§ Order or Second Beading read.
§ 11 a.m.
I beg to move, "Thai the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill is to amend the Empire Settlement Act of 1922. Its object is to give greater power and facilities to the Secretary of State for the Dominions to co-operate in schemes of land settlement in the United Kingdom and the Dominions overseas. The Empire Settlement Act was passed in 1922 to give effect to the recommendations of the Imperial Conference of 1921. In that Act the United Kingdom Government declared its intention to pursue a continuous policy of overseas settlement and to co-operate financially in schemes calculated to achieve that object. The assistance given to migration has been mostly under the Empire Settlement Act, 1922. The assistance that that Act was to give was to be within the statutory limit of £3,000,000 per annum, on condition that 50 per cent, of the amount was found from sources other than United Kingdom funds. It could be found by Governments in the Dominions, or by local or voluntary migration bodies in the United Kingdom. The net expenditure up to the 31st March, 1931, amounted to only just over £6,000,000, out of an authorised expenditure of £27,000,000.
It is sometimes stated that the Empire Settlement Act has failed. Although I do not subscribe to that view, I believe that very much more might have been done in the way of Dominion settlement. We cannot really say that the Act has failed, because under it 400,000 people have been settled overseas, and it is beyond dispute that never before have settlers gone overseas under such favourable conditions. Furthermore, apart from the fact that 400,000 people have been settled, much valuable information has been gained by association with voluntary migration bodies, and many valuable lessons have been learned on the highly technical problems of migration. It is in the light of this experience that certain defects have been noted in 2050 the Empire Settlement Act, and it is to remedy those defects that I am asking the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
Clause 1 of the Bill is intended to extend the benefits of the Empire Settlement Act to persons who are desirous of engaging in agriculture in the United Kingdom. It empowers the Secretary of State to exceed the maximum contribution allowed under the Act. The Bill is riot intended to supersede the Allotments and Small Holdings Acts already on the Statute Book, but it is a definite effort to link up land settlement in the United Kingdom with land settlement in the Dominions. It is impossible to separate the two. The Ottawa Agreement presupposes planned Imperial agriculture. We have given to the Dominions the right to send their products into our country in open, free competition with our own agriculturists, and that being the case we must in thinking of the future of land settlement think of it on an Imperial basis. Therefore, it is impossible to differentiate between land settlement in the Dominions and land settlement in this country. Moreover, the voluntary organisations to deal with migration overseas have stated over and over again that it would be much easier for them to place settlers, if they could be sure that they came from rural districts. The Astor Committee, which issued its report on Empire Migration, laid very great stress on this fact. They said:The growing unfamiliarity of the people of Great Britain with rural pursuits and rural life has been in recent years one of the primary obstacles to Empire migration, and there is no other way in which this obstacle can be overcome than by developing our own agriculture and associating increasing numbers of persons with the habits and aptitudes of rural life. It appears to us therefore that the development of smallholdings in Great Britain is a necessary corollary to land settlement overseas.I believe very strongly that it is of vital importance to us, if we intend to people our Dominions with British stock, that the first thing to be done, and it should be done at this moment, is to stop the drift of the population from the country to the towns. It is a fallacy to imagine that you can train an agriculturist by giving him six months' intensive training. Agriculture is not merely an industry; it is a mode of life. It is a life that calls for persistent perseverance and very great patience. It is an industry and a 2051 life that does not offer spectacular profits. For that reason people who undertake agriculture or land work of any description must love the life better than the living. I believe that the only way, really, to develop potential Dominion settlers is to let them grow up on the land or to train them as early as possible after childhood for life on the land.
There is something very powerful about the love of the land. There is something that it is not possible to imbue in a person except from real contact with nature on the land. At this moment there are thousands and thousands of men And women in this country who are anxious to go on to the land. We have only to look at the figures of unemployment in the agricultural industry to realise the urgency of the situation. There are 150,000 agricultural workers who have lost their employment in the last ten years. Most of these people would make admirable small holders. There are also many thousands of miners who definitely have the land sense and who would make admirable settlers on the land. It is now our bounden duty to do something to settle the people of the land so that we may be prepared, when the Dominions are willing to take settlers, to send them people whom they will be very anxious to welcome with open arms.
There is another point which should commend the bringing of the United Kingdom within the facilities afforded under the Empire Settlement Act. There is always grave suspicion in the Dominions that we are anxious to dump our unemployed upon them. I am afraid that that is something about which they feel very keenly, and it is something which we in the United Kingdom would not like them to feel. We do not want them to think that we desire to do that, and a way of averting that suspicion is to start now settling people on the land in this country. Another point of importance relates to the danger of emigration from European countries to the Dominions. There are some European nations that are definitely agriculturally minded, particularly the Scandinavian countries. Their people are very admirably suited for settlement on the land, and they make good settlers and good citizens. Those countries have no outlet for their surplus population. I fear that when the Dominions are willing to take emigrants 2052 these European countries may be given the preference over our own people if we do not do something to make them more agriculturally minded. In my view, this is one of the most important parts of the Bill, and I hope the Government will accept the Measure and give facilities for its further progress, for by so doing they will give a great opportunity to many people who are looking for that opportunity just now.
The second part of the Clause deals with the fifty-fifty section of the Act. There is some difference of opinion about the practicability of doing away with this proposal, but the Bill urges that nothing shall stand in the way of the efforts of the Secretary of State for the Dominions to assist migrants and also settlement in this country and, therefore, the second part of the Clause does away with the fifty-fifty policy. In the light of experience the fifty-fifty section has presented very great difficulties in the way of getting people into the Dominions. In some cases it has been almost impossible for people to go out to Canada and other parts of our Dominions to the people to whom they really belong. It has been difficult for a man in a Dominion to get his dependants out to him, unless he was definitely engaged in agriculture. It would have been quite impossible to train men in this country at all if we had not over-ridden the proposals of the Empire Settlement Act. The Dominions were not prepared to go fifty-fifty in the training of men in this country, and the Minister of Labour, by making use of Appropriations-in-Aid, has defrayed the total cost of training men in this country for the Dominions. The Astor Report also draws attention to the fact that the fifty-fifty section has proved unworkable, and in many cases has been abandoned.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the setting up of a board of five persons whose sole job will be the development of the natural resources of the Dominions and the United Kingdom. The very nature of the problem which we are facing demands that a body should be set up whose sole job should be to look after migration and land settlement. The subject demands the attention of a full time body. The Empire Settlement Committee has done very valuable work, but an Empire Settlement Board would be able to coordinate the work of all voluntary societies and be very much more helpful 2053 in getting people settled overseas. The Astor Report draws attention to the fact that there is at the present a great deal of overlapping in the work of voluntary migration societies and that there should be greater co-ordination in order to save overhead expenses. Clauses 3 and 4 are purely formal.
I have outlined the main provisions of the Bill and I do not think it is necessary for me at this juncture to go into greater detail. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), who is to second the Second Reading of the Bill, will deal at greater length with Dominion settlement. We must not forget that the Empire Settlement Act is to continue for 13 years, and therefore it will have to be reviewed in any case not later than 1037. I believe that this is the crucial moment to review the Empire Settlement Act so that we can start right away getting people back to the land in this country and thus be prepared for the time when the Dominions will again open their doors to us. We are all going through a grave economic depression, not only this country but the Dominions as well. We have nearly 3,000,000 of our fellow countrymen without the means of earning a living. We have also 300,000 young people coming into the labour market every year. Some of our greatest industries are slowly contracting, and must contract still further. Machinery is displacing labour. In my own constituency, I have many farm workers unemployed and many miners unemployed, who are filled with despair at their continued idleness. We must also realise that in our own country we have thousands of acres of land which is being starved for lack of husbandry, and we have thousands of men and women who are longing for an opportunity to do something.
It is well, however, to point out that anyone who under takes work on the land must be prepared for a very hard life. They must not be allowed to think that in 12 months they are going to amass great fortunes. Great fortunes have never been made out of the land. It is a living; and the time will never come when people will be able to amass great fortunes out of the land. Still, there is something about it which is so much worth while: and there are many agricultural workers and miners, who make good land settlers, who would be glad 2054 of an opportunity of being what they call their own boss. There is something wonderful about all that. I believe the Bill will give hope to many people if the Government will allow it to go to Committee where it can be altered and shaped into a more useful Measure. It is quite useless for the Government to encourage land settlement if they are not prepared to give every facility to make agriculture a better proposition; it is futile to put people on to the land unless they are prepared to do something for them.
The agricultural industry is grateful to the Minister of Agriculture for what he has done, and for what he is going to do. We have the good intentions of the Government and, therefore, it is wise for us to be thinking about land settlement now, and not only thinking but acting in that direction. But any kind of land settlement to be workable must go hand in hand with definitely organised markets and rationalised production. This can be done on an Imperial basis. We must rationalise production on an Imperial basis if we are going to make agriculture pay in this country and also make it possible for agriculture in the Dominions to become a living. There is another point about the land which must not be forgotten, and that is that agriculture is the only industry which is capable of great expansion. It is the only industry whose markets are capable of great expansion.
I appeal to the Secretary of State, and to the House, to give the Bill a Second Reading, and allow it to go to Committee, where it can be shaped and altered and made into something useful, something that will give hope to those who are longing for an opportunity to do what is worth while. I appeal to the Secretary of State to give the Bill a Second Reading, so that we can prepare for the time when the Dominions will be willing to take our migrants, so that we may people our own countryside, develop our own agriculture and rural life, and develop a land sense among a greater number of our own population. That, I believe, is an object of primary importance to be attained at this moment if we are anxious, as we are anxious, to develop to the utmost capacity the British Empire, if we are prepared and anxious to hand on to posterity the great heritage that came to us not less perfect 2055 but more perfect, more complete, so that it might be a bulwark to the peace and prosperity of the whole world.
§ 11.26 a.m.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
I beg to second the Motion.
The Second Reading of the Bill has been moved by my hon. Friend with a clearness and force and eloquence that obviously commends the Bill to the House. She comes from the land herself, and represents a constituency of land workers and miners. She has told us of the unemployment that exists among these landworkers, and she has pleaded for an opportunity to be given to them to get back to the land. I feel sure that the appeal does not fall upon deaf ears in the case of the present Government. It is a good augury that this proposal should be made by a woman. Those who have seen the settlements on the prairies in Manitoba and in Saskatchewan, and on the fruit farms in British Columbia, know that in some of the best forms of settlement, family and community settlement, the key to success is held by the woman. If the woman is contented and does her share, and sometimes more than her share, then the man is contented and succeeds.
We do not offer this Bill as a solution of the unemployment question, but we do hold that if the problem of migration is properly attacked it will offer more and more the means of solving the unemployment problem by the gradual absorbing of thousands of our people, men of character and energy who are now unable to find employment. That fact has been recognised by many recently. That keen political student and writer, "Scrutator," writing in the "Sunday Times" last Sunday, said that Empire building, "if on a sufficiently large scale "—those are the important words—might very well be the means of doing great work for trade and employment. It may be said, and probably will be said, that issues of such magnitude should not be dealt with in a private Member's Bill. This Bill is an invitation to the Secretary of State to provide himself with an instrument more efficient and more adequate for dealing with this great problem, which was and is and will be for many a long year to come the greatest and most vital problem in our Empire.
2056 In 1921 the late Lord Milner presided over a Committee of the Imperial Conference. The Committee was set up to deal with the question of Empire development. Lord Milner said that their task was to devise schemes for the better distribution of the man-power of the Empire. If the Government will either adopt this Bill or give facilities for it, we believe that there will be provided a better and more efficient means of dealing with the problem. I submit that this is a favourable moment to develop the era of co-operation in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took so honourable and leading a part. Let us take advantage of the opportunity. There is ample time to deal with the matter in Committee. Only yesterday I heard a member of a Standing Committee say that his Committee had nothing to do. Obviously, then, there is plenty of time to deal with the Bill upstairs.
When my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading said that I would deal at length with the problem of settlement overseas, I noticed a look of apprehension on the faces of some of my hon. Colleagues. I hope to reassure them. In asking to be allowed to cast a backward glance over migration for the last 120 years, I promise the House that I shall be very brief. I start from the year 1816. Then, after 20 years of war, war industries had closed down, and there were many disbanded soldiers, not well disposed to work, and there was much unemployment. So organised migration was decided upon. The then Secretary of State, whose example we look to every Secretary of State to emulate—Lord Bathurst—set to work with able advisers to devise schemes of migration. Those schemes resulted in large and successful settlements in the valley of the St. Lawrence and in South Africa, and there were settlements in South Australia and New Zealand.
One of the conditions laid down was that migrants should be men of character and not paupers. That is a wise provision, and one to reassure the Dominions who, as has been said, are very jealous of the type of migrant they admit, and refuse to be what they have hitherto called a "dumping ground for our unemployed"—a description which largely overstates the case. That principle was acted on at that time, and it was re- 2057 stated with great force some years later by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the man who in the Thirties was with Lord Durham in Canada and was largely responsible for the Durham Report. Surely it is the right principle. In the schemes that were formulated by Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State, the head of the family had to make a deposit for himself and his family. Clergymen and schoolmasters received grants of land free, and when a considerable colony was started a church and school were provided.
Under these schemes thousands of Englishmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen settled in Quebec and Upper Canada. If the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) were here they would be interested to recall that in 1820 some 1,150 men of Lanarkshire driven from thence by bad trade settled successfully in the Canadian townships of Lanark and Dalhousie. One of the most interesting developments of the time was the formation of the Canada Company which was founded with a capital of £1,000,000. It purchased large tracts of land in Canada and particularly one known as the Huron Tract of 1,000,000 acres. It opened up roads, built mills, gave large employment and founded the city of Guelph. There was also set up the Colonial Land and Emigration Board which did great work. I lay stress upon that in connection with the proposal in the Bill for a similar board in this country now. In the course of its useful life it provided free passages for 352,000 migrants to the Dominion.
At the same time there was in progress a similar movement in South Africa. In the year 1819–1820 this House passed a Resolution granting £40,000 for the purpose of relieving unemployment at home and increasing the white population of South Africa. Under that scheme thousands of persons went out to South Africa. They were instrumental in founding or increasing great sea ports like East London and Port Elizabeth, and inland—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows the region because he and I were there together—they founded towns like King Williamstown, George and Grahamstown in beautiful and fertile surroundings. It is good to remember these great results and the large tracts of country which were opened up in those days. Industries and mills were 2058 founded and much employment given as a result of well-thought-out and well-organised schemes. We want those schemes again.
That useful work went on up to 1850, but in that year things began to change. The atmosphere was altered. It was the time when men like Lowe, Dilke and Roebuck began to preach the doctrine of laissez faire. The Colonies were described as encumbrances and we were exhorted to cut the painter. The great Colonies were becoming self-governing, with the result that organisation of migration from this side gradually died away. The work of the Colonial Land and Emigration Board was gradually absorbed by the Colonial Office the Board of Trade and the Colonel Legislatures and in 1878 it ceased to exist. From 1878 to 1921 there was no organised attempt on the part of the government to help migration and no central authority to deal with it. In 1917 the Empire Settlement Committee was set up and it urged the creation of a central authority, but nothing was done. There was no Lord Bathurst then and when the Armistice was signed there was no Government authority to take charge of this great question.
Then came the Imperial Conference of 1921 when Lord Milner was chairman of a committee dealing with this subject. The vice chairman of that committee was my right hon. Friend the member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) whose knowledge of the needs and possibilities of the Dominions is unrivalled. The findings of that committee were embodied in the Empire Settlement Act 1922, which he was instrumental in passing and which this Bill seeks to amend. Generally speaking, the object of this Bill is to give greater freedom and elasticity in the working and control of migration and to put a more efficient instrument into the hands of the Secretary of State.
The first Clause of this Bill is a, completely new reading of Section 1 of the Empire Settlement Act. Reference has been made to the fifty-fifty provision. That provision finds no place in this Bill. Under the Empire Settlement Act a credit—not cash—of £3,000,000 a year is provided which can be used by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury on 2059 a fifty-fifty basis—that is to say any expenditure which he incurs on behalf of migration, must be met by an equal expenditure on the part of the Dominion concerned. That provision has led to many difficulties. Questions have been raised of who is getting the best of the bargain, and it has prevented the Secretary of State from helping many useful schemes. For instance, he is prevented from aiding the great voluntary societies to the extent to which they ought to be aided. One of the chief amendments of the Act of 1922 which the Bill proposes to make, is to place at the disposal of the Secretary of State the management of the entire credit without that provision.
The Bill also proposes to bring in the Colonies. The Protectorates and Mandated Territories are already dealt with in the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, Section 2 of which provides that they can be brought in by Order-in-Council. In Clause 1 of the Bill the words "or colonies" are inserted bringing the Colonies within this legislation. Under Clause 1 of the Bill power is also given to the Secretary of State to initiate schemes, and the duration of the principal Act is extended by 11 years. The Empire Settlement Act, as it stands at present, comes to an end in 1937. It is proposed in the Bill that it shall extend for fifteen years after 1933. Then comes the crux of the Bill—Sub-section (4) of Clause 1 which is printed in italics. On it depends the fate of the Bill. It is a money provision—not that a larger amount need be spent under this Bill than under the original Act. The amount of the credit remains the same, £3,000,000 a year, but by leaving out the fifty-fifty provision, the Secretary of State is empowered to spend more of that credit, and therefore this provision is necessary. A money Clause can only be moved by a Member of the Government, and one earnestly hopes that the Secretary of State will see his way to move this money Clause.
Clause 2 is a Clause most earnestly desired by nearly all those interested in the working of the migration system. But what is the present machinery for dealing with Empire settlement? It is the Secretary of State, his Oversea Settlement Department, and an advisory committee. The Secretary of State has large and numerous duties to perform 2060 and questions to attend to. He cannot give that whole-time, day-in-day-out attention to this question, which is the greatest question in the Empire, and his Department, consisting as it does of some of the ablest and most conscientious of our public servants, has no power of initiative, but is hampered and restricted at every turn. Then there is the advisory committee. That is a committee composed of very able men and women, which meets, or used to meet, for I believe it has ceased to meet now, once a fortnight or once a. month, but these ladies and gentlemen have their own large affairs to attend to, and they cannot give the attention to this great question that is absolutely vital.
Hence Clause 2, and here let me assure the House that I have behind me the considered opinion of all the great voluntary societies, of those overseas connected with them, and of those oversea who have studied this question, that there should be in this country a board of the ablest minds we can discover, men of knowledge and experience of the Empire, men of energy and enterprise, to take in hand this great question, working under the control and authority of the Secretary of State. It is hoped that similar boards would be created in the Dominions, so that our board at home would have an opposite number in each Dominion, and the great question might be attacked and dealt with on a comprehensive and adequate scale.
What would be the work of such a board to start with? There are many questions. For instance, there is settlement by what are called chartered companies. Of course, a chartered company to deal with settlement in the Dominions would not be a chartered company in the old sense, because the Dominions are sovereign States, but you could have something on the lines advocated by Mr. St. Clare Grondona, in a most stimulating work, "Britons in partnership," in which he has given the scheme in both outline and detail. You could have a parent chartered company here, working in concert with chartered companies in the Dominions, which would take charge of the migrants, acquire land, settle them, watch over them, provide them with rations, as the Canada Company and other companies did in the early days, until the first harvest was reaped, and 2061 market their produce—a most important provision. I am not saying that that scheme is possible, but I do say that it is a scheme that would be one of the first to be taken into consideration by such a board as I have outlined, as is proposed in the Bill.
Then there is another most attractive scheme, that hon. Members will find in a book which is a compound of practical suggestion and patriotic imagination, "Outward-Ho!," by Mr. James Leakey, a former Socialist leader, which should commend it to my hon. Friends opposite, and which has been commended by the Press in both Canada and Australia, by such papers as the "Melbourne Age and the "Montreal Star." Briefly, the principle of that book is the establishment by counties of garden cities in chosen districts. We have our Letchworths and Welwyns successful here; why not Letchworths and Welwyns in the Dominions? These garden cities would have the great advantage that it is not merely land workers who would be necessary but workers of all types. I feel sure that if such a plan were initiated in this country, the reaction to it of the counties would be remarkable, and particularly in Yorkshire. There you have had a great movement in the direction of migration, for which great credit is due to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Leeds (Sir J. Birchall), and there is a network of migration committees in Yorkshire. There is another in Northumberland and Durham, and two of the leading spirits in that network in the three counties are Commander Adams and Mr. Gough, of Ripon. There is another yet in Lincoln, presided over by Sir Archibald Weigall; and Lord Midleton has had a great hand in this work also. If such a plan were proposed, I feel sure that the reaction to it in these counties would be remarkable.
Another necessary work to be taken in hand by such a board would be that of getting into touch, with the great voluntary societies. These societies, such as the Salvation Army, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Boy Scouts, the Church Army, the Church of England Council of Empire Settlement, the British Dominions Emigration Society, the Society for the Settlement of British Women Overseas, the Scottish Immigrant Aid Society, the Scottish Council for Women's Trades and 2062 Careers—all these have done splendid work in the past, but that work has ceased for the present. and the machinery is getting rusty. One of the objects of such, a board as is provided in the Bill would be to take that question in hand, to set the machinery going again, and to co-ordinate the work of these voluntary societies. There would be no lack of work for such a board, and this is work which can only be undertaken by such a board; it is not possible for the present Dominions Office to undertake it.
The board might be on the lines of the Central Electricity Board that was set up by a Conservative Government. It was a large matter to provide the grid, to provide a supply of cheap current for this island, so that board was set up, with borrowing powers up to £50,000,000, of which £36,000,000 have already been exercised. The problem of Empire development and settlement, however, is a far greater one than the provision of a cheap supply of electricity to this island, and needs a greater board and the largest and ablest minds that we have got. We can spend £1,000,000,000 in the last 10 years on just keeping people alive, we make a loan to Austria, but how much have we spent on developing our own Empire, in giving hope and life to our own people, and in giving to our young people some prospect, a prospect that, I believe, the taking in hand and working out of a great scheme, of Empire settlement would provide?
Many minds seem to be working in this direction. I have already quoted what has been said by "Scrutator". Let me quote the Prime Minister, who, in the "News-Letter" of the 7th January, in an admirable article on the dispossession of labour by machinery, wrote:That means a new use of our resources, like land by settlement, a policy which the Government is working out.I would venture to suggest working out the policy Imperially. Then again the idea is present to business minds, to some of our best. Mr. Goodenough, Chairman of Barclay's Bank, in his illuminating annual address to the Bank said:I would ask whether it is not possible for a conference to ho held with the Dominions with the object of arriving at some alleviation of this great evil of unemployment. Much relief has been obtained in certain parts of Europe through the Palestine Emigration Movement, which has 2063 worked with remarkable success. I think that this may be taken as an example of what can be successfully accomplished with a good and well-organised plan, coupled with financial assistance. The whole matter should form the subject of a special Empire inquiry at an early date.Here is a voice from Western Australia, that of a man who has been instrumental in settling 3,000 of our people there and has helped many thousands more. He writes:That migrants to Australia will continue is inevitable. It may be necessary in the future to discriminate more than in the past in the class of migrant which is brought to this country, but it is imperative that some joint action between the two Governments shall take place to encourage the immigration of English people.Here comes a very significant passage:Areas of land here could be obtained from our Government, if not free, at least at a very small cost, to be developed by migrating settlers.Some years ago in British Columbia I discussed the question with the Prime Minister, Mr. John Oliver, who began life as a Derbyshire miner. I suggested to him the possibility of building a branch line in a suitable district to connect up with the Canadian National Railway. The workers would come from this country, mainly; the rails would come from this country and the corrugated iron for house roofs and other materials would also come from this country. Mills would be started and the whole scheme would do good not only to Canada but to this country, and traffic would be provided for that great line, the Canadian National. Employment would be provided for people here, and that settlement, if properly worked, would act as a magnet to draw other settlers from this country. Mr. Oliver said that that was a perfectly feasible scheme and could be worked on a basis of terms with the Canadian National Railway which, after a certain number of years, might buy out the original company.
I have already referred to the obvious fact that this is a favourable moment to start thinking out and initiating a great scheme for Empire development, because a new era has opened at Ottawa. I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to be the Lord Bathurst of 1933 and to look upon this Bill as a means of giving a 2064 fresh start to the consideration of this question. The vast vacant spaces call for population; they must be populated by someone, and let it be English. There are here young men and women of character and energy ready to take the chance if they get it. They will never be lacking. In 1856 the American writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote of England:I see her in her old age, not decrepit, but young, and still daring to believe in her power of endurance and expansion. Seeing this, I say, All hail[...] Mother of nations, Mother of heroes, with strength still equal to the time; still wise to entertain and swift to execute the policy which the mind and heart of mankind require at the present hour.I believe that these words might be written of our country to-day. It is true that our needs are the opportunities of the Dominions; their needs are our opportunities; let no one tell us that there is not here and overseas among our people sufficient thinking power, imagination, energy and organising ability to transform our needs into opportunities, opportunities into action, and wise action into Imperial welfare.
§ 12.1 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady who introduced this Bill on the lucidity with which she dealt with it and the enthusiasm which she showed for her subject. That enthusiasm was surpassed by the Seconder, who is an enthusiast, and has been for many years, on the question of Empire settlement. The two hon. Members had a certain amount of optimism, but I think that it was tempered with some doubts whether there is a possibility of the principles of this Bill being carried into law. While the Bill is quite simple, it makes some drastic changes in the Empire Settlement Act which was passed in 1922. It makes the United Kingdom a Dominion; it brings into the Empire Great Britain, which was left out of the Empire Settlement Act of 1922. It takes a step which many hon. Members would welcome and which those in authority might resent; it leaves out all Treasury control. I suppose that there is not a Government department that does not at one time or another resent Treasury control and would like to see more freedom. As both hon. Members have said, the Bill sets aside the fifty-fifty principle which is laid down in 2065 the Empire Settlement Act. I do not object to the history that has been given by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) but he left out one effort that was made after the War, when scores of thousands of soldiers were sent out and settled in Canada. That, I think, was the first effort on the part of any Government in my lifetime to assist migration.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
I particularly intended to mention that but forgot it, and also the £10 passage scheme.
§ Mr. LUNN
It was only in 1922 that Parliament decided that out of national taxation we should contribute to Empire settlement. I have often heard the Overseas Settlement Committee attacked in the House. That body was included as the machinery under the Act of 1922, and it has been a wonderful machine. Everything that the hon. Member for Windsor has said as to the committees that had been set up, the work of the voluntary societies, the agreements that have been arrived at, the regulations that have been made, the convenience of migrants, the aftercare of the settlers, have all been arranged under the wise guidance of the Overseas Settlement Committee in this country. I think they deserve a tribute for the way in which they have knitted together this country and the Dominions; they have succeeded as no other body in this country has done. But this principle is set aside in this Bill, and we have to find all the money for both home and Empire settlement. I do not know of a committee which has gone into the question of migration which has recommended the waiving of the fifty-fifty principle entirely in Empire settlement. Even the Economic Committee on Migration, which sat for many months, and reported in 1931, said they favoured the retention of the fifty-fifty principle except for passages and equipment carried out by voluntary societies. I have always objected to setting aside entirely the fifty-fifty principle. If the Dominions are to take what has been described as "the pick of the basket" from this country, select our best men and women for the Dominions, they must do something to assist. At the same time I have no objection to this matter being further examined.
What is the position to-day? It is no use hiding our heads in the sand. Nothing much is likely to be done in the matter of migration to the Dominions for 2066 many years to come. I think the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the position of unemployment in 10 years' time might be applied quite easily to the case of migration. Canada has considerable unemployment and no desire for immigrants, and the same observation applies to Australia—those already settled in Australia encounter many difficulties—and New Zealand has not for runny years been welcoming people from this country. We heard from the Secretary of State for the Dominions the other day that, unfortunately, we had reached such a state of affairs that there was a balance of 26,034 persons who had returned to this country from the Dominions. We have experienced nothing like that for many years, and I do not want to see that state of affairs continue. At the same time I know that there are many more of our people in the Dominions who would like to return here if they had the facilities to do so, though I agree, also, that if only conditions in the Dominions were better there are many people in this country who would like to go out.
I doubt, however, whether there will ever be the same necessity for human labour overseas as there has been in the past. With the mechanisation of agriculture in Canada they will not need the same number of people. Moreover, there is this other point, which was noted by the Economic Advisory Committee.. When economic conditions do improve, it may be that it will not then be to our economic advantage to encourage our people to go overseas and to spend money on assisting to send them. In fact, the question is so far one for the future that it is not of immediate moment. At the same time, as I have said, I have no objection to inquiries being undertaken, and if possible I would like steps to be taken to lay down the procedure for the future.
The main provision of this Bill deals with a matter which has largely been left out of consideration up to now, and that is settlement on the land at home. I very much agree with the waiving of the fifty-fifty principle in that connection, and support the Bill entirely so far as that is concerned. I have no objection to a board being set up to deal with this side of the problem, and I must add that it is very refreshing to note the inconsistencies of Members of Parliament.
2067 They object to Socialism, and would vote against the principles of the Labour party, but they come here to-day to ask us to agree to the setting up of a national board controlled by a Government Department and with a Secretary of State and with every penny Of the money derived from national taxation. I would like to see that principle extended in many other directions, but I am astonished, when I read the names on the back of the Bill, to see that some of the Tories have approved such a principle. I suppose that when it is a question of applying their own particular nostrum they are prepared to accept other opinions.
I believe the driving power of a board would be required to deal with this problem, and I welcome the idea, and would like to see the Government accept the Bill. I would like to see that part of it providing for the settlement of people on the land at home carried into law. We have more than 3,000,000 unemployed in this country, and there is no possible hope for them to get back to work. Under the present system, it is impossible, I am sure, for this or any other Government to find work for the whole of the unemployed. It will be noted that I say "under the present system". Yesterday the Minister of Labour, in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) inquiring the number of miners out of work in 1930, 1931 and 1932 gave these figures: 1930, 219,230; 1931, 297,624; and 1932, 355,325. That is an increase of nearly 140,000 unemployed in the mining industry, and there seems to be no possibility of those men ever finding work again in their own industry. Many of them have a connection with the land, because their forbears came from the land, and they would welcome any opportunity which would guarantee them the possibility of earning a livelihood on the land.
The Labour party have urged on this House scores of times the need to settle our people on the land at home, and I have heard the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) advocating the same thing on many occasions recently. When we remember that we have to purchase two-thirds of our food supplies from overseas it is time we did give consideration to the 2068 question of putting our own people to work to produce food in this country, and we support the Bill in the hope that something may be done along those lines. The late Labour Government passed a Land Settlement Bill which was designed to place thousands of unemployed on the land, after proper training, and with equipment. We also passed an Agricultural Marketing Bill. if we are to place more men and their families on the land we shall need more houses, mote cooperation among those who are settled on the land and means provided for them to market their produce. There is no reason, in my opinion, why we could not double the production of our food supplies. We have, adjacent to large towns, thousand of acres of land which are now idle, and they are near to the very best markets if only the people could be got on the land, and, as has been said by the mover of this Bill, English land is as good as any land in Europe: I ask, therefore, why are there so many unemployed and so much idle land, and nothing is done? Here is the opportunity for a Bill to be considered in Committee, and perhaps something done to settle thousands of our people on the land at home.
I am not going to deal with the cost. There is a provision in the Bill as to how far it is possible to go, and I would support that, because I believe we must make a beginning. But I may point out that we have paid out since the War more than £1,000,000,000 in unemployment benefit and on relief schemes. I ask, would it not be better to use the money in the future to provide suitable work at least for many thousands? If we could settle people on the land at home, it would give a fillip to many other industries, and it would increase the purchasing power for all kinds of manufactured goods of which we make the best in this country. I do not suggest that we are going to cure unemployment, but it would do something to help a great number if the subject were tackled courageously by bringing idle lands into use for idle hands to produce more of the necessities of life at home, and to give to these unemployed a real and an active interest in life.
I support this Bill, and hope that we shall have an opportunity of considering it in Committee and making it still better, if it is possible, by amendment. 2069 As far as the second part of the Bill is concerned, I believe it is an immediate possibility, and we should see that there is an opportunity provided for the settlement of thousands of unemployed who are anxious for the opportunity to earn their livelihood, and who will take advantage of it if such an opportunity is given.
§ 12.18 p.m.
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
I rise at this stage as I have to fulfil another engagement, and I do not want the House to misunderstand why I shall he leaving. If any evidence were required to answer those critics who say that Friday is a wasted day, I think the Debate this morning is the best answer. I do most sincerely congratulate the Mover of the Motion on a speech not only sincere and eloquent, but showing profound knowledge of the agricultural position. She indicated clearly that the object of her Bill could be separated into a consideration of home agriculture and Dominion migration. She said, quite rightly, that we ought not to neglect the importance of agriculture. I think there will be general agreement in the House that one of the most satisfactory signs in recent years is the recognition of the importance of agriculture in this country. There was a time when there was a sort of antagonism between the town and the country worker. It was a kind of suggestion that they were two policies.
I am glad the hon. Member showed clearly that the prosperity of the agricultural industry in this country is wrapped up with, and part of, the prosperity of the town, and vice versa; and I would say that the problem of the producer, whether it be agriculture or manufacture, is precisely the same. It is no good to pretend that the agricultural producer can go on producing at a loss. It is no good to assume that there can be any prosperity or any hope for the agricultural workers if year after year they are producing at a loss. They cannot continue in that direction. And what is true of them is equally true of colliery owners and manufacturers of any sort or kind. Therefore, I observed with interest the hon. Lady's suggestion that this is an opportunity to reorganise agriculture on an Imperial basis. That is one of the problems which the Government are tack- 2070 ling at this moment. There are the questions of meat and butter. Meat is being sold to-day by the producer whether in New Zealand, in Canada, in this country or even in the Argentine, at an absolute loss. He cannot go on producing at that loss. The result is that we are trying to see how we can deal with it, and we are trying to deal with it in what, I believe, will be accepted as a commonsense arrangement, saying that the first to be considered is our own agriculturist, secondly the Dominions, and thirdly the foreigner. But, instead of legislating against one another, or imposing restrictions upon them, we have got them voluntarily to agree to a reduction to try to improve the situation. That is what we are aiming at at the moment in regard to butter, and I do want the hon. Lady to understand that we do very strongly sympathise and agree with her main argument.
May I say to the Seconder of the Motion that no one appreciates more than I do the constant study and interest which he gives to this question. Like him, I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting the 1820 Settlement, and I think he will agree with me that no tribute would be too great, when you remember the changed conditions of folk going to our Dominions and Colonies to-day from what they were 100 years ago and less. No one could pay too great a tribute to the courage and fortitude of those people who are, after all, very largely responsible for the Imperial spirit in those Dominions to-day. It would be a mistake for the House to assume that the Empire Settlement Act, of 1922 has been a failure. It is not generally known that since the passing of the Act, and on the fifty-fifty basis during the past ten years, no less than 500,000 people have been assisted to go abroad.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
I did not intend to say that I thought that the Act was a failure. Very notable results have been achieved under it, but I thought that the Act might have been made much more effective.
I accept that explanation. I also wish to emphasise, in order that the House and the country may know, what a magnificent triumph the Act is. It is often assumed that the Act is a dead letter and that it has done nothing. But, imagine, in ten years, it 2071 has been responsible for sending more than 500,000 people abroad and, what is much more important, those people are not only sent to the Dominions but they are looked after, cared for and given assistance, under conditions far different and far more valuable than were ever experienced before. If evidence is needed to demonstrate the importance of a Debate on this subject, let me give the House a few figures. Nothing would be worse than to convey to our Dominions the impression that we are only concerned with migration as a means of dealing with our unemployed problem. It would be a great mistake to convey that impression. Nothing does more harm than to assume that our interest in migration is merely in dumping our unemployed upon the Dominions. Nothing of the kind is true; we must keep that quite clear, because no one resents that sort of impression more than the Dominions.
The figures will show the tremendous importance of this question in relation to our present economic position at home. In 1923, the balance of migration showed that the number of people leaving these shores for Canada was 75,866. That is in one year. Imagine what that would mean if it were the present-day position. For the nine months of 1932, which is the latest period for which I have figures, the balance was 12,160 the other way. Instead of 75,000 net leaving this country, the balance was 12,160 returning to these shores from Canada alone. In the case of Australia, in 1926 the net balance was 36,914 from this country, and for the nine months of 1932 there was an adverse balance of 3,287. For New Zealand, in 1926 the figure was 14,393 leaving this country, and, for the nine months of last year, 1,840 returning. As regards South Africa, it is well-known that that country never shows large numbers of migrants as we understand the term, but even in that case, in 1926, nearly 3,000 people left this country, and last year, in the nine months, there was a balance of 2,932 the other way.
I could give many more figures, but those that I have given will bring home to the House, I am sure, the absolute importance of this question and the importance of keeping clearly in mind that 2072 migration must at all times bear some relation to our own unemployed figures at home. It is a mistake to assume that any pressure is required.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
Has the Minister, or his Department, ascertained the reason for the adverse position shown in the figures for 1932, and how that position has been brought about?
Oh, yes. I will give that in a moment. Let me just finish this part of my speech. As I was saying it is a mistake to assume that pressure is required to induce people to migrate. During the past four years, there have never been fewer than 50,000 people whose names are registered as anxious and willing to go, and who were making representations daily to us in order that they might be helped to migrate. That shows that the spirit is still there, and that men and women in this country are still prepared to take their chance and risk their all, if given the opportunity.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) asked me the cause of the position revealed by the figures for 1932. Why is it, he asks, that 70,000 or so people were going to Canada in one year, and that a large number are returning to-day, and the same in regard to Australia and New Zealand, and so on? The answer is that our Dominions are suffering from the world's economic position just as we are. It proves conclusively that the Dominions, like us, are suffering from the effects of the world depression. When I am asked to express a view about the success or otherwise of Ottawa, I always emphasise, as I emphasise to-day, the fact that any scheme or arrangement that enables the various parts of the British Empire to become more prosperous must tend to our advantage, because unless the other parts of the Empire are prosperous, we cannot hope to deal successfully with migration problems. I hope the House will keep clearly in mind the importance of that side of the question. If hon. Members examine the figure that I have given, they will see what a tremendous effect Ottawa will have, if it has succeeded, in improving the position of our Dominions. If the Ottawa Agreements tend to make them more prosperous and if those Agreements result in their being able to take our people, 2073 in anything like the proportion that they took them before, that will be the best justification for what we call our Ottawa policy.
§ Earl WINTERTON
May I ask my right hon. Friend if it is not the case that if the world prices of primary products were such that such as wheat and wool could be produced at a profit in Canada and Australia, that would probably have an immediate result on migration
It is true. I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned that point. The evidence in our daily conversations shows that to be so. We are consulting the Dominions daily with regard to meat and butter problems. Every day they give illustrations of cases where their farmers are bankrupt, and where sheep are actually destroyed, and the moral is quite clear and definite, namely, that, unless they are in a position at least to get a decent living, there is no hope of their being able to employ either their own people or anyone else. Therefore, I want to make it quite clear that in giving support to this Bill, which I do, I want the Bill to be ventilated upstairs. At the present time, in view of the conditions which I know to exist in our Dominions, I am daily sending letters in answer to inquiries from people, saying that I do not advise them to go now, because it would be foolish, and would do the cause of migration and our country harm, to send people unless you were satisfied that they were going to have opportunities of earning fair wages.
While, however, I admit quite frankly that this is not a time at which we can hope that any large number of people can be sent abroad, yet it is a time when we ought to say that we hope and believe—as I do believe—that the Dominions are not down and out, and that ultimately prosperity will be restored to them, when such an opportunity as we desire will come. In the interval, let us not fail to take advantage of this opportunity to be ready, when that time comes, to deal with the matter in a practical and efficient manner. Therefore, while I cannot say anything more definite, because, as my hon. Friend knows, a Financial Resolution would be necessary to give effect to the Bill, I welcome this discussion, and the Government will wel- 2074 come a full opportunity of discussing the Bill upstairs. It may be that, as a result of such discussion, practical suggestions will emerge, of which we should be ready to take advantage.
I want to assure the House on three points. In the first place, any measure that will deal in a practical way with and give hope to British agriculture, and will give some chance to the agricultural labourer, will receive our blessing. It is, however, fundamental to any success in that direction that we should not start any bogies about dear food or anything of that kind. I believe that there is too great a disparity between retail and wholesale prices, and I agree that there ought to be some closer examination of the price which the consumer is paying for many things as compared with what the producer is getting for them; and all these matters must be taken into consideration, because an increase in the price received by the producer is fundamental to the success of any agricultural policy. I say that quite frankly, because I believe it is necessary that our people, both here and outside, should understand it clearly.
In the second place, so far as migration is concerned, I, for one, believe that the Dominions open out the natural and inevitable outlook for our people. In spite of the depression, in spite of all the difficulties both at home and in the Dominions, I still believe that the time will come when there will be leaving these shores and welcomed in the Dominions large numbers of men, women and children who will help us and be an asset to the Dominions to which they go. So far as we can do anything to be ready for that time—to profit by past mistakes and benefit by experience—I think it will be a good thing. Thirdly, I hope that not only this House but the country outside, and especially the Dominions, will understand and appreciate that the old spirit about which we have heard this morning, which enabled men and women to brave hardships and face trials and difficulties, is not lost in this country today; and, because it is not lost, because I believe in that spirit, because I believe that there is a great future for the British Commonwealth of Nations, I would welcome any practical scheme that gives a fair chance and a fair opportunity to our people to make good.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
I am sure the House will have listened with great appreciation to what has fallen from the Dominions Secretary. The welcome that he has given to the Bill is a very ready response to the invitation extended to him by the Seconder. Before making a remark or two with regard to the Bill, I should like to take this opportunity of adding my tribute of appreciation to the speech of the hon. Lady who introduced the Bill. It showed a practical idealism which is always received with approval in this House. Its idealistic ideas were closely interwoven with the putting of them into practice, and that is what the House always appreciates. It likes to see great ideas and great movements attached to the possibilities of putting them into practice to the benefit of the people as a whole.
I think the right hon. Gentleman was quite right in stressing the valuable work that has been done under the old Act. It has been a little apt to be overlooked, and I was glad to hear the emphasis which he laid upon it. He gave us the figures showing what has been achieved, but I think he was quite right, at the same time, if I may say so, in pointing out as clearly as he did the difficulties which exist at present in extending migration overseas; and, if I may say so still further, I think he was equally right in pointing out the fact that now is the time to review what has been done, and to take steps to enlarge our opportunities as soon as the time comes, as assuredly it will, when things will be better than they are to-day. I am sure that the House will also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the spirit of adventure is not dead among our people. It is only the circumstances which surround them so grievously at the present moment which prevent that spirit from being put into action. When the time comes in the future we shall see our people going overseas as they went before.
There is one point which is sometimes forgotten, but which it is always interesting to remember, and that is that in the past the periods of greatest migration overseas have not been periods of bad times, but of good times, at borne. That is very often forgotten. Men like to go overseas when they have a little capital, and they feel that they can look 2076 round a bit when they get to their new surroundings. But, as the seconder pointed out, conditions have altered to-day from what they were a hundred years ago. He gave us an interesting historical resume of State-aided migration during the last 120 years, and incidently I will give him an opportunity of making a correction. I understood him to speak of the late Sir Charles Dilke as having approved the policy of laissez fairewith regard to the Empire. I think it was not Sir Charles Dilke he was thinking of but somebody else. The hon. Member opposite was quite right in the criticism that he addressed on the fifty-fifty point. The Bill would sweep away altogether that fifty-fifty arrangement and, when plans are entered unto between ourselves and our Dominions, it is clear that the whole of the burden should not be on one side only, although I agree also that the time has come when we may look into that and re-examine it and see whether the best arrangements are to be achieved by sticking closely to fifty-fifty or whether that may not be modified in some respect.
The main reason, perhaps, why I particularly approve of the Bill is that it brings the old country into the picture. There is even more need of settling our own people on our own land at home than of giving them opportunities to settle overseas. Some years ago when this matter was under discussion I expressed regret that that Bill did not apply to settlement at home. More and more every day it is being borne in upon us by arguments which I need not recapitulate—they are known to all—how desirable and necessary it is to re-establish a large portion of our population upon the land. The ill-balance that has grown up during the last few years has to be readjusted. There is no question about that, and, as this Bill gives further opportunities for helping to establish people in our own country, it is an added reason for giving it wholehearted support.
I agree thoroughly with the suggestion that a Board should be established to coordinate and control the efforts of the various bodies that are interested in land settlement whether at home or abroad. This is a whole-time job, and you cannot expect people who are only able to give a short period to it, or the Secretary of State overwhelmed with matters of great 2077 importance, to carry great schemes through in the way that a board can which is devoted to it. We have one other instance before us now in the Forestry Commission, which gives the whole of its efforts to carrying out the reafforestation of our country, and what they have done is a remarkable example of what can be done by a Board which devotes itself to planning out a big scheme and seeing it carried through. Any Board that can be set up to plan ahead and carry out schemes of settlement and migration would help the matter forward, and that is what we all desire. In Scotland there are a large number of people who are only too anxious to get on to the land, and are eating out their hearts with the desire to get on to the land, and, although we know that that is one of the things that we have to do, the position is allowed to get into a rut and is not moved forward as it ought to be. If we were to establish a board which was determined to press matters forward, we should very soon see an improvement in all these directions where schemes have been allowed to lie dormant or to get into a rut. If you had a board whose business it was to see that that does not happen, the country's attention would be attracted, the importance of what they were doing would be brought home to the public as a whole, and the board would have the support of the whole population in seeing that their efforts were successful.
I received the other day a communication from a Scottish Council which has been paying a good deal of attention to this matter of settlement. It is rather interesting to note that they regard this Bill as eminently practical. They feel that it would provide the machinery and the powers required for carrying out a sound policy. Further they say, as the Secretary of State says, that it is highly desirable to plan ahead now in order that the requisite machinery should be in readiness when conditions overseas are favourable to the resumption of migration. No one will disagree with what the Secretary of State said, that now is the time when we should take advantage of the opportunity offered to us to reexamine the whole position and be ready so that when an improvement is effected in world conditions we shall be the first to take advantage of it.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Lord APSLEY
The hon Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) and the Dominions Secretary both paid a tribute to the work of the Overseas Settlement Committee. It is not, as I understand it, in any way the intention of supporters of the Bill to belittle the work that has been done by that Committee. Their contention is that the work is divided among too many hands. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) made a reference to settlement in 1816. Lord Bathurst was in the situation that he was Minister not only for the Colonies but also for War. When they had finished with Napoleon and he was sent off to St. Helena, Lord Bathurst was in an excellent position to do what many Roman Emperors and commanders had done before, to beat their swords into ploughshares. He had the whole control of two departments in his hands. The work was far less duplicated and far simpler than it is to-day. With his executive work, the Minister for War can hardly help them. He is only in charge of the Army. He has no control over the Navy or the Air Force. The question of migration settlement has been considered all these years by the Department of Overseas Trade and the Overseas Settlement Committee and, as home settlement is also to be dealt with, unless some Measure such as that proposed by this Bill was brought forward another department would be brought in, the Ministry of Agriculture, which also deals with fisheries. There is far too much duplication in all this work and, in addition to the executive work, you cannot do it on duplicated lines, with a large number of salaried officials as well as Parliamentary helpers all trying to do the same thing. That is the reason why the promoters of the Bill have put forward the question of having it administered by the proposed Board, when dealing with Parliamentary work or legislation, under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture. I should like to deal for a moment with the rather depressing contention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roth-well, that it is doubtful whether any further additional population is required in the Empire—
§ Lord APSLEY
At the moment, owing to depression in trade, and if I gather the contention of the hon. Member correctly, 2079 whether it will ever be necessary, owing to mechanised methods of farming and so forth, to increase population.
§ Lord APSLEY
I think that that would be a most depressing plan to work upon. At the same time, it does not affect us, but it does the Dominions and Colonies themselves to very great extent. I want to lay it down here and now, in the hope that other hon. Members will lay stress upon the point whenever they can, especially when speaking outside this House and abroad, that the question of migration is not one of settling the surplus population from this country. It is not a question of that kind at all. At the present time our birth-rate is decreasing very considerably, and, unless we get means for furthering the population of the Empire, probably nature will take its usual course, as it has with Portugal, Holland and France, and the birth-rate will continue to decline and there will be no need to settle surplus population. The question is in the hands of the Dominions themselves. They wish to have British and white populations. That is their desire. They have enormous areas of undeveloped land, and, if they do not take measures to see that British and white populations are brought into their countries, there is no reason whatever, and in fact it would be almost certain to occur, why countries who are really pent up, like Germany, Italy and Japan, should not come forward and say, "What right have you to hold the land if you cannot populate it with the people you desire?"
§ Mr. LUNN
I should like to correct myself and the Noble Lord. When dealing with that point, I meant that in the future it would not be necessary for the same number of people to go overseas to produce primary products, but in the development of the Dominions I agree with the Noble Lord that there is an abundance of room for many things to be done.
§ Lord APSLEY
I accept the explanation of the hon. Gentleman. In my humble opinion, there is a vast scope for the future. One may only take the case of China where its 400,000,000 people, 2080 gradually, and as soon as economic circumstances and the restoration of currency permit, will be transferred from rice to wheat eaters, as is happening in the Yangtse valley at the moment. There will be scope for corn development in Canada, Australia and Africa such as we have never seen in the whole history of the world, and it will apply to many other parts of the world as well.
I come to the question of the function of the proposed Board. It is not to be, I take it, as the hon. Member for Rothwell suggested, a board to exercise direct national control, not only in regard to land settlement in the Dominions, but at home. It is to be a board, as the hon. Member for Windsor pointed out functioning in the same way as the Electricity Board functions—which, by the way, was instituted by a Conservative Government—a Board which will erect a bridge which enable private undertakings to get their powers. That would be the function of the Board. It would not carry out its functions at a very high cost, and set up a large number of departments and officials to settle men broadcast upon the land regardless of the economic circumstances. No one would permit that sort of thing for a moment. It would be a board which would consider proposals brought forward by private and independent public bodies, if they proved clearly to be economic propositions, to settle men, not only overseas, but in this country as well. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) made a most excellent, eloquent and clear speech upon that question, showing how deep was her desire to see men and women settled here at home. That is a desire which exists among all classes all over the country, but it is one thing to have a desire in theory, and it is another matter to put it into practice.
Farming, as the hon. Lady said, is not an occupation which anybody can take up. The British farmer is not the fool he is often believed to he. And even when it comes to marketing, difficulties cannot be completely overcome. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and even the Prime Minister himself, have come down to the House and have told farmers that it was about time they reformed their marketing and adopted a proper and clear modern system. But where are the best marketing systems in the world to- 2081 day? In America and Denmark. And yet American farmers are on the breadline of starvation, and the Danes require only one more tilt to topple the whole of the farming industry into bankruptcy, with nothing to change over to at all. British farmers are managing to hold their own, particularly in the West and in the Midlands where arable farming is carried on. I do not refer to farming in the Eastern Counties and in Lincolnshire where corn is the main subject for farming. Under the British marketing system the British farmer is able to carry on. It is not everybody who can market produce under that system. It is not everyone who can learn the ins and outs of marketing without at least an experience of 10 years or more.
There is another question of which sight must not be lost. The smallholder to-day, if he is the right man, can make money even in the present depressed conditions of the industry. He has to work hard and to live simply if he is to do it. There is no eight-hour day in farming. Operations begin at dawn and end at dusk. The sole reason why labourers are losing employment all over the country at the moment is because the farmers cannot afford to pay wages to the same number of men working eight hours and overtime. They have not the money with which to do it. They are doing the work with fewer labourers and by machinery, in respect of which there are, of course, overhead charges, or they are allowing the land to become neglected and are not doing the repairs and all the little jobs which should be done in farming. The smallholder can carry on if he has a growing family. If he has a wife and boys he can carry on the work all right, but it is not a question of an eight-hour day. A man who has the love of the land flowing in his veins and desires to settle on the land must remember that it is not all joy. He has to work. That is the only way in which he can possibly make a living out of farming. Under present conditions, and even under more prosperous conditions, he will not do much good and build up reserves if he expects to get his Saturdays and Sundays off and to go to the cinema twice a week, and to the dogs once.
There is another question, which, I daresay, hon. Members have had brought to their notice by constituents. There are a fair number of pensioners in this 2082 country, both Army and Police, and they are some of the finest types of men to be seen in the country. I am continually receiving complaints from bodies such as the British Legion that those men, retiring in the prime of life with a good pension, are taking on jobs which other men, and disabled men particularly, could take on just as well. There are jobs such as watchmen, commissionaires and so forth which are very often regarded as soft jobs. The reason is that the employer—for if they are soft jobs, they are responsible jobs—taking on a man for such a job wishes to engage a man on whom he can rely, and in order to make sure he has to be certain of past history of the nature which he can get from the Army or the Police. That is the reason why this particular form of job so frequently goes to men of that description. At the same time, as I have said to the British Legion, I can see no reason why, knowing the history of the men in their organisation and their past regimental history, the Legion should not bring forward men of similar character to perform these particular jobs.
It is a fair contention that it is a pity that men in the prime of life, some of the finest men we can see, with good pensions, should be taking jobs that other men less fortunately placed might perform. It has occurred to me as one way of meeting this difficulty that the Government might take some action towards inducing these pensioners to go overseas. They would become the finest settlers we could possibly get. Having a regular pension, which would always be there, they would not be likely to get on the rocks if they did happen to make a hash of farming or whatever job they took up overseas. Would it be possible for the Government to take steps to reduce the pension of the man who takes a job here which might well be filled by some other man, and to give an increase of pension to the pensioners who are willing to go overseas and to settle in Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia or elsewhere? They might give an increase of pension to those men at the cost of those who take jobs which other men might secure.
The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill referred to miners. I have had some experience of miners in Derbyshire. Miners are hard working people and some of them make the best settlers in. the world, but not in 2083 England. I know of cases of many youths who have been employed on farms as farm labourers and who had previously worked in the mines in Derbyshire. Farmers or landowners have offered to take them back and keep them in work on the land until conditions improve in the mining industry, but they would not go on to the land, or if they did go they would remain perhaps for only a week or so. The miner does not complain of the work on the land, but he does not like getting wet. Once he has been working in the mine he does not like, for instance, to go out hoeing turnips in the rain.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
The Noble Lord may have experience of the land, but he has obviously had no experience in regard to working conditions in the mines otherwise he would know that there are wet mines. I dispute his assertion with regard to miners and the land. We have large numbers of miners working on smallholdings, and they are making a success of it.
§ Lord APSLEY
I am glad to hear that, but it is my experience that men who have been working in the conditions of the mines, where it is always warm and never wet—.
§ Lord APSLEY
Well, at any rate, it is not wet in the same way that it is wet on the land. You may get your feet wet—.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Noble Lord evidently knows nothing at all about it, otherwise he would not make such statements. We have steam coal mines which are hot, and we have mines where house coal is produced which are wet.
§ Lord APSLEY
The hon. Member cannot contend that the work in the mine under those conditions is the same as work in the fields in the wet. The miner strips for his work and changes when he goes home. It is an altogether different form of work. Moreover, the hours of work in the mine are regular. There may be smallholding settlements which are successfully run by miners, but I certainly know many farmers who have tried to persuade men who have worked, perhaps two or three years in the mine, 2084 to go to work on the farm, and when they have got them on to the land they have stayed only three weeks or a month. They go back to the mine as soon as they can get a job. In Australia there have been mining settlements which have been a great success. The ex-miners find the work of clearing the bush nothing compared with work in the mines, and they like the climate and the country. I believe a great deal more could be done in that connection. In conclusion, I should like to congratulate the hon. Members who proposed and seconded the Bill in bringing forward a Measure which will be conducive to a great deal of thought and will, I hope, be a means of bringing about a simplified form of administration.
§ 1.10 p.m.
It gives me very great pleasure to support the Bill as one who has spent a great number of years in the Colonies, and who, ever since he has been a Member of this House, has supported every Bill and every Resolution in connection with migration. It is an excellent Bill, intended to prepare the ground for the day when the stream of migration is bound to restart. I am glad that the Secretary of State has given the Bill his blessing, and I have no doubt that when the Bill comes to be discussed in Committee he will give us the benefit of his advice, because in a Bill brought in by a private Member there are always Amendments necessary to make it a really practicable Measure.
There are, doubtless, many difficulties before us. Anyone who has left this country as a migrant knows full well the nature of the difficulties which confront us in dealing with this problem. The Scotsmen who have migrated to many parts of the world have been confronted with great difficulties but they have always tackled them manfully. The Government, or whoever takes charge of the Bill, must make up their minds that the difficulties have to be solved for the welfare of this country and of the Dominions, and that the difficulties will be solved.
The most important part of the Bill is Clause 2 which provides that:The Secretary of State shall appoint a Board of five persons to be described as the Empire Settlement Board, and it shall be the duty of such Board to carry out, under his control, the provisions of this Act.2085 Notwithstanding the compliments that have been paid to the Committee which already exists, I believe that had it been fewer in number and able to give more time and consideration to these problems more would have been done. On various committees with which many hon. Members are associated it is difficult to give sufficient time, continuous time, to the tackling of these very serious problems. I serve on the Migration Committee and I attend when my other duties permit. We do not want that kind of man to tackle this problem. We want a number of specialists who are full of life and enthusiasm, who have plenty of time and are willing to give of their very best, and with a keen eagerness that the scheme should prosper. We are fortunate in having in this country a great number of voluntary societies which are coordinated to a certain extent in the. migration committee of the Royal Empire Society. On that committee I represent the Boys' Clubs. We endeavour to do as much as we possibly can to further the object we have in view. All the various bodies concerned with migration have their machinery for helping those who wish to go to one or other of the Dominions. The new board that is to be set up ought to get into direct touch with all these voluntary societies to ascertain in what way the machinery already in existence can be used to the best purpose. We have an opportunity to get the right type of young man and woman to go overseas.
What is the next step. We have great difficulty in getting help from the board to forward the schemes we have in mind. Take one particular case, in connection with the organisation with which I am particularly interested—Boys' Clubs. We have our own farm in Nova Scotia, to which we send a great number of boys. We put them on the farm for a few months, under the care of people we can trust, so that they may get a little accustomed to work on a farm before they are sent out on to farms as settlers. They may be successful, or they may not be suited to life on a farm, and, in that case, we do our best to look after them on our own farm. Such boys are taken back, and we then try and place them elsewhere. So far we have been very successful and the cases of boys being sent back as being unsuitable are very few indeed. When we 2086 started this organisation I said that if we sent one boy overseas who was unsuitable it would damn the whole scheme and, therefore, we must be very careful in the selection of boys we send abroad. That is an important matter. The position to-day is that we are not able to send boys out to the farm. Canada can only take a comparatively few number of boys, and owing to a storm the whole of our crop this year has been ruined and we are in great financial difficulties. Everybody interested in this important subject must realise that it is in the interests of the boys that such a place should be maintained. The Government grant has been stopped. We realise that in these times of economy the Government cannot be called upon to grant money everywhere, however useful the object may be. These are some of the cases which should have the special attention of the board which we hope to set up under this Bill.
Some years ago I was secretary of an Emigrants Committee in this House. We got into touch with the official and when we put a scheme before him and made suggestions the first thing he said on all occasions was, "Well, you see the difficulty is this." If we put some other scheme before him he said "The difficulty is this." That is not helpful. There are difficulties, but nobody has ever been successful who has not had to face a number of difficulties. The Board must tackle this matter courageously, and realise that it is not a question of sending to the Dominions and Colonies people we do not want in this country, but that we want to help people with enterprise to go to our Dominions in the interests of the Dominions as well as that of the migrants. Wherever one goes in the Dominions you will find people who are just as keen on the Empire as anyone in this country. In many of our Dominions there are vast places which need development. There are peoples in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries, who are only too anxious to go to our Dominions where they know they will have freedom and a prospect of great success. Further away, Australia and New Zealand are nearer to Japan and China, and, from my experience of 21 years out there, I know that both these countries are itching to send emigrants to Australia. If Australia, sooner or later, does not allow emigrants from this 2087 country or from Europe to take charge of some of her vast spaces she will be bound to take the Oriental races, who are not at the present moment allowed to go there in any considerable numbers.
I look forward with great apprehension to the future of Australia if she does not, as soon as times permit, open her doors to migrants from this country. The Secretary of State told us, very wisely I think, that we must help Australia with her products and her business, help her to get things going again, otherwise we cannot expect that she will open her ports to migrants from this country. When Australia does so I hope she will make a special point of trying to get people from this country—in her own interests. I support the Bill most heartily and hope it will have the great success it deserves. Hon. Members have said that the time of hon. Members in this House is often wasted. We had a private Members' Motion on Wednesday on India and on the British Broadcasting Corporation, which led to two of the finest Debates we have had; and we close the week with this Bill, which, if it becomes law, and I hope it will, and is worked as it should be, will be of the greatest benefit to this country and the Dominions also.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I should like to add my voice to those of hon. Members who have congratulated the hon. Member who introduced the Bill. At the same time it is a matter of surprise, even of regret, that a measure of such vital importance from many points of view should not have been introduced by the government of the day. As the Government have neglected to introduce this Measure I hope they are going to do everything in their power, when the Bill is in committee, to see that its progress is facilitated and that it is placed on the Statute Book at an early date. I do not agree fully with the opinions which have been expressed by more than one hon. Member that this is a Measure which is not really to come into operation for some years; that we are looking far ahead, possibly to the approach of the end of the ten years to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred a few days ago. I believe that this is a Bill which might be brought into operation at a very early date. There 2088 may be difficulties so far as settlement in our Dominions or Colonies is concerned, but surely we have enough confidence in the future of our own country and of the Commonwealth to believe that the depression is a passing depression, and that the time cannot be very far distant when our Dominions and Colonies will once more wish to see a flow of migrants from this country.
I propose to-day to confine myself mainly to what is a peculiar feature in this Bill compared with the Act of 1922. That is the provision which it makes for home colonisation, for settlement in our own country. The last speaker suggested that there are huge tracts of territory available for settlement in various parts of the Empire. I am not quite certain whether there are not still in this island of ours considerable tracts of land which could very well be devoted to the settlement of those who are eager and anxious to find a career on the land. In that respect I regard this Bill as very largely complementary to the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act of 1931. There are some features of that Act, perhaps, which do not meet with the approval of all Members, but at that same time that Act gives an enormous opportunity, if properly utilised, to those who are desirous of finding a career on the land.
I am certain that the older Members of this House whose recollections go back a generation or more will confirm my view that nothing is more deplorable than the great depopulation of the rural districts of the country. I spend what little leisure time I have in tramping in various parts of the district where I live, a district which I have known from my childhood. If there is one thing that has caused me a feeling of deepest regret it has been to see the way in which the population of that area has decreased owing to houses having tumbled into ruins or because land which was formerly utilised to the best advantage has been joined to a larger farm and perhaps not utilised to any advantage at all. There is one thing of which I am certain. The Noble Lord who spoke a few minutes ago referred to the fact that throughout the depression the small holder had been able to carry on and in some cases even to make money. In the last three or four years that has not been a common thing, but at any rate the smallholder has been able to survive the agricultural depression 2089 in a way that the occupier of a large farm has not been able to do.
The demand for very small farms and for smallholdings is still to be found in my part of the country. I think I can speak for the greater part of Wales, or at any rate of North Wales, in, this connection. I speak with the experience of a practising solicitor who has constantly to do with transactions for the sale or purchase of farms, and I can say that it is very rarely there is any difficulty in finding purchasers. There is keen competition for small farms. But difficulty does arise in the case of the large farms. The smallholder who has the assistance of a son and daughter or more members of his family, is able to do what a larger farmer cannot do. We are behind other countries in this connection. I find that in France, where they have intensive culture in connection with agriculture, there are 5,000,000 smallholdings under 25 acres. In Great Britain there are only 250,000 holdings under 50 acres. That may explain to a certain extent why France has not suffered as we have suffered. Another thing in the comparison between ourselves and France indicates that we must be neglecting the possibilities of the land. In France 42 per cent. of the population is still on the land. In our own country barely seven per cent. of the population is on the land, and that percentage is declining year by year.
I suggest that here is an opportunity to utilise the land of this country at a time when there are large numbers of men and women who have had long experience on the land and are eager to get hack to the land. There was a time when our industries were prosperous and were able to absorb the greater part of the population. There was then a rush from the country into the industrial areas. Our duty to-day is surely to do what we can to restore the balance, to bring back to the rural areas as many as possible of these men and women who have had experience on the land. I think that this Bill offers considerable facilities in that connection. I notice that in the first Clause there is a provision for the Secretary of State, either alone or in association with public authorities or private organisations, to formulate and carry out schemes. If this Measure is placed on the. Statute Book the Government ought to get into touch with the county councils and with the agricultural committees 2090 of the county councils. These bodies know the land available where there is a possibility of development. At the same time, through their officials, they are able to gain information as to the type of men who are eager to settle on the land.
What is required is not settlement of individuals here and there. There should be some attempt at and some definite policy for communal settlements. Men who have gone to the industrial districts and have spent some time in the towns, dread, in many cases, going back to comparative isolation in the middle of the country. If you had a scheme whereby you could bring together 10 or 15 or 20 families in a particular area, your difficulties in that respect would largely cease.
The House is not being asked to do a thing that has not been attempted in other countries. I am not a great admirer of Mussolini, but whether we admire him or not, whether we agree or disagree with his political views and activities, he is giving us a lesson in his measures for the utilisation of the land of Italy. There we see what can be done in a country, the population of which is growing year by year, and which has comparatively little in the way of openings for settlement oversea. The reports of what is being done in Italy may be exaggerated but at any rate Mussolini has indicated what can be done, in the draining and reclamation of the Campagna, and the settlement upon the reclaimed land of a large number of Italian families. Practically a town has grown up there as a result of land reclamation and that result ought to be some encouragement to us, as indicating what could be done in a more democratic country, and with the larger resources which are available here.
Now is the time to take measures of this kind. It is all very well to talk about economy but when we have nearly 3,000,000 men and women who, from day to day know of no occupation which they can undertake, surely it is a time when something ought to be done to afford opportunities to those who, by their experience and in accordance with their own desires, would be suitable as settlers on the land. These men, of course, when they go on to the land without any capital, will require assistance and maintenance at the outset. But 2091 to-day we are paying a large amount week by week in unemployent benefit and the time may come, if it has not already come when it will be advisable for the Ministry of Labour to entertain this suggestion. Before men who go to work on the land can hope to realise a return for their labour, would it not be well to provide that—subject to proper supervision—the amount which they at present receive in unemployment benefit should be paid to them while they are endeavouring to develop the land upon which they have settled. The unemployment benefit would then be applied in a manner which would bring in some return in the future. I trust that the House will without a Division give a Second Reading to the Bill. I also trust that the Government will facilitate its passage through its remaining stages and that when the Measure is placed on the Statute Book it will not be regarded as something which is to govern policy six or seven years hence but that the Government will at once proceed to make it of value to our fellow-countrymen and put it into operation at the earliest possible moment.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
The case for this Bill has been so well put by the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading and by other speakers, that I can do little more to add weight to it. I would, however, like to bring before the House some practical considerations, and, at the end of my remarks, I hope to say a few words in regard to what is being done by a foreign country whose example we might well consider here. I do not propose to go as far back historically as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), but I wish to refer to what was done last year by a committee of Private Members in regard to this subject. After working on the question of migration for three or four months that committee put a definite proposal to the Secretary of State for the Dominions before he went to the Ottawa Conference. The right hon. Gentleman was pressed hard to try to have the subject of migration placed on the Conference Agenda. This he was unable to do, as was well understood at the time, but he said that the subject was one which could not be excluded from the conversations 2092 which would take place at Ottawa. On his return, however, little, if anything, was said with regard to such conversations and the impression left upon me at any rate was that such conversations had not taken place. Last December there was a Debate in the House on this question of migration and a Resolution was passed requesting His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to secure the co-operation of the Dominions in comprehensive schemes of migration within the Empire. In the course of that Debate the Secretary of State for the Dominions made the following remarks: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 our 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." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1932; col. 1725; Vol. 272.]I would like to know whether the Government since that time have been actively engaged in preparing schemes. What have the Overseas Settlement Department been doing in the last six months or the last year? Have any definite schemes been prepared, in conjunction with the Dominions, to be put into operation when a suitable time comes? We have had a very gloomy picture painted to us this morning by the Secretary of State for the Dominions with regard to the conditions prevailing in the various Dominions, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that they are by no means willing to take any more people from these shores, but that, on the contrary, many are coming away. May I read some letters that I have had from farmers in a pretty big way in two of the Dominions? I have had a good many letters, and these are the most recent. This is from a farmer in Canada, who says:I believe that small-group community family settlements are the best form of overseas settlement … There is nothing to prevent an immediate start being made with the preliminary arrangements which are so essential to success.Further on he says:Arrangements for establishing new settlers on the land in farm-houses cannot be hastily improvised. They require much time, thought and organisation. … United Kingdom organisations interested in 2093 British settlement overseas are entirely free to come in and make arrangements for the reception of new settlers.Finally he says:We cannot afford to wait till prosperity returns before making our plan. We must have our plan ready and in working order before prosperity returns, so that we may be in a position to take advantage of the first signs of returning prosperity. And all concerned should know what the plan is, and what part they have to play.Here is another letter from a big stock farmer in South Africa, who is a stud breeder of sheep and pigs, and he writes:I am interesting myself in the possibility of an assisted scheme … of agricultural immigration in the Union (of South Africa) in the near future … This country should be able to offer unrivalled scope for British permeation and expansion.. Now is the time, or very shortly will be the time, for active work and propaganda in South Africa.In concluding he says:The farmers out here have had an appalling time for the past three years, and especially the past 15 months, with South Africa on the Gold Standard. Now it look as if there is a chance for us to pull round, and for the whole country to go ahead. I think a bold policy of assisted agricultural immigration in South Africa is needed and should come, and I want to do my share towards helping it along.Those two letters show that there is a view of which the House should know beyond the gloomy view presented by the Secretary of State this afternoon. Something should be done, I think, with a view to preparing a scheme in cooperation with the Dominions, not schemes prepared entirely in this country, but. in co-operation with the Dominions, schemes which they are likely to accept and with which we are likely to succeed. The only way in which that can be done, to my mind, is by sending representative bodies from this country to cooperate with similar bodies nominated in the Dominions.
An hon. Member opposite referred to what is being done in Italy. May I say a word as to what Italy is doing in her Colonies, based on my own practical experience in Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Eritrea, and Italian Somaliland? I can tell this House that schemes are being prepared and pressed forward in all four Italian Colonies in Africa. The energy and enterprise of the leader of that country are well known here, and I can 2094 assure the House that in those Colonies the energy is something extraordinary. Those four Colonies are far less attractive than many that we possess. In fact, to look at, one would think nothing would grow there at all, yet in each Colony there is an agricultural school which has samples of every form of vegetable and every kind of livestock that can live or grow in those Colonies, so that a prospective emigrant, before he begins work, can go to one of those farms, have lessons, and see for himself which are the crops and the animals that are likely to do well. In each of those Colonies there is a scheme for providing water for the farms. The two northern ones consist chiefly of water drawn from wells, and the other two of water from rivers, and it is extraordinary to see the work that has been done there within the last four or five years. Within a short time it is anticipated that no fewer than 350,000 Italians will be able to live happily and well in the two northern ones. The other two are not so attractive, and it will take longer there.
With energy and enterprise, I feel sure that we could do something similar in our mandated territories, and if we do not do something to develop our mandated territories, the day may well come when a revision of the mandates for those territories will be demanded by other nations, and we shall have a hard case to defend them. I therefore hope the Government will now consider whether the time has not come for some practical scheme to be thought out, not only for our Dominions, but also for our mandated territories.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
There can be no doubt that this Bill raises two very important matters, and I do not know what the hon. Lady who moved the Second Reading of the Bill with such eloquence, seriousness, and earnestness must be thinking about His Majesty's Government to-day. The Secretary of State for the Dominions damned the Bill with faint praise and then hurried away to catch a train, and the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is taking part in a by-election and does not think it worth his while to grace the House with his presence on this occasion. There has hardly been a Cabinet Minister on the Government 2095 bench this morning, except that for a short time the Lord President of the Council was there, and there can be no doubt that there are hon. Members, of the Conservative party particularly, who are very earnest and anxious about this question of land settlement both at home and abroad.
The Secretary of State tells us that the Bill is all right, that he would like it to go forward, and that points in connection with it should be examined elsewhere. He apparently approves of the Bill, but he does not tell its supporters that before it can be implemented it must have a Financial Resolution, nor does he agree to introduce such a resolution when all the discussions have taken place upstairs. The enthusiastic supporters of this proposal, therefore, must be feeling very severely the fact that the Government apparently have no interest in the matter at all. They have no interest in land settlement at home, and apparently less interest in land settlement abroad, so far as we can judge from the view that the Government have taken of this Debate. The question raised by the introduction of this Bill is of great importance. To those of us who sit on this side it is very interesting to watch the development of the minds of supporters of the Conservative party and of the National Government when they are faced with certain sets of economic conditions. Quite a number of them are becoming heretics to the fundamental principles underlying the political creed of Conservatism. Let me quote one or two phrases from the speech of the hon. Lady who moved the Second Reading. She talked about "organised marketing" "rationalised production" and "planned Imperial production". We are getting on. I am glad to find that the mind of Conservatism is not impervious to the progressive ideas that are floating about the world, and I am glad that the hon. Lady introduced such ideas into her speech.
This Bill brings us face to face with a very important problem. I would be the last to minimise it. I could not understand some of the arguments of the Secretary of State this morning. One of my hon. Friends intervened to ask why migrants were returning from the Dominions to this country, and he told us that that was due to the bad con- 2096 ditions in which the Dominions find themselves, and that that in turn was due to the depressed economic conditions throughout the world. It seemed to me rather curious that he should go on to talk about what are likely to be the benefits of the Ottawa Agreements in the direction of getting us and the Dominions out of our difficulties. It was a rather strange sort of argument to use after he had stressed the fact that the main cause of the difficulties in which we and the Dominions find ourselves is the depressed economic conditions. The right way to go to work to get out of these depressed conditions does not seem to be along the lines that have been undertaken up to the moment by His Majesty's Government.
The Secretary of State has frequently put the point in the House that it would be wrong to convey to the Dominions that we want to dump our unemployed on them. Surely, however, the whole idea of Imperial economic unity, if we are to work it out at all satisfactorily, does need some method of redistributing the population of the Empire—some planned method. We are now apparently to go through a period of 10 years during which we are likely to have 2,000,000 unemployed, for it is now suggested by certain Ministers that if all the plans of the Government work out satisfactorily, if all their schemes and undertakings have the desire effect, unemployment may be reduced to somewhere in the region of 2,000,000 people. I am paraphrasing the recent speech of the Prime Minister. That sort of thing is to continue for the next 10 years. Obviously, if we are to do anything along the lines of planned Imperial development, it involves some redistribution of population. It is ridiculous for the Secretary of State to say that we must not create in the minds of folk in the Dominions the idea that we want them to take some of our surplus population. Of course we do, and it is no good coming to the House of Commons and saying that we do not.
I am going to express no opinion whether or not that redistribution of population would get us out of the general economic difficulties in which we find ourselves in this country and in the Dominions, but I am convinced that if anything of value is to come out of these proposals about Empire settlement and land setlement, it will only be the result 2097 of planning. To echo the phrase used by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward), we have to have rationalised production and planned marketing, and we have also to have a general system of planning. I feel that the earnest and enthusiastic supporters of these proposals for land settlement at home and in the Empire have been badly slighted on this occasion by His Majesty's Government. They have not shown any indication that they are doing anything for either of the proposals put forward in the Bill, and I can only suggest that those who are so enthusiastic in the cause of land settlement here and abroad should seek some other avenue, some other means of getting the ideas which they have in mind implemented rather than trust to the broken reeds who occupy the Front Government Bench.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. LOUIS SMITH
The House is indeed indebted to the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) for this Bill, and to the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) who seconded it. The hon. Lady's sincere, sound and sparkling speech should, I think, appeal to the members of the Front Bench, including not only the Dominions Secretary, but also the Lord President of the Council; and I think we can say that it is not perhaps without precedent that a lady's appeal to a mere man should go a little further than if a back' bencher, who is a man, had made the same appeal. I would like to visualise in the near future—though that has perhaps been dimmed by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown)—the Lord President of the Council asking the Dominions Secretary to bring along the energetic Minister of Agriculture to discuss this important matter with him. Having regard to the present industrial position, this is one of the most important matters which the House has debated for some time. I am somewhat surprised that we should have to discuss on a Friday, and on a Private Member's Bill, a matter which I believe would help us to solve—to some considerable extent at any rate—the problem of unemployment.
On Tuesday I was in one of the most distressed areas in the country, addressing a meeting of 700 or 800 men, most of whom, unfortunately, have no employment. I talked about many things 2098 and tried not to be too pessimistic, and I urged that we should do our utmost during the next few years to get as many men as possible on to the land in this country as well as in the Colonies and the Dominions. I do not believe it is necessary to wait a number of years, nor is it necessary to undertake a great deal of planning and organisation. If we take measures such as the Government applied when encouraging farmers to grow wheat in this country we can put a large number of men on to the land under a scheme of home settlement. What is necessary is to make farming pay. If we can make it possible for a farmer to make both ends meet we shall attract to the land numbers of those who at present are living in congested areas.
With regard to migration overseas it seems to me to be absolutely necessary that plans should be looked into at once. No doubt money is to some extent necessary for overseas settlement. We know from what the Dominions Secretary says that men are waiting to go; there is no question of their willingness to undertake the adventure in the Dominions or the Colonies; but there has been no mention, so far, of what I consider to be essential to this scheme apart from the necessary capital and the labour, and that is the desirability of sending out to the Dominions a man who would be a pioneer to find out what could be done and later to organise the capital and labour which would follow. It is impossible to attain success unless we have men to organise the industry, whatever it may be, in the Dominions, to ensure that the men shall remain there permanently and not come drifting home again. In the first year or two of such a scheme it would be necessary for men to go out and bring back reports to any committee or board which might be set up. That proposal should be dealt with at the earliest moment, as we certainly cannot wait ten years. I take it that any such board or committee would co-operate with the voluntary organisations mentioned by the hon. Member for Windsor, such as the Salvation Army and the British Legion.
I regret that so much of the speech of the Dominions Secretary was occupied with what has been done in the past. Though I agree that past schemes of Empire Settlement have been very 2099 successful, talk about what we have done hitherto does not give very much hope to those who are wanting work at the moment, and we should ask the Treasury Bench to emphasise more what is to be done in the very near future. I am very glad that the right. hon. Gentleman was so outspoken in his willingness to support the Bill, and I only hope that a Government Measure may be brought forward at an early date. The Agreements made at Ottawa have given a lead to this country which should be followed up with energy by the Dominions Secretary, supported with the vigour and enthusiasm of the Minister of Agriculture. Can we not during the next few years make better use of British manhood, and at any rate remove the terrible anxiety from many parents who see their sons gradually deteriorating owing to lack of employment.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I would like to add my congratulations to those which have been addressed to the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) upon introducing this Bill. Unfortunately, I did not hear her speech, but I met two or three worthy legislators coming out of the Chamber who told me that it had been like a breath of fresh air in the arid waste of despondency which we find on the benches on my right and the somewhat immobile atmosphere which we sometimes find on the Treasury Bench. I want to deal with one remark which fell from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown), though I would say at once that a great deal of his speech indicated that he really is progressing in the direction of organised sanity in political affairs. I was agreeably surprised to find that he regarded it as important that we should take seriously this question of moving the population. I think he slightly misinterpreted what the Dominions Secretary said regarding the unemployed and the Dominions. We can do nothing worse for this cause, which is a great constructive cause, than give the Dominions the idea that we are going to plant on them what they used to know as our unemployed, the unemployables of the old days. We have to make it perfectly clear that in anything we do we shall be careful to see that we send out none of those 2100 "Weary Willies" and "Tired Tims" who remain only a few weeks and then say, "Oh, this is much too hard work for us. We want to go back to the jolly old dole."
One fact which cannot be reiterated too often is that we should not have an unemployed problem in this country if migration had continued at the same rate as during the four years prior to the War. If we kept that in mind we should not see such utter despondency as there is around us. Remembering our past achievements in moving our population to new countries, to which they went of their own volition, we ought not to despair of success in solving this problem. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) referred to the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding unemployment in the next ten years. We must look facts in the face, because we have a difficult row to hoe. Personally, I am glad the Chancellor had the courage to tell the country what we are up against. That is much better than telling people that this country is going to be a land fit for heroes and of the rare and refreshing fruit which will be provided for their parched lips after the thousands of millions of pounds which have been blown into the air. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a realist, and I do not criticise him for having given a stern warning to the country that we have to tighten our belts. At the same time, there are avenues which have not been explored—though Prime Ministers have been exploring avenues ever since the Treaty of Versailles—and this is one of them.
The Bill which has been introduced to-day is a clear indication of a new line of departure where we really can get busy in organising settlement both in this country and the Dominions. The hon. Gentleman spoke rather despondently, I thought. Everybody knows that his heart has always been behind this question. If he will not be offended, I should like to say he has done a great work for this country in crystallising his ideas both in this House and outside. But he said that there is no need for human labour in Canada, and therefore the question is not one of immediate importance. Canada, however, is a vast territory in which you could drop England down and lose it, and walk for days and not be able to find it, and it 2101 has a population of only 12,000,000 people. Yet my hon. Friend said that this is not a problem of immediate importance. I believe that there are a very large number of Members in this House who do not share that view, and do not even share the view—the more hopeful view—of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, but who feel that, having taken a real step forward toward the economic development of the Empire by means of encouragement of inter-Imperial trade, the next logical step is to go forward with a real policy of moving the population to the Empire.
The hon. Lady who moved the Second Reading is entitled to our gratitude, and I am going to support her. I am heartily with her, because I think she is leading the advance guard with my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), who has given so many years of his life to this cause and at whose feet, although he may not know it, I sat at the age of 12, and realised he was a great patriot who looked far ahead on these great Imperial matters. Although I support the Bill, I regard it merely as a first small step. I do not believe that in an Empire with vast undeveloped territories under the Flag we need necessarily submit to the idea, whatever our own local conditions at home may be, that we are going to have this vast burden of unemployment round our necks for anything like 10 years. I agree that if we had not got an Empire, but were merely a small island in the North Sea, that might be true. In 1922 and 1923, when I was in a very small party in this House, I took the liberty of telling my hon. Friends I was under the impression that we should have an unemployment problem of at least 2,300,000 round our necks for some years, unless we were to deal with this question on a very large scale. I am afraid that I was optimistic, although many people laughed at that time. But if by our migration we were able to keep level with our natural increase of population in the years prior to the War, what is there to stop us to-day?
The Dominions Secretary rightly says that we cannot assist emigrants to the Dominions, where they have already their unemployment problem, where they have queues of unemployed in the cities and also in many of the small towns. That is perfectly true, but we have got 2102 to get right beyond that on a great big scheme. I would call it a scheme on grand scale, behind which you must have the will you had in 1914–18 in order to solve this unemployment question. I am not going to attempt to develop the question now, but on those occasions I ventured to submit that I was in very close touch with responsible people in the Dominions, and it was possible to go right ahead with large scale migration. It is no use peddling with the question. It does not make much difference when you are dealing with 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000. You have to move 1,000,000 of your people in the next five or six years, and undoubtedly it can be done. This great country, which moved 7,000,000 people during the Great War all over the World, is capable of moving 1,000,000 of its sons if there is territory to absorb them, and if they have the good will of the Dominions under whose rule those territories exist. Those territories do still exist. There are many tracts where you could plant down settlements covering an area of the size of Great Britain. I want to see your new England in Canada and Australia—I think you can have two in Canada and one in Australia—where you will have your great city in the centre—call it London if you like—where you will have your great towns and municipalities scattered round—Bournemouth, Durham, Newcastle, Manchester and York —and where there will be an attraction to organised communities to go out to those different areas and settle.
Some people will say, "What is the good of doing that when primary production is against you?". I do not believe that primary production is going to be in its present position for all time. But you have not come to the end of your resources to-day. You can produce far more in this country and the Empire overseas if you choose to use the produce. because through those channels you provide a definite and sure market for it. It is much more important that we should concentrate not on training a few hundred men here and there to go out to Australia, but that we should go right ahead, building towns and cities with their consequential railways and roads, cinemas and churches—everything that is necessary for modern civilisation. Go right ahead, taking your army of workers out. Of course, it cannot be done unless you have great finance behind it. If you 2103 can afford to subscribe £4,000,000 to go into the very doubtful waste of Austria, you can afford £100,000,000 to develop great parts of the territory of the Empire, where you can send your own people, and you can certainly save your country the interest on any great financial operation like that.
I support the Bill and I hope that it will be read a Second time unanimously. It is impossible to develop a great scheme to-day, but I can assure the House that there are many of my friends at the present moment putting the whole of their minds on this question, and within two or three months, at latest, we will come to this House with concrete suggestions, with a plan which will really strike the imagination of the people, and we will say, "We are no longer in despair. We have a goal to aim at, and something to achieve."
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROSBOTHAM
I rise for the purpose of supporting this very useful Measure, and to speak of my experiences more in respect to home settlement. First, I would like to offer my congratulations to the hon. Lady for the very eloquent way in which she introduced her Bill. As a farmer, I have been very proud this morning to hear what has been said on behalf of the agricultural industry. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) deserves a compliment for introducing such 'a Bill, and so do the lady Members of the House, that one of them should have been so useful this morning. This is not a Bill supporting home settlement, but rather one to supplement the Acts of Parliament that have been passed in regard to allotments since 1908. It links up the process of home settlement with Empire settlement. I do not like to hear anyone, especially Ministers of the Crown or leading Members of the Opposition, say that we need more experience and that we must carry on land settlement at home in an experimental manner. We are far past the experimental stage in home settlement. In many counties great work has been done, and land settlement is a practical proposition. It can be shown that it is an economic proposition as well.
People who love the land do not mind long hours of work upon it, because they have a love for the work. Another en- 2104 couragement that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Cannock is that the owners of smallholdings or land settlements are their own masters or mistresses. That means a great deal. The present policy of His Majesty's Government will help home settlement, and it will help settlement on the land in the Dominions and the Colonies. The policy which was adopted at Ottawa, and the present policy of tariff duties, will help to make the land settlement policy pay. It is all very well to have a love for the land, but you must also make it possible for men and women to make a living out of it.
I have special reason to support the proposal in Clause 2 for the setting up of a board. I have been chairman of a land settlement and smallholding committee since 1919, and I know from my own experience that a board of that character will be most useful. It will work in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the Church Army and other voluntary organisations, and especially with the Society of Friends, who are doing a great work in this country. I am glad to know that the Society of Friends are introducing a new idea for further settlement of men upon the land. The proposed Board would work also in conjunction with local authorities and county councils. Many county councils have never provided for land settlement or smallholding in their areas, and the Board would be most useful in relation to those authorities who have done nothing whatever. A large number of county boroughs have done nothing, but they would if they would give their minds to it. The Board would help them to concentrate on that great work.
The mistake in many counties is that smallholdings have been made too large. The authorities have gone in for 50 acres or so. Our experience in Lancashire has been that the most successful smallholding is from three to five acres. The Board will be useful in advising in that respect, if, as has been mentioned by hon. Members this morning, you have a board of the right qualifications. You need a board—I do not mind if it numbers five, but I would rather have three, if they were the right kind of man or woman—with experience of home and Dominion settlement. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Lunn), who represented the Opposition this 2105 morning, welcome this Bill. That was a step in the right direction. We appreciate his kindness in supporting the Measure. I was not surprised to hear the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs say that he would also give support to the Measure. How could he refuse, after the charm of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock? I knew that that would be too much for the right hon. Gentleman. He has only accepted it in principle. It was not quite correct for the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) to say that the Secretary of State for the Dominions did not mention the Financial Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman did mention it, because he pointed out to the House that that was beyond his province and that he trusted that the Financial Resolution would be brought forward.
Expansion of land settlement is of the greatest importance in helping to solve the unemployment problem. It offers great possibilities. The county from which I come has done its duty. We have about 500 land settlements, and the vast majority of the settlers are very happy and contented and are doing well. The hon. Member for Cannock had the opportunity of seeing some of the work in Lancashire, and it created further enthusiasm in her mind for the Bill which she intended to introduce. We have three schemes in contemplation which will settle 50 families on the land. Never yet have we dispossessed a sitting tenant to provide land or smallholders; we have taken the tenants into consideration. We have bought farms when they have come into the market, and we have avoided creating unpleasantness. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) gave us a very nice retrospect of the work that has been done in land settlement, and we appreciated that too.
I contend most strongly that it is the future that we are concerned with. We should go forward in earnest to provide land settlements at home and to encourage Dominion settlements. If the smallholder is well trained for land settlement, he will make a good settler in the Dominions. Every man and woman should have a, home to go to, and that is our land settlement policy in Lancashire. I am not sufficiently experienced in Dominion and Colonial settlement to give advice, but it would be a good thing if money were spent in providing a home to which a settler could take his wife 2106 and family before he migrates. Many British people are born with an instinct to migrate, and they ought to be encouraged to do so. I have come across miners who were born with a migrating spirit, and they have gone to the Dominions and other parts of the world.
I should like to mention the point about marketing boards. The hon. Member for Mansfield seemed to be rather annoyed that the hon. Member for Cannock had mentioned marketing boards as a suitable proposition, but I would like to remind the hon. Member for Mansfield that, throughout the proceedings on the Agricultural Marketing Bill in Committee, the Leader of the Conservative party in the Committee, the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), never opposed the principle of the Marketing Bill. What he said was that it was no use having a marketing board unless it were made possible for men to make a living on the land. The Noble Lord has withdrawn all his opposition to marketing boards, and it is to his credit that he did all he could to bring about the establishment of the first marketing board in this country, in connection with the hop industry. Many men who have left the land desire to go back to it, and this Bill will give them the opportunity. I have the greatest possible pleasure in supporting the Measure, and trust that it will go to a Committee, that we shall lose no time with it, and that it will be placed on the Statute Book and put into operation at the earliest possible date.
§ 2.37 p.m.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN
I would like to add my tribute to those of other speakers to the hon. Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) and the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) for bringing in this Bill. I am in entire agreement with all the provisions of the Bill, but what worries me is that it does not go nearly far enough. I, personally, have no illusions whatever as to the difficulties of the case, and I fear that a Bill such as that which has been introduced to-day does not really begin to tackle the subject. In. the first place, we have to take the facts as we see them. We know that the Dominions have vast numbers of unemployed. Are they likely to want any immigrants just now, until they can get their own people to work.? I doubt it, unless they get a 2107 great deal of help from the Mother Country. Supposing that they all become employed, we know that the wages in the Dominions are very much higher than they are here. We know, also, that the cost of living in the Dominions is very much higher than it is here, but there is a certain amount of lure to the people of this country to go out there. There is, however, a risk, and I am sorry to say that people in this country to-day have got into their heads the feeling of "safety first." They know that if they stay here they will be looked after, but if they go to the Dominions and cannot get a job, and have to come back here, they will be in a bad position. For that reason they will very often hesitate about going out to the Dominions. There is no question about that whatever.
As I see it, if we want to get our people ready to go out there—except in the case of the very much younger ones, who have not thought the matter out—we ought to get in touch with the Dominions in order that by some method those who go out there and those who are in the Dominions may be in as good a position as in this country. There is the question of health and unemployment insurance. In the Dominions these services have not been brought to the high state of perfection that we have here, and that has a psychological effect on people in this country, so that they are rather afraid to go out. Could not the Secretary of State for the Dominions consider how he could approach the Dominions, with the idea of getting aid, so that people who emigrate from this country may not be worse off for a certain number of years than they would have been here? It might be necessary to guarantee these services, which are paid for in this country, for five years after they went out, but, after all, if anything happened to them in this country, we should pay just the same, and surely it would be a good point to be able to say to them, "If you go to the Dominions, we will see that you are no worse off for five years than you would have been in this country." I think that that would have a very salutary effect on people who want to emigrate, and on the Dominions, who might say, "We are not going to take your cast-offs, but, if you are prepared to let these people come out for five years without being a charge on the Dominions, we will 2108 take the risk." So long as we can go on paying the extraordinarily high taxes which produce the social services, it is all very well, but I have the feeling that we are coming to the end of it, that the country is getting more and more hard-up. We have to face that fact, and get into touch with the Dominions and see what can be done about getting some of our surplus population, who can never hope for employment in this country, taken out, say, to Australia, or elsewhere in the Dominions.
There is one example that has been before us for a considerable time—the railway from Brisbane to Perth. I believe there are 5,000 miles of it, and there are five gauges on it. It is necessary to change five times from one train to another, because the railway lines get narrow. Some time ago I was told that to put that right was going to cost about £26,000,000, of which I think, speaking from memory, about £18,000,000 was for labour, and the rest for material, such as rails and so forth. If we said to Australia, "We will pay for the alteration of the gauge of this railway from end to end if you will take so many thousands of our people out there "—and it would amout to a good many thousands —what would be the result? It would be a five-years job. It is no use sending anyone out to Australia for a year, with the chance of his coming hack then; but, if you give him five years out there, the country will have become his country, he will have got used to its ways and customs and habits, and I believe he would then be ready to stay there. He would have become acclimatised, and would have become a good citizen of Australia instead of this country. Why cannot we try to follow up some such scheme? It would be much cheaper than keeping our people in this country unemployed and losing heart. I believe there are endless methods by which we could, by advancing money, get migration going again, but I do not see how we can expect the Dominions to take our people unless we guarantee that the Dominions will not be charged anything for their upkeep for a certain time. As I have said, if we kept them here doing nothing we should have to pay just the same, without these poor fellows having any chance of a job in this country. I hope that the Bill will go through, and 2109 that it will not be long before we get some very strong Government Measures which will make it possible for emigration to begin to flow freely again.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. EMRYS-EVANS
I welcome the Bill, which is introduced at a time when the stream of migration has dried up and when there is a certain amount of despondency such as we saw in the speech of the hon. Baronet opposite. He was afraid that the spirit of enterprise and energy which have built up the Empire in the past has rather died away. It is not due to any lack of energy or enterprise on the part of the people of this country that migration has not gone forward in the last few years. It is due to the conditions that have grown up during the post-War period. There are one or two points that I should like to bring out, because, from the experience I have had of the Dominions, I have seen the great necessity of sending out the right type of men and women. There is a great body of potential settlers who, if they are properly organised—I believe they must be organised—and prepared in this country for settlement would be able to eliminate a great many of the misfits and failures which have caused many of the schemes that have been put forward since the War to fail. On the other side, there is the necessity of the body to be set up by this Bill having some kind of organisation in the Dominions in order to prepare the ground. We have often seen in the past the failure of schemes because the intending settlers have not been properly advised and because land has not been properly prepared for them before they arrived. To set up some organisation of this kind seems to be essential if the scheme embodied in the Bill is going to be effective.
The Empire itself from the point of view of any Commission which is dealing with it divides itself up very easily into three portions. We have the Colonial Empire which, after all, will absorb very few intending settlers who would come into a big Imperial scheme. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are naturally the big areas to which most settlers will go. South Africa and Rhodesia form a separate and a different problem. In any comprehensive scheme I believe it would be necessary to think of this division, and we can think of a 2110 great number of similar divisions. Eleven years ago my right hon. Friend the member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said that all schemes of colonisation in the past had been carefully organised. One's mind goes back to that most successful of all expeditions of colonisation, the Pilgrim Fathers. It seems to me to-day we are very often thinking in terms perhaps even of the nineteenth century and not in terms of to-day when speaking of migration. After all, the motor car and other new facilities will enable new countries to be opened up much more rapidly than in the past. It is important to point out to intending migrants the facilities which civilisation has brought to the new settler, because we are likely to bear too much on the hardships and too little on the facilities and the opportunities which will come to the settlers when they arrive. The problem is not the same as it was even 20 years ago. The facilities and the opportunities are vaster than they used to be. I feel, therefore, that that gives new hope to the whole migration movement and will prepare the way for the day, which surely will come, when we shall prove once again that we are still a nursery for new nations.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN POWER
I think it would be very unwise for us to minimise the difficulties with which we are confronted in this problem. I congratulate the hon. Member who introduced the Bill on having brought forward a subject of great interest and one which it is the duty of the Government to study, particularly as there does not seem to be any particular solution of the difficulty at present. It is a problem which calls for a long range of vision and which is increasing in urgency every day. Perhaps we rather look upon the problem as too much in the nature of migration from this country. I think we should be better advised to look upon it as a problem of the redistribution of the white population of the Empire to get to those parts where they can earn an honest and decent living. We have, believe, something like 66,000,000 white people in the Empire, and some 48,000,000 of them are found in these islands. One of the great difficulties of the present unemployment situation comes from the cessation of migration. In 1913 something like 350,000 migrants left these 2111 shores. If you multiply that number by 10, you have our unemployment figure exceeded. To my mind one of the chief causes of unemployment is the development of the iron man as against the human man. It looks very much to those who study the question as if the human man by his own ingenuity is going to deprive himself of the means of livelihood.
The report of the Preparatory Commission for the Economic World Conference gives the increased productivity of this country in five years as 11 per cent. In the Scandinavian countries in the same period it has been 26 per cent., in Germany 35 per cent. and in the United States 43 per cent. Those figures only take us up to 1931. We are continually being urged to bring our industry up-to-date. That, surely, means increasing productivity for the good of the cause. That means more displacement of the human element in industry and a greater number of those who can never hope to be re-employed. This is a question of supreme importance. Labour has lost largely its value owing to the condition which I have described. There was a time in pre-War days, or at the end of the last century, when labour to a large extent was on equal terms with capital. It was welcomed, at all events, in many parts of the world. To-day that is not the case, and labour for the most part, unless it is State-aided, has to stay where it was born.
The United States used to be a great safety valve for our excess population. Many States in the United States owe us a great deal for having provided them with capital to develop their resources and with labour to work them, but the United States is now closed. Whereas in pre-War days it used to absorb about 1,000,000 emigrants a year, last year it sent 52,000 people out of the country. In regard to the Latin countries, which have not so much of interest to us, South America has its restrictions. Venezuela and Paraguay, and all those countries, are refusing to take anyone. To come nearer home, France is four times the size of this country with a smaller population. No one going through France can fail to realise that that is the case. You can drive through some parts of France for miles without seeing a person. They used to admit people belonging to other 2112 nationalities, but now they are deporting the greater number of their aliens. This is a question which is causing a lot of interest in France, and it is evidence of the fact that each country is having to dispose of its surplus population.
In our Dominions we have a similar state of affairs. They do not want anyone there. They have their own unemployment problems, and until their own unemployed are absorbed they will not consider taking our surplus population. I will not call the people unemployed, because I do not think that all the people who want to go to the Dominions are unemployed. It is not a question of any lack of adventurous spirit on our part. The Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs has told us to-day that he always has a register containing 50,000 people willing to go to the Dominions, and that he has, in existing circumstances, to tell them that this is not the time to go. Therefore, I do not think that there is any substance in the idea that we have lost our spirit of adventure, but it becomes more and more difficult for people to settle in the Dominions to-day without the amenities of life and facilities for amusement and education which they enjoy here. The best type of migrant I have seen in Canada, and in other places where I have been, have been those who came from the class who leave home at an early age and form their habits accordingly. Until there is a lifting of the present economic depression, I do not think there is the slightest hope of increasing the flow of migration from these shores.
The question is: What are the number of migrants who can reasonably be absorbed by the Dominions in normal times? I understand that it is much less than used to be the case. The advisory committee, so ably presided over by Lard Astor, reported that the annual maximum absorption of migrants in Australia and Canada is about 40,000 each, and in New Zealand 10,000–90,000 a year. We have a population here of a density of 678 to the square mile, as compared with only 2.7 in Australia and 3.84 in Canada. It would appear therefore that there is room for a tremendous number of migrants to those countries. Until those countries can sell the products of the migrants, how can one expect them to accept migrants? If you make it worth while for the Dominions to take a man well 2113 equipped with capital, knowledge and experience, and ability to work, they will doubtless be very glad to have him. I believe that the cost to the State of a migrant is something between £300 and £500, and when we lose one of our citizens that is the amount of capital we lose. I prefer, as I have said, to look upon this question as the redistribution of population over the Empire. I believe that one of the greatest hopes for stimulating the flow to the Dominions from our own country lies in the Ottawa Agreements, which will bring about au increased consumption of Dominion produce, enabling the Dominions to take a greater supply of labour, and it is comforting to think that every additional citizen entering the Dominions is a potential buyer of British goods.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
I noticed, in listening to the Debate to-day, that many speakers referred to the fact that at the present time it is practically impossible to visualise a, large scheme of migration. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has told us, however, that he and others are considering such a scheme and that it will be a scheme which will wake up the imagination of the people of this country. But in the Bill we are discussing an attempt is being made—an attempt which the Mover and the Seconder have pointed out can be made almost immediately—to settle the people on the land in this country, preparing for the moment, and for the years to come, when they will be able, as skilled people, to go out and take up the work which they have learned and in which they have become skilled in this country. We know that the migration of the population from one part of the Empire to the other is a vision of the future.
The Bill is certainly another piece of Imperial Legislation linking up the Empire and seeing to it also, as has already been said, that we in Great Britain have our fair chance of help in the Empire, and that we are regarded in the same way as worthy factors with the other Dominions to whom we have given help and aid in settlement in the past. I would therefore like to draw the attention of the House to the benefits to the people who are settled on the land. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs 2114 referred to the fact of the women also getting work if we could get this scheme of land settlement. I am sure every right hon. and hon. Member rejoiced to hear that the Secretary of State realised the difficulties of agriculture and showed that he was understanding those difficulties and was working in Imperial ways to further a solution of that problem.
There is one problem which, over and over again, we are up against in some of our industrial centres. I speak as a representative of one of those overcrowded industrial centres. The problem is one of the division of work between man and woman. Many of us know that in the districts where there are mills there is a certain amount of feeling at present as to whether a woman should be able to continue work in the mills, or, with the introduction of new machinery, whether the work will go more to the man. Over and over again, up and down the country to-day, we hear discussions as to whether men or women are to be permitted to have the work. I think that one of the big things, and good things, about the scheme of land settlement is that it gets right away from that position, because in agricultural work men and women can work as partners. They can work together, and there is work for both. The idea of families being able to go out and make their homes in the country and work together, each doing their own job, and the children growing up with a practical training in agriculture, is, I think, a scheme which rejoices the hearts of all of us. We all know of the overcrowding in the towns, and we have tried, from time to time to see what can be done in regard to it. We are told that we must have more open spaces, and we all agree about that, but it is difficult. There are, however, the great open spaces of the country districts, and we ought to see, if possible, if we can get these people out into those districts. We have been told: "This land settlement is going to be very expensive; you will have to build houses for the people." Of course we shall, but we have to build houses in the towns, anyhow. Many of these people now are without houses; they are overcrowded. If we are going to rehouse them, let us rehouse a certain number of them in the country and not in the congested areas of the towns.
It should be made clear that agricultural work is not easy work. There has 2115 been too much said in the past that all that people wanted was a little house with roses round the door, with the cows and the chickens, with everything going on well; a picture of the happy family party planted on the land, and everything easy. We know that the real thing is quite the opposite. We know that agriculture is a terribly difficult industry. It needs patience. There is no 40 hour week for the agriculturist. But the people who do get a chance of land settlement will gain enormously. They will get more independence and more individuality than can the workers in our mills and factories to-day. It has been said that by setting up the proposed Board we are going forward or going back to Socialism. I think that land settlement is all against Socialism. I look forward to a sound scheme of a property-owning democracy, people who are their own masters, who are working to support their families and who realise that it is their own initiative and their own hard work on which they are depending.
It is difficult to arrange how many hours people are to work, what there wages are to be and what the results of their labour will be, but the people who go on the land will get their wage and their results by the success or ill-success of their own work. They will be depending upon themselves. They will be bringing up a generation with greater independence and in the right spirit, so that when the time comes they will be able to go out into the world, out to our Dominions, stronger mentally and physically than the people who are at present, unfortunately, in our towns with nothing to do, living, in a great many cases, overcrowded, living in slums and living on very small allowances. For the physique of the people, for their mental outlook and for their education, nothing could be better than some scheme of land settlement. I think, also, it will be a demonstration to the younger generation which is growing up of what agricultural work can be. In the past in our schools we have, unfortunately, been laying too much stress on what we call the office work, the, mental work, and not sufficient stress on the agricultural side.
We have had in many cases excellent arrangements for training people in agricultural work, but their training would 2116 not only be more economical but more practical if it was done on the farm or, at any rate, in the vicinity of a land settlement scheme. They would get their training in a more practical manner and I think the effect on the next generation would prove that, although there has been a certain capital expenditure, that expenditure had been saved over and over again from the point of view of the Ministry of Health, as regards the enormous sums they are now spending, from the housing point of view in our towns, from the point of view of education and, above all, from the point of view of our people in the United Kingdom and right through the British Empire. We know what has built up the type of British people in the past and what has given the great name to British people and we hope that the coming generation will be the right type of British people for the future.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
I should like to associate myself with the congratulations to the hon. Member who Moved the Second Reading of the Bill for the energy, the vivacity and the power of her appeal this morning. I do not presume to address the House as an agriculturist. Indeed, I am reminded of an observation made here some years ago by a very respected Member of this Assembly, the late Bobby Spencer, who, during a discussion of this sort, raised a hand encased in spotlessly white linen and avowed "I am neither an agriculturist nor the son of an agriculturist." That is my case; but I have been delighted at the Debate because it has opened up a very attractive and indeed important aspect of the main difficulty which confronts this Parliament—namely, the question of unemployment.
With regard to the question of Empire settlement the warning given by the Secretary of State for the Dominions was just. There is hardly a Member of this House who is not receiving communications from men in the Dominions who are seeking to return to this country. It is not the fault of the Dominions. They find themselves in the grip of the economic difficulties which are throttling enterprise in all parts of the world, and which directly arise out of the war into which we got engulfed. Having gone through that War we have to face the 2117 consequences, and they are being faced in the Dominions, as here, with courage. But we have to recognise the special difficulties of our Dominions, and, consequently, it would be wrong for us today to hold out any expectations that the Dominions are going to provide opportunities for employment in present conditions to those who are seriously needing such a chance.
I was particularly attracted by the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and if he had been present in the House I desired to put one or two questions to him in order to get further and better particulars of the scheme to which he referred. I have often wondered what is the sort of spell which the hon. and gallant Member exercises at Bournemouth, and I thought I got some inkling of it in the interesting speech he made to-day. He painted an amazing picture of the foundation and development of large townships in Canada and Australia. What warrant has he for any such delineation? What warrant has he for holding out the belief that the Governments of these Dominions desire to have these enormous settlements, with all their amenities, churches and chapels and cinemas? What authority has he for holding out the expectation that the Governments of these territories desire these enormous settlements? Can it be that Lord Beaverbrook is going to astonish the country with some further scheme? I should have thought that his Lordship's capacity to astonish the country had long been exhausted, but title other day I saw further evidence of his desires and I presume that in two or three weeks' time we are going to have a grandiose scheme of Empire settlement which Lord Beaverbrook is going to foist on the country's attention. I say that he has no authority from any responsible Government in the Colonies, in the present circumstances, to put forward any such scheme.
We recognise the difficulties of the Dominions, and we appreciate that any such efforts there must await, as the Secretary of State for the Dominions stated, the results of the Ottawa arrangements. We hope that those arrangements are going to result in a stimulation and development of mutual trade between Great Britain and the Dominions. That is their purpose, and by their success in 2118 that purpose the arrangements will be tested. Further than that, their continuance must depend upon the success of that test, for no one in his senses will suppose that any arrangements reached at Ottawa or anywhere else are to be continued unless they justify themselves. Our hope is that such results will be achieved, but until we have had an opportunity of weighing those results and adjusting them to the necessities of the time, with some hope of thinking out and calculating their effect on our own unemployment problem, we cannot hold out the possibility of any considerable effort in the way of Empire settlement.
I have risen to repeat what I have taken the opportunity of saying here on every available occasion during recent years, namely, that one of the great openings we must explore and develop, in order to dry up as far as possible the morass of unemployment at home, is to work out and extend in every possible way the resources of our own countryside. Frankly, I think it is a scandal, as one travels, to see how many of England's broad acres are locked up to private enjoyment, and how, owing to the private necessities of great and small landowners, other broad acres are left untended when they might be used for the purposes of the community. My hope is that the Government will very seriously consider the suggestions which have been put forward to-day, so that this expansion and development of our countryside may be carried to the utmost.
It is said quite truly that we cannot put men on the countryside unless they have an aptitude for it, but the most startling feature of this unemployment problem, as I see it, is that scores of thousands of men now unemployed originally came from the villages and the land, and that if they had a chance they would eagerly go back to the land. Those of us who have engaged in public business for some time watched with anxiety before the war the drift from the countryside into the towns with their industrial opportunities. Now for a time the opportunities in the towns seemed to be stayed and these men want a chance to return to the land. Consequently I think that this scheme of home settlement ought to be pressed with the greatest energy on the attention of the Government, as it has been pressed to-day.
2119 A feature of the unemployment situation which is not often looked at is that the mass of the unemployed contains that grievous body who were formerly called the unemployable. Even when the War broke out we were considering means of ascertaining the unemployable and detaching them from the mass of the unemployed, and there is some fear that since 1914 we have added to that grievous portion of the community. I believe that many of our difficulties in regard to the dole arise from the fact that it is being paid to men and women who would not work if they were given the chance. We have to talk here with frankness and face facts, and, in every constituency in this land, such men and women are to be found. We shall have to set up machinery to segregate those people from the mass of the genuine unemployed so that the State and municipal resources applied to the help of the unemployed, shall not be hampered by a clogging body of unemployable people. These are considerations which must be borne in mind in considering any scheme for assisting the State to deal with this terrible problem. I hope that this plan of opening up the countryside, of bringing broad acres and even waste spaces into cultivation, and of helping by marketing schemes to collect and distribute the resources of the countryside, if necessary by State help, will succeed. In my belief it is one of the best forms of national investment which this country can make. The opportunity of this interesting debate will, I hope be taken to recall to the Government how intense is the desire of all parties in this House that this matter of home settlement should receive earnest, energetic and persistent attention.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
I regret that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs appears to have given the impression that, however important may be the subject of Empire migration, involving as it does the principles which we have heard enunciated this afternoon, it is, after all a comparatively minor subject, especially at the present time and in view of all the commitments of the Government and the country. It seemed to be suggested that the question had only been mentioned at Ottawa, and 2120 that we would have to wait until the Ottawa Agreements had been in force for some time before it could be seriously discussed. I think that opinion has been held even by those who have taken up this matter keenly—namely that migration was a sort of added or extra suggestion, even though one of great value, which might be usefully considered by the Government. But if we consider the position to which the world has come in the last few years this subject assumes an importance equal to that of any of the other great subjects which are at present occupying all the governments of the world. This has been shown to be not simply a question of emigration as it used to be called or of mutual migration. It is a question of the distribution of population throughout the Empire.
That is surely on a par with the big subjects that are considered of so much importance in these times, and what are these subjects? They are the redistribution of finance, the redistribution of gold, and the redistribution of industry and trade throughout the world. The purpose of the World Economic Conference, which we are leading up to and from which so much is expected, is simply to see in what way we can get a better distribution of the trade of the world, and our Government has consistently emphasised the fact that Ottawa, with the redistribution of the trade of the Empire, was a step in that direction. It is exactly on the same path, and even of greater importance, to consider the redistribution of population throughout the world in the light of modern developments. You cannot get a proper redistribution of trade unless you have also a better distribution of mankind. We recognise that in our small problems at home, in regard to the redistribution of labour and industry in this country, and so it is for the Empire and for the world. It is not easy to consider redistribution of the burdens of finance and industry unless you consider in what directions the world is going to redistribute its population.
When you are considering that question, you have to recognise possibly that it is necessary at present, as the Secretary of State for the Dominions has said, to defer the matter, not till the Greek Kalends, but till after we have seen and considered the effects of the Ottawa 2121 Agreements. It has been emphasised that the Dominions at the present time do not see their way to face this subject, but I make the plea that it is all the more important not to let it go out of our minds. It is not merely the fact, as in the Victorian age, that there are great vacant spaces which we could fill up from this country; that is not a sufficient description of the situation as it is today. The remarkable importance of this subject is illustrated by what is filling the papers to-day, namely, this tremendous conflict in the Far East, and we have brought back again to us what was brought to our notice at the end of the last century in a notable book that aroused so much attention, called "The Yellow Peril."
The fact is that it is the population question that is, more than anything else, the cause of war. It is the constant increase of population in these far Eastern and Asiatic countries generally, not excluding India, which necessitates that sooner or later they shall find an outlet, and so much greater will that necessity become. As we are by degrees training them, voluntarily or involuntarily, to appreciate the products of our manufacture, our education, our books, literature, and wireless, they will get larger and wider ideas, and therefore they will want more and more room for expansion. Just as India has been bulging out into East Africa, so has Japan been bulging out over Manchuria. There is this pressure going on and we have to look ahead. It is no use looking at this year or next year; we have to look ahead 100 or even 500 years. If we do that, we see that the population question is changing the alignment of the world. We see the increase in the populations of the west drawing to its close while the populations of Asia are increasing. That fact is never taken seriously enough by our thinkers, who light-heartedly refer to the advantages of the declining birth-rate.
The vital statistics have filled me with serious anxiety in the last 30 years. If we could keep the position stable it would be a different question, but we cannot. We have seen the birth-rate decline from 35 to about 15 per 1,000, and it is getting very near to the death-rate. The death-rate -has declined from 24 to 12 per 1,000, but it cannot go much lower. In fact, 2122 as the population is becoming on an average more aged, so it is bound to go up. Before long we are bound to have the death-rate going up to 20 per 1,000, which means an average life of every individual born of 50 years. We cannot expect the average duration of life for every individual born to be more than 50 years. Thus we are going to see a rise in the death-rate from 12 to 20 per 1,000, while our birth-rate is only 15 per 1,000. That means a shrinking of our population. However, people may for the time being welcome this decline of our population, they must see what the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said in one of his notable speeches, the grim vision, the spectre that is lurking behind these facts.
Australia with her shrinking birth-rate, and before long her increasing death-rate, will not be able to maintain with her population of 8,000,000 the whole of the continent in face of the enormous advance of the populations of Asia. Sooner or later she will not be able to retain a white Australia unless the population is invigorated again from the populations of other parts of the Empire. Those of us who have visions of a great British Empire and of a white Australia, for the good of mankind as well As for our own and kindred races, must recognise the fact that the Empire cannot carry on as it is unless we get this problem of Empire migration settled. The difficulties are immense. As has been pointed out in several cogent speeches in this Debate, we recognise that Australia, Canada and other countries cannot have shovelled out to them people who are liable to be a difficulty to them. I regret that each Government is saying that, that being so, we cannot do anything about it. That is really the great case for this Bill. We are trying again to introduce some further suggestion in order to get some practical move forward.
The suggestions made about giving to those who migrate the same security about their future as they could look forward to if they were in this country are to the point. One other suggestion I would like to add. I have not made it in this House, although I have put it forward in other quarters. A hundred years ago it was as difficult to get from London to the Hebrides and back as it is at present to get to one of the Pacific islands and back, yet now we in the 2123 United Kingdom are able to move freely about one end of the country to the other without any idea that we are engaging in an emigration or are burning our boats or going away from home by removing from one end of the country to the other. This is the result of improved means of transport and, mainly, our road system, the free King's highway, which is provided at the public expense. A man can put himself on the road at John o' Groat's and come down to London and go back as soon as he has finished his business—he has the freedom of the road.
Nothing could be better in connection with the projects which are now before us than to have a free highway all over the Empire. Assisted passages have been suggested, but I want the travel to be absolutely free—.as free as travel on the highway, so that anybody, can put himself on board such a boat as may be provided and go to Australia without any charge, except that he will have to make provision for keeping himself during the voyage, and with the knowledge that he can come back in the same way. I do not know how this is to be done, but it is most essential to make some such provision, so that people brought up in our villages and towns shall feel that they are not sacrificing their future by going to take a look at the outer parts of the Empire, that they can try their hand there and, if they wish, come back again.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
Is the hon. Member as much in favour of socialising ships and socialising land as he is of socialising roads?
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I do not understand what the hon. Member means by "socialising roads." I do not understand that the roads were ever private property. We for our part have never been against using national power and national resources to the utmost, if necessary, only we do not subscribe to the dogmatic slavery of the hon. Member and his party. This question of communications goes to the root of the Imperial problem. We must recognise that those who are courageous enough can now get to Australia in, I think, seven days and to South Africa in 4½days. Before very long the whole world is going to shrink, as we saw in the remarkable diagram exhibited by 2124 His Majesty's Government at the Wembley Exhibition. That showed how improved communications were assisting to contract the Empire.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
Yes, I quite agree. I hope it will create ocean tramps, because among tramps are some of the finest fellows in this country, as we know from the tramps' home started quite close to my place. It would be a good thing to have ocean tramps going about the Empire. I do not want to go further into details, and I will finally say this. I have had submitted to me during the course of the past year, from three different sources—one from a Socialist in my constituency and one from a member of no party, as far as I know, and one from Yorkshire—three schemes urgently submitted to me for community settlement. I have put the people in touch with each other. I do not believe that they were inspired by any common source by the way they drew up their views, but each of the three schemes is founded on the basis of a community settlement that is not generally considered simply and mainly an agricultural settlement. It is founded on the basic idea of the garden city in this country.
The prime instances of a settlement in this country of planned development of virgin land in recent years are Letchworth and Welwyn, both in Hertfordshire. What is suggested by this idea of group settlement in the Dominions is what is done in these two garden cities, that is, not an agricultural community, not a residential suburb of London, not an industrial community alone, but all those three classes of the population together. That is being developed, and, on the whole, successfully, at Letchworth and Welwyn garden cities, and the scheme brought forward in part or whole by my three correspondents is that the same thing should be planned for such a group settlement as is foreshadowed in this Bill, that there should be a planned community from the very first working in the way my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) was suggesting, and as the author of this Bill has suggested—a preliminary settlement on the land in this country. What you really want is to 2125 prepare, as these people suggest, a complete self-supporting community producing and manufacturing for themselves, and therefore there will no burden on the land.
It is all very shadowy, but it is one of the ideas of the kind that needs to be worked out. We do not want simply to confine our ideas to an agricultural community of settlers as such, but I do think the bringing in of one or more trades more or less complete, with industrial life as well as agricultural and commercial life in one whole, is a possibility worked out by such a scheme as is put forward in this Bill. I believe there are possibilities for the future, but, in supporting this Bill, I do urge not only the supporters in this House but the whole political thought in this country to recognise, in the reconstitution of the world from its difficulties at the present time, that this question of migration should be considered as essential as the redistribution of finance and the re-organisation of industry and trade.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
I did not intend to intervene in this Debate, but I would like to say something in support of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) who moved this Bill and whose opinions upon agriculture and land settlement are very much on a par with my own. I also want to support my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) who taught me much, before I came to years of discretion, and with whose views I am glad still to be able to agree. I am especially glad of this opportunity because of my constituents. I have been surprised lately at the interest that people are taking in many of the country villages in Berkshire in better means of migration for their children abroad. A few days ago I received a letter from a little village near Newbury, in which the writer stressed the fact that many families with well-educated sons and daughters had nothing to look forward to in the way of employment for them, and asked if the Government could not start some movement in order to find employment overseas. This morning I received a further letter in which the writer said:We want to get a campaign from such centres as the Universities2126 on this question. I can assure the writer that, although not many University members have taken part in this Debate, there were many speakers who were equally important. The writer went on to say:The outlook for those coming on is black indeed for years to come unless we here do, and insist on being allowed to do, our duty to our great overseas heritage.That idea must be at the back of the mind of every hon. Member who has spoken about migration schemes. I know that it is at the back of the mind of the Government, and that when they get a chance, one great. way of helping employment throughout the Empire will be by getting the migration movement going. I believe that Ottawa is the first step towards better economic relations between the parts of the Empire, but I cannot see the use that it will be unless it leads to greater employment throughout the Empire. Those who have been responsible for making the Ottawa Agreements know that it is a great work, but that it will be quite useless without the coping-stone provided by this Bill.
I was glad to notice that the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs spoke a short time ago on this subject. He said the present time provided the best opportunity, not of agreeing to a migration scheme, but of having the machinery ready so that when the time came they could not only tackle the problem, but profit by their own past experience. That is what this Bill does. Some hon. Members do not think that land settlement at home matters so much and that settlement within the Empire is more important. I am much more inclined to agree with the hon. Lady the junior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh). I should not like the senior Member for Dundee to get the credit for the excellent speech that she made. She spoke from a knowledge of the town. I speak with a knowledge of the country, and of the undeveloped spaces which could be developed. I speak also as a representative of the agricultural landlords of this country and I know the whole-hearted support that you will get from them if you approach them in the right spirit, and ask them to help in any scheme of land settlement that will further the training of those who, some day, are going to people the Empire. I do not want to enter into any controversy with the Opposition over the question of land- 2127 lords and so forth, but I assure them that, if they knew the country landlords as I do, if they knew the agricultural workers as I do, if they knew the unemployed in our country districts who are asking for work, and knew their fathers and grandfathers before them, they would not use political weapons to down all landlords in the way that they do, because that means downing also those whom they want to help. I am glad that the Opposition are supporting this Bill, and am glad to have been able to voice my own support of it. I hope that before -long we shall see not only the fruits of Ottawa, but the results of Ottawa in the moving of our population from one part of the Empire to another by the machinery provided in the Bill.
§ Question, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, arid committed to a Standing Committee.