§ 18. Mr. MAXTON
asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on what date the agreement entered into by the British Government with the Australian Commonwealth Government on 8th April, 1925, giving effect to certain provisions of the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 to establish joint responsibility for the employment of British migrants to Australia, ceased to operate?
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
The agreement to which the hon. Member refers has not yet ceased to operate, but negotiations are now proceeding for its termination. In view, however, of the terms of Article 9 of the agreement, I could not accept the general description of its provisions given in the hon. Member's question.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that 647 the agreement does not involve responsibility for the employment of migrants to Australia?
The general effect of Clause 9 of the agreement is that the Australian Government are responsible for the after-care of the migrants.
§ Mr. HANNON
Will the right hon. Gentleman raise this question at the Ottawa Conference; and is he aware of the deplorable condition of many of these migrants to Australia at the present time?
I am well aware of it, and it is not necessary to wait for the Ottawa Conference to raise the question; but that is not my hon. Friend's question. My hon. Friend has clearly indicated, not only in this question but in previous questions, that he wants the British Government to take special responsibility for them, and that I do not accept.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman has understood, from this or any previous questions that I have asked, that I want to put the responsibility on His Majesty's Government. May I put it in this way? Will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to see that one or other of the two contracting parties who entered into the agreement—either the Home Government or the Commonwealth Government—will take responsibility for the maintenance of these people?
I have indicated previously that, as far as His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are concerned, the first question put on this point was as to whether I was aware of a differentiation in treatment between those in distress. I took up that question, and ascertained that there was no differentiation. Then came a question as to who was responsible, and I have stated to-day that the Australian Government are responsible. Now comes a supplementary question as to whether I will take steps to see that the Australian Government are held responsible for their responsibility, and, in reply to that question, I say that I will draw their attention to any complaints submitted to me—and, to be quite frank, many complaints have been submitted which show real cases of hardship.