HC Deb 14 February 1934 vol 285 cc2037-64

9.26 p.m.


I beg to move, That, in the opinion of this House, steps should be taken to establish a standing committee of representatives of all parts of the Empire to promote co-operation in all forms of Empire Development. As the House will remember, there was a Debate only a fortnight ago on the question of Empire migration. That would, obviously, fall within the scope of my Motion this evening, but I do not propose to say anything with regard to it, partly because it was debated so recently but also because at Question Time to-day I was told by the President of the Board of Trade that the adverse balance for the year 1933 of migration within the Empire was close on 24,000 against this country. In other words, close on 24,000 individuals more came to this country from the Empire than went from this country to the Empire. While that is the case, although we may want to plan migration schemes for a future date, when economic conditions are better in the Dominions, it is at the present moment hardly practical politics.

My purpose this evening is rather to deal with questions of Empire trade. The most recent declaration that I have been able to find on behalf of His Majesty's Government and of the Dominions was that made last July at the Monetary and Economic Conference and signed on behalf of this country and the five principal Dominions, in these words: The undersigned Delegations have agreed that they will recommend their Governments to consult with one another from time to time on monetary and economic policy with a view to establishing their common purpose, and to the framing of such measures as may conduce towards its achievement. This declaration, signed on behalf of the whole British Empire, hardly goes far enough for our present economic needs. My Motion goes a good deal further than was thought necessary last July, and the reason why further action is necessary is because of recent political developments in this country and of general world economic depression. We remember that in pre-War days, when we had what was called Free Trade, there used to be Colonial and Imperial Conferences every three or four years to discuss matters of general Empire interests. I remember very well indeed one in 1909, when the German naval menace first became prominent, at which steps were taken to increase the Fleet and the Dominions came forward most splendidly to our assistance. It was found in those days that every three or four years was usually often enough for these Imperial Conferences to be held.

Now, however, the position is entirely different. We have now become, for better or for worse, a nation which has measures of tariffs, quotas and prohibitions, and it stands to reason that in all these trade questions it is necessary for us to keep the closest possible touch with Dominion views. A certain amount, no doubt, is done at the present time, but the position is an entirely different one from what it was in pre-War days because of our different fiscal policy. Australia two or three years ago put a definite prohibition on the import of many articles coming from this country and elsewhere, owing to the home economic needs, and to some extent we have similar prohibitions in this country now. Attempts were made to get over these difficulties at the World Economic Conference, but, unfortunately, they failed. It is all the more necessary, in view of the breakdown last July of the World Economic Conference, which we hoped would remove many of these world barriers to trade, that if we cannot get a world flow of trade we should get the greatest possible freedom of trade and the greatest possible understanding of trade conditions between ourselves and the British Dominions overseas.

A start was, I believe, made at Ottawa. I hold that the contacts which were established 18 months ago should be kept more close than, as far as I can tell, they are being kept at the present time. I am well aware how much is already being done in that direction. Under the auspices of the Empire Parliamentary Association opportunities are given to Members of Parliament to pay visits to British Dominions overseas. I was fortunate enough to visit Bermuda two years ago, and I know of visits that were paid by other Members to South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. I also know what is done here to get Members of Parliament to study economic conditions as they affect the British Dominions. I know also, of course, the work that has been done for many years past by the Imperial Shipping Committee, presided over so ably by Sir Holford Mackinder. Less than a year ago there was an Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Co-operation which went very exhaustively into these questions. Any one who reads that Committee's Report will see that much is being done at the present time, a good deal of it on scientific lines. Scientific research is obviously of the very greatest value to the primary producer in different parts of the Empire, and if the Mother Country helps a small Colony by a scientific inquiry into the diseases caused by the local pests to cocoa, tea and such products, we should not grudge our help towards the work. A good deal is also done by the Imperial Economic Committee, working on instructions received from the Imperial Conference, 1930.

Questions of policy will, however, arise in the future to such an extent that we must have closer co-operation in matters of this kind than we have had in the past. I will deal with one subject, and one only, in any detail, and that is butter. Our market here for butter is, in round figures, 32 lbs. per head per annum—1,000,000,000 lbs. per year. About nine-tenths of that has been coming to us from overseas; one-tenth is being produced in this country, and we have now by agreement with Denmark given her a definite proportion of butter imports into this country. I ask, in connection with that fact, what is the position of New Zealand with regard to butter, which is her main export? I do not want to weary the House with many facts and figures, but when I find that the export of butter from New Zealand in 1932 was worth close on £11,000,000, and in bulk was 245,000,000 lbs., and that it increased by some 40 per cent. in the previous two years, I begin to realise the possible repercussions upon New Zealand of our allotment of an undue share of the English markets to Denmark. I am not for a moment saying that we have done so, but if we allot a considerable share of the British market in butter to Denmark, we are going to make it extraordinarily difficult for our primary producers overseas to expand in the way we want them to expand.

That is one of the great difficulties that I see calling for the closest possible co-operation between ourselves and the Dominions, and I suggest that it must be done with an expert committee almost continuously in session considering these difficult trade questions. I have here a note that there are three great things we want in this country at the present time. We want to export our goods, obviously; we want, also, scope for profitable investment of any spare capital we may have in this country, and we want scope for migration. The country I have just mentioned, Denmark, gives us only one out of these three. It gives us scope to export our goods, but there is no scope for capital investment in Denmark. That is common knowledge. There is no scope for the migration of British individuals to Denmark. That also is common knowledge. In New Zealand there is scope for all three. The Argentine—and I am not going into the question of Argentine meat at the moment—does give us scope for two out of the three objects, the export of goods and also profitable investment, when the exchange with the Argentine does not stop it. But in the case of New Zealand there are all these three different possibilities for our country, against one in the case of Denmark and two in that of the Argentine.

The question of the harmonisation of these difficult problems is one of the greatest intensity. Naturally we want to export our manufactured articles to the Dominions. The Dominions want to build up secondary industries in their own country to keep their people employed because they have large town populations and suffer a great deal from unemployment. But in this country, in addition to exporting, we very naturally and rightly try to develop and protect our own agriculture. The Dominions, who are living largely on the export of primary products, want to keep this market of ours as largely as possible. It is extremely difficult to reconcile these considerations. As a case in point, I find the exports of New Zealand in 1932, the latest year available, were over £32,000,000. Of this a little more than £1,000,000 was to Australia and well under £1,000,000 to the United States of America, which are about half the distance away from New Zealand and have a population three times as large as ours. It shows the extent to which New Zealand is depending upon us. There are some analogous figures, not quite so striking, for Australia. It shows the all-importance to New Zealand of this market, and all of us know the great importance of the New Zealand market to us for the export of manufactured articles; and I maintain we must have closer co-operation in trade and commercial questions than we have had in the past.

As to which body should be set up, that is a question for the home Government, in consultation with the Dominions, but there is one practical suggestion I venture to make. Every September it is usual for a Minister of our self-governing Dominions to go to the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. I understand that the Dominions send a responsible Minister every year to Geneva. Now it stands to reason that it is very difficult for a resident Minister of the Dominions, especially Australia or New Zealand, to be permanently in London. He gets out of touch with local affairs, and has to share responsibility with Members of the Cabinet 12,000 miles away. So it is difficult to get the close personal touch that is expected of Cabinet Ministers in these days, even allowing for the fact that Australia and New Zealand will, by Imperial Airways, be reduced to half their distance in time from us very shortly But if a Minister is coming over each year in September, surely it will be possible for him to be in London in July or October, and in that way once a year, at all events, you would have in this country a member of each of the Dominion Governments who could give general instructions either to the Commercial Counsellor or the High Commissioner, so that there would be a liaison officer for the rest of the year.

This question is now about as important from the point of view of the Empire as was another Imperial committee set up just 30 years ago. I refer to the Committee of Imperial Defence. Those who followed what happened in the War know that, but for the action taken by that committee and its strategic mission, the War would have had a very different ending. In this question of economic defence and co-operation, our position is now very much what it was a generation ago when the Committee of Imperial Defence was set up, and I hope that the Government, if they cannot immediately this evening announce their intention of carrying out my suggestion, will be able to hold out hopes and tell us what is being done, and that everything possible will be done to harmonise these questions of Imperial economics to the good of the Empire as a whole.


I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. and gallant Friend who proposed the Motion is very well equipped to do so, as he has had a long personal experience of Empire trade. The Motion seeks to set up a permanent body consisting of the best brains of the Empire, and having to deal with the greatest task in the Empire, to be a guiding and driving force in its development. The days of laissez faire in this great task have gone for ever. Mr. Bruce, more than two years ago, said the time had gone by for just talking about Imperial co-operation. The results of Ottawa were the first fruits of our new economic order. Those results were produced by long months of careful preparation and co-operation between the home Government and the Dominion Governments and also the Colonial Governments. May I say here that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whose illness we all so greatly regret, and whose return in restored health we are anxious to see, did a great work for the Empire at Ottawa, a work that so far has not been universally recognised. He put our great Colonial Empire in its rightful place on the trade map of the Empire, and already considerable results have been achieved by the agreements which he was instrumental in making between the Colonies and the Dominions. This question is very largely one of distribution and exchange. My hon. and gallant Friend has dealt to a large extent with that. It is also a question of transport, particularly shipping and freight, of defence and currency, and, above all, of redistribution of our white population, and settlement.

My hon. and gallant Friend has touched on the question of shipping. That is essentially a question in which the Empire should act as a unit. Before the War 52 per cent. of the world's shipping was British, but to-day only 25 per cent. is British. When we realise the fact that Japan pays her sailors 56s. a month and that we pay ours 162s.; when we realise that foreign countries are subsidising their shipping to the extent of £30,000,000 a year, we realise the intensive competition that our shipping has to meet. Having regard to the fact that we have command of ports and seaways and a large part of the markets of the world and the production of raw materials, it can be seen with what immense strength the Empire could act in the matter. There are 60,000 British seamen and 3,000 master mariners unemployed at the present time. There are hundreds and hundreds of our tramp steamers, our cargo liners, tied up in our ports: those swift shuttles of the Empire's loom That bind us main to main. We want to send them to sea again by the increase of our trade, and we want to send on board those 60,000 seamen and 3,000 master mariners. We can only do it by the development of our Empire trade, and by adopting such means of co-operation as are recommended in this Motion.

I would like to speak on other matters, particularly defence, which was debated this afternoon; but time is limited and there are others who want to speak. Let me say a few words about a subject that has been often discussed, the subject of migration. The story of migration has been a depressing one in recent years. It was mentioned by the mover of this Resolution, with reference to an answer given to him at Question Time, that 24,000 more British people returned to this country than left it. That is an additional reason for adopting this Motion. The need for setting in motion again a system of migration is more urgent than ever. It is for us to make our need our opportunity. Ours is an Empire with boundless resources. Let us take advantage of them. There are obstacles on both sides, perhaps chiefly on the side of the Dominions, who are reluctant to receive our people at the present time, fearing that the newcomers would add to the number of their unemployed, which has been very considerable but I am glad to say is now decreasing. The reluctance on their part is very understandable.

We have difficulties on our side. There is no question but that the urbanisation of our people and the attractions of the dole render those of our people who could migrate less willing to do so, but there are at any moment thousands ready to settle overseas, if they receive a reasonable opportunity. I would remind the House of the thousands of miners, some of the finest human material and many of them with knowledge of land working, who are out of employment and unfortunately are never likely to obtain employment in the mines again. They would make splendid material for settlers in our Colonies. What do we find? During the last 10 years 600,000 foreigners have settled in Canada. Why did they go there? Because they were attracted by their own people, who already had settlements in Canada on a small scale. Those settlements have grown and these people have been helped to go there by their friends already settled in Canada, and by their people in Europe.

If 600,000 foreigners can settle in Canada, why not 600,000 Britons? Some people say, "Oh, perhaps it is that the foreigner makes a better settler." That is not the opinion of the United States. When the United States recently revised their quota of emigrants they increased the British quota and diminished every other quota. Someone may say that it is all very well to speak in general terms of migration, but that it is impossible to press on with the matter at present, that we should let it lie and take it up again when times are more prosperous. I am glad to think that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State does not take that view. He has been working with a committee in the Dominions Office on this question, and on the last occasion when he spoke on this subject he said that he had very nearly come to the end of his labours. We hope shortly to hear what the results of those labours may be.

There are two forms of migration. There is the migration of individuals by infiltration. There is also community settlement. Some people think that these two forms are mutually exclusive. They are nothing of the kind; there is nothing to prevent their going on side by side. There are two practical schemes before us now. One is the Hornby Scheme. General Hornby is not a visionary. He is a man who made a small settlement, but a successful one, in Alberta. He lives there himself with his family, at Lethbridge Farm, Alberta. He is an enthusiast in the cause of settlement. He came here early last year and interviewed those who are interested in the matter. He got into touch with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and discussed matters with him, and he went on to Yorkshire to interview the migration committees there, which are very keen and only waiting for the Government to give the lead so that they can spring into life and take up this great question again. Then he re- turned to Canada and inquired into the possibility of settlement—he already had a great deal of knowledge—from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. I have here the results of his investigations. He interviewed a number of leading people, members of Governments in Canada, and the result is that he has 23 locations for community settlements, beginning with Nova Scotia and going on to British Columbia, and of these he has personally inspected 10. This is what he says: I am glad to be able to tell you that locations for the first 10 settlements under my plan have now been selected in the Eastern Provinces, namely,"— With regard to the Eastern Provinces, we seem to have neglected Nova Scotia to a large extent as a place of settlement. There is a flourishing Danish colony in Nova Scotia. The place has a climate very like our own; it is close by, and we should look very carefully at Nova Scotia as a site for a community settlement— two in the Province of Quebec, four in the Province of Ontario, two in the Province of Nova Scotia and two in the Province of New Brunswick. Each settlement is to consist of around 100 farms or 1,000 farms in all, establishing 1,000 new British settler families, probably 4,000 or 5,000 persons. It is proposed that each of these 10 settlements shall be permanently linked up to a county or town in Great Britain and that it shall be financed partly by a loan for capital expenditure to be guaranteed by the United Kingdom Government and partly by an annual grant in aid from the Empire Settlement Act annual allotment. That is the basis of the Hornby scheme. Those who have read the morning papers must have noticed the scheme drawn up after nine months hard work by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft).

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

By the committee over which I had the honour to preside.


I had the honour to be a member of that committee and I think we all recognise that the guiding and driving force in it was my hon. and gallant Friend himself. This report is well worth reading. The basis of the report is indicated by the following passage: Taking the long view it is clear that what the Dominions need above all else is population in order to spread their taxes, rates and the burden of their debt over a larger number of inhabitants, and also to increase the consumption of their manufactured goods from the cities and enlarge the freightage on their railways. There is a further point which we cannot dismiss and that is the strategic position of the Dominions. The world is hungry for land; old-established populations are increasing at a great pace and are looking covetously upon the few remaining waste spaces of the world. That puts shortly the urgency of the problem for the Dominions. There is no need to dwell upon its urgency for ourselves. Thus there are two schemes for the consideration of such a body as we propose to establish. We want the question considered not in any spirit of mere officialdom. We do not want to go back into the old grooves. We want it to be considered in the spirit that this is an Empire need, and ought to be taken in hand in a wide generous spirit of foresight and knowledge. These two plans have much in common. The first point which they have in common is that there must be co-operation between the homeland and Dominion Governments. Second, there must be suitable locations, thoroughly surveyed. That is essential. We have had recent lamentable evidence of the results of putting settlers on to land that has not been properly surveyed. That must never happen again. The third point is training. The fourth point is that the settlers should be drawn from towns and counties in Great Britain which will take an active part in the settlement of their own people. The fifth point is that the settlements thus formed will be organised and directed as to settling, developing and marketing by each settlement agency, whether a chartered company such as is advocated in the plan published this morning or by a county or city at home or a group of cities.

The great flaw in previous schemes has been dual management. The schemes I have mentioned envisage single management—co-operation between the Dominions and the Homeland but single management of setltement by the Homeland agencies. There will be the inducement to the Dominions that the agency, whatever it may be, will bring capital into the Dominions and population of the right kind.

A certain number of people think that the word "Empire" in the term "British Empire" suggests arbitrary and overbearing power. That is not true of the British Empire to-day. Let me read what was said by Canon Cody, an ex-Minister of Education in Ontario, himself a Canadian and a very eloquent man: The term 'British Commonwealth of Nations' has its place and use and meaning but it is not as broad, not as ancient and it is not as heart-stirring as the term 'the British Empire' which implies a declaration of freedom for British folk and not a declaration of exploitation or tyranny against any other son of man. Then that great and broad-minded Empire statesman, General Smuts, speaking in Canada two or three years ago, said: To my mind the great task that was before us now that Dominion status had been fully realised and the Empire was recognised as a group of equal States, was to see in what way we could develop the unity of the Empire; and if we did not do that in the course of time we might be left with a situation where something so valuable to the world, something so great and so remarkable in history as the Empire, might have disappeared. Mr. Bruce, General Smuts, Canon Cody all have spoken eloquently in favour of Empire co-operation and unity and it is with a strong desire to further that cause that we offer this Motion to the House and to the Government. Recently a Member of the Cabinet—I do not use his exact words—described stagnation as a deadly sin. Last night we had on the wireless a stimulating broadcast by an experienced business man. We may not agree with all he said, but there was imagination and foresight in it. The young people of the country are calling for action, and there is nothing that will gratify that hunger for action, nothing that will send a thrill through the Empire so much as the taking over of this great question by our best brains and the formation of a plan for Empire development.

10.4 p.m.


I am going to support this Motion which asks that steps should be taken to form a representative Standing Committee for Empire development. It is time that we laid the foundations of an organisation in the British Commonwealth of Nations to consider political and economic developments in the Commonwealth. I am not going to suggest to-night in detail the lines on which such an organisation should work—I am taking the Motion at its face value—but even if I were, I am sure the House would not expect me to agree in detail with my two hon. Friends opposite. Moreover, if I may allude to the speech of our enthusiast from Windsor on migration, I would say that we had a Debate on this subject a fortnight ago, we are promised another a fortnight to-day, and I think, in view of the lack of possibility of anything being done immediately in the way of migration, I might leave that question out on this occasion.

But let us look at the facts regarding the relations between this country and the Dominions at the present time. As a result of the Imperial Conference of 1920 and of the Statute of Westminster, the Parliamentary sovereignty of Great Britain has gone. We are all bound to admit that. The Dominions now enjoy Parliamentary and legislative status and are equal in every respect before the law with us. There has been practical decentralisation within the Dominions and our own country. I do not object to that for one moment, because I agree with the idea of this freedom and independence of the different countries within the Empire, but I do say that, if steps are not taken to bring about closer co-operation between them, there is a danger of disruption.

If we are not awake to the possibilities, then it is possible that the biggest political structure that has ever been known will be broken and destroyed completely. I am an internationalist, and I believe in the amity and the unity of all nations, but we have a planned commonwealth of nations, which, with real co-operation, ought to be the greatest instrument for peace in the world. I believe that we have not done as much as we could have done in the League of Nations in that direction, but I do not want an Imperial bloc setting up tariffs and barriers against the rest of the world. If there is to be one, let it be one of co-operation within the councils of the nations for peace, liberty, human progress, democracy, and freedom. It seems as though we are to be, within the British Commonwealth, the only democratic countries in the world.

Let me state the position of the party that I represent and of which I am a loyal member on this subject. Some hon. Members know of "Labour and the Nation," and if I may quote a few words from "Labour and the Nation," these are they: It is the policy of the Labour party to take steps which would ensure closer political and economic relationships between Great Britain, India, and the self-governing Dominions overseas, and the other constituent communities of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If I may quote just the beginning of a very long resolution passed at the Labour party conference as to the Labour party policy on this matter of our relations with the British Commonwealth of Nations, it is this: That steps should be taken to ensure closer political and economic relationships between Great Britain, India, and the self-governing Dominions overseas, and the other constituent States of the British Commonewalth, and asks the Government to submit proposals at an early date—

  1. (a) for closer personal contact between the Government of Great Britain and the Governments of the Dominions and the other States of the British Commonwealth;
  2. (b) for the representation of Opposition"—
which I think can be included in the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall)— as well as Government opinion at such conference.
  1. (c) for a survey of the natural resources of the British Commonwealth as a whole with a view to the scientific direction of their use and to prevent exploitation in the interests of private capitalists."
I agree with that, and after our recent experience with regard to Newfoundland, I think that might be considered by such a committee, if ever it is set in being. Now let me take the other side of our movement, namely, the trade union side, as expressed by the Trades Union Congress General Council. They say: The maintenance of close relations with the rest of the world does not prevent us from urging the creation of machinery and, if necessary, formal agreements with the Dominions for the further development of inter-Commonwealth trade and for the best possible distribution of economic activities within the British Commonwealth. There is no doubt there as to what is the attitude of the Labour movement on both its political and trade union sides. That has been the policy of the Labour party now for some years, but very little has been done in that direction, and nothing is being done, so far as I know just now, to ensure those closer political and economic relationships being achieved. We must remember that it is impossible for us, in dealing with subjects of this kind, to dictate any action to or to domineer over the Dominions. It is almost as great a difficulty to persuade them into any action. I was a member of the Empire Marketing Board for some years. The Empire Marketing Board did a great work in the directions of scientific research, of publicity for the Empire, and of marketing the produce of the Empire. It was the greatest effort that has ever been undertaken in the direction of Empire co-operation and development. But the Empire Marketing Board has gone, and why has it gone? Simply because we could not obtain the co-operation of a substantial nature which we had a right to expect from the Dominions in its work, and that is the position with regard to the Empire Marketing Board.

All that we have left is, as the hon. Member for East Lewisham pointed out, the Empire Parliamentary Association. There we have an association, with a very able secretary in Sir Howard d'Egville, which does a good deal in Empire co-operation. It ought to be in a position to do more than it is doing in order to provide information and to arrange personal visits of Members of Parliament from all parts of the Empire and to establish contact with public men and women and with people in all parts of the Commonwealth. There is room for some machinery of consultation to be set up in the British Empire in order to understand and help one another in our economic problems. I give my support to this Motion. In all countries we know that trade is far from being as good as it ought to be, that unemployment figures are high, that poverty exists everywhere, and that the financial position of most countries is very precarious. While I believe that Commonwealth arrangements and agreements should be made, I am convinced that a great deal more can be done by our own Government than they have done and are doing to create a world revival. After all, neither we as a nation nor as a Commonwealth can live unto ourselves alone. It is necessary to extend the ideas of co-operation and brotherhood to all nations and peoples in the world if we are to be safe for peace and democracy and to secure economic salvation.

10.17 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR

I am glad to hear the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) say that this great and important question is not a party question. It ought not to be a party question, and it is gratifying to feel that the whole House is united in trying to do something to further the development of our Empire. I happen to have been one of the members of the committee that toiled for nine months on this subject and I wish to bring one or two points before the House. Let us suppose that the vast areas which are uninhabited within the Empire were contiguous with this country. Would they be in the condition in which they are to-day? Certainly not. Our population would be spread over them, and I feel that in these days the distances that separate us from these areas should not make any difference to our efforts to populate and develop them. We know quite well that sooner or later they will be populated. Why not begin doing it now? Let us begin to get the thin edge of the wedge in and have some scheme to begin at once to help to develop and populate them. An hon. Member spoke about the dangers of these areas. I remember many years ago listening to the late Lord Northcliffe, after his world tour, saying to a debating club to which I belonged, "Does anybody realise why the Japanese are not in Australia? They are not there for one reason—the British Navy." We have seen lately certain learned men in Japan who have quite openly said that it is not right that one nation should control vast areas capable of development and of accommodating millions of people and do nothing with those areas. Therefore, there is a danger to our Empire and to the Dominions themselves if we do not begin seriously to consider the question of populating the British Empire with British people.

There is another thing, which I mentioned in a speech in the House not very long ago. I apologise for mentioning it again, but it is a serious point. In the years between 1920 and 1930, 600,000 foreigners settled in Canada. I do not know how many British people settled there during the same period, but there were very, very few. That means that slowly but surely, people who are not British people are occupying our Dominions. They are excellent people, there is nothing against them. They can make good, and if they can I believe that our people can also, given the opportunity. They have various organisations which help them to get there and to settle, and I believe I am right in stating that to-day more than 50 per cent. of the people living in Canada are non-British. This is a very serious matter, and the Government ought to begin immediately to do something about it. We have the people here, undoubtedly we can supply the finance, and I believe it would be worth while.

There has been a lot of talk in the last year about the need for the Government to spend money on schemes of development—public works and otherwise. What better public work could they do than help to develop our Empire, and thus relieve the congestion at home? It may be said that the Dominions do not want us. I do not believe that. From evidence I have had in the last year there is no doubt whatever that if England said she would accept responsibility for the people she sent there the Dominions would welcome them. Also, I believe that the Dominions are becoming aware that they will not get the money for the development of their countries until they have increased their population. They have borrowed up to the hilt, per head of population. Therefore, I consider there is a very different outlook with regard to emigration than was the case a short time ago. It is no use repeating what has been said over and over again about the tragedy of unemployment. I believe that the spirit of enterprise which led our fathers and our grandfathers—and incidentally myself, when I was 18—to go out to the Colonies, is still prevalent in this country if the young people are given the opportunity. I offer a suggestion to the Government in connection with the Unemployment Insurance Bill. In the training centres for young people and for adults which are to be set up under the Unemployment Insurance Bill let them concentrate on giving a little instruction about the opportunities that may occur within the Empire. Let those who attend these training centres study this question. Those of them who wish to go overseas should find available plenty of information which will help them to make a success of their lives. It would be a very good way of occupying their time at these centres.

Finally, I would like to say a word on the subject of finance. Figures are always dull, but let us consider the relief which a scheme such as has been suggested to-night would bring to the Government in the responsibility which they now bear for those who are unemployed. I do not say that this question should be dealt with merely from an unemployment point of view, because there are plenty of people who are employed who have the spirit of enterprise and who, not seeing very much to "go for" here, would say, "I will take a chance and go out and begin life in a new country." The finance of the scheme would give relief to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and would relieve the Government of responsibility. I feel quite confident that, as a result of the development of a scheme of this sort, in the end the scheme would cost the Government nothing. I beg the Government to begin now to deal with this matter. In my maiden speech in 1932 I dealt with this subject, and I have been working on it ever since. That is nearly two years ago, but nothing has been done. I am quite certain that something will be done. There is land waiting for development, and it is sure to be developed some day. Let us begin now.

10.26 p.m.


I wholeheartedly support this Motion. In the short time at my disposal I cannot adduce all the reasons in favour of its acceptance, not merely as an academic proposition but as a basis for action by the Government. I invite the House to give attention to an aspect that has already been emphasised, and that is the implications of the creation of this committee upon the problem of migration. I have visited certain countries of the Empire, and wherever I have gone I have always made inquiries into the operation of systems of settlement. I cannot but believe that the economic position of this country is such that sooner or later the Government will, by sheer force of circumstances, be compelled to take action. I would much prefer the problem of Empire settlement to be taken up in an atmosphere such as we now might have, rather than in a panic atmosphere later on.

It is not a problem to be dealt with lightly. Let me issue a word of warning. There is no hon. Member in this House, even including the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who has a more profound faith in the British Empire than I have, but we should be rational in our consideration of this matter, and we should remember that the countries of the Empire have not been immune from the stresses due to the world forces which have been operative during the past few years. The Dominions have had to face serious economic crises, and the use of machinery has affected the life of the Dominions to a very considerable extent. I remember standing on the steps of a ranch in Canada and asking the Scottish rancher why it was that now they did not allow Welsh miners to come to Canada for the harvest. I was informed, "That's Massey Harris." He said, "There was a time when I employed every spring between 30 and 50 workers, and every autumn somewhere between 130 and 150, but now, with Massey Harris's combine, I need only 14 men all the year round." Go to the Middle West States in America; you find that mechanisation, or what they call "technological advance," has come along and has driven millions of people off the land. You cannot expect Canada or any of our Dominions to welcome haphazard settlers, people who are just drifting along and waiting for a job, when their Governments are face to face with a very serious problem of labour displacement owing to technological advance.

I had an experience in Canada of the value of planned settlement. There was a time when youths were encouraged to go to Canada, and, when they went, some employer might take them who was temperamentally unfitted and economically inadequate to keep such a lad. The lad was unhappy, he drifted from that farm, and went in quest of a job to another, and finally drifted to the town simply to swell the ranks of the unemployed. An extraordinarily intelligent scheme was fashioned between the Young Men's Christian Association in this country and the United Church of Canada, whereby these farms were inspected, and farmers were approved as suitable people for the employment and training of youths. At Norval, in Ontario, a hostel was built, so that a young boy who was hardly dealt with need not drift to the town; he went to the hostel, where his training con- tinued, he was compelled to work for his keep, and was sent to another farm where he was welcomed. I remember going on a prize-giving day to the hostel at Norval, and I was astonished at the enthusiasm of these lads. There were all sorts of international competitions, with lads from Wales competing in games and technical pursuits with lads from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and I realised then the value of planned settlement. It was a small experiment, but it seemed to me to indicate the lines along which we might move if we were to do anything worth while.

May I just refer to the question of finance? I have no doubt that, if we are to people these void lands and develop the potential resources of the Empire, we shall have to spend money, and it would be futile for the House facilely to pass a Resolution without facing up to its financial implications. But may I suggest that the Government take into account what unemployment is costing us to-day? Some time ago, as a result of inquiries from various Ministries, I made a statistical survey of a depressed area, namely, Wales, and I should like, if I may, to give the House a few figures. In five years we paid out through the Employment Exchanges of Wales £35,634,000. During that time the total income of the Insurance Fund from employers and workmen in Wales was only £6,300,000, so that we paid out through the Employment Exchanges in Wales—I am leaving out of the computation public assistance to able-bodied men—in transitional payments and insurance benefit alone we paid out in five years £29,000,000 more than was received in insurance contributions. I suggest with great respect that that money could have been very well employed in creating opportunities of work, and that the Government, unless they are going to allow certain of these areas, and my own country of Wales in particular, to become degraded into parasite communities, with vast aggregations of their people becoming stagnant and degraded with prolonged idleness, have to face up to one of two alternatives, and I think to both, namely, creating in Wales and in other depressed areas development commissions co-ordinating all the Governmental and Departmental activities, and facing up to their responsibility for putting idle people in employment.

I do not think that even that in itself would be enough, because I believe that the Empire offers very great opportunities, not for haphazard individual settlement, a wandering from place to place, with diminishing resources, looking for work, but for the establishment of communities. After all, that is the traditional way of Colonial development. You had Nova Scotia, you had New England, and back in the seventeenth century New Wales. When Wales was going through a period of profound depression, William Vaughan established settlements in Newfoundland and, if you look at Mason's map of 1624, you will find round Trepassy Bay such names as Carmarthen, Cardigan, Pembroke, settlements embodying a sense of community with the people drawn from the same race. That is the traditional way whereby we have colonised the British Empire. We might very well return to that tradition. We have a great opportunity. The people of this country will not allow capital resources in terms of human life and human potentialities forever to become increasingly demoralised. A great responsibility rests upon the Government. I would urge them to develop our home and imperial resources with all their might and main. In this Motion they have an opportunity of saying that they are prepared to enrich the void lands of the Empire and bind it anew and make it what it always, I hope, will be, a model to the world of a community of nations pledged to peace and progress.

10.37 p.m.


I am certain that the House is grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for having introduced this subject. The last speech makes us regret all the more that certain other affairs have intruded into the evening, so that far too short a time has been devoted to a matter of first-class importance. I have watched some Members rising each time to whose speeches I and the rest of the House would very much like to listen, but I am afraid the affairs of Cardiff may possibly result in their being cut out. My hon. and gallant Friend stated the case and put forward arguments with which many of us would agree, including my right hon. Friends representing the Government on this bench. The British Empire covers a vast part of the land area of the earth. It is composed of a large number of countries, some of them self-governing, some not self-governing. The economic produce of those vast areas is very varied and the economic relations of those different countries is very complex. Clearly if economic relations so complex are to be managed as they should be, there must be a good deal of co-operation and co-ordination of effort. As a matter of fact, certain Imperial bodies exist for bringing about that co-operation and co-ordination in certain departments. Some of them have been referred to. There is the Imperial Economic Committee, for instance, there is the Imperial Shipping Committee, there is the Executive Council of the various Imperial Agricultural Bureau, there is the Imperial Communications Advisory Committee and various other bodies. Certain departments of the work are already covered by committees or bodies representative of the different parts of the Empire concerned.

There was also the Empire Marketing Board, in many ways the most promising of them all, alas now deceased, and the decease of the Empire Marketing Board is very relevant to the subject that we are discussing. It was a body which was extending its interest and its influence over many important Imperial questions, and it was doing admirable work. There was not a single Government in the Empire, either in this country, in the Dominions or in the Colonies which was not prepared to pay the highest possible tribute to the work of the Empire Marketing Board and yet, when only a few months ago the question as to whether arrangements could be made for the continuance of the Empire Marketing Board was raised, it was found impossible to make those arrangements and come to the necessary agreement. It was not any fault of this Government that the Empire Marketing Board came to an end. Our representatives, when that matter was discussed, made it clear that we would like the Empire Marketing Board to continue doing its work and that we would for our part make whatever arrangements, financial or otherwise, were necessary in order to enable it to continue. But that body, which was something far short of the kind of statutory standing committee which my hon. Friend has suggested, for reasons which I need not go into, was brought to an end.

Its work was not entirely brought to an end. A good deal of the work which it was doing is being carried on to-day under other Imperial co-operative committees. My right hon. Friend, for instance, was able to announce from this Box not long ago that in the year 1934–35 something like £200,000 would be spent by various bodies in the Empire in continuing the research work which the Empire Marketing Board was supervising so admirably. Therefore, a certain amount of this economic co-operation is going on. But my hon. Friend is not satisfied. He wants a standing committee big enough and authoritative enough to deal with questions of Empire development in a general way, and to cover the whole field. There is a great deal to be said for that, but I am certain that he will agree with me that if that Standing Committee is to be established and is really to do useful work there must be agreement by all the governments of the Empire concerned in order to establish it. It is an absolutely essential condition that all the governments concerned should have their representatives on such a committee. It is essential that they should be an agreed body set up by agreement between the governments of the Empire concerned. The fate of the Empire Marketing Board indicates the kind of reception which such a proposal would get at this moment.

As my hon. Friend reminded the House, the whole question of the machinery necessary in these times to promote economic co-operation within the Empire has been discussed within the last few months. The question came up at the Ottawa Conference, but the delegates at Ottawa were very busy working out the intricate details of that series of trade treaties which resulted from the Conference, and they therefore postponed the discussion of this matter of machinery of economic development. But before they left Ottawa they decided to establish a special Committee which should devote the whole of its time to examining the question of economic co-operation. A committee was set up last year, known as the Skelton Committee, after the very distinguished Canadian representative who sat in the chair, and that Committee was to do the following things: To consider the means of facilitating economic consultation and co-operation between the several governments of the Commonwealth, including— I leave out certain words that are not relevant to my point— an examination of what alterations or modifications, if any, in the existing machinery for such co-operation within the Commonwealth are desirable. Therefore, it was perfectly open to that committee to recommend that such a standing committee as has been discussed to-night, or any other committee should be established. After very full examination of the question, extending over many weeks, the committee reported. It made various recommendations, which are being carried into effect, but it certainly did not recommend the establishment of a standing committee to watch over the great question of Empire development. That, really, is the answer to the Motion put down for discussion this evening. Whatever our views may be of the Motion, however anxious we may be to establish more machinery than exists at present, that machinery is only going to be useful and is only going to function properly if it is agreed to by all the Governments concerned and all the Governments concerned are ready to co-operate in it. I know that the recommendations of the Skelton Committee fall very far short of the kind of machinery which many people have been suggesting.

So far as the Government are concerned we should like to establish as comprehensive a machinery as is possible for promoting economic co-operation and the co-ordination of all our efforts in the economic field. Our views have been expressed time after time at Imperial Conferences and committees when this question has been discussed. We should not stand in the way of the establishment of whatever comprehensive machinery is necessary, but we alone cannot decide to establish that machinery, nor could any Dominion alone decide to establish it. It has to be much more widely agreed. If such a committee as has been suggested, or something approaching it, did not come out of the Skelton Committee, I am afraid that at this moment it is not practical politics to contemplate anything further. I am quite certain that the recommendations of the Skelton Committee achieved the maximum of what can be agreed in present circumstances by the Governments of the Empire.

I made a number of other notes of points in the Debate, which has been kept very short. There are, however, some hon. Members who are anxious to speak, and I think I have said enough to express the point of view of the Government on this matter. Therefore, in order, at any rate, that one other hon. Member may get in, I think I may be excused if I do not deal with questions such as butter and other points that have been raised. The greater part of the speeches have been devoted to migration, but I am afraid that on that question I can only use a phrase which is used so often at Question Time, and that is that I cannot add anything to what I said on a previous occasion about two weeks ago. To sum up the attitude of the Government, we shall use to the utmost the machine for Imperial economic co-operation which exists, and with regard to any further machinery we certainly shall not lose any opportunity of making the machinery as comprehensive as is necessary. We shall seize any opportunity that comes along for making the machinery more adequate to carry on the tremendous work of economic development and the harmonising of economic relations within the British Empire.

10.50 p.m.


I should like to put in a plea for doing what we can to provide machinery for co-operation. We have sooner or later to face the elaboration of an Empire development plan that would co-ordinate in an economic unit all development in Empire countries. It may be profitable to sketch briefly what this plan would entail. In the first place, it would mean the planning of production and marketing on an Empire basis; that is production for markets assured by Empire preferences, foreign agreements and otherwise. In the second place, we want mutual agreement as to the lines of development, so that each Empire country will produce the commodities which are most economic and most profitable to it. In the third place, development will require communications and transport facilities; in the last place it will require labour, which, of course, includes the question of migration.

The foundation of such a plan was laid at Ottawa. It would, of course, be subject to continual revision and modification as conditions changed and experience indicated. In the preparation of the plan we have to consider the United Kingdom, the Colonial Empire and the Dominions as an economic unit. An examination of what is being done discloses that in this country we are approaching a national development plan, and also that there is gradually evolving a Colonial Empire development plan. As yet, however, there is no co-ordination with the Dominions in a comprehensive manner. Survey work has been done, which is an essential preliminary to all planning, by the Imperial Economic Committee and the Imperial Committee, but no comprehensive planning is undertaken by them. These are the only committees which remain to deal with inter-Empire matters. A standing committee or some similar machinery is necessary to undertake development planning. There are difficulties, but I submit that it should be easier to come to such arrangements with Empire countries than with foreign countries. There is no suggestion that the interests of one Empire country would be subordinated to those of another. It is a simple economic fact that unless we co-operate in development planning, standards canot be improved and may not even be maintained.

We might examine for a moment one or two of the questions raised. There is the consideration of the underlying principles of all planning for development on this scale. First of all, development depends on the potential production and markets; and then we have labour and finance. That is the old formula: men, money and markets. This presumes economic migration. I hold that migration should be economic; it should be treated in relation to this plan and not as an isolated problem. A policy of economic nationalism for any unit of the Empire is not possible unless on a comparatively low standard of living, so that Empire and foreign trade are essential. Another important point is that economic circumstances have made it necessary for the Dominions to industrialise themselves, and this fact one fears must be accepted as permanent. It is no longer a question of complementary trade as in the case of the Colonies, where they supply raw material and we supply manufactures. These seem to me to be the principles on which this Empire planning would be conducted.

I made the suggestion that in this country we are approaching a national development plan. I think that is obvious when we consider that agriculture and industry are being planned and so are transport, land and the public services, and we have large markets assured by preferences and agreements. We have never before been in a better position for planning with the Dominions. Again, I refer to the Colonial Empire Development Plan which is being gradually built up on the survey of production and trade development. This includes the possibilities of production of certain commodities and the markets and labour available. This basis of information is essential in preparing colony development plans and programmes of communications, public services, health, education and other things which are necessary and are possible owing to trade development. Such a wide study of production gives a guide to the development of commodities most suitable and profitable in each colony. It would be, for example, uneconomic to plant more sugar or rubber, because there is already a large world over-production in these commodities. Another recent development is the co-operation in marketing which is taking place.

I suggest that this study of colonial Empire development may well serve as a model for that wider Empire planning which the proposed Committee would undertake. I should like to join with the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) who referred to the excellent work being done by the Secretary of State for the Colonies not only in the complete preparations for the Ottawa Conference and the successful results in getting preferences from the Dominions for all the Colonies but also to the work done since in instituting and carrying out this survey of production and trade development in the Colonies which will guide them in their future development.

The preliminary work so essential to any planning is being done by the Imperial Shipping Committee and the Imperial Economic Committee. The Imperial Shipping Committee deals with specific questions referred to it by Empire Governments regarding shipping facilities, harbours, etc., but it has made no general survey of shipping routes and facilities, and one of the reasons given is that it has not had the money to do so. Again, the Imperial Economic Committee deals with marketing enquiries and trade surveys regarding production and consumption in Empire and foreign countries, the import and export figures, the competitive situation and the progress in production and export in the Empire compared with foreign countries. After the closing of the Empire Marketing Board it took on the publication of the Market Intelligence Notes and the world surveys of trade and production. I suggest that Empire Governments should come together and, on the basis of all this very valuable information, work out a common plan of Empire development.

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

  1. ADJOURNMENT. 13 words
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