HL Deb 14 December 1943 vol 130 cc336-9

LORD BARNBY had a question on the Paper to ask His Majesty's Government, whether in view of the increasing attention developing to post-war redistribution of population within the Empire on grounds of defence, they are able to make any statement on progress with regard to:—

  1. (a) Mechanics of transfer of accumulated contributions to Social Welfare schemes;
  2. (b) Plans by individual Dominions on immigrant reception conditions;
  3. (c) Combined responsibility for present preparation and later reception by Dominions of orphaned or other juveniles.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in asking the question standing in my name, I fully recognize that initiative in this matter must remain with the Dominions, and further that there has been no ambiguity as to the attitude adopted by His Majesty's Government who have made clear their sympathy with arrangements for migration. But it does seem that in the past there has not been sufficient stress laid on the angle of defence which is involved in this matter, also that the attitude of the Dominions has undoubtedly been bused on a belief that an inflow of population would tend to lessen prospects of employment. But experience, particularly the history of the United States, shows that an appreciable inflow of population must stimulate the demand for labour in the reception country. Now there is undoubtedly a keen interest in this matter among the number of bodies who have in the past been of great service to the State in matters of migration, and who are anxiously hoping to do more in the future. The discussion in this House on a Motion by my noble friend Lord Bessborough emphasized what the position was. It drew a sympathetic report from the Government, but it did not take us very far.

There has recently been evidence in the dispatches—particularly those from Australia and New Zealand—of a livening of interest in this matter. This is indicated by certain schemes which have been put forward by responsible members, and which reflect what is being done in the countries concerned. We have had lip service paid to this matter. There have been visitors to this country from the Dominions, and they, together with the Empire Parliamentary Association and other bodies, have emphasized the desire of the Dominions to receive immigrants. But in practice, there seems little evidence of real progress. The situation with regard to Canada, it is true, is rather different. Since I put my question down I have received information of the presence in this country of Colonel George Drew, the Premier of Ontario, who recently assumed office. In the past when I visited Canada I met him, and I learned of his deep interest and strong views in this matter. I would repeat that I wish to assure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that it is not in any spirit of criticism that I raise this matter. I am sure that before the House adjourns it would be helpful if there could be some authoritative statement, and a statement could not come from anyone of greater authority, or from one who is known to be more sympathetic to this question, than the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. It is in that spirit that I have put down this question.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has raised very important issues in the question he has asked and in the speech which he has made. He will, I am sure, forgive me if I answer him briefly to-day. First, with regard to the question of the transfer of social security contributions of migrants to the Dominions. He will remember that when he raised this matter in the debate in this House on May 25, I pointed out that the proposal, while a most important one in connexion with migration, presented very considerable difficulties, and I explained the nature of these difficulties. We are trying to find a way out of them, but I cannot pretend that it is easy. I can however assure him that the matter is at present the subject of close consideration by the various Government Departments concerned. If we can devise a satisfactory solution, we will. I can say no more to-day.

As regards the attitude of the individual Dominions to migration from this country, we are, as the noble Lord is aware, in consultation with the Dominion Governments. No definite replies have so far been received from them, though the noble Lord will have seen from the Press that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia have taken steps to set up a comprehensive inquiry from the Australian point of view.

In regard to any suggestion of delay on the part of the Dominions in tackling this question—I thought I detected a suggestion of that in the noble Lord's speech —he will I know be the first to recognize that this matter raises important issues for the Dominions themselves, since the Dominion Governments must clearly consider the position of their own ex-Service people and the effect of migration from outside upon the economic situation of their countries in the years immediately following the war. These are difficult questions and it would not be fair to expect the Dominion Governments to express their views until all local aspects have been fully considered by them.

The final point raised by the noble Lord, that of the migration of juveniles, orphaned or otherwise, is one of which His Majesty's Government, like the noble Lord, fully recognize the importance. The success of the Fairbridge scheme shows what can be done on these lines. When the details of migration schemes come to be worked out with the Dominion Governments, I can assure him that this aspect will not be forgotten. If I can say no more to-day, it is because this, like other aspects of the problem of Empire migration, must inevitably depend on the replies which His Majesty's Government in this country receive from the Dominion Governments.