HC Deb 24 February 1926 vol 192 cc641-72

I beg to move— That steps should be taken by the Government on a large scale towards the further development of Greater Britain in order that new fields of remunerative employment may be opened up and unemployment relieved in Great Britain. During the past two centuries we have never had any long period of time without unemployment. It is an evil that has existed ever since we became an industrial State. Since the conclusion of the Great War unemployment has reached a point when it can no longer be dealt with by palliatives such as doles, which ruin the recipients and cost more than the nation can afford to spend without getting a return. Remunerative work is hard to obtain because manufacturers cannot find markets for their goods, and our industrialists are no longer able to capture the market of Europe. They relied perhaps too much upon being able to get our goods in in countries where the art of industry was not on a par with ours. We cannot count upon those markets to the same extent in future. There are two reasons that I could name for it. In the first place, there is far more education in the world to-day than there was. The schoolmaster is abroad, and education has been speeding up at a great rate. In addition, you have modern science, which has brought countries much nearer to each other by the development of electricity and transport, and modern machinery, which has largely done away with that handicraft for which our men were noted. Countries that in the past used to buy from us now own their own machinery and produce their own goods. As a result, we often find that we have to compete with countries which have a lower standard of living than we have, and where lower wages are accepted and longer hours are worked.

In addition to that we find that in this country and in other leading countries of the civilised world where there were makers of machinery they have done all in their power to get the more backward countries to buy their machinery, and they have sent their skilled men to teach them how to use it. I have visited mills in foreign countries. I saw machinery that was made in England, I saw machinery that was made in Germany and machinery that was made in America. On asking about it I was told, "The original mill was erected by foreign mechanics. They stayed here and ran it and taught our people how to run it and then turned over the mill to them." Those are countries that can no longer be considered as great purchasers of British goods. They are our competitors in nearly all the markets of the world. At home we are suffering. We cannot get our goods in for, in addition to what I have said, you find that almost all the countries have put tariffs on foreign goods in order to prevent them being sold in their country at prices which would prevent their mills running and would put their men on the unemployed list. In England to-day we have thousands of able workmen ready and willing to work who cannot find the work. We have some mills lying idle and some working only half time, unable to give the employment because they cannot get rid of their output. In Great Britain, as part of the British Empire, we ought to suffer very little or no unemployment. Great Britain is over-populated. The Empire is under-populated, and I therefore feel it is our duty to see whether we cannot get migration within the Empire, whether temporary or permanent, but such migration as will enable more work to be obtained.

Let me glance at the question of population in the 17th century, when the Pilgrim Fathers started out to form in America a new England, where they would live under their own flag, the population of England was under 5,000,000. In 1801, the first time a general census was taken, the population of Great Britain amounted to over 10,500,000. In the census taken in 1921 we find the population reached nearly 43,000,000. The result is that within a period of 120 years we have found that our population has been more than quadrupled, and to-day we have in Great Britain 406 people to the square mile, while in England alone we have 701. What is the position in other parts of the Empire. In Canada and Australia, two of the greatest units in the British Empire, with vast territory, they have only two persons to the square mile. There you have magnificent territory and a small population. In Germany there are 348 people to the square mile, in Japan 339, and in the United States of America, with its vast territory, 35. It is generally recognised by all practical men that unless we populate the undeveloped portions of our Empire we cannot expect indefinitely to retain them. Something must be done, and it is for these reasons, as well as for the welfare of the over-population in our home country, that I urge upon the Parliament of this country to take steps to see that migration is conducted on a large and efficient scale.

There are a great many ways in which migration could be carried out. Let me give the outline of an idea which would require careful investigation in the hands of a committee which should have power, with the approval of the Government, to act. We have already the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, which was passed in order to make better provision for furthering British settlement in His Majesty's Dominions. It provides for joint assistance with public authorities or with public or private organisations to suitable settlers in connection with land settlement schemes. I think it is very generally recognised that it is the duty of the Government to take a hand in the control and regulation of migration within the Empire, and that the Government are now doing. It is only a question as to whether any better way could be found in which the Secretary of State, using the power which he already has, may be able, if the House so decides, to deal with the matter in a larger and quicker manner.

I propose the establisment of Empire Development Corporations, with a separate Corporation for each Colony where operations might be undertaken, each Corporation to have ordinary shareholders, who must become resident in the Colony and would ultimately be the owners of the Corporation, but the ordinary shares to be held for the time being in the hands of trustees appointed by the Government.

The members of each corporation would be divided into guilds. The pioneer guild would do the pioneer work, the grubbing, the clearing of land, the preparation of land for cultivation, the making of roads, and so forth, and, if minerals were found, would do the work in connection with their development. There would be a building guild, a farmers' and planters' guild, a business guild, and other guilds which might be found necessary. The capital necessary to start the enterprise would be found by issuing preference shares at a reasonable interest, which could be paid off at any time by the proprietors giving 12 months' notice, the Government, if necessary, guaranteeing the interest for a period of years. A certain amount of money might have to be lent by the Government on debentures. When the crops had been put down, the Government, if called upon from time to time, would make the necessary advances on them, on an agreement that a certain percentage should be marketed in Great Britain.

The management of each corporation would be in the Colony in which it is located, but there would be a central clearing house in London to regulate finances and co-ordinate the operations of all the corporations. No one would be entitled to own ordinary shares until after five years' connection with the corporation. Prior to being entitled to become a shareholder, a committee, appointed at first by trustees and afterwards by the local members of the corporation in the Colony, should have the power to object to anyone who has proved himself, in their opinion, undesirable to become a member. The duty of the Empire Development Corporations would be, first, to make arrangements with the various Dominions and Colonies for the lease of areas of undeveloped land for a period of 99 years, with the right of the corporation to purchase at any time during the lease any or all of the land at the price agreed as the value of the land at the time of the signing of the original contract, provided that it is handed over by the corporation in fee simple to a genuine settler, who must be a member of the corporation.

The second duty of the Corporations would be to send out to the leased land a large expeditionary force of men belonging to the pioneer guild for a period of three or five years to do the grubbing, construct the roads, clear the land and prepare for cultivation. Each man who proved himself suitable as a settler would become entitled to become a shareholder in the Corporation operating in his particular locality. Following the pioneers, then the builders, then the planters and farmers would be sent out, and in a short time the families and the community. My sketch is very rough and would naturally need most careful thought and probably would require amendment and enlargement, but I believe that it is feasible, and that there are to-day in our own country public works contractors, men who have built harbours, dams and great railways in foreign countries who would undertake a job like this and bring it to a success.

I shall probably be told that no Dominion or Colony would agree to such an enterprise. With that statement I entirely disagree. Our brothers across the seas realise as much as we do that populations are growing the world over and that the habitable portions of the globe are sought for by many nations, and that the only sure way of their retaining their lands must be by inhabiting them. In the way I suggest, they would get populations of their own kith and kin. The Dominions and Colonies possess some of the best of our race, men who, although tenacious of their rights, are fully alive to the benefits that accrue from the maintenance and success of the British Empire. They fully realise that the development of unbroken areas within their jurisdiction would mean the creation of new towns, new roads, and new taxpayers.

I shall not deal with all the likely places that may suggest themselves to the minds of hon. Members, but I will refer to a few. I will refer to Canada, that great country with an enormous area and only two persons to the square mile, lying contiguous to America with 35 persons to the square mile. Canada knows that she requires settlers, but she will not have any settlers unless they are of the best, and we can give her the best. In 1923 Canada produced 500,000,000 bushels of wheat, and I am told that not one-sixth of the cultivatable land in Canada was occupied. Now let us go a bit farther, to Tasmania. There is an island more than half as big as England with only nine persons to the square mile as against our 701. It has got a climate which must be magnificent, for I am told it is exactly the same as ours here in England. It has got great mountains and primeval forests, but it has vast plains that might be looked into for cultivation. I believe that those are two countries where an appeal like this would be useful, and we can get heaps of places where our own people could go and earn a livelihood. They might only go for a period of years, but they would remain under the British flag and do as the old pilgrims did, decide that they would rather work under the British flag than any other in the world.

I do not intend to take up much more time, but I would like to say this. I know that it is the policy of the Government, as stated by the Prime Minister, to co-operate in every way possible with the Dominions and Crown Colonies for development of Empire resources, for the promotion of settlement within the Empire and for the expansion of inter-Imperial trade, but I want to urge on the House that this is not the time to deal with matters in driblets. We want a big, broad scheme for the Empire. We want unanimity here in connection with it and we want our people to feel that those who go out are not separating themselves from the Mother Country but are going out to do service to the State and the Empire, and I believe that, if this scheme were carried out and a broader and quicker method is adopted than exists to-day, we shall not only be providing a livelihood to those who may emigrate, but that we shall be affording still more markets for our products.


I rise to second the Motion submitted in such carefully considered and moderate terms.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth is of all Members in this House competent to talk on Imperial subjects. He has himself had wide experience of the conditions which obtain in our oversea Dominions and Dependencies, and when he comes to this House and submits a proposition of the kind he has placed before us this evening, I am sure the House will treat with respect the suggestions he has made. The question of expanding our Imperial possibilities, of bringing the different constituent parts of the Empire closer together, and of encouraging every means of developing inter-Imperial trade, must always be an important part of the policy of any Government which may be in office in this country and, if I may venture to say so, I think it occupies a very conspicuous place in the programme of the present Administration. I think the House knows that no Minister, in our time at all events, has had wider experience of the whole Imperial system than the present Secretary of State for the Dominions and Colonies. We may be perfectly satisfied that in his care any question affecting the Empire will receive the fullest and most thoughtful consideration.

The proposition submitted to the House to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth is one, of course, with which he could not deal in exhaustive' detail. He gave outline of a general proposition in relation to which corporations should be established in various parts of the Empire, endowed with certain distinctive faculties for the development of trade, the extension of settlement and so forth. The only little embarrassment with which I think my hon. Friend's proposition will be met is that he suggests, in putting his proposal before the House, that a Government guarantee of credit should attach to the scheme when it is put into operation in the various parts of our Dominions. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider that suggestion very carefully, but I am not at all certain that if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were on the Front Bench he would be inclined to smile on the proposal of my hon. Friend for the establishment of a Government guarantee for the corporations in different parts of the Dominions. I think that we are not, perhaps, giving as much clear thinking to these Imperial questions in this country as ought to be the case. I am proud to think that on the benches opposite a good number of hon. Gentlemen have been giving much thought to Imperial questions during the last few years, and I think Members on this side of the House will read with much satisfaction a very important contribution on Imperial thought which has recently been made by the Empire committee of the Labour party. But wherever we may sit in this House, we must endorse the proposition and the statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, that the only substantial hope for the future expansion of our trade and the future happiness of large masses of our people is by a development of all possible means of making the Empire itself more reproductive and more highly organised for the reception of our people.

Of course, I am one of those who hold very strongly that in relation to these Imperial questions the dominant consideration is that we must have preferential arrangements between this country and the constituent parts of the Empire if real, wholesome and continuous trade expansion is to take place. There is very little use—and I think that is the experience of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, since we came into office—in making concrete propositions, even of the excellent character submitted by the hon. Member for Plymouth, to our overseas Dominions, for encouraging migration and greater production of food and raw materials, and for expanding markets where we can dispose of our manufactured products, unless you are prepared to offer to the Dominions and Dependencies some preference in our markets in this country for the products they send here.


On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to introduce the question of preference with the Dominions into a Debate on this Resolution?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

Yes; I think the bounds of the Motion are quite wide enough.


I was only pointing out, with reference to the proposals made by my hon. Friend, that any scheme of the kind he contemplates can only really be effective and helpful as between the Mother Country and the Dominions and Dependencies, if a system of preferential trading is established, as would have been the case, and as has been the case, in every other colonising nation in the world. The most happy recollection in recent times of stress in relation to our trade, is the steady rise in the purchasing power of our Imperial markets. Any-one who examines the figures of the Trade and Navigation Returns for the last five or six years, will observe a steady decline in our foreign market, but at the same time, and indeed in more than corresponding degree, a steady increase in our Dominion and Colonial markets. Therefore, we have the encouraging sign, on the hard basis of statistics, that our own Empire steadily from day to day is becoming our most valuable customer.

There is a certain amount of uneasiness in the country at the somewhat dilatory way in which the recent grant of £1,000,000 for the encouragement of inter-Imperial trade is being dealt with by the Department of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. When the Prime Minister told the country that this exceptional provision, which, as far as I know, had no precedent in our national administration, was made for the purpose of encouraging inter-Imperial trade, I thought that some positive steps would be taken without delay as evidence of something being done to bring ourselves and our Dominions to a definite understanding on some practicable scheme. But up to the present I do not think that the Secretary of State—

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being present


I am very sorry that an hon. Gentleman opposite has delayed the time of the House by asking for a Count. On this side of the House we have extended every conceivable courtesy of that nature to hon. Members on the other side, and in talking of Imperial questions, which are of as much interest to hon. Members opposite as to us, it is a pitiable thing to have a Count called in the middle of a Debate of this nature. The question of Imperial development has been, perhaps, brought home more to us in the last two years by reports which we have had on that wonderful new part of the Empire, the Kenya Colony and Uganda. I had an opportunity recently of seeing a deputation of South African farmers who had spent some time in the Kenya Colony investigating for themselves, and, of course, in the light of their own life-long South African experiences, the possibilities of that part of the Empire. They told me that there we have almost every variety of climate, rich soil, abundant opportunities of cultivation, and that, when irrigation schemes have been established, practically every kind of product useful to man can be produced in ever increasing volume in a vast territory of 1,000,000,000 acres.

I know that the Secretary of State has been giving very careful consideration to the possibilities of this new part of the Empire. Indeed, I think it is a great tribute to his administration of the Colonial Office that one of the first constructive acts associated with his work was the vote of £10,000,000 for the development of that great new area. It is certain that with the establishment of harbours, the making of new lines of rail way, the opening up of that country, the introduction of modern farming methods, and the aid of expert knowledge, immense advances and immense economic expansion may be anticipated in that part of the world within a very short period of time. The question calls for united effort, and common understanding on the part of all parties in this House. There is nothing that has given me more satisfaction for a long time than my recent contact with certain Members of the Labour party who have as high a conception of their responsibility towards the Empire as those of us on this side who have from time to time called ourselves Imperialists. I sincerely hope that we shall have a more generous exchange of views on these great questions between both sides of the House in the days to come.

There is no earthly reason why the question of our Imperial growth, the advancement of our Imperial economic possibilities, should be a question of party differences in this House. A question of this kind is one which must make an appeal to everyone, no matter to what school of thought he may belong. Although one cannot expect any great result from a Debate of this kind, yet it is useful and helpful and hopeful that Imperial questions are discussed here from time to time. One is always glad to observe that when Imperial questions are discussed quietly and helpfully in this House, we have always a response from the other parts of the Empire in appreciation of the measure of thought that we give to the questions which affect them. I hope that in this Parliament, and in future Parliaments, there will be a steadily rising enthusiasm for Imperial things, sympathy for the difficulties which Imperial statesmen in our Dominions have to contend with, and a more intimate understanding of the nature of the problems which attach to all these proposals for Imperial migration, economic development, Imperial transport, and so forth.

Some people are inclined to talk a great deal on this question without ade- quate knowledge, and I suggest that there is to be found in the Library of the House and elsewhere, an immense volume of information relating to the Empire which could be studied with much profit by many hon. Members. This Debate is a step towards a wider understanding of our Imperial affairs. My hon. Friend the Mover has well discharged an admirable work in bringing this subject under the notice of the House, and I sincerely hope that in the discussion which will follow, his proposal will be sympathetically if critically reviewed. He will at all events, I feel sure, have the satisfaction of meeting with a general acceptance of the broad principles of Imperial advancement, and that acceptance and approval by the House will reverberate throughout the whole of our Imperial estate.


When I heard the non. Member for Plymouth (Sir A. S. Bean) announce, the other day, that he intended to move a Resolution dealing with unemployment and the provision of remunerative employment, I cheered, as did most hon. Members who sit behind me. There are so many ways in which the hon. Member might have dealt with this subject in a practical way, that one is sorry to find that he has put on the Paper a Motion such as that which we are discussing to-night. I think it unfortunate that we should have a Motion like this on the subject of Empire migration. I do not propose to deal with the speech of the Seconder, but rather to confine myself to the speech of the Mover, because he has made it clear that his idea of finding remunerative employment for the unemployed of this country is that we should shovel the unemployed off to some part of the Empire overseas. That is the only interpretation which can be put upon his speech. It is not so unfortunate, perhaps, for Members of this House that he should make a speech of that sort, but it is terribly unfortunate for those in the Dominions who are interested in and working for Imperial migration, that such a speech should appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Everybody I know who is interested in the subject and who desires to encourage migration, has kept aloof from the idea of supporting the movement with the intention directly of relieving unemployment. As a matter of fact, if the Mover reads the Reports of the Overseas Settlement Committee of recent years, he will find this is very clearly laid down year after year. I will read just one paragraph from the report of a delegation of representatives of all parties which went to Australia three years ago. They said: In the course of our tour we found many evidences of a suspicion that our mission was largely due to the desire of the home Government to decrease the burden of unemployment at home by shipping to Australia large numbers of the unemployed people, without too much regard to their suitability for life in the Dominions. I do not deny for one moment that migration would relieve unemployment and encourage trade, but to give the idea to the people of Australia—where five of the State Governments are Labour Governments and where they have unemployment, perhaps in a small way—or to the people of Canada that our wish in this matter is merely to relieve unemployment at home, is not very helpful. Indeed, I was sorry a few moments ago that the House was not counted out, as I am particularly interested in migration and wish to give all the help I can. If I dare do so, I suggest to the Mover that it would be more in the interests of migration if he were to withdraw this Motion, rather than it should be passed by this House, and carried across the seas to our Dominions, as an expression of the policy of the present Parliament. The Labour party have shown during the last two or three years—many members of the party at all events—that they are interested in this subject. Since Government interference entered into this question at all, as much has been done by the Labour Government as by any other Government in pressing it forward. It is not so long ago since Governments in this country interfered with or supported migration. It is only since the War that it has been done, but during the short period of the Labour Government's existence, steps were taken to encourage a better understanding between this country and the Dominions, as important as any which has been previously taken, and efforts were made to reach an agreement which would not only provide for people who wished to go to Canada or Australia, but would also ensure proper reception, settlement, and after-care For them when they had landed in those Dominions.

That is largely what Government interference in this matter should mean, as I see it, and I had no difficulties as Chairman of the Oversea Settlement Committee with the Cabinet of the Labour Government in encouraging this particular movement in this way. But we never allowed it to be understood, nor do we desire that it should be understood, nor do I think it is the desire of the Dominions Secretary that it should be understood, that we are anxious to push our people out of this country, that we are overcrowded here, and that the people must go away whether they want to go or not. Our aim should be to help those who do want to go. In fact, there are thousands of people in this country who want to go to Australia, Canada or New Zealand, the three Dominions with which we have an arrangement under the Empire Settlement Act. There are more people in this country who want to go than the Dominions can take, and so there is no need for a strong propaganda and an unwise propaganda in this country at the present moment. I believe that this is a subject which has suffered more from its advocates than any other subject of which one can think. The painting of too bright a picture of what migrants are to expect when they go overseas, has done great injury to Empire settlement. The Labour party, however, have shown their interest in this matter, and at the Liverpool Conference they passed an Empire programme, which might be considered favourably by any hon. Member opposite, and which is, I think, as important, as wise, and as likely to be accepted by the Dominions as any proposals I have heard from any other section of the House.

I have no reason to doubt that the Labour party are prepared to push forward an Empire policy with the idea of a better understanding between this country and the Dominions. It was the Labour Government which entered into an agreement with Canada for the 3,000 families which are now migrating to that Dominion, and I believe that within a month from to-day something like 1,000 families will go to Canada under that scheme. A year ago something like 500 families went, and from the hundreds of letters that have come to me from those who have gone under that scheme, I am quite satisfied that it was a good arrangement that was made with the Canadian Government, and I hope it may be extended after the 3,000 families already in view have gone. With regard to Australia, the same thing arose in starting the arrangement there which was concluded by the Colonial Secretary a year ago. There is a provision in the agreement made there that 34,000 families of not less than five persons per family shall be included in the 450,000 that are provided for in the next 10 years. I believe very much in family migration. I am not very strong with regard to single men and single women. I am not as strong on that phase of the subject as I am on the family side. I have always, since I took an interest in this matter, believed that the mother and children should go with the father, and if there is to be settlement, there should be every encouragement and help given to them and every possibility of a good start when they get overseas.

But I am sure that this matter does not end even there. Are there no possibilities in this country for using the Empire Settlement Act? Is there no land in this country which needs cultivating? I would suggest that there are plenty of opportunities for remunerative employment in this country for those who wish to work on the land. I belong to a particular industry which is suffering very much just now, and has been for a long time, and I am hoping that something will arise which will bring about a better understanding and give to our people something in the nature of a reasonable and decent livelihood, but in that particular industry there are scores of thousands of men who have come from the land, who have worked on the land, and who are not far distant from the land, and there are millions of acres in this country which might be utilised and offered as an alternative to overseas settlement. I am not depreciating overseas settlement by taking that particular course, for I believe that, with an alternative scheme of settlement on the land of this country, it would not reduce the numbers who would want to go overseas.

We shall see, when there is a revival in trade in this country, a revival in the desire to go overseas. It is always during a period of unemployment, I am told; that the numbers who emigrate to other parts of the world are lowest, and we who come from the workers quite understand that position. We know that people will take risks when they have something of their own in their pockets. They do not desire charity, but would much rather use their own money and have a pound or two of their own when they get to where they are going than be dependent on receiving something from other people. When trade is better, I am satisfied there will be people who will desire to go, but I would like to see another inquiry into this matter of Empire settlement, and I would include this country.

10.0 P.M.

Under the Empire Settlement Act as we have it to-day, there can be no arrangement made except on a fifty-fifty basis. I think that is quite a satisfactory position with regard to any arrangements that are made between this country and any Dominions overseas, but I think it is not a satisfactory position with regard to anything that the Overseas Settlement Committee or the Minister of Agriculture, representing the work of that Committee, may do in settlement in this country. There ought to be better means of training people here than there are to-day, better opportunities of training them on the land, and perhaps one of the best ways would be for the Government to consider this question before the next Imperial Economic Conference. We are told there is likely to be one at the end of the year, and we, who are working on this question of migration, know the difficulties that our people have to undergo when they do desire to emigrate. I was told the other way by a friend, who wished to go to Canada, that his family had to go to Liverpool from Leeds to be examined. That sort of thing ought to be avoided, and there should be a possibility of examination somewhere nearer than 100 miles away from home for those who wish to go. Another matter is the little defects there may be in a family for which they are turned down. For instance, I had a case from one of my hon. Friends, who told me that a family had been turned down because a child of three had got rickets. I am sure that, given good food and fresh air, that would have been a healthy family before very long, if that was the only defect there was in the family.

In view of the possibility of an Imperial Economic Conference at the end of the year, I would like to suggest, even on this Resolution of my hon. Friend with which I so much disagree, that the Colonial Secretary should set up an inquiry into this matter, to see how far it is possible to remove the defects which now stand in the way of thousands of people in this country who are wanting to go to our Dominions, and how far it is possible, beyond that, to settle people on the land and provide a means of training for those who desire either to go overseas or to work on the land in this country. I am sure that there is a possibility of establishing group settlements in this country. Why not take areas of land wherein you could settle something like 100 or 200 families in a given area and do something in the way of food production at home? We are purchasing hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of foodstuffs from overseas which might be produced here, and which, if people were given the opportunity of working on the land, they would be willing to do.

I am sure, after the experience of the British Empire Steel Corporation in Nova Scotia, and that great strike, and the shooting of those men in connection with it, and the lives of the people who are working in those mines in that particular quarter, and after the experience of the British Empire Steel Corporation in Newfoundland, where a million tons of iron ore is produced and sent to Germany-—not to this country, for the benefit of our island steel industry—there is not much desire, nor can there be, on the part of Members of this House, without more information than has been given by the hon. Member opposite to-night, to support further corporations being set up in other distant parts of the world for our people to go to and be treated in a similar way. I am sorry, therefore, that we are having this discussion on Empire Settlement, a most important subject, and a subject upon which I feel quite fascinated and interested, and have been now for three years, on a Motion of this particular sort.

If we could have had it on the lines of the Resolution that did not come on for discussion a few nights ago, that we would support all reasonable schemes and methods, it would have been much better than to have given the idea to our Dominions that the only purpose we have in the British House of Commons is, whether our people want to go or not, to shovel them overseas. While I am in agreement with some of the ideas in the mind of my hon. Friend who moved it, I disagree so much with the wording of the Resolution, and feel so sorry for what may be its effects, that I hope he will withdraw it.


I have had the advantage of listening to three speeches with which I am in accord. It has been my lot recently to visit a large number of His Majesty's Dominions and Colonies, and I hope no false impression may go abroad that the one remedy for the evils from which we are suffering is dumping people in the Dominions overseas. I have been in Australia, South Africa, and East Africa. We do not want to export from this country people whom the Colonies do not wish to receive.

Kenya, from which I have just come back, is not a place where a great number of Britons can be settled. I attended there a meeting of planters and others, and I said to them, "Why do you not buy British goods?" The reply which they made, and which I wrote in the "Times," was, "Certainly British goods for British people, but why should we have to pay for unnecessary restrictions and futile strikes?" My experience in the Colonies and other countries is that what we have to do first is to settle our own difficulties at home. From the East African Colonies we are going to receive certain products such as seisal, cotton and coffee, and we are not going to employ a large number of our people in East Africa, When we bring goods to this country from the Colonies we must send something out to them from this country. My experience is that the Colonies will not take goods from this country unless these can be produced on an economic basis. I found the whole place full of American motor cars, and there was scarcely an English motor car to be seen. The conclusion was that the English people are not producing cars that can be exchanged for the products of that country. So it is in all parts of the world.

It is too common a dictum in this country, "Why do you not send your people overseas?" I regard the Empire as a place where adventurous spirits can go and start up a new existence, where they can join with others in developing the British Empire and strengthening it. I do not hold with those who look upon the various parts of the Empire as dumping grounds for those who are of no use at home. I think it is wrong that we should preach that doctrine and hold out to our fellow citizens that these Colonies are suitable for any such development, because I am certain they are not. Unless we are efficient at home, and active and productive, we are much less likely to be productive in the Colonies. Four or five years ago I went to Australia in the same ship with 700 emigrants, and I saw in a Sydney paper four weeks afterwards that 400 of them had come back by the same steamer because they were unfit for Colonial life. The kind of life there is only fit for the men who can adapt themselves to circumstances and who can "rough" it.

As far as East Africa is concerned, from which I have recently returned, there are enormous possibilities for the Government to assist developments of railways, roads, medical science and so on, but the practical use of this country is that in developing the Colonies we should encourage the natives to advance their state in the world's society, to want what civilisation produces, and they will then cultivate so that they may exchange goods with you. The text we have to preach to our people—and this is a non party question—is efficiency in our own country. When we all put our hands and brains to the work we have before us and do our best to increase production in this country, we shall find a corresponding increase in our Colonies which will produce what we want. I do want, as one who has travelled extensively in the Colonies, to try to lay the idea that you can export your inefficients there and that you can sell to the Colonies what is produced on a non-economic basis. You can sell them what they will buy in competition with all the world. They will always give you a preference in price, but I do not think they will give you a preference in goods which are un-economically produced. The relief of unemployment must commence at home and not at the other end.


I was surprised to-night at the Mover of this Motion speaking as he did. Reference was made to the count that took place. My reply is that the other side, who boast of their unanimity in regard to Imperial expansion, might have been present to hear one of their own Members doing his best. There was nothing said by the Mover or Seconder outside emigration. I am surprised that men who have experience of Great Britain should have made the speeches they did, because it only shows their lamentable ignorance of the conditions or that they do not want to face the conditions in Great Britain. Those who know something about the demands of other countries for labour know that those countries only demand the best skill they can get. Our experience on the Clyde is that highly-skilled brain and hand workers, as engineers, are always being sought after by other countries doing the same kind of work. But there are a great many factors that prevent that type of man being easily persuaded to go abroad. He has home associations, he likes him own country, and wants to stay there, and yet here we have men who are laying schemes, either blindly, or perhaps intentionally, to rob the British nation of its best producers. The last speaker mentioned the need for increased production. You can do more to increase production by keeping your best producers here than by sending them away.

Let me come to the question of land. We have heard to-night about the wonderful land to be found in Kenya—of course it is far away. We have heard about the wonderful land in other parts, but there was no mention of English soil or Scottish or Welsh soil. There was no mention of the fact that in this country, instead of the Government with its huge majority trying to get down to realities within our own island, we are always having pointed out to us Kenya or some other place that is far away. What are the facts? We have not yet settled down to organise the tilling of our own land. We are still in the hands of prehistoric ownership, and ownership that says to the whole nation, "You can only have a right to the land of Great Britain when you accept our conditions." Why did not any of those speaking in favour of this Motion try to link up Britain with the Greater Britain? Did they not realise that, even if you take Scotland, there is one-fifth of that land under deer forest?


Can you farm any of it?




Do you do it?


I am not a farmer, but I have farmer friends who will do it if they get the chance. Take the Government reports on the amount of pork that is being brought into this country. Instead of having deer rooting about your forests, you might have pigs. We have one-fifth of Scotland where pigs could be reared instead of deer. Why did you not say something about the land that is not cultivated and that ought to be cultivated? And the loaves that have to be brought in? Simply because you want to prevent the people from seeing this great land swindle. That is what I call it, and nothing else ! Why are people allowed to say, "This is good enough for the British working man to fight for," as he did during the War, and to call it his, but, "it is ours" when the War is over? The question was not touched upon in regard to the fitness of things at all. We had various encompassing statements but no detail. But you cannot take men born in industrial areas, just dump them down on agricultural land, and expect them to be successful. They have not got the knowledge requisite. Some people do not understand that farming is a skilled occupation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes; the remarks that came from the other side show that. It is a highly-skilled occupation.

If the Mover of the Motion had been serious to-night in his introduction of the subject, he would have dealt with the conditions at home and the relationship between industrial unemployment and vacant land. You can taper off from industrial to agricultural. All round our great cities and towns there are great belts of land, and we can begin by educating the people there, and tapering off that agricultural education from the industrial to the agricultural by making use of these belts of land. By taking the men engaged in industry and by getting them near to these places, by means of tram or omnibus facilities, they can be trained to become skilled agriculturists. But then you would have to provide land for these men. That is where we do not face the question. Because hon. Members opposite know that when you get skilled industrialists made into agriculturists you have to find a place to put them, and you do not want to spoil your play or hunting ground. That is it! But that is the only way you can deal with this matter.

One thing might have been said in discussing this matter, if the discussion had been serious. You might have had regard to the protests of the farmers on the emigration scheme, and about the danger of taking away the men that we now have in agriculture. You are not even trying to preserve what you have in the way of skilled labour in agriculture. You are simply playing with the whole situation and showing that the personal interest dominates every movement on the other side. Why do you not come out openly and boldly and say, "Here is the land of Britain which is only partly tilled." "Here is the land of Britain where, if you cannot grow wheat you can grow potatoes." "Here is the land of Britain where we ought to grow, not deer, but pigs." There is not a single mention of that. Then there is the question of the minerals and the iron ore. I wonder how many Members of the Government understand or realise how much ore we have in the country still untouched? Do they realise the portions of Ayrshire which have been tapped for ore, and those that are still untouched owing to private interests? Do they realise that in the English coalfields the reason why shafts are sunk by the dozen where one might do is multiplicity of ownership? Another fact you might have dealt with in relation to this ore is that it ceases to pay when you get a certain distance from the shaft because of the increasing price of royalties. You need not shake your head: those are the facts.


I represent the particular district the hon. Member is referring to, so I do know something about it.


Well, you can come into the Debate afterwards, perhaps; but the facts and the charges I am speaking of are printed in the papers issued from your own Government's Department.


I was asked the other day about addressing the Chair. Hon. Members should not use the word "you" in the House.


I am sorry about that. I will say the hon. Member, or the light hon. Member. I do not know whether he is the right hon. Member, but I will give him the benefit of it. I will conclude now, as there are so many others who desire to get into the Debate. To-night we are attempting to discuss this subject without getting down to the basis of it. The basis of emigration is our home conditions. It is our home conditions that suggest emigration to us. Unless we deal with the industrial situation of this country, we cannot even emigrate our people, because no other country will allow us to dump them upon them unless at the same time we are creating a market for what they are going to produce. Let us settle down to our own industry, let us settle down to our own markets, let us settle down to increasing the purchasing power of Europe, and we will not be talking about emigration.

But let me say this word of warning in conclusion. This emigration is a serious menace to returning prosperity in this country. The last speaker pointed out that when he was abroad he was told that the reason why certain people did not trade with this country was because of the fear of a strike. There is something more serious than that. If we allow all our best skilled hand and brain workers to leave the country they will say, "What is the use of trading with Britain? They have not got the skill now. We will go to the countries to which their best men have emigrated." We are seeking to deal with a subject of this vast importance by making a laughing-stock of it.


I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), and I agreed with much of what he said, but there was one point he did not make quite clear enough, I think, and it is worth enlarging upon. He spoke of the impossibility of expecting us not to look after our own unemployed ourselves, and said we ought to deal with the large body of unemployed that we have by settling people upon our own land. I quite agree that if it were possible we ought to do that, but we must remember that at this time we have a million more people than we can find work for. If we look at statistics we find that this million is not the result of any mistakes we have made in this country, but solely a result of the war which fell upon us. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"] Well, that is an arguable point, and I would like to argue it.

Before the War we emigrated over 200,000 people every year, but during the War we were unable to emigrate anybody; and so at the end of the War we were left with a million people more than we could afford to look after. or could have expected to possess. Whether you like it or not, or whatever your politics may be, you have to realise that you have these 1,000,000 people to look after, and, making all the allowances of war losses you can, you still leave us with this solid surplus. We must not make this a partisan question, and I am not now trying to make a partisan point. But we have one million unemployed in this country, and we have to absorb them somehow. It is suggested that we should absorb them in England by altering our system of land tenure; but how can you afford to wait for that, when something has to be done at once? You cannot solve this problem by reconstructing the Highlands to-morrow, and the only way to meet it swiftly, is to send these people overseas. Already you have kept them here five years without work, under most distressing conditions, and living lives which no honest man ought to live, and in a way we need not discuss.

Why should you not take these men whom the Government have not succeeded in providing with employment and send them overseas where there are many opportunities for them to get on, and far more than you can find in this country? It is easy to get work and make money overseas because the migrants go to redeem open spaces and free tracts of land. Can anyone point to large tracts of land in this country which will absorb 1,000,000 people? We are no longer building railways in England at all, and I do not think there is 100 miles of railway built in this country in a year, whereas there are thousands of miles of railways building in the Dominions. Of course, we must not lose sight of our obligations to those who remain in this country, but we have now to meet a pressing present need. We have over-development in England and under-development abroad, and it is our duty to send these men out where they can make most money and live in sunshine, instead of the degrading darkness under which they have dragged along for the last few years.

I only wish to raise one other point. An hon. Member has already spoken about the money spent upon migration. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is going to reply has done a great deal in regard to the question of migration, and whatever our views on this subject, we must realise that but for his efforts certain sums might not have been voted for migration overseas. But I would like to point out that that money has not been used and we have been told that it was impossible to get certain Governments to accept our migrants. Yet this fund has been voted and the Government acknowledge that they can-not use it overseas, by not in fact so using it. So that it is still available. Why not, therefore, use some of this money to take a number of the unemployed who are drawing the dole and employ them here upon agricultural work, and later send them abroad. We could first give them the necessary equipment and training on farms in England to make them welcome migrants, and then encourage them to take up land either in England or overseas, whichever they prefer. This to me seems one way of achieving an object which is at the bottom of all our hearts.

Lastly, I would like to say this: We try in this House to keep foreign affairs as a question apart from party politics, and it seems to me that emigration and migration, similarly, are a question which we should not treat sectionally, but as a whole. Very good work was done by the hon. Member for Rothwell in this connection, and I should like to see his party adequately represented upon the overseas Settlement Committee, so that all of us unitedly might try what we can do to solve a problem that really is leaving a canker on the soul of England. If, by a debate like this, which arose casually on the Resolution of an hon. Member, we achieve unity, it seems to me that we shall be doing something co-operatively for the old country which together we pulled through the War, and something also to fulfil the Imperial destinies of our race.


I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Sir A. S. Benn) deserves the gratitude of the House for having initiated an interesting and useful discussion. I think that, apart from, possibly, a few rather jarring notes in one speech, it has not been a discussion on party lines, and I hope that the great fundamental question which has been touched upon to-night will always be kept out of the party atmosphere. Nor do I think there has ever been a real, fundamental difference in point of view. There has been, I think, a certain amount of mutual misunderstanding on one or two points. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) said something with which, in the main, I entirely agree. It would be a great mistake from every point of view if this problem of the better and healthier distribution of our people in the British Empire were regarded as simply a device for shovelling unemployed people out of this country and on to the Dominions. That would be wrong from the moral point of view.

We have no right to push, or even encourage, people who, under our existing industrial system in this country, have found themselves stranded and in difficulties, and who are, perhaps, no longer fitted for any other life than that for which they have been trained—we have no excuse if we push them out, only to find themselves no less stranded else-where. We have no right to shake off our responsibility in that way. Nor have we any right, from the point of view of our relationship with the Dominions, to try to send out to them people who are not really going to make a success of their life on the other side, or to be really valuable elements in the community which they join. I am quite sure that my hon. Friend's Motion was not intended in that sense. It is true that in the same sentence there is reference both to employment and to the unemployed, but I do not think he meant to imply that help towards the unemployment problem in this country and increase of employment can best be carried out by transferring people to the Dominions simply because they are unemployed here. That, as I have said, would be a mistake; but, of course, it is undoubted that a better distribution of population in the Empire may do a great deal to help the whole economic situation, and in that sense to help the unemployment problem here.

There is also another aspect. Undoubtedly, a very large number of those who are unemployed to-day are still of such an age and such an adaptability of character that they can make good overseas, when they have not a special chance of making good here. And what is far more important than those who have spent their lives in one industry and are unemployed to-day, are those unemployed to-day in boyhood and likely to be unemployed in the future, or never to get into skilled employment, those who are still adaptive and could still, if they were given a new chance and a better environment, rise further in the scale of skill and in the standard of living overseas than they could at home. Surely we do not wish to deny them the opportunity.

The matter was very well summed up by my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir P. Richardson), when he said this was a matter of efficiency. In all these questions what we have to consider really, looking upon ourselves as citizens of a great Empire, is what is the most efficient distribution of our population for their own well-being, for the raising of the standard of living, for the strength of the nation and of the Empire. We have to consider that question of efficiency both from the point of view of a sound geographical distribution and also from the point of view of a sound distribution as between industries of different kinds—as between primary production, agricultural production, mining and the great secondary industries.

Taking, first of all, the question of geographical distribution, undoubtedly our present system, in which 45,000,000 or so of the most capable and efficient race in the world live huddled together largely in mean and sorry streets in a small island whose resources, though great originally as compared with those of many other countries, are still relatively small, while elsewhere there is at least a hundred times as much territory, at least a hundred times as much of natural resources, capable of maintaining an immense popu- lation with a high standard of living, but with insufficient capital and human organising power. If the whole of this great territory were a single estate and belonged to a proprietor, or if it were a co-operative concern, one of the first things you would naturally think of would be how to distribute its working population most healthily, both from the point of view of efficiency and the production of health and of good social conditions.

From that point of view I think—I do not want to exaggerate the case—there is a great deal to be said for encouraging, by practical measures of all sorts, those who wish for an opportunity of a new life overseas by making it easy for them, making the passage easy and making reasonable arrangements for their reception at the other end. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) spoke of men who went out and came back because they were unfit. It by no means follows that all those men were unfit. Quite possibly a little bit of training might have given them a chance when they started at the other end. It is just possible that a little more care might have put them in touch with the right employer and given them a chance. They may have been able to do nothing more than walk about the streets of a great city, possibly applying to some trade which was already overcrowded. It is no wonder they went back, but it is not fair to say they were unfit. I think my hon. Friends will agree that anything we can do for better organisation and co-operation between the Governments to give a better chance to those who want to go overseas, and who are fit for it, is well worth while doing.

Besides efficiency, a further question is the better distribution of our population between industry and agriculture, between primary and secondary production. That lies, I believe, at the root of a great deal of our troubles to-day. I hope hon. Members opposite will not accuse us, because we do not always agree with them in the particular methods they would employ in order to bring about a better regulation and balance of our whole economic system, of being indifferent to these considerations and that we think the State has no responsibility whatever to regulate private enterprise and development, so that the national economic life can be, on the whole, healthy. We do realise that the unregulated development of the last two or three generations has been as dangerous to our whole economic structure from the point of healthy employment and efficient production as the unregulated social and economic relations at home which at one time threatened to be fatal to the whole health and life of our people.

There is much common field and agreement between us on these matters, and even on the point to which the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) referred in an interesting suggestion, and to which the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) referred, namely, the development of agriculture in this country. I fully agree that there is a field to be explored there. If England is in one sense—[HON. MEMBERS: "Britain!"]—I was saying England, because it is the most overcrowded in total population. I will take Great Britain. If Great Britain is from one point of view a very densely crowded country, it is also true that if you take out the urban districts, then as rural countries neither England nor Scotland are in fact very densely crowded. I believe there is a great field for strengthening the rural population of this country. I am by no means hostile to the suggestion which the hon. Member for Rothwell put forward. When we think of Empire settlement, we should not forget that this country is the heart of the Empire, and if we are prepared to train men for work on the land overseas, there is no reason why we should not train men for work on the land in this country. I in no sense differ from the broad aim which the hon. Member for Rothwell there indicated.

Whether in practice that can be best done by an enlargement of the Empire Settlement Act is another matter and one on which I am quite open to conviction. It is a matter which I will gladly look into with my hon. Friend. As the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) said, quite reasonably, if the money which we are prepared to devote year by year to Empire Settlement cannot all be absorbed by settlement in the Dominions, it is worth while considering whether we cannot do more for settlement at home. But in these matters we have to face some of the hard economic facts of the situation. I am not going to argue with the hon. Member for Springburn whether land which carries so many deer could also carry pigs in the sense that the pigs could produce payable bacon.


Yes, of the best.


The real crux of any-agricultural development is that in present conditions agriculture is not a paying industry, and you have to be prepared if you want to see a great revival of agricultural population in this country to take far-reaching measures, which we have not been prepared to take, to make it a success. While all these problems are being considered, we must realise that there are great opportunities, not only for individuals in our Dominions overseas, but for strengthening the whole fabric of the Empire in this country. Therefore, I say to hon. Members opposite that if the Movers of this Motion are not particularly pressing for some of the things hon. Members are keenest on, it does not follow that their only aim is that contained in the Motion. It is because the Movers believe that what they have brought forward in this particular Motion is in itself a substantive and valuable contribution to the problem that they put it forward.

I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Sir A. S. Benn) would expect me to go on the spur of the moment into the details of his scheme, a very interesting scheme, for great private corporations working with a State guarantee in the development of settlement. I should like to see such a scheme worked out a good deal further. Certainly, hon. Members opposite know that under the very elastic provisions of the Empire Settlement Act we are prepared to co-operate with Governments and with private companies, whether companies working for profit, or purely for philanthropic ends, and with voluntary societies, and to encourage and foster any scheme which shows itself to be a practical contribution towards the problem, and, in the same way, if my hon. Friend's idea of corporations can be taken up and brought before the Overseas Settlement Committee in a practical form which would enable them to recommend it to the Government concerned, I am sure that it would receive most practical sympathy from that Committee.

I do not think I need add anything specially to what I have said, but what I would put before the House is that without the exclusion of many of the other things and the task which lies before us here in this old country—and we have got to deal with it here and take account of the fact that the responsibility for dealing with the question of the wastage of our economic system lies with us in this House and in this country—still there is a very wide field in the development of our economic and national life in the Empire, and anything which can contribute to that does deserve the sympathetic attention and interest of this House.


I listened to the Mover of the Motion, and I would have liked to agree with him in the very laudable object he has set out in that Motion. Any means designed to provide remunerative employment for our people ought to claim the support of every Member in the House. But I was disappointed when my hon. Friend outlined his scheme, and he proceeded to tell us how this remunerative employment was to be provided, for he apparently forgot that Great Britain is a very big part of the Empire, and with all his political long-sightedness he forgot to look around him at home, when surveying the ends of the earth. I could not agree with him that unemployment and better opportunities for remunerative employment can be found on the plains and the prairies of Canada than can be found in this country, and with some experience of life in that Colony—for I worked there for two years—I am quite satisfied that with equal maintenance and provision of capital, a good deal more successful colonisation can be done in Great Britain than can be done in Canada. I know that every mail from Canada today brings back most harrowing details of unemployment.

I have received letters this year describing the terrible conditions under which people, fit and unfit, who were induced to go abroad, have to endure the privations of that colony. I would not attempt to condemn wholesale the policy of emigration. Canada will yet be a great country. But it is not a country where remunerative employment can be found for any large number of people at the present time. We have poured people into Canada during the last 20 years. People who have been sent from here to Canada have found their way across the Border into the United States, because Canada does not provide them with opportunities for a decent livelihood. Picture the condition of an unemployed workman induced to go to Canada at this time of the year. Picture him occupying a shanty anywhere in Western Canada, where the snow covers the earth for five months of the winter. Picture the condition of that man without employment, and imagine the state of his mind. Then one can realise how great is the responsibility of Members of this House, whose statements are published and spread abroad, in creating the opinion that Utopia can be found anywhere outside this country.

The same remark applies to Australia and New Zealand. I read only a few days ago a statement made by one of the leading statesmen of New Zealand, who said that New Zealand would not accept settlers from England to occupy their Crown lands unless they came with £500 capital behind them. He said that at least £1,000 would be required to give a chance of creating a new home in that Colony. The same thing applies to Canada. Here I disagree with the Secretary for the Dominions, who said that there are a hundred chances in the Dominions for every one that there is at home There is not a single Dominion, no part of our Dominions, that gives such opportunities as Great Britain gives at the present time. Settled on the land, a man will get a much better living from either of the four countries of the United Kingdom than he will get in New Zealand or Australia or Canada. The most serious result of a discussion of this kind is that it may persuade people that the way out of unemployment and the hardships that 1,250,000 people now endure, is to be found by emigration en masse to another part of the world. I see that the hon. Member for Southampton (Lord Apsley), who recently went to Australia, wrote a very interesting account of his experience. The Noble Lord, it is true, has come back to this country looking quite well, and none the worse for his experience. But I am not quite so sure that he would have come back so satisfied with his experience if he had not known at all times that he had something upon which to fall back. It may have provided the hon. Member with an interesting experience—one which I am pleased to note he shared with his wife—and it showed great courage and enterprise to undertake a first-hand examination of the problems of life in the Dominions—

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

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.

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