HL Deb 24 April 1891 vol 352 cc1302-13

My Lords, r desire to draw your Lordships' attention to a Report of the Committee on Colonisation appointed by the House of Commons which has lately been laid before Parliament, and to ask Her Majesty's Government certain questions which I have .placed upon the Notice Paper. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that within the last ten years public opinion has slowly but, certainly been increasing in regard to the necessity of demanding some assistance from Her Majesty's Government for the purpose of enabling poor but suitable persons to transfer their labour from this country, where in certain cases it is not needed, to other countries where it can be made available for the benefit both of the individuals who emigrate and of the general community. In this country there are certain districts as your Lordships' are aware in which the population may be said to be in a very-congested condition, as for instance some districts in the Highlands of Scotland, certain places in the West of Ireland, and certain portions of our large towns. It has been felt by many that if this congested population could by some means be transferred to those broad and fertile fields which are to be found in Her Majesty's Colonies, fields which are awaiting labour, and which at present are unfruitful owing to the impossibility of getting hands sufficient to cultivate them, a double benefit would be conferred; a benefit would be conferred upon this country by enabling those left behind to earn higher wages, and a benefit would be conferred upon the colonies by enabling them to develop the immense resources which lie at their command, while at the same time a further benefit would be conferred upon the artisans of this country, inasmuch as those who transfer themselves to the distant shores of Canada or Australia having acquired British tastes would certainly buy British products, and would thus create;those markets which it is necessary for this country to possess. I would desire to lay great stress upon the difference between simple emigration and colonisation. The colonies have shown over and over again that they do not desire that large masses of the population of this country should be sent to their shores without any care being taken to see that they do not glut the labour markets of those distant countries; but they have never shown any hostility to colonisation, when colonisation has been explained to them to mean the placing of suitable persons with their families upon those uncultivated lands, and enabling those people by providing them with houses, with seed, with implements, and with sufficient funds to tide over the time until the crops which they have sown shall bring in the reward of their labour. I say that when the colonies have been shown that this can be done, they have always received such propositions with favour. This public feeling gradually increased until it resulted in the formation of a body which was created for the purpose of urging upon Her Majesty's Government the adoption of some such policy as that which I have sketched, and in 1886 Her Majesty's Government took the first step towards assisting colonial emigration by the establishment of an Emigration Office, which since that time, at a small expenditure of £500 a year, has done most valuable service—service which is recorded in the Report to which I desire to draw your Lordships' attention. It is one of the recommendations of the Committee on Colonisation which issued the Report that this 'office should be continued, and that the amount given to it should be increased. In 1887, the year after the formation of this Emigration Office, 32 Peers and 135 Members of the House of Commons formed themselves into a body for the purpose of still further urging Her Majesty's Government to consider the advisability of giving increased aid to colonisation. The result of this was that Her Majesty's Government in the following year undertook to establish a scheme of Crofter Colonisation, and gave £10,000 for that purpose (placing the scheme under the direction of the Scotch Office), on condition that £2,000 were subscribed from other sources. Four Commissioners were appointed by Her Majesty's Government to constitute this Colonisation Board, one representing the Imperial Government, one representing the Canadian Government, one representing the private subscribers, and another representing three of the principal Land Companies in Canada. It was proposed at the time to make advances of £120 to each family. The repayment of that sum was to be made in eight annual instalments at the rate of £20 17s. 8d., and the first repayment was not to be asked for until the fifth year. In the Report to which I am alluding, your Lordships' will see it is stated that this £120 has not been found sufficient, and it is now thought that from £150 to £180 per family is what will be required, the repayment of that sum being secured on the 160 acres of land which the Canadian Government gives free to any person who chooses to settle upon them. Seventy nine families have thus been settled in Manitoba by Her Majesty's Government in 1888 and in 1889. In 1888 the Colony of Killarney was established; and in the year following the colony of Saltcoats, which is about 200 miles further to the West beyond Killarney. The next step, I have to mention, taken by Her Majesty's Government, was to appoint in 1888 the Select Committee, which has drawn up the Report I am now inviting your Lordships' attention to, and whose Chairman was Sir Jas. Fergusson. That Committee consisted of 21 Members. This is the third Session that the Committee have sat. They have examined a large body of witnesses, 54 in number, they have entered into the question with the greatest possible care, they have heard the opinions of persons possessing very different views—those who advocate emigration and those who hold with colonisation; and I am thankful to say as one, who, from the first has advocated colonisation, that the Report of the Committee appointed by Her Majesty's Government was distinctly in favour of State Colonisation. At the conclusion the Report states— The Committee are of opinion that the success of the Canadian experiment is sufficiently established to justify a further despatch of a moderately numerous party. With regard to the advantage of colonisation over emigration the Report says— That Colonisation would seem to be the remedy which is most acceptable in the majority of cases, and one which would meet with the least resistance in our Colonies and elsewhere. I am not at this late hour going to detain your Lordships at any length, but I simply propose to draw your attention to the three principal recommendations made by this Committee. The first and most important to my mind is the recommendation made by the Committee that Her Majesty's Government should accept a proposal made to them by the Colony of British Columbia which has asked for an advance of £150,000 bearing interest at 2¾ per cent. and guaranteed by that flourishing colony. This offer for some reason or other was not accepted at the time it was made, and I do not understand why Her Majesty's Government failed to accept an offer which to my mind seems a most favourable one considering what are the resources of this flourishing colony, and considering that the colony were going to take the entire responsibility of placing some 1,250 families upon the land. I hope now, the Report being so distinctly in favour of this proposal, that Her Majesty's Government will re-consider the decision which they came to, as far as I understand they did come to a decision formerly, with regard to this matter, and that they will grant the request which has been made to them by that colony. The Report states with regard to that matter— That project that is, the proposal of the Colony of British Columbia— Presents the rare recommendation that it demanded from the public purse or from local funds no assistance beyond the Imperial loan, the repayment of which is guaranteed by a solvent and promising Province, which seems to possess ample resources for the settlement of a large population. The Report goes on to say— Your Committee think that in no way could the object recognised as necessary be obtained with less outlay or risk to the National Exchequer, and they can conceive of many considerations in which the colonisation of British Columbia by a maritime population would appear to be desirable in the interests of the British Empire, and they conclude by saying they recommend the offer of British Columbia to the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government and Parliament. Then the next and most important matter, to my mind, is the recommendation of the Committee that Her Majesty's Government should not require County Councils, when they borrow money for colonisation purposes, to obtain a local guarantee. The Committee state, and justly state, that the only local guarantee they could obtain would be the local guarantee of the Poor Law Authorities; and, as Her Majesty's Government are well aware, it is most inadvisable that colonisation should be in any way mixed up with the taint of pauperism. I hope, therefore, Her Majesty's Government will make the necessary alteration in regard to this matter in the Local Government Act of 1888, which granted powers to the County Councils to expend money for colonisation purposes, but required them to have a local guarantee before they advanced such sums. Then the third, and a most important recommendation, is that the crofter emigration experiment should be tried in Canada; and the fourth is that the emigration of children, especially through the industrial schools, should be encouraged. There are several other recommendations, but I will not go into them now. I will conclude by asking Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider the advisability of adopting any of the following recommendations contained in the Report of the Colonisation Committee of the House of Commons, and, if so, which of them:—(1) That the Colonisation Board be continued and re-constructed for the purpose of colonisation and emigration; (2) That the congested districts of Scotland, and of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, form an exceptional case, and require relief by assistance in industries, to colonisation or emigration, and where suitable to migration; (3) That the experiment of colonising the crofter population in Canada should be further tried; (4) That the proposals of the Government of British Columbia (for an advance of £150,000, to bear interest at 2¾ per cent., for the purpose of assisting the colonisation of 1,250 families from this country) should be favourably entertained; (5) That similar proposals from any Colonial Government should be entertained; (6) That the agency of companies for colonisation and emigration should be taken advantage of, both as regards the aforesaid colonisation in Canada and elsewhere; (7) That the Government grant to the Emigrants' Information Office should be increased; (8) That facility and assistance should be given to further the emigration of children; (9) That the Treasury should grant pecuniary aid to industrial and other schools to assist in carrying out the above object.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Earl has shown what probably your Lordships would not be prepared to dispute—the importance of this subject. I do not think he has quite dwelt sufficiently upon certain difficulties which surround the question, difficulties which must be obvious to anyone who has studied not only the evidence given in the Report of this Select Committee, to which his question refers, but also the Reports and the proceedings of preceding Committees. This Select Committee only reported on the 17th March, and it is obvious, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government have not yet been able to give that full consideration to the question which would enable them to answer conclusively the noble Earl as to whether we are prepared to accept any or all of the recommendations which the Committee have made. It is clear, in the first place, that before Her Majesty's Government can arrive at any decision upon this question, the recommendations of the Committee and their Report must be referred to the several Departments which are directly interested in the question, as, for instance, the Scotch Office, the Irish Office, and the Treasury, who will, after full consideration, present us with their Reports. Now, as regards the, Scotch Department, I may refer to the answer which was given by the Lord Advocate on Monday, April 20th, in the House of Commons in answer to a question whether the Secretary of State had been in communication with the Government of Canada or other Colonial Governments, in order to complete arrangements as to colonisation. The Lord, Advocate answered that— The consideration of all proposals for State-aided emigration from the congested districts of Scotland was postponed by the Government till they bad before them the Report of the Select Committee on Colonisation. That Committee has lately issued its Report, and the Government have now under consideration the recommendation which it contains. I believe that further communication and correspondence have taken place with the Scotch Office, and possibly the Marquess of Lothian, if it is desired, will state at what stage the matter has arrived. I may also refer the House to the answer which was given by the right hon. Mr. Smith in the House of Commons, in answer to a question of much the same tenour as the one now put by the noble Earl, but confined to the proposals of the Government, by Mr. Parker Smith. He stated that— The Government have not yet had sufficient time to fully consider the Report of this Committee, but it is obviously too late this year to select families for emigration. It will, however, be necessary for the Government, before the autumn, to go into the question, if emigration is to take place before spring, and I hope it may be in my power before the House finally rises to make some statement of our intentions. Therefore, my Lords, the general reply to the noble Earl's question is that Her Majesty's Government have not yet had time to give full consideration to the matter; but he may rest assured that. we recognise the importance of the subject, and that we will as soon as possible arrive at some decision upon it. I may say that, as far as I am aware, Her Majesty's Government concur with the noble Earl upon this point; that they view with greater hope of success any system of colonisation than that of mere emigration; and as regards the crofters, as the noble Earl himself has pointed out, the Government have shown their complete approval of the principle of assisted emigration for congested districts by the action they have taken in two successive years. I have no reason to suppose that the Government have in any way changed their views; but, on the contrary, I should think they would be willing to consider how far that system, which I gather from the noble Earl has worked well, can be extended. With respect, also, to the proposal of British Columbia, the Report of the Select Committee shows that the terms which the Treasury desired were not agreed to—I think it was a question of amount of interest —but it is clear from that Report, and from what has passed, that Her Majesty's Government viewed with favour a proposal of that kind from a province so well able to ensure the performance of their agreement as British Columbia, or from any colony equally able and willing to give such ensurance. I think I may add with reference to the question, why nothing has been done since 1888, when Mr. Begg first communicated with Her Majesty's Government, that, as I think was announced by the right hon. Mr. Goschen in the other House, it was thought better, as a Select Committee had been appointed, that before agreeing to any proposal Her Majesty's Government should wait until the Select Committee had reported. I believe that Mr. Begg is corresponding now with the Scotch Office, and that further proposals have been laid before them, and I can assure the noble Earl we sincerely hope that some satisfactory arrangement may be made not only with British Columbia, but on similar terms with other colonies. Before I sit down I should like to express my hearty concurrence with the noble Earl in his praise of the excellent work that is done by the Emigrants' Information Office, and to say also that I hope we may be able to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase the very moderate sum which is now given to it, so that we may have branches established in the principal towns in the country. I can assure the noble Earl that most careful consideration will be given to the subject, as we fully recognise its importance.


My Lords, when I saw this Notice on your Lordships' Paper, in the name of the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, I thought that probably he would not merely put a formal question as to whether the Government could or would adopt the recommendations of the Committee, but that he would also go somewhat into an examination of the remarkable evidence which is contained in that Report and. summarised in it; and I came down to the House to-night prepared to lay before your Lordships some very interesting and important facts with which I am personally acquainted, in addition to those brought forward before the Committee, and showing the immense importance of the subject, at least as regards particular districts in Scotland. But really, my Lords, I think in the present condition of the House, it would be absurd to go on with a discussion which could only be very languid and perfunctory. Many noble Lords have left the House who would probably be interested in the districts which I have mentioned. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches has not entered upon that part of the subject at all; he has simply dealt with the recommendations of the Committee. I must say that better work has never been done, in my judgment, by any Committee of the House of Commons than that which sat and produced this Report. I think it a matter of extreme importance that the House should be put in possession of the facts, this being a matter which affects many local interests. Many Members of the House, probably, have not read the evidence, which is bulky, and I shall certainly propose, at a later day in the Session, to bring the matter specially before the House, not merely with reference to these recommendations of the Select Committee, but with regard to the facts which they had in evidence before them. I was very glad to see that this subject had been taken up by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, because his name is a sufficient guarantee that it was taken up with no merely political or Party object, and not in reference to fads of any kind, but that it was a matter of pure philanthropy and benevolence on his part, for he is well-known now to be connected with the work of practical philanthropy—more so, perhaps, than any other Member of this House. At the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that propositions with regard to emigration have been more or less connected with political questions at the present time, and, therefore, I think it would be better, in bringing the question before the Government, that we should lay before them our view of the facts with which they have to deal. Some of the facts connected with the question of colonisation, and of emigration of the crofters from the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland, are very remarkable, more especially in reference to Lewis. I shall not go into them to-night, hut simply give notice that on a later day I shall call the attention of the Government to this subject, and to the Report of the Select Committee.


The noble Duke who has just sat down was kind enough to give me notice that he intended to bring this matter before the House with regard to the reforms in Scotland; but as he has told your Lord-snips, he proposes to defer the question mentioned in his notice to a later period in the Session, I think it is unnecessary for me to enter upon the subject of it. At the same time, I should like to say a few words with reference to the question which ' has been put by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches to the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies with regard to emigration, or rather, colonisation. He has drawn your attention to the very able Report of the Committee upon that subject, and it is exceedingly gratifying to me to find, after all the care which the Committee gave to the consideration of the questions with regard to colonisation and emigration, it is distinctly stated in their Report that the success of the experiment in Manitoba had been so so decided as to induce them to recommend that the scheme should be further continued. I cannot go fully into the matter now; perhaps on some future occasion I shall have the opportunity of doing so; but I may mention to your Lordships the great difficulties which I had in carrying out that scheme. The principal difficulty was caused by the fact that Her Majesty's Government were then unable with the information at their disposal to give me the funds necessary for carrying out the scheme at the proper time of the year. With regard to the observations which the Secretary of State for the Colonies has just made, I hope to be able to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put funds at my disposal at such a time of the year as will enable the scheme to be carried out successfully. If the scheme is to be successfully carried out, the funds must be placed at our disposal at a proper period of the year, before the emigrants go out. In order to make the scheme successful, it is absolutely necessary that the ground should be prepared for occupation. One of the principal difficulties experienced was that when the crofters went out, the ground, in consequence of the shortness of the time, could not be prepared. The time for preparing it is in the month of June. The soil being virgin in those places requires to be turned over twice, once in June and once later in the autumn. With the view of turning over the soil and making the necessary preparations, it is absolutely essential we should be in a position to know how maw families are to be emigrated. We cannot spend money in turning over the soil upon these different holdings in Canada without knowing whether they are going to be occupied or not, and, therefore, it is perfectly clear that if necessary preparations are to be made we must know within two months of the time, at the very least, how many families are to be emigrated during the year. If that is not done the experiment must be carried out at greater cost than is necessary and at the risk of the grumbling on the part of the crofter families who are being sent out which we have constantly heard of. There is another reason why I think it is exceedingly desirable that nothing should be done hurriedly, because unless preparations are made in such a way as to enable the emigrants to rely upon themselves during the, winter months it will be necessary to provide for them in the way of clothing and the means of substenance. That strikes away the principal object in sending them out, namely, teaching them reliance upon themselves, and to provide for themselves and their families. For every reason, being exceedingly anxious that these recommendations of the Committee in their Report should be carried out, it being necessary that a further sum should be placed at my disposal for that purpose, and also that the scheme proposed by just made, I hope to be able to induce the Colony of British Columbia should be carried into effect, I am anxious, if the scheme is to be carried out at all, that the money should be placed in our hands at the earliest possible moment.


My Lords, I am very grateful, indeed, to the noble Lord opposite for having promised that Her Majesty's Government will take this subject into serious consideration, and also to the noble Marquess for all he has said. I feel, that if anything is to be done, as the noble Marquess has said, it ought to be done by the Government at once, because between now and June is not a long interval, and there is no time to be lost. Therefore, I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will take this matter into their serious consideration at the earliest possible moment.