§ Sir ARTHUR SHIRLEY BENN
I beg to move,That this House observes with great regret that migration overseas is much lower now than before the War, and urges His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to secure the co-operation of the Dominions in comprehensive schemes for migration within the Empire.7.30 p.m.
It is nearly seven years since I brought forward a Motion urging the Government to take further steps for the development of Greater Britain. My object is the same to-day, but as times have changed and an evolution has taken place, I am asking the Government to endeavour to get the cooperation of the Dominions, or perhaps I might say the Governments of the other nations who owe allegiance to the King and form, with us, the British Commonwealth of Nations, which comprises the British Empire, a far-flung Empire, and as the House knows, an Empire for which the British Commonwealth of Nations would fight in case of war, and for whose welfare in peace time it must continue to have concern. The Empire was built up largely on account of trade and to prevent European countries from hoisting their flag here, there, and everywhere outside of Europe and then claiming those countries as their colonies and refusing to allow other Powers to trade there.
As the House well knows, England's Colonies for many years occupied the position of children, but to-day the larger Colonies have become Dominions and partners with Britain in the British Commonwealth of Nations. When Dominion status was granted, it covered the rights of self-government, self-defense, and self-support. As to the first, we have never interfered with any legitimate action of the Governments of the Colonies; as to the second, we have always been ready, and are ready, to defend any portion of the Empire in case of need; and as to the third, self-support, we have not, in my opinion, given that service which we might have given to the building up of those Colonies which have had to support themselves. Many 1693 of us were of the opinion that the Colonies should provide all the raw material and that we should pay for it in manufactured goods, but that day has gone. Ever since Ottawa we realize that we are working together as a nation, as an Empire, as a, people, that what affects one portion affects all, and that our merchants and our manufacturers and those who are living in the other parts of the Empire will have to work together for the general good of the Empire.
The result of our action was a lack of factories in the Colonies. Some factories existed, but they nearly always had men ready to work, and that was the only reason, as far as I can gather, why there was any objection raised at any time to the immigration from the Mother Country of men to settle on the land in the Colonies. I do not forget that in 1921, at the Conference of the Prime Ministers of the Empire, they called for closer co-operation with England and for the settlement in their countries of the men and women whom we could spare. I do not forget that in 1922 we passed an Act which called for the expenditure of considerable amounts of money on Empire settlement. I do not forget that the Colonies have gone ahead of us in wanting a closer union and have decided that they are going to remain peopled as far as possible with men of British blood. The things that we want would not prevent the immigration into those Colonies of men or women from any country that has been able to send out good colonists and can continue to do so. I want to urge that we call upon the Government to take this more as a business matter, to get the Colonies and ourselves to realize that, although at the present time we may not have a sufficient amount of money to pay for the raw materials from the Colonies, and while we must realize that trade is as bad as it can be, yet this is the very time for us to take hold of this work, not only of increasing the emigration to the Colonies, but of developing the Colonies, so that they may be able to handle those who emigrate to them.
The development of the Empire at the present moment would be merely getting ready for what is bound to come. It. would cost money, but it would be money well invested. It would help to build the railroads, the docks, the factories and houses, to clear the land, and to get 1694 places ready inside our present Colonies, or inside the Dominions, if they are willing, where our people could go and form new colonies within those Colonies, helping not only the Colonies but the Empire as a whole. If our Government would get into touch with the Governments of the other portions of the Empire which have shown their determination and their willingness to act with us, it would be a very useful and beneficial thing, not only to the Colonies, but to us here at home, to the Empire as a whole, and, I believe, to the world as a whole. I have heard it said, "Why should we go ahead and do it now?" I think the House will agree with me when I say that our race has been noted in the past not only for vision, but for enterprise, for courage, and for determination; and if we will only realize that we have got that in the race to-day, we can go ahead and take a vast property like the British Empire, that belongs to the race, develop it, and secure that in the future we shall have some place that will be prospering, in which we shall find a home not only for those who are in over-populated portions of the Empire, but for the coming generation.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
I beg to second the Motion.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. S. Benn) has moved the Motion in a speech which marks the long experience which he has had of the Dominions, a speech which one might almost describe as the prospectus of "British Commonwealth, Unlimited." He has urged that the Homeland and the Dominions should get together at this time, when migration is practically at a. standstill, and prepare for the time when it will begin again, a time that must come. There is another speech to which I might refer, the speech that sometimes one hears, but which I hope we shall not hear from the Front Bench this evening, the speech which says, "Migration is at a standstill. We have more people coming back than going out. We are doing our best to revive trade between this country and the Dominions. Let us wait for the revival of trade, and with that revival will come the revival of migration." The Secretary of State has done a great work at Ottawa. Ottawa was a great success and 1695 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the Empire. In that work my right hon. Friend has played a large and honourable part, and this Motion is in the nature of an appeal to him to continue that work, to take thought for this great subject of migration, and to make preparations for its revival.
It is true that migration is at a standstill at the moment. None the less, that problem of migration remains the greatest Imperial problem that the Empire has to solve. It is a problem of congested cities and of vast vacant spaces, and those are great facts. We want to bring together those people in the congested cities and those great vacant spaces, and surely it is not beyond the capacity of the British race to solve that problem. The problem will remain with the British race for generations, and there is no time like the present to begin to solve it. It is not only the greatest of our Imperial problems; it is an urgent problem. Is it to be supposed that the world will continue to look for ever at those fertile vacant spaces in the British Empire? Does Australia realize that one-half of the population of the world lives on and around the South Pacific? Do the trade unions of Australia realize that, but for the British Navy, there would be no White Australia, that it would be Yellow Australia, that the yellow races would pour into it? Let them remember Manchuria in that connection. The philosophy of the trade unions of Australia seems to be, "We have a continent, and we have a high standard of living. Let us keep them, and after us the deluge." But the deluge for their children, unless they can fill their vacant spaces with people of the British stock, would be a yellow deluge.
Is Canada aware of the great pressure of the surplus populations of Central and Southern Europe, who are longing to go to the vacant spaces there? The problem is as to whether these great spaces are to he filled with people of our own race, and the sooner we set about comprehensive plans, in conjunction with the Dominions, to solve that problem, the better it will be for the future of the race. What are our home needs, and what are the needs of the Dominions? Our home needs are elbow room and markets, and the needs of the Dominions are settlers 1696 of the right type, capital, and markets. It is a well-known fact, which sometimes the Dominions seem not to realize, that new settlers create new markets, and that is a principle that we must go upon. The boom years in Canada in emigration were 1901 to 1913, and in those years 2,000,000 emigrants went into Canada, but at the same time £500,000,000 worth of British capital went into Canada. Settlers and capital go together. Since the War we have spent nearly £1,000,000,000 on doles, and we have not spent £10,000,000 on Empire development, Since the War we have invested £1,000,000,000 in foreign Government and municipal stocks, and we have lost most of it, and we have not made losses in similar investments in the British Empire.
I say with the utmost conviction that the best investment that this country could make would be the investment in considered settlement and development in the British Dominions. If we had sat down with the Dominions after the War and had thought out comprehensive schemes for the settlement and the development of the Empire, what would we not have saved in doles and relief and in every direction? We passed an Empire Settlement Act in 1922. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who knows more about this question and the British Empire than any Member of the House, was in charge of that Measure. It could have been of great use, but it has disappointed us. We expected much more from it. It proposed to put at the disposal of Empire settlement and development £3,000,000 a year, but not 10 per cent. of that money has been spent. We made other plans in a spasmodic and scrappy way, but they have to a large extent failed.
What are the present agencies for dealing with this great question? There are the voluntary societies, such as the Salvation Army, which has done great work. The Boy Scouts under Captain Sutton has migrated a large number of boys and young men with great success. Then there is the Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women, which has done good work, and Miss Irwin's society for the migration of Scottish women. Then there is the Young Mens' Christian Association under Mr. Bavin, who settled thousands of boys in the Dominions. 1697 Although the migration of boys has ceased, Mr. Bavin has initiated a plan in conjunction with the National Farmers' Union for settling boys on farms in this country. He has settled over 30 boys in this way, and it is a most promising plan. These are the chief of the voluntary agencies, but their machinery is getting rusty. We have to keep it in being. Beyond that there is the Overseas Settlement Department of the Dominions Office, and that, too, is in a state of coma. It had an advisory committee of able men and women, who met once a month. I believe that they have now ceased to meet. Their advice was excellent when it was given, but they had no power, and that Department was found to be ineffective in working the settlement Act.
I would suggest—and this suggestion is supported by some of those who have thought most deeply on the question—a board of about five members consisting of men of great business experience, who can give their whole time to the work— for it is a whole-time job—men of wide experience and knowledge of the Empire. They should have great powers and should set to work in conjunction, if possible, with their opposite numbers in the Dominions to make an Imperial survey to see in what direction settlement and development could best be undertaken. It should not merely be settlement on the land but industrial settlement, mining development and rail development. What could not be done, for instance, by building feeders to the two great Canadian lines? Directly they were built, settlements would spring up on each side. The result would be that the district would be developed and greatly improved. Markets would be created and employment provided. Moreover, from those districts would come an increasing demand for the products of this country, and therefore more employment here. One of the first duties of this board would be to take into consideration land settlement at home. The report of the Astor Sub-Committee of the Economic Advisory Council, which dealt with Empire migration, says:Land settlement in Great Britain is, in the long run, an essential condition of extensive migration for land settlement in the Dominions.This sub-committee dealt with migration and expresses a strong opinion on the necessity for land settlement in this 1698 country. In conjunction with land settlement here, there would have to be the question of training. We have a certain number of training centers in this country; they are testing centers, and they will be of the greatest use in connection with land settlement in this country. The hoard would also have to consider the relation between the social services in this country and migration. The Maclean Report dealt with that question some years ago, and came to the conclusion that the effect of the social services upon migration then was not large. Since that report was issued four or five years ago, however, the effect on migration of the very large benefits conferred by the social services in this country has been increasing. People are less and less disposed to leave this country for the Dominions where no such system of social services exist. The board would have to consider, too, industrial, mining, railway and agricultural development, and in particular how development can be forwarded by chartered companies in each of the Dominions backed by guarantees in this country and the Dominions.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Guarantees by the Government. If these questions were attacked in a large and comprehensive spirit by a body of men of the right type, men of knowledge of the Empire, men of courage and vision, I believe that a, new wave of life and of hope would go through the Empire. It is said that sometimes the spirit of adventure is dead in this country. I do not believe it for a moment. While this spirit of enterprise and adventure may be latent, it is there in as full a measure as it has ever been in the history of the race. If this question is attacked, as I hope it will be, by the present Government, which has already done so much to rescue this country from the difficulties and despair in which it found itself, I believe that there will be great hope of a new movement in the history of the Empire.
§ 7.55 p.m.
I have attended in the last ten years a series of Debates on this subject, and I have had the temerity on more than one occasion to try and take part. I am glad to see opposite to me this evening my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), because as far back as 1926, when we had a Debate on 1699 this subject, we came very nearly to general agreement. To-day, I was looking at the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 25th March, 1926, and it encourages me to put forward an idea which I had on migration, but which at that time seemed extravagant in its outlook and did not meet with general support. The manner in which this Motion has been moved and seconded encourages me to join with the supporters of it with the intense desire to persuade, if one can, the Ministers sitting on the Front Bench really to do something. Debate after Debate takes place on this great question, and nothing is done. An instance of that was given by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) in the fact that as far back as 1922 a grant of £3,000,000 per annum was allocated by the Treasury for migration and less than 10 per cent. of it has been spent. There has been a series of Ministers in charge of this subject since that period. I blame them all, irrespective of party, for doing nothing to utilize that immense contribution which the State was prepared to make.
We meet at this particular period of our national history at a moment of the gravest possible crisis. What is happening in the economic situation is far beyond my skill to describe; perhaps it is only just within my skill to appreciate, but I read general statements delivered by public leaders, and I am struck immensely by two which were delivered in the last few weeks. I read that the Lord President of the Council lately found it necessary in making a speech to say that you have to find remedies for situations with which no one is familiar and for which there are no precedents. I listened only a few weeks ago to the Leader of the Opposition when he said that the world is going downhill. The tackling of the question of migration may not be the only solution for our economic problems, but I am not so certain that it is not at the bottom of our problems and that, if time and trouble were given to the subject, it would not prove to be one of the most important.
I will not delay the House for more than a few minutes, because the case has been made by the proposer and seconder of the Motion, but I want to add one or two views which they omitted to bring to the attention of the House. The two statements made by the Lord President 1700 of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition encourage me to make a proposal. We start from the position of affairs where it looks very much as if unemployment has become static. I think most students of the industrial difficulty are of the same opinion. Probably we have to look forward to a long period of static unemployment, and may be it is likely to be intensified rather than alleviated. Every year we live machinery develops and labour-saving devices increase, and it would appear to those of us who are merely onlookers that the unemployment roll is likely to remain the same, even if it does not grow bigger.
If that be so, I submit the simple statement that the country is over-populated; and, if that be true, the situation must be faced. The question how to get people back to the land of England is a problem of its own, but no country in the world except Great Britain—and in that I include the possibilities of the British Empire—has such an opportunity to spread its population and do good by so doing. The facts as they present themselves to me are alarming. First of all, we have the curious anomaly of immense luxury and terrible poverty side by side in our Empire. We have a condition of world affairs in which food is even being destroyed. We have a monetary situation under which money can be borrowed for short terms at 1 per cent. or a little more. All these things make me think that the mess-up or muddle into which the world has got, and into which, unfortunately, the British Empire has got, demand the most extraordinary and drastic performances. A drastic performance in relation to migration I propose to submit to the House. It may be answered at once that finance will stand in the way of any great scheme. I submit that that objection is completely brushed aside by the figures given us by the hon. Member who seconded the Motion. In the last 11 years we have spent something like £600,000,000 on the dole and £700,000,000 on unemployment relief, a great deal of which expenditure, I am sorry to say, has not been productive. The fact that in those 11 years we have lost, from the point of view of productive labour, round about £3,000,000,060, seems to suggest that money is not the difficulty. If any Government were to tackle a big scheme of 1701 migration I do not think the money would prove an obstacle.
That brings me to my attempt to make a contribution to the Debate. Some years ago, at a time when the unemployment figure was little more than 1,000,000, about the time of the difficulty in the coal trade, when there were evidences of complete villages being thrown out of employment, I submitted a plan to the House. My mind turned then to the question of migration not by driblets but en masse. By that I mean that instead of leaving it to the individual spirit of adventure of some young man or young woman who wanted to make a way for himself or herself in the world, an entire community should be moved, and not only moved but taken care of by the State, until the people were in a position of security and able to earn their livelihood and stand on their own feet. At that time I went very closely into what it would cost to move 1,000,000 people. I run the risk of my proposal being looked upon as a fairy tale, and as an impossible and impracticable suggestion; but it was not impracticable in the days of the War to move people by the million, to feed them by the million, and to organize them by the million. Surely there is no physical difficulty in the way of moving vast numbers of people and putting them safely and happily in any part of the world. We have the advantage of having friendly countries in which we might make them homes and bring them up. It may be said that they cannot make a fortune because times are bad in those parts of the world. My answer is that even though they could not make a lot of money in these times of depression, at least they could make a livelihood, and they would be occupying themselves intelligently and industriously and saving their morale, which is going down sadly.
There are other sides to the question with which I will not trouble the House to-night, but I would add to this movement, which I described previously as an expeditionary movement, almost in military terms, which were laughed at when I introduced it seven years ago. It is a quite simple undertaking. It does not mean an immense amount of skill to do what I am suggesting. There are plenty of suitable people who would go as officers and plenty of people who would go as rank and file. I am told that the 1702 Dominions would not want such a scheme; but I am told it in a very halfhearted way. The Dominions have never been asked. I am not suggesting that we should foist large populations upon unwilling Dominions, not at all. I am suggesting that we should point out to the Dominions the immense advantages which would accrue to them before 10 years have gone by. As previous speakers have said, every one of these settlers becomes a potential purchaser of both Dominion and home-produced goods. In my opinion, it is only a question of patiently making thoughtful arrangements with the executives of the Dominions, and carefully fostering the people who are sent out—staying with them till all the difficulties and obstacles of settlement have been overcome; and who will say that the same English folk who have by their adventurous spirit overcome obstacles in every part of the world will not overcome them in those parts of the Dominions which lend themselves to this class of settlement?
Taking up a remark which the hon. Member who seconded the Motion let fall, I would say, Is it too much to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions to send out what I would call reconnoitering patrols in this connection? It may be quite reasonable for him to say that my fairy tale presents difficulties from a political aspect, I do not think it does, but, even if it appears to be difficult, it is not difficult for him boldly to inform the House what he has done; and if not much has been done—and I think it is obvious that nothing has been done—reconnoitering patrols should be sent to every part of the British Empire with a view to ascertaining how much could be done if the project were undertaken on a big enough scale. The dribble system in migration has not only dried up, but the dribble is beginning to flow back in this direction. I do not think mass emigration would meet with the same difficulty. I think it would overcome the obstacles, because the most obvious truths underlie the value of the movement if it is successful. I would urge the Secretary of State for the Dominions to take notice of the remarks I have quoted from the Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition, both of whom say that these are times when one must break with 1703 precedent. In facing difficulties with which we are unfamiliar we must be afraid of no scheme; we must try to overcome them and do something for the unfortunate army of the unemployed.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Lord APSLEY
The right hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division (Captain Guest) has made a contribution to this Debate which, I think, will be remembered in times to come. It is a constructive contribution, and has in it the seed of what may possibly be a great movement. I disagree with him on two points only. One is his statement that the Secretary of State for the Dominions has been doing nothing in this matter, or is not likely to do anything. I know too much about the right hon. Gentleman to expect him not to do anything. We need have no fear that the Government are not moving. The other point on which I do not agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend is that it is possible to send out people in large numbers to the Dominions and Colonies. We cannot send people anywhere. It is quite impossible. If we do so, we have to accept full responsibility for them, and that takes away their own initiative. They expect to be looked after, mothered and nursed, and have everything done for them, and they become of no earthly use to themselves, the Dominions or this country. We cannot send out under those conditions men and women who are British subjects and voters and responsible for themselves; they must stand on their own feet; but what we can do is to initiate a movement. It is quite possible that such a movement may be initiated, but it has got to spring from its own seed. Whether that seed may be sown by the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend, I do not know, but I am not sure that it may not.
I believe such a movement might spring from the youth of this country. It would have to be a movement similar to that of the young Communists in Russia, or the Nazis in Germany or the Fascists in Italy—it does not matter what you call them; it is only a difference in name, it is exactly the same movement. It is a movement of youth with the idea that service is the most important thing in this world, and that self is comparatively small. The effects of such movements in 1704 those countries, under conditions which it would have seemed impossible for them to overcome, have been truly amazing; and it is quite possible that when the youth of this country get tired of doing nothing very much, of going to dog races and smoking cigarettes, a movement of this nature may grow, and they may want to do something more both for themselves, their country and their families than they are doing to-day.
How that movement will be developed it is not for me to say. It is quite possible that it will be developed first at home. Possibly the training centers for youths started by the Ministry of Labour may be the beginning, the skeleton framework, into which such a movement may be fitted. Possibly they may seek agricultural work, seek to grow food for themselves and their families on allotments, or to assist in work on farms. But there is a great difficulty in that. In England a townsman does not fit easily into agricultural conditions. He has an intense dislike of cold and wet weather, and the systems which we employ in agriculture in England are not easily assimilated by a man who knows nothing of them and who has not been brought up on a farm. It is true that many of those in the towns are the sons of men who have come in from the country, and that occasionally they go back to the land, but the numbers who do so are few. I have had experience myself with farm lads who left the land to go into the mines. When a period of depression in the coal-mining industry has come along, they have been begged by their parents and employers to go back to work on the farms. They go back for a time, but they will not stay long, and return to the mines as soon as they have an opportunity. The fact of having worked for a few years under different conditions, and of not having to work in the rain and the cold, takes them back to the mines or to some town occupation as soon as the opportunity arises. I cannot place any great faith, except for purely training purposes, in a movement to get the surplus population in the towns back to the land in this country though I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member that there is a surplus population in the towns and in industry, and that there is likely to be for some time to come.
One thing which I expect has struck hon. Members in their constituencies is 1705 the genuine and deep fear among working-men, and especially the young ones, that machinery will gradually supersede manual labour. Whether times are prosperous or whether they are bad, every industry and every firm in this country is trying as hard as it can, while increasing production, if markets are good, to make that production easier and cheaper, and to save labour by getting new machinery to take the place of men. No matter where you go, there is this constant and continual movement. Deeply seated in the minds of the people in this country is the idea that this is a movement which is bound to overtake the numbers of people required to satisfy the labour demand no matter how prosperous we may be. There is therefore a very great foundation to the suggestion that we should seek some outlet for our surplus population. If we cannot find it on the land here, we may find it in South Africa or New Zealand, where the townsmen can get an open-air life in a warmer climate when they will not be discontented and disconcerted as they may be by the climatic conditions and the conditions of manual work in the old country. The suggestions of the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) and the right lion. and gallant Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth which have been essentially the same, are very sound.
This is not so much a time for development upon a large scale as for taking stock in order to see what we have accomplished already, and whether in the future it is to he done by a committee or by the Dominions Office itself, or by an even greater authority than that, an Imperial Committee in another place. It is time that we took stock of the situation, in order to see what developments can be undertaken as soon as it is possible once more to go ahead with overseas settlement. There is the matter of finance which must be thoroughly overhauled. I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if he could make a statement this evening showing the financial situation at present, in regard to the loans that were made for overseas settlement in Canada and, especially, in Australia. What is the amount of money that has actually been spent on those loans and how much is at present outstanding and at what rate of interest? Since those loans were made, starting in 1923, con- 1706 ditions have altered to a very great extent. Money is far cheaper than was considered possible at the time when the Overseas Settlement Act was passed. That difference might considerably alter the whole question of finance. If money could be got at 2 per cent. instead of at 5 per cent.—I can find no evidence as to what was the actual interest on the loans—it might be possible to overcome many of the difficulties that are pressing on the settlers overseas.
I have no knowledge of the difficulties in Canada, but I have many friends who have settled in Australia and who write to me regularly and give me a very good idea of what is going on at the present time. Their chief fear is this question of debt that is hanging over the head of every settler, that neither they, their sons or their grandsons will ever be able to wipe out the debt. I am aware that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs would probably not say that it is likely that the Government will forgive the debt or will even make inquiries which would lead to any remission of it, and possibly it is just as well that a statement of that sort cannot be made. If a man knows that his debts are to be taken away from him, he will have less incentive to work, and then he may be disappointed. The way to do it is to see first whether it can be done, or to what extent relief can be given and then to do it without saying anything at all. As far as the share of the Dominion State Governments is concerned, it should be remembered that areas in Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia have been developed which would never otherwise have been developed at all, and the settlers will pay rates and taxes, and there will be new people coming in. That will mean extra revenue, apart from the revenue that Australia has obtained during the last few years, from the tariffs imposed on goods imported from this country. I am sure that the States would not be the losers by such settlement. Debt is a very real danger and difficulty, and in these hard times it has taken the heart away from many settlers who have been on the land; some of them have quit and gone back to the towns or have come back to England.
I should be glad if the Dominions Secretary could make a statement as to whether he has any information of the result of the committee of inquiry which 1707 was set up in regard to some of the settlers in Victoria. The settlers went out there in 1926. Some went out to Gippsland and some to the Mallee. The Gippsland farmers sent a great many complaints to this country that the land they were given was not fit to put anybody on. I understand that the land given to that group of settlers had formerly been lent to Australian ex-service men, but had been found unfit for them and was vacant. They did not know what to do with it, and so they put the British settlers on it. The land was entirely unfit for anybody to settle upon it and great hardship was caused. Many of the settlers were ruined, or were in very severe distress as a consequence. I am not sure about the situation of the other group, the Mallee farmers. Some of them who have written to me have not complained so much yet. I will admit that they had more bad luck than anybody could expect when they first went there. They had seven years of light crops in a dry season. When at last rains came, in a favorable time, they had three years of bumper crops; and then the price of corn suddenly dropped. It had been £5 per bag and it dropped to about £2. Now it is considerably below that. The situation is enough to defeat any settlement scheme.
There have been great troubles with this Mallee district. But I hope that the district is not going to be abandoned altogether. It happened before, when pioneers went out there. They took up the land but were defeated by drought, and they lost all their sheep. They were ruined, and the country was abandoned. The great irrigation dams running down from the hills are too valuable an asset to be entirely lost, and, even if bad corn prices, and the possible non-success of wheat operations there until the land has been better cultivated, and cultivated for a longer time, make its full development impossible for the moment, the country is even now quite a good sheep country, better than a great deal of land on which sheep are running at the present time, and a living can still be made there by settlers with sheep and a certain amount of mixed farming, and also by the introduction of that very valuable animal the goat.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever considered what might be 1708 done with goats. In the Dominions, and in this country as well, there is an increasing demand for tubercle-free milk. Every town and every local authority is continually insisting upon the desirability of a supply of milk perfectly free from tubercle, and it cannot be got; even "Grade A" milk is seldom to be had entirely free from tubercle, and I believe that will always be the case, because tubercle is conveyed mostly by rabbits, and, in a year when there are many rabbits, there is an increase of tubercle germs in the grass and from thence to the milk. There is no doubt about that whatever. However well the milk is graded, unless, it is pasteurised—when it becomes extremely indigestible—it cannot be guaranteed free from tubercle. On the other hand, goats never get tubercle, and their milk is far better for children than cows' milk. Children thrive on it, and put on weight. Goats are comparatively easy to keep, not only in this country, but especially in Australia. In the north of Australia, where they cannot keep cows at all, they keep large numbers of goats, and a great deal might be done towards improving the milk supply of large cities like Melbourne by running large herds of goats as well as sheep and other stock in the Mallee.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has had any information about Western Australia. I have only had information myself from settlers actually living there, and it appears that the group settlements in the South-West are in a better condition than many of those in Victoria. That may be simply because they have established in Western Australia—I admit they spent a great deal of money in doing so—a dairying industry, which it had never had before, so they are assured of a market. At the same time, the settlers who went out there—they are all married people—are suffering from the heavy debt which is on their shoulders, a debt which was incurred purely because the scheme, excellent though it was in theory, was far too extravagant in practice.
We all spent too much money during and just after the War; all of us—individuals, Governments and nations—were far too extravagant. We did not realize the true value of money in those days. Western Australia was as bad as any, or even, perhaps, rather worse. Wages were extremely high, £4 a week being the 1709 minimum for anyone, no matter how small or how easy his job. The four-roomed houses—log cabins—in which the settlers lived cost a minimum of £400, for which amount an excellent cottage can be built in this country nowadays, with water, gas, and every other convenience. The land, too, was cleared at about double the price that a contractor could have quoted. All the money spent in that way has been laid to the account of the debt on the settler, and he has the awful thought in his mind that at some time or other he will have to pay it off. He cannot see his way to doing so. If that difficulty of the debt were removed from their minds, I believe that these group settlers in Western Australia would stand a good chance of making good and of living a healthy and happy life, with the certainty of good food, good education for their children, and property for themselves. They have, however, this burden of debt on their shoulders, and it would be a great relief if at some time or other it could he revised, so that they might have a definite chance of becoming solvent in time and of being in the position of owing money to nobody.
I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will consider these questions, which, I am sure, play a large part in the question of helping the settlers who are already in Australia. Once we have taken stock of our present position—and no better time could be found for doing BO than the present—and have made a bold inquiry into the possibilities of further development when the time comes, I believe we shall see a real development of British enterprise throughout the Empire, not only in the Dominions but in the Colonies, resulting in a certain market for our goods to them and for their goods to us. That will go a long way towards helping at any rate the Commonwealth of British Nations to be the first to recover from the world depression.
§ 8.31 p.m.
Sir JOHN SANDEMAN ALLEN
I do not want to intervene in this Debate for more than a few minutes, be cause the subject has been so well brought out by previous speakers. I do not think there can be any doubt in the mind of anyone in this country as to the necessity for developing migration in the Empire. The arguments as to over-population and similar points are very clearly before us, and 1710 cannot be disputed. On the other hand, we must realize that the difficulties which exist to-day are almost insuperable for the moment, and we have to realize also that those difficulties are not merely at home, but confront the various Governments of the Dominions at the present time.
I had the opportunity some three years ago of going right through Canada and discussing with various provincial people the possibilities of developing migration in that country. I have a son settled out there, and am in close touch with the points in regard to that country, perhaps more so than with other countries, though I have had to do with those also. I found that, although a great deal was being said here about our failure to do certain things, there was a rather different story out there, and I think that we should do much better by not looking back and thinking that we have made mistakes. We may have made mistakes, but I do not think that they have been half as serious as people imagine, and the difficulties have been very great. As regards the question of the community settlement, I found that there was not only the same difficulty of getting people from the towns on to the land that there is in this country, but that, when our own people went out there, large numbers of them from the towns, they did not like being a mile or two away from their nearest neighbor, and the women of the family thought that they were going to be left in a very awkward position.
The great point that has been made to-night is that we must develop migration, that we must set our minds on working out with the Dominions some scheme by which it can be developed. Whether on the lines indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), or on other lines, or whether the Minister himself has anything in his mind, something, surely, should be done at the present moment in the direction of studying how migration can be developed later on. For one thing, the Dominions themselves have to be educated as to the advantages which will accrue to them, because, unless we have them as co-partners equally willing with ourselves, we shall not succeed in any scheme. On the other hand, we have to educate our own people in a very different way from that in which they have been educated in the past, because 1711 the circumstances have changed so much. Therefore, this question calls for very close study, not only in connection with preparatory work by the Government, but among the various societies and others who take a deep interest in these matters in this country.
If we are to educate our people, we must set to work more systematically and more unanimously with the various societies which deal with these matters. I am chairman and vice-president of one of the leading Empire societies. There are 20 or 25 of them with more or less the same objects in view. Why on earth cannot they be brought together? Why cannot we combine, instead of being divided, to bring all our common strength to bear on what is of immense value to the Empire? The Imperial Institute stands out in a peculiar way as an educational establishment for the whole Empire. I am not referring to that, but to those societies, active, earnest, and full of people who want the very best for the Empire. They are devoting themselves heart and soul to it, but how infinitely more could they do if they combined and worked as one. We have succeeded to this extent that we have all the voluntary emigration societies under one umbrella, but that is all.
Let us consider whether we cannot get them together and then work with one common object in view, which certainly should be to educate our people as to the great advantages that may be obtained by getting the right people and not blindly sending people away because they are not wanted here. That is cruel, and it is not the right motive to-day. In the old days, when we had not the benefits that we can get to-day, the force of necessity drove people. It is not that which will take people away to-day, but the sense that they have an open field and an opportunity that they have not got here with advantages for themselves and their children in certain directions which they can develop. It must be a mutual development and a mutual education between ourselves and the Dominions to bring about the desired result. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may have something to say on the point that I mentioned just now. I am confident that his contribution to the Debate will be very valuable. I am sure we owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the 1712 Member for the Park Division (Sir A. Benn) for having brought forward a Motion on a matter of general interest to all concerned, not only in this country but throughout the Empire.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
We are discussing a Motion which has been brought forward by two Empire enthusiasts. Those of us who listened to the speech of the Mover had no doubt as to his Imperial sentiments. He did not speak long, but he gave us full measure in the short time that he addressed the House. I have long known the Seconder as one of the most interested Members in Empire migration. When he suggests that we should develop the Dominions, I want to ask where the money is to come from. Is it with the British taxpayers' money that we are to develop the Dominions, or see that they are developed as they ought to be, and as I believe some day they will be more than they are today? I think he put his finger on the spot when he said our people are more and more reluctant to leave this country and to go overseas, where there are no social services whatever. Not only are there no social services, but there is a vast amount of unemployment. I have heard before the scheme of the Mover for the mass settlement of 250,000 people in Australia. I think that is a matter that should be considered at the next Imperial Conference, though I have not heard many people who will give any support to the idea of mass migration. The Noble Lord was very critical of such a proposal being put into operation.
I think we can say that this is a pious resolution, and it is shown by the attendance of Members how far it is possible to do anything at present in the way of migration. I regret as much as anyone that economic circumstances in the Dominions and here are such that there is no migration and no possibility of migration at present. We have 3,000,000 unemployed and the number is increasing, as we see by the figures published this week. They are ready to go to work anywhere if work can be offered them and if they can be guaranteed a livelihood. There has never been any difficulty in getting our people to go overseas when there were known opportunities, and, if there were known opportunities of a livelihood to-day, they would be equally ready to go.
1713 I was sent a copy of the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire by the Empire Parliamentary Association yesterday, and I noticed that there had been discussions in some of the Dominions on their present economic position during recent months. In Canada not long ago the Minister of Labour said that the Dominion Government had provided 150,000,000 dollars for the provincial Governments and municipalities to deal with unemployment and that they had provided work for 741,465 individuals. In such conditions there is not much hope, and not much common sense in desiring to send more people to Canada. In the Australian Dominion Parliament there o. as a discussion on the Budget, and the Minister said that the Government had decided, in conjunction with Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, to raise £3,000,000 for winter relief in connection with unemployment. If I go to the only other Dominion where we can expect migration to be put into force, I see also a report of a discussion in which there were rather strong statements made with regard to unemployment in New Zealand. A Labour Member of the New Zealand Parliament made use of these words:If the Government pursued its policy of forcing men, under the lash of starvation, to go into relief work camps against their will, they would create nests of discontent from one end of the country to the other.I am giving, from a book which many of us get as members of the Empire Parliamentary Association, quotations of what has taken place in Dominion Parliaments as to their economic position which make it look ridiculous that we should be urging the Government to go in for comprehensive schemes of migration at this moment. Then there is another matter. The economy policy of the present Government makes the second part of the Motion meaningless. If we had had any money which could be used, it would have been better if, at this moment, we were seeking to settle our own people upon land in our own country and were leaving this subject to be dealt with when conditions had improved. I readily admit that it is the men, women and children who have gone horn this country who have populated and developed our Dominions, as far as they are developed at the present time. Even to-day no one would say that the 1714 Overseas Dominions, comprising 7,500,000 square miles of land, with a white population of less than 30,000,000, are overpopulated and that they are even capable of developing to the full all the natural resources which they possess. They are suffering economically and financially, and there is no possibility in the near future of anything being done to encourage our people to migrate to any of them.
I ask the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to tell the House to-night the condition of the many thousands of people who went from this country to Australia and whose terrible plight not long ago was brought to the attention of this House. Are they in the same condition to-day? Has there been an improvement, and what are the prospects for those people, with regard to whose economic condition petitions were presented to us some time ago. I associate myself with the Noble Lord on the question of the Victoria-n settlers. When those people went out to Australia nearly all of thorn took a fair amount of capital. I remember one man coming tome who had given up a good position in Birmingham and had gone out with between £3,000 and £4,000 and had lost every penny of it. But he was not concerned about himself. He had wasted four or five years of his boy's life, and all he was concerned about was that something should be done for his boy who had then reached 21 years of age and saw no hope of getting employment. As a result of efforts in this country a Royal Commission was set up to go into this question. It has been sitting for a very long time. It has not completed its work yet, I believe, and we ought to know when it will complete its work, and when we may expect to see a report of what has been done. There is another matter which a Debate such as this gives an opportunity for ventilating, and it is the fact that large numbers of our people have been deported from Canada. They have had to make themselves into semi-criminals almost in order to secure an opportunity to come back to this country. The right hon. Gentleman might give us up-to-date figures of the numbers who have been deported from Canada, and tell us whether that policy is being continued.
I would say to the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion that there have been 1715 many schemes for migration arranged between the Government in the United Kingdom and the Dominion Governments. Most of them have gone by the board. Under the Empire Settlement Act, I have seen a good number of those schemes, and I have seen them work. We had a £2 ocean rate for agricultural workers, and then we had a £10 rate for any who desired to settle in Canada, and large numbers of people migrated. There have been land settlement schemes in Australia and New Zealand, but to-day, I think I am safe in saying, that there is no scheme in active operation, and there are more people returning to this country than are leaving its shores for the Dominions.
I have supported migration, and I still support it to-day under good conditions; there is no question about that. While I realize, as everybody must realize, that it is no cure for unemployment, and cannot be regarded as a cure for unemployment, I believe that if conditions were better in the Dominions our people would go to the Dominions. But the fact is that the depression is not only in our own country but is world wide. In the 10 years from 1904 to 1913 there migrated from this country to the Dominions 2,168,000 people, and to the United States of America and other foreign countries 1,427,000, a total of 3,595,000. That was before there were any Government regulations or any Empire Settlement Act. People went under those conditions and braved the storm, because they thought that across the seas there would be better opportunities than they could see in this country. We had an outward balance of 1,932,831 people who left our shores in those 10 years. In the following 10 years, while the number dropped by 1,000,000 in respect of the United States of America, the outward balance was 1,132,000. If we take the year 1913 and compare it with the year ended March, 1931, the outward migration from the United Kingdom was 241,997 persons in 1913 against 7,414 last year. Although there were more than 7,000 who left these shores, over a 1,000 more returned from the Dominions than went to the Dominions.
There is one thing which has not been said in this Debate which really ought to be kept in mind, and that is that migration is almost at its highest when conditions are good. Our people who 1716 would migrate and who would desire to migrate—and the spirit of adventure is not dead in our people even though conditions are bad to-day—would rather go with money of their own, or at least with some money of their own, in their pockets knowing that when they arrived overseas they would have something upon which they could rely instead of having to be dependent upon what might be charity. I should like to see—as we all would—a return to conditions which would make it possible for our people to make use of the spirit which is in them to-day and has always been in them.
I should like to put two questions to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. Am I right in saying that the United States Government offered to pay the passages of any aliens who desired to leave the United States and return to their own countries? Has he any information upon that matter, and, if so, what are the number who have returned as a result of that offer? I have also mentioned the question of the deportees, on which I should like information. We have a right to consider the welfare of our people when we encourage them to migrate. We have no right to cut them off from our shores as if we had no responsibility for them. There is no opportunity for them to-day to go out and find work and a livelihood overseas. There will be plenty of time to consider whether the Empire Settlement Act, which was passed in 1922 for a period of 15 years and has therefore another five years to run, should continue, as I hope it will, when possibly the conditions will have improved; but there is no reason for a revision at the present time.
I believe that the Empire settlement idea has worked. In nine years we have settled more than 400,000 people in the Dominions under more favorable conditions than ever we knew before or were ever known to those who went overseas. We have been able to arrange for and see to their welfare. Whilst I admit that the numbers of voluntary societies in existence to-day is too many, it is certain that they have rendered invaluable service in welfare work and in the aftercare of many people who have gone overseas. I do not believe that any case has been made out for altering the fifty-fifty basis as laid down in the Empire Settlement Act. It will be soon enough to con- 1717 rider whether that should be done when the opportunity comes about and there is a change in the economic condition of the people in the Dominions and this country. We have never had to compel anyone to migrate. We have never had any compulsion in this country for migration, and I hope there never will be compulsion, or any semblance of it, for our people to go overseas.
When this matter is considered again there is one thing that will demand to be considered more seriously than hitherto, and that is that in any scheme of overseas settlement we shall emphasise the necessity—when there is an opportunity of getting a livelihood—of family migration, which is the best form of migration to encourage. With regard to the organizations for migration in this country I think they ought to be carefully gone into, overhauled and revised. There is room for considerable change. One thing that has told against migration has been the emphasis of Ministry of Labour interference. Whenever we deal with the subject again or revise the Empire Settlement Act there ought to be a separate department dealing with migration, and Ministry of Labour influence ought to be removed as far as possible, although its machinery in some respects might be used to advantage. The House is ready to give time to a ventilation of any subject, but I am afraid that no one can see a useful purpose as a result of this Debate so far as migration taking place in the immediate future is concerned.
There is one thing that the Government missed at Ottawa. I understand that they did not discuss migration. I have never heard it mentioned that migration in any shape or form was discussed at the Ottawa Conference. The distressed conditions of many thousands of people in Australia, the case of the Victorian settlers and the deportees from Canada ought to have been discussed when all the Governments were present. I should like some information upon these matters and if we do get information I shall agree that the Debate and our time have not been wasted. I can support the Resolution, although I know that at the moment nothing is likely to be done, because I favour Empire co-operation, and I hope there will be more of it in the future. When there is an economic 1718 change for the better I am sure that will he one of the questions that will have to be taken in hand by the Government. Meanwhile, if we have any money to spare our first duty is to settle the people in this country upon our land at home.
§ 9.4 p.m.
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
I do not think that any apology is needed on the part of the Mover or Seconder of the Motion for the time taken in discussing a subject the importance of which has been demonstrated by the Debate. I frankly admit that there has been no greater Imperialist than my hon. Friend the Member for the Rothwell Division (Mr. Lunn). I say to the House and the country that on all Imperial issues, and especially that of migration, no Member of this House and no Minister ever devoted himself more wholeheartedly to the cause than my hon. Friend. Being such an enthusiastic supporter, like myself, he was in terrible difficulties this evening in saying one word that could be construed as opposition to the Motion. That was his difficulty throughout the whole of his speech, but when I remind him of the exact terms of the Motion I think there will be general agreement that hon. Members in all parts of the House can not only sympathize with it but approve of it. If the Motion said that the Government should immediately enter upon a scheme to send hundreds of thousands of people to any of the Dominions it would not be only in this House that there would be opposition; there would be opposition in every Dominion. But that is not the Motion. It says:That this House observes with great regret that migration overseas is much lower now than before the War.There can be no hon. Member who does not deplore that fact. We are not discussing why migration is going down or whether it is due to our fiscal system, or to any other system. The figures given by the hon. Member are the most eloquent testimony to the fact that, while we deplore our own unemployment figures at home, we cannot minimize or ignore the tremendous influence of migration on those figures. Let me give the House some figures. I take the years 1923 and 1931. In 1923 there left these shores 1719 for Canada, 75,866 people. They were not forced to go; they were people who went of their own free will. They were the people who are the back bone of the Empire, those who are always prepared to take a risk, to take a plunge, and who do not want to be spoonfed all the time. I agree with my hon. Friend that that spirit is not lost to-day. When he was in charge of this particular branch of work there were never fewer on our books than 50,000 people who were ready and anxious to go. I want to see that spirit encouraged. In 1923 there left these shores for Canada 75,866 people, but last year, instead of that number going to Canada, the figures were against us, and 10,244 left Canada for this country. In 1923, 31,500 people left these shores for Australia, but last year—I am taking the net figure in each case—7,288 returned from Australia to this country. In 1923, 7,188 people left this country for New Zealand, and last year 1,357 returned from New Zealand to this country.
There is a moral to be drawn from these figures. I hope that we shall never associate migration with our own unemployment problem; that is to say, in the sense of conveying to the Dominions that we are only concerned in sending to them people we do not want. Nothing is more fatal or more damaging, nothing does us more harm in the Dominions, than to associate migration with our awn unemployed, but while these figures demonstrate beyond a shadow of doubt the relation of our own unemployment figures with migration, we have never said, and I desire to emphasise it on behalf of the Government, that when dealing with the problem of migration we intend to deal with it as part of our unemployment problem. My hon. Friend will find in these figures the answer to the question of the deportees.
While there are complaints, considerable complaints, as far as Australia and Canada are concerned, about what is called unfair and preferential treatment as between migrants who are unemployed and their own native-born unemployed, I am pleased to be able to tell the House that neither in regard to Canada or Australia have I any evidence to-day that there is preferential treatment of any sort or kind. Having regard to the complaints that have been made, it is only fair that 1720 I should give the House that information. My hon. Friend knows very well that he received hundreds of letters, and it was always a question of investigating the facts. It is not fair for a Minister to accept any statement made by anybody which indicts a Dominion without close investigation. Nothing is mere cruel to one of the Dominions than to say that in dealing with their unemployed they gave one treatment to the native-born unemployed and singled out those who were migrants for different treatment. I can assure the House on this point, having studied the latest information, that I have no evidence of any preferential treatment. I shall always take up any question which is brought to my notice of any preferential treatment.
Another problem raised, quite legitimately, and which has to be faced when you are dealing with the question of migration, is what is called the different social services in different Dominions. In 1928, when I was in Canada, I met a number of people who were mates of mine in the old days, and a number of them put this problem to me. They said: "We are here, and we have sisters here. They are married, and we are married. Our parents at home have their old age pension, and we should like them to be with us in their old age to enjoy the comfort of association with their own family. But we cannot afford to keep them, and, indeed, the old people are a bit independent. Cannot something be done to deal with that kind of problem? "It is common knowledge that I at once acquiesced, on behalf of the Government, and made arrangements that the veterans of industry, men and women, who went to Canada or Australia or any of the Dominions or Colonies, in order to join their own families, should not be deprived of their old age pensions.
That brings me to another side of the migration problem. No one knows better than the Mover and Seconder of the Motion that we do not intend to send, and their intention was not that we should send, our unemployed to Canada or Australia or New Zealand or South Africa, all of which are unfortunately dealing with the same unemployment problem as we have. Nothing would be more ridiculous than to send such people there at the present time. But having 1721 regard to the importance of the question, having regard to the large numbers of our own people in this country who would desire, given a fair chance, to go to the Dominions, the present time provides the best opportunity, not of agreeing to a scheme, but of having the machinery ready so that when the time comes we can not only tackle the problem but profit by our own past experience. In that connection, I have no hesitation in saying, speaking for myself, that I wholeheartedly favour family migration as against any other. When you send a family, father and mother and children, you not only keep the home spirit, the family traditions and associations alive, but the incentive, both for father and mother and children, to win success, is always there, and in Canada or elsewhere it is just as potent as in this country.
Now that we are in this unfortunate position we will go very closely into the whole question of the future of all these migration schemes. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) that I do not think that all the investigations that have taken place or that could take place would justify the mass migration that he had in mind. The matter has been closely investigated. Let me deal for a moment with the suggestion that a sum of £3,000,000 per annum was sanctioned and that only 10 per cent. of it has been spent. The facts are that we were committed to a maximum of £3,000,000 per annum, provided the other 50 per cent., or whatever the amount, was supplied by one of the Dominions. It is quite true that so far not 10 per cent. has been spent, but I would remind the House that that is not our fault.
That brings me to another aspect of my hon. Friend's question. If we want to make a success of any migration scheme, two things must be kept in mind. One is the voluntary spirit, the spirit of adventure, the spirit of the man who says: "I am going to do my bit and take my risk." That is a primary asset. The other is that the Dominion itself must be ready to welcome and help the person or persons who migrate. Both these aspects of the question must be kept in mind because they are fundamental to any successful scheme. I was asked about the inquiry regarding the Victorian Land Settlement Scheme. I deplore the delay 1722 in this particular matter. I am told that the Commission concluded its sittings on 2nd December. A report is being prepared, but as the evidence covered 10,000 pages the House will understand the reason for the delay in issuing the report. The settlers' counsel took 16 days to address the jury, and some allowance must therefore be made for the time that is required in the preparation of the report.
Another speaker drew attention to the large number of societies, all doing useful work but overlapping in their activities. The hon. Member thought there were 20 such societies. Exclusive of the Imperial Institute, which is in a separate category, I believe there are 33 of these societies, each with a separate organization, many of them with separate offices, many of them canvassing in all the Dominions and Colonies and here. The result is that a large number of people not only get mixed up and confused, but get fed up with all the overlapping. I do not want to say a word that would be construed as reflecting in the least upon the Imperial activity or sentiment and loyalty of these societies, but I do say that a real effort ought to be made to bring these 33 bodies together. I believe they could do more effective and useful work under one machine than under 33. I most heartily agree with the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.
I congratulate the Mover of this Motion on having availed himself of a Private Members' day to call the attention of the House and the country to an important and vital problem affecting the Empire and this country. My hon. Friend said that there was no record of migration having been discussed at Ottawa. No one knows better than the Members of this House that if we had started to discuss unemployment in this country, the only useful contribution that could have been made in the end would have been our ability to say: "There will be more trade in this country as a result of your effort." That is fundamental and therefore when we met at Ottawa we sat down for a month and hammered out schemes—I am not arguing now whether they were good or bad, for that is not my point—conscientiously believing, as the Dominions did, that the result of our negotiations would improve their trade, would add to their prosperity, and would 1723 give them a better chance of consuming our goods. Common sense told us that, if that were true and if that were the result, if we succeeded in improving their position, that in itself would be the best contribution we could make to the reopening of the question of migration, because, whatever scheme you discuss and whatever arguments there may be on any particular scheme, you always come back to this fundamental fact, that unless the Dominions are prosperous you cannot hope for them to take any of your people.
Therefore, I conclude by congratulating the Mover on having secured second place in the Ballot. I hope I have given sufficient indication that I am not only sympathetic, but that the Government are sympathetic to the objects of this Motion. I feel I express the sentiments of the whole House and of every party when I say that we hope the day is not far distant when the Dominions will be able to welcome to their shores large masses of our people who are anxious to go, and, above all, that we will take advantage of the present opportunity, so that when the time comes to revive the question of migration we shall profit by our mistakes in the past, and, we hope, have better schemes.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Major Sir JOHN BIRCHALL
I have listened to the Debate, and I should like to add my congratulations to the Mover for having utilized the fortune which came to him in the ballot to introduce this vital and most important topic. I am a little disappointed, on the whole, that the Dominions Secretary could not go further than to tell us that he was in deep and real sympathy with the object of the Motion. I feel certain we are all sure of that. We know his sympathy and interests in the Dominions and his Imperial ideals, but we want something more than that. At the present moment no one suggests that migration should be encouraged, because there is great unemployment in the Dominions, as at home, but surety this is the time for making plans and preparations, and one would have liked the right hon. Gentleman to say, if it were possible, that he was definitely engaged day by day and week by week in thrashing out schemes with representatives of the Dominions which would be ready for operation im- 1724 mediately times improved and the Dominions again became prosperous.
I was very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about family settlement. I have been very much interested in the group family settlement in Western Australia, and the House may be interested to know what has been the result of the experiment of sending a number of families from the industrial centre of Leeds—not from a country district, but from an industrial centre—into the Bush in Western Australia under the group family settlement scheme some eight years ago. Of those families, about half are still there, and but for the fall in agricultural prices they would be now decidedly prosperous. The fall in prices has hit them, as it has every agriculturist in the world, but they are now well-established on their blocks and in normal times would be doing well. It is an extraordinarily interesting experiment, because it is frequently said that you cannot take a man and his family who have been accustomed to all the allurements of the town and put them into a place like Western Australia, with its wild wastes and bush and so on, and expect them to succeed. The experiment carried out by the citizens of Leeds has succeeded and has proved that it is possible to send men and their families, if they are properly selected, and that they will make a success if their character is such as can stand the hardships. It is essential, if that is done, that these families should be grouped. It is no good expecting an isolated family to make good under such circumstances, but if there are grouped a number of families from the same district at home, going to the same locality in the Dominions, then I believe that, being able daily to see their friends and talk in their own language—which is very important in the case of Yorkshiremen—they have every chance of success.
But, of course, there are hardships and difficulties in Western Australia. The Prime Minister, Sir James Mitchell, who was exceedingly anxious to make a success of the scheme, went ahead far too quickly. Far too many families were admitted before they were ready for them, and the result was that a great many families were actually located on ground which, after they had spent a long time in clearing it with great labour, 1725 was found to be utterly unsuitable for agriculture. The result was that the Government of Western Australia, with, I am afraid, some of the money that we had supplied from home, had to move those people to fresh blocks in order that they might make good. That was an unfortunate circumstance. They also had great difficulty in finding enough foremen, and grievances occurred because the foremen were not of the right type.
Among the settlers in the neighborhood of Northcliffe under the family group scheme there is a desire that there should be a representative of the Dominions Office at home on the board of control for the settlers. A matter of this sort wants very carefully handling, but whether it is possible for the Dominions Office to appoint someone to sit on the board of control in connection with group family settlement is a matter which is worthy of consideration. As far as the provision of the money is concerned, inasmuch as we have provided a considerable part of the cost of settlement, I think there is some claim that we should be represented on the board of control. I want to emphasise, in conclusion, that if family settlements are to succeed—and I believe they will succeed when times improve—they must be families who are grouped. They must, if possible, be connected with the same area at home, and there must be constant contact between a family and groups in the bush and the location at home from which they come. Contact is a great thing, especially when they first get there, and everything is strange and unusual.
Something has been said to-night about the figures of emigration and immigration since the War. I do not think that, even now, it. is realized what an immense effect those figures had on employment in this country. If emigration and immigration had continued since 1913 on the same basis and at the same rate as previously, there would be 3,500,000 fewer people in this country than there are to day. In other words, when we take account of all those who have come in and all who have gone out, if people had continued to go out as they did before the War to the various parts of the Empire, there would be 3,500,000 fewer people in this country to-day. That is a 1726 startling fact and is of sonic interest and encouragement to those who may be disposed to regard the difficulties of employment as almost insuperable. We are to-day trying to employ 3,500,000 people who, in normal conditions, such as existed before the War, would now be populating the different parts of the Empire. We have succeeded after much labour in balancing our Budget. Having achieved a. balance in our money matters, surely we ought to turn to the problem of balancing our surplus population.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am sure that every hon. Member who has participated in this Debate is grateful to the Mover of the Motion for having given the House an opportunity of discussing a matter which they rightly regard as of prime importance. I would like to say how much those who are interested in this question appreciate the statements of the Dominions Secretary. As one who for long has had a great interest in Empire settlement f appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said on behalf of the Government and I hope it will be made clear throughout the country that in expressing our views on the importance of this subject, we are not doing so merely because we think it is connected with the question of unemployment. I would put the matter in my own way, thus—that on the proper incidence of our population throughout the Empire depends the future prosperity of the whole Empire. Empire settlement is a vital matter, both from the standpoint of those who are employed and from the standpoint of those who, unhappily, are not in employment. We must realize that in the vast scope of our Imperial possessions there are illimitable opportunities for great numbers of our people who are at present prevented by circumstances which we want to overcome, from taking advantage of those opportunities.
Reference has been made to the difference between the social services in this country and those in other parts of the Empire and to its effect in preventing the opportunities which exist oversea being availed of more fully. I venture to draw attention to a new phase of that question. The efforts made by the Dominions Secretary to secure facilities in this respect for old age pensioners who desire to go abroad have been greatly appreci- 1727 ated. We gratefully apprehend that the old age pensioner who desires to go elsewhere from this country under the British flag should retain his right to pension. I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of an extension of that right which the old age pensioner now has and of embarking on some scheme when circumstances permit, whereby a citizen who leaves one part of the British Empire for another will not surrender any rights which he enjoys under the social services in the country which he is leaving.
Those associated with Empire settlement are not blind to the fact that in the situation of extreme financial stringency in which the country now finds itself, it would he impossible to embark upon a scheme involving large expenditure. We know the difficulties both here and overseas and we know that any proposal of magnitude such as those outlined by some hon. Members to-night must for the moment be relegated to the future. But as the Dominions Secretary so aptly said, it is desirable that we should discuss this matter and co-ordinate all the ideas and suggestions that are offered upon it and have the machinery ready for the time when, as we all hope, there will be an opportunity of putting into effect some of the principles which we have been discussing. In considering this question as one which interests those who are in work as well as those who are not in work, one realizes that the first difficulty for the potential emigrant from this country is this question of the surrender of the safeguards which he enjoys under the social services of this country. The man who is in work or the man who is out of work is entitled to say, "I have my rights under various schemes in this country. Why should I be expected to take the grave risk involved in going to another country where those services do not exist? Notwithstanding any spirit of adventure which I may have I must think of those to whom I have a responsibility."
I suggest to the Dominions Secretary that he might consider with the officials of his great Department, the possibility of having an actuarial computation made of the benefits to which a man in this country is entitled in respect of insurance and the contributions to insurance standing to his credit. Such 1728 a computation could be made in the case of the employed man who has never drawn on the fund, just as in the case of the unemployed man. There must be some inherent right in this matter which is capable of actuarial computation, and a man who is leaving this country might have some capital figure credited to him in that respect. It will probably be asked and with great force: What would be the good of getting a man to relinquish his right for a capital payment which he might lose at an early date through some unfortunate circumstances, leaving him without any benefit at all? I hope the Government will consider this matter, not as if this country was standing in isolation but that they will regard themselves as belonging to a great Imperial committee. I do not think it should be beyond the wit of man to devise an arrangement whereby, with assistance from the Dominion and Colonial Governments, a sum of that kind, actuarially assessed, could be used for a migrant's benefit and added to by the Government of the country to which he desires to go. It could be represented by a capital holding to he administered by the Dominion Government on the man's arrival in that Dominion.
I do not make this suggestion for the first time. I have discussed this matter at length in at least one Dominion and allowing for the difference between conditions then and now, I think that such a scheme to-day would find great sympathy in the Dominions. The Dominions should be invited to contribute to this capitalization and administer that sum total which would stand to his credit. They would realize that they had men coming from this country of the right kind and the right stock with capital holdings as a basis on which to start as settlers with a stake in a new land of opportunity. I am happy to have traversed the whole of Canada from Atlantic to Pacific, and I daresay that such a scheme would have the same usefulness and the same effect in any other of our great Dominions. The opportunities are there. Give a man who is considering leaving this country some assurance that he is not going to surrender, once and for all, the right to benefits to which he has contributed, but that he will have some actuarial right upon which he can count, and I think one 1729 of the real difficulties preventing migration now and for years past will have been removed.
Some observations were made about various settlement schemes. I think I am right in saying that the scheme known in Canada as the 3,000 families settlement scheme was recognized by every Commission that considered the matter, as well as by the Canadian Government themselves, as one of the most successful schemes of migration, and largely because it was a family settlement. People went out in families, they settled next to families whom they knew, they became there a little parish on their own, there was no loneliness, there was no feeling of distance, they had the benefit of communal centers from the very start, and the great difficulty that besets the lone settler on his first establishment in the Dominion was entirely missing in the case of the settlement of the 3,000 families.
Something was said to-night about those who came back. I desire to say, with great sincerity, that one of the most unfortunate things I ever saw in crossing the provinces of Canada was the waiting for return to England of a number of people who had been misplaced in their settlement. I spoke to many of those people, who were waiting for a train from Winnipeg to take them to a place of embarkation back to England. They had gone out to Canada, young fellows, good citizens, full of hope, full of desire, full of good purpose, and they had failed. Of those that I saw in no case, I think, could you say they had failed through any fault of their own or through any desire of their own to be failures or to shirk responsibility in the new country. They were wrongly fitted for the work to which they had been sent, and one of them expressed it to me most aptly when he said, "You cannot take an unemployed bricklayer, give him a trip across the Atlantic in a liner, and then expect him to be a farmer when he arrives in Manitoba," Of course you cannot.
I urge that before any scheme of migration is undertaken by the Government of the day, there will be the establishment of what will operate as real selection boards, composed largely of people who, come from the districts in which the proposed emigrants are about to settle, who will look at this matter, not in the 1730 theoretical sense, but with the practical knowledge of Manitoba which is essential if you are sending men there, and who will be able to place men on farms in that province. That is the kind of man who should be on a settlement board. In reference to the scheme which I have outlined to the House just now, it should be added, as an essential before any capital sum was allowed to a proposed settler, that he would have to have his application considered and approved by a joint settlement board representing both this country and the Colony to which he was to go, knowing the conditions of both, and you would have a first-hand examination before any national commitment was undertaken.
Can anybody question that the great successes that have attended the Hudson Bay scheme are due largely to the fact that they exercised very careful scrutiny as to the men whom they accepted? They trained them, both in England and in Canada, before they were accepted as settlers, with the result that they have succeeded, and you have seen little hamlets and townships growing round these settlements that have been a great influence in the good settlement and trade of the Dominion of Canada. Other schemes run by the Canadian Pacific Railway have been the same. Every one of those schemes where there has been some practical control has been successful owing to the fact that they have had the right to select their applicants.
We cannot insist too much that those of us who go into this question of migration do so, not with a mere desire to get rid of the unemployed. Neither must migration he looked upon as a means of getting rid of any "family skeleton." You have to consider it from a British point of view and from a Colonial point of view, and predominating always is the desire to take advantage of the great spaces and opportunities which we have in the Empire. It is not only a question of agriculture. It must be realized that Canada will go far in becoming one of the great manufacturing countries of the world. Industry is developing there. The Province of Manitoba is no longer merely an agricultural province, and the Province of British Columbia is no longer merely a lumbering province. Industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and has been for years past, 1731 and it may very well be that in the course of a little time Vancouver, the extreme West of British Columbia, will be at the crossroads of the world's commerce. We want to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities, both for industry and for agriculture, and to have a population fitted to take advantage of our great Imperial opportunities.
The question of after-care is vital, and whether you are dealing with men, women, girls, or boys, there must be proper after-care in the new country. I desire to assert, from close personal investigation, that the after-care given to British settlers in Canada leaves nothing to be desired. We want to be satisfied that after-care exists in any Colony and that after-care is represented upon any selection board that is considering migration from this country in any substantial quantity. This assurance for after-care treatment must be given to all potential migrants.
There is one other question that has to be considered, and that is the question of juvenile migration, because juvenile migration, properly handled, must receive very serious consideration from the Government. One hon. Member mentioned to-night that there is a number of voluntary organizations, some of which must overlap the others, and I think my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary gave it as his view that there should be co-ordination to prevent that overlapping. This is of course right but it seems to me that we should not rely entirely upon voluntary organizations. I remember staying at one place in Nova Scotia, the Dakeyne Street Boys' Farm near Windsor in that Province, which was established and maintained through private enterprise by a gentleman who was greatly interested in juvenile migration; and, in view of the small number they handled, they were about to give perfect training and aftercare in excellent conditions. They trained these boys to become first-class men and I saw some of them established as first-class citizens and settlers. I gladly pay my tribute to the great work of that farm which is an example of the basis of real settlement, and I should like to see, under Government supervision, some organization of that nature dealing specifically with young boys from this country who desire 1732 to go to another country under the British flag and get their full share of the great benefits which we as an Empire have to give.
The question of quarter sections will, I hope, receive the attention of the Government when the migration problem comes within the realm of practical politics, because that was a great success, mainly due to the fact that you had men from the same territorial district getting quarter sections. When there was a free grant of a section you got four people from the same district each getting a quarter and making his homestead in different ends of the quarter, so that the section forms a little village to which the Post Office and the filling station and the little store come. To these matters a newly constituted board would direct its attention, and I hope that we shall remember, while deploring, as my right hon. Friend said, the facts which are disclosed in the Motion that we must be ready. I would remind the House too, that we are getting in the Dominions now a generation which does not know this country. We want to keep the Dominions united by bonds of trade, sentiment and understanding under the British flag. I join in the appeal which other hon. Members have made that we shall consider this question from every angle, desiring to give what we can of our individual contribution to what we believe is a great cause, which will give British populations to the British Empire, and which will once and for all regard this problem not as one solely connected with unemployment, but as a great national problem demanding in the interests of the British Empire and the British race the greatest contribution that all can give to the Empire.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I agree with the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) that migration, if it p.m. is to be successful, needs careful planning. I have been prompted to intervene in the Debate because of the speech of the Secretary of State for the Dominions. To some extent, I was disappointed with that speech, because I cannot dissociate the Motion from the events of the last 12 months. Between the Motion and those events there ought to be a very real connection, but the Secretary of State rather conveyed to me the impression that His Majesty's Government were awaiting an 1733 opportunity. I suggest that it is not the business of the Government if they really hold the ideas which have been sponsored during the last 12 months, to await opportunities. It is their business to make opportunities, and from that standpoint I am disappointed with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) talked about what he called the spirit of adventure not being dead in this country. The Secretary of State also used the same phrase. That is really lifting what has happened in the past into the realm of rhetoric and poetry. Let us try and get down to solid ground in this matter. When we do that we shall be agreed that migration in the past has been fundamentally, however much you may allow for the spirit of adventure, the seeking of economic advantages that could not be found in this country.
It is perhaps unfortunate that migration for this country is most important when conditions are bad and less important when conditions are good. We have been told in this Debate that there is little hope of migration until economic conditions in the Dominions improve. I entirely agree with the hon. Members who have said that it is perhaps undesirable to connect the question of migration with unemployment, but can we really divorce the two? It may not be nice to talk about it in that way from the point of view of the Dominions, but I would remind hon. Members, as I would the Secretary of State were he present, that we have during the past 12 months been talking a good deal about Empire economic unity. Surely that will involve many other things. If hon. Members are not afraid of their own ideal, if they are not fearful about the things of which they have been talking so much during the last 12 months, the accomplishment of their ideal will surely involve some redistribution of population within the Empire. To talk about waiting on the opportunity is for hon. Members opposite to run away from their ideals altogether. They should be making opportunities.
I want to make reference to a speech of the Prime Minister in the House a short time ago. He referred to what would remain in this country when everything possible had been done to stimulate the normal revival of trade and industry. He did not use the phrase disparagingly, but he talked about our residue as in- 1734 dustrial scrap, using the phrase in figurative sense. I have been reading lately with a good deal of interest four of the industrial surveys of various parts of the country which have been published by the Board of Trade. I do not know how many hon. Members have taken the trouble to read those surveys. Each survey makes a final statement on the basis that, if we returned to what are now regarded as the relatively prosperous conditions of 1929, certain conditions would remain in the industrial areas which have been surveyed. I am quoting from memory, but I think that in the case of Lancashire it is stated that even if we returned to the relatively prosperous industrial conditions of 1929, there would still be 150,000 persons who would never be able to get a job in that county.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
That is, without paying any regard to the possibility of new industries under the present system.
§ Mr. BROWN
That, of course, depends upon the question whether the tariffs which have been instituted will make a contribution of new industries. The figure in the south-west Scotland survey is given as 150,000 workers; for the north-east coast, 80,000; and for South Wales, 40,000. All these statements are being made on the assumption that we return to the relatively prosperous conditions of 1929, when, we have been told, business was remunerative, and, according to what the Prime Minister said the other day, a return to those conditions is the most the Government are hoping to do. What will happen when the whole of these industrial surveys have been prepared and the facts made known as to the total for the whole country, I do not know, but it seems to me that this question of the redistribution of the population will have to receive consideration in relation to the idea of Empire economic unity. All I say after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that I sincerely hope the Members of the Government will not, at the very beginning, run away from the ideal which they have upheld so vehemently during the last 12 months. If they are really going to have Empire economic unity they must embark on an economic planning of the Empire, which would involve concurrently, if it is to be effectual, a redistribution of the population. I cannot dissociate the Motion 1735 from the ideal which the Government have upheld for so long. I am not going to express any opinion of my own as to the ultimate outcome of what the Government are trying to do, but I put it to the Members of the Government that if they think there is anything in it at all they should not, at the very beginning, run away from the ideal which they have been sponsoring.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. ROBINSON
In times of stress like the present, when people all ale world over are suffering, it is necessary that we should give very careful thought to the policy of Empire migration. Not only in England, but in all the countries of the Empire, people are suffering from the scourge of unemployment, and for the first time, perhaps, in our history, we find men wishing to return here from the Dominions because they have not succeeded in finding jobs out there. I believe we should welcome those men as pioneers who have made a real effort to advance the cause of Empire migration. I am glad the Secretary of State said we were not proposing Empire migration as a mere solution of the unemployment problem. We cannot tell the Dominions that we are proposing to send our surplus population to them, and leave the rest to them. We must start very carefully, and must take a long-term view of national planning. If we take that long-term view and offer the men who go out some reasonable chance of earning a living I believe we can build up an organization which will facilitate a free and willing migration.
To that end I urge upon the Government the consideration of some form of group migration, because if we could get together a number of people and send them out in a body we should have some chance of success. I would compare the situation with the reconstruction of France after the War. Towns all over England adopted towns in France which had been shot to pieces. They took a fatherly interest in those towns, and formed local committees to raise money and foster their reconstruction. I think the same principle can be adopted in the development of new settlements in the British Empire. If we could persuade our great cities to adopt new settlements, to give to the settlement the name of the 1736 old patent town here looking after it, and send to it people from that town and the surrounding area, we could open up a new channel of natural migration. We might persuade the great area of Liverpool and the Merseyside to get together those of its inhabitants who wish to venture abroad to try to find a living. If they were being sent out under the auspices of their parent city to form a new Liverpool somewhere further afield, real interest would be aroused. We could easily acquire the land from the Dominions, and if the home areas were backed by our Government and we could provide the capital, we could easily find the men to take advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps we might issue at a low rate of interest loans for productive development, and when we recall the vast sums we have spent in unproductive ways a productive scheme of this kind is well worthy of consideration.
The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) rather suggested that we were wasting our capital upon the development of the Dominions, and should look after our own people. Surely that is not the case. If we put our money into such a scheme we do so with a view to making opportunities for our people in these isles. U we could start these new communities they would need every sort of skilled workers—bricklayers and doctors and others; and as the communities grew up they would want their mayors and town clerks for their own local administration. Later, such a settlement, bearing the name of the parent town in England, would attract to it people from that town who would go out not with a fear of venturing into something about which they knew nothing, not with a feeling that they were going into a strange land, but with a feeling that they were going where they would be welcomed by people from their old town. Given such a scheme we might inspire our people with ideas. We could get them to work together on a common task with courage and perseverance, and under such conditions we should develop successfully the great heritage which belongs to us.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I am sure everyone will agree that this has been one of the p.m. most interesting evenings we have had in the House for many a long day. The House has been a 1737 truly Imperial Chamber. There has not been one word of hostility to the general idea put forward by the Mover of this Motion. Before I say anything which might be regarded as at all critical—and it will not be very severe—about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions, I would like to say how grateful I am to the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) for the broadminded national appeal he made to us on this subject. Broadly, I agree with most of the points he made. Also, I am delighted with the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). It is really a great thing that he should come here to ginger up the Government to take the next step along the line of Imperial Preference. We are all very grateful to him. I beg the hon. Member for Rothwell to realize that if the House was not as full as it should have been when he spoke, it was because all parties feel that we are pressing against an open door. We all want to see a policy of migration carried out the moment the time appears to be opportune.
Without hesitation, I offer a word of support to the idea put forward by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division (Captain Guest). Unfortunately, I did not hear his speech, but I understand that he ventured to speak of mass migration. I do not suppose anybody remembers it, but in the first speech I made in the House after the War I endeavoured to point out that it was inevitable that we should have a great army of unemployed in this country, which our home industries could not absorb. I offered those remarks at the time when everybody else was talking about booming trade. I could not see how it was possible, when all that vast wealth had been blown into the skies, that the momentary conditions of progress that we saw after the War could continue for any length of time, until we had gone through a long process of reconstruction. At that time I expressed the view that the one solution of this question was not to send out large numbers of our people to compete with the workers in the cities of the Dominions, because inevitably the Dominions were going to have their unemployment problem. An hon. Member says that they have that problem to-day. 1738 It was clear that that policy would not be a sound or a wise one.
I suggested then, and I suggest this evening, that the bigger question has never really been tackled. I agree with what was said by the Secretary of State for the Dominions with regard to the progress of migration, but no Government in this country has made a real effort to get into touch with the Prime Ministers of the Dominions overseas in order specifically to plan out a great scheme by which we could distribute the population of the Empire. I think there is much to be said on the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Robinson). If we could get communities to go out, they would be of different quality. It is no good sending out agricultural laborers, dumping, them clown in the prairie and saying, "Now, get busy!" You have to make big cities, away from vested interests, new colonies in the middle of the Dominions. You have to plan out a whole scheme of a central town, build your railway, take out your constructional men for your railway work, take out your small tradesmen in order to start your original towns and villages, and endeavor to plan out a real new colony in the Dominions.
It would be unfair on a private Members' night to develop this scheme for more than a moment or two. I believe that this question has to be tackled on a grand scale. So far, the plans that we have had have only been drops in the ocean. It must be clear to anyone that this problem is not like creating work of an unproductive nature in this country. It does not come under the category, which I for one criticize, of merely spending money by raising loans in order to put people to work on any kind of job. You can raise a great loan either through the joint action of the Home and Dominion Governments, or through a chartered company. I believe that you could raise a very large sum of money quite easily on the security of the land, and the increment that that land is going to bring after you have developed it will repay your development loan with interest. I will leave that topic.
I want to say one or two words before I sit down with regard to the other side of the question. The Dominions Secretary told us that this is not the day when we can do anything. I quite agree that to-day is not the day, but I should like 1739 the right hon. Gentleman to indicate to the House that His Majesty's Government are now getting together the greatest brains in the Empire in order to plan out something. You are going to put the primary producers, I hope, once more on their feet. If you can do that as a result of your Ottawa policy, you have done the greatest thing you can for migration. Migration will follow trade. Encourage British capital instead of American capital to go into Canada, and into the new industries that are springing up, and you will find that your workers will follow the capital as sure as night follows day. If we set to work now to plan, we shall be ready if, as we all hope, that time comes. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as anyone in the world that no big Empire migration scheme could be carried out without preparation for one, two or three years, and, therefore, I urge him and, if I may, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Conservative party, to follow up their Ottawa policy and to regard this, as suggested by the hon. Member for Mansfield, as the next great step.
I think I shall be exonerated in this House from being an enemy of the Dominions overseas. I have many times proclaimed Imperial sentiments, perhaps with a leaning towards the Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders with whom I have fought and whom I have seen die for the Empire—not because I have not a preference for my own people, but because of what they have done in building up the greatness of our common heritage. I may perhaps say, therefore, that I think the Dominions are sometimes wrong in their attitude towards Empire migrants. I hear too frequently from numerous friends in the Dominions the suggestion that we are inclined rather to send them the riff-raff of this country. What did one find, however, in the United States? They had a, test, physical and mental, of the whole of the armies of the United States before demobilization, and the result of that analysis was that, of the hotch-potch of nations making up the United States at the present time, England—if the Scots and the Irish will forgive me for a moment—came out right at the top. It was for that reason that their Commissioner of Immigration raised 1740 the quota of British, immigrants six months afterwards. It is nonsense for anyone in the Dominions to say that our people are inferior. It is proved by this test in the United States that our migrants are the best in the world even to-day. If the Dominions realize that great fact, they will see that those whom we send to them are not riff-raff, but people who really, if I may so put it, have the spirit to seek work and no longer to be an embarrassment to their friends and relations in this country.
Then there is something that must be done by us on this side. We have to try to get our people to realize once more what an immense thing it would be for their fellow men if they would make this great effort under an organized scheme. I think that no one on the Socialist benches will be annoyed with me if I remind them of the fact that three generations ago the younger sons of practically all the big families of this country, whenever there were difficulties in the family and a new life had to be sought, went out with perhaps a £10 note in their pocket.
Before I sit down, I should like, if I may, to tell a story. We have heard this evening of failures in the Dominions overseas, but we rarely hear of the successes. Long years ago, a young man was serving under me in my old volunteer company, as it was called in those days, and also working on the farm where I lived. This young man came to me after the South African War, and said, "I want to try my luck in the Dominions overseas." He had not a bean in the world, but he had lots of courage. He used an un-parliamentary word. He said: "I have plenty of guts, and I want to try my fate in a great big country while I have a chance." I said: "Very well. If you want to try your luck, I will help you all I can, because I thank you for what you have done." He was one of the volunteers who went out to the South African war. I lent him a £10 note, and I never expected to see it again. Eight years afterwards, when I was sitting in this House, a green card was brought in to me and on it I saw "Mr.—of Toronto, Canada." I went out and there was this orphan, brought up in the workhouse in my native town. He had come back dressed in a frock coat and top hat. He said: "I want to pay you back your £10 1741 note with interest for the succeeding years." He was not a failure. He was a real trier, and he meant to succeed. I believe that the moment we see the results of the Ottawa Conference coming, the moment we see primary production in the Empire going ahead, we ought to be ready with a great scheme by which we can move a. mass of our population to the Empire overseas.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I have a point of view which has not yet been put. The lament of the hon. Baronet, like that of many others, is that those who have been in charge of this country, or this Empire, for a number of years have lacked breadth of vision. I want to remind the hon. Baronet that the great outstanding personality that he supports, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), was in charge of the country under a Tory Government, and he made a hash of the business. We are still paying for it, and our fellows are out in Australia desperate to get back. We also remember that we who went across Canada as a delegtion from this House, the guests of the Canadian Government, had to intervene on behalf of the harvesters that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook sent out there. There was no preparation made for them, and they were bankrupt and starving in many instances.
I come to the present Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs who is allowed on all hands, irrespective of politicial opinion, to be one of the ablest men that our movement has produced, a very sagacious negotiator second to none, in my opinion, in the trade union movement. He made a gigantic failure. He took on this job. He went to Canada himself. He told us all manner of things that he was going to accomplish. What did he accomplish? Nothing—just the same as everything that this or any other Government will do when they get up against this question. It is the question of this system versus Socialism. That is what you are up against. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs found, when he got to Canada, that they can grow more wheat now than they can get rid of, and they have more workers than they can employ. It was not the rag, tag and bobtail who went across the seas. Let me quote the Earl of Chatham: 1742I have no local attachments. It is indifferent to me whether a man was rocked in his cradle on this side or that side of the Tweed. I sought merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it and found it in the mountains of the North. I called it forth and drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men. These men, in the last War, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world.That was the Earl of Chatham speaking on 7th December, 1765. These are the individuals. They are not the scions of the rich at all. It is true that there are one or two individuals but they are not going to get away with the idea that it was the scions of the rich who built the British Empire, because it was nothing of the kind. This is the reason why they are up against it, and why, with all their ability, they cannot get round it. The work is all done. When migration was going on we were sending workers from the Clyde by the thousand every Saturday. The best blood of Scotland went out. What was it to do? The railways were to be built, docks and canals were to be made, factories were to be built, roads to be made and houses and cities to be built. All that work is done now. The position is just the same in the old country. Think what it would mean if we had the railway to build from London to Glasgow, if we had all the railway systems in the country and all the railway systems in the world to build, as we had. It is no idle boast. In my father's day Britain was the workshop of the world. We built all the engines and the ships. We did the world's work. Now that work is all done. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] All the work the worker can do. There is no work for the hardy son of toil, because all work has largely been eliminated. This Government, like every other Government in civilization, is the heir of all this glorious inheritance which has been handed down to us. It is ours. We are living in the age about which the poet and the seer dreamt.
I want this Government of ours to work in conjunction with every Government within the Commonwealth of Nations, because if we are not able to make friends with the men and women across the seas who understand our language, whose kith and kin are our kith and kin, who are bone of our bone and 1743 blood of our blood, how is it possible for us to extend the right hand of fellowship and make friends with individuals with whom we are unable to converse? We have a Prime Minister who claims to be a Socialist Prime Minister. Let him and those who claim. to be Socialists within the National Government approach the question from a Socialist outlook, because the trouble we have is that the people in the Dominions think that the Dominions are theirs and that everything is theirs, and that we have no claim whatever, in the same way as the ruling class think that everything in Britain is theirs and that the workers have no claim at all, except that when they are out of work they get 15s. 3d. a week. All that has to be changed. That is all I have to say about it.
§ 10.35 p.m.
As one who happens to have been a Colonial for about 30 years, who migrated without any money and came back a little more fortunate than when he went out, I want to say a few words, because the speeches of hon. Members of the Opposition always tend towards imagining that it is a question of sending people out to the Dominions and banishing them from this country. I look at it from the opposite view point. For healthy young fellows, who possibly have not been particularly brilliant in their schools, but who are physically fit, there is a very fine career for them if they migrate to the Dominions or the Colonies. It is highly beneficial to the Dominions that they should get young men from this country. If one goes to any Dominion one finds that there are large colonies of Scots. The hon. Member who has just spoken deplored the idea that some of the best Scots had gone abroad. In any case, some of them are coming back again, and this House, I am glad to say, is full of Scots.
I should like to urge upon the Government the necessity, as the Resolution says, of immediate steps being taken to co-operate with the Dominions in comprehensive schemes for migration. We all know that at the present time it is not an easy thing to migrate people to the Dominions. I am particularly interested in boys' club work. We are 1744 doing our utmost to find opportunities for boys who really want to go to the Dominions, but the difficulty is to get an opportunity for them to go. However, times will change. I hope the time is not far distant when the Dominions will realize the necessity of allowing more migration into their countries. Take Australia as an instance. If they do not very soon take steps to obtain migrants from this country I am afraid that they will get migration from Eastern countries which they will probably not appreciate. Therefore, in their own interests it is highly advantageous that they should allow as many people as possible from this country to go out there. Whatever may be done in that respect, it is absolutely necessary that some scheme should be put in hand forthwith so that we may have the necessary machinery prepared when the day comes.
Whatever the Dominions may say today, the occasion will come when they will need a larger population. When we think of the vast territories of Australia and Canada, when times are better, when some of their factories are going, and their land needs to be opened up, they will require more of our people. Therefore, it is urgently necessary that we should get some scheme in hand now. We are told that we have an Overseas Settlement Department. A few days ago I looked up a speech that I made six or seven years ago on this subject, also questions which I put to the Colonial Secretary at that time. I said then that I had no faith in the Empire Settlement Department, or Committee as it was then constituted. It was out of date, far too large, and composed of far too many officials. I should like to see fewer men, all active and keen on getting people migrated. I have pleasure in supporting the Motion, and I hope that the Government will do all they can to help young men with enterprise, young men with guts, as the hon. Member said, because if they have not got guts they might just as well stop at home. Anybody who does migrate must realize that he is not going to have it sunny all the time. He will have ups and downs, but if he sticks it he will be able to come home in a better position than he was when he left this country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1745
That this House observes with great regret that migration overseas is much lower now than before the War, and urges His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to secure the co-operation of the Dominions in comprehensive schemes for migration within the Empire.