HL Deb 26 July 1938 vol 110 cc1199-202

VISCOUNT ELIBANK had given Notice that he would draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the policy expressed in a recent speech in the House of Lords by the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions, in which he stated that it was considered that the fifty-fifty basis of contribution to voluntary societies engaged in settling people overseas under the Empire Settlement Act of 1937 was, normally speaking, sufficient for the purpose; ask whether in view of the fact that these voluntary societies are the best and most economical instruments for carrying out the filtration policy of emigration recommended in the recently published Report of the Oversea Settlement Board, His Majesty's Government will carry out the intention of Parliament when passing that Act and give to approved societies in as many cases as possible 75 per cent. of any amount required to settle an individual overseas, as is provided for under that Act; and move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I shall say in a very few words what I have to say on this Motion. It arises out of a debate on oversea settlement which took place in your Lordships' House last week. During that debate I urged that the voluntary societies, which seem to me to be the best medium of carrying out the emigration policy of infiltration, should be subsidised to a greater degree than they are to-day. It seems in fact that they are the only medium through which that policy can be carried out with any degree of success. In the reply made by my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State, he referred to the fact that under the Empire Settlement Act of 1937—I am trying to interpret broadly what he said—up to 75 per cent. of any amount expended on overseas emigration may be provided by the Government. But lie went on to say at the end of his speech: 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.

I refreshed my memory of that Act after the debate because I could not remember any reference in it to "exceptional conditions." The Act actually says this in subsection (2) of Section I: Notwithstanding anything in proviso (b) to the said subsection (3) (which limits the contribution of the Secretary of State to half the expenses of such a scheme as aforesaid), the Secretary of State may contribute an amount not exceeding three-quarters of the expenses of any such scheme except in certain cases. What I venture to submit is that when this Act was passed it was passed with the deliberate object of increasing the 50 per cent. contribution to 75 per cent., not in "exceptional cases," but in as many cases as possible. If that had not been the case, that provision would not have been included in the Act. I suggest to His Majesty's Government that that is the interpretation they should place upon that subsection and not the interpretation which was stated by my noble friend in the debate last week. I wish also to contend that if that proper interpretation, as I submit, is placed on the Act, it will enable the infiltration policy to be carried out much more speedily.

Obviously if a voluntary society—and I am talking about approved voluntary societies—has at its disposal x number of pounds for the purpose of emigrating people overseas, if it is only to receive contributions on a fifty-fifty basis it cannot send as many people as it would if it were receiving a 75 per cent. grant. I urge the Government, if they are going to make use of this Act, to adopt a much more liberal spirit in applying it. The noble Duke, in his reply, told us that out of a sum of £1,500,000 only £24,000 was expended last year. There was a reason for that because Australia had not started immigration to the same extent as she is doing now; but out of this £1,500,000 they estimated only £65,000 would be spent this year. I suggest that that is not a right policy. The whole country is crying out for emigration to the greatest extent that it can be secured, subject to what the Dominions may do; and it is entirely wrong that this Act, which was deliberately passed with the object of increasing that emigration, should be interpreted in the mean spirit, if I may so describe it, in which it is being interpreted to-day. In spite of the Treasury representative on the Board, about whom I accept what the noble Duke said last week regarding his keenness and enthusiasm, I hope that a very much more liberal view will be taken in the future. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I trust that at this relatively late hour my noble friend will forgive me if I reply quite briefly. The Act of 1937 to which my noble friend referred was passed as the result of a recommendation by the Oversea Settlement Board. That recommendation was that: where the partner in the scheme is an organisation financed otherwise than from Government funds, it should be open to the Secretary of State to contribute, if he thinks fit, up to 75 per cent. of the cost. We do not of course imply that the contribution should be 75 per cent. in all cases. The provision which enables the Secretary of State to subscribe to the funds of voluntary societies is intended to enable him to assist migration throught these societies. It is designed to enable him to secure migration so far as lies within his power, but it is most certainly not designed to enable him to spend the taxpayers' money unnecessarily.

So far as I can speak for my noble friend the Secretary of State, I think he will continue to adopt the policy he has followed in the past of securing his results as cheaply as he possibly can. In many cases voluntary societies which are supported by the Secretary of State do not receive the 5o per cent. which was the old basis. It is unnecessary that they should. There are many excellent societies which can draw upon the general public for sympathy and support, and to which it is unnecessary that the Secretary of State should make any very substantial contribution, but a contribution is in many cases of value as showing the sympathy of the Secretary of State as well as in virtue of its intrinsic value. There are cases—and since the Act of last year was passed I think there have been three or four cases—in which the contribution of the Secretary of State has been raised as high as 75 per cent., but, speaking broadly, the Secretary of State will continue to make his contribution to the funds of those societies only to the extent that is necessary and not more. He will not exceed 5o per cent. or any other amount and will not go to 75 per cent. unless he can be convinced that a contribution of 75 per cent. is necessary in order that the society can carry on its work. Where we are convinced that it is necessary we shall of course pay 75 per cent., but we shall not do so unless we are satisfied that it is necessary for the work of the society. I am sorry not to give my noble friend greater satisfaction, but, on the other hand, I can assure him that within the limits laid down by Parliament monetary considerations will not interfere with our giving the greatest possible support we can to any scheme of migration which really deserves it.

VISCOUNT ELIBANK: My Lords, I cannot regard the reply of my noble friend as in any way satisfactory. What he has really said is that the Government sympathetically look upon the efforts of the voluntary societies, but that, from a practical point of view, they do not propose to assist them beyond the extent which they feel to be absolutely necessary. That is not the spirit in which this Act was passed. I was present when it passed through this House and I read the debate in the House of Commons. The Act was passed by Parliament with the object of inducing the Government to use it to every possible extent, and I submit that my noble friend's reply to my speech does not show that that is being done. I feel so strongly on this matter that I propose in the autumn to raise in your Lordships' House the whole question of the reconstitution of the Board and the establishment of a business Board to look after migration in this country. There are any number of people who agree with me in this matter. I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at two minutes past seven o'clock.