HC Deb 29 July 1924 vol 176 cc2014-30

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, That a sum, not exceeding £113,031, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the, sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Question again proposed.


I was attempting, when the proceedings were interrupted, to argue in Committee of Supply that the movement towards Imperial unity and closer association between the Dominions, the Colonies, and the Mother Country have been immensely stimulated, if not actually initiated, by the difficulties which had arisen in regard to the external relations of the Empire and its several parts. I remember that one of the great Australian Colonies—in fact, several of them—found themselves impelled to complain that at the time of the arrangement made about the Pacific Islands they actually occupied the humiliating and intolerable position of merely being outside petitioners to the Colonial Office. I think there were ninny people in this country who also regarded that position as intolerable, and it was that which led to the remarkable series of conferences between the Colonies and the Mother Country which, beginning in 1887, went down to the very eve of the Great War. In regard to those conferences, I cannot refrain myself from referring to the views—most important from the point of view of the question raised to-night—expressed at the conference of 1911, when Sir Edward Grey laid before the representatives of the Dominions in the fullest and frankest manner the whole diplomatic situation in Europe.

Now I come to the War itself. I invite the Committee to consider for one moment what happened. At midnight on the 4th August, 1914, every part of the British Empire and every Dependency was ipso facto at war with Germany. There was no question, from the constitutional point of view, of any Dominion being in a position so to speak to contract out of it. That was legally and constitutionally impossible. It is true that their actual participation was absolutely voluntary and spontaneous, but from the constitutional point of view they found themselves, whether they liked it or not, in a great war, in the making of which they had no part. That was the position. I do not think anybody can be surprised that the Dominions said, "Never again will we consent to be involved in a great war or to be involved in diplomatic negotiations in which we have had no part." They said in effect, "Call us to your councils." I have always thought that the experiment which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) initiated in December, 1916, in bringing into being an Imperial War Cabinet, was one of the most important innovations in our whole constitutional history. Many Members of the House will remember an afternoon in May, 1917, when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs informed the House that it was the unanimous resolution of the Members of the Imperial War Cabinet, that an Imperial Cabinet in war or peace was henceforth to form a part of our permanent constitution. The War ended. The Empire Delegation went to Paris, and at the Paris Conference the Dominions claimed and were inevitably accorded separate and several representations at the Conference. They put their several and separate signatures to the Treaty of Versailles, and they found separate and several representation on the League of Nations. That is a very important new departure. I do not want to criticise for one moment the action the Dominions then took, but when the history of this time comes to be written, that will be marked as a new departure of the greatest possible significance.

I have said that in 1917 the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs informed this House that an Imperial Cabinet in war and peace had become a permanent part of our constitution. An Imperial Peace Cabinet was in fact again summoned to meet in 1921. What happened? The Dominions had no sooner conic into this country when they declined—for reasons which I have no doubt were well understood in the Dominions and perfectly sufficient—to accept the designation "Cabinet." Perhaps a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, but at any rate, I have always held that this disinclination of the Dominions to accept the description of "Cabinet" in 1921 was an act of very considerable significance.

I want to come next to the events in this connection of last year. The House will remember that a little more than a year ago a difficult situation arose with regard to the conclusion of what was known as the Halibut Treaty. On 2nd March, there was signed at Washington a Treaty which was designed to protect the Halibut Fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean. I would like very respectfully to put one or two questions to the Secretary of State. Who were the contracting parties to that Treaty? Were they the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America? If not, who were the contracting parties? Is it a fact that the Treaty was signed only as far as the Empire is concerned by the Canadian Minister, Mt. Lapointe? It is a point of real constitutional significance to ascertain on whose behalf Mr. Lapointe affixed his signature to that Treaty. Another question I would like to be enlightened upon is on what conditions was that Fisheries Treaty ratified by the Senate of the United States of America? Am I right in believing that the American Senate refused to ratify the Treaty as between Canada and the United States of America? This is a point which will ultimately become, I think, a point of very great significance. Is it a fact that the Senate declined to ratify the Treaty if it was to be regarded as only a Treaty between the Dominion of Canada and the United States, and that it would be ratified only if regarded as a Treaty between the British Empire and the United States of America? There is one other question I want to put and that is whether as a fact Papers have been laid in regard to the Halibut Treaty of last year.

I do not want, for reasons given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, to discuss the question which has more recently arisen with regard to the Treaty of Lausanne. The only point with which I desire, with all the earnestness I can command, to impress upon the Committee is this, that, in my judgment, we have reached, in regard to the constitutional position of the Commonwealth, a stage which is both delicate and which, if not properly handled, might become dangerous.

We have granted to the great Dominions—to use a current phrase—autonomy within the Empire. What is the meaning to be attached to the words "within the Empire." I submit that phrase should imply an entirely equal share in determining the foreign policy of the Empire. If that be assented to, then I want to know how are the Overseas Dominions going to be permitted to take that share. It is not only a question of mutual good will. I am confident that as long as my right hon. Friend is at the Colonial Office we may be assured of that good will. But it is also a question of machinery. Have the Government any suggestion to make in regard to the machinery for co-operation which they are prepared to indicate to the House of Commons? If they have not, and if any representative of the Government gets up and tells us that it is the deliberate opinion of the Government that the discussion of machinery would at the present time be inimical to the interests of Imperial co-operation I for one shall immediately acquiesce and not press the discussion of that point. This is a question in which I have been profoundly interested for many years, and that is my excuse for imposing myself on the Committee to-day. As a student of Colonial affairs I cannot conceal my opinion of the gravity of the situation at which we have arrived, or my fears that if that situation is unduly prolonged the consequences may be such as I for one refuse to contemplate. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has done some- thing to-night to reassure the Committee and the country, and I hope that before the Debate ends we may have an answer to the specific questions which I have ventured to put.


I am sure the Committee has listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott), which shows that he has been at some pains to gather together a measure of historical knowledge and events which must interest all of us. This discussion has arisen because our Dominions and the Colonies have protested against being committed to enterprises particularly arising out of foreign policy which engender losses probably of treasure and of blood, and they desire naturally to be represented, so that they may be parties to the formulation of these various policies. I have observed for some considerable time a growing independence on the part of the Colonies and Dominions. I think it is a welcome attitude, and one which, in the interests of this country, and indeed of the Empire, might reasonably be encouraged. We have seen them demanding increased powers in connection with the making of Treaties by the United Kingdom, and they have already succeeded in establishing their claim, especially in reference to the Versailles Treaty. It seems to me essential that the House should give considerable attention to this growing demand and legitimate desire of our brethren across the seas, and I particularly welcome the speech of the Colonial Secretary and the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made. I take it that any body that might be set up of the character contemplated will have very wide powers indeed, and I conceive the members of it will discuss some things which possibly go beyond treaty-making powers and foreign policy.

We all know that when bodies of this character are set up, there must inevitably be a demand made to bring to them for decision questions outside those contemplated by the originators of the scheme. I say this in order to indicate to those interested the fact that the possibilities are greater than they contemplate. If that view be accepted, then we should have to have some different machinery to that which has been suggested. In supporting the plea which was put forward by the present Colonial Secretary on the occasion of a previous Debate, I do not want to cast any reflection on those who so admirably represent the respective Governments which we have in mind. I observe in connection with these Imperial Conferences that there is difficulty in securing anything in the nature of continuity of policy. It may be that a Minister representing the Government of this country, or one of the Dominions, or one of the Colonies, speaking with authority and weight for the moment, may possibly within a few weeks of returning to his own country be thrown from power and influence and succeeded by a member of a different political party who may be in a totally different frame of mind on the questions he has been speaking upon. Therefore if we are going to face this problem satisfactorily we must get some form of machinery which will be more representative of the views of the country, as distinct from the views of the Government of the day, so that we may aim at continuity of policy. I am not unmindful of the difficulties that will arise from pursuing a policy of this kind, but there is such general agreement here in favour of the development of our Imperial standard and the growth of unity within the Empire that it ought not to be impossible to secure something in the nature of the machinery I am now supporting. I believe we might get some bigger form of representation at these Conferences—representing the United Kingdom on the one hand and the Colonies and Dominions on the other. Success lies in that direction, and I trust that, in future negotiations, that aspect of the matter will not be overlooked, but that the statesmen of the day will concentrate their minds upon that issue, so that we may secure a more representative gathering or conference than we otherwise should.


I desire to put to the Secretary of State a few questions upon a matter which seems to me to be of considerable importance, namely, the operation of our oversea, settlement scheme at the present time. I am sure it is the desire of every Member of the Committee, as it is the desire of every thoughtful citizen of this country outside the House, that we should have in operation a really carefully considered scheme of oversea settlement. My right hon. Friend presented to this House in April last a Report of the Oversea Settlement Committee. No doubt that Report had been prepared a considerable time before it was presented to the House, because it brought the conditions affecting over-sea settlement up to the close of last year. In that Report, the first important feature of oversea settlement to which attention is directed is that which is known as the nomination scheme. I am not at all certain that this scheme, which on the whole has worked satisfactorily, was not originally the conception of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery). At all events, he certainly gave it substantial encouragement while he was dealing with oversea settlement schemes.

The nomination scheme, which simply puts into the hands of an immigrant in one of our Dominions the power of getting another immigrant to come out to settle with him, has very great potentialities. I should like to ask the Secretary of State what progress is being made in New Zealand and in the Commonwealth of Australia, where this nomination scheme has been in operation for a considerable time, and what prospect there is of making it a success in Canada, where it has only quite recently been introduced. I should also like to ask my right hon. Friend what steps his Department are taking to make known the possibilities of this process of emigration to local authorities throughout the country. In connection with the whole scheme of oversea settlement, there must be persistent and carefully considered educational work. Unless you can bring in the sympathy of local education authorities, unless you can get the sympathy of the great teaching profession in all its branches in this country—in public schools as well as secondary and elementary schools—you cannot make a really comprehensive scheme of oversea settlement a success. Having regard to the pronouncements Which my right hon. Friend has from time to time made outside this House, we look to him to see that the necessary spade-work, in making known through every channel that offers itself, the possibilities of oversea settlement, is not lost sight of in the administration of his Department.

I should like to ask him, further, whether he is taking care that, in the case of these nomination emigrants, there is no danger that their family affiliation and relationship may take precedence over real efficiency in the quality of the emigrants that may go out. Naturally, if au emigrant settles, either on the land or in suitable surroundings in an industrial community, in one of our Dominions, his tendency will be to bring out one of his own relatives. Of course, as my right hon. Friend knows, in some of the Dominions land settlement only is permitted, as is the case in Canada. In others, an emigrant who goes to an industrial centre may use his privilege of nomination to bring out one of his friends. Is my right hon. Friend's Department guarding against the danger that an immigrant, in the exercise of his privilege in that direction might bring out a friend or relative who might not be as efficient as another emigrant might possibly be?


You might prevent an Irishman from bringing along a friend?


Or you might prevent a Welshman from bringing along a friend. I do not care from what part of the Kingdom they come if they are efficient. What I am afraid of is the quality of the particular Celt who goes abroad. As my right hon. Friend, in doing me the honour of interrupting me, introduced the Celtic fringe, may I say that Irishmen all over the Dominions have given an extraordinarily good account of themselves as settlers, and that, whatever may be their defects in their own little island at home, they certainly have shown a great faculty of being useful as settlers abroad? In my continuous journeyings round the Empire, while I have found that Scotsmen are pretty prominent, and on the whole efficient, I have not found many of my right hon. Friend's countrymen coming up on the top and making a demonstration of their capacity as settlers. I am sorry for having said that, but my right hon. Friend brought it upon himself by interrupting me without rhyme or reason in the course of my speech.

I should like to put this also to my right hon. Friend. It is the case that assistance is given towards the passages of emigrants to our Dominions, but a great deal of restriction is imposed in connection with the issue of those passages. I put it to my right hon. Friend, with his generous temperament, to consider whether some modification might not be made in the case of specially and exceptionally qualified emigrants, in order to make it easier for them to get passages to our Oversea Dominions. While I am quite sure that in the Dominions themselves every conceivable effort is being made to provide for the reception of emigrants who go to those Dominions, there have been complaints from time to time that the machinery was not, on the whole, entirely satisfactory. I think it would be very useful indeed if my right hon. Friend, through the Colonial Office, would have a statement prepared giving details of the various agencies which are now operating in our Dominions and Dependencies for the reception of emigrants, and of the means adopted by those various agencies to place emigrants in suitable surroundings or their arrival at their destination. In making this suggestion, I cast no reflection at all on the desire of our Dominions, and of the administrations in our Dependencies, to do their best for these people, but I would suggest that it would be distinctly encouraging to people in this country who desire to undertake the great adventure of going abroad and founding their fortunes in another part of our Imperial heritage, if they were assured that every step possible was taken to make their reception as congenial as possible, and to encourage them to establish themselves safely when they are there. Now I come to the question of child migration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook from time to time gave expression to his great desire that in cases of child migration—


I have for some time been doubtful whether the hon. Member was speaking on the proper Vote. I find that in Vote 3 of Class V there is a special Vote dealing with child migration. Child migration does not come under this Vote.


I apologise, Sir, but I was taking the Report of the Oversea Settlement Committee, which, I understood, would be covered by the provision in Sub-head A, to which I venture with great respect to refer you. I suggest to you that the whole question of Oversea Settlement is covered by the Votes embodied in Sub-head A, and, therefore, I submit with respect that I am entitled to call attention to the various matters in the Report, which has been issued by my right hon. Friend's Department, dealing with these questions.


It has already been ruled in the. House that when there is a special Vote dealing with any subject, the subject should be discussed on that particular Vote, and the question of child migration undoubtedly comes under Vote 3 of Class 5.


In that case I apologise for having pursued the topic so far, but I am quite certain the hon. Gentleman will adopt the policy laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook of making his schemes of overseas settlement as complete and as attractive as possible to the people of this country, and I suggest to him that not the least interesting means by which he could encourage that excellent object would be through our public elementary and secondary schools. I have the greatest possible respect for the teaching profession, but they are not always utilised as a great instrument of education in the making from a practical point of view, and I think the schools could be encouraged to provide textbooks for the children in which the potentialities of the Empire would be set forth and in which in an encouraging and sympathetic way the mind would be drawn to the possibilities that await them under favourable circumstances abroad, and that without any flavour of politics at all. I offer my sincere congratulations to the Secretary of State on the encouragement he has given to school children who have been brought up to the Wembley Exhibition in order that they might see something of the possibilities of our Imperial development and expansions, and I hope that great scheme of encouraging local education authorities to send numbers of school children to be taken, under the direction of experts, to the various branches of our Imperial Dominions will have very valuable results in dealing with overseas settlement. I am sure no subject ought to receive more consideration from the Department responsible than developing, kindly, carefully, and intelligently, overseas settlement, and while I think the groundwork of a great scheme has been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrooke, who has taken such an interest in the question for many years, it has been well pursued and maintained by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.

10.0 P.M.


I do not intend to dwell at too great length upon recent unfortunate events, but I think no one has paid tribute to the action of the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Grigg) in again and again bringing to the notice of the House the fact that proceedings in connection with Lausanne definitely differed from the conditions laid down in the Imperial Conference Resolution, and I should like to pay that tribute now. The truth is that the Secretary of State, when he finds himself faced with a crisis, is apt to take refuge in an attitude a little mysterious and esoteric. So esoteric was his attitude on this occasion, that I am reminded of the definition of the schoolboy of the kangaroo— This animal has a punch into which lie retires in moments of what he conceives to he great peril. Like other speakers, I think one can hardly commend the marsupial makeshift of the panel system. It has been called a panel with one Dominion representative alternately appearing. In my judgment—it is merely a matter of phraseology—it seems a little more like a mad hatter's tea party with a changing dormouse. It seems to me—the problem is not a new one—that it has been met, as King Arthur met the similar problem of equality among the community, by having recourse to the mechanical device of the Round Table. Directly one speaks of a genuine equality between the Mother Country and the Dominions, one must be brought face to face with many disquieting features, and when that supposition is taken in connection with the doctrine of Parliamentary control over foreign affairs—a doctrine which we have had urged on many occasions, for which there is obviously much to be said, but a doctrine which wants very carefully studying before it can be fully accepted—you are led to a very awkward and difficult situation, because every Dominion Parliament will claim what this Parliament is claiming, and it must lead to a terrible dissipation of the treaty-making power.

Look at the great international settlements with which we have been familiar recently. Take the negotiations for the Anglo-French and Anglo-Russian ententes, which were so important at the end of last century and the beginning of this. If one reads the illuminating words of one now lost to us and always to be regretted, the late Lord Percy, one realises in making this agreement what a delicate balance had to be struck and in how many fields, a balance affecting places as distant as Morocco, Newfoundland, Afghanistan and Persia. I wish I could think that Parliamentary discussion in all the Dominions and in the Indian Legislature of questions like those complicated questions which were dealt with by Lord Lansdowne in Afghanistan, was going to lead to a really effective control of foreign policy or any very great constructive usefulness. Again, take what must face every Colonial or Foreign Minister, the necessity of making an apparent sacrifice of a position for a larger and ultimate end. Take, for example, Lord Salisbury's attitude in the nineties over those obscure negotiations in Madagascar, when that great philosophic mind of Lord Salisbury made certain strategic concessions, which it was only easy to recommend in a larger view of the situation. Remember that in future those would have to be defended, not before one Parliament by one Minister, but, before seven Parliaments by seven Ministers.

There are other considerations. I think a very wise emphasis has been laid on the fact that you have not done enough when you have concentrated the discussion upon the negotiation of treaties. The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual perception, laid stress upon that. You can no more separate the actual making of a treaty from the rest of diplomacy than you can separate batting from cricket, and say to your Dominion representatives: "Yes, come in; we do not mind your batting for us, but as regards the bowling and the fielding, we can look after that." A treaty is but one stage or one moment in a prolonged international contact, and how long can a Dominion be content with admission only at a late stage? These are just admissions to show that I am not labouring under any misconception as to the real disadvantages that must come when we acknowledge that Dominion sovereignty which is now an established fact. Some people complain of the League of Nations for giving public recognition to the fact. Long before the League of Nations, it was a fact in reality, as anyone who was in Canada in 1916, 1917 or 1918 well knows. Indeed, it seems to me that one can hardly expect to find any simple solution, all sufficient in its recommendations, for this large question of Dominion control over foreign policy. Of course, we can avoid the blunder of trying to pretend that things are not what they are, and we may, perhaps, have to leave the ultimate solution to future generations. But it does occur to me at times, in looking over this, that more important than large and sweeping pronouncements at the moment are the few practical steps which can be taken, and that they may be more helpful.

To many people the idea of Dominion representation with foreign powers is an alarming idea, and it can be alarming in one aspect. But is it only the question of the actual Dominion representatives which is the important part? Has it been asked what will be the nature of the staffs which accompany the Dominion representatives? Are there, in other words, to be in future seven diplomatic services That is an aspect of the question which, I think, has never been raised or met, and yet it seems to me there are all kinds of possible confusions and misconceptions, not between the head men in these things, but in the staffs, the permanent civil servants who accompany them. Are we to have seven diplomatic services? If so, we are put in a far worse position even than the Holy Roman Empire, which, at least, had an Imperial service, and we may find that these definitely drift apart. And is it not worth asking, in this connection, whether we recruit our service with an eye to getting the maximum infiltration of other than European elements? It is not my intention on this occasion, as it would be ruled out of order, to discuss the recruiting of the diplomatic service, but it seems to me the difficulty in regard to the recruitment of candidates from the Dominions is a question which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will look into. I confess, having given some attention to it in former days, I am not very hopeful of the solution along those lines. It does seem to me that the diplomatic services are bound to develop separately, to a very large extent, although anything to break down that separateness—and something can be done—is something worth doing. I wonder whether it is not best to let things develop, in other words, to hope that Canada, for instance, may produce in the future men with the wisdom, foresight, intelligence and knowledge of Sir Joseph Pope and build its diplomatic service out of these.

Is it possible—and I throw this out merely as a speculation, which, I think, cannot be mischievous as coming from a back bench Member—that a solution is to be found in a logical recognition of the separateness of the Dominions to such an extent that we are diplomatically represented with them and they with us? What I mean is this. We heard from the right hon. Gentleman the difficulty in recognising who is the actual representative when a negotiation of this sort arises with the various Dominions. It may not be the High Commissioner. It may be that a solution may possibly be found on the lines of a Dominion diplomatic representative, an expert of experience and out of politics, whom the Dominion would accredit. Is there not something to be said for accrediting the Diplomatic Service to the various Dominions? Of course one realises that it would mean great constitutional difficulties as things are at present. But, so far from separating the various parts of the Empire, it does seem to me it would bring into our foreign and diplomatic service elements familiar with Dominion conditions, and surely to have diplomatic representatives who have been in the Dominions, seen something of Dominion politics, and known the atmosphere that exists there, would be all a gain.


Does my hon. Friend mean that each Dominion should have a sort of Foreign Office in this country, or does he mean that the Dominions should have certain representatives in our own Foreign Office, or whether we as a Foreign Office should avail ourselves of the services of the Dominion Civil Services?


What I meant was that each Dominion should have, no doubt a small, but its definite permanent foreign diplomatic service, from which it would accredit, besides the High Commissioner, who has many trading and other duties, representatives of special technical experience to deal with diplomatic affairs.


As any contribution will be welcome, I wanted to know exactly what my hon. Friend meant. Surely he cannot conceive of a Dominion delegating that power to what, after all, would be a civil servant taking the responsibility?


That is perfectly true. It is true now that when an Ambassador signs a Treaty, special letters patent are sent out to him. It would not be a different position in that respect.


May I remind my right hon. Friend opposite that on 23rd May, Mr. Bruce, in the Australian Parliament, speaking on the question of a High Commissioner, or of a Minister representing the views of the Dominion, suggested that the time might come when Australia would prefer to have the representative of their views on foreign policy more of the character of an Ambassador than a High Commissioner or a Minister. To that extent, the view rd my hon. Friend behind me is supported by what the Prime Minister of Australia said only a few weeks ago.


May I remind my right hon. Friend of what some other Prime Ministers said about that same speech?


I admit that.


My suggestion is that, quite apart from the actual negotiation of Treaties in the interests of intercommunication between the Empire, familiarity with our foreign policy, carried through a long period, could undoubtedly be helped by such a person, even if he were not in the highly-responsible position which the right hon. Gentleman indicated. It seems to me that from our point of view it would be an advantage if we could have that touch within our service. It is true that the actual amount of diplomatic work to be done in a capital in the Dominions might not be very great, but there would be more opportunities for observation. Sir Robert Morier used to say that the period during which he learned the most was the period during which he was posted at Stuttgart and Munich. I always re- member the advice that my old master, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, gave to me when I first went to Washington. He said that no English official should stay in the United States longer than three months without going to Canada. When I asked him why, he replied—he always used his wit in order to instruct young men—"Well, my boy, I always like to look at red pillar boxes," leaving me to think out the implication of that remark. I do believe that to have our diplomatic service in touch with the Dominions in that way would be worth paying a price for, even if it did not solve everything. The right hon. Gentleman put his finger upon a weak spot at once. For one thing, it would give us more thorough diplomatic touch with the Pacific. Instead of looking at Pacific problems in a European way, we should have Pacific problems looked at in the way that Australia and New Zealand look at Pacific problems, which is considerably different from our own way of looking at Pacific problems, fully incorporated into that office. I offer these remarks as a small practical suggestion relating to the greatest Imperial problem we have at the present time, to which, under the instruct- tion of great masters, I have tried to devote some little thought.

Question put, and agreed to.

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