HL Deb 27 April 1950 vol 166 cc1227-68

5.10 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it seems perhaps rather a far cry to go from providing money for the Post Office to cultivating rice in Borneo, but both are the responsibility of Parliament, and I make no apology for asking your Lordships to return, in spirit, to North Borneo. I was alluding to the large area in that Colony which could be made available for the production of rice. The importance of producing more rice as a means of improving the extremely inadequate diet of the peoples of South-East Asia, and to relieve us of the necessity of providing dollars for some of the rice which is imported into our Colonies, needs no emphasis from me. But this is just one example of the wealth which British Borneo could produce with a larger and more skilled working population. I fear that unless we are able to show that we, ourselves, are well able to develop these territories without outside assistance, we shall find it hard to resist the demands of densely populated Asian countries which would like us to help them to relieve the pressure of their surplus populations. Here, in Borneo, is an opportunity for migration and settlement on a considerable scale, but I am sure that we should first make certain that the people we let in from outside will treat the local inhabitants as friends and equals, and that their loyalty to the Colony, the Mother Country, and the Commonwealth is likely to be beyond question. Those are two conditions which should be attached to the admission of outsiders on any considerable scale.

For that reason, I believe we should be extremely ill-advised to admit, as permanent residents, a large number of Chinese, whether they come from China proper or from one of our own Dependencies in South-East Asia. The Chinese are not good mixers. They would tend, in Borneo, to become a ruling race, as the Malays have done in Sarawak. As your Lordships who have travelled in that part of the world well know already, their first loyalty, however far removed they may be from their native land, is to the Government of China. This is a particularly inconvenient attachment at the moment, because the Chinese Government is now a Communist Government, and no one would wish to introduce Communism into Borneo. When I was there two years ago, Communism was non-existent. Most of the Chinese community now living in North Borneo are earning comfortable livelihoods in Jesselton and Sandakan. In politics they are pro-Kuomintang and strongly anti-Communist. But if we were now to admit a large number of Chinese peasants to clear the jungle and work in the fields, the story might be very different indeed. I am sure the Government will agree that it should be one of the aims of our foreign and Commonwealth policy to safeguard the island of Borneo—which, as your Lordships will remember, was used by the Japanese during the war as a stepping stone to Australia and the Southern Pacific—from the risk of Communist infiltration.

I should like to ask my noble friend who is to reply on behalf of the Government if he can say whether there has been any relaxation in the restrictions on the entry of Chinese into North Borneo and to say what the intention is in regard to the admission of Chinese labour. I believe he is likely to say that further settlement of Chinese immigrants in large numbers will not he permitted. That would be a very satisfactory statement. I feel that an assurance of this kind would be particularly useful if it could be made by a Minister in a public speech on the floor of this House. But even if the Chinese have to be ruled out as settlers, it should not be difficult, I think, to recruit additional workers from other places with a surplus population. The densely populated Indonesian Republic is not far distant as distances go in the Pacific. There is already a small Javanese settlement in North Borneo, and the newcomers have done extremely well and are getting along admirably with the local inhabitants. But I am sure we should all prefer the settlers to come from one of the overpopulated areas within the Commonwealth rather than from a foreign country. I should like to ask my noble friend if he will be good enough to tell me whether consideration has been given to the possibility of emigration from any of the West Indian Islands to Borneo. It would be a long distance, but, in many, respects, West Indians would be extremely suitable. I think they would find conditions of life in Borneo congenial to them. After all, they are agriculturists, they live in a somewhat similar climate and there is not a big difference between the average man's standard of living in the West Indies and the standard of living in Borneo.

I should like now to turn to the other aspect of migration—migration as a means of easing the pressure of overpopulation in some of the colonies with which I am acquainted. I do not believe that there is any area in the Commonwealth which suffers more cruelly from over-population than the Islands of the West Indies. A steadily falling death rate is increasing the population of the British Caribbean at a rate which will double its numbers in fifty years. Unless we can do something to relieve this pressure, the present unsatisfactory standard of living is bound to fall, unemployment and under-employment will rise, and housing conditions, which are for the most part deplorable but gradually improving, will get even worse. I fear that there is no prospect of even temporary relief by the employment of West Indian labour in the United States or in Central or South America. Permanent settlement in foreign territories in the American Continent is out of the question. This leaves fie mainland territories of British Guiana and British Honduras the only hope of a local outlet for the surplus population of the Caribbean Islands. Your Lordships will remember that the Evans Commission went out to examine the possibilities of settlement in these territories, and produced an extremely valuable Report. The Commission estimated that the two territories might absorb about 100,000 men, women and children within ten years, of whom 60,000 would go to British Honduras, and 40,000 to British Guiana. But even if this programme could be carried out from A to Z, it would account for such a small proportion of the total surplus population of the area that the need for other outlets would be no less urgent than it is at the present time.

My own impression, after travelling extensively in both territories—British Guiana and British Honduras—is that it will take very much longer than ten years for anything like the 110,000 immigrants foreseen by the Evans Commission to be absorbed. This impression is borne out by the recent study made by the Colonial Development Corporation and by the Governments concerned of the extensive preparatory work that will be needed before large development schemes involving immigrant labour can be started with a reasonable chance of success. In British Guiana, basic information about the interior of the Colony is still lacking. Ambitious agricultural projects await the results of soil surveys and crop trials. The main project for the employment of immigrant labour is on cocoa plantations on the Potavo and Middle Mazavimi areas in the interior of the Colony. But it will take five years for the cocoa trees to come into bearing—as in the case of all tree crops, the period of waiting is very long—and several more before the crop trials have yielded their results.

Another prerequisite for the development of the interior of this great territory is the building of metalled roads to link up the interior with the coast. At present, goods can be carried inland beyond the navigable limits of the large rivers only by air transport. I was told when I was there about a costly experiment in bringing carcase meat by air from the Savannahs of Brazil and Venezuela to Georgetown. This method of transport for heavy goods will clearly be uneconomic, but the extension inland of the road system in the coastal belt cannot even be started without the data which further topographical and engineering surveys will provide. Immigration will also be retarded by the increase in the local population which has followed the elimination of malaria by the use of D.D.T.

In British Honduras, the prospect of settlement on a large scale in the near future seems no less remote. The main project recommended by the Evans Commission for employing immigrant labour was an expanded sugar industry in the Northern District. The Colonial Development Corporation, who are obviously the body best fitted to undertake this work, have not at present seemed inclined to take up this proposal, although no doubt they will reconsider the whole matter in the light of recent events. The devaluation of the dollar currency in British Honduras and the welcome allocation to the Colony of a share of 18,000 tons in the British guaranteed market for West Indian sugar have completely altered the commercial outlook. Now, for the first time in the history of the Colony, this important industry has a chance of making real progress. I should like, if I may, to congratulate my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the Government on their political foresight in offering this allocation of sugar to British Honduras. Even more important than future benefits which it will give to the economy of the Colony is the immediate impact of this gesture of good will from the Mother Country on local public opinion.

But, of course, even if this sugar project is now proceeded with, it will be a number of years before labour from outside the Colony is required. In British Honduras, as in British Guiana, a vast amount of road building will be necessary before large schemes of agricultural development in the interior of the Colony can be made practicable. Moreover, the decline of the important forest industries of chicle and mahogany is causing serious unemployment. It looks as if the number of local unemployed will provide sufficient labour for all schemes of agricultural development and public works that are likely to be in hand in the near future. I fear that the inescapable conclusion that any objectively-minded person will draw from these facts is that the sound economic development of both territories will be a slow and a costly business. It will demand a willingness on the part of public and private enterprise in these Colonies, and on the part of the Colonial Governments, to spend much more time and effort on preliminary and preparatory stages of economic development. We in this country, for our part, must be willing to spend more public money without looking for an immediate result. But if all concerned, both here and out there, have enough patience and good will, there will be the immense satisfaction of having developed these backward areas on sound lines which will bring about lasting benefit to their inhabitants and will offer unrivalled opportunities for migration and settlement to their island neighbours.

I should like in conclusion to say a few words about Malta. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Douglas of Barloch has not been a member of your Lordships' House long enough to feel the confidence that is required to address the House on this subject, because he is far better qualified to do so than I am. The problem of migration is vital to the future of Malta. I think everyone will agree that emigration offers the only hope of a reasonable standard of living and employment for the people of Malta. The economic outlook for Malta is extremely disturbing. Two-thirds of the adult workers depend for their employment directly or indirectly on the dockyards, and on a reconstruction grant given by us after the war which is rapidly running out. The prospect of unemployment is made even more serious by the expanding population of the island: it is increasing at the rate of 8,000 persons a year. So far, the best year for emigration has only just kept pace with the annual rate of increase in the population. The target for next year is 12,000 emigrants. I am sure the Government will do everything in their power to help Malta to achieve and sustain an annual outflow of emigrants at least at this level of 12,000 a year.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think we could discuss a more important topic than this at the present time. I should like to limit my remarks to the Dominions and to our relations with what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has called the great self-governing countries. In their case the problem is one of under-population. It is easy to blind ourselves to the fact that the nature of Commonwealth relations is changing. I have not been in the Dominions since before the war, which I know is a disadvantage, but I am sure the trends that I sensed then have since been accentuated rather than the opposite.

As my noble friend Lord Fairfax of Cameron so ably and brilliantly showed, the major issue is that of industrial immigration and of how Dominion industry in future is going to fit in with that of the Mother Country. It is an extremely knotty problem. Every country likes, if possible, to remain in the circumstances to which its people have been accustomed. This country has been the main workshop of the British Commonwealth and I see no reason whatever why we should not continue to be one of the main workshops. But I believe that it will be a completely false picture, and one out of perspective, if we think we are going to remain in the old position in relation to the Dominions. These countries developed as primary producing countries, and they have done an excellent job on this footing. But as they grew up, it was only natural that they should want to do their own industrial work. This presents a serious problem for our industry which, in the nature of things, would like to remain as it has been. We should like to continue to import vast quantities of food which the overseas Dominions produce for export. We should face the possibility, though I know it is difficult, that in the long run we may not be able to survive with 50,000,000 people living in this country. Moreover, there is the question whether the retention of such a population is desirable.

I should like to link this whole question with the farming issue. The traditional picture of the Commonwealth—though this is rapidly ceasing to be true—is that it consists of wide open spaces; the immigrant, it is assumed, naturally goes to a farm. If he is fed up with city life his opportunity may be out there. In my view, however, emigration from here to the Dominions—particularly to the South-West Pacific Dominions of Australia and New Zealand—will probably in future be largely industrial. The good land is probably already settled and being farmed, and it is fitting that this should be so. But is it not possible that this country and the Dominions can solve together a problem that none of them could solve on their own—namely, the problem of balance between occupation in industry and occupation in agriculture?

I do not want to express too forcibly my views on what ought to happen, and on what scale. It is possible that in terms of the Commonwealth, we are discussing an issue of the greatest importance. In the course of leading the industrial revolution, not only in the Commonwealth but in the world, this country has grown completely lopsided, and a good many of our present problems are tied up with this lopsidedness under the changed and changing trade position largely brought about by the war. If we are to secure a more even balance of occupation this country is definitely over-populated, quite apart from the question of whether we can survive with a 50,000,000 population—which depends on improving our export trade to a level greater even than it was before the war. I saw in New Zealand before the war a strong instinct towards urban development. I do not think that is an idea confined to a Socialist Government (I do not know what effect on immigration into Australia and New Zealand the fact that they no longer have Labour Governments has had), but I think this is a bigger issue than any one Government, either here or there, can tackle. The Dominions should have larger home markets. It is not just an over-strong sense of insecurity that will lead them to have far larger populations.

The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, mentioned the difficulties of shipping. I wonder how important the refrigeration ship will remain as regards Imperial trade? Is it not possible for ships bringing food here to make just one trip to take people to the new places? The skill of our people lies in urban techniques rather than in agriculture. If emigration is to take place on a large scale it will be much easier for people to move from industry here to industry in new places, rather than that attempts should be made to persuade the emir rains to become farmers. Opinion in New Zealand of people who want to start on farms when they come from cities is not very high. Any movement at all is worrying to people, and to move half way round the earth and start a new life is extremely difficult. If emigration is to come about on a large scale—which I am inclined to feel should happen—then the emphasis must be on emigration to industry. That would mean that agriculture here would have a chance of recovering from the industrial revolution, during which we looked to our ships, rather than to our ploughs for our salvation. It is not surprising that farmers here are dubious as to what will happen. They know that things are different in war time, and that for several years after a war they are only, slowly let down. I do not think we shall let down the British farmer again, and most certainly it is the last thing we ought to do; yet it is obvious that there is a great amount of opinion which would be prepared to do so, in the interests of cheap food from abroad, if more of it became available.

An increase in Dominion population, I should imagine, would mean a lessening of trade within the Empire. I gathered that Lord Fairfax implied that an increase of Dominion population might be accompanied by an increase of trade between the Mother Country and the Dominions, but I should imagine that it would mean a lessening of trade in that direction. I also disagree on the point that immigration to the Dominions should be limited to people from this country. I am sure that in Western Europe there are a great many people who would like to go to Australia, New Zealand or Canada. With regard to the percentage of British stock, I would point out that we know that at the present time only 49 per cent. of the population of Canada are people whose ancestors' homes were originally in this country. I do not think the community is made any less British, because these are people who have been absorbed into a fundamentally British way of life. I know it is particularly difficult for Australia and New Zealand, who have such high percentages of British stock, to change their ideas—naturally they want new Britons in their country. But, surely, they ought to be prepared to mix their population a little more.

I thought it was a brilliant idea of the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, that people should emigrate under the wings of a firm. That, after all, is what early settlement was like. People on one ship were a cross-section: they decided that they wanted certain carpenters on the ship, and they set about building their homes. The tragedy of the present position is that the pioneering spirits among people arriving in New Zealand or Australia—perhaps particularly there—meet almost as much red tape as we have here. It is not merely a question of landing, hacking down some piece of bush, making a home and sowing some corn which you hope will come up next year.

I should like to raise the whole question of urbanisation in the Commonwealth—the drift to the towns. That is not only something we witness here, but something which exists in the primary producing countries, and is part of their desire to change their nature. I secured a job on a New Zealand farm only because of the drift to the towns. The farmer was carrying on a farm of 250 acres with no help whatever. It was a great opportunity for me, which otherwise I should not have had, and I was brought very much into his counsel. It was a case, as he said, of "the glitter of the other job." Even though towns like Auckland, Wellington, Sydney and Melbourne are not by our standards very large—and particularly Auckland and Wellington—they are, nevertheless, an attraction. There was a talk on the wireless the other night by a professor of geography at London University about the tendency for us not only to go to towns, but to go to the biggest towns; and he referred to the fact that Los Angeles has now graduated to the 1,000,000 mark as if that were an excellent thing in itself. We need to think deeper than the mere question of size.

If a large number of people go from this country to the Dominions—and emigration will have to be encouraged by the Government—in one sense this country becomes less powerful. I think that it is the population of the Commonwealth which is vital, and I do not think greatness is governed by numbers. We do not refer to New Zealand as otherwise than a great country because she has only 1,500,000 people. Therefore, my plea is that we should think deeply about the whole question of the relationship of agriculture to industry, and in thinking of migration realise that it is not a question of the open spaces being exactly what they have been in the past.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, has raised this matter this afternoon. I think it is of great importance, and high time that we had a debate in this House on migration. I may say that I agree with nearly everything he said. If I go over some of the same ground with regard to Australia, I hope noble Lords will forgive me, because I have lived in that country for eight years, before, during and since the war, and on one or two facets I may be able to throw a little useful light. I should also like to say how glad I am that the noble Lord, Lord Holden, is to reply, and I am sure that we are all delighted to see him in his new position on the Front Bench. If there is a noble Lord in this House who is filled with human kindness and courtesy, it is the noble Lord, Lord Holden, and I ant sure that we shall get a very courteous and helpful answer from him to-day.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, when he speaks in such a moving way of hospitality and loyalty in Australia. Indeed, I may go so far as to say that it follows almost inversely that the further you go in the "outback," the greater it becomes. Some years ago I visited a small Australian town at the time of the annual show, and I was persuaded rashly to enter for the steer-riding contest. I think I remained upon the steer's back for precisely twenty-four seconds. But it had another reward, for which I was not prepared: I became a sort of local hero, and the long day and night ended in the local hotel—the bar of which should have closed at 6 p.m.—at 2 o'clock in the morning, when the uniformed police sergeant hammered the bar and said: "I don't think there is anybody in the town who has not had a drink with the Commander. If there is, speak up, otherwise we will close the bar."

I understand that Australia's aim is 200,000 migrants a year, of which they hope to get 100,000 from this country. I am told that no less than 75,000 sponsored migrants have actually sailed from this country since the war. That is, of course, apart from those who have gone out on their own resources. As the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, has so rightly said, the chief limitations are housing and shipping. At the moment, I think the emphasis is slightly more on housing than shipping, but the indications are that in a short time it will be reversed. I should like to correct him on one point—what the Australian requires is not a bath but a shower. Particularly from the economic and from the defence point of view, I think migration to our great Dominions should have every support from the British Government, and I entirely agree that the migration of industries is of the highest importance. I should like to put one other side of that matter which the noble Lord did not mention, and that is the moving out of a subsidiary of an industry in this country and its grafting on to an existing Australian industry. After all, if it is a gamble for an individual to go out to a new country with no particular ties, it is perhaps equally precarious for a British industry to start from nothing in the Dominions. But the fathering of a new industry by an existing Australian industry I think would be very helpful. That has been successfully carried out in several cases. I need mention only one, and that is the Fairey Aviation Company, now supplying aircraft to the Fleet Air Ann of the Royal Australian Navy. They grafted themselves on to the Clyde Engineering Company at Sydney. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, also emphasised this point of industrial migration.

I feel quite confident that Australia can absorb the numbers I indicated earlier, provided they are of the right material. Sometimes, however, extravagant claims of the possibilities of development in Australia are made—not in official quarters—which are damaging and unfortunate. I read in the paper the other day that the Dean of Canterbury, on leaving Australia, stated that there was no part of Australia which could not be developed. I do not know whether the reverend Dean went to Central Australia during his short visit, but I should very much doubt it. If he did, I should like to see him trying to develop the Nullabor Plain or the barren mountain ranges in the Northern part of South Australia. I am sure he would have his work cut out and would become very red in the face, in the bargain.

There is one question that I should like to ask our Australian friends, and that is: Is enough being done for the women in the country districts? Many sheep stations now require more men and are Short-handed, but they find that they cannot engage them because there is no domestic help or anybody to cook for them. In the old days the big stud properties, where the best Marino sheep were bred, used to have comfortable quarters where probably ten to twelve jackaroos were housed, fed and trained, and then went out to the smaller places with real knowledge of the highest class of sheep. In the past few months I have written to seven or eight of my friends who have big sheep properties in Australia, asking them if they could take a young man who was anxious to learn the business of sheep breeding. In each case the answer has been the same: "My wife has to do nearly all the cooking without help." That really means something—cooking for the men at six o'clock in the morning to give them a breakfast before they go out to the paddocks. The answers went on: "We have the quarters on the place, but we simply have not the domestic help to cope with jackaroos." That is a very important point. Another aspect is the question of electric power, which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, mentioned. In that way, the refrigerator, which is so necessary in that climate, can be provided, and that will make the domestic chores easier. It is a good life for a man in the country, but sometimes, through the possibility of the housewife not being able to cope with the loneliness and difficulties, there may be failures.

Now I turn particularly to an organisation on the committee of which I serve—I refer to the Big Brother Movement. As probably most noble Lords are aware, we send out young lads of about seventeen. On arrival in Australia, each of them is allocated a "big brother," who acts in loco parentis and advises the boy about his finances, possibly asks him to stay with him, and writes to him from time to time. We sent out 2,000 lads before the war, and I am glad to say that we have sent no fewer than 350 since the war. We now have a training farm to which they can go, so as to get acclimatised before they go to their jobs in the country. We have started in New South Wales and Tasmania, and we hope to extend to other States if the finances and the supply of young lads permit. Most of these boys have done extremely well. There is more than one "ex-little brother" on our Sydney committee now; and many of them had excellent records in the Australian Forces during the war. We have already had letters and reports from post-war "little brothers" which show that they are "up to scratch."

I have here a letter from a boy from Peterborough. He has already put into the savings bank £150. He writes: I think I have the best boss in New South Wales. I am like one of the family here and I do really like the work. Another letter is from a Fareham boy. He has already banked £130 since he went in 1948 and has started a nursery garden on his own behalf. His employer cannot speak too highly of him. One more comes from York. This boy went out in February of last year. He has already saved £100. He is contented with rural life and is making extra money during the week-end by trapping rabbits and selling the skins. This shows that the majority of the lads sent out since the War have followed ably in the footsteps of their predecessors. Moreover, industry in New South Wales is asking for "little brothers"; and next week, the first party going out will have ten boys for industry going with it. The type of migrant we are sending is particularly valuable at the present time, because no housing is needed; in each case, the employer guarantees to house the lad when he arrives.

We feel that the movement is doing a good and useful job. But what encouragement are we getting from the Government? I regret to say, very little. We consider that under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, the provisions of which have been extended to 1952, we are entitled to receive support. We had grants before the war, from the inception of the movement in 1925 up to 1932, when migration stopped because of the depression, and these grants were renewed in the year 1938–39. In 1939 it was agreed that three-quarters of the expenses of the London end were to be borne by the two Governments, British and Australian, up to a limit of £900 per annum.

What has happened since the war? Our Chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Huntingfield, and myself negotiated with both the Australian and the British Governments. The Australian Government nave us a grant of £450 for the year 1948–49, but that is the only grant we have had from the other side. Last year, after protracted negotiations, the Commonwealth Office gave us £450–their share of the £900 for one year, 1949–50. We were at least entitled to feel that, if circumstances continued the same, those grants would be continued. Obviously, they must be on an annual basis, since that is the Government's financial system, but one naturally assumed that they would go on. Imagine our surprise and disappointment when, only last week, we received from the Commonwealth Relations Office a very curt letter saying that owing to the necessity for economy the £450 would not be paid this year. It is really impossible, with the increasing commitments we have, to budget for the future, if our income is to be so uncertain. We have, of course, a number of generous private subscribers, but owing to high taxation and such considerations there has naturally been a falling off. I should therefore like to ask the noble Lord the specific question of which I have given him notice: What is the policy of the Government with regard to these grants, and can the recent decision to cut us off for this year be reconsidered? I hope I have not kept your Lordships too long, but I have a very genuine love of Australia, in which country I spent some of the happiest years of my life; therefore it gives me great pleasure to plead the cause of that Dominion in this House.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad of the opportunity to take part in this debate. I too have been in Australia and I only wish that I could have taken with me the noble Lord who opened this debate. At the time I should have been able to do it easily, for judging by the particulars given in books of reference the noble Lord was of such an age that I could have carried him on my arm. I went all over Australia, with the exception of the isolated island just to the south, and I can fully confirm everything the noble Lord has said about the great hospitality given to one as a visitor to Australia. I can cordially recommend any other noble Lord who wishes to experience great hospitality to visit Australia. It is true that there are certain dangers in that hospitality—they have already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. I confess that, although I consider I am usually a normally courageous man, I did on one occasion flee. At the time I was in an Australian hotel; and when I saw the large number of glasses laid out I felt some trepidation. I knew that the custom there is that you have not only to pay for but to drink the contents of all the glasses. I fled the scene—not, let me say, on pecuniary but on physical grounds; I know that I could not stand up to it. But there is no doubt that the Australians are extraordinarily hospitable and altogether delightful people.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, was followed by my noble friend Lord Listowel, because the problem of migration is no longer the kind of problem which it was in earlier days, when migration was more popular in after-dinner speeches than in the actual carrying out of any policy—and I say that of all Parties. Speeches of the most generous and full-blooded nature used to be made about the desirability of migration, but in point of fact, under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 (which, if I remember aright, was an Act brought in by Mr. Amery) very little money was allowed to be spent, at least for a very long period. What it is now I do not know. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Holden, can tell us what amount of money is now being spent on migration. In the early 1920's, some time after the Empire Act was in operation, there were a number of people going to Australia. Some of them were received; some of them were finding interesting employment, and some of them were having an extremely hard time, because the arrangements, either in this country or in Australia, were not well made. That was the time when the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, was Prime Minister of Australia. It was he who extended that great hospitality to me. I observe that he is not here to-day, but I am sure he would confirm what I am saying.

Another thing about Australia, which the noble Lord who opened the debate has mentioned, is that Australia was then, and is now, comprised largely of an industrial civilisation, a town civilisation. The great proportion of all people in Australia live in towns. Many of them, I remember when I was there, had never seen a kangaroo, except in a zoo. I myself went North by air, a most adventurous thing to do in those days because the aeroplanes used were converted Bristol fighters from the First World War. I thought it was curious that rain should be leaking from the top. What really was coming down was petrol, which was rather dangerous—though as I was the only passenger perhaps it did not much matter. But when I went up to the North of Western Australia, to the vast sheep stations which existed then, and which I presume exist now, I saw masses of kangaroos; on one sheep station alone there were 80,000. Yet a great many people in the towns had never seen them, or emus, which are also plentiful.

The point is that since those days we have broadened our horizon with regard to migration. We have not only to deal with supplying the needs of the white population but we have also to deal with the Colonial territories, and in some ways the problem there is even more urgent than it is in the Commonwealth. For instance, the West Indies are grossly over-populated. The standard of life of many of the people there is low. Their standard of health, although improving now, is not good. Of course, I am referring to the islands of the West Indies, but in British Guiana and British Honduras also difficult conditions prevail. There the need is for more population. It has been well known for twenty to thirty years that they have badly needed more population, but it is difficult to do anything about it.

There is also the question of the vast populations of the tropical belt in Africa. If you take a belt right across Africa, from West to East, you have there a population of about 45,000,000 people. The populations of these vast territories in Africa in the past were kept under control by the agency of nature, through diseases. At the present time, by reason of the tremendous advance in medical knowledge which has taken place during the last few years, and particularly under the stimulation of the needs of war, we have found means of completely controlling malaria. That was brought to my attention when I was visiting Salonika recently, some time before our troops left that area. Salonika in Greece during the First World War was synonymous with malignant malaria, and almost all the troops who went there, if they had malaria, had malignant malaria. The disease rate and the death rate were very heavy indeed. When I went there a year or two ago, there were no cases of malaria at all amongst the troops. I recently had a talk with the chief medical officer of the Colonial Office who has been visiting a number of territories, including those of the Overseas Food Corporation. In many of those areas in the interior of that tropical belt of Africa to which I have referred, malaria and a good many other tropical diseases had been eliminated. That will mean that in all those areas there will be a great increase in population.

What are we going to do with them? It is a serious problem. We certainly cannot refuse to extend the benefits of medical knowledge that we have to those people merely because it is inconvenient to provide them with means of subsistence. That would be an inhuman and Hitlerite way of acting. Therefore it is essential to provide them with places in which to live. I fully appreciate the reasons why the Australians wish to continue their policy of a white Australia but, if they are to maintain and justify that in the future, they will have to secure a very great increase of white population. That is one of the reasons why I consider it desirable that there should be that increase in population. I remember consulting economists in the matter when I was in Australia years ago, and one or two authorities agreed that the maximum population that Australia at some time in the future, at a date unspecified, could of itself support from its own resources was something like 40,000,000. As no doubt your Lordships know, although Australia is almost exactly the same size as the United States it has an unfertile interior, and only those with the prolific imaginations of people who are not properly oriented could imagine life on the sandy interior of the Nullarbor Plain and other places in the interior of Australia. No doubt, with scientific irrigation even in those areas something might be done, but at present it looks as though it will be a long time before those areas can grow enough to support even a few people.

The problem is made very urgent by the fact that the world is shrinking so rapidly. It is not confined to this country; it is not confined to the British Commonwealth. And that reminds me, the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, said that people in Australia complained that there was nothing between the Suez Canal and Port Darwin. They seem to have forgotten Pakistan and India, both places extremely important from the defence point of view. They seem to have forgotten Colombo, which I visited fairly recently and which is not a station to be neglected from the point of view of defence. They also seem to have forgotten Singapore—in fact, the noble Lord mentioned that Singapore was no longer very important. At all events, he did not think much of Singapore. Also they seemed to think that Hong Kong was of no importance. I went there especially for the purpose of looking at the medical side of the military formations. I did not gather that impression at all. This station is important and of the greatest use.


I should like to correct the noble Lord on one point. It was my suggestion, and not something that was suggested to me in Australia. I take the responsibility for that opinion.


I hope the noble Lord will look into the facts a little more closely and revise his opinion, because it gives a wrong and incorrect view of the defence arrangements of that vast stretch of territory. I do not think his impression can be described as being really accurate.

We cannot solve this great problem of the distribution of population in the world in accordance with the needs of the population and with the capacity of different countries to absorb it. I do not think we can solve that problem on the basis even of such a great confederation of nations as the British Commonwealth of nations and our Colonial possessions and dependencies. It is an immense problem. I agree with the noble Lord that as this is the leading group of nations we owe a special responsibility to the world. We have great opportunities and possibilities before us. One of those possibilities is to show what we ourselves have done in the past by migration; and what we can do in the future with regard to the redistribution of the population in such territories as those referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. We could also call a conference under the auspices of the United Nations on this question of the redistribution of world population. I believe that to be a matter of the most urgent importance, because unless we do that we shall have the pressure of tremendous populations such as we have in China. I know the difficulties that exist in the redistribution of the people in China, the difficulties at the present time in the West Indies, and also those in Australia with regard to absorbing other populations. Australia is absorbing large numbers of Italians and only a comparatively small proportion of people from this country. I do not believe that this problem can be solved except on the 'basis of a conference at United Nations level. I hope that one result of our discussion this evening will be that the suggestion will go out that such a conference should be called to help to solve one of the world's greatest problems.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Fairfax for introducing this Motion, which concerns a subject of the greatest importance in these days of so much uncertainty. I should like also to say how glad we shall be to hear the noble Lord, Lord Holden, address us at the end of this debate. Migration to the Colonies has, of course, been going on steadily for very many years, but never perhaps on the same scale as at the present time, particularly since the end of the war. Let us for a moment consider why it is that people suddenly decide to uproot themselves from the sort of life which they and their ancestors have hitherto led in this country, to take up residence in some far-flung corner of our Commonwealth and Empire. One does not have to look far for an answer to that question. These people are restless after the war, or may be dissatisfied in one way or another with conditions in England—be it the high rate of taxation or the restrictions with which they are perpetually confronted. It dawns upon them that if they go abroad they can have a better chance of life, and at the same time be of some benefit to whatever under-developed part of the Empire they may decide to make their future home.

Many such people, however, possibly because they lack the true pioneering spirit and find conditions "out there" very different from those they have known here all their lives, are disillusioned and soon return to England. All seem attracted by the prospects of wide, open spaces and unlimited sunshine; but do they realise that a great deal of both brain and brawn is necessary if those wide, open spaces are to be made into productive farmland, or covered in part with thriving towns and villages? 'The wise would-be emigrant, having carefully weighed up all the pros and cons, and found out all he car about his future homeland, will probably turn out to be the best type of settler as he has at least the ability to think and act for himself. Many of our Colonies, still more or less in their infancy, cry out for immigrants of the right type, who are prepared to emulate the determined efforts of the earlier pioneers and are not afraid of constant hard work.

The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, has already given us some interesting facts and figures concerning migration to Australia, and we have heard some enlightening information on the subject in respect of other parts of the Empire from the five noble Lords who have so far spoken in this debate. May I, then, impose for a few minutes upon your Lordships' time to tell you something about present-day migration to the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia? As some of your Lordships are aware, I have myself lived and worked in that rapidly developing country for some fifteen years and, until I left there last May, was able to observe at first-hand the progress of immigration. It is significant that during the last ten years, and more especially since the end of the war, the European population of the Colony has more than doubled itself and to-day numbers about 125,000, which is slightly less than that of a town the size of, say, Huddersfield. The white population of the capital city, Salisbury, with which the noble Marquess of that name has such a close connection, has actually trebled. During the war years, large numbers of Royal Air Force personnel received their training in Southern Rhodesia as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. I regret I am unable to ascertain just how many of these men have, on demobilisation, found their way back to the Colony, but I have reason to believe that many have done so and are, indeed, still doing so. Furthermore, all who served out there in whatever capacity will have told their friends and relations here about life in that young and rising country, with consequent publicity value to the Colony itself.

By virtue of wise and careful selection of immigrants in reasonably limited numbers, Southern Rhodesia has had, and is still enjoying, a steady influx of settlers of the right type, in all walks of life. The principal limitation upon the number of immigrants admitted—and they are entering the Colony at the rate of about 1,000 per month—is the universal problem of housing. In consequence, preferential admission was at one period accorded to large numbers of men in all branches of the building industry, to their own advantage and to that of the Colony as a whole. Such men are, in fact, still excepted from most of the present immigration regulations, their entry being sponsored individually by the National Building and Housing Board. All the six municipalities in the Colony have extended their boundaries, and widespread building operations are constantly in progress within them and, to a lesser degree, the smaller centres. Despite such large-scale building work, however, housing is still a major difficulty, and hotel and other accommodation, except for very short periods—and that after booking well in advance—is almost unobtainable. Once this problem has been surmounted, it seems there will be no other reason for limiting the regular inflow of new immigrants. There is ample opportunity for anyone with energy and initiative, and at present there is virtually no unemployment amongst Europeans. All the unskilled and most of the semiskilled labour is done by Africans, which means that all European immigrants should be thoroughly competent in their own particular trades or professions if they are to hold their own against any possible African competition.

At this stage, I feel it might be of interest if I were to quote you a few immigration figures. In 1939 3,338 persons entered the Colony, but last year that number rose to 14,155. Even that figure, however, was a decrease of 3,000 on the 1948 total, which was an all-time record. An analysis of the 1949 total is interesting: 7,641 were British, born in the United Kingdom; 5,173 were British, born in the Union of South Africa; and 550 came from other parts of the Commonwealth. Those born in foreign countries numbered 207, and 121 were naturalised persons. Aliens, Asiatics and coloureds numbered, respectively, 404, 53 and 6. Of the 1948 immigrants, those who came direct from the United Kingdom out-numbered those from the Union of South Africa by nearly two to one. Industrial classification of the "gainfully employed" immigrants during 1949 was as follows: public service, 2,238 (including 1,082 Royal Air Force, 1,012 entering Government service, and 144 others, mainly municipal employees); manufacturing, 990; building and construction, 794; commerce and finance, 727; transport and communications, 678; agriculture, 508; professions, entertainment And sport, 370; mining, 194; personal service, 187; and other industries 53. "Not gainfully employed" immigrants, who numbered 7,416, were mainly dependants. In the Rhodesian Parliament, on April 18 this year, the Minister of Finance, in his Budget speech, said: In view of the rapid progress in the building of factories, shops and offices, the record import of industrial machinery in 1949, and the continued expansion of the Rhodesia railways, the building industry and farming industry, and with unemployment virtually nil, it must be obvious to the House that a heavy influx of immigrants will be required during the present year to fill urgent vacancies in all walks of life in the Colony. It is quite impracticable to import capital without, at the same time, importing labour. Your Lordships will realise from what I have so far said that there are enormous potentialities to be realised in Southern Rhodesia. The colony is 150,133 square miles in extent—nearly the size of Germany—and there is thus ample space for many thousands more people. With the steady influx of immigrants at the rate of a thousand a month, the financial resources of the Colony are also growing. Let me quote a few figures on this point. In 1923–24, the revenue of Southern Rhodesia stood at only £1,500,000, increased five years later by another £1,000,000. In 1938–39 it stood at £3,500,000, and by 1948–49 had increased to £13,575,468. The Colony financed her not inconsiderable war effort entirely from her own resources, and was, indeed, even able to develop her administration and civilian services at the same time. This all points towards the extremely wise and far-sighted policy of the Southern Rhodesia Government, under its most able Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins. In conclusion, I should like to sum up all I have said this afternoon, by quoting Sir Godfrey, who, on one occasion, said: Southern Rhodesia is no place for men and women without skill of either hand or brain, nor is it a place for people who expect to be molly-coddled through life. But for those who are independent and self-reliant, prepared to stand solidly on their own two feet, it is a grand country. We believe that there will be development and expansion in all directions in Southern Rhodesia. offering opportunities for far more than our present limited European population; and for the man who is prepared to work and 'take a chance' there will be ample scope—so long as he bears in mind that, although we have many amenities, on the whole this country must be regarded as still in the pioneering stage.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my own words to those of speakers who have already spoken congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, on the speech which he made, and also thanking him for the opportunity which he has given us of devoting ourselves to this subject to-day. I think that anyone who has listened to this debate cannot nave failed to be struck by the very high measure of agreement that all speakers have shown, and struck also by the absolutely non-Party character of this afternoon's discussions. Although the debate has ranged over a great many countries of the world, nobody has spoken of problems in any country of which he has not personal knowledge, and fairly recent knowledge at that.

My noble friend Lord Fairfax of Cameron, in his opening speech, dealt with the question of how we might strengthen the sinews of the Commonwealth in the spheres of defence, industry and economy through controlling, helping and canalising the flow of emigrants from this country. He spoke of our problem here in the United Kingdom, of our large population and of its vulnerability, and also of the pressure of European refugees seeking an outlet. He went into the progress made, and, in great detail, underlined the difficulties which we face. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Holden, when he comes to reply—and we shall wish him well in this his maiden speech as a Government spokesman—will agree with me that for his first time at the Government dispatch box he has a debate of the first magnitude to deal with.

Before I go any further into the general theme of my noble friend Lord Fairfax of Cameron, I should like to say a word on the interesting speeches which have been made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and by the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest. Both these noble Lords drew our attention to the Colonies. The noble Earl spoke of those which are still under-developed and under-populated, and which have a great future ahead of them if more people can be found to develop their resources. I am sure he will agree with me, and with my noble friend, that in any kind of movement of that sort which this country might stimulate, the two tests would be whether the country of adoption was willing to receive those immigrants from outside, and whether those immigrants were of such race or such sort as were likely to become good citizens of the country to which they went. He and Lord Haden-Guest mentioned the fearful problem of overpopulation. When you look at it—and it has been much debated in the parliaments of the world—you see little that is not dwarfed into insignificance by the awful problem of populations marching ahead of production. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, cited the cases of various countries where the people are so thick upon the ground that it is hard for them to maintain a reasonable standard of living. He could have drawn the picture in much grimmer lines, and I am afraid the instances which he quoted will be paralleled by others in a far shorter time than he mentioned, in these countries that lie within our purview in the British Commonwealth and Empire. It is hard to see that there can be any other solution to this problem of over-crowding than settlement and migration on the lines of which he spoke.

In the remarks which I have to make to your Lordships, I am going to confine myself to what I suggest we in the United Kingdom can do to assist these other countries of the Commonwealth to build up their strength, by making available to them those of our citizens who wish to go to spend their lives there. As several noble Lords have already remarked, there is a changed outlook in the world. Emigration is now widely accepted among all Parties in this country. It is now widely agreed that the fact that round about five-sevenths of the white British race live in about one-ninetieth part of their territories is a cause for great misgiving, in view of the dangers which we face. The last war has shown the awful hazards with which vast countries with tiny populations can be beset. The last three decades have shown the buffets of boom and slump, the awful catastrophes of nature and the inroads they can make on economies which are based entirely on the products of the soil. No wonder those countries seek our settlers, and seek a broader basis for their economies in order to strengthen themselves against these dangers.

As the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, has rightly said, a new pattern is evolving. The redistribution of the British race is a great challenge to our generation. If we do it successfully, stability may be ours for decades to come. If we do not, then it is hard to see that we can have any future to which to look forward. Lord Haden-Guest said he thought that this problem was the concern of the rest of the world, and one of such gigantic scope that it could not be settled below U.N.O. level. I do not entirely disagree with that, but this afternoon I should like to confine the discussion to that part of the world in which we can actually change the destinies of mankind.

As I have said, most people now entirely agree with the idea of migration. But it would be a dull world if we all thought alike. I am sometimes astonished to hear men, highly thought of in other spheres, put forward false and flimsy arguments to oppose this conception. One is that this island is either defensible or it is not. If it is defensible, it is argued, let us all stay here; but if it is not, let us all quit and leave it. I think that is a very flimsy argument. Another argument is that if we find ourselves on the eve of an atomic war, we must quickly get rid of several millions of our population to the distant parts of the Commonwealth. What could be worse rubbish than that? We shall only too likely be faced with an atomic war, and there will be no eve and no dusk; we shall be plunged from daylight to darkness if we are not fully prepared, and prepared a long time ahead. Others object to this conception because they say that if we encourage emigration on a large scale, we lose to this country more and more of those who produce, and leave fewer and fewer to support more and more who are either too young or too old to contribute. There is no substance in that argument, because every Dominion with whom we have made arrangements in this sphere has agreed to take a cross-section of our citizens.

To-night we are discussing mainly how we are going to assist the other countries of the Commonwealth by the flow of our citizens to become their citizens. It is always important to remember that migration never has been, and never will be, a completely one-way flow. It is a "tide in the affairs of men" which has both an ebb and a flow. In 1930, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa felt the slump rather later than we did; but when they did, many of their young men came to Britain to seek their fortunes, instead of the other way round, and those who came out-numbered those who went. Then, when the last war started, more than one quarter of the R.A.F. was Canadian. This is not emigration in the sense in which the word would have been understood ten years ago; it is something different. As the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, said, it is a new concept. It is a strategic re-deployment of our citizens. And this is not only the task of the citizens themselves, but the high task of Governments. It requires long-term planning of a kind which cannot be turned on and off at will like a tap, at short notice.

It is eighteen months-odd since we last debated this subject. The Government then greatly heartened us on this side by subscribing in no unmeasured terms to the view that in this country we should encourage emigration so far as lay in our power, and I should like to hear those same terms of reassurance from the noble Lord, Lord Holden, to-night, if he feels he can make them. There were no lack of volunteers for the reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Baden-Powell, has given, and for others too. What has happened in the last year? Take Canada, for example. Over 362,000 human souls went to Canada between VE-Day and 1949, and just over 160,000 were from Great Britain. But in the last year a blight has fallen. The figures of emigration from Britain to Canada have dropped 52 per cent. It is not through lack of willingness of people to go, and not through lack of willingness on the part of Canada to receive them.

While by no means belittling the importance of the other countries mentioned, and others still not mentioned, I should like to concentrate on the two great countries of Australia and Canada, because nearly all the problems are to be found within that purview and in such a mammoth size that they can be more easily seen and more easily examined. In Australia the problem of getting British immigrants is twofold, and both of them have been discussed to-night. They are shipping and housing, and noble Lords who know much more about both those things than I do have spoken on them. What is the shipping situation in this country? I should be immensely grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Holden, would shed some light on it. I gather, purely as a layman, that we lost in the last war 11,000,000 tons of shipping, which repair and replacement has cut down to something like a net loss of 7,000,000 tons. Since then we have been building more ships in this country than the rest of the world put together—a matter for great congratulation. But now ship-building is beginning to taper off. Pools of unemployment are beginning to appear in the shipyards. Where do we go from here? Because for emigration and other needs we regard as vital, we still lack shipping.

In connection with emigration to Australia, I should like to ask the noble Lord this question. When the scheme between our Government and the Government of Australia for jointly paid passages of intending emigrants was made, I believe the ratio was fifty-fifty; does that still operate? As regards housing, I have nothing to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, has said, but I should like to reinforce his question. We should be grateful to know anything that the noble Lord thinks he can tell us about the progress of the Australian housing mission, now in London.

I should like to focus your Lordships' attention on a country which I know well—namely, Canada. I have spent more than half of my adult life there, or in its service. Here we have a wonderful microcosm of the whole question of the movement of humanity It is the only country in the Commonwealth that has a re-migration problem. A quarter of its citizens were born outside it. A quarter of its citizens now alive, who were born in it, are living outside it. Since 1869 literally millions of people have gone there from the rest of the world, but such is their re-migration problem, largely southwards over the border of the United States, that, since 1869, had no single man gone to Canada and no single man left, the population would be what it is to-day. Immigration into Canada is a pressing problem and one which exercises Canada greatly. As your Lordships know, a Canadian Minister of Migration was appointed for the first time in January of this year.

The fall in the number of emigrants from Britain to Canada by 52 per cent. last year is no accident. It is due to two things—the currency restrictions imposed by the last Budget but three, and the extensive rise in the cost of transportation since devaluation. I believe the Government cannot have had the slightest idea of the effect of these currency restrictions, because, if they had, I am sure they would not have limited intending emigrants to £1,000 and the amount which they could take in one year to not more than £250. What it means is that the small middle-class family unit has been more or less banned as settlers. Nearly all are single men and women with small resources. Skilled workers and craftsmen cannot be attracted, because they have nearly always saved up more than £1,000. Canada cannot get those skilled in small crafts and trades who would wish to set up in business. A cross-section is destroyed, because a producer who goes out there often cannot get his mother and father, or whoever are his dependants, to follow him, as they have probably worked and saved up rather more than that sum.

As a result, a great many people who would have made their lives in Canada, and put that country as their first choice, have gone to South Africa or Australia instead—no loss to the Commonwealth, but in many cases a grievous loss to Canada. Canada has always tried, in order to ensure an essential balance of people, to maintain a certain ratio of those citizens of this country and those from the rest of Europe. But if those from this country are reduced by this slashing figure, it is only to be expected that she may find herself having to review the number of displaced persons and others that she can take to make up her total. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, cannot be aware of the large number of people who have gone from Western Europe to these countries. Further on this point, there are assisted schemes to Australia and New Zealand, and the British taxpayer plays his part. But he does not have to contribute anything to those who go to Canada—emigration to Canada takes place independently of the British taxpayer's purse. It seems, therefore, a great misfortune to Canada, who was not asked, and has not come to any agreement by which she receives any outside financial assistance in this sphere, that her flow of immigrants should have dried up in this way. If that affects Ontario where, as your Lordships well know, about one-third of the Canadian industrial population lives, how much more does it affect the prairie provinces, where people could go to start farms, but now cannot take the money to buy a farm. Surely, somewhere there is a possible compromise and room for relaxation of these restrictions.

I should now like to say a few words on the question of transportation. Those who have not sufficient funds to take over to be hit by these currency regulations in the sphere of £1,000 find themselves hit by having to pay a heavy fare. The tourist class single fare across the Atlantic prior to devaluation cost £40; it is now £54. B.O.A.C. used to charge £86; they now charge £120.

To bring my remarks to a conclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Holden, has been asked many questions; he has taken a number of notes, and we all expect some interesting answers from him. But what we want to know is: What are the plans for the future? We concern ourselves in this House with what lies within the purview of the Parliament of Westminster, something that we can personally assist or alter. My noble friend Lord Fairfax made a plea for a Migration Board, and that is a plea I would strongly endorse. He has made a most interesting disquisition on industrial migration. That, I feel, is something which the Government could look into with the greatest profit. But it cannot work unless those companies who try it receive some encouragement in terms of currency, in terms of passages, and in terms of other assistance. It is not a question of British industries being reft from this island and divorced from valuable continental markets, but rather of established industries in this country sending out to those countries an off-shoot, and the people who go with it, which may well one day flourish into something greater than the parent tree. A famous Canadian firm of agricultural implement makers, following that principle, has a factory and assembly plant, some of which have grown bigger than the parent unit, in every single Commonwealth country. I should like to hear what information the noble Lord can give us on the subject of shipping, and on currency regulations. If the Government say they are encouraging emigration, they cannot deny that that is a terrible discouragement. So also is the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, where the grant to the Big Brother Movement is being reduced.


Removed altogether.


The noble Lord corrects me. It has been removed altogether. Surely, there is room for relaxation of these restrictions, so that we in this country can say with an absolutely clear conscience that we are giving the all-out encouragement that every one of us wishes to see. We must face these problems now, because they press upon us and will press harder as time goes on.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to say how grateful I am for the many kind remarks that have been made by noble Lords about myself, and secondly to make the more melancholy observation that, as this is a very important debate, I may not be able to allow your Lordships to go to dinner for some time. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, for raising the matter, and to thank him and other noble Lords for their courtesy in letting me know what the main theme of their speeches would be, and for sending me beforehand some specific questions they wished to ask. Before replying, to them, however, I should like to make a few general observations on migration within the Commonwealth.

I would say with emphasis that His Majesty's Government want to encourage and facilitate the flow of migration from this Island to the various parts of the Commonwealth which are calling for further settlement. Since the 17th century, as your Lordships know, the overseas migration of British people has been on a larger scale than that of any other people, and those people built up the countries of the Commonwealth to-day, where British stock is the largest single element of the population. This has had two distinct advantages. The first is the very happy relationship existing in the Commonwealth, which has produced a solidarity so potent in overcoming our enemies in two world wars. The second concerns trade. There is no doubt that the people of the Commonwealth have a natural inclination to purchase British goods, and the maintenance and growth of this trade is directly related to the size and character of the populations of the Commonwealth. But circumstances in the Commonwealth are vastly different to-day from what they were, say, fifty years ago. Then the present Commonwealth nations were, in larger or lesser degrees, ruled by this country, and were far more sparsely populated than they are even to-day. At the same time, there were constant periods of unemployment in the United Kingdom. To-day these same people are great independent nations, though bound together by many common ties; and we in this country have full employment. Therefore I think that our approach to the problem of migration to-day must be different from what it was in the past.

To go into more detailed considerations, there are two rather separate questions involved in any discussion of the United Kingdom policy towards migration. One is that concerned with the effects of emigration on United Kingdom economy—considerations such as the supply of man-power, particularly in skilled trades, and export of plant and capital. The second is the provision to be made from United Kingdom funds for the specific purpose of subsidising the movement of individual migrants. Since 1922 there has been provision for expenditure of public funds for this purpose, in the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, which was extended in 1937. It is by virtue of these Acts that schemes like the present assisted-passage scheme to Australia have been possible. As your Lordships will be aware, the Acts are due to expire on May 31, 1952. The question of their extension is now coming under review, but it would be premature to attempt to indicate at this stage what the result of the examination of this question will be. It is safe to say, however, that the United Kingdom will continue, as it has so often declared in the past, to welcome migration of persons from this country for permanent settlement in other countries of the Commonwealth.

The factors which have to be borne in mind are the willingness of individuals to go, and the willingness of other countries to receive them, house them and absorb them into their economies. This is not a matter in which any British Government would bring pressure to bear, either upon individuals or upon other countries. All we can do is to reiterate the value that we attach to this means of strengthening the bonds between the members of the Commonwealth and to facilitate the flow by all means, and to the greatest extent, that our own resources permit. It is well known that many of the skilled tradesmen who are in particular demand in other countries are those whom we ourselves greatly need. Our hope, therefore, is that Governments will seek to take a cross-section of our population—which has been mentioned by many noble Lords opposite—and not merely our youngest and our most skilled people. We welcome the opportunity which we have of discussing with them the proportions and numbers in particular trades whose emigration should be encouraged. But so highly do we value the links afforded by migration that we are prepared to take risks and not to obtrude our own difficulties in particular categories, except in the most compelling cases.

The cost of migration is much higher than before the war, and our financial resources have many other calls upon them. But it remains our policy to welcome and facilitate a flow on the present scale. Migration from Europe to less-developed countries is a topic which is being much discussed in international circles at present—for instance, at Geneva by the I.L.O. The United Kingdom is always ready to take part in these discussions and to try to help them forward. But in our view, and, we think, that of other Commonwealth countries, migration within the Commonwealth is more of a family affair, and we value the more informal and direct atmosphere in which we can treat it.

I should now like to make a few general observations about migration questions as they affect individual members of the Commonwealth. I should first like to refer to Canada. At present it is not Canadian Government policy to operate Government-sponsored schemes of immigration, United Kingdom migration to Canada is showing a decline, which is probably due not only to the exhaustion of the post-war rush but also to the absence of Governmental assistance and to the present restrictions on the amount of capital that can be transferred from this country to Canada. I think my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir has already referred to the fact that the limit was reduced in 1948 from £5,000 to £1,000, spread over four years. On the economic side, there is in Canada, as your Lordships know, an unemployment problem more severe than seasonal fluctuations can account for.

Migration to Australia is proceeding at an accelerating rate. It is in three categories: assisted migration under the assisted-passage agreement, under which the cost of passages above a small sum—that is, £10–contributed by the migrant himself, is shared between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments; free passage migration, under the scheme whereby free passages are provided by the Ministry of Labour and National Service as a resettlement benefit for British ex-Service men and ex-Service women; and thirdly, ordinary migration of persons travelling under their own arrangements. The Australians have several times since the war approached us to make special ships available, and in response to these requests we have done our best to keep putting more ships on the migrant run. In addition to these special ships there are, of course, the ordinary commercial runs to Australia which carry persons proceeding under their own arrangements, as well as a fair proportion of those travelling under the free or assisted schemes. The expected lift in special ships to Australia for 1950 is 34,500 berths. In addition, tourist berths in commercial ships for assisted independent migration will bring the total to 63,000. I think that is what the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, more or less said himself.

May I now refer to New Zealand? The New Zealand Government have free and assisted-passage schemes of their own. These were established in July, 1947, and on account of the scarcity of shipping and housing were limited to single people without dependants. These two problems and the consequent limitation still persist. The accepted age range for general purposes is from twenty to thirty-five years. These schemes are operated by the New Zealand Government on their own. A ship owned by the United Kingdom, the "Atlantis," has been made available to the New Zealand Government and is operated for their migration run by one of their shipping companies. The New Zealand Government, as your Lordships all know, have a traditional preference for immigrants from this country.

About the Union of South Africa, I would say this. There are no migration schemes operated with or by the Government of the Union, although there was a heavy flow of United Kingdom migration to the Union after the war. Now we come to Southern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia has admitted relatively large quantities of British immigrants since the war. By regulation, almost all immigrants to Southern Rhodesia are of British nationality. Permission to enter is readily given to persons who either have assured employment to go to or have a capital sum behind them. This sum has been raised from £1,000 to £1,500. In the last five years, Mr. Beadle, the Minister of Internal Affairs, said recently Southern Rhodesia has absorbed 58,000 settlers, raising the Colony's European population from 75,000 to 120,000. This, my Lords, you will agree, is a most remarkable increase.

Now I would pass to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, of which he courteously gave me notice before he made his eloquent and delightful speech. The first referred to shipping: the noble Lord asked what His Majesty's Government are doing to assist the Dominions to get to their own shores those Britons who wish to migrate, and what are the arrangements for providing information for migrants. We have made great efforts since the war to meet the Australian Government's requests for special shipping for migration, and the supply of shipping has been increasing rapidly. There are at present 10 special migrant ships, and there is another in commission. There is also a special migrant ship running to New Zealand. In addition, of course, use is made of the ordinary liner runs to Australia and New Zealand. There are no longer any special arangements for shipping to Canada or to the Union of South Africa: normal passenger traffic is now considered sufficient to carry the flow. The Governments who have migration schemes do their own advertising and the organisation of the Ministry of Labour and National Service is at their disposal to put them in touch with prospective migrants. The London representatives of Commonwealth Governments are always ready to provide prospective migrants with all the information they may require. Under the assisted-passage scheme with Australia it was agreed that the Australian and United Kingdom Governments would share equally the cost of the passage over and above the migrant's own small contribution. We have, unfortunately, found it necessary to ask the Australian Government to agree, in our present financial circumstances, to a reduction in the size of our contribution for each passage, and they have generously agreed to take part of the burden off us.

The noble Lord asked about a White Paper on Migration. There is nothing new to show at the moment, but we will certainly consider laying a further White Paper before the Empire Settlement Acts come up for review—which, as the noble Lord knows, is in 1952. The noble Lord also asked about assistance to the Australian housing mission. The Australian housing mission were received on April 3 by my honourable friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who explained that the Government were anxious to assist the Australians in filling up the empty spaces in Australia. He said that the Ministry of Works were the production authority for export of houses and also for building materials and fitments and would no doubt give the mission all possible assistance. The mission have since had several sessions with the Ministry of Works, who carried out a very large programme of producing and erecting prefabricated houses and were most willing to give the Australians the benefit of their experience. This experience covered such matters as the organisation of the whole project, with notes on the phasing of the programme—that is to say, how far ahead of erection sites must be prepared, and at what stages the different operations begin so that the programme runs smoothly.

The Ministry of Works have also given the mission information on the types of contracts into which they entered and their experience in the actual erection of the houses; and they have been able to contribute a certain amount of experience of scientific research in these matters.

The noble Lord then asked about the use of the steamship "Aquitania," and shipping in general. We have received representations from the Australian Government for still more shipping this year, and we have reviewed those representations with the utmost sympathy and eagerness to assist. But there are no more ships to be had. The future shipbuilding programme in this country is possibly beyond the scope of this debate, and in any case no ships laid down or put in for conversion now would be anywhere near ready in time to assist the movement this year. The use of the "Aquitania" was carefully considered, but it was concluded that the cost and time involved in making her suitable for continued service rendered the project prohibitive. The noble Lord next asked me about the Commonwealth Migration Board. If any of the Governments indicated that they thought that a body of this nature would be useful, we should be happy to consider it. At the moment, however, there is no indication that any of them feel the need for it, or that they are not respectively fully content with the standard arrangements for consultation on matters of common interest.

As regards the transferability of social services, about which the noble Lord next asked, the recommendations of the conference of officials from the United Kingdom and other members of the Commonwealth held in 1947 provided a basis for bilateral negotiations. By a 1949 amendment, the qualifying period under the Canadian Family Allowances Act is now only one year, so that the question of reciprocity or transfer has become largely academic. It has not been found possible to arrange an agreement with Canada in respect of unemployment benefit, because of the possibility of financial adjustments causing a dollar drain which the United Kingdom can at present ill afford. In Australia, all the social service benefits are immediately obtainable by migrants on the same terms as Australian citizens, except old age pensions, about which negotiations are now taking place. As regards New Zealand, a reciprocal arrangement has been made about family allowances and discussions on other aspects of social security reciprocity are now taking place.

I now come to the last of the noble Lord's questions, which is a most difficult one: the migration of whole economic units. I think the noble Lord will agree that this is a very big and a very difficult problem. Successful attempts to do this sort of thing are in no way unwelcome to the United Kingdom Government, and if businesses can find a suitable site with suitable markets, and can get together a staff willing to travel, there is no reason why they should not get on with it. But it is not a matter in which the Government can properly use much influence; it would be improper to bring pressure to bear either on businesses or on individual employees to move. Any such movement would be subject, of course, to the exchange and export controls which have been established in this country to protect and promote the United Kingdom's own economy.

I now turn to the question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. This is perhaps a question which is of interest to the Colonial Office, and I hope I shall not be treading on anyone's toes in making mention of it. Lord Listowel asked about North Borneo, and I can tell him that the Colonial Office have for some time been considering possible sources from which labour might be recruited for North Borneo. The British West Indies was not regarded as a suitable source: it is considered that people from the West Indies would not be readily assimilated into local conditions, and that it is undesirable to introduce a fresh element in the heterogeneous society of North Borneo. The noble Earl also asked me a question about the position regarding the admission of Chinese labour into North Borneo. I am informed that the passport and immigration legislation provides adequate safeguards to ensure the bona fides of prospective immigrants. All entrants are very carefully screened.

The second point that the noble Earl asked was in relation to the need of migration from the over-populated parts of the British West Indies, and the possibility of using migrant labour in British Honduras and British Guiana. The third question was in regard to the Government's attitude towards the findings on migration in the Evans Report. Perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to answer those questions together. The British Guiana and British Honduras Settlement Commission, under the Chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Evans, was appointed in 1947 and reported at the end of 1948. As a result of their proposals, the economic development of British Guiana and British Honduras is proceeding, and it is hoped will provide opportunities for a certain amount of migration to those territories from the more densely populated islands of the British West Indies. It is, however, important that the foundations of this development shall be soundly laid, and that there shall be no premature movements of population. It must not be overlooked that at present there is a certain amount of unemployment in British Honduras which must be absorbed before labour is brought in from elsewhere.

Lastly, the noble Earl asked a question about Malta. Under the new Constitution, emigration is the responsibility of the Maltese Government, but His Majesty's Government, for their part, will naturally do everything to assist the Maltese Government if they are asked to do so. They have in the past made arrangements to set aside for migrants from Malta to Australia certain accommodation on one of the migrant ships sailing between the United Kingdom and Australia, and will continue to do so as far as possible. In view of the constitutional position, however, the prime responsibility in this matter must rest with the Maltese authorities concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, made a constructive speech looking very much into the future. It was most interesting. He brought up the population problem. That is a large question, and now is not the moment to discuss it. I agree that as regards this country and the Commonwealth it is a matter of great responsibility. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, brought up the question of the Big Brother Movement. This is the answer I must give him. Before the war, we and the Australian Government made a joint grant towards the London expenses of the Big Brother Movement. The Australian Government have recently decided to discontinue their contribution and, in view of the imperative need of economy, we have regretfully decided that we must follow suit. May I add that should the Australian Government reconsider their decision, we shall, of course, reconsider ours?

Lord Haden-Guest asked how much money is now being spent by the United Kingdom on migration. The direct expenditure on the provision of passages to Australia under the assisted passages scheme and the free Passages scheme for ex-Service men will amount to more than £2,000,000 in the year 1950–51. May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Baden-Powell, for his remarks on Southern Rhodesia, on which country he is probably the greatest expert in your Lordships' House? Then the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, asked me some questions which I should answer.


I asked a great many questions under several different headings. Perhaps I can extract a Written Answer from the noble Lord to save time now?


Certainly. Otherwise it will take me some time to reply now. Perhaps I might say at the conclusion of a rather long speech that I have attempted to answer the points raised but, as in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, I shall be only too glad to write to any noble Lord upon any further point about which he may desire information. His Majesty's Government wish to give encouragement and to provide facilities so far as possible for migration. We believe, however, that mass migration is impracticable and we must bear in mind to-day that we have full employment in the United Kingdom. This may often mean that, when someone migrates, what is a gain to another Commonwealth country is a loss to this country. Indeed, I may say that, but for the Commonwealth and our desire to help its nations in every way we can, we should not today be encouraging migration. However, we have a Commonwealth migration policy, and as far as my Government are concerned we shall do all in our power to make it a success. May I add this? The Government of the United Kingdom have no wish or intention whatever to interfere in these matters with any sister nation of the Commonwealth. We in this country seek to dictate to nobody but rather to help everyone to the best of our ability in our great family of nations.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, it is my great pleasure and privilege to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken upon his first speech as a Minister of His Majesty's Government. As he is a personal friend of mine, it gives me a double pleasure to hear him replying to the debate which I have instituted. I am sure that we shall all look forward to hearing the noble Lord speak again in the future. I feel that we have had a most interesting debate. I am glad to know that His Majesty's Government are anxious to encourage migration within the Commonwealth, but I confess that I feel that the attitude which they are taking towards migration is a little too cautious. It appears that they are adopting too much caution, and I hardly feel that they will be very successful in encouraging migration. It is up to the United Kingdom to take the lead in Commonwealth affairs and not to wait for the Dominions to do so. From the way His Majesty's Government approach this question I hardly think that they will be likely to take that lead. Their attitude is rather one of leaving it for the other person to move first.

With regard to the limitation upon the removal of capital to Canada, I am sorry that His Majesty's Government can give no indication that they intend to restore to £5,000 the maximum that may be taken. The reduction is having a direct effect in limiting the number of people who go to Canada, and I should have thought that it might be possible to make a special exception in the case of Canada, which has done so much for us in the past, particularly during the war. I was greatly heartened by what the noble Lord said about the number of berths which will be available to take migrants to Australia. The number of berths with the commercial lines was substantially more than I had thought, and it appears that there will be only some 7,000 short if the full target of 70,000 Britons from this country is realised.

There was one point in the noble Lord's speech about which I was particularly sorry—namely, the question of His Majesty's Government reducing the contribution which they can make towards the assisted-passages scheme to Australia. Quite apart from the money advantages of that scheme, I feel that there is an important matter of token in this—in showing our attitude towards migration and our feeling towards the population needs of Australia. I am sure that the amount of money involved cannot be very large, and I feel that the reduction of our share of the cost may create a bad impression in Australia. It is a matter of regret that the United Kingdom, the Mother Country of the Commonwealth, cannot pay at least half the full cost of these passages.

With regard to industrial migration, it is not so much a question of His Majesty's Government applying pressure on particular companies to go; that does not come into the question at all, so far as I can see. It is merely a question of encouraging companies to go, and of their knowing that if they do go their action will be smiled upon and that they will receive help from His Majesty's Government. It is fully within the power of His Majesty's Government to encourage them and to let them know that they are doing something of which the Government approve. We have had a most interesting debate, but the hour is late and I should not like to detain your Lordships any longer. I will close by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Holden, again for his very informative reply. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.