§ Considered in Committee and reported, without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I wish to take this opportunity on the Third Reading of the Empire Settlement Bill to ask one or two questions. I have received a communication from a friend of mine in Australia which relates to this Bill and may be helpful to one or two of the points I wish to raise. As far as I understand the position, this Bill continues the powers set out in the Empire Settlement Acts of 1922 and 1937. Under the parent Act of 1922, the Government was enabled,in association with the government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions or with public authorities or public or private organisations either in the United Kingdom or in any part of such Dominions, to formulate and co-operate in carrying out agreed schemes for affording joint assistance to suitable persons in the United Kingdom who intend to settle in any part of His Majesty's Overseas Dominions.It went on to define what kind of schemes they had in minddevelopment or a land settlement scheme; or a scheme for facilitating settlement in or 481 migration to any part of His Majesty's Oversea Dominions by assistance with passages, initial allowances, training or otherwise.In that Act it was laid down that the Government might spend £1,500,000 in the year 1922 and might go on to spend a sum not exceeding £3 million in any subsequent year. Those powers were to operate for 15 years, and, as we know, the powers were renewed in 1937, but, according to my reading of the Empire Settlement Act, 1937, the amount was limited to £1,500,000—which is not surprising, I suppose, in view of the fact that the money was not being taken up.
In the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum to the present Bill, we have certain figures quoted to show that not nearly that amount of money of £1,500,000, which was set aside, was used. In fact, we find that in 1947 only £34,000 were spent. Varying sums have been spent of less than £1 million a year in the subsequent years, and last year £899,094 were spent; and in the year 1951-52 it is estimated that £560,500 will be spent. This Bill seeks to renew the powers of the 1937 Act.
What I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State is this. Is he satisfied that the sum is adequate for the job it purports to do, and has a close examination been made of the experience over the last three decades to show whether the scheme is as helpful to would-be migrants as possible? Because we do know that this is a matter of wide interest amongst many of our people in the country, especially the young folk, who are told that there are good opportunities in the Dominions to settle down and start a new life with their families—a better chance, perhaps, than in these overcrowded Islands.
In that connection I should like to refer to a letter which, as I have said, comes from a friend of mine on whose word I can thoroughly rely. He was a very good craftsman in this country. His name I shall not disclose for obvious reasons. He writes from his experience over a few years of settlement in South Australia for the benefit of people who have similar intentions. He says that there have been complaints about the food and about the hostility of some of the Australians. This has been widely publicised in the Press He says that that may be misleading.
He thinks that it is mainly a psychological thing, because people are worried, 482 because it is primarily a matter of not having sufficient capital. He thinks they go out under some misunderstanding about what life is going to be like out there, and he mentions one or two instances of people who may have met with a rough reception from a few uncouth and, apparently, ill-mannered people in the land where they sought to make their residence. He says that our people should not be put off. He says that those who go out to those parts of the world, particularly Australasia, if they have this experience, and then return home, may give an erroneous impression. Indeed, they may suffer themselves from an erroneous impression, because on close acquaintance, and on experience of the people out there, our people will find that, although they are a rather rough mannered people, they are very good friends.
He goes on to say that there is a real grievance arising from financial difficulties. While the wage rates in relation to the cost of living are by no means as high or as generous as they are believed to be in Britain, they are pretty good, and particularly in some of the trades. It would not be competent for me to go into them tonight, but he says that, as far as climatic conditions are concerned, they are especially good for the employment of building workers.
It is useless, he remarks, for a man with three or four small children, for one has to put up with life in a hostel for a time; and it would be difficult for that man to pay his way, and to pay for the high cost of food, and still more difficult for him at the same time to set aside sufficient money wherewith to acquire within a reasonable time a house for his family and a measure of independence of hostel life.
He makes it clear that if a young man and his wife without young children go out there, and only the man is able to work, and he is a good craftsman, he has a reasonable prospect of establishing himself and getting housing accommodation in a comparatively short time and at a not unreasonable rental; but in the case of a family with three or four young children this is exceedingly difficult.
If, on the other hand, the wife is able to work there is ample work for many young women; and so far as the young folk are concerned, if they are of adoles- 483 cent age and can go to work, the wage rate for juniors is fantastically high.
He says that unless a person has a sufficient amount of capital with which he can help himself and his young family in their early years, he is going to be disappointed; because the cost of living is pretty high there, and although the wage rates are higher than in this country, it becomes a matter of some anxiety to him if he has to pay a high cost for his house.
We need to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the scheme which the Government offer to these folk—assisted passages and so on—and the publicity which is given to it, is sufficiently good or sufficiently well known so that people do not go out there under a false impression; and whether he thinks that the sum for which he is asking tonight is adequate.
I should myself have thought that in South Australia there would have been a greater intake of people, with advantage to them, and opportunities for people who like that sort of roving life and are prepared to go out there and use their skill and enterprise; and I want to know why the money has not been taken up so far, and whether he is satisfied that the utmost is being done to help families whom the Government are anxious should go out there.
It has been said that we need to have not only young folk going out there but a cross-section of the community. At the same time, we need to know whether the Government have made the best use of the money available, and whether something cannot be done by negotiation with the Commonwealth Governments to improve the financial help and the schemes of settlement which have been so far provided.
I hope that the Minister will not mind my quoting this letter tonight, because I think it may be of some use. We are all anxious that the maximum information should be made available to the young folk; because there is nothing worse than for a chap to pack up his job here and go out there, full of radiant hopes and thinking that he is going to a small country where houses are easy to come by and where he can step right 484 into a job and build up capital which will enable him to have an easy time.
That is contrary to the experience of my friend who tells me that while he went out with a capital of £2,000 and, as a skilled man, was able to pick up a job at £9 a week a few years ago—he has now four young children—and although he has been able to acquire for himself a very nice home and improve on his income to the tune of £14 a week, and is in comparatively good circumstances, he is not able to save much for holidays. That is nothing exceptional. Many folk in this country with much the same income cannot do it.
Perhaps the Minister can give families help in the matter of housing, national insurance, travel and employment in Australia and elsewhere. Is he satisfied that the best is being done. If he is, why has such a meagre amount of money been taken up? Is it that the scheme is insufficiently known, or is it that the scheme has broken down?
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies) implied, this is a very modest Bill, and for the objectives that we have in mind it is perhaps too modest. However, we ought not to forget that it has some teeth in it to the extent of £1,500,000 a year, and we ought to ensure that the Minister is aware of the wish on all sides of the House that those teeth should be used to the full.
There is some significance behind the the figures given in the Explanatory Memorandum. In 1950-51 we spent £899,000, and this year the Estimate is down to £560,000, which is negative progress on such an important matter. I am certain that we wish to impress on the Minister that he should give this great attention. In the face of the figures and what has happened over the last five years, it appears likely that, unless special attention is given to it, and unless we apply pressure to the Minister to give it attention, within the next five years there will be no Commonwealth migration policy. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North mentioned Australia. The arguments also apply to other Dominions, and I shall be grateful if the Minister can give us an answer covering all the Dominions.
485 Many questions raised during the Second Reading debate were not answered and, if the Parliamentary Secretary is unable to answer them tonight, I hope that he will give us the details in a White Paper or some other document. I hope he will get down to the realities of the situation and give us a practical scheme, practical in the sense that we can see that we are working on lines which have been thought out.
We did not have an answer to the arguments about the necessity for recognising defence needs and our own overpopulation. We did not have any practical answer to the arguments that the development of the Commonwealth is vital if we are to have full use of its resources. I trust that we shall have some clearer answers to the very practical points raised on Second Reading.
During the Second Reading debate, it was suggested that discussions should take place with the Dominions. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour gave the rather nebulous reply that such discussions would take place as the opportunity occurred. We should like a rather more positive approach than that.
There was no answer at all to the repeated request—it is so reasonable that it ought to be answered—that we should have one Minister, or at any rate one Department, responsible for answering questions on migration. One Department ought to be able to feel that the terrific problem of migration is its special responsibility. In giving effect to the Bill, we should like to feel that we can make use of the teeth contained in it by having a Minister who really feels that it is his responsibility to bring all our suggestions together and to take some positive action.
We asked, and there was no reply, that the Overseas Settlement Board should be reconstituted. It has been allowed to fall into default, and I know that in some political quarters it is felt that there is no real function for this board. I am sure there is a very good reason for reappointing this board and letting it get on with the job.
In making those points, we want to keep the arguments in the right proportions. Nobody proposed in the last debate that there should be an over-night mass migration or that vast expenditure should be undertaken. That is not the idea, but we 486 feel that there is a terrific gap between the general attitude of the Treasury and the practical steps that they could take to set the matter moving. We feel we are in danger of losing by inaction that opportunity that may not occur again, because other countries may well jump ahead of us in filling the vast spaces in the various Dominions for which people are needed today.
I should like to emphasise again my one or two practical and modest suggestions. They could well come within the scope of this Bill. First of all, we should have it made quite clear which Minister is going to be responsible for migration. Secondly, the Overseas Settlement Board should be set up again with the positive duties of encouraging migration by propaganda, as suggested by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, or any other means, and by providing a really worth-while information service for intending migrants. Thirdly, we should have a White Paper on migration, which could show a more definite long-term policy worked out to decide two main things, first, the rate at which the Dominions can absorb more people—it is vital that we should give it—and the numbers we can afford to let go.
It has been suggested that a cross-section of the community should go rather than only the youngest and the best which, in many instances, we want to keep here as long as possible. On the other hand, we have to be prepared to let some skilled young people go to form portions of the organised groups which will help to populate the Empire and will assist those countries as well as ourselves. We suggested that there should be bilateral discussion by the four Dominions to be definitely held in the near future without waiting for the opportunity to occur, so that we can get down to furthering the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand schemes. In Canada there are so many opportunities to be grasped that we should take advantage of present conditions to persuade the Canadians to relax their emigration regulations.
These are practical first steps that can be taken well within the scope of this Bill, and we hope that in his reply, my hon. and learned Friend will give us hope that some of the suggestions will be adopted, and one Department will be 487 made responsible for migration, and that it will go out of its way to initiate discussions with the Dominions and not wait for the opportunity to occur. We think those first steps should be taken after we have given a Third Reading to this Bill tonight.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I am very glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls), because there is nothing in which I disagree with what be has said. I should simply like to take up two minutes of the time of the House to underline a few of the points.
We are unanimous in wishing to see this Empire Settlement Bill made more effective, but we are very modest in our demands. We have not put forward any scheme of mass exodus, for reasons that we explained on the Second Reading of the Bill. Such schemes would not work, and they would put a strain on the Dominions and on ourselves that neither of our economies could withstand. In return for that moderation, I must express my disappointment that neither of the Ministers who replied to the Second Reading debate was able to accept a single one of the suggestions that were made in the debate from all quarters of the House.
I hope they will feel that they will be losing an opportunity if they do not put into effect some of the suggestions that my hon. Friend has just made. They will lose a great deal of the effervescence to migrate that at present exists in this country, and the corresponding effervescence within the Dominions to accept our own people instead of the foreigners whom they are taking in their stead. I believe that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State would be proud to come back in five years' time and tell the House that he had spent the £1½ million per year fully and effectively, and that he would not be proud to tell us that he had underspent this money, which is a small sum to devote to one of the most exciting and important schemes of our generation.
I would ask that when we hold, as we must soon hold, this bilateral conference between the United Kingdom and the 488 different Dominion Governments, it should get down to details of the proposals: details of housing, transport and social services. They should discuss how the Australian scheme, which is the only one operating at the moment under the Empire Settlement Act, could be extended to other Dominions. It might be possible to discuss with Canada how to overcome the Canadian dollar problem and enable our people to go out there to expand industries so that the whole world might make use of their resources.
It might be possible to discuss with Australia the modification of the nomination scheme, whereby hundreds of thousands of people want to emigrate to Australia but, simply because they do not know any individual in Australia, or have no relative or friend there, are bound to stay here. The Empire and ourselves thereby lose the services which they could otherwise perform. I have here a recent paper from Australia, the "Sydney Morning Herald." I see that five and a half pages of this full-size national daily are filled with small advertisements offering people jobs. We have seen that, instead of taking Englishmen to fill the jobs which are daily advertised, Australia has instead had 400,000 foreign people since 1946, although they are longing to take our own people with whom they naturally have close ties of love and affection.
May I refer for one moment to the information service which the Government should set up under the terms of the Bill in order to make known to intending emigrants the facilities and opportunities which are available? The information service would have the effect of a propaganda service. What a tremendous advantage would be gained by using documentary films in order to show to our people in probably the best form of all what opportunities there are overseas. This type of work, the collecting and sifting of statistics and the dissemination of information, could best be done by the re-constitution of the Overseas Settlement Board.
That Board went to sleep at the beginning of the war and has never woken up. It has not been abolished. It is there, like the Sleeping Beauty, simply to be kissed into existence once more. Could not my hon. and learned Friend apply that kiss to the Overseas Settlement 489 Board? In the past, the Board was simply an organisation to deal with special schemes, but now we are asking that it should deal with information, propaganda, advice to the Government, and with making experiments with individual community groups, sending them out to the Dominions overseas as test groups to pioneer the way once more to a new form of emigration.
In opening the Second Reading debate, my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations used these words:We … need a vigorous, balanced and enterprising emigration of our own people." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 63.]But in the proposals which my hon. and learned Friend made thereafter, I did not see any willingness to take the necessary first measures to implement the desire which he himself had expressed in those words. Will he do so now at this second opportunity on Third Reading and assure us that if this money is voted once more, as undoubtedly it will be tonight, he will use it in the best way possible, and while the constitutional links between the United Kingdom and the Dominions are being loosened, at the same time we strengthen those economic, strategic and spiritual links which will make this Commonweath a unity once more?
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
The hon. Member spoke about propaganda and the use of films for advertising and to help people to understand conditions in the Dominions. Does he think it was a good thing to do away with the Crown Film Unit? Could we not have used it very usefully in propaganda work?
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
One of the disadvantages of our Parliamentary system is that the life of any Government is somewhat limited to a maximum of, say, five years, which we hope to attain, and the result is that any Government looks at the government of this country only on the basis of a short-term policy. There is not sufficient looking into the future, and I suggest to my hon. and 490 learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State that, having listened to what my hon. Friends have said, he should take a long-term view, because we are standing now at one of the vital stages in our history. When the first Empire Settlement Act was passed, it was stated that the time had come for scientific planning of population movements. That was 30 years ago, and I do not know what scientific plan has been set up in that 30 years in order to arrange our population movements.
It has been stressed by my hon. Friends that the best method we can use is either to give a kiss to the Empire Settlement Board or to resurrect it. We want something which is really alive, which will look at these problems from the point of view both of this country and of the receiving end, so that bilateral arrangements can be made for a planned migration and not a hit-and-miss sort of migration which takes place now.
We must appreciate that in the Commonwealth we have great empty spaces which we are not filling. Countries in the Commonwealth, like other nations, have come to the stage at which they are nationalist-minded and not prepared to take up the role of being primary producers for the sake of this country. They have ideas and they want a certain amount of industrialism in their own country. We have to face the fact that that industrialism will spread and the demand from the Commonwealth for our industrial products will not be so great in the future as it has been in the past. Those countries, as my hon. Friends have said, are accepting emigration of people from other countries.
I think it essential, if we are to remain a great Commonwealth, that there should be a steady leavening of that migration of the Empire. We form a good component in a concrete mixer and if we get that leavening of British-bred stock in the Commonwealth to integrate with emigrants from other parts of the world, we shall turn them into what the citizens of the Empire have always been, good citizens ready to come to the aid of this old country when danger arises. Therefore, I hope we shall do something much more vital in the years that lie ahead than we have done in the past.
I want to emphasise, as has been said on two or three occasions tonight, that 491 we are not in favour of mass migration and we are not advocating the spending of a great sum of money. What we do say is that we hope in the future that, contrary to what has happened in the past, the money available will be spent to the best advantage. The great essential in the planning which the emigration board could do with Commonwealth countries is to see that a good cross section of all ages of our population emigrate, instead of just the young and the skilled.
I know it is said by many opponents of emigration that we cannot afford to lose our skilled young men, but that is exactly what is taking place at present. We see advertisements from Canada in this country. A short time ago I believe they advertised for some technicians and had a thousand replies overnight. We do not wish to see that type of man going en masse. We should like to let them go but we prefer some scheme whereby, if they go as pioneers, they can accept their dependants from this country, because it is quite obvious that we cannot carry on a welfare State if we are left with all the old people in this country.
That is one reason why a board should be set up whose duty it would be to get in touch with these countries. What are we doing at present? The Australian Government are spending a vast sum of money on advertising in this country. They have set up machinery in some of our important towns in order to collect emigrants to Australia. They will not collect anything but the best. I believe that if we had an Empire settlement board it could take steps with the Australian Government to see that our best people were not skimmed off. We have to do something to avoid the situation which arose 10 years before the last war when the net migration was to this country, instead of from this country. But in those years, and for many years previously—
I think the hon. Member is straying a little wide of the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I am saying that we want to do something rather more. I want to see a settlement Act to settle some of our population in the Commonwealth rather than to have emigration from the 492 Commonwealth to this country. In the 10 years before the war we had a policy in which people were coming from the Commonwealth to this country. We were then spending much capital in keeping on the map countries such as the Argentine, who have been against us in two world wars, and we have lost that wealth in their railways. There is Abadan and such places which we were developing—countries which eventually proved of no use to us. We lost all our money which we had sunk there. Let us learn our lesson and spend any capital which we have left to us, after the Chancellor has had his whack, in developing the countries of the British Commonwealth and looking after our friends. If we do that, there will not be emigration from the Commonwealth to this country because when people go to the Commonwealth from here they will create the trade with this country which we want and which we must have if we are to survive.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give us some lead and a little more encouragement than we had on Second Reading. I hope that the Government will look on this as a vital problem. I hate to think of this matter, which is vital to our survival as a Commonwealth, being discussed in a House which is practically empty, whereas last night, when we were debating whether a slightly reduced tax should be granted on football, cricket and other sports, we spent hours on the subject, and the House was comparatively full. I should like to see this House full of people who are determined that the Commonwealth shall survive and who will take some interest in it. I appeal to the Press to give us a little more space on this matter than they have given us in the past.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I had not intended to speak in this debate but I must cooperate with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. North (Mr. Edward Davies), in expressing some of the views held on this side of the House. When I came into the Chamber, I fully expected to find the Third Reading debate going exactly the same way as the Committee stage did.
In many respects, though not all, I thought we had a fairly exhaustive 493 debate on Second Reading. It is extremely interesting, and is something of which the Under-Secretary should take note, that in spite of that very lengthy debate the hon. Members interested in this matter are so persistent that they are still raising the same points.
I thought that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Nicholls) was on very sound ground when he enumerated a number of points which had been raised on Second Reading and not answered. It is perfectly fair to put the Government "on the spot" and say to them "These questions ought to be answered" either by a White Paper, as the hon. Member suggested, or by other means.
I do not think that the majority of us desire to call for anything in the nature of a vast mass emigration. Certainly those of us on this side of the House do not. I do not think that even anything like a scientific movement of population, whatever that may mean, is what is really wanted. We want something much more adjusted to the moment, something much more empirical, but something which has a serious, longrange purpose. If the Under-Secretary has that sort of idea at the back of his mind, it will suggest to him a fair amount of information on a number of these practical and important points which would he useful to Members of the House.
There was one note which was struck several times during the Second Reading and has been struck in this debate, on which I should like to comment briefly. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) took, I thought, the right attitude about it. A number of other hon. Members opposite seemed to me, if not in their actual language, at least in their emphasis, to be on the wrong track. Several times phrases have been used which suggested that we were, in the last resort, competing as immigrants into the great Dominions with members of other nations, with "foreigners." That sort of phrase has been used several times, even tonight.
The hon. Member for Leominster put the matter in its proper perspective when he talked about the "integration" of our immigrants with those from other countries. It is one of the things we in this country have to remember, that we 494 must not be too parochial in our outlook about the Commonwealth. If you look at the make-up of Canada, for example, you will find many of the leading citizens, and of the most respected citizens, come from nations other than ours. If you look over, let us say, the names of the commanding officers of Canadian battalions during the war, you will be extremely interested, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to find out how wide are their racial origins.
I should be very interested at the appropriate time, but this is, of course, a one-Clause Bill to extend a period.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I accept your rebuke, Sir, but I was commenting on a point which was made on Second Reading and during this debate. I think it would be fair if I concluded this particular part of my remarks by saying that we should avoid the temptation to think of setting ourselves up against foreigners who may come into the great Dominion and that we should think rather in terms of the phrase used by the hon. Member for Leominster.
I agree with the idea that the Empire Settlement Board should be, as someone suggested, kissed into life or activity. There is a real reason and justification for having a live organisation to handle our end in this matter of migration within the Commonwealth. It is an extremely important matter, not simply of filling up spaces but of developing them, a development which will greatly benefit ourselves, the Dominions concerned, the Commonwealth as a whole and the world as a whole.
Putting things on what one might term their very lowest value, we can at least take it that we in this country have something besides material goods to export to the newer parts of the globe. We have our civilisation, a way of life which expresses itself in a number of diverse ways, and our experience could assist the building up of new ways of life in the Dominions. Incidentally, I do not think we do enough in this country in the way of adapting ideas from the Dominions; but I think we could try to put some organisational life into the process of enabling some of our citizens, and if possible a cross-section, to establish themselves in the newer countries. At the same time, they could take along with 495 them a great many of the ideas which we have found important guiding ideas here, and which may well be important guiding ideas in the newer, and possibly in the future, greater countries.
I would therefore emphasise the point which was made by hon. Members opposite, that there should be a more lively and vigorous organisation and that in particular the Empire Settlement Board should be re-established.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I hope that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. M. MacPherson) will forgive me if I do not follow him, but I wish to make two points. I hope that the money which is being continued by this Bill for a further five years will not be used in a vain endeavour—and I am afraid it is partly vain—to try to reach the target of getting a large cross-section of the public to emigrate. There is much less chance today than there was 100 years ago of getting young and old to emigrate together. About 100 years ago whole families went together. My ancestors went to New Zealand. I hope that we shall not be under any delusion about this matter. Generally speaking, the only people willing to emigrate today are young people who are setting out to make a new life in one of the great Dominions.
I am disappointed that this work cannot go faster. I think that we all understand the reasons for the delay, but I am sure that the Government will not regard this as being purely an expenditure on Empire settlement as such. It is in fact an expenditure on defence and a general safeguard against war. War is a great enemy of Empire settlement. If we spend £1,500,000 on Empire settlement this year, who is to tell how many of the people concerned will come back to this country if there should be a war in two or three years' time? It happened that the whole of my family, with the exception of myself, came back to this country. I had returned earlier, but the rest of my brothers came back from New Zealand because of the war and have never returned.
The greatest enemy of Empire settlement is the possible recurrence of war and, strangely enough, one of the great 496 safeguards against war is this very Measure. By helping Imperial settlement we are building up the strength of this the greatest assembly of nations in the world.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
My intervention will be brief. I merely wish to underline what was said by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies), who, in a way, initiated this discussion on Third Reading. The figures which he quoted from the Explanatory Memorandum certainly appear on the face of it to be extremely disappointing. During the past five years, including the estimated expenditure for the present year, the existing powers have permitted the Treasury to allocate £7,500,000. Assuming that this year's expenditure is that which has been estimated, we shall have spent about £2,500,000. That is merely one-third of the possible expenditure permitted by existing law.
Of course, there is a material phrase in the Memorandum:subject to the consent of the Treasury.The House will well appreciate that in times of financial difficulty, a sterner and more stringent view may be taken by the Treasury. When this Bill was renewed in 1937 the value of money was somewhat different. The House of that day decided to spend £1,500,000. That would be equivalent to a larger sum today. On the other hand, in opposition to that argument, our financial position today is rather worse than it was in 1937 and the Treasury are entitled to set off one consideration against the other.
Be that as it may, as the Government are asking again for permission to spend £1,500,000, we should like an assurance that as soon as our financial and economic position becomes less stringent, the Government will exercise the powers for which they are now asking in this Bill to which apparently the House is delighted to give a Third Reading. I think that is a pertinent observation on Third Reading. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, stressed that it was a generally disappointing picture, and I think the Bill was described on Second Reading as a rather pathetic Bill by more than one speaker. It must not be regarded as pathetic, because the object 497 is not to finance the whole measure of emigration but to co-operate with other • Commonwealth governments or organisations. Viewed in that light, the permitted £1,500,000 may seem more generous and more useful.
The House, on Second Reading and again tonight, showed that it is in favour of this measure. It is also obvious that the House realises that the well-being and the health of the Commonwealth demands some re-deployment and redistribution of our population—not a mass migration, but some substantial re-deployment. It is to be hoped that, within the scope offered by the Bill, migration will be reasonably advanced during the period for which powers are sought.
One thing which disappointed me on Second Reading was that while the House was enthusiastic, the country was either uninterested or had little knowledge of it—and that underlines the case made by more than one speaker that this must be widely advertised. The day has gone when people would easily and willingly emigrate. In the old days they emigrated by reason of adverse circumstances at home, religious and all kinds of reasons; but today they have to be persuaded to seek a new life in another country. Perhaps some of this money could, with benefit, be devoted to publicising the advantages, for some of our people at any rate, of emigrating to the lands of our Commonwealth beyond the seas. Otherwise, I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)
Under the original Act of 1922, it was possible to spend a sum of £3 million on emigration to the Dominions, so that we have undertaken a measure of retrenchment in recent years in reducing that amount until it is now £1,500,000, with the value of the £ much lower.
In supporting the Bill, I should like to emphasise one or two points which have been made by previous speakers. I feel that we should publicise much more what the position is in the Dominions. We should put fairly and squarely before the people that they are not going out to an easy life. They are going out to a hard life. In two of these Dominions I have seen the settlers roughing it, and some of them were disappointed because they had 498 expected that they were going out to a life much easier than the one they left. That is entirely wrong. Very often they go out as pioneers, and for a time they have to rough it. It is those people who set out with the knowledge that they will have to rough it for some years who make the best settlers.
In publicising the emigration scheme, let us put the facts before the people. The brochures issued by the Dominion Offices do not put the facts as they are. They picture lovely places and scenery and state what good wages and good living are offered. But it is altogether different when people get out there. That is how they finish up, but where they have to start is quite different. Therefore, let us be fair to those settlers, and let them understand before they go out that they are going out as pioneers to a new land.
It is a great life to anyone who can enter into it, but what the Dominions want most of all are agricultural workers. and we want them here. It is the same old problem. In Australia, certain parts of which, I know, are uninhabitable, there are 15 persons to the square mile. In this country there are more than 700 to the square mile. When our people go out to Australia they tend to go to the coast, as I said in a previous debate. Roughly 85 per cent, of the population of Australia live within 100 miles of the coast.
It is the interior that wants developing and to do that we have to send out, not our urban dwellers, but our rural dwellers. But we want them here because we are losing them fast enough as it is. That is one of our difficulties. Both this country and the Dominions must try to change the outlook of these people so that they may realise that the main problem facing them is the development of the agricultural resources of the Commonwealth. Only when we do that shall we accomplish the real object.
The Dominions themselves must be agreed partners. People leave this country and go to the Dominions not merely to rough it in hostel living or, as I have seen, in shack living. They go out to a completely different social life. The social life in Australia is completely different from that in this country. The contrast is not so great in New Zealand. One of the things the urban dweller misses is the social life. He gets to a 499 town which is 20 or 30 miles away from the cinemas, theatres and churches and he wonders where he has got to. But if he is going out to do some real development he is not 20 or 30 miles away from such amenities, but 200 or 300 miles.
These things are not usually realised by our people because we live in an island which is easily accessible from one side to the other by transport. They just cannot understand a continent like Australia with its vast spaces, and only when they come up against it do they realise where they have landed. That is one of the main reasons why in the pre-war years Australia's immigration balanced her emigration. The only increase in her population was the natural increase. That is going to happen again unless the Dominions themselves take a greater interest in the emigrants who go there.
I hope this Empire Settlement Board will be set up and that we shall have men and women on it who understand both the problems of the Dominions to which our people go and the outlook of our people who emigrate, because, unless we are able to wed these two things together, this scheme along with others like it will fail.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
The debate, in a sense, has been a general debate on emigration as a whole. Before coming to the more general aspects, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the particular subject of the debate, namely, the passing of the Bill on Third Reading. I think that that will be of help to hon. Members in consideration of the way the money has been spent under the Act and the way in which it is proposed to be spent under this Bill to renew the Act under which we are already working.
The original Act of 1922 provided, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) rightly said, £3 million in any one year on schemes in which the United Kingdom Government would spend up to half and the Dominion Governments—as they were then—would spend up to the other half. Of course, the proportion was left to the United Kingdom to decide. Therefore, in answering for instance, the hon. Gentleman the 500 Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies), and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), as to whether the amount has been adequate, it is, I think, necessary to examine how the money has been spent.
The arrangement with the Australian Government, which is the only scheme in operation, is a scheme that was made first in 1947 and was renewed last year under the late Government for another period of three years. The limit of the United Kingdom Government's proportion was £500,000, and under this scheme certain approved emigrants—approved both by the Australian Government and by the United Kingdom Government—were to receive free passages, subject to a small payment by the emigrant—an amount, I think, of £10—and the United Kingdom Government paid £25 and the Australian Government paid the balance. Therefore, all the emigrants whom the Australians were anxious to pay for, in the sense of paying for their passage, were accepted, and, as far as I know, there was no backlog of approved emigrants in any one year.
I am sure the House is with me when I say that we do not want to force any emigration from this country. It has to be voluntary. Therefore, the scheme as it has been working is that emigrants are approved, as I said, by both Governments; they get assisted passages, subject to this small deposit; and, therefore, there is not a great reservoir of emigrants who are eligible who are unable to go because there has not been enough money. The suggestion, I think on both sides of the House, was rather that the money has been rather niggardly spent, and could have been spent on more passengers eligible for the free scheme.
§ Mr. Edward Davies
I do not think that that was the point some of us had in mind. What we had in mind, and the point of my friend's letter, was that when the people get there they are in some kind of difficulty because they lack some working capital or sufficient money to buy a house. It is not a case of getting there, for £10 is easy enough; but when they get there they have to subsist in these wretched hostels. as they have described.
§ Mr. Foster
It must be remembered that, at the present stage of our financial 501 position, it would be quite impossible, I should have thought, to provide large sums for emigrants to go to the Dominions. I think that that is really the difference between some hon. Members and the policy of both the last Government and this Government—that, having regard to our financial position, it does not seem to me possible that one should, for instance, provide an emigrant with a large amount of working capital when he gets to Australia. The best use, it seems to me, one can make of the money is to provide the would-be emigrant with a free passage. That gets over the handicap of distance, and when he gets to the other country, he comes to conditions where employment is easy; it is virtually easy under all reasonable conditions to get a job, and then he has to make his way in Australia like the rest of the population.
I agree that the change of environment of which the hon. Member for Chorley spoke, and the change of circumstances —the uprooting from his mother country —does, of course, make certain difficulties of adjustment, but I do not think it can be accepted that at the present moment the United Kingdom can go beyond the provisions of the Act and go in for some other scheme of large-scale financial assistance to would-be emigrants.
Of course, if we examine the economic implications and leave out the circumstances, which, I agree, are so very important, about the desirability of stocking the Dominions, defence aspects, and so on, and restrict ourselves to the economic aspect, it is very debatable whether the emigration of even a balanced cross-section, looked at purely from the point of view of economics, is of great advantage to this country. Certainly, if we get the emigration of skilled workers or single unskilled workers, I think that from the economic aspect, the emigration of these individuals is to the disadvantage of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the advantages from the point of view of the Commonwealth, our civilisation and our common heritage are very great. I am now making the limited point that the purely economic advantage is very doubtful, even if we get this cross-section of emigration.
§ Mr. Foster
That is one of the arguments in the economic field for emigration, but, on the other hand, if it is so regarded, the fact is that every emigrant is a producer, and presumably he produces enough, by and large, to keep his family; and also a considerable amount has been invested in bringing him up to majority or working age, so that he represents quite a considerable capital interest. Then, if we look at it from the point of view of the Dominions, they have to be careful of the rate at which they absorb the emigrants.
It has been calculated by some—and there are so many imponderables that these calculations can only be vague estimates—that every emigrant and his family represent a capital investment of £3,500 to £5,000. Of course, the capital one attributes to the population is about four times the national income, but if we calculate on that basis, some economists are of the opinion that that is the sort of rate of investment in a country of the standing of Australia for each emigrant.
I do not attach any particular value to any precise estimates because there are so many variables that it is impossible to give any figure which is even approximately accurate, but I think it must be clear that in each particular case our emigrant represents a considerable capital investment for the receiving country: the building of houses, the provision of services, public utilities and so on.
I have strayed into the general aspect of emigration and I should like now to return to certain aspects of the Bill. The answer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, is that we assist the working of the scheme by allowing every emigrant who is desired by Australia and approved by this country to have a free passage. The approval of the United Kingdom is only withheld if the person is subject to National Service or if he belongs to a special category which it would not be in the national interest to encourage to emigrate.
Such a man is free to go if he wants, but he will not be encouraged to go by 503 being given a free passage. A miner is a typical instance. Any miner is absolutely free to emigrate to Australia—there is no legal hindrance to that—but he would not receive approval from the United Kingdom and be given a free passage. The House will probably agree that that is a reasonable policy.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), regretted that the money had been under-spent. The answer is that in connection with this scheme, which is worked with Australia, every eligible applicant gets a free passage. There is, therefore, no question that under-spending the money has prevented eligible and desirable emigrants from getting to Australia without any cost to themselves, except a small initial payment.
As to the other Commonwealth countries, no scheme has been worked out with them, and, as far as I know, no proposals have been made by them for cooperation with us in a scheme. Hon. Members will appreciate that the Bill is limited to schemes worked out on a 50-50 basis—the maximum share for this country is 50 per cent.—official schemes sponsored by Governments or by official agencies. In the case of a scheme with a private agency, the Treasury are empowered to spend up to 75 per cent. The Act of 1937 altered the basis from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. in the case of private schemes.
§ Mr. P. Bartley (Chester-le-Street)
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman intend to convey that because a man happens to be in the mining industry, he is precluded from obtaining financial assistance under the Bill as an emigrant to Australia?
§ Mr. Foster
The man is excluded from the provisions if he comes within a category of persons which the United Kingdom Government will not encourage to emigrate. The relevant provision refers to persons "whose services may be urgently needed in the United Kingdom in the national interest." From the hon. Member's tone, I gather that he feels that there may be a grievance about that.
§ Mr. Bartley
It is a form of restriction. It is a penalty for being a miner. There may be some occupations in the industry which are not so essential as 504 others. Surely people in those occupations should come within the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Foster
That is a matter of opinion. I appreciate the hon. Member's point of view, but I should have thought that at a time when certain classes of. people are so essential to our survival, it would be shortsighted for us to encourage them to emigrate by giving them free passages. This strikes me as being essentially sensible. There is no legal hindrance to their emigration. There is no red tape and they do not have to get permission, but they do not get the encouragement of a free passage.
§ Mr. J. Slater (Sedgefield)
Do we take it from the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement that, as a class, miners are more or less confined within a ring fence and that they cannot have Government assistance if they want to emigrate?
§ Mr. Foster
I mentioned miners as an illustration of the policy. I imagine that what happens is that the Australian Government ask for certain categories of people and the United Kingdom provide the Australian Government with a list of the people whom they consider should not in the national interest be assisted to leave the country. There is no mystery about it and it seems to me a very sensible policy. It is not that the miner is ringed by a fence if he is minded to go and willing to pay for himself. He can go, but he is not in the class who can get a free passage.
I do not think that is a great hardship, because the miner's value to this country is recognised by this principle and it would apply to a good many other classes at this stage. It would be rather shortsighted—I gather that this was the policy of the previous Government—if we encouraged the emigration of these very classes of workpeople whom we want to increase here at home. That would be cutting our throat economically. There it is, and hon. Members naturally are free to disagree with that opinion.
I wanted to deal with some of the constructive points which have been put by hon. Members, not, I think, within the compass of this Bill exactly, but in what I might call the larger aspect of this debate. My hon. Friend the Mem- 505 ber for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. M. MacPherson) wanted the Government to present a White Paper on emigration. That sounds a very useful suggestion, and we probably can satisfy that need.
In the White Paper we might give the statistics of previous emigration which are in existence already, but it might be convenient to collect them in a White Paper and also in it outline the emigration policy as it is at the moment. We might be able to give it by agreement with Commonwealth countries and we could also state the arrangements made for publicity, information and propaganda, subjects which were alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in his Second Reading speech. Naturally, I am not binding the Ministry to an exact form of White Paper, but rather I am thinking aloud as to the kind of White Paper which might be useful.
I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) that a great deal of information is given through the Ministry of Labour, and that we certainly will look into the matter of whether some further form of board or organisation should be set up to help with emigration policy. Many hon. Members spoke of the Overseas Settlement Board, and it is an idea worth taking up as to whether the resurrection of that Board would be worth while. One has got to be careful in modern government not to set up too many committees and boards, and at the moment the work is done by the two main Ministries, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Ministry of Labour.
I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough that we look on the Commonwealth Relations Office as the main Ministry for emigration, and if hon. Members have any question or want information or are consulted by constituents about emigration, we at the Com- 506 monwealth Relations Office would be able to deal with it and get in touch with the other Ministries if the questions affected them. In that sense hon. Members can look on my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations as the Minister for Emigration. Details of administration and of the collecting of people is done by the Ministry of Labour, but we will certainly act in a liaison capacity with that Ministry as the main Ministry responsible for emigration.
Without reiterating the Government's general policy of encouraging this vigorous cross-section emigration, we can say that if we produce a White Paper, assure the House that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is the Minister for emigration, and consider the setting up of the Overseas Settlement Board again —I will bring that point certainly to the attention of my noble Friend—we are going a long way to meeting the requests of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite that we should take migration seriously in hand.
The question of giving further financial assistance is beyond the scope of the Bill and must depend upon the general financial situation of the country. It is worth bearing in mind that the other Commonwealth countries, like Canada, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia, have been active at various times in obtaining migrants from this country and have seen to it, through their own efforts and with the help of the Ministry of Labour, that they got the right type of migrant. It is a question of great interest, naturally, to hon. Members of this House, and rightly so, and I say on behalf of the Commonwealth Relations Office that we welcome the suggestions which have been made and shall endeavour to profit from the proposals which hon. Gentlemen have put forward.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.