HC Deb 08 March 1920 vol 126 cc1010-39

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £73,550, be granted to His Majesty; to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant in Aid and other Expenses connected with Oversea Settlement."

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Lieutenant-Colonel Amery)

The Vote to which I am asking the Committee to assent is considerably larger than the one we have just been discusing, but I venture to hope it will prove somewhat less contentious. As it includes one or two new matters which have not been brought to the notice of the Committee before, I believe it will be for the convenience of the Committee, and probably save time, if I endeavour briefly to explain the main items in the Supplementary Vote. I do not think the first item, which deals with the provision for increased war bonus, requires explanation. It is an item which has occurred in a number of other Supplementary Estimates, and I do not believe in any Department of His Majesty's Service has increased war bonus been better earned by capable and devoted service. The next item is Oversea Settlement Office, which has increased from the original Estimate of £8,000 to the revised Estimate of £13,500. That Office, originally known as the Government Emigration Office—and I may say the change of name was made in order to indicate clearly the distinction which exists in the mind of those responsible for the Office, and, I hope, in the mind of every British subject between oversea settlement within the British Empire and emigration outside the British Empire to foreign countries—took over the work of the original Emigrants Information Office, because the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, now First Lord of the Admiralty, thought it was the duty of His Majesty's Government, during the period of reconstruction, to take a more direct and closer interest in the problems of oversea settlement and emigration. A Government Committee was set up with the special task of seeing that the fullest possible information and advice was given to every British subject who was considering the question of emigrating, also of seeing how far direct assistance might in certain eases be desirable, in the interest of the individual or of the public generally, and, further, to secure really effective and intimate co-operation with, the Oversea Governments, so that the natural and inevitable stream of emigration should flow in those channels which, both from the point of view of the individuals concerned and of the British Empire, might be most beneficial.

The justification for this Vote is to be found in the Report of the Oversea Settlement Committee, which was laid on the Table of this House about a week ago, and, in view of the great importance of the subject, I should like to appeal most earnestly and most sincerely to all Members of the House to get that Report and read for themselves the work which the Committee has done, considering the immense importance of this whole problem for the future welfare of this country, and the future strength and security of the British Empire. What I have to deal with, however, this evening, is the actual increase in the Vote. Now this is a new Department, and, consequently, it was only possible at the beginning of the year to estimate very roughly the future expenditure. It was impossible to know what number of people would require advice, assistance and guidance, either people going to other parts of the Empire on their own, or ex-service men going under special facilities. In justification of this increased expenditure, I would like to give the Committee one or two figures as to the actual increase of work, and that during a year in which shipping has only become available to a very moderate extent, and really only in the last few months of the year. At the beginning of the year the office, which was then situated in a hut on the Horse Guards Parade, which very soon proved wholly inadequate for the work it had to do, was receiving about thirty letters daily. The average number of letters received to-day is something like 450. I may mention that when a statement appeared in the Press a week or two ago of some special facilities the New Zealand Government was offering, at once the correspondence went up to between 750 and 1,000 letters a day.

In the same way, one of the principal functions of the office is to interview personally, and give every information, guidance and assistance to any British subject who is meditating the very serious question of leaving this country and crossing the ocean. At the present moment something like 100 callers come every day to get guidance in this matter, which is of such immense interest and importance to themselves as well as to the future welfare of this country, and the parts of the Empire to which they are going. I am glad to say we have had very many letters from men writing on their own initiative, thanking the office for the great courtesy and help rendered to them. That docs not only apply to persons who have been encouraged to go, but also—which is of no less importance—from persons who have been warned against being misled by specious advertisements or attrative promises in other parts of the Empire, and running the risk of losing such little capital as they have In more than one case we have saved an ex service man, on the very eve of departure, from embarking and venturing his whole capital on what scorned to us palpably a misleading advertisement. Both in that way, by correspondence and individual interviews, the issue of a large number of publications, public lectures and public warnings—in all these ways the work of the office has gone up considerably, and a staff of 24, which was originally thought sufficient, has had to be increased to a staff of 60, and I can assure the Committee at this moment that the staff is very heavily over worked. It is impossible to tell what the growth of the future will be, having regard to shipping, but I believe ii will be difficult to carry on the work next year with a less estimate than £20,000. But I believe there are few ways in which the money of this House could be spent with more beneficial results, and with loss expenditure. There can be no greater waste of the wealth and resources of this country than that men should go overseas on bad advice when they would do better' at home. So much for the actual increase in the work of the Overseas Office.

Now as to the question of free passages to ex-service men and women. There has not been any Vote for this before. As far back as April last I had the privilege of making a statement in this House announcing the intentions of the Government in the matter. I believe I will have the whole Committee with me when I say that we ought to, and wish to, give these men, women, and children the greatest possible opportunities that the Empire can afford. These men fought not only for their own part of the Empire but for the whole Empire, and the Empire should be thrown open to them. Various Overseas Dominions are affording opportunities. They have their schemes for ex-service men's settlement, most of which are arranged so that our ex-service men can participate in them. For obvious reasons, such as considerations of finance, there is a limit to the opportunities that can be given. But, for instance, this is what Canada is offering to her ex-service men, and our Imperial ex-service men are included. They are offering advances of £1,600, at the present rate of exchange nearly £2,000, in the shape of land and equipment on very easy terms.

The view we have taken is that while, of course, we want ex-service men and women to have every facility that can be offered in this country, we also desire to provide them with facilities for going to any part of our Dominions where they may wish to make a home and where they think they will be better off. Hundreds of thousands of these men would have gone overseas but for the War. There are many of them who had saved up a little money for this purpose and who have had to spend that little capital sum for the support of their families during the War. It seems only right and fair that the British Government should do everything it can for them and for their wives or families and widows and dependants. If they wish to go to any part of the Dominions, where they think they can do better, then under certain conditions we will give them a free third class passage, and this applies to the families and dependants. They are given a third-class railway ticket and the oversea passage to the nearest convenient port.


When they get to the oversea port, are they given a free ticket for the remainder of their journey?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

When they arrive at the other side, it must be a matter for the Dominion Government concerned. We find the free passage to the nearest convenient port—nearest to their ultimate destination. Of course, we cannot force people upon the Dominion Governments if they do not want them. There might be a want of proper employment for them there, and therefore it has been arranged that the persons sent out must be acceptable to the Oversea Government. They must be such as can obtain employment, and therefore they must be approved of by the representative of that Government hero. We are not going to send out people who are likely to be a failure. The plan upon which we are acting is that any individuals who desire to go out can make application to us on a proper form. We then see whether they are people who have seen service or who in other ways fulfil the conditions of the Dominion Government. This application then goes to the representative of the Dominion Government concerned. Then that Dominion Government—or Overseas Government—it applies to every part of the British Empire—through its authorities, reports whether or not it is willing to accept that person, and then finding that there is this opportunity we give a free ticket and a voucher, as well as a form of passport, to enable him to go.


Do they go in that way to all the British Colonies?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

Yes, to any part of the Empire.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Could we be informed what amount of money would be necessary and what number of people are going to be affected? What is the possible total expense?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I was coming to that. I cannot say just yet how many people will avail themselves of the opportunities, and we cannot tell what the expense will be until we know how many there would be. Many of the men who are demobilised will prefer to settle in this country, or at any rate to see how they shape here. But if they do decide to go overseas, they can send in an application up to the end of this year, and if it is found that they are suitable persons they will have these facilities from us. We have had about 10,000 applications, representing some 18,000 persons. Those who have been accepted by the Overseas Governments and who have sailed or are at this moment sailing number some 2000, representing some 10,000 or 12,000 people. The total cost is, up to the present, expected to be about £51,000. That is the best estimate the Oversea Settlement Office is able to form. We are necessarily at this moment only able to speculate as to the extent to which money will be required; but we estimate that it may reach £1,000,000 next year and another £1,000,000 the year after. If there is a smaller number of people, of course, that would be reduced. We shall be able to see in a short time, because application for these particular privileges by men already demobilised must be sent in up to the end of this year.


Is it only up to the end of this year?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

Yes, any application up to December 31st, 1920, will be considered, but any ex-service man who has stayed on in the Service can apply within 12 months of his demobilisation. There are some who have enlisted for a longer period than three years, and these must give notice before the end of this year.


Does it include men who have taken a "pier-head jump," and gone away and left their wives and families in this country?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I suppose the hon. Member is referring to men from the Colonies who have served in the War?


No, I mean men who went to the Colonies before the War, who joined when in the Colonies, and who are now going back to the Colonies with assisted passages and leaving their wives and children at home at the expense of the Poor Law.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

So far as these men may have joined the Dominion forces, they are not eligible under our scheme, but if they belong to any of the British forces we will make every endeavour to assist them if they want to go, and also their wives and families. There is a separate measure dealing with the maintenance of wives and families of men who have gone overseas. It would give facilities for enforcing maintenance orders on the other side of the water.


I am raising this question in the interests of the boards of guardians in this country as against these men who have taken what is called a "pier-head jump," men who have joined overseas and have gone back, leaving their wives and families in the charge of the local authorities.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

There is a Bill which was ready to be introduced last year, and which I hope to introduce shortly, to deal with this difficulty. It enables the authorities at the other side of the water to enforce these maintenance orders and transmit the money to the responsible authority. I hope I will receive the hearty support of the hon. Member for this measure.


Yes, you will.


What steps are being taken to make these offers known?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

When this matter was first announced in the last Parliament there was very little shipping available, and it was not desirable to advertise the particulars too vigorously. But it was announced in the papers, and the various emigration authorities knew all about it. As shipping does become available, those interested in the problem I hope will interest themselves in this offer of the British Government. I hope Members of this House who are in touch with these ex-service men, when they find that they cannot find what they think is just right in this country, and think they would do better overseas, will help them to take advantage of it, and to get into touch with the Oversea Settlement Office. Apart from that, the National Relief Fund has given assistance and a sum of money to help those cases, not necessarily ex-service cases, who have suffered hardships owing to the War and would be benefited by settling overseas. There is a joint Committee of the National Relief Fund and the Oversea Settlement Office, and a considerable number of cases have come before it in the last few weeks. These men are given such money as may be necessary to enable them and their families to go overseas if they do not come under the Government schemes, and it would also provide for hard cases. I believe that in this way a great deal of good work has been done.


What sort of qualifications will be required, and what steps will be taken to train those people who are going overseas? Will you see that they are able to take proper advantage of these opportunities?

Lieut. - Colonel AMERY

Yes, the Oversea Governments concerned make enquiries as to the industrial and other qualifications of these people; and as to the prospects in particular industries, they will be looked alter in that way by the Governments overseas. People with agricultural knowledge will, of course, be taken by them. In the case of the men selected by the Canadian Government for their Settlement Scheme they will be put under training for a period of from six months to two years on specially selected farms, during which time they will be able to earn full wages. The Canadian Government does not want to spend their money in advances to men who have not farming knowledge; but when it is satisfied that they have or that they will justify the money spent on them, it will give them proper facilities for learning Canadian methods of agriculture.


What will the Canadian Government do for these men apart from the farms and buildings?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

The Government is offering them the farms, buildings and equipment on easy terms. Nearly 5,000 dollars worth of land, 2,000 dollars worth of buildings and 1,000 dollars worth of equipment. Private bodies such as the Officers' Association or the National Relief Fund may assist them to meet the case of producing the £200 of total capital required. They may, in certain cases, give up to £100, if they want that to make it good.

Mr. E. WOO D

There is a point of much interest I should like to ask: Is every man who receive an assisted passage assured of and guaranteed employment and subsistence for a certain period until, say, he has got on to his farm?

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

No, Sir; it is not the ease that there is any assurance of continued employment. It would be very difficult to know exactly what that would mean in all its bearings. When a man is accepted by the Canadian Government for settlement, the Government, having a prescribed period of preliminary training, will no doubt see to it if he is a good and willing man, that he is looked after. On the other hand, if, say, he is-promised employment, possibly by a relative or by a reputable firm, and the Government of the Dominion, in view of the-whole labour situation overseas, say that he can come, I do not think you can ask the Government to give a guarantee of continued employment.

There is a further item with which I wish to deal, that is £2,500 for a year for assisting the Oversea Settlement of British Women. This is half the total amount of £5,000 given provisionally, at any rate for two years, to help the Society for Oversea Settlement of British Women. I do not think anybody can exaggerate the importance of this question. As a result, not only of the excessive male emigration' before the War, but also of the awful casualties of this War, we have, at this-moment, in these islands a surplus of very nearly 1,300,000 women. On the other hand, in the Dominions there is still, though the War has diminished it, a considerable surplus of men, and a very great demand for women, especially those capable of performing every form of domestic help. It is in the best interests of this country, and of every part of the Empire, that it should be made easy and possible for these women to go out to these Dominions under the best possible conditions.


We want them here!

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I should like to point out, though, that however desirable it may be to equalise the populations, in so far as may be, of the Dominions and of this country, it is necessary to remember that women are much more difficult to transplant successfully than men. It is, therefore, of much more importance that the women who go overseas should be carefully selected, for many women do very well in this country who are not fitted by their disposition or their upbringing to face oversea conditions. It is a disaster for them, for this country, and for the oversea countries if they are lured abroad by emigration agencies, the prospect of good conditions, and speedy marriage, and find afterwards that the matter has been over-stated. There is a considerable prejudice, it is important to remember, in many of the Dominions against English women, arising simply from a certain number of eases of women who have gone over, tempted by emigration agencies, and not being fitted for the life there, ought to have stayed at home. They require selection, protection, and care on the voyage. You also require to make arrangements for their reception when they arrive at the other side under new and strange conditions. You require, too, some sort of organisation to befriend and look after them after they have got employment in the Dominions.

A good deal has already been done to meet the situation. For instance, in Canada the work in connection with the immigration of women was in the hands of various bodies of helpers. These have now formed themselves into a single federated body to look after the interests of every British woman immigrant. All the different bodies that used to work separately, and have separate hostels, the Y.W.C.A. and so on, have combined and the Canadian Government gives them substantial financial assistance to carry on their work. In this country we are aiming to do exactly the same thing. We had a number of women's emigration societies all doing very good work. There is the Salvation Army, the Church Army, various friendly societies, and latterly the War Services Committee, who look after the interests of women in the War Corps and the Land Army—all these bodies have united together to look after the emigration of British women to the Dominions, under the title of The Society for the Oversea Settlement of British Women. To enable them to carry on that responsible work effectively the Oversea Settlement Committee, which is a Government Department, feeling that they could safely entrust the work to this voluntary organisation, have made a grant of £5,000. That is all I need say on that matter, except perhaps this—and it is an important point—we are only, I believe, at the beginning of one of the most important movements in the whole Empire. I am sure it is inevitable, whatever we say or do, that within the next few years a very large number of men and women will be seized with the old passion for roving, which is so deep-seated in our race, and will go to other parts of the world. It is desirable, therefore, that they should go under the best possible conditions, that those not fitted to go should be held back, and those fitted should be assisted in every possible way. This is in the best interests, not only of individuals, and not only to promote their happiness and the homes and happiness of their children in the future, but also to consolidate the strength and well-being of this country. I am not one of those who is in the least afraid that we are going to lose our best.

The War has shown us that the great bulk of our people are the best. We have only to get the opportunity such as the War gave us to find that we have the stuff of which heroes are made in every part of our Empire I am not in the least afraid that, however many of our people go to add to the strength of our oversea dominions, that we shall not have an accession of fresh ability and fresh blood in our own country. All these qualities have been shown in recent years. After all, it is not pruning that diminishes the fruit of the tree, and though emigration may take place we will not thereby weaken the old country Does anyone suggest that the population of this country could to-day hold all the descendants of those who in old days went to Australia, Canada, America? On the contrary, if there had not been great emigration during the last century, and if we had not sent people to Canada, Australia, South Africa, for this country to draw sustenance from, we could not have supported as many people as we do. Emigration, so long as it is wise and prudent, does not diminish, but in the long run will actually increase and strengthen the population of this country. Yet, on the other hand, it does make all the difference whether those concerned emigrate to places within the British Empire, or whether they go outside. After all, within the Empire and under the flag, with trade between them, they should be the strength of this country and of the Empire as a whole in peace and in war. Of quite a different character is that emigration which proceeds to other countries.

In the last year, before the War, for instance, the average British subject in the Dominions bought twenty times as much from this country as the average American, though of the same blood and race. Again, during the War, the populations, comparatively small, both of Canada and Australia each put a greater effort into the War, if you reckon effort by loss of life on the battlefield, captures from the enemy, work in the trenches— any test you like—than did the great United States From that point of view, similarly, I think we may safely reckon that one Englishman who goes to any of the Dominions is, from the point of view of the security of the Empire, worth twenty times as much as one who goes outside. Therefore, if there is going to be this great movement of population in the future, let us do everything we can to encourage it to remain within the confines of our Empire, to add strength in war, and what is still more necessary for the coming generation, strength and prosperity in peace. We are just at the beginning of our development. Ours is the youngest Empire in the world. All it needs is the proper development of its human capacity. That is what in a small way we are aiming at in our work of this Sub-department of the Colonial Office to help our self-governing Dominions, as far as we can, to secure the largest number of happy homes and to make the position one of strength, security, and the peaceful and continuous development of our Empire.


We can all congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the statement we have just hoard. This is one of the greatest steps we have taken in this country. I refer to assisting emigration. When I first came back from Africa after 11 years' interval, it happened that when I was in a certain part of this country, in Staffordshire, I came across heaps of men who were dying to follow, more or less, in my footsteps, and to get abroad to some part of the British Possessions. I commenced an Imperial League, and we sent out under its auspices carefully selected men and women to good jobs. When I afterwards met these people in Canada and elsewhere, I think, without exception, every one of them was married and living happy, contented, and prosperous lives, with children growing up. That was much better and a better gain to the Empire than the Englishman marrying some foreigner because a British woman was not about. From that I made a point of assisting men who had big families of seven or eight growing up. There were nearly 100 families from that part and from other parts whom I was responsible for sending over to different parts of the Empire, where they were received and taken care of, and in not one case did I hear of any failure. It was just a little personal effort to try and do what the State, as we hear to-day, is now doing, particularly—and rightly so—in regard to men who have fought for their country. I can conceive of no step which would do more to strengthen the bonds of the British Empire than that which has been described to-night by the Acting Secretary of State for the Colonics. There will be some criticism—I have heard it in this House—that we want the men at home, and we want the women at home. If they go out to the Empire, in my sense of the word, it is still home. The Empire is my country, England is my homo," is an expression that we have often heard. When these men, as I have heard them in France, got talking with men from overseas, who describe their different lives, the result has been that friendships have been formed, and some of our men have made up their minds that, as soon as things settled down, they would try and go out; and in turn those men from overseas have said, "We will receive you and welcome you and find you a job." Nothing would have kept mo, at a certain age of my life, from going out to Africa, and I have never regretted the day I went. There are thousands of others who will do that, and if they do not themselves come back, their children, or their children's children, will come back to this country. It helps us to develop the whole British Empire with Britishers and Britishers only, and that is the one thing which, as I have always advocated, should be the main object of this Government and of the Governments of the Dominions and Crown Colonics throughout the Empire. There will be large numbers of men—we are in constant touch with some of them now—who were either in an office before, or were working at some employment which more or less confined them to a house during the greater part of the clay. Those men, by virtue of their service overseas, have now got to a stage when they feel that they cannot go back to those offices. It is not a question of pay or reward, but of the feeling that they want to see more of the world. They have seen those men from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and are bent on going abroad to see for themselves where they can get greater opportunities for advancement than they can in this country.

I congratulate sincerely the Acting-Colonial Secretary on the most encouraging news which he has given us to-night. The only criticism I have to make is that it is a pity that more was not made of it. I quite see the advisability of not talking too much about it at the time, because it might have caused a rush which we could not have dealt with, and in any case the shipping could not then deal with the men who had come to fight from one part or another of the Empire and who had to be returned there; but I submit, particularly in view of the fact that there is a limit of time to the end of this year, that every possible means ought to be taken to let this be officially known to the large number of men who fought in this War, many of whom must and will be desirous of accepting the Government's help in this matter. When we compare the total amount under this heading, namely, £73,550, with what this means to the Empire as a whole, that sum, if it is, as I am sure it will be, voted by this House, will be the cheapest bit of work we have done for a long time.


It will increase production.


Yes, in many senses of the word, and it will certainly help to develop those undeveloped stretches of country in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere, which are crying out for development in order to produce more of the things which we require. If we set our hands to it, the Empire could easily pro duce almost everything that this country wants. I hope that the Colonial Office, if they should find that the present staff is too small to cope with this work, will have no hesitation whatever in coming down to this House and asking for a further Vote to enlarge the staff, so that it may be adequate to deal with the work in view. I am sure it will be found that there will be not less than 500,000 ex-service men who, if they could get these jobs to go to, and if they knew they would be welcome, would be glad to go. We know that the Dominions, benefiting by past experience, have set up machinery which will prevent what used to happen in past years, namely, men wandering to a part of the Dominions where there was no one to receive, to look after and to help them. That machinery exists now in most of the Dominions. I do not know whether it exists in all of the Crown Colonies, but if not I hope that that will receive the serious attention of my hon. and gallant Friend. By that machinery it is made certain that men are only taken as they can be absorbed, and that when they arrive they are properly cared for and sent to their destination. In Canada, particularly, the most detailed machinery exists for receiving the men directly the boat ties up. I see great prospects in the near future of benefits to the whole Empire, and to this country in particular, from the excellent working of the organisation which has now been set up.


I do not intend to take up much of the time of the Committee, because I believe that we should, so far as possible, confine ourselves to the financial side of the discussion on the Supplementary Estimates; but there are certain Estimates under this Vote which foreshadow an entirely new policy from the point of view of the Government, and therefore I may be permitted to say one or two words upon it. First of all, I should like to second what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down with regard to the general policy of the Colonial Office in setting up this Oversea Settlement Office. I think that the Acting-Secretary of State for the Colonies is to be very much congratulated upon having taken this matter so thoroughly in hand, and upon having arrived at such an excellent result. I have had the opportunity of reading the Report of the Oversea Settlement Committee, which was published last week, and I must say, from a long experience of reports, that it is one of the most lucid and excellent reports I have ever had the opportunity of reading. It goes into its subjects so thoroughly and so effectively that really, taking the admirable additional explanation which has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his speech, there is very little left to ask. There are, however, one or two points which I should like to have further elucidated.

8.0 P.M.

I observe that the accommodation available in the new premises at 59, Victoria Street has become inadequate. I do not approach this from the point of view of criticising the expenditure upon those premises, but from the point of view of the extreme importance, to my mind, of maintaining all the unified organisations, if I may so call them, under one roof. I do hope that, whatever arrangement is arrived at by the Secretary of State for the Colonies with the Hoard of Works, he will keep that aspect in view, so that it will not be necessary for one sub-Department of the unified organisation to go to another street in order to consult with another sub-Department. Another point which has struck me is the importance of Government control of emigration as a whole. I observe that the Society for Oversea Settlement of British Women has a separate Vote allocated to it of £2,500 until the 31st March. I am not quite clear from the report whether, although it is intended to house that society under the same roof, it will actually operate as an independent unit, or whether it will merely be an advisory body to the Central Committee. Personally I should like to see it an advisory body to the Central Committee, and to see all the executive work done by the Executive Committee. Further, I should like to know how that £5,000 a year which is being granted to the society is going to be spent. That brings me to another point which was dealt with fairly fully by the hon. Gentleman, and that is the emigration of women to our Overseas Dominions There are some amazing figures in the Report which has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman. He pointed out that at the present moment there was a surplus of 1¼ million women over men in this country. On the other hand, in the Dominions there is still a surplus of men, and we find it stated in the Report that there can be no doubt while the Committee are not in possession of statistics, that the War has also had the effect of reducing the surplus male population of the self-governing Dominions, which in 1911 was considerable. But it was reasonably certain that a surplus still existed, and, therefore, it was highly desirable simultaneously to diminish the surplus of women in the United Kingdom and of men oversea by encouraging the emigration of women oversea. An hon. Gentleman sitting opposite suggested that it was desirable to keep these women here. I believe with the hon. and gallant Member for Wandsworth, that the Empire is our homo as well as this country, and if we can help these surplus women by emigration, and by sending them to another part of the Eempire, we are only assisting to build up the Empire with our own flesh and blood.

I am quite sure that the Labour party will agree with this sentiment. I can remember a Bill which was before this House recently claiming the restoration of trade union rights, and, during the Debates upon it, we had considerable discussion on the question whether women should or should not be admitted into trade unions. Anything that we can do to assist these surplus women to find homes across the sea in our own Dominions must surely command the acceptance of hon. members on the Labour Benches. There was another question discussed in the House during the last few days, namely, the question of the extension of franchise to women of the age of twenty-one. Under that Bill it was proposed to extend the franchise to 5,000,000 women in this country at a cost of something like £300,000 or £400,000. I contend it would be very much better to spend that money in assisting our womenfolk to cross the seas where there is work and where there are men waiting for them, instead of giving them the vote in this country. If when the Budget comes in for 1920–21 I see a largely increased Vote for the purpose of settling women in the British Empire overseas I should gladly give it my hearty support. I can only, urge the hon. Gentleman to continue the vigorous policy which he has started so well, and thus to increase and build up the prosperity of the Empire.


I certainly do not wish to throw cold water on the scheme enunciated by my hon. Friend, but I would venture to urge that considerable care is necessary. Even within the last few months the system, which is excellent in theory, has broken down in practice. I will give an illustration. Only four months ago two lads of 19, one a discharged soldier and the other a discharged sailor, were sent out from England. They were given assisted passages, and in addition £40 for their fares across Canada and for an outfit. They arrived in British Columbia, and there found an enormous number of discharged and demobilised Canadian soldiers. There was no work for them, and within a week they obtained employment in the United States, and are working there now. Each of them cost this country about £60 or £70, and they were only two or three days in Canada. After that they went across the border, and the United States is getting the advantage of their labour. Obviously, therefore, our system must have broken down. Either the men were sent to the wrong place, or they were sent at the wrong time. I have had some experience in emigration matters. Before the War I spent some time in Canada examining into the general question of emigration, and I followed the fortunes of a number of men and women who were sent out there. Even then we had a system which in theory was very muddling to people, and if my hon. Friend could see the muddle which goes on in Canada I think he would not be so enthusiastic over his proposal. It looks all right on paper, but when the people arrive in the emigration offices in Canada the only concern of the officials there is to get rid of them, to get them out, irrespective of what employment they are provided with. I remember the case of a young lad of about 17 who was sent out to Canada. I went to the emigration office to find out what work had been found for him, and I found they had placed him out as a billiard marker in a saloon in Montreal. He has friends in London, who would never have let him go out for work of that kind. He would have been far better at home. But that is an example of what goes on.

The second great evil is the exaggerated account given to emigrants of the prospects awaiting them. There is no land of milk and honey. People probably have to work far harder there than in England. But they go out with exaggerated ideas, they soon lose heart, and nothing is more fatal to an emigrant than the losing of heart. Eventually he struggles back to England, having been a failure in the Dominions, and he finds it much easier to become a failure here. More than that, all the money spent upon him has been wasted. These are two up-to-date examples, which show that more care is needed than has been taken in the past in regard to emigration. The system, I repeat, good though it may be in theory, breaks down in practice. I am doubtful if there is much demand for emigrants in Canada or Australia just now. This House should remember that our Colonies are very much in the same position as ourselves. They have to deal with large numbers of demobilised soldiers, for whom employment must be found, and there is nothing which an Australian or Canadian resents more than seeing, when he himself is out of work, large numbers of Englishmen coming over there. Although emigration is, I believe, of enormous advantage to many people, I venture to suggest that, for the time being, we should go very slow and refrain as far as possible from upsetting the colonies by overflooding their labour market. The only other point is in regard to a question which I understand my hon. Friend is going to deal with, the deserted wives of colonial soldiers. I have very large information on that subject. I have fifty or sixty letters from deserted wives, and I urge my right hon. Friend to introduce that Bill as quickly as possible. Letters come to me almost every week. For come reason, my name got associated with the problem. They are terrible letters, incidentally interwoven with a greater problem still, the problem of divorce. They may have been very stupid, but there they are in England for the rest of their lives, married women with no possibility of divorce and not a farthing coming from their husbands in Australia or Canada. I am making no general charge against Canadian or Australian soldiers. They are as good a type as ours, but one only hears the bad cases, and they are an infinitesimal proportion of the total number, but I know that such men exist and such hard cases exist. I know a most pitiful ease where the woman is stranded without any income whatever. Some have come to the Poor Law. But much more distressing cases I have are those where people will not go to the Poor Law, though they are in a half-starved condition in consequence of desertion. Otherwise, I am in full agreement with my learned and gallant Friend as to the general outline of his scheme, but considerably more care should be taken before the men are sent out, and, above all, they should not be hurried out, but he should be absolutely sure that the labour market is able to absorb them.


I wish to make a few observations on the overseas settlement of British women, and I should like to put my observations in the form of questions to the learned and gallant Gentleman. Is he aware of the Report which has been published from the Army Medical Boards which disclose the fact that out of all the examinations which have been made only 36 per cent. of the men examined for military service were found normally fit, and that no fewer than 10 per cent. were unfit for military service of any kind? Is ho also aware that the Report of the medical officer of the Board of Education presents the fact that one child out of every six attending elementary schools is in such a mental and physical condition that it is not able to absorb the education that the State provides for it. Having regard to these facts, is it desirable to encourage and to pay for sending the best selected women out of the country? Without carrying the argument to the point of being indelicate, I would suggest that the policy of the Board of Agriculture in what comes within the range of its operations is exactly in the opposite direction. They bring the best into the country instead of sending the best out. Having regard to the fact that the various trades and professions are now open without let or hindrance to women, and are likely to be more so in the future, the fact that the women of the country are demanding and securing a larger measure of economic freedom, and that this House is favourably disposed to extending the line of political freedom, which will assist in adding to the security of our womenfolk in all departments of life, everything tends in the direction of women making the best of their opportunities in this country. If women have a desire to go oversea, lot them go, but in view of the race deterioration which the facts I have presented set forth, it is to our advantage to keep the best of our women here and not encourage them to go Give them absolute freedom to go if they like, but do not go to the length the hon. Member opposite suggests.


I am not against this scheme of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in connection with the Colonial Office, but I think there is a danger of the Government over-emphasising the advantages of emigration. I do not think the best of our people should be encouraged to go even to Canada. The old proverb that charity begins at home is a little threadbare, but comes in handy sometimes, and it would be a pity if, in the general policy of the Government, the advantages of emigration should be overemphasised. It has been so in the Highlands. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of England alone, but there is a country called Scotland, and I think in the Colonies he will probably find a larger proportion of Scotsmen than of Englishmen. I have not the slightest intention of suggesting that a policy of this sort is wrong in itself, but I was afraid the interest which the hon. and gallant Gentle-man takes in it is apt to carry him away and get him to influence the Government to such an extent that he really forgets we are promised a new world and a country worth living in. We ought to make the conditions in this country so attractive as to keep the best men and women at home. There is certainly plenty of room and plenty of undeveloped land in the country yet on which you can place an enormous number of men and women. The hon. Gentleman referred to the period of reconstruction. That phrase is fallacious. The period of reconstruction will last to the millennium or the crack of doom, whichever comes first, so that I hope emigration is not to be regarded as a very big item in the general policy of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Highlands have been depopulated by the attractions of emigration. In some places in the Highlands the education rate is 20s. in the £. We educate the young men and women in order to make them good citizens in the Colonies, and it is Canada which should pay our education rate in the Highlands. I hope the hon. Gentleman will convey that to the proper quarter, so that the money will come back to replenish the deplenished coffers of the rating authorities in the Highlands. There is plenty of room in the Highlands, and even in Darkest England, for a great number more, so I hope this will not be over-emphasised. Still, for those who are willing to go, the scheme is quite right, and, though it sounds a little mixed, I do not think it is. The right hon. Gentleman should make known to all persons concerned that there is such a scheme. Those who do not hear about it are placed in an unfair position. All should know about it, and there should be some system of casting lots or balloting for those who really want to go. That would be far better than a policy of limited advertisement of this kind. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Gideon Murray) suggested a most ingenious way of solving the problem of the franchise. He suggested that those women who wanted the vote should be sent to Canada as an alternative. I congratulate him on his most ingenious plan.


I understand that it is the intention of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies to give wider publicity to the Government's scheme now that more shipping facilities are available. I wonder whether he would consider the advisability in connection with that form of publicity of sending appropriate communications to our Employment Exchanges. I have in my mind the fact that in my own city there are 2,000 ex-service men at present unemployed, and it seems to me that the managers of the Employment Exchanges there might be amongst the first to whom my hon. Friend sends his communications. The communications should not take the form of any sort of advertisement, but should be of the nature of a communication to the managers, so that those responsible managers could mention the scheme and could exercise some sort of discretion in placing the Government's scheme before any ex-service man, so that hopes would not be raised in the minds of many of these men that might never be fulfilled. I join with my hon. Friends who have congratulated the Under-Secretary on his most encouraging speech. As one who has travelled the Colonies I well remember the atmosphere which prevailed in the Colonies 20 years ago in regard to the particular office that my hon. Friend adorns. I can assure him that the view that was taken of the Colonial Office by our overseas brethren in those days was very different from that which prevails at the present time. I am quite sure that if his speech, to which we have listened with intense interest to-night, could be communicated to—I hope it will—and read in our overseas Colonics, it would add one more to those bonds of sentiment which have been so wonderfully strengthened by the Great War, and which tend to make the Empire all that those of us who love it desire to see.


I had not the pleasure of hearing the whole of the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. The subject is one of first importance, and there is a good deal to be said in favour of caution in regard to emigration. I do not say that there should be a system of selection, but people should not be encouraged to emigrate unless they have unquestioned disposition to go, or unless it is in the national interest that they should go. I understand that in connection with various Labour Exchanges—I had a letter to-day on the subject—there are people who might get work, but who do not take work, and who are living on doles. They look forward to being sustained in that way for the coming winter That is a most undesirable situation. If these people cannot find employment, or employment cannot be found for them, it is probably the best thing for them to emigrate to one of our great Dominions or Colonies.


People who will not work?


My hon. Friend is of Colonial origin as I am, and he knows that in a very short time people who go to the Dominions and the Colonies find that loafing at street corners does not pay. My experience in Canada is that a man-has to work. He is bound to find work unless he is an invalid. Otherwise there is no place for him in the country. He must not be an idler about the streets of the towns or villages. If the job that he finds is not satisfactory to him and if he has any spirit he will work up to a very good position at a later stage. If people have the desire to emigrate, if they have the emigration spirit, let them go, and help them to go. A species of selection might deprive us of our best citizens, and it is not desirable that all our best should go. People who are content in this country had better stay here. There are people who are not content, people who have the roving spirit and wish to go abroad. Let these people go, and they will meet with nothing but fair play in our great Dominions and Colonies overseas.

There is another point which requires attention. Nothing impresses an emigrant, whether he is a man or woman, more than a poor reception on arrival in the new country. To be received coldly or indifferently, or to be unduly canvassed to go to this place or that place, or to be told perhaps to go a thousand miles for employment when they land, has a very bad effect upon the emigrants and makes them give a bad report in writing home, and that is calculated to stop emigration. I know that many people have been discouraged from going: abroad for that reason. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend (Colonel Amery) who wishes to do the best for this country and for our Dominions and Colonies, to see that the link of communication is well kept up and that the necessary steps are taken to provide that the emigrant who leaves this country shall be well received and well looked after on reaching one of our Colonies or Dominions. It would be all the better if some provision was made for the emigrant getting into some definite occupation at once and not kept hanging about the country, possibly subject to solicitations to go to one place or another. One hon. Member spoke of a young man going to the Colonies and finding himself a billiard marker. That is perfectly possible. I do not know anything about the qualifications of the young man, but it is obvious that there are many people who go out who are not very keen on taking up any situation, but who see what they can get.

Those who are failures at home cannot expect to be successes in a new country. They have difficulty in adjusting themselves to the conditions of the new-country. But it is certain that no well-disposed man who has gone to any one of our great Dominions with the determination to work his way there, and who has steadily pursued that purpose, does not in the end make good. I know many Scotch men in Canada who not only made good but became exceedingly prosperous. I have asked some of these men, Would you not like to go back to the old country again? The answer I got invariably was that most of their old friends had died and they would be mere strangers in their own country, and that the children were so fond of the new country that they could not be persuaded to go to any other. In the case of immigrants to a country such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland or South Africa, the love of the country in the children of the immigrants is so strong that they prefer the country of their birth and upbringing to any other, and become thoroughly devoted to that country. And those who emigrated, thinking they were going to a land whore they would be strangers in the end find themselves quite as much at home in the new land as they did in the old.

On the whole, I agree with my hon. Friend that it is our duty to build up every portion of the Empire and strengthen the Empire in every direction. If we look abroad at Australia with its five or six million people, Canada with between eight and nine million people, and the other great Dominions proportionately, we see in the course of the next generation each one of those countries becoming populous, well knitted together by railways, new, fresh, strong, vigorous nations. They are our own kith and kin, our own blood. We must take pride in building them up and seeing that prosperity attend them and that the link which binds them to the old land, of the value of which they themselves are excellent proof, is preserved and strengthened. We may look forward to the new generation and be able to say that we have done our duty here to-day, as those who wont before us, and the Dominions have also done theirs, in strengthening the fabric of the British Empire. And I am convinced that there is no force to-day in the world that is so ready to preserve civilisation, honest and straightforward dealings and the general prosperity of the world as the people of our own Empire, and the more you strengthen it the better for them and for us, the better for the world and for civilisation.


I understand that the scheme outlined by the hon. Gentleman is one for the regulation rather than the encouragement of migation. I join with others in being delighted with the enthusiasm of the speech. Not that I read into it any indication that he is going to pour out hundreds of thousands of people from this country into the Dominions, but that he and those under him are going to take every possible means of directing the stream of emigration in the only direction which we should desire—that is, the direction of the British Empire. The Central Executive Committee will be closely in touch with the representatives of different parts overseas, and they will find at times that there will be a considerable demand for immigrants, and that at other times the opposite conditions will prevail. Speaking as one who has had considerable experience, I can say that the Dominions are not anxious to be flooded at all. They are anxious steadily to increase their population as the extra numbers can be absorbed, but they have ample provision in their immigration schemes to check an undue flow of people from this country.

We are bound to face the fact that the selection of those who want to go abroad as emigrants must be based on the selection of the fit, of a class of people whom we should like to keep in this country. If we want to preserve an effective link between the administration in this country and the Empire outside it will not do for the administration here to use emigration as a means of getting abroad people who are failures in this country. That will condemn the system and create antagonism between the various parts of the Empire. If these people can get into the Dominions on their own account, or by some other help, let them do so. I quite agree that some of them will make good in the now conditions, but no scheme, as between the Central Government and the Dominions, will prosper if those in the Dominions get the feeling that there is an attempt to send out those who are looked upon as unfit in this country. It is easier to get men to emigrate than to receive them as immigrants. The reception of immigrants in new countries is a difficult matter.

I have hold the position of Minister of Immigration for some years in one of the Australian States and I know the excessive care that we had to take to justify it, and ourselves as being responsible for the men whom we had invited to come from the mother country. It is a matter that can only go slowly, particularly as regards those who have reached a certain age in life. The field for the employment of women in new countries is very limited. Though it is said that there is a surplus of men, the surplus is very slight. In the Dominions and in the new country the employment of women in many directions in the primary production of wealth is not excessive, and there is no great field for the employment of surplus women. In my experience, so far as women immigrants are concerned, the only class for which there is any great clamour is domestic servants, who are the one class of which there is a great shortage in this country. In my opinion the finest field for emigration is among the young boys of between 15 and 20. If we can ensure a steady stream of these boys to the Dominions they will be going out at a very adaptable age when they have no responsibility, and they can fit into the newer conditions of the country much better than men who are encumbered in any way. By a very careful selection and by proper arrangements between the Executive hero and the different Dominions, so that the greatest possible care can be given to the young emigrants, I feel confident that that form of emigration will prove to be the most effective and the most continuous.


Nothing will astound the nation more than the proposition that for our sons and daughters, the best of our blood, there is no room to be found in our own country. We were promised that it was to be a new world for them after the War; now we are informed that there is no room for them and that they must find work in other lands. It seems rather strange that a Government which made such promises to the community in 1918 should advertise its own inability to absorb the man power of the nation. It justifies the agitation going on outside and the whole propaganda which declares that the more the workers produce the sooner will they find themselves out of work; and that is the case in spite of all the lectures that we of the Labour party have been getting and in spite of all the declarations that what this country wants is more production in order that the cost of living might be reduced. The nation cannot absorb its man-power. Men cannot get the chance to work upon their native land, and yet we have much of the country absolutely undeveloped, silent as from the days of Adam; the hills laden with wealth, iron ore and coal and all the essential minerals. A year ago, when dealing with the problem of transport, we were told that if only we had the manpower at our disposal we could open up England, lay light railways up to the hills and get on with our schemes of reconstruction; that we could harness water power by damming the waterways, establish dynamos and lay transmission lines to light our villages, and use the power as a means of effecting economy in coal. Now this cannot be done, and land must lie dormant for want of labour. We are told there is no use for our sons and daughters and that we must find facilities for them to go to Canada or Australia. Next we shall be told that we are flooding the labour market of other countries. There is a demand today for over a million houses in this country. A week ago we were told we could not get on with these houses because there was not man-power. Is it not an admission on the part of the Government of inability to absorb the nation's man-power? Is it not also an admission of the inability of private ownership to work for the welfare of the community, and does it not emphasise the importance of the demands for nationalisation, so that we may distribute labour? If necessary we must reduce the hours of labour until the whole of the man-power and of the woman-power is utilised. Then there will be no reason to send our sons and our daughters out of the country, and the money we are asked to spend on emigration we can use to solve some of our social problems.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I can only thank the Committee for the very kind and helpful reception they have given to this Vote. There is one criticism to which I must plead guilty, and that is that I am enthusiastic about this subject. I should like to say, however, that my enthusiasm is not the enthusiasm of one who wants to hurry and hustle people out of the country. My enthusiasm is for proper regulation, for proper care and advice being given to people who are intending to leave the country in any case, so that they may leave under the most favourable conditions. I listened with the greatest interest to the very informing and useful speech of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Briant), who, speaking from actual experience, stated what are some of the conditions of this problem. One of the reasons why we were not too anxious to proclaim our offer broadcast was that we knew that in every one of the Dominions there were problems of reconstruction to be faced, and that it was useless to send ex-service men to the Dominions when the soldiers of those Dominions were still looking for employment. In so far as people have gone out prematurely I agree that it is unfortunate. Our whole interest has been to work in the very closest touch with the Dominions and not to send a single man abroad unless he is actually wanted and is sure of employment. I think it very probable that the cases to which the hon. Member referred went out under some private system and not under the very carefully considered system which we have recently inaugurated. Certainly I agree that we do not want people to be tempted overseas by exaggerated accounts of what the Dominions have to offer. A very considerable part of the Supplementary Estimate for which I have to ask is in respect of our fully informative publications, which are to be had at every Employment Exchange. Our interviewers, who personally see every person who calls at the offices, are men and women of personal experience, who know all about the conditions overseas, and who are there, not only to encourage people, but also to discourage those who have been induced by exaggerated accounts to think that they will find an Eldorado.

I recognise the very helpful criticism which has been made by hon. Members. I can assure my hon. Friends that we are as anxious as they are to secure that men and women who insist on going abroad should know the conditions before they go. I am afraid the hon. Member fur Barnard Castles (Mr. Swan) entirely misunderstood the situation. Our purpose is not to send people away, and least of all because we have not done our duty to find them employment here. Our purpose is to make them acquainted with the conditions if they do go. We hope that they will stay under the old Flag, and we make every arrangement so that, if they go, they may get the best possible chance at the other end. Reference was made to the voluntary society of women in connection with overseas settlement for the purpose of assisting and giving advice. We take great care that the organisation of overseas settlement is as efficient as possible and that the money which Parliament grants is well spent. The actual chairman of the committee is an officer in whom the Overseas Settlement Committee who have nominated them have the completest confidence. While I entirely agree with the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray) that there have been cases of the kind he referred to in the Highlands, I do disagree very strongly with one argument put forward by the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers). He seems to think that if we allow people to go away that it will be the good stock who will go and that those who remain will form a C 3 population. A great percentage of the people who were declared to be medically unfit for military service were of poor physique, not because of indifferent stock, but because of the conditions of space and light and air and housing under which they lived. If we deal with those problems adequately in this country, I am quite sure we need never fear that our people are going to degenerate. The great mass of the people are good stock, and if they get reasonable conditions of living and housing in the future, then they will be perfectly sound. I do not think, therefore, that we need in the least fear, because some people who cannot do so well here leave for other countries where they may do better, that we will not maintain the vigour of the old British stock in this country.

Question put, and agreed to.