HL Deb 05 August 1941 vol 119 cc1075-86

LORD BARNBY had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government what assistance is being currently given to overseas Empire settlement of juveniles; whether any assisted movement of adults is being continued; and on what Department is responsibility at present placed for the study of post-war Empire migration; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting down this Motion I was fully conscious that it was unlikely that I should receive any committing reply, but conversations with those responsible for long-term planning—not merely with members of the Government, but with various civil bodies who must necessarily be consulted on such matters, and with individuals concerned with them—seem to show that there is a disquieting insufficiency of consideration being given to matters connected with Empire migration and the ancillary matters relating to it. It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is prevented by indisposition from dealing with this question himself to-day, but I understand that the reply on behalf of the Government will be given by the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, who, while perhaps not able to commit the Dominions Office, is well qualified personally by his long connection with these matters and by his travels and knowledge to give them sympathetic consideration. Again, the successive visits of Dominion Prime Ministers to this country—visits which we hope will be progressively repeated—provide an additional reason for raising this matter in Parliament, so that their attention may be drawn to the fact that the subject is prominently before the country and before Parliament. Apart from those considerations, it might have been preferable to delay presenting this Motion until the return to your Lordships' House of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, but I hope that the reasons which I have given will be felt to justify me in raising it now.

I find that there has been a steady development of the realisation of the need for long-range planning. It may perhaps he said, and with some show of reason, that such a matter as this is not one which has any bearing on the carrying on of the war, but in fact the study of such questions as that of surpluses of primary produce inescapably involve the consideration of such questions as this, because the Dominions are involved, and consideration has to be given to the realignment of United States and Empire economies, and that in itself brings under review the Ottawa agreements and the most-favoured-nation clause. Moreover, it would seem that reconstruction and long-range planning in the United Kingdom itself has to be taken into consideration. Whole blocks of residents in our cities have been moved, together with their employment, to other places, and after the war this action may be repeated over much greater distances.

We have to recognise that the industrial development stimulated in the Dominions by the war will continue. It is hardly reasonable to suppose that the whole social structure developed in the Dominions as a result of this industrial expansion can be demobilised, and therefore account must be taken of it. Moreover, we have just been listening to an interesting debate on the future status of India. The population of India is between three and four hundred millions, and what the future industrial development of India will be cannot be foreseen; but we know that the Eastern Supply Council has consciously aimed at and planned for a larger supply of essential war requirements from the territories east of Suez, and this fact is itself going to contribute very considerably to the economic problems which must be considered in connection with the question of the future population of the Dominions.

At home we must recognise that agricultural development is affecting the situation. Only last week the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, made an eloquent appeal in your Lordships' House for a long-term agricultural policy, and this appeal received emphatic endorsement from your Lordships, and in particular from the many speakers in the debate. If that be the hope of this country and the intention of the Government, it must be admitted that it is going to have a profound effect on questions of primary and secondary production in the Dominions. There is involved, however, the recognition of the principle, now so clearly established, of generous subsidies of a character and in directions which until recently seemed too courageous and revolutionary to be adopted. I have been impressed by the campaign advocated in various directions, and among the advocates has been the present High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Stanley Bruce, that a wider recognition of the need for minimum nutrition values is going to be accepted as a fundamental in the future. If that be so, of course, one can readily understand that the anxieties of disequilibrium following from the stimulus of production under war conditions, will be less in the future than they have been or were in the past. Moreover, if that be accepted as a policy, one can readily see the great extension of international trade which would follow from the movement of the necessary services to make possible the maintaining of those minimum nutrition values. The world has proved that it can spend without limit to exterminate life. Can it resist the right of the appeal to the democracies to spend to strengthen life?

Returning to our own industrial problems, there are many who think that with the expected standard of living we will have difficulty in avoiding a shrinkage of our export trade. Can we then maintain our recent populations in effective or justifiable employment? It may be that a large-scale transfer of population with industrial plant to the Dominions is a constructive solution. There existed before the war the Overseas Settlement Board, of which I had the good fortune to be a member, which was charged with exploring all possibilities with regard to Empire migration and to advise on the grants under the meagre annual sums voted by Parliament. Its last Report, issued, I think, in 1938, was an example—as was the previous Report issued in 1934—of how fully matters connected with this are, or were then, being considered. Advice then prepared for the Government would doubtless, under existing conditions, be to some extent out of date and largely changed, but the claim is that the past policy in Empire settlement has been far too timid. I think in another place some ten years ago or more, a strong plea was made for a bold plan of spending one hundred million sterling spread over ten years, which was going to achieve a real volume of movement of people and industries, which would, of course, involve the co-operation of the Dominions. Indeed, i would here like to interject what I omitted in my opening sentences, to emphasize that it is fully realised that the major interest in these matters lies with the Dominions, and without their co-operation little can be accomplished, but the scheme to which I have just referred would have been a cost to the Exchequer relatively small compared with the big expenditures to which we are accustomed to-day, and it would have been well worth while.

The schemes which have been tried in the past twenty years were frequently ill-conceived and did much disservice; they indeed gave ammunition to opponents from the Dominions. This came largely, as far as Australia is concerned, from trade union leaders. These men were themselves migrants from England, or the sons of migrants from England, who had carried with them the prejudices and the view-point held fifty or sixty years ago by English trade union leaders. In that way those views had remained stationary at that great distance from England, during the period when British trade union leadership was moving steadily forward with a flexibility which we admire and which has made possible the admirable labour relations which exist at the moment. It must be admitted that land colonisation of the Cyrenaical or Abyssinian brand did not give help, nor did the subsidized Japanese plans in Manchukuo make any headway against the inflow of Chinese from Shantung and other Provinces. Australia must be becoming more alive to the long-term strategic disadvantages of low population, and New Zealand as well, located in the Pacific among high fecundity countries.

It is a debatable point, what is the potential reasonable population of Australia and New Zealand. I am fully conscious there are so many angles to an examination of that point, so many pleas which could be advanced for a large or a relatively small population; but there are on record the opinions of experts, who, taking the above twelve-inch rain-fall country as a standard of measurement, and applying to it the achievement of the settlement in the North American Continent, claim that Australia could carry eighteen to twenty million people. Certainly New Zealand could carry two or three times her existing population. In referring to any such figures I realise the danger and the possible disservice that may be involved, because it may be misleading in the Dominions and do more harm than good. In mentioning them I would not suggest that even within a long range of succeeding generations can we hope to attain to any such population in those areas. As to Canada and South Africa, the facts regarding the former are better known. Its propinquity with the United States suggests the obvious possibilities. As to Africa, there are many of your Lordships who know that Continent well, and I shall not take up time by referring to it.

I would interpose two illustrations which will perhaps show how slow our minds are to picture the changes in the Dominions. At the outbreak of the present war the population of Canada was nearly twice what it was in 1914. Its industrial capacity was fully three times as great as it was in 1914. Turning to Australia, over 50 per cent. of the 1914 Expeditionary Force, I have read, were men born in the United Kingdom. How different to-day. With your Lordships' indulgence, I would quote a personal recollection. Living in the United States for six years before 1914, largely in Boston, I there saw the effect of a steady inflow averaging in the last four of those years 900,000 immigrants into the United States. One realises what a vast movement was possible in those days, and that was achieved without the agony of the vast movements of population which are occur-ring in the world to-day through circum-stances very much less happy. As regards Canada, it is certainly regrettable that at he outset of war, when vast expenditure on new plants in the North American Continent was inevitable, priority of industrial development was not primarily directed to Canada rather than to the south of the line.

Turning to the Motion, which is under three heads, I cannot anticipate that the answer my noble friend will be able to make will give much indication of achievement under the first two heads; but I hope that under the third head, in addition to the plain indication of where responsibility at the moment lies, he will be able to add some encouragement that there is conscious direction in all matters affecting long-range planning in connection with this problem; that the direction is receiving fullest consideration. Further, I hope he will be able to give some encouragement on the four particular heads with which I shall finish in a moment. I should like to remind the House that the Fairbridge Farm Schools movement is a scheme admirably conceived and well known to your Lordships. I see my noble friend Lord Stonehaven, who was formerly Governor-General of Australia, present. He will be intimately acquainted with the fine work that movement has done.

It serves as an illustration of what can be done; and there are many other bodies which have made admirable contributions for juveniles and females, while the Government scheme dealt with adults. It would be an encroachment on your Lordships' time to attempt any reference in detail to any of these movements. It is recognised that whatever is done, now or in the future, must be governed by shipping considerations, and in this connection I should like to refer to the admirable scheme being worked by Mr. George Gibson, Chairman of the Trades Union Congress, who, as a former member of the Overseas Settlement Board, inspired with lofty ideals, is giving to-day his time to this question, and I am sure his aims justify the strongest support. I would like here to say that I have been privileged to have some conversation with my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, who is concerned with long-range planning. I am indebted to him for several very sympathetic hearings, and I am encouraged by the realisation of his complete understanding of the problem.

To summarize then, I would say that the first of the four points mentioned in the Motion to which I hope attention will be directed is that the problem be kept fully in mind by all those charged with long-range planning. It cannot be dissociated from reconstruction at home. In some places one sees street after street in which, as the result of enemy action, hardly a house is occupied. Employment has gone, whole populations have been moved. Much of that may be an advantage and convenience, but it easily suggests what can be done on a bolder basis. Secondly, in connection with demobilization plans and war gratuity grants, the possibility of this matter should be considered. Thirdly, under the Social Services in Great Britain, plans should be worked out with the Dominions for the transfer of capitalized contributions so that migrants may receive the full advantage of any earned benefits. Fourthly, the Minister of Education may be appealed to, to grasp the possibilities that lie in his hands to bring home to the children of Great Britain what the Empire means.

It is easy to see how the imagination of the young can be fired with the possibility of a career as citizens in one of the great Dominions by the inspiration of the current achievements of the soldiers of our Dominions. Here it is the vocational instruction that wants to be consciously planned. If juvenile migration is to be made a feeder, even in modest measure, there must be an extension of the existing contributions by the State. The present offers an exceptional opportunity. Think, for instance, of the children who have been orphaned in the war, having lost both parents in raids. The Prime Minister has promised that children are to have a new chapter. If time permitted I could enumerate many possibilities by means of which these opportunities for children could be extended, but I will content myself by merely saying we have seen with what effect and with what speed an instruction by the Cabinet can be carried out in order to produce training centres for war instruction. Is it not possible that training centres for young children could be instituted? If this were done it would prove that there is an earnest intention to do something in this matter. We have not been deterred by errors in starting new factories all about the country. Probably for good reasons, after millions of pounds have been spent upon them, they have been proved by subsequent events to have been an error. You have only to read the Report of the Committee of National Expenditure to find proof of that.

Surely a bold attempt at long-range planning for the Empire should be undertaken even if subsequent events following a victorious peace should call for some revision of what has already been done. I think it would be worth while that a courageous expenditure should be embarked upon in the direction I have indicated at the present moment. I appreciate that this is not a matter upon which my noble friend with the best intentions can give me categorical assurances, but with the interests that noble Lords take in all these matters affecting the Empire, I think I can say there is amongst us a conviction that the matter upon which I am speaking merits the undertaking of more effort than has hitherto been attempted. I hope my noble friend will be able to give me particulars of the Government's intentions with regard to juveniles at the present time, and that something more may be possible later on. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am very sorry that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is unable to be here, but I have had the advantage of consulting him, and I think I can tell the House the present position. The noble Lord has asked various specific questions, firstly, what is the position with regard to the overseas settlement of juveniles? Owing to the danger of shipping crossing the oceans the scheme of assisted settlement, and indeed the scheme of the Overseas Reception Committee, which had nothing to do with permanent migration, were both suspended, and the only form of assistance which is now being given to the overseas settlement of juveniles takes the form of maintenance allowances or after-care grants for the children who have already been sent out. The Overseas Reception Scheme for children had, of course, nothing to do with overseas settlement, but at the same time it is no doubt building up valuable contacts which may prove the seed from which fruitful developments after the war may take place.

As to the assisted movement of adults, before the war the cost was shared with the Dominions. The Dominion chiefly concerned was the Commonwealth Government of Australia, but, for very much the same reasons as the suspension of the scheme for children at the outbreak of the war, the assisted movement of adults was also brought to a stop. The only cases which are now considered are those where family reunion is necessary to avoid hardship. The noble Lord has reminded us of the very valuable work which was done by the Overseas Settlement Board over which my noble friend who sits beside me presided and of which Lord Barnby was a member. That Board carried out very valuable researches into the whole problem, and its Reports, to which my noble friend alluded, are well worth reading. I confess I had not read them until I was warned about this debate, but I hope noble Lords will look at them because they tell us very interesting facts about this problem. They tell us that block settlement is not now found to have been very satisfactory, and that infiltration has given very much better results—that is, to introduce your emigrants into existing communities rather than to try and set up new ones.

There is no doubt that national opinion on this subject recognises that the problem is one of the widest importance. The main foundation of the British Dominions was the original migration of British stock. It was a natural movement, and in its early stage it needed very little deliberate Government action, but the last war was a turning point, and it was succeeded by an inward movement which first turned the scale in the early thirties and reached its peak in 1932, when we received a net increase from overseas of over 30,000 in our own home population. The Report of the Overseas Settlement Board draws attention to another very important change. Both in the United Kingdom and in the Dominions the birth-rate of British stock shows a downward trend, and the population is becoming older in composition. That must necessarily have a great bearing on the problems of migration. Originally, this country was very glad to see migration in the days of severe unemployment. No one can foretell what may be the conditions in that regard after the war, and, in view of our falling population, it may well be that in the narrow local British interest it may no longer be so greatly to our advantage to part with many of the best and most energetic of our younger people. But there is still a very great contrast in the density of the population in various parts of the Empire, and with a view to strengthening the position of our Dominions, we must, of course, take a much wider than a purely local view for the British Isles.

The noble Lord asked what Department was responsible for this matter, and he said that he had air reads had various discussions with the Minister without Portfolio who is charged with planning ahead for economic reconstruction after the war. The noble Lord mentioned that we should try to work in the problems of the areas devastated by air raids in connection with Empire migration, and that we should consider it in connection with the very big problems which will arise through the demobilization of people from the armed forces and war industries. In that connection he pointed out the necessity of arranging for the transfer of the contributions standing to the benefit of individuals in our Social service insurance scheme. All these matters and also the necessity of educational means to bring home the meaning of the Empire are of course of great importance, and they affect other Ministers besides the Minister without Portfolio. The whole question of the system of overseas migration affects the Dominions just as much as it does this country, and therefore the Dominions Office are very closely concerned as the channel of communication and are necessarily just as much involved as the Minister without Portfolio.

It is of course impossible to foresee the conditions with which we shall have to cope after the war and it is also impossible in present conditions to expect the Dominion Governments to devote much attention to the detailed solution of this hypothetical question. I can therefore only give the noble Lord the assurance that at the present time the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and the Minister without Portfolio are in closest touch, and that this matter is recognised as being of such very great national importance that he need have no apprehension that there is any danger of it being overlooked.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, and the reply from the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, but I must confess that I am not altogether satisfied that sufficient is being done in the way of long-range planning for migration after the war. I feel that it is a thing which should be given immediate thought. In the first place conditions of migration will be very different after the war. Secondary industries in the Dominions will have enormously expanded and agricultural industries in this country will have greatly expanded, so that very likely it will not provide the market for the primary products of the Dominions whch was given before the last war. I think it is generally agreed that the best way of increasing your market for primary products is to increase the population. Therefore I think it will be to the advantage both of the Dominions and of this country that there should be a great increase in migration after the war.

I would humbly suggest to the Government that they should take steps to give early consideration to this matter. There are a number of organisations, such as the Fairbridge Farm School already mentioned, the Big Brother Movement, with which I happen to be connected, and the Church Migration Society, all of which have had considerable experience. I would suggest that representatives of these bodies should be called together and some thought given to this matter right away. There was one remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, which I was horrified to hear, though he afterwards qualified it—that it might not be in the best interests of the British Isles to send the best of our manhood overseas after the war. I know he qualified it afterwards, but I think it is necessary to emphasize that the people who are sent overseas as migrants must be of the very best. It is not the slightest good, as was done in the past, to send unwanted members of the community.


If the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, I never wished to suggest for a moment that we should send overseas anything but the very best. I wished to distinguish between our purely local interests and the wider interests of the Empire at large; but I would not like it to be thought for a moment that our local interests should override the larger interests of the Empire.


I quite accept that, but I did want to emphasize that it is absolutely necessary to send only the best. I hope His Majesty's Government will give consideration to this question of migration after the war in its broad sense, and will discuss the matter with the Dominion Governments with a view to planning a long-term policy.


My Lords, I should like to say how much I appreciate the careful and patient reply of the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, but I would like to comment upon the fact that he did not give any information as to whether the subject had been discussed, or was being discussed with the Prime Ministers from the Dominions who come to this country. Neither did he seem to give any encouragement to the hope that the sums now allocated by the Government to movements like the Fairbridge Farm Schools might be increased. They are very meagre and it would be constructive if something more could be given. I appreciate that he drew the attention of your Lordships to the Report of the Overseas Settlement Board made in 1938, which fully covered the ground; but with the indulgence of the House, I would like to draw attention to the point made with regard to the then view, that a falling population in the United Kingdom would dispel an illusion widely held in the Dominions as to the movement being a necessity to the United Kingdom. Under the conditions which we may expect after the war and the unlikelihood of an export market in the world for the employment of our industrial population, the fundamentals are changed. It was considerations of that kind that prompted me to bring forward this matter. And, lastly, if I may have the indulgence of the House, I would ask that he should bear in mind this question of the transfer of the accumulated contributions under the Social Service schemes. If it is to be made a constructive possibility after the war, it must involve action now in working it out currently with the Dominions so that it is a possibility in the demobilization scheme. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.