§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Crowder
I beg to move,That this House is of opinion that an early resumption of the movement of the population within the Empire is most desirable, and urges His Majesty's Government to take every suitable opportunity for considering, in concert with Dominion Governments, all arrangements that may be practicable now and in the future for promoting and encouraging the settlement in the Dominions of people from this country and to indicate its readiness to co-operate fully in approved schemes.I feel that this is a fit and appropriate occasion on which to introduce this Motion, because in four days' time messages of good will and good tidings will be sent round the Empire uniting us all in a great commonwealth of free nations with the same aspirations, namely, to live at peace with the world, to increase our trade and to better the conditions of the people, both in this country and overseas. This is an ideal upon which we all agree. We have to consider this afternoon what we could and should do to strengthen our position in the Empire in a troubled world, with dictators ruling the greater part of it who have no idea of allowing free speech or liberty as we know it in this country to-day.
Of course, any satisfactory scheme for emigration will cost money, and I propose to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions to say that he will grant more financial assistance than has been given hitherto. I maintain that, if he will so agree, it will be a good investment. Although I am no expert on this question, I do deplore the somewhat negative attitude which was adopted in the report on Migration of the Inter-Departmental Committee which was published in 1934. We have delayed too long, and now is the time to seize the opportunity to take some drastic action. It is necessary for the safety of the Empire. I hope that the Government will take an early opportunity of inviting the Dominions to consider a composite and well-thought-out plan, so that some of the empty spaces in our Empire may be occupied by our own people and people of the British stock. There are 46,000,000 people crowded together in this small island, and if we take Australia and Canada, to name only two, we see that there are thousands of miles of unpopulated or very sparsely populated country. We must come to the conclusion, there- 2932 fore, that the distribution of the population is unequal, and entails an enormous waste of men and materials. Other countries are quite aware of the position. The "Toronto Globe" recently published an article, of which the following is a short extract:Other countries are viewing our open spaces with envious eyes. If British Columbia cannot get rid of its Japanese settlers, it can at least help to offset them by opening the doors to more Britishers.There is no doubt that in due course these lands will be populated, and I want to see settlers there coming from this country and not people whose ideas of government are diametrically opposed to our own. That is a very important point, because if we allow this to happen, it must mean the beginning of the disintegration of the Empire. There is no object in my explaining or trying to point out what that would mean, but I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that, if the Empire should start to disintegrate in this way, all hope of democracy and freedom would be gone. If we could populate these countries with people of our own stock by degrees, we should help now to save ourselves from a war between Fascism and Communism, either local or in Europe. We start miles ahead of any other nation, with great Dominions. We have opportunities that other countries have not got. The Dominions hold very strong and strategic positions and they are willing to work with us. Although as yet on their won, they are comparatively weak and undeveloped. all the material assets necessary for development are there, and I suggest that now is the time to co-operate with them. Great Britain would be reinforced in her efforts for world peace if the Dominions became stronger and wealthier. For instance, today Australia has a population of about 6,750,000. The Prime Minister of Australia, when he goes to Geneva or to any international conference, does not represent a great nation as regards numbers, but if there were, say, 20,000,000 people in Australia, the Prime Minister would, when he went to Geneva, be representing a very strong and powerful nation. Therefore, we must find some way to increase the population.
The expansion of primary production, namely, foodstuffs, is not sufficient. It would, no doubt, help to a great extent, 2933 but we must not discourage the setting up of secondary industries in our Dominions. It is very important that these industries should be economic. Secondary industrial development would not reduce exports from this country, because they would want material, machinery and the like, and thousands of pounds would be spent in wages, and, with more people drawing wages, there would be a greater buying power. Anyhow, whether we like it or not, secondary industries are being started in the Dominions, and we should co-operate with the Dominions and get them to take machinery from us, and not try to put any obstacles in their way.
England, not Scotland and Wales, but England itself is the most thickly populated country of any in the world, and there must be many young men and women who feel themelves crushed in the struggle and unequal competition for work and employment in this country who would like to strike out on their own, if adequate financial help and guidance were given them should they wish to go to the Dominions. We do not want to drive out of this country people who do not want to go, but we want to be able to give them financial help and guidance should they desire to go to the Dominions. They will not be going to a foreign country. They will be among people who have the same aspirations and the same ideals as we have in this country, and they will be welcomed and an accession of strength and a further guarantee of the future of the Empire. I am informed that there are many openings for professional men in the Dominions, and that some professional men in this country are out of work. I am told that there are many openings for them there. Some people have suggested that we simply urge emigration from this country in order to try to solve our own unemployment problem. That is quite a wrong spirit in which to approach this question. It really is a fallacy to suppose that our unemployment problem can be solved by restricting our own population. You do not necessarily increase your unemployed by increasing your population, nor do you necessarily decrease production by reducing your population. Between 1932 and 1936 twice as many people came to this country as left it, and yet there was a steady and rapid decline in unemployment during that period. In fact it is by increasing your population that you in- 2934 crease production and obtain increased employment and increased wages.
The policy of self-sufficiency which is being carried on to-day by the totalitarian States has naturally a restricting influence on our trade, but do not let us forget that if we are to pay for our rearmament programme we must expand our trade in every way we possibly can. I suggest, therefore, that we should do all we can to expand our trade within the Empire by helping the Empire to increase its resources and its population. Recently we gave £10,000,000 to the people of Czechoslovakia. I am not complaining, but what I do ask is that the Government should consider investing a similar amount, spread over a number of years, in Empire development. The details of such a scheme will, I believe, be given later on in the Debate. Such a loan could be repaid over a period of years, or it might be allowed to accumulate at compound interest to increase the establishment of British people in British lands. It was estimated in the "Times" some years ago that it took the income from £2,000 invested in gilt-edged securities to keep one unemployed family in this country, and there are thousands of such families being maintained in this country to-day.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who is to second the Motion, will explain that he asks only for £1,000 to equip a family in British Columbia on the free lands given by that Government, leaving them at the end of two years in a self-supporting condition. This is the only country in the Empire from which British stock can be drawn, and I suggest to His Majesty's Government that they should find the necessary money. I hope they will take immediate steps to offer it and strike while the iron is hot. The question is an urgent one. In the old days settlers in the Empire or some parts of it found nothing but bush and heavy trees which they had to clear away. They had to build their own houses and cowsheds, and had no one to advise them. To-day there are railways or roads, telegraphs or telephones, very often schools to accommodate the children of the settlers, and there are certainly experts to advise them.
In conclusion, I should like to mention the excellent work which 'is being done by the Big Brother Movement in Australia. As probably most hon. Members know, this movement was started in 2935 1925 by Sir Richard Linton, and I will read a short extract from an article which appeared in the Educational Supplement to the "Times" on 3rd December:The big brother who is a responsible Australian citizen, takes under his wing the British little brother until he reaches the age of 21 years. He acts as a buffer against difficulties which await the new arrival in Australia. He may not employ him and he cannot exploit him, but he sees that he gets fair play in his job from his employer, and is a clearing house for complaints and disagreements. By this means the little brother gets a square deal all round and feels that he can fall back on his big brother in time of trouble.I hope the Government will see their way to encourage the leaders of this movement. Reports have been received from the offices in Melbourne and Sydney asking that 240 boys should be sent to each place next year, but again finance intervenes. They are having difficulty in finding boys who can produce the requisite amount of money to enable them to pay for their passage. A great deal of excellent work has been done by this society, and with more encouragement more could be done. Many of these boys have proved a great success on the land, and many have found their way into the Australian Navy, Army, Air Force and Police. But the question of finance is a very difficult one. The assisted passage rates are: Boys, from 15 to 17 years of age, £5 10s., plus £2 which it is necessary for them to have on landing; boys between 17 and 18 years of age are charged £11. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us why it is necessary for the passage money to be doubled between 17 and 18 years of age? I suggest that to stimulate the flow of suitable emigrants to Australia he might consider paying entirely the passage of suitable boys who are approved by his Department or who are approved by the Big Brother Movement.
I submit, finally, that as no definite scheme of Empire settlement on a really comprehensive scale has ever been submitted to the Dominions, it is not right to say that they have turned down any such plan. Therefore, I hope the Government will submit a comprehensive scheme, and will do it fairly soon. I move the Motion in no party spirit, and I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will support it. I hope I have been able to persuade them that it 2936 is to our own interest and in the interest of the Empire to co-operate with the Governments of the Dominions to consolidate the British race and enable us to retain our position in the world to-day. I maintain that it is essential that the man-power of our Empire should be increased by people of British stock—that is very important—so that we can make a successful stand, with the Dominions working as partners with us, for peace, freedom, liberty and tolerance.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sure hon. Members will congratulate the hon. Member on his presentation of the case. He has done it in such a way as to secure the sympathy, and, I hope, the support of Members in all parts of the House. There is an Amendment on the Order Paper, and whether it is moved or not I take this opportunity of saying that the sentiments expressed in the Amendment certainly meet with my approval. I should be sorry to see the admirable words of the Amendment come into conflict with the Motion, and I hope therefore, it will come forward on a suitable occasion and be debated as a separate Motion. In 1918 and 1922, and again in 1933, I took the opportunity of asking hon. Members to realise that the population problem of this country was likely to be very severe in the years to come. At that time it received a considerable amount of sympathy, but very little was done. Up to and two years after the War there was still a stream of migration to the Dominions. Before the War people were going in such large numbers that it will be agreed that if the movement had reasserted itself after the War, there would be no serious problem of overcrowding in this country at the present moment, with its consequent aggravation of the unemployment situation.
Recently, more and more hon. Members have begun to realise that this is a problem which must be faced. When we see the Commissioners in the depressed areas in every case stressing the desirability of trying to give an opportunity to those who are suitable for settlement overseas, when we see so many public and charitable bodies in this country realising the need for grappling with this question, it was not surprising to find supporters of His Majesty's Government 2937 in the last Parliament to the number of 305 tabling a Motion far stronger than the present Motion and asking for immediate action. Only last Session a large majority of those who support the Government again urged a Motion in similar terms. In response to the demand which was pressed in this House in 1933 the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor set up the Overseas Settlement Board, and it is pertinent to ask how many people the Board have succeeded in settling since it was set up. We know that their sympathies are very great, but I would urge that these sympathies should be transformed into definite action. Up to the present it must be confessed, for reasons which are well known to us, that their policy has been a negative one of waiting on events, hoping that pressure might come from the Dominions.
But while nothing has been done hon. Members should remember that something like £1,400,000,000 has been spent in benefits and relief since the Great War. It is a staggering figure, large enough to equip entirely a new nation, to establish a new country. If half that amount had been spent in the development of settlement within the Empire, on the basis of the plan which I propose shortly to put before the House, we could have established something like 750,000 men in the Dominions overseas.
§ Sir H. Croft
It is an approximate figure which has been spent in keeping alive our people since the Great War. Why has nothing been done? Why this continual stonewalling against any action? I think the reasons can be summed up as follow. It is suggested, first, that the Dominions would not have such a policy; secondly, that there were no open spaces left in the British Empire; thirdly, that settlers could not make a livelihood; fourthly, that there were no settlers available; and, in the fifth place, that we must rely on infiltration and not upon any organised scheme. These are interesting reasons, but I have never agreed with them. I am chairman of a private committee of both Houses of Parliament, with experts from migration bodies, and after an exhaustive study and examining something like 75 witnesses, we came to the conclusion that it was a policy which 2938 should be followed. I received an invitation from British Columbia to go out there with a colleague from the north, an ex-Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Mr. Stanley Dalgeish, who was anxious to do something for the unemployed in his district, and who organised an immigration conference in Newcastle. We went there to discover on the spot whether these arguments were really such as should prevent us from going ahead with the policy.
We took every point of substantial criticism that we had ever heard in this country, and I am delighted to say that we found the people of British Columbia ready to refute all those arguments. We found that in British Columbia not only did they not oppose such a scheme, but that it was generally welcomed throughout the whole Province. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was with open arms that they welcomed the idea. In all the great area which we traversed, far greater than the area of England, we had the declared support of every Member of Parliament, either Federal or Provincial. They all happened to be Liberals. Miracles do happen. They gave us public and generous support, and I am correct in saying that in every single constituency their Conservative brethen publicly associated themselves with the plan which we put before them. In addition, every single board of trade from Kamloops to Prince Rupert unanimously supported our plan.
We visited 55 settlers in their homes, the large majority of whom were people who had gone out from this country, and with one exception—and he was a strong opponent—the whole of those settlers said they would welcome additional men from this country to go out and establish themselves among them. They were not afraid of their competition, but desired to see the British population strengthened in that part of the Empire. Ours was a modest mission, but when I say that we were accompanied by all the soil, water and agricultural experts in the areas we visited, it will be agreed that we had to our hands all the best information available.
The climax to this really remarkable reception was when we arrived at Victoria, where we went at the invitation of a man of far-sighted vision, the Prime Minister of the Province, Mr. Pattullo, who in answer to the ideas we put forward and the plans we advanced told us definitely 2939 that if the home Government and the Federal Government would agree to the plan, or something similar to it, his Province, his Government, were prepared to give all the free land necessary for the purpose, and give every assistance in establishing the social services in the areas developed. That was very encouraging. We satisfied ourselves that there are great suitable areas available. We went into districts where the soil appeared to be suitable and on all the fringes of which the settlers, our own countrymen, told us that the adjacent soil was equally good. We looked over territories 20 to 30 miles in extent, and there is every reason to believe that, subject to soil survey, there is suitable land, suitable water conditions, and suitable climate for countrymen of ours should they desire to go, and should His Majesty's Government desire to stand behind them with credit or other financial assistance.
Hard though the conditions are for men to go pioneering in any Dominion, we are convinced that there is a brighter future out there for those who can go under an organised plan, and that there is a chance of making a home with real hope for their children and their children's children such as they could not find in most of our congested areas in this country at the present time. We may be asked, Would any of our own people go? I am sometimes insulted by persons saying to me that our countrymen are so soft they would not undertake this pioneering work. That is an insult, when we remember how our countrymen adapted themselves to the conditions of the Great War. Since this idea was published in the Press I have had hundreds of letters from applicants desiring that their names should be put on the first list, in order that they may settle overseas. Apparently they are the very type of people we want to go overseas—people who have left the country to look for better chances in the cities, and they want to get back into touch with the land.
There is one point of criticism with which I should like to deal. We know that there are many unemployed in the Dominion of Canada, mostly in the cities, and it would be most unwise to do anything to aggravate that situation. When we first arrived in Canada there were one or two Press notices to the effect that it was inadvisable to bring any more 2940 citizens into Canada. But when we pointed out that under the proposed development company we should be able to place some thousands of persons on the land to develop new areas, backed by British capital to an extent, as indicated in the report, of about £1,000 per family, immediately the original small opposition to our idea faded away. It was realised that if 30,000,000 to 40,000,000 dollars were to be expended in Canada among the Canadians themselves in the buying of lumber, cattle, stock, hogs, poultry, 20,000 agricultural machines in the first year, another 20,000 machines in the second year, and 40,000 implements for agricultural pursuits, this would give employment in all the cities, and that by so doing there would be reasonable hope that for every single family settled on the land we could give permanent employment to one worker in the industrial centres of the Dominion. With these facts before us, we received a reception from the Canadian Press, with only three exceptions so far as I am aware, of general good will.
Let me say a few words in regard to the plan. The plan that we offer, in all humility, to the right hon. Gentleman is that an Empire development company should be formed, that it should not be an ordinary company, but one which would be placed on a higher standard than any ordinary commercial concern, in that the original directors should have the assent in regard to character, etc., of the Prime Minister of whichever party might be in power. In this way we could get directors of the very highest character, and we should have the finest agricultural experts, financial experts and those who understand Imperial developments. The company would, therefore, be one which would have the confidence of the country fully behind it. It is our belief that such a company, with the support of His Majesty's Government, could get to work very early, probably a year after the initial stages. We do not ask or suggest that any expenditure from the State, which already offers under the Empire Settlement Act, £1,500,000 a year, or money advanced under Trade Facilities, as suggested should be in the nature of a gift or a dole. We believe that this is an investment and that the money would come back, probably in 23 years, through the company, which would be responsible for seeing that the settlers 2941 were not let down and for seeing that the whole arrangements were carefully organised and assisted in every way by agricultural experts.
For this small experiment in British Columbia—I am hoping to see a similar scheme adopted throughout the Dominions—we estimate that £10,000,000 would be necessary. My hon. Friend mentioned that, without a word of protest, without a groan, we decided to grant £10,000,000, in a moment of emotion, to the people of Czechoslovakia. I am not criticising that decision, but I am pointing out that that is just the sum for which we are asking. That is the amount of money which we suggest should be invested, and we are sure that it would come back. In the last fortnight or so we have been deeply moved by the sufferings of people on the Continent of Europe, and people from various quarters have suggested that we should settle 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 or 30,000 refugees in this or that part of the British Empire, All of us would wish to help any unfortunate people in any part of Europe at the present time to the best of our ability, but it is surely an equal duty, indeed it is our first duty, to do everything in our power to assist our own people who for years have been longing for an opportunity of productive work and the chance of making a new home.
Here is a subject on which we might all agree, namely, that we ought to make an experiment on a large scale, seeing the vast number of people in this country who are, unfortunately, unemployed. I do not think that many of the unemployed would venture on a pioneering scheme like this, but, at any rate, they could take the places of others who desired to go. We have nearly 2,000,000 people who are still unemployed. They also are refugees; they are refugees from despair, and when we see that Signor Mussolini at the present time is engaged in settling a very much larger number of people than I have indicated in the arid wastes of Libya, I do not believe that my right hon. Friend is going to admit that he, a great democratic leader, is less capable of pushing a great scheme for settling our people in the rich and fertile territories of British Columbia.
Since the Great War we have invested well over 200,000,000 of British money in Germany, Austria and other continental countries, in the hope of putting them 2942 once more upon their feet. Had we invested that money in developing the British Empire overseas and settling our own people, I think it will be realised at once that that sum of money would have given a great volume of employment to very considerable sections of people in this country who are seeking for the kind of productive energy which this scheme of ours presents to them. Recent events in different parts of the world have convinced us more and more of the imperative need for the peoples of the British Empire to get together—all the great self-governing Dominions, the British Colonial Empire and our great Indian Empire. Now is the time when we should cooperate. This is the great fraternity of democratic nations which still exists, and our united power would be immense. Here is an opportunity for His Majesty's Government to do something to strengthen the bulwark of our civilisation by seeing to it that the British people are more adequately distributed, where they will have the best chance for their own development, and where they can do more for the strengthening of the strategic safety of our Empire overseas.
When one sees thousands of people going into the middle of Canada from Central European countries, one realises the need there is for British settlers there, and I can assure the House that every person I met in Canada would rather have British stock. We know what the Government of one Province offers. It offers free land for our settlers and a cordial welcome. I had also the opportunity of meeting the Government of another Province, that of Saskatchewan, and they also equally want British settlers. I believe the Maritime Provinces are in exactly the same position, and I cannot believe that the Federal Government of Canada would be slow to act and to give assistance, because at this moment a man can go from Switzerland, Germany, Austria or the Ukraine—Czechs and Slovaks, and people of all the nations of Central Europe, can settle in Canada as long as they have 1,000 dollars in their pockets. Under this scheme, we ought to see to it that more money than that is behind our people. If that is so, the Dominion Governments would be only too ready to welcome them.
I am grateful to hon. Members for their tolerance in allowing me to put these facts before them. We are looking for 2943 a constructive policy which will do something to make people feel happier and more secure in face of the dangers which confront us in the world to-day. I believe there is no better means than to go ahead with the development of the British Empire. What is the good of this Empire merely being painted red on the map? What we should do is to populate it, to see that the urge of progress is once more established, to make of the Empire a real instrument for the advancement of mankind, and to help each other forward in these days of peril to greater prosperity throughout the King's Dominions.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Lunn
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) knows his subject very well, as we have often experienced in the House. He expressed his regret that the Amendment on the Paper is not to be called. I believe that he would have liked that Amendment to be added to the Motion, but as it is not to be called, we shall not be able to go into the whole question of the development of the Empire, as both the hon. and gallant Gentleman and I would like to do on this occasion. The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Crowder), who moved the Motion in such a delightful manner, is not as well acquainted with the subject of migration as his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth. He began by saying that what is necessary in this question is finance. I do not know how far the hon. Member wants to extend the powers of the Government with regard to the financing of people who are sent overseas. We used to have an Empire Settlement Act which provided that the Government should pay 50 per cent. of the cost on condition that the Dominions guaranteed in some way the same amount. A year or two ago that Act was amended, and it was decided that we would grant up to 75 per cent. of the cost, and possibly even more in certain cases.
In spite of that, the hon. Member was compelled to admit in his speech that more than twice the number of migrants who left this country for the Dominions have returned to this country. I believe that to be the fact, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will give the House the exact figures as to the number of people who have returned to this country, and also the ex- 2944 cess over the number of people who have gone from this country to the Dominions. I have no doubt that the hon. Member was right when he said that there are many people, particularly young people, who would desire to go to the Dominions if opportunities could be given to them—by which I mean, not only the passage money, but guarantees of employment and security. The only scheme which the hon. Member mentioned was the "Big Brother" Movement. That is an excellent idea and an excellent movement, but the few people who have gone to the Dominions from this country under that movement shows that it cannot in any way solve the problem. I can tell the hon. Member that in 1925 a comprehensive scheme was proposed by this country to Australia. It was a question of guaranteeing £450,000 and sending 10,000 people each year; but Australia did not accept the scheme, and nothing came of it. Returning to the speech of the Seconder, the hon. and gallant Member did not give us a single concrete idea of anything that any Government in the Dominions is prepared to do in order to help migration. He spoke to private individuals and Members of Parliaments, and he had meetings with Cabinets, but he has not been able to tell us of a single direction in which they are prepared to do something in order to support his ideas with regard to migration.
§ Sir H. Croft
The hon. Member cannot have heard me tell the House that the Government of British Columbia, through its Prime Minister, met our Mission and definitely stated that if such a scheme were adopted, they would be prepared to grant the land free of any charge whatever, and also to assist in social services.
§ Mr. Lunn
I hope the Secretary of State will tell us definitely what the Government of British Columbia have said to him on that matter, and how far he has been assured that people from this country will be accepted and provided for. The hon. and gallant Gentleman gave no facts regarding what is to be done, and I cannot see that anything in his speech will help, as far as the Dominions are concerned, with the redistribution of population to any part of the British Empire.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
May I point out to the hon. Member that two years ago the Legislature of Saskatchewan, by 2945 a majority of some 54 votes to seven, passed a resolution stating that the time had come for a resumption of migration, and that we have heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth that this Legislature also is prepared to make grants of land on very favourable terms?
§ Mr. Lunn
I have been going into the facts with regard to the Saskatchewan scheme. I would like to see some enthusiasm for that idea, but again, I ask the Secretary of State to tell us what is the position with regard to the Saskatchewan Government and what is it prepared to do to assist migration. We ought to be given that information. Moreover, I do not think the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth ought to exploit the position of the depressed areas as a means of getting migrants to the Dominions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows very well that, although we have spent £1,400,000,000 in relief, the Dominions would not accept one of those men as immigrants. He knows very well that, with regard to every scheme that there has been, it has been clearly stated that the Dominions are not prepared to accept our unemployed.
§ Mr. Lunn
No, I do not accept the position that our unemployed people are unemployable. I would like the Government to do something to provide work for them rather than relief without work. But the position is that the Dominions would not accept our unemployed people. They want very fit men. Some years ago, when I was in charge of emigration, I went to visit a ship that was leaving with emigrants for Australia. I saw turned back from the ship a man who, as far as he knew, had been passed to go. He was a most suitable man, sturdy and strong, and the only reason he was turned back was that he was wearing spectacles. When a man is turned back in that way, I think this aspect of the matter is worthy of consideration.
The Motion is a very innocuous one, and I do not suppose we shall vote against it; indeed, I do not see any reason why we should. The hon. Member who moved the Motion wants to see a resumption of migration. He has stated his conditions. I would extend those conditions 2946 by saying that there must be guarantees and employment for the people who go. The Mover and Seconder of the Motion know very well that there is no likelihood of an early resumption of migration. They have pressed the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State on this matter, but they have said that it must be done in concert with the Dominion Governments. When will that position be reached? I agree with the Motion from that point of view, because I believe that if migration is to be resumed, it must be in concert with the Dominions.
The Government ought to co-operate in approved schemes. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell the House what approved schemes there are between the Dominion Governments and His Majesty's Government. I do not know of one. If the schemes are of a character that makes it suitable for migrants to go overseas, then I do not object to those schemes being carried into effect. However, it is remarkable that we can become enthusiastic upon such subjects as this, when there can be no realisation of that which the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion desire. All those who support the Motion know that nothing can come of it at present, although, like those who support it enthusiastically, I should like to see the time come when something can be done; for I realise that our people would rather be in employment than in receipt of relief.
But we must not regard the Dominions as Colonies. They are not Colonies; they are self-governing States, equal in status to us. Anyone who has read the speeches made at the New Zealand luncheon yesterday will have seen that it was emphasised very strongly that they regard themselves as equal in status. That being so, they must be consulted with regard to anything that is to be done, and their consent must be given. There are not many immigrant countries in the Empire; only New Zealand, Australia and Canada can be considered. I know there is plenty of room, but it is not enough to imagine that because there is plenty of space, people should be given their passage money and dropped in those places. They must be given some opportunities, and there must be guarantees of employment; they must not be left to sink or swim. There must be assurances, and there can be no assurances given that they will get a living on the land, as far as we can 2947 judge from some of the recent migration schemes.
, Then, again for some years, the number of migrants who have come back has exceeded the number of those who have gone out, which indicates that many more would return if the means to do so could be provided for them. Those who take an interest in this question know that very well, and I consider that it would be wicked to encourage people to go abroad and to be left there on their beam ends. The migrants must be carefully selected. As the right hon. Gentleman who formerly occupied the office of Dominions Secretary used to say, they must be the pick of the basket. They must be above the average in physique, intelligence and enterprise. We have not got large numbers of people of that quality who wish to go. There must be no compulsion. If they do go, it must be voluntarily. I agree, as I have said, with the second and third parts of the Motion if it can be done in concert with the Dominions. But if the principle of redistribution of population is adopted, it ought to be carried out according to a plan. Schemes must be considered carefully and the Governments on each side must take part in them. All the Governments concerned must cooperate, if anything is to be done. Resettlement cannot be left to haphazard methods, if it is undertaken again. If the right hon. Gentleman is correct in the statement which he made recently that there are many disintegrating forces in the Dominions, that makes the problem all the greater. Indeed if such forces exist it seems impossible to hope for success.
Further, if we propose to send people oversea, we must consider whether there are markets to take the products of their labour. There must be opportunity for them to market what they produce, and I wish to know what is being done about that aspect of the question. Has it ever been discussed or considered? Are trade and exchange so healthy that markets can be guaranteed? I do not think that is so, but without such guarantees disaster would overtake them as in the case of the Victorian settlers of some years ago, whose plight some of us remember very well. Then I would ask whether it is assisted or unassisted migration we are asked to support? If it is to be unassisted, that simply means that there will be none at all. If it is to be assisted 2948 migration, how far is it to be assisted? Is it to end with the provision of cheap passage money facilities? Will nothing be done with regard to the settlement and employment of the people and their opportunities of earning a livelihood? These are most important questions. The question of after-care when the people get there, is of as much importance as the question of starting them from this country. If it is to be assisted migration, as I suppose it will be, then all these matters will have to be considered by the Department here and by the Dominions Government.
We must ask ourselves which form of migration we ought to support most. I contend that family migration is the best. I agree that it would be the most costly, but I believe that the mother should remain with the father, and that the children should go with the parents. I know the amount of trouble that it has taken in one case to get a women into the United States to join her husband there. I realise the difficulties involved, but if we are proposing to send people from here to the Dominions, then I say we ought to let the wife go with the husband and do all we can to make the family united, comfortable and happy when they settle in their new home. To-day the only satisfactory method of migration that we have is the nomination method, under which people who are already settled in a Dominion can nominate a migrant from this country, a relative or a friend for whom they are prepared to provide. That is a very suitable form of migration. I am much opposed to child migration as we had it in Canada, and I hope it will never be instituted again.
I wish to ask what has been done under the Empire settlement scheme since the last Act was passed? Under that Act there is a board to deal with this matter. We ought to know whether anything has been done by that board. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) was a strong supporter of the idea of a board. He felt that it was the one thing which would start this business off again successfully. We ought to know from the right hon. Gentleman what is being done by the board to secure a larger number of settlers in the Dominions. I know that there is one way by which migration could be encouraged and developed without assistance from this country. If there were a gold rush in Australia similar to 2949 that which took place some 8o years ago, there would be no need to talk in this House about assisted migration. People would go there in very large numbers. I hope I am not encroaching on the Amendment when I say that some years ago there was a Development Board in Australia, and if the work of that board had been continued, something might have been done to open Australia to many British workers.
I conclude by suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought to be careful in his speeches. I have already referred to a statement which was made by him last week. It is very important, if there are any disintegrating forces in the Dominions, that he should tell us what those forces are and what efforts are being made to remove them and prevent anything which is likely to break up the family of the Empire. This is something apart from migration, but it is with regard to the Dominions and it is very important that we should consider it. I am concerned, as much as the right hon. Gentleman and, I believe, most Members of this House are concerned, that the links should be maintained, that the chain should be kept strong, and we must not allow these things to which the right hon. Gentleman referred to exist any longer than we can help. It is against our own comfort, and I believe against the possibility of the peace of the world, and if the facts are as the right hon. Gentleman stated the other day, that is the greatest danger that could arise. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he speaks to-night will clear the air so that we may know that there is nothing very serious, or nothing that will be to the detriment either of the Dominions or ourselves in the present position of affairs.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
The House is under an obligation to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Crowder) for having brought this subject before us, because it is a subject which has been urgent for many years. We are also under an obligation to him for the clear and persuasive way in which he argued his case. The discussion, so far, has been remarkable for the concrete scheme put before the House by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), on which I shall have something to say presently. First, may I refer to the speech of the hon. Member for 2950 Rothwell (Mr. Lunn). He, I know, is anxious to see migration and settlement set going again, but he desires that it should be on sound and sensible lines, and I thoroughly agree with him. He has undertaken the role of devil's advocate in this Debate and has, quite rightly, brought forward the difficulties and the objections to various schemes. I think he went a little too far in that direction, but we are grateful to him for saying that he is not going to advise his supporters to divide on the Motion. With regard to the Amendment I, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth, am thoroughly in favour of it. I think it might well be accepted as an addition to the Motion and I hope that that course will be taken.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth has put before the House a well-thought-out scheme which was submitted to the Prime Minister of British Columbia, and, as hon. Members heard, my hon. and gallant Friend received an offer of a free grant of land in British Columbia if this scheme were adopted by the British Government. I discussed that matter with the Prime Minister of British Columbia some years ago when he was Minister of Lands in Victoria. I discussed it with him and with Mr. John Oliver—who by the way used to be a Cheshire miner—and they were extremely anxious that British Columbia should be populated by British stock. One asks, therefore, what is being done with that scheme. Has it been put before the Oversea Settlement Board? Incidentally, the hon. Member for Rothwell suggested that I had been in favour of the establishment of that board. I was in favour of a board, but I wanted a board with a much wider and stronger constitution than the present body. But I would like to ask now whether this scheme will be submitted to the board, and, if so, what will the board do with it? That board is the lineal descendant of the old Overseas Settlement Committee and is much the same kind of body. To quote the French proverb, "The more a thing changes the more it remains the same."
The Overseas Settlement Committee, which was originated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), under the Overseas Settlement Act, 1922, did good work as long as the country was prosperous and there 2951 was an urge to go abroad. But it had not any real power of its own, and the same difficulty is found in the present board. It has scarcely any executive power. It has to go to the Dominions Minister and the Treasury on every important step that it takes. It published a report in May of this year—an admirably written report and a wonderful marshalling of figures and facts. It was a very good book of reference, as was the previous report, published by the Inter-Departmental Committee of which my right hon. Friend was the chairman, but, as the hon. Member for Rothwell has said, what has that board done in the direction of settling people in a sound way overseas? You can find very little traces in the report of anything that it has achieved, and we want something done now.
There are some questions that one would like to ask, and two of them have already been asked. Why is it that Central Europeans should pour into British Columbia, and why is it that men from the United States should cross the borders and settle in British Columbia? Why should Dutchmen go there? This is what I find in a Vancouver paper published in June of this year:New settlers continue to pour into the Bulkley Valley area, most of them coming from the Central European countries. In addition, large numbers of prairie farmers (that is, from the States) are intending to settle in British Columbia.The article goes on to speak of land being purchased by various foreigners, and it mentions that a number of Dutchmen are going into British Columbia. Look at Australia. There are numbers of Italians going there, and numbers of Germans too, but where are the people of British stock? It is essential that if our customs, our character, and our institutions are to continue to pervade the Empire, the people who go into the Empire should be people of British stock. That is one question, and that has already been asked in part by previous speakers. Another question is, Why should we give loans, and very large loans, to Germany—yes, Germany—to Austria, to Turkey, and to Czechoslovakia—I am not saying anything against these loans—and give practically nothing for the development of our own Empire?
What we are pleading for to-day is not merely land settlement; it is the develop- 2952 ment of the immense resources of the Empire. That is what we want, and that is what would produce a higher standard of life and prosperity, which would bring population. We want something that will grip the Empire. Here is a challenge to democracy. Is our democracy, as represented by this country and the countries of the British Empire, prepared to meet the challenge? Our young people are waiting for a lead to fill them with hope and vigour. Signor Mussolini can transplant 100,000 people—20,000 families, with an average five each—to Libya, and I have read with admiration of the perfect way in which the organisation of the transference of those people was, or is being, accomplished. Have we no answer? Is the British Empire so powerless that it cannot produce an answer to that? What is needed in the Empire at this time is, as I have said, a movement produced by wise leadership, in conjunction with the Dominions and the Colonies, to grip the Empire, to make it feel its strength, its resources, in order to develop them. In regard to loans to foreign countries, a well-known ex-Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in a speech in this House, once said that in the last 40 years £4,000,000,000 has been lent to foreign countries, and mostly lost. The money that was lent to the Dominions was not lost, or only a very small part of it was lost. If a tithe of that vast sum had been spent in the development of our Empire, what might not have been achieved?
The next question that I would ask is, Why should the Members of this House take such an interest in the German road through Czechoslovakia and take practically no interest in the Alaskan Highway that is being planned through British Columbia? I read a very informing article by Sir Evelyn Wrench in the "Spectator" recently on that Highway. I know a little about it, because I have travelled some hundreds of miles on the Pacific Highway, of which this is to be a continuation, and I have seen what that Pacific Highway has done in the way of opening up country and bringing prosperity to districts. That Highway runs from the Mexican to the Canadian border, 1,000 miles. The Alaskan Highway is to run from the Canadian border right through British Columbia and through Alaska—1,800 miles through British Columbia and 400 miles through Alaska. 2953 If that were made, it would open up vast areas of British land, it would afford employment to thousands, it would bring tourists there, it would improve trade, and it would be most valuable for defence.
That is the kind of development for which we ask. At the present moment the Prime Minister of British Columbia is conducting negotiations with the United States of America to get the money for that purpose. Is this country to stand aside and not to take part in an Empire development of that kind? I can hardly think the country realises the position. Take another case of the possibility of development. One of the chief obstacles to trade and communication in Australia is the want of uniformity in the rail gauge. Thousands of miles of railways have different gauges, and why should not we, in conjunction with Australia, undertake to unify that gauge? It would give employment to thousands and would produce great results in Australia. I give those two as instances of Empire development, and those are some of the questions that I would be glad to have answered, possibly not to-night, but by this House in the near future.
Now may I say a word about Australia? This question of migration is of the utmost importance to Australia. You have only to look at the map to see. There are certain territories mandated to Australia—British New Guinea, the New Hebrides, and part of the Solomon Islands. They form a regular barrier for the North of Australia. Supposing they were returned to Germany and remembering that Japan lies to the North, to which country the Marshall Islands, the Marianne Islands, and the Caroline Islands were mandated and have been fortified by her, in what position would Australia be? But the first defence that Australia needs is manpower, and she has to see to that. How are we going to get man-power? Not merely by land settlement, but by communications, by developing mines, forests, fisheries, and every kind of human activity, and, as the hon. Member for Finchley said, by developing secondary industries in conjunction with this country, so as to produce as little clashing as possible, and taking account of the Ottawa Agreements.
We want all these activities to be developed, and I would, in particular mention the question of shipping. Why is it that the British Empire has allowed our 2954 shipping almost to be run off the Pacific by the subsidised shipping of the United States of America and Japan? It is a disgrace to the Empire that it should have been done. At last they are waking up to it, and we understand that two fast ships are to be built for the Canadian Pacific Line, but if they had done that years ago, they would have saved 40 per cent. of the cost, and they would have preserved a great deal of traffic for the benefit of the Empire. We are asleep when we might have been awake and doing things, developing the Empire. This is not a matter of unemployment, and the proof of that is that there are thousands of people in this country in good employment who are prepared to take their chance, and who want to take their chance, overseas. If they had their chance—and they are the right people to go, people with enterprise, energy, and skill—they would be replaced by the unemployed. We have plenty of skilled people to take their place.
What is needed is strong, wise, vigorous leadership in this matter, and I feel assured that if that leadership were forthcoming, the Empire would respond to it, and in particular the young people would find the outlet for their energy and enterprise, and it would be the best form of defence against the doubtful and dark dangers that assail us. After all, what is the chief guarantee of peace in this world? It is British democracy. The stronger we can make the Empire, the stronger we can make British democracy, the more likely we are to have peace in the world, and I would ask my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary to take a broad and a long view of this question and to give a lead that would, as I say, grip the Empire. Let our principle be, "Develop and strengthen the Empire."
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
We have just listened to a most eloquent and moving speech by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), and I feel sure that the whole House agrees with him that it would be a matter of great value and importance if the Empire could continue to be peopled with men of his own calibre, with men with that idea and vision of development and democracy which are imperative for the population of our Empire at the present time. In fact, I think there is general agreement, not only in this House, but throughout the country, 2955 that migration from this country to the Colonies and Dominions is greatly desirable. I should like to say, however, that there appears to be, in some circles, a difference of opinion as to whether the present time is altogether propitious, and there are, I believe, serious misgivings as to whether we can afford at present to lose the type which makes the best emigrants, whether we can afford to lose the young, healthy and enterprising young men while our own population is declining. Only yesterday we were debating the urgency of a register for national service, and some people are wondering whether this is the opportunity or the right occasion for relieving these islands of some of its best and most valuable population.
Although this is put forward as a serious proposition, I do not think it should stand hi the way of the emigration of a considerable number of people from this country. Any such sacrifice would be well justified in order to increase the British stocks in other parts of the Empire. We know that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) is an authority on this question. He has given up to it a lifetime of study and travel. We all agree with his main argument and the point which he has put forward this afternoon that the Dominions should have as great a population of British stock as this country can spare. When I spoke a year and a-half ago in the House I pointed out how vital I thought it was for the Commonwealth to be populated by people with our great democratic traditions. I am not equally convinced about the proposal which is put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the method of emigration. I do not know whether large schemes of settlement are altogether the best solution. Let us look at the scheme which the hon. and gallant Gentleman put forward for settlement in Canada. He published an interesting document which he sent to all Members who are interested in this question. The scheme involves the migration of as many as 10,000 families at a cost to this country of £1,000 per family. The scheme assumes that there are a large number of land-minded men in this country who are only waiting for £1,000 and 160 acres of land in British Columbia. Many people here might be inclined to ask, why British Columbia?
2956 Those of us who travel up and down the London and North Eastern Railway see that there are plenty of waste spaces much nearer home. There are plenty of people in these islands who would be delighted to receive £1,000 in order to develop the undeveloped acres in our own country. Why should the entire cost of the scheme which is put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman fall on the home Government? The Dominions would certainly be willing to receive the migrants and contribute towards the cost of the scheme. I do not believe that they wish the entire cost to be borne by this country. I remember reading an interesting article in a periodical by Mr. Forgan Smith, who is a distinguished publicist and politician in Queensland. It shows that from 1922 to 1929, which was a period of high emigration into Australia, the overseas national debt of that Dominion increased by as much as £200,000,000. Mr. Forgan Smith concluded that by spending so much money on the development of the natural resources of the country conditions had been created which favoured the best method of emigration, which, to his mind was the method of infiltration and assimilation. He did not appear to regret in any way this increase in the national debt, believing that the result justified the expense. Where there has been development of the natural resources of the Dominions whether on the Continent of America or in Australia money has come from this country and also from other sources and was borrowed by the Dominions. This was one of the main causes which enabled the colonists to settle and to develop.
My view coincides with that of Mr. Smith, that infiltration is the best way of settlement in the Dominions—infiltration of all classes and categories. But I think that we are inclined, even the hon. Member for Windsor, to magnify the contribution which this country can make to the populations of the Empire. The population of this country, after all, is only 45,000,000 and the population of the Dominions is already 20,000,000. I do not think we can add very many millions to the population of the Empire. The population of Canada is already 10,000,000, and the aim is that this should be doubled in the shortest possible time. I hope it will be. The aim, according to Mr. Mackenzie King, 2957 the Prime Minister of Canada, is that the population should reach 80,000,000, and well it may. This country could make only a small contribution to a problem of such magnitude, in spite of the impression which is current in many Dominions that we have a vast surplus of population.
If the population of the Dominions is to be greatly increased in a short time other countries I feel must also contribute. I said in a speech on the Floor of this House two years ago, with regard to migrants from some European countries, that I did not think they would be likely to contribute to the peace and harmony of the Commonwealth. When we see what is happening in the Protectorate of Tunis, the House will realise that my fears at that time were not altogether unfounded. But since then in many countries conditions have changed, and to-day the great totalitarian States have not really solidified their position. Thousands of people have been uprooted, and only the other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer extended his pity to the Czech refugees in their plight, and I understand he received the members of the Refugees Committee to discuss this point. To help Czechoslovakia this House has voted £10,000,000, of which the Chancellor has said that the first claim is that of the refugees. Could not something in the way of trans-migration be done for these people. The power of the dictators is spreading and is creating a position in which more and more men and women come under governments which are contrary to their democratic ideals.
It is possible that the troubled state of Europe may be an opportunity for the Empire to enrich itself as it has done in the past. The increase in the non-British population of the Dominions is sometimes looked upon with concern, as it was in the speech that preceded mine, especially in regard to Canada. It is true that there are certain classes of emigrants in Canada which have not been assimilated, chiefly owing to their low cultural outlook. The potential emigrant to-day is of a different type, of high cultural attainments and skilled in agriculture. The 150,000 Czechs who are at present seeking refuge in other countries are men on whom we were prepared to rely as skilled fighters and officers and men of a great Army who had contributed to building 2958 up a great industry in their own country. Such men and women would enrich the lives of the democratic nations which compose the Commonwealth and would become loyal and devoted citizens. When I talk of such men and women I am not thinking only of Jewish men and women, but of those thousands of all faiths with a democratic outlook who would be glad to become citizens of the Empire.
I should like to take this opportunity to welcome the decision of the Australian Government to take 15,000 refugees in the next three years. This is not only a sign of humanity, but an indication of the change in Australia's attitude to emigration. It has been fully endorsed by the Labour movement in Australia, and hitherto the Labour movement has not been favourable to emigration. From the point of view of national defence also it may be important to encourage suitable migrants from non-British countries. The hon. Member for Windsor pointed out the dangers that beset the far-flung confines of Australia, and it is valuable to encourage the settlement also of non-British migrants there. It has been argued that the population of New Zealand, one of the most vulnerable parts of the Empire, should be increased, but if New Zealand were in danger and there were a battle for her possession, it would probably not take place on her seas, but in the Yellow Seas or the North Seas. Therefore, it is fallacious to argue that the Commonwealth can be strengthened by the dispersal of man power. Defence would be better served by an addition to the total man power of the Commonwealth than by inter-Imperial emigration. But it may be said that by non-British emigration there would be a risk of creating minority problems. I do not think that is an argument which has any great weight because—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I would remind the hon. Member that the Motion on the Paper speaks only of the emigration of people from this country, and not of non-British emigration.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
I quite understand, and have no desire to run counter to your Ruling. I am only discussing this as an alternative to what has been put forward in the Motion, and I do not feel that it is in any way contradictory. There is a question of a number of these 2959 people being moved into parts of the Empire at the present time, and therefore I thought the subject would be well within the bounds of this discussion. Personally, I do not suggest that we should not make the largest contribution from this country to the population of the Dominions. In fact I consider it is essential that the Dominions should benefit from the unique qualities of British stock which have built up the Empire; only those qualities can maintain it in its present conditions of liberty and conditions of life. We know what the English gift for colonisation and leadership has done for the Dominions, and how they have benefited by the outstanding ability of the people of this country to create stable and prosperous conditions. It is the British stock which has enabled the Empire to grow and develop in the way it has, and it is highly important that the largest proportion of migrants to the Empire should come from this country, as it is equally important that our Government should be active in the assistance given to this end. I submit that such assistance should not only take the form of mass migration schemes but should mainly be of assistance to individuals. There should be the closest contact between the home and the Dominion Governments in order to ascertain from time to time what types of migrants are required, and to ensure that adequate machinery exists in this country to bring to the knowledge of our people the opportunities which are offered by the Empire.
In conclusion, I want to express my thanks to the hon. Member who moved this Motion and to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who seconded it in so able a manner. I think that the commonwealth of free nations which has been built up during the last 100 years, to the benefit of its inhabitants, on a basis of peace and freedom to-day acts as a steadying ballast for the rest of the world, and it must continue to be freely developed along the same lines on the same principles, with the same elements and with the same people, who have displayed until now their genius for democratic government, sound management, sound husbandry and sound industry, and have done so in a healthy atmosphere of peace and liberty.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I welcome this opportunity of making a few observations on the Motion, but before proceeding I wish it to go on record in bold, black type that I differ fundamentally from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). Had the Amendment been in order we should have proceeded to show how our approach to this question differs fundamentally from that of the hon. and gallant Member, but as the Amendment is out of order we should be somewhat trammelled in that respect, not being able to produce evidence to the same extent. I consider that it is not practicable to put the terms of this Motion into operation unless the Government decide upon a plan, and unless they show a greater readiness to adopt a policy of give and take than they have shown in the past. In the past the Government, and many of their staunch supporters, have approached the question of the Empire and the Colonies from the point of view of, How much can we extract from those Colonies? I do not desire to proceed in that way, because I want to be as helpful as I can within the short time at my disposal.
During the past few weeks I have had the privilege of talks and consultations with Mr. Ernest Bevin, the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Walker)—who, I regret is not able to be with us this evening—who themselves have had the opportunity, with others, of taking part in a Commonwealth of Nations Conference and I want very briefly to present the main ideas which they have learned as a result of those consultations with people in all walks of life in Canada, in New Zealand, in Australia and other parts of the Empire. In order to carry out the purpose of this Motion it will be necessary, first, to lay out a plan based upon the principles which have been brought out by the informative talks which have been given to Members of our party in particular and to members of our movement outside by those to whom I have referred. I hope the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be good enough to make a note of this aspect of the matter, in order to deal with it in his reply, because I can assure him that great interest is being taken outside the 2961 House in this question, and that a number of interested people would like a reply upon the specific issues which I propose to put forward.
First of all they said that the Commonwealth relationships, both in regard to external affairs and to defence, should be placed upon a perfectly reciprocal basis. That is the view of the Dominions. Secondly, they said:We are prepared, even at a greater cost than we now incur, to build up a greater defence force, if it is necessary for Austrialia itself, ready, in the Pacific, to co-operate with New Zealand. Ready to enter into any dovetailed reciprocal defence scheme, properly worked out, so long as it is our defence scheme and we can accept responsibility for the life and death of our own citizens.They went on to suggest that the time had arrived when, in order that the population could be distributed more widely over the Empire, and the resources of the Empire better developed, that such a plan should be laid down as soon as possible, and that there should be the maximum amount of consultation and co-operation between all the Governments within the Commonwealth and the Home Government.
To sum up, they say that a frank discussion, as early as possible, between representatives of the whole of the Dominions and of His Majesty's Government is essential; that a plan should be drawn up and agreed upon, a plan in which all the ambiguities of the constitutional position could be frankly dealt with; that there should be a reciprocal defence and trade arrangement under which the peoples in the Dominions would know what facilities they may expect and what they are expected to contribute towards the plan, while we on our side should undertake to play our part both financially and in every other way. I should like the Secretary of State to tell us how we can carry out the terms of this Motion unless the lessons which have been learned from that Commonwealth of Nations Conference are carried out. So far as we are concerned, and this is where I differ fundamentally from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, we have visions of a Commonwealth of Nations, visions of a world order, and in working towards that objective we are of opinion that the development of the Commonwealth of Nations would be a big step.
2962 I have many relations in Australia and New Zealand, and this is what I have learned. Most sons and daughters admire their parents, in all walks of life. Most sons and daughters respect their parents. Most sons and daughters will assist their parents when they are in difficulties. What applies to sons and daughters applies equally to the Colonies and Dominions, providing that we play the game with them in the way that most people do with their children. There are millions of English-speaking peoples throughout the world, and in considering a Motion like this it is necessary to remind ourselves of that fact, seeing that some aggressive nations are drifting in a certain direction all the time and are treating certain nationals in a certain way. Some of us are coming to the conclusion that the time has arrived when we should bring out the point quite clearly that when it comes to a test of nationalities there are millions of English-speaking people in all the Colonies, in America, in Canada, in Australia, in India, and other countries. Some of us have many relations in Australia and New Zealand. They are blood of our blood and bone of our bone. They admire the mother country, they love the mother country, they are constantly writing home and proving to us that they desire to be on the best possible relations with us.
The lesson we ought to draw from this is that we should adopt a plan which would consolidate that good will which exists throughout the world. Why do we not adopt a plan in order to build a real Commonwealth of Nations? Why do we not adopt a plan by which we can rally round us all the English-speaking peoples of the world? I go a long way with the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), except in the concrete illustration which he gave with which I will not deal now, and I am convinced that if we had in this country a real people's Government, with a clear vision and a plan, we could go a long way towards rallying round us all the English-speaking peoples of the world and be able to take constructive steps to carry out the objects of the Motion. I am limited in the matter of time now, but probably there will be other opportunities of developing this aspect of the problem, and I hope that before then the Secretary of State and his Department will give consideration to the lessons 2963 which have been learned arising from the Commonwealth of Nations Conference, in order that the steps we have in mind can be taken as early as possible.
What prevents us from carrying out what I have been dealing with? It is the vested interests in this country in particular and in certain other sections of the Empire. I was sorry to read the other day the statement issued on behalf of the Federation of British Industries. We are never going to bring about the confidence we desire or to carry out the objects of this Motion while we have bodies in existence like the Federation of British Industries. The statement that was put out last week has done more to undermine the confidence of the New Zealand people in this Government than has anything which has taken place during the past few months. Some of us remember that the authors of that manifesto were the authors of the mean means test that is in existence in this country.
I would like to deal with another aspect of the matter. At various times I have attempted to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to it, but I do not think that at the beginning he treated it as seriously as he might have done. He has been forced to do so as a result of developments that have taken place. I have here a letter which I should have liked to get on the records of the House, but there is no time to read it in full. Perhaps the Secretary of State will be good enough to give attention to it if I hand it over to him. I will read an extract. The letter was sent to the Transport and General Workers' Office in this country. The extract will show the seriousness of the situation and what is going on in South Africa. The man writes:We are all jumpy; not scared but, owing to the situation, we can trust no one.He also says:This is what some of us know who have followed the development in the Empire closely, that certain countries in the world are spending millions of pounds in espionage and subversive propaganda against British interests in the Dominions.While that is taking place we know that it will not be possible to carry out the objects of the Motion unless we take early steps to prevent it happening in many parts of our Empire and in other parts of the world. I will read one other extract: 2964Do you remember that during the last War the Germans had a slogan, 'Gott strafe England'? This is once more being used. There is no need to treat this letter as confidential. There is no secret about it. These facts should be known to everyone. They are, out here and in Germany. I only hope that England would do something about it.It would be out of order if I attempted to develop this aspect of the matter but I have touched upon it only to show that unless this matter is dealt with it will not be possible to carry out the objects of the Motion. I hope that the Secretary of State will be good enough to read this letter before he replies.
In conclusion, I hope that after this Debate and the carrying of the Motion an examination will be made of the Debate and that the people who were present at the Commonwealth of Nations Conference will be taken into consultation with the permanent officials of the right hon. Gentleman in order that this country and all the Dominions and Colonies can benefit as a result of that consultation that took place during the past six months in Australia. I hope, in addition, that an early opportunity will be taken of consulting the Dominions and Colonies in order to agree as far as possible to bring about the maximum amount of co-operation in working towards a real commonwealth of nations.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
I shall be very careful not to exceed the very short time which the Minister has been good enough to allow me, by arrangement. I liked very much the speech of the last speaker. I was delighted to hear that he has many relatives in Australia and New Zealand. I am sorry that he has none in Canada. I sympathise also with the reproof in connection with replying to speeches of hon. Members who left the Chamber almost before their words had become part of England's history. I desired to reply to the Liberal party, but he also has gone. Not only is the number of absentees among Members of the House remarkable but, up to a moment ago, the occupation of the Government Front Bench consisted of only one Minister. It may be that Ministers are out planning some revolt of the junior Ministers. I do not wish to be unduly critical of ourselves. The High Commissioners of the Dominions have also not turned up. In all seriousness I say that this is not a healthy thing.
2965 Day after day and month after month we have discussed in this House that painted hussy of foreign affairs, and never once does the subject fail to draw a crowd till there is standing room only. When I go to the Licensed Victuallers' dinner once a year this House is always referred to as the Imperial Parliament. I know that is so, because I answer the toast, but I do not think that the Debates in this House would indicate that this was the Imperial Parliament. I do not wish to be disrespectful. I have the honour to be a Member of this House, but it does not matter what part of the troubled world we discuss, more interest is shown in the subject than when we discuss the untroubled but great areas of our own Empire. They will become troubled if we neglect them very much longer.
The question has been raised to-day of anti-British propaganda in the Dominions, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. E. Smith). It is perfectly true. Why is there so much anti-British propaganda in the Dominions? Partly because nature abhors a vacuum and, since there is no British propaganda, the other comes up automatically. I do not think anything is to be gained by hiding our eyes from the truth. There is no leader of the Empire spirit in this country to-day. There is no real leader of the Empire on our Government Front Bench. In the centre of this great Imperial Power that is a tragedy. I know how overworked our Ministers are, but I also know the outer Empire. If, in the heart of things, we do not take more interest in what is going on out there, that indifference which is the beginning of disintegration and decline will set in. I was gravely disappointed in the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). I thought it was the speech of a man who has, to some extent, lost his faith in the future. To talk about not being able to afford to send men out to the outer Empire because it would weaken us was a very grave attitude to take.
§ Mr. Baxter
I quite agree. The hon. Gentleman again and again made reference to the present time, but what is the future but the child of the present time? Some day in the future will be the present time, and because of our neglect now the 2966 great inheritance which our ancestors gave to us will recoil on us. This will be the country which will suffer most. I was disappointed because I have always counted on the hon. Gentleman as a great Empire builder. I agree with him that there must be an infiltration of men from the other countries in Europe unless we are to dominate the Empire with the strains of people here, but then you create a minority problem which will be very great in the future.
When it comes to emigration, the history of Canada shows that a country is not weakened by her immigration. It is like a mother with many children. We have often seen in human life that such a mother is healthier and stronger in spirit and body than the mother of one child, who worries herself sick in wondering what is going to happen. One of the problems in this country is that we have not set ourselves a big enough task. We have neglected what our ancestors gave to us, and the time is coming when that cannot go on for very much longer. I do not mean that lightly, but most seriously. Therefore, before the Secretary of State replies, I would like to suggest one thing that he might consider. I think that we shall have to scrap all existing machinery for emigration. We have to create something new and vigorous. I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who has held aloft the banner with the strange device, "I believe in the Empire." I have often wondered why he sits so persistently on the other side of the House. He would bring to the Government a strength and a spirit which are needed, but it is a very long way from that bench to the Government Front Bench. Some day I would like to see him make it.
§ Mr. Baxter
I was talking the other night with men of great consequence in the Empire. They have great faith in the spirit of the Empire and in its future, and they say that the only way to approach the problem of emigration and Empire development is to do it as the vested interests do it and as the British American Tobacco Company would do it, that is, to sit down with a management committee of about six men and to ask Canada, Australia and all parts of the 2967 Dominions and of the Empire: "What can you produce yourself? What can you do for the Empire? What must you buy from the foreigner?" By the word "must" I do not mean to freeze the foreigner out, but we should get before us a bird's-eye view of the whole proposition. Then let us go to industry, say the textile industry here and in Canada, and tell it: "You must combine, not necessarily your shares but your management. The textile industry which is providing for the Empire markets must allocate its Empire trade." No longer should we treat the Dominions like cattle. We have always treated them worse than cattle, because cattle are well looked after.
I am sorry that I cannot develop this point. I have some details which I would have given to the right hon. Gentleman in connection with this matter. These men say that the present exports to the Empire from this country could be doubled by having a centralised management, creating "Empire Industry, Limited," if you like. But we shall never do that as long as this House shows indifference to the subject. I would say to the hon. Member for Ely, do not let him ever allow himself to think that the strength that goes out from this country is lost to us. In peace-time the men who go out to the Dominions come back as newspaper proprietors and men of business; in war-time they come back as very fine and brave soldiers, physically the stronger because their ancestors belonged to this country. Do not think that you have to keep your cash in your pockets—Rothschilds should know better than that—to be deposited and not invested. I would have the hon. Member have faith in investing in the British Empire, as his ancestors did after Waterloo.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
I think we are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Crowder) for having drawn attention to this important matter, and for giving us the opportunity of discussing it this afternoon. The Government subscribe to the terms of his Motion, and I hope the House will accept it. There are, at any rate, certain broad principles on which hon. Members in every part of the House are agreed. One of them is that we should do everything that lies in our power to 2968 develop the Dominions overseas, in consultation and co-operation with the Dominion authorities themselves. There are a great many reasons why we should do that. Those countries to-day are among the young countries, the new countries of the world. Compared with other countries, they are undeveloped. I think there is sometimes exaggerated talk about the possibilities of the wide open spaces of the Dominions, but I am certain that we are all agreed that there are vast areas in those new, young countries which could support much larger populations than they are carrying to-day. If the British peoples do not develop those countries, if we do not create conditions which will allow of the settlement of much larger populations there, we shall lay ourselves open to the reproach that we are sitting on a vast area of the earth's surface and preventing it from being put to beneficial use.
There are other reasons why we should pursue this policy of development. Besides that negative reason, there are positive reasons. Let me mention just one of them. Increasing population, increasing prosperity, increasing power in the Dominions, is perhaps the best way of all to augment the strength of Great Britain herself. I am not thinking primarily of the reinforcement which such Dominions might bring to the physical security of the Empire, though that is no light consideration when one reflects on the strategic positions which the Dominions hold round the world: I am thinking more of the reinforcement which such Dominions could bring to the moral influence which the British peoples exert in the affairs of mankind. It has been referred to by a number of speakers in this Debate. The people of this country hold dear certain political beliefs. They have been for a long time the firm champions of certain great political causes. They believe in liberty, and democracy, and peace. Those ideas are not universally accepted to-day; they are being challenged; in some places they are being overthrown; and it is of great value, even to-day, that Great Britain, in her championship of those causes, should have the weight of the support of the populations in the British Commonwealth. The weight of that support is comparatively light, and always will be comparatively light, while the Dominions remain undeveloped. How far more 2969 potent the voice of the British peoples will be in the defence of freedom in the world if it is not merely the voice of the Government of a powerful Great Britain, but is echoed by the Governments of a fully developed and powerful Australia, Canada, and South Africa.
Therefore, from perhaps the highest of all political motives, I believe that the development of the Dominions is a question of absolutely supreme importance. It ought to engage the constant and most thoughtful and active attention of this Government and our sister Governments in the Commonwealth. It has engaged the constant attention of the present Government in this country. We appointed, two years ago, the Oversea Settlement Board. Hon. Members have asked, what is the board doing; has it made any contribution whatever to the practical solution of this problem of peopling the Empire? I will give only one example. It was partly as a result of the discussions and work of the Oversea Settlement Board that, at the beginning of this year, assisted migration to Australia was once more resumed. I have been asked whether the board is going to consider the plan which has been put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). Certainly it is. The board is looking forward to the opportunity, not only of considering it, but of discussing it with my hon. and gallant Friend himself. Then again, this Government brought down to the House a short while ago, and got the House to pass, amendments to the Empire Settlement Act, extending the Act for another 15 years. I have been asked this afternoon why the Government will not give more financial assistance to emigration. That is exactly what the amending Act did, and I would interpose to say that it did it very largely on the advice of the Oversea Settlement Board. It increased the contribution from the Government to voluntary societies from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. To-day we are paying 75 per cent. of the expenses connected with emigration in the case of the Big Brother Movement, as well as other societies. Under that Act, also, we fixed the sum which the Government could spend on migration in the Empire at £1,500,000 a year; and I myself, in presenting that legislation to the House, gave the House a firm assurance that, if that £1,500,000 a year was not adequate, 2970 if schemes were approved which would require more finance, the Government would take the first opportunity to come down and ask the House to amend the Act again so as to enable those schemes to be put into operation.
The Government have lost no opportunity of considering this matter, in the words of the Motion, "in concert with the Dominion Governments." When Dominion statesmen were over here last year, I had long consultations with Canadian, New Zealand and Australian Ministers on this subject, and my predecessor, during the past summer, had further consultations on the matter with the Australian Ministers who were over here. We can only perform this task in consultation and co-operation with Dominion Governments. Hitherto, as the House knows, the Governments of New Zealand and of Canada have not felt that conditions in their Dominions justified the resumption of assisted immigration, but I shared the delight of the whole House when consultations with Australian Ministers resulted in plans being presented to the Australian Parliament which allowed assisted emigration of people from this country to Australia to be resumed. It was resumed in the earlier part of this year.
To-day my hon. Friend asked me one or two questions with regard to that matter. He asked why it is that a boy of 17, going to Australia, has to pay £11 for his passage, when a boy aged 16 years and 11 months has to pay only £5 10s. I would remind my hon. Friend that the normal rate of passage to Australia is something between £40 and £50, and the rate of £11 is a very considerable concession. The halving of that rate to £5 10s. for young people under 17 is a very considerable extra concession. But I appreciate, and I agree with my hon. Friend, that the rate of £11 in the case of young people of 17, 18 and 19 is to some extent acting as a deterrent, and I am sorry that it should be so. All I can say is that I am at this very time looking into that question to see whether there is any possibility of overcoming the difficulty. I was asked one or two other questions. For instance, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) asked me about anti-British propaganda in the Dominions. I have not had an opportunity of reading the letter to which he was particularly referring, as I was 2971 anxious to listen to every word of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I can only say that I will study that letter when the Debate is over, and will communicate with the hon. Member about it.
On the general question of the development and peopling of the Dominions, I only wish to make a few observations on one or two aspects. The first point with which I would deal has already been referred to by my hon. Friend who moved the Motion. We are agreed in this House as to the desirability of the development of the Dominions, and we are agreed that in due course that development should proceed to the farthest possible limit. We are contemplating the settlement of very large populations in those Dominions ultimately. I do not think any wise person would seek to give any estimate of the exact number of human beings that this or that Dominion could support. But I do not think anybody in this House is thinking in terms of a few score thousands of extra people or a few hundreds of thousands of extra people settling in the Dominions. We are looking forward to millions of additional people getting a livelihood in the Dominions. This is what we are thinking of, as an ultimate objective, in due time. If that is so, we ought to think of this: Can we support the extra millions of people simply by an expansion of those Dominions' agricultural and pastoral resources?
I say, with the utmost respect to the advocates of land settlement schemes in this House, that I think too much importance is attached to the contribution that land settlement schemes can make to the Dominions. I do not want to minimise the importance of land settlement. It is a valuable contribution My hon. and gallant Friend has put forward this afternoon his own particular plan, land settlement in British Columbia. As he knows, I have not dismissed that plan; I have not rejected it. It is being considered, I understand, by the authorities in Canada in the first place, as it should be. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) cast some doubt on the accuracy of the observations made by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I would like to support my hon. and gallant Friend, if he will allow me to do so, and to say that he is perfectly correct in stating that the Premier of British Columbia has assured 2972 us that, should a satisfactory basis of settlement be arranged, his Government will make free grants of Crown land for the purpose of settlement. Of course, we have to be satisfied about the attitude of other authorities in Canada. So far as this Government is concerned, we must deal with the Dominion Governments, and, so far as the Act under which we can operate these schemes is concerned, we should have to be satisfied that the Canadian Governments were ready to make a 50 per cent. contribution of whatever the Government costs of this scheme might be.
§ Sir H. Croft
Is this Government still bound by the fifty-fifty ratio in regard to Canada? Is it not obvious that when you have such large numbers of Central Europeans going in, for whom no 50 per cent. contribution is asked, this is rather a deterrent? Cannot we get rid of that fifty-fifty scheme?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I would point out that these Central Europeans have to satisfy exactly the same conditions as unassisted migrants from this country. We are bound, by legislation in this country, to the 50 per cent. principle in dealing with the Canadian Government, as with the Australian Government. But we do not necessarily interpret that as meaning that their contribution should be a cash contribution. Naturally, we should be prepared to consider the possibility of a grant of land or any service of that kind being assessed as part of the 50 per cent. contribution. But I do not believe it is possible—in fact I think this is clear, it is a truism—that the Dominions can settle millions of additional people on the land in this age when, by improved methods of cultivation and improved machinery, the fertility of the land is being increased all the time, without the addition of any human labour at all.
If the House is thinking in terms of millions of people settling in the Dominions, it has to face the fact that this can only be brought about by the development of manufacturing industries. That is absolutely fundamental to this question. I am glad the hon. Member brought that out at the very beginning of the Debate. I know that if you say that sort of thing, as I have, at gatherings of manufacturers in this country they are shocked and horrified. They say that if we are going to encourage the develop- 2973 ment of secondary industries in the Dominions it means shutting out a number of our goods that go there. They urge, therefore, that we should not allow this development of industries. To that I would make two replies. The first is this: "All right, if we are not going to allow the steady expansion of secondary industries in the Dominions, do not let us talk about the development of the Empire overseas. It cannot be done under any other condition."
The second reply is that I am not convinced that if we encouraged the proper development of secondary industries it would mean a decrease in our exports to the Dominions. The industries which would be encouraged in the Dominions are those which can produce economically in the Dominions. Naturally, they go in for the simpler forms of production. I would like to see manufacturers in this country and in the Dominions enter, as they have done in some cases already, into discussions and understandings. I wish there were complementary production in the Empire, the Dominions producing the simpler forms of goods, and increasing, therefore, their army of consumers for the more complicated forms of manufacture that we should still enjoy, and be able to send in, under preference, to the Dominion markets. It seems to me not only an essential part, but the principal part, of a policy of Dominions development that secondary industries in the Dominions should be steadily expanded.
The other aspect of this problem on which I would like to say something is the immigration of foreigners in the Dominions. There has been some criticism this afternoon of the facilities which are being given to refugees for settling in Australia and other parts of the Empire. I do not agree with that. The situation is not normal, and, in common humanity, we have to do everything we properly can to save these people from a plight which is as grievous as any large numbers of human beings have had to face in peace time; and the question ought not to be dealt with by normal standards. But, quite apart from that, on other grounds, I, for one, do not view with displeasure these foreigners settling, making their homes, becoming citizens, in the Dominions. Let us face the facts. Let us look at this problem quite unemotionally and dispassionately. If it 2974 is true that we are contemplating the settlement of millions of extra people in the Dominions ultimately, from where will they come? Are they all coming from this Island? The answer to that is, "No."
Thank goodness, there are still large numbers of people in this country who are ready, given good conditions in the British Dominions overseas, to emigrate. I would encourage that to the maximum possible extent. But look at those statistics which tell us what is happening to our birth rate. We have to recognise that the source from which that emigrating population has come in the past is showing signs of diminishing, if not of drying up. I am inclined to think that, from the highest Imperial reasons, we have to see whether we can devise some policy of putting the birth rate up again. I confess that, personally, I am not doing anything about it. I have committed bigamy so far as Secretaryships of State are concerned, and my two offices are keeping me extremely busy. But the simple fact is that unless we can do something on those lines, this Island by itself cannot supply the whole of the immigrant population which is needed for developing the Dominions, without some foreign immigration. I am not in the least alarmed at that prospect. There are people who say, "If you allow too many foreigners to settle in the Dominions, you will alter the whole national character of the Dominions." That is right—if you allow too many.
But take the case of Australia. The population of Australia is 97 per cent. British. It will require an enormous flow of foreigners to reduce that percentage to a level at which the robust British character of the Australian nation is to be altered. The same is true, of course, of New Zealand. I admit that the position is different in Canada and South Africa: different considerations come in there. But I certainly would not criticise the Australian Government for doing all that they are doing to-day in giving facilities to the right type of foreigner to go and settle in Australia. These foreigners include some of the best specimens of the best agricultural populations in Europe. They may be rather strange in Australia in the first generation, but the second generation will be good Australians, and the third generation better Australians still. I 2975 would not regard even a fairly considerable amount of that immigration with alarm, but I agree that all the time we have to give the best facilities we can for our British emigrants to join that movement of population to the Dominions. Fresh British blood ought to be going in all the time.
I will end by reminding the House again that this year, after many years of depression, many years of stagnation—or rather not of stagnation; people have been moving in the opposite direction, coming from the Dominions back to this country—at last, in the case of emigrants to Australia, and, as a matter of fact, the same is true of South Africa, there are more people going to the Dominions than are coming away. At last, this year we have got working again an assisted emigration scheme with the Australian Government. At the end of this year, under that agreement, more than 1,200 assisted migrants will have gone to that Dominion. Next year, I anticipate that the figure will be something between 3,000 and 5,000 under that agreement. Under this arrangement no doubt the movement of people from this country to Australia will be an accelerated movement. I, for one, would very much like to see us approach something like the figures of the years before the depression came upon us.
I would only say this in conclusion. I would assure the House again, and those who are interested in the Dominions also, that when the authorities in Canada and New Zealand feel that their domestic conditions allow them to enter into agreements with us to start assisted migration again, we shall give the same good will and the same material assistance as we are giving under our agreement with the Australian Government. Well, we are in agreement on the main principles of this question. I think we are in agreement on the terms of this Motion. We have had this afternoon a most interesting discussion. It has been a sort of symposium of constructive ideas on this question of peopling and developing the Dominions overseas, and I hope that we shall finish the discussion at half-past seven by carrying this Motion without a division. If we do that, then, I think, that all hon. Members will deserve still more that Merry Christmas and Happy New Year which I hope they will all enjoy.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Paling
I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that, so far as we on this side are concerned, we will not divide against this Motion. There is not enough in it. It is one of the most pious and innocuous Motions that I have seen on the Order Paper for a long time. We have discussed this question in the House on a good many occasions since the War. There has also been a fair amount of legislation dealing with emigration and the distribution of population in the Empire, but we do not seem to have made much progress. In spite of all that we have done, and although we are probably in agreement this afternoon, I doubt whether this Motion in itself will lead to much progress.
If one goes back to the time before the War, sometimes referred to as the "good old days," when the "great open spaces of the Empire" were attracting people from this country and other countries, it seemed fairly probable that in the course of time we should have huge populations in the Dominions, because emigration was on a fairly big scale and—what was perhaps more important still—the people were going from this country in very large numbers. Then the War came, and after the War except for a very short period, emigration stopped. Scores of people, like the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) have interested themselves in this matter, and scores of private societies have tried to get the stream of emigration started once again. But everything that has been done seems to have been, to a large extent, a failure. We have sent out some migrants, but the amount of money spent in doing so seems very large in proportion to the number of people who have gone out, and within the last few years, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, there have actually been more people returning to this country than going out—a thing which 20 or 25 years ago nobody could possibly have visualised. If we want to populate these open spaces, with their relatively small populations, something has to be done about it but I have heard nothing here this afternoon which in my opinion seems likely to lead to a solution. I have listened to the speeches made, and while the hon. Member who put down the Motion was himself very careful to say that so far as he was concerned he 2977 did not think this question was related to the question of unemployment here—
§ Mr. Paling
No, but it has crept into other speeches. The right hon. Gentleman himself spoke of the question of overcrowding and unemployment being solved to some extent by emigration. I think the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) referred to the same thing. So that it is in the minds of a good many people not only that it is desirable that the Empire should be populated, but that we shall thereby be sending people out of this country for whom we cannot find jobs. We on these benches do not agree with that proposition. We do not agree that this country is overcrowded—I do not, at any rate; and we do not agree that you must find a solution for unemployment by sending the unemployed out to other parts of the Empire.
One of the main reasons why the flow of emigrants has stopped is that the Dominions have themselves been suffering from unemployment just as acutely and in one or two cases more acutely, than ourselves; it is largely because of that that they themselves have put a stop to the free flow of migrants from this and other countries. While that state of things continues you will have greater difficulty in setting up any scheme for assisted or unassisted migration which will supply the number of people to populate the Dominions on the scale indicated by the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said it is not a question of sending out 5,000, or 10,000, or even 100,000; if you are going to populate the Dominions on the scale that is desirable you must talk in millions. I wondered, when he said that, whether he was going to suggest that the millions should go from this country, but he did not suggest it. He was pointing out a certain factor to which I want to refer. But I wondered how that part of his speech would be received by many people in this country, and by hon. Members in this House. He referred to what in the minds of some hon. Members will be regarded as the very dangerous course of populating the Empire with alien immigrants. I do not disagree with him, but I venture to think that a good many Members on his own side of the House will dissent from that.
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
I should like to emphasise that I said there must be an active proportion of British settlers going out as well.
§ Mr. Paling
Yes, I quite agree; but the question of alien immigration was also mentioned, and it was said that it might be carried on alongside with emigration from this country. If you are to get the millions which are supposed to be necessary for the Empire, I think that must be so. But you have not only got unemployment in this country, which has stopped the tide of emigration to the Dominions, but you have another factor, too. You have a very poor market here for the commodities raised in the Dominions. The Dominions mainly send us wheat, meat, and wool, and you can hardly expect people from this country to go out by tens of thousands and millions to Australia or Canada to grow these primary products there when in this House we are introducing legislation, or prohibitions, or quotas cutting down the amount of commodities which they can send to us.
§ Sir H. Croft
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman in order to clarify what I said? In the whole of the mixed farming area which I visited recently there is practically nothing exported and the areas are living very largely on their own fat, if I may so describe it.
§ Mr. Paling
If you can get people to go there and live on their own fat it might be a solution of the problem, but if people go out to the Dominions they want to have a market, and the Dominions themselves are finding that their main market, which is this country, is gradually contracting. Yesterday or the day before we discussed the question of a new quota or new regulations actually restricting the amount of mutton and lamb coming from Australia among other places. That surely must have a serious effect on emigration, and unless you can assure the Governments in the Dominions that they are going to have a market for the goods they produce, you cannot expect them to agree very readily to a scheme for taking more emigrants from this country.
I think that to populate the Empire on a satisfactory basis a good number of millions would be required, and after looking at the possibilities in this country I do not think we could possibly supply them. If we go back to the year 1905, 2979 when the emigration figures were satisfactory, when people were going out of this country by scores of thousands and hundreds of thousands, without assistance in the main, I find the number of births was 929,000, but in 1937 it was 610,000—a drop of about 33 per cent. When the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth talked about overcrowding, he must surely have regard to these figures and the possibilities in this country in the next few years.
§ Mr. Baxter
The history of the human race shows that a nation which is sending out emigrants almost invariably maintains a hight birth rate. Fertility is the natural corollary to emigration.
§ Mr. Paling
Yes, but the history of emigration shows that the pull from the country to which emigrants go must be greater than the push from the country from which they come. Certain figures published by the Ministry of Education in 1933 indicated that in the five years following, the number of school children on the registers of elementary schools was expected to fall by 629,000, and by the year 1948 the fall would reach the million mark. On the basis of the present percentage of children receiving secondary education the number of pupils is estimated to drop 42 per cent, by 1965, or from 449,000 to 260,000. That children are becoming more rare is within the experience of every person of middle age and over, to the State they are beginning to have scarcity value. More and more protective measures are likely as witness the milk scheme and all the other schemes which we constantly discuss in this House. So there does not seem to be much possible from that point of view, and the overcrowding referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, if it exists at the moment—and I do not doubt that it does—is not likely to exist within a few more years and we shall find it more difficult to deal with the question of emigration on the basis suggested in the Motion.
We object to emigration being looked upon as a solution for unemployment. The Dominions do not want the unemployed in any case, and we suggest that under a sound reorganised scheme of society you could swallow up every unemployed man and woman in this country without the necessity of sending one 2980 individual out of the country if he did not want to go. We are not against emigration. If there are people in this country, and there are, and always will be, I suppose, who are of an adventurous spirit and want to go abroad or anywhere else, let them go. If you could help them by giving slight assistance in ensuring decent conditions when they get there, let them go, but do not make the fact that there are 2,000,000 unemployed in this country the reason for compelling these people to go to places to which they do not want to go. It is the wrong way in which to deal with the question, and it will meet with nothing but failure if it is dealt with from that angle.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
This being a private Member's Motion moved on a Wednesday, I understand that it is the convention that a private Member should wind up the Debate, so the House can imagine my feelings this afternoon as I watched the hours speed by and discarded note after note and page after page, until, finally, at the moment I am going to restrict my remarks merely to one or two criticisms and one or two constructive suggestions, I hope, but certainly they will not occupy the time I have still at my disposal. I would like to share the regret expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) in regard to the attendance at these Debates on Empire matters. This Empire or Commonwealth of Nations of ours may one day be faced with the duty of maintaining and preserving democracy in the world, and it is rather a sad and a disconcerting fact that when our emotions are stirred we fill the House, and fill it easily and give our money, and give it freely for some matter with which neither the Dominions nor this country is definitely or directly connected. The question of the future unity, progress and development of the Empire is one of the most stimulating and constructive topics of debate or conversation wherever a Britisher may find himself. We would each be able to get more from, and to give more to, each other if we made these Empire Debates occasions when the Whole House would rush not alone to listen and to learn, but to give of such of their hope or aspirations or knowledge or experience as might help towards the solution of this subject. I was disturbed to listen to the 2981 hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) who seemed to be in a spirit of resignation, almost despair at times, as to what could be done.
§ Sir T. Moore
No doubt it may have been reality to him, but it gave the rest of the House the impression that the party he was representing felt that there was nothing they could do and that therefore the job might as well be given up. That is the impression I got. I listened to the Liberal party, missing as usual, and I got the same impression from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) who came in and pronounced the funeral oration of the Liberal party and then disappeared again, having made his contribution to the maintenance of the British Empire. The statement of the Secretary of State was soothing and persuasive as usual, but I am just wondering whether there was anything really to excite the imagination of the countries beyond the seas that may be listening in to-night or to-morrow morning. I got the feeling that although he volunteered that the plan of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) would be considered by the Overseas Settlement Board, there was very little else. In a way I felt sorry for him, because he could not actually commit himself to doing anything definite as long as there was not sufficient money available. According to the plan of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth it is obvious that £10,000,000 is the capital sum required.
I have been wondering whether there is another way of getting round this question. What are the difficulties facing us? As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling), who spoke as representing the Front Opposition Bench, says, before the War 200,000 was our annual emigration figure, and since the War that has gone almost into reverse. The difficulty is twofold. You have the reluctance of the Empire countries to receive any settlers of any description who are likely to be a charge on their local and national revenues. On the other hand, you have the reluctance of the unemployed or lower-paid artisan of this country to leave the comparative financial security given to him by our scheme of social services and to go out to a new home unless he is certain of a job to start 2982 with or sure of State assistance in case of unemployment on the same scale as he has had at home. If we cannot adopt the plan, why not work on these lines? We pay an average—small though it may be—of 30s. a week to an unemployed man with a small unearning family. In round figures that is £80 a year. Capitalise that sum, and you get £2,000.
My suggestion is, why not, if when you have got the two factors, that is, the unwilling emigrant and the unwilling Dominion, say to the unwilling emigrant, "I will ensure that your future is safeguarded in the Dominions either by a job or by your being maintained on the same scale as you are at home." I would say to the Dominions: "We will ensure that you do not lose money on this transaction, and therefore we will pass to the credit of your account the £2,000 for every family of three or more that is sent out, the sum to vary according to the size of the family." Let the trial period be for five years, which will give sufficient time to find out whether a man would fit into the economy of his new country and get a job, or whether he would not. In either case, after five years trial, if the man and his family fit in, the £2,000 is no longer required because he has become part of the economic fabric of the country. If he is not a success he can be returned with his family at the end of five years and the £2,000 will also be returned, so that no one loses and no one is worse off as a result of the experiment, neither the man himself, the Dominion nor the Home Government. While the suggestion may appear rough and ready it is only the result of comparing it with the plan of my hon. and gallant Friend, the difficulties of which I can see from the point of view of the Secretary of State. I thought that at any rate this might be a complementary plan to that of my hon. and gallant Friend, or a plan to accept pending the very long consideration which these plans seem to demand of the Overseas Settlement Board.
There is one more proposal which I suggest, and that is the method of preparation for the Empire population movement which we want to see. It is the scheme which the Red Cross have adopted in a small way, but very successfully, and, of course, voluntarily. They get children in certain schools to write to children in the Dominions and to establish a correspondence. I have 2983 worked out, again in rather a rough and ready way, that if every child in our elementary and secondary schools was, through the local education authority, given a 1½d. stamp per week and encouraged, under the supervision of a teacher, to write to a child, also selected from the secondary and elementary schools in the Dominions, it would thereby create a friendship even at a distance, and, later on in years, when the "battle" of life was started, instead of the Dominion presenting a grim far away land to the would-be migrants, they would look on it as a friend, as a home from home. It would prepare a way by atmosphere for the Empire development movement. If we do not make some effort of this kind, I believe that we are unworthy to retain our Empire, and we certainly have no justification for refusing to other countries the opportunities we ourselves are unwilling to use. I hope that the House, following the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend, will agree to this Motion and that the Government will accept it, and also that they will act, and act quickly.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
There are only a few minutes left to me, although I have sat here since a quarter to three. I wish that we could have had a full day to discuss this question. I have time to make only one or two comments with regard to the scheme which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has outlined. I did him the honour of reading that report through, and it treats the subject in a very attractive manner. While I have my own misgivings with regard to it, I certainly hope that the Empire Development Board will go into it thoroughly and see whether there is anything in it. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of the time he had spent in Canada discussing migration. I want to say to him and to the House that recently I had the privilege of travelling through Canada and had discussions with Members of Parliament in four provincial parliaments, and in the Dominion Parliament, and the information I got was almost the very opposite of that of the hon. and gallant Member. I put the question specifically to Ministers in different provinces: "Is the position of Canada such as to warrant any large 2984 scale immigration at the present time," and I was assured that, from the economic standpoint, it was not. I regret that time will not permit me to develop the matter, but I certainly hope that this scheme and other schemes will be considered and that at some time we may have a full day to discuss this very important question of migration within the Empire.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House is of opinion that an early resumption of the movement of the population within the Empire is most desirable, and urges His Majesty's Government to take every suitable opportunity for considering, in concert with Dominion Governments, all arrangements that may be practicable now and in the future for promoting and encouraging the settlement in the Dominions of people from this country and to indicate its readiness to co-operate fully in approved schemes.