British Empire goes to build up the trade of the British Empire, to buy from us in pounds, as compared with shillings, to build "Dreadnoughts" for Imperial defence, and, in the case of Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, to serve in the Home Defence Army. His advent to the Dominion is of great value, not only to the Dominion itself, but also to this country; whereas, if he goes to a foreign country, he becomes our competitor.

1.0 P.M.

I am afraid that the suggestion I am about to make may startle one or two of my hon. Friends, but I believe it is the only way in which my object can be secured. Every emigrant having cost this country £200, is it unreasonable that we should ask emigrants, when going to foreign countries, taking that capital with them, to contribute £5 to the Home Government? I know that some people say that a man is free to move where he likes. But if that man has had all this money poured out upon him by this country, I do not think it is unreasonable that he should make a small contribution when he is leaving the British Empire. The money so realised might be devoted to judicious expenditure in connection with emigration under the British flag. The amount raised would be about £250,000 a year, and my belief is that you could not do a greater service, either to this country or to the Dominions, than by employing that money in giving assisted or even free passages to British women who desire to emigrate to Canada and the other Dominions. We are all impressed with the fact that, owing to the great excess of women in this country, there is a certain irritability in many parts of the land. It is all owing to emigration that you have this vast number of women who have been left behind when the men have gone abroad. The consequence is that women are being employed in directions where they ought never to be employed. You have exactly the opposite picture in Canada. In the West of Canada there are five men to every woman. This constitutes a grave question for the Canadian people. Here you have women ready to emigrate. Surely the country can look beyond its nose and assist the emigration of deserving women who desire to go to the West of Canada, where they might make good mothers of future British citizens, and where they are sadly needed in every respect. In fact the present position is absolutely unnatural, and the Government might do something to relieve the situation.

I wish to say a word, in conclusion, with regard to the organisation of the trade of the British Empire. No one will deny that the British Empire really came into existence from the desire to trade. The people of this country went out to various parts and built up with the Old Country an enormous trade, which is undoubtedly saving us from a great deal of distress which would otherwise exist. I think, in this connection, that the figures that the President of the Board of Trade gave me only a week or two ago are of extreme interest. You will find there that, whereas the population of the United States only buy 6s. 4d. per head from this country each year, Germany 12s. 2d., France only 12s. 11d., Canada buys £3 3s. 4d. per head, South Africa £3 10s. 4d., Australia, £7 10s. 2d., and New Zealand £9 5s. 5d. I think that is a wonderful tribute to the fact that these Dominions are doing their very best to encourage the trade of this country. At the same time we see that Australia alone, with 4½ millions of people, is buying more manufactures from this country than Germany with her 65 millions; Canada, with her 7½ millions, is now buying more manufactures than France, just across the Channel, with her 45 millions; and New Zealand, 13,000 miles away, is buying more than Belgium with her dense population. These facts are of great interest, and I think it should be a matter of anxiety to everybody to make certain that we are going to keep these markets, which are worth trying for in an industrial sense. If these markets were really organised on the true basis, and we made great efforts to keep them, by Consular agents and so on, if we did everything in our power—whether you employed preference or subsidy or whatever means—we ought to see that we get our share of that expanding trade in the near future. Surely the system of this country is not such that we cannot consider any great alteration of trade? We heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day and his rosy Budget. The Chancellor congratulated himself, but I think nobody called the attention of the House to the fact of the really distressing and awful condition of the working classes which existed even in this greatest boom year of 1912! There were half a million of people—I think that is not an exaggeration figure—permanently out of work.

We had over a quarter of a million who last year emigrated from this country. In other words, we had 750 daily, or 5,000 per week, leaving this country as if there were a blight upon the land. They fled to other countries where there is some other system. One in every forty-five of the population was in receipt of relief—700,000 persons for England alone. Two million four hundred thousand persons in this boom year applied through the Labour Exchanges for work. Is it surprising that wages are stationary and that food is going up in price? What I suggest is this, that there must be two or three main principles which we ought to keep ever before us. First, we ought to try and find constant wages; secondly, cheap food; thirdly, we should endeavour to keep intact the united man-power of the British Empire. In regard to constant wages, we should attend to that if we are going to keep our comparative position in the British Empire in the next thirty years, and if there is to be sufficient work for everyone in this country who is willing to work. I will only give one more instance—though I have a good many—and that is in regard to India. In 1886 this country imported into India 82 per cent. of its imports; in 1912 India only bought 64 per cent. from the Old Country. In 1886 foreign countries sent to India 8 per cent. of the total imports; in 1912 they sent 30 per cent. I think the House will agree that that is an extraordinary fact; that we are losing to an enormous degree our hold on the total trade of the Indian market, even though with other countries we may be increasing a little at the present time. It is for this reason that I ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies to consider whether all is being done by the Government in order to hold which I think I have shown is of very great value to this country — the comparative position that we are in? The first point that I said we should aim at is constant wages. The second point is cheap food. We know that this latter is one of the most important questions that we have to consider. It is a question which has been made a great party cry between the two sides of the House for many a long year. But after all it is the crux of the whole question. You want the real wages of the working classes of this country to go up; otherwise we know that the country will stand still. I would submit that it is time that the Government considered how they can cheapen the food of this country. Within the British Empire you have got sufficient food-producing land to feed not only this country, but all Europe, and in fact the world.

Can nothing be done to stimulate the production of food in the British Empire? You have given £1,000,000 to spend upon the Soudan in order to please the electors of Lancashire. Why should not you give something equally satisfactory in the way of reduction of railway rates or shipping of something or other, in order to encourage the production of more food, which is far more important than even raw cotton for the people of this country. Lastly, I referred to the united man-power of the nation. When we see the extraordinary world movements of recent years we must all be impressed by the fact that we in this island with 45,000,000 of people are a man-power that cannot in the end resist the economic and military pressure of vast Empires like the German Empire and the United States, of the Far East, and Russia. Surely we must take greater steps in order to see that we do not stand alone. We see on every hand at the present time the desire of the Dominions to co-operate with us, but you are never going to get that co-operation really effective until you have brought them into your common councils, and until they feel that they are having a hand in running the show. Therefore, I say, that for these main reasons: for consultation, for controlled emigration, for trade organisation, the time has come that we must take some steps at least forward in the direction of having a Permanent Council of the Empire, so that we can really look upon this question from the view point, not only of the people of this country, but from the point of view of the Canadian, of the Australian, of the New Zealander, and of the South African, who is just indeed as much concerned as the people of this country in the future destiny of the Empire.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)

I envy the all-pervasive knowledge of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and his cosmopolitan curiosity. He has ranged over topics which might well be sufficient for debate extending over a Parliamentary week, and which might seem excessive for a morning sitting on the day of adjournment. I tremble with happy anticipation of what his speech will be a few years hence when he is standing at this box, having added omnipotence to omniscience. I have listened with much interest to his observations and comprehensive survey, and I hope I shall not be accused of any discourtesy if I endeavour to be more concise than discursive. The hon. Member has offered information rather than sought it. I shall therefore doubly profit by the process, for I am excused from replying, whilst at the same time having acquired knowledge. He has referred to the encouragement of trade and commerce throughout the Empire. That is a matter which has been specially and specifically referred to the Dominions Royal Commission. That Commission has taken a good deal of evidence in London and New Zealand; and it is at the present moment engaged in collecting evidence in Australia. I think it is necessary that a Minister of the Crown should await the facts which may be collected and the conclusions which may be arrived at by the Royal Commission. But I do not in the least complain of the discussion of the whole subject here to-day or of the manner in which it has been opened up by the hon. Gentleman. Some steps have been taken of late years to provide statistics, and there has been a great advance in securing a greater uniformity of statistics. Then quite recently we have taken a step which, I think, is not sufficiently appreciated by the British public. The British Consular service is now placed at the disposal of the Dominions, and Canada, Australia, and South Africa have already availed themselves of that arrangement. In another direction the Pacific Cable Board is now running direct cables between New Zealand and Australia. We have taken steps for the cheapening of the cable rates; we may not have attained all we wish, but we have secured much lower rates, and I can assure the House we have not come to the end of our activities in that direction.

The Dominions Royal Commission has received representations from many Chambers of Commerce—London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Newcastle, I think—for what they call more complete organisation of the trade and commerce of the Empire. The conclusions of the Dominions Royal Commission will be submitted to us in time for the next Imperial Conference, which is due before the life of the present Parliament necessarily expires. The subjects which the Chambers of Commerce have been considering and have submitted to the Commission are such things as the assimilation of the mercantile laws of shipping, of bankruptcy, of joint stock companies, and the uniformity of the patent laws throughout the Empire. It has been suggested to the Dominions Royal Commission that there might be something set up here in the nature of a central statistical office for the whole Empire which might attend to the publication of figures with as little delay as we have now in the publication of our own trade returns. I am not expressing any opinion on that, but they say such an office will enable us to keep our fingers very constantly on the Imperial pulse. An Imperial Development Fund has been suggested, I am not sure whether by the Chambers of Commerce, and it is being considered by the Commission now. It seems at first sight to raise the question whether there should be voluntary or compulsory contributions to such a fund, and hon. Members will know how difficult such a question as that would be throughout our Dominions. I therefore propose to await the judgment of the Royal Commission on that matter.


Unless the Council was established.


I will deal with that. The suggestion has also been made as to greater uniformity of weights and measures and coinage throughout the Empire. I do not wish by mentioning that to bring up the advocates of decimal coinage to-day, nor do I propose to enforce our ancient and respectable tables on those who have improved on them. We have been doing a great deal in the last few years in the way of scientific research as to the possibilities of soil and climate and labour throughout the Dominions, for the further production of commodities required throughout the Empire. A great deal has been done in this direction, by the Imperial Institute and also by the Commercial Intelligence Department. Some years ago an Advisory Committee on Commercial Intelligence was set up at the Board of Trade on which the Dominions have now representatives. It has already done admirable work. The Dominion Com- missioners, ever since they began to sit not long ago in London, have already been acting as a sort of ambassadors of the Imperial Conference. Some traders here made representations to the Royal Commission as to the difficulty they experienced in pushing their trade in Canada. Mr. Foster, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who is a member of that Commission, immediately dealt with this complaint and had prompt inquiry made, and promised to introduce a swift remedy. It is of great satisfaction to the traders in England, and I doubt not that that sort of action will be taken by the Commissioners throughout the Empire. I think that, for the moment, we may safely leave in the hands of the Commissioners the consideration as to what are the remedies that may be found for evils which it may be found possible to cure.

I should like to mention, in connection with this recent institution of British Trade Commissioners throughout the Dominions, that we have now, in addition to the Commissioners in the self-governing Dominions, twenty-three Imperial Trade correspondents also in the Dominions. It is their duty to advise merchants and manufacturers in the Home country what trade openings there are for them in the Dominions, and especially to watch the movements of foreign competition. They reply, as it is their duty to do, to inquiries they may receive from British firms, and he Trade Commissioners are also instructed to travel about the Dominions in order to observe the various circumstances which may be useful to British trade. Recently a new arrangement has been made, which is very valuable. These Trade Commissioners are ordered to return home at regular intervals in order to have personal consultation with, and personally to convey information to, British firms who have business with the Dominions, or wish to have. The Trade Commissioners of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, have already done this. The Trade correspondents, who, as I said, are twenty-three in number, are actively engaged in or acquainted with trade in the localities in which they live. They keep the Commissioners and the traders at home constantly informed of business movements. Both the Commissioners and the correspondents send home to the Commercial Intelligence Department of the Board of Trade lists of dealers in the principal classes of goods in their localities. They send home information if necessary by cable—they have special instructions to that end—of any contracts open to tender or any projected work such as railways, tramways, electric lighting, power installation, mines, waterworks, harbour works, irrigation, in order that our merchants here may be kept informed of what openings are available for them. Then it is especially their duty to report upon the nature of foreign competition. We have gone further, because we have instructed them to collect samples of foreign goods which compete with British goods in their Dominion. They made a short time ago a special collection of hardware, tools, hollow-ware, and sent them home. They sent home a collection of these from South Africa some months ago, and they have already been exhibited in the industrial centres of the United Kingdom. We have now a new collection from New Zealand, and further collections are coming from Canada and Australia. I think that is very useful work which will yield good results, and I am quite certain that the institution of the Trade Commissioners and correspondents is an admirable and a remunerative new departure.

Then the hon. Gentleman touched upon emigration. This also is a subject of consideration by the Dominions Royal Commission, and I personally cannot anticipate their report. I would like to say that we do direct the stream of emigration to our Dominions and Colonies rather than to foreign countries. We have the Emigrants' Information Office, which is a very valuable department, for giving reliable information to intending emigrants. We do not want either to encourage or discourage emigration. What that office does is to try to divert the stream of emigration to British Possessions, rather than to foreign countries, by pointing out to them the similarity of institutions, of blood, and of language in our Dominions and the large area of land available, making there a better opening for the British emigrant than he will find in foreign countries. The applications to the Emigrants' Information Office for its publications are more numerous in relation to the Dominions and Colonies than to any foreign country, and the applicants are told of the greater advantages that they will find within the Empire, although we do give accurate information to them, whatever part of the world they may determine to go to. I will tell the hon. Gentleman what has been the course of emigration during the lifetime of this Government, say during the last seven years. It may be surprising to him, but I can assure him that we have done more than our predecessors did to divert this stream. As in other matters, I think we have done more effective work here than they did; we have been more effective in our practical Imperialism. In 1905 the emigration from this country to all the countries in the world was 139,000 persons, of whom only 77,000 or 55 per cent. went to the British Empire. Last year the emigrants from this country were 268,000, of whom 220,000 went to the British Empire, or 82 per cent. of the whole. The emigrants to foreign countries in 1905 were 62,000. Last year they were only 48,000, although the number of emigrants had greatly increased in that time. I certainly cannot encourage the hon. Member that we shall adopt his suggestion of putting a fine of £5 per head upon those who, for special reasons, may seek their home on other shores than those over which we rule. A very interesting question is that of the emigration of women. He said—I do not wish to adopt his language—that the excessive number of women presented a problem here. Well, we have done something to contribute to the greater emigration of women. In 1905 the number of women emigrants from these countries represented 33 per cent. of the adult emigration; in 1912 they represented 46 per cent. From 1902 to 1911 the women emigrants increased by 156 per cent. Now that means that there are going to be more decent homes in the Dominions, and it means also that they are attracted to go there because they find better conditions of life than they used to find some years ago in these Dominions. That is a more fertile type of emigration. It is a type which the Dominions and Colonies needed,, because they wanted more population. On the general question of emigration, let me put these questions: Can we do more? Ought we to do more? The fact is that to-day there are practically no unemployed in the great staple trades of this country except those who are unemployable. I am informed that in the cotton, wool, engineering, and shipbuilding trades they cannot get extra hands when they want them. Some very interesting evidence was given before the Dominions Royal Commission by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. John Burns) a short time ago. He pointed out that Ireland for many years past, and Scotland quite recently, had been emigrating more of their people than the natural increase of the population. That is a serious situation.


I think I took special care not to advocate more emigration, but the diversion of emigration, where possible, from foreign countries to the Empire. I only recommended assistance for women where I thought they were more needed.


As to diversion, I have given the hon. Member the figures, but I would like also to draw the attention of the House to the seriousness of the point about emigration with which I was dealing. Ireland between the years 1901 and 1911 emigrated 336,000 people, or 130 per cent. of the natural increase of the population. Many of us have our own views as to what was the cause of that emigration from Ireland. In 1911 the natural increase of the population in Ireland was 1,000 less than the number of emigrants. Scotland unhappily is now undergoing the same process, for the first time in 100 years. In 1910 the natural increase of population in Scotland was 51,000, and the emigrants numbered 55,000, a loss of 4,000. In 1911 the departures from Scotland exceeded the natural increase by 7,000, and in 1912 by 8,000. In fact, England alone maintains an increase of population beyond her emigration. In 1911 the natural increase of population in the United Kingdom was 432,000, but 152,000 of that was due to life-saving by the decreased death rate. That number may be regarded as very satisfactory. But for this saving the natural increase would have been only 280,000, whilst the emigration was 262,000, so that without this life-saving, due to the decrease of the death rate, there would only have been a margin of 18,000 increase of the population left over the emigration which has taken place. On these grounds I am inclined to think that up to the present we have done all we ought to do, and I propose to await the conclusions of the Royal Commission in order to see what are the requirements of the Dominions, and what are the possible and justifiable sacrifices which the Mother-country may be called upon to make. The hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of the Imperial Council. I wonder that he was not warned by the fate of the Imperial Federation League some years ago. There were some people who thought that that League was right, but I think almost everyone thought they were right too soon. They went into possible plans with meticulous detail, with the result that they aroused resentment both by their reserves and their concessions. I should have been glad if the hon. Member had given us a little more information as to what his Imperial Council means. Is it to be on an elective basis? If it is, is it to be based upon population, or area, or wealth? Is it to be only on a white basis? If so, Great Britain in that Council would have a commanding majority. Is it to have supreme legislative powers over the Empire, and that by a simple majority? Is it to have supreme taxing powers, as against a dissenting minority, for instance; and if so, how are these taxing powers to be enforced, and by whom are the taxes to be collected? The tea chests in Boston Harbour would be a joke compared with the situation that would be produced by such a Council as that.


I particularly said it was advisory.


I was dealing with the Council he proposes. Would it be supreme over the British Parliament and Cabinet? He spoke of what he called a purely Imperial Parliament. If your purely Imperial Parliament is to be properly constituted, is it to represent all British subjects in all Continents? If so, what about the British Indians who amount to something like 315,000,000 souls? Are they to control the rest of the Empire by their superior numbers, and, if not, why? I do not think that you would consolidate the Empire by enacting a colour bar or by imposing the compulsory admission of coloured races to Canada, Australia, or South Africa. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite at some future date will let us know what they mean exactly and how they propose to carry it out. Some hon. Members opposite may think that these doubts are merely the hesitations and reflections of a Little Englander. Let me remind them that the humble bricklayer does more in Empire building than the eternal layer of foundation stones. The had is very often more effective than the silver trowel. If I am suspect on this subject, and I do not know why I should be, I am sure hon. Members will listen to the views of some big Imperialists on their plan. No one, for instance, would call Sir George Reid, the High Commissioner of Australia, an anti-Imperialist or a Little Englander. He carried the Australian Federation when he was Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and he studied these problems from the standpoint of his own countrymen. What did he say in a speech which he made at the Imperial Institute only on 11th March this year? It is a long extract, but it is very important as coming from the representative of Australia, and, if the House will forgive me, I will read it:— I think it is really time that someone should point out some of the difficulties in the way of proposals for a closer political union. These may disappear in the course of time, but they appear to be insuperable at present. Take, for instance, the fascinating project of bringing into existence a truly Imperial Parliament. In theory how absolutely necessary it seems! In practice how wonderfully well we manage without it! In point of fact, how immensely difficult the proposal becomes when we attempt to translate it into even the barest outline of a scheme! If the great divisions of the Empire were all self-governed and inhabited by men of British origin, the attempt to construct a new Imperial Constitution would be a task of immense difficulty. But I cannot forget, as so many writers and speakers do. the fact that six-sevenths of the Imperial population are neither in the United Kingdom nor in the self-governing Dominions. How could we assemble an Imperial Parliament, properly so-called, if 360,000,000 of the coloured people of the Empire were wholly shut out? A Parliament in which the 60,000,000 white citizens were represented and not the 360,000,000 of the coloured races might be called a British Federal Parliament, but it would not be a truly Imperial Parliament. Indeed, the present sort of Imperial Parliament and Executive have some striking advantages. How convenient in real life it is that the advanced legislation of the self-governing Dominions does not fix responsibility upon the shoulders of the Imperial Government as directly as it would do in the other event. When a Colonial Parliament takes an extreme step, vitally necessary perhaps to its welfare but most irritating to some other nations, and even to large bodies of His Majesty's subjects, the Imperial Government is in a more enviable position now than it would be then. Could Dominion representatives sit in an Imperial Parliament with any sense of comfort or equity to deal with the affairs of several hundreds of millions of human beings against whom they feel compelled at present to shut their doors? Even if they could, would the new situation tend to promote the harmony of the Empire. I should like to read more, because it is very apposite to the discussion, but I do not think I ought to detain the House. There spoke the man who knows the Empire which he has helped to make. I think the hon. Member might take warning by the experience of Sir Joseph Ward. At the Imperial Conference of 1911 he produced a plan which was large in conception but not very definite in structure, but he obtained no support from any other of the Dominions represented there, and at present I am not sure that he would obtain any support for those proposals from his own Dominion. At that conference I myself, being most anxious to meet the desire, of which I was well aware, for closer co-operation with the Mother-country, proposed a consultative and advisory council of the Dominions to meet within the Colonial Office, so as to be in constant contact and communication with the British Government, but that proposal was unanimously rejected by all the Dominions. I, however, during the Imperial Conference, carried out my original scheme which the hon. Member will remember I had announced to this House in debate long before the Imperial Conference ever assembled—that is, the participation of the Dominions in the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am obliged for the hon. Member's recognition to-day of the great advance there has been. We have called them to our counsels the most intimate and secret. It may be objected in some quarters that the plan is loose, illogical, and indefinite. Well, so is the British Constitution, and, after all, this plan has been up to the present both satisfactory and satisfying. The Dominions may have continuous, occasional, or sporadic representation on that Committee. There are no priggish limitations of federal dilettanti. We offer them now and always the hand and tongue of friendship and of brotherhood, of mutual interests, and a common cause. It may lead to more rigorous ties in the future, but I doubt if it can possibly lead to closer communion. At least, for the present, I am confident that it has already secured the solidarity of Imperial confidence, and has greatly contributed to the unity of the British race.

Colonel YATE

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the event of the Commission reporting favourably, the Government will take some real and practical steps to aid and facilitate emigration to the Dominions?


I could not possibly commit myself as to the action the Government would take on recommendations which have not yet been made.