HC Deb 18 December 1935 vol 307 cc1785-847

3.51 p.m.


I beg to move, That this House is of opinion that the time has arrived when immediate steps should be taken to survey possibilities for restarting migration within the Empire, and urges His Majesty's Government to set up at an early date an Empire settlement board, with a view to examining all schemes for organised settlement, and to recommend to Parliament any means which will assist the redistribution of population within the Empire. It is with very great diffidence that I rise for the first time so early in my service in this House to address the House and to introduce a Motion. I realise that I have a very great deal to learn yet. I have realised that sometimes outside the Chamber as well as within. But now that I am on my feet and, so to speak, caught by the unerring finger of fate in the ballot, I am very glad to be speaking on the subject of emigration and drawing the attention of the Government to the resumption of emigration in the Empire, because I consider it a very vital and important subject. First of all, what is our object? We can, perhaps, produce long tirades about curing unemployment or balancing the populations in the Empire, or perhaps increasing the security of our Empire, but I prefer to put our object in more simple language. I turn to the Parable of the Talents, and all that I suggest is that our object is to develop our talents—our inheritance. What must we consider in relation to this object? First of all, we must look to the past. We must look back on that pioneer spirit, backed by capital, which went to these new lands and started building this object? First of all, we must look to the past. We must look back on that pioneer spirit, backed by capital, which went to these new lands and started building this Empire for us. We must also look to the future, and in the future we shall see numbers of hungry nations all thirsting for expansion and the development of new areas, and we have to consider very seriously now planning our own Empire to meet what may be a threat in later days. Unfortunately, as politicians we have also to think of the present. There are many statesmen in our constituencies who can always look to the future and can always look to the past, but we as politicians have also to take into consideration the factors affecting the attainment of the object to-day, and I propose to talk for a moment on them, although all the time we want to bear in mind this building for the future.

The first factor affecting the attainment of this object is that we have in power, only recently elected, a National Government from which the country and the Empire expect a very great deal of progressive and future planning. We have also an Opposition which I consider to be just as sincerely desirous of bringing together the unemployed people in this country and the resources in other countries and giving the two a chance to work hand in hand for the uplift of the people concerned, and for the abolition of poverty. So I think we can all work together, and I implore that in a matter such as this we should try to work in a non-party spirit. What are the other factors? First of all, there are vast areas in the Empire and vast resources so far untapped. There is also, apparently, in England a great deal of capital which can be borrowed at very low rates of interest and used for development purposes. There are also numbers of idle men and others who, although not idle, are not on the standard of living that we should like to see. To be perfectly fair, we must also remember that the same applies to the Dominions, that in the Dominions there are also numbers of people idle and people who are poor and people who are seeking some form of outlet for their energies. Are the Dominions, then, going to accept a new burden put on them? That is what we have to ask, and that is what we have to get over. We hear much of overproduction, but I do not think any of us has the right to say that there is any over-production in the world while there is under-consumption. It is a question of bringing the capital, the men and the resources together and giving a chance for savings to earn wealth. We must not live on capital, but the savings of capital must be used to earn wealth.

There is another factor affecting the situation. What do foreign countries think? I was quite recently in Berlin. I was speaking at a dinner, and I had thrown at me a gibe which I very often get. I had it last summer in Budapest and Prague. "Here you are, you Britons. You have this idle money, these idle men, and all these resources. You do not do anything about them, and at the same time you stop us from doing anything about them." That is a very hard question to face frankly, sitting among a number of German business men. I think it is very necessary that we should do something about it, otherwise we shall find that these foreigners will be demanding that they be given a chance. At this moment I understand that there is a Swiss delegation in Canada. I also understand that there are more people from foreign countries going to our Dominions than Britons. I know a certain German nobleman who is in London to-day trying to organise a scheme for German emigration to Australia, and gaining a certain amount of money from garrulous ladies in Kensington and others. The final factor affecting the situation is that, whatever development we may have in view, it is going to take some time to prepare; and that is the object of my Motion—that the Government should get down to some scheme that will pave the way for future development of the Dominions.

The next question is, what are the courses open to us? The first course is to do nothing and to hope for better times. At the very best that will be haphazard and slow and not likely to be a success. The second course is to revive the old emigration schemes. No, we do not want to do that. They did not prove a success in the past. So often one has heard of taking penniless boys and girls out of the poorer districts of England, giving them their fare to the Dominions and telling them to make good. It is quite understandable that the Dominions themselves are not willing to take people who in this country would be a burden and are more likely to do well in a new country. The third course open is to stimulate the voluntary organisations that are in existence. Certainly, by all means; and I hope that the Government will give some assistance and encouragement to the voluntary organisations that are working so hard and are so handicapped to-day.

The fourth course is to plan, to make a programme of development which could be modified to suit each Dominion or each circumstance, a programme that is elastic, so that even if to-day we cannot have a wholesale invasion we may at least be able to send out our reconnaissance patrols. It would be unfair to seek to appreciate the situation without producing some form of plan. I do not propose to produce a plan in detail this afternoon. I propose to throw out a few lines of thought, and to show that there is a prima facie case for the Government to set up what I am asking for, that is a board that will cc-ordinate, examine and plan schemes. The first we must turn to are the children. The Fairbridge Farm Schools have proved a very great success. We might extend that scheme. One of the saddest types to be seen in London or any other city to-day is the young orphan, boy or girl, who is suitable only for a child's job and is unable to keep himself; the boy who, if he had a home, would be able to help the family budget but is not able to earn enough to keep himself properly in a town. The Government might consider transferring a good many of our young orphans and giving them a chance in schools from the very earliest days in new lands. There is also a great deal to be said for encouraging soldier settlers, for giving soldiers or sailors or airmen who leave the Service a chance of settling in the new Dominions. There is also a possibility of collecting those men in the Service who are desirous of eventually settling in a Dominion—collecting them so that they may serve the last two years in battalions in the Dominions, at the same time possibly giving them a chance to develop their new homes.

Those are all lines of thought. But the great line of thought I want to come to is the one which I know is the most acceptable to the Dominions themselves. That is that we transfer balanced communities, people backed with capital, who know each other and are willing and desirous to people a new area as a colony in itself. Between the years 1920 and 1932 the British Government spent £200,000,000 on unemployment schemes, but those schemes were only palliatives and only temporary, and we still have the unemployed with us. For £200,000,000 we could emigrate 200,000 settlers, and if each settler had a wife and two children that would mean 800,000 souls. Why could we not raise money at a cheap rate of interest and spend the equivalent of what was spent between 1920 and 1932 on unemployment at home, in giving people a real chance in countries which can keep them? The interest on such a loan would be more than repaid to the taxpayers in England by the saving on unemployment, housing, schooling, etc. For any such scheme, however, and for any of the other schemes, we must have a system of training in this country before emigrants go abroad. The people must not only be trained but they must live under even harder conditions at home than those under which they would be expected to live in the Dominions. It is no good sending out soft people. They must be given a hard training, and they must realise that a spartan existence is called for from the start.

I ask the Government to set up an Empire Development Board that will co-ordinate these schemes, examine future proposals and prepare some planned programme, so that as the years go by we may carry on with an Empire policy instead of drifting and hoping for the best. We have to think of yet one more point and it is this: The waters of Europe may be ruffled to-day. It is quite possible that the waters of the Empire may be subject to a tidal bore during the next year, and that it may seriously shake our foundations. I am certain that in the next four to six years the waters of this world are going to stiffer such a storm that it would be as well for us and our Empire to start consolidating our anchorage now. That is why I rise to-day and ask the House to support me in this object of developing our talents in the Empire.

4.9 p.m.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

I beg to second the Motion.

As one of the oldest Members of the House, I regard it as a great privilege to be permitted to second this Motion. I am sure that the House will permit me to offer my own and its congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member on his maiden speech, which showed much study of the question, and to congratulate him also on the manner and the matter of his speech. Chelmsford should be very proud of its representative. We all appreciate that it is early in the new Parliament for the hon. and gallant Member to be called upon to rise and deal with such a subject. We congratulate him on the way in which he has dealt with it. The hon. and gallant Member's speech is a refutation of the argument so widely used that youth is callous or indifferent to the obligations of Empire. Anyone in this House who looks round the world to-day will admit that the principal hope for our race lies in the greater development and the greater populating of the Empire overseas.

Trade is so closely linked up with this question of population that I would remind the House of the movement of trade in the Empire since the Ottawa Agreement. It is really very heartening to those who are looking for the salvation of our workers in the matter of employment. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that last year, for the first time in our histoy, our kinsmen in the Empire overseas and the various associated countries in the Empire gave more employment to our industrialists than all the foreign world put together. What I think is even more striking and a more dramatic landmark in our Empire history is the fact that in October of this year the British Empire overseas purchased a greater total of our exports than all the 1,200,000,000 dwellers in foreign lands. Those are very striking facts. No wonder that many idealists at the moment are somewhat disheartened because some of the greatest Powers in the world are unable to show a corporate spirit of sacrifice in trying to help the world along the road which we would all desire to travel, the road of true peace and understanding; and no wonder that youth is turning ever more hopefully to the countries under the British flag and to all the nations within the British system as a possible spiritual union and a union where fraternal aid is making progress, and is hoping for guidance along the path which will lead the world through unity to the goal of peace.

It will be remembered by many that two years ago a Resolution was tabled in the House urging the Government to take the earliest possible opportunity of communicating with the Dominions overseas with a view to surveying possibilities for restarting the flow of migration. One is entitled to remind the House that that was a record Resolution. Actually a considerable majority of the Members of the House attached their names to it, and some 20 or 30 others afterwards indicated that it had their support. Personally I regret that the Government at that time were so concerned with other great and vital affairs, as we must admit they were, that a day was not possible for the discussion of this great question, and much less was any action possible. We were told to await the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on this subject. Although we realised the amount of labour given by that committee to its task, everyone who has studied that report must come to the conclusion that it was pessimistic in its outlook, and indeed almost defeatist, in that it could give us no constructive hope of action to be taken.

It is not my intention to repeat the arguments which I have used before in this House in support of the proposals of the Empire Settlement and Development Research Committee, except to restate the grave fact which I think ought always to be present in our minds, namely, that if migration from this country had proceeded since the War at the average rate of the five years prewar, there would be no unemployment problem facing us in this country to-day. That is really indisputable. I am not suggesting that you are ever going to be able to employ every Tired Tim or Weary Willie, but if you take the bare facts of the case you will see, even making every allowance for those who come back, the outward net migration would have been such, had it continued at that pace, that we would have had no real problem of unemployment to face to-day.

I want to call the attention of the House to new evidence of rather a perilous character. Fortunately, it is also a, non-political point, on which I hope to gain the sympathy of Members of all parties, but it is an analysis of what is to happen in the matter of unemployment unless something very definite is begun along some new paths. I refer to the report of the Statutory Commission on Unemployment which was issued in October of this year in which we learn what is regarded by the Committee as the probable course of unemployment during the next two years. The estimate is not put forward, as is stated in the report, as a prophecy, but as a reasonable assumption, and percentage figures of the increase of unemployment are given. I read a very interesting article in the "News Chronicle," a newspaper which I sometimes find strays into my home, from the pen of a gentleman named Mr. Crowther. He had worked out these percentage figures in terms of actual numbers and he estimated, according to these percentage figures, that in 1936 the number of unemployed in this country would be 1,970,000, and thereafter for each year, according to the report of this Commission, the figure would rise steadily until 1940 when it would reach 2,830,000. The writer, perhaps with some justification—and I daresay he is not a political friend of mine or of the Government—pointed out that a General Election would be taking place before the end of 1940, and asked what would happen if the figure had gone up by 1,000,000 at that time.

Speaking here as a Conservative, and, I believe, representing the point of view of Conservatives in general, I say that this shall not be. We do not intend to face such a situation. We are going to do much more than explore every avenue. We intend to make British trade and the British Empire a real thing. We are not going to be content with any kind of laissez faire on the subject. In Canada, which is far greater in territory than the United States of America, there is a population which is only about the size of Greater London. In the vast island continent of Australia, a country where, if you were to drop Britain down somewhere in the centre, and where you could walk for month; and months without ever bumping into this little island at all, there are 6,500,000 people, more than half of whom are living in five great cities. In New Zealand, a country somewhat bigger than England with very similar climatic conditions, there are only 1,500,000 inhabitants. When we pressed these figures and the conclusions upon the Secretary of State for the Dominions in the last Parliament we received from him a lot of sympathy but the general tenour of the Government's reply was that "things are so bad in the world, we cannot talk about it now. Come back in eight years' time, and then we shall be able, we hope, to get a move on." Our answer is that cheap land and cheap money, the two great essentials for any new development in the Empire, may have passed perhaps for our lifetime, and may not return unless we take action in the near future. Surely, now is the time for action to be taken along these lines. We want in this matter less of Mr. Faintheart or of doubting Thomas; we want men of courage and vision who are determined to see the matter through.

We ought to fight the question of unemployment with the same concentrated will power that we displayed as a nation at war. It is not going to be got over by any simple remedy. It really wants great, big ideas; it wants the best British brains, British capital and British credit mobilised in such a cause. I am not wedded to any particular scheme. Many hon. Members have heard of General Hornby's efforts to conduct the country along the lines of his scheme. I do not mind what the scheme is, but surely we ought to be thinking now and searching the possibilities along the lines of one of these various proposals. Putting it at its worst, even if there were not any great financial profit out of any of these schemes, I submit that the moral and physical gain would far outweigh any possible financial loss. What is more—as was pointed out in the report issued two years ago—the indirect advantage to British shipping and to British iron and steel workers, and, therefore, to British miners and all the industries concerned, as well as to the Dominions overseas, is undoubtedly very great. Everyone who has made a study of the population question will agree that it is during the next 10 years that we need to save our youth from an overcrowded labour market. After that, as we know, the population problem may very likely be solved. In fact, we may be striving then to stem the decline of our birth-rate, and we may be offering large rewards to the mothers of triplets wherever they can help the nation in that respect. It is, therefore, during the next 10 years that this subject will be so very vital to all of us if the flower of a generation is not to suffer the misery which we have seen in the depressed areas and that moral wreckage which follows prolonged unemployment.

May we not ask the Opposition parties to help in this subject? We do not claim that this is a Conservative question at all. May we not hope that all parties will be equally interested in this matter? I have never doubted for one moment that the views of hon. Gentlemen with whom I sometimes disagree are as equally sincere as mine on the question of solving unemployment. We have to take strong measures, and I frankly confess that if I were a dictator I should at once insist that we should start close settlement on three or four great estates in this country, training annually some 20,000 of our workers, with their wives and families, in mixed farming operation to prove their fitness to migrate overseas, or, failing such suitability, after a period of some months, at least to equip them with the possibility of engaging in agricultural pursuits in this country and giving back to our country once more that land sense which, unfortunately, has largely been lost. We should prepare for overseas migration now, and do everything in our power to think out schemes along the lines we intend to go.

I want to refer very briefly to the Dominion point of view. We are always being told in this House what the Dominions think about this subject, but I desire to submit to those who dwell in the Dominions two great truths. First of all, increased population alone can solve their problems and make them capable of bearing their overhead debts, making their transport systems pay, giving prosperity to their small industries upon which they put so much trust, and maintaining the burden of their social services. Secondly, I would say to the Dominions, as the friend of the Dominions who believes in the fraternity of the British race, that unless they populate their undeveloped land, they cannot hope to resist the land hunger of other nations and the laws of population pressure, which nothing in the long run can deflect, and which will threaten their very existence. We want to see infiltration when the possibility returns and it will certainly follow a real expansion of the policy of Imperial reciprocity as developed at Ottawa. We hope that the tide of prosperity is now on the turn because there are indications from all the Dominions that they have turned the corner. But infiltration is not enough. We must give a turn to the wheel of prosperity and keep it moving, and if we do that it will add to the prospertiy of all the countries of the Empire. There are some who have great hopes that Italy might solve this great population problem by means of a chartered company in Abyssinia. I am not going to discuss the merits of that question here, but if that be so, and if it is a wise policy for Italy in that uncongenial country, how much more worth while would be the experiment in the British Empire overseas where you have all the social services and railway systems, etc., already built up.

Members of the Government have sometimes said to me in answer to questions, that they believe the Dominions will not listen to any question of early migration. My answer to that is that they have never been asked, and I suggest that if we could make a gift of, let us say, 20,000 new taxpayers and ratepayers to any one province of Canada or State of Australia, it would so start the re-circulation of wealth in those countries that you would find that all these problems would rapidly be solved in the particular area, and then, I think, you would have every Province and State of the Empire tumbling over each other also in order to gain our favours in this respect. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that we should do everything we can, even if it be on a small scale at first, to support new colonies in the old Dominions, to develop these areas with the assistance of Dominion unemployed and thus get the good will of the Dominions on our side at once, and start out to survey sites for the development of these areas with their villages, and, I will go as far as to say, with their towns and cities, laying, if necessary, new railway branch lines, with material constructed in the great factories and workshops of this country. If we could do that it would strike the imagination of the Dominions at once. I believe, after having made a considerable study of this question, that there are only two essential reservations which the Dominions would make. The first is that there should be no obligation upon the Dominions to maintain any of our settlers who might be misfits or failures, and that we must undertake that obligation ourselves. Secondly, that under no conditions should any settlers going overseas to the new areas compete with Dominion labour outside the areas of the settlements. To make sure of this it may be necessary for the Government to consider whether we could not extend unemployment benefit and pensions for a limited period of years to those who go overseas in connection with any migration scheme.

Let me make my last point. My hon. Friend has already referred to it. We desire an empire settlement board or an empire settlement development board, because we feel it necessary that this question should be taken out of politics and out of the ordinary departmental line of action, where you always have difficulties put up before anyone who is trying to get anything done. Such a body could look into various schemes and could say which ought to be pressed forward, and then a case could be submitted to the Treasury and we might get a move on. We think it desirable that such a body should be non-political, and rather of the character of the Tariff Advisory Board. They might go into the schemes and recommend those which they considered desirable. If State credit were behind such a scheme we believe it would be a financial success. Now is the time to ask for large sums of money for suitable schemes. We are absolutely convinced that in regard to such schemes, whether along the Hornby line or the bigger lines which have been indicated, if we had skilled organisation behind them and we were determined to ensure the success of the settlers in the Dominions—the success of the organisation would depend upon the success of the settlers—if there were a call upon the Government guarantee it would never exceed the tot 11 agreed upon by all parties in this House as a reasonable amount for the assistance of migration within the Empire, namely, £3,000,000 per annum.

I am convinced that any settlement scheme of this kind, skilfully organised for chosen areas and with the three essential factors assured, rain, soil and cheap means of communication, would cost no more, even if it fulfilled none of our hopes, than the annual amount which we spend upon an equal number of persons in this country in unemployment. I do not wish to concentrate upon the unemployed, because there are scores of people who are in employment awaiting their opportunity to go out to the Empire, and their going would provide openings for work for unemployed people here. In that way we should help to lighten the burden of unemployment. A sum of £1,200,000,000 has been spent on keeping alive our unemployed since the war. For a tithe of that sum we could get a real move on and make a great experiment in migration. The Government may possibly be frightened at the idea of moving large numbers of people, but I would remind them that their predecessors moved 7,000,000 of people during the war and transported some of them 13,000 miles, housed them, clothed them and fed them. Surely it is possible to tackle a much smaller proposition such as the one we make.

May I remind the House of the criticisms that were levelled against Joseph Chamberlain when he went to the Colonial Office and urged this country to develop the Crown Colonies and to create wonderful railway systems, docks, harbours and so on? There were people at that time who said that it was a foolish thing to do, because the Colonies were not paying their way. Mr. Chamberlain had great faith. He went forward, and the result has been that with one or two exceptions during the peak of the depression all these Colonies have been self-supporting and have been of the most wonderful assistance to this country during difficult days. When we see the result of faith and imagination in those days I would ask hon. Members what other great constructive scheme other than thinly veiled charity is there before us at the present time. If they believe that the Empire ought to be populated, then I say, whatever the scheme may be, for heaven's sake let us adopt some scheme. Cannot we all work together and ask the Government to set up a board to thresh out these migration matters, so that we can get down to business? Then we shall all be able to agree that we have done a good day's work and that, while we have conflicts on other matters, we have all worked together to give a helping hand to those who are distressed in our midst.

4.36 p.m.


I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) on his speech. The tone and temper of it, and his ideals in regard to the subject of migration are something that I can appreciate. He is a young man, and I believe that he will live to see the day when the Dominions will be populated far differently from what they are to-day. I would encourage him to give more attention to this subject and to see what can be done when something can be done in regard to it. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who seconded the Motion, has had a long experience of this House, and he knows more about this subject than the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford. I noticed that he ignored certain facts, to which I will call the attention of the House. I have heard his speeches on many occasions, and to-day he left out all those things that he has been saying for some years. In his mind there are facts which he has not brought out to-day. He said—and it is perfectly true—that if migration had continued since the War to the same extent as before the War, we should have had no unemployed in this country to-day. That is a fact, but it ignores the conditions in the Dominions. They have gone through the same economic difficulties as ourselves, and they are not in a position to consider taking migrants from this country. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth knows that very well.

The hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford suggested what the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth used to suggest, and that was that we should transfer from this country whole communities and settle them in the various Dominions. He said that that would be welcomed by the Dominions. He cannot have given much attention to the subject or he would know that every statesman in the Dominions has set his back against that kind of settlement. I accept what was said with regard to the Fairbridge Farm School, which ought to be encouraged, but that is only a drop in the bucket. It deals only with a few boys, and can do very little towards populating the Dominions with Britishers. One thing that strikes me in these Debates is the idea of certain hon. Members that we can shovel out our unemployed from this country to any part of the world and get rid of them. There is no such possibility. The Dominions Governments know about our unemployed and they have their own attitude in regard to them. Migration is no cure for unemployment and it cannot be considered in any way as a solution for our unemployment problem, or even touching it.

The Motion is harmless. It says that there should be more migration and that we should take steps to survey the possibilities of restarting migration, but in the second part of the Motion there is the suggestion that a board should be established. I am not opposed to the Motion, and I am not opposed to the establishment of a board, but I have been a member of the Overseas Settlement Committee for many years. That committee is presided over by the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions. It was appointed under the Empire Settlement Act which was passed in 1922, and in connection with it there is a grant of £3,000,000 a year for migration purposes for 15 years. That committee is still in existence and it has done good work. I have heard criticism of the Overseas Settlement Committee but I have heard no criticism of any scheme that has been promoted by the Overseas Settlement Committee, except the Victorian settlement scheme, which proved to be a fiasco. An infinite amount of harm has been done as a result of that scheme, both in the Dominions and here. That was the first scheme that was started, really before the committee got to work, and it began with glorified posters and advertisements which did not give reliable information to those who were to go out. Since 1923 the Overseas Settlement Committee have established schemes which they have no reason to regret in regard to settlement, after-care, reception and travel between this country and the Dominions. I know of nothing that they have done, except the instance which I have mentioned, which merits criticism, and I cannot see what a new board could do better than is being done now, or better than has been done, by the Overseas Settlement Committee. That committee is a representative body and knows the circumstances of the situation.

A board could do nothing to-day. There is no migration scheme in operation, nor is there any likelihood of there being a migration scheme for some time to come. There are many thousands more people returning to this country from the Dominions than there are leaving our shores for the Dominions. If a board is to be appointed immediately, who is to appoint it? Is it to be appointed by the person who is now called the Secretary of State for the Dominions? He has been rejected by the electors. He has not the confidence of the people. He is not a Member of either House of Parliament. The Tories do not want him, neither do we. He is reaping what he has sown. The Government ought to take steps to see that there is a representative in this House who can speak on Dominions questions. The Dominions to-day have established for themselves, or we have established for them, free and equal partnership with the United Kingdom. We have ceased to be the mother country, and important questions continually arise between them and ourselves which ought to be dealt with by a responsible Minister as Secretary of State for the Dominions in Parliament.


If that is the difficulty, we are prepared to accept an Amendment to insert the words "when the Secretary of State for the Dominions is returned to this House."


These matters can only be dealt with and should only be dealt with when we have a Secretary of State in this House, because some of the negotiations which take place between the Dominions and this country are as delicate as any discussions which take place between us and foreign countries, and they should be in the hands of a representative person. But, what is a board going to do in the present circumstances if we establish it? There is no possibility of migration overseas being restarted in the near future. If we want to settle people on the land, we should begin to settle them in our own country, which is part of the Empire. If we are to provide capital for settlement, we ought to spend it at home. We have plenty of land and the market is at hand and, moreover, it will cost less to settle families on the land in this country than to settle them in any Dominion. That, to me, is an important factor. The Dominions do not want our unemployed. I have never believed that our unemployed are unemployable; they want the opportunity to work and to work for wages. But in the Dominions they are unemployable, and they tell us that they are not going to have our unemployed dumped upon them. If migration is to be started they want the best, the pick of the basket of any people who go from this country. We have at home idle land, idle men and idle money, and if the Government would plan a scheme of settlement here it would be the best to help our people in our own country.

But even if circumstances were favourable for migration, we ought not to give financial assistance unless the Dominion Governments welcome the idea and are prepared and willing to receive migrants; and are prepared to join in making arrangements which will guarantee an opportunity to migrants to earn a livelihood. We cannot shuffle them overseas as a cure for unemployment. The Dominions know our circumstances as well as we do and will not have them. Further, if we are to deal with this matter publicity must be reliable. We must inform the people of our country what are the conditions and circumstances in the Dominions and the economic possibilities for people who go there. There is a strong trade union movement in Canada, Australia and in New Zealand, and I think that trade unions here and in the Dominions should be associated with any scheme of migration because most of those who would have to go are working people. If the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth had read the report which has just been published, his speech to-day would have been different. What is the position to-day, and the possibilities for to-morrow? We have had an interdepartmental committee considering the matter of migration policy, and I hope that every hon. Member will read their report. They say: Migration at present is out of the question. They expose many suggested schemes of migration as being impossible and deal with group settlements. They condemn every group settlement scheme that has been tried up to now, and say: they have not only failed, but their cost has been out of all proportion to the results. They also oppose any idea of the United Kingdom providing money to settle people on the land in the Dominions and tell us that not one-third of those who have gone out as migrants to the Dominions since 1922 have settled on the land. Their only suggestion with regard to migration is one which has been taken up to-day for the first time by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, and that is the suggestion of infiltration, which they say is the only scheme which shows any possible prospect of success. I agree with the various ideas of infiltration suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, that it will be a good thing to put into operation, and is the only method acceptable to the Dominions.


That is not exactly what I said.


I do not believe it is possible to adopt the method now, but the fact is that the Committee suggests that it is the method of migration which should be adopted, and that it is the only one which offers any prospect of success. There is one thing in the report which I should never adopt, and that is the suggestion that we should return to the migration of young children to Canada, as before 1924. I was largely responsible for an inquiry which brought that method to an end. It was condemned both in Canada and in this country, and I hope that this form of child slavery will never be started again. If it is suggested, I shall take whatever steps I can to oppose it in every possible way, knowing as I do the conditions in Canada when it was in operation. I am not opposed to migration if there is a possibility of providing a livelihood. Our people will go if there is a guarantee of work and wages. The Empire Settlement Act comes to an end in 1937. I hope that we shall renew the Act, because our people will go to our Dominions if there is an opportunity to earn a livelihood.

What is the position in the Dominions? I am essentially a practical man, and I like to look at the facts of the situation. There has been a lot of woolliness about the speeches to-day. What are the facts? There are only three Dominions with whom we can consider the question of migration. For this purpose South Africa may be ruled out. The three Dominions are New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Take New Zealand. There is no scheme for migration there, and has not been for many years. I am pleased to know that there is now a Labour Government in New Zealand and I should like to have their opinion on this matter. Last July we had a conference which lasted for days in the Empire Parliamentary Association rooms, at which members of Parliament from every part of the Empire were able to meet. It was a good conference, and I hope that there will be more of the kind where we can discuss questions of immediate importance to any part of the British Empire. One member of that conference is now a member of the Government of New Zealand, Mr. Frazer, and speaking on this subject of migration he said that if they could improve their markets, extend secondary industries and absorb their unemployed the movement of population would naturally grow. I agree with him. Those are three good points which he wants settled, and I am satisfied that if they are settled satisfactorily for New Zealand the movement of population will begin to flow towards New Zealand. Take Australia. I put a question to the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Lyons, when he was here this year on unemployment, and his answer was that they have 18 per cent. unemployed, as shown by the returns of the trade unions in Australia. They have no Government register in Australia and rely upon the returns of the trade unions, which are accepted by the Government.


What date was that?


That was on 8th July when the conference was held in the Empire Parliamentary Association rooms. Mr. Menzies, the Attorney-General in the Australian Parliament, speaking on the question of migration, said: They in Australia were opposed to the renewal of any group settlement system whatever. He did not mince matters at all. I have particulars in abundance and letters in abundance from Australia showing the shocking economic conditions of the people there, and it would be an injustice to the migrants and to the Australian people to think of sending any of our people out there at this time. What of Canada? Everyone has read of the unemployed demonstrations and disturbances which have taken place recently in various provinces. Canada has a law which gives the Government the opportunity to deport people who are not wanted, and they have deported from Canada 14,000 British migrants during the last five years, hundreds more were deported last year than the total number that left this country.

Five minutes before I rose to speak a letter was put into my hand by an hon. Member behind me from a mother living at Scunthorpe, whose son is now in Canada. He went out as a boy of 15½ years of age and has been there five and a half years. He has received only 5s. per month. He now wishes to return, but he is unable to pay his passage, and there are thousands of similar people in Canada to-day. The one way for them to get back is to sink to the depths of criminals, as it were, to become destitute, to become a nuisance, and then they may be deported. More than 14,000 of the British migrants who went out after being carefully selected have been deported in the last five years. Answering a question on 13th May the Minister of Labour said that the inward balance of British and alien passengers to this country was 253,530 in the last five years. Here we are talking about the most ridiculous subject we can waste our time on at this moment. Somehow, although the Government have no idea how to deal with unemployment, they find that anything is welcome to them as a subject of discussion. These 250,000 people have come from overseas in the last five years in excess of the number we have sent out. Those figures show that conditions in the Dominions are as bad as they are in this country.

I agreed with the late Secretary of State for the Dominions, who is now the Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he said that he would not agree to any scheme of migration until the Dominion Government could guarantee to those who go a satisfactory livelihood. There must be no compulsion if any scheme is adopted. If they wish, to go they must go of their own will. There must be, if we are establishing a system of migration, a guarantee of work and wages to those who go. Let me take the latest report on this matter. When we entered the General Election the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies, met a deputation in London. There had been a conference on migration at Newcastle and that conference appointed a deputation which came down to London. The Secretary of State said on that occasion, which was 24th October, the latest possible date: Last year there were 15,000 odd more people returning than left these shores, and you have only to examine those figures over a period of years to see the tremendous connection between that and the problem of unemployment. That being so, something else emerges from it. We have no right to ask our people to migrate and take their chance unless we are prepared to give them a fair crack of the whip, and we have no right to ask our people to migrate and take their chance unless they are welcome in those Dominions, unless a real welcome is given to them, and the difficulty we are up against, at this moment, is the large mass of unemployed in each of the Dominions. Only a few months ago I discussed this with every Dominion Premier because I wanted to avail myself of the opportunity, not only of urging this question, but of getting their reactions. They, very naturally, said 'We cannot be unmindful of this fact, that if large masses of your people come and there are large numbers of unemployed in our own towns and our own cities, it is not that they will not get a good welcome, but their presence will be resented, because it will be felt that the people already unemployed should have the first preference.' I think that after that there is not much room for talking about instituting any idea of migration to the Dominions at this moment. Those are the conditions that exist to-day. I am quite satisfied that there will be a recovery sooner or later, and our people will prefer to go. They are Britishers who have populated our Dominions. I do not think much of the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Motion when he spoke about the migration of Germans to Australia. The population of Australia is 97 per cent. British and I believe Australia will try to see this maintained. We hope there will be opportunities for Britishers to go in the future. I have no hesitation in saying that we ought to strengthen the British Dominions when we have the opportunity, because I believe they are the greatest instruments for peace in the world. But at the moment I think our people are well advised to remain at home amongst their own relations and friends, because I think that is where they will get more consideration than is possible under economic conditions in the Dominions to-day. I know there is a spirit of adventure in people to-day, as there always has been, and many people will desire to go, and if they wish to go when the opportunity comes, I hope it will be under Government control, and that it will not be handed over to voluntary societies. There should be Government reception and Government willingness to take the scheme up in the Dominions when it is started. Then I am sure we could take the matter up and we should be willing to guide them and assist them in every way possible, because I believe it will be in the interests of this country and the British Commonwealth of Nations to watch it and guard it carefully in the future.

5.8 p.m.


May I at once ask for the courtesy and patience of the House which is always accorded to a new Member making his maiden speech? It is possible that one or two of you may recall my work as a journalist, and I am realising that a greater courage is required for the spoken word than the written word, and I hope you will be patient. It would seem that the whole question of Empire development alternates between fiercest controversy and greatest indifference. Since the Ottawa Conference, which, difficult as it was, did lay the foundation of better things, there has been a great lack of interest on all matters appertaining to the Empire, and for that reason I rejoice that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) has brought the question of the Empire so forcibly before the House. I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). We should be glad that the question has been brought forward by a man young in years, showing that the spirit of Empire is not merely a memory of older men but excites youth. I have been very interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn). It would seem to me that while giving lip service to the question of emigration he has revealed the truth. We all recognise that the Members on the opposite benches really do not want emigration to the Empire. I would suggest that in the recent Election not one Member on the opposite benches raised the question of Empire at all, except perhaps in connection with Abyssinia, or to recall that it was gathered together with brigandage and methods which would not stand the light of day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Correct."] Although the hon. Member supports the spirit of it in his words I doubt if we can look very much to the Socialist party for any development of Empire migration.


We will send you fellows out.


Emigration does not belong to one class. I should like to see the young men of wealthy parents as well as the young men of poor parents going out to the Dominions and Colonies. There is a great adventure there, and sometimes when we look at the obsession with Europe I wish there were leaders in this House who could give expression to the excitement of peace as well as to the alarums and excursions of war. War is out of date. War is old-fashioned. Peace needs its apostles. Peace is a negative word. It ought to be a positive word. Two months ago I crossed Canada. I went from the French-Canadian section, from Quebec to the lovely western Pacific coast, where the climate is kind and gentle and the people are generous and charming. There, passing through every kind of scenery, through every kind of existence, some of it harsh, some of it lovely, I did not see one soldier in uniform. I would like to contrast that with a similar trip through Europe to-day, where there is the march of tramping feet by day and by night. And yet which is the more exciting, this regimentation of men under dictatorships and orders in Europe or the free people developing our great resources in the Dominions? Which calls for the greater qualities? I think the answer is that peace has its excitement and adventures far greater than war.

Among all the Members of this House surely the greatest impetus should come from the opposite benches, and I would venture the opinion that one of the reasons why the Socialist party was defeated in the last Election and one of the reasons why it will be defeated in the next election is that it will not embrace a policy which will take men and women and children from the dark and dismal and terrible life of the distressed areas, and put them where they will not only have a chance of life but where their people will have a chance in the future. I find myself at a loss to know why from the Opposition Benches you get this antagonism to the question of Empire development. The hon. Member opposite read a letter from a young man in Canada earning 5s. a month from the age of 15 to 20, who now wants to come home and has not the money. Why is it that in the Socialist Press and on the Socialist platform no one ever reads a letter from a young man who has gone out and made good? It is always from that side that you get the propagation of defeat, and I would say that if a young man who went out at 15 years of age and has earned 5s. a month—I speak of the country because I was born there and have lived there—if he has fought the elements and the prairies with the character that is born in him he may make good, and his descendant may come back to this country to become a newspaper proprietor or possibly a member of the House of Commons.

Why is it that hon. Members opposite always speak of the distressed areas—always of the areas of distress and never of the areas of opportunity? Why did they, during the Election, speak always of the unemployed and never of the employed? I say to them—and I apologise if I appear to be too didactic for a new Member—that if they wish to defeat us at the next Election they must begin to preach a policy of optimism and advance. They must not, during the battle, concentrate only on the wounded in the dressing station.

I agree, however, with much that the hon. Member opposite said, just as I agree with much that my hon. Friend on this side has said. It is very difficult to do what some people have suggested, namely, create an ideal town complete with blacksmith's shop and beauty parlour and cinema, transfer it to Australia or New Zealand and call it by the same name as a town in this country. It sounds charming but it does not work out in practice. Towns and cities have a habit of springing up where God intended them to be and not where man intends them to be. That is a law of nature. But I say that emigration could be started almost at once to the Dominions. How can it be done? We must create a demand for the primary products of the Dominions. How can we do that. We have a great importing market for primary products here. Let us go to Australia or to Canada and say, "Here is your increased market." Let us sit round a table and see whether we cannot all share in the products of the Dominions and Colonies. Let us be a great co-operative society if you like. The moment we say to the Dominions "We will increase your exports of primary products they will say to us, "Give us the men to increase our production."

I agree that if this is to be done it cannot be left to the Government alone. Representatives of the great industries of this country should sit at the same board with the representatives of the industries of the Dominions and decide which industrial schemes are possible and which are not possible. It is no use for an industry in this country to send out the nephew of the chairman merely because he is the nephew of the chairman. We must send out our big men and have these things dealt with in the right way.

I am sorry if I have detained the House too long, but I would like to add this remark: It has been said that before an economic collapse there is always a spiritual collapse. It is a thought worth ruminating upon, but perhaps the opposite is true as well—that before every economic revival there must come a spiritual revival. I do not think we shall see any Empire revival until the spirit of Empire comes to us again, and the spirit of Empire is not concerned alone with the transmission of men and goods. We must realise that spiritually, psychologically, we, as a great Commonwealth of Nations, have more to give the world in the demonstration of peace and in the demonstration of a workable democracy than in anything else. I do not agree that we want to build a Chinese wall about the Empire, with broken glass on the top over which no foreigner can look. But we must develop the Empire for ourselves, to share in proper proportion with the rest of the world, because if we stimulate the great current of Empire trade, it will draw the trade of other countries in its wake. Surely, when there is so much darkness and war and despair in the world it ought to be the aim of everyone of us—not only those on this side of the House but one might almost say especially of those on the other side of the House—to expand and develop the area of sanity so that it may at a time not so very far off, counteract the influence of those areas of fever and feud that we live next to here in Europe.

5.21 p.m.


I am rather amazed at this Motion. To me it is quite impracticable at this time to suggest that emigration schemes should be undertaken. I agree with almost everything said by the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) and especially with his statement that there is no desire in any part of your Empire at the present time to take people from this country. There are those in this House and in the country who honestly believe that men, women and children ought to be moved from our distressed areas to Australia, New Zealand and Canada to find employment and opportunities of developing their social and their family life. But there are others who raise this issue more with the idea of getting rid of our unemployed. They remind me of a mines foreman of whom I once heard. A large amount of dirt had collected which the men could not dispose of and every time the foreman passed he was asked, "What are we going to do with this dirt?" He merely looked at it and walked on but ultimately they became angry and said, "We must have an answer because we cannot make any headway while it is here." In exasperation he said, "Throw it from one to the other and perhaps you will lose it in the process." That seems to be the attitude of some people in relation to the unemployed.

The fact is that the ruling class, the capitalist class, and the National Government as the spokesmen of that class, cannot find any practical scheme for dealing with unemployment. Therefore, when they are pressed by the insistent claims of the Oppositions in this House and people in the country, they find it irksome and they want to get rid of the unemployed. I brought a petition to the Bar of the House from 50,000 starving people in Australia who had been sent out there by various Governments under emigration schemes. Those people having been dumped in Australia were left to wander about from State to State many of them bare-footed and literally starving. The Government of each State and the Government of this country repudiated responsibility for them. I spent a period in Australia and all my family are in Australia but not one of them went there to work on the land. They had more intelligence than that. While I was there, I went from Cairns in North Queensland down the coastline, through the sugar-bearing regions to Melbourne. I worked in practically every town on the way and did not meet a single individual who had been sent out there, under one of these schemes, who did not feel that he had been tricked, that fine pictures had been painted simply in order to induce people to emigrate only to find when they got there that they were liable to be left almost to die in despair.

About 15 or 18 months ago I took up the case of a young man who went out there under an emigration scheme from my constituency. As a result of unemployment and suffering he was driven insane. It took me 18 months to get the present Dominions Secretary to impress on the Government of Australia the necessity of sending that young man home. He arrived here 10 days or a fortnight ago. He left this country physically and mentally fit. He has come back and has been dumped on his parents a physical and mental wreck as a result of the sufferings which he endured in that country. Any person who believes in the desirability of emigration to Australia, or New Zealand or Canada ought to hear the story of that young man's sufferings and his case is typical of many thousands. Boys who have gone out from this country have been dumped on to farms where they have had to work from half-past four o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. They have been exploited and treated in a ruthless and brutal way. During the short period of my stay in Australia there was a record of four young boys having committed suicide because of the sufferings which they endured.

To talk as some hon. Members have talked here of glorious opportunities and the spirit of adventure of our race, is mere claptrap and nonsense. If there were conditions in this country that the working class were prepared to approve and a system that would give them employment on the land in this country, there would be no necessity to talk about emigration. Those who want, of their own free will, to go abroad can go there and I would not be against people, with the spirit of adventure, emigrating if they felt that there were guarantees in the country to which they were going for their future and that the pledges either of State Governments abroad or of the home Government would be redeemed instead of people being left there as human derelicts to die of want. But we have our unemployed here, and even if you had a migration scheme, the idea of taking miners to New Zealand and putting them on the land is too ridiculous for words. If you want to put them on the land there is plenty of territory in this country held up by the selfish restrictions of private ownership. Landlords and capitalists in this country are too selfish in their idea of conserving for themselves that which nature intended for the use of every human being.


Is the hon. Member aware that there is still an enormous amount of land on the market at the present time which can be bought without any difficulty at all?


I have my own powers of observation and in going about the country I see hundreds of square miles of land which is, to all intents and purposes, derelict. Does the hon. Member suggest that the unemployed should buy the land? It is surely the job of those who have raised this issue, first and foremost, to point out to the Government that there is land available here. When that available land had been developed the Government could take more land by passing an Emergency Powers Act. They could take land from selfish landlords on the ground that even in defence of themselves and their system it was necessary to take that land for the use of the unemployed.


There are thousands of acres of Crown land which they could take right away and start to develop right away, without passing any emergency legislation.


That is only enforcing my argument, that you have a Government totally unfit to deal with the situation, and if they have thousands of square miles of land in this country belonging to the Crown, why do they not utilise it, if it is a successful enterprise, and show to the unemployed what can be done in this country? Then, if they are able to set the example, they can say, "We have no more available land in this country to go round, but there is plenty in New Zealand, Canada and Australia, and instead of paying you unemployment allowances, we will put you on that land and give you an opportunity to develop it, and we will give you for a period of years, if you like, the rates of unemployment allowance that you have been paid in this country to assist you in developing that land." That would seem to be a sensible enterprise, but to come down here and tell us that there is land in New Zealand, Canada and Australia, while the Noble Lord tells us that there is plenty of land available in this country, is itself a serious condemnation of this Motion.

I would never be a party to encouraging the workers or the unemployed of this country to go to any other country while there ought to be available opportunities in their own land. It is bad enough living a starvation existence in Britain, among your own friends and associates, but to go out into what is, to all intents and purposes, a foreign atmosphere, where you are dumped down among strangers, to starve without a friend, is the height of lunacy, because in every one of those countries there are thousands of unemployed people already. They are there, dying, and eating their very nails off trying to get employment. During the very period when there are thousands of unemployed roaming about from State to State searching for employment, we are told we ought to increase their difficulties and miseries by dumping more of our own unemployed there. If the hon. Members who initiated this discussion had wanted to do something of a useful character in this House, they might have done exactly what the Noble Lord has suggested and drawn attention to the thousands of acres of land that are available in this country, of which no use is being made; they might have urged the Government to put the unemployed on it and give them capital and assistance to work that land. That would have been something of a more practical nature.

We have had representations in this House continually from responsible people in every one of the Dominions that have been mentioned to the effect that the unemployed who have been sent from these shores go there and lose their employment, or discover that the long hours and lack of wages drive them out into the cities and streets, and they become either potential criminals, as has been pointed out, with a view to getting back to this country, or they are face to face almost with starvation. Are hon. Members aware that I have known people in Glasgow sending letters to their sons in Canada and Australia, saying, "Go out and smash windows," or "Go out and break into a shop, because that is the only way you will be sent home to this country?" Is it a comfortable feeling for Members in this House to know that they have sent out young men from this country by schemes of migration and after they have dumped them there have refused to bear any responsibility for them, and that they turn them into criminals in order that they may get back home again? You talk of emigration. I wish it were possible to say in this House to-day that for all those persons who are unemployed in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and who have gone out under a migration scheme, we are prepared to provide shipping accommodation to bring them back home. Hon. Members would find that almost the whole of the people who have been sent out would avail themselves of the opportunity to get back here.

What is the use of talking of the spirit of adventure? It is the fear of actual starvation that drives these people out to the uttermost ends of the earth in order to get employment. Why is it that we are always being told to send the working class out to these countries? What about the ruling class taking a turn and giving the unemployed the opportunities which they have had to live in ease and comfort and luxury? We are always told of the golden opportunities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but when any member of the ruling class here goes out there, he goes out with a return ticket, quite secure that he can return to the old country and is not to be dumped down permanently in any of these States. Just as men are driven into the Army, Navy and Air Force by the prospect of sheer starvation, and nothing else, they are driven into these schemes of migration, because men and women want to live in the area in which they have been born, among their friends and associates and, if you like, sometimes their political environments in those areas, but the very fact that a tempting offer is made to give them employment makes them prepared to take the risk in order to give their families an opportunity to develop under decent conditions.

If you had an application from the Government of one of these Dominions for a proportion of our unemployed to be sent out there because they were short of labour, if we guaranteed trade union conditions for the workers there, and if the trade unions also made representations that they were short of available labour, there is no Member of the Opposition here who would be opposed to these people going out, if they had the right to choose their employment in those territories; but to induce people to go out and face starvation, to roam about from State to State, with whole families kept under canvas or in wooden huts outside the cities, is quite another matter. These are the conditions you ought to tell the unemployed of this country they are going out to meet—starvation, misery, and despair. I suggest that the unemployed of this country would do just as well to live at home, even under the National Government, bad as it is, as to go out to any of these States. If this Motion has not done anything else, it has given an opportunity to expose these wild-cat schemes; but I suggest that, instead of pointing to other Governments and to other parts of the world, hon. Members should put the boot behind their own Government and Cabinet and drive them on to do something real and practical to ease the position of the unemployed.

5.40 p.m.


At the beginning of his speech my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) said that the difficulties of the spoken word were much greater than those of the written word. All I can say is that the standard he sets for the written word must be extraordinarily high. I congratulate him on his maiden speech, and may I say that the attention given to it by the House was a measure of the appreciation felt by the House. We are discussing once more the vast and vital subject of migration, and that subject needs all the experience we can obtain and needs also the enthusiasm of youth. I was glad to find that enthusiasm in the admirable speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara), who moved the Motion. May I add my word of congratulation to him on that admirable speech? It was clear, persuasive, and full of sound sentiment. I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Roth-well (Mr. Lunn) with a great deal of interest. A good many of the things he said I have heard him say before, and the discouragement that he expressed he has expressed before. The same remark applies to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). Those two hon. Members told us that to think of migration at present is, to use the word of the hon. Member for Rothwell, ridiculous, and I think the hon. Member for Shettleston would call it cruel. But they are speaking of migration under conditions that may exist to-day.

Our object—the object of my hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Motion—is to change those conditions and to make them such that to migrate will be a privilege. In speaking on this subject, it is the habit to confine it to settlement on the land, but my hon. and gallant Friend who proposed this Motion speaks not only, nor indeed chiefly, of settlement on the land, but of productive schemes of development all through the Empire. I put it to the House Here is the great British Empire, with enormous resources, resources hardly tapped, with enormous possibilities of productive development, and it is that productive development that we want, to produce such schemes as would absorb millions of our race, absorb our unemployed and the unemployed in the Dominions. That is what we aim at. We have watched for the last 15 years, since 1921–2, when the Empire Settlement Act was passed, the rise and fall and stoppage of migration, yet the needs of migration are stronger than ever, the need overseas primarily of defence. You cannot defend a country unless you have a population to defend it, yet look at Australia, with a population of some 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 and a continent that ought to maintain 100,000,000. What is Australia? A great land whose average temperature and climate are the same as in the Mediterannean region. It ought to be capable of maintaining 100,000,000 people. What is Canada? A great land with the same average temperature and climate as Northern Europe, but instead of having 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 inhabitants, it ought to have 100,000,000.

That is the prospect before us—defence, markets, activities of every kind. We want here at home elbow room, markets, and help in the defence of the Empire. It is not fair that these small islands should have the task of defending and preserving the peace of one-fifth of the world. Those are our needs, and what are the Government doing about it? A little more than two years ago the Government produced an inter-departmental report on migration. It was the work of the Dominions Office, an admirably written report, able, lucid, and most valuable as a document of reference, but of progressive productive proposals, a minimum. There is a proposal to increase the number of settlements on the Fair-bridge system. They are admirable in themselves, but the effect would be very small. It might add a few thousands in the course of 20 or 30 years to the population of the Dominions. There was no answer to the great question of migration and of training for boys. What does the report offer to young fellows of 18, who need some provision more than any other part of our population, and who would make admirable settlers?

Then as to voluntary societies, the report says to them: "You have done excellent work and we hope will continue to do so. Keep your machinery oiled and in being, and do what you can, but we cannot give you any oil; we can only give you good wishes." We want to change all that. We want this great question to be tackled by our best men and best brains. The hon. Member for Rothwell rather poured scorn on the idea of a board, and asked what the board could do different from what the Overseas Settlement Committee does. What is the Overseas Settlement Committee? It consists of a number of eminent ladies and gentlemen who used to meet—I believe they do not meet now—once a fortnight or once a month to discuss these questions without any power except to advise. They are people with their own important private affairs to attend to. That is not the kind of body to manage this great question. What kind of body to manage do we want to manage it? When Mr. Bruce then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, was here in 1926, he addressed some of us, and said: I have already pointed out that migration and the power of absorption depend upon development"— not merely settlement on the land, but development of every kind. Then he spoke of the schemes they wanted to propose and said: As a Government, we have not the necessary facilities for running a rule over these schemes to find out whether they will pprovide the necessary absorption power. … It seems to me that here there is a field for most useful co-operation between this country and Australia. Would it not be possible for you to send out a few of your best men to Australia for a few months to consider the absorption power of various schemes, and to discuss the general question of development with our Commission? That is the idea at the root of the Motion before us to-night and of our proposals. We want a board set up to work under the authority of the Secretary of State. It would consist of our best brains, and theirs would be a whole-time job working in connection with their opposite numbers in the Dominions, making a survey of the Empire. To these boards would be submitted productive schemes, such as I have already mentioned, which would absorb the unemployed in every part of the Empire. These plans would be carefully examined and tested before being put into operation. Instead of standing, as the Government are standing in a discouraged way before this river of depression, let them get together with the Dominions, let let them have an ad hoc Imperial Conference on this great question. There should be consultation, co-operation and use of credit, and now is the time. There was never a time when money was so cheap. The Government can borrow their loans at 1 per cent. There should be Empire credit behind these schemes, not schemes run by the Government, but schemes submitted to this board to determine upon after strict examination. That is the idea behind our proposal. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is not responsible for this stagnation, and I am hoping, knowing as I do how keen he is upon progress in the Empire, that his advent to the Dominions Office means more life, more energy and the acceptance of schemes of real action.

In regard to the question of population, we in this country are nervous that we shall not be able to support our population; we are rather glorying in the decline of our population and preaching birth control, while other nations such as Germany and Italy are increasing their populations. In the long run, the earth will belong to the best race which is the most numerous. That belief in birth control and in limiting production in our race does not commend itself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his last Budget speech he said that the time would come, and perhaps come soon; when the vacant spaces in the Dominions would be calling out for population; and he gave some small encouragement to people who are able to bring up children to do so. I hope he will succeed in that good work. I want this country to say to the statesmen of the Empire, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish our British earth," and to say it with conviction because they believe with Wordsworth that: In everything we are sprung of earth's first blood; have titles manifold.

5.52 p.m.


I propose to intervene for a few moments to give, I hope, another direction to the discussion. I would like to add my personal tribute to the maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). He has won distinction and adventure in varying walks of life, and we hope that his admission to Parliament will not be the least successful of his activities. He rather did an injustice to my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) when he accused him of being opposed to emigration and the development of the Empire. My hon. Friend simply took the line that now is not the opportune moment and that we must wait for a more propitious time. I put forward that defence for my hon. Friend because I am now going to disagree with him, not on the main question, but on the question of development and approach. I beg the House to try to look at this problem from a new angle. We should not confine ourselves to the existing conditions and the failures and distress that we know of, but we should rather try to see whether it is possible to visualise some sort of scheme, and particularly to look to the development of the Empire and to the peopling of the vacant spaces of the earth on an entirely different line and with different machinery from that which we have adopted in the past.

Some months ago the "Times" gave prominence to two letters which I contributed to its pages on the proposals for group settlement in our Dominions. One result of that was, apart from the correspondence in that paper, that I received no fewer than 1,000 letters from correspondents, all in support of such proposals and urging that the Government should be pressed to do something in that direction. Among those who wrote to me were some who were then Members of the House. I do not know why they never raised the question here, and I have had to wait for some time to voice here what I expressed in the pages of that newspaper. That indicates that there is a very widespread opinion and a widespread sense of the need of approaching the question of developing the Empire and of keeping in the Empire the people of the country. It is necessary that we should somehow or other try to bring a fresh point of view upon the question. I am not at all in agreement with my hon. Friend when he commends this report of the Interdepartmental Committee, because I think that it is one of the most ineffective reports that have ever been issued. In fact, the Committee is pretty conscious of it itself for in more than one place the report says that it will probably be looked upon as a negative report. In one place the report says: We are conscious, however, that at first sight it may appear to some readers that our Report tends to be negative. This report offers no solution whatever. It simply repeats the old formulas, states the position that is now outworn, and then goes on to a policy of laissez faire. We must be fair, however. The report was drawn up mainly by permanent officials, and we know that permanent officials and experts always play for safety. I have no words of condemnation for these excellent people, for those who sit on the Front Bench know that they would fare very badly if they had not their backing. But when it comes to questions of broad policy, it wants a more adventurous spirit than is sometimes displayed by the permanent official. That is entirely absent from this report. I venture to say, in reference to what my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell has said, that a mere revival of trade will not solve this problem any more than it will solve the unemployment problem. We can have a revival of trade to an extent that will show itself in our balance-sheets and returns and be the peak of anything we have known, but the army of unemployed will still be in possession of the field. We want something more than that. We have to take a wider vision. We do not want to wait for something to happen, like a man sitting down and watching a slow match burning up to a powder magazine and wondering how long it will be before the powder blows up. We have to force the position. I am not looking upon the Empire as a place where we can dump our unemployed, but one hopes that a scheme of settlement will do something to restore hope and moral among tens of thousand and millions of young people for whom there is no hope.

We have to recognise the position that sooner or later this problem must be faced and handled by some Government. I for one would deprecate the idea that interest in this problem is the prerogative or right of any one party. We have all to come down and hammer out a policy in regard to it. A time like this with idle money, idle labour and empty land, is the time to consider this problem rather than wait for what we call better and more prosperous times. I suggest that we can, if we rightly use this opportunity, use it as a means of forcing more prosperous times a little more quickly than they might otherwise come. Therefore, far from wishing to do anything which would worsen conditions in the Dominions, I know nothing that would worsen coditions more than carrying on a policy of infiltration. That simply means sending people to populated districts to add to the pressure of population and the economic distress which, relatively, is as keenly and hardly felt as in this country.

The suggestion I am going to make is one that I throw down for the discussion of the House. I am not sure that my suggestions, which I have put forward in other ways, will contain the solution. They do, as far as I see, offer the only way out compared with those that have already been proposed. I hope hon. Members will not get up and start "slating" me for "wanting to turn people out of England," and, further, I know all about the pressure on the populations already in the Dominions and the unemployment they are suffering. Like the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) I have relatives out there who are suffering and know all about that aspect of the matter. The problem we are concerned with is the problem which is raised in the Motion—what can be done to ease the situation and make its recurrence more difficult? Increased populations do of themselves create fresh demands—even if it is only on the lines of the old tag about "taking in each other's washing." Increased populations abroad do to a certain extent create demand, and when we are tempted to poke fun and score debating points let us face the position that under modern civilisation the greatest industry in the world is "taking in each other's washing." We live on those lines. Undoubtedly, there is a great need for placing fresh populations on the virgin soils of the Empire, and we shall have to do something in that connection. There is a pretty strong body of opinion, at any rate a rising body of opinion, even in Australia in support of the need of settling people on the land. The Archbishop of Brisbane said recently: If immigrants are wisely chosen it will assist in the development of vast new industries; the more people we have in the country the more openings there will be for the sale of our own products in Australia. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane said: The future protection of Australia is wrapped up with the peopling of the country. Sir Raphael Cilento, addressing the British Medical Conference in Melbourne said: We must either face immigration or invasion. The wife of the present Australian Prime Minister said in Melbourne: The only hope for the youth of Great Britain was in the Dominions—in this sense the future of the Empire lies with the Dominions. I quote those remarks as an indication that there is a public opinion in Australia in support of action being taken. I have suggested before that the best way to face the problem would be for the International Labour Office to convene a conference of all the nations of the earth in order that they might grapple with this problem, because that body was presented with a petition, on behalf of 7,000,000 young persons under the age of 25 in two or three countries who have never done a day's work, asking whether any steps could be taken. Later I had a letter from an official of the League of Nations—it was marked "private"—in which he deprecated the attack I made on them, saying, "We cannot do anything unless some sovereign State tables a Resolution with regard to it." I was hopeful that this Government might have taken such a course, but I am afraid such an adventure is more than one can expect of them.

Therefore we turn naturally to the British Empire itself, which offers the best scope for large scale adventure in this direction. Action must be taken along the line of having large group settlements, and there must be co-operation between the Government of this country and the Governments of the Dominions to ensure that we do not just dump the men out there but settle them in an orderly way to build up and develop new communities, taking charge of them during the initial years. As Commissioner Lamb, of the Salvation Army, put it in writing on this subject—and few people have more experience than he—"What you do you must do in the spirit of the parable of the Good Samaritan, who, when he took the wounded man to the inn, not only bound up his wounds but made provision for attention to be given to him afterwards." I suggest that the Government have to decide whether or not there are large tracts of territory which can be set aside to be developed right from the very beginning.


What about the land at home? Why go to Australia?


That is one of the stupid interruptions such as I begged hon. Members not to make. I am as keen as the hon. Member—I am a member of his society and have spoken for it—about the point of view he is putting, but we are dealing here with the problem of migration in the Empire. That does not by any means militate against attention being given to the problem in this country about which he feels concerned, but my hon. Friend is really trying to rule Great Britain out of the Empire, and I do not want to do that. I am asking for a conference between the various Governments to consider ways and means of nettling communities by taking out willing and suitable men and women—whole families—in large blocks, and mostly from the same areas, so that they will not feel such homesick ness and strangeness when placed in a foreign land amid different surroundings. To a large extent they must be hedged round and safeguarded—call it what you like; placed within an economic cordon or a cordon sanitaire—in order that they may grow up within the boundaries of the place, being assisted to develop, in a decreasing degree, by the Governments concerned.

Just as Commissioner Lamb said there was no question of the Good Samaritan asking the poor fellow to sign a note undertaking to make repayment, so I suggest that this proposal ought to be regarded as a long range investment from which we shall get our reward in populating vacant spaces and in improving the morale, health and character of the men and women who are settled abroad. Undoubtedly it would relieve the pressure on the older industrial countries, and at the same time do a great deal to make use of our Empire in a way we have never yet done. One of the standing challenges to the world is that there are large countries with teeming, crowded populations while we hold large tracks of the world which are practically empty, and we are not doing anything to fill them. Such a dog-in-the-manger policy cannot continue indefinitely, and at some time or another, if we do not take steps to see that they are populated, then undoubtedly we shall be forced in one way or another to open the door to other people, and that ought not to happen. Crowded nations and empty continents make a dog-in-the-manger state of affairs.

No doubt someone will say "What you propose will cost a lo[...] of money." It will, but I say that we are already wasting lots of money and getting nothing for it, and that we had better run the risk of this adventure in an endeavour to bring life and vitality into the Empire than to carry on as we are, simply plastering the sores from which we are suffering and applying no real remedy to our ills. We are pouring out money in quotas, subsidies, tariffs and that sort of thing and are getting nothing for it. So far as bringing any permanent help either to this community or the Empire, they are about as evanescent as breath on a window pane. While supporting this Motion because of the spirit behind it, and congratulating the hon. Member who moved it on giving us this opportunity for discussion, I suggest to the Government that they should cut adrift from old methods and old schemes in dealing with migration and tackle the problem in a larger and more generous way. When men are sent out they should be given a fair opportunity, and if they do not prove fit they ought to be brought back and reinstated in positions where they will prove more useful. That would be an advantage to us as well as to the Dominions. If such a scheme were well planned out it would be certain to meet with a measure of success.

The trouble is that if one dares to venture on something which is new and will cost a lot of money, and which challenges old ideas and customs, it will at once encounter old objections based on policies which have nothing at all to do with this problem, which is one that we have got to solve. There is another point of view than that which I have mentioned. In Canada the population which is other than British-born is on the major side and is increasing rapidly. Like the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) I have been serving for some time on a committee set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with one aspect of this problem, and we have had evidence that in some areas of Canada about 60 per cent. of the population are not only foreign but actually do not speak the English language. While not suggesting that we must close the door to other peoples it is curious that British people should be in a minority there, and the position makes it difficult for other British people to go there and earn a living. For the reasons stated I support the Motion, and I trust the House will give some thought and attention to the very rough and imperfect suggestions I have made for facing the problem on new and other lines which should, and must eventually, lead not only to populating the Empire but bring relief and hope to large numbers of young men and women who are now starting out on the journey of life with very little prospects of future success.

6.13 p.m.


We have listened to a number of speeches and, with one exception, it appears to me that the speakers were agreed both on the great need for something to be done and on the chief difficulties we have to face. One speaker, having visited Australia, saw it through peculiarly dark spectacles. It is a sunny country and people wear dark spectacles, but I think his were distorting glasses. I do not think the picture given by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) would have been recognised in that country. The mover of the Motion, to whom I beg to offer my congratulations, has brought before us a problem which ranks very high in its importance. I do not share with the seconder the view that the question is ready now for a direct attack, but take the view expressed by many other speakers that it has to be approached by very patient work before we can, with any advantage, appoint a board and expect it to get on with migration. But that it is very necessary to do so I have no doubt at all. It is one of the most necessary things for the progress and peace of the world. Looking back over the last generation or so the House will see enormous progress in civilisation all over the world. Why? Partly because we in Great Britain were affording a market for the produce of new countries, but partly because the world has been constantly shrinking in one dimension, distance, and constantly growing in another dimension, opportunity. Both these changes, shrinking and growth, were to the advantage of man, if man used his brains, as he has done. We gained enormously by the growth of the Dominions overseas. Our people went out there, settled there and prospered. We made a market for them and they bought chiefly from us. Through us, the whole world joined in that prosperity.

Now that growth has stopped. That is the point to which we have to address our attention, and not to the cure of unemployment here. I do not look upon unemployment here and migration as matters which are very closely connected. We must place ourselves in the position of the electors of the country which is about to receive the migrants: what will they ay about it? If we adopt that attitude, we find that there is a very large measure of similarity in the view held there and the view held here. It would be impossible to recommend an artificial movement of people who want work to a country which is short of work. I may mention that I have visited Australia six times, and that I have a personal interest in it, as a shipowner trading with that country. It is obvious to everyone there that with the growth of values, the renewal and growth of population and the oportunity for everyone to go hand in hand together and, when prosperity returns, to find a market outside for their commodities or to take in each other's washing, they will demand more people. Then we must be ready to send more people out.

We have the Overseas Settlement Committee. The Mover of the Motion suggested that it ought to have been called a board. I do not think that there is much difference between that Committee and a board. One might say he did not like the way the Committee did its work; well, improve it. Something will need to be done to bring the whole question into focus, but the real problem is out there, and is, how are the people to be employed?

One naturally thinks of land. In Australia, the Dominion which I know best, there are as many people engaged in secondary manufacture as are engaged upon the land. The number of people who can be absorbed upon the land producing for export would not normally be large, because they produce so much. If the land could be populated by a peasant population producing for themselves and widening their lives, living as people do, for example, on the Mediterranean shores of Europe, Australia could hold an enormous agricultural population. As things have gone in that country up to now, and as they are tending to go in New Zealand, although that is much more rural, the tendency is to develop the local manufacture of articles which can be conveniently manufactured there, and to employ a large number of people in the towns, with great advantage to us. Their purchases of our goods, and their trade with us, have constantly expanded as their towns expanded and as their industries expanded until, unfortunately, for reasons into which we need not go now, their prosperity collapsed. There, I think, is the problem. We have to restore prosperity to those Dominions so that they demand for their natural growth, and are able to digest, new people. Then we have to be ready to send those people out. Beyond that, it does not seem to me that we can at this stage suggest precise and definite measures that ought to be taken.

6.20 p.m.


I should not intervene in this Debate were it not for the speech which has been made from this Front Bench by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). I know that this is a private Members' day and that we are all free to speak on this matter, but I hope that his speech will not be taken as representing any large body of opinion in she party on this side of the House. The arguments which were addressed to the House by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), which the hon. Member described as clap-trap—


I think I am within the recollection of the House when I say that I did not use the expression "clap-trap."


I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but I think he said in reply to the intervention: "That is the sort of cheap back chat"—




"Stupid interruption"—


—or stupid interruption that he expected. I have never listened to a speech which was more full of empty generalisations than the speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell. He was asking that we should apply our minds to what he called the problem of emigration. I have listened to many speeches this evening but I should like to know what the problem is supposed to be. There is no special merit in moving people from one place to another. The mere fact that people move is not in itself a merit; you have to show why it is desirable that they should move from one place to another and what advantages are to be obtained by it. The hon. Member said that it was a bad thing that you should have crowded cities in Europe and empty Spaces in the new world. Why is it a bad thing? He said that we were, by implication, suffering from over-population in Great Britain. I have recently been reading some account of the vital statistics of this country. Most of those who are entitled to speak with authority upon the problem inform us that, so far from our being in danger of being over-populated, there will be 10,000,000 fewer people living in England in another 100 years than are living here now, if our birthrate declines, or even if it remains stationary. We are told also that the adult age of the population is continually on the increase. The proposition of the hon. Member for North Camberwell is that we should export all our young people and wheel each other about in Bath chairs.

I submit that a cardinal and vital factor of the situation is that in all the countries of Europe, and not merely in Great Britain, if the birthrate remains as it is, and it looks like progressively declining, Europe will slowly be depopulated. That applies not only to countries like Great Britain but even to countries such as Italy and Southern Germany, where the populations have not yet succumbed to the influence of birth control propaganda. Yet this House seriously gives three or four hours to the proposition that there is a problem called emigration, and that we ought to push people overseas. Hon. Members would have done better justice to their case if they had told us first what the problem is. Why should it be easier to give employment to unemployed people in Canada than in Great Britain? The hon. Member has not dealt with that at all. Is it that in Canada, Australia or New Zealand there is not sufficient diversification of skill to enable a self-maintaining population to live there? I recently went across Canada from Vancouver to Quebec, and in every city—Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal—I met many friends from the mining villages of South Wales who had been unemployed for three years. If that be true, it smashes the hon. Member's case. The hon. Member cannot really have it both ways. There are idle miners, idle farmers and idle steel workers. There is every craft necessary for the maintenance of a civilised standard of living. There is every facility that modern civilisation needs, including land, minerals and timber. If it be a fact that all the elements of his groups are there now, will the hon. Member tell me why have they all been idle for four years?


I will certainly tell the hon. Member. The reason is that they are, as in this country, victims of the present economic circumstances and conditions. The hon. Member is claiming to stick up an argument and knock it down himself. I said that I admit what the hon. Member has now said, but that there should be a conference between the respective Governments to consider how to develop the entirely undeveloped territory, beginning from the early stages and absorbing naturally their unemployed.


The hon. Member admits too much. He admits so much that nothing is left of his case. He admits that Governments should get together for the purpose of providing credit to bring all these different people together in working communities. Will the hon. Member answer this? Has there been any shortage of credit in Canada in the last four years? Canada has been suffering from exactly the same sort of unemployment of capital as has Great Britain, and if it had been an economic proposition to put these men to work, Canada would have put them to work. Will the proposition of the hon. Member put any element into the situation which is not there now, except the element provided by the Government? If that is so, will the hon. Member tell me what greater merit there is in a Government giving credit to put people to work in Canada than in putting them to work in Durham, South Wales or Scotland?

The hon. Member has no case. There can be no problem of over-population in a country until that country is employing all the available factors of production to a maximum extent. There can be no unemployment. There exists unemployment afterwards if, owing to what somebody has called the law of diminishing returns, additional employment is giving a smaller yield of wealth. When unemployed land, factories, shipyards and every available amenity of civilised society are here, it is clap-trap to speak of their being an unemployment problem. Exactly the same applies to the other countries. I remember that in 1924 I presided over a meeting in a town in South Wales at the request of the Ministry of Labour. They said that they wanted to put a proposal before the unemployed young men of that town, and to explain to them the opportunities of emigration to the rest of the Empire. Without committing myself either for or against the scheme, I presided over the meeting, and I am now afraid that, having presided over that meeting, I gave some encouragement to those young men to go to Canada. I am deeply ashamed that I was associated with that matter even remotely, because they went through a most dreadful time in Canada. Every city of Canada has its story of people living on the outskirts, starving and driven by the mounted police from city to city, without any sort of redress or defence, and without an elaborate system of social services such as we have built up in this country. My hon. Friend is really suggesting that we should associate ourselves with a repetition of that sort of thing, because his group settlements will have exactly the same fate that the individual emigrant has already had. The history of emigration shows clearly that Government-subsidised emigration has almost invariably failed. Looking at the figures of emigration over the years, what drove those millions of men and women out year after year to flood the portals of the New World? It was the fact that there were in those countries inducements that drew them out there.




Exactly, but I do not care what it was. If it was the growing of carrots, the fact is that it was an inducement.


Perhaps I may have an opportunity of referring to the matter later, but the whole crux of the matter is gold.


The fact is that stories were told in the Old World to the effect that fortunes could be made, that higher wages could be obtained, in the New World. Under the inducement of those promises, people went out in their millions, and their experiences confirmed their expectations. They kept on going out because they were informed at home that other people had got jobs in the New World, that other people had got higher wages, and so on. Whatever it was, whether gold or anything else, the fact remains that it Has an inducement and not compulsion, and that is the important point. When hon. Members talk about the absence of the spirit of adventure in the youth of to-day, they are really talking balderdash. All that is happening is that young men are intelligent, and they are hearing that their brothers and cousins who have gone out have not got jobs, and so they do not follow them. That is not absence of the spirit of adventure; it is ordinary, common, horse sense. It is no spirit of adventure for them to go out and experience the same disasters that their friends and relatives have experienced. I say, therefore, to my hon. Friend that if there is a scheme which will re-establish prosperity in the New World and find employment for the millions who are unemployed there now, that very fact will re-start the tide of emigration that he, for some strange reason which he has not disclosed to the House, is so anxious to see.

If hon. Members are going to discuss this problem, I beg them to discuss the fundamentals of the problem, and not to discuss it in such wide, general terms that their speeches are reduced to mere empty sentimentalities and repetitions of principles and sentiments that have now been disclosed to be of no avail. I hope that no member of our party will associate himself, in the House of Commons or in the country, with any proposal that is going to induce our young men to leave their homes here and land themselves in new countries where no opportunity has yet been available to them of building up that bulwark of social services which we have in this country, and upon which we can fall back when evil times overtake us. It is an irresponsible public act to say anything in this House which invites our young men to go out there and repeat the experiences that other young men have unfortunately undergone.

6.37 p.m.


As a new Member who has not spoken before in this House, I must begin by very humbly praying the indulgence of the House. I feel a real enthusiasm for this subject and for the great hopes that there may be in it for this country and for the Empire. In the first place, I feel very strongly that it is no cause whatever for regret if other nations than ours are sending their people to populate our countries. I can quite understand the objections that, may be felt, but I cannot see why it should matter to us. All praise to Allah, by whatever hands our mission is accomplished.

It strikes me that there is something rather radically wrong when we hear from the other side of the House such terrible accounts of countries which have notoriously been very much more susceptible to Socialist influences than our own. What is the use of these Antipodean colonies electing Labour Governments and trying Socialist experiments if they are to get that kind of reception in this House? In view of the fact that so many men of alien race, like Sir Wilfred Laurier in Canada and General Smuts in South Africa, have done so much to build up our British State and to place our country and our Empire foremost in many ways among the nations of the world, it behoves us to do our very best to follow in their footsteps in developing this great Empire of ours. But, while there can be no doubt that there are both over-populated countries and undeveloped areas, I think there is also no doubt that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will in time be as well populated as our own country, for where fertile land and minerals exist there will eventually be great opportunities, whatever depression or temporary troubles those lands may be feeling to-day.

I want to bring before the House another point. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not the only overpopulated parts of this Empire. British India has teeming millions who seek new homes. For very good reasons, the Dominions do not want men of Asiatic stock. Their reasons for that are very good, but I wish we could realise that it is not the faults, but the virtues of Asiatics that make it so exceedingly undesirable that they and we should live together. Why may we not frankly admit that an Asiatic workman is just as good as one of our own, but that he requires very much less money to supply his simple wants? There is no doubt whatever that for that reason it is most undesirable that Asiatics and Europeans should live together in the same cities. It has been very much the same throughout history since the days of the old Greek and Persian wars. I want to plead very earnestly for justice to the natives of India. They are not invited to the great Dominions, but there are wide areas in East Africa which are still largely without populations. Those are countries to which Asiatics have gone long centuries ago, and carried out magnificent work in civilising the native Africans. Such towns as Zanzibar and other places on that coast are a witness to the magnificent civilising work that the Arabs did in days gone by. We are now the inheritors of that part of the world.

We all realise that a very prosperous white community is firmly established in the highlands of Kenya, and they must have justice. We have led them to go there under the British flag, and they must be given every possible opportunity to do their best work in building up their homes and establishing a prosperous land. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly that it is our solemn duty, since Indians are so largely cut out from the great Dominions, that they should be allowed to make new homes in these lands—that the Indians should have a very generous allowance of land in those parts of the world. I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the benefits that might come to all if we and the subjects of our King in India, hand in hand, could take our share in developing the resources of Africa and raising up the African people to a higher state of civilisation. When, in the towns of Eastern Africa, I have seen negroes wearing the flowing robes of the East, I have felt that, in some ways at any rate, Eastern civilisation is more suited to their conditions than is our own. Therefore, I feel that there is a very important Imperial responsibility in which India and Britain can work side by side.

I feel a real affection for the culture of the East. Wandering through Asiatic lands, I have felt that, in some respects at any rate, they are strong where we are weak, and when I have wandered through the byways of Japan and have seen Japanese in modern uniforms bowing at their ancient Buddhist shrines, I have felt that in some ways the combination of the dreams of the East and the practical achievements of the West is the strongest thing on this earth. We all, I hope, appreciate the ideal of the League of Nations, and we wish most earnestly that the dreams on which it is based may come true. The British Empire is built on something far stronger than that, and I believe that, if we are true to ourselves, if we carry out our great Imperial responsibilities, Britain may do a nobler task than Rome herself in building the greatest political tradition on earth. I would especially emphasise the need that there is for justice to India in this great matter of Imperial migration, and for opening up wide areas wherever it may be found possible for Indian settlement and the expansion of Asiatic culture.

6.45 p.m.


I think my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Motion is to be congratulated not only on the Motion but on the speech in which he introduced it, and the speech of the hon. Member who spoke last is one which will be heard beyond the confines of the House. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in his contention that the speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) was not constructive. I think it is the only constructive speech that we have heard from those benches this evening. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) gave a figure of 215,000 as the movement inwards from the Dominions, and left us to infer that a Labour party proposed to sit down and do nothing at all, and hope that something will happen later on. I am not sure that those figures are correct, because they must surely include men and women coming in yearly from the Irish Free State. There must be at least 150,000 of them every year coming from Ireland to Shettleston and other parts of Glasgow.


If the Noble Lord states that certain people are coming into Shettleston and Glasgow, we are entitled to have some evidence of that statement.


I have not the figures here, but I asked a question in the last Session of the last Parliament and I was given the figure of, I think, well over 100,000 people coming from the Irish Free State into this country. They must surely go on the register which the hon. Member for Rothwell has given of 215,000 coming in from the Dominions, since the Irish Free State is a Dominion. The hon. Member for Rothwell also was under some misapprehension as to the question of community settlement. I think he was thinking only of group settlement. It is quite true that all the Dominions have condemned group settlement and that that system has failed, as many of us thought would be the case. All those group settlements were based on agriculture only. People were sent there to create agricultural communities only. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was right there. As soon as the wind blows from the East, the price of agricultural produce goes down and you have a failure on your hands. The weaker members go out. Only the stronger ones remain, and most of them are making good now. My hon. and gallant Friend was suggesting balanced community settlement, which will include industrial workers and traders and every form of industrial life. I think that was in the mind of the hon. Member for North Camberwell. My experience of any form of community or mass settlement is that you must have, in order to make a success, either a religious or political impulse which will enable them to weather any storm, or else you must find a safe market which will not suffer from an economic blizzard, when you will get your failures returned on your hand.


Is not the Noble Lord missing the point? The idea of a diversified group is that it provides its own market.


Taking in its own washing. I doubt whether that system would really work. I believe you must have an export trade to get any form of community settlement started successfully. If the Government are considering any form of settlement of this nature, they should go for the one market which is at present safe until we come out of the slump period, and that is gold. All these times of slump and boom have always been followed by either over-production or shortage of gold. When there is over-production of geld, prices of commodities—primary commodities first—go soaring up. When there is a shortage of gold, no matter what the economists may say—they are nearly always wrong—prices slump, and your primary commodities feel the breeze more than any other. At present prices are low and gold is high. It is likely to remain high for some time. If there is any suggestion of any community settlement in any country, it should be based on gold for the next 10 or 15 years, and when the price of gold comes down the settlers will be able to turn to the land. When gold goes down, land and agricultural produce go up. The saying "money for jam" arose in Western Australia. When the price of gold drops, miners begin looking for land to buy to produce wheat instead of gold.


Does the Noble Lord suggest that we should organise a treasure hunt?


No, there is no need. The treasure is there, particularly in Western Australia. The shortage that they have is a shortage of all labour of the right type. The Australian labour that goes to the goldfields has nearly always been the type of adventurous youth, including university undergraduates, who do not settle. They shift from one field to another and, when they hear of greater prizes to be won elsewhere, they go after them. A former Member of this House who was Governor of Western Australia for some years, Sir William Campion, told me that he will have room in his own group of goldfields for some 10,000 or 12,000 solid men who will go there and remain on their holding. It will give them employment for some years to come at a high scale of remuneration and, if they save their money, they will be able to be placed on the land. That is one scheme which I might suggest, but they must go very carefully and warily into other schemes unless it is possible to show that there is a safe market for the regular export of certain commodities.

There is one other suggestion that I have to offer. It may be far ahead of our time, but it might be of use. The real crux of the matter, particularly as far as Australia and Canada are concerned, is keeping up the British-speaking population. The hon. Member for North Camberwell was right when he spoke of the large number of foreigners going into Canada on the land, and the same applies to Australia. In those areas which had been settled under the Victorian scheme, whose settlers failed because they had been put on improper land, I saw the year before last large areas successfully colonised by Italians. There is no doubt that foreign settlers in Australia do extraordinarily well and, if we do not manage to get British settlers in that country, who are wanted by the Australians, there will be a demand for foreign emigration into Australia which cannot be resisted for all time. I think there is one way of settling both these questions. Would it be possible, with the consent of Australia and Canada and of the people of Tasmania and Newfoundland, if Newfoundland and Tasmania were to be regarded as part of this country, given the same form of government as Ulster has at present, given the same laws and the same freedom to move from place to place without any restriction, so that it would be as easy to go to Tasmania and take up a business as to South Wales or Scotland? If that could be done, I believe that in time the whole problem of British-speaking people in Canada and Australia would solve itself by continual infiltration from Tasmania and from Newfoundland. The resources of both countries are enormous. I throw the suggestion out now and perhaps, if it is discussed and developed, something may come of it in time.

6.55 p.m.


There are two reasons why I have not previously attempted to catch your eye, Sir. The first is that I have been so content in listening to all the interesting speeches that have been made from every quarter of the House that I have not desired to break that sequence. The second and main reason for my delay in getting up is that there is very little really that I can usefully add to the Debate.

Before giving the House my views on this Motion, I should, like to thank my Noble Friend for the interesting proposals that he has just put to the House. It is always refreshing to hear from one who has had personal experience as a settler, as my Noble Friend has had. The proposals that he has put forward are full of interest and I can promise him that they will receive the very careful consideration of the Government; I am satisfied that he will not expect me without notice to give him an answer which would be of much value. I would also add my congratulations to those already expressed on the excellent impression that my hon. and gallant Friend, the Mover of the Motion, left on the House by his clear elucidation of a by no means easy subject. By delivering a brilliant maiden speech in introducing the Motion he has taken the fullest possible advantage of one of the most important and popular of our Parliamentary lotteries. It was good also to hear the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) make such a splendid contribution. He said that the spoken word is more difficult than the written one. That admission makes us all very anxious to purchase his publications. The only part of his speech to which I would offer opposition was that part in which he told the Labour party how to win the next election. The Seconder of the Motion, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), I believe, was not making a maiden speech. We always listen with great interest to his contributions on any Empire subject.

The Motion calls attention to the resumption of emigration. As I listened to some of the speeches that have been delivered I felt that in the minds of some—not many it is true—there was actually a desire to regard emigration solely as a means of relieving abnormal unemployment in the United Kingdom. That is an entirely wrong idea which might well prejudice the whole question in the eyes of our oversea Governments. Neither this nor any previous Government in the United Kingdom has ever countenanced that view. Migration within the Empire should only be considered as a means of developing our best markets and permanently minimising the risk of unemployment here and throughout the Empire. It would obviously be a disastrous step if migration from the United Kingdom, although reducing unemployment at home, merely did so at the expense of creating unemployment in other parts of the Empire. That certainly would put an end to emigration for ever.

That leads me to the suggestion that emigration must be on a grand scale. Everybody naturally wants to see something spectacular. Many proposals have been put forward in the past which visualise the expenditare of huge sums of money and a huge transference of persons from this country to the Dominions. Many of these schemes are attractive up to a point. One of them which I read of lately suggests that about 160,000 persons could be settled in one Dominion for approximately £50,000,000. That scheme describes how a chain of villages could be built, and how these 160,000 persons would be solely engaged in agriculture. The cost of such a scheme does not appear to be extravagant, but the fact that settlers must not only produce but must also sell what they are producing was completely overlooked. Emigrants to succeed must have a market for their goods, otherwise bankruptcy will stare them in the face sooner or later. Bluntly speaking, emigrants must not only settle down, but they must also be able to settle up. I only mention that as one example of the difficulties of a system which if put into operation would probably break down. It is true that there are difficulties in every scheme, and the greater the scheme, very often, the greater the difficulties. But difficulties were only invented to be surmounted, and we must do what we can to work out schemes thoroughly and to see that there is no loophole before we decide on taking any particular action.

In spite of what some hon. Members have said, during the last few years, when emigration on a considerable scale has been impossible, the Government have not been altogether idle—neither this Government nor the previous Government. Emigration on a small scale has never ceased. Encouragement has always been forthcoming from recent Governments whenever practical or sound schemes have been produced. An example of one of these schemes has been given to-day, namely, the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia. That scheme merits great praise. Then there are Dr. Barnardo's Homes, New South Wales. The United Kingdom Government have contributed both to capital and maintenance costs of these schools and homes. Another illustration I can give is the settlement of miners in Southern Rhodesia. I only give these schemes as examples to prove the Government's readiness to do everything practicable for a larger flow of emigration when the proper time arrives.

But apart from past assistance which this and the last Government have given, much other consideration has been given in respect of the future, The general problem of emigration has been constantly in the minds of this Government and the last. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth and several other speakers have mentioned the recent inquiry by the Inter-departmental Committee of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions was chairman. I was rather sorry to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth describe the report as a defeatist report. [An Hex. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member behind me says "Hear, hear!" I would much prefer to say that the committee faced the facts. The report brought to light many interesting features and it made many interesting proposals.

That report was published a little more than a year ago. With as little delay as possible it was sent to the oversea Governments for their observations, and I can tell the House that the general tenor of the replies received indicates that while oversea Governments approved the contents of the report as a whole, and recognised the desirability in principle of encouraging Empire emigration, they rightly added that in their opinion the question of migration could not be divorced from the economic conditions of the country of settlement. These conditions are not yet entirely favourable, and the United Kingdom Government cannot take any actual steps to encourage extended emigration unless the oversea Governments make it clear that they are able to receive new migrants and can assure their satisfactory settlement. Emigration to be successful has to find both countries entering willingly into any undertaking. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth used a phrase which has been used on many occasions when he said that if the amount of emigration during the past five years had been as great as it was for the five years preceding the Great War there would have been no unemployment now.


I said in the last 20 years.


I am willing to accept the correction. That may be true, but I must admit that on this occasion I have to agree with the hon. Member for Roth-well (Mr. Lunn) when he says that if we had emigrated such a huge number of persons during the last 20 years, although it might have cured unemployment in this country, what would have been the state of unemployment in the Dominions?




I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend accepts that. That is proof that we cannot rightly suggest to the Dominions that they should take our unemployed population unless they can absorb them to advantage.

I now turn to that part of the Motion which makes a practical suggestion, namely, that the time has arrived when immediate steps should be taken to survey possibilities for restarting migration within the Empire. and that at an early date an Empire Settlement Board should be set up. That suggestion was contained in the report of the Inter-departmental Committee, and I am happy to tell my hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Motion that that portion of the report has already been accepted by the Government, and that the personnel of that board is now being considered.


Am I to understand that the personnel of this board is being set up by a man who is not in this House, who has been rejected by the electors and who has no concern with Parliament?


I understand that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth is prepared to accept a suggestion that this board should not be set up by my right hon. Friend in present circumstances. I do not agree that he should make that proviso. The hon. Member opposite was at one time an Under-Secretary of State, and if things went wrong in this House, or something was done which was not popular, I have no doubt that he had to stand the brunt of the attack. I tell him, as he would probably tell me were he standing here, that I am prepared to stand the brunt of the attack to the same length as he would have done, and I do not think it is right that we should delay this matter because it happens that just at this moment my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not a Member of the House. I would remind the hon. Member that we still have collective responsibility in the Government, and I think that will probably cover his point. I hope it will, and I hope sincerely that there will be no proviso to this Motion.

I was dealing with the board. In the report it is suggested that the board should consist of six members, three official and three unofficial. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State believes it would be better, and the Government have accepted his view, that this board should consist of eight members, three to be official and five unofficial. It has been said by many Members during this Debate that it would be better to take this board out of the realm of politics. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) suggested that there should be a non-party spirit on the board. That is what we are trying to get. We want to obtain the best and most able persons as members of the board who will not be subservient to the party spirit but will act in the same sort of way as do the members of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. I think it was the hon. Member for Camberwell North (Mr. Ammon) who suggested that if we had on this board civil servants we should have no adventurous spirit.




Perhaps the hon. Member would correct me.


My reference was to this report.


Again I accept the correction. He says that the report was drawn up in the main by civil servants and it fails because, as the hon. Member claims, civil servants have no adventurous spirit. I want to know what is to happen when we get this wonderful Socialist State which depends so much on civil servants? Are we to have no adventurous spirit then? I leave the hon. Member to give further consideration to his statement.

To return to this board my right hon. Friend has been fortunate in securing the services as the first chairman of an old and fairly well-respected Member of this House, namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Chorley Division of Lancaster. The chairman will, in fact, always be the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. The other two official members will be one of the Assistant Under-Secretaries of State for the Dominions and a representative of the Treasury. My right hon. Friend will announce the names of the unofficial members soon after the Recess, that is, always provided that the Recess lasts a sufficient length of time.

The duties of the board will be very important, and undoubtedly the members of the board will have great responsibilities. The board will have to consider and advise the Secretary of State on specific proposals for schemes of migration and upon any matters relating to oversea settlement which the Secretary of State may refer to the board. An early problem which will have to be solved is the one referred to by the hon. Member for Rothwell in connection with the Empire Settlement Act, 1922. That Act, as he rightly says, is due to expire in May, 1937, and in all probability one of the first recommendations this board will have to make will be in connection with the Act, whether or not it should be renewed, and, if so, whether its provisions should be amended. The schemes of migration recommended by the board would after approval by the Secretary of State then have to be discussed with the Oversea Governments concerned, and I can assure the House that as far as the United Kingdom Government is concerned, if the views of the Oversea Governments are favourable and they are prepared to co-operate, the United Kingdom Government will also be prepared to play its part.

As one of the main duties of the board will be to examine all schemes, I am sure that the House will not think it proper if I attempt to deal with any of the suggested schemes which have been brought to light during this Debate. It is clear that the board must be in a position, and especially its chairman, to consider every scheme without prejudice and without previous commitment and with complete impartiality.

The inter-Departmental Committee also recommended the setting up of a Central Committee on Oversea Settlement. This recommendation has also been accepted by His Majesty's Government. This committee will deal with administration as opposed to the board's work on matters of broad general policy. The new committee, in addition to dealing with the administration of migration policy, will also be responsible for promoting co-operation—a very desirable thing—between the Government and voluntary organisations and also co-operation between the voluntary organisations themselves. This means, of course, the abolition of the existing Oversea Settlement Committee which, as hon. Members are aware, has done splendid work; in fact too much praise cannot be given in respect of the work which has been done by that committee under, in the main, very difficult circumstances. And in case there should be arty possible misunderstanding I must mention that my right hon. Friend the. Secretary of State only accepted the recommendation of the inter-Departmental Committee to appoint this new Policy Board and the new Administration Committee after having obtained the advice of the existing Oversea Settlement Committee. The old committee will not then die as a result of murder committed by my right hon. Friend, but "suicide," without any addendum, would be a more accurate verdict in connection with the end of this particular body.


Do I understand that the personnel of the new Advisory Committee is also being set up at this time, because that is not the recommendation of the Oversea Settlement Committee?


I said that the personnel of the board only is being dealt with at the present time. We have to get policy before we can carry out administration, and there is obviously not the same necessity to hurry to appoint the members of the Committee. The first thing to do is to get on with the election of the members of the board and we are getting on with that as quickly as we can in order that we can bring forward some policy to submit to my right hon. Friend and to the various oversea Governments.

I do not think that there is anything else that I need say to-day. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Motion is satisfied that it has not only been welcomed, but also been completely met by my right hon. Friend and the Government. More than that, I think that in the decision that we have taken to set up this Administration Committee in addition to the Policy Board, we have gone even further than his request. My hon. and gallant Friend ought, therefore, to be even more than satisfied—an unusual position for any hon. Member of this Assembly to secure. In these circumstances, which I maintain are favourable in the extreme, I would ask this House respectfully to accept my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion.


Will the five unofficial members of the board be whole-time members, and will they be paid for their services?


No, Sir. It is not the intention that they should be whole-time members, nor that they should be paid, but they will be men of great experience and ability, and we hope that when the names are published to this House they will give full confidence to those who have taken a great interest in this work.


My right hon. Friend referred to the setting up of a board and a committee. Will that board and that committee have power to dispense any funds?


No, Sir. They will both have power of recommendation, but it is not at the moment part of the policy of the Government that they should actually distribute funds. It may later be found desirable that the Committee should have something to do with the distribution, but it is very unlikely. Certainly, the board will not have anything of that kind to do.


It would be able to recommend expenditure to the Government?




Will the new board to be set up contain Dominion representatives?


No, Sir, it will only contain representatives from the United Kingdom. The appointments will be made by the United Kingdom, Government, but schemes, when they have been selected and approved will be submitted to the Governments overseas. If and when the Governments overseas accept the proposals, then they will probably be put into operation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House is of opinion that the time has arrived when immediate steps should be taken to survey possibilities for restarting migration within the Empire, and urges His Majesty's Government to set up at an early date an Empire settlement board, with a view to examining all schemes for organised settlement, and to recommend to Parliament any means which will assist the redistribution of population within the Empire.

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