HC Deb 05 March 1946 vol 420 cc186-9
The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Parker)

I desire to make the following statement to the House.

Arrangements have recently been agreed with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia for the assisted migration of suitable British subjects who desire to settle in Australia, and whom the Australian Government are willing to receive. These arrangements, which will operate only so long as favourable conditions for settlement in Australia are known to exist, deal respectively with: —

  1. (a) the grant of free passages to suitable British men and women who were resident in the British Isles or were in the United Kingdom Forces overseas on the 1st September, 1938, and have served in a whole-time capacity in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy of the United Kingdom during the period of the recent war, and their dependants;
  2. (b) a scheme under the authority of the Empire Settlement Acts of 1922 and 1937 for passage assistance to approved migrants and their dependants, who are normally resident in the United Kingdom and who do not come within the scope of the free passage scheme. Persons, of 19 years of age and over, will be required 10 contribute £10 and juveniles of 14 to 18 years of age, £5 towards the cost of a passage, the remainder of the cost, including free passages for 187 children under 14 years of age being borne equally by the United Kingdom and Australian Governments.
The announcement of these schemes, which will come into operation on a date to be agreed upon by the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Governments, does not imply that ships will now be freely available to take migrants to Australia. The existing shortage of passenger accommodation is likely to continue for some considerable time.

Applicants under these arrangements will have to be accepted by the Commonwealth authorities as medically fit and otherwise suitable for settlement in Australia. Men and women who were released from the Forces for work of civilian importance, including those released in Class B may require the permission of the Ministry of Labour and National Service to leave their employment in the United Kingdom before they can be granted free passages under Scheme "a." It will be open to the Ministry of Labour and National Service to withhold approval to the grant of assisted passages under Scheme "b"in the case of men and women possessing certain qualifications, who are in short supply here, and urgently needed in the interests of the United Kingdom.

The Commonwealth Government will provide free transport from the port of disembarkation to the settler's destination in Australia, and accommodation for a limited period if necessary. They will arrange for co-operation with the appropriate authorities in Australia for the reception, placement and aftercare in Australia of the settlers approved under these schemes, who will also be eligible for certain social service benefits as from the date of arrival in Australia.

Settlers under these schemes will not normally obtain employment with individual employers until after their arrival in Australia but a settler will not receive a passage unless there is a reasonable assurance that he will obtain employment on arrival. The settlers will have at their disposal the facilities of the Commonwealth Employment Service but will not be eligible for the employment preference now granted for a period of seven years, to Australian ex-Servicemen, under the Commonwealth Act, No. 11, of 1945.

Until the date on which the schemes are opened, no applications can be received, but leaflets giving fuller particulars will be available at all local offices, including resettlement advice offices, and regional appointments offices of the Ministry of Labour and National Service of Great Britain. This Department will be responsible for administering the free passage scheme in detail jointly with the Office of the High Commissioner for Australia, Australia House, Strand, W.C.2. The leaflets will also be available at local Offices of the Ministry of Labour of Northern Ireland and similar information will be circulated by the Service Departments for the information of men and women still in the Forces.

The Dominions Office will remain responsible for all matters of policy relating to migration to the Dominions, including the negotiation of agreements with overseas Governments, and voluntary societies operating overseas.

Mr, Solley

May I ask if this scheme is confined simply to British soldiers? Is it extended to Poles and others who have been promised citizenship of this country?

Mr. Parker

It covers only British citizens at the moment.

Mrs. Ayrton Gould

May I ask whether the information which the hon. Gentleman has just given can be issued in the form of a statement?

Mr. Parker

It will be in HANSARD.

Mrs. Ayrton Gould

Shall we be able to have a number of copies of it?

Mr. Parker

I will look into that point.

Mr. McGovern

Is there any special reason why this statement should be made now in view of the fact that there is no intention of putting it into operation, as the hon. Gentleman says, for a considerable time? Is he aware that hon. Members will be inundated with requests from constituents who will not understand that the arrangements will not operate just yet?

Mr. Parker

It is being announced now, in agreement with the Australian Government, because there are a great many. people being discharged from the Forces or war work who want to make decisions about their future. We thought it desirable to make the statement now so that they could make their plans ahead. The statement makes it quite clear that there will not be the necessary shipping accommodation in the immediate future. It is very unlikely that, many people will go out before the end of the present year.

Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison

I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman what type of work it is intended that these settlers shall be offered when they get to the Dominion, and whether steps have been taken to see that they do not fall into the same trap as settlers fell into after the last war, of being offered virgin soil which they were unable to make a living out of?

Mr. Parker

The Australian Government have given this matter careful consideration and are working out schemes as to the kind of jobs that will be available, and that information will be made known by the Australian Government to prospective settlers.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Does the hon. Gentleman expect to be able to make a similar statement regarding Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, because a great many people are hoping to get to those countries?

Mr. Parker

At the present time the Australian Government are the only Dominion Government who are anxious to have a scheme of this sort.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam

Will special facilities be given under this scheme to those in this country who have offers of employment in Australia and are only debarred from going there because they cannot afford the passage?

Mr. Parker

They will be covered by this scheme, but it will depend upon the urgency of their job as to whether the Commonwealth Government are prepared to give them priority with regard to passage.