HC Deb 22 March 1934 vol 287 cc1388-90
Mr. LUNN (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is able to make any further statement regarding the position of the United Kingdom settlers in Victoria whose cases were dealt with in the Report of the Royal Commission on Migrant Land Settlement.

The Secretary of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)

Yes, Sir. I am informed that up to date, of the 292 settlers concerned, 75 have applied for re-settlement on the land, and their cases are now under consideration by the assessor appointed for that purpose, 175 have decided not to apply for re-settlement on the land, but to accept the cash compensation offered by the Victoria Government. The remaining 42 have not yet reached a decision. The total amount of cash compensation paid out by the Victoria Government to date is approximately £50,000.

An Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Sir James Barrett, a distinguished surgeon, has been set up in Melbourne by the Council of the combined Empire Societies and the British Ex-Service Legion, and I understand that this Committee, in co-operation with the settlers' legal advisers, has done invaluable work in advising the settlers as to their future.

As the House has already been informed, the Victoria Government, in addition to the other sums provided by them in respect of compensation, agreed to make some provision towards meeting the pressing private debts of the settlers concerned. This provision was limited to £8,000. While, as I have previously stated, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have no legal responsibility in this matter, they are anxious that the cash payments made to the settlers by the Victoria Government should not be unduly diminished, and they have therefore made available an additional £10,000 to assist in the payment of private debts.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when the Victoria State Government are likely to pay the settlers the additional £50,000 which they voted some time ago in their Parliament? Will he also say when their grant of £8,000 and the £10,000 grant from the Imperial Government are likely to be distributed; and whether those who have left their land and those who have come home will be able to share in that relief?


I think that the additional £50,000 is being paid out now. My hon. Friend will know that I felt this was such an important case that I took the necessary steps to instruct my own representative in Australia to take a personal interest and to investigate the whole matter himself. He will be jointly responsible for this additional £18,000 and it will be paid after personal individual investigation of each case on its merits; and it will include all and not any particular people.


Are we to understand that some of the settlers are to be moved to new Government land, and, if so, will steps be taken to see that that land is thoroughly suitable?


I should have thought that the obvious answer first is that those who experienced the first land on which they were put would themselves be very careful before they took the second land, but in addition to that, expert advice is being given to them in the matter.


What is the position of those who have already come home?


All those cases are being investigated on the lines I have indicated.


I mean those who have come from Australia?


The eases here will be investigated in accordance with the basis that I have laid down.