HC Deb 25 March 1926 vol 193 cc1486-528
Captain GUEST

I do not think an apology is necessary for asking the House to consider a somewhat different problem. I am emboldened to ask the House to consider once again the subject we discussed last week, unemployment, by two considerations, the first being that a good deal of interest was taken in a proposal I made then and the second, and much more important, being the announcement in to-day s Press of the Government's attitude towards the Coal Report. I see in the Press to-day a list of proposals in that Report which will involve action by the Government. Number 11 being as follows: The Government to facilitate the transfer of displaced labour and to provide funds for the purpose. That, coupled with the warning in the Report that almost as sure as we are here to-night there is bound to be not only a grave dislocation of labour, but a great deal more unemployment, seems to be a reasonable excuse for asking the House to consider this problem. The proposal I put forward last Thursday was, roughly speaking, that a real attempt should be made to take an expeditionary force of labour, as it has been described, and to employ it on useful works of development in various parts of the Dominions. Since then I have been warned of the difficulties. May I assure the House that nobody is more aware of the difficulties than I am myself, and as I appealed to the House last week to try if possible to treat this problem in a non-party spirit, the first thing I would like to do would be to clear up misunderstandings. I am anxious to get some thing done. I am continually thinking of this army of the unemployed, and I know that my hon. Friends on this side of the House, as well as my hon. Friends on the other side of the House, are equally anxious to see a remedy found for the present state of things.

The first of the misunderstandings which have come to my notice from the Labour Benches is that there is some element of compulsion in my proposal. I assure hon. Members that is not my intention at all. I want this emigration to be on an entirely voluntary basis. To overcome the second misunderstanding, it should be on a temporary basis. The third point I want to make clear is that I am not by preference turning to the Dominions rather than the home land, for this work of development, but have only done so because it will enable the problem to be dealt with more rapidly and cheaply. I know the arguments put for ward in favour of the development of the home land, and I admit the strength of them, but I am thinking all the time not only of the million people still unemployed, but of the next 300,000 who may be thrown out of work this summer—that is, the army which the Coal Commissioners warned the Government they must not only take steps to find money for, but must prepare plans to transfer as displaced labour. If I could possibly carry with me the representatives of labour I feel that the proposal, for what it is worth, would receive serious and sympathetic investigation.

I will to-night touch only upon a few points as they have occurred to me since the Debate last week. First, I submit that when we are dealing, or trying to deal, with a problem of such magnitude, we must give the scheme a good name from the start. If a dog is given a bad name it is very hard for him to shake it off. This army must not be regarded as an unemployed army for whom jobs are being found in remote corners of the Empire. They must be described as an army of pioneers in Empire development. If we could get that idea into the minds of the great leaders of labour, I believe they would be able to encourage men to volunteer to join this army. The formation of the force would be so simple that it is hardly necessary for me to waste the time of the House with suggestions. One would naturally open lists for volunteers. I said a week ago that, obviously, it would be easier to take single men than married men, but I do not think married men ought to be excluded from under taking temporary employment from home. It would he quite easy to have a system of remittances home from the wages they earned in the Dominions, or there might be some system of separation allowances such as there was during the War. It has been said, "You can get recruits, but where are you going to get officers? The Ex-Officers' Association know that there are just as many hard cases amongst officers who cannot. get work as there are amongst men who cannot get work, and those are men who have been trained in organisation and discipline, and I am perfectly certain there will lad no difficulty in finding men to handle the army.

Let rue turn for a minute to the "campaign," as I described it, itself. The campaign is the scheme upon which this army would be set to work. I am certain that in the pigeon holes of the secretariat of the Overseas Settlement Committee there must be innumerable schemes. Those schemes have been put before them in the past and pigeon holed, possibly because they were too big—not, I expect, because they were too small. But what I wish to draw attention to is that here we have a committee who have proved themselves able to handle vast numbers of people. In one year, I think they handled as many as 283,000 people who went to different parts of the world. The figures for last year, I am sorry to say, are the lowest for a century, having fallen as low as 67,000 odd. I am convinced that in the pigeon holes of that committee we could find the schemes; and I am perfectly certain that the committee have the ability, the know ledge and the experience to handle a proposal such as I am submitting to the House.

Since the Debate last week I have myself received schemes from people who are keen on Empire development and keen on the solution of the unem- ployed problem. I have been through a few of them, and I will give the House one as an illustration. I said last week there were great tracts of undeveloped land in Western Canada, but I then had no knowledge of the scheme I propose to refer to now—not the slightest know ledge of the fact that people had been working on it, as far as I can make out, for some time. I presume it had started or a commercial basis, but I am not concerned with that. Of course, if any scheme is undertaken the Government at tic me and the Dominion Government concerned must come to some arrangement by which the benefits that accrue from the labour of the army must be divided in some proper ratio. As an illustration of the sort of scheme which could be undertaken if the Government wore brave enough, I give this scheme for the development of what is called Peace River Valley. I have never been to Peace River Valley, but I have read a long report about it, and I conceive the report to be an accurate statement of what took place and of the commercial possibilities.

It seems that if only a railway could be taken into that valley the possibilities would be enormous. But supposing it could be done, and the burden could be shared by the local Dominion Governments and the Home Government, then the financial difficulties might be surmounted. Those who have drawn up this report state that the Governments of Alberta and British Columbia have guar anteed to pay 50 per cent. of the total cost of the construction of the railway, which would amount to about £11,000,000. It is said that this development would employ probably not less than 20,000 men, and that by the time the railway had been working for a year there would be a sufficient development to accommodate 2,000 families. Those amounts are not very big when you consider the vast sums we are spending in this country upon unproductive schemes.

There are many other schemes. We have only to read the newspapers day by day to see what an immense amount of work of this kind could be done if undertaken upon a sufficiently large scale. Some time ago, on one large ranch in Australia, there occurred a loss of 40,000 head of cattle through drought, and it must be remembered that an efficient scheme of irrigation would have saved all that stock. Of course, there are the losses sustained in the same way by a good many other farmers of which we have not heard. If those who are interested in this subject will only look around the Dominions they will find scheme after scheme for dealing with this problem if the Government would only be brave enough to tackle it in a courageous manner.

Now I come to the side of this subject with which I am not very conversant, that is the financial side. I know there are many hon. Members of this House who are financiers, and who are just as keen in their desire to help in regard to the problem of unemployment as I am. If they would only give a little of their brains to studying the financial side, I am sure their time would not be wasted. I listened to the Minister of Labour on Thursday when he was dealing with the Government policy in regard to unemployment, and he summed up by saying that it was necessary to secure the preservation of the nation's credit. Obviously, that is a mere platitude which does not help the unemployed. What we want is an intelligent use of the national credit for the national benefit. What are the methods by which this money is being spent at the present time? The House has discussed the Trade Facilities Act, and I think one and all have come to the conclusion already that that is not an intelligent use of the national credit. There may have been a few small industries which have been put on their legs in this way, bpt on the whole the scheme of offering trade facilities has not proved a great success. Again the money we have spent on palliative schemes is regarded as being very largely a waste of money. Besides this, the spending if large sums of money on local relief schemes by local authorities is running them into debt, and I think that is an unintelligent use of the national credit.

9.0 P.M.

The size of the scheme I have suggested and the financial liabilities involved are bound to be very great. The sending of an expeditionary army of this kind with all its outfit and paying good wages means a tremendous capital outlay, yet we did not think these sums were very large a few years ago when we were fighting for our lives. It is just as much our duty now to fight for the moral of the unemployed as it was during the War. This is the aftermath of the War, and it is not the fault of those who are unemployed that they are unable to obtain work. There may be just a few who loaf deliberately, but taking the unemployed in the bulk I think they are as deserving of our attention as any of the troops we sent abroad.

I suggest that we should float a development loan of not less than £100,000,000. You could get subscriptions from the Dominions as well as from the Home Government. If you do not do this, you will only continue spending large sums in driblets upon unproductive work. Under the scheme I have suggested, where would economies at once show themselves? Some hon. Members may work out other economies, but there is one which comes to my notice. Take the number of miners who will be on the hands of the relief committees, whether nationally or locally, within the next few months. Take the figures of miners likely to be unemployed which have been mentioned, and they cannot be less than 150,000. Why, Sir, that would represent, at 15s. a, week, a sum of £10,000,000. Is it not worth while reckoning up the amount we should spend upon schemes which, on the one side, have the effect of demoralising people, and, on the other side, consider the much greater advantage that would accrue if that sum could be spent upon schemes developing our Dominions?

The obvious advantages if the scheme could be brought to fruition are known to the House. The spreading of our population throughout the Empire, if it could be done in harmony with the views of the Dominion Governments them selves, would, obviously, be a great advantage to all concerned. There is more room, freedom and opportunity for development and making money in our Dominions, and that is all to the good. We must do something to relieve the over-populated conditions of these small islands; we want to do it if we can in a way that will make everybody happy. When you once get people settled in this way in your Dominions, at once they become purchasers of your goods. We have been told in fiscal debates that a Canadian buyer is worth 10 or 12 times as much to this country as an American buyer. It is argued that although this scheme may be very good, and the money side of it may be eventually overcome, yet it cannot be done quickly enough to be of any use. I know of a large transfer of population that took place two or three years ago, which involved the moving of 1,000,000 people from Turkey into Greece. If that could be accomplished by the poorest nation in Europe, surely something of the kind might be done by the richest country in Europe!

In conclusion, I ask the Government to use our credit in this way. I am sure they will get a good return for their expenditure. I urge them not to allow a stone to remain unturned which will relieve the burden of the unemployed. I ask them to do this for the sake of both the unemployed and the industries that have to support them year by year and month by month, and, incidentally, develop the Empire itself. As a last word, let me say this: Taking the Press of England as a whole, when England is in trouble it pulls together. There never was an occasion when England was in trouble to a greater extent than is the case in connection with the unemployment problem. The Press may disagree on questions of economy; one section may say we should economise, and another may say that the way to get rich is to spend more; but there is no section that differs on the fundamentals of Imperial development, and, when that is coupled with a cure for unemployment, I feel convinced that we shall not fail to receive the assistance and publicity which the Press can give.


I should like to support briefly the view that has been outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest) with regard to the development of the Empire as one way of relieving un employment in this country. During the years 1920–22, I was privileged to visit British Columbia for the purpose of reporting on the resources of that country, and I was amazed at the potentialities that I noticed there. Here we work iron ore in Oxfordshire with 25 per cent. of iron, and, in Lincolnshire, ore with 22 per cent., whereas in British Columbia there are enormous masses of very high-grade magnetic iron ore comparable with the best class of Swedish iron ore. In the Province of Alberta, also, we have one-seventh of the total coal of the world; but there is not an industry of that kind in the whole of those two provinces. It has been suggested to me that we in this country are too prone to look upon the development of the Empire simply from toe point of view of supplying us with foodstuffs. I do not wish to minimise that point of view, but I do think we ought to participate in a very intensive industrial development of that country. Ii one thinks of what happened in Chicago, which, from being the centre of an agricultural district with a relatively small population, acquired, as soon as industries were started, an enormous town population of something like 5,000,000, one asks why cannot that be done also on the other side of the border?

I would suggest to the Minister that, inasmuch as there is to be an Imperial Conference at an early date, he should get in touch with the headquarters at Ottawa, and also in Australia and the various other Dominions, and ask the provinces themselves to map out what they think best for their own development, so that we might have, say from Canada, a scheme in which the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and so on, would participate—one concrete proposition from Canada, which would help us here to relieve unemployment and also would tremendously facilitate development in that country—and the same with regard to Australia and the other Dominions. I think the time is ripe now for a very intensive Empire development scheme, and I feel sure, apart from any party feelings, that, if the right hon. Gentleman could do this, it would add great lustre to him, and the country would be ever grateful for anything he could do to relieve us of the great, depressing problem that seems to be so permanent in. our midst.


I understand that the last speech was a maiden speech. It has been very brief, but I should like to congratulate the hon. Member very sincerely upon the knowledge that, as we have learned during the last few minutes, he his of certain parts of the Empire, and I hope that while he is a Member of this House he will watch those Debates which concern the well-being of our far-flung British Empire, and say more than we have heard from him to-night in future Debates on the important subject. I should be the last Member of the House to minimise the importance of finding employment for those who are unemployed. It is a most important subject. I have been out of work in the course of my life—as a young rebel I was prevented from obtaining employment in my district for a time—and, though I have not gone through all the horrors that hundreds of thousands of our population have gone through during recent years owing to unemployment, I can appreciate the difficulty in which they are, and have been, and seem likely to be for some time to come.

Any reasonable scheme that may be put before the House to provide work for those who are unemployed ought to receive our consideration, and ought not to be turned down simply because it is new. The proposal put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest) is rather a new proposal. He seems to have found the reason for it, and for his speech, in the Report of the Coal Commission. He says to-night that the Coal Commission recommend that the Government should facilitate the transfer of displaced labour and arrange for its transfer, but I think he has extended the meaning of that particular paragraph. I rather gather, having read the Report, that the Commission were not thinking so much of transporting men displaced by the closing of mines to Australia, or Canada, or South Africa, but of the transfer of those men and their families from certain parts of Great Britain, where mines might be closed as the result of the Commission's recommendations, to certain other parts of Great Britain, where employment may be found in developing coal areas. I do not think I am altogether wrong in my interpretation. The right hon. Gentle man's interpretation seemed to enable him to leave Great Britain altogether in this matter of Empire development.

We had a Debate in this House three or four weeks ago, on very similar lines to the Debate which the right hon. Gentleman has opened to-night—a Debate in which the Mover of the Resolution suggested the transfer of large numbers of our unemployed to the Dominions. I think that if my right hon. Friend had read what took place during that Debate, he would have learned that that is a most difficult problem and is, I might say, hardly an acceptable problem to the Dominions. It causes great difficulties, not only at home but in dealing with any of our Dominions, to associate the question of Empire settlement with our unemployment. At all events, since I started to take an interest in emigration—and no subject has fascinated me more than that one during the last few years—it has always been urged that our Dominions deprecate any action which directly associates Empire settlement with unemployment, and I think that everybody who is engaged on that subject and knows the details, is in the same position in this country. I would suggest, however, that Great Britain is a part of the Empire as well as those parts which are overseas, and I would ask the House whether we should not consider, in deal-with the unemployment which is in our midst and for which we are responsible—and, looking to the future, it may mean, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Bristol suggests, 150,000 more miners being out of work as a result of the carrying out of the Coal Commission's Report—whether we should not consider taking control, by some means which the Government might put into operation, of millions of acres of land in this country.

There are millions of acres of land in this country that are not producing all that they might produce, and, knowing the mining industry as I do, I think that there are large numbers of men, with their families, in that industry, who are not far removed from the land, who have largely come from the land, who live in the areas where there is land obtainable, perhaps better than in any other industrial areas, and who would make good settlers if there were opportunities for them to be settled on the land in this country. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is not only those who are in the ranks who need this provision. Only last night a man who went through the War as a captain was in the smoke room telling me he was unemployed, and had been for two or three weeks. For six years he had been engaged, not for himself but for someone else, in producing pigs and looking after poultry. He had come to the conclusion that, if he could be settled on 12 acres of land, by the production of pigs and, as a sideline, keeping poultry, he could make a living but he did not know where it was possible to obtain the 12 acres of land. There ought to be no difficulty in this country in providing a man of that sort, who is capable, with facilities in order that he may earn a livelihood. We purchase hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of foodstuff from overseas, and I consider that that is not at all satisfactory. We should be producing more here. We can grow it on the laud, we have the men and women, and we need food supplies, and we ought to see that the land in this country is used better than it is to-day and so reduce that amount of importation of our necessaries of life that goes on at present. It is not only that we import all these hundreds of millions but we are largely depopulating the countryside and we are producing less every year instead of using the land to provide more than we do.

Then, regarding our Dominions, the right hon. Gentleman admitted that he had not given much consideration to this matter and was not up to date with what was taking place with regard to migration. I think everyone will agree that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal—I am not saying this in any offensive way—has not been fairly worked out and is not in any sense of the word a considered plan, There is very little up to now that we can take hold of and build up a scheme from what he has suggested. Only four years ago, after an Imperial Conference, this House passed the Empire Settlement Act, upon which all our schemes are based with the Dominions for assisted emigration. It is on a 50–50 basis. It was accepted, I suppose, at the Imperial Conference by the Dominion Premiers, and arrangements have been made in many ways to assist migrants who wish to go to the Dominions. In my opinion it is a very reasonable method of dealing with the matter. I feel that it is as far as we ought to be asked to go in arranging schemes of migration that if we put up 50 per cent. of the cost of any facilities that may be provided, we have a right to expect that the Dominions concerned should put up an equal amount and pro vide facilities which shall equal the amount we put up. After all, we cannot go on for ever being a mulch cow for every country on the earth. After the Debate of yesterday, in which it seemed to me that we are a mulch cow for several foreign countries, and are providing money to the extent of many millions per annum to assist foreign countries, think we should begin to be a little careful in extending schemes where we are going to be pumped dry for the benefit of any other nation. At the same time, I am prepared to say that if we are to find money, if we are to help, any help we have to offer shall be given to our Dominions in preference to any foreign country. I do not hesitate to make that statement. Though I am one of those who preach brotherhood and desire peace with the world, at the same time I consider that as 98 per cent. of the population of Australia is British, we should extend our help in that direction.

The figures regarding emigration are often criticised. There have been many questions lately with regard to the lessened number of people who are emigrating to-day as compared with pre-War. I think there is a mistaken idea in connection with that matter. In the figures of migration before the War the United States figured very prominently in the numbers that migrated from this country and from the Irish Free State. The Irish Free State is not considered in the f gores that are published to-day, and as the quota has been drawn so tight, and so low for the United States it affects cur figures largely in the comparison between what it was before the War and what it is to-day. Moreover, there are large numbers of people in this country who are desiring to migrate to various parts of the Empire. I believe if we could have a census of the people who have expressed a desire, and sought information how they can migrate to the Dominions, we should find there are many thousands of people who are anxious and willing to go if facilities can be given them. On Monday the right hon. Gentleman was asked what was the number of persons accepted by the Dominion authorities for emigration but still awaiting transportation. He said the numbers were, for Canada, families, 849, other persons 950, Australia 9,000 and New Zealand 2,550. They would go as soon as passages could be arranged. These have been already passed to go and there is no regard whatever to the large numbers who are anxious to go but have not been passed.


Is it not a fact that that large number of 9,000 waiting to go to Australia is merely temporary owing to the late unofficial shipping strike?


I should not have thought shipping facilities were so bad that they cannot provide for the number of people who desire to go if there is a wish to make provision for them. I would like to see an extension so that whether a family desired to go abroad, or to be settled on the land here, there should be an alter native. If he is a married man with children it should be offered to him that he can go on the land either here or over seas. However far we could encourage the family idea of migration to the land, I think we ought to do so. But in any scheme it is our duty to see that facilities are provided for the people to have at least an opportunity of earning their livelihood in the country to which they are going.

It has been very pleasing to notice the success of many of those who have gone, say, to Western Australia, especially those who have gone from that excellent training camp, which I would like to see extended at Catterick. Under the Empire Settlement Act we are permitted to spend up to £3,000,000 a year for 50 years. We could go so far as to agree with representatives of the Dominions in any scheme, either for the migration of families or for single men or women, or for young people, up to £3,000,000 a year. It has something like 10 or 11 years to run. Up to now we have not spent an average of £500,000 a year, and we are not taking the full advantage of the fund. The blame is not here. The people want to go. You have an Over seas Settlement Committee, who are most anxious that everything should be done to arrange for them to go. The obstacles are elsewhere, and I think we ought to find out what those obstacles are and have them removed.

Provision may not only be made for land settlement, but under the Empire Settlement Act it is possible to arrange with the Dominions schemes for development. It is no use taking people into the wilds and leaving them there. There should be some means of transportation, not only for the individuals but also for their produce. We have with Canada a 3,000 family scheme which has been very successful and which I hope will continue to be successful. I should like to see the same thing extended in the different States of Australia. There is a. scheme now for lending money at a cheap rate of interest by the Government here to assist them in development schemes and land settlement schemes in their country. It has not been taken advantage of yet so much as we would like to see.

We have an excellent representative of the British Government, a civil servant, in Australia, one of the best men I know in connection with oversea, settlement, who is pushing things forward there, and we may see a development. I do not like to depreciate any idea which is going to find work for our people who are unemployed, or any idea for promoting the best means of emigration, but I do not look upon this proposal at this stage as a reasonable one from any point of view. I know the difficulties. It is no use misguiding the House by saying we can cure our unemployed problem by lifting the people from this country and dropping them into some Dominion overseas. That is not a cure from any point of view. I think we should help all who wish to go, and I think we should take advantage of every step to remove difficulties which exist at the present time. Equally with arranging schemes for land settlement with the Dominions, we should be considering at the same time how we can settle the people as an alternative on the land of our own country.


I was very interested to hear the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down make reference to a scheme in which I have a great interest—the development in this country of pigs and poultry. At present we lag very far behind. If there is anything we can do in that way to help unemployment we should try to do it. I want to look at this question of emigration overseas, and I want to deal with it as it affects emigration to Canada. I had the privilege of visiting Canada last autumn and seeing how some of the schemes already working are prospering. The hon. Gentleman referred to the 3,000 family scheme. I had opportunities of seeing people who have settled under that scheme. I went round with some of the land officers who have been responsible for looking after the settlers when they got there, and I was enormously struck with the great interest which these officers show in the families settled, the great care they are taking to make life as comfortable and happy for them as they can and the happy way these people seem to have taken to the new life. I saw the wife of a Welsh miner who had settled out there, and she assured me she was very happy in her new surroundings, and so was her husband.

I want to emphasise this point in connection with the people who are going out to Canada. There is a real danger, unless we try to get people more from the towns and try to induce them to go, that we shall simply drain our country districts of the very type of person we cannot afford to lose. May I just quote very briefly from a speech made by the then Prime Minister of Alberta, the Hon. Herbert Greenfield, at the Canadian Club at Ottawa on 6th December, 1924. He was speaking on this very question that only people who had any previous experience on the land were any use. He said: Get the idea out of your mind, as the Chairman intimated to you, that it is essential to have agricultural experience to make good on the land in Western Canada, or any part of Canada. I had none. I have five farmers and a farmer's wife in the Alberta Cabinet. They have all done fairly well on the farms, and none of them had previous experience. Major Strange, who won the wheat championship in Chicago last year, was a green Britisher. The man who won it this year—I think his name is Mitchell—was a cotton spinner from Man chester. He did not have any previous experience in farming. I think that quotation shows we have not only to look to our country districts for the population to go abroad, but that the people who come from the cities can make good quite as well if they are pre pared to do the work they find. I am confident from what I saw in Canada that anybody who wishes to work has a wonderful opportunity if he settles on the land. One of the great problems Canada is faced with to-day is the fact that she has miles of railway which do not pay already. That is one of the difficulties she is up against. What we want to do is not to try to fill up districts such as the Peace River district, but to fill up vacancies on the already existing rail ways, which are struggling and often find it very hard to make both ends meet. That is the policy which the Government in Canada are anxious to pursue, and it is the policy which, naturally, the railways which serve those districts are anxious to pursue. They are determined to get those districts filled up, and so bent are they on filling their land with population, without which they cannot afford to carry the appalling load of debt, which has increased six times since 1914, that they are prepared to take people not only from this country but from else where. The people I have met out there said, "We would rather have Britishers, lout if we cannot have them we must have people from somewhere else, in order that we may live at all." Here I join issue with the right hon. and gallant Member for Bristol North (Captain Guest) in regard to the question of fifty-fifty. The people in Canada said to me, "Why, if we can get perfectly suitable emigrants from Central Europe, should we have to pay fifty-fifty in order to bring British people out, when others, in consequence of the United States veto, are coming out here as fast as they can?" I think we shall have to revise our estimate on that matter.

While I believe that there are great possibilities for our own people in Canada, and while I believe that those possibilities belong first and of right to people of this country, in so far as the people of Canada are willing to let them have them, I realise that if Canada is to exist she must get population. If we cannot supply the population she will get it elsewhere. That is going to be very serious thing for the British Empire. We have heard a great deal about the danger of Canada joining in with the United States. I found over there that the Brtish people with whom I conversed—and I spoke to them when ever and wherever I could—said, "We do not want this union to happen; we dread it; but facts may he too strong for us. The, Americans by their money, by the power of the purse, may prove too strong, and economic facts may compel a, union which would be so much against our wishes. We like the United States, but we have no desire for that to happen." If we cannot find the money, let us supply the people. If we do not, someone else will. Every family that goes into Canada, from elsewhere though they may make good Canadians, and probably will in two generations, have not the interest in the British Empire and they have not the interest in this country that the people of our own flesh and blood have. Every family from Europe that goes to Canada, increases the draw towards the United States, because their inclination is towards their own friends and relatives who are south of the line. I hope that we shall be able to do some thing to help our own people from our cities, apart from the question of un employment, not only of our country districts, to emigrate and fill up the vacant spaces which there are in Canada, and to settle on the land over there for their own and Canada's advantage and for the advantage of this country.


My reason for intervening is to deal with a phase of this matter which has not. yet been touched upon. Before doing so, I would tell the right hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest) that if a work able, practicable scheme of Empire migration can be evolved by this or any Government, the support for which he has appealed will be ungrudgingly given from these benches. I wish to draw attention to the large number of people in this country who are desirous of going to our Colonies, but who cannot get there, not people who emigrate more or less as a great adventure, but people who have been in the Colonies, who know what the Colonies are, whose hearts are in the Colonies and Who want to get back there, but cannot because they have not the means.

I wish to draw attention to the figures which were given in an answer by the Colonial Secretary, on the 17th February, in reply to the hon. Member for East Cardiff (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke). The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the Estimates and expenditure in regard to Empire settlement. In 1922–23, the estimated expenditure was £350,000 of which only £35,000, or one-tenth, was expended under the Act. In 1923–24, the estimate was£1,159,000 and the expenditure £447,000. In 1924–25, the estimate was £853,000 and the expenditure £223,000. There is a very large margin of money which has not been expended, and I would ask the Colonial Secretary to consider a suggestion as to how some of the money could be expended whilst the schemes out lined by the right hon. Member for North Bristol are being evolved, so that we might get a few thousand people back to the Colonies.

I will give two concrete instances from my own division. The first case is that of the father of a family who met with a severe accident in Newcastle, New South Wales, and returned under doctor's orders to Newcastle-on-Tyne. The man received compensation, but during his convalescence the amount of money he had received in compensation was largely expended, and the remainder was used in bringing him and his family home. The doctor said that his native air was the only thing that would entirely bring about his normal state of health. He is now fully restored to health and he wishes to return, but at the job on which he is now working it will take him some thing like two and a-half years to accumulate sufficient money to take him and his family back to Australia. I have brought the case to the attention of Australia House, but the rule there is rigid. No assistance can be given. The man must wait two and a-half years, and that time may have to be extended if there is any addition to his family and extra fares have to be paid.

The second case is that of a young man who had been five years in Australia. He joined one of the Overseas forces, fought in France for four years, came to this country, met a girl whom he made his wife, and now he has two children, and he wishes to return to Australia. He cannot get any part of his own passage money, but he can get assistance for his wife and the two children who have never been out there. I am informed that in London there are at least 5,000 men, some of whom were born in Australia, some of whom emigrated there in past years and have come back for one reason or another, mostly because of the great catacylsm of the war. Some of them came here for the first time after the war and, wanting to see something of the country, they delayed beyond the time within which the Australian Government would take them home. Some of them are working and some are not.

I suggest that money under the Empire Settlement Act might well be expended to get these people back. Even though some of them are employed, if they are sent back to the place in which their hearts are, they will make room for other people, for some of our unemployed here. If they are not employed, they are a very heavy charge on national or local funds. These people, who are strongly desirous of returning, should be assisted in some way. The rules at Australia House are very rigid. I put up the best case that I could for my two families, but could not get them back to that country. But money spent in helping them would do them and ourselves a good turn. The one thing to avoid is the creation of the false impression in the Dominions or Colonies that we desire to get rid of people who may be looked upon as undesirable. I can say that these people are not undesirable. Like the family in my own constituency, they say, "Our hearts are in Australia. We want to be back, we are trying to get back, and eventually we will get back, and we will get back the sooner if we have assistance." I mention these cases in the hope that something may be done.


Whatever may be the faults of the scheme put for ward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest), it has the merit that it gives those of us who are interested in peopling the vacant spaces of the Empire, an opportunity of raising points which have been too long dormant. There are points which have been raised to-night, such as the fluctuation in the number of people sent overseas under the Empire Settlement Act—a fluctuation which has caused considerable apprehension among those who are interested in this question. When one considers that before the War about 250,000 people departed annually from these shores and settled overseas, that in 1913 as many as 280,000 were settled under the Empire Settlement Scheme, and when one looks at the figures of last year and finds that the total has diminished to 67,000, it gives one cause to wonder what are the reasons for this enormous fluctuation. On the other hand, after listening to the arguments put for ward by the right hon. Member for North Bristol, I could not avoid the feeling that a great deal of harm might be done if people in the overseas Dominions gained the impression that it was the intention of this Government to dump a large number of people whom they were unable to employ for a period on the Dominions and expected the Dominions to absorb them.

As one who was born and has lived in one of these overseas Dominions I know for a fact that nothing has been more detrimental to the promotion of overseas settlement than the fact that a large number of people are sent overseas, or are induced to go overseas, under false pretences. The picture is painted very prettily. They are told that they are to be employed on the land all the year round under the most delightful conditions. Anyone who has been in Canada, for instance, knows what the conditions there are. For six months of the year the conditions are everything that could be desired. You have an excellent climate, you have any amount of employment in the harvest, and no one who desires to work ought to be unemployed. On the other hand there are six months of the year when the climatic conditions are such that it requires a man of very sound physical stamina, who is absolutely determined to fight these condition's, to make good and find employment.

The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned one or two possibilities in regard to Empire development. He mentioned the Peace River district. He also mentioned that he had never been there. I have been there, and I know that the conditions there are such that for six months of the year at least no man can find employment, because the country is snowed up and the temperature is any thing from 40 to 60 degrees below zero. For us to send men out from this country to a district like that, with anticipations of employment all the year round, is something for which we should not be responsible. As I have said, nothing could be more harmful to overseas settlement schemes than to send out people who would not be guaranteed employment all the year round. I know that large numbers go out to Canada in the spring. They work all the summer on the harvest. They are well employed and well paid, and they have opportunities of saving money. On the other hand, as soon as the severe weather comes and winter sets in, curing late October, or November, or December, these men flock into the towns, and there they engage in demonstrations of the unemployed. They send home the most harrowing tales to their people in this country, and that has been more detrimental than anything else to the settling of the right kind of emigrant overseas.

I am putting that point of view, because I know the difficulties which these overseas Governments have in absorbing these men. I know that Canada and other overseas Governments are being criticised for putting obstacles in the way of the Mother Country. Any one who knows the conditions in Canada for six months of the year and the severity of the climate then, anyone who has gone to the big cities like Montreal, or Toronto, or Winnipeg from December to March, must remember the harrowing pictures that he has seen in those cities and the large number of unemployed who cannot find employment. There he sees the other side of the picture, and he will realise the difficulties which the Canadian Government have to face. In conversation, only yesterday, the High Commissioner told me that they wanted as many men as we could send, but men who would go on the land and would stick to the land. What would happen in the case of the proposition put forward by the right hon. Gentleman? You would send out battalions of men who have been engaged all their lives in the mining industry.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned only one method of providing employment, and that was in connection with the Peace River Valley. I have already dealt with that. I could mention many others that have been under development for many years before the Peace River Valley was thought of. For example, there is the Hudson Bay Rail way. That railway has been under construction for many years, and there they have been facing exactly the same problems as confront the Peace River Valley or any other scheme in North-Western Canada. I could mention many other schemes which could absorb and employ a large number of men during part of the year. Canada and all the overseas Dominions want men who will go out there prepared to stick to the land. I agree with the hon. Member who has said that they need not necessarily be men experienced in agriculture. Any man, regardless of what his employment and his position may have been in this country, who goes overseas knowing the conditions which he has to face, and who is prepared to face those conditions and stick to the land, will, I feel confident, make good.

I should like to press one point which has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn). That is in regard to the Catterick training school. I know the hon. Gentleman has been largely responsible for that scheme, and all credit to him. I understand it has been the means of training a large number of would-be settlers, and I would like to see it extended. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to consider the desirability of a similar scheme in relation to Canada, because the same conditions apply. The men should be given a. certain amount of training before they go overseas, and with that training I feel confident they would make all the better settlers.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just addressed the House has spoken with an authority to which few of us can pretend upon this question. He has given us stark facts which are in some degree a corrective to the ideals held by some of us concerning Empire migration. Incidentally, the hon. and gallant Member has, in his own, candid way, and out of his own experience, given us strong reasons why the Labour sections in the various Dominions and Colonies are sometimes opposed to the rather indiscriminate migration schemes talked about in this country. Labour in Australia and Canada and elsewhere in the Empire is a factor to be reckoned with, and I do not think we shall do anything effective in this respect until we are in direct touch with the Labour representatives in those countries and until we get, not only their consent, but their sympathy, in regard to any schemes we have in hand.

10.0 P.M.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who raised this matter has certainly rendered a service, though one might well wish that this discussion should have some results other than the usual barren results attending upon discussions of this kind. I would prefer, that we had been discussing suggestions such as that brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), that the Government should have a joint Committee. facing the question of unemploy- ment in all its aspects, from the point of view of migration as well as from the point of view of re-settlement on the land in this country. I do not know if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest) knows that the Government have schemes in various Departments for the training of men. Reference has been made to Catterick, about which I spoke a few days ago as one of the most-heartening experiments conducted in this country for many years. It is a scheme which has settled upon the land, in one of our own Colonies, 60 families, the heads of which to-day would almost certainly have been unemployed had they been in this country. A scheme each as that, which is doing good work in preparing men during the last year of their Army service for work upon the land, and in various other capacities, is one that should not be standing still, but which should be enlarged as rapidly as possible. We have schemes in connection with the Army for training men in land work and various other forms of skilled work to fit them for settlement in various countries of the Empire, we have men in the Navy being trained, and we have men being trained under the Ministry of Labour.

The Ministry of Agriculture has a scheme of its own, or, at any rate, it has a Land Settlement and Training Department. But while we have all these schemes there is no co-ordination. I do not suppose the Ministry of Labour has the slightest idea of what the War Office is doing at Hounslow or Catterick. There is no reason to believe that they know what is being done by the Admiralty in the same direction and that there is no cohesion is shown by the fact that you have men leaving the land and being sent off the land in this country to other countries, and you have men leaving the land to go into other industries. In the mining industry last year, while there were nearly 200,000 miners unemployed, some 25,000 men and boys went into it from other industries.

I suggest that all the schemes I have mentioned should be co-ordinated and that some one body should be made responsible. They should have a definite object and, while the Army and the Navy and the Ministry of Labour may continue to do this work in their respective spheres, the Overseas Settlement Committee should have more jurisdiction over these training operations than they have at present. As has been said already, if we can train men who are useful in Australia, if the Australian Government ask that as many of these men as possible should be sent out, there is nothing to hinder us from doing the same thing in relation to land in this country which is not in use now but which has been in use. Men are being trained in pig breeding; they are being trained for the plough; they are being trained in various arts and crafts, and they are fitted to do effective work in Australia while their wives are trained in dairy work.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last described some of the conditions in the Peace River district of Canada, of which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Bristol spoke so very highly. The last speaker gave another picture of that experiment. If these men and women can be trained to do effective work in other parts of the world, surely it is possible to train them for equally effective work on our own land near the railways and the great centres. I have heard a Danish expert say that, in the bulk, our land is better than Danish land. Surely we can do something towards the re-settlement of our own people on our own land. If we make an attempt to meet that problem by restoring the people on a decent scale to the land in this country we will probably break down most of the prejudice which prevails in this country concerning emigration. After all, what happens? The people say, "All they are trying to do is to boot us out of the country after we have served it." If there is any opportunity of getting rid of that prejudice against working in the Colonies, and at the same time of getting into touch with those representative sections of labour in the different Colonies, so that we can get sympathy and help in that particular section as well as in the ordinary way, as we have done in the past, then that opportunity should be taken.

If I have one contribution to make to-night it is to say that the Government should co-ordinate their efforts for training men that are going on in the various Departments. I would like my hon. Friend to have his scheme for the settlement of this country considered by an unemployment committee composed of representatives of all parties, who could discuss this unemployment question in the same atmosphere in which we have discussed it here to-night. There has not been a single debating point made hero to-night. There has been nothing but a heartfelt desire to face this question which is demoralising our people through out the length and breadth of the country. I have seen in the last two or three years—men who never knew what unemployment was and who all their lives had been used to regular work—unable to do any work at all for the last two or three years. That applies to whole areas in which nobody can get any work. I shall never forget a friend of mine, who had been idle 12 months and who had got work at last, saying to me, "This has been the most miserable time I ever spent, and the worst of it is that I am now in a hole which I shall never get out of as long as I live." I ask the Government, in the name of humanity and of God, to get something done in order to express the heartfelt desire of this country and of this House to save the men who are being demoralised in this country at the present time.


I do not propose to waste my time in trying to impress upon my right hon. Friend the advantage of Empire migration because I believe the most powerful speech on that subject ever delivered in this House was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman himself during the passage of the Empire Settlement Bill in April, 1922. I want to lay before my right hon. Friend three problems which are exercising minds very much in the great industrial areas of Lancashire and Cheshire. Our problem there is, in the first place, how best to take steps to convert industrial people into suitable migrants for settlement on lands overseas. That is not such an easy matter, but I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give us some assistance and advice in regard to that.

The second question I want to put to him is, how can we best provide suitable migrants, whom trade depression has rendered penniless, with the means of proceeding overseas and carrying on until they are capable of earning money? It is all very well to say that we must entirely divorce the question of unemployment from the question of migration. I agree that we should keep them apart as far as possible, but at the same time there is the fact that, owing to trade depression, in certain large industrial districts such as Lancashire and Cheshire there are thousands of good people who, through no fault of their own, have been reduced to their last penny. To ask those people to put up money, even for assisted passages, even to put up a small sum of money to carry them on when they land overseas, is asking them to perform an impossibility, and I hope my right hon. Friend will take into consideration that problem.

The third problem is how to remove the dread of loneliness which we find deters many people from proceeding over seas. They fear—wrongly, perhaps, but still they do fear—that when they get overseas they will find themselves among strange surroundings and strange people. It would be a great help to emigration if arrangements could be made whereby our people on arriving at their destination would find that they not only have neighbours who were fellow-Britishers, but that they have a large proportion of neighbours who came from their own counties and districts. Another point I want to raise is this: Would it not be possible by some arrangement to get the restrictions which have been imposed by the Dominions reduced and in some cases abolished? My right hon. Friend would probably agree that the restrictions which are placed by the Dominions do very largely tend to reduce the possibility of sending out from this country many settlers who would be entirely suitable. We have to admit that every Dominion has the sovereign right to make its own laws and arrangements. At the same time, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend and the Oversea Settlement Committee, that very excellent Department, could not make some arrangements to get these restrictions reduced. I say these few words because we in Lancashire are con fronted with a huge industrial population who are and have been suffering for years from acute trade depression, and it would undoubtedly be to the good of those people, of this country, and of the Empire if we could get arrangements made to facilitate suitable and willing settlers being transferred to suitable places under proper supervision in our oversea Dominions.


To those of us who have had this question of Empire migration close at heart for years past, it is always a most welcome thing for a Debate to take place in the House of Commons in which references to party distinctions were all made subsidiary to the national problem and the national responsibility. It is unfortunate, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, that the questions of unemployment and of the distribution of population should be necessarily part of one problem. It is no good blinding ourselves to the fact that the conditions with which we are faced to-day are part of one and the same problem. It appears at first sight an easy matter to look at the vast un populated areas of the Dominions with their limitless possibilities and then to look at our overcrowded industrial population and to say, "Here is an overplus of population, there an overplus of area. Fill the vacant spaces with those who cannot make a livelihood here." The matter becomes of great complexity when we have to face the problem of fitting a round peg into the square hole. If un employment is a national tragedy the most serious thing is the tragedy of the younger generation who are going on to the labour market, who have never done a day's work in their lives, and start their careers with the prospect of going on what some of us call the dole on the threshhold of their careers. With regard to them I would like to make a suggestion to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.

One of the complaints that we get from our agricultural and rural areas to-day is that by the policy of the Government, with cheap emigration fares and rates, to Canada particularly, and other Dominions, and with the facilities that are offered for agricultural workers, our own countryside is being denuded of its best means for rehabilitating our flagging agricultural industry. That is a very serious problem, and it is one of the problems, among many others, that faces those of us who spend our time and interest in the question of rehabilitating the agricultural industry. Where are-the new sources of labour to come from to fill up the gaps in the countryside that we see to-day? The suggestion that I wish to make is one that may possibly have a bearing on both those questions, and I should like, if possible, that the Secretary of State for the Dominions should co-operate with the Minister of Agriculture in this matter. We know that many of the organisations for getting young fellows, and particularly boys, and giving them opportunities in our Dominions abroad have been attended with very great success—I mean organisations such as Dr. Barnardo's Homes and various training centres—but they have all necessitated expensive capital organisations for the purpose.

I want to see a mobilisation of our existing agricultural industry here at home to fulfil a two-fold purpose, namely, to be a means of training and developing young people to take their place in the agricultural activities of our own country, and, at the same time, to be making a potential reservoir of youthful emigrants to our Dominions and Colonies. I am thinking particularly of boys from the concentrated industrial centres, the natural type of British boy who likes to join the Boy Scouts, who has got the pioneering instinct in him, if it is not quelled sooner or later by constantly having to live in surroundings of street lamps and cinemas. We want to get him at that impressionable age out in the countryside, where he will get a certain amount of rural and agricultural surrounding and develop that innate taste for an outdoor life that every boy worth his salt has got. I believe that if some thing like what we know as the Big Brother Movement could be developed here in our own country—and that is a question that was developed by one of the hon. Members on the benches opposite a short time ago—you might get farmers in this country interested.

We have the industry here ready for mobilisation—it is not a question of the Government or anybody else putting up capital for it—whereby we could place such boys who have passed the test of inspection by some organisation that would satisfy itself that the boy himself was worth while and that the farm that he would go to would be a satisfactory place. A boy would thus get a training in those impressionable years from about 15 to 17, and at the end of that time he would have learned his job, at no expense. He would have been apprenticed to the agricultural industry here at home. At best, perhaps, he would get the taste for remaining in the agricultural industry, and therefore form that reservoir of workers whom we shall sadly need if we wish to maintain, let alone develop, the agricultural industry of this country. Next, if that were not the line which his tastes induced him to follow, he would be looking ahead to the opportunity of carving out a career of adventure and going abroad to our Dominions or Colonies, with the training that he had had at home, which would be more likely to suit him to make good in those new countries than if we were dealing with men who needed a larger opportunity, denied them as they had not had any kind of rural training. Finally, if the boy preferred to return to the industrial centres, at least he would have had a period in those impressionable years of his life which would have developed him physically and probably mentally as well.

I do wish to make this suggestion to the Secretary of State, because I think something on these lines might well be developed, so that we might be able to start flowing a stream which would be developed into a river, getting, not those whose mentality and whose characters have already been formed, but the younger generation who are still in a plastic state, who can be got from the often depressing, and too often degrading surroundings of some of our fully industrialised and over-crowded centres, on to our own land, offering them opportunities, if necessary by agricultural legislation, to find a career on their land at home, and, at the same time, to be training and preparing those who would make potentially successful emigrants to fill up the broad areas in our Dominions which are crying for an increase of population, and which are holding out enormous undeveloped resources. That is the one suggestion of, I hope, a practical nature, which I wish to make this evening, and which, I trust, the Minister will see his way to consider.


Like other Members who have offered a few remarks to-night, I should like to begin by congratulating the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who initiated this discussion upon the fact that he used his opportunity for raising issues in this House which are, or could be made, of material benefit to the people of this country. I am one of those who deplore the amount of time that is consumed here on issues which are very remote from the lives of the people of this country, and I congratulate the right hon. Member who raised this subject to-night upon the fact that he made concrete proposals. Whether they are wise or unwise, whether they survive the criticisms that have been made upon them by hon. Members opposite, I am unable to determine, but I do congratulate him and other Members who attempt to offer practical suggestions for dealing immediately with this horrible menace of unemployment.

I do again desire to reinforce the suggestion I have made previously, that all parties in this House should agree on some form of Select Committee—not a Royal Commission—to discuss immediately practicable schemes for dealing with unemployment, should report upon these schemes once a month to this House, that this Committee should have power to send for persons, papers and documents, and that we should have an opportunity in this House of voting Aye or Nay upon immediately practicable schemes for dealing with unemployment. I do not suggest at all a Select Committee for academic discussions, but to consider concrete proposals put up by local authorities, by some of our town councils and county councils, that are never voted upon in this House, and can not be discussed in this House, because the congestion of business here makes it impossible that they should ever come before it. Yet if we had some Select Committee, some organisation of the House, which could deal, in the first instance, with these proposals, I feel certain that the people of this country would receive very material benefit. The proposal that I have to make is concerned with immediate proposals for dealing with unemployment. I have made it before in the House.

The Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department has been going about making speeches on the subject as if the proposals were off his own bat. I do not object. I welcome any proposals which have any sort of economic sense in them at all which will substitute something better for the present system, which is corrupting the morale of our people. There should be something better than that they should receive money and give nothing in return, so losing their physique and their morale in every possible way. As the hon. Gentleman opposite said a moment ago, there are in some of our districts young men who have never worked at all since the Armistice, who have never had a job at all, this being not due in the slightest degree to themselves, or through any fault of theirs, but due to an economic policy over which they have not the slightest control.

The proposal I have to make has considerable backing from many hon. Members, some high in the Government, and I am perfectly certain of my figures, because I have discussed them with members of the Government of India. I know that the Secretary to the Over seas Trade Department has already been good enough to make speeches on them. What, then, is the proposal? We have under our flag in India to-day one-fifth of the whole of the human race. Their purchasing power is so very, very low; at the best it is estimated to be £4 per head per annum. They cannot buy clothes, boots, furniture, and really in some cases they cannot buy food. Millions perish because their frames are so worn through privation that they cannot stand up against disease. This fifth of the human race, or 318,000,000, are in India. They are potential customers for our goods, yet they cannot buy. The late Lord Curzon estimated their purchasing power at £2 per head per annum. I give it at £4. These 318,000,000 people use 20,000,000 wooden ploughs to scratch—for it is nothing else—the surface of the soil. There are 60,000 agricultural co-operative societies, all sound, all vouched for by Government representatives in India. Is it not possible to substitute iron ploughs for these wooden ploughs? Why cannot we lend India iron ploughs through the 60,000 co-operative societies? Why cannot we lend 3,000,000 iron ploughs on the basis of a two-harvest loan, We should immediately set our engineering industries going full blast, set our iron trade going, give our coal trade a big lift up, and assist our shipping, and at the same time we should be raising the purchasing-power of potential customers numbering one-fifth of the human race.

I will call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government to-night to the fact that Lieutenants-General and Governors-General are coming back from India and reporting on these lines. One of them wrote an article in the "XIXth Century Magazine" for last month, in which he said that if only we would increase the purchasing power of the people of India by d. per head per week, 2s. 6d. a year, could increase British exports by no less than £40,000,000. The computation can easily be checked. Anyone going through India will see poor fellows lifting water from their village wells to irrigate the fields. They are using old skin bags with holes in them, just as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. They cannot water their fields with these old sheep bags, though they toil day and night, sometimes with one bullock, some times with two bullocks, sometimes with no bullock at all at this most laborious and useless method of raising water.

Why cannot we lend them the necessary 500,000 oil engines through village co operative societies, on approved security, to enable that water to be pumped automatically and distributed over the fields? Is would save an enormous amount of human labour, and would increase the crops; and immediately we increased the crops from one bushel to the acre to three, four, five, or 20 bushels to the acre, we should increase the purchasing power e. the people of India and make them potential, in fact real, purchasers of all kinds of British goods. It is not only a case of ploughs and oil engines; we could supply crushing engines and all sorts of machinery of that kind. There is an enormous market waiting for us; but we must give them credit. They must have at least two harvests' credit in order to be able to increase their purchasing power.

I do not desire to take up too much of the time of the House. I recognise that Debates like this are the most useful Debates that take place in this House, the value of them lying in the fact that a large number of Members can offer the best suggestions that are in them in order to get something done; in fact, I would like to hear a larger number of Members taking part in them. I want to say, how ever, before I sit down, that I agree with hon. Members on this side of the House that we must not only increase the purchasing power of our customers abroad but the purchasing power of our people at home. We have had some splendid instances of what can be done at home. We do not require to go to Peace Valley, Alberta, or anywhere else abroad, to raise the purchasing power of the people. There are the Orkney Islands. Co operative holdings are being developed there, and the result is prosperity and a huge increase in the purchasing power of the people, because they have dispensed with the middleman and market their own goods.

There is also the case of the small holdings that some of us visited at Fen-wick, Ayrshire, where coal-heavers and other men who never were trained to agriculture have set up small poultry farms and have become prosperous and are earning a good living. We really do not need to go to the uttermost ends of the earth. We should use our opportunities at home, and start by reforming the machinery of this House, so that we can discuss practical proposals for dealing with unemployment; and then set about the task, not with the object of decreasing the purchasing power of our people at home, or decreasing the purchasing power of our potential customers abroad, but of raising their purchasing power. Then we should begin to see a way out of this horrible mess in which we have been entangled since the Armistice. It is the increase of purchasing power that matters, and I hope the Colonial Secretary will give this House some indication that the Government is prepared to cut right through the old traditions of this House and set up a Select Committee charged with the duty of examining every practical proposition for dealing with unemployment that can be submitted, and report once a month to this House. We could then let this House have a direct vote upon the operations of that Committee, and then we shall begin to feel that we are getting our teeth into this subject and doing something tangible, and not merely passing round the Division Lobbies and leaving the world no better than we found it.


I am sure the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down has been most interesting as well as suggestive, though it Slightly differs from the line adopted by other speakers. I am sure he will not expect me to give off-hand an answer to the interesting points which he has raised. I will, however, most certainly tell the Prime Minister not only of his suggestions but also of the large measure of sympathy with which they were received in this House. As to the subject generally, I only wish a larger House had been present because I have rarely heard a Debate which, as one hon. Member has already stated, was so entirely free from debating points, and one in which every hon. Member, in the briefest possible time, has contributed practical and constructive ideas. The Debate began with a most stimulating and interesting speech by my right lion. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest), and it has been followed by speeches which, although they have not been in the same strain, were of an extraordinarily practical character, and filled with first hand information which the House of Commons never fails to find on every subject we discuss. Hon. Members have criticised the practical difficulties in the way of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Bristol, and I do not think it is necessary for me to go over then again, because very forcible arguments have been used. But Whether the actual scheme is practical or not, the conceptions underlying it are of value. You need the volunteer or pioneer spirit. You need the recruit training. You have the transport to the port. This is a question, of course, which intimately affects the problem of the un employed, and all we wish to safeguard ourselves against is the idea that people should go overseas because they are un employed and not because they are the right men to go abroad, men with the pioneer spirit. Just as an expeditionary force requires its battle front, in the case of the right hon. Gentleman's expeditionary force you must have some practical scheme on which the men axe to be employed.

Those main elements of the scheme put forward are true, however they may have to be carried out. Whether the exact form of a military organisation, such as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, can really be applied is quite another matter. In the first place, it is obvious that schemes within the ambit of another Government of the Empire cannot very well be carried on by the Government on this side. Whatever the organisation is on the other side, it must be under the control of the Government overseas. Then, again, you have to consider whether the military type of organisation is really the best for carrying out the practical work of the scheme. The ex-officers to whom my right hon. Friend referred are in many respects admirable men for military leadership, and yet it is always possible that, when you come, say, to building a railway, whether under the Government or under contractors, they may not necessarily be the best foremen for railway work, and that an experienced railway foreman would be better. You have all these difficulties. You have the difficulty of finding actual schemes to which you can bring a large body of people without either interfering with existing labour conditions, or building up schemes which are premature from the point of view of the economic needs of the country. The Peace River scheme is one of these, which was at once criticised from that point of view in the very able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Western Aberdeen (Mr. Barclay-Harvey).

Let me take the first portion of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion—the idea of training. I think that all of us who have followed the problem during the last few years, like my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), have become convinced that there is a great field for training the man who is a town dweller, or the youth who would other wise become a town dweller—for training him, as long as he is still adaptable, for work on the land in any part of the Empire, and I certainly do not exclude this country from the conception of the Empire. Experience shows, in fact, that it does not require a trained agricultural worker in this country to make a good and successful farmer overseas. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Aberdeen quoted some very striking instances given by the Premier of Alberta, himself an unskilled agriculturist who became a successful farmer and Premier of a great farming community, and I have come across the very same conditions myself in different parts of the Empire. I have met some of the most successful farmers of Australia who came from the centres of our great cities. I remember, years ago, in the Canadian prairie, meeting a man who was reputed to be the most successful farmer in the district, and I talked with his about his previous experience. He told me that he had been in a pastry-cook's shop in the East End of London, and had never seen a green field until he was in the train which took him to Liverpool.

More recently, I remember that, in the coarse of my work when I was chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committee, when we encouraged the ex-service men, whom we had given free passes, to write to us of their experiences, I received a letter from the Peace River district—that region which, not so long ago, was thought to be absolutely in the Arctic regions—from a man who had been out there for a year or two. He rejoiced in the life, in the sense of owning his own property, the sense that he was increasing the value of that property, the enjoyment of sport, like trapping and fishing, and so on, and he expressed his willing ness to take on and train any two or three spirited young men who might be sent these. As a matter of curiosity I looked up this man's record, and for 17 years before the War he was a tailor in Edmonton. It shows that it does not require a trained agriculturist to be a success overseas. Certainly in this country we cannot afford to spare too many trained agriculturists from an industry which is struggling against great difficulties, and which all parties in the State mean to have revived. Just as the city-bred boy can make a successful farmer in Australia or Peace River he can make a successful farmer in England or Scotland when the conditions of agriculture in this country are dealt with in a policy which is going to make agriculture a success.

What I should like to say about this discussion is that it has really turned on the question why in these post-War years the movement of migration for the development of the Empire and for the creation of a more equable balance in our whole economic system has been so slow. That is the real problem. The years immediately before the War were years undoubtedly conducive to a great flow of migration. First of all, there was great prosperity in the development of the Dominions. In Canada those were boom years, both in the sale of Canada's produce outside and also in the building up of a tremendous railway system which is now a good deal ahead of the population. All that naturally stimulated the flow of migration. On the other hand, you had a great period of good trade here, which stimulated migration in two ways. It enabled the ordinary working man who wished to go with comparative ease to lay by the necessary money to pay his own fare without any question of State assistance. Similarly, it enabled the capitalist with comparative ease, in times of lower taxation and prosperous trade, to set aside large sums of money for investment overseas, all of which helped the flow of emigration, and last but not least, the steamship and railway passages were only a fraction of what they have been since the War. The whole of that movement stopped dead during the War and for something like six or seven years there was practically no migration at all. There was none during the War or during the difficult period of repatriation after the War, and it was only after several years that the movement began again.

What was the condition then? Take the condition in the Dominions first of all. Instead of a steady impetus of population coming in year after year, and, therefore, increasing the demand for fresh population, you had a dead stop to emigration, and even the losses of casualties on the battlefield. Instead of a surplus capital and a low taxation you had, in every Dominion, a burden of debt and a much higher rate of taxations. Instead of the abundant markets they had before the War, you had a restricted market in Europe, and the market of this country not yet recovered from the effects of the War. Here, on the other hand, you have had such a condition of industry that the very best type of men, the men who know where they want to go, who do not want any public assistance, who want to save, are not in a position to save even the money which would have got them across the seas in pre-War days, far less the money required for the very heavy cost of ocean passages since the War. Simi- larly, instead of a free flow of capital to the Dominions, you have it very much restricted. But for a complete change in the policy of this country there would have been practically no migration. For the first time in recent history we did consider—and when I say we, I mean successive Governments without distinction of party—our duty to help those who wished for wider opportunity across the seas, to give them a reasonable chance of access to that opportunity, and, as far as possible, to give them that reasonable chance within the British Dominions. Something like 100,000 men, with their families, were enabled to go overseas under free passages to ex-service men. It became obvious that you could not do that on an immense scale only at the expense of the British taxpayer. The interest of the Dominions in getting new population is at least as great as ours in getting a fair chance for our surplus population. Added wealth, revenue, man-power, citizenship go to the Dominions, and though we get from men overseas a far bigger market than we would if they went to any foreign country, and a better market than if those men who are prosperous there had been unemployed, or only miserably employed at home, still, the greatest interest is theirs.

This business of emigration ought never to be thought of as a means of ridding ourselves of people we do not want. After all, if all the expenditure were to be made by this country, the suggestion would inevitably follow that we do this in our interest because it is only our interest. It is from the point of view of true Empire partner ship in which both sides are contributing an equal benefit, as well as from reason able consideration of the finances of this country, that I should be very loth to part with the principle of true co operation in this matter. On the broad principle, co-operation and partnership is a sound principle. The restriction and limitation upon assisted passages, which has been one of the chief reasons why the flow has not been as large, does not arise because the Dominion Governments grudge the money. It arises because conditions overseas are not yet such that those Governments are prepared to spend up to anything like the limit which we have been prepared to spend. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) very fairly put some of the difficulties in Canada. They are not insuperable, but they are difficulties which the Canadian Government has to face. Every other Government has difficulties. That is one of the reasons why the flow of assisted emigration has been limited by rules and regulations devised, not to save the money of the Government concerned, but to ensure that those who did go should succeed, and that people should not be tempted to go overseas and then have to walk the streets of Toronto or Sydney.

Once the revival comes in industry you will have a demand for industrial development there as well as for agricultural development, and, as in pre-War days, there will be a demand for industrialists from this country as well as for young men who prefer to go on the land. I agree with what was said in the interesting and brief maiden speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. C. P. Williams) that there is a great field for building up new industrial schemes, power schemes, electrical schemes in the Dominions where skilled workers of this country can go straight, without having to be trained to become agriculturists.

As far as we can make preparations under the Empire settlement schemes we have done a good deal towards it. Take the scheme which is in existence between ourselves and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, under which we are to contribute for 10 years a capital sum of £7,000,000 towards a series of loans amounting to a total of £34,000,000 for schemes of every sort and kind, as a result of which 450,000 people are to go out at reduced passage rates to the Commonwealth of Australia. Once the conditions of carrying out that policy, which are already agreed upon between us, are really in motion, the ideals of my right hon. and gallant Friend will be rapidly executed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Lunn), whom I can call my friend without distinction of party, referred to the success of the 3,000 families in Canada who have been settled out there under the scheme, and direct witness was given to that by the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Mr. Barclay- Harvey). I have seen several hundreds of letters from these settlers, bearing witness to the extraordinary care with which the work of settlement has been carried out, the care in selection at this end, the real live human interest taken by the officials of the Dominion Government and, what is no less important, the extraordinary friendly welcome shown by all their neighbours on their arrival. They found the fire laid, the tea got ready, eggs and chickens were brought, indeed every thing to enable them to live comfortably for two or three days while they got used to their surroundings. Their neighbours were tumbling over one another to give them a friendly welcome, and to help them.

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I admit that that scheme is on a very small scale at the present time, but it is well to build soundly and to test your ground. If we can prove that a particular type of scheme—and the Empire Settlement Act admits of an infinite diversity of schemes—works soundly in the case of a few hundreds of people, there is nothing to prevent it being extended, as conditions improve, to deal with thousands and even tens of thousands. It all comes back both as regards the willingness of the Dominion Governments and as regards unassisted emigration to conditions being favourable. The hon. Member for East Newcastle (Mr. Connolly) pointed out that when one deals with assisted emigration there are rules and regulations which often debar some of the most deserving cases. He drew a picture of two cases, where he knew the people, who will have to work two years or more in order to save up sufficient money to migrate, when it would be so much better for everybody that they should be able to go out at once. The real remedy for that class of case is not so much to attempt to alter the various Regulations, although I think in many cases the Regulations could be more liberally applied, but to facilitate unassisted passages. After all, a man likes to go on his own if he can, without assistance. So long as he knows what are the ordinary conditions, he likes to put down his own money and to go, but, unfortunately, the cost is in many cases much too high, and I cannot help thinking that one of the questions that could be most fruitfully discussed at the Imperial Conference is how, not only to extend the scope of assisted passages, but by some form of assistance from the Governments concerned to cheapen the cost of unassisted passages. I want to say one further thing in conclusion. What the Dominions always bring home to us, as indeed Mr. Bruce brought home to, us at the Conference of 1923, is that you cannot separate the question of men from the question of money and the question of markets. It is no good sending a man out unless you send out a corresponding amount of capital with him. If the settler has not capital of his own, there must be either the capital of the capitalist who starts power schemes or factories or whatever it may be, or there must be the capital of Governments helping in the acquisition of land and seeing the settler through the early years. In one way or other we have to provide the surplus capital in this country and make it available for overseas settlement. At present we import so heavily that we have practically no surplus capital. We have to increase our exports and in one way or another to reduce the volume of our unnecessary imports in order to create a margin of capital to help on this great movement.

With regard to markets, I do not wish to enter on any controversial point, but what is quite clear is that anything which would enable this country to increase its consumption of the goods produced in the Empire at once facilitates the flow of migration. It is our duty not merely to help a man to cross the seas, but to give him a fair chance overseas. That duty dons not stop at the reception arrangements at Quebec or Melbourne, or seeing him get his first job; it continues also in doing what we can to give him a chance of making good by buying the things that he grows. There are many ways in which we can do that. We can do an immense amount, even without those wide measures of fiscal re-organisation, in which, at any rate, I have always been a profound believer. We can do a 'great deal by drawing the attention of the people of this country to their power and their responsibility and their duty as purchasers. Quite apart from any political action or anything that arouses controversy, every citizen, man or woman, in this country can help the success of Empire migration and help the consequent increase of our export trade if, whenever other things are equal, they give a voluntary preference to the purchase of the goods which their fellow citizens across the seas produce.

If they do that, they can help enormously. What the Government can do is to help them to identify which are Empire goods and which are not, and help them through the publicity and other measures which we contemplate in connection with the future expenditure of £1,000,000 a year. That will help the ordinary citizen to do something, both to strengthen the Empire as a whole and to contribute to wards the solution of those grave domestic problems, which have been discussed to night in a temper so worthy of the great- ness and gravity of the problem and in so helpful and constructive a spirit.

Question, "That the Bill he now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

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