HC Deb 29 November 1962 vol 668 cc629-31
1. Mr. P. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what recent discussions have taken place with Commonwealth Governments on the subject of migration.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

There were discussions with the Australian Minister of Immigration, Mr. Downer, during his visit to this country in the summer, when my right hon. Friend and he signed an extension of the United Kingdom-Australia Assisted Passage Agreement for a further five years, until March, 1967. There have been no other recent discussions about migration from Britain to other Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Williams

I thank my hon. Friend for coming back from India and Pakistan to answer that Question. It is really rather a pity that it was not a better Answer. Does not my hon. Friend's Answer indicate that the Government have no overseas migration policy at all? Is it not true that the money voted under the Overseas Settlement Act is under-spent and that this shows a total lack of enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of Commonwealth migration?

Mr. Tilney

I hope my hon. Friend will realise that the initiative lies mainly with the receiving country and the emigrant himself. The Government's rôle is one of co-operation and collaboration. I am glad to be able to tell the House that applications to emigrate to Australia are running at a record level, and since last August have been at approximately four times the normal rate for the time of the year.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is the Minister aware that whilst some of us would welcome a more vigorous migration policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, it seems somewhat inconsistent to us that the Australians, who welcome and cheer the West Indian Cricket team, should be so reluctant to play their part yin welcoming West Indian immigrants?

2. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what financial contribution Her Majesty's Government make to the passages, housing and other expenses of migrants to oversea Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Tilney

As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Can my hon. Friend say how the financial contributions which Her Majesty's Government are making compare with the financial assistance being given by, for example, the Italian and Dutch Governments to their migrants to Australia, and is my hon. Friend satisfied that the funds which Parliament has voted for this kind of purpose are being fully and properly spent?

Mr. Tilney

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate the difficulty of asking the taxpayers of this country to provide resources for, say, housing in some other part of the world when new housing here is rightly considered to have a high social priority. The Dutch and Italian schemes which my hon. Friend mentioned spring from a special need for these countries to encourage migration to relieve shortages of land and of jobs which are more serious than those with which we have to contend.

Mr. H. Hynd

Is it not a great pity to see so many of our young and vigourous people going away from this country to look for employment? The Government should be trying to find them more jobs in this country.

Mr. Tilney

I think that one has to look at the whole problem. It is a Commonwealth problem as a whole, and as we receive Commonwealth citizens into this country, is it not a good thing for other Commonwealth countries to receive our citizens into their countries?

Following is the reply: Annual expenditure by Her Majesty's Government on assistance to oversea migration each year since the war up to 1963–61 inclusive is summarised in Table 4 in the Appendix to the Seventh Report of the Oversea Migration Board (Cmnd. 1586). Provision is made in the Commonwealth Relations Office Vote for the current financial year as follows:—
Sub-head L. Assistance for Oversea Settlement. £
(1) Assistance for approved persons towards passages and rail fares to Australia. The cost is shared between Her Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom and Australia 150,000
(2) Grants under schemes with voluntary societies for the settlement of children in Australia and Southern Rhodesia, not exceeding 50 per cent, of the cost 14,800
Assistance in (1) and (2) above is given under the Commonwealth and Empire Settlement Acts, 1922–1957.
(3) Grants to the Big Brother Movement, based on the number of migrants, not exceeding £2,000 in any year. This service is extra-statutory 1,200