HL Deb 04 November 1947 vol 152 cc417-61

2.52 p.m.

LORD BARNBY rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the reported difficulties with regard to Empire migration from this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I expect that the Commonwealth Relations Office will feel that the subject raised in my Motion might well have been left alone for a. while. It was, your Lordships will remember, the subject of a debate in your Lordships' House in April of this year. On that occasion we enjoyed a notable speech from my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir, which will have impressed all who heard it and still more any of your Lordships who took the trouble, as I did on Sunday, to re-read it. It has enjoyed a remarkable width of publicity in all the Dominions. It certainly gave emphasis to the importance of this subject. Since then, both letters and articles in the Press leave little doubt that this is occupying men's minds very widely.

Empire migration means the dispersal of population throughout the Empire, and an additional reason for raising the question now is the changed attitude of the Dominions, particularly of Australia, towards this whole question. There have been notable visits from Mr. Calwell from Australia and Colonel George Drew from Ontario. It is one of the implications of the new economic policy which the Government have recently announced. I submit, too, that the feeding of the population of these islands and the strategic considerations arising from the international situation are sound reasons for its receiving further examination by your Lordships. And I would say that there is no platform from which this position may with more justice be examined than your Lordships' House for utterances here enjoy wide and impressive attention through the Press in the Dominions and the United States.

There is, I am afraid, much current sentimental confusion arising from statements that have been made on the subject, particularly one by an eminent personality which commanded great attention because of its source but which was given a wrong interpretation. In the circumstances I am glad to think that my noble friend Lord Altrincham, who possesses such a wide experience on all subjects appertaining to the Empire, is later to give some opinion on this matter from the Front Opposition Bench. The common practice by the Government of taking work to the people, which is the development areas' policy in this country, is becoming accepted. It is not unnatural to consider that taking people to the food may be a contemporary correct course. One has only to turn to the registrations for migration at the Dominion Houses in this country to realize the extent of the interest in this question. I quote only one figure—400,000 are reported to have registered at Australia House as intended migrants. This is a subject which should perhaps be dealt with in detail, supported by figures; but I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with these. They are easily accessible to all who take the trouble to seek them. I will confine myself instead to dealing with general principles and try to avoid too much detail.

There are three points to which I wish to give my attention. The first is the propriety of arranging for the capitalization and transferability of economic contributions to the social service schemes in this country. This is a matter about which it has been repeatedly urged in this House that provision should be made. With the indulgence of the House, I myself have referred to it several times. During the war it was the subject of several important announcements in your Lordships' House. I will refer particularly to that by the Leader of the Opposition on May 25, 1943. On that occasion Lord Cranborne, now Lord Salisbury, supported his justification for admitting the need for arrangements by quoting the following words of an admitted authority on this subject, Lord Beveridge: … it will be desirable to consider the making of reciprocal arrangements between the schemes of different countries"— that is, Empire countries— facilitating transfer from one to the other, that is to say, arrangements enabling men on migration to avoid forfeiting security and allowing them to carry with them some of the rights that they have acquired in their former country. From repeated representations we found encouragement for the belief that the matter was receiving attention, but so far as I can gather there is still only a limited achievement of the then-desired object. At the same time one understands that the efforts of the Dominion Office have resulted in considerable progress being made at the Conference this summer. There are hopes, which we share to-day, that the Leader of the House will be able to give us some detailed information on the subject. This is a matter which affects the lives and financial position of many people who wish to migrate from this country to the Dominions, and it is without doubt desirable to facilitate the transfer suggested by Lord Beveridge. Indeed, if that were not done there would be reasonable ground for disappointment among ex-Service men.

The second point concerns the facilities that have been put at the service of intending migrants or the Dominions who are the prospective recipients of them. I am fully aware of the difficulties of shipping, which, doubtless, the Leader of the House will emphasize. I am not forgetful that already three ships, the "Ranchi," "Chitral" and "Ormonde" have been mentioned in connexion with Australia, and the "Winchester Castle" and the "Carnarvon Castle" in connexion with South Africa. That is a mere drop in the bucket. He may well say that the movement of troops throughout the world is the cause of the shortage of transport. Without introducing another angle, I think there will be many who feel that if this movement of population within the Empire is too long delayed that will constitute an additional factor in support of the policy of His Majesty's Government in diminishing the volume of troops overseas. I am glad to think that I am to have the privilege of support from other noble Lords, and I hope they will reinforce the plea that something more should be done.

Mr. Calwell, to whom I have referred, spoke with authority. He paid tribute to the sympathetic acceptance of the approaches made to His Majesty's Government when he gave expression in the Press to his conviction that more could have been done. Naturally, as to what could be done only His Majesty's Government are in possession of the facts, and only they can say.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but can he give me any evidence that Mr. Calwell said that more could have been done than has been done?


That is my interpretation of the statements made in the Press, of which there have been many. I hope the noble Viscount will not have omitted to note my reference to the tribute which Mr. Calwell paid to the sympathetic reception given to the approaches made to the Government. I have here somewhat lengthy documentation of the statements of Mr. Calwell, and his replies in detail to many queries put to him. But I will not weary the House by going through all these documents, and if I am in error I readily accept the correction of the noble Viscount. Whatever may be Mr. Calwell's assertions, there are others who believe that more could have been done. He did say that he felt an aircraft carrier or two could have been used. Here I am on ground with which I am completely unfamiliar. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Strabolgi can make some comment upon it. Many high ranking officers with whom I have spoken say that it would have been possible to have mobilized a crew and made the cruise to Australia and back a part of their training; while there are others who think that the movement of emigrants to Australia might have resulted in a ship on the homeward run being transferred to India for the movement of troops home. On that point I speak with great diffidence, because it is outside my knowledge. Generally, however, considering the volume of earlier movement, it is perplexing to find that the movement now is so small.

I must here refer to the efforts of Colonel George Drew, the Premier of Ontario, whose visit had such notable results in relation to the movement of migrants to Canada. It will be well known to your Lordships that it has been done by airborne transport. I am informed that already 3,500 have been flown since August, and—this is important—that 95 per cent. of those have been successfully placed in employment. I mention that to remove any misgivings which some of your Lordships may have as to the fate of migrants when they reach their destination. I understand that a further 6,000 have been selected for transfer by air, and that over 400 a month are migrating by surface. If shipping arrangements could be made, that number might easily be increased to 1,000. Lest there should be some criticism of Ontario, I would say that these should have been moved—what is the correct term?—not in British bottoms, but—


British tops.


My noble friend Viscount Swinton is an admitted authority on all matters in the air. Whatever the term is, the position is that no British aircraft were available, and the transport has been carried out with American aircraft. The last point I make under this head has reference to the suggestion that housing difficulties exist in all the Dominions. The question is asked: How can you house the people who go there? Again I must refer to Mr. Calwell's asser- tion that arrangements can be made for housing in, at least, Australia, and, so far as Canada is concerned, it is evident that that is being done.

I pass to the third point on which I base my Motion, which is that the moment has arrived when a long-range policy for dispersion of the population of this country throughout the Empire on a larger scale, is a matter which merits, at least, discussion and very careful analysis. I realize it may well be that the Leader of the House is not in a position at the moment to give us a definite outline of His Majesty's Government's long-range policy, but I submit that that in no way reduces the propriety of this matter being given the fullest discussion, and a detailed analysis. Rather than presume myself to base this on my own experience, I am going to quote from a letter from Sir Shenton Thomas, who, as present Chairman of the Council of the Overseas League, has great authority in these matters. The letter says: What will be very seriously in question in the next fifty years is the size of the population that these small islands can support under the economic conditions that now obtain and the extent to which migration should be organized in family or community groups. Before I pass to the second quotation, I would insert there that I know it is a subject which has received the very close attention of my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir, and I hope he will gratify the House by making some remarks on that question to-day. On the second point I again quote from Sir Shenton Thomas's letter: Is there any real prospect that the changed world of to-day will permanently need and be in a position to buy twice the volume of our exports which the world needed before the war? That, in language much better than I could suggest, puts to your Lordships the problem as I urge it should be considered by His Majesty's Government.

To endorse the fundamental logic of this, again I presume to quote an article, which I feel is couched in much better words than I could find to express it, from a paper which, at least, as is admitted on all sides, has always been a champion of development of the Empire. It certainly has a large circulation although its price is low. The Daily Express on August 29 said: Encourage the men and women of ambition and enterprise who seek their fortunes in the Empire. Remove the barriers in their path. … Let Britain proudly encourage the sturdiest of her stock to go pioneering in the vast unpopulated spaces. Be glad of heart that the spirit of adventure is strong among our young people, even though we need them here. … This is not just a matter of sentiment. Alone, Britain is doomed to decline. Together, Britain and the Commonwealth are destined to climb ever upwards. No limits to their greatness. That I think is the best emphasis of the propriety of dispersal. There is a feeling of doubt as to the timeliness of movement now.

I submit that migration built the Empire, and if it were not for the Empire at this moment we might well be in a difficulty over our food supplies. After all, who built the Empire? The most adventurous spirits through the last hundreds of years. They may not have been the most observant of regulations and limitations at home, but they were the men of courageous enterprise and determination. I maintain that what built the Empire in the past is what we want to see continued, reinforced with the vigour of the British race dispersed through the wide lands of the Empire. It is on those grounds that I urge that any doubt about this matter should rapidly founder.

I turn for a moment to opinion in the Dominions. We know that in Australia, until relatively recent times, there was great resistance of organized labour to an inflow of population. I suppose there is no record of a greater fallacy doing so great a disservice to a continent. The result was that during the war Australia, with a population of only some 7,000,000, faced a perimeter of 450,000,000 Asiatics. It is proposed that we should remain dependent upon that strategic position for our future food supplies, as advocated by His Majesty's Government. Fortunately, there has been renunciation from eminent Dominion statesmen, particularly Mr. Calwell. But we must remember the hazard of leaving a coastline of 13,000 miles dependent upon so meagre a population. I am among those who feel that there would be advantage in achieving a transfer of considerable industrial plant, together with the technical personnel, from this country to Dominions whose industrial development is capable of being stepped up. If there is any doubt about that, I would point out that in many of our industries we have much machinery, not of tender age, which should be exported if anybody will buy it. Let us run what is left in this country on two or three shifts, and let us adapt ourselves to the economic position in which we find ourselves.

I used to live in the United States before the First World War—I have mentioned this in your Lordships' House before, and I must ask your Lordships' indulgence for doing so again—and for the last three years before that War, the migrants into the United States numbered upwards of 900,000 per annum. These were quite easily transported; there was no apparent lack of transport. I know there were then more passenger liners, but let us get the picture—900,000 to the United States in one year; yet we are boggling about a few thousand to the Empire at the present moment. I will go one step further—and this again is a matter of surprise. Your Lordships are all aware that the inflow into the United States is governed by quota. It is an extraordinary thing that under the quota of 65,000 per annum in the last ten years, 600,000 more migrants from the United Kingdom could have gone into the United States.

Earlier in the proceedings of your Lordships' House, reference was made to the Poles who are in this country. I hope that more can be done to encourage their transfer because I believe that the flow from Central Europe is comprised largely of agricultural workers while the flow from the United Kingdom may be for industrial work in the Dominions. I hope the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will bear in mind the possibilities under that head. I have already referred to the strategic considerations. Naturally, no one can know what is the view of the Imperial General Staff, but there are beliefs in high quarters that the feeding of so great a population as we have in this country, in the event of another war, would be a serious problem. It may well be that that is an additional ground for giving attention now to the possibilities under this head. I have not referred to Central Africa, or to the developments there: I do not know it well enough, but all sorts of possibilities spring to mind. South Africa, with the irrigation schemes, can be a very large reception area.

It would be improper in any discussion about the population of the Empire to omit saying a word with regard to the movement of juveniles, through institutions such as the Fairbridge Farm Schools, who are doing such admirable work, and the Overseas League which, even in October, sent a party of fifty-four youngsters to Australia. I hope that as grants have been given in the past to these movements, His Majesty's Government may find a way to give additional support. After all, the youngster is a desirable migrant to the Dominions. I am obliged for the indulgence which your Lordships have shown, and I hope I may have succeeded, not indeed in drawing a reply of any detail from the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, but at least in convincing your Lordships of the deep justification which those have who make the plea that this dispersal of our dense population under existing economic and strategic conditions is entitled to the fullest consideration. And I hope we may have a lead from the noble Viscount this afternoon. I beg to move for Papers.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, this, of course, should be a non-Party question, and all Parties should be agreed about it. I find myself in broad agreement with the thesis put before your Lordships by the noble Lord. I am very much against the growing practice in this House of attacking members of another place. It is a recent innovation which is most unwelcome, and I am not attacking a member of another place now. Nevertheless, I must point out to your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, is at variance with his own Leader in another place. We have been told by the Leader of the Conservative Party that people should not migrate but should stop here and, as he eloquently put it, "fight it out." However, I agree in broad outline in this matter with the noble Lord, and he is fortunate in having the opportunity of a reply presently from the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. It is a fortunate thing, too, that we have with us to-day a former Dominions Secretary, who has visited so many of the great Dominions. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, will receive a very full and detailed reply, and I shall not for one moment attempt in any way to anticipate that.

The subject is an exceedingly difficult one. We are at present in the position of having to import labour from displaced persons and others from Europe to man certain industries in which we are short of labour. Secondly, the very people who would make the best emigrants to-day, the land workers, producers, skilled workers of all kinds, are those who are badly needed here in the under-manned industries. Obviously for any large-scale migration—and I think this was the contention of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby—we must work out a long-term policy. The last White Paper on the subject, dated June, 1945, is already completely out of date; the whole situation has altered. None of the plans of His Majesty's Government, so far as I know, attempts to go beyond the end of 1949. If I am right, Sir Stafford Cripps' statements, and other statements, including those made by the Leader of the House and by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in the very important economic debate which we had here last week, all stopped short at the end of 1949. It is after that date, I imagine, that a new long-range policy will have to be drawn up.

I was recently in two of our Dominions. I was in Newfoundland—if we still call Newfoundland a Dominion; at any rate all Newfoundlanders are very proud of their membership of the British Commonwealth and speak or being the oldest Dominion. There is not much scope there; it is a difficult country and what is needed there is for the splendid people of Newfoundland to be raised educationally and economically; and we should not waste any time on that side of the matter. But Canada, where I also went, has, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, suggested, very great openings. The Province of Ontario, among other Provinces, is anxious to take advantage of the number of British people who want to go to Canada. They are getting a trickle of immigrants, despite transport difficulties, by flying them in from Britain. This is an indication of great enterprise on the part of the Government of Ontario. I am sure there is a great future for these immigrants to Canada. There is practically no unemployment in the country and industry and agriculture generally are booming. But there are transport shortages—and that applies in the case of the other Dominions also.

There is another difficulty. (I am mentioning these difficulties only because they will have to be overcome. They are not insuperable.) It is no use blinking our eyes; the Dominions do not want more city-dwellers. They have too many people living in cities already. They need people who will go on the land and engage in mining, lumbering and similar enterprises. In this country, as Lord Barnby mentioned, we have an unbalanced population. We have about 5,000,000 adults who are engaged in nonproductive work. They are usefully employed—in the distributive trades, transport work, entertainments, horse racing, all sorts of things. But they are not producing. That is an unbalanced population. We have too few people in the basic industries producing useful things or growing food and too many in nonproductive industries. And yet that surplus population—surplus in the economic sense for the situation we may have to face after 1949—are not the most suitable people to go to the Dominions.

There is another aspect of this situation which I think is very interesting. All over the world to-day, so far as I can see, there is a growing reluctance amongst people to go on the land and stay on the land. I heard the same thing in Canada. There is difficulty there in getting people to go on farms. The same thing is happening in Australia, in New Zealand and, curiously enough, in the South American countries—this is not a disease of English-speaking people. In Chile and even in the Argentine they are facing the same serious problem. As soon as they make enough money on the farms, people retire into the cities. This is a disease of civilization; it is going to kill our civilization unless some cure is found for it in the way of collective farms, co-operation among the farmers, greater mechanization, better amenities and so on. This is a problem which I am sure His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Dominions have very much in mind.

I must, however, say this. I do not like all this talk about lack of houses in the Dominions. If the emigrants of the past had waited for houses to be ready for occupation there would have been no colonization at all. Certainly the North American Colonies would never have been started. I like the spirit of the over-landers who have recently started out on the long trek across the Sahara down to the Rhodesias. It is not usual in your Lordships' House to mention one's ancestors, but I hope I may be allowed to mention, and I do so with pride, my own maternal grandfather who was a 'forty-niner; and my grandmother, who was the first white woman to cross the Rocky Mountains into the Californian goldfields, crossed the overland route by covered wagon with a baby in her arms and she had to fight her way through with a rifle. That was the right spirit. They were all nearly killed, but they got across. That is the spirit that built up the Americas and South Africa and all the great Dominions, and it is still in existence. It needs stimulating and encouraging. The result in the past of this pioneering spirit was to build up these great overseas white settlements.

I spoke just now of the policy after December, 1949, and I can see only three policies that are going to save this country. One, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, is a large-scale emigration. There are two alternatives, though they need not necessarily be alternatives. The first is—let us face the fact—spoken of quite openly nowadays: that this country should join the United States of America, or perhaps (to save our amour propre) that the United States of America should apply to rejoin the British Empire, as in Bernard Shaw's memorable play The Apple Cart. We could then balance our economies completely, instead of incompletely as at present. That is one alternative at any rate. The second is the creation of one great economic union for Europe, beginning if necessary with Western Europe, but if possible the whole Continent. Everyone admits that that is a policy that is required, and yet we do not seem able to make very much progress. To trade on a large scale with Eastern Europe, for example, we shall have to go much further than we have done in directing and controlling the manufacture and sale of our exports, as part of a barter programme, so as to be able to engage in large-scale barter operations. That is the second policy, and as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, said in his remarkable speech during the economic debate, it need not be antagonistic to the other policy of a great Customs Union within the Empire.

The third policy is to reduce our population to manageable proportions. We should do that if we cannot pursue either of the other two policies, because otherwise we shall have far too many people living in these islands. There is the growth of secondary industries in overseas countries, not only in our Dominions but also in South American States and all over the world, and there is, in consequence, a drying up of markets for our manufactured goods. All these considerations point to the fact that our population may have to be reduced so that we can live on our own resources in these islands, and anything we may do in the way of trade can go towards raising our standard of living.

Those are the three policies, the third one of which is the one that has been enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, to-day. I think that the noble Lord has done a service in ventilating this vitally important question. I am sure that we ought to be, and that we are, working on very long-range plans. When we have got over the present crisis in the next two or three years, we should be prepared to shift a very large proportion of our population to the vast open spaces overseas, where they will still speak the English language, keep up our traditions and be our future friends and allies in case of trouble.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I feel bound to intervene in this debate, if only for a few minutes, because I find myself in the position of President of the New Zealand Immigration and Population Association, a position that I hold with the full approval and acquiescence of His Majesty's Government in that Dominion. May I be allowed, in passing, as I could not be in this House last week, to offer on my part a sincere welcome home to the Leader of the House after his very successful mission in the two countries of the Antipodes, with both of which I am fairly familiar and which I have myself visited in the course of this year. I hear from sources in these Dominions (I am in touch with a good many) what a great success that mission of the ex-Minister of Commonwealth Relations was, and how deeply it was appreciated, for the reason which I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, gave. I am sorry to say that as I was in the Southern Hemisphere in April last I could not be present at the time the debate on this subject, to which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, referred, took place. The noble Lord spoke of dispersion of population—a term he used more than once—throughout the Empire. If there comes to be, under present conditions, any large emigration of suitable persons to other parts of the Commonwealth and Empire, I should like to see preference given to non-dollar countries where living conditions are satisfactory according to our social standards.

I may say, in passing, that there are only two subjects upon which I found myself at issue with the; policy of that lovable Dominion over which I had the honour and privilege to preside for live years. One of them was the subject of the free admission of Britain's pedigree livestock. I am glad to say that in recent months the embargo upon them has been definitely and permanently lifted. The other was the free admission of competent and enterprising British nationals. In that connexion, I want to say at once that, in the case of a self-governing Dominion, this is a problem predominantly for them to decide, and not for us. Great may be the needs, in our judgment, particularly the industrial needs, of other countries of the Empire. Great may be the needs—and I think these needs are growing—in regard to our own increasing population. The first step must surely be taken by any overseas country which is autonomous. I will deal with that point in a minute.

The increase of population, say, in New Zealand, as also in Australia, can result in two ways only. One way is by what I may call natural increment—the excess of births over deaths. I may remind your Lordships that, so far as New Zealand is concerned it is in the happy position of having the lowest infant death-rate in the whole of the Empire, and the lowest but one—I am talking of pre-war conditions—in the world. The first, of course, to-day is Holland. The other way, of course, is by immigration. The population of the United Kingdom is, I suppose, roughly about 47,000,000. The population of New Zealand is only 1,500,000. Of these, the Maoris twenty-five years ago numbered only 60,000. I am glad to say that, with improved health and housing conditions and the gradual reduction of the rate of mortality through tuberculosis, the Maoris number now about 80,000 and are steadily increasing. Let me say, in pass- ing, what a wonderful asset the British Commonwealth and Empire possess in those dark-skinned people; a more loyal, law-abiding or courageous people are not to be found anywhere in the world. On the other hand, the white population—what is called out there the "pakeha" population—is roughly 1,500,000 only, and it is stationary, if not actually retrogressive; and that in spite of the fact which I mentioned just now, that it has the lowest infantile death rate in the whole of the Empire.

The United Kingdom is, no doubt, rich both in its soil and climate and also in its industries. I venture to think that, so far as husbandry is concerned, we can perfectly well, given the tools, raise at least one-third more food from our own land than we did in pre-war times. So far as New Zealand is concerned, her soil and climate are so extremely favourable that I say without hesitation—and I speak with some knowledge—that, with the application of more scientific methods and labour-saving plant, the food output there could be doubled.

That being so, what are the arguments which can, or should, be used in favour of a largely increased population in New Zealand? I venture to suggest—and for five years I continuously expressed this opinion openly, and was never contradicted—that within the next ten years, or perhaps it would be rather safer to say within the next fifteen years, New Zealand, with proper development, could carry not merely 1,500,000 people, but 5,000,000 people, and in another thirty years from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000. Obviously, at any rate in the light of what has happened during the last twenty-five years, the main argument in favour of a largely increased population for New Zealand is the strategic argument: that the country may be in a better position to defend itself against aggression. With the enormous and increasing population of Japan, there was a very great dread that before sufficient defence Forces could be provided from overseas, New Zealand might have been over-run by Japanese Armies. That made not only Australia but also New Zealand very much alive to this danger of aggression through lack of sufficient population. Then, of course, there remains the other argument which I have already adumbrated, the possibilities of largely increased wealth output, with developing economic prosperity.

I may remind your Lordships that New Zealand is approximately of the same area as the United Kingdom, but she possesses, if I may say so, an infinitely better and more equable climate than we possess here. Except for coal, New Zealand possesses mineral wealth in far greater measure than does Great Britain, and the bulk of that mineral wealth has hardly been touched; indeed its surface has hardly been scratched. I do not wish to take up more of your Lordships' time, but I do want to point out that that precious little jewel of a country in the Pacific, full of loyal, enterprising, pioneering people, is capable of providing the world and the Old Country with an infinitely larger quantity of wealth of a sort which the world and this country require than she has provided in the past.

That being so, one naturally asks what is the deterrent? We must leave it, as I say, to the New Zealand Government to decide her own policy in this matter, and she tells us that there are two deterrents. One is that at present she must give priority of employment to her own demobilized Service men before she provides for the requirements of those who might like to emigrate from the Old Country. The other deterrent is the lack of homes. I am bound to say that I think the New Zealand Government are a little over-anxious in this matter of house-providing for intending immigrants, while Australia, if I may venture to say so, is a little over-bold in the matter. She, at any rate, is making it quite apparent that she wants far more immigrants, preferably from the Old Country; but she does warn them that they will have to put up with some primitive accommodation, at any rate, for the next two or three years. New Zealand would, I think, prefer to house her migrants when they come along, much in the way, I was going to say, that they are being housed in their own country, but perhaps I should say, much in the way that we should like to see them housed in Great Britain—at least, as well as they were housed in pre-war days.

Those are reasons which, at any rate, we must respect, even if we do not agree with them. I, for my part, would venture to press, with all the enthusiasm and energy I can, the great importance of migration of enterprising young men and women from this country into some of those fertile, rich, healthy countries which are bound to be developed economically to the advantage of, at any rate, the more enterprising of those who migrate. Let us at the same time, however, try and convince the Governments in our Overseas Dominions rather than force their hands when, at least for a time, they are reluctant to take action in this matter.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Barnby for initiating a debate on this very important matter. In the excellent speech which he made, he referred to a debate we had last April. At that time we discussed the policy of His Majesty's Government towards emigration as a whole, and found ourselves in such close harmony of agreement that our surprise was as perceptible as it was mutual. At that time the Assisted Emigration Scheme to Australia had just come into operation. Agreement had not yet been reached with the New Zealand Government, nor had the Ontario Emigration Scheme then been announced, but the offices of the Dominions' High Commissioners and most of the shipping companies were besieged by great hosts of would-be emigrants. That siege has not abated. Last month in the week ended October 18, I understand that rather more than 4,000 people applied for interviews at Australia House.

When the migratory urge takes hold of a people, it cannot be stayed but it can be guided, and if the standard of living in this country should take a really drastic fall, this present flood, I believe, will increase in volume many times. Substantial numbers during the two years since the war ended have left this country and gone to the countries of their adoption in the Commonwealth. I think I am right m saying that by April of this year some 58,000 wives and children of Canadian ex-Servicemen had gone to Canada, and a rather smaller number had joined their husbands in Australia and New Zealand. These schemes of assisted emigration have now been in operation for a few months and a certain number of people have gone under their provisions; but it is only a fraction of those who want to go, and only a proportion of those that the Commonwealth coun- tries are waiting to welcome. A certain small number have returned disgruntled Much too much publicity has been given to them. I suspect that their anatomy contains rather more wishbone than backbone.

Our present condition is this. Thousands await their turn to get transport to the countries of the Commonwealth. The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, speaking last week in the debate on the economic situation, gave us some figures relating to our shipbuilding, which I jotted down. I hope I have got them correctly. He said, I understood, that 11,000,000 tons of our shipping went to the bottom as a result of enemy action during the war, but, by reason of replacements and reconditioning, we ended the war with a net deficit of only 7,000,000 tons. And at this present moment, I understand, there is more work in hand in British shipyards than at any time previously in the last quarter of a century. We are, in fact, building more ships now than all the rest of the world put together. That, of course, is eminently satisfactory. But ships take some time to build, and before they appear in sufficient numbers to ameliorate our present situation we shall have to cast around for some other expedient. Flying is a practical proposition for sending emigrants from this country to North America. Under the Ontario Scheme, emigrants are carried in American aircraft, and the system is working very well. But it does not seem likely that in the near future it will be an economic proposition to send emigrants to Australia or New Zealand by air. So, with the very depleted little fleet of shipping we have, a great many emigrants wanting to go and the Commonwealth countries anxious to receive them, there is, naturally enough, rather brisk competition for what accommodation there is.

Now the British settler is our most valued export, and he is very badly wanted. In April last, when we had the previous debate, the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, laid down the Government's policy which, in short, was to encourage migration by all practical means, balancing it, of course, against our own needs and requirements in this country. Are we giving all possible practical assistance to emigration now? I put this in the form of a question to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House—I have already given him notice of it. Has consideration been given to the suggestion to invite representatives of all Commonwealth Governments concerned to form a committee to tackle this problem jointly with Britain? There lies, I think, the only hope for bettering the present situation, which, be it remembered, affects the Commonwealth as a whole. I believe that we can get a start in this matter only by united endeavours, by pooling ideas, pooling resources and pooling requirements. Lord Barnby has mentioned some expedients which we might yet try. He has suggested that aircraft carriers might be used. There are, too, those eleven ships which customarily travelled on the North Atlantic run and which are now either requisitioned or laid up for refitting. Such a committee could investigate all these angles. Unless that idea can be expressed in action, I do not think we shall get along very fast.

In the latter part of his speech Lord Barnby turned to what might be called the long view of the population problem—the question of the re-deployment of our population and, of course, its inevitable eventual reduction. That is a point into which Lord Strabolgi also went in some detail. This is not a matter of universal consent, but it is an idea which is steadily gaining ground—that the populations of the English-speaking Commonwealth countries should be increased and that there should be a corresponding reduction in Great Britain over the next decade. The countries of the Commonwealth, as your Lordships know, have an aggregate area seventy-seven times the size of Britain, and they have at this moment a population amounting to not more than twice that of Greater London. The recent war has thrown certain considerations into very strong relief. There are, for instance, strategic considerations which now result in the placing of a heavy accent on the need for dispersal.

But the whole economic structure of the Commonwealth countries changed between 1939 and the present day. They then concentrated much more largely on the products of the soil; they have now found it. necessary to diversify their industry, to expand it and to extend it. But a grave disequilibrium exists in the Commonwealth between the location of raw materials and the labour and the skill that might exploit them, and in this industrialization it has been inevitable, in most of the Commonwealth countries, that they have drawn on their own rural agricultural populations which, too, need replacement. With all respect, I do not agree with Lord Strabolgi when he says that these countries do not want city-dwellers. This industrialization of which I have spoken has proceeded a fair distance, and it will proceed even further. There was a time when the chief asset of an emigrant from this country, apart from determination and courage, was physical strength and experience of life close to the soil. Now, with these nascent industries, the Commonwealth countries want a much wider cross-section of our population than ever before. The population of this country ever since the industrial revolution has become progressively urbanized with an inexorable and, as many think, a tragic momentum, and we are now in a far better position to provide the cross-section of our population which those countries now require.

Now one word with regard to those who oppose emigration without qualification. They urge that by reason of the numbers who leave us there results a loss in our productive man-power in dangerous ratio to our population. They say that the result of their going will be to leave us with an unbalanced economy, that there will be fewer and fewer people to support those who cannot support themselves. A careful survey of immigration made in Canada has shown that every successful productive immigrant takes over with him from this country a minimum of two non-producers. It is, of course, clear that, in our present situation, large-scale emigration might add to our embarrassment. It would be something of a sacrifice to let so much of our man-power leave our shores. But, let it be remembered, sacrifice in this connexion is by no means one-sided. Every country of the Commonwealth now is voluntarily going short of something it needs in order that we may have it.

I would like, if I may, to end by saying one short word on the question of community emigration. There is a great deal of muddled thinking on this subject. It provides a rich field for unskilled labour for those who possess maps and pencils and lists of populations of the countries of the world. They can generally settle the whole problem in a matter of a few minutes. I think that in British history there is only one example, of any significance, of community emigration from our shores, and that was the emigration which took place from the Highlands of Scotland in the 19th Century. It took place in deplorable and tragic circumstances, but it was community emigration because whole communities left their hills and their valleys as communities, they sailed as communities, and they settled as communities in the countries of their adoption. Because of the circumstances in which they went, great harm was done to the country which they left; but how vastly have they enriched the countries in which they settled!

I think that in 1947 there is only one possible kind of community emigration, and to that several noble Lords have already referred in one form or another. I mean the emigration of industries—not whole industries leaving our shores, leaving the European markets that may one day be valuable again, leaving us deprived of their services, but rather a redeployment of industries. There is a famous firm of makers of agricultural implements, whose name is known the world over, who have a factory or an assembly plant in every Commonwealth country. That is the form of migration of industry that we want to see. There they would have access to raw materials. And in that way let us rebuild those foreign investments which were the mainstay of our prosperity between the wars and which went so far to financing and winning the war. That form of community emigration will do much to benefit the whole Commonwealth and re-deploy on a better basis the man-power of this very over-crowded island.

The second question of which I have given the Leader of the House notice is: Have the Government given thought to inviting the views of the other Commonwealth countries on this problem, and if so, can any indication now be given of what those views are? My last word is this. I hope I have not fallen into the error of over-simplification. In a question of this kind the thoughtful inquirer must steer carefully between the Scylla of easy over-statement, and the Charybdis of despair in the face of formidable problems. But problems there are and they press upon us, and will not disappear by being put on one side. I hope the noble Viscount will find his way to give an answer to these two questions.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to support my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir in his welcome to the Leader of the House, back from a very long journey of many thousands of miles; it has been, I think, a great feat of physical endurance on his part. We are greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, for having raised this question to-day. It certainly is one of the greatest importance, and one which is exercising the minds of a great many people, not only those who wish to emigrate, but also those who, in some way or another, are affected by that wish. I desire to say at once that I am a strong supporter of emigration, especially in these times. I will commence my remarks by giving a short resume of how emigration has progressed in this country over the century. In doing so, whilst I would emphasize the strategic side, I hope it will be remembered that that side includes both men and resources.

After the Napoleonic wars for a great many years there was a period of scarcity. This gave a great impetus to emigration, to the United States especially, but also to the countries now known as the Dominions. The 1870's and 80's, the most depressing period of the Corn Laws, saw another exodus from this country to those countries where Britons had already assembled. In 1899 there came the South African War, and we had our reward from that emigration. From all over the Empire (it was known as the Empire then; the name British Commonwealth had not been coined at that time) men of British stock flocked to the support of the Mother Country and were of the greatest assistance in that war. Another decade elapsed and there came the First Great War, in which the Dominions, as they were known by that time, and then including South Africa, played a magnificent part in winning the victory over Germany, fighting as part of our own armies in support of the Mother Country. It was not only men, but also food and war resources which they brought to our help.

Shortly after the First Great War we fell on evil times and there was much unemployment and hardship. This gave another great impetus to emigration, and thousands of our best people poured into the Dominions and United States. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, talk about the 900,000 going every year for three years to the United States alone. The point I now wish to ask is, did we suffer from the loss of all this good blood over a century? Momentarily we did; but in the long run, I venture to suggest, we gained, because the Second Great War was largely won, so far as our part was concerned, by the concerted efforts and operations of the British Commonwealth and Empire and not by ourselves alone. If it had not been for the Dominions, built up, as they have been, by British men and women, we might be in a very different state to-day. It is no secret now that at a certain stage in the last Great War, when things were going badly against us, all preparations had been made to shift the headquarters of our Government to Canada, to Ottawa, and to continue the fight from there. As it happened the necessity did not arise, and, though hard pressed, we held on, saved principally by the Royal Air Force in the now epic Battle of Britain.

The Second Great War is over, but the aftermath is plainly and heavily with us. We are suffering from a formidable set of circumstances such as we have never before experienced in peace time. Control is rampant and the freedom of the individual is greatly curtailed; taxation grinds everyone down. Hope for the future is gradually vanishing, due largely to the policies of the Government who, while never ceasing to beg for national unity, ceaselessly throw spanners in the works and create wider barriers of disunity through legislation and other measures—measures, moreover, which they must know will find grave opposition on the part of large sections of the population. I do not surmise; I am speaking the truth. This is largely at the bottom of this great urge for emigration to-day. It is these conditions, with many of those seeking to go overseas, which are creating the urge to emigrate. These people desire to find freedom from frustration, to be able to benefit by their efforts and to have the individual freedom which they cannot find here under the present Government, with its ideological doctrines and bureaucratic theories.

To-day I saw in one evening paper that thirty-eight people—they were described as Conservatives, I give that to the Government—chartered a big aircraft and have arrived in New York, in order to find another place to live in. They cannot put up with England any longer. The fact that some people in trying to escape from here have taken dangerous, uncomfortable journeys across the deserts of Africa by motor car, through the jungle, and by sailing boats across the ocean, shows the measure of their desire to be quit of the land of their birth. Not only single men, but even whole families, including women and children, have made these journeys. We all admire their spirit of adventure—at least, I do—and I for one do not wonder at it. But there are many in high places who deprecate this mass migration, and who say that these people should stay on here and face it out. I want to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a specific question as to whether or not it is the view of the Government that these people ought not to migrate, but should stay here and face it out. Personally, I do not agree with that view. I would do all I could to help them migrate to these English-speaking places to which they wish to go. It is for that reason that I am to-day taking part in the debate which was initiated by my noble friend, as I understand it, with the object of urging the Government to do all they can to assist migration and not to prevent it.

We have heard this afternoon that in New Zealand they are not altogether ready for immigrants, but we know that in Canada, in Australia, and in South Africa, there is a tremendous demand for them. I would like to support my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir in his suggestion that possibly a committee set up with the Dominions might be very helpful in solving this question. When we look back on our history—the history which I have briefly sketched this afternoon—we find that every wave of migration has had its reward and compensation, and has proved a good investment. We have in each successive war received our reward. Is any one in your Lordships' House so foolish as to prophesy that there will never be another war; or that if war comes, owing to the new deadly form of scientific weapons, it will not be even more widespread and more devastating than the last Great War? I think the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who has just been to the Pacific, will have appreciated as much as anyone in this House that the strategy of the next war will chiefly lie in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, rather than in the Atlantic, and that consequently places like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa require as many immigrants as they can get. At the same time I do not altogether like the expression "dispersal of people from this country." I think emigration ought to be on a voluntary basis, and only the people who want to go should go. Perhaps that is what my noble friend meant when he used the word "dispersal." But "dispersal" has a sort of compulsory atmosphere about it that does not appeal to me.


May I interrupt the noble Viscount, as the remark was directed to me? In using the word "dispersal" I meant that it should be on an entirely voluntary basis and not in any way compulsory.


I thought it was the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, who used the word.


Lord Barnby undoubtedly did use the expression, and I took it upon myself to utter a small criticism upon it.


In the absence of Lord Barnby, those of us who are here all seem to be agreed upon the point. There is one other short point I want to make. Personally, I do not grudge to the Dominions that they should get the best stock, or good stock. We have in this country 45,000,000 people, and to-day, as I understand it, there are about 700,000 to 800,000 who wish to emigrate. That is about 2 per cent. of our population. I venture to believe—although it is perfectly true that 700,000 to 800,000 does represent a big cut in the population—that it will be found that a great many very good people will be left behind in this country, as has always proved to be the case in the past. I do not think that argument ought to enter into it. If the best of our people want to emigrate, I think they should be allowed to go and start on a new life. That is the policy I would urge on His Majesty's Government. Quite apart from any pronouncement of any kind that may be made in one circle or another, I sincerely hope that the Government will do all they can to meet this urge, from whatever cause it may have come—I have perhaps been a little plain spoken as to one of the principal causes to which I think it is attributable— and that they will do all they can to assist it forward, in view of the necessity of a long-range policy to people our Dominions as quickly as we can.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, the main purpose for which I Intervene for a very few minutes this afternoon is to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a question of which I have given him private notice. Before I put my question, I should just like to say how much we welcome the noble Viscount back from Australia. It is a country I know very well, and one in which I have spent some of the happiest years of my life. I hope that at some time I may have an opportunity of hearing from the noble Viscount's own lips about his experiences there. Indeed we may do so to-day. The question I want to put is this. Before the war the voluntary migration societies received a grant amounting I think to 75 per cent. of the cost of running the United Kingdom end of their organizations. As a member of the committee of the Big Brother Movement I know how much more the voluntary migration organizations need this subsidy to-day than they ever did before. Before the war such societies used to receive quite large subscriptions from people who regarded migration from the point of view perhaps of helping some destitute man or woman without a job, or some destitute orphan child, to start a new life in the Dominions. Circumstances are of course quite different today, and some of the sources from which the societies used to get quite considerable sums of money have dried up. I think it is admitted on all sides that these societies are doing good work, and if they are to carry on they do need this subsidy again. I think the subsidy was jointly borne by the British and Australian Governments. I am not sure whether it was extended to other Dominions or not.


Yes, it was.


I had a long talk on this very subject with Mr. Calwell when he was in England recently. He expressed the greatest sympathy from the Australian end and said he would do his utmost to get the subsidy renewed, so far as the Australian Government was concerned. I hope we may be able to hear something from the noble Viscount on the British Government's side.

I would like to add only two other points. I was very impressed with what the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said about community migration. As I understood it, he felt that the right type of community migration was, if I may say so, that of child industries going away from the parent industries here. I do think that is the only possible way. I do not think it pays to get fifty craftsmen of a certain type and put them in a camp somewhere and expect them to settle down. If you do not have the child industry you must have individual absorption. There is one final point. We all know that the crux of migration is shipping, but as one the whole of whose war effort was spent in aircraft carriers and adapting them to various purposes after the war, I do not think it is economically possible for either the British Navy or the Australian Navy at the present time to provide the enormous crews required for those ships. One is also apt to think that an aircraft carrier will carry an enormous number of people, but it does not do so in proportion to the effort and expenditure required to run it. I hope that that hopeful suggestion which often comes up will not be pressed too hard. That is all I have to say, but I would be glad to have an answer on that specific point which I have put to the noble Viscount.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, winds up the debate on behalf of the Opposition, I should like to say how much I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, quoted in support of his Motion an ex-Governor of Singapore, Sir Shenton Thomas. Less than three weeks ago I was awarding prizes at Drogheda Grammar School. After my prize giving address three young Irishmen came to me and asked why they had not been supported in their proposals to equip and man a minesweeping and patrol flotilla in Singapore in about the year 1937. I told them that I had written to Sir Shenton Thomas when I was Commander-in-Chief at the Nore and had asked him to support them. I heard that they had received no support, and in fact I received a somewhat pompous letter from the Governor throwing cold water on the scheme which these young men had submitted to me, knowing my interest in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and in little ships. That is not encouragement such as we have received for the formation of our R.N.V.R. units in the Dominions from an ex-Governor-General of New Zealand here with us this afternoon. I can only say how grateful I was of the support I received in Australia and South Africa. How different things might have been in Singapore if encouragement had been given to young men serving there at that time, instead of allowing them to drift away, play bridge and waste their time, when the danger of a second World War was so imminent.

There is one other thing I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, who was encouraging migrants from this country to go to the cities of the Dominions. In Australia the farmers have a saying that when the grass ceases to grow on the land, it begins to grow in the cities. Those great open spaces are indeed essential for feeding the population of Europe when things have become so difficult in the Argentine and in other beef and mutton producing countries. As to permanent producers I sent a family of eight to Alberta in Canada, of which all eight were producers. Unfortunately, the farm collapsed because of the World War, when five of the eight went to war and only one returned.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, the action of my noble friend Lord Barnby in initiating this debate has, I think, been thoroughly justified not only by his own very interesting contribution but by several other notable speakers. I would mention in particular the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, who speaks with such great authority upon the Southern Dominions and who gave a very interesting description of the possibilities of New Zealand. I would mention also my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir, whose knowledge of Canada is intimate, who brings a really practical mind to these discussions and who made, incidentally, a very interesting practical proposal. I would refer also to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, who speaks with personal and recent knowledge of Australia.

There is no doubt—and I am sure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who has just come back from Australia and New Zealand, will confirm this—that there is a profound stirring of opinion on this question of population at this moment throughout the Commonwealth. There, is a sense of urgent need felt by people who gave very little consideration to it before. I think that is the reflex in all the Dominions. There is an entirely new appreciation of the fact that Commonwealth development is now an imperative necessity to offset the loss of strength which two World Wars have brought about in Britain if the British way of life is to hold its own in the second half as it did in the first half of the twentieth century. Commonwealth conferences—one of which I think was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir—may be valuable, but I am sure the first essential at the moment is that we should revise our opinion here and get an opinion which is really approved by our people as to the contribution which we should make to the Commonwealth in this very important direction.

There is some difference of opinion here—perhaps some considerable difference of opinion—and I think there is some danger of an inadequate appreciation of the necessities of the Commonwealth—I do not mean on the part of His Majesty's Government, but on the part of great sections of public opinion. The Dominions, after all, make their own policy. Whatever they do it is not for us to advise or to criticize, but we know that they are deeply anxious upon this subject. We know now that they want our population, and it would be disastrous to appear unsympathetic, obstructive or unco-operative when they are seeking help from us. It is a difficult question in which fear and prejudice are very easily aroused, and I am sure it is the duty of everybody to clear his mind upon it and contribute what he can to a better understanding. Clearly also it is not a Party question, and I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, did not really mean to import a note of Party recrimination.


I was only dealing with facts.


If it is an Imperial question, the more Party is kept out of this discussion the better. We are all, irrespective of Party, equally devoted to the welfare of our own country and to the cause of co-operation throughout the Commonwealth, Your Lordships' House, I think, is particularly well fitted to take a broad view of this problem in all its implications. What is the question? Until the opening of this century, Britain's strength, alone and single-handed, guaranteed the security of the whole Commonwealth and Empire. We sent out man-power by the million throughout the nineteenth century. We invested a vast surplus wealth for the development of the younger nations. We maintained an unassailable sea power from our own resources. All that is no longer possible for us. There has been an immense change in the distribution of power since the beginning of the century, and it is this that is making the stir of feeling throughout the Dominions.

First, Germany challenged us at sea, and now that the German menace has been overcome in two terrible wars, we find the world confronted by two new giants, the American Union and the Soviet Union. Britain has survived two world wars, not in virtue entirely of her own strength or character but because the nations of the Commonwealth made common cause with her. The contribution of the younger nations to our common victory, as many of your Lordships have said, was splendid and indispensable. And it is well for all of us nations of the British Commonwealth that we fought in alliance with the United States of America. Thus was Britain repaid for the breadth of her nineteenth-century policy. The initiative, your Lordships should be proud to remember, came from a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Durham, who first advanced the great policy of building up our civilization overseas without seeking to control it. That came from your Lordships' House; let us never forget it. We should be proud that this brotherhood in freedom grew to strength and maturity under the broad shield of the Royal Navy. Britain is now much weaker, but the strength of the younger nations more than compensates for our losses. They have gained more than we have lost, and if we stand together the Commonwealth is more powerful to-day than it was in the past, when it relied solely upon this old though powerful country.

The distribution of power Is different—the distribution of man-power, the distribution of resources; but that is no weakness in this atomic age. Dispersal is an element of strength, provided that our moral unity is unimpaired. Our moral unity is unimpaired; it is absolutely undiminished; and the Commonwealth ranks equal to the two giants, the Soviet Union and the American Union, provided that it acts, lives, and serves the world as a Commonwealth. This, however, is no situation for complacency. This question of the distribution of population is one of the most serious that the Commonwealth has to face. We in this country have to renew our strength with an inadequate supply of young man-power. But we must also do our utmost to help the development of the Commonwealth countries. It is that double duty which rests upon us.

What then are our respective necessities, ours and theirs? In this country the quality of our manhood is absolutely undiminished, although the numbers are inadequate. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Barnby really meant to recommend a serious reduction in our population in these islands.




I am bound to say that I disagree with him absolutely in that. Such a reduction would be impossible without very great suffering and a serious fall in the standard of living. It would be impossible to avoid a real weakening in the structure of the whole Commonwealth, for we, the member of the Commonwealth that is in the European Continent, will always have a special responsibility for preventing the domination of Europe by any Power unfriendly to our British ideals and way of life. We cannot, therefore, afford to export youth, enterprise and energy, unless we can make it up from other sources. It would also be dangerous to export our productive youth any further, for that would mean tilting the already precarious balance between unproductive age and productive youth. No nation can afford to carry an unproductive population disproportionate to its strength in producers and wealth-makers. The appeal of my right honourable friend Mr. Churchill to youth not to despair of this Old Country was, therefore, extremely natural.


If the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, it was not an appeal not to despair; it was an appeal not to leave this county. How can you colonize if you keep your people here?


I was proposing to develop the argument. The noble Lord has intervened at a very early stage. I say that it was an appeal to youth not to despair of their country. Of course many of them were certain to go, as other noble Lords have said, because the situation in this country seemed unattractive to them. Mr. Churchill needs No 1nterpretation or defence from me; but no one who cares for the national insurances services can fail to understand that the uncompensated loss of youth in this country would be, from the standpoint of the whole population, a matter of the utmost gravity. Nor should we wish to condone any feeling that post-war troubles justify a sense of lack of faith in this country.

I am sure that Mr. Churchill would never suggest that youth and enterprise have no future in this country. It was natural that he should protest against any spirit of that kind getting abroad in the land. He would also be the last to misunderstand or to discourage the spirit of adventure and enterprise, for that has been one of the main sources of Britain's greatness. This country is still the breeding ground of men who can show the mettle of their pasture—young men of the pioneering type, who in the past have carried our strength across the seas and made it the strength of splendid new nations. Those nations are still developing, and we must help them. They need our men as much as we need them, and the problem is to assimilate the foreign element in the Dominions without weakening their fundamentally British character. The instinct and tradition of the British element is the basis of our brotherhood and our strength in the counsels of the nations.

In this country there is no danger whatever that foreign immigration, even if we permitted it in considerable numbers, would in any way alter our fundamental characteristics. We have gained by foreign immigration in the past, and it is my personal belief that we may stand to gain very much by it again in the future. When one thinks of the textile industry in this country, which was founded in the first instance by foreign immigrants, and of other industries that have come from those who have left their own countries, either because the beacon of freedom here attracted them or because they were driven out of their own countries by the spur of persecution, we realize that those people have been of immense value in the past. And they may well be so again. We must certainly attract youth to this country if we are to be able to export it to the Dominions. To do so would, in my opinion, add but little to our own existing domestic problem, which must involve foreign immigration if it is to be solved satisfactorily.

I hope, therefore, that no Government in this country, and no movement of opinion here, will ever sanction an abandonment of the Durham ideal that it is our business to build up these young nations. We cannot default in giving any help that (hey require from us, but a fresh effort of imagination is needed here in order to adapt that policy to a new situation. Our difficulties are great. We are said to be at least half a million short in young productive labour. We are going to return the German prisoners of war, quite rightly, to Germany; but it is not clear at present how the gap in our agriculture is to be made good. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred, I thought rightly, to the importance of increasing amenities on the land. If that is necessary in the Dominions, it is also necessary here. And most of us are experiencing very great difficulty in our efforts to meet those demands in different parts of the country, whether it be housing, amenities like village halls or even the extension of playing fields. All these things have become immensely difficult, and they all want close attention.

Also, in this country the trade unions are clearly going through the same process as the trade unions have been going through in Australia and New Zealand, particularly in Australia. I remember being in Australia forty years ago and making the acquaintance for the first time of Mr. Hughes (afterwards Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and then, I think, leader of the dockers in Sydney) and of Mr. Watson, who was the first Labour Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Both those men afterwards carried great responsibilities. Both of them, even at that time, with a premonition of the future in their minds, were deeply anxious about the attitude of their Party and the trade unions behind it to this question of immigration. In Australia, the unions have worked through that period of failure to understand the ultimate needs of their country. They have overcome, or largely overcome, their fears; they have seen and understood the long-term interests and necessity. I hope very much that in this country all our unions will do likewise.

I regard as a hopeful sign the fact that in the admirable speech, if I may say so, which the noble Lord, Lord Dukesten, made in this House during the debate on the gracious Speech, he referred to the importance of our devoting ourselves to the development of Canada, from which he had recently returned, and making good our needs, [...] possible, in other direction. It is our business to share the Dominion task, and at the same time to face our own domestic problem. Our foremost duty now—and this is the main emphasis which I would like to give to this debate—is to cease thinking in terms of Britain only. Britain cannot revive and Britain cannot remain a great Power without the co-operation of the Commonwealth. That is a fact which has to be got into the mind of every man and woman, every boy and girl, in this country. Without a strong united Commonwealth and brotherhood of sovereign nations, the world's hopes—and our own hopes—of peace and stability are bound to be frustrated.

A united Commonwealth, strong in men and women as well as strong in resources and strong in the British instinct and tradition, is an indispensable element in the structure of a world moving towards a broader realization of the freedoms proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations. Without it, indeed, that Charter will never come to fruition. I hope, therefore, that the urge towards settlement overseas, which is strong in our youth to-day and which is welcome to the Dominions, will not be hampered but will be encouraged by all of us. I am dealing rather with general principles than with details, for it is difficult in opposition, with little knowledge of what has recently passed between the Dominion Governments and our own Government, to know what are the immediate conditions in which this problem is being discussed. I believe that we can rely upon His Majesty's Government not to discourage this idea but to give it all possible encouragement.

An essential corollary to this—and this, I think, must be faced—is corresponding immigration of carefully chosen foreigners to our own shores. Both these things appear to me to be indispensable—I am giving only a personal opinion, of course—to our national revival and to a better balance in our economy. They are indispensable, too, to our duty as a member of a brotherhood which constitutes the world's best and only model of easy, willing and complete cohesion between sovereign nations. This is a long-term problem, certainly requiring a long-term policy understood and approved by our people. The greatest immediate necessity—and here I hope that this debate in your Lordships' House may help, for our debates are sometimes read, and in the weekly edition of Hansard they are even reaching the railway bookstalls—is the education of the people in the implications of this whole population problem, grave for us and grave for the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Leader of the House will have an important contribution to make to that business of forming a sound opinion. I give place to him with great satisfaction that he is amongst us again, refreshed by direct contact with two great Dominions, to give us the benefit of his refreshment.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I think that it is fair to say that this debate on a matter of far-reaching importance is quite in line with the discussions which your Lordships' House have initiated on many occasions during the past years. I think that the dilemma of the situation was well presented in the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. It is a fact that this country needs men in many of our essential industries, because the demands upon our production are so great that unless they are met we shall not be able to purchase from abroad what we need for our sustenance and for our manufactures. At the same time, the demand for men in the Commonwealth is just as urgent. Those two things are both true. It is a very remarkable concatenation of circumstances, and it is the problem with which the Government have been confronted for some considerable time.

On that I would draw attention to the very fully considered reply which my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour gave in another place last week. That was a reply on this very issue, and he said: The question of immigration must not be regarded"— and your Lordships will note the "not"— solely from the standpoint of our production needs, but also from that of the long-term advantages of the interchange of populations within the British Commonwealth. Nor can the natural flow of immigration, which is already limited by available transport facilities, be stopped except by the imposition of special restrictions and I do not intend to take such a course. That was, as I have said, a considered and carefully framed statement of policy, and I am sure it is acceptable—at least I think it is—to every noble Lord who has spoken to-day. Therefore it is for this country to decide—and I think, on the whole, it is fair to say that we have decided, because this is not a Party question at all—that it is for us, so far as we can consistently with our own needs and even at some risk, to help to meet the demands of the Dominions for more people, and we are bona fide endeavouring to do so.

Now, of course, it does resolve itself into what might be called considerations of detail and ways and means. Apart from the long-term considerations, upon which I will have a word to say before I sit down, may I deal first of all with the short-term questions which have been raised? I would like to join with others in saying how much I was interested and impressed, not for the first time, by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, on this subject; and on that I should like to tell him that during the past year there have been few subjects upon which there have been more frequent consultations with Dominion Ministers than this. Whether that would be advantaged by the special committee or Commonwealth group which he suggests, I am quite prepared to consider, but I do not think that the necessity for approaching it by that means has emerged. I am not saying that in any way to deprecate the suggestion, but because we have in fact by every available means been in consultation with Dominions Ministers on the question of how to deal with this problem, and as to what is the best way of tackling it—and that not only from the short-term point of view either.

Dealing with one or two other points of detail raised by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, I am afraid I do not accept his statement that the contribution we have already made by way of shipping is, to use his words, "the merest drop in the bucket." Really the noble Lord ought to have regard to the demands on the Minister of Transport. They are just prodigious. Also we are still millions of tons short of shipping, and I fear we shall be short for some time yet. But, as a matter of fact, the diversion of a considerable amount of shipping has been, I think I may almost say, boldly undertaken in view of the many other demands upon shipping. For instance, three ships to Australia which were detailed for this service last year were supplemented by the use of the "Asturias" in the autumn, and she is already undertaking another journey with migrant passengers and so providing an additional two thousand berths. It is estimated that next year the shipping lines, together with this service, will be able to move something like twenty-five thousand people, which is a very substantial contribution seeing that it has been going for less than two years. It is, I think, a very good start; and at any rate, it shows an earnest of a very real desire to be helpful. So far as South Africa is concerned, there are two special ships detailed for the transport of migrants there. New Zealand has already secured the services of the "Atlantis." In short, we are really endeavouring, in concert with each Dominion, to provide all the shipping for migration that can properly be provided.

Having heard some of the suggestions about aircraft carriers and other methods, I can assure your Lordships that these suggestions have already all been meticulously examined, together with what use could be made of certain transports. You really cannot send our women and children, except under decent conditions. You really must have the ship put into decent condition before you can send them out. It would only discredit the whole thing otherwise. It is just as much a saving of time to take two or three months to put a ship into proper order as it is to send it out under unsatisfactory conditions. Considering the large crews that an aircraft carrier requires, and so on, I would assure your Lordships that, whilst this and other expedients have been honestly examined with a view to doing the best we can, this is not a practical proposal. We were glad of, and have been giving all the help we can to, Colonel Drew's transport of a considerable number of people by air to Canada, but still I do not think anyone would suggest that the transport by air of large numbers of people—certainly to Australia and New Zealand—is really a practical proposition. In small numbers, I dare say, it is all right; but otherwise this is not the way to deal with our problem. The Australian Government, in concert with ourselves, have given considerable thought to the possibility of building special ships, and in this, and in many other ways as a matter of fact, we have given a great deal of thought to the question of lending practical help in any consistent and logical way.

Let me mention in that connexion one or two other considerations. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said that we had had a few people coming back from Australia who were disgruntled in regard to their experiences. That is true. When I was out there I had some letters sent to me from some of them. But they had been very ill-advised people. They had gone out entirely on their own, without making any necessary and proper inquiries as to whether they would be likely to get a job or anywhere to live when they get there. So, I am afraid, some of them were disappointed. But this, of course, was only what might have been expected; it was, in fact, inevitable. But, my Lords, it is this kind of thing which helps to discredit the emigration movement, and considerations of this sort make it all the more necessary that migration should be carried out on practical and sensible lines. I can assure the House that Mr. Calwell is carefully classifying he emigrants to Australia into certain categories, of "priorities"—to use modern jargon. Those who do not come into these priorities are not being encouraged to migrate till additional provision is made. I cannot go into details on this, but that is what it amounts to. The first priorities are people for whom some accommodation can definitely be provided when they get to the Commonwealth country of their choice. The second priority consists of those who can depend on help of friends in the country to which they desire to go.

so that there will be some sort of accommodation for them when they get to their destination.

When I was in Brisbane I was myself greatly impressed by the efficiency of the arrangements which had been made there—and I saw them actually at work—to receive emigrants. The arrangements are run on very business-like lines. The names of people going there are known before they arrive, and there is even information filed regarding their affinities. Arrangements are made to get them places and to help them in every possible way. In short, it is an entirely practical scheme. There is accommodation for the reception of something like 300 people, and the place is a model of cleanliness. I consider that that is a practical and sensible way of dealing with migration, and one not likely to lead to frustration and disappointment.

It is exceedingly important that we should not lose our heads about this business but should use our best endeavours to see that it is carried out sensibly. What we are looking to and what the Dominions are looking to is a well directed movement consonant with what we can do on this side and what they can do on their side. The scheme is intended to be a full and developing scheme. And here I should like especially to comment on the question of the provision of accommodation on the other side—at the end of the journey. It is a remarkable fact that wherever you go in the world to-day housing seems to be one of the most acute problems. It is extraordinary, but there it is! One wonders why it should be so universal, why it should be that every nation is clamouring for houses! The problem is perhaps as urgent in New Zealand and Australia as it is in England. I must say that I entirely agree with the tribute which has been paid by my noble friend who sits behind me to the pioneers of his family—and I can honestly say that my own family too were pioneers—who went out years ago to carve out their fortunes overseas. In the case of members of my family it was New Zealand. But, for all that, this is a fact that we must face: we cannot dump thousands of people down by means of modern transport in large numbers in Commonwealth countries, unless some forethought has been taken for their accommodation on arrival. If such forethought is not taken, we shall be simply courting trouble. So it is that both in Australia and New Zealand much thought is being given to housing problems, just as it is over here, and those nations, like ourselves, will have to settle their own policies. There are noble Lords here who have an immense experience of some of the countries concerned, and I am sure that they will bear out what I say.

Now let me deal with a rather strange feature of the position in New Zealand by reason of natural conditions. In that country grass grows for ten months of the year. That is a fact of immense consequence. In this country grass grows for only about five months of the year—indeed we are lucky if it does that, but, in New Zealand, as I say, grass grows nearly all the time, as do the trees. This means that the capacity to support livestock in New Zealand is immensely greater than it is in Britain, because of that simple natural fact. And this does not in any way mitigate the truth of the statement made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. He knows as well as anyone that it would be possible to increase enormously food production in New Zealand without great difficulty. But of the requirements to that end, the chief is men.

In Australasia you see great expanses of territory compared with which our little island appears but a mere scrap. Those wide areas are capable of being greatly developed, and if they were developed they would, of course, add enormously to our food supplies and incidentally to their own prosperity. Their chief need, as I say, is men, and moreover there is also a great call for houses. I think it is important that the correctness of the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, about the potential increases in the production of food in New Zealand and Australia should be realized. New Zealand's meat production certainly could be doubled—a fact which is appreciated just as much by the New Zealand Government as it is by the noble Viscount. They are continually seeking to increase their food production. The great anxiety expressed everywhere in both Australia and New Zealand is as to what more they can do to help the Old Country. And in this connexion food production of course stands out first and foremost as the matter to which they can devote their attention.

But in addition to the need of men, account has to be taken of the fact that one-third of the population of Australia, or rather more than that, live in three cities, for the increasing urge in Australia and New Zealand, as it is in Canada also, is to the urban type of life. This is understandable. In some respects it is pleasanter to live under urban conditions. Very often these mean better water supplies, better lighting, and better amenities in many other ways which go to make life comfortable and pleasant. Therefore, the Governments of those countries find themselves confronted with the fact that a great access of manpower is needed to develop their countryside still awaiting development. Yet, at the same time, there is an increasing urge to develop minor or other industries, and for more and more people to live in towns. This creates a problem of some magnitude. This is their problem: whether in the countryside or town, they need more people. It will be for them in their own ways to decide the details of policies which will determine how their migrants will be disposed.

I think that some of the proposals with regard to dispersal that one has heard ventilated amount to little more than dreams. Some of them are hopelessly impractical. You cannot lift a town or part of a town from Great Britain and plant it in Australasia; that is really not a practical proposition. For, be it remembered, we are dealing with human beings and we have to consider what they want to do and what they do not want to do. I am sure that Lord Tweedsmuir was right when he said that the only kind of dispersal that is practicable so far as industries are concerned is the setting up of assembly plants, or portions of an industry, in the Dominions, and getting there development which will gradually add to itself as it grows. That is a practical form of dispersal and one consistent with reality. No other form of dispersal which requires any element of compulsion, such as, shall we say, dispersal of a population as a whole, is really practical politics. I am sure that everyone in our Dominions, like ourselves, is anxious to develop this movement, consistently with the realities of their own needs and with the recognition that we on our side can only help consistently with the realities of our own needs.

But, let me say, we are not prepared to take, and we do not take, as indeed, the quotation I have already given from the Minister of Labour shows, a shortsighted view of this problem. If 20,000 people out of the large number who have applied for particulars do succeed next year in going to Australia, I think we can afford it. I think it is right to afford it. Indeed, we have deliberately decided that it is right to afford it. And I believe it will add not only to the strength of the Commonwealth in a practical way, but no less. to the strength of this country. I would assure your Lordships that, so far as the long view is concerned, you are preaching to the converted when you talk to His Majesty's Government. I do not think there is any difference between us in this matter.

But we are, and any Government in authority in this country or in the Dominions must be, governed all the time by the realizable possibilities. Those are the limiting factors. Short of them, I do not think there is any limit that we need set at the moment to our purposes, because every one of us who has seen the vast spaces in Canada and Australia, and the great possibilities of New Zealand, comes away with the impression that the overwhelming necessity of those places is people. And the right people, the people we hope they will have, are people of British stock. We have given, and are giving, detailed examination to all practical suggestions, and I think what I have said has shown that we are willing to continue to do so.

I may say in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, that we have not, except in the case of the Fairbridge Society, renewed the contributions to voluntary societies. The demand is so overwhelming that we should be asking the societies to do something which is already being done by the Dominion Offices. It is not necessary. But we are continuing to help the Fairbridge Society, which, with its schools, so far as I and other noble Lords have seen, has rendered a first-class service within the limits of its opportunities. Apart from that, we are not making contributions to voluntary societies, because the demand is so great without them that it would not be sensible to encourage more people to come in and enlarge it.


In the case of the Big Brother Movement, on whose Committee I sit, we are limited in the number of lads sent out by the nominations we receive from Australia, and we cannot go beyond that. Our Society, which sends lads of that age to the Dominions in probably the best circumstances, is of such a nature that we are put to certain additional expenses. I feel that if the noble Lord could make a special allowance for Fairbridge, perhaps he could look into the position of the Big Brother Movement on something of the same footing.


I will consider it again. I was replying only in general terms to the noble Lord's inquiry. I am sure he will agree that our decision is the only sensible decision we could make at the present time.

In referring to the assistance that the Dominion Governments are giving to migrants, I should have said that the Union of South Africa has secured the service of two excellent ships and is making interest-free loans and helping to provide accommodation in South Africa for those who become approved migrants. The movement is being helped by these practical methods in every large nation of the Commonwealth. I am sure the debate we have had in your Lordships' House will encourage us to proceed with all practical means to develop this movement of which we all approve.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I echo the generous words of welcome given by almost every speaker congratulating the Leader of the House on his return from his long journey. It is fortunate that one of the first responsibilities he had in this House enabled him to deal with a matter of this consequence, a matter on which he is especially well charged to reply, quite apart from the knowledge which he already possessed. I would express my appreciation of the words of the several noble Lords who spoke in support of my Motion and add to that my appreciation at the manner in which the Leader of the House has dealt with it. If I may, as is customary before withdrawing a Motion, I would like to refer to two points in the debate.

I appreciate the fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has emphasized, that this is no partisan matter. It is certainly not controversial in the Party political sense. I venture to say, in regard to the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, that there will be widespread doubt as to the accuracy of his view that a reduction of population would necessarily cause a reduction of the standard of living in the United Kingdom. That is a controversial point. I appreciate the approach of the noble Viscount, Lord Addison. It is right that we should make some reference to the Minister of Labour's widely circulated statement. I must answer his reference to insufficient efforts being made. It is difficult to accept his forecast of 20,000 people next year.


I was referring to Australia only.


I withdraw. I misunderstood.


Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to make a remark about the reduction of the standard of living; it is important to understand this. If it were suggested that we should export our unproductive population, there would be no fall in our standard of living. But the suggestion is that we should export our productive population while still carrying the burden of our unproductive population, and that would unquestionably mean a fall in our standard of living.


My reply is that it was our productive population which built up the Empire in the last 200 years. With my eye on the clock, I do not desire to enter into controversy with my noble friend at the moment. As the noble Viscount the Leader of the House challenged me in regard to Mr. Calwell's statements, I will quote him. When asked, "To what extent is Australia prepared to receive and provide accommodation for a large number of emigrants?" he replied: We can take in industry 200,000 people. We cannot find accommodation for all. We could find accommodation for a large number. It is all a question of degree. The real point is the dispersal of the population over a period. The noble Viscount, Lord Addison, has said that that is a dream and is impractical. That he has expressed himself in those words may well cause disappointment. The transferability of contributions was a point of great interest with which the noble Viscount did not deal, although I hope that he may find an opportunity to deal with it at some future time.

In conclusion, I may say that there is general agreement as to the fundamental desire for facilitating migrants. The Government have clearly given their blessing to it. I feel sure that this debate will not discourage those adventurous spirits who want to repeat the record of the past, and no doubt they will profit from the facilities which will be given. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.