HL Deb 17 July 1935 vol 98 cc432-58

THE EARL OF MANSFIELD had given Notice that he would draw attention to the lack of any policy on the part of His Majesty's Government for Imperial and Colonial development, and of any long-term proposals for the permanent reduction of unemployment in this country, by a scheme of properly organised settlement overseas, in co-operation with His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions; and move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, if there were anything beyond the importance of the question itself which would justify my raising it to-day in your Lordships' House, it is the result of the by-election which has been declared in today's papers. The result of that by-election is yet another proof that it is quite useless to expect a democratic electorate to remember past benefits; one can only expect them to look to what they are promised in the future. Had the Government received at this by-election the just results of all the good work they have done during the past three and a half years, there is no doubt that their candidate would have been returned with a triumphant majority. It is quite obvious that the solution for all our problems put forward by noble Lords on the Socialist Benches entirely failed to appeal to the electorate, but unfortunately it was obvious also that a great many of them, while not attracted by Socialist nostra, were still of opinion that the Government have not to-day a programme for the future sufficiently attractive to enlist their suffrages at the moment.

It is not my intention to make an attack on the Government. I am a supporter of the Government and I fully recognise all the great and good work which they have done since they were returned to office. But I have never taken the view, either since I became a member of your Lordships' House or when I was a member of another place, that it was an act of heresy to criticise the National Government. I will remind them and your Lordships that "whoso loveth his child chasteneth him" and I hope that the Government will accept my quasi-paternal correction in the friendly spirit in which it is offered!

In dealing with the problem of unemployment, which is one which has utterly defeated every Government in this country since the War, there are three orthodox views. The first is the one of the ultra-pessimist who maintains that you must expect to see, as a natural part of our social system in the future, the permanent presence of a large number of unemployed, very likely stabilised round the present greatly seduced, but still deplorable, figure of 2,000,000. That type of person shrugs his shoulders and seems to think that we have to accept that, and that it is not worth while to do anything really serious about it. For such a person, I think, no one ought to have anything other than unlimited contempt, because that anyone should contemplate that. 2,000,000 of our wage-earners And their dependants should remain in a state, not of absolute destitution but very often of some destitution and malnutrition, is to me a sin Against the Holy Ghost.

Now we come to the second set of theories. These are mainly to be found in those who support, in fact or in theory, Mr. Lloyd George. There is a cartoon in one of the great daily papers to-day which shows Mr. Lloyd George, in the garb of a clergyman, about to perform a marriage between a very fat woman representing Idle Capital and a very thin man representing Idle Labour. The idea is a magnificent one, but I am afraid that in this particular case the marriage is not likely to be legal, for the clergyman performing it has certainly long since been proved to have been politically unfrocked. At the same time the idea is a right one, to join idle money and idle labour. But, my Lords, those who claim—and they, I believe, include most members of the Socialist Party—that we can overcome our unemployment difficulty merely by indulging in vast quantities of public works are, I am certain, committing a very grave error.

Mr. Lloyd George, I understand, wants to raise some £250,000,000 for the purpose of carrying out a grandiose scheme. Formerly it was always supposed, and accurately, that for every £1,000,000 you provided 4,000 man-years. That is to say, Mr. Lloyd George, if all his plans produced that result—and it is very doubtful whether at the present time they would—might produce work for 1,000,000 men for one year, or, of course, equally for half a million men for two years, or whatever proportion it worked out at. But when Mr. Lloyd George's schemes had been tried, what would the result of them be? They would merely mean that an enormous expenditure had been undertaken, that men had been given work for a limited time, but that when that work was finished we should have very little permanent employment to show for it And should merely have burdened our country with a much greater load of debt. Public works in the past, upon a system like that, have been proved to be a failure. Public works in the future will, I see no reason to suppose, be anything less of a failure than in the past.

Now we come to the third school of the orthodox politicians, and that, I think I may say without offence, is more or less the school represented by His Majesty's Government. That school maintains that as a result of the admittedly admirable measures undertaken by the present Government, especially in protecting the trade and industry of this country by tariffs against unfair competition; and by the negotiation of the Ottawa Agreements, which although not perfect, have nevertheless done a very great deal for the trade of this country with our Dominions; and by what they hope will be the return to prosperity of the rest of the world, we shall be able in due course to assimilate the greater portion of those who are at present; unemployed. That is a very pleasant theory, but unfortunately I cannot see very much which in point of fact renders it likely to be a complete success. I propose as briefly as possible to give your Lordships one or two reasons why I hold that belief.

There are, in our great staple industries to-day, a very large number of unemployed. In the coal-mining trade the average number for the last year, ending at the end of last month, is, I believe, That is 264,000 unemployed 264,000 unemployed on an average throughout Great Britain for the last year. What hope have those men of ever regaining their own occupation in the pits? I am afraid that they have very little hope, because, so far from there being a great increase in the consumption of coal in the future, it is quite likely that there will be a decrease. How have we lost our markets up-to-date, the markets abroad upon which perhaps one-third of our trade used to depend? We have lost them through unfortunate trade disputes, especially the stoppage of 1926. The responsibility for that stoppage is not one which has to be considered to-day. All we have to say that it did take place, and with lamentable results. One of the results was that our foreign competitors started developing their mines in a way that they had never thought it worth while to do before, and as a result of cheap labour and new mines they are able to undercut us in many of the markets which we had with justification in the past regarded as particularly our own.

Those markets, many of them, are gone for good. Then we have to remember that the consumption of coal is reduced by the infinitely more effective grates, fires, furnaces and the like which are employed to-day; it is reduced by coal substitutes taking the place of coal, and also to a large extent by the way in which hydroelectric schemes are replacing those in which coal was formerly used. We know also that in very many ships—battleships and mercantile vessels—oil has replaced coal to a very great extent and, although it is possible that some small increase might take place if and when we really get a successful and economical process of distillation of oil from coal, I still do not think that we should be able to have any expectation of absorbing more than a very small number of those colliers who are unemployed to-day.

The position in other industries is very much the same. We have, to-day, in the textile trade, very little short of 160,009 men unemployed, two-thirds of them in the cotton trade, largely as a result of Japanese competition. It is practically impossible to hope to regain the markets where the goods used to be absorbed. So we might continue, but I do not wish to weary your Lordships, through a great many of these staple trades, the heavy engineering, shipbuilding and the like. In shipbuilding, while the gross figures might not be so bad, the percentage of unemployment is something like 45 per cent., which is very high. That brings us to the fact that we have many hundreds of thousands of men in the staple in- dustries alone for whom there is little prospect of ever finding work in their own trades again. I submit there is no indication whatsoever that trade abroad, and world-trade generally, can within a measurable distance of time improve to such an extent that we shall be able to recover our former foreign markets, or make new ones in a sufficient degree to absorb more than a fraction of these unemployed workers.

What then is to be the solution? Let us turn from this country for a moment and look at our Dominions. One of the most salient facts is this, that almost entirely to the stopping of emigration from this country since the War do we owe the problem of unemployment. If emigration had continued since the War at the same rate as during the five years before the War, three million additional persons would have emigrated, and instead of our having two million unemployed in this country we should have had a shortage of three-quarters of a million workers, so that the Government would have had to take steps to put an end to emigration for the time being.

We are told that it is useless to try to consider the question of emigration at the present time, for two reasons. Firstly, that people in this country do not wish to emigrate; and secondly, that even if they did the Governments overseas would be unwilling to receive them. Both of those ideas are completely wrong. The political group with whom I am associated, and who are largely represented in both Houses, the Imperial Policy Group, has lately been conducting investigations in practically all the industrial areas of Great Britain, and wherever we have put forward suggestions that there should be a new and modified scheme of assisting emigration to the Dominions, and possibly in some cases to our Colonies, there has been no place from Lancashire to Lanarkshire, or the Eastern Counties to South Wales, where the idea has not met with favour. It is untrue to say that people are unwilling to emigrate, and even to face difficulties and privations at the other end, if they can be sure that they are going to emigrate under a proper system, under which they will be getting a fair chance at the other side.

Then I come to the question of the attitude of the Dominions themselves. A few days ago in another place the Dominions Secretary, with that super-suavity which characterises his Parliamentary replies, informed a friend of mine that there was no reason to believe that any one of the Dominions was willing to take our people, and equally that there was no truth in the rumour that other countries were preparing to supply workers to our Dominions, if we were unwilling to do so. Both of those statements are far from being the fact. There is no doubt that what the Dominions objected to, and will continue to object to, is the recurrence of a haphazard system of emigration. In the past we had large numbers of people leaving this country with insufficient capital and insufficient experience, who were in many eases unsuitable for the Dominions. No one can blame the Dominions for one moment for objecting to a renewal of such haphazard emigration; but they are undoubtedly in favour of this scheme of assisted emigration from this country—assisted by the Government to some extent.

I have beside me a large number of resolutions from various municipalities, townships and others all over Canada, expressing the view that that country cannot recover her prosperity until she gets more British settlers. It may seem a paradox, but most far-seeing Canadian politicians are convinced that Canada will not be able to absorb her present unemployed until she gets more settlers. So far from Canada and her leaders being unwilling to absorb people from this country, it is the definite objective of Canada to double her present population of 10,000,000 in the shortest possible time. Mr. Mackenzie King has definitely stated that her ideal is a population of 80000,000, which she can support. There are various schemes which have been thought out so far as Canada is concerned. One there is, that of General Hornby, which aims al; bringing out numbers of people to work ground which is more or less already cultivated, and these schemes have the approval of practically every section of opinion in Canada, except a section of unorganised labour and of certain farmers. It was suggested by a certain Canadian Member of Parliament that any such scheme was absolutely visionary. For this statement he was taken to task severely by the leading Conservative newspaper in Canada, which asked him if he had never observed the words over the door of the Canadian Parliament House, which are: "Where there is no vision the people perish." That is the text of my sermon this evening. Mr. Mackenzie King and the leaders in Canada have vision. They recognise that it is impossible for Canada to recover unless she gets more men, and therefore they are willing to assent to any sound scheme of emigration.

Again, it is sometimes said that Canada cannot take any mere men because should she increase her production she would be unable to increase her consumption in equal measure. Chat argument again falls down. Consider what is the present position with regard to the home consumption of Canadian products. Apart from wheat, which is a special subject, Canada consumes 96 per cent, of her own beef; 94 per cent, of her own oats; 95 per cent, of her own pork and bacon; and 99 per cent, of her own mutton and lamb. This, too, at a time when there is great unemployment in Canada, and when Canadian people are not, many of them, in a financial position to buy as much meat as they desire. It is quite obvious that a very small rise in the standard of living in Canada would more than absorb what surplus there is. Canadians maintain that only by getting new and properly financed schemes of settlement will Canada be able to get the standard of living raised, so as to absorb the surplus, and not merely recover the standard which she had in the past, but even to exceed it. The two great railway systems in Canada are enthusiastically in favour of emigration. Everyone in Canada is in favour of it. There is practically no responsible man in Canada, to-day, who would venture to say he was not in favour of a scheme properly drawn up.

Then there is the question of Australia. It is true that there have been failures there, but Western Australia has proclaimed that, if given an opportunity, she alone could settle 5,000,000 men in fifteen years. Those figures are, I fear, outside practical politics. But it is sufficient to say, first, that there is a belief in Western Australia in the practically unlimited resources of that State, and, secondly, that there is no objection whatever in Western Australia—or I believe in any other part of the Australian Com monwealth—to properly run schemes of emigration.

Various people have been considering these schemes. I have already mentioned those of General Hornby and of the Committee presided over by that great Imperialist, Sir Henry Page Croft. Sir Henry Page Croft's Committee considers that roughly it costs £800 to put a, family of four into a decent economic position in the Empire. If one works that out and if one sees what can be done with a loan of, say, £250,000,000, it is obvious—if those figures are correct, and they have never been successfully challenged—that we shall be able eventually to establish 1,000,000 of our citizens overseas. And when one considers that those people would themselves either be drawn from the unemployed, or else would leave vacancies for the unemployed to fill up, it is obvious that there would be a very great saving indeed to this country in unemployment benefit alone. Let us take the interest on that £250,000,000 at something like 3 per cent. That would cost £7,500,000 per year. But if the figures were worked out, it would be found that we should save over £16,000,000 against the expenditure of £7,500,000, a margin sufficient to provide for an ample sinking fund, even if the figures I have given are on a somewhat optimistic scale, which there is no reason to suppose.

I have pointed out to your Lordships that I have not brought this Motion forward with the idea of suggesting that the Dominions should be the dumping ground for our surplus population. Nothing is further from my thought, and it is quite obvious that the Dominions themselves would not consent to any such scheme, even if we were foolish and inconsiderate enough to attempt to force it upon them. But they have shown, and shown most definitely, that they are absolutely in favour of a really good scheme of controlled emigration from this country, and that emigration need not be confined to the ranks of those who are unemployed, although, heaven knows, there are plenty of them who would be glad to get out of their present situation. If one takes, for example, the Rhondda Valley, where I was something less than three weeks ago, there you will find unemployment in side valleys, not at the rate of twenty or fifty, but of something approaching one hundred per cent, of the population—men who can never hope to obtain em- ployment again because the mines at which they have worked are completely worked out, from which every man who could get a job in other parts of Wales has hastily departed, and where there are men who have not the slightest opportunity of ever obtaining employment again. We may be quite certain, as I know from personal experience, that they would be only too eager to accept a really good scheme of emigration, and especially as we hear to-day that the situation in South Wales is likely to become even worse in the near future by the removal of the tinplate industry to Lincolnshire.

What is the result of all this? What, after all this criticism, if I may so call it, do I suggest that His Majesty's Government should do? We cannot expect that very much that is definite can be undertaken until after the next General Election, but I suggest that it would be well for His Majesty's Government to sound the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions, and some of the Governors of our Colonies, to see whether they would be willing—as I know they would be—to attend an ad hoc Imperial Conference to be held on this point some time during next year. Not merely can we expect Australia and Canada, but I know from his own lips that the Premier of Southern Rhodesia wants 100,000 more settlers in that country. There the position is different, and it would be preferable that those who went out should have a certain amount of capital of their own. But unemployment is not confined to those who are normally called the labouring class. There is a good deal of unemployment among office workers, clerks and the like, and there are many in slightly superior positions in life who are finding it extremely difficult to obtain employment, even although they, or their families, may possess a certain amount of capital. For people of this type emigration to Southern Rhodesia would be suitable.

There is no doubt—and others with much greater experience than myself agree with me in this—that unless we set up some form of emigration again, we can never hope to overcome the difficulties of unemployment. That is why I ask the Government to approach the various Dominion Prime Ministers and all those who are likely to be of assistance, to sound them as to whether they will attend this Conference, the Conference to be followed up by the setting up of a permanent Imperial Commission to superintend the details of emigration. I have not attempted to give details today; first, because I am not qualified to do so; and secondly, because in dealing with a scheme as great as this it is always a mistake to go into details before you have the principle worked out. All I have tried to do is to point out ways whereby I believe we can definitely and for the first time since the War make a real hole in unemployment. I suggest to the Government that by the adoption of a long-range policy such as I have sketched, they will be not merely going a very long way towards solving our difficulties, but they will completely rehabilitate themselves with the people of this country, who are by no means anxious to see a Socialist Government, and, at the same time, would like to see a. definite and considerably more constructive policy, especially as regards this Empire, than we have at the present time. I conclude with the words that I used before, words which I think ought to be engraved on the hearts of every one who has the interests of his country and the Empire at heart—"Where there is no vision the people perish."


My Lords, the noble Earl commenced his speech by saying that he had no intention of making an attack on His Majesty's Government. It is just as well that we had that assurance, for he has put upon the Paper what certainly amounts to a Vote of Censure on the Government. He draws our attention to the lack of any policy on the part of His Majesty's Government for Imperial and Colonial development. If there were one subject which all Parties would admit to be of the greatest importance it is this very question of Imperial and Colonial development, and a Government that had no policy on so vastly important a subject would certainly not deserve to retain the confidence of this House. If the noble Earl had deplored the lack of success which had attended the efforts of His Majesty's Government in this sphere, he might have hoped to command a wider measure of agreement. I do not suppose that the noble Earl who is to answer for the Government will claim that in the matter of emigration His Majesty's Government, has been very strikingly successful, and I sup- pose that the noble Earl will point out the enormous difficulties that, have stood in their way. But when we see on the Paper a Motion which practically amounts to a Vote of Censure, we surely expect to have some very convincing and particularised facts pot before us.

We would not readily accept such a Motion, and we should not be asked to accept such a Motion, unless the noble Earl is prepared to show us exactly, or fairly exactly, what the Government might have done, and exactly how they have failed to do it. We should surely hear something of the opportunities that were theirs, and something of their failure to seize those opportunities. I am afraid we must admit that in the speech of the noble Earl we have not had any very definite or very valuable information upon the actual facts of the situation as far as emigration is concerned. We have heard, for example, some economic fallacies which certainly surprise me, coming from a representative of so well-informed a group as the Imperial Policy Group. For instance, it has been suggested by the noble Earl that if emigration had continued on the pre-War scale we should have had no unemployment problem. Surely it is not necessary for anyone to instruct a member of the imperial Policy Group in the elements of economics, or to inform him that unemployment is caused by dislocation between consumption and supply, and that it is comparatively little affected by the population of the country concerned? Surely the noble Earl does not imagine that if you were in quite a, short time to eliminate the present 2,000,000 of unemployed from this country, there would remain no unemployment problem? Of course the unemployment problem would probably assume an even more critical character because so many more consumers would have been taken away.

Then we heard a great deal from the noble Earl about Canadian opinion in the matter. The noble Earl was not able to quote any official Canadian opinion, but he did quote Mr. Mackenzie King, the Leader of the Opposition in Canada, and he spoke of the number of resolutions that had been passed in Canada. But the answer that you get from Canada must depend entirely on the way in which this question is put. I imagine the question that was put was: "Will you welcome what I describe as a properly-assisted form of immigration—in other words, if we are prepared to buy large tracts of land in Canada, bring over our settlers, spend money on the development of those tracts, and keep the settlers alive during a number of years, in fact be responsible for them, would you in that case welcome increased immigration? "I suspect that the question put to the Canadian public was expressed very much in those terms, and if you express it in these terms you will get a very favourable answer indeed. It must have occurred to your LordShips that if His Majesty's Government are to spend large sums of money in rendering habitable and in developing large tracts of land in Canada, and in settling unemployed from this country in Canada, they might at least consider whether the same sums could not be with greater advantage expended in developing this country. In fact, I do not know that I see very much difference between the policy which the noble Earl is prepared to advocate and that policy of public works which he declared to be a grave error. There is not so very much difference between spending vast sums of money in order to gain employment for our workers in Canada and spending large sums of money with the same object in this country.

In point of fact, it is not correct to maintain that the return on money expended in the Dominions would necessarily be very much greater than the return on money expended in this country. There are in Australia comparatively few districts that are now ripe for development, or, rather, which would be ripe for development if the primary products which can be obtained from these districts could be cultivated on a more economic basis. It is altogether a mistake to look upon Australia as an empty land in the sense that European settlers have only to go there with a little capital supplied by the Government to make an instant success of farming. There is still a world glut of many primary commodities which they would be producing, and it is very little use settling people on the land until the economic position of the world is considerably improved in that respect. I will not take up much more of your Lordships' time on this question, but there is one matter on which I cannot forbear to comment. That is with regard to the statement of the noble Earl that the railways in Canada have expressed themselves strongly in favour of a planned and properly assisted system of immigration. The railways in Canada own most of the land on which the settlers would be put, and it is purely a case in which special interests are involved. There is, at least, every temptation for the Canadian railways to take an optimistic and rosy view of the chances of settlers coming on to their land.

I am afraid that in these debates on emigration I generally have to assume a pessimistic rôle. I do so because I am quite convinced that schemes of emigration promoted at enormous expense, as they would have to be, in the long run cannot flourish because they are naturally unhealthy at birth. I very much trust that His Majesty's Government will not pursue too active a policy in this matter at present, because it would be very likely to prejudice the possibilities of large and successful emigration at a time when the world economic situation has improved. We have to remember that every unsuccessful emigrant, every emigrant who is sent out and only kept alive by "doles" from this country, or every emigrant who, attempting to farm in a new country, fails and returns to England, has enormous influence in deterring other people from emigrating. I believe that a few more unsuccessful emigration schemes—and, after all, we have seen some emigration schemes which were far from effective—will go far to prejudice permanently our people against the whole idea of emigration. That would, of course, be in every way the greatest possible calamity, because when, as we may reasonably hope, in a few years the price of primary commodities improves, I believe there will be every possibility for large and successful emigration from this country, or, as I prefer to call it, Empire settlement. It is a matter which it would be very unwise for us to prejudice by hasty and ill-conceived schemes which, at the best, would involve us in very large expenditure, and, at the worst, might do permanent injury to the cause which both the noble Earl and I have at heart.


My Lords, I only intervene for a few moments, because it has fallen to my lot in years past to reply to speeches such as that made by the noble Earl who initiated this debate, speeches which seem to imply that there is an easy and ready solution for the question of unemployment in Empire settlement. It does always sound very plausible to those who have not very closely examined the matter that the vast territories of our Dominions would seem ready to receive the crowded population of our own islands, that the great continent of Australia, with a. population very little bigger than that of Greater London, would seem to be able to absorb the hundreds of thousands of our unemployed. It is not quite so easy as all that, and I think those who have devoted a good deal of time and attention to it will see the underlying fallacy of supposing that you can ship a population from a crowded area into territories where there is room for them. There is a great deal more in it than that.

The noble Earl who initiated this debate seemed to be unaware that there is a Government Department, the Overseas Settlement Department, devoting its time and energies to the examination of this question. He spoke very glibly of the willingness of the Dominions to receive numbers of our unemployed. He may have heard of certain interests in the Dominions, such as those spoken of by the noble Earl who has just sat down, who would like to see British emigrants, but I do not think he was speaking on behalf of the Dominion Governments. The Dominion representatives when they have been over here have had many an opportunity of consulting with representatives of successive Governments in this country with regard to this question, which naturally exercises their attention, and has exercised the attention of successive Governments in this country. But the solution is not so easy.

To begin with, what is involved in this transfer of population? You prejudice the whole case to begin with by talking of it as a solution for unemployment. If that is placed in the forefront as a reason for Empire emigration, as it was by the noble Earl, then the Dominions are suspicious at once. The Dominions think that you are going to ship out the unemployable who are not wanted in this country, and that puts them on their guard. You have first of all to find out whether your emigrants are willing to go. The noble Earl said lie had conic across in various parts of the country a number of people who were willing to go. I do not know that that was my experience some years ago when I tested meetings in industrial areas as to whether people were willing to go to the Dominions. A suspicion on their side was at once aroused that the Government of this country thought that the best way of getting rid of the unemployed was to ship them off elsewhere. That produced a feeling of resentment, which is very easily aroused among the workless in this country.

Having got the willingness of the emigrant to go, you have got to get the willingness of the Governments of the Dominions to receive him. You have got to get a scheme which will be satisfactory. The noble Earl who has just resumed his seat has said that we have had the experience of many schemes that have been unsatisfactory. But that has not been the fault of the Government officials in this country who have done their best to guide and to construct schemes which they hope may eventually be successful. Having got a scheme, you have got to secure the maintenance of your emigrant; you have got to see him over the trial period; you have got to see that he has money in his pocket and is not put on the scrap heap in the particular Dominion to which he has gone. You have got to see that he is cared for. In many cases you have got to train him before he goes out. This complex matter is one which naturally engages the attention of successive Governments. It is futile whether in this House or in another place or in the country for anyone to get up and say: "Here is an easy solution of unemployment; you have so many millions of unemployed; you have room for so many millions overseas; just ship them over." People keep on doing that.

I fully admit that the noble Earl said that the schemes must be properly drawn up. Every imaginable society is anxious to help. A lot of voluntary institutions have their own schemes which they subsidise and which the Government help, and there is a flow going on, under carefully thought out schemes, of emigrants from this country to the Dominions. The time may come when circumstances will allow the Dominion Governments to receive more, and, if there is a sufficient number in this country willing to go, they will be helped to go. This must be a natural flux and not an artificially stimulated political move. I have intervened, not to go into all the questions about the cures for unemployment which the noble Earl discussed, but just to warn him that his short-cut is not one which any responsible Government in this country could possibly adopt.


My Lords, I have long taken an interest in the subject matter of this Motion and would like, therefore, to address to your Lordships a few remarks upon it. I always welcome a Motion directing attention to this matter, because I think it is one of really great importance. Empire settlement is a matter of which we can never lose sight. The more continuous attention we direct to it the better it will be for its ultimate solution. The noble Earl who has moved the Motion has given us a very full description of many of the facts which have hitherto appertained to it. He also said that he was addressing them to the Government from a quasi-paternal point of view. I could not help feeling that lie is delightfully and fortunately young to adopt that attitude so soon in his life, but, while much of what he has said deserves very careful consideration, I do not altogether feel able to endorse some of his rather dogmatic statements; for instance, when he told us that the scheme of General Hornby in Canada was very widely accepted; I gathered practically unanimously. I venture to question that in spite of its having many merits. I am not by any means so sure myself. I have seen the scheme and it involves enormous expenditure on Government guarantee, and, while having an excellent object in view, is probably not feasible at the present moment.

I want to say another thing at the outset which strikes me about this Motion. The noble Earl has drawn attention to the question of Imperial and Colonial development and in the same breath talked about a permanent reduction of unemployment in this country. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, that, these two matters ought not to be, and cannot be, treated together. It is an annoyance in some of the overseas Dominions, as I personally know, when these subjects are put side by side as though the Dominions were merely a dumping ground for our surplus population. They do not like it. They therefore would not be impressed by a Motion framed in these words, although both the problems independently need careful treatment and attention. They are not connected with, and ought not to be connected with, each other, and I want to make that as clear as I possibly can. Then, when it is suggested that there is a lack of policy on the part of His Majesty's Government, I am not so sure. For myself I should say the proper policy is one of active watchfulness, and there is no lack of watchfulness. Whether this is exactly the moment to bring forward a motion for active movement, is to my mind a very debatable question. Certainly the overseas Dominions have not shown a desire for it. In Australia the tendency of public opinion is rather the reverse. In Canada we know there are many economic and other difficulties which make a very large expenditure of money on this matter at the present time vary problematical.

There is a good deal to be said on those lines, to whatever country you may refer. On the other hand, I think this is a very useful time for carefully considering what can be done in the future. How is it best to assist the individual migrant? It may be very helpful to work out some more careful system of community settlement by which migrants can be selected and the Governments both of this country and overseas can exercise a general supervision over them. You may encourage mixed farming—milk and chickens as well as wheat—so that if the price of wheat falls, the situation will not be desperate. Many other suggestions can be made, and I dare say an Imperial Committee might help to make them. But I am quite sure that to vote at this moment an enormous sum of money to carry out general schemes of this kind is not really the most diplomatic road to success in the long run. I think in General Hornby's scheme that he would buy fifteen thousand acres of land in many places in Canada or elsewhere—I am not quite sure who was to pay, but I rather gathered it would be the British Government. Any financial suggestion of that kind requires very much consideration and expert knowledge and opinion. The Government can continually consult with overseas Dominions how best to promote and finance a sound scheme at the right opportunity, and indeed mutually to finance it generously, but I do not think that at this moment any Government in this country can wisely do more.


My Lords, not because I am young, but for another reason, because I have spent a great part of my life in three Australian States, I think it would be a dereliction of duty on, my part not to give my experience with brevity. The reason why emigration cannot be on the same standard to-day as before the War is that the standard of living has increased very largely in Australia and elsewhere since the War. That is a very cogent reason. There is doubt as to whether, in Australia, immigration is wanted. Immigration of artisans is not wanted. Immigration of agricultural labourers and of people who will go on the farms and stop on the farms may, or may not, be welcomed but certainly is not opposed. The immigrant who goes on the farm produces cheaper food for the artisan in the towns, who commands the political machine, and knows where his interests lie. His interests do not lie in encouraging immigration of a class that can compete with him, but they do lie in the immigration of others who will supply his factories with customers.

I do not criticise the Government for their emigration policy. They have done a great deal by not doing too much. I praise them for that; and I should like them to continue, not trying to do too much but trying to discover by experiment where practical administration can be applied. No one since the seals of the Colonial Office were held by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain has done such splendid work as Mr. Amery in regard to emigration, but Mr. Malcolm MacDonald has also done first-class work. Now that I have said that, some of your Lordships may ask what I would recommend should be done. I say encourage that movement which has been successful, the movement that is called the "Big Brother" movement. Let Government encouragement be given to the system by which, before you send out an emigrant, you find someone on the other side who will be a good brother and help him to make a good start. But let it be clearly understood that that start must be made by people who will go on the land and remain on the land and not go for the attractions of high wages and more pleasure in the cities.

Let there be no delusion that the Government official who has got into his job by a competitive examination is going to, be a successful member of an organisation for the mass settlement of farmers or even for the settlement of single farmers. The training of civil servants precludes them from understanding what farming requires and what farming means. Let there also be a development of a system of advancing money upon collective security so that two or three may share each other's indebtedness, in the hope that some day they may flourish and the money may come back. That can be done without waiting, and I beg the Government to consider that as a practical step.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House for long, in view of the time and of the fact that there is important business still to be dealt with, but nobody can deny that the importance of the problems which have been raised during the course of this debate is very great, and I therefore cannot dismiss them in a few sentences. I do not intend to follow the noble Earl who initiated the debate in his criticism of Mr. Lloyd George's schemes and his analysis of the coal industry and of other depressed industries. The main feature of his speech was that he linked up the position with regard to unemployment in this country with the question of emigration to various parts of the Empire. In dealing with this question he spoke as if there were no liaison whatsoever between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the Dominions. That is a complete fallacy. There has for a long time been the closest liaison between the various Governments of the Empire on this question, and we are fully aware of the views of the various Dominion Governments upon the question of migration. Successive Governments in this country have for a great many years fully realised the importance of this question, and as a result of various actions taken by successive Governments between the years 1919 and 1931 a very large number of people—I think it was something like two and a-half million people—migrated from this country to the Dominions and the Empire overseas.

In those circumstances it is very natural that there should be great disappointment at the fact, that stagnation has come to this Empire emigration movement. It is, of course, perfectly right that we should explore every avenue in order to see whether it cannot, to some extent at any rate, be revived. But it must be realised that the position has in recent years fundamentally altered. In the first place, most assisted emigrants from here to the Dominions become primary producers when they reach the Dominions. Unlike the time before the depression, when I think it is fair to say that there was an almost inexhaustible market for primary products, at the present time there is actually an oversupply of these products in relation to the demand. Then, again, the amount of labour which is required for any particular unit of production has, as a result of the introduction of labour-saving machinery on a large scale, been reduced.

Moreover, and this is perhaps the most important of the changes that have taken place: most Dominion Governments—in fact, I think I may say all Dominion Governments—have at the present time serious unemployment problems of their own, problems which were quite unknown in days before the War but Which have now arisen and have radically altered the situation. In spite of these facts the Government have taken advantage of this period of lull to make an extremely careful examination and investigation into the principles which should underly any policy of assisted migration in the future, and of the best methods of carrying out this policy when economic conditions alter and become favourable. They have, in coming to their conclusions, taken into consideration all relevant facts. They have taken into consideration the experience which was acquired during the years of depression, and the economic causes and effects of that depression. That examination was made by a Committee of which the present Secretary of State for the Colonies was Chairman, and has reported.

What I want to point out, however, is that the Government do not intend to rely solely upon official advice in this matter. That Report has been circulated to the different Governments of the Empire, those which are most chiefly concerned in a matter of this kind, and to a number of voluntary, organisations and individuals who have shown an interest in this question and who have experience of migration problems, for their observations. The question has also been very carefully considered, naturally, by the Overseas Settlement Committee. Although there are still a number of replies to come from Dominion Governments, a large number of replies have been received and observations have been made which go to show that the principles and recommendations made in the Report are generally approved and supported.

Briefly speaking, the Committee have taken the view that this question is not an isolated one; it is not a question which can possibly be dealt with as a separate problem. They feel that it is an integral part of the general economic problem which confronts not only the Empire but the whole of the world as well. One view they have expressed, which I think will receive the general approval of all people who have given really full consideration to this subject, is that migration is a symptom of prosperity rather than a cure for depression. As far as we are able to judge from the replies which have been received, that is a view that is acquiesced in by the Governments of those countries to which migration has mainly flowed in the past. Migration can only be carried on with the full approval and co-operation of the overseas Governments. That is an incontestible fact, and nothing could be more harmful than that the impression should become general that the United Kingdom Government wished to make use of migration as a convenient method of ridding themselves of the burden of unemployment. I know that the noble Earl was at pains to point out that he was not arguing that the Dominions should be made a dumping-ground for unemployed. But still, in almost every sentence he uttered he linked the two questions together, and indeed it was perfectly obvious that he was dealing with this particular problem from the point bf view of solving our unemployment difficulties in this country. If it became the general feeling in other parts of the Empire that that view was held here, it would do an infinity of damage.

Then, in the course of his remarks, he was guilty of what I venture to say was a most extraordinary statement, with which the noble Earl who sits behind me, Lord Iddesleigh, dealt: that if we had been able to transfer during the past ten years some 2,000,000 more people from this country to the Dominions, we should have no unemployment problem here at all. That seems to me an extraordinary economic proposition, and a very dangerous fallacy indeed. To my mind there is not the slightest doubt that a transfer on that scale would have dislocated, to an enormous extent, the economic structure of the Empire as a whole, and in my view it would, not have tended to decrease our problems but very greatly to aggravate them.

If I may, I would like to quote from the Report of the Committee which dealt with this subject, to show what in their view were the principles that should underlie any system of assisted migration between this country and the Dominions overseas. They say this in their Report: The right line of approach to a more desirable redistribution of the white population of the Empire, therefore, is not to endeavour to transfer men and women from the United Kingdom overseas regardless of economic conditions such as the possibility of marketing their produce, and to maintain them there until (if ever) they are in a position to maintain themselves, but to do all that lies in our power to assist in creating the conditions overseas which have in the past provoked and will in the future provoke a large volume of spontaneous migration, and then to see that every obstacle which lies in the way of such migration is removed and that every facility which can increase it is provided. I do want to emphasise those words. I feel very strongly that any attempt to force the situation with regard to migration is bound to do harm. It would, in my view, jeopardise the possibility of sound future plans being formulated, which may in due time be possible, with a view of once again instituting a flow between this country and the Dominions. It is absolutely essential that people who emigrate must have the, prospect of a remunerative living in the country to which they migrate, and I venture to say that at the present moment those prospects cannot be considered good. For those reasons it is my view, at any rate, that the action which was taken at the Ottawa Conference, and results such as those which were achieved there, which were calculated, and are calculated, to increase the general prosperity of the Empire, are of far more value at the present moment than any number of assisted emigration schemes to the Dominions. As I have stated, the principle upon which we should work, as the Committee have already said, is that once there is a spontaneous movement towards the resumption of migration we should not only remove all obstacles but grant every facility which is likely to increase that movement.

With that object in view the Committee have made certain proposals, which I shall not enumerate to your Lordships this evening, devised to achieve that very object; but, as I have said, they do take the view that these measures can only be taken when the position becomes more favourable. The Report of this Committee has received, on the whole, very general approval, but I must admit that there have been a number of criticisms, and the main one is perhaps that to which the noble Earl referred—namely, that the recommendations are not sufficiently far-reaching, and that they do not include any large schemes of group-settlement upon the land.


May I ask where that criticism comes from? I am not quite clear. Is it a Government criticism, or a general criticism?


It is not a Government criticism. It is a criticism which comes from outside the Government, and one which the noble Earl who initiated this discussion made. These questions of group-settlement on a large scale are questions which have to be very carefully examined by experts, and all I want to say at the present moment with regard to them is that there are weighty reasons which can be adduced in favour of the view which the Committee express—namely, that the concentration of assisted migration on land settlements at the present moment would be extremely unwise. As your Lordships know, it has become necessary lately to consider the regulation and even the restriction of production of commodities normally produced by those settling on the land overseas. Therefore, to say the least of it, it is doubtful whether this is a good time to push forward schemes which can only result in considerable additional production of those commodities, and I know that that is a view strongly taken in many of the Dominions. I would, however, make a qualification of that rather general statement which I have made— namely, that this question of the reintroduction of group-settlement on any considerable scale must depend upon future economic development in the Empire and the world, and any change which might result in increasing the demand for primary products would undoubtedly alter the whole situation and justify reconsidering the position in consultation with other Governments interested.

I want to conclude by saying that the Government are riot in the least apologetic because they have not taken active steps to stimulate migration in the last three or four years. It certainly is a matter of fact that activity of this kind would have been unwelcome to the Dominions. The noble Earl has said to us that the Dominion Governments—I think he used the words "Dominion Governments"—would welcome the introduction of schemes of properly organised and controlled migration. I do not know exactly what he means by those words. If he means schemes one of the conditions of which is that no charge is at any time to fall upon a Dominion Government in connection with them, I am not in a position to say, but generally speaking, I can assure the House that the view which the noble Earl expressed, that the Dominion Governments would welcome emigration of this kind, is not borne out by the facts as I have been given them.

It is generally agreed that a resumption of movement must depend upon the good will and co-operation of the Dominions. It may be perfectly true, as the noble Earl has said, that there are not only individuals but organisations in the Dominions which have expressed themselves strongly in favour of migration, but I can only repeat what I have said, that no Dominion Government has demanded such resumption of migration, nor has any Dominion Government shown any readiness to acquiesce in a demand on our part. I am perfectly certain that if they did wish for a resumption of migration they would come to us, and I can assure the House that the Government would not, in any way, be slow to take advantage of any opportunities which were forthcoming in that respect. I can only repeat that in my view any activity towards the stimulation of emigration in recent years would have aggravated the situation rather than have alleviated the difficulties with which we were faced. I would like to conclude on a more optimistic note; that is, that the Government definitely feel that we are now within sight of better times. Things are improving, though they are improving slowly, and such informal discussions with representatives of overseas Governments as have taken place give reason to hope that it may be possible in the comparatively near future to look to a revival of some emigration. That definitely will not be on a large scale at first, but it will be a beginning, and it may do something at any rate to offset the inward flow which has unfortunately been such a distinguishing feature of the last four years.


My Lords, there are certain points in the debate which I must answer, although I will be as brief as possible. I must protest against the no doubt unwitting injustice which has been done me by the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, and the noble Lord, Lord Rockley, in suggesting that my whole purpose in initiating this debate has been to find an outlet in the Dominions for surplus British workers. What I was endeavouring to show to your Lordships, albeit apparently unsuccessfully, was that the Dominions require people to populate their open spaces just as much as we require to find work for our unemployed. The Dominions not only must have more people from an economic point of view, they must also have them from a strategic point of view, because other countries are casting envious eyes upon those undeveloped lands, especially in Australia; and, though the Secretary of State for the Dominions denied it in another place not long ago, I have myself since then met and spoken to a German who is endeavouring to organise the sending out to Australia of one hundred thousand Germans. It is evident, and the Dominions appreciate it, that if we do not populate our Empire, other nations will do so in the future. Canada, as I have said, wants to double her population. Australia also wants immigrants, and nothing that the noble Earl has said has in any way refuted, or indeed touched upon, the statements in regard to the economic position of industry in this country with which I began my speech.

As regards the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, I would remind him, when he talks about the reduction of consumption if many people emigrate from this country, that the people who would go would be for the most part those who, having had in the past very small amounts on which to live, have not contributed largely to consumption. As regards the difference between my suggestions and those of Mr. Lloyd George, the difference is that" whereas Mr. Lloyd George's proposals would merely employ a number of men for a short time and pile up a lot of debt at the same time, a proper emigration scheme would mean permanent employment in the Dominions for a vast number of people, and a consequent opening up of new markets for British goods. I must say, without wishing to be offensive or derogatory to the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, that his speech did seem to me to be a magnificent example of laissez faire. He seems to think that everything will cure itself. At the present time there can be no greater fallacy, and no view which it is less helpful to propagate. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said that he found some years ago that a certain section of the people of this country were unwilling to emigrate. Events nowadays change with bewildering rapidity, and a few years ago is not to-day. I think if he repeated his investigations he would find a very different state of affairs. It may be, of course, that the people of whom he spoke did not wish to emigrate, because, being of the same political opinion as the noble Lord, they were waiting for the noble Lord and his Party to provide the bigger and better "doles" which would seem to be their only solution of the problem of unemployment.

As regards the flew of emigration at the present time, to which the noble Lord alluded, I hardly think that 2,400 emigrants from this country to Canada last year can be considered sufficient; and what are we to think of the emigration to Australia—74 in 1933 and 174 in 1934. Before that trickle becomes a flow, some much more drastic action will have to be taken. The noble Earl in his reply for the Government made the most remarkable statement that emigration was a sign of prosperity. I should not have thought that that could be substantiated, especially when one considers what happened in the Ireland of the potato famines. But there has, I submit, been no adequate reply to the contention I have put forward, neither have we had an explanation of why the Government are unwilling to come forward and at least support a general official consultation with the leaders of the Dominions. I am afraid that there is a certain lack of enterprise, it may be a certain lack of courage. It may be that certain vested interests, political or other, are hampering them. But I submit that until we have a real argument given in reply to the facts I have stated, until we have some prospect of being able in the future to absorb those hundreds of thousands of unemployed men, miners and others, it is incumbent on the Government to show a little more enterprise than they have done.

I do not wish, of course, to force a Division on my Motion, but I hope that in spite of the discouraging reply of the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, the Government may take this question a little more to heart, and take steps to make at least the preliminary investigations, which is all I ask, into this great problem. If they do so, they will find, I am convinced, that there is far more good will in the Dominions towards a properly worked out scheme, instituted only with their consent and approval, than they appear to imagine. Let them go forward in this direction, and then let them come back and tell us the result. But in these difficult times I suggest that it is hardly helpful to the solution of our problems when any suggestion of a constructive character that is put forward is received with a pailful of cold water. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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