§ 7.30 p.m.
Sir ARTHUR SHIRLEY BENN: I beg to move,
That this House is of opinion that the time has now come when His Majesty's Government should get in touch with the Governments of the Dominions with a view to putting forward a scheme for the voluntary redistribution of the white peoples of the Empire and the stimulation of shipping and trade under the flag.
§ I need hardly apologise to the House for bringing up this matter again, for on the last two or three occasions on which I have raised it I have found that almost everyone in the House agreed with my proposition. In 1924 a resolution 441 was passed stating that the future could be preserved only by the cultivation of Empire trade. The then President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Sidney Webb, stated during the Debate that he was willing to set up a committee which I suggested to deal with the matter. He appointed a committee and chose Sir Arthur Balfour of Sheffield as its chairman. I think the reports of that committee are things that we ought to be very thankful to have. In February, 1926, I again moved a Motion and put forward a scheme of State migration on a large scale. In December, 1932, the House carried unanimously a resolution which pointed out that migration overseas was much lower than before the War and urged the Government to take immediate steps to secure the co-operation of the Dominions in a comprehensive scheme of migration within the Empire. When that resolution was carried unanimously I had hopes that action would be taken, but in April last the Dominions Secretary told me that the question of types of schemes and the resumption of migration was receiving the most earnest consideration of the Government, and that new schemes could not be started until conditions were more favourable.
§ I believe the time has come when action must be taken if we are to continue our Empire as it is. We look around to-day at the various countries that are our competitors, and we see in every one of them an enormous amount of unemployment, thousands and thousands of men and women who want work and cannot get it, and we know that one of the reasons is that every country is endeavouring to introduce machinery that will enable mass production to be undertaken, and that this will take away from the ordinary worker the handicraft for which he is noted. In such circumstances we have to take new measures. We are the oldest and most experienced of the self-governing Dominions which are called by some the Commonwealth of British Nations. These Dominions own the British Empire and are responsible for the Empire. I believe that every one of the Colonial peoples realises that it has a great job to perform and a great property inherited, and that there must be development if the Empire is to be of use.442
§ We had the Economic Conference at Ottawa in 1932. The note of the solidarity of our race was sounded in London in 1930 and acted upon in Ottawa. Inter-Imperial trade has increased but if we are to have still more inter-Imperial trade we must get our friends thoughout the Empire to realise not only that we have to keep up our trade but that we have to keep our British ships going in order to carry our goods between the different parts of the Empire. We cannot discriminate against the foreigner but we can say that tariff preferences will only be given in cases where the goods are carried in British ships. To-day when we look round the Empire we must realise that the men at the head of affairs in the various Dominions and Colonies are just as loyal as their predecessors—those predecessors who in 1921 sat here in London and supported the idea of State migration worked by Great Britain and by the Dominions and Colonies. That attempt was not successful, but one does not always succeed at the first attempt. The next attempt will succeed.
§ I must apologise to the House for the huskiness of my voice. I am speaking under a disadvantage in that respect. I would only say that if our people can be brought together we have in the Empire vast territories which need development. We can build railways for those territories; we can improve docks, we can send out pioneers and, in assisting in the development of those places, we shall do a very good thing both for ourselves and for the Dominions. We are told, of course, that this is not the time for such schemes and that there is no money for them. I suggest that if it is for the good of our people, we ought to have the vision and the courage to undertake such a work and that we can get the necessary money for it even if we have to borrow it and put it on to the future. If such a policy would give employment to our people here and keep our race together, then we ought to undertake it. I hope the House of Commons will tell the Government to go ahead with it, to consult the Dominions and to try to make the Dominions realise that it is their duty just as much as ours to see that the Empire is developed if they intend to keep countries which many other nations to-day long to hold.443
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT: I beg to second the Motion.
§ I am sure I voice the general opinion of the House when I say how much we sympathise with the hon. Baronet who, in spite of the physical disability from which he is, at the moment, suffering, has once more proclaimed his faith in the great Imperial idea. I can only say as a personal friend of his that I have watched with admiration for 30 years his unceasing work to rouse us to the knowledge that this is not merely a small island but the centre of the greatest collection of States known in the history of the world. My hon. Friend has asked the Government to take early steps to consult with the Dominions and Colonies regarding the whole question of the population of the Empire and the other vital topics of the extension of Imperial trade and the safeguarding of the life of the British shipping industry. We bring forward these ideas in great friendship to the Government. I believe there is not a single Member of any party who would not desire to see an examination of all the possibilities as to how we can restore the prosperity of the Empire as a whole.
§ Personally, I should like to see a conference of Members of Parliament from various parts of the Empire, because I am convinced that there is no general opposition among the rank and file in the Dominions to such ideas as we have to put before the House. By such a method we could bring together Members of all parties to discuss this great proposal. I think the suggestion recently put forward by Mr. Bruce, representing Australia in this country, are worthy of consideration, namely, that there should be some permanent committee or board for the purpose of looking ahead to see how we can successfully plan future developments and avoid the pitfalls which are being created to-day owing to difficulties in primary production and in other ways. We ought to be able to look many years ahead to see how the various parts of the Empire can help each other. It is not an exaggeration to say that all the great nations to-day are planning ahead, or trying to do so. They are working to develop their resources, to increase the interchange of products in their own countries—perhaps too much so from one point of view—and to absorb their unemployed. Some of them, we 444 know, are working out plans for many years ahead. I am not referring now to Russia but to other countries which have long term plans.
§ I think everyone will agree that Great Britain may be pround of her achievement since the doleful year of 1930 and the first six months of 1931. We have accomplished a remarkable recovery in the face of great difficulties, and he would not be fair who would deny that this Parliament has turned the nation from the downward path and given new hope and inspiration to the people. But I sometimes wonder whether the Government are not so absorbed in the mighty problems of the moment that they fail to look ahead five, ten, fifteen or twenty years. Some of us feel that we in this country are living too much from hand to mouth. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that all the time the unemployment problem grows in intensity and a complete solution becomes harder to find. Whatever success we may achieve in building up our internal trade, and much has been achieved, we must recollect that there are 200,000 additional potential workers coming on to the labour market every year. It is inconceivable that we can dispose of the unemployment problem or even bring the mass of our unemployed back into work under those conditions.
§ In 10 years time the fall in the birth-rate may ease the situation to a certain extent but, whatever our political opinions may be, we cannot regard with equanimity the situation which exists to-day. Although we hope for a steady improvement we cannot complacently wait for another decade, seeing hopelessness, misery and despair in the hearts of such a large section of our population. Many of us feel that we ought to abandon the role of Micawber and seek the vision of Cecil Rhodes. I do not think any party in the State to-day has any fixed ideas as to what our future policy ought to be and I am sure that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) will forgive me if I suggest that the official Opposition are not allowed to state their ideas until they get their marching orders from Bristol on some future occasion. The attitude of the Liberal party is largely negative. They are the party of dissent and the party of yesterday. But I am hopeful of the party of to-morrow—the Conservative party.445
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD: The party of Cecil Rhodes is the party of yesterday.
§ Sir H. CROFT: No. It is the party to which we may see even the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) coming at some future time, in view of his progress from the benches below the Gangway to those above the Gangway. But I would remind Conservatives that for the last 30 years we have been profound believers in the British Empire. I am not suggesting that there are not men in all parties who are equally sincere in that belief, but for the last 30 years we have always informed our audiences throughout the country of the great possibilities which we believe to lie in the British Empire. We have to get down to reality. It is no good assuming the attitude of waxworks. We must act and we want a great plan—something to strive for and something to win.
§ On behalf of a committee which has been sitting for the last year dealing with this subject I desire to place before the House, not the full plan upon which we have been working because that would be impossible in the time at our disposal, but the broad outlines of the conclusions at which we have arrived. May I say in passing, in regard to this committee, that it consists of some 14 hon. Members of this House, not all of one party, and some members of the other House. We have had the assistance of six of the greatest experts on this question, men who have given their lives to the problem of Empire population and development and who are not in Parliament. During the past year we have examined either as witnesses or by personal consultation 75 gentlemen who can also be described as experts in their particular spheres, including men who have worked as farmers in the territories under consideration, explorers, engineers and officials of various states and provinces. I think I can say that we are all convinced that the greatest possibilities for the development of our industry and the restoration of the prosperity of the Empire as a whole, lie in the cordial co-operation of the various parts of the Empire along large lines. I cannot speak too highly of the patriotism of those gentlemen who, day after day, throughout the past year have given up their time and devoted their attention to this 446 great work without hope of any reward other than the knowledge that they are serving their country and Imperial interests.
§ Such as they are we offer our ideas not to any party—though we hope that some party or parties will adopt them—but to the nation. The population problem is as grave in Great Britain as in any country in the world. We are thicker on the ground than other peoples and that problem is not going to grow easier with time. But if we can think in terms of Empire it must be admitted that there are territories within the confines of the Empire which hold out greater opportunities than any country under any other flag in the world can possibly provide. What was the genesis of this terrible trouble of unemployment? It was simply the cessation of emigration. If migration to the Empire alone had continued from 1918 at the same rate as migration was flowing in the five years prior to the War, we should have no unemployed in this country at the present day. If we grant that great fact, then I submit that we are putting our finger on the problem and also on the solution of that problem. Everyone knows that indiscriminate migration to the Empire is impossible. The Dominions will not accept migrants at the present time. As far as I can find, it is not hostility, certainly not general hostility, but necessity, which compels them to take up that position, because they have their own unemployment problems. My friends and I do not wish to aggravate those problems. On the contrary, we believe that such ideas as we desire to put before the House would go a very long way towards solving them.
§ I think it is generally admitted that Governments have tried schemes in the past and have very largely failed. No Government, in my opinion, can father a settlement scheme and see the settler right through. What is needed is, that the whole of the work should be in the hands of a corporation, or a chartered company if you will, whose whole future depends on the success of the settler, a corporation with whose fortunes the settler knows his future is bound up, which will equip him, which will see him on suitable soil, in territory which they have surveyed, where you have the three great essentials of soil, rainfall, and money, and where the corporation will 447 see him through until he has harvested his crops—a corporation which will market his crops, so that they will be able to send truckloads of produce from great communities of settlers, rather than from scattered individuals settled in far places—a corporation that will put the settler on the road to owner-occupation through the help of such corporation.
§ We ask something of the Dominions. I am not afraid of making a suggestion to the Dominions. I know it is difficult for the Government and that it might look as if they were butting in, but I am not afraid of sending a message to the Dominions. I have seen far too much of the men of the Dominions ever to believe that there is any real hostility, if we speak straight to them. I have seen men from the Dominions die like flies beside me in the Great War, and I shall never forget the amazing sacrifices of those wonderful Expeditionary Forces which came from overseas. Therefore, I speak to them as friends, and we ask that the Dominions should give grants of large areas, suitable for close settlement, for mixed farming, away from the cities and, if possible, in unpopulated areas where there are no insuperable difficulties with regard to the vested interests either of labour or of capital. We want the Dominions to let us build up entirely new colonies of British settlers in the undeveloped portions of their States and Provinces; and in return for the grant of those lands, we propose that Britain, through a corporation or company of unimpeachable integrity and authority, should give the Dominions, at no cost to themselves, hosts of new taxpayers and consumers, to their great enrichment and the immense social and material advantage of our country—in other words, new producers and consumers and new markets for Dominion and British goods within the structure of the British Empire.
§ One word with regard to the greatest needs of the Dominions. It seems to me that they require, more than anything else, increased populations, to share their tax burdens and to make it more easy for them to carry on their social services, to increase their internal trade, to provide freights for their transport systems, which at present have no adequate freights to make them pay, and to help to render their countries immune from 448 the attacks of a possible enemy in the future and to prevent the covetousness of other countries looking upon their countries which they have not developed. And what is the greatest, need of this country? Surely it is to bring the great mass of our unemployed people back into productive enterprise, to save them from the physical, moral, and spiritual destruction which years of unemployment must mean, to give them once more the dignity of effort and labour, to relieve also the whole of our industrial and taxable population from the extraordinarily high burden of taxation, which is at present one of the real causes of unemployment in our midst, and which, unless we can lift it, must inevitably retard our recovery, if not make it impossible, and thereby injure our workers more than any other class.
§ These two great problems of Britain and the Dominions can obviously cancel each other out if we have the wit and will and if our resources of wealth are applied in that direction, provided always that we have the general concurrence and good will of the statesmen of the Empire as a whole. We propose—and after all, these ideas are not larger than some great men in other countries at the present moment are putting before their people—to move a large population of our people overseas. I should like a first scheme aiming at something like 250,000 people, and I suggest that we should aim at this within at least the next 10 years. People may say: "This is really an impossible idea that you are putting before the House." Well, we moved 7,000,000 men in the War, we rooted them up from their homes, gave them new homes, put them into barracks or hutments or somewhere, and moved them across the whole world, and I cannot believe it is such an impossible task for us to attempt to move a population of the description that I have mentioned, provided we can get the consent of our friends overseas.
§ We desire to see a large effort. We want to see chains of villages laid out in these territories overseas, each village people by families from the same city or area in the homeland, and we would like to see the villages ultimately named after the home centres from which these people came. We propose that the village populations should be recruited together, trained together, housed together, in special villages in this country, which we 449 would construct, each under picked overseers, and that the whole village unit or units, when trained, should proceed overseas, under the same overseers, to their destinations, which to a certain extent would have been prepared in advance for them and for their reception by the company in those territories. We propose to construct railways and roads to link up these chains of villages one with the other, and ultimately with the towns and possibly the cities which we believe may arise out of this scheme. We propose that the whole of the vast material for this great construction work should be provided by Britain and by the Empire overseas, thus giving employment to every class of producer, from the steelworkers in this country right through all the various kinds of work down to the lumbermen who fell the raw timber in the Empire overseas. We propose that the whole of the preparatory construction work in these new centres should be carried out by British and Dominion workers, probably in equal numbers, and, of course, the construction of the training villages in this country, which in itself will be quite a considerable work, will be carried out by our own workers in this country also.
§ What about the cost? Altogether apart from the ultimate financial return, which I for one am convinced, and I think our Committee is convinced, will very likely be great, we say that even if we were asking the State to pay cash to the extent of the interest on the capital involved, which we are not going to do, the interest cost of our first scheme, the first idea we have, of some 40,000 settlers with their wives and families, or possibly 160,000 souls in all, would not exceed the annual cost of únemployment benefit paid to an equivalent number of workers in Great Britain to-day. I particularly stress the words "equivalent number," because it is not our intention to take chronic unemployed, who have very likely lost their energy and their adventurous spirit, and try to dump them down in the Colonies. As a matter of fact, most of the hundreds of letters that I am receiving at present are from people who are in employment in this country, but who want to develop, to get their own land and their own homes, but we believe that every employed man in this country whom you could migrate under such a scheme as this would pro- 450 vide a gap for one of our unemployed at the present moment, and I venture to think the relief to the State would be the same in the end.
§ Now, if I may, I will address a word to all those in this House who may be economists—and I suppose we are all economists, or think we are—and ask them once more to come back to realities, to get a sense of proportion. Since the War we have spent, I think I am right in saying, £1,000,000,000 in doles, which, after all, really come to this: they are really charity, provided by the worker's fellow-workers, by his industrial employers, and by the State—£1,000,000,000, from none of which can we claim, unfortunately, that there has been any very great productive return. We have spent something like £200,000,000 in providing temporary work for not a large number of thousands of unemployed, many of whom, I think it will be admitted, are now back again at the Labour Exchange. If we had had one-quarter of that sum at the disposal of a corporation such as I suggest, and if, with the consent of the Dominions, we could have placed the number of persons I suggest in the first scheme—40,000 settlers, with their wives and children, or 160,000 souls in all—on lands and in homes which would in 21 years become their own, that would be something which I think everyone would agree would be wise statesmanship. Since 1920 we have lent something like £200,000,000, if the Midland Bank figures are correct, to Germany, Austria and other European countries in order to set them on their feet, while our people in large numbers continue to walk the streets. Much of the interest on these European loans is in default. Under our scheme, I believe that you would not find a similar condition and that there is no more likely to be default than there has been in any other great Imperial undertaking during these past years when the British Empire has been such a shining example to the world in paying its way and paying its interest.
§ I hope I have shown the House that even if the whole risk of financing this project were to be assumed by the State, it would, on the whole, not be an unwise piece of business. But this is not our suggestion. We are asking that some kind of guarantee should be given 451 to a corporation or company of this description under the Trade Facilities Act or some other similar proposal in order that we could borrow at such terms as to make the plan a definite success. May I say at once, in case there is any mistake about this, that as far as I know no member of the Committee which has been working on this subject has any idea of being interested financially in any company or companies which may be formed. Of one thing I am assured, and that is that when we have an opportunity of disclosing our full plan in a suitable Debate we can prove that the State will gain great and lasting financial and economic advantages from such a scheme. This is a very broad outline, and I hope an early opportunity will be given when we can go into the details of this plan and when various Members of the Committee will have opportunities of speaking on various subjects such as recruitment, training, transport, reception, the clearing of land, the provision of water supplies, and also the ultimate increase in the value of the territories which must occur and which itself would prove very adequate security to any company working along these lines.
That is a broad outline of our ideas, and I hope that it will not be said in the course of the Debate: "The time is not now; we must not work out plans of this kind now." Let me tell His Majesty's Government that, if there is anything in these ideas, the longer they delay the less favourable will be the terms on which they can secure these territories. Little developments would take place in areas which are untouched, and they would greatly complicate the scheme. I hope that the Government will regard this as a constructive plan worthy of consideration. There are some who feel that we ought to draw in our horns and that our burdens are greater than we can bear. Speaking for my friends, I believe the constructive genius of our race is not yet dead and that we should acquit our task nobly, that we should place our brains and skill and great wealth at the disposal of our fellow citizens throughout the length and breadth of the Empire in order that they may build afresh and plan anew, and in order that they may develop in every continent in which the British flag flies.
Renew or die: Renew the age-long flame, Or know that pride of race and crown of worth Shall pass and leave the shadow of a name To speak of our inheritance on earth.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG: The hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) is to be congratulated and thanked by every Member of the House who is keen upon this subject for once more giving us an opportunity of discussing it, for opportunities have been unfortunately rare. I do not go so far as the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) went in his speech, with the greater part of which I find myself in the readiest agreement. I would not go so far as to say that the stoppage in migration was the cause of unemployment in this country. I am afraid that we have to admit that migration itself has been stopped by the causes which have stopped so many other activities in the world, and that the stoppage of migration is a symptom to a very large extent and not a cause. If we are to have a true diagnosis that fact must be faced, and we have to deal with the causes which have made migration get gradually weaker and weaker until it has absolutely ceased. I agree with the hon. Baronet that for the last 70 years at least migration has been an essential element in the economic balance of this country, and that without it this country could not possibly have carried on. I think that fact is demonstrated by such statistics as we possess, which show that something like 15,000,000 people left this country in the 60 years between 1851 and 1911. But for that export of population and the export of capital upon which it was based, this country could never have carried on. Its wealth has been built up on that process and a great deal of the rise in the standard of living which happily has been built up here has been due to that process too.
§ The undoubted failure of that movement is of the gravest consequence, and it is of especial consequence because it has occurred at the very moment when the country is already suffering from the loss of markets overseas for its export trade. Every 100,000 people who do not leave this country in the way that they did in the past means an additional strain on the export industries of this country, and that strain has become in- 453 tensified all the time while the markets overseas were failing us. That process, bad enough in itself, has been aggravated by one other factor as well. People have been moving steadily off the land of this country from the countryside to the towns. The figures in that respect are most eloquent. I was looking at the last report of the Overseas Settlement Committee the other day, and it showed how acute this problem has become. I think that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is Chairman of the Committee. The report showed that in 1932, while 25,000 people from this country went overseas to settle, 75,000 returned. To that must be added the fact that in the last ten years in this country 140,000 who were occupied in agriculture have left it. That is according to the latest labour returns. I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture stopped that process in 1933 for the first time, I believe, in 60 years, but the process has been going on steadily for many years past, and it has become even more acute since the War.
§ Of course, that has gravely aggravated the problems with which we have to deal. There is this population banking up in this country at the present time, but we have not only to face the population we have. The Astor Migration Committee went into the figures to see what extra population we should have coming on the employment market in the next 10 years, and they found that if even the births and deaths remained the same, we should have to employ 1,000,000 more people between the ages of 16 and 61 in the next 10 years. All that is a tremendous strain considering what an unsuccessful effort we are making to deal with the population that we have. I do not believe that the permanent unemployment which has been with this country ever since the War can be tackled unless the process of settlement on the land is renewed. There is, of course, a great measure of unemployment which is due to the world crisis, from which we have suffered like everybody else, and which has greatly intensified our unemployment. Remember, however, that we have never had fewer than 1,000,000 unemployed since the War, and the presence of that hard core of unemployment is, I believe, due to the fact that the economic balance of this country has been profoundly altered, and 454 to the fact that there is so little balance between the agriculture and the industry of this country, and that migration to lands oversea has got weaker and weaker until it has finally stopped.
I am going to assume that the Government are endeavouring to frame a policy on this subject. I assume that with confidence because, among other things, one is led to believe by what was said by the Overseas Settlement Committee's Report last year that they would produce—I hope without too much delay—the facts that are very much required, namely, a detailed review of what migration has meant and how the factors with regard to it now stand. I hope that if my hon. Friend takes part in the Debate he will be able to say that that report will be produced. It is of great importance that we should have it because these facts are very difficult to ascertain, and a great many of them are misinterpreted in current comment. There was one phrase in the Committee's Report which caused me considerable consternation, and I remember it now that this Debate occurs. The report said that His Majesty's Government were collecting facts
with a view to the formulation of a considered policy against the time when migration revives.
I hope that condition is not really being observed by the Government. We want migration to be revived by the action of the Government; we do not want the Government to wait until migration by some automatic process or other revives. That seems to be the duty of the Government when faced with such a problem as is presented by the permanent unemployment in this country, because it must be remembered that permanent unemployment is steadily increasing all the time. One cannot get away from the terrible figures. I have them up to December last year, and I find that while the general rate of unemployment has been falling the rate of permanent unemployment has been rising all the time. Every month last year the rate of permanent unemployment rose. That is the fundamental problem with which the Government have to deal. The Government have been given great power by the country, they have a great opportunity, and if they fail to deal with the problem not only they but all of us in the country will suffer.
§ A great many other Members wish to speak, and I do not think an occasion like this is the best for going into detailed plans, although, like my hon. Friend below me, I have given a good deal of study to different plans. I would like to mention one or two points which seem to me to be essential in any plan, and which, though I may be doing him an injustice perhaps, he overlooked. How are we going to move the people on the scale which he conceives? He talked of the movement of people during the War, but those were compulsory movements, and we have to consider how people can be persuaded to move at this time. I see great difficulty in that.
§ Sir H. CROFT: We have reason to believe that there are an immense number of our countrymen who would be only too ready to go if there were a real opportunity. That information is given to us by all the various organisations.
§ Sir E. GRIGG: I am very glad to have that explanation. From my own experience I should have doubted the existence of such numbers as he suggests who would be ready to emigrate at a word when told that a plan was complete. But whether the people of this country will be ready to emigrate or not, we must look at this from the point of view of the Dominions, and the fact is that the Dominions have never been anxious to take people from the towns, and that practically all successful settlement in the Dominions and in the United States has come from people born and bred on the land. It is very difficult, as a practical process, to take people from the surroundings of a great industrial urban area in this country and put them in new lands, however well they are looked after when they get there.
§ If we study the process of settlement of new lands throughout the world during the last century we shall find that, generally speaking, it was carried out, when successfully carried out, on the relay system. The western states of the United States of America were settled from the eastern states, a new population coming into the eastern states. South Australia was very largely settled from Victoria, the new emigrants coming on to land which had already been cleared and, to some extent, made ready for them. In the early years of this century 456 I myself watched the settlement of the Canadian prairies, and the most effective settlement came from Ontario, Quebec and the eastern provinces of Canada. Whatever we do, we must have a very strong leaven of men and women who know what life under new conditions means and who are prepared to help their comrades. I raise that point particularly because, if we are again to get migration from this country to the Dominions on a large scale we must begin by giving people here the opportunity of going on the land in this country. After all, what answer is there to a man who says, "Why cannot I grow the same thing in England as I am asked to grow in New Zealand?" It is a very natural question. Is there really a greater opportunity to make butter 12,000 miles away than here? Those are questions which have to be answered.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR: Is the hon. Member's point that we should endeavour to get our people permanently back on to the land? Is not the point rather that we should train those who are to be sent out before they go, fitting them here for the work which they will have to do abroad?
§ Sir E. GRIGG: The hon. and gallant Member must make his own speech in his own time. I agree that we can do a certain amount by training people before they go, but the process I had more in mind was that the people who understand the land here should have the opportunity of going and their places here should be taken by others who are not ready to go so far away. New settlement is much better done by our farming class than by any other class in this country, and I should like to see the farming population of this country increased, with the idea that some of it might be spared to go overseas, that process being spread over a certain number of years.
§ But when considering why emigration has ceased we must face the fact that it has ceased because farming does not pay. People would still be going to other countries if there were any prospect for them when they got there. The fact we have to face is that when they get there they will starve, and that is why a great many do not go, and why the whole process has died down. The Lord President of the Council said very truly in a 457 speech which he made somewhere the other day that he did not wish to see settlement on the land pursued any further in this country until our existing agriculture had been made to pay. I think that on this question we must get back to much simpler ideas than have prevailed for a long time past. We must get back to subsistence farming. The most successful settlement has been done on that basis. If we undertook to create a colony of people which would largely support itself, so that we could go to the Dominions and say "We are trying to establish, through these development or chartered companies, colonies which will support themselves and which will only to a very small degree compete for a share of the small quota you now enjoy in the English market," we should get very much better support than if we say "Here are hundreds of thousands of people arriving to make more competition for a market which is being narrowed all the time by the activities of the farmers in the United Kingdom,"—which is not at all an inviting prospect for the Dominions. Let us get back to subsistence farming, and say that is the process on which we propose, at any rate in the first instance, to work, and we shall get very much more support from the Dominions than we should get by any other process. I think my hon. Friend sitting opposite will support me, because the experiment in South America in which he has been interested has, I think, illustrated the truth of that statement.
§ There is only one other point I should like to make this evening, and that is that the Government ought not to attempt again to produce Government schemes. Practically all the migration schemes which I have seen which have been controlled by Governments have broken down, for reasons which I will not go into. They do not work. I do not believe that effective migration can be carried out except through private enterprice; and that is as true of settlement on the land in this country as of migration to the Dominions. I hope that when the Government go into plans, as I trust they are doing, for settling people on the land here as well as for reviving the process of migration to the Dominions, they will go very carefully into the economic basis of farming and discuss this matter with the banks. The banks are the key to this problem in this country now. 458 They are far the greatest landlords in this country, and I do not believe that any success can be achieved without their co-operation, but with their co-operation, which I am sure would be willingly given, a great start could be made with this problem.
§ I will not keep the House longer, except to express again my confident belief that the Government are working at this problem and will give us a scheme of land settlement before very long. We are going to spend day after day in this third year of the National Government on a Bill which is dealing with the unemployed, I agree, but is not dealing with unemployment. It is much more important to deal with unemployment than to deal with the unemployed. I hope that the Government will not forget that essential part of the task for which they were returned to power by this country.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR: I am a little puzzled by what was said by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) in regard to the scheme of migration. I understand that he is not opposed to that scheme provided that we first of all get men back on the land in this country and make farming pay in England. After that, we are to go forward by getting people who are trained on the land here, or rather their sons and daughters, to go into the migration schemes for the Dominions. I do not think that we could wait for such a process to take effect. It would take too long. We ought to take action now. There is not the slightest doubt that, unless we can get our people settled outside these shores, we shall never be able to cope with the unemployment problem of this country.
§ I would like to stress the vast importance of the British shipping industry to the country and to the Empire in connection with migration and trade. It is the most vital link. It is upon that link that the Empire has been built up, is dependent to-day and will be dependent in the future. You may develop the country and you may increase production; you may spend an enormous amount of time and energy in increasing production in any part of the Empire, but the whole of your trade and prosperity will ultimately depend upon those products being provided with a safe, cheap and certain means of transport across the seas. That 459 transport can only be provided by ships. Neither the air nor any other means of transport can ever take the place of ships. It is of vital importance to the Empire that such ships should be British or Imperial ships, and should be manned by British or Imperial crews.
§ It is of great importance, from the point of view of helping the unemployment situation in this country, to remember that there are 40,000 officers and men of the British Mercantile Marine out of work. An enormous amount of tonnage is laid up, and there is a great decrease in the volume of tonnage that we possess. The shipping industry is in an extremely serious condition. This is a question which demands the immediate attention of the Government, who should take some steps to overcome the position which exists at the present time. One of the lessons which we learned in the War was that never again should this country be so dependent upon the foreigner for its food and for the products of certain key industries as we found we were in 1914. It was unanimously agreed by the Imperial Conference that we should develop an inter-Imperial policy of trade and migration with the idea that we should become more and more dependent upon the resources of the Empire and less and less upon the foreigner. We started that policy at Ottawa. Schemes are now being put forward for the migration of our people in pursuance of that policy.
§ There is no difference in principle between being dependent upon the foreigner for our food and being dependent upon the foreigner for the transport of that food. They are equally wrong, and equally bad for this country and for the Empire. The sea-power of this country is absolutely essential, not merely in regard to the number of battleships, cruisers or destroyers that we have, but in regard to the number and volume of our mercantile marine. Those two sister sea services working in the closest operation should be able to assure to this country and to the Empire their economic life and security both in peace and in war. I stress the importance of numbers, because they are essential. During the Debate which took place in this House on the question of shipping a short time ago it was sug- 460 gested that numbers did not much matter, the turning over from the tramp steamer to the larger steamer which carried both passengers and cargo was not of importance, but I contend that it is of vital importance that such a change should not take place. We must have at our disposal numbers of merchant ships. Let it be remembered that in time of war, over and above the ships which are required to carry food, raw materials and manufactured articles, etc., from any part of the world to any other part of the world, it is necessary that our mercantile marine should be able to provide the transport for carrying troops from any part of the Empire to any other part.
§ During the late War, the losses in the mercantile marine were enormous, and, unless we have a very large volume of British shipping, it will be impossible for us to give security to our country and to the Empire in any future war. I make a great point of this, because in the late War I happened to be stationed in command of a cruiser in the North Sea during those terrible months of 1917 when it was a question whether the antisubmarine measures being taken would prevent the sinking of some 17 ships week by week. If it could not have been stopped in the spring of that year, this country would have had to sue for peace. I therefore stress the enormous importance of getting back again to that sea power upon which this Empire has been built, upon which it depends to-day and upon which it will depend for all time. It is not a matter merely as to whether shipowners make a profit, and it is not merely a national matter; it is so important that it is an Imperial matter. I would press upon the Government the necessity of having some Imperial body set up to deal not only with this matter of Imperial shipping in which the Dominions can do so much to help, but also with the enormous number of other Imperial matters which the Government have not time to study and to deal with.
§ The merchant shipping of practically every foreign country is to-day receiving a direct subsidy, or special freight rates on the railways, or special consideration in regard to harbour dues. By one artificial means or another, our shipping industry is being subjected to a totally unfair competition and in consequence we are losing our position as the carriers of 461 the world. It is the duty of the Government to deal with this position. I know that they are considering it, and that they are waiting for reports to be received from the shipping companies. I urge upon them the vital necessity that, with regard to this, the one great service upon which our existence depends, they should lose no time in taking such measures as are necessary to bring back to this country that sea power upon which the prosperity and security of the Empire must ultimately depend.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY: I rise after very little preparation, chiefly because of the speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), to which I listened with very great attention and of which I admired the spirit. As a very new Member in this House, I only wish he had been able to back up his arguments with more material support. This problem of migration is one of the most tangled of political problems. I do not quite know how to explain it, but I think it is very largely because, in a great many cases, people are asking somebody else to do something which they are not necessarily prepared to do themselves. When the hon. and gallant Member said that none of the gentlemen to whom he referred had any financial interest in the scheme, I almost wished that they had, because I believe that that is the only test in the long run One has to make up one's mind whether a scheme of this sort is to be carried on on what is in the long run a charity basis, or on an economic basis. I believe that the idea of artificial large-scale migration is a bankrupt idea. I say that with very great respect to the hon. and gallant Member, but not without a great deal of inquiry during the last few years and I think that the sooner we recognise that fact the sooner we shall get migration going. I am just as keen about doing so as the hon. and gallant Member, but I think that what we want is to debate this matter out.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE: The hon. Member says that large-scale migration is a bankrupt idea, but surely he has been connected with a settlement on a fairly large scale?462
§ Mr. LINDSAY I can only speak for myself, but I never have. The hon. and gallant Member talked in large terms, and not only that, but he talked in terms of an organisation within the settlement which was pure Socialism. He talked in terms of large grants and entirely new colonies on virgin soil. I am very practical about this question, and I want to know precisely where that virgin soil is, in the necessary quantity and with the right conditions as to rainfall, markets, timber and so on, within the Empire. I want to be shown the exact places, carefully surveyed. To a certain extent we are talking in the air until we know place after place where these things can be found. No doubt the hon. and gallant Member knows these places, but all I can say is that I have not been able to find out, going on the map, and sometimes on foot, through different parts of the Empire, where these exact spots are.
§ There is another point which I think we ought to make absolutely clear to our minds in Debate, and that is that we ought never to relate unemployment to migration. In case any hon. Member looks at it from that angle, let me say that I think it is a wrong angle, and to look at the problem in that way would kill the migration scheme from the start. In the first place, you would get the wrong people. It is, however, very easy to turn down schemes. The hon. and gallant Member mentioned Mr. Micawber, but there is a sort of inverted Mr. Micawber, waiting to turn things down. It is very easy to get schemes put before experts and turned down; it is always possible to pick holes in such schemes; but I think we ought to look at the experience since the War and ask what are the main lessons to be learned from it.
§ I may be wrong, but I should say that the two schemes which have succeeded most are the 3,000 families scheme in Canada and the £10 rate. What is the £10 rate? The £10 rate is helping a man to help himself. The man does not put his hand right into his pocket, but he puts it half-way in, and the rest comes from sources about which in many cases, he does not know. All that he knows is that the wheels have been oiled and the movement started. Personally, I should like to see a £10 rate in the Empire to get the movement going. It is a fact 463 that, so far as the statistics show, these two schemes have actually succeeded in moving large numbers of people from this country to the Dominions.
§ What is the experience of artificial settlement? The experience of it so far is that it has failed. Group settlement, with about two exceptions which I will name, has failed. Why has it failed? I think it has failed because you cannot settle people artificially in large blocks on the land unless you have very carefully considered the markets, unless you have recruited them—or, to put it, perhaps, better, they have recruited themselves—from this country, and unless you have a very highly trained administration on the other side. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth said that his scheme would have all these things, and it can be done on a small scale.
§ I happened to be connected with a scheme which I think has been more successful than any other—not from any action of mine, but before I had anything to do with it. It has been successful because it obeyed half-a-dozen of the first principles of settlement. One of those principles is, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), subsistence settlement. The profits come afterwards; they are the jam, if you like; but subsistence comes first. In the second place, a wise man was running it. It was neither Socialism nor democracy; in fact, there was a good bit of autocracy about it. It was run by a man who knew more about the subject than the other people. Where are there in this country to-day half-a-dozen men who know the first thing about settlement from a practical point of view? They might be found in some parts of the Dominions, but not here.
§ Sir H. CROFT: May I say that there was actually on the Committee with which we have been working a gentleman who has settled thousands of people in Australia?
§ Mr. LINDSAY: There are people in this country, whom we all know, in voluntary societies, who have some experience of what is called recruiting, that is to say, getting the right people instead of the wrong canes, but generally speaking there is a shortage of trained 464 men for this work within the Empire, and certainly within this country. In the case, however, of the 3,000 farms in Canada, those farms were present; they were in existence. In some cases they were only half developed, and in some cases only very little developed, but these people lived side by side with other Canadians, and one of the chief assets in that settlement scheme was the fact that the neighbour helped. The neghbour came in and lent tools and so on; very often someone from the women's institute helped the women who had never learned to make bread, and so on; and gradually the scheme was built up; but it was organic.
§ I do not know whether I am making the point clear or not, but the point I want to make is that there is a difference between an organic growth in migration, whether by oiling the wheels or drafting people into existing settlements, and what I think is the wrong method of artificial settlement of large numbers of people on virgin territory. If that could be done, I personally should be in the strongest agreement with it, but I do not remember any example of its ever having been a success. I do not say it is a good argument to say that it has not been tried; I am all for the spirit of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth; but I think we must have some thought on a question like this, because we are dealing with human beings. It is very different from investing money. Here you are investing the lives of human beings, and in modern days, when economic events in one country or in the world may suddenly seize hold of the prairies of Canada and for the time being practically reduce thousands of people to the condition of the dole, you have to be extremely careful what you are doing.
§ There is one point on which I disagree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham. My experience, for what it is worth, is that some of the finest settlers in the Dominions to-day have come from the Old Kent Road. I asked several times in Canada which was the best type of settler and invariably the reply came, "On the whole, we prefer a man who does not know too much about agriculture in the old country." So we need not be too nervous about the area in this country from which settlers come.465
§ Sir E. GRIGG: The point that I was making was not really so much that the man from the country made the better settler but that he was more ready to go.
§ Mr. LINDSAY: I am not sure that that is true. Of the actual number of settlers who are ready to go many are coming from the bigger urban areas. If these criticisms are largely negatived, what about the future? I was very much impressed with what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), that an inquiry was going on into shipping and the Government had not quite made up their mind on that question, and that there was an inquiry going on into migration and the Government had not quite made up their mind on that question. There are great problems of markets and of the relation between the farmer who grows butter in this country and the farmer who grows butter in New Zealand. All these questions are waiting for answers, and, when hon. Members say that we need a plan, I am not sure that they are not right. The time is very rapidly approaching when we shall have to deal with that solid core of unemployment, that million, and, while we do not talk of that in terms of actual settlement, we have to have several attacks made on the Problem. We want a sort of organic handling of the movement, and we want some training in our educational system so that people will have some idea of what they are going to in the Dominions. Experience on that point is appalling. We want a much better British representation on the migration question overseas.
§ There was a time a few years ago when, if we had been ready, we could have settled large numbers of people. People are going to-day from Europe to Canada, and we are not ready. A new bulge is coming in the next few years in adolescence. A very fine experience is being gained in the North of England in the training of boys between 14 and 18. There is some suggestion from the Opposition Benches that these boys in some sense are being forced to go abroad, but there is no truth whatever in that as a general proposition. The boys who have gone out to the Dominions during the last 10 years have gone out for the most part under excellent schemes and, no doubt, a wealth of 466 experience is being gained on both sides, so that the inefficient organisations can be weeded out and the best concentrated and turned on to that movement.
§ These are probably the first things to be tackled, but the question raised by this Debate is something bigger. It is whether there is any sort of possibility of planning, with some form of chartered corporation backed by the banks with adequate finance, I do not think on the scale laid down but on a somewhat lower scale to start with. Can we know exactly where the areas are, and can we obey the principles which I think almost all Members in the House are coming to agree are the principles, generally speaking, for conducting training in agriculture which is not some hide-bound form of Socialism, nor undiluted private enterprise, which is quite impossible when you are dealing with people coming to new territories. What you want is an organisation in those territories which will lay down a framework within which a man can work out his own salvation, if you like, build his own house and grow his own crops, and to a certain extent there may be marketing arrangements provided co-operatively. Those questions can be solved later, but the main principles are that some organisation shall go into the pioneer territory ahead of the migrant and make it generally possible for him to earn a living off his own bat. That was not done in Australia. The scheme was a failure because every principle of migration was ignored, and that is one of the reasons why we have the miserable position in regard to that settlement. It is high time that this House agreed on the basic principles of migration and settlement. We should then hear much less about the negative side and about schemes which are too grandiose. We should come down to a concrete, practical, sensible scheme, free from party considerations, to which the great majority would agree.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Dr. WILLIAM McLEAN: I should like to refer to the underlying principles of economic development which appear to govern this question. For the economic development of any territory three things are necessary. They can be expressed in the simple formula, men, money and markets. The question of markets seems to be the limiting factor. Production, to 467 be economic, must be related to the markets available. It has became evident that in any given territory the existence of open spaces and natural resources does not mean that it is necessarily economic to populate the open spaces and exploit the natural resources. For example, the great expansion of the wheat belt in Canada resulted in difficulties, which we all know, very largely owing to the fact of the difficulty of disposing of the crop. Again in Australian, and especially in Tasmanian development, the provision of transport facilities and power and other things in the country were carried out on a scale which sometimes had very little economic foundation. If we peruse the reports of the Australian Development and Migration Commission, we shall find the unhappy results which in many cases turned out there. Any encouragement to migration within the Empire, therefore, should be based upon the requirements of planned development. Only in this way can we extend our overseas market and ensure the prosperity of the settlers; a bankrupt community overseas is no market.
§ It might be useful to the House if I remind hon. Members of what the Secretary of State for the Colonies is doing with regard to the development of the Colonial Empire as a unit so as to obtain the maximum economic advantage. A survey of production and trade development is now being carried out, and it includes an examination of the possibilities of production of certain commodites, the extent of the markets assured for those commodities by preferences and by agreements, and also of the labour available in those Colonies. This basis of information is essential for the preparation of the Colony development plans which show the programme of communications, public services, public health, education and other matters which are necessary and which are rendered possible owing to the trade development. In this way a Colonial Empire development plan is gradually being built up. It is worthy of remark that it is on a very satisfactory basis of complementary trade to this country, that is, they supply us with raw materials, and we send to them manufactured articles in return. The planning of trade and other developments in the United Kingdom, in which the 468 Minister of Agriculture has given such a great lead, makes it easier to solve the problem of migration. We are gradually moving towards a planned development in this country upon which we can base agreements.
§ It would seem, therefore, that to complete the Imperial picture it is necessary to examine with the Dominions the possibilities of what we might term an Empire development plan. This means an examination of production, both agricultural and industrial, in the Dominions, and the coming to some mutual arrangement as to their development so as to provide the assured markets which the Dominions themselves would welcome, and upon which may be established any programme for the migration necessary to carry out such development. Practical experience and research tell us that this method of approach to the problem of Empire migration cannot be neglected in view of the economic conditions which exist to-day.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE: We are under a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) for giving the House an opportunity of discussing this question. Apparently hon. Members do not take a very vivid interest in the question, but it is within the power of the Government to make this a very real question for the Empire, and one of great living interest. I hope that they will very shortly take steps to provide for the future. Speakers have related the question of unemployment to the necessity of relieving the pressure of over-population in this country. It does not do to say that we wish to send people to the Dominions in order to relieve unemployment, but, undoubtedly, if we set the stream of migration flowing again, it will relieve the pressure of population in this country, and thereby contribute very greatly to the solution of the problem. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) told us at the beginning of his speech that community settlement on a large scale was bankrupt, but he seemed to be rather inconsistent because he ended up by commending community settlement but on a smaller scale than that recommended by the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), provided the settlement 469 was directed by a man who knew his business. He said that in this country there were no such men, or very few. I would refer him, for instance, to Mr. Bavin, of the Young Men's Christian Association, who has settled thousands of young men and boys overseas, and to Commissioner Lamb and the magnificent organisation which he represents, for experience in settlement. I think I know what the hon. Gentleman appears to be about to say, that they have to deal only with individual institutions, that they have done well and are perfectly capable. I also refer to General Hornby, who has made a successful settlement in Alberta. When he visited this country last year he consulted many organisations and authorities who are interested in migration, and he is now in Canada preaching the doctrine of migration, and achieving great success.
§ Mr. K. LINDSAY: I do not want to cast an aspersion upon Commissioner Lamb or upon the other gentleman mentioned, but I wish to make the point that their life's work has been in the recruiting needs. I was talking rather of the person who actually administered settlement, and who had an intimate knowledge of agriculture and settlement.
Mr. SOMERVILLE: I realise that the hon. Gentleman did not lay stress on the people recruiting at this end, but I mention Mr. Bavin as a man who has actually settled many thousands of young men and boys in the Dominions. He has taken them over and carried out the settlement in co-operation with friends on the other side. He has ample experience. General Hornby has had the experience of a successful settler, and I would call attention to an extract from an excellent journal published in London called "Canada." Mr. Beatty, who is one of the greatest authorities on settlement in Canada, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and has been instrumental in settling thousands of men in connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway, speaking of General Hornby's scheme, said that General Hornby's proposals for immigration included some responsibility for immigrants being undertaken by the district from which they came. Part of his scheme is that cities and counties in this country would be responsible for schemes, and Mr. Beatty went on to say that these proposals were
worthy of great consideration. The proposals were criticised very freely, and we found the leading paper of Regina saying:
While there is quite an outcry against further immigration at this time, the situation is a little ridiculous when we contrast the crowded lands of Europe and our own vast unpeopled tracts.
The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said that the question that might be put by suggested settlers was: "Why do not you settle us here? Why send us out to work on the land and make butter in the Dominions?" The answer is that people settled on the land in this country will not be content with mere subsistence; they will expect more. Also, there are very large numbers to be settled and unless you settle a large number very little impression will be made on the problem. If you settle a large number here you bring them into competition with the farmers and agricultural workers already on the land in this country and thereby produce unemployment. You might give settlement on the one hand, but you would produce unemployment among the agricultural workers on the other hand.
§ It is much easier to produce subsistence settlements in the Dominions. For instance, there is the Pandaloo Settlement in Alberta, which was brought about in 1923 by the Scottish Aid Emigration Society. One hundred families were settled there on a subsistence basis. The settlement was organised by Father MacDonald, and those 100 families are practically all doing well on a subsistence basis. I think I have given some examples of the possibilities of community settlement. Nothing has been more distressing in the last 10 years than to see the stream of migration, which was flowing so hopefully in the early 'twenties, first of all under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, gradually drying up and ceasing. Nothing is more necessary, in co-operation with the various parts of the Empire, than to set that stream flowing again. Nearly 50 years ago Sir Robert Giffen, who was head of the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade, laid down the principle that in prosperous times migration prospered and that in lean times migration dwindled, and that has been the case in recent times.
§ What hopes are there in the future so far as we can see? What signs are there 471 of revival in accord with the dictum which I have quoted? Look at Canada. We had with us last year Mr. Stevens, the Minister of Trade and Commerce in Canada, who said that Canada was sound. That statement is true. The number of unemployed in Canada is going down and trade is increasing in consequence of the Ottawa Agreements, one of the first great influences on an Empire scale of Empire co-operation. Trade between Canada and the Motherland is growing in consequence of the Ottawa Agreements, and it shows signs of growing still more. That means that we can see, not far off, the revival of prosperity in Canada, which will mean that the stream of migration will flow again to Canada.
§ Look at Australia. It is very unfortunate that the happenings in Victoria in regard to the settlers have given a set-back to migration to Australia, but we hope that that is a passing interlude and that it will be a lesson in future migration schemes to take proper precautions before settlements are attempted. Proper precautions were not taken in regard to the Victorian settlers and the promises made to them were not fulfilled. The first essential of any scheme of migration is to see that the basis is sound and that there are reliable possibilities for the people who migrate. The Australians have set us a good example in one respect. They found themselves in an almost desperate financial position, but they tightened their belts, introduced measures of the sternest economy and restored their credit. That fact is proved by the Australian Government being able to convert their loans on favourable terms, and they have had their reward. Not only have they restored their credit, but last year they obtained better prices for their wool, far better prices than they have had for several years. The result is that we see better times coming in Australia and the possibility of the stream of migration flowing a little more strongly so far as Australia is concerned.
§ Are we to sit still and wait for prosperity to arrive and not make plans for the future? We have reason to know that the Dominions Office is alive to the necessity and we hope that before long we shall hear good news from the Dominions Office. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) 472 and his committee have worked hard during the past year on the schemes that the hon. and gallant Member has put before us. If I might dot one or two of the hon. and gallant Member's i's, I do not think that he contemplates sending out a very large number of people straight away. He contemplates preparing the ground, suitable ground, which has possibilities, beginning on a small scale, gradually extending and not sending out an army of people at the start. We have plenty of people with enterprise and brains who, in co-operation with people in the Dominions, can run such a scheme. If we look at Canada and go to Nova Scotia we can find a successful community settlement of Danes there. If we go to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta we can find successful community settlements of Czechs, Swedes, Norwegians and Germans. If those people can make successful community settlements, why should not Britons? There is no reason for bankruptcy of a community settlement.
May I read what Mr. Beatty has said:
Upon my return from Great Britain recently, I said that I was convinced that the time had arrived for Canada to embark on a definite moderate policy of immigration, particularly from Great Britain; that the sparseness of our population was still a drawback in view of our external and internal obligations, and that I did not think this country had anything to fear from a judiciously regulated policy of admission of those of our own race in particular.
He continued to say that there were 30,000,000 acres of land available for settlement in the prairie provinces, within a radius of 15 miles of the existing lines, and he ended by saying:
It is a heavy but glorious responsibility—to justify our heritage in the possession of a huge and geographically important area of the earth's surface; to make our contribution to the building of a great new northern nation—the keystone of the arch of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I have read that passage to show that there are men in Canada who wish for a revival of immigration. The same desire is expressed from Northern Australia and Western Australia. They say, form your schemes, be responsible for the settlement, and we will work together. When we get these voices from the Dominions, ought we not to realise that the time has arrived for co-operation betwen us and them? More than 300 members of this House signed the request
drawn up by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth to the Prime Minister to grant a day for the discussion of this question, which I repeat is and must remain the vital question for the British Empire. Amongst those 300 Members are a number of young men, full of vigour and brains, and I say to them, here is a task for you, in conjunction with the young men of the Dominions, to work out plans and weld the Empire more closely together by peopling with men and women of our own race the vast fertile spaces, still vacant, in the Commonwealth of British nations.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE: I did not intend to intervene in this Debate, to which I have listened with great interest, but one or two points occur to me which I should like to place before the House very briefly. It is not often that I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), but I agree wholeheartedly with the case he put before the House this afternoon as being a very practical and well thought outline of a scheme of Empire migration. I was glad indeed that the hon. and gallant Member emphasised the point that if migration had proceeded on pre-War lines during the last few years there would have been very little unemployment in this country to deal with at the present time. We should have had a much smaller population, and unemployment would have been largely absorbed in the ordinary way. There are a great number of people who do lip service to a proposal of this kind. They say, it is a good idea, but this is not the time; look at the unemployment which exists in the various Dominions and Colonies, it is almost as bad as it is in this country. No one suggests that we should launch out on large schemes of migration, but there are many experiments in group or community settlements which could be tried now, and it would be a good thing if the Government could be induced to find money so that some of these well thought out community settlements might be carried out. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) mentioned the excellent community settlement in Canada. Most of them are pre-War settlements, and conditions are different at the moment.474
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE: The Clandonald settlement was started in 1923.
§ Mr. LECKIE: I consider that migration on group lines is on a different basis from ordinary migration. The idea put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth was that there should be villages or small communities placed in various parts of the Colonies and Dominions, which would to a large extent be self supporting. Some of the settlers would grow corn and wheat, others vegetables and fruit, while others would run the stores, and so there would be a certain amount of self support for the village, and it would not be necessary, to a large extent, to find markets for the produce that would be forthcoming. May I also refer to the responsibilities of Australia and New Zealand, and in a less degree of Canada, for the position in which they find themselves. They have vast territories which are unoccupied, which call for population. I know that the Dominions say that some of these districts are uninhabitable, but I am certain that the people of Asia, who are so overcrowded, do not think so. Here we have a great problem. In Asia there is a tremendous surplus population, and they are looking with envious eyes to Australia and New Zealand as possible outlets for their population. We agree that the Dominions have a right to make up their minds that they are only going to have a white population in their territories, and, therefore, it is all the more necessary that they should meet this question fairly and squarely. If they are not going to have Asiatics they must co-operate with us in securing members of the British stock to populate their countries. I desire to support the Motion very heartedly in the hope that we shall be able to induce the Dominions and Colonies to co-operate with us in planning great schemes of migration, not for the immediate present but for the time when business and trade and commerce improve, so that we shall have ready well thought out plans and schemes of migration for the whole of the Empire.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS: I am sure that we are all grateful to the hon. Member for Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) for putting down a Motion for a discussion of the important question of 475 Empire settlement. There can be no doubt that upon the proper incidence of British population depends the whole future and prosperity of the British Empire. I join at once with the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) in deploring the flow back into this country for the last few years and a complete absence of any real settlement of British stock overseas. While I entirely support the programme adumbrated by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) I ask hon. Members to look at one additional angle of what is a very vital programme. As one who has given some years and some consideration to this important topic of Empire settlement, I want to ask the Committee to look upon the question of Empire migration as one not entirely connected with unemployment. We do not look upon the population of the Empire merely as an opportunity for placing unemployed persons. We believe that Empire settlement is vital in the interests of the British Empire. It is as important a topic to persons who are in employment as it is to those who unfortunately happen to be for the time out of employment. Nothing is worse than to allow Empire settlement to be thought of as a problem exclusively linked up with unemployment. Much was done three or four years ago by the Overseas Settlement Department by establishing in various parts of the country what were termed county migration committees. I had the doubtful pleasure for some time of serving as a member of one of those committees. Their work was doomed to failure mainly because the headquarters of the committee was put in the local Employment Exchange. Once the thought becomes current that this is a matter connected entirely with unemployment and designed to eliminate unemployment, then the real spirit and the real vitality of this great movement of Empire settlement is killed for all time.
§ I wish to ask the Government whether they will consider a scheme which I do not put to them to-night for the first time, but which I believe to be essential for the increase of Empire settlement. That is to give some kind of commutation of unemployment benefit to every employed or unemployed insured 476 person who desires to settle in the Overseas Dominions. A few years ago my right hon. Friend who is now the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was responsible for the inauguration of a scheme whereby an old age pension payable to a British citizen should remain payable to him if he went and settled in the British Empire outside this country. I believe that that scheme has never been altered, and is still in force. I would urge the Government to consider the introduction of some scheme whereby no insured man in this country, employed or unemployed, should be asked to go on the great adventure and sacrifice the rights which he and his family enjoy under the Unemployment Fund and the various social services to which he has so long contributed.
§ I ask—and it is not beyond the wit of man so to formulate a scheme—that there should be a right inherent in every insured person to take with him to any part of the British Empire a commuted sum equal to the benefit to which he is entitled under the schemes to which he has contributed. I do not suggest that that money should be paid to him in a lump sum in cash the night before his embarkation, but that an amount could be actuarially determined is open to no question. That this payment, making the man a capitalist as soon as he leaves these shores, would be a great advantage to his settlement is not open to doubt. I have not the slightest doubt that the Government of any one of our Dominions would be only too willing to add to that amount something from their own pockets to make a really substantial amount for the disposal of this settler when he arrives in a Dominion to take up fresh residence. The amount would be administered by that Government; there would be no waste in extravagant expenditure, and he would at once go to a country well equipped by being a capitalist to start the new adventure in a new land.
§ That is one scheme which might well be considered and pursued by the Government in the near future. Mr. Beatty was perfectly right when he said that Canada ought to welcome a new influx of British population. I had the pleasure of visiting Canada again this year, and I deplored again the complete lack of British immigrants to those shores. I 477 realised only too deeply that there is growing up in Canada to-day a race of people entirely unconnected with the United Kingdom. There are settlements from various parts of Continental Europe that have no connection at all with the British race. We realise the worth of the settlements that were made in the first instance by those who went to Canada from this country, and we believe that such settlements can be made by persons who go from here to-day.
§ One of my hon. Friends who spoke said that it was not possible in his judgment to find a number of persons responsible for settlement, or for formulating a scheme under which settlement should be made. I would dissent entirely from that statement. I believe that it is perfectly possible to find a board consisting of a number of persons who have had great experience in the settlement of migrants overseas, and who would select the right people, administer to their needs, and see that they went to the right places upon their arrival. The Victoria position is nothing short of a catastrophe. It never ought to have happened; it happened through bad management or a complete lack of management, and it has put mass migration back a long time, because it is a horrible example. I hope with all my heart that no such disaster will ever occur in future if it can be avoided.
§ The whole of the migration difficulties which now exist could be avoided if we could establish a permanent Economic Council, part of whose duty would be to consider from day to day the question of migration, both mass migration and individual settlement. The Three Thousand Families scheme, spoken of a little time ago by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), was notorious in Canada as the most successful scheme for family settlement that the British Empire has ever known. It was full of the community spirit: the settlement of whole villages and families together, with no spirit of isolation and with everything done for the settlers under the scheme to make them really at home together in a new country in which science has abolished the desolation of the wilderness. Why cannot the same principle that actuated the Three Thousand Families scheme be put into operation to-day? We are told both 478 here and in every Dominion—I heard this last summer in Canada from members of the Canadian Government—"This is not the time for migration; it is not appropriate. When we have the number of unemployed that we have, and when we are meeting as we are the full force of the economic blizzard, the time is not ripe to encourage migration." I dislike intensely the term "economic blizzard"; it is generally an excuse. British stock in a British Dominion is an asset and no liability.
§ We heard just now that Canada is about to start the construction of a new main arterial transcontinental road to convey motor traffic directly across the Dominion from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. That is work in which British concerns would be very much interested. It is work which would have been open to those going from this country if such a scheme had been in the hands of contractors able to employ British labour. It is not merely in the agricultural occupations that vacancies and opportunities occur for British settlement. Canada is entering on a new era, an industrial era. There is any amount of opportunity if we co-operate in the proper transplantation of people from this country to various parts of that great Dominion. One of my hon. Friends to-night said that a good deal could be done through the banks, which are the biggest land-lords. A central bank may shortly be founded in Canada. Banking facilities on a co-operative scale could adjust themselves to the needs of the community settlement schemes that were outlined by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth. The more British stock goes into the Dominions the greater assets we give to our possessions there.
§ I hope that this question will not be delayed. Bearing in mind the time that must be taken before any scheme can be put into operation I hope that the Government will not only take, but that they are already taking, the necessary action, and are considering how best they can make these schemes practicable. A good deal has been said about voluntary organisations. I believe that the success of any migration scheme depends almost entirely upon private enterprise. The 3,000 families scheme, the great success of Canadian settlement, settlement 479 schemes of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Hudson Bay Company and the steamship companies in Canada, have been successful without any Government assistance as such, but with merely Government supervision by an expert technical department and an after-care centre and experimental branch. That is the kind of Government assistance that is wanted, though the work is done entirely by private enterprise.
§ Those propositions were colossal successes. In Manitoba and in Alberta I myself saw the work done by the Hudson Bay Settlement men, who were trained in England and Canada, were put into holdings, were financed and given implements and instruction. All those things were done by private enterprise. The Government intervention in Canada has been only the intervention of someone anxious to guide, advise, co-operate and to give assistance. It seems all to have finished. Why, I do not know. The more people you bring to a Dominion, the more consumers you put there, the more you increase the purchasing power in the Dominion, in which they are both producers and consumers. Such people are assets and consumers and they are never a liability at all. There is a lull in migration and I hope it is only to exist for a little time. Some one has said that there must be no more migration until the present leaks are stopped. The British Empire, perhaps better than any other community, is fitted to lead the world back to prosperity. When that leadership is taken up I hope we shall see that our proportion of British stock has gone into the Dominions, where British settlement has counted for so much.
§ It is no good simply deploring the fact that migration is at a standstill. There are in this country many voluntary societies which would willingly co-operate, and are co-operating, with the Government. These voluntary organisations are at all times at the disposal of the Government. The Overseas Settlement Board might well be reconstructed so as to be a real aid to further settlement overseas. I do not know how the finances stand under the Empire Settlement Act; I do not know what funds are available now to assist in overseas settlement, or what might have to be spent 480 from that fund in order to found the scheme that I have mentioned, to give to an insured person the right to have his benefit commuted if he settled overseas; but the money might well be found from the balances in hand from sums voted by this House in years gone by for Empire settlement. Something should be done and can be done. I hope the House will agree to the Motion, which invites the Government, in the midst of its many preoccupations, to bring about some kind of readjustment of the incidence of British population, on which the whole future of the Empire must depend.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. WARD: The Bouse must be very grateful to the hon. Baronet who moved this Motion for the opportunity of discussing the question of migration. I am certain that Members of all parties must be troubled with the problem of the redistribution of the white populations. We cannot with equanimity sit down and be satisfied with the number of white people who at present are living under the British flag overseas. It has become evident that if we do not people our Empire, someone else will people it. It does seem to me that there are great difficulties in the way of a number of people going to the Dominions at the present moment, but when the time does come for men and women to migrate to our Dominions the Dominions will be anxious to choose those who are most agriculturally-minded, and who will therefore make better settlers. If we cannot do much in the way of migration to our Dominions at the moment, we can at least be prepared for the time when we can do more. It does not seem to me that we are doing anything to prepare for that time.
§ The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) said he did not believe that subsistence farming could be carried on in this country. I disagree with him. I believe that if you were to ask in this country for men and women willing to go on to the land for subsistence farming you would be inundated with requests. A landsman is not made in a few moments. Living on the land is a hard life, and if the Government and the country are waiting for the day when farming will be making big profits before they put people on the land, I believe they will wait until the crack of doom. There have 481 never been spectacular profits made out of the land, and I do not think that such profits will ever be made. Therefore people who go on the land have to love the life more than the living. They must be prepared to work hard, to work long hours, patience and endurance are the qualities necessary for a man or woman to make a good settler.
§ I appeal to the Government to do something about settlement on the land in this country. It has been stated to-night that we do not want to assist unemployment by migration. I quite agree. There is nothing the Dominions dislike more than the thought of taking from our country the people who are surplus, those who have been unemployed for a long time and have lost their skill. Here is an opportunity to put our people on the land now, to give them a chance, if they do not go abroad themselves, of raising families who will be agriculturally-minded and ready to migrate when the time arrives. I appeal to the Government to do all they can in this matter. I know it is said that there is no use in putting people on the land now because those who are already on the land are not making a living. But in this country to-day there are, for instance, many miners who will never again be able to find work in the mining industry because it is a contracting industry. There is an enormous surplus of unemployed miners—I think something like 200,000. Then we have many unemployed farm workers. Many of these men, I feel sure, would be anxious for an opportunity to go on the land and they would certainly make good landsmen.
§ This is the moment at which we should be preparing for the future. There is no use in merely hoping that when the Dominions are ready to take our people in great numbers we shall be ready to send them there. We shall not be ready if we do not prepare now. Let us therefor try out a scheme of subsistence farming. Let us appeal to the men and women who are anxious to go on the land before we say that there is no one willing to work on the land for the love of the land. The people who can make a success in agriculture here, are the people who will be successful settlers in our Dominions. That is why I ask the Government to do all they can to encourage schemes of land settlement here and to encourage our people to become agriculturally-minded, 482 in order that we may be able to people the Empire with British stock who will be able to make good and make a living.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Captain GUEST: In the last seven or eight years I have attended a good many Debates on this subject and it has always seemed to me that in such Debates private Members show every readiness to contribute suggestions and thoughts, although very often they are without the facilities available to a Government Department. I think the present Government and those who were in the last Conservative administration will admit that there has been no lack of good feeling and of a desire to help, from all quarters of the House, on this extraordinarily difficult and important subject. Although we have only been allowed a few hours for this Debate there has been shown on the part of private Members in every part of the House the fullest desire to help the Government if there is any way of giving help. I am sorry that the Government did not see fit to find time and to meet the request put forward by such a large number of Members in connection with this matter. I see their difficulty. I know the relative importance which is attached to these various subjects, but I urge the Government not to regard this as an unimportant subject. The fact that there are not many Members present now is not an indication that the 312 Members who signed the petition to which I have referred did not mean business. They do mean it in the sincerest possible way and I hope that this Debate which has been of high quality will satisfy the Leader of the House that more time for this subject would be welcomed, and that he will make arrangements through the usual channels for its further consideration.
§ I know the work which has been done by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) in connection with this question. There is a team of Members each one of whom could produce complete and detailed suggestions on this matter, but by agreement among those who are interested, we asked my hon. and gallant Friend to carry the burden of the Debate on this occasion while we supported him by our presence and by some rather more general remarks. The House and the Government owe a great debt of 483 gratitude to my hon. and gallant Friend for the unstinted and voluntary effort which he and those associated with him have devoted to this subject for the past two years. I know how that work is appreciated in some quarters, but I should like it to be known and appreciated also by the rank and file of all parties in the House. It has been said and I think the point was mentioned particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), that Empire settlement could not be entirely instigated and managed by a Government. I agree, but I do not go to the extent that my hon. Friend has gone on that point. I think the problem is so large that, without at least 76 per cent. of the assistance which only a Government can give, any scheme of a private individual or private corporation will never come to fruition. There has to be a combination of private enterprise and suggestion with support by the Government of the day.
§ I shall not waste the time of the House in drawing attention to previous Debates beyond referring to the sad fact that as Debate follows Debate the record of the migration situation grows gradually worse. I looked up the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate of some years ago and it would seem that at one time as many as 500,000 people had gone to Canada and that they were accompanied by £500,000,000 worth of capital. That is a point which we should not omit to consider. Whether or not one can say that unemployment is due to the falling off in migration is a difficult question. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth seems inclined to believe that if the migration figures had kept up, unemployment would not have supervened to the extent that we have experienced. I do not know, but I feel that the falling-off in the figures of migration has certainly augmented the figure of unemployment.
§ I pass from that point to another which is closely connected with it and upon which I think we may run astray. The Dominions Secretary said in the last Debate that he did not wish the Dominions to get the idea that we were taking advantage of migration proposals to plant our unemployed upon them, and other speakers have expressed that view. Obviously we all agree with that, when 484 it is put in that way, but I am not prepared to admit that of the great number of unemployed in this country any more than a very small percentage are unemployable. I think the vast majority of unemployed families, taking them as families, are unemployed through no fault of their own but owing to the stage of depression through which the world is passing. I do not think it would be hard for us to build up again the morale of the unfortunate people who are in the unemployed category to-day. Therefore, it is not necessarily so much of an insult to suggest to our Dominions fellow citizens that, out of the unlucky people who have suffered distress here owing to world depression, we can provide them with stock as fine as England has ever sent abroad in the past.
§ I hope the Government will not overdo that point. In fact, this is a subject in connection with which it is dangerous to overdo any point. It is fraught with difficulties, and in dealing with such a question it is a mistake to lay down the law. Although it is said that the present period of depression is the worst time in which to tackle this problem, I think daylight is showing in two ways. There are two fundamental policies which the Government have adopted and which seem to open up a vista of possibilities of improving the chances of migration. There is first, the new economic policy of the Government adopted in 1931. I was not a Tariff Reformer in any shape or form until the crisis came. I have learned, and I hope many of us also are learning, that conditions are so curious that the old shibboleths did not work any longer, and therefore the new economic policy introduced in 1931 received very nearly 80 per cent. of the support of the electors of this country, or, if that is too high, of a very large majority of them at any rate.
§ That economic policy is now beginning to bear fruit, and it is the exact fruit that the emigrant is looking for, and not only the emigrant in this country, but the man in Australia and Canada who previously was frightened that he would lose his job if any further labour competition were to arrive at his door. The settlement of prices or their gradual stabilisation and the stabilisation of markets has not only put new heart into the producer but has given every working 485 man a greater feeling of stability so far as his wages are concerned. He is a producer, but at the same time he is a spender, and the whole lot of them put together are consumers. If you get a condition of improved and stabilised markets and if you get a happier condition in the wage-earner's home, you get more money in circulation, and I may add that going off the Gold Standard has increased the amount of money in circulation, in value, by about one-third, but even without increasing the amount of currency in circulation, if it is verily in circulation, if it can be counted upon, and if contractors can make contracts with the certainty of their being fulfilled, you have a so much happier mental atmosphere in trade that people say, "I am not so frightened now. My home is secure, but it was not secure 18 months ago, and now I feel more contented, and I am prepared to deal with emigration schemes from a very different point of view from that of two years ago." Therefore, I submit that the economic policy of the Government, as developed in the last two years, is in every conceivable way favourable to the reconsideration by the Government of emigration schemes.
The other pillar of the Government's policy is the extraordinary efforts that they have made to deal with the unemployment problem. I think most people will admit that they have done extremely well. The re-absorption appears to be of a permanent nature, and I think they deserve congratulations upon it. I want to draw the attention of the Government to one of the most remarkable sentences uttered by a statesman and a Minister in the last few years. It is a short sentence uttered by the Lord President of the Council, and I think it is only in the spirit of this little sentence of his that we can possibly tackle a problem of the size and the importance of that which we are now discussing. He said—without any reference to the context, because it applies just the same to whatever piece of legislation it may be—
You have to find remedies for situations with which no one is familiar—there are no precedents.
If we accept that—and it was the statement not only of a statesman but of a philosopher—we have something to support us in being brave. Governments as a rule are not brave. They are afraid of their skins, or they are afraid of by—
elections or of something else, and they will not admit that this problem is very likely the most important problem that has ever faced the Empire.
§ But I want to make room for the hon. Gentleman who is to follow me, and I will end on this note. The fact that there are no precedents leads me to make this perhaps rather alarming remark. I believe—and there are others outside the House who believe, and I am not sure there are not Members inside also who believe—that we are on the verge of bursting our boundaries. Civilisations are hemmed in in territories not big enough to contain them. Look around. Japan must go somewhere. She is now turning her attention towards countries the names of which I cannot even pronounce, but I know they are somewhere on the Eastern shores of Siberia. Apply the same thought to civilised lands nearer home, and it seems to me quite obvious that an Empire which contains undeveloped land where no attempt is being made to use it or to fill it is, both from a strategic, defensive point of view and from a dog-in-the-manger point of view, running a grave risk of having that land taken from it. I do not know whether that is stretching the bow too strongly, but I think it ought to be borne in mind when the Ottawa Agreements are revised next June.
§ In conclusion, I think we must try to draw the attention of our fellow-Members to this way of looking at the subject. This subject of emigration is not one which can be handled alone by the Secretary of State for the Dominions or his able representative here to-night. It is a subject which concerns at least four Departments of the Government. It concerns the Ministry of Agriculture, who have to advise and help as to what are the products that can be best produced; it concerns the Board of Trade, to help with the conditions of sale; and it concerns the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to study the methods and means by which the transfers of money from one form of national effort to another can be made. I think that although we have only had a very little time in which to talk about this subject to-night, we on the Research Committee, which has been presided over by my hon. and gallant Friend below me, are glad to have had an opportunity, however small it may have been, and we 487 will certainly return to the charge at the first possible opportunity.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN: I have listened to every word in this Debate, and I have heard many lofty sentiments, but I have not heard one practical suggestion made by any hon. Member which is going to start migration immediately to any Dominion. Moreover, I do not remember when we had a Debate in which Members took so little interest. There has not been in the House one in 20 Members of this House since the Debate commenced, and all those who have been here have been those who, like myself, are believers in migration to the Dominions. When there are opportunities for people to migrate there and, as the Secretary of State for the Dominions has said, when there is a guarantee of a livelihood for those who go, I am favourable to it. But, after all, this Debate has exhausted itself completely on this question, as it was bound to do, because it is not an immediate, practical question at this moment.
§ Let me say to the hon. Member for the Park Division (Sir A. Shirley Benn) that I knew when he came out of the ballot that he has such an interest in Empire questions and is such an Empire lover that he was bound to raise again this question, which he raised only a very short time ago, and I am sorry he is not as well as he would like to be to have done more justice to the subject on this occasion. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has dropped into a role to-night in which I admire the generosity of the right hon. and gallant Member for Drake (Captain Guest) in placing him. The scheme that he has put forward to-night I have had in documents years and years ago, published by the right hon. and gallant Member for Drake. He has made speeches from the other side of the House on this scheme, and whenever he has done so nothing more has been heard of it. It has gone to cold storage, and I believe that after to-night this scheme is just as likely to go into the cellar and not be heard of until the next Debate.
§ Sir H. CROFT: The hon. Member can be quite easy about that.
§ Mr. LUNN: We saw on the Order Paper that there were 312 Members who 488 asked for this Debate, and the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) tells us what a large number of enthusiastic young men there are in this House. But they are not going to settle in the Dominions, and they are not very much interested in the subject. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth has given us this scheme again and has told us that they had 75 witnesses before an important committee which considered the matter, but I have not heard any suggestion from him that has not been made more than once by his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Drake. The idea is that the scheme should be backed by a chartered company, but this committee is not going to find the money. They say so. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth says that no member of the committee is going to put any money in the chartered company.
§ Sir H. CROFT: What I intended to say was that I think I am right in saying that not a single member of this large committee has any idea of making any money out of the scheme. I never suggested that if such a scheme went forward they would not be ready to risk their money in it in subscribing for the bonds and debentures.
§ Mr. LUNN: I do not suppose anybody expects to make money out of the scheme if it comes into operation, but the hon. Baronet said quite clearly that none of the committee are going to join the company. They want other people's money for this scheme. After they have got the money and formed the company, all their ideas for those who come under the scheme are to be on Socialist lines. What I have always understood as Socialism is to apply to the community when it gets into some part of the Dominions that has not been mentioned. We should like to know where it is to be. Another idea of the promoters is to get rid of our unemployed. If there is one thing that has damaged migration in the years when it was going fairly well, it was the idea of the Ministry of Labour being associated with it. I agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Drake that our unemployed are not unemployables, but that they are men and women who can be made suitable for employment if it were provided for them. While we agree with that, 489 however, we have to convince the Dominions. That is an important factor. All the time they have felt that we have been anxious to send our unemployed people to them.
§ I will not agree, and I have never in any Debate or Committee agreed that our unemployed are unfit to go overseas. Ninety per cent. of them would be suitable to go overseas if there were an opportunity. The scheme before us to-night is for 250,000 people to be settled somewhere in some part of the Empire. I have never heard yet of any person who takes a serious interest in and has worked in connection with migration who gives his support to a scheme of that sort. It has been said by everybody and by every committee that has dealt with it that it is a practical impossibility to ship our people overseas in such massed movements as is contemplated, and I do not know of anyone who would give support to it being put into operation. If we have got the money, why not settle our people at home? The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), who opened his speech by supporting his hon. Friend, made a very strong argument against it and pointed out many ways by which we could settle our people at home. He also criticised the scheme by saying that while permanent unemployment is almost stabilised here and is likely to become worse, the same thing is happening in the Dominions.
§ When hon. Members talk about this scheme being carried out by private enterprise, I am astonished. The most successful scheme that has ever been put into operation was the Three Thousand Families scheme. If anyone knows about its origin, it is myself, and I would say that that scheme had no connection with private enterprise at all. It was formulated by the Government and discussed between the Labour Government of 1924 and the Canadian Government. It was agreed upon by the two Governments and was carried out by the Federal Government of Canada which was responsible. It had no connection with private enterprise and is regarded as the most successful scheme that has been put into operation up-to-date. I am satisfied that if migration is to be carried on in future successfully, it can only be done by co-operation between Governments so that there shall be a responsibility not only in finding the money but for the after- 490 care and the welfare of those who go to the Dominions. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) made a statement that the Opposition said that boys had been forced to go. I wish to repudiate that idea. I have never heard any Member of the Opposition say so, and I certainly have always been opposed to any suggestion that either boys, men or women should be forced to go. It must be voluntary migration, and I should resent as much as anybody any idea of the Ministry of Labour or any other Government Department shoving off our people in that way.
§ But the hon. Member did reply very effectively to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth and having been connected for a long time with the Over-sea Settlement Committee's work he knows the facts of the situation. I am not opposing this Motion, for one reason because I want the committees that are in existence or which may be called into existence to consider migration and co-operation between this country and the Dominions, and I hope that whenever the opportunity for migration does come advantage will be taken of it. But even if schemes are prepared, can anyone say when they are likely to be put into operation? I do not think anyone here can predict the day or the year in which they can be started. Can anyone say when the Dominions will be willing and able to absorb settlers? The Prime Minister of Western Australia, which is the most likely state in the Empire to consider migration from this country, says the time is not suitable for it to-day, and I believe there are hon. Members in this House who could explain the position there very fully. Further, as regards Australia, the plight of the returned settlers will not help the situation. They were deluded, they were not given the facts of the situation. Pictures were drawn, glorifying their lot. They were told they would earn not less than £400 a year, whereas many of them lost their all, and the recompense given to them by the Victorian Government is, I believe, regarded by every member of the House, as totally inadequate. We ought to know from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who has met a deputation, what the Government intend to do in that matter. Something has to be done, and we should like to 491 know what, because what happened in that case is going to be prejudicial to any future scheme.
§ Migration from this country to New Zealand has been out of the question for many years. Then, take the position in Canada. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) quoted a speech by Mr. Stevens in which he emphasised the serious position in Canada. We know that camps are being established; that there are 15,000 young men in camps in various parts of the country and that they are provided with food, clothing and shelter and five dollars a month; and that whilst unemployment is going down nothing has been done in Canada to relieve the lot of their own unemployed. Those are his own words.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE: That is quite true, and I quoted that speech, but I think my hon. Friend agrees that the general tenor of that speech was that Canada had turned the corner and had expectations of becoming very much better off.
§ Mr. LUNN: And so, I hope, shall we in this country. It is most important to this country and every other country that the people should become better off, and secure an opportunity of working for their livelihood, but we must look at the facts. Look at the position of Empire settlement from another point of view. Less than a year ago the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs answered a question in this House as to the balance of emigration and immigration between the United Kingdom and the Dominions. His statement was that for the year ended 30th September, 1932, there was an inward balance of emigration from the Dominions to the United Kingdom of 26,034, made up as follows: Canada and Newfoundland 17,644, Australia 3,847, New Zealand 1,641, British South Africa 2,902. A condition such as that, which is continuing, although not perhaps to the same extent, does not make this a practical Debate.
§ I say, with the Secretary of State for the Dominions, what he has said many times across this Table, that if there is an opportunity for a livelihood for our people we ought to have schemes in operation. We have schemes in abund- 492 ance which could be put into operation to assist people to go overseas. I want to see favourable agreements, and they might be revised and considered at the present moment. If migration is to be successful, it must be facilitated and must be State-controlled. Assisted migration has, up to now, been for settlement upon the land, but in future it will be necessary to give more general consideration than has been given in the past, because most of the settlers do not remain on the land when they get to a Dominion. However carefully selected, and however carefully trained they happen to be, they do not remain on the land.
§ There is another matter. We are dealing in this Debate with human beings, and we have to think differently of them than if we were dealing with machines. There is not the necessity for human labour in the Dominions that there has been, because there has been a development of machinery, even in agricultural countries like those. I carried about with me for a long time pictures from Canadian newspapers showing reapers being used in the Canadian wheatfields that were doing practically everything that had to be done, and without human labour. If that is to be the position in the future, we have to take it into consideration. Our people are not going to accept the hardships and the low standard of life which used to be the rule, and I am not going to be the one to ask them to undergo those hardships.
§ If there was one thing in this Debate that I did not like, it was the idea of the hon. Member for Windsor that though our people will not accept a subsistence basis here it is all right when they are sent overseas. I do not think that that is the sort of argument that we ought to put up with regard to migration.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE: May I explain? The hon. Member has misunderstood my point, which was that it was very difficult to accept a subsistence basis here, but that it would be quite possible to begin upon a subsistence basis in the Dominions and then to raise the standard.
§ Mr. LUNN: That is hardly an argument that I should use on a public platform in this country in order to tempt people to go overseas. Every 493 individual has a right to expect a better standard of life in the Dominions than he has here. There is plenty of room, and smaller populations than in this country. People want the best, but they will never have the best from this Government, who have done nothing towards helping people over the non-productive years of their lives. Now the people are grown men and women, and we are losing their productive power and their purchasing power. If we are to consider this matter seriously, we must bear in mind that the Dominions do not want any migrants. Until there is some possibility of satisfactory settlement, I am opposed to spending public money upon the matter. I have no objection to inquiring into the circumstances, seeing what the position is, and keeping in touch with them, but, when we do anything in this matter, let us give the facts of the situation.
§ This is not going to cure unemployment, and I am pleased to say, on behalf of the Oversea Settlement Committee, of which I am a member, though not now the chairman, that they have never accepted that view. No report of theirs has ever accepted it, and we hope we shall never be associated with those misguided enthusiasts who want to ship our people overseas without any regard to the consequences to them if they go. By all means let us co-operate with the Dominions and make arrangements with them, but we have an Empire Settlement Act, which has a good time to run yet, and which in my view is quite satisfactory. I think we are bound to keep the Dominion Governments interested in this matter, as well as the Government on this side. There might be discussion as to how the 50/50 principle is applied, because there may be something in that connection which is not just what it ought to be. Let us consider it and see what can be done, but let us retain it for any future migration that is to take place.
§ At the moment there are only two forms of migration that can act. The one is nomination, and the other is the migration of those who are prepared to take the risk and go on their own account. The nomination system is a good one, and one to be encouraged. It is satisfactory because it means that those people who are already settled and 494 doing well are nominating their relatives and friends from this country, which guarantees that they will be looked after and cared for and provided for when they go overseas. There are many questions that will have to be discussed, such as the question whether young children should go or not. I hope we shall never return to the ideas that existed before 1924, when it was agreed by both the Canadian Government and our own Government that children should not go out to be little slaves, as many were reported to be, and should not suffer from the lack of care that was shown to exist at that time.
§ Group settlement has taken a prominent part in the Debate to-night, and I think that sufficient has been said to show that group settlement has not met with much success up to the present, nor does there appear to be a possibility of success for it in the future. I think it could be shown that very few people who went out originally in any of the groups are now associated with those groups, wherever they happen to be. I suggest that, when we are considering the question of settling our people on the land, Great Britain is a part of the Empire, or should be considered as a part of the Empire. If we want to settle people on the land, would it not be much better, instead of shipping them overseas and borrowing money, as the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) said, to do it, or losing millions of capital, to settle them in this country? If we are to provide capital for settlement, let us do it at home. We have plenty of land in this country on which to settle hundreds of thousands of people——
§ Sir H. CROFT: Where?
§ Mr. LUNN: You have not far to go. If you travel about you will see an abundance of vacant land all over the country. There is a market at hand in the necessities of the people in this country who would purchase the produce and, if there are 250,000 people to be settled, it would be better to settle them in this country and give them a guarantee of a livelihood as the result of their employment such as it is understood is to be given them if they go overseas. I would spend the money at home, because I am satisfied that we could spend those millions to advantage here. 495 I believe it costs up to £2,000 to settle a family in the Dominions, or has done up to now. If we had that to spend, I would rather spend it here and keep our people at home. I feel that, as we have the idle land, the idle men and the idle money in our own country, we had better deal with the matter, and it would have been well if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been here to tell us how far it would have been possible to take advantage of the money that there is and to borrow for the settling of our people on the land at home producing food in this country.
§ I do not object to the Motion. I think it is a matter which should ever be kept in front of us. I see no immediate possibility of anything being done, yet I hope there will be in the days to come such a change, not only in this country but in every part of the Empire, that there shall be nothing to prevent those who wish going to any part of the Empire. I want to see first of all satisfaction and happiness in my own country. I think the Government should be doing more than it is doing or has done in the past and I hope they will take a lesson from the Debate to do something at home in order to meet the sentiment of many Members with regard to the settlement of our people in every part of the Empire.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald): The House must be quite convinced by now that Providence is on the side of the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Sir A. Shirley Benn) and the cause of which he is such a faithful champion, because, whenever he desires the House to discuss this problem of migration, he has only to go to the ballot box and almost automatically he draws the lucky card and we have an interesting and helpful Debate such as we have had this evening. I agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Drake (Captain Guest) that perhaps the most remarkable feature of these Debates is the series of constructive speeches that are always delivered on these occasions. The Government have been made fully aware that this type of Motion has the support of an unusually large number of Members and, beyond that, there is very 496 wide interest in the question outside in the country. The Government share the view of hon. Members who have spoken this evening as to the intrinsic importance of the question of migration. I am only anxious to let the House know the general attitude of the Government towards the problem, and also what the Government are doing about it. We all admit that migration, for a few years past, has been practically at a standstill, and we are all agreed as to the reasons.
§ The Dominions have been hit by the world depression, as has every other country. They have a serious unemployment problem of their own, and we could not expect them in those circumstances to open their gates wide for additional emigrants to flow in. Nevertheless, no one will deny that, when conditions become more normal, the vast territories of Australia and Canada, for instance, will find that they are inadequately populated. More than that, I think that people will agree that those vast open spaces, as they are always called, cannot be filled by the normal, natural increase of the existing population as they should be filled. There has to be an increase in the population in those territories over and above the natural increase of the population already there. For many reasons, some of which have been mentioned in the Debate to-night, it is important that that additional increase of population should be composed largely of British people. The movement of migration of Britishers from this country to the Dominions has to start again, and this Government has to have a migration policy.
§ That is the general attitude of the Government towards the matter. There has been a lull for two or three years, but it has not been the view of the Government that during this period of lull we should do nothing at all about it, and that we should simply sit still and twiddle our thumbs, and wait for things to start again. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said that be sometimes thought that the Government were too much occupied with immediate problems that they did not consider the future, and that they were not planning for a period some way ahead. I should be prepared to dispute that on many subjects, and it is certainly not true about their attitude towards the problem of migration. My 497 right hon. Friend the Secretary of State considered that this period of lull was an opportunity for some hard thinking and some hard planning for the future, and he considered that this was a time which we should use for considering and examining our experience in the past, for trying to learn the lessons of the last 10 years of migration and migration policy. He believed that this was a chance of examining that experience, good and bad, and trying to work out the lessons to be learnt and of planning our policy of migration, both in principles and in machinery, for the future.
§ Therefore, something like 12 months ago he set up an informal inter-Departmental committee to examine the whole question, and to advise him upon it. I have had the privilege of sitting upon that committee. Ever since we were appointed we have been going ahead with our work as quickly as we could. On Friday we hold our jubilee meeting, our 50th meeting. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend's committee can beat that record. I only mention it as an indication of the very great care and the very great deliberation which we are trying to put into our examination of the question. We have not reached the end of our work, but we are approaching the end. I should say that we have accomplished about 80 per cent. of our task, and we shall certainly endeavour to put our report into the hands of the Secretary of State at the earliest possible moment, some weeks from now. That is the first stage, so to speak, the preliminary canter over the whole course, by an inter-Departmental committee.
§ My right hon. Friend intends to go on with the further stages as rapidly and as energetically as possible. In the first place, he will examine the report for himself, but he is anxious not to make up his mind about policy simply on the basis of a Departmental report. It is his intention to communicate the report to the various interested bodies and individuals who are concerned with this problem and have had experience of it, such as representatives of the voluntary societies, in order that they may make their observations and comments on the conclusions arrived at in the report, and he will arrive at his own tentative conclusions in the light of those comments of outside people as well as in the light of whatever 498 conclusions may be put into the Departmental committee's report.
§ Beyond that, my right hon. Friend is anxious, as the Motion suggests, to "get into touch with the Governments of the Dominions" as quickly as he can. I should like to make it clear that it is not our intention to make up our minds about policy and to have our minds fixed before we approach the various Dominion authorities. We are only working out this Report in order to arrive at definite but tentative conclusions, because this policy must be one of co-operation with the Dominions. We have no intention of handing to them a cut-and-dried scheme. It will be a scheme evolved in the way I have indicated, after very careful thought, but one which it will be open to them to amend, which can be discussed between them and us and which we hope finally, in some form or other, will be concluded as an agreed policy between the Dominions Governments and our own Government. That is the general programme of work which my right hon. Friend has in mind, and we shall pursue it as energetically as we can, and certainly with great precision.
§ The House will not expect me, therefore, to anticipate a Report which is not yet concluded, and which my right hon. Friend has not had the chance of seeing and considering. This Debate, like other Debates on this problem, has been marked by a series of constructive suggestions, differing one from another, and by many comments on this aspect and that aspect of the problem, the different categories of migrants going out, group settlement, settlement by nomination and so on, but this is not the time to answer the points that have been raised. I cannot anticipate a Report which has not been completed, but let me make one or two comments on the question generally. I agree whole-heartedly with what has been said by many hon. Members as regards the relation of this policy of migration to unemployment. It would be extremely unfortunate if we regarded migration simply as one means of tackling our unemployment problem. It would be fatal to any migration scheme if the impression got abroad in the Dominions that all we were concerned about was, if I may use the phrase, to dump some of our unemployed in the Dominions. That is not the attitude any Government of this country has ever adopted during 499 the whole history of our migration policy. Migration will only be successful when the Dominions are convinced that they are going to benefit from it, just as we are going to benefit from it. It will only be successful when the Dominions are as willing to welcome migrants as migrants are willing to go to the Dominions.
§ There is another point which is fundamental—the question of markets. It is no good sending large numbers of people to the Dominions with a kind of vague hope that they will find something to do. Migration must be carefully thought out, and there must be a reasonable prospect that migrants settling in the Dominions will not only be able to produce something but will also be able to sell to market what they produce. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth presented to the House a very ambitious and interesting scheme. Like the Government, he has been planning for the future. He has established a committee which has gone carefully into the whole question, and to-night he has presented the House with the results of that examination by a number of eminent and experienced men. This is not the moment to make comments on that scheme. He has only given us a brief sketch of it, and we must wait until we see the scheme in greater detail. But he touched on the question of markets, and said that the great Corporation which he envisages would arrange for the marketing of the produce of the settlers.
§ Let me give a simple illustration. Suppose his corporation was in existence to-day—I know that he does not contemplate a sudden commencement of migration and settlement—and that this corporation had to face the problem of marketing the produce of the migrant. The corporation would come to the Minister of Agriculture in this country. We know what the situation is here. We know that for reasons of policy, into which I will not go now, we are asking Dominion agricultural producers to restrict their supplies of certain kinds of agricultural commodities, and it would be quite unfair for us even to ask Dominion Governments, at a moment when they are being invited to ask their existing population to restrict supplies, to accept new migrants to produce exactly the same things which their existing producers are 500 being asked to restrict. I know perfectly well that my hon. and gallant Friend did not suggest that that was possible at this moment, and I only use it as an illustration of that marketing problem. That is why the Government went to Ottawa before talking about migration and settling down to work out migration plans: because at Ottawa we endeavoured to do something about this problem of markets. We endeavoured to increase the market, or to make provision for the gradual and progressive increase of the market, for Dominion goods in this country, and by as much as Ottawa proves successful in that way, by so much shall we help towards starting again a policy of migration to the Dominions.
§ Of course, it is not only migration that is going to gain if we can increase trade between the Dominions and this country, but shipping is also affected. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) spoke about shipping. The Government have been considering that whole question very carefully. Shipping would gain enormously if we could improve and increase inter-Imperial trade, because the great bulk of trade carried within the Empire is carried in British ships. I believe that 90 per cent. of that trade is carried in what are called British bottoms. Therefore, it is not only migration, but shipping—which is also mentioned in this Motion—that will benefit by trade treaties within the Empire, promoting trade within inter-Imperial markets. That problem of markets is, therefore, fundamental to this whole problem of migration, unless it is possible to establish here and there in the Empire the kind of self-supporting communities that have been mentioned in the course of this Debate. That, admittedly, would be an exception.
§ In conclusion, I should like to say a few words about that question of community or group settlements. It was extremely interesting to hear that conception of self-supporting communities advocated by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). He pointed across to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), and said that he had been associated with a certain colony which is worked on those lines. It is true up to a point. I am not quite certain how far Eldorado is self-supporting and how far it is dependent on an 501 export trade—how far, even, it is dependent on this business of a market. But even if we admit that Eldorado is self-supporting, in how many places in the Empire are you going to find those conditions repeated? You have to have a piece of country which has a certain kind of pleasant climate all the year round, and which is capable of producing a certain variety of goods——
§ Sir E. GRIGG: I was speaking of settlement on those lines principally in this country, and not abroad.
§ Mr. MacDONALD: I accept that, but I am not sure that that is an argument for a migration policy.
§ Sir E. GRIGG: I did not use it as such.
§ Mr. MacDONALD: I am quite sure that my hon. Friend did not, but there is a certain amount of confusion with other people. A great many people who are interested in migration link it up with a policy of settlement on the land in this country. We have to recognise that, if you pursue a policy of land settlement in this country, you are by so much reducing the possible market for Dominion agricultural produce in this country, and by so much reducing the possibility of a large flow of migration to the Dominions. That is fundamental, and you have to get it clear. As regards self-supporting communities, there are very few places in the Dominions where you could establish that type of community.
§ On the question of community settlement generally I would remind the House that in past years there has been a steady flow of migration from this country to the Dominions and that scores of thousands of people have gone out year after year. In fact when you examine those years when migration was steady and large you find that only an infinitesimal proportion were going to settle in group settlements or communities. The vast majority of migrants went as individual families or individual men or individual single women or individual juveniles, and it is my personal view that, just as migration in the past has been largely migration and settlement by infiltration, so if we are to contemplate a large flow of migration in the future we have also to recognise that that settlement by infiltration is to be 502 responsible for far larger numbers than would be possible under a scheme of settlement by communities.
§ These are problems in which we are all intensely interested, and I have spoken principally this evening in order to indicate what the Government are doing about it, and to indicate, I hope, that they have been planning, and that they are working as swiftly as possible to the point when we can enter into discussions with the Dominion Government. Because we are all agreed in our objective and are all working in the same spirit, we should very much like to accept the Motion, if it can be read in the light of what I have said. The Motion says that we should get into touch with the Dominion Governments now, but I have tried to explain that we are now engaged and have been engaged for a long time in doing the essential preliminary work before getting into touch with the Dominion Governments. We could accept the Motion on the understanding that we be allowed to complete that preliminary work first and then get into touch with the Dominion Governments, and I am sure we shall then have a satisfactory conclusion to what has been an intensely interesting and important Debate.
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN: Would it not be wise to let the Dominions get into touch with the Committees that have been referred to?
§ Mr. MacDONALD: All the Dominions enjoy self-government and it is not for us to make more than suggestions, but as a matter of fact I have no doubt that in their departments they are considering this matter. We have already learned that there is a good deal of talk and interest as to the possibility of recommencing immigration in the principal Dominions.
§ Sir H. CROFT: May we take it that the Committee referred to is pressing on and that a large amount of work has been covered, and that we shall have some statement from the Government before many months are over?
§ Mr. MacDONALD: We are pressing on with the work and meeting twice a week. A great deal of the Report is already written, but we have not completed the work, and it is impossible for me to say when there can be any announcement, but as soon as we can 503 present our report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State he will give that matter very careful consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House is of opinion that the time has now come when His Majesty's Government should get in touch with the Governments of the Dominions with a view to putting forward a scheme for the voluntary redistribution of the white peoples of the Empire and the stimulation of shipping and trade under the flag.