HL Deb 20 July 1938 vol 110 cc961-92

LORD SNELL rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether consideration has yet been given to the recent Report of the Oversea Settlement Board (Cmd. 5766) and, if so, what view they take of the recommendations contained therein; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject of oversea settlement is not one which is controversial and I have no Party end to serve in the Motion which I have placed upon the Order Paper of your Lordships' House. It is, however, a question which arouses very great interest and one upon which immediate thought and action are desirable. It is advisable, for example, that Parliament should not rise without attention being drawn to the very useful Report of the Oversea Settlement Board which was issued in May last. I will try to present the problem which that Report presents in the fewest possible words. First, I would like if I may to congratulate the noble Duke and the Board that sat under his Chairmanship on the production of a timely and very useful document, which I hope will be noticed by the Press and read by the general public. Let me say at once that I do not propose at this stage to enter into any elaborate criticism of the Report as presented, either in regard to its arguments or its proposals, but at the same time, to be consistent with my own past declarations and with my Party's general attitude towards the subject of migration, I ought to say one or two general words.

First of all, I note with considerable pleasure the abandonment of the word "emigration" It was always a most unfortunate word, in my judgment, for it suggested pressure, if not actual compulsion. The criticism of my Party on "emigration," as then presented, was that if any pressure did exist it was on the whole indefensible and that if no pressure existed then the choice of word was at least unfortunate. We held that an Englishman had the right to expect to be able to found a home in his own land and that an efficient agricultural and industrial system would make emigration, as it was then understood, altogether unnecessary. We thought—I still think—that no one, whatever place in the social hierarchy he might have, had the right to imagine that he could export other people's children as mere surplus human lumber away from their own country. That attitude towards emigration roused prejudice and caused the organised workers to adopt towards the whole matter of migration a stiff and suspicious attitude.

There was a second error connected with the old interpretation of the question, which was that it was a solution for the problem of unemployment. That had the result, first of all, of confirming the suspicion that pressure was being brought to bear to emigrate people away from their own land. It aroused also in the Dominions themselves a corresponding suspicion, because they said, "We, too, have our unemployed, and if migration is to be dealt with purely in relation to the number of men employed or not employed, we have a sufficient number of unemployed here to make us unwilling to receive additions to that number." I have always believed, and I think it is scientifically correct to believe, that unemployment has in reality very little to do with the actual size of the population. That is to say that, if our population were halved at the present time, there is no reason to suppose that there would not be unemployment in our midst. There was unemployment in England at the time of Elizabeth, when the population was only some three millions, and there never will come a time when the Dominions will be able to say, "We have no unemployed and therefore we can receive migrants on to our soil." The question of unemployment must be dealt with on other lines, and migration cannot be advocated on the ground that it will solve an unemployment problem. It may be, looking at things in a wide sense, that a margin of unemployment on which the nation can draw at short notice for any of its purposes is an entirely useful thing; but, if that is so, it should always be accompanied by a scheme of maintenance for those who are compelled to form that margin.

The third objection to the old schemes of migration, or probably to any scheme, is that migration, like war, is dysgenic; that is to say, it takes away the flower of a nation's population and leaves behind a more or less debilitated stock. The Dominions themselves helped rather to foster that idea, because they insisted that all the people they received should he, as it were, hand-picked. They were not willing to receive the average bunch from the people, but they wanted, as we believe, the pick of the basket.

This Report, as printed, approaches the problem in an entirely new and commendable spirit. I still feel that there is room on our own soil for our own people if our industries and our agriculture were properly organised. But we are unwilling to face those issues. We put the fault on all kinds of things, and yet we have some of the best land in the world available in our own country, and a climate which is like the Labour Party in that it receives a good deal of unmerited criticism. But, when you have said all about it, the climate produced us, and therefore there is something to be said in its favour! We feel that there is room in our own land for our own people, and yet, while we would not bring any sort of compulsion to bear upon this problem, I feel—and I think my Party agrees—that if any young man wants to try his luck in another part of the world in any place in the King's Dominions, every facility ought to be accorded to him to enable him to do so.

I hope the House will allow me to read a few words from a speech of mine in another place in 1924, when I said: I know that if I were a young man and I had to choose between working on an English farm for a slave's wage, with the prospect of the Poor Law and pauperism in the end, and taking a man's chance of building a home in Australia or elsewhere, I would not hesitate for a moment what to do. I think that is the attitude in which this problem should be considered. It is very sad to reflect on the fact that in the last century millions of our sturdiest people drifted away to the United States of America, for example, when with even second-rate foresight and assistance they might have peopled the spaces in our own Commonwealth. If that had happened the problem of defence at the present time would have been different. The Empire would have been better founded; but owing to the then existing disaster of economic individualism people were just allowed to go where they pleased without guidance or assistance.

This welcome Report deals with the problem in a new spirit. It conceives of the members of the Commonwealth as members separated, it is true, by distance and yet unified in a great family. The Report which the noble Duke and his Committee have presented deserves careful study, and it will be a study which, I think, will well repay those who undertook it. I have thought it better, in opening this discussion, to give a short general view of the problem of migration than a detailed analysis of this Report. What I feel at the present time is that we have to remember that we have very grave responsibilities in regard to the British Empire. We have the responsibility of developing this enormous estate as far as possible with our own race. The Dominions must not be regarded as a dumping-ground for a surplus population, but as opportunities for the development of this great estate. I venture to say that our retention of the Dominions or of the Colonies can only be defended if we do our best, up to our powers, to develop them on right lines. We may be sure that if we do not do that, and unless the Empire becomes strong at the circumference as well as at the centre, we shall be drifting into a state of danger. Therefore this Report opens up this subject in a new way, and I have great pleasure in commending it to your Lordships' attention. I should like in passing, and before I close, to acknowledge, with a great deal of satisfaction, what I think is a new approach on the part of the Dominions to this problem. They, too, are beginning to think again of the need for importing an increased population.

This Report deals with the whole problem of the declining birth-rate in our own country and the fact that in years to come we shall have a population which is very much older than it is at present. I thought I detected in the Report a sort of reproach against old people for presuming to live so long, and I think that the day may come when it will be regarded as an act of patriotism to pass out more quickly. On the tombstones of the future will be found testimony to the fact that someone did his bit by dying at fifty or something like that. I am not going to get alarmed at the increase of the average age. These population movements are not fixed things and if social conditions were different here there would probably be less anxiety about the future of our population.

The Report argues that migration in the future must be based upon attraction and not upon compulsion, and that there must be co-operation and partnership between the Dominions and ourselves for the development of this great estate. Also, the problem of secondary production in the Dominions is dealt with, and that opens up a very debatable problem into which I will not go this afternoon. But there is one point I would mention. It is to be found on page 16 of the Report, where, in their anxiety, for increasing the population of the Dominions the Committee seem willing to advocate the inclusion of groups of other stocks: If we are right in thinking that the population trends in the United Kingdom give little encouragement to the view that the United Kingdom will be in a position to supply settlers in sufficient numbers to provide the whole of those additions to their populations for which the circumstances of the Dominions call, we cannot help feeling that, in addition to the encouragement of migration from the United Kingdom, the admission of a carefully regulated flow of foreign immigrants of assimilable types, preferably from those countries whose inhabitants are sprung originally from the same stock as ourselves and who share our outlook in many directions, has much to commend it. I will not enter into any criticism about that, except just to say that I hope we shall not knowingly produce groups of nationalities in our Dominions so that we have the difficulties to which I could point existing in the world at the present time.

The Committee, in another place, say that financial assistance should not be given save in very exceptional circumstances to schemes of land settlement and development, but that we should rely upon infiltration. That may be a justifiable policy, but I think it sounds rather timid. Past experience may justify the caution with which schemes of land settlement are advocated, but I hope the Committee do not mean to close the door to experiment. For instance, it is possible that some attempt should be made to migrate and to establish by a system of land settlement Jewish people as an assistance towards the whole problem of settling the Jewish question at the present time. I do not think I need say anything more on this Report, except to agree finally with the Committee's suggestion that we should undertake to familiarise the British and Dominion people with the spirit and the institutions of the Commonwealth as a whole. This could be done through school curricula and the exchange of Empire visits, especially of those who have some responsibility for helping to guide the minds of the masses of the people in our own countries. The situation, therefore, does, I think, ask for immediate attention. Circumstances compel me to speak more frequently in your Lordships' House than I have any desire to do, but I hope I need not apologise for asking your attention to this most important Report. I beg to ask His Majesty's Government the Question which stands in my name.


My Lords, I think it is seldom that we on this side of the House agree so fully with every word that has fallen from the noble Lord as in this particular instance, and if he will allow me to say so, with respect, I believe he has rendered a service in drawing attention to this vitally important Report. It deals with a matter of the greatest importance to the Empire from a thoroughly well-balanced and commonsense point of view. There are several outstanding facts with regard to migration to which the noble Lord has rightly called attention. There can be no element of compulsion. There is a saying that we must put people back on the land. We cannot put people back on our own land. We can put them in training for that, but we can only put them where they choose to put themselves. That is very true about migration, and it is also true that it must be a co-operative business between ourselves and the Dominions. Particularly is that true with regard to any form of assisted migration.

On page 17 of the Report a passage from the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Migration Policy is quoted, to which I would venture to draw your Lordships' attention: For this reason, among others—i.e., because if it is to be successful, a policy of assisted migration must be regarded as a co-operative undertaking by the two communities concerned for the benefit of both, and not as an acquiescence by the immigrating community in an operation directed solely to the relief of the emigrating community—it seems to us right that the financial burden of any assistance which it may be decided to render to migrants should be equitably shared between the two communities. That, I venture to think, is fundamental, and when the noble Lord referred to the desirability of trying experiments in land settlement, I think the experiences of Australia between the years 1923 and 1930 provide already a very wide range of information and experience in that direction, not only with regard to migrants from this country but with regard to the settlement of their returned soldiers from overseas.

Very many of these experiments were unsuccessful, and they do harm in any case. They do harm with regard to people coming from this country, because those people send unfavourable reports home, and when they come back they give the Dominions a bad name. Therefore I think it is to be accepted that these attempts to stimulate migration on a large scale, with the assistance of money provided by the Government, have been proved to be a failure, and that however desirable it may be to increase the flow of population from here to the Dominions, we must accept the fact that people can only go there if they are attracted by conditions in the Dominions, as they have been in the past, when, for instance, there was a gold rush, and so forth. There remains, therefore, I believe, nothing but individual migration, principally of children under schemes like the Fairbridge scheme. That scheme is now equipped with the support not merely of the Government but of the community as a whole on a scale which enables them to take in something like 1,200 boys. That means 250 a year. Of course that is a very small contribution but it is on the right lines. One thing is I believe quite certain, that the only migrants who are any good in the Dominions are those who go there with the intention of throwing in their lot wholly with the Dominions and becoming citizens of the country. There is not much difference between an Englishman migrating to Canada or Australia and an Englishman migrating to Scotland. In both cases they find different conditions and it takes them some time to get acclimatised just as it takes the natives some time to get accustomed to them. But eventually they are absorbed and that I think is the vital point which makes it impossible to attempt any migration on a wholesale scale.

There is a very important phrase in this Report on page 34, where it is stated: It is a problem"— that is, the problem of migration— which cannot be studied in isolation, and it is necessary to study the background of facts and ideas which must be taken into account in any attempt to plan migration policy. That is abundantly true. People talk vaguely and I think with little knowledge of peopling the great open spaces. If you visit those open spaces you know perfectly well why they are open and why they are empty, and that they will always remain empty because they lack water and any form of attraction for population. In Australia, with its vast area of three million square miles, one-third of the country is so and and the rainfall so irregular and so slight that it has never been populated, even by animals, and there is no prospect whatever of its being populated. There is another third where the rainfall is of such a character that it can never be thickly populated. There remains a third of beautiful country with a magnificent climate, where undoubtedly a bigger population will be established.

But there again, as the Report points out, you cannot study the problem in isolation, and you have to appreciate the fact that it is not the slightest use to go there and grow more food because there is as much food grown already as there is a market for. What is promising is to assist the Australians in developing the secondary industries of their country. They have got marvellous resources of raw material, they are admirably placed for the market of Southern China and Southern Asia, and without any doubt in course of time they will be the great manufacturing centre for serving that part of the world. There you want the collaboration of the capitalist and the engineer and of everybody concerned with building up a great secondary industry. And Australia has made very great progress in that direction on her own account. What is hopeful, I think, is the collaboration which is being developed between big firms and enterprises in this country with firms in Australia, whereby the firms of this country manufacture the particular article for which they are best equipped, and their branches or their associated companies manufacture the other things in Australia. All that does give openings for the emigration of skilled men and their families.

But there is one fact which we have not taken into account, and it is pointed out in the Report, in paragraph 27: The fact that migration has practically ceased for a period of nearly ten years has tended to weaken the tradition of migration which formerly existed amongst the people of the United Kingdom. That is a very important thing, because it means that the customs of the people have altered. And there is another very good reason. People are better off. I do not know whether we can say it is with the help of the Labour Party, because they have been in opposition most of the time, but at any rate we have produced a body of social legislation in this country which means that the working man is far better off here than he is anywhere else, and it is not surprising if he is reluctant to give up the advantages which undoubtedly he enjoys. There are suggestions for reciprocity in that matter with the Dominions, and no doubt that is hopeful, but only to a small extent, and I think we come back always to the fact that we have to abandon the idea that there are great open spaces which can be filled with the surplus population of this country. Still more important is it to abandon the idea, to which the noble Lord so rightly drew attention, that emigration can be a cure for unemployment. That is a disastrous doctrine from the point of view of the unemployed and, still more, from the point of view of the Dominions. There is nothing they resent more—and rightly—than that they should be looked upon as dumping grounds for the people who are unemployed here.

I hope your Lordships will pardon me for making these few observations which I only venture to do after having spent five years in Australia and after seeing the disappointment widely produced by the large-scale, subsidised migration schemes for settling people on the land, and on the other hand the extremely satisfactory results that have been achieved by the Fairbridge Schools, by the Big Brother movement, and other kindred movements, where the lad who is trying to migrate is treated, as he ought to be, as an individual—because it is only as an individual that he can thrive and progress in that new country. I have made these remarks in the hope of hearing a great deal from my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire and I should like to congratulate him on the admirable Report which has been produced by the Committee of which he is Chairman.


My Lords, this seems essentially a problem which it is appropriate for this House to examine. It would be fortunate if, as a result of this debate, some greater attention could be focused upon the problem. The country as a whole has not been habituated in recent years to look upon this subject with the attention which its importance justifies. The masses have ceased to be migration-minded, and it would be desirable for the leaders of thought to make migration the theme for discussion, and so to encourage our people to look upon the Empire as a place in which to make a new life. The House therefore should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Snell, for raising this question. He very naturally refrained from dealing in detail with the points raised by the Report. If I venture to intervene in this debate, it is because I am so much impressed with the importance of the theme from the Imperial point of view, and I hope that, by whatever means may seem promising or prudent, greater interest may be stimulated in this question in the country. By that I mean that migration should be recognised as a subject for lectures, for speeches and thought, so that gradually a volume of opinion may be created as to the urgent importance of this question.

We can approach it on two grounds, either economic or social. There are those who on selfish grounds say that for reasons of military preparedness on the one hand, or from the desire to allay feelings of resentment among other countries less fortunate than ourselves on the other, we should not neglect this question. There are those who charge us with imperial selfishness and with a disregard of international brotherhood, and there are those who say we should base our approach to this question on selfish grounds—that frankly we are justified in looking at it as a question of what volume of trade we are going to get out of it. It is said that it is best to look at a problem from the point of view of self-interest and that probably that will bring into the limelight the most essential aspects of it. One looks at this from the social aspect and from the point of view of national security, and on these grounds we should be justified in giving it attention. But we must remember that over 50 per cent. of the total exports of the United Kingdom go to Empire countries. Surely there is ground for careful analysis to ascertain if that volume can be increased.

We should remember, however, that the population of the Empire is not to be measured merely numerically. We are in the habit of looking at world population on a per capita basis. We should remember that in the British Dominions, particularly in New Zealand and Australia and to a less extent in Canada, the per capita production in value, the wealth of the national assets, or, again, the actual per capita consumption is infinitely greater than in any other part of the world. It is as high as, or even higher than, in the United States of America. When one stops for a moment to examine the causes of the diminution of migration, one sees that up to the War the average outflow from this country was upwards of 400,000 per annum. A point I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention is that in the continent of North America the constant inflow of population produced a constant expansion of national wealth. I happen to have lived the larger part of the six years prior to the War in the United States. I used to watch the ships coming in weekly, bringing this constant flow of immigrants. Let us remember the true perspective. The average inflow into the United States of human beings from overseas per annum was over 900,000 for several years before the War. Just think of the volume of shipping required to effect such a transmigration of population. Think, on the other hand, of the tremendous impetus which was given to the economic expansion of the United States in essential requirements—clothing, housing, and all the services connected with a population expanding at the rate of nearly 1,000,000 souls per annum in addition to normal expansion. I do not know what the expansion is now, but in the United States, deducting deaths from births, there was an increase in population of one nearly every thirty-seven seconds of the twenty-four hours. Visualise what that can do in expanding the trade of the country. It is for these reasons that I wish to bring out the possible advantages, as was done by the noble Viscount who has just spoken with all the authority of the long period he served as Governor-General of Australia.

If you take a country like Australia, where there is a rainfall of more than ten inches, and compare it with a similar area in the United States with similar rainfall, and apply the population which exists in that area in the United States to Australia, you will find that the population of Australia should be 20,000,000. The existing economic wealth of the Dominions shows, surely, that an Anglo-Saxon unit as a human being is more productive in the Dominions than in the United Kingdom. He or she must therefore contribute a larger amount to the volume of world trade if transposed from the United Kingdom to the Dominions. It is obvious that in the case of Australia and New Zealand—in Canada circumstances are different because the climate wants measuring in a different way—a much larger population can be carried. The real difficulty is the habit of outlook in this country. In thinking of inter-Empire migration the habit has been to look at primary production and not to think of secondary production. It is admitted, surely, that in no circumstances will the distant parts of the Empire allow themselves, in the event of another war 12,000 miles away, to be dependent for the elements of their requirements—their essentials, let alone their luxuries—on supply from so distant a base as Europe or the United States. They must be in future more self-supporting.

There is the point of closer settlement. It has been thought, in Australia for instance, that closer settlement can only occur from an inflow of migrants. Anyone travelling through Australia in the last two or three years during the acute times of deflation would have found a constant expansion in the matter of closer settlement in the country districts, and that expansion was obviously due to closer settlement by the Australians themselves. The same is true of New Zealand and Canada. I cannot speak of South Africa. One speaks with knowledge of what one has observed in these three great Dominions. That shows that the real usefulness for inflow migration must be for secondary industry and not primary.

It seems from this Report that it might be said that certain fundamental fallacies exist. May I suggest quickly what they are? That an abundant supply of migrants from the United Kingdom exists—that is dealt with clearly enough in the Report, and that fallacy, let us hope, will be allayed. That unemployment in any of the Dominions is sufficient ground for exclusion—that is also sufficiently set out. Even in this country, when there is a shortage of skilled labourers in certain trades, there may be an acute unemployment problem in others. That no market exists for an increased primary consumption in the world as a whole—clearly the best way of getting rid of primary production is to consume it at home. That is the object of this whole movement. That an expanded secondary industry is inimical to the United Kingdom—one of the difficulties that one frequently meets with is that United Kingdom manufacturers resent the tendency of the Dominions to develop their secondary industries. Whatever may be the view held in this country, for the reasons which I have just stated the movement is one which must steadily extend. The real point is that by getting an increasing number of people into a country you do not run the risk of lessening employment because of competition in the labour market, but you increase the consuming power of the country as a whole, and, therefore, give greater employment to industry to produce those goods which the consuming public requires. As proof of this I instance again the progressive extension of the United States and, to a lesser extent, of the Argentine.

The noble Lord, Lord Snell, mentioned the question of inflow of emigrants of other than British nationality. There, again, surely the characteristics of our race are so strong under all conditions that a relatively small inflow of population of other than British stock would easily be assimilated and could not possibly be a danger to any of the Dominions. In foreign countries there is a fallacy that the admission of emigrants to the Dominions is a matter for decision by the United Kingdom. In foreign countries there is a complete inability to understand the constitutional problems involved. They do not know that we have not the authority to order the admission of emigrants, and that the power in this respect lies with the Dominion legislators. One sees that misconception frequently exhibited in discussions on bilateral trade questions. Foreign countries regard the balance of trade with the Empire as a whole instead of the bilateral trade with the United Kingdom as a whole. That again is not a matter for discussion in Westminster.

Then there is the suggestion that the Commonwealth Ministers themselves are unconvinced of the need for something being done, and that is believed to be more particularly the case in Australia. Yet it is there where perhaps the greater need exists for action on grounds of national security and defence. But there is perhaps an absence of understanding of the political difficulties of Commonwealth Ministers. Naturally they are in the hands of the voters, and if by a wrong outlook they antagonise organised labour as a whole the position of Ministers is such that they cannot deal with this question with full freedom, and be actuated by their real belief as to what policy ought to be followed. I would like to deal for one minute with that question of the attitude of organised labour. It surely is a great misfortune that an elementary mistake—and it is an elementary fallacy—should be dominant anyhow in Australia and New Zealand, and to a less extent in Canada, because Labour is not nearly so well organised in Canada as it is in the other two Dominions. I refer to the official view that the inflow of emigrants is a challenge to employment, whereas the facts are palpably the reverse. It is regrettable that means have not yet been found to convince organised labour where their true interests lie.

In saying that it may seem that one is ungenerous and perhaps attacking organised labour. It is far from my intention to do that. It is necessary for us to look at the position of those who in the main are the leaders of organised labour in those Dominions. They are men who in their early youth, or in their childhood, went out to the Dominions after having been brought up in an atmosphere such as was current in trade union circles in this country twenty, thirty or forty years ago. Your Lordships know well how markedly the outlook of organised labour in this country has advanced towards collective problems in the last ten or fifteen years, or a larger number of years. Your Lordships know the happy and harmonious relations that now exist in the main between workers and employers in this country, and how that has resulted from a changed outlook on both sides. The leaders of organised labour in the Dominions, living so many thousands of miles away, have not taken part in that evolution which has been going on in this country. One thinks on grounds of patriotism what a happy opportunity exists for leaders in trade union circles in this country to give sympathetic collaboration to the labour leaders in the Dominions. In Australia there are over 500,000 childless marriages. That cannot be just the result of accident. Probably it is the result of birth control. It has been said that babies are the best settlers, and it may well be that parts of the Empire will be the first to adopt the new policy of buying babies.

There is an objection to all subsidies, but after all what is protection but a subsidy, and a tariff admittedly is a necessity. Perhaps it is reasonable to extend social services, and you may well need complementary action to broaden the basis of taxation. In the Report a suggestion is made that it might be possible through the schools, radio, cinemas, lectures and so on, to develop an interest in this question. It may well be that by collaboration with the leaders of thought in the Empire some changed outlook will result. Anyhow the spirit of adventure in this country is not dead. There must be a tremendous number of young people in this country of both sexes—I do not refer to juvenile migration which is well looked after by many excellent bodies—who, if they could be assured that they would have better prospects and conditions in the Dominions, would readily respond to any practical invitation to emigrate. Surely with the record behind us of what has been done by the early pioneers, some means could be found of stimulating and using this spirit of adventure. This Report, as the noble Lord, Lord Snell, said, may serve the purpose of stimulating thought, and I hope it may be the means of bringing about that increased migration which alone will compose some of the jealousies felt amongst those less fortunately situated than we are in this country.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Snell, on bringing forward this Motion before the end of the Session and so shortly after the Report has been issued. I personally welcome his statement that the Labour Party are to-day in favour of emigration, and the whole of his speech as Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House was full of the expression of that belief. I welcome it especially because I have listened to speeches very often in the House of Commons in days past when members of the noble Lord's Party have not advocated emigration but have advocated settlement in this country as opposed to emigration. Times change and times have moved very quickly in the last few years. It is indeed gratifying to think that the whole country can now be relied upon to support a Report of the nature of that published to-day. I should like to congratulate the noble Duke also as the Chairman of the Committee which issued this Report. We are fortunate that he, as Chairman of the Committee and as signatory to the Report, will reply for His Majesty's Government to-day.

It was about two years ago that I presided over an Empire Chambers of Commerce Congress in New Zealand at which this subject of migration within the Empire came up in very cogent form. Therefore the few remarks which I have to make to-day will be coloured a great deal by what I learned at a conference at which were present representatives of chambers of commerce from all over the Empire, from every Dominion in fact where this question of migration forms such an important problem. The Report can hardly be said to be enthusiastic in connection with emigration. On page 16 it says: A successful migration policy requires full co-operation and partnership between the respective Governments. We lay particular stress on this, because it is too often assumed by enthusiastic supporters in the United Kingdom of Empire Settlement that all that is needed is action by the United Kingdom Government, and that if only that Government were willing to take a sufficiently farsighted view and to spend enough money, the problem would be solved. I should like to see that passage printed in bold black type set out so large at the very beginning of the Report that everyone who read the Report would see it, learn it and, I hope, digest it.

Over and over again I have listened to discussions in this country on migration and that point of view which is set out in the Report has often been taken—namely, that all we have to do is to sit down in this country, formulate a report, provide the money and find the emigrants, and then we can send them overseas. That is very far from the actual fact. It is the Dominions, not this country, who dominate the situation. It is the Dominions who say: "We want—or we do not want—immigrants." It is we who say: "We will send you emigrants if you wish for them and will help you with money and in every way we can as far as lies in our power." If we recognise that to be the fact I can assure your Lordships it will be far easier to approach the question of migration, because we know at least that we can do nothing without the Dominion Governments—in fact, that we must really rely almost entirely on their support for anything that we can do. The general idea of migration, certainly in the past fifteen years, has been in our minds what I may call large-scale emigration. It is quite natural to think that if we are going to migrate our people we should take them in hundreds of thousands of families and settle them overseas under good conditions and in such a way that they will live in communities, grow up together in their new surroundings and be able to benefit by each other's failures or by each other's successes.

The Dominions per se do not object to large-scale immigration; their difficulty is that supposing they receive large numbers of families and settle them on the land, and those families produce more goods, then they have to find markets for those goods, and that is one of the most critical and most difficult problems with which they have to deal. That is the reason why the Dominions to-day, and probably why the Committee over which the noble Duke presided, have come to the conclusion that in the meantime we can only emigrate people from this country on what is called the policy of infiltration. In order to carry out that policy the Report advocates that there shall be a resumption of assisted passages. That is all right so far as it goes. We cannot do more because the Dominions do not wish for more. Indeed I think there is only one Dominion which wishes for that, and that is Australia. Canada does not require any more immigrants at the present moment. She has still a great deal of unemployment, and political conditions are such that apparently she does not require immigrants. New Zealand has not made up her mind that she wants any more at the present moment, and Australia, as the noble Lord who has just sat down said, is the only one to-day that has really made up her mind that she will give help again with assisted passages.

Last year an Act of Parliament was passed called the Empire Settlement Act, one of the numerous Empire Settlement Acts, under which a sum of £1,500,000 was set aside for the purpose of assisting emigration. The sum had originally been £3,000,000, and it was cut down to £1,500,000. There was a great deal of discussion about that, and a great deal of objection was taken to it during the passage of the Bill through another place, and I believe through your Lordships' House, on the ground that it would indicate that this country took a lesser interest in emigration than it did in the past. Be that as it may, £1,500,000 was provided, and I should like to ask the noble Duke to say, when he replies, how much of that £1,500,000 has been expended towards emigration since that Act was passed last year. I am going to ask the noble Duke another question. It is the usual custom, when such grants are made under statutory legislation, that the Treasury has some concern in the extent of those grants. I wish to ask the noble Duke to what extent the Treasury influence the policy of the Oversea Settlement Committee in the extent of this grant of £1,500,000 under that Act.

I venture to suggest that the Treasury have too much control over the expenditure of that grant and that they interfere too much with the policy of the Over-sea Settlement Committee with regard to the expenditure of that grant. It is for that reason that I venture to suggest that this question of migration would be much better dealt with if we had an Oversea Emigration Board, somewhat on the lines, if you like it, of the Electricity Board or the London Transport Board, but a Board, at any rate, that has funds at its disposal which it can use in the best interest of emigration according to the expert views which come before it and the sensible views which its members form as a result of their deliberations. I should like to see that Board with three paid directors, and one of them, the chairman, a whole-time man. I venture to believe that if we had such a Board we might then have greater vitality in our emigration policy. I do not wish to say anything to depreciate the work of the Oversea Settlement Committee under the conditions under which it is established. But obviously a Committee which meets from time to time, which has upon it a number of men and women who are actively engaged in other directions, cannot devote the same amount of trouble and energy, or the same forethought and concentration of mind, to this subject, which is one of the most vital to the Empire and the world.

We talk about the danger of open spaces. We know that there is danger in large open spaces to-day. Italy has seized Abyssinia; Japan is walking through China; Germany has walked into Austria. On all sides, even in Poland, who never before possessed any Colonies, we hear demands for Colonies and places for oversea settlement. If this is the case, I venture to suggest to His Majesty's Government that we have to take special measures, and that we cannot take special measures if we go on with old machinery.

Another suggestion that I should like to make is that, if we are to pursue this policy of infiltration, there is no better instrument for doing so than through the voluntary societies who are already established, and who have already had very great experience in settling people overseas. I should like to suggest to His Majesty's Government that the funds which are at their disposal should be utilized far more than they are in assisting the voluntary societies in placing the people—boys, girls, women and men—overseas. I feel sure that that would be of very great assistance in solving this problem. Many of the societies not only have experience in this, but also keep in these oversea places certain organisations for the after-care of immigrants, which is so necessary to-day. I think it was my noble friend Viscount Stonehaven who referred to the difference of immigrants' conditions to-day from what they were in the past. In the past an emigrant went to Australia; he was dumped down on a sheep station; if he did not make good he dumped himself elsewhere; and it was the survival of the fittest. That will not induce emigration to-day at all. Our people are accustomed to far better things to-day. They have changed in their ideas of the way in which they should live and have to live. So far as I was able to judge from what I have seen in those Dominions, it is most important to have good after-care for the settler, certainly for the first three, four or five years after he arrives. Nobody is better able to give that after-care than these voluntary societies who have been engaged upon it for so many years.

I do not wish to detain the House any longer, except to say that while I have advocated British emigration to the Dominions, and while I believe that every British man and woman migrated to the Dominions is not only an asset to-day but will be a very great asset in the future, I think we should not rule out altogether the question of foreign migration to those places. When I was in New Zealand I ventured to make that proposal, and it caused a good deal of discussion in the Australian and New Zealand papers. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridges since then. It is a year and a half ago, and I find now that that suggestion is not turned down in the same way as it was at that time. I should like to say that, while I advocate as strongly and emphatically as I can that the Government should do all they can to emigrate British people, so far as we are concerned here we ought not to indicate to the Dominions that we should be opposed to their introducing foreign emigrants as well. After all, in this little country of ours we cannot claim to be entirely of unmixed blood, and if the Dominions are willing and able to introduce good immigrants of foreign nationality as well as British, then they will be pursuing a line which, so long as the British race predominates in the Dominions, can only help in their economic development.


My Lords, I am very glad indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has raised this question, and given me an opportunity of referring to the work of the Oversea Settlement Board, and to the Report which was recently made to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. May I say, with all respect, what a pleasure it was to me to hear the noble Lord opposite, to realise how very fully he appreciated the points of the Report, and to hear once again that robust common sense in which I used to delight when we sat opposite to one another in another place. The Oversea Settlement Board was appointed rather over two years ago, in February, 1936. Since then it has held nearly fifty full meetings, besides a number of meetings of the Drafting Committee which produced this Report. It has had the advantage of a very large number of informal, but very informative, discussions with all the Dominion statesmen who during the last two years have visited this country, including the Commonwealth Ministers, who are in London now.

We have had access to a very great deal of information. The situation with which the Board found itself confronted was that the white population of the British Empire, which covers a very substantial proportion of the habitable land of the world, was about 70,000,000, and of those 70,000,000 no fewer than 49,000,000 were congregated in the British Isles. Throughout the last century, and indeed up to the time of the Great War, that white population was expanding rapidly and was distributing itself over the inhabitable portions of the Empire. For a great variety of reasons, into which I will not go, for they are dealt with in the Report, the rate of expansion of the population has been slowing down, and still shows signs of slowing down, so that if the present tendency is continued the population will, before very many years have gone by, become stationary and then rapidly diminish. Moreover, instead of distributing itself the population of the Empire is rather tending to become immobile, and to concentrate itself here. To give an example, in 1913, 285,000 persons of British nationality left this country for one or other of the self-governing Dominions. During that same time 61,000 persons came home. That leaves a net outward movement of 224,000. Last year, 1937, 26,000 persons proceeded overseas from this country and 34,000 came here, a net inward movement of 8,000.

It seems to me and to the Board that that is a very serious state of affairs. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, a day or two ago, made a very important speech at Manchester, which some of your Lordships may have read, in which he drew a picture of what the Empire might be if it consisted of six first-class Powers, fully populated. He went on to draw a picture of what an overwhelming voice such an Empire might possess in world affairs and what an influence it might exert in the cause of peace, of liberty and of justice. No two experts agree as to what the population of the Empire might be, and I think it is no good arguing about that particular point, but it can quite safely be taken for granted, as one or two of your Lordships have said, that the Empire could safely carry a very much larger population than it carries to-day. I think it might also be safety taken for granted that the existence of such a larger population would tend to the prosperity of all parts of the Empire, would make the Empire itself more secure than it is, and would make the world as a whole a safer place than it is.

It is no good not facing facts, and I believe it to be the fact that in many parts of the world, to-day, we are looked upon as "dogs in the manger," occupying a very large portion of the world's surface, preventing others from occupying it, and yet unable or unwilling to occupy and develop it ourselves. That frame of mind on the part of land-hungry nations is not conducive to peaceful or settled international relations, and I say, therefore, that the picture drawn in Manchester a few days ago by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, my old chief at the Dominions Office as he was, is not one which we are to-day translating into a reality. It has become, on the contrary, rather more remote.

Very early in our deliberations we were brought up against this question of population trends. The matter is very important. I do not want to weary your Lordships with figures, but we have had the advantage of expert advice and expert evidence on this subject and we are advised—and I believe we can take it for granted—that for a population to maintain itself stable, and not diminish, the birth-rate should be in the neighbourhood of 19½ per thousand. In 1876 the birth-rate in the United Kingdom was 36 per thousand. To-day it is just a shade over 15 per thousand, well below the replacement rate. There has been a corresponding drop in the Dominions. In 1911 the birth-rate in Australia and New Zealand was 27 per thousand. To-day it is 17.1 in Australia and 16.6 in New Zealand—both again substantially under the replacement rate. In Canada the figure is 20, which is just barely over the replacement rate, but that is not an entirely satisfactory figure because the large birth-rate is confined to one section of the population, while the rest of the population has a very low birth-rate indeed. South Africa, with a birth-rate of 24 per thousand, promises to go on expanding its population without assistance from migration.

This population trend is not confined to the peoples of British stock. It is manifest all through North-Western Europe; Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium all have birth-rates well below the replacement rate, and it is very noteworthy that even in Germany, where in the last few years tremendous efforts have been made to stimulate the birth-rate, it has only been raised from 14.7, which was the rate in 1933, to 19 in 1936 and 18.8 last year—both figures just below the replacement rate. Well, it will take a very considerable time for the full effect of these figures to make itself felt. As your Lordships will be aware, medical science has made enormous strides in recent years and the normal expectation of life is very much longer than it was, so that the populations of these various countries are still growing. They are still growing despite the fact that they are not being replaced by new births because the older section of the population is not dying off so fast. But the time must come when that process can be carried no further and then, unless these tendencies are reversed or modified, there must come a sharp drop in the total population of the country.

Quite early in our deliberations we were faced with the question of whether we ought to encourage and stimulate migration at all in view of these rather startling figures. The prospect of a sharp drop in population, as the noble Lord opposite, very rightly and wisely I think, said, holds out no prospect of solving any problem connected with unemployment. That is far from being the case. On the contrary, I think it will aggravate almost all other problems. We were faced with the question of whether we ought to encourage migration at all, having regard to what seems to be the possibility that there might be an actual shortage of effective population of working age within a measurable period. We decided to go on for two reasons. One was that—I hope we were not unduly pessimistic—it seemed unlikely that our efforts could be crowned with any such overwhelming measure of success that it would have any very marked effect upon the population of the country; and the other was that we realised more fully than we did before we went into these population figures how urgent this problem is.

There is to-day population available for settlement overseas. The fact that we may possibly in the course of a generation or so not have that population seemed to the Board to make it all the more urgent that this country should endeavour to contribute to the population of the Dominions in collaboration with their Governments while there is yet time. It seems a vital thing—I need not dilate upon it; it has been dealt with in the Report and by various noble Lords who have spoken—that this Empire should be populated, if not by people of our own stock entirely, at any rate by people who can be assimilated in that stock, who hold the same kind of ideals, people who believe in peace rather than war, in justice and liberty and all the things we care about; because I think we can take it as a fact that unless we can populate that Empire and make it self-supporting in the way of defence within a measurable time, then someone else will populate it for us.

Various points have been raised during the course of the debate. I welcome very much the recognition by the noble Lord opposite of the fact that we endeavour to stress that emigration is and must be a question of attraction rather than of compulsion. The days when people were forced by intolerably hard conditions here to seek a livelihood abroad are, we we hope, gone for ever. Those days, I hope and believe, will never come again, and I believe it to be a fact that successful emigration must depend much more upon the attracting power of the overseas countries than on anything which can be clone from this side to facilitate the organisation of the passage of migrants. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, asked how much of the £1,500,000, which is the maximum allowed by Parliament to be spent by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on migration, has actually been expended. I am afraid that the amount is very small, but I would remind him of the fact, to which he himself made reference in the course of his speech, that migration depends very much more upon the overseas Government concerned than it does upon our own. The assisted-passage arrangement under which we operate has been in abeyance in the case of all the Dominions until very recent weeks, and there have been very few assisted passages. The provision for expenditure in 1937–38 was £56,750, and of that sum only £28,513 was expended. The provision made for this year's expenditure was £65,575, and although I think that a larger proportion will be expended, I cannot promise the noble Viscount that the whole amount will actually be spent.

The noble Viscount also asked to what extent the Treasury exercised control over the operations of the Oversea Settlement Board. He should understand that the Oversea Settlement Board itself has no executive or operative powers. Its functions, as I think he will see in the opening words of the Report, are to advise the Secretary of State, and all that the Oversea Settlement Board can do is to advise the Secretary of State with regard to questions relating to migration. The Treasury presumably has no more control over the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs than over any other Secretary of State. Ultimately there is some financial control, but it is the ordinary control which the Treasury exercises over the expenditure of money. The Treasury is represented on the Over-sea Settlement Board, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the very valuable help which the Treasury representative has always extended. The Treasury have a reputation for being extremely "sticky" about expenditure and of making difficulties in the way of any forward or progressive policy, but I am bound to say that I have found both the Treasury representatives who have served on the Oversea Settlement Board most helpful, most enthusiastic in the cause of migration, and very far from obstructive—on the contrary, always actively helpful whenever the occasion has arisen.


Might I interrupt the noble Duke? It is because of the constitution and functions of the present Board to which he has just re-referred that I am advocating a Board of a different nature, a Board which is not only of an advisory character.


The noble Viscount went on to recommend that there should be a whole-time Board consisting of three paid directors, and that this Board should have wider powers than those possessed by the existing Board. That suggestion will no doubt be very carefully noted and considered by those in authority, but I am bound to say I think it unlikely that Parliament will be prepared to surrender the control which it possesses at present over the operations of the Oversea Settlement Board. I am bound to say also that in dealing with Dominion Governments, on whom, as the noble Viscount himself pointed out, this question of migration really depends, I am more than doubtful whether a whole-time paid Board as suggested by the noble Viscount would be able to act as usefully as the Board over which at the moment I have the honour to preside.

I said when I began that I need not go at length into the various causes which have operated, and are operating, to diminish the amount of settlement overseas which is taking place. They are numerous and they are varied. The enormous increase in the amenities of life here at home undoubtedly operates to a large extent to keep people at home. There is also the deplorable new factor of endless quotas, tariffs, and currency restrictions which make people very doubtful whether, even if they successfully settle themselves overseas, they w ill be able to sell their produce. Only a generation ago a man could be quite sure that if he could successfully establish himself on a farm in any part of the world he would be able to sell his produce—he would not find that his wheat, milk, or whatever it might be he produced led to a glut in the market. Unhappily, under present-day conditions, there is no such security. It is not enough for a man to establish a great sheep or cattle station which in the old days assured him prosperity; he has got to find a market, and the task of finding a market is one of increasing difficulty.

There are other marked differences. There are the social services to which reference has already been made. There is the factor that amusement is very much more readily available than it was a short time ago, and has come to be looked upon as a necessity of life. If your Lordships would compare life on the English countryside as it was even a generation ago and life on the Australian countryside a generation ago, there was no very great difference. You did not have your cinema readily available in an English village any more than you had it in an Australian village. You did not have water laid on, or any of the facilities that exist to-day. Although the distances were relatively far greater, the appeal of the homeland was less strong. Then there has been the break in the continuity of emigration which the post-War slump conditions produced. For nearly fifteen years there has been no great volume of emigration, with the result that the tradition that some members of the family should proceed overseas has been broken. All these factors have operated to reduce the amount of migration which has been going on. Our system of education, admirable as it is, tends in some ways to produce people who are rather more fitted for administrative or black-coated jobs than for pioneer lives in new countries. I would not over-emphasize that, but it is possible that our educational system does operate to some extent to reduce the ideal of emigration in people's minds.

There is also the factor, to which reference has been made, of resistance to the idea of immigration by the Dominions themselves. Organised labour in many of the Dominions—I am glad to say that the tendency is modifying itself—has been definitely and resolutely opposed to immigration. That is partly due to a very large number of very foolish speeches on the subject which have been made in this country. No one does so much harm to the cause of oversea settlement as the person who contrasts our over-crowded country with the empty acres overseas. That does untold mischief. The idea that we look upon the Dominions as a place to dump our unemployed has definitely done untold harm to the cause of migration. There is also a mistaken idea in the minds of many people that an immigrant is merely another competitor for jobs of which there are not enough to go round already. The immigrant is not only a competitor for jobs, he is also a market for the produce of the labour already there. I believe it is a fact that the prosperity and the amount of employment available in all the Dominions would be far greater if their population were larger. But that idea is deeply rooted in many men's mind, and it will take time and care to eradicate it.

I have dealt on the whole with the dark side of the picture and with the difficulties which undoubtedly exist. The population tendency is an alarming one, and there are very great difficulties in the way of carrying out, in the same way as it was carried out during the last century, the population of this great heritage of the British Empire. But there is another side to the picture, and in my view difficulties exist to be overcome. There are these countries overseas in which the people of our race have created these vigorous thriving democracies, countries in which everything that we care about is secure, countries in which games are played rather with a ball than with a bull, a Jew, or a heretic. The problem of that population, I believe, can still be solved. It is true that there are alarming tendencies in our birth-rate, but our race has not lost its vigour. I have heard a great deal of evidence on the subject, and I can see no reason why these tendencies, alarming as they are, cannot be reversed. There is a very slight upward tendency this year. I am told it is unwise or rash to pin too much faith on it, but it is encouraging. If noble Lords will look at the graph at the end of the Report they will see that for the first time for many years there is a slight upward movement in the birth-rate. That is cheering. I do not know how far one can rely upon it, but it is encouraging.

Another encouraging factor is that in the last few weeks the Commonwealth Government of Australia have taken definite action. The assisted passage arrangement, which has been in abeyance for many years, has been reopened, and on lines which we in this country believe to be the wisest and soundest lines. The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia are taking steps to revive the flow of migration. It will not be on a vast scale. Very rightly, I believe, and very wisely, the Commonwealth Government have made elaborate precautions to make sure that no one shall receive Government assistance to enable him to proceed to Australia unless he has at least a reasonable hope of succeeding there, of finding employment and not becoming a charge upon the rates. I believe that that trickle—and it will not be more than a trickle this year—may in the course of time lead to a substantially greater flow. The Commonwealth Government are determined to avoid the risk of any such disaster as has occurred in the past when large numbers of migrants went out and found themselves worse off than they had been before they left this country. A mistake of that kind gives migration a bad name which clings to it for many years. We have endeavoured in our Report to emphasize the importance of avoiding mistakes of that kind, and the Australian Government have certainly taken every precaution to make sure that such migration as takes place shall be successful. I believe, however unambitious their policy may sound, it will lead to successful migration. I believe it will be found far better to settle one man happily and successfully who will write to his friends and relatives in England and say: "Australia is a grand country and I advise you to come out here," than to have mass migration. I believe you are more likely to get successful results in that way than you are by any scheme of mass migration.

We of the Oversea Settlement Board are immensely impressed with the importance of this problem. I referred to the reasons just now. We are anxious to see migration taking place partly because of the importance of increasing the population of the Empire but partly also because we have been impressed with the opportunities which the Empire offers. The ladder of opportunity exists here in this country. I believe that there is a ladder with more room on it in these younger countries overseas. There is not a fortune to be picked up without effort or by the mere looking for it, but I believe that in such of the Dominions overseas as I have seen—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—the right type of migrant does have an opportunity of bringing up a family under healthier and more spacious conditions than in the nature of things can exist in many parts of England. And that family has opportunities of achieving more and of emerging from the rut. Such opportunities in the nature of things can scarcely exist here. In short, apart from the economic and political question of migration, wisely guided migration may lead to an enormous increase in human happiness. I think all of us have been impressed by that fact, and all of us have been encouraged in our work by our realisation of the fact that migration can be a real help to a fuller and happier life for those people who can avail themselves of the opportunities which exist.

In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the Board. It consists almost entirely of very busy people, of people, indeed, who have already very heavy tasks on their shoulders. We have met, as I told your Lordships, very nearly fifty times, and we have had a very great deal of reading to do as well. The official members of the Board have done admirable work but, of course, they have to be in Whitehall in any case. I should like to pay a very warm tribute to the other members of the Board who, in addition to their many public and private obligations, have devoted a very great deal of time to the work of the Board, work which I hope and believe is now beginning to bear fruit.


May I ask the noble Duke this? He said nothing about the voluntary societies and the work they are doing. I am sure that he did not mean to leave them out, but I did ask him a question about them. I would like to ask what is being done about subsidising those societies and urging further subsidisation.


I am sorry I omitted to make reference to the societies referred to by the noble Viscount. I meant to do so, but it slipped my memory. Under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 the Secretary of State had power to subsidise the voluntary societies working on migration to the extent of 50 per cent. He could go fifty-fifty with them. As a result partly of the recommendations of the Oversea Settlement Board a new Empire Settlement Act was passed last year. Under that Act the Secretary of State has power to subsidise any voluntary society up to 75 per cent.—that is to say, the voluntary society must find up to 25 per cent. But the Secretary of State's powers to subsidise up to 75 per cent. will only be used in exceptional conditions. I think your Lordships will agree that if the Secretary of State were to go beyond that 75 per cent. these societies would scarcely be any longer voluntary societies. We do require at least 25 per cent. to be found by the voluntary society in order to show that it does stand for something and that its organisers are prepared to produce some funds. But, broadly speaking, 50 per cent. is considered enough for us to find and the fifty-fifty basis is the one on which we normally work. But as I have said we have powers in exceptional conditions to contribute up to 75 per cent.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Duke for the courtesy of his reply I desire very briefly to say two things. First of all, I ask noble Lords not to be too depressed at the growing disproportions of ages in the population and to remember that as a result of the great War a million potential fathers are missing. That must be taken into account. Secondly, I do not at all wish to appear to be in favour of excluding foreign-born migrants from our Dominions. I am only anxious that we should not form pockets of population speaking perhaps another language and possibly also owning allegiance to the parent stocks from which they came. I hope that your Lordships will agree that this discussion has served a useful purpose and, with your permission, I beg to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.