HL Deb 14 December 1922 vol 52 cc438-41

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Somerleyton.)


My Lords, I stated yesterday that it was my intention to move an Amendment to this Bill, with a view to making its provisions applicable to emigration, but after consultation with the noble Lord woo is in charge of the Bill, and with a representative of the Treasury, I came to the conclusion that owing to the lateness of the hour and the late period of the session it would be almost impossible for me to introduce the Amendment necessary to make this practicable. I have consequently decided not to move it. In addition, it might have been considered a question of privilege in another place. Whether that be so or not, such is the importance of the matter, in my humble opinion, that I venture to trespass upon your Lordships' time for a few minutes to-night in bringing it before your Lordships' notice.

The whole question of emigration is intimately connected with trade, and when I came to consider the Bill which is before your Lordships' House, and particularly its title, the Trade Facilities and Loans Guarantee Bill, it immediately occurred to me, why should not the question of emigration be attached in some form or another to the provisions of this Bill? But, for the reason I have mentioned to your Lordships, I have been unable to move the Amendments necessary to do that. You cannot move a single man or woman from this country to any of the great Dominions beyond the seas without very directly affecting the railway companies, the shipping companies and the building companies, all of which would have to provide, in one way or another, for the accommodation of that man or that woman; and when you come to consider that perhaps several hundreds of thousands of people may be concerned, I think your Lordships will readily see what a very great deal of beneficial difference it would make to the trades if we could accelerate emigration from this country.

Before the war, I believe, the figures of emigration amounted to something like 450,000 a year; to day, they have dropped to 100,000. That, of course, is a very considerable drop, and if von multiply that number by the number of years which have elapsed since the war began you will find that the result is a figure exceeding two and a-half millions. If you consider that figure of two and a-half millions it will be obvious that if that number had left our shores to seek other homes and work in our Colonies, we probably should not be experiencing this terrible unemployment from which we now suffer. The position to-day, I believe, is that we have one and three-quarter millions of unemployed in this country. They are all receiving a dole, which, in my humble opinion, is almost the worst form of charity that any Government can exercise.

I do not blame the Government in the very least for this fact. They have inherited it from a former Government, and they cannot alter it in a minute. But when we have this enormous body of unemployed, all receiving a dole which brings in nothing in return and which demoralises a very large number of people, and when we have the spectacle of our great Dominions all clamouring for men and women to go out and develop their industries, take up their farms, build railways, and undertake irrigation schemes and every sort of work, surely it cannot be beyond the wit of the Prime Ministers of those great Dominions, in conjunction with His Majesty's Government, to devise some scheme agreeable to both which would, perhaps, save some of this dole. If we could send a portion of our unemployed to the Colonies, where they are so badly needed, it would immediately increase our trade. You cannot undertake great railway systems and irrigation schemes, or develop land, on which men must have houses to live in, without a vast amount of material being used, and it is to be supposed that if these great works were undertaken by the Colonies they would send their orders for material to England. That would develop and enlarge our trade, which is the desire of everybody to-day.

We are looking for fresh markets. How can you get fresh markets or a greater demand for material unless the people in our great Dominions are increased in number, and so make the demand? Therefore, it is in order that the trade of this country may be considerably increased, and that our unemployment problem may in a way he solved, that I have raised this question in your Lordships' House with the hope that, perhaps, it may be possible, in another place, for provision for emigration to be attached to this Bill. I have ventured to take up your time for a few minutes this afternoon so that the two great problems with which we are faced in the Empire to-day—unemployment at home and the difficulty of developing our Dominions beyond the seas—might be attended to.


I should like to say one word in reply to the noble Earl, with whose views, personally, I have the most sincere sympathy. So far as I understand it, the noble Earl does not now, I think, wish to suggest that any alteration should be made in the present Bill, with a view to making provision for assisting Empire Settlement. As your Lordships will be aware, this Bill relates entirely to the guarantee of certain loans; that is, it makes provision for payment in respect of t hose loans, whether under the Trade Facilities Act, 1921, or for Austria, or for the Soudan, only when the contingency arises that the bodies primarily responsible for the service of the loans default. No money is, therefore, being put up by the Treasury at the moment. What I gather the noble Earl desires is to provide money at once for Empire Settlement. I think your Lordships will agree that this is a matter which cannot be dealt with in connection with this Bill. I need hardly add that the part of this Bill in which further provision is made for the guarantee of loans under the Trade Facilities Act is only one aspect of the Government's efforts to deal with unemployment. The discussions in another place on the Supply granted for this year would have indicated to your Lordships the numerous directions in which efforts are being made by His Majesty's Government to deal with this problem of unemployment immediately.

In particular, the solution recommended by the noble Earl—that of encouraging emigration within the Empire, both with a view to reducing directly the number of unemployed in the Mother Country, and also with a view to developing our Empire markets—is already being acted upon by His Majesty's Government. I need, I think, only recall to your Lordships that the Empire Settlement Act, passed in May of this year, makes provision for spending during the next fifteen years sums amounting at a maximum to £3,000,000 per annum. In the present financial circumstances of the country these are no mean sums, and they will, I venture to think, indicate to Your Lordships that His Majesty's Government is doing a great deal in the direction desired by the noble Earl. I have further information on this matter which I shall be glad to communicate to the noble Earl privately, but as this matter concerns the Colonial Office, rather than the Treasury, for which I have the honour of speaking at the present time, I trust that the noble Earl will be satisfied with the explanation which I have given him at present and will not press any Amendment.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.