HC Deb 28 May 1924 vol 174 cc528-72

I beg to move, That this House regrets that the rate of progress under the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, has been disappointingly slow, and urges the Government to do everything in their power to give the fullest possible. effect to the policy embodied in that Act. I make no apology for bringing this subject before the attention of the House, for I am bringing it forward in no party spirit. It is not a party question, and I hope never will become a party question. I want to make it clear that the Motion I am proposing is not in any way intended as a criticism of His Majesty's present Government, still less of the Governments of the Dominions, least of all of the Department over which my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department presides. I want to make that, quite clear from the outset, and if I use in my Motion the word "regrets" I am using it not in any way as implying a censure of the present administration.

My object is to bring a matter which I conceive to be of supreme and urgent importance before the attention of a House of Commons, nearly half of whose Members have come into the House since we put the Empire Settlement Act upon the Statute Book only two years ago. I am convinced that there is no problem more important, either from the point of view of the future of the British Commonwealth, or from the point of view of social and economic reform at home. I very deeply regret that the date for the moving of this Motion should have coincided with two important social functions, one to do honour to the oldest and certainly one of the most respected Members of this House, and the other a function to which marry of us are bidden by Royal Command. Perhaps I may be allowed to say at this point that I hope the House will not think it disrespectful to them, and my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Deparment will not think it disrespectful to him, if I have to leave the House to obey that Command very shortly after I sit down.

My Motion asks the House to express disappointment at the slow progress which has been made with the solution of a problem towards which we hoped the Empire Settlement Act might make a very important contribution. What is this problem? I do not think one could find a better answer to that question than in the Report which has been recently published of a delegation which went out last year to Australia, and of which my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall) was one of the most active and distinguished members. That Report put the problem in these words: The problem of migration is a problem of economy, namely, how best to distribute the population of our common Empire for the benefit of the whole. It certainly will not, because it cannot, be denied that the present population of the Empire is most unevenly and un-economically distributed. I would beg the House to contemplate for a few moments the root facts of the economic situation. Here at home you have got a vast population planted on a tiny island, while in the South Seas you have a tiny population almost lost in the vast spaces of a continent. Here you have a population of 43,000,000 people planted on 88,500 square, miles, or taking the whole of Great Britain, 480 people to the square mile, while in England alone the figure is over 700. Out in Canada you have a population of something over, and in Australia under, two per square mile. In England there is hardly room to move, while Canada and Australia are empty as a drum. Australia with an area of 33 times and more the area of this country has one-eighth of our population.

Then there is another question. The homeland cannot possibly feed from native resources the population which it carries. I know people talk about the intensive cultivation of the Boil and so forth. I do not underrate the importance of intensive cultivation, but let the House consider this arithmetical fact. If you were to cultivate every inch of ground in Great Britain, if you were to reclaim your deer forests and clear your cities of every scrap of buildings, it would give you, per head of the population, 1⅓ acres. It is generally recognised that in order to be self-supporting, or anything like self-supporting, in respect of food supplies, you want about 3 acres per head of the population, and you want not more than 200 people to the square mile or 200 people to 640 acres. France, which is approximately self-supporting, has about 3 acres per head of population. I start then from this root fact. Here in the Homeland you have got what is at the present moment a superabundant population, a population which you cannot feed from home resources, except at a prohibitive price, even if at any price at all.

In the second place, of this superabundant population, you have at present more than 1,000,000 unemployed, and that unemployment, I submit, is very largely due to the stoppage of migration during the War years and the years which immediately succeeded the War. That stoppage, is perfectly intelligible. During those years, 1914–20, the outside aggregate emigration was 340,000 persons, whereas, on the basis of the five years preceding the War, that emigration ought to have aggregated 2,100,000. Even if you allow for immigration, the deficiency in emigration at the present time is well over 1,000,000 persons. But that is not all. The deficiency of 1,000,000 emigrants from this country means a deficiency, roughly speaking, of 1,000,000 settlers in the Dominions. Stated economically, the proposition comes to this. You have here in the Homeland a glut of non-pro- ducing consumers. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I perfectly appreciate the meaning of those ironical cheers, but I am stating a simple fact. Hon. Members can put what interpretation they please upon it. You have over 1,000,000 people unemployed here in this country, who are consumers and are not producers. On the other hand, you have in the Dominions a deficit of producers, who would also be potential consumers.

Imagine for one moment these 1,000,000 people transferred to Australia who are at present unemployed here—though I am not dealing with this problem primarily, and certainly not exclusively, from the point of view of unemployment; that is incidental, but it is not the whole case by any means. Just imagine for one moment these 1,000,000 people transferred to Australia. We should have saved in this country at least £100,000,000 a year in unemployment relief, of which, probably, not less than one-half represents the price of imported foodstuffs for the maintenance of those 1,000,000 people. On the other hand, in Australia they would become consumers of English produce and English manufactures, certainly to, the extent of not less than £10,000,000 a year. That brings me to my next point. For us here at home this problem of Empire migration is not merely one of the better distribution of population. It is also a question of markets for our produce. I do not need to emphasise the obvious by insisting on the truth that, if we are to raise, as we all ardently desire to raise, the standard of comfort among the mass of our people, by far the best way of doing it is to stimulate the export trade of this country, and for this simple reason. To send out ships in ballast, or partly in ballast, means, as we have lately learned by painful experience, doubling the price of every imported commodity that we require. Every ton of freight that can be added to the cargo of an outgoing ship means a pro rata reduction of price on every ton brought back. To export cotton goods, steel rails, tinplates, or whatever you like, means to reduce the price of food to every household in our land.

Of course, these are elementary truths, and I apologise to the House for impressing them upon it; but I suggest that the best direction in which our export trade can be turned is in the direction of our own Dominions. I do not want to introduce into this Debate, so far as I can avoid it, one single controversial note, and I do not, therefore, propose to discuss the question of Imperial Preference, but I should be lacking in candour if I did not, at any rate, express, in passing, my own opinion that that question is very intimately, if not inextricably, bound op with this problem of Empire settlement. But there are certain facts, whatever inference you may choose to place upon them, which are beyond the region of dispute, and of those facts the most striking is that our own kinsmen overseas are incomparably our best customers to-day.

The Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade was courteous enough to furnish me this afternoon with the latest figures on that subject, and they are extraordinarly striking. We have Canada taking, of English produce and manufactures, no less than £27,452,000 worth in the year ending 31st March, 1924—all my figures are for that period. That was just ld. under £3 per head of her population. The Union of South Africa took, of British produce and manufactures, £29,300,000 worth, or £4 3s. ld. per head of her population. Australia took £56,336,000 worth, or £9 18s. ld. per head of her population. I ask the House merely to make afresh the arithmetical calculation which I gave to them just now, and to imagine what the transference of 1,000,000 people from this country to Australia would mean in demand for English commodities. New Zealand, which is at the top of the list as regards per capitá consumption, took, with her tiny population, £20,028,000 worth of English goods, or £15 ls. 10d. per head of her population. Let us just compare those figures with the figures for our best foreign customers. Let us compare Australia, taking £56,336,000 worth of English goods, with the United States, which, with its 110,000,000 of population, takes £57,563,000, or 10s. 5d. per head of its population, as against £9 18s. ld. per head of the Australian population, or £15 ls. 10d. per head in New Zealand There is another comparison which is still more striking. After all, it is only an invisible frontier which divides the United States from Canada. The economic conditions are very similar, and, indeed, almost identical in parts, and yet, on one side of that invisible line, you have people taking, per head of the population, 10s. 5d. worth of English goods, while on the other side of that invisible line they take no less than £3 worth per head of the population. And then some people ask us to believe that there is no truth in the aphorism that trade follows the flag.

Perhaps I have said enough from the point of view of the Homeland. Let me turn for a moment to look at this matter from the point of view of one, at least, of our great Dominions; and if I speak more particularly to-night of Australia, it is because we have this Report so lately in our hands, and because it affords the most striking illustration of the truths which I want to enforce. Regarding the matter from the standpoint of the Dominions, there are two points of view. There is the point of view of economic development, and there is also the not less important point of view of security and defence. I expect that there are a great many Members of this House, even if they are not present here tonight, who heard, as I heard, two or three years ago, a very remarkable lecture in the rooms of the Empire Parliamentary Association, from the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Hughes. Since then we have heard many addresses, in those rooms and elsewhere, from distinguished statesmen from that great Dominion of Australia, and, to whatever party those statesmen have belonged, whether the Labour party or any other party, they have one and all borne concurrent testimony to one great fact, and that is, that people of all parties in Australia agree that that great Continent shall remain a great White Continent, and that, as far as possible, it shall carry only British stock. That is a sentiment which I regard as admirable, and which most people will applaud. But do not let is ignore this truth—it would be sheer affectation to ignore it—that if that be the ambition of Australia, there is only one way of attaining it.Many hon.Members will recall the words which Lord Northcliffe, at their invitation, addressed to the Australians as he was leaving them on his world voyage. He said: The key to your white Australia ideal is population. You must increase your slender garrison by the multiplication of your people. Only numbers will save you. The world will not tolerate an empty Australia. This continent must carry [...]ts full quota of population. You have no option. Tens of millions will come to you whether you wish it or not. You cannot hold up the human flood by a restriction Clause in an Act of Parliament. We all know where Lord Northcliffe was looking for one of the sources of that human flood. I do not want to say one word that could irritate a single soul, but we have to remember that the economic situation of Japan is one not very unlike our own. In their small island, or series of islands, for I am including in this estimate Korea, Formosa, and Saghalien, they have 77,000,000 people on 260,000 square miles. You have in Japan very nearly double the number of people per square mile that you have in France. You have 320 to the square mile in Japan, and 187 in France. It is double the density of Scotland. For Japan it is an absolute necessity to find an outlet for her surplus population and a market for her surplus goods. Where is she going to look for them? I leave that point with that hint, which I do not want to develop, but I suggest that to Australia at present there are two things which are absolutely essential. One is men, and the other is capital. At the moment, owing partly to trade depression and partly to other [...]cumstances, we in this country have a superabundance of both. From an economic point of view it is urgently necessary, in order that the Dominions may take advantage of the illimitable natural resources they command, that they should have more men. For lack of labour a very large proportion of their great areas is profitless to themselves and profitless to the world. We all know that the cost of living in these new countries is very high, and I suggest that there is no chance of a reduction of it until they can get a more abundant supply of what they want from outside. Their ability to get more from outside depends largely on the abundance which they themselves can export. I suggest then that the interests of the homeland and the interests of the Dominions are, in these economic respects, absolutely mutual and complementary.

I pass from that to consider what has been done to promote these interests and to solve the problem which I have proposed to the House. In 1913 the total outward movement of population from this country was 389.394 people, of whom 285,046 went to portions of the British Empire. Canada took 190,000, Australia 56,000, New Zealand 14,000, and South Africa 11,000. In 1923 the outward flow had fallen from 390,000 to 256,284, of whom the British Empire took 157,062. Those are the facts from which we start. What has been done by our own Government? In 1917 a Committee was set up, under the Chairmanship of Lord Tennyson, known as the Tennyson Committee, to explore the possibilities of overseas settlement for ex-service men, and after the Armistice Lord Long, who was then at the Colonial Office, set up a Government Emigration Committee, which is now transformed into the Oversea Settlement Committee. Its first task was to devise a scheme for the settlement of ex-service men. It was not a very easy problem, because to have sent ex-service men to the Dominions without an assurance of employment would have been not only futile but cruel The men themselves had to be sound in body and character as well as adapted to the only occupation which was in practice open. Plainly the only safe policy was to leave the task of selection to the representatives of the Overseas Government, and that was done. The Imperial Government undertook to provide a free passage for approved and selected ex-service men and their families to any part of the British Empire. No voucher for a free voyage was issued except upon the express recommendation of the Dominion representatives. Altogether, think some 50,000 ex-service men, making with their families about 100.000 persons, received free passages under that scheme, and have established themselves under the British flag overseas. Perhaps the number would have been larger if some of the Dominion Governments had not practically confined the selection to men willing to go on the land or women prepared to enter domestic service. In all, perhaps some 100,000 people were migrated under that scheme. The whole expense of that scheme, naturally and properly, fell on the Imperial Government. That experiment is now closed, but I am glad to say that, as far as we have information—on this point I hope my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall) will he able to give the House some very recent first-hand information—in the Report of the delegation of which he was a member, that the great majority of these ex-service men whom the delegation saw were confident of success. That is good news for Members of this House. That experiment; was on a comparatively small scale, and was intended to meet a specific emergency.

A little later, in 1922, mainly through the vigorous advocacy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) this House placed on the Statute Book the Empire Settlement Act. That Act was the outcome of two conferences in the year 1921, between leading statesmen of this country and the Dominions. One of the conferences, held by the Prime Ministers of the Empire, decided to advocate co-operation in a comprehensive policy of land settlement and Empire- directed migration between the Imperial Government and the Government of those oversea parts of the Empire that were suitable for settlement by people from this country. That recommendation was embodied in the Empire Settlement Act which received the Royal Assent on the 31st May, 1922.

That Act empowers the Secretary of State, who acts on the advice of the Over-sea Settlement Committee, to co-operate with the Dominion Governments or with public authorities or public or private organisations, including such organisations as the Church Army, the Salvation Army and Dr. Barnardo's Homes, either here or overseas, in carrying out agreed schemes for joint assistance of suitable persons in this country who wish to settle overseas. These agreed schemes might be either development schemes or land settlement schemes or schemes for assisting with passage money, and allowances for training or otherwise, suitable persons from this country. The financial liability of the Home Government was limited to £1,500,000 for the first year and to £3,000,000 a year for the 14 subsequent years.

Although the period was limited to 15 years in the Act, the machinery of the Act, I am glad to say, is designed to be permanent. The Dominions agreed to contribute, pound for pound, for such portion of the sum voted by this House as was spent on assisted emigration. This was estimated to cost about £1,000,000 a year, so that with the Dominion contribution a total of £2,000.000 a year was available for assisted passages. It was calculated that that ought to be sufficient to provide the preliminary training, passage and landing money for 60,000 to 80,000 settlers a year. In the case of adults, not more than one -third of the passage money was to be a free grant, though another third. or even two-thirds, might be advanced in special cases on loan. It. was held, further. that as the scheme got fully under way, and if the repayments of advances were added to the funds available for assisted migration, the number of settlers would considerably exceed 80,000 a year.

No time was lost in framing agreements under the Act. Passage agreements were concluded with Australia and New Zealand, and with the Government of Ontario, and as regards certain classes of emigrants with the Government of the Dominion of Canada. Important agreements for land settlement have also been arranged with three of the Australian States—West Australia, Victoria and New South. Wales, and a number of minor schemes have been initiated in cooperation with such bodies as the Salvation Army and the Church Army. What are the aggregate results? We have now had nearly two years of working. The following figures were supplied to me the other day in this House by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. The total number—we were anticipating 80,000 a year—of people who have gone out in the period of nearly two years amounts to 55,036, of whom 38,779 have gone to Australia, 8,287 to New Zealand, 7,957 to Canada and 13 to South Africa. The total expenditure of the Imperial Government, which by this time might have amounted under the Act to £4,500,000, has been less than £500,000—£460,100. A considerable portion of the total expenditure represents loans recoverable over varying periods.

I hope the House will agree that I was justified in putting down a Motion that the rate of progress has been disappointingly slow. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Sir H. Cowan) will go more fully into the reasons which have retarded the success of the scheme. If hon. Members care to look into the matter, they will find many of these reasons admirably set forth in the Report of the Overseas Settlement Committee, Command Paper 2107. The reasons, I will not say for the failure, but for the relative failure of the scheme, are partly economic. As the Report says, rather paradoxically, periods of bad trade, trade depression, are less favourable to migration than periods of prosperity. They say: Experience shows that the figures of migration and settlement are higher at times of trade prosperity and lower in times of trade depression. Since the Act came into operation, we have been passing through a period of very severe trade depression. Of course, large expenditure is necessary, and nobody is going to make large expenditure until they are reasonably certain of the markets to which produce can be sent. There are other reasons, partly political, about which If do not want to enlarge, and others partly personal and psychological. Towards the end of the 18th century, Adam Smith made a remark that man is, of all kinds of baggage, the most difficult to transport. He was thinking of other things. He was thinking of the operations of the Poor Law and so on, but his remark is still true. Something might be done to over come this human vis inertiæ, if I may so speak of it, by group settlement.

We ought, if possible, to try to extend the principle of what is technically known as collective nomination. Under this arrangement, which has been tried in Australia upon a small scale in the past, nominations were made, not by individuals, but by churches, philanthropic societies and other organisations overseas in favour of persons to be selected by kindred churches, kindred societies or kindred organisations in this country. In this matter we might take a hint from the history of our earliest English settlements in North America. They were all on the group system, and as the strongest of the ties of that clay was the tie of community of religious faith the groups were based upon that principle. Thus you had the Puritan group in New England, the Roman Catholic group in Maryland, the Anglicans in Virginia and the Quakers in Pensylvania, New Jersey and so forth.

Would it not be possible to apply the same principle, though not on the same lines, to group settlement in the Dominions to-day? You might have county settlements. We have got, I think, an association of the men of Kent for the purpose, and I rather think that there is an association in Devon and Cornwall. You might have Old Boys' Schools settlements, and you might have college settlements. That is my first practical suggestion—that you should develop this collective group family scheme of settlement. My second very earnest suggestion is: Do let us take some real trouble and thought about the settlement, of children and adolescents in the Dominions. I do not know whether Members of this House remarked a letter in the "Times" a day or two ago from Dr. Laurie, of Edinburgh, in which he said: The mother ship is loaded over the Plimsoll line with a valuable cargo of youth for which the Dominions are calling. We are at present turning out every year from our elementary schools 550,000 children. I suppose that the total output of the schools of all classes is about 800,000 a year poured into a congested I about market. Our Dominions are calling for boys and girls. The appeal of Dr. Laurie is endorsed in the "Times" of to-day by Commissioner Lamb of the Salvation Army. The Dominions are calling for boys and girls. These are the only human commodities for which the Dominions can be said to be calling, except women ready to undertake domestic service, but, as the late Parliamentary Secretary of the Overseas Committee said, I put juveniles first. So do the Dominions. So does the Prince of Wales, who, speaking at a dinner of the Child Workers' Society the other day, said what will be endorsed from every quarter of this House, that of all forms of waste the saddest is the waste of child life. He speaks from experience in these matters, and he went on to say, My experience is that the younger the people who go out overseas the easier it is for them to settle down to the new life and the new conditions. I do not think that anyone speaking in this House ought to touch this subject of child and adolescent migration without paying a tribute to the wonderful work which has been done in this connection by the Salvation Army, the Church Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes and, not least—


By the Primrose League.

9.0 P.M.


That is a very stupid observation. I was speaking seriously, and was paying a tribute to the societies which have been doing a great national work and, not least, I was about to add, to the foundation of a young Oxford Rhodes scholar, Kingsley Fairbridge. The school which he started in Western Australia is now providing for about 200 boys and girls, the object being, as he put it in a telegram the other day, to present the waste of population under the Union Jack. I am confident that this work deserves the encomiums which have been passed upon it by the delegation of which the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean was a member, hut it is only on a comparatively small scale. On a larger scale you have the Dreadnought scheme in New South Wales, under which 2,500 boys are to be taken out and trained in farm work. That scheme is absorbing boys to-day at the rate of 60 a month.

You have in South Australia the scheme which takes its name from the Premier, Sir Henry Barwell. They are looking for six thousand boys under that scheme and they are at present absorbing 50 a month. A similar scheme was started in New Zealand some time ago providing for the absorption of 100 a month. All these schemes promise to absorb about 2,500 boys a year. My hon. Friends opposite expressed themselves as greatly impressed by what they saw of the working of these training and apprenticeship schemes. There have been a few failures, but I believe that out of 2,000 boys sent out under these schemes only 12 complaints have been received, which is a very remarkable testimony both to the care with which the boys are selected and the care with which they are supervised after they reach the Dominions, and supervision is very necessary.

Next, I want to urge the House to give a little thought and trouble to the migration of women. Here we have a concrete illustration of the general truth which I have been trying to impress as to the mal-distribution of population. We have a surplus of 2,000,000 women in this country, while in the Dominions they have a serious deficiency. In Canada, for example, they have an excess of 271,000 men, in Australia an excess of 88,000 men, in South Africa an excess of 44,000 men, and in New Zealand an excess of 27,000 men. In all, there is an excess of about half a million men in those four Dominions alone. We want to correct that excess. Family settlement seems to show us the lines on which we should proceed. Finally, I would suggest, particularly to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, to whose good work in this connection I desire to pay a tribute, that the time has come when we ought to consider whether we should not attempt to amend the Empire Settlement Act, and to amend it in such a way as to permit greater latitude in the manner of expenditure. I do not think that we need ask, or should ask, for more money. We cannot spend the money which we have got. We do want, I think, a little more freedom as to the way of spending it. In this respect I think that there has been a great change of opinion since we rather timidly, perhaps, put that Act on the Statute Book now just two years ago.

I have detained the House I am afraid at quite unwarrantable length, and I must apologise, but I would conclude with a very respectful but earnest appeal to His Majesty's Government, not more to the Government than to the House of Commons, and above all to the individual Members of this House of Commons, to do everything which in them lies to promote all sound schemes for the readjustment of our population, and especially the scheme which is embodied in the Empire Settlement Act. I am more profoundly convinced than I can convey to the House that there is no scheme of social reform so promising on which we can lay our hands. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, we have been discussing the problems of unemployment and housing. The urgency of those problems I would be the last person to question. The solution of them is vital to the well-being of our people. But may it not be that we are, perhaps, seeking to apply palliatives to symptoms when we ought to be penetrating to the root causes of the disease? Some of those root causes I have attempted to lay bare to-night. I have also indicated what I believe to be the real remedy, the only remedy, which is at once real and radical.

Perhaps at this critical moment in the destinies of our race we are in some little danger of taking the wrong turning We are impressed with the idea—I do not say too strongly impressed—of overpopulation, and there is a good deal of talk, in consequence, of an artificial limitation of the birth-rate. I want to see not fewer British people in the world, hut more. My own conviction is unshaken that there is no such good stock as that, and that the future of the world, humanly speaking, depends not on its diminution, but on its increase. But I do want to see that population better distributed throughout the Empire as a whole. That is the whole sum and substance of all the disjointed observations which I have inflicted on the House tonight. Surely the moment is peculiarly opportune for the appeal which I make to the House. It is only three days ago that the whole nation, nay, the whole Empire, from the King-Emperor down- wards, joined in a solemn service of thanksgiving and dedication. That service was, in truth—if I may borrow the wards of a particularly fine article in the "Times" of Monday last— an Imperial consecration of all good that the Empire has done, and of all good that it proposes to do and that it may do, to Him in whose sight a thousand years are but as yesterday and nations are as the small dust of the balance. Those are noble words, inspired by a lofty faith. In my Motion I ask the Government and the House and the country to give to that faith substance, and to translate those words into effective works.


I beg to second the Motion.

I propose to respond to my hon. Friend's suggestion by endeavouring to indicate to the House some of the reasons why the rate of progress under the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, has been so disappointingly slow. I approach this matter not as a hostile critic. If I must approach it as a critic, I approach it as a friendly critic, for I regard the Empire Settlement Act as one of the greatest achievements of the Parliament in whose lifetime it was passed, and I think that special credit and honour are due to the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who as Chairman of the Over-sea Settlement Committee piloted that Bill through the House. My criticism is not of the Act; it is of the administration of the Act. I believe that it is in the machinery which has been set up for the administration of the Act that we may find the principal causes of the slow rate of progress of Empire Settlement. In the first place, I have always regarded the contribution of the Imperial Government, towards the cost of transferring population from the home country to the Dominions, as altogether inadequate. I believe that we can afford to be generous. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place at the moment, and he might possibly dissent from that view, though we all know how generous he is in a cause that appeals to him. I hope that this cause will appeal to him.

We are burdened with an overplus of population. We have an immensely congested population, 400 persons to the square mile, compared with less than two persons per square mile in the great Dominions. It is so vital to our interest that we should reduce this excessive density of population, that we surely can afford to say to the Dominions which want population, "We will send you the people if you will provide for them when they reach you." I do not think that under the Empire Settlement Act we have been generous enough in our propositions to the Dominions. However that may be, the Empire Settlement Act has failed in its purpose to a large extent, as is shown by my hon. Friend's statement that out of £4,500,000 which might have been expended under the Act, so far less than £500,000 has been spent. The fact is that the administration of the Act has not been regarded from a business point of view. You cannot make any large undertaking progressive unless you advertise. There has been no aggressive publicity of the Empire Settlement Act; there has been no attempt to force it upon the attention even of our own people. The machinery by which it is operated is certainly very inadequate. I am aware that the Salvation Army, the Church Army, the Young Men's Christian Association, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, and many other voluntary institutions, have thrown themselves heart and soul into the movement and have done their best to ensure it success. But these organisations are not cut out for the job.

What is wanted is an ad hoc authority. I am aware of the strong objection that may be raised to that suggestion on the ground of expense. There is no doubt it is more economical to get the work done by these voluntary organisations which collect money from the public and receive nothing from the Exchequer. It is an economical mode of procedure, and if it were successful and efficient I should have nothing to say against it, but it is not successful or efficient. They have not got the settlers. I have had personal experience in this matter because within a few months of the passing of the Empire Settlement Act in 1922 I invited the Agent General of one of the great Australian States to visit my constituency in the North of Scotland, and I suggested that he should bring with him representatives of the Migration Department of the Commonwealth Government at Australia House. My friend accepted my invitation and toured my constituency. He and his associates of the Commonwealth Migration Department spoke in every large centre of population in the constituency and in many of the small villages, with the result that a very considerable number of migrants flocked to the agents and pressed themselves forward for selection, and they were of the most excellent type. What struck me most at those meetings, apart from the enthusiasm and the very large gatherings which we had, was the utter ignorance of the people in regard to the Empire, the Settlement Act, the machinery of the scheme and everything connected with it. If they had heard of it at all it had scarcely aroused their curiosity.

That was a successful experiment, and I believe further recruiting campaigns on the same lines under similar auspices and conducted as ably as that one was would yield excellent results. While that is so, I have no doubt it is only one of the methods which. might be employed with equal or even greater success. That is one method which I employed myself, and I certainly found it successful from every point of view except perhaps one, and that is a purely personal point of view. A Member of this House who goes to his constituency and talks about migration is liable to be very seriously misrepresented, but that is a small personal matter, and it is a risk which we ought to take if we have the interests of our country at heart. Two years have passed since the Empire Settlement Act was placed on the. Statute Book, and what do we find? There is no widely diffused knowledge of the provisions of the Act even in London, and in the country it is hardly known at all. It is hardly realised that we have an Empire. What the Empire means to the people is not realised. People who are living on what we call the dole, who are only keeping body and soul together, who are for the most part willing and anxious to work, but unable to obtain work, who through our bitter cold winters suffer the severest privations in this impossible climate of ours, hardly realise that overseas, a few weeks' sail from our shores, there are these wonderful lands, rich in soil and in minerals, with perfect climates, lands in which, if a man works, he cannot fail to succeed. They do not know.

We do not advertise, the Empire. It is true we have the Exhibition at Wembley this year, which is a great advertisement for the Empire, but Wembley is in London, and there are- hundreds of thousands of people who will never come to Wembley and who will soon grow tired of reading about it in the papers. They will learn nothing about the Empire, but will go on in their old miserable, ignorant way. I think it would be desirable if we could make it clear to them that the Empire is open to them; that going to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or South Africa is not a penalty but a privilege, is not a banishment but is only going from one province of the Empire to another. It is not much more difficult nowadays to go from London or the West of England to Canada than it was 50 years ago to go from London to the North of Scotland. What we want is systematic educational propaganda on a sufficiently large scale. We want to realise and to get other people to realise the magnitude of the problem. We want our people to understand that, in going to any of the Dominions, they are going to a land under their own flag, peopled by their own race, where their own language is spoken, and where their own religion is practised, or at any rate preached. In my view neither the home Government nor the Dominion Governments have done all that could reasonably be expeoted from them in this matter.

The hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) has referred to the Report of the delegation of which the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wigna.11) was a distinguished member. The delegation has reported that there is a certain hostility or, at any rate, a certain dislike on the part of organised labour in Australia in regard to the sending out from this country of skilled workers and artisans to go into the towns. It is feared that this might reduce not merely the price of labour and the standard of living, but might also, in exceptional circumstances, swell the present comparatively small sum total of unemployment. I understand, however, from the same Report, that there is no objection on the part of organised labour in the Dominions, certainly not in Australia, to the sending out of large numbers of land workers, provided we can give some reasonable guarantee that these will be well selected and will have some preliminary training in the elements of agriculture in this country, so that they may not be liable to drift into the towns and increase the labour problem there. I do not think we can regard organised labour in Australia as hostile to well-regulated migration, provided it applies to settlement on the land.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—


During the Session of 1922, and shortly after the passing of the Empire Settlement Act, I had the honour of organising a deputation to the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook. That deputation represented the Empire Parliamentary Committee, a non-official Committee of the House of Commons, consisting of more than 200 Members of the House. My right hon. Friend received the deputation with his invariable courtesy, and discussed very fully with it the machinery under which the Empire Settlement Act was intended to operate. We laid before him our views, and they were the views of 200 Members, in regard to the method of selecting emigrants, in regard to propaganda, in regard to publicity, and we ventured very respectfully, but I am afraid my right hon. Friend will say rather persistently, to urge that the Employment Exchanges should not find any part in the scheme. I do not say that the scheme we laid before the right hon. Gentleman was necessarily the best scheme. I am quite sure it will be open to many criticisms. I am equally sure that experience has shown that something much more thorough and far-reaching than the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman adopted is desirable if we are to make the Empire Settlement Act a piece of really effective Imperial machinery. I notice on referring to the Debates on the Second Reading of the Empire Settlement Bill that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook said: I am not recommending this policy of Empire Settlement as a panacea for the immediate crisis of unemployment with which we are confronted. But I find a little later the same right hon. Gentleman suggested that no more direct or more effective remedy for unemployment could be devised than a policy which would gradually rectify the abnormal distribution of population and convert those who were an unwilling burden on the community into producers who would be a source of wealth and strength alike to their new homes and the old ones. I do not think that anyone will maintain that Empire migration on the modest scale contemplated by the Empire Settlement Act can ever be an effective remedy for unemployment. But I do think that the voluntary transfer of labour from this overcrowded country to our almost unpeopled Dominions would relieve a great deal of individual distress and enable many a man, woman and child with no prospects here to live happy, contented and useful lives in the Empire beyond the seas. Here of course arises a, very difficult question. It is naturally resented by a man to be told that he must go here or there. You cannot say to any citizen, whatever his position, or however destitute he may be: "You must transfer your labour overseas to some other part of the Empire." It is only in Russia they do that. We are a free people and do not attempt to dictate to the proletariat. While every man has a right to refuse to go, we may remind our citizens that they have an option over their share of our great Imperial inheritance, and it is for them to decide when they desire to take it up. Every man has that choice. I do not say it comes to every man more than once, but every man once in his lifetime has that opportunity thrust upon him. But he does not realise what it is or what it means. He does not understand what he is sacrificing by refusing.

That brings me back to my major proposition that the Empire is not known to British people, that the Empire Settlement Act means nothing to them. They are unacquainted with the provisions, which have been insufficiently advertised, and it is only by rubbing it in, preaching it, carrying on propaganda all over the country in season and out of season that we will get the people of this land to understand the riches awaiting them beyond the seas. If we could only do that, then so far from our having to deplore in future debates that we cannot get men to go to the Dominions, we would have so great a rush of men, women and children anxious and eager to go that it would tax all our resources and those of the Dominions to meet them.

The Empire Settlement Act has been said to be too ambitious, and it has been described as being too costly. It has not cast much. We might have spent £4,000,000, and we have not spent half a million. This Act was all we could get at the time. Now, with two years' experience we must face the facts of this gigantic problem, and transfer the population within the Empire. It is no use talking in small figures. My hon. Friend the Member for York has spoken of what would be the result of transferring 1,000 000 unemployed persons from this country to Australia. It would be great. It would mean an enormous increase in purchases from Australia of our goods, and increased work for our people here. Our people are increasing at the rate of 600,000 a year. We have boldly to face a much bigger problem than that. We have to talk about millions, about inducing 5,000,000 people in the next 10 years to remove themselves for their own good and the good of their country to the Empire beyond the seas. The Report of the British Oversea Settlement Delegation states: During the current year, there is a probability that some 50,000 Britishers will migrate to Australia. It would take you 100 years at that rate to settle 5,000,000 in Australia, and all the time our population is increasing in this country at the rate of half a million a year. That is no solution. You have to do a big thing. You have to start a propaganda for removing millions of people in a comparatively short time.


Are you going?


Some hon. Members may say to-night it is folly and absurdity, a wild cat scheme. It is nothing of the sort. If you wait a few years you will all be saying what I am saying to-night. Australia to-day takes £60,000,000 worth of our manufactures. Double the population of Australia by the simple process of transferring 5,000,000 of our people from this country there, and you will treble the consumption of our manufacturers, while you will eliminate unemployment in this country altogether.


Do not they buy anything here?


MY reply to that interuption is that they cannot buy much when they are unemployed, and if within ten years we remove 5,000,000 people from this country to Australia, whether unemployed or not, we shall by so much relieve the amount of unemployment here and increase the purchasing power of those who remain. People who are living on doles cannot spend much money in the shops. I remember a speech delivered at a private gathering in the House of Commons by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, when he used the phrase that the problem we have to face is the bringing of the man-power of the Empire into touch with the resources of the Empire. He pointed out that we had vast undeveloped resources overseas. We had a soil which would yield gigantic crops, and it only needed to put man-power there in order to reap those benefits. I venture to say without any hesitation that this solution of the problem would be for the benefit of the whole British Empire.


I should like to say a word or two in support of this Motion. I cordially agree with the Mover that it is not for us, and none of us have any shadow or desire, to attribute blame in any direction, neither here nor overseas. That would be impertinent, unjust and not helpful. I want to encourage and stimulate, and if I speak with warmth about it, and I do so, it is because I see a great vital and short-lived opportunity slipping away. I am greatly disappointed with the operations under the Empire Settlement Act. Let LIB be frank with each other. Most of us are half-hearted about it. Look at the state of these benches. They are nearly empty. Broadly speaking, I say we are halfhearted; some of us are rather hostile. I do not deny that the emigration methods of the past have often been such as to justify a deep-rooted prejudice in the minds of the people at each end of the line. They have had sent them untrained people—people physically unlit for the job in front of them. They have been shipped by interested persons and have been attracted largely by shipping prospectuses, to seek their fortunes oversea. Of course, many have failed and have drifted into the big cities of the oversea Dominions to swell the roll of unemployed there. That being so, can you wonder that in some cases the Dominions tell us that they do not want our unemployed.

The crux of Empire settlement is to put this thing, in conjunction with the Oversea, Dominions, on a new and better plane. Of course, people have long memories and prejudice will still prevail. They will still bear in mind the emigration methods of the past. The Empire Settlement Act came into force on the 1st June, 1922. We authorised the expenditure of £1,500,000 in the financial year ending the 31st March, 1923, and we authorised the expenditure of £3,000,000 a year for each of the succeeding 14 years. Up to date we might have spent nearly £5,000,000, but the actual amount spent to the end of April last was only £561,492, and the total number of persons actually sent overseas was but 59,556—a deplorably meagre contribution to a vital and urgent social problem. We have here 650 people to the square mile. In Queensland—I am not taking extreme parts of the British Empire such as the Yukon—but in Southern Australia, in Western Australia and British Columbia there are less than two to the square mile and in Quebec and Manitoba less than three. Here to-day we have as many people at work as we had in 1914, but after all that we have a roll of a million unemployed. How we are going to absorb these people I do not know. Is it realised by the Oversea Dominions that our post-War unemployment problem is an entirely different one from our pre-War problem? Our unemployed to-day are young men mostly in their prime, sturdy, hardy and enduring, and those who suggest that they are of the same calibre as the pre-War unemployed do not know what they are talking about. They are under the greatest possible misapprehension. If these men were given an opening, I am perfectly certain they would make good use of their chances, as so many have done, but train them properly while there is an opportunity before the tide is lost, and then these men will become first-class pioneers, of that I am satisfied, in opening up the vacant spaces of the British Empire. Training is vital. It is no good taking these young fellows from the street corners of the great cities and expecting them to become at once agricultural workers. You have to give them an agricultural training, but unless we are careful we shall miss the tide, and they will become more and more unemployed and will prove more or less a charge on the public purse. It is now or never for these young men. Labour has said more than once—and I hope my hon. Friends above the Gangway will understand that I am trying to meet their case—"Develop your own home resources." Well, develop them to your heart's content, but when you have done that, do you think you can absorb the population of these Islands? I do not think so. You have to do both, and I shall not be backward in trying to do the former, and I plead with you to give me a hand in trying to do the latter. Ask the Lord Privy Seal, whose fine speeches on this problem have always filled me with admiration—those plucky speeches—as to the necessity for this work of Empire settlement.

Why cannot we all tackle this problem in the sort of way in which we tackled the problems of the War? Why do not we group these young fellows together, give them agricultural training, in cooperation with the overseas Dominions—because everything must be done in cooperation with them—and send them out to form new communities? Let us have infantry training camps over again, this time with volunteers, this time with a new and happier objective. I see the future of these young fellows down two vastly divergent vistas. Here they are, 300,000 of them under 30 or in the early thirties, first-class material, the makings of fine citizenship. If they stay here—develop your own resources as much as you will—I am afraid that for two out of three of them there is nothing but steady failure and ultimate disaster, and marriage with some girl, despondent in the fact that she is bringing into the world wretched little scraps of humanity to be reared amongst the squalor and misery of our East End rookeries. That is one vista. I see the other vista, for two out of three of them, health, and strength, and vigour, and success, in the open spaces of the British Empire, and a helpmeet happy that she is bringing into the world hardy, sturdy youngsters, on the broad open countryside and in God's good fresh air. Let us get on, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, let us get on!


The chief thing about to-night's Debate seems to be that so very important a question, on which we are told that the very existence of our Empire may depend, has drawn so little attention from Members of this House. We, on this side, are not supposed to be keen about emigration and, therefore, are not expected to regard this Debate as of supreme importance. But what I desire to draw the attention of the House to is this fact, that in the long speech of the introducer of this Motion not one word was said by him in regard to emigration as being a remedy for unemployment troubles. Neither was there one single word from him or from the Seconder of the Motion about the rights of our people to have a home in their own land. We have heard a. very great deal to-night about the British Empire being one country, and that people should be moved about it just for the convenience of other people, but not one word has been uttered as to the right of these men and women, born on this soil, to have a. right to the home in which they were born.


I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent what I said, but I expressly stated that no one ought to be moved about from one part of the Empire to another for the convenience, or at the wish, of anybody but themselves. I think everybody has the right to decide for himself, and no man should be obliged to go. I said that that was the Russian method, and not the British.


Of course, my last desire is to misrepresent, but as I have paid attention to this Debate, the singular thing that struck me was that complete disregard was paid to the natural feelings of these people who have to be moved from here to the ends of the world. I should also be the last person to try to put any sort of barrier in the way of a young man's desire to go to another part of the Empire or the world if, by so doing, he could better the position in which he finds himself, for I agree with what has been said, that we have to take a long view of the situation in which we are placed. I find myself, among the pessimists in regard to our industrial and economic outlook, and I see no chance whatever of our surplus population, as we call it, being absorbed into industry as quickly as I and other Members of this House would desire. It may be, therefore, that we have to consider another way of relieving the situation. I personally regard emigration, taken alone, as one of the great delusions if it is meant to be a remedy for this position in which we find ourselves. But we must also understand that, however quickly we may operate—and in this House we do not operate quickly—months and years will go by before we can reorganise our society so that all our people will find their place in industry and return to prosperity. I want, therefore, to ask whether this emigration proposal, put forward with so much certainty, is the real remedy to which we must look. It seems to me to be a ready-made expedient. There is no creative thought in regard to it. It is good as far as it goes, but it is one of those alluring things which make people believe that it alone is the solution of the whole problem. It seems to me that if we promote our emigration proposals as quickly as we may, we shall never overtake the problem by which we are faced in this respect, and there is, too, the fact that by the export of the best of our blood, the most virile of our population, we are devitalising, as it were, the most vital elements of our civilisation.

I, personally, believe that as a home remedy, as a remedy for our home affairs, there is very little, indeed, in this emigration proposal, and there is, in promoting it, a very considerable danger that we may be led to neglect other things. Therefore I want to associate myself with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), namely, that we have to take both these things together and not neglect either of them for the, sake of the other. To put all our strength upon emigration, while neglecting the reorganisation of our own land, is to me not wise statesmanship, it is bad eugenics, and it is an altogether inadequate remedy. Before our day, the doctors used, if a person was sick, to bleed him and make him weak. If he was very weak, they used to bleed him and make him still more weak. It seems to me that, when we are in trouble, the emigration solution is to take more of our best blood out of our community. That is to bleed our nation in a very sorry way. So I would say that we must look in this matter, not to emigration alone, but to home re-organisation. That is our main responsibility. I believe there are good acres waiting to be tilled. It does not mean that because farming in this country has not succeeded, it never will succeed. Land may not be able to pay three profits, the profit to the landlord the profit to the farmer, and wages to the worker. But the land would pay the worker himself. If it would give food to him and his family, provide a roof to him and his children as a result of the toil he put into it, then that land ought to be available to him for the service he gives. I do not agree that our climate is an impossible one. We have the best land and the best climate in many respects for farming in the world. I have worked as an agricultural labourer on its soil, and I know of what it is capable, if men can get access to the land, if they can put their strength into it, if they can get freedom from the embarrassment of its old traditional laws.

We must look at this emigration, therefore, from a different point of view, if we are to commend it at all. I cannot commend it as a solution of our unemployment difficulties, but there is a good deal in it if we are to regard our Empire as one country, and if it is a question of emigration, and not a question of deportation. Australia might have had our millions, if we had had the foresight years ago to direct our stream of emigration to our own Empire. But we were afflicted with the curse of individualism in this country, and millions of our best blood have gone to other countries, while our own Empire has been neglected, when a little help, a little guidance, might have given Australia twice the population she has got to-day. The fault is not hers. The fault has been the traditional policy of our own Government. In, regard to the provision made for the care of emigrants, I will not say a word, because my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall) has a close personal knowledge of that, and he will probably say a few words about it. But I think, considering all the difficulties, the arrangements for the reception of emigrants are as good as they can be made. Nobody is to blame for that. Members on all sides of the House have given earnest attention to these problems, and, as has been said to-night, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has been specially active in this matter.

10.0 P.M.

There is one problem which has not been touched to-night, and I will mention that, because, after all, that is at the bottom of the whole question. It is whether the people will go or not. That is the real difficulty. We cannot blame them if they prefer their own home to somewhere else. However poor a man's cottage may be, he prefers that cottage to some other man's palace. However pool his own country may be, he prefers that to the ampler opportunities of other lands. After all, we have encouraged him in that. That has been a part of our policy. In the Press, in the pulpit, on the platform, we have taught men to love their country to the point of death. Our workers and people of all classes did love their country to the point of death. Well, then, they do not want to leave it. They did not fight the War to make a home for heroes in Australia. They wanted opportunities in their own island. Somebody has said there is a

… spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest. And that spot is a man's own home. There may be other lands as fair, where people may be as kind, but they are not their fields and their people, and folk want to remain at home. So long as we can make it possible, our business should be to reorganise our own home affairs, so that men can live upon the soil of this country.

I will end by saying what I began by saying, that I would not say one word against opportunities being given for any young man of virility who voluntarily wanted to seek a home abroad in any part of our Empire. I know if I were a young man, and I had to choose between working on an English farm for a slave's wage, with the prospect of the Poor Law and pauperism in the end, and taking a man's chance of building a home in Australia, or somewhere else, I would not hesitate for a moment to do it. That is the real point, and so what we have to deal with to-night is to provide opportunities for those of our blood who want to take a man's chance and build a home in other parts of the Empire.


There is one aspect of this question to which I venture to draw the attention of the House, and that is the aspect with regard to juvenile emigration. In pre-war days, as is well known, a number of well-established institutions sent large numbers of orphans and destitute children to Canada, and if the House will pardon a personal reference, I myself have been associated with a well-known philanthropic institution in Man- chester, namely, the Boys' and Girls' Refuges and Homes, which had as one of its branches a home in Canada, and to this place every year many children from our own Man chester refuges, and from the various local boards of guardians, were emigrated every year, and that work, which was maintained for many years, I am bound to say, was eminently successful. I myself, having been greatly interested in this question of child emigration, have paid three visits to Canada, and have very carefully studied the condition of life for these children on the farms in Ontario. Therefore, I think I may claim indulgence for a few moments to state to this House what I myself discovered in Canada.

The object of my journey to Canada was to investigate on the spot the results of the work, and to judge the prospect of it for the future, and each time I returned to this country fully convinced of the wisdom and the value of child emigration. It was my pleasure and privilege to visit a very large number of Manchester boys and girls who had been placed on the farm homes in Canada. Wherever I went I was received with the greatest of kindness by the Canadian farmers. I myself saw these children under all circumstances, and, with one exception, these 'boys and girls were perfectly happy, and many expressed to me their sincere gratitude for having been sent to that country. As I say, they are in good homes, with an abundant supply of food and clothing, cared for and loved by those who have taken them; then, remembering them as I knew them on the streets and in the slums of Manchester, I contrasted their condition when rescued with what I saw of them, and I felt more than ever the value of this emigration system.

As is well known to the House, when the War came all emigration was stopped. It is only now beginning to be revived. I am quite aware that there are many people in this country who are not favourably disposed towards emigration, and especially towards child emigration, but I submit to the House that this is a question well worthy the serious consideration of the Government and all hon. Members. I realise, as other Members of the House realise. the importance of keeping the healthy and honest children at home and preparing them for work in our own country. We all realise the importance of that. But I think we have to realise this, Chat there is a very large number of boys and girls who every year are left orphans, or destitute of friends or relatives. There are also many who are rescued every year from degrading surroundings for whom, I submit, emigration is the most desirable thing. These children are taken up by the Poor Law guardians, or are placed in voluntary homes, and it sometimes happens that after careful training, and when they are able to earn money, they are trapped back to these degrading, drunken and vicious surroundings. I am convinced that it is a fatal mistake to allow children who have been rescued from such conditions to again come into contact with them. Their salvation is to be found in being placed far away from all the baneful environment of their early life.

I, therefore, submit to the House that by some well-prepared and safely-guarded scheme of juvenile emigration we accomplish three most important things. First of all, we are preventing the children who have been saved from probably lapsing into the misery of their former life; secondly, we believe our own over-crowded centres of population, where the struggle for existence grows fiercer every day; and, thirdly—and this is a most important point to me—we are former life; secondly, we relieve our own British boys and girls who in a few years will become citizens of our great Empire.

May I, in conclusion, be permitted to dispel the idea, if it should now exist in the minds of anyone—as it certainly did in the early days of the movement—that these children are badly treated. I have made careful inquiries from the farmers, from the children themselves, and from various public officials as to the treatment of these boys and girls, and everywhere I was assured that they received every care and kindness. The employers themselves undertake to clothe the children properly, to send them to school during a certain period of the year, and to see that they attend church and Sunday school. I am prepared to admit in a few cases where land is being opened up and the farmer just beginning that the little emigrant may sometimes be treated with rough comfort, but he is always treated as one of the family. As has already been said in the House, under the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, Parliament had given the Secretary of State considerable powers to formulate schemes, and co-operate in any agreed scheme of emigration to any part of our own overseas Dominions. Along with other Members who have spoken, I earnestly hope that the present Government will make full use of those powers. To-day we have half a million young people out of work. Thousands of them are unskilled, not learning any trade, and they are becoming demoralised at home. The problem as to where they are to go is a great one, and is becoming more difficult every day. These boys and girls are constantly adding to the ranks of unemployed. I suggest that one solution would be a well-organised scheme of training and emigration.

Mr. LUNN (Secretary, Department of Overseas Trade)

I wish this had been a full day's Debate, because the subject merits a longer time for debate than it has had. I cannot complain at the tone of the speeches which have been delivered, but I should have liked many other hon. Members to have had the opportunity of expressing their opinions upon this subject. I thank the hon. Member for York-(Sir J. Marriott) for having given me this opportunity of stating, for the first time, what is the policy of a Labour Government in this country on this subject. it is a thorny subject for a Labour man—or has been in past days. We have never been, I believe, too enthusiastic on this subject. If hon. Members noticed the speech yesterday of my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Turner) they would note his remarks to the effect that, instead of sending our people overseas, we had plenty of land in this country, and (he said) they should be settled here.


We have plenty of land!


That observation of my hon. Friend has been slightly modified by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) and by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell), in saying that we should take dual responsibility to see that we utilise what we have in this country more than what it is utilised to-day to place our people on the land, and we should also consider the other point: how far it is possible to find homes in the Dominions for people who do desire to go from this country to any other part of the Empire. There is also the necessary qualification to what has been said about doing our duty, and that is to realise our responsibility to the Dominions. I hope that, as a result of the Empire Labour Conference, which is to be held in London next August—and now Labour Governments are being elected, not only in this country, but in many other parts of the Dominions—that such a Conference will help to cement the bonds of mutual service and kindly comradeship between the mother-country and other parts of the Empire. The subject has become a fascinating subject to me since I became Chairman of the Oversea Settlement Committee. It is, too, one of the astonishing things, after being in politics for many years, to find that Governments before the War did nothing to assist migration to any part of the Empire. It took a devastating war to awaken this country to its sense of a responsibility from a Government point of view, and after the War the subject was largely left to voluntary agencies. I wish to re-echo what the hon. Member for York said when he paid a well-merited compliment to the voluntary societies for the work they have done in days gone by, and for the good work they are doing at present in this direction. It was after the War that we first had a. Committee under the auspices of the Government taking any part in this matter. As has been said, their first scheme was to send overseas some 50,000 ex-service men with their dependants, bringing the total somewhere near 100,000 persons.

This Committee is still working, and it is an excellent Committee. It is composed of men and women who know the Dominions very well indeed, who have lived there, and been there a great deal. Not having had an opportunity yet of visiting any part of the Dominions myself, I value much their aid and help in this direction. We have also representatives of the various Government Departments, and they are very anxious to give whatever assistance can be given in order to take advantage of what has been decided by Parliament with regard to the migration of people overseas. With regard to the position of migration from this country, I was a little astonished at the statement made by the Seconder of this Motion, because it was certainly very wide of the mark to say that we ought to have propaganda in this country to urge our people to go overseas. There is no need for it, because there are far more people to-day who are desirous of going overseas than we are able to cope with.

I cannot follow the line taken by previous chairmen of the Oversea Settlement Committee, and what has been said in one speech in this Debate to-day. I say, first and foremost, that our policy, if we have to assist migration from this country to any part of the Empire, should be family migration or groups of families. If the husband wants to go to the Dominions, means must be found to enable the mother and the children to go as well. Any scheme must be based on co-operation with the Dominions who are concerned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) is an apostle of this subject, and has often taken part in these Debates. When he introduced the Empire Settlement Bill he had great hopes that schemes would be organised which would utilise £1,500,000 in the first year and £3,000,000 in the succeeding 14 years. He showed great optimism at that time, for he said: I believe before very long we shall regard the amount now proposed as quite inadequate for so great and so remunerative a task."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th April, 1922; col. 584, Vol. 153.] For instance, he mentioned that, so far as Western Australia was concerned, they might take 75,000 persons, men, women and children, in five years, or 15,000 a year; whereas they have only taken, up to the 30th April, 4,394, and the scheme is now temporarily closed down. The scheme for Victoria, which was arranged after the Empire Settlement Act was passed, provided for the taking of 2,000 farmers in 12 months, but only 200 have bean enabled to go; and New South Wales, which was to take 6,000 in five years, has taken practically none. As regards those two schemes, there is no doubt that one thing which has prevented suitable people from going 'has been the need that they should have capital of their own, and it is a matter for consideration whether the schemes now in existence could not with advantage to all parties be improved upon, and new ones estab- fished, to provide for people 'who are without capital except healthy bodies and good characters, which are invaluable capital. Then my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who has been quoted in this Debate, spoke on the Second Reading of the Empire Settlement Bill, and he, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell said, has been a great supporter of this idea ever since I came into this House, at all events, that is since 1919. He said, in supporting it: While I congratulate my hon. Friend upon his belief in the virtues of this Measure …. I fear he may be disappointed in the ultimate consequences of its general working."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1922; col. 592, Vol. 153.] As was said by the hon. Member for York, in his long and interesting and informative speech, we have only spent something like £452,000 out of the £4,500,000 which it was expected would be spent in connection with this matter during the first two years. If we are to base our position on the estimate made two years ago, the progress that has been made has certainly been disappointingly slow; but I would rather that 55,000 people—that is the number assisted up to the 31st March—should go with the full co-operation of the Dominions, and that they should be settled happily, with work provided for them which will give them the opportunity to live, than that we should dump down half a million people in any country without regard to their future. The excellent Report, which has just been published, of the delegation who went to Australia, says: We do not think it would be right to bring pressure to bear which might lead to the acceptance by the States of numbers beyond those to which they are confident of doing justice, and I agree absolutely with them in that. If people have to go, there must be provision overseas for receiving and settling them, and this matter must be dealt with by co-operation and common understanding between this Government and the Dominion Governments. This question, I believe, has never been considered as a cure for unemployment. I am astonished to hear what has been said in this Debate' on that subject. The present Government do not look upon it in any sense as a cure for unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman, when he introduced the Bill, stated definitely that this was not a panacea for the immediate crisis of unemployment; but I believe myself that, if you take the long view, it has a most important bearing on our future trade relations with the Dominions. I would quote in confirmation of that a paragraph from a speech made by Lord Milner at a Conference in 1921. He said: Oversea settlements should not be regarded as a means of relieving abnormal unemployment, but that it can, if wisely directed and supervised, he of the greatest value in minimising future risks of unemployment by stimulating primary production overseas and thus providing foodstuffs for the people of this country, raw materials for their manufactories and safe markets for their manufacturers. With that I agree, if we take full advantage and take the long view.

Again, all schemes which may be arranged under this Act must be on a 50-50 basis, and I think those who have had anything to do with the subject realise that we must keep closely to that position. I heard a story the other day of a young man who was leaving his girl one night, and she said, "Shall we go to the pictures to-morrow?" Being a little short of money he said he did not mind, but it would be on a 50-50 basis. The young lady, feeling she might have him to herself in the shadows of the cinema for an hour or two, agreed. But when he turned up next night with another young lady and wished to take her as well on a 50-50 basis she objected. I am quite confident if you wish to stretch the Act to that point there would be very strong objections. I find great willingness on the part of the Dominion High Commissioners and Agents-General to cooperate on these lines. They have great difficulty in settling larger numbers. It can be truly said that we have large numbers of families, and groups of families, in our own country who are wanting to go overseas, and it is for the Dominions to make it possible for them to settle satisfactorily. They can count on our co-operation, and I accept the second part of the Resolution to the full extent of the Empire Settlement Act. In Devon and Cornwall there is a committee already at work. There are hundreds of families in that area who are desirous of being assisted overseas, but only 70 families have been assisted. Then my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Major Birchall) last autumn interested himself in this subject, and in a few days no fewer than 500 families from Leeds applied to be assisted to go to Western Australia. There have only been 20 of these families provided for up to date. If families want to go, I say we should help to the utmost of our power, but there must be proper schemes for their reception when they arrive and also employment on fair conditions, and a reasonable chance of success.

The present Government accepted the Resolution of the Economic Conference and will continue to give effect by administrative action to the policy of oversea settlement as embodied in the Empire Settlement Act. I have gone into the schemes since I became chairman and I have discussed them with the Australian representatives. There is no doubt that the comparatively slow progress of land settlement schemes arranged with various States is due to the financial basis, i.e., to the payment of only one-third of the interest on their loans for five years and the necessity for migrants to have capital. After discussing the whole question of settlement development in Australia with Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland, and later with Senator Wilson, the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration, we have offered, with the concurrence of the Treasury, to pay one-half of the interest for a period of five years on loans not exceeding £20,000,000, in addition to the loans which may be raised in the Commonwealth under existing schemes, together with one-third of the interest for a further period of five years. It is contemplated that these loans will be raised in instalments over a period of 10 years. It is stipulated that for each £1,000 of loan money the Australian Government should undertake to settle at least one family, without capital, averaging five persons, together with five other assisted emigrants, men, women and children, the Commonwealth Government to undertake to reorganise and place on a proper basis the existing arrangements for the reception, training, settlement, after-care and housing of the new settlers, under Government supervision.

That offer is now made to the Commonwealth Government to enable them to make attractive offers to the various States, and it is being conveyed to Australia by Senator Wilson. I hope that it will be considered by them sufficiently attractive to take advantage of it. It is very generous. It is within the terms of the Settlement Act, and, in view of the excellent and useful reports of the delegation, presided over by Sir William Wyndham, to whom the House and myself in particular must be deeply grateful, I hope they will give the offer serious consideration. If full advantage be taken of the offer, it should provide for something between 400,000 to 500,000 new settlers in Australia from this country in the next 10 years. If this can be done, it will be for the mutual advantage of our own country, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the families and groups of families who go there. Australia seems to be the most hopeful of all the Dominions, and has occupied the largest place in the speeches of hon. Members. As to New Zealand, I have heard a great deal during the last few months, and the opinion is freely expressed that this Dominion is the most ideal country for the British settler. Some 10,000 people were expected to go there, but there has only been something like 7,000 people who have gone there during the last year.

Canada has not come much into this Debate, although the hon. Member for Moss Side (Mr. Ackroyd) dealt with the question of children. That is one of the difficulties in connection with the subject of emigration. Most Members of Parliament, or many Members, have probably received more letters in regard to child migration to Canada than in respect of any other form of migration. I have gone into this question and have endeavoured to see whether it were possible to arrange schemes with Canada for migration of families and groups of families. The first group scheme that has been arranged with Canada has been arranged during the last few weeks with the Canadian National Railway but in these schemes they ask that those who go should have a, capital of £200. In that way I am sure that they are not going to get the settlers who ought to go out to Canada. I would like to see some offer made and taken advantage of by Canada, such as the offer we have made to Australia, in regard to encouraging families to go out.

I do not look upon schemes of migration of single men and single women as ideal schemes. I cannot imagine that men going from this country, from Piccadilly, the lights of London, the theatres and cinemas here, are going to make the best and most successful settlers on the land in the Dominions. So I should like to see more done to encourage the wife and children to go out, and to enable these families to go without capital. I believe that there is a possibility of arranging a scheme with Canada, which will enable the family to go as a whole and be settled properly as we would desire. With regard to children it has been interesting to listen to the hon. Member for Moss Side, but I do believe that if this bad been a day's Debate we might have heard other opinions with regard to the migration of children to Canada.

There were one or two untoward incidents which happened just at the time when I became Chairman of this Committee. I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of such incidents, but as a result we set on foot an inquiry in this country and appointed two members of the Committee to go carefully into the question of the selection of children, as there must be careful selection of children who are to go. Canada last year asked for 17,500 children and something like 1,100 went, so that it should be possible to select and secure good homes for the children. Every home, I understand, is inspected by a Government representative and by a representative of the voluntary society, but this is a, delicate matter as I know that there are objections from many Members of this House and from many parts of the country to this form of migration.

At the invitation of the Canadian Government, we are to send a delegation to Canada to enquire into the placing of children and the system of inspection. I am pleased to announce that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will act as Chairman of the delegation, so I ask the House to await their Report.

There are many other points, such as the position of the voluntary societies, which is an important factor which will have to be considered in this particular business in future, the development of the nomination system, which is perhaps the best system, the migration of public schoolboys, and other matters, with which I would have liked to deal, but I am such a lover of home and family myself that I have determined to do what I can to break down any barriers which stand in the way, and to plead if necessary with all our Dominions who need population to encourage families or groups of families as the best method of migration. Those who go there will attract others and become the best propagandists for Empire development.

It is our duty to consider this question not in any narrow sense, and to endeavour to see if we cannot co-operate to the full one with another in order to take full advantage. Let us make this a greater Empire, or commonwealth of nations, than it is to-day, brothers and sisters with a common language, common understanding, and common helpfulness towards each other for the removal of our difficulties. Whilst I say that, I do not forget that there are other countries outside the British Empire, that beyond the British Empire we want to see the League of Nations become a league of all nations, and that what we are seeking to do is not to establish the enmity of any nation, but peace throughout the world and the brotherhood of mankind.

I have no reason whatever to be disappointed with what has taken place as a result of the Empire Settlement Act. As soon as I took office as Chairman of the Committee, the scheme moved more quickly. The numbers who have gone out in the first four months of this year are 50 per cent. higher than the total of those who went out in the first four months of last year, and the scheme is moving on much sounder lines than in the past. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that we are desirous of helping those 'of oar people who want to go. We have no desire to dump any c f them anywhere where they do not want to go. If they are to be unemployed, it, is better that they should be unemployed among their own friends at home than that they should be employed in any part of the world where they have no friends. Whatever we can do to assist those who want to go, to arrange with the Dominions schemes which will assist people to go, and whatever we can do to secure for those of our people who desire to go that they shall be cared for and provided with employment and homes, we will do. I accept the last part of this Resolution on behalf of the Government.


The very sympathetic speech of the hon. Gentleman shows clearly that any failure there may have been to develop this policy to the full extent that some of us had hoped, has been due to no want of interest or enthusiasm on the part of the hon. Member or the Government. In view of his speech and of the interesting facts he has told us, and of the way in which he has accepted the whole spirit of this Resolution, I hope that my hon. Friend who brought the Resolution forward will accept the Minister's answer with satisfaction and not press his Motion to a Division. I am sure that if there have been difficulties and delays, they have not been, in the main, at this end; they have been due to conditions in the Dominions. The Dominion Governments have found in many cases—I might almost say in every case—that the actual problem of carrying out a scheme satisfactorily was greater than they anticipated, and, rightly, they prefer to carry out their scheme well rather than carry it out on too ambitious a scale. The very interesting Report of the delegation that went to Austalia shows how satisfactorily the work has been done. That is far better than that twice the number should have gone and the result have been failure for the individual concerned. I will ask one question in that connection. I hope it may also be possible for General Wauchope's Report on the special aspect of the matter in reference to ex-service men, to be published.


Its purport will be published.


The really important thing is that settlement should be on satisfactory lines. If it is, then it will rapidly increase. If I may venture to differ from my hon. friend the Member for North Islington (Sir H. Cowan), I doubt if it is desirable to over-advertise settlement until the conditions are ripe for it. The important thing, and the thing which is going to lead to the biggest development in the long run, is that our methods should be right. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) spoke of the unsatisfactory nature of past migration work. It was the spirit behind the work that was wrong. It was so often that spirit to which the hon. Member for East Wool- wich (Mr. Snell) referred, the spirit of blood-letting, of thinking you were going to get rid of a surplus physically and get rid of your moral responsibility as well. That is an absolutely wrong view to take of the problem. The conception which I, at any rate, had in mind in connection with the Empire Settlement Act was that it was a means of retaining and extending our responsibility to those who went overseas, as well as for those who remain at home. The object of contributing money is in no small measure to give us the right to have some say in the condition under which settlers are dealt with on their arrival in their new home. The conception which we ought to keep in mind is that if there are citizens of our country who wish to find homes in the Empire outside, our responsibility goes with them, and we still wish to ensure not only that there are good arrangements made for their selection, voyage and on their arrival, but that the arrangements afterwards should be such as to ensure their success.

That is essential, and I hope it is from that point of view alone that the House will look upon this policy. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for East Woolwich in deprecating the idea that this is a panacea to the exclusion of other remedies. If we want to give opportunities for happy homes and a prosperous future to our citizens if they go to the Dominions, that is not as an alternative to endeavouring to find happy homes and better opportunities for them in our own country. On the contrary, we have to accept both of these tasks, and probably it will be said that out task at home is the greater and the more urgent of the two. My conception is that the two go together and are largely complementary to each other. May I take as a parallel the similar problem of social reform which exists in our great cities. It has been the almost universal experience of social reformers in municipal matters that it has been necessary for them to enlarge the scale of their operations. They have had to enlarge the boundaries of their cities for their town-planning schemes. It was never meant by that that they should neglect the slum problem in the hearts of the cities. On the contrary, town planning work on the outskirts of our cities has made it easier to deal with the problem of the congested districts in the centre. To my mind the importance of this work, this town planning on an Empire scale, is that just as we create better and happier conditions in the Dominions for those of our citizens who wish to go to the Dominions, so we will be able also with better opportunities, but certainly with the same intensity of purpose, to deal with the more pressing problem of home life within this country.

The same applies to the problem of unemployment. I entirely agree that we cannot regard Empire settlement as an immediate panacea for an abnormal condition of unemployment. We have to deal with our unemployed because they are un- employed. We send people or help them to go across the seas, not because they are unemployed, but because they have a chance of succeeding. To that extent the two problems are different. But what is true is that to whatever extent the movement of our people overseas relieves unemployment it relieves it in a very satisfactory manner. The man who settles overseas is like a man who crosses the Floor of this House. He counts two in a division. Not only does he case the problem here, but his custom to this country helps the economic situation of those who remain. It is from that point of view and not from the point of view of this year or next year, not from the point of view of years of unemployment any more than from the point of view of years of good employment, that we want to persevere with this work.

The whole trouble in this country has been that our economic life is unbalanced and is so much at the mercy of disturbances in other countries beyond our control. The more we can widen our economic basis and spread our people in the Empire the greater our insurance against fluctuations in the world outside. We do not want to lessen our foreign trade any more than our general interest in the world, but the wider our own basis the greater our security. There is really, in my opinion, no limit to the advantages which in the long run will follow this policy if wisely pursued. It is the real foundation of Empire and domestic prosperity in the future. There is no reason why we should not attain the same kind of prosperity and the same standard of life which the United States have attained. They have spread their people over a great rich territory. We can do the same. We cannot do it in a moment, we have to do it in co-operation with the Dominion Governments. We have to advance steadily, though I agree we should try to advance more rapidly than at present. The great thing is that we should do it on right lines and from the right point of view, as simply social reform writ, large and dealing with the whole problem of national life on a wider scale.


I should have liked to have had the opportunity of going very fully into the subject before the House, and giving explanations as to the slow ness of the progress made by the Oversea Settlement Committee, but the time 'has been taken up, and there is no opportunity for me to deal very largely with the question as I should have liked to have done. There is an entirely different aspect of affairs when you look at it from the spot which is affected and when you look at things exactly as they are and mix among the people and understand the position from their view point. First of all, we must not forget that our Dominions are self-governing Dominions, and that they have the right to say who shall, or shall not enter through their gates. We cannot, and have no r4ght, and I hope will never attempt to claim the right, of putting people there against the consent of the Dominion itself. Our operations were joint operations by agreement, and the very duty of the delegation was to investigate into the various matters as they were developing, and to report accordingly.

The first thing that amazed me in Australia was the land question. Beautiful speeches have been delivered suggesting that this land was free to anybody who chose to go upon it and peg out their claim and settle down. It was said that no one would disturb them. I travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles across the country, even into the back country, and I asked those who guided us, "What is the reason for these wires along the roadside on both sides?" "That is private property" was the answer. I said I should like to be shown some land that was not private property. The fact is that the land is in the hands of large landowners and syndicates and trusts, and to a great extent it is held for profit and sold at the highest possible price to be obtained. The difficulty that the State Government has had in developing their plans has been to buy sufficient land to develop on the lines they desire. We found, particularly in New Zealand, where the Government have purchased huge tracts of land for settlement that the same thing applies. In the States of Australia prices have gone up so high, and men settling on the land have had to pay such high prices, that the whole thing has proved unremunerative and unproductive. They cannot make it pay. I have looked at these men struggling hard to make their little farms profitable. They are men who sacrificed themselves in the War, men who lost fathers and brothers to free this land from the aggressor, and now they are being called upon to pay such exorbitant prices that it is impossible for them to make a living on the land. That is one of the great difficulties we have to face in working out the Oversea Settlement scheme as rapidly as we would like to.

Another difficulty is that in the States of Australia the cities are overcrowded, there is a shortage of houses, and people are drifting back from the country and thus helping to make the trouble still greater. We have a great deal of unemployment in this country, but they have got their unemployed problem in Australia, not so great as ours, but in proportion, quite as serious. The very first meeting I was called upon to address in Melbourne was a meeting of the unemployed. In Sydney, when I arrived there, I was surprised to find that they had 20,000 unemployed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are there any unemployed in agriculture?"] Of course there are. Does the House know that a farmer only employs labour about two seasons in the year, for ploughing and for harvesting, and that during the remainder of the year the men are unemployed? That is one cause of the failure of land settlement. There is no employment to give these people at certain periods of the year.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.