§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I wish to refer to the need for increased migration from the United Kingdom to the various countries of the Commonwealth. In raising the matter I feel fortified by the fact that there is a Motion on the Notice Paper signed by no fewer than 101 Members from both sides of the House. The Motion says:That this House welcomes the First Annual Report of the Overseas Migration Board … but notes with regret that only about 25 per cent. of the immigrants to Canada and 50 per cent. of those to Australia since 1945 were from the British Isles; and, as recommended in the Report, urges Her Majesty's Government to use their influence to increase the flow of migration from the United Kingdom to reception countries of the Commonwealth, and to increase considerably the United Kingdom contribution towards schemes designed to increase such migration.These are not the sentiments of extreme fanatics about mass migration. They are the modest, temperate views of hon. Members of both sides of the House who wish Commonwealth co-operation to be full and effective and who believe that an increased flow of migration is vital to that purpose.
If we take a Commonwealth and not merely a national view of strategic, economic and social problems, we are faced with an amazing contrast. On the one hand, we have this country with 50 million people living at a density of 540 persons per square mile of habitable land, with inadequate natural resources, and dependent for food and raw materials, and for the exports necessary to buy those goods, upon the fickleness of world markets. On the other hand, there are the vast undeveloped open spaces of countries of the Commonwealth whose natural resources, whether developed or undeveloped, are far in excess of the needs of their populations.
Australia has 9 million people and a density of only four people to the habitable square mile. Canada with 15 million people has a density of only nine to the habitable square mile. New Zealand with 2 million people has a considerably higher density, though it still is far short of ours, of 19 to the square mile. Southern Rhodesia has a population of 1396 only 2½ million, but I have not got the details of the density per habitable square mile.
The British Commonwealth and Empire was built up and made great, and its cohesion was formed, by the habit of migration of the generations which have gone before. That habit of migration was interrupted by the war, but it has been resumed since then on a limited scale with the result stated, that the proportion of British people in overseas countries of the Commonwealth is not being maintained. I say without shame or hesitation that that is a matter for regret.
The Australian and Canadian Governments, to their credit, are anxious to have more British people, and are now carrying out a vigorous recruiting campaign in this country. I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, whose heart is in the right place in this matter, whether the Governments of Australia and Canada have the full support of Her Majesty's Government in this country in carrying out that recruiting campaign.
The First Report of the Overseas Migration Board, which was published in July of last year, is a most valuable and informative document. It says in paragraph 7, which I should like to quote in full:The Board had assumed—This was before interviewing various Ministers of Governments of the Commonwealth who were here during Coronation year and at other times—that the initiative in migration policy must come from the countries of reception, and that it would be wrong for the United Kingdom to attempt to influence their immigration policies. This was not the view of some of the more influential Ministers with whom we spoke. It was said that what was really needed was a clear lead from the heads of Governments, including our own, so that Ministers responsible for migration schemes might have a firm figure of the number of migrants which they should aim to recruit and settle. We should like to place on record their view that in the formulation and execution of migration policies the United Kingdom should be more than a sleeping partner.The House will, I hope, heartily agree with those wise words. Perhaps I could summarise my main purpose by saying that it is to ask whether the Government have an up-to-date migration policy, and what it is, and what initiative they are prepared to use.
1397 Under the Empire Settlement Acts, the Government have power to spend as much as 1½ million a year in assisting overseas migration and settlement. However, I cannot find that since the war they have ever spent as much as £200,000 a year. The figure seems to be only about £185,000 annually. That includes £150,000 on the Australia assisted passages scheme and £35,000 on the child migration scheme.
The agreement with Australia was to have expired at the end of this month, but we were told by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in the debate in the other place last November, that it was to be extended for the two years which remained before the expiry of the 1952 Act. That figure of £150,000 is not to be increased during the next two years. That is a disappointment because, whereas £150,000 meant a certain number of migrants in 1947, it means considerably fewer today. I suggest that the amount is nothing like enough. It is no more than chicken fodder in relation to the problem.
For every £that is spent by the Government in this way there is a return incalculable in value when measured in relation to the increased bonds of friendship, of blood fellowship and good will. Therefore, if my hon. Friend can give us some encouragement by saying that the Government will spend more than £150,000 on that scheme alone, it would give satisfaction.
The Report of the Overseas Migration Board stresses the need for balanced migration, which means of course that there must be a fair proportion of unskilled as well as skilled workers going abroad and a fair proportion of old people as well as young. It is reassuring to know that the Governments both of Canada and Australia accept the proposition that the best unit for migration is the family, including, if necessary, grandmamma.
Naturally we heartily agree with this view about balanced migration; I do not think any hon. Gentleman would dispute it. But let us consider its implications and relation to what is now happening. Skilled young people with an enterprising attitude towards life will go in any event, whatever the Government may do. The Government cannot stop them. Therefore, Government policy should be 1398 directed to ensuring that a fair portion of unskilled and older people migrate, and that is where we see the value of the assisted passage scheme.
Whatever may be said about that scheme—and some derogatory things have been said about it from time to time—we cannot escape the fact that by the assisted passage scheme families can migrate more easily, and a reasonable proportion of unskilled workers can also migrate. In other words, the scheme avoids the mere skimming of the cream of voluntary migration of skilled young people.
Let no one say that we cannot spare these people because we are short of labour. I say that we can spare them. I say further, and perhaps this is more important, that even if we could not spare them we ought still to let them go in the broader and more important long-term Commonwealth interest. I realise that I may be entering the realms of controversy—and discussing a matter outside the responsibility of my hon. Friend—when I say that, if we are short of labour, it is not because we have too few people in this country but because we have too many. That is a most important paradox which one rarely finds understood in Whitehall. But as it is not germane to the reply of my hon. Friend, I will not pursue it now.
Even though that argument be not accepted, there are plenty of others, which justify a policy of migration. I wish to pay tribute to the fact that the Government have done a great deal to encourage the flow of capital towards the undeveloped parts of the Commonwealth. I understand that all the capital likely to be needed in the foreseeable future is, and will be, available on the London money market. The limiting factors are purely physical, including the lack of manpower, skilled and unskilled, in the under-developed territories.
I suggest that when young people go out from this country they do not cease to produce for us. The truth is that by helping us to create valuable capital investments abroad they strengthen our economic position. They are earning for this country just as much as if they had stayed here. I know that there are other hon. Gentlemen interested in this matter, and I hope that they may have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. I will 1399 therefore, bring my remarks to a conclusion.
At the moment it looks as though the Government policy is one of standstill—"Let the thing run; let it find its own level; do not let us take the initiative; let us just hope for the best and hope that not too much will happen." That, I am sorry to say, was the conclusion I reached after reading the report of the debate last November in another place. I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether the Government have considered, or will consider, spending more of the money which Parliament has authorised them to spend under the Empire Settlement Acts. Secondly, I wish to ask whether they will extend the amount spent under the assisted passages scheme and whether they will give further encouragement to child migration schemes as recommended in the report.
Yesterday we entered upon a new era of leadership in this country which coincides, we all hope, with a new era of development, expansion and strength in the British Commonwealth. The Government have all the right ideas about political co-operation with the Commonwealth and the need to increase capital investment. Let my hon. Friend say this afternoon that the Government have also the right ideas about migration.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Winterbottom (Nottingham, Central)
The House is grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) for initiating this debate. I envy him his unfettered approach to this problem. Like the Under-Secretary, I have the honour to be a member of the Overseas Migration Board, whose report the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted in such friendly terms. I therefore feel to some degree fettered in my approach to the subject—may I say that shades of almost Cabinet responsibility fall upon me? Nevertheless, I shall not allow myself to be too tied. This is a fascinating and important subject and the debate this afternoon is, as it were, a discussion among friends.
Many of us who heard Sir Oliver Franks' Reith lectures recently were struck by his emphasis on the importance of the Commonwealth relationship, if this country is to remain a great Power. He laid that down as almost the first essential, 1400 if we are to maintain our position as a leading Power. There is no doubt that migration is a most important element—and by migration I mean not only the movement outwards from this country, but also the movement into this country.
One of the reasons why, in my opinion, the Commonwealth sticks together is because we stir the pot. People move around freely, and with air transport that movement becomes freer still. One of the most recent exciting developments in this matter is the express Comet service which is planned to Woomera, where Anglo-Australian scientists are working on products suggested by British industry and linked to this country by the express Comet service.
This country may help to enrich the Commonwealth, by sending many of its best young men and women to the Commonwealth, but, in turn, we have been enriched by immigration into this country of such men as Lord Rutherford, Low, and Colin Clark, among other famous names, who have come here to settle, or for a time to take part in the intellectual life of the Commonwealth as a whole.
It is extremely difficult to measure or weigh the importance of emigration, but the hard fact is that it did, after all, create the Commonwealth, and must continue in order to maintain it. It is from that point of view that I start. We must not be too despondent about emigration at the moment. Since the last war, the flow from this country has been at a relatively high rate. It is about equal to the highest rate achieved before the war and has been steadily maintained. The net flow has, in fact, been at a rate which was stated by the Royal Commission on Population to be the maximum that this country could stand.
Personally, I am not in full agreement with the Royal Commission on this subject. I believe that we must spare as many men and women as we can for the purpose of Commonwealth development. I do not believe, as some economists, and, indeed, some politicians believe, that it is likely to weaken the economic system of the United Kingdom. I am satisfied that that is not so, quite apart from the arguments put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon.
1401 We should not forget that outside this fortunate island there are great reserves of unemployed manpower, and that if, by any miracle, the flow should rise to such a level that our own economic equilibrium was upset, it could be corrected by an inflow from the Continent of Europe. Since the war we have absorbed into this country approximately 200,000 to 300,000 emigrants from the Continent, and we observe, possibly with mixed feelings, the inflow of British subjects from the West Indies who, too, are doing essential work within our own economic system.
Therefore, even if we should get a very much greater rate of flow, as a result of which there is some economic disequilibrium, there is plenty of manpower available ready to be brought in to take its place. That being so, we need not worry about stepping up the rate of flow too high. We want it to be as high as we can get it.
I have only a few disjointed points to make which either underline the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon or which should be considered in the course of this discussion. The hon. and learned Member mentioned the need for balanced emigration. There is no doubt that one of the ways in which we can help to achieve balanced emigration is by bringing into effect as many reciprocal social insurance schemes as possible between ourselves and the other members of the Commonwealth.
During the Coronation, such an agreement was signed between ourselves and Australia. It will be seen from the statistics that quite a significant flow of people over 55 years of age are going to Australia, who are now covered by Australian old-age insurance benefits, and who, as a result, have lost nothing by emigrating.
There is, I believe, a similar agreement on the stocks with New Zealand. I very much hope that any hindrances that may still exist to the signature of this agreement will be removed as soon as possible, and that the Under-Secretary of State will inform his colleagues in New Zealand how much we in this country wish to see such an agreement signed.
The second point I wish to make is on the subject of strategic considerations. This subject was raised, I believe, in 1946 by the Chiefs of Staff and then dropped 1402 for reasons that I do not know, but which, I suspect, were connected with disagreement among the technical experts as to whether or not we could better defend a target by dispersing or by concentrating our defences around it.
I wish to read to the House a statement made by Mr. Harold Holt, the Australian Minister for Emigration at this year's Australian Citizenship Convention. He said that he wasconvinced that the British Commonwealth family could be enormously strengthened and enriched by a more effective dispersal of people of British stock in the countries of the Commonwealth. In this age of potential atomic destruction, people might well ask how we could afford to have so much of the strength of the Commonwealth, measured in terms of British population and industry, locked in the tiny and vulnerable area of the United Kingdom.I believe that in this matter Mr. Holt was absolutely right. The argument about defence in 1946 was an argument about the effects of atomic bombing of the type which we saw in Japan. But with the arrival of thermo-nuclear warfare, with its great area of fallout. I am quite certain that one of the ways in which we can counter this danger is by the dispersal of our industry. By what better way can we achieve that than by a form of emigration which takes industry to the new countries south of the Equator, which are a very long way indeed from the potential aggressor and the potential threat?
It is for this reason that I believe, as does the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon, that one of the most important ways whereby we can encourage and facilitate an increased rate of emigration is by an increased rate of investment in the Commonwealth itself. This, of course, performs two functions. It performs the function of taking capital, and people with it, abroad. It also ensures that this country has access to the raw materials which are absolutely essential for our economic expansion.
I am sure that the Chancellor's aim of doubling the national income within the next 25 years or so is something which hon. Members on both sides of the House would support, but we shall not be able to do that unless we have access to the raw materials necessary for this economic expansion. We must remember this when we think about Commonwealth development and about the development of our own economy. The two are 1403 linked; without one, the other cannot take place.
Lastly, I should like to make a point which, I know, will not be looked upon with favour by the Under-Secretary or by any Government. Governments have fought shy of it. I believe that the United Kingdom should be a member of the Inter-Governmental Committee on European Migration. The function of the Committee, which is financed almost exclusively by American money, is to remove surplus populations from Western Europe, where they are a danger in the cold war, and to settle them in various parts of the world where they can creatively build up a new and prosperous life for themselves and, at the same time, cease to be a danger to the political life of Western Europe.
Canada and Australia were founder members of the I.C.E.M., and New Zealand has recently recorded that she wishes to become a member. Her application will be considered in April. What is true of New Zealand is, I believe, true of the Rhodesias. Kenya has an observer at the Committee's meetings. Although this particular organisation deals solely with the problem of moving people from Europe to lands where they can settle—and some of the most important of those lands are within the Commonwealth—I believe that we should be in this organisation with the sister nations of the Commonwealth. It is too important to shun for much longer. Do not let us forget, also, that this country is directly responsible for Malta. This particular piece of machinery is one that can help us to solve the problems of that island.
I know that the Minister, in formulating policy, has to face very considerable pressures and difficulties. This is not an easy subject. It is rather like any organic growth; it cannot be forced or rushed, particularly in a free country. It must be nursed gently along. Nevertheless, it is a subject of paramount importance. The Under-Secretary, when he attempts to tackle the forces opposed to a greater rate of migration, has behind him a very great number of friends.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
I hope that in what I say I shall not develop too much of that feeling of criticism which sometimes overcomes me. It is a 1404 tragedy that for the discussion of something of such vital importance to this country and to the Commonwealth we should be limited to one hour on an Adjournment Motion. During the last few weeks we have spent three or four days discussing horror comics, yet for this vital subject we have only a very limited amount of time at our disposal. The subject of horror comics is a matter not for legislation, but for parental control. Parents should decide what their children should or should not read.
I agree with everything which has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) and with all that has been said by my hon. Friend—as I shall call him—on the other side, the Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom), to whom I pay tribute for his work on the Overseas Migration Board. Incidentally, I may say that those who are now opposed to a debate on this subject say that this is not the right time. If we were to wait for the right time it would never come. The right time is certainly not when we may have 2 or 3 million unemployed, because we should then be faced with the same problem that we had in the early 'thirties, when the movement was to, and not from, this country.
I want, first, to counter the attitude taken by the opponents of migration by quoting from page 8 of the Report of the Oversea Migration Board. It is there stated:… there is the question of how many and what type of emigrants the United Kingdom can afford to spare without disrupting her own economy. …Page 11 of the Report states:We cannot, however, afford a too selective flow of migrants; a disproportionate loss of skilled and the young is far more dangerous to our economy than a far larger flow outward of a balanced cross-section of our people.That is exactly the process through which we are now going; a selective proportion of our young men is being taken by the Commonwealth. We cannot stop that, but those are the very people whom we ourselves want. It is the Government's duty to sec that steps are taken. The Board should be given powers to act not only in an advisory capacity but in achieving a more active and co-operative attitude at the receiving end and to produce schemes for the Government. Then let us have a debate in this House.
1405 I was going to quote a very important paragraph in page 9 of the Report, but my hon. and learned Friend has already done so. I wish only to emphasise its importance. It is entirely wrong that the initiative should come from the receiving end; on the contrary, it should come from this end. We should co-operate with the receiving end. We should be careful to see that the emigration policy is agreed and that it does not result in the country concerned sending people back to us, with such criticisms as we have already had from some of the emigrants.
There are two methods of migration from this country. One is child migration and the other is group migration. Both of them are very important, and are opposed to the selection which is going on at the present time. Child migration is the one that is welcomed in Australia. There are many very excellent schemes in this country for assisting the migration of children to Australia, and I suggest to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that the Government should give a considerably larger grant for assisted migration.
The Government should not raise any question of not being able to afford it, because, if they keep in this country children who have no parents and who are probably accommodated in homes, it will involve the Exchequer in a very heavy burden. It would be cheaper to devote money to grants in order to assist these children to go to Australia, where they can grow up as good Australians. Successive Australian Governments have said what good citizens and good Australians these young people make.
The Fairbridge school, which has done useful work in connection with emigration, has told us that only 1 per cent. of the children who have gone from that school have been failures. It is essential that they should go when quite young, before they become accustomed to the idea that they must keep their eyes glued to a television screen for three or four hours a day, and before they are unable to work without the accompaniment of the wireless.
Perhaps I might mention a classic example from my own district where, a short time ago, a child engaged on some homework said to its mother, "Can I have the wireless on? I cannot do my 1406 homework unless it is going." We want to get our children away from that sort of thinking and into a country in which they may learn to take broader views.
The assisted passage scheme is an excellent one for the assistance of the cross-section type of emigrant. When the Commonwealth countries come here and select from us what they want, there should be no assisted passages because they can afford to take these valuable people and pay their passage without assistance from this country. When they come here and are prepared to take a group or a cross-section, then they are entitled to ask that we should give them assistance.
It is not only a question of group or child migration. I want to see industrial migration. I have previously called attention to the potentialities of Central Africa, where there is untold mineral wealth, probably as much as there is in the United States, with the exception of oil. The Government should give every encouragement possible to part of the cotton industry, which is now complaining of foreign competition, to go to Central Africa, where the cotton is grown, and where there is a vast labour force of unskilled people who could be turned into skilled workers.
These people, when they have become skilled and are paid good wages, will become ambitious, and will themselves become customers for the very goods which they and their fellow workers are making in the factories. That is a much better way of dealing with manufacturing than bringing raw materials here from all over the world to be processed, only to send them back to the countries of origin. We must make up our minds to face these things now, or one day we shall be brought up against them very forcibly.
I know that my hon. Friend will not be able to give us quite as much comfort as he would like, but I know where his heart lies. A Front Bencher differs from a back bencher in that while he is speaking he has to keep one eye on his superior officers. Therefore, if my hon. Friend is not so forthcoming as we would like him to be we shall know that if he were talking to us elsewhere he would be much more forthright.
I would emphasise the value to this country of the Commonwealth from the defensive and economic points of view.
1407 Why should we continue to have 50 million people in this country when there are vast open spaces in the Commonwealth far removed from the atom bomb? If we want to avoid war we should spread our population and our industry as far as possible, when we would not be so vulnerable or so likely to attract the atom bomb of which we are all so afraid.
The Welfare State is maintained by the resources of the Commonwealth; if we lose the Commonwealth we shall lose those natural resources, and then the Welfare State cannot be maintained. If Her Majesty's present Government, or any other Government, want to maintain the Commonwealth I ask them to look upon migration with a practical and much more forceful outlook than at present. We may find, otherwise, that this great Commonwealth, which has taken so long, so much money and so much manpower to build up, is fading away.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I have promised to take only a few minutes, but it is important that I should rise because I want to strike a discordant note. I do not agree with what has been said, or the policy that is being advocated, and in saying that I speak for a very substantial part of the population of Scotland.
My hon. Friends have presented arguments for still more migration; I wonder whether they are referring only to England and Wales, or whether they are including Scotland. In the 90 years from 1861 more people left Scotland than left England and Wales, though the latter is eight times the size of Scotland. The number of people of Scottish birth but not of Scottish origin living in various countries is more than 1,200,000. They are in Canada, United States and various other places, including England and Wales. There are estimated to be 600,000 people of Scottish birth living in England and Wales.
This might be taken as evidence that the Scots desire to travel or to seek adventure abroad. That is romantic nonsense. Scots do not leave Scotland in order to live in Birmingham or Coventry, or with any desire for adventure or for travel. They leave Scotland for the very good reason that the number of jobs 1408 available, the price paid for those jobs, and the facilities which exist for their youngsters are so much worse than they are in England and in other countries. People do not leave the glens in the North to go to the industrial areas of Glasgow for romantic reasons; similarly, they do not leave Scotland for romantic reasons. They leave because of the conditions of life which they have been compelled to endure and the desire to better themselves. I am not suggesting that some measure of romanticism is not involved, but the main reason is the absence of job prospects.
Having suffered so much from this question of migration, and having lost some of our finest people, we in Scotland could not be happy about any policy which sought still further to" cream" our people. The policy which seems to be behind the point of view which is being advocated in this debate is the dispersal of people for defence reasons. The dispersal of people and industry makes very little difference in a hydrogen bomb age. The whole policy of dispersal is a policy of despair.
What we have to offer the world at present arises largely from the fact that we have a concentration of industry and skill. The question of over-population is a relative one. A country is overpopulated when there is extensive unemployment; it is not over-populated if it is industrious, its people are kept employed, and they enjoy a high standard of living. The concentration of industry in Britain is one of the greatest assets which we have to offer to the world.
What we should endeavour to do is still further to improve the standards of our people, and make conditions in Britain—and especially in Scotland—more atractive. In that way we should be able to retain Scots, English, Welsh and Irish. I am sure that I am not the only hon. Member who very heartily disagrees with the point of view that has been expressed.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)
The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) has underlined one aspect of the problem which we have merely touched on in this short debate. I am sure that we are all grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member 1409 for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) for having been successful is being able to have an hour's debate upon this topic. In one way and another it raises the whole problem of human and racial relations throughout the world, and it would therefore be difficult, even in a day's debate, to cover many of the points which might be raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) stated that many people say that this is not the right moment to deal with this problem, and made the point that it never is the right moment. I quite agree. This is a continuing problem. I hope that my hon. Friend will not accuse me of holding back because I now speak from the Front Bench instead of alongside him a little further back.
The presence in the House of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, reminded me of the fact that they and I were among a small group who just after the war began to consider the problem of migration from this country. That was at a time when our affairs had not become stabilised after the end of the war and the position was in many ways more difficult to foresee than it is now; but I really do not think that the conclusions which I have come to after having worked for the last six months in the Commonwealth Relations Office are any different from those to which I came four or five years after the war, as one of a group of private Members. All of us who have worked on this problem since the end of the war agree more or less on what can and should be done. If there is any shortcoming on the part of the Government of the day and any delay in getting on with the job, it is not because they are unwilling to do so; it is because they are inhibited in certain ways, as I shall try to show.
This is a vast problem, and there are many agencies concerned, both private and public. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is only one of those agencies, and the Commonwealth Relations Office is one Department within that Government which is concerned with that problem. Overseas Governments in the Commonwealth have their own ideas about the type of immigrant that they want. They are, after all, self-governing 1410 countries in the Commonwealth, and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom cannot coerce them. Of course, there has been no suggestion that we should do so, but I am saying that if we tried in any way to coerce them it would cause resentment and would merely prevent us from doing what we want to do.
The principle of pushing rather than pulling has its limitations. We must concern ourselves closely with the pulling side of the problem or, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon said, with the point of view of the reception countries of the Commonwealth. I have always likened this question to one of setting up magnets in the reception countries in order to attract people from this country. We are still living in a free society, and there are considerable limitations on what any Government could or should do in such a free society.
There is possibly greater scope for what certain private groups can do rather than for governmental action. My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster mentioned group migration and setting up branches of industrial firms in Commonwealth countries. Those are examples of the sort of action which can be taken through private initiative. Any Government must of necessity be limited to intergovernmental action at the request of the" pulling" Government, if I may use that term.
As I have said, there are limits to what we can do within a free society. Within a free society persuasion must be our greatest aid, rather than trying to force people out by closing an industry. It has not been suggested in this debate that industries should be closed down, but I have read the suggestion that in certain cases we should try to restrict an industry here in order to build it up somewhere overseas.
While I have this opportunity of speaking, I would like to suggest—more as a private individual than on behalf of Her Majesty's Government—how I feel we can help to solve this problem. About four months ago the B.B.C. broadcast an excellent television programme on migration to Canada. It aroused a great deal of interest in this country. I suggest that, as time goes on, 1411 instead of distributing pamphlets and illustrated papers, there should be short programmes on television, either through the B.B.C. or through the new sponsored television which we hope will start its activities before long, presenting some of the opportunities that are open overseas in a way that no other medium can do. I believe that the power of television in that way has not yet been fully understood.
I should like to touch on the question of housebuilding. Over the last 20 years or so this country has developed unique experience in this field, through a combination of free enterprise and municipal housing, and of public and private finance. We could help some of these countries overseas, perhaps, by setting out how in this country we have managed, to the extent we have so far, so successfully to overcome our housing problem. Those are two suggestions I could contribute to the debate.
We have heard in the debate, not in great detail but briefly, some statement of the two attitudes there are towards migration. There is the attitude of those people who believe we ought to cut down our population in this country by 10 million or so, by what is generally called the mass migration policy. There are those who, on the other side, take the attitude that nobody ought to go at all, and that, if anything, we ought to try to stop people from going. In a free society there is a limit to what the Government can do. In this connection I would repeat some words of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in a debate in another place last November. He said:I would venture to put three propositions—I might almost say three principles—on which I hope we shall all be agreed. I think, first, it is true that it is the desire of the Commonwealth countries to have immigrants of British stock. Secondly, in spite of the figures I have quoted of population trendshe had quoted figures about population trends unfavourable to this country—we believe that we in this country can and ought to spare a proportion of our people to go overseas and we assume that they will be keen to go; but, as I have said, it ought to be a balanced selection. And thirdly, it certainly is a United Kingdom interest (and I think an interest of the whole Commonwealth) that the existing character of the Commonwealth should be preserved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th November, 1954; Vol. 189, c. 1633.]1412 That puts most clearly what the attitude of the present Administration is and what, I believe, that of the last Administration was to this matter of migration.
I would underline what my noble Friend went on to say, how important is the two-way traffic, which was touched on by the hon. Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom), who has done so much hard work on this matter. I think, incidentally, that from many points of view the exchange of students is invaluable, and I also believe that our educational system, particularly our higher education, is the finest in the world today. The fact that there are 26,000 overseas students taking advantage of these arrangements in the United Kingdom at the moment illustrates that, and I hope that it will make people realise that there is proof of the truth of what I say, and that it is not merely a matter of sentiment.
I have only a few minutes in which to speak, and I must now pass on to saying a word or two on the Motion, to which I have already referred, on the Notice Paper in the name of my hon. Friend and the recommendations of the Oversea Migration Board. My hon. Friend regrets in his Motion that only 25 per cent. of those going to Canada and 50 per cent. of those going to Australia are of British stock. I think all Governments would like immigrants coming into their countries to be of their own stock, and, of course, if every Government found the world peopled by people of their own stock, there would be no foreign problems.
Of course, we should like the proportion of British immigrants into other Commonwealth countries to be maintained. The Inter-Governmental Committee on European Migration has helped and is still helping substantial numbers of European migrants, but its work will tend to come to an end, whereas we hope and believe that emigration from this country to other parts of the Commonwealth will continue.
We learnt from the Report in 1947 of the Royal Commission on Population that certain sections of the community wish to send their young folk overseas, but there is not at the moment any sign that so many want to go as would make any significant difference to the total 1413 number of our population. I am not entering into that topic this afternoon because unfortunately I have not the time. These points are covered by the recommendations of the Oversea Migration Board, which are summarised on page 22 of its Report.
On the question of assisted passages, which has been mentioned in one or two speeches, I would point out, although it is already known in this House, that the Government have undertaken to maintain their contribution of £150,000 a year under the assisted passage agreement with Australia over the next two years. In 1957 the Empire Settlement Act will come to an end, and that year will also see the end of the statutory liability of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to continue their contribution. From then on it will be necessary, if the House thinks fit, to lay new legislation.
I would agree on the whole with what has been said about assisted passages. They help certain individuals to migrate who would not otherwise be able to do so. I do not think that we have ever pretended in this country that the Government's contribution of £150,000 a year is more than a token of our good will, because it is estimated that each immigrant into Australia costs about £2,000 to settle. Therefore this contribution of about 15s. per head towards that total cannot be regarded as more than a token payment. But it is a token, and as such it is continuing until the end of the Empire Settlement Act.
As for the recommendation concerning the continuance of the agreements with the aided societies, these agreements have been and are renewable annually until 1957. That is the situation at the moment. The continuance of the grant in aid to the Society for the Oversea Settlement of British Women is also being continued. All these societies, in the view of the Oversea Migration Board, are doing admirable work, and we hope that this assistance will be at least a help to them in continuing.
On recommendation (b)—the increase of the rate of maintenance allowance to £1 a week per child as soon as financial circumstances permit—the Oversea Migration Board is again considering this point and going into details with the societies in order to see whether increased maintenance allowances would lead to 1414 the movement of further children. I think that is a matter which the Government, being responsible for the expenditure of the taxpayers' money, must carefully consider from the point of view of how far any further payment of the taxpayers' money will increase the movement of children or groups of people overseas. I do not think that the House would want the taxpayers to take on expenditure which would not result in any increased movement.
On recommendation (c)—an invitation to other voluntary societies concerned with children and young people to submit details of their work—I might add that the only society not already in receipt of assistance which submitted proposals under this recommendation was the Big Brother Movement. After considering this application, the Board recommended that assistance should be given, and the Movement is to receive a per capita grant of £2 10s. for each boy sailing, up to a maximum of £1,000, in the financial year 1955–56, which corresponds to the contribution already being made by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. I hope that this will be of some assistance to this most admirable body.
On recommendation (d) the Overseas Migration Board is at the moment considering what can be done to bring facilities available for child migration to the notice of the local authorities. It appears from the figures which we have studied at the moment that there has been some slowing down in the availability of children for migration overseas. Therefore we want to see, with the co-operation of the local authorities, how information on migration may be brought to their attention for the benefit, as the Board sees it, of the children themselves, in order to give them an opportunity of knowing whether they would like a life overseas.
I can assure the House, if there is any need to do so, that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom—and particularly the Oversea Migration Board and the Commonwealth Relations Office—would welcome the continued help of hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is a great help for any Government to have an all-party group—we have in this House—to take a continuing interest in this problem, and I can assure the House 1415 that we shall continue to do our utmost to assist in strengthening our bonds with the Commonwealth in this sphere of migration, just as we are endeavouring to do in other activities of mutual interest.