HL Deb 26 May 1948 vol 155 cc1096-134

6.50 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH rose to call attention to the urgent need for increased migration from this country to other parts of the Commonwealth and Empire, in order to ensure not only our own economic and military security, and that of the other nations of the Commonwealth, but also the security of Western Europe; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am afraid I cannot offer your Lordships' House an apology for delaying your Lordships before you go your peaceful ways to other avocations. It has not been due to any fault of your Lordships that time has not been found at an earlier date for this Motion, and I feel it is of such importance and the time is so ripe for discussing it that we would be failing in our duty were we not to carry on to-night rather than seek some other moment, which might or might not be forthcoming under the pressure of Parliamentary business. I owe some apology to those of your Lordships who were supporting my original Motion in that, in order to concentrate on the importance of Empire migration, I cut out at the last moment the earlier part of the Motion which dealt with the decentralisation of the Government at home. Owing to the likelihood of a forthcoming meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth and Colonies, I think this is one of the most important junctures in which to discuss the problem which has arisen, not only in the minds of the Government but in the minds of the people of the country and in the Press.

To begin on the domestic factors, I have for years maintained that with great pressure and high training we could probably produce food for 40,000,000 to 45,000,000 of the population of this country. But that is not the whole picture. At the present moment I believe that on the food side alone, with an intensification of the methods we are now using and with a thoroughly well thought out drive, we could produce food for 30,000,000 to 35,000,000 people. Apart from that, we are a nation of 48,000,000 people who have to import timber and raw materials for manufacture, and we are even probably going to be short of water as well. All that means scarcity; scarcity means controls; and controls mean an increasing bureaucracy who are not productive, bouches inutiles to feed without a corresponding ratio of production.

It has been argued that we could become the leading nation in new high-technique production processes, as we might well be capable of doing, and that we might go on living as before the war, if we were able to expand on the strength of our exports. That demands a continuous, steady development of world trade. It does not foresee slumps or future difficulties. To rely on that as the single factor for our future is far too dangerous. Equally important, it would mean that we are more and more continuing the dangerous process, which has been going on for years, of becoming a dis-balanced nation, far too crowded in one small area of land. Past empires have failed because there was too great concentration of population. The rabbit warren becomes rabbit sick; land becomes man sick. Too many cattle at the water hole fouls the water and the cattle become ill and the land becomes eroded all around. Militarily over-population in this country is a great danger, because there is always the temptation to attack people who cannot feed themselves and must import so much, and who are concentrated in good targets for aerial attack.

If we are to have a healthy, balanced life for our people and military and economic security, we should aim at a maximum of 35,000,000 million as the healthy population of this country. I do not believe that can be achieved or ought to be attempted to be achieved by the anti-biological and anti-social method of excessive birth control. There remains only one other course, that of careful, ordered and planned voluntary migration of whole cross-sections of the population, including dependants. Does this marry with the needs of the British Commonwealth to-day? I feel certain from many points of view that it does. Take defence alone. There are widely scattered areas in the Dominions and Colonies which require a far greater stiffening of population. The white population of the Commonwealth is less than half the population of this one small group of islands. I will leave military security to those who are experts. The Commonwealth have in principle, for the most part, agreed already on the advisability of taking a cross-section of our population. I believe that the meeting of Empire Prime Ministers is the greatest opportunity for a reorientation of the whole common purpose that we have had in our history during this century.

Your Lordships would have no wish and no right to make decisions on the policy on which the leaders of the Commonwealth are themselves the people to decide, but I cannot help hoping that our deliberations this afternoon may be of some use. Although many things I put forward may have been long in the minds of the leaders of the Commonwealth I hope they will provide some common grounds for future decisions. Already, to mention only two members of the Commonwealth, Australia and Canada have given a lead not only in words but by strong practical action in face of great difficulty. Peace becomes indivisible only when based on a common purpose among a great people. There is a tendency to-day for the world to fall into regions, such as the Pacific region, A Erica and Western Europe. The Commonwealth and the British Empire in general has this one supreme advantage: it is a unit divided by miles of sea, oceans and ranges. Therefore, if every member of the Commonwealth in his own region is strong, is capable socially, morally, economically and militarily of giving a lead, then our strength is multiplied tenfold when we come to world considerations, because it is the British Empire in this circumstance that may be the cement of peace on a world scale. I am not at this moment mentioning the United States, not because she has not with us an enormous part to play, but because time is so short that we need to consider our own affairs domestically and in the Commonwealth almost exclusively in this debate.

Those are our needs, May I detain your Lordships for a few moments on possible methods? Our tropical Colonies demand a far greater administrative technical population than they have had up to date—namely, farmers, civil servants, engineers, business men and so forth. There is no question that our own population will thrive at the expense of the native African, for instance. After all, Africa would starve if it were not for the white man's ability to check erosion as much as he has done; and there is need for him to be there to check it far more in future. Obviously, transport is the greatest single physical factor adversely affecting the speeding up of migration at the moment. But I feel that it is a matter of will; where the will is there the transport will follow. We may plead transport for a year or two, but it is an excuse which will not serve for long. The true problem, and by far the greatest, is the orderly absorption of the migrants, the preparation of the land, the buildings, the works on the land, the developments and so forth. Mr. Hudson, the United States Ambassador to Australia, has told the Australians, among other things, that her prime needs are immigration, irrigation and transportation. Of every sparsely populated country in the world it would be nearly true to say that these are the key factors.

Obviously, those abroad in the Commonwealth and the Colonies have given much thought to, and have already gone far in solving, many of these problems. I dare say the same problems have been occupying His Majesty's Government equally. But I should like to suggest that, apart from what has already been done and the schemes already envisaged, we should look at the whole problem with a far greater vision. From the Zambesi to the Fraser River, or whatever part of the Commonwealth you like to put forward. I venture to say that there is hardly one great watershed or one great river system that is not crying out for development and conservation of our resources. Sir John Boyd Orr has pointed out in terrifying terms the need to stop world erosion, and the need to feed the extra mouths. Already in the last ten years the population of the world has increased by more than three times the population of this island. While men multiply, acres are narrowing because they are being wasted, and when that happens belts must tighten, and perhaps wars become inevitable.

I suggest that there is a chance in the Commonwealth and in the Colonies for a survey to be made, taking in all those things that are necessary throughout its length and breadth to combat erosion, to develop hydro-electric resources, to develop minerals and so forth, in such a way as to ensure that it will be done with a balanced method giving priority, naturally, as the survey proceeds, to those part which are proved to be the most necessary either for industry or for agriculture. As this would work out, I believe it should be treated as a sort of great co-partnership, as it were, on the lines of a military operation. You would start on your development areas, on the analogy of the Tennessee Valley, with hutted camps where you could have married quarters, where you would start on the great work necessary: here it might be hydro-electric, there it might be dams; and elsewhere it might be afforestation. You would move to reclaim that land and develop its area. As the works were completed, so would more people come. You would have there a population who had migrated to that part, who would then have been acclimatised by years of work on that land, and would settle to their various jobs in their right proportions; who would have been screened by the very events through which they had gone, and above all, because they had worked with their brains and hands to develop that area, would feel that they had their roots in it; for what men do for themselves, they cherish afterwards.

In the next two or three years, perhaps only a few hundred thousand can leave this country, but if an ordinary progressive development, such as I have tried to outline in the few moments at my disposal, were to take place it would mean a continued demand, not only in this country but throughout the Commonwealth, United States and Western Europe for plant and material, and that would keep field and factory, office and business and shipping, all going at full capacity. If we do not do something of this sort how, when Marshall Aid comes to an end, are we likely to avoid the disasters of a world slump—a slump which is already being banked upon by at least one division of the world for its own ends? If we carry this out, I do not believe that that need ever occur.

That brings me to the last part of my Motion, about the survival of Western Europe. England—Great Britain if you like—struggling to keep its head above water can give neither hope nor a lead to the nations of Western Europe. With Britain and those nations working to a common purpose, with everything going well, all the industrial resources will be needed. But Europe's Colonial Empire—the Colonial Empire of the French, the Belgians, the Dutch and the Portuguese—will equally be joining in such a scheme as this. Half the nations of the world can work to save themselves from immediate disaster and ultimate starvation. I do not believe that this is a little England policy to work for a much smaller population at home. In the greatest crises of our history, with the exception of the last few years, we have had an infinitely smaller population and have always been up against the preponderance of others. Real strength will lie when we make individuals men with hope, families units with opportunity, at home and throughout the British Empire, when we have filled it with homes that really mean something. Naturally, I do not expect the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to commit himself on any details, but this is an urgent and a vital problem. It is something upon which our whole future depends. What I do expect and hope is that he will show evidence, if your Lordships will forgive the phrase, that there is fire in the belly of those who govern us with regard to their intentions. I beg to move for Papers.

7.11 p.m.

LORD BARNBY had given Notice of his intention to ask His Majesty's Government their present plans for assisting migration within the Empire; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this question seems to fall into two categories. First, the position of those who wish to emigrate, including all the ex-Service men, whose numbers, if we are to believe the Press now run to great numbers. That is the short range. The second category is that which believes that dispersion of population and industry is a necessary development if we are to save the rest of the community of this island from economic and defence dangers. That is long range. We have had many discussions in this House on this question, and it is right that it should be discussed here. I ask myself exactly what we want to achieve? The aim is to get some encouragement from the Government on points that have been repeatedly raised. Before I sit down I intend to raise again some of these points, of which I have given the noble Viscount notice.

On the first of those two angles, there is no necessity to emphasise the anxiety in the minds of those who wish to emigrate— and I press this from the point of view of the ex-Service men. On the second of those angles, I wish to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Ports-mouth. He has indeed performed a great service in the timeliness of raising this question at this moment, and he has brought to these discussions an emphasis on new angles. He speaks with scientific knowledge and wide experience from overseas, which he has to our benefit recently reinforced with visits to parts of the Commonwealth. I am satisfied that in associating myself emphatically with his remarks, there is little need to add to the general question, I hope his speech will be widely published. It will give great comfort and encouragement to those who read it throughout the Commonwealth, and it will give inspiration to enormous numbers in this country who are vitally interested in this question.

The noble Earl emphasised the desirability of the dispersal of the population. Naturally, only a relatively small member can be moved within measurable time. But it is there that we seek some indication of whether the Government are in sympathy with plans in that direction. On searching through the past debates, it has not been easy to form any clear indication. I confine myself on that head to the belief in the accuracy of the forecasts that a change in the world activity of trade must necessarily come. Particularly in the consumer industries, it will come much sooner than appears to be the expectation of the Government from their export targets, and I feel that he consideration now of plans for the dispersal to the Empire of some part of our population, and our machinery and our capital with it, should engage the attention of the Government.

This is not a Party question, and from the remarks in the Press the strength of its belief in Socialist circles is becoming more and more manifest. I have just been reading an article by a writer for the Daily Herald much on the lines of my noble friend's speech this afternoon. It is a widespread belief, and we should seek indications from the Government as to what they plan to assist it. I recollect that at about this stage after the termination of hostilities in the First World War, I associated myself with a movement in another place urging the Government to ask Parliament to vote a sum of £100,000,000, to be spread over ten years, for the purpose of assisting the dispersal of the population to the Empire. I am convinced, in the light of experience since then, that had some part of that aim been achieved, we would have strengthened the outstanding parts of the Empire. I realise that in all these matters there are two parties to an arrangement, and it is necessary that there should be reciprocity on the part of the receiver. Our hope of achieving something along those lines did not materialise, and I believe that as a result of it the Dominions—particularly Australia, New Zealand and South Africa—were less able in the last war to give us aid than they would have been. Mercifully, through their assistance, and by their manufacturing capacity—I propose to deal with Canada in a moment—we were largely assisted by their supplies in carrying on hostilities.

The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, emphasised the timeliness of a conference between the Dominions and I agree with that—in spite of the statement by the Prime Minister on April 22 in answering a question on this subject (I quote from Hansard.) No consultations have been held between the Governments of Commonwealth countries on this subject. That was on the subject of migration. I believe that momentarily there is evidence of a distinct change of outlook in Australia towards migration. In this connection, perhaps I may be allowed to quote from some remarks recently made by Mr. R.G. Casey, an Australian who has served this country in a prominent position with great ability during the war. Speaking in Australia he said: It was vital that the United Kingdom should decentralise her population throughout the British Commonwealth. Until she ceased regarding herself as an isolated community and planned her economy accordingly, the people of the United Kingdom had little hope of rising above their present drab austerity.

I pass from those general remarks to three points on which I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will be able to give us some information to-day. It has been emphasised that to achieve easy migration there must be some helpfulness with regard to the transferability of accumulated contributions to social services in this country. I am indebted to the Commonwealth Relations Office for giving me some information. Apparently there is no evidence yet—perhaps some will be given to-day—that the Conference which took place last year has resulted in the completion of these arrangements. The second point relates to shipping. I was taken to task by the Leader of the House in the last debate on this subject for suggesting that facilities up to then had been inadequate. I hope the noble Viscount will give us some indication that plans are being made to enable the situation to be helped by means of American assistance. I do not believe that dispersion will weaken this country's prestige. To suggest that is a fallacy. I believe that it will increase the strength of this country if all other units of the Commonwealth are strong. On this point I should like to quote from the Evening Standard of May 3: Emigration will never weaken Britain. Her strength lies in the Empire. If the Empire is peopled with British stock, Britain herself will be guarded more securely and her influence in the world will not diminish. I am satisfied to stand on the strength of the Monarchy. I believe that the sentimental ties of the Crown will assure a continuance of that bond, whatever may be the degree of dispersion within the Empire.

I now turn to the last point of which I gave Notice to the noble Viscount. It concerns the recent restrictions on the transfer of migrants' funds from this country to Canada. There appears to be an almost vicious discrimination against Canada. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that it involves an annual cost which in present circumstances cannot be borne. Let me refer to the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place. I quote from Hansard of April 8. In reply to a question by Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre, who asked: Will he give an assurance that the Canadian Government agreed to this modification….? The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied: As the honourable and gallant gentleman knows very well, it is of the utmost importance that we should not waste dollars. There was no statement as to whether Canada had been consulted or merely informed. I should like to draw attention to Section 95 of the British North America Act. I will not quote it, but the interpretation clause certainly shows that immigration is jointly a responsibility of the Dominions and Provincial Governments.

It is well known that the Province of Ontario has been carrying out an emigration programme from this country. It would seem reasonable to ask the Government to say definitely whether Canada, Ottawa and Ontario were consulted and agreed to these modifications. I wish time made it possible to give an idea of the hardships that are being caused by these regulations. They are making it very difficult for ex-Service men who intended migrating to Canada; they are tending to break up families who wish to move as a unit. But I would emphasise a still more important point. A proportion of British migrants to Canada, and a proportion of migrants from other countries—including the European E.V.W.'s—is altogether desirable. Canada has been most generous to us in lending us large sums of money, and to say now that we are out to save the equivalent of £2,500,000 sterling in dollar remittances for migrants to Canada is surely absurd.

Your Lordships will be aware that the increase of population in the United States of America in the current decade will exceed the total population of Canada. This country, after all it has received from Canada, should not baulk at a small outlay to avoid the complaint by Canada of discrimination. In this connection, I must quote a despatch from the Sunday Times of Ottawa of May 16 as an example of the dangers facing us. I think it is significant. I quote: Big business interests……in the province of Ontario are already shaken by the growth of Socialism and State trading in Western Europe, and are now looking askance at Western Union…. They are tending to believe that their economic future lies with the United States. The importance of this question of remittances to Canada is so great that I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will be able to convey some correction. His sympathy in all matters of Empire is well known. In conclusion, I should like to associate myself most emphatically with the address of my noble friend the mover of this Motion.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour it would indeed be brutal of me to detain your Lordships for longer than is absolutely necessary. I can assure your Lordships that my intentions in that respect are most kindly. Nevertheless, there is a matter which I feel I most raise this evening because I believe it to be one of considerable importance. The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, has raised this question, and we are all grateful to him for raising it at this particular moment. Both he and the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, I think, might be described as having dealt with the matter in general terms and in the light of a long-term policy—the problem of the redeployment of our people and of our capital resources. I should like to associate myself most cordially with much that they have said. However, I would like to remind your Lordships that there are immediate problems of emigration which, in my opinion, brook no delay whatsoever. It is to one of these problems that I should like to devote a few minutes this evening, partly because I believe that if this problem is not dealt with it will represent great hardship to some 32,000 people, and partly because, in view of my connections with the British community in Egypt, I feel it my duty to raise this matter.

The problem is that of the British community in Egypt at the present time, consequent upon the withdrawal of the majority of our Forces and influence from that country, and upon various laws which have been passed by the Egyptian Government. Briefly, I should say a word about the British community themselves. At the end of the last war, they consisted mainly of three classes: officials, senior and junior, business men and a broad class which I think we might describe as employees. They were employed by somebody or were small traders. Broadly speaking, they were the wage-earners and the salary-earners on a small scale. To-day most of the officials have left Egypt, probably wisely. The ones who left earlier received compensation; those who left later received little, and they had difficulty in finding employment on their return to this country. They have largely left the country. The business men do not constitute part of this particular problem because most of them are eminently capable of looking after themselves Therefore, it is the mass of the employed people to whom I wish to refer. In addition to that, perhaps it would be suitable if I reminded your Lordships of the general composition of the British community it Egypt because, of course, they are not by any means all Anglo-Saxons. Figures are one of the great difficulties in this particular problem because, so far as I know, there are no official figures available. If I quote any figures this evening, I do not quote them with authority and I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for any errors that I may make. They are only figures from private sources and I am prepared to accept correction with reference to them. I am informed that the total of the British community in Egypt is about 32,000 and they are divided approximately as follows. People of the Anglo-Saxon element number about 17 per cent. of that population, many of whom have mainly Syrian or Egyptian wives but who are themselves of British descent and are mainly ex-soldiers who settled in Egypt after either the First World War or the Second World War.


I did not quite catch that figure.


Seventeen per cent. They are mainly ex-soldiers who settled in Egypt after the First World War or the Second World War. Some of them traded on their own account; others were employed by various commercial concerns; a few were employed by the Government, and some by the Army. The next group are the Maltese who form about 27 per cent. of the whole. I should like to say a word about the Maltese in particular, because they are a very large community and they are an extremely hard-working and loyal people who are intensely proud of their British nationality, They are proud of their British nationality because of the policy that has been pursued in Egypt since the year 1924, when the High Commissioner at that time took certain special steps to infuse a spirit of Commonwealth solidarity into the British community in Egypt, a step which I believe was thoroughly desirable. In particular, he took the pains to make sure that all people who were British citizens were made aware of the fact that they were British citizens. They were given the opportunity of having British education. British schools were provided and, where they had to go to foreign schools—mainly Roman Catholic schools—British priests were brought out from England to teach in those Roman Catholic schools, so that they had the benefit of British education and were taught to be English, as opposed to Italian or French. Therefore, the Maltese have been brought up to think of themselves as British and to be proud of it. The Maltese community carry out a large number of tasks, I think, with considerable ability. They are mostly clerks, store-keepers, merchants and small traders. Then there are the Cypriots who form 34 per cent. of the whole. They are mainly Greek in sentiment, but they are too multifarious in character for me to worry your Lordships with them to-night.

Finally, there are the rest, who are I again multifarious—a large Jewish community of all kinds, of Levantines of British nationality. I will have a word to say about them in a moment. Perhaps your Lordships may think that this has little to do with the question of migration, but I will come to the point of my discourse. The British community in Egypt at present are undergoing very great hard-ship and misery, and great unemployment, by reason of the situation in that country. The causes of that situation are two-fold. In the first place, I would remind your Lordships that during the last war the National Service Act was applied in Egypt. I believe it to be the only country outside the British Commonwealth where conscription to the British Forces was applied. In most of the British community, it was welcomed with alacrity, but the fact remained that men of the British community in Egypt of a military age were conscripted into the Forces in one form or another, and at the end of the Second World War, when they went back to their jobs they found in many cases that their jobs were no longer there. That was due, if I may say so with respect and without upsetting the foreign relations of His Majesty's Government, to the fact that Egypt is not such a civilised country as ours, and there were no laws like we have here to make sure that those who deserved well of the Egyptians—and they deserve a great deal better of the Egyptians than the Egyptians themselves—should get their jobs back. As a result, in many cases they did not get their jobs back.

The second point is the recent attitude of the Egyptian Government to foreigners in their country. I have a copy of the most recent laws on employment in Egypt. Those laws provide that in future 40 per cent. of the directors of all limited companies in Egypt must be Egyptian, that 75 per cent. of all the salaried staff in all limited companies in Egypt must be Egyptian, and 95 per cent. of all the workpeople drawing wages in all limited companies in Egypt must be Egyptian. Therefore, it is clear to your Lordships that anybody in Egypt who has not a job at the present time is extremely unlikely to find one, unless he happens to be an Egyptian. Again, the result is self-evident—namely, that the British community in Egypt, who are deserving well, not only of Egypt but of this country, are undergoing times of great difficulty and of great unemployment. There is growing up something which I think is unfortunate—a poor British population in Egypt. I can hardly conceive of anything worse for our prestige in the Middle East.

I am unable reliably to give the figures of actual unemployment. Perhaps the noble Viscount will be better armed than I am, and will be able to give more accurate figures. But I understand there are about a thousand people of various kinds—about whose nationalities I will not weary you at this late hour apart from saying that the Anglo-Saxon element is the smallest—at present unemployed. In addition there are another 1,400 people who are at the moment employed by the forces in the Canal Zone, who presumably will become unemployed very shortly, as those forces are progressively withdrawn. Nor, incidentally, could their living conditions in the Canal Zone be regarded with satisfaction. Many of them have their families in Cairo and they have had to go to the Canal Zone to get work. Consequently, their wages are inadequate to support them in the standard of life to which they have been accustomed. Furthermore, such figures as I have do not take into account the many members of the British community in Egypt who have had to take such jobs as they can get, many being extremely inadequate by reason of their wages or salaries to maintain them in the standard of living to which they are accustomed, and also, in my opinion, entirely unsuitable.

It is evident to me that the position of the British community in Egypt is one which we cannot contemplate with a clear conscience, and one which we cannot leave as it is, It is a very unhappy position, and I feel that something should be done about it. I admit freely that the proportion of those affected who, if I may use the phrase, are Anglo-Saxons, relatively small compared with the others, but that is no reason why we should forget them. After all, they are British subjects and they are our responsibility. What is more, I feel most strongly that we owe them a great debt of gratitude for the services they rendered during, the war, and for their loyalty. As I have already said, there is no more loyal community than the Maltese, whom we rightly taught to regard themselves as British. I believe the noble Viscount is at one with me on this matter, and I most earnestly submit that it would be the greatest disaster if, when times are bad, we let those people down; I believe it would be unjust from their point of view and what is more, it would be a very poor advertisement to others who at the moment believe that in belonging to the great British. Commonwealth they belong to something which provides them with a strength and security which they can nowhere else receive. Therefore, I feel that both for our honour and for our prestige something should be done.

I am sorry to take so long, but I have a few more remarks to make about this difficult problem, and I would not like noble Lords to think that nothing is being done, because a very great deal of relief work is being carried out by the benevolent societies in Cairo and in this country, of one of which I have the honour to be President. Nor have the Government neglected the situation. For example, all those whose distress is directly attributable to the recent Egyptian laws, or to the transference of troops to the Canal Zone, are entitled either to repatriation to this country, or to a dole of some kind to keep them going while times are bad. But these are mere palliatives to the situation. It is not good for any man to be unemployed and to live upon a dole. Equally, as those who are repatriable cannot be repatriated unless they are virtually penniless, it means that men, many of whom have put in years of service abroad, arrive back in this country without a penny. They are not suited to work in this country; it is difficult to find them houses; and it is difficult to find them jobs. They realise all this, and in the vast majority of cases they do not wish to come back here.

Therefore, I feel that all this is appropriate to a debate on the general subject of emigration, because I believe most sincerely that the only answer to this problem is for an organised system of emigration to be arranged for the British community in Egypt. We should cease to deal with the situation piecemeal, by individual cases, and should try to investigate the whole situation and find out whether something on a larger scale cannot be done. I would remind the House that many of these people who have served so long in Egypt are particularly suited for work in Africa or in other parts of the British Empire—much more suited, indeed, than they are for work in this country. Many of them have occupied positions of responsibility and trust and, particularly in the junior administrative groups, the Maltese are first-class people to employ. I hope, therefore, that something can be started upon these lines, because I believe it is vitally important that if anything is going to be done it should be done quickly. Many of these people are unemployed at the moment, and in my opinion the situation will deteriorate as we progressively withdraw from Egypt.

The first thing I suggest is that the problem should be properly investigated. There are few figures available as to how many people are involved, and in what categories they are to be found, what are their capabilities, and in what possible places they could be offered jobs. I do not believe, with great respect to the noble Viscount, that it has got to that stage yet, but I believe it is important that a real and full investigation of this situation should take place, with a view to finding out what sort of people there are, what sort of jobs they have been doing, what sort of experience they have had, and whether they could be catered for in the many schemes that are in operation to-day. To take only a few examples, there are the ground-nuts scheme in Tanganyika and the great Middle East base that is being built up in Kenya. And I believe more schemes of development are taking place in Australia which might possibly provide jobs for some of these people. I believe that this is a problem of emigration which cannot wait. Something must be done, and I believe that if we tackle it we shall not only do something which is thoroughly desirable from the point of view of the British Commonwealth as a whole, but we shall have discharged a great debt of gratitude which we owe to the British community in Egypt.

7.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord who has just sat down for his speech. It is fitting that he should concern himself so anxiously with the welfare of British nationals and others in Egypt. I should like to turn, however, to what may be called the longer-term aspect of the subject, and I wish at the outset to express my appreciation of the opportunity of being able to speak on a subject which I believe we should regard as an important part of Empire policy and not as merely incidental to it. This long-term aspect makes it a matter that young people, I believe, should study with care, because it is likely to affect the world in which they will live even fifty years hence. Your Lordships will be well aware of the great numbers of people who desire to emigrate from this country to the Dominions at this moment. I believe that shipping com panies have 30,000 people on their books for Australia alone, and the Dominions have made clear their willingness, even their desire, to take all the people with whom we can supply them. I gather that the maximum intake per annum that Australia is prepared for, is 70,000.

If there is such a widespread desire for migration, some good reasons must exist for it. We have lost the position which we held before the war as the pre-eminent industrial nation, and with it our capacity to pay for our full requirements in food and raw materials, half of which have to be imported. But I will not weary your Lordships by describing a state of affairs with which yon are only too familiar. It seems to me that we are reaching a situation in which, if we cannot sell all the goods that we need to sell, that part of the population which is dependent upon the sale of those goods for its sustenance will have to go elsewhere. If that were to happen, home agriculture would come into its own, and would be able to support a far greater I proportion of the population, thereby making us stronger not only in war but also in peace. At the same time, the shipping that would be released from carrying the food which we consume here would be made available for earning foreign currencies in the carrying trade of the world.

That is one aspect of our situation, but there is another to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention, because it is one which is not often touched upon. The population has now risen to well over 49,000,000 and although the birth-rate is falling the total population is likely to go on increasing until, I believe, 1970 or 1980. The people of this country are living in overcrowded conditions and I suggest that those conditions may well be a cause, rather than a potential cure, of the man-power shortage, for in a highly complex society such as ours there must be a high proportion of the total population employed in non-productive trades of all kinds. If the population were to be thinned out a smaller proportion would be employed in those trades. I believe that that is a matter which is well worthy of consideration. As conditions; are now, they are an overhead cost that must be met in prices, and I believe that together with the cost of carrying imports that we need from overseas they are a powerful factor in maintaining the cost of living at its present high level.

In these circumstances, I cannot wonder at the constant demands for higher pay which one hears continually. But on top of all that, what one might call this cacophony of activity and life must be administered, and for that purpose a large, complicated and expensive Civil Service is required, the cost of which is additional to all the other costs. But, apart from expense, there is another point which I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention. That is the shortage of space. One sees, on every hand, the sad spectacle of the promoters of new towns, green belts, and overspill areas, the farmers and the War Office all competing with each other for the same pieces of land. I will not touch upon the result of overcrowding on family life and its attendant effects upon the birth-rate, because that is such a large matter that it ought to be dealt with separately. I would, however, remind your Lordships that in the last century the average number of children per family was in the neighbourhood of five, whereas in the ten years before the war it had dropped to two.

Now, for a moment, I would like to turn to the position of the Dominions. Your Lordships will be only too keenly aware of their rapid industrial development in the last few years. The value of Australia's primary products in the year 1944–45 was £278,000,000, where as the value of her secondary industrial products was £362,000,000. We can no longer regard Australia as not being an industrial nation. Take the case of Canada. The value of her motor vehicle exports in 1939 was 25,000,000 I dollars, whereas in 1945 the value of her I motor vehicle exports had risen to 351,000,000 dollars. We have learned the value of the industrial capacities of the Dominions in war and we are learning their value to us in peace. But, great as their development has been, they still require the experience, as well as the people to man their industries, with which we can provide them. I believe that a a diminution in industrial activity in this country, so long as there is a corresponding increase in industrial activity in the Dominions, will be no loss to us here.

There are one or two aspects of migration in the past upon which I should now like to touch. It is just over one year, I believe, since the agreement was made with Australia, and during that period of time over 25,000 people have gone to Australia—compared with a possible maximum intake of 70,000. Under the present system of migration, I think that we cannot and, perhaps, never shall be able to provide sufficient people to meet the Dominions' requirements. In that, there is a possibility of danger that I think we should watch. Some of the Dominions—Australia in particular—urgently require a certain minimum quota of emigrants, and if they do not get those emigrants from this country there will be plenty of people on the Continent who will be waiting and only too eager to accept the chance of going to one of the Dominions The United Kingdom has a vast capacity for absorbing large quantities of foreign blood into her midst without the national characteristics of the people being materially altered in any way; I do not believe, however, that the Dominions, which are still young countries, have quite the same capacity. If any Dominion were to take in a large quantity of foreign blood, it might well in the long run prejudice its relations with the rest of the Commonwealth. It has been said that past migration has been haphazard, that it has been what one might call "unconscious migration." That may have been all right in the past, but there is now danger to us in that kind of migration, unless it is carried out on a community basis. There is always the possibility of its giving rise to the economic refugee. The disappointment of a migrant, when he arrives at a place which does not quite come up to what he has expected, causes resentment which may result in damage to other people who are thinking of migrating.

We should remember that migration tends to attract chiefly able-bodied men and women, and so long as the problem of migration is not faced squarely, and this seepage process is allowed to continue, there will be a danger of our balance of productive and unproductive persons being upset. At the same time such a seepage process can cause suspicion between Governments, in the belief that some kind of body-snatching is going on. Although one may not, perhaps, notice it at the time, that is a matter which may well cause friction and bad relations between the Dominion Government and the Government of the United Kingdom. If these beliefs are true, the present attitude towards migration is inadequate and even at times harmful. We must regard the whole matter in a bigger way.

I come to my final point. I think we should take advantage of the widespread desire that exists for migration, both here and in the Dominions, for making closer unity of the Commonwealth, and for making the Commonwealth more powerful. To-day we have to think in terms, not of haphazard migration, or even of community migration, but of communities going with their industries as complete and self-contained units. Only in that way can we overcome the danger inherent in our overcrowded existence, without at the same time upsetting our balance of productivity. Obviously, such a plan could not originate from the Government—although perhaps on this side we might be glad if they themselves were to migrate! It is a matter for Empire industry as a whole, for the trade unions, the employers' associations, the chambers of commerce and the financial institutions. The first move must come from them, but the Government can help by giving their blessing and encouragement. Here I should like to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a question. I am sorry I did not give him notice, and as it is a matter which affects Government policy, I shall understand if he cannot answer it to-day. Are the Government prepared or not to encourage and support the large-scale migration of industry within the Commonwealth? This is a subject for discussion between all Empire interests concerned. I believe they must discuss it sooner or later. It is up to Empire industry as a whole to unite. I believe that it is on the unity of Empire industry as a whole, that the unity of the Commonwealth must ultimately be based. If anything concrete arises from those discussions, then would be the chance of the Government to assist in carrying them I out. I do not believe just one industry or one section of the community is affected by this plan; it is the whole Commonwealth. I believe that if the wealth of experience and productive capacity massed in these Islands can be distributed within the Commonwealth to those points where it can increase and be most effective, the rôle we shall play in the future and the contribution we can make to world peace will be far greater.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, this is the third debate we have had on this subject in one year, and I think it extremely unfortunate that the rush of Parliamentary business should mean we must have this debate at a late hour, and at an awkward time. I do not suppose that could be helped, however. We are all grateful for the thoughtful and interesting speech of the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, in introducing this Motion. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, who has made a long and careful study of this subject. They advocated what we might call the wider plan. As my noble friend Lord Lloyd pointed out, while we must consider the wider plan we must keep our minds on the not less important question of those communities, on whose behalf he spoke so eloquently, who have fallen into honourable misfortune, and whose plight will bear no delay in its recognition. I was interested in the suggestions which the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, made, upon which I will comment a little later. I will not detain your Lordships unduly long.

I think that anybody who studied the British Commonwealth more objectively than we are able to do, would think it surprising that whereas many years ago we had a centralised Government of the whole Commonwealth, and long ago gave it up, we still have a highly centralised population. It is a remarkable thing that of the English-speaking British stock, five-sevenths live in one-ninetieth part of their territories—and not the richest part. These territories—Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, seventy-seven limes the size of these islands, have a population of not more than twice that of Greater London. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who said that the redistribution of the British race was, to quote his own words, "an important part of our Imperial policy and not merely incidental to it." I would put it much higher than that. Sometimes one reads in newspaper articles of the necessity to disperse our population. That, of course, is the wrong word. One talks of dispersing a crowd—it is a transitive act. This is something quite different. It is a great, spontaneous, migratory urge which no Government could instigate, but which it is the duty of the Government to guide. It is a search for countries of greater opportunity, and because it is the search for greater opportunity, it takes the most adventurous.

If we stand in the way of the adventurous, or, rather, if we had stood in their way in the past, we should never hold the position we do now. It is that which guides the outflow of people, which guided it up to the 1914–18 War and in the years immediately following it. It brought an ebb tide in the 1930's when the depression gripped the Commonwealth countries. They came back to Britain as a country apparently of greater opportunity. It is the root of that strange population state of affairs which exists in Canada. Canada has a re-migration problem. Thousands—in fact, millions—have gone to Canada since the year 1867, the year of Confederation; millions have left Canada in later generations; but if nobody had gone to Canada since 1867, and nobody had left Canada, the population of that great country would be what it is to-day. War accentuates this trend, and I think conscription probably has also something to do with it. Young men come out of the Forces a year beyond the time when they would normally have been settled in civilian life, possibly with their outlook slightly broadened. War makes people realise that the world is a bigger place than they had ever before realised.

We are overcrowded in this country in the sense of accommodation in many ways—in our schools and in many other aspects in our national life. But, due to the shortages and restrictions which now afflict us, I think we probably all have a much greater feeling of overcrowding than actually exists. They give us the feeling that if only there were fewer of us there would be more to go round. Noble Lords have spoken of the great numbers of people who now have their names down to emigrate—I believe nigh upon a million. This, of course, is a gross figure, because some have their names down in several places, and some might perhaps change their minds when it came to the decision. But the net figure, though it would be smaller, would be gigantic. In these days emigration can be no haphazard process, but must be calculated on the absorptive capacities of the countries to which the emigrants go, and the willingness of those countries to receive them. There is great talk of targets. Sometimes people emote figures of how many people Australia or Canada can take over the next few years; and, in fact, how many people we in this country can afford to lose. Whether it is the country of adoption or the country of origin, I do not believe one can make a safe bet in fixing a target. A century ago the Australians thought that their country was reasonably populated. It was only four or five years after, when gold prospectors found the enormous goldfields, which became Ballarat and Bendigo, that the population of Victoria doubled within a year. Things like that can go on happening, and one cannot forecast what population can be accommodated in, say, even five years' time. But, whatever the figure is, it is vastly in excess of their present populations. Those countries are just as eager to receive our settlers as our settlers appear eager to go there. My noble friend Lord Barnby said in his speech that this involves two questions. It is a question of those who wish to emigrate, and a question of the future of the Commonwealth itself.

The Commonwealth countries want our settlers for very good reasons. I think war has shown everyone that a vast country with a tiny population is a precarious place in which to be in such a conflict as we have recently experienced. As my noble friend Lord Fairfax said, they are now industrialising hard. They need a growing population to absorb a growing home market. They have capital installations—docks, railways, and services of Government—that could take care of far larger populations than they now maintain, whose presence would help to spread the taxes of their maintenance more thinly. They badly want our settlers, and our settlers want to go. But what are the long-term considerations? To that question we must address ourselves. Under two heads, briefly, they are strategy and economics Some people still write and speak as though, if war broke out, we could evacuate the inhabitants of these islands to Australia, to Canada or elsewhere, at a moment's notice. That is physically impossible, as any sensible man must realise. Then the specious but intriguing argument is often put up that if this island is defensible in war we should keep everybody here, so that we shall have as many people as possible to defend it; or, if it is not defensible, let us clear out not 5,000,000 but 48,000,000—and that with the greatest possible expedition. I have heard that specious argument put forward. What is perfectly plain is that, however strong Britain is, if the other Commonwealth countries are weak, then the Commonwealth as a whole is weak, and Britain's strength is nothing. The converse is also the case. There are those who like to cast doubt, too, by saying that it will lead only to a weakened Britain and a Commonwealth not strengthened in proportion; or perhaps to a group of middle Powers, all having average strength but none with sufficient strength to exercise a necessary leadership, or to rise to the full heights of production. Well, like all these things, it is a matter of balance.

Then the economic argument is put forward—an argument, in many ways, I think, somewhat degrading to human personality, because it balances the human being who leaves this country in the same scale as if he were some article of merchandise. It is true, of course, on narrow logical grounds, and on economic grounds, that every emigrant who goes from this country represents a certain capital investment by this country; and that he takes out a certain part of the country's capital in leaving it. I do not believe that argument takes us anywhere. Nor do I believe in the argument that if we emigrate large numbers of our young men we shall find more and more people who cannot work, because they are past it, being supported by fewer who can. That would be the case had not every one of the Commonwealth countries agreed with us (I think I am right in this) to take a cross-section of our population. There is no doubt that when an able-bodied and intelligent man leaves this country for some part of the Commonwealth, whatever the ultimate benefit to the Commonwealth—and we know it will be great—we suffer a certain initial loss, and make a small sacrifice. But if we make that sacrifice, what sacrifices are those Commonwealth countries not making for us now, and what sacrifices have they not made over the last few years? Think of the 300,000,000 dollars that Canada forwent on the Wheat Agreement, and the 1,000,000,000 dollars interest free a few years earlier.

The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, ventured on to a piece of ground on which I must say I should be terrified to follow him. I know now why economists shun like the plague all problems of population density. I would merely say this. I think the noble Earl put forward a most interesting argument on the reduction of the population of this country. Some people think rather loosely (sometimes one reads it, too) that our standard of living, our strength and well-being would automatically rise if the population were lower. That is not the case, of course. But I believe with the noble Earl that we are capable, with a much smaller population, of having as high a standard of living as we have now; and perhaps a much higher one. But I put more stress on technical efficiency than does the noble Earl. If one had to select the race with probably the highest standard of living in the world to-day, one would probably select the Swiss. The Swiss have no advantages, except certain natural resources of their country to produce hydro-electric power—and not as many of those as most people suppose. They have this high standard of living partly, it must be admitted, because they do not spend anything like the same proportion on national defence but also because they have a high standard of technical excellence. I believe that the standard of living is a thing which is not allied, as many people would say, to a large population.

I must bring this rather lengthy speech of mine to an end. The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, spoke of the progressive development of lands yet awaiting development, and the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, spoke of the movement of industry as a means of community emigration. I do not take quite such a robust view as my noble friend. I see the question not so much as of industries being taken wholesale from this country and being deprived of valuable continental markets, and leaving a gap behind them, but rather as opportunities where new industries are to be created in the Commonwealth, those industries now in Britain throwing out offshoots and branches which can expand within the other countries of the Commonwealth. We have only one example in our history of community emigration from our country, and that was the Highland clearances in the Eighteenth and the Nineteenth Centuries. By whole villages and communities they left this country. They went under tragic and deplorable circumstances, but because they went, sailed, and settled as communities, they conferred immeasurable benefit on the countries to which they went.

The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, made some mention of the people of Europe, many of whom we have taken into this country as citizens. Of course we have not the people in this country, even if we emigrated the total population, to provide the total populations that the Commonwealth countries say they want. Australia is taking a great many people from Central Europe. Canada is taking them in on a quota basis, which is calculated at one to so many from Britain. As the noble Lord said, we in this country are the great assimilating nation. We took the French Hugenots in early in the Eighteenth Century, when they were fleeing from persecution in their own country, in a ratio of one to seventy of our own population. We assimilated those people, and, so far from being impoverished from their coming, we have been vastly enriched. There is also this trend of circulation, which I think is one of the strongest influences in the Commonwealth. Not only are people going from his country, and many more people wishing to go, but also many are coming to it from outside; and there is now for the first time some movement between the Commonwealth countries themselves. Since this war ended no less than 10,000 Canadians have come to make their homes in Britain.

The noble Viscount who is to answer this Motion has been asked a great number of questions, of most of which I understand he has been given notice. This is the third debate we have had on this subject. In the first debate we inquired from this side of the House as to what the Government's policy was regarding emigration. The second debate was to get more reassurance and what might be called a situation report; an interim report. We hope now that in this third debate the noble Viscount will be able to reassure us on the Government's attitude and also release a shower of facts to which he has access and we have not. If it is a question of attitude—and this is a great spontaneous movement of mankind—there are only three attitudes the Government can adopt. One is actively to discourage immigration; one is to tolerate it passively, and one is actively to encourage it. We hope to hear from the noble Viscount that the last of those three is the object of His Majesty's Government now.

We would like to hear from the noble Viscount something about shipping. When we suffered so many shipping losses in the war, we received a blow which must nearly have proved fatal to a great maritime nation such as ours. But in fact we have since been building more ships than the rest of the world put together, and surely some help lies in that quarter. I do not suppose they are all passenger ships, and I imagine that some are built to sell. In providing shipping for would-be emigrants, is it merely a question of what ships are available, or are emigrants given a high priority?

The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has touched upon the question of the Budget and of taking capital to Canada. I think that restriction is a most unfortunate thing, and I cannot deny it. I think the Canadians are faced with not getting what they agreed to take, and what they wanted, which was a cross-section. If only that limited amount of capital can be taken, they will be getting the young settlers of limited means whose parents will be handicapped and in fact prevented from following them if they have more than £1,000 saved up from the thrift of their lifetimes. I believe that a brake on men and capital going to Canada is a very bad investment indeed. We buy everything at a price. We need dollars badly, and I think we have bought them at far too heavy a price.

There is one question of which I have not given notice, but I would be grateful if the noble Viscount could say something in reply. We do not have spectacular conferences between this country and the Commonwealth powers, but we have a very efficient liaison. Can the noble Viscount tell us whether the question of emigration is being discussed on a shipping basis between this country and the Commonwealth countries particularly interested, or are all the representatives of the Commonwealth countries concerned coming together to talk the matter over around one table at one time? I am afraid I have gone on rather too long, but I hope the noble Viscount will be able to answer our questions. I believe as firmly as other noble Lords who have spoken that upon the successful redistribution of the British race depends the whole future of the British Commonwealth. I think that one of the lessons that we have to teach the world is that unique form of co-operation that we have built up within the Commonwealth; and in the resettlement of the peoples within that Commonwealth I trust that the handling of emigration will be another shining example of that particular quality, of which the rest of the world so badly stands in need.

8.28 p.m.


My Lords, in the first place I should like to express my hearty agreement with the opening sentences of the noble Lord who has just spoken, which were that pressure of Parliamentary business has compelled discussion on this very important subject to be put off until late in the evening, at the termination of an otherwise hard day of Parliamentary work. I should also like to express my sincere admiration to noble Lords who have taken so keen and active an interest in this subject, and who are so anxious that it shall not be lost sight of. They will receive no discouragement from me or from any member of this Government.

I was very impressed with one sentence in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir. I do not think I have his precise words, but I am sure I have his meaning. He said that emigration depended upon the absorptive capacity of the country to which the emigrants washed to go, and the arrangements and opportunities awaiting them there—or words to that effect. We have to bear in mind that we are dealing with human beings and, as the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, said, we have to rely upon the voluntary movement of people; we cannot shift whole populations en bloc as we can animals and as some enthusiastic persons have sought to impress upon us we should do. It just cannot be done, and I do not think I need waste any time in discussing such propositions.

I will try to tell the noble Lord something of what we are doing and of our attitude, though I cannot, at this time, pretend to cover all the ground in detail. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, that the problem of population and productive capacity in these Islands is clearly one of the key problems of the future. I do not agree with him that mere density of population is the test, either of the standard of life or of productive capacity. If density of population were the determining factor, I suppose the standard of life in China would be higher than anywhere else in the world, whereas we know it is very low indeed in some parts. It depends, as the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said, upon the efficiency of the population, on their capacity and readiness to produce, and upon a hundred other things connected with personality. Nevertheless, without allowing myself to be tempted into those regions of thought, I should like to impress upon your Lordships that, notwithstanding our large population in this country, we still seem to need labour at the present time in order to get the production required to feed ourselves.

This is a fact of which we ought not to lose sight: that never within the last hundred years, or during nearly that period, has this country been able to export sufficient to pay for its imports. The balance has been made up by other methods of earning—shipping services, insurance, banking, and a score of other services. But, so far as actual production is concerned, it is a long time in our history since we were able to produce in exports all that we required in imports in terms of material. I still think that we have not by any means reached the limit of productive capacity, either in this country or in any other. Human ingenuity is unfathomable. I believe we could produce an enormous amount more food from our own land, if the land were properly used, than we are doing to-day—but there again I am going to restrain myself. We have to bear these fundamental facts in mind when we are thinking in terms of the figures which the noble Lord mentioned. I am not saying this in adverse criticism of his main contention as to what should be our long-range view of these matters.

The noble Lord who spoke last, and one or two others, asked me about the coming talks with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers upon these matters. I hope sincerely that it will be realised that it is impossible to imagine that we should have conferences without the question of migration being amongst the topics to be discussed. I think I can say that we have been exceedingly forthcoming, because notwithstanding our shortage of man-power in some directions, in concert with the Commonwealth we have deliberately encouraged and provided facilities for emigration to different parts of the Commonwealth—even in the time of our worst scarcity. That was far-sighted and right Commonwealth policy. It began a considerable time ago; I myself took part in Conferences with representatives overseas on this very subject more than a year ago. Presently I will give some of the consequences of those conferences. But I want noble Lords to bear in mind that this is not a one-sided affair. We want to do our best and so do our brethren in the Commonwealth. But it is necessary that in so far as there is migration it should be of what can be described as a cross-section of the population. We cannot afford to denude ourselves of our most highly-skilled young technicians. That is well understood, and in the scheme now working with, for instance, Australia, there is a joint arrangement, which has resulted from that joint consultation, for selecting applicants in concert with our own Ministry of Labour.

We must also bear in mind—and I am glad to say that our brethren in the Commonwealth are also bearing in mind—that we cannot move people in any large numbers unless there are arrangements at the other end for their reception So far as my travels in the countries of the British Commonwealth are concerned—and they are very extensive now—I have found that each of them has a housing problem just as bad as our own. Therefore, it is no good dumping people in numbers in any part of the Commonwealth unless there is somewhere for them to go and sleep when they get there. The Commonwealth countries are all fully conscious of the relationship of the housing problem to the reception of migrants, and we cannot lose sight of it. Then there is the question of employment. Noble Lords who have spoken have all been to these countries, as I have; and every one of us comes away from those glorious places impressed with the enormous opportunities there are for further development. There is room for pioneers in abundance, and we shall all be stronger if they go. I said "pioneers," because the amount of the country that is still undeveloped in each of those great places is almost immeasurable in the terms of measurement that we are accustomed to employ in this little country of ours.

So far as the possibilities are concerned, then, we are giving as active support as is possible. But there are certain limiting factors, and we have to deal with realities. One of the first is shipping, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, said. May I give your Lordships one figure, one glimpse of what our shortage is? At the present time, in older to serve the needs of this country and of the territories which the companies serve with oil, more than 50 per cent. of the ship building capacity of the country at the present time is devoted to building tankers. It must be so, otherwise we should be more impoverished than we are. I give that figure as some indication of the prodigious demands there are for shipbuilding, and I am glad to say that, of course, we are building large numbers of vessels for other people. I think our shipbuilding effort at the present time is greater than it has been at any time in our history.

The noble Lord asked me if these questions are being discussed with the members of the Commonwealth. It is some considerable time since I gave up the charge of that office, but, when I was there, I scarcely knew a day in which there was not some communication upon one or other aspect of the realities of migration to one of the Commonwealth countries. I can say that these questions are being continually discussed in every conceivable form. Amongst other forms of help which we are giving, we are meeting the cost of the passage to Australia of ex-Service men and women who have been accepted as migrants by the Australian authorities. With regard to another great class, the Australian Government and our own Government meet the cost of the passages of non-ex-Service men accepted as migrants to Australia, except for a small contribution. New Zealand are operating in concert with us a system of their own, and I am glad to say that they have extended it lately. New Zealand offered schemes for free and assisted passages at their own cost for single men and women up to thirty-five years of age. I am glad to say that they have lately extended that rather specialised category.

Your Lordships will be gratified to hear the figures in a moment with respect to Canada. They have a more restricted and selective scheme of their own, but there is a considerable scheme which is now in operation for transporting migrants by air. In South Africa, various other schemes to help people are offered. The schemes adopted by these countries all differ. South Africa offer interest-free loans on commercial transport to South Africa, and various other forms of assistance. The number of emigrants we sent to Australia last year was about 27,000. That used up all the shipping that could possibly be made available. To give your Lordships an illustration of the extent to which we, in our helpful spirit, are trying to help, I may say that the figure for next year is expected to be 55,000, and they will all be approved migrants. Up to March, under the free passages and assisted passages which I have already mentioned, 10,100 people have already been assisted in their movement to Australia.

I will now give your Lordships the movements which have actually taken place in the last two years. In the case of Canada, it includes an exceptional number of promising young women and brides. Since 1946–47, 75,439 people of British stock have gone to Canada. The number who have gone to Australia is 22,604 but, as your Lordships are aware, that figure will be more than doubled for the present year. The figure for New Zealand is 11,346. The figures which I am quoting are to the end of 1947. The figure for British South Africa is 37,269. If you add those, figures together, your Lordships will find that they come to a great total, and that is only the beginning of this scheme. I think I could fairly reassure your Lordships that, bearing in mind the realities with which we are at present confronted, we are doing everything we can to help.

The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, asked me about the social services schemes in Australia and in other places. We have been negotiating with the Commonwealth countries, in a Conference which was held on my authority in 1947, with a view to bringing more into harmony the social services and benefits obtainable in the different countries. At the present time these matters have not yet been brought into line, but in Australia there is a very generous scheme for extending to migrants similar or equivalent benefits to those to which they are entitled in this country.


But what about transferability of the compounded amounts? The noble Viscount did not make any reference to the transferability of the compounded amounts.


No, because I am afraid that in many of these cases arrangements have not yet been completed. However, active negotiations for the harmonising of these social benefits are going on progressively. As your Lordships are well aware, each of the different countries has its own system. Those systems vary in detail and it is difficult to fit one into another, although we are doing our best.


I regret to interrupt the noble Viscount again, but the question of the transferability of accumulated interest is vital to the whole system of migration. We have raised this point in this House five times in the last four years, and we have not yet arrived at a categorical statement as to whether it is likely that there will be agreement upon an inter-Empire scheme of transferability.


I have told the noble Lord that we are doing our best to secure agreements between the different Governments on these matters, but it is exceedingly difficult. If the noble Lord can suggest any rapid prescription for the problem which will give us quicker results, I shall be indebted to him. Let me give the noble Lord this illustration to show how difficult these things are. There were 40,000 men from Southern Ireland who volunteered and who served in the British Forces. In the British Forces, they had various subtractions made for unemployment and other benefits under the National Insurance Scheme. When they went back to Eire, they apparently lost the result of their payments. We set to work with great good will to get the thing married up. However, it took more than a year. It has been done, and it is working exceedingly satisfactorily. If the noble Lord had any conception of the multiplicity of benefits and forms of subscription which prevail throughout the British Commonwealth, he would be surprised at the progress we have made, not at the fact that we have not brought them all strictly into line—because we shall never do that.

I note what the noble Lord said about the diminution of transfer of assets, particularly to Canada. That has been done for the time being to help in the difficulties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall certainly bring to the Chancellor's attention the strong expressions of opinion of the noble Lord opposite, but at the moment I am afraid that, not being the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I can say no more than that. The diminution is due to our terrible and distressing shortage of dollars and to other collateral circumstances. Nobody likes doing these things. We dislike it very much indeed, but it appears for the time being to be a necessity. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, kindly gave me notice of his intention to refer to the conditions of some of our fellow subjects in Egypt. He did not paint a picture which is at all worse than the realities. Some of the conditions there are most unfortunate. We are doing what we can to help, but it is not at all easy to act in somebody else's country. But we are doing what we can. I find that 13,000 of those people were originally inhabitants of Cyprus, and we have arranged that the Cyprus immigration law shall be altered so as to enable them to return to Cyprus and for them to retain the nationality of Cypriots when they get there. That has already been provided for, and efforts are being made to help a considerable number of others who are Maltese. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord said as to their condition; but he knows, just as well as I, how difficult it is sometimes to help people in somebody else's country, although we are doing our best.

Now I want to turn to another matter. Noble Lords in different parts of the House have said how necessary it is to have a better conception of the development of our Commonwealth and Empire possibilities. I entirely agree with them, and I would like to say that at the present time we have in hand the greatest project for help in the development of production that this country has ever undertaken in the continent of Africa. It is in its early stages and I would not like to be too sanguine as to what will be the result or how soon it will be achieved, because everybody who has had experience of these things knows that a good many disappointments are encountered in the early years. But already we have had made surveys and obtained reports of the possibilities all over that continent. The noble Lord himself referred to some of the work that is now being carried on in some parts, and I hope it will provide an outlet and a relief to some of the people who are in this distressed condition in Egypt. I will see that it is brought to their attention.


Would the noble Viscount forgive me if I put to him one point about which I am rather anxious? I feel that the trouble in Egypt at the moment is that there is nobody who is really getting down to the task of discovering how many people there are and what is the extent of the problem. If the noble Viscount will give me an assurance that the Government are going to look into the thing as a whole, I believe it would be an assurance not only to myself but to all those people there.


I can give the noble Lord the assurance that I received from the Foreign Office—namely, that they are making every possible effort to inquire into those distressing conditions, and to do everything they can to help. It was as a result of their communications that I was able to give as an example the figures of the number of people from Cyprus. But I would like to say this—and I am sure noble Lords will help us because this is not a political matter at all. There are immense possibilities of development in the great continent of Africa, for example, and I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, said, that between now and the end of Marshall Aid we must realise a great many of those possibilities or we shall be in even more distressing circumstances than we are now. We are bending every possible effort to it, but it is a gigantic task, and we shall meet with all kinds of difficulties and disappointments in the early stages—of that I am well aware. But we will start it. We are not afraid of tackling it, and I am perfectly certain that in due course it will be justified.

I have replied only in a general way to many of the points raised by noble Lords, but I hope that the spirit I have displayed, which is a true representation of the spirit of His Majesty's Government, shows that we are fully alive to the importance of this great effort and are doing what we can to deal with it within our limitations at the present time.


Before the noble Viscount sits down, could he give an answer to my question—namely, is His Majesty's Government prepared to support and encourage the migration of industry from this country to the Dominions or not?


I would not care to answer a question in that form of general terms; I should like to know what you mean. We cannot lift up an industry and its population from this country and plant them down, we will say, somewhere in Australia. That is not a practical proposition. Suppose we took a population which was making straw hats (let us say a portion of the town of Luton), and dumped them down somewhere, there would not be anybody to sell the hats to. Really that kind of question requires considerably more in the way of definition than the words in the noble Lord's question.


May I explain? Let us say that a small industry or company that makes hats wants to take itself off from England to South Africa or Australia. There would be certain obstacles and difficulties in the way of making arrangements to go. Some employees or employers would like to go too. Would His Majesty's Government encourage that company in its plan, and give it every assistance in making the arrangements to go?


I am always very chary about giving absolute answers. I will give the noble Lord an illustration. The Colonial Development Corporation, of which Lord Trefgarne is Chairman, are making arrangements with industries and undertakings in this country who are capable of extending their activities or initiating their activities in different parts of the world—in this case in Africa. But that is a different thing from transferring an industry.


A company perhaps.


We are in that way invoking the aid of a large number of industrial concerns in development in Africa, at any rate, and I think that that is the only practical way in which it can be done. We cannot uproot people.

8.57 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount who has just sat down for the very friendly and, in many parts, informative things he has had to say to us. I would like to say both to him and to my noble friend, Lord Tweedsmuir, that had more time been available, and had I been able to deal with the full Motion which previously I had down on the Paper, I would have had a full tilt at the population problems of England. There is only one point I would like to take up with the noble Viscount, and that is the old cry that we are short of labour in this country. Quite honestly, I do not think we are short of labour; we are short of the right labour being directed into the right channels. We are absolutely overburdened with parasitic labour. I have nothing against those people; it is not their fault, but they are being forced into parasitic labours. There are more and more people being appointed to check each other instead of being directed into their proper industry. In regard to shipping, I realise what the difficulties are to-day, but I do not think shipping can go on being a stumbling block for ever, or even for a very long time. Last year something like 200,000 people went to Switzerland in one summer. I would not mind betting everything I have that had we asked for 30,000 immigrants to go to Switzerland, we would have been told that transport difficulties across the war-torn railways of France made it an impossibility. However, I will not keep your Lordships any longer. I welcome the hint, which naturally was very vague, about the African development. There is some suggestion of a wider vision, but if there is not the fire in the belly I should like to see, there are some sparks in the midriff. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

8.59 p.m.


My Lords, before the Motion is withdrawn, perhaps I might make reference to three points arising out of the noble Viscount's reply. I would like to pay my contribution to the appreciation of this reply. I intervene now for the convenience of the House and as an indulgence before the Motion is withdrawn. The last speaker has signified his intention to withdraw his Motion, but the Motion for withdrawal has not yet been put. Therefore, as an indulgence to the House since I intend to withdraw my Motion—


I do not want to be unfair, but it is not in order for the noble Lord to make a second speech on this Motion. It is not in accordance with the traditions of the House.


My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House took note of the fact that I intimated that I was asking the indulgence of the House, and that I intended to withdraw my Motion. On that Motion I believe, according to the practice of the House, I still have the privilege of speaking. I think that that is a correct interpretation. With the indulgence of the House, I was going to save time by making now three points which arose out of the noble Viscount's reply. The first is that in his references to the category of overseas earnings he omitted any mention of earnings of migrants, including the profits of branch establishments overseas. I would secondly ask him whether he could use his persuasion with the Departments concerned and impress them with the need for speeding up decisions of the Capital Issues Committee, and for the granting of export licences for machinery in the case of contemplated transfers of plant to the Dominions. My third point refers to the treatment of Canada. The noble Viscount kindly intimated his readiness to make representations to the Chancellor, and I trust that he will emphasise how strong is the feeling of this House that the amounts advanced to us by Canada should permit these relatively insignificant amounts to intending migrants to Canada.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.