HL Deb 20 May 1952 vol 176 cc1197-226

6.10 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. If it is necessary for me to speak for some little time on this subject I hope noble Lords will forgive me, but I think it may be helpful to this House and to We country generally if I go rather more fully than has been done in recent debates into the whole story of inter-Imperial migration, even back Into the last century. In these days, as we all know, there is a great deal of talk about migration. It is one of those questions about which people feel extremely strongly, whatever view they may happen to take. On one side, there are those who feel passionately, both on economic and imperial grounds, that migration should be encouraged on the largest possible scale. On the other side, there are those who believe equally strongly that anyone who leaves this country at the present juncture is abandoning his responsibilities at a moment of great national danger and is, in fact, running away. For members of both those schools of thought the views which they hold are, in effect, articles of faith, and any watering down of the pure milk of their doctrine appears to them to be an act of dangerous heresy. They admit of no compromise.

Personally, I have always been, on balance, and I am still, a firm supporter of migration. I believe that the advantages of encouraging free movement of population within the Commonwealth and Empire greatly outweigh the disadvantages. But equally, I believe that if that policy is to be beneficial, both to this country and to the Commonwealth, it must be realistic, and must not be based on a sort of blind fanaticism. Otherwise the advantages which one might hope to gain will be more than counterbalanced by the errors we shall make. Above all, we must take account of the lessons of the past and the views of those who have given special study to this question. It is in that spirit that I wish to recommend this Bill to your Lordships this evening. I therefore make no apology if I go somewhat fully into the facts and figures. They may themselves seem dry—they are rather dry—but they have a very direct bearing on our problem.

First I would say this. The object of this Bill is to extend the Empire Settlements Acts of 1922 and 1937 for another five years. Those Acts are at present due to expire on the 31st of May of this year. It may be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships of the history of those Acts. Throughout the nineteenth century and until 1931 there was a heavy movement of migration from Great Britain, mostly to the United States and the Empire. A general idea of the scale of this movement may be given by stating that, between 1871 and 1931, Great Britain's net outward balance of migration Was 3,380,000 persons, or an average of 56,000 a year. Up to 1914, this movement proceeded for practical purposes without financial assistance from the United Kingdom Government.

The first experiment in State-aided migration was the Government's free passage scheme for ex-Servicemen and their dependants which was brought into force immediately after the First World War. Under this scheme nearly 86,000 ex-Servicemen and women and their dependants emigrated to the Commonwealth, most of them to Australia and Canada. As a result of the success of this scheme, a conference on State-aided Empire settlement was held in 1921 between the United Kingdom Government and the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The conference recommended effective co-operation between the United Kingdom and oversea Governments in a comprehensive policy of Empire land settlement and Empire settlement migration, extending over a period of years. A conference of Prime Ministers and representatives of the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India, held later in 1921, endorsed this recommendation; and the result, so far as the United Kingdom Government was concerned, was the Empire Settlement Act of 1922—the first of the Empire Settlement Acts.

Under this Act the secretary of State was empowered to co-operate with any oversea Commonwealth Government or with public authorities public or private organisations, either in the United Kingdom or in any part of His Majesty's dominions, … in carrying out agreed schemes for affording joint assistance to suitable persons in the United Kingdom who intend to settle in any part of His Majesty's dominions. Agreed schemes under the Act might be either development of land settlement schemes, or schemes for assisted passages, training, and so on. The Act provided that the Secretary of State should not agree to any scheme without the consent of the Treasury—that seems to be not an unusual provision—that he should not contribute more than 50 per cent. of the cost of any scheme, and that his liability to contribute should not extend beyond a period of fifteen years after the passing of the Act. It was also provided that the aggregate amount to be spent by the Secretary of State on any scheme or schemes should not exceed £3,000,000 in any one financial year, exclusive of the amount of any sums received by way of interest on, or repayment of, advances previously made.

From the passing of the Empire Settlement Act in 1922 until 1931 (by which time migration, owing to the world economic depression, had temporarily ceased) about 400,000 United Kingdom citizens emigrated to other parts of the Commonwealth, receiving assistance under the Acts at a total cost of about £6,000,000, or £15 per head. Apart from these assisted migrants, some 660,000 persons migrated to other parts of the Commonwealth without any Government assistance, and nearly 400,000 went to foreign countries—principally, of course, to the United States. Your Lordships will, therefore, see that out of a gross total of over 1,400,000 migrants during this period, the great majority went on their own. Contrary to expectations, only a very small proportion, about 30,000 of the assisted migrants, went under schemes of planned land settlement, which, however regrettable that might be, in general turned out to be expensive failures.

From 1931 to the outbreak of war there was little or no migration, and in each of these years there was, curiously enough, a net inward movement to this country, totalling over the whole period nearly 200,000 persons. During this pause in migration, due to the world economic depression, the policy of State-aided migration was reviewed several times by authoritative bodies of various kinds. In 1930, the Economic Advisory Council appointed a committee to consider the question of migration from the United Kingdom to oversea parts of the Empire, and in 1932 this Committee produced a report. The committee reviewed at considerable length the economic value of emigration from Great Britain, and came to the conclusion—it was an important conclusion—that in view of the progressive decline in our birth rate, and the likelihood of a gradual readjustment of our industrial life to post-war conditions, it is hardly likely that large scale emigration would be economically advantageous to us, as a long-period policy. On the other hand, they made a point, which to me is vitally important, that the solidarity and internal strength of the British Commonwealth will come to depend more and more on the continued growth of the British migrants in the population of the Dominions, and on these grounds, despite the economic disadvantages, they regarded it as: of great importance that a steady flow of British migrants to the Dominions should be maintained, although the likelihood must be recognised that migration from the United Kingdom to the Dominions will in future be on a substantially smaller scale than it has been in recent years, or than, on large grounds of Imperial and social policy, we should like it to be. Next, in 1934, there was a further review of the subject. An Inter-Departmental Committee on Migration Policy, appointed by the then Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, reported on the extent and manner in which, if at all, the United Kingdom Government should in future encourage assisted migration from this country to oversea parts of the British Empire. Their report endorsed the views expressed by the Committee on Empire Migration and recommended, among other things, the appointment of an Oversea Settlement Board to advise the Secretary of State upon specific proposals for schemes of migration within the Empire and upon any matter relating to over-sea settlement which might be referred to it by him. This recommendation was adopted.

Then, four years later, in 1938, there was yet another inquiry into the position—I am emphasising this because there seems to be an idea abroad that there has been very little recent inquiry, and that is not true. The Oversea Settlement Board, which had been appointed in 1936 (as a result of the recommendation to which I have just referred), produced a further report on migration to the Commonwealth. This report arrived at the same conclusions as its predecessors—namely, that: it can no longer be assumed as axiomatic that the migration of large numbers of persons from the United Kingdom to the Dominions is in the interests of the United Kingdom, if those interests could be considered in isolation from those of the Dominions. It is only from the point of view of the strengthening of the Empire as a whole that the encouragement of migration from the U.K. can be justified. Finally—and this is the last Committee I shall quote—since the war, the question of migration as a remedy for the economic difficulties in this country was yet again considered by the Economics Committee of the Royal Commission on Population, which reached the same conclusions as those set out above (I quote the words), that in present-day Britain, with a birth-rate well below replacement level, the maintenance of a large flow of emigration can hardly be regarded as either practicable or desirable, and it is important that this should be appreciated in connection with post-war projects of Empire emigration, if unnecessary disillusionment is to be avoided. But, my Lords, like the other bodies I have quoted, they recognised the importance of emigration from the point of view of the solidarity of the British Commonwealth.

In their Report, the Commission accepted the view that migration from the United Kingdom is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, but pointed out that, on the basis of the present birth-rate in this country, it would not be possible for the United Kingdom to supply more than one-third of the annual flow of immigrants required by the other Commonwealth countries concerned, which were estimated at about 226,000 a year. The Royal Commission also observe that a net outflow of 50,000, maintained permanently, would seem, in the light of past experience, to be quite a high rate. Between 1871 and 1911—a period of heavy emigration—the net outflow from Great Britain averaged about this rate. A maintained net outflow of 100,000 is far higher than anything that could be called probable, and may be regarded as a maximum, short of catastrophic developments or the adoption of a deliberate policy of drastic reduction of the population. I have thought it right to quote to your Lordships, at I am afraid wearisome length, the findings of these successive expert inquiries. For, whether we agree with them or not, one cannot help being impressed by the virtual unanimity of their conclusions. All alike are agreed that, with a birth rate well below replacement level, the main justification for the encouragement of migration is nowadays not to be found merely the need of the United Kingdom to reduce its population. That argument they unanimously reject. But they accept the view that it still remains vitally important to encourage it as a means of strengthening the bonds between the various parts of the Commonwealth and Empire. That is the view, I am happy to think, that has determined the policy of successive Governments ever since that date, and it is to most of us I imagine, the conclusive argument in favour of migration.


Would the noble Marquess explain one thing—namely, to what extent there has been assisted migration? To what extent have loans been made?


The figures I have given have been principally those of assisted migration. It is true, of course, that the Government which in 1937 decided to renew the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 for another fifteen years, reduced the permitted yearly expenditure to £1,500,000. But that was on the purely practical pounds that the earlier limit of £3,000,000 had never been reached. There was no alteration of principle. Nor has there been any alteration of principle in the years since that date, whatever Party may have been in power.

Towards the end of the war, in pursuance of this policy, the United Kingdom Government entered into discussions with the other Commonwealth Governments, both by correspondence and at a meeting of Prime Ministers in May, 1944, and by subsequent meetings with Dominion representatives in London, on the subject of post-war migration policy. The results of these discussions, perhaps inevitably, were rather indeterminate. For none of the Governments concerned, except the Australian Government, could see their way to enter into any commitments until their own problems of rehabilitating their ex-Service men and women had been got out of the way. But since the war migration to the Commonwealth has begun again and has averaged about 90,000 a year gross, and about 70,000 a year net, to the five main receiving Commonwealth countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. In speaking of gross and net figures I should perhaps explain that there is also an inflow to this country going on all the time, and the net figure is what results when that inflow is deducted.


The balance.


Yes, the balance. The total migration during those six years to the countries I have named—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia—has been 545,000, as against which there has been an inward movement to this country of 133,000, leaving a net balance of emigration of 412,000.

I should now like, if your Lordships will bear with me a little longer, to say a word or two about migration to the individual Empire countries, in the postwar years. Since the war a total of 171,000 persons have migrated from the United Kingdom to Canada, against an inflow from Canada to the United Kingdom of 43,000, leaving a net outward migration to Canada of 128,000. The Canadian Government, as your Lordships know, hold the view that migration subsidised to the point where it costs the migrant little or nothing tends to attract the less desirable type of emigrant; and since the war they have not entered into any joint scheme with us under the Empire Settlement Acts. However, last year they instituted a scheme of their own for advancing loans to selected wage-earners from the United Kingdom and Western Europe, subject to repayment by the migrant after his arrival. Under this scheme, some 27,000 United Kingdom migrants went to Canada in 1951.

Since it has often been suggested that one of the factors which has impeded the flow of United Kingdom migrants to Canada is the limit on the transfer of capital to Canada, I ought, perhaps, to say that last year this limit was raised and that migrants are now entitled to take out £1,000, plus £250 for each dependent member of the family up to a maximum of four, making a maximum allowance of £2,000 spread over four years, though if a migrant needs the money for some specific purpose the whole can be drawn at once. I was glad to see that the Canadian Minister for Emigration stated the other day that, since this concession, lack of currency has not been a deterrent to migration from the United Kingdom to Canada.

Now I would say a word about Australia. As your Lordships know, Australia is the only Commonwealth country which has, since the war, concluded a scheme with us under the Empire Settlement Acts. As a result of this scheme, the number of emigrants from this country to Australia is higher than to any other Commonwealth country. The gross total since the war up to the end of 1951 was 221,000, and the net total was 184,000. Of these, nearly 150,000 went out under the assisted passage scheme, or under a free passage scheme for ex-Service personnel, which was in force after the war but which has now come to an end. The two Governments have worked in close co-operation under this scheme. On our side we have tried to help the Australians in various ways—by giving publicity to the scheme by means of leaflets and application forms which are sent to all the local offices of the Ministry of Labour and displayed there; by tours arranged for the representatives of Australia House by the Ministry of Labour, and in other ways. On their side, the Australian representatives cooperate with our people in recruiting a fair cross-section of the population and-this is very important, of course—not taking migrants from industries where we can ill afford to lose them. This scheme was renewed by the late Government last year for a further three years, ending 31st March, 1954.

The position as regards New Zealand is rather different, for New Zealand has its own scheme under which free passages are extended to selected emigrants up to forty-five years of age. The whole cost of this scheme is borne by the New Zealand Government—it does not fall on us. The total gross migration to New Zealand since the war has been nearly 48,000, and net migration is 32,000. In the case of the Union of South Africa, owing to the limited field for white labour in that country, the Union Government have never taken part in schemes under the Empire Settlement Acts; but, since the war, nearly 90,000 persons have migrated from this country to South Africa, as against an inward movement of over 32,000, leaving a net outward movement of 57,000. Finally there is Southern Rhodesia, where the influx of migrants has been such as to make it unnecessary for the Southern Rhodesia Government to provide any special incentive in the form of assistance to migrants. They have, indeed, been forced lately to impose a limit of 2,700 each quarter. Of this quota, 1,140 are allocated to the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

That, broadly speaking, my Lords, is the story I have to tell. I only hope that I have not unduly wearied the House with a rather long exposition of the facts. But, in view of some rather wild statements that have been made in various quarters, it seemed only right that these facts should be known. I hope that I have at any rate said enough to show that the Government have a migration policy; that this policy is based on the unanimous conclusions of repeated investigations into the question of migration; and that the results of that policy, judged by present and past standards, are not unsatisfactory. The present Bill will not, of course, bring about that major redistribution of population within the Empire for which some people are asking. I frankly do not think that this is at present practically possible. But this I do most profoundly believe. Each man and each woman who goes from this country to one of our sister nations, each man and each woman who comes from them to us, is a renewing of our family relationship, a transfusion of blood which strengthens the whole body. Compared with that, the comparatively small loss in manpower is as nothing. To the achievement of the supreme aim of Imperial unity, the Bill that it is my privilege to recommend to your Lordships is, I believe, a substantial contribution, and I ask you with confidence to give it a Second Reading.


My Lords, before the noble Marquess resumes his seat, would he mind answering this question? Do the figures he has given include those who migrate but who come back after the period of time allowed under the grant, or do they represent fresh income?


My Lords, I think I am right in saying that they represent all those who come from that country to this country. It might be a Canadian who married an English girl who was taken into his father-in-law's business in England but who was a genuine Canadian, or might be a man who had gone out there and done his best but not made a success of it, and had come back. It might be either of those two types.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Marquess intimated at the end of his speech that this Bill is of comparatively narrow scope. I think the noble Marquess profitably widened the scope of his speech a good deal. He took us into the reasons for the Bill and gave us some inkling of the history of this subject, at least from the end of the nineteenth century. The scope of the Bill is, indeed, very narrow. The object is to extend the period of co-operation with the other Commonwealth countries in schemes for promoting settlement in other countries, and for this purpose to contribute a maximum sum of £1,500,000 a year for five years. In fact, it is estimated in the Bill that in the current year, so far from spending the amount which is authorised, the only expenditure will be £560,500. It does not seem that even in these days of austerity this country is over-spending itself in the matter of Empire settlement. We are spending only one-third of what we are entitled to spend. I think it is true to say that the Act has never made very much impact upon Commonwealth settlement. In fact, the noble Marquess himself said that ever since the war the vast majority of those who have gone out have gone under their own steam.


I think that is, broadly speaking, true.


So we cannot really say that the Bill as it stands is going to make a very large contribution, although undoubtedly it will make some contribution. What it has done is to give the noble Marquess and, I hope, other noble Lords an opportunity of a peg upon which to hang some remarks upon this very important subject. Last December a Gallup Poll was taken in the News Chronicle and, as published in that newspaper, it was found that 31 per cent. of those who were interrogated would like to settle in another country, and that naturally most of the 31 per cent. would like to settle in a Commonwealth country. I think we all realise that there is this need for migration—or at least the desire: we will come to the need later. I want to go back to a somewhat earlier date than did the noble Marquess. The migration in the British Commonwealth over the last 300 years has been the largest voluntary migration ever known in history; and that voluntary migration has built up not only the Commonwealth, largely of English-speaking people, but also the United States as an English-speaking country which until, we will say, eighty years ago was predominantly of British stock. These two factors have had an enormous effect on world history and will have an even greater effect as time goes on.


What about Irish stock?


At that time the Irish were in the United Kingdom. When I say "British" I am speaking of the people in the United Kingdom. I do not say "Scottish," "Welsh" or "English," since they are all in the United Kingdom. Not only was there this great voluntary migration in the early days, but there has been a great migration over the years, and that has maintained the strength of the Commonwealth and is one of the ties of sympathy between the nations. Most of your Lordships, no doubt, have friends or relatives abroad. Certainly that is so in my own case. My great-great-grandfather had thirteen children and most of them went to various parts of the Commonwealth. Even up to this day, although the old gentleman was born in 1789, some of these descendants and ourselves remain in correspondence. I am sure that it is a great tie between us.

During that time, this migration has been weighted, as the noble Marquess indicated, by the fact that it is chiefly young men who have gone out. A much greater number of young men than of older men or of older women, or indeed of young women, have emigrated. I think it was on that fact that the Royal Commission on Population and the other Commissions referred to by the noble Marquess were really commenting. These young men were the active, energetic and enterprising part of the population, and naturally we do not want to lose larger numbers of these than we can afford. The Royal Commission on Population says that a net outflow of 100,000 per annum would have relatively little effect on the distribution of population. The noble Marquess indicated that if more go, or if the birth rate should be a poor one, too many young people leaving this country would mean that too many old people would be left behind, and there would be maladjustment in the population. They assume that we could afford 100,000, so they were thinking of more than the number the noble Marquess suggested.


They also said that 100,000 should be the greatest number: that that was probably the ultimate number we could afford to lose.


Yes. Since the war, broadly speaking there have been about 70,000 a year net. I think these were the figures the noble Marquess gave. The net flow to the Commonwealth was 70,000 a year; so they have not reached the 100,000 suggested by the Royal Commission. But we want to look at this matter to-day in broader terms than any of these Committees or the Royal Commission on Population looked at it. Those Committees were United Kingdom Committees; and the Royal Commission on Population was chiefly concerned with the population in this country. That was, so to speak, its terms of reference. None of them was really looking at the subject—they could not be expected to look at it—from the broad point of view of the Commonwealth. In my view this is not a Party matter, because neither of the Parties has a particular policy on this question, except in very broad terms, but I think that both Parties agree with what the noble Marquess said at the end of his speech, though that does not carry us far. I do not want to commit my Party, because we have differences within the Party on this question, just as the Party of noble Lords on the other side have. In my view the population of the Commonwealth is badly distributed. Take, on the one hand, the United Kingdom with 50,000,000 people. Take, on the other hand, New Zealand, in a temperate zone and with roughly the same area, with under 2,000,000 people. Then we get to Australia with 8,000,000 people, and Canada with somewhere about 12,000,000—


Fourteen million.


I thank the noble Lord. His figure is probably right. Canada is one-third greater in extent than the United States and has enormous physical resources. From every point of view this is a maladjustment; it is an unbalance. From the point of view of defence, of development of resources, of purchasing power, indeed from almost every point of view, this is a maladjustment; and it is desirable for us in this country—I hope this matter will be kept out of Party politics—to do some hard thinking. I am sure we all need to do some hard thinking and get some hard facts about Empire migration. It is important from the United Kingdom point of view. I would ask the Government what, in their view, is the maximum population that this country can support. We can feed from 30,000,000 to 35,000,000 people from our own land. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is not here at the moment but I think he would confirm that—with the energetic assistance that he would give—this is possible. But I should say that that is the maximum we could support from our own land.

We have 50,000,000 people. What is the ceiling? Many of these committees who report assume that we are going to die out, or at any rate to diminish; that our birth rate is going to fall. But the birth rate has gone up, and we have 2,000,000 more people in this country now than before the war. What is the maximum? There are to-day 10,000,000 people in London, many of whom are doing nothing else than looking after the others—they are not producers; they are doing important jobs of work but they are not producers. The percentage of actual producers in the country is very small indeed—smaller than it has ever been. Where do we stop? We have before us a very serious situation. It is only when we discuss the position with people who are trying to sell goods abroad that we realise how serious the situation is. We have to meet strong Japanese and German competition. I remember that in the 1930s the imports into Malaya of Japanese piece goods went up in one year from 7 per cent. to 91 per cent. And right through the East, British manufacturers of piece goods could not really compete—quite apart from the fact that the Japanese were largely cheating by stealing our copyrights and patterns. In Singapore the authorities even had to set up a special department of the police to check up on false designs. I have just been in touch with the people in Lancashire, and they tell me that to-day Japan is exporting more of certain categories of rayon goods to our Colonies than we are. They are exporting as much in cotton goods as we are to our own Colonies. If this is the position in the Colonies what must be the position in foreign countries where the trade links arid the sentimental ties are not present? I think we have to look at this question very seriously and decide exactly how we are going to meet the future.

The earliest migration—we go back before the time of the noble Marquess—was group migration. The earliest migration was to Virginia, then to the West Indies, to Massachusetts, to Rhode Island, and the Quakers and the Congregationalists to Pennsylvania. It is only in the last hundred years or so that individual migration has developed. Can we go back and develop the idea of group migration? Is that not really the answer to our problem? It entails, of course, taking groups from this country, either geographical groups, selected on a territorial basis, or groups of another character from trade or industry, or something of that kind. Such a scheme has the advantages that it provides a balanced migration of old, middle-aged and young people; women and men It means that people are less lonely when they get out to those countries and are more likely to settle down among friends and relatives with whom they have been associating in this country.

I myself put up a suggestion of this kind in one of the Australian papers a few years ago, and it had some support. I suggested that it was possible to take villages from here, and then these people, in Australia and New Zealand, would meet the publican to whom they were accustomed, or, in other circles, the minister to whom they were used to listen, and the village policeman and so on. That may be rather a fantastic and extreme form of group migration, but I would ask the Government to consider under this Bill spending some money on research into this question—that is to say, whether it is possible to induce some form of group migration from this country, a new "Mayflower," a new William Penn movement. Those old people had a good deal of wisdom. They knew what they were about. Although most of the early group migration was founded, perhaps, by people who objected to the system of government in this country—I think one or two of the noble Marquess's ancestors were somewhat responsible for some of the group migrations—at any rate, they were people of like mind who were able to go and start a new world among their own people and to carve out a new life in a new country. Needless to say, I entirely support the object of this Bill. I hope that some of the money will be spent in the way I have suggested to the Government. In any case, I shall be glad to hear from the noble Marquess, if he is able to give me any answer, what he thinks of the suggestion I have made to him.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for having given a clear and detailed exposition of Government policy upon this important matter. It is something that we lacked before, but now people who are interested in this subject know where they stand. I support this Bill because, although migration is said sometimes to be a purely private matter for the individual, it does none the less need a considerable measure of Government guidance, support and assistance if it is not to be injurious to those who go out. Therefore, I believe this Bill has rather more importance than its purely financial side would lead one to believe. In that way perhaps I differ slightly from the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in regarding it as rather a more important Bill than he thinks it is, because it is not merely the financial side that matters; it is the interest which the Government take in this matter and which can assist so many would-be migrants to settle successfully.

In an Empire so scattered as the British Empire, one of the greatest difficulties is to maintain the cohesion of its various parts. I believe that the only real way in which that can be done effectively is by personal contact between human beings. I am certain that it is essential to have in the way of settlers always a healthy and permanent flow of people in between the various units that make up the Empire, because travel purely to see another land is very expensive indeed. To travel from this country to, say, Australia costs several hundreds of pounds for one person. There are not many people who can do that; but, by the infusion of new blood from one country to another, the contact is always kept. I believe that that is more the case in times of economic and political stress such as we are going through at the moment, because I believe that in these matters distance lends disenchantment: you forget that the person in the other land is a human being like yourself, with his own personal difficulties. So I believe that by personal contact those countries which are so far apart geographically can be brought closer together. That is one most important reason for migration.

I believe there are others. I would mention only two of them. It is obviously important that the Dominion economies should be expanded, because we depend upon them, and the whole of the Empire depends upon the strength of the various units that comprise it. It is not enough just to send money to those countries. They are large countries with large resources, and they are short of people to get their resources out of the ground. Unless they have more people in those various countries—I am not saying particularly what nationality—those resources will stay locked up in the ground. It is in our interests that the populations of those countries should be developed. Again, I believe that it is important for us always to keep in our minds the British element in the growing populations of the Dominions. I do not believe that it is a serious problem, because although in the case of Australia the European migration to Australia in the last two or three years has been at least double, if not more than double, the British migration to Australia, none the less the population of Australia is 98 per cent. British, and there is a very large capacity for absorbing European elements. Again I believe that Southern Rhodesia has recently been taking in quite a large number of Afrikaans from the Union. But again there is a strong British element in Southern Rhodesia. While the problem is not urgent or pressing now, we must never forget it, because we wish to see the Commonwealth remain a British Commonwealth. Britain has been the traditional source of population for the Commonwealth. She cannot provide all that population now, but certainly she can provide something that cannot be got from anywhere else.

Migration has made good headway since the war. I believe that it has been to the general benefit of everyone concerned, of all the countries concerned. One would not wish to see the flow of migrants fall back. I do not believe that it has been too large a flow, and the remarks of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House would lead us to suppose that he also did not think the flow so far had been too large. But I believe that it is very important indeed that that flow should at least be maintained, and should not be allowed to fall right back as it undoubtedly did at the beginning of the 1930's.

On the question of migration, I believe that it is most harmful to talk in terms of millions migrating. I must confess that there was a time, some years ago, when I was new to this subject and with a lot of enthusiasm and interest in it, when I thought that it would be a splendid thing if millions of people could migrate. But having studied the subject very carefully, I am convinced that such a thing is wildly impracticable. There are all sorts of difficulties in the way which cannot be overcome. Quite apart from the shipping difficulties, there are the difficulties of accommodation, which are absolutely vast, and the difficulties of the economies of the countries concerned. To take Australia, even to-day she has, to a certain extent, I believe, had to cut down upon her intake of migrants because of the inflation that has been caused there, and the fact that newly arrived settlers increase that inflation. But for a number of reasons believe that it is very wrong indeed to talk in terms of millions migrating, even over a period of years. I believe that that sort of talk can bring this most important subject into general disrepute and make it appear to be just another crankish theory, which it most certainly is not. It is a most important thing. In the course of his most interesting speech the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the need to reduce the population of this country to something like 35,000,000—


No. I was, as always, assuming the Government to be the repository of all knowledge, and I was asking the Government what they assumed was the maximum population this country could bear. I gave no indication of what numbers I thought we ought to have in this country. I agree that the noble Lord is making a very valuable point, but it is because of its truth that I wanted some money spent on research.


I certainly do not wish to misrepresent the noble Lord, and I am grateful to him for his correction. But these large ideas about migration prompt the question: How is it to be done? I think that is a very difficult question to answer. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House referred to a desire that a cross-section of the population should leave this country and not just the best young people. But I am of the opinion that under the present system there is a danger that the best young elements may go, because they are the ones who are youthful and energetic; who have the energy to go to the trouble to make arrangements for a job and accommodation at the other end; to arrange their passages and so on, and who are still able to uproot themselves and go to a different country, which is no small thing to do. I believe that under the present system there is a danger that we may not get a cross section migrating.

So far as I can understand it, the unit of migrants at which we are aiming is that of a family. I believe that if you aim at a family you may get something smaller. I believe that you have got to aim at a somewhat larger unit than a family, and then you will get a true family unit. For some time past I have believed that the right unit for the purpose of migration is a small economic unit, such as an industrial unit or a firm which is expanding overseas. As soon as the fir or company is formed overseas, instead of recruiting labour locally it should be encouraged to take its labour with it. Thus by providing a community of people, not only is it able to take the worker, his wife and his child, or two children, but possibly the community can support his mother, his mother-in-law and his other dependants. It is those people who must be included in the migration if it is to be a true cross-section.

Such forms of migration have been carried out in recent years under private initiative, and what I should like to suggest to Her Majesty's Government is the setting up of some form of board. I do not quite know what the right type would be, but at any rate it should go into this question of industrial migration or expansion—call it what you may—from this country; migration which would include the movement of British people as well as the machines, the capital, and whatever else might go, to Australia, to Canada or to one of the other Dominions. I think it would be a worth-while field of investigation. My Lords, I have spoken for long enough. I believe that this Bill is the basic foundation upon which all migration schemes, whatever they may be, are built up. I believe that the Bill is essential, and that it is a pledge of Her Majesty's Government's interest in this most important subject. Therefore, I shall support it.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, has said, but rather than having a board I think that what we really need is a Minister of Migration. This subject is divided up among a number of different Ministries, and if they could be co-ordinated under one head, I think it would be an advantage. I should not for one moment suggest that that person should be the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition—not after the speech we have heard from him; he is not enthusiastic enough. I should prefer that he remained in his present position. Rather would I suggest someone like my noble friend Lord Ogmore, who, because of his enthusiasm, I think would do wonders. Obviously, there would have to be bilateral conversations with the various Dominions, as soon as possible and at the highest possible level. It is no use having conferences. I think each Dominion should be approached at the highest possible level and this question tackled in the most serious manner, because it is a most serious question. I suggest that these various Royal Commissions, sitting in entirely different circumstances and with different premises altogether, are utterly futile.

May I ask your Lordships to look at the matter for a moment from three aspects: first, that of this country; then that of the Dominions, other than South Africa: and finally, that of South Africa. We in this country are living in an overpopulated State. My noble friend Lord Ogmore drew attention to the serious difficulties involved in feeding ourselves by selling our exports. Our population is increasing and, to our shame, our agricultural land is diminishing. The next aspect is that of the relatively empty Dominions. In the next few generations, if we do not fill them with European stock they will be filled by Asiatics. Thirdly, we have the special case of South Africa where, unless the political and other obstacles in the way of large-scale migration are not removed and the European stock is not greatly increased, during the next twenty or thirty years the whites will be swamped and South Africa will be no longer a white man's country. That is the special case of South Africa. It is mostly the fault of that country, but we ought certainly to help them. May I enlarge upon that point very briefly? We have in Britain 450 people to the square mile, a population which, as my noble friend Lord Ogmore pointed out, is actually increasing, against all prognostications, by 300,000 a year and an agricultural area which is diminishing—this is the wicked part of it—by 50,000 acres every year, and we cannot from our own resources feed more than half our existing population. We are faced with increasing difficulty in paying for our imports and, I fear, with a threat of unemployment which may spread from textiles to other industries. The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, no doubt will have something to say about that matter when he speaks shortly.

Take the other aspect and look at the position in three of the great Dominions. Australia has four people to the square mile, Canada nine people to the square mile, and New Zealand nineteen people to the square mile. Consider all the vast empty spaces. I agree that part of them are frozen—as in the Northern territories of Canada—or desert—as in Central Australia—but nevertheless there are vast areas which are capable of supporting human life and a good standard of living. Then think of the possibility that arises from the pressure of population in Asia and Central Africa. These Dominions, these empty spaces, are a great attraction to the vastly increasing populations in Asiatic countries. Short of land, adventurous, willing and eager to emigrate in family groups, in clan groups or in any other sort of groups, they will get there and settle there. Nothing will keep them out except an increase of the European population in these Dominions. Remember also another aspect: the people in some of these Asiatic countries are seething with a new and extreme form of nationalism, and they are becoming extremely well armed. The rearming of Japan has begun and she may easily take the lead in Asia. We may have very serious trouble unless we, the whites arid Europeans, populate these vast and potentially wealthy areas.

It is all very well to quote what was said by previous conferences and Royal Commissions. I could quote the 1926 Imperial Conference turning down what they called "mass emigration," saying that it was impracticable on financial, economic and political grounds. I think Lord Ogmore struck a much finer note there when he drew attention to the scheme, increasingly canvassed in recent years, for what he calls "group emigration" but what I would call "communal emigration." What we want to see is groups of people of all ages, with all their families and relations, emigrating if possible with their own doctors, their own midwives, their own parsons, in some cases taking their own machinery with them. Sonic of Lord Barnby's textile manufacturing friends, we know, have induced their workpeople to go out plus their machines. And as the greatest trouble in most Dominions is the housing shortage—it certainly is in South Africa and Australia—let them take out their own houses, even their own schools, in sections. If that is done they can easily run them up when they get out to the Dominions, and such a process, after all, would only be bringing up to date what the Pilgrim Fathers and others who founded the great colonies in America did.

When Lord Fairfax of Cameron says: "We cannot talk in millions," does he not realise that this is a question of millions spread over the years? In the United States of America, at the time of the Civil War—and be it remembered that some survivors of that war have only just died—there was a population of 30,000,000. Within two generations it grew to 140,000,000 or 150,000,000. So, as I say, it is a question of millions, and if we recall the migration of the Irish at the times of the famines, and the great migration of the British all over the world (which has been referred to by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House) it will be clear, I suggest, that we must think in terms of millions. This trickle of 70,000 persons a year, on the average, a trickle that is perpetuated by this Bill and which seems to be the ultimate target of the present Government, is totally inadequate to deal with the problem with which we as great colonists are faced. I repeat that we should initiate bilateral talks with the great Dominions as soon as we possibly can. I believe their statesmen have sufficient vision, and I hope that even the Conservative Party have sufficient vision, to tackle this matter on the broad imperial lines which it deserves.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I also should like to thank the noble Marquess for so clearly stating, with his high authority, the Government position on this question of migration. He finally and clearly demolished any belief that thought or action in connection with migration was looked upon with disfavour. On the contrary, he categorically gave his blessing, personally and on behalf of the Government, to the principle that dispersion of the population within the Common wealth should be as substantial as possible. I should also like to pay a tribute to a speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. He certainly gave a helpful contribution to responsible thinking, particularly by presenting what he said in such an exemplary non-partisan tone.

When I first visited the United States, in the quite early part of the century, their population was 80,000,000. As your Lordships know, it is now well over 150,000,000. Like many other members of your Lordships' House, I have frequently visited the Dominions and travelled widely in them, attempting to familiarise myself with the conditions which exist in them. But let me return for a moment to the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, quoted a figure which I had in mind to give—that was the figure for the population of the United States at the time of the Civil War. But I will go beyond that, and refer to what happened in the succeeding fifty years. Whereas the population was 32,000,000 at the time of the Civil War in the subsequent fifty years the inflow exceeded that, for it was 33,000,000. I myself, when living in the United States, saw immigrants pouring in at the rate of over 900,000 a year. These figures at least give us some sense of proper focus in possible proportions. I speak with fervour on this matter of migration. I approach it almost as a fanatical believer in the necessity for dispersal of the population within the Commonwealth.

I also approach it on economic grounds. I do so, first, because I believe that the terms of trade are against us and will continue against us. By that I mean that the cost of agricultural products will remain different in its relationship to manufactured products from what we knew before the war. Secondly, I believe that United States policy is going to remain highly protectionist. Thirdly, I believe that all countries, including Commonwealth countries, spurred on by nationalistic aspirations, are going to develop secondary industries which will be to the disadvantage of this country and will make it increasingly difficult for us to feed ourselves in times of peace, as we certainly admit it is likely to be in time of war. I base these last two beliefs on the fact that organised labour throughout the world is insistent on protection of its interests. Speeches made on the Japanese Treaty and on textiles have all shown the concern of organised labour in this country about production at lower costs, particularly Japanese production. The problem is exactly the same as that between the cost of production in this country and in Canada, where wages are three times what they are here.

This subject was debated for over eight hours in another place on the Second and Third Readings of the Bill. The ground was fully covered and full statements were made by the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and by the Minister of Labour. The noble Marquess himself has done the House a service in giving a recitation of the past history of this question. All these debates brought forward a number of suggestions: first, that there should be a separate department to deal with this matter. The noble Marquess's colleague said that he is the Minister of Migration. That means that there will repose in his Department a central bureau which will be responsible for these matters. It was suggested that a body similar to the Overseas Settlement Board should be established. Having been a member of that Board, I can picture the services which could be rendered by such an organisation. A third suggestion was made by my noble friend Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and supported by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, that substantial funds should be applied to research. I think the manner in which that can best be done can be left to the Minister responsible. I feel that something useful can be done under these headings.

It has also been suggested to the Government that the Bill should be renewed every two years, instead of five years, so that the question could be debated at shorter intervals. This being a Money Bill, I think it is outside the competence of this House to take any action in regard to that suggestion. We ought to think of all these suggestions, and particularly of the picture given by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for the rapid building up of the population of the Dominions, and we should do everything possible to assist to the full the movement of people. Among the multitude of counsels, it is within the power of the noble Marquess to make effective use of such of them as he thinks best. With the happy confidence that it will be sagaciously used, I wish to support this Bill.

7.24 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak this evening, but I think someone ought to say a word of welcome to the Bill on behalf of the voluntary migration societies, which have from time to time been assisted by the previous Empire Settlement Acts. I speak particularly on behalf of the Big Brother Movement, of whose Council I am a member. In the past few years the support given to some of these voluntary societies has been a little inconsistent. A grant has been made one year and has been dropped the next. Perhaps the noble Marquess would look into that and see whether some more consistent form of support—especially for the Big Brother Movement—could be given. With these few words, I should like to say that I am sure we all welcome the Bill.

7.25 p.m.


My Lords, there will be no disagreement on any side of the House about the value of this Bill. Every speaker has supported it, but with varying degrees of emphasis. I think the noble Marquess was right: this seems to be a subject which arouses a great deal of passion, and even fanaticism, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has said. I feel that this is not a subject on which one should speak with fanaticism or passion. I am inclined to agree with the noble Marquess that the right emphasis at the present time is that it is a good thing that people from this country should migrate to the Colonies and Dominions from the point of view of maintaining cultural ties, strengthening Commonwealth relations, and helping the Colonies and Dominions to develop with the ideas of our older civilisation and getting from them in return something of their vitality and something of their strength. The greater the contact of that kind we establish, the better.

I think some of my noble friends and some noble Lords on the other side have over-emphasised the desirability of emigration from this country, particularly from the economic and population point of view. I am inclined to agree with the reports that have been made on this subject from time to time and which say that the number of people we can afford to lose is limited. Particularly at the present time there is a limit, and a very small limit, to the number of young people we can afford to lose. As your Lordships know, the number of old people in our population is increasing rapidly and they have to be supported by a smaller number of young people. In these circumstances, we cannot afford to lose young people at all. I would go further. A great many speeches that have been made and a great deal of thought on his subject are dominated by the belief that our population is increasing and is bound to increase in future. In my view, that is not true. Our population has increased since the war, but it has increased by keeping old people alive longer and by the immediate effects of the war, but the fact remains that the reproduction rate is not high enough to maintain the existing population in the long run. In spite of appearances, our population is bound to be reduced by natural means in the course of the next generation. Therefore, as a means of reducing our population, emigration is not a necessary policy.

Having regard to the large number of inquiries made in the past, I do not know whether another inquiry is necessary to-day. If we had another inquiry, I think it would take a form different from those we have had in the past. There is a good deal in what my noble friend Lord Ogmore said, that we want to know how many people this country can support. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that within the next generation the number of people that this country will be able to support will approximate to the actual population itself; that it to say, we are going to get a decline in the population over the next thirty years. In these matters we have to take the long view. However, I may be wrong, and an inquiry may be worth while in that respect. I think the gravest problem which we have to face in the future is the ageing of the population, and the fact that the younger people will have to maintain an increasing number of old people. To that problem migration is no solution; indeed, it is more likely to be an aggravation. Therefore, I suggest that, on the whole, the middle course—I hope I am not misinterpreting the noble Marquess in suggesting that he is taking the middle course—is probably right. I would, however, support further research into the matter beyond the various angles which have been put forward, with a view to forming in the light of post-war circumstances some judgment of the new balance of distribution of the population and of what are the right numbers that we ought to encourage to migrate from this country.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to weary your Lordships much longer and, indeed, do not think there is a great deal that I need to add to my earlier remarks. With the great majority of what has been said by noble Lords since I spoke I cordially agree. I do not think I have often heard a short debate where the contributions were so consistently thoughtful and constructive as they have been to-night. The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, who speaks with a considerable personal knowledge of the subject, made what I thought was a particularly wise and moderate speech. He spoke of the necessity of keeping up the flow of British blood to the new countries, and I am sure that we all agree with him in that. I, like him, would wish to see rather more going than are going at present, though I would equally agree with the noble Lord that this sort of light-hearted talk about "migrating millions" does a great deal more harm than good, because it makes the ordinary man think that migration is something which is supported merely by "cranks," which is the last thing we want. I seemed to detect in Lord Ogmore's speech a feeling that, in his heart of hearts, he is what I may call a mass migrator. He did not say so definitely, but he played about with the idea.


May I say that in my heart of hearts I am, but knowing how fallacious are one's emotions I suggested that there should be inquiry and research into this before any conclusion was reached?


That shows great prudence on the part of the noble Lord. He asked me a question—showing thereby a great belief in the omniscience of the members of the Government—as to what is the largest population this country can support. I cannot tell him. There used to be a time when it was thought that it could not support more than about 10,000,000 or 15,000,000, but it appears that that was not quite correct. However, I agree with the noble Lord that there is a limit, and it may be that that limit is being reached.

But I would remind the noble Lord, who referred to rather out-of-date inquiries, which I think I mentioned in my speech: that the Royal Commission on Population, which I mentioned with others, did not report until 1949, which is only three years ago; and that that particular Inquiry did say definitely that the birth rate in this country was well below the replacement level. I personally am inclined to agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—indeed, I agreed with practically everything he said—that the population, if it is going up at this moment, is going up not because more people are being born but because not so many people are dying. That is not necessarily a healthy situation for a country to be in. I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who spoke about group migration. I would not turn down the idea of group migration. As the noble Lord knows, recent experience has not been particularly encouraging, but that is not a reason for altogether turning it down. One thing we have to get over is, how is it proposed to get these large numbers of people to go?

The noble Lord himself referred to early groups—I think he mentioned certain of the people who went in the "Mayflower," and Quakers who went out because of religious persecution or intolerable conditions at home. That is true, of course. But I hope the noble Lord's suggestion that my ancestors are responsible is not quite accurate. I can tell the House this, because it is something that I came across the other day. I think if my family were connected in any way it was more from the point of view of the carrot than the stick. I was looking in an old box in my muniment room and I found there a piece of printing. It was a form of contract for my ancestor in the first occupation of Virginia in 1612. He put £66 into the venture, which was a lot of money in those days. Therefore, I do not think persecution was his particular line. However, no doubt persecution did affect quite a large number of people in making them feel that, however bad it might be in the New World, it was not going to be quite so bad as it was in the Old. But to-day I hope that in this country that sort of inducement will no longer prevail. I would point out to the noble Lord that the more perfect we make the Welfare State—and we are all anxious to do that—the more difficult will be find the achievement of his migration policy the more attractive we make it here, the less will people wish to go elsewhere.


May I say—and I think the noble Marquess should deal with this—that, however attractive the Welfare Stale may be made, by either side, there is to my mind the question of the Hunger State if we are no longer able to export our goods?


That is a possibility, and it is a problem with which we are all, in our particular ways, trying to wrestle at the present time. I think the noble Lord, from what he said, would agree that it is only uncomfortable conditions here, whatever form they may take, which will make people migrate on a very large scale; and that is certainly not a prospect that any of us would wish to encourage.

One or two constructive suggestions were contained in the speeches made this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, suggested that a board might be set up to consider industrial migration. He will not expect me to say anything definite about that proposal to-day, but I will certainly look into what he said. Of course there is the Big Brother Movement mentioned by the node Lord, Lord Gifford. Then there were those who sug- gested another inquiry. I am rather doubtful as to whether another inquiry at the present stage would do very much good. I have given your Lordships this afternoon fairly full figures; the facts are all known, and I doubt whether a further inquiry would do much good. However, it is a matter which should be kept under review. In conclusion, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said, I proclaim myself a complete believer in migration, and certainly I shall do all in my power to promote migration within reasonable limits. I give the assurance to your Lordships that I will look into the suggestions which have been advanced in this debate, for which I am extremely grateful.

On Question, Bill read 2a, Committee negatived.