HL Deb 17 November 1954 vol 189 cc1599-634

4.0 p.m.

LORD BARNBY rose to move to resolve that the development of political events in South-East Asia justifies and makes urgent an accelerated flow of migrants from the United Kingdom into Australia. The noble Lord said: My Lords, few people other than wishful thinkers will doubt the danger that appears to exist from Communist infiltration in South-East Asia. If one looks at the map, one can readily imagine, without being hysterical or alarmist, that the risks following the recent settlement there may well mean that infiltration will gradually descend further south towards Australia. Anyhow, recent statements which have been made from high authority, as one reads in the newspaper, emphasise that danger. I would refer particularly to the two pronouncements which have been published in the last few days by the United States Secretary of State of their belief—which is evident, also, from the way they are framing their policies— that a real menace does exist. Let it rest that there is a danger, if we take as a precedent what has happened elsewhere in the world. That the victorious Communists will not rest but will push their success by different ways further south.

I think there will be no disagreement that the terms of this Motion are not partisan, and that they arouse no political differences of view. I feel that all sides of the House can subscribe to it, and I naturally hope that it will find favour with the noble Viscount who is to reply and that he will be able to accept it. The wording of the Motion might instead have been "an accelerated expansion of Australian economy." The two wordings are virtually the same thing. I want to emphasise that this matter is one of deep self-interest to the United Kingdom. I base that view on the fact that, from whatever number of people go into a new country, a certain proportion will rise to the top, and become responsible for the purchase of supplies for the country. That means that if they are of British origin, they will buy British. That certainly has been the fact in the past in all the Dominions; it was so in the United States, and more particularly in the Argentine, as I well remember from my first visit there a long time ago.

Australia has declared her desire for an expanding economy, and that must mean more people. Undoubtedly all Parties there contemplate the continuance of this expansion, and it has been said that she believes that her population of 9 million should be one of 25 million, and that this could be reached by the immigration of 200,000 people a year, if that figure were possible to achieve. I do not believe anybody will deny that the existence of any Government in Australia must depend upon a conscious aim for an expanding economy. The Government, now aiming at 100,000 immigrants—a figure which falls short of the 200,000 that has been stated as the optimum—will no doubt get them. They will do so because there is sufficient lure for the full life under the Australian skies for other peoples of Europe. The concern is that not sufficient of them will be of United Kingdom origin.

There is in many British quarters a feeling that the expansion of the secondary industries in Australia may bring about the risk of inflation. What-ever we may think here, it is one of the requirements of Australian Ministers that they should follow up a policy which has been agreed by all Parties. I realise that there are great problems in connection with this matter. We have seen it in the import prohibitions which have been imposed and then relaxed. There is no doubt that organised labour in Australia is going to insist upon this being a continuing power to moderate periodical unemployment. Again, tariffs; we have the difficulties of Imperial Preference, the problems of G.A.T.T.—about all of which Australian Ministers express concern. Whatever may be said, it is the industrial population that counts most in Australia. It may be regrettable that expansion of primary production lags. But let us in the United Kingdom remember that unemployed in Australia will not be consumers of any goods from this country. It is understood that the Australian authorities welcome this matter being raised. Also, it is understood, currently some 1,000 letters a day are being received at Australia House inquiring about the possibilities of migration. I would refer to the Report recently published (Command 9261) of the Migration Board appointed by the Government. That is a most informative Report; it shows great application to research on the problem and must be most helpful. I shall make quotations from it later. I notice that they make reference to the Oversea Settlement Board, which was the official Government body before the war and of which, incidentally, I had the privilege of being a member. They reported: The Government migration policy should not be dictated merely by theoretical calculations of population movements possibilities. The Report made a number of suggestions for encouraging migration. That Board should have reported more resolutely.

I realise that this whole problem is dominated by finance because, whatever may be the hope of the Australian Government, or ourselves, that Australia's expansion should be rapid, it must depend upon available means. In addition to money from this country (the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that there should be a minimum of £300 million a year), it looks as though that finance must come from the Commonwealth Import-Export Bank, from the International Monetary Fund or from other agencies of that character. That would facilitate the supply of capital goods, for which this country is unable to give good enough delivery dates, to come instead from the United States. The recent legislation in the United States, giving guarantees against depreciation of currencies, against credits, et cetera, should help investment from the United States as, indeed, should the lower taxation on foreign investments.

I would remind the House that the Report of the Migration Council indicates that the actual finance supplied by this country is equivalent to the settlement of only seventy-five British people a year in Australia. In Australia the shift of gainful employment is from primary to secondary industry. That may be distasteful to British industrialists. Like many other noble Lords, I have travelled extensively in Australia. I travelled much during the great depression, and I was satisfied that, so far as settlement for primary industry was concerned, the thing was for the Australians to go out of the towns on to the land and be assisted by fellow-countrymen on the land; and that the new Australians should go into the towns and develop secondary industry.

The real danger to-day is the fall in the proportion of the inflow which comes from the United Kingdom. Of course, that is common to Canada also. I want particularly to emphasise that. There seems justification for the view that there should be a less passive and a more active attitude by the British Government, both in their financial expenditure and in their pronouncements of encouragement on this subject. It does not seem sufficient to leave action to the Dominions alone. In support of this, I would quote from the report of the Migration Board to which I have just referred. It says: We consider it highly important to maintain the flow of United Kingdom immigration into Australia. I quote again: It was said that what was really needed was a clear lead from the heads of Governments, including our own … that in the formulation and execution of migration policies the United Kingdom should be more than a sleeping partner. Again I quote: …that the United Kingdom Government regarded migrants almost as deserters from the home country while she was in difficulties. The view was expressed that if the United Kingdom Government could see their way to making some sort of declaration … many people who at the moment were hesitating might decide to emigrate.

There must be limitations to a mover; it is impossible in a short time to deal with a problem which has so many implications and is common, in varying degrees, to other Dominions. There are others who can speak with special knowledge. I see the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, in his place. No one can speak on this question with more authority than the noble Viscount, and I am looking forward to hearing his remarks.

The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who is to reply for the Government has great familiarity with these matters. Few Ministers of the Crown have had a wider experience of service in different offices, and particularly those dealing with the Commonwealth and the Dominions. His robust support for an expanding Commonwealth community has been continuous. But momentarily there seem grounds for concern about his present parsimony on this subject. It is disquieting that there is a rigid limit of £150,000 a year—other than moderate grants to certain bodies—as a direct contribution to boost Commonwealth expansion, out of a budget of £4⅓ billion. It is for that reason that I plead for a bolder outlook, and for us not to depend, as quoted in the report, on "a plea of poverty" as the maximum we can afford.

I would refer to the Commonwealth Training Scheme as something of broad imagination for which, if my memory serves me aright, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, shared the responsibility with Lord Riverdale. And what a brilliant success it was! If that could be applied in a broad sense to-day in connection with obligatory service, which is now—


I am glad to say that our pilots are training in Canada at the present time.


I am glad that I have been the cause of bringing the noble Viscount to his feet to emphasise that. I had in mind something much wider than that, something which would include all branches of the Services. The foregoing remarks deal with increased migration into Australia. I would at this point draw attention to the brilliant address on the B.B.C.—I think on Sunday—of Sir Oliver Franks, making an appeal to the nation for a more realistic approach to the need for the development of the Commonwealth.

I would deplore those who seek to discredit Imperial thinking and decry the old spirit of adventure by exaggerated, derisive fantasy of impractical mass migration, as well as those who seek to discourage even any modest inflow into the Dominions and, therefore, outflow from here, by the bogy of desertion and an impending insufficiency of workers here. That leaves me to comment on what unrealistic current hysteria there is about non-white immigration to this country. Surely such minute numbers from Commonwealth countries have little effect on a population of 50 million. Those people are just fanatical bogy-framers. But, if there be any truth in it, how illogical! Surely we ought then to have greater concern about the insufficiency of the dilution of British migrants into the total inflow into the Dominions. I would appeal to the noble Viscount to loosen the purse-strings, to assist dilution in our own self-interest and so increase the Commonwealth demand for British goods, and to give encouragement to the spirit of adventure from which springs migration. I hope he will go further and secure perhaps a pronouncement by the Prime Minister himself, certainly in advance of the important Commonwealth Conference which is called for January, encouraging the spirit of migration, and so help to expand the Commonwealth and, by strength, to glorify loyalty to the Crown. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That the development of political events in South-East Asia justifies and makes urgent an accelerated flow of migrants from the United Kingdom into Australia.—(Lord Barnby.)

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, the wording of this Motion is to the effect: That the development of political events in South East Asia justifies and makes urgent an accelerated flow of migrants"— I want to stop there and merely add: into Australia. May I deal with the problem which faces Australia? I do not think that anybody who has any knowledge of world events, with political unrest throughout the whole of Asia, and with the teeming populations of Asia suffering hardship and even famine, would fail to realise the situation of Australia. Side by side with that unrest and hardship there is the vast continent of Australia with a land area equivalent to that of the United States of America. I will not weary your Lordships with figures, but I think that the whole of Asia has 100 acres for every 28 acres that Australia has, and yet for every hundred persons in Asia, there is less than one in Australia. When one thinks of the resources of Australia and the lack of resources in most parts of Asia, can anyone wonder that the eves of the teeming millions of Asia are turned to Australia? Australia herself now realises that that is the position. Australia knows that must increase her population if she is going to hold the wonderful continent which she now possesses. I might, without wearying your Lordships, give you a phrase which summarises the Australian position—that is, the admirable title of Mr. Casey's book on this subject, Double or Quit. That is the position in which Australia is, and we have to deal with it.

Sentiment in Australia has completely changed since my day as Prime Minister. I admit that that is a long time ago: it is over twenty years since I ceased to be a Prime Minister. In my day, however, whenever the question of migration arose, the most bitter hostility was evidenced in many quarters, particularly from the Labour Party. The years have gone by and a realisation of the position has come about. To-day, the Labour Party in Australia is in the forefront in demanding an increase of Australia's population. I do not think that anyone has done more energetic and constructive work in that connection than Mr. Caldwell did during the period of the Labour Government. All I want to say at this moment is that Australia knows she must increase her population. She is determined to do it, and I am absolutely confident that she will succeed in doing it.

That is what the Motion outlines, but there are some phases of the problem upon which I should like to comment. This Motion deals with Australia only, but one cannot deal with the problem of Australia's population in isolation. The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, referred to-day to the broadcast on Sunday by Sir Oliver Franks. In my view, all Sir Oliver was then saying was, "If it is to be achieved and we are to accomplish what is visualised, the main factor will be how the migration of British people from Great Britain to other parts of the Empire is going to be handled, and how Britain is going to maintain her financial interest in the Dominions, the Colonies, the Protectorates and all British territories." I think that is the fundamental. In considering that problem, we of the British Empire have certainly at the back of our minds that whatever we do in any direction has to be governed by a policy that will mean an increase in the unity, the strength and the influence in the world's councils of the British Commonwealth and Empire. From a world point of view, I believe that that is one of the most important things that can happen.

With that background dominating all our thoughts, we have to admit that we are a little inclined to address ourselves to this problem from the point of view of our own particular part of the Empire. Frankly, I admit that I shall address myself to it very much from the point of view of my native land, which is Australia. I have no doubt that others will do the same. Australia, threatened from Asia, must populate, and, in order to populate, she must have a great flow of migrants. To absorb those migrants she must have a tremendous amount of new capital. Therefore, if Australia is to solve her problem at the pace at which she ought to, it will mean migration and capital expenditure on a scale that has never previously been known. When that proposition is put forward, I can quite understand somebody in this country saying: "That is all right from the point of view of Australia; but the hard facts are that we have neither the people nor the capital to spare for the job." I am sympathetic with that view. I realise that Britain could not, as she has in the past, provide the overwhelming number of migrants and practically all the capital. But I feel that Britain can contribute materially to both.

I want now to make a suggestion as to how I believe that that can be done. I believe it has to be done by really thinking through the problem and knowing what you are trying to do. I suggest that the forthcoming meeting of the Prime Ministers in January next would be an opportunity for the representatives of the United Kingdom and Australia to get together, to try to formulate plans to meet this situation, and to ensure that the maximum of Britain's influence will be retained in any plan to which we are to give effect. I suggest that the first thing to be done is to determine the finance that Australia herself can provide and, in broad outline, to get some idea of the contribution that over a period of years Great Britain might make. When that has been done, I suggest that there should be an approach to the United States—though I should hope that American participation would be supplemented by international financing in the form of loans from the International Bank, which has already played so large a part in Australia's development. I am not sure whether it is in the minds of noble Lords that Australia has already had considerable sums from the International Bank.

In connection with the International Bank, no doubt consideration will be given to the desirability and possibility that the British Government may increase the sterling resources at the disposal of the Bank—I am quite aware that to some extent, that has been done recently—so that the Bank's assistance to Australia would include a high proportion of British funds. If something could be done upon the lines I have suggested, it should be possible to work out plans whereby Britain would provide capital jointly with America and Australia, on the basis that a certain minimum proportion of the capital cost of suitable projects would be met by Britain and Australia, and that the British contribution in such developments would be increased as and when it was warranted by improved economic conditions in Britain. I suggest that Britain's participation in the economic development of Australia would in this way be maintained. With the mover of the Motion, I believe that that is of vital importance to these Islands, and it would be completely in accordance with the sentiments of the Australian people. Those are merely suggestions that I throw out. I want, however, to stress the point that this is a great opportunity. A time when the Prime Ministers are meeting and when this problem of Australia is so urgent surely presents a great opportunity. As I am going to show, it is almost certain that Australia will get on with the job. My vital concern—and I believe it to be the vital concern of everyone in Australia—is that there should be the fullest participation by Britain in anything that is done, because we in Australia recognise very clearly (and we are indeed grateful for it) that it is due to the protection of Britain and to the financial assistance that we have had from Britain that we have come to our present position of nationhood. We recognise that and we express our thanks for it.

What we should like to do is to continue to look to Britain as we have in the past. We should like our migrants to come from Britain; we should like the finance which we must have to come from Britain. Unfortunately, our needs in both directions, certainly in the financial direction, have gone far beyond the point where Britain can meet them, in view of the position in which she now finds herself as a result of her unparalleled efforts in two world wars. But still, we want you in. We want Britain to remain the influencing factor in our economy in Australia. But, notwithstanding all those sentiments, we have to get on with the job. We believe that we are in deadly peril unless we do. We have just got to do it in our own interest, and, as I hope to show in a moment, in the interests of world economy as a whole.

Of course, the absorption of people does not depend on the opportunities for them to land. We have to spend vast sums on great development schemes, such as the Snowy River and other projects which are already under consideration, and in that way pave the way for the development, by the follow-up of private enterprise, of our agriculture, our pastoral industry, our other industries and our commerce. But the first expenditures must be by the Government. Then, we must have the people—which involves the building of roads, railways, public works, houses, schools and other facilities. Again, most of that expenditure is going to fall on the Government. It is estimated that for every migrant who comes into the country £2,000 has to be spent on the provision of those facilities. So when one thinks of the flow that Australia is certain she must have, the figure becomes somewhat astronomical.


Can the noble Viscount say what amount would be required to do the work that he has just been outlining?


It is practically impossible to estimate it. The present schemes—the Snowy River and a large number of other projects—run into some hundreds of millions of pounds. They will be progressively extended, but the whole question turns on the pace at which these things can be done—the two considerations march side by side. You have great developments like the Snowy River project, in order to provide power; then there is a time lag until you draw the people in. That will start another great adventure, because both a timing and a manpower problem arise—the two march together. Without at this stage being able to give any estimate, I suggest that the figures are going to be very high indeed. The capital required certainly exceeds anything that Australia can provide out of her own savings, notwithstanding the fact that Australian savings are high in relation to the population, and bear very good comparison with those of other countries. Those savings then have to be supplemented by external financing.

The question is, where is the finance to come from? As I have tried to make clear, I should like it to come from Britain. That, however, cannot be done. Alternatively, I should like it to be provided by Australia, Britain, the United States and the International Bank. If Britain cannot participate, we have, none the less, to try to go on. I believe we can. I believe we can get the money. Naturally one would ask, where from? The source would undoubtedly be the United States of America, the great creditor nation of to-day. Not unnaturally, she might say, why should she? In a phrase that has become very common, I think it would be in her own enlightened interests.

I now want to give your Lordships an idea why I suggest that course. When we emerged from the war, certain economic facts were immediately recognised, the principal one being that after the period of re-equipping, restocking and restoring the damage of the war, there had to be an expansion of world trade to absorb the enormously increased production that the war brought about, particularly in the United States of America. After some thought, it was decided that that expansion of world trade would have to come about by the development of the latent resources of the backward countries. When Point Four first saw the light, when American bilateral assistance was started, the foundation was entirely economic: to expand the world's trade to meet the needs, particularly, of the great industrial countries and to absorb the production which war had brought. But progressively the economic idea has been lost sight of, and to-day Point Four technical assistance, American bilateral assistance and the Colombo Plan are directed more towards humanitarian aids and as a protection against Communism than towards the expansion of world trade, which, however, is absolutely vital for the more advanced countries.

Now a new terror has been added. In the last few years it has become clear that, because of this terrific world product ion, there is a prospective shortage of raw materials. That fact is brought out very clearly in the Paley report, which shows that the United States has changed from a surplus raw material country into a deficiency raw material country, and that unless new sources for the production of many raw materials are found, America—of all the big industrial countries—will be in very serious trouble. It is now clearly recognised that, however successful may be the plans for developing the latent resources of backward countries, they will take too long to get the results that more advanced countries must have. So the eves of the world—and of America—are turning towards the partially developed countries with great natural resources and great potentialities. In that category, I believe, Australia stands alone. And the eyes of the United States, whether they themselves know it or not, will inevitably turn more and more towards Australia. In their own interests they will be prepared to find the money to bring about developments which may enable Australia to make her contribution to the expansion of world trade and to the supply of necessary raw materials. The point that troubles me here is that if America comes in there will come in, also, a flow of private American capital—capital required for the great basic developments that will be necessary. Thus Australia's economic development will progressively become based on Australian-American co-operation, instead of Australian-British co-operation —which is what we in Australia very much hope for. On the financial aspect I would commend to the Government the idea of taking advantage of this meeting in January to see whether the first steps cannot be taken towards keeping Britain really in the financial picture in my Motherland.

On Australia's population problem— another matter which should be examined at the forthcoming conference—I would say that unquestionably Australia can get migrants from Europe—many Europeans would welcome the opportunity. But that would be quite contrary to the sentiments of Australian people, who want the highest possible percentage of British-born people coming into the country. Unhappily, in a sense, the only source for British migrants is these Islands, and that creates a difficult problem for the United Kingdom Government. I should regard myself as somewhat impertinent were I to venture a suggestion on what should be the policy of Her Majesty's Government here, but I would ask, if they have not already got the picture clearly, that before this meeting at the end of January Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should make up their mind as to their attitude on the migration of British people to other parts of the Empire.

The considerations to be taken into account by the United Kingdom are well set out in the Report which has been referred to, the Annual Report of the Oversea Migration Board. I do not propose to weary the House by referring to points made therein, but I wish to make it clear that I am in complete and absolute agreement with the Report's statement that migration must be by a cross-section of the people. We in the Dominions, like anywhere else, are not entitled to say, "We want the young and the skilled, with all the great advantages we get from those who come to us in that category, but will leave the others to you." We have to accept the obligations and the burdens entailed if it is a cross-section of the people. I am absolutely confident that my country and all my countrymen would be only too desirous of co-operating in any way to ensure that result, fully recognising the obligation that lies upon them. Probably one of the happiest things that could be done would be to extend the most generous passage assistance to the other parts of the family accompanying the really desirable immigrant who is coming to us. That, however, is a matter for decision by the authorities here and for discussion with representatives of other Dominions.

I do not propose to express any views on what is the domestic business of the United Kingdom, but perhaps I may be forgiven if I say that we all have to recognise that we are living in a much-changed world, and on a number of matters we have to readjust our thinking. There is no possible question but that the markets for the more simple forms of manufacture in this country are progressively going from us. Nothing can keep them. The new, young countries are proceeding to manufacture these simpler things through nationalistic ideas, which get so much currency these days, or through pride or whatever it may be. They will do it whether or not we like it, so that we are losing our markets for the simpler forms of product. There is increasing competition in the world today for more advanced products because of the developments in all the older industrial countries. In face of those two difficulties—the loss of markets for simpler products and the fact that competition is intensifying in regard to more advanced products—it appears to me that the real answer is for this country to jump in and start to make the newer things which science is producing, putting in whatever capital is necessary. After all, we are the greatest industrial country in the world; we have led the way; we have more experience than others; we have imagination. But one of the limitations to what can be sent overseas is the enormous amount that must be expended on advanced forms of plant and equipment.

That is the best answer, but you must recognise that industries engaged in those newer forms of production will not absorb the people whose employment has gone because their markets for simpler forms of production have disappeared. You have to think what you are going to do with those people. I suggest that, in the case of industries that are declining, plans should be made so that there may be a progressive flow of the people affected into other parts of the Empire where these other industries have developed. Australia seems to me to be the ideal country for this. But your plan should embrace something more than the persons working in industry. Progressively, where it is suitable, you should contemplate the transference of management and capital. I think that if you had that recruitment of experienced workers into the new country, it would be invaluable to its developing industry, and I believe that it would help to solve the problem which inevitably you have to face in this country.

In the circumstances which at present obtain, it will be a Herculean task to maintain the standard of living of an ever-growing population. Above all, it will be impossible to do what would be the aim of all of us, and that is progressively to raise standards. I believe that some thought should be given to those ideas. Progressively, you might face the situation which seems to me to be inevitable. I have had considerable trepidation about intervening in this debate, because I feel that the question raised is very much a domestic one—namely, what is the attitude of the British Government with regard to the flow of capital and of migrants into other parts of the Empire. I felt, however, that I might be forgiven if I kept off that subject and tried simply to give some of the views that I hold very strongly on the importance of this whole question.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, for raising this matter; and not only for that but for the constructive and thoughtful speech which he has made in raising it. To the powerful speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, to which we have just listened, I would, if your Lordships will allow me, pay a sincere tribute. He need have had no trepidation about joining in this debate this afternoon. Any debate affecting Australia would be an odd one if we did not have the benefit of his vast and friendly experience. It has been quite evident to me, listening to the two speeches that have been made, that these are matters which must receive the very careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government. Some of the aspects of the question that the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has touched upon I will not follow. Modesty compels me to take that course. I agree with his financial survey—I believe that it is quite right; but I do not think that I am quite competent to compete with one who holds such a very high position in international finance. So, if anything that I say appears to be slightly critical, it does not invalidate anything that either the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne or the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has said. But in their consideration of this problem, sincerely believe that Her Majesty's Government must take into account some of the facts to which I will endeavour to give tongue.

About two years ago I went to Australia to study the conditions out there. Naturally, it was said to me at every turn: "Of course, what we want out here are more of your young men. We must have a flow of British stock." My reply to that was almost precisely in the words which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, has used. I said: "What are we going to do with our older people? We are an ageing nation. If you want our young men are you prepared to take the mothers and the fathers and the grandmothers and the grandfathers?" Yet I see from the statistics produced that the number of the male migrants to Australia in 1953 under 50 years of age represented 80 per cent. of the total. Another thing I said to them was: "Who is going to defend Europe?" I quite appreciate the position of Australia in relation to the Asian problem, but Britain is a part of Europe. Wars alter many things, but they never alter geography, and part of Europe Britain will remain. We have only just committed ourselves to keep 150,000 to 160,000 troops in Germany, which means conscription in this country during the lifetime of every noble Lord sitting in this House to-night. That is the position. I am not arguing whether it is right or wrong; I am stating it as a fact. And dealing with our economic problem of earning our daily bread and living is going to test the manpower of this country to the last inch. That is one factor which I suggest Her Majesty's Government must take into consideration.

Undoubtedly migration to Australia is falling. Let us try, objectively and factually, to ask ourselves why. A first answer is provided by the standard of living in this country. Do not think there is any harshness in my heart when I say that many a Briton has had to emigrate to Australia in order really to appreciate the joys and advantages of "England's green and pleasant land." That, I repeat, is an important factor. Lord Barnby used a phrase which I have written down, I think correctly. He said: "Australia will have migrants; the broad and expansive skies will compel them." They should do so, but they do not. The broad and expansive skies of Australia are overshadowed by the brilliant lights of the cities of Australia. One of the troubles is that very often migrants have gone from this country with the idea in their hearts and in their heads that they were going to live under the broad and expansive skies of a wonderful country—and what has happened? Within a very short time, in many instances, they have found themselves, through the force of economic circumstances, herded into the four big cities of Australia which now hold 64 per cent. to 65 per cent. of the Australian population. These are facts which I found out for myself.

One of the troubles, which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has put into slightly different words, is that the Australian economy has been designed as foolishly as the British economy over the last twenty-five years. Australia has invested in consumption and not in capital improvement. Australia will never get capital improvement in the outback, in railways and in the projects mentioned by the noble Viscount, and she will never get the immigration she wants, until the natural resources of her wide expanse of territory are exploited. The labour movement in Australia is appalling. When I was there I went to view the Broken Hill Proprietary Shipbuilding and Engineering Works—a model works, which are among the finest in South Australia I have ever seen. They could not be worked economically because the optimum figure of labour could not be reached and the labour turnover was 90 per cent. Why? Because of lack of amenities. So people go to Australia to help expand its economy and then, paradoxically enough, in the shortest space of time, herd themselves in cities like Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, entering and expanding the secondary industries, for the protection of which the Australian Administration clamp on tariffs, duties and embargoes. These are some of the prime reasons for the fall of migration from this country, and these are stubborn reasons.

I pay tribute to this excellent Report, the first Annual Report of the Oversea Migration Board. This is the first time we have had anything sensible on the problem. Though I criticise some of it, on the whole it is perfectly sound, and I hope this work will go on. It says, in paragraph 9 of the Report: Australia, under the Commonwealth nomination scheme, had tried to by-pass the housing obstacle by setting up migrant hostels, but the system was not without its difficulties, such as the lack of individual cooking facilities for each family, and the discontent expressed by a small minority of the immigrants had been a disappointment. That is one of the problems. Many people went out thinking that they were going to enjoy life under what the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, called "the broad, expansive skies," but eventually, bitterly disappointed at the prospects, they went into the cities, where there was already a terrible housing shortage. When I was there I saw and heard some of that bitter discontent. I suppose I could not claim that I met a fair cross-section, but quite a number told me they were looking forward to the day when they could come home.

These are unpleasant facts perhaps, but they are facts. The noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, will forgive me for saying this, because, after all, we are all members of one family, and if this is a family discussion, without any hardness of heart and heat in our views, perhaps I can tell a few truths. One of the great difficulties is the type of economy that has been pursued by the Australian Administration. In passing, may I say that since I have been in your Lordships' House, either at that Dispatch Box or at this, I have always been an ardent supporter of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, mentioned? It is only fair to say that I commend the stand which the President of the Board of Trade has made at Geneva. I should like to see us have that better arrangement. But we do not see eye to eye with the Australian Administration on this subject. I say this with all friendliness, because I have many personal friends there: until Australia can so persuade its Government to stop—I almost said "featherbedding," but wrapping up in cottonwool their secondary industries, and to began striving to become one of the greatest primary producers in the world, both of food and minerals, she will not solve this migration problem.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has said, Australia's potential is so vast, they do not know what it is. I remember going to the top of Iron Knob, a huge mass of ore, 65 per cent. pure iron, 1,400 feet high, and the only thing I could see on the horizon for about forty miles around were three other iron knobs, which had not been touched. The natural resources of Australia should be placed at the disposal of the world, but, in my view, that will never be done while there continues to be an Australian policy to foster and support the easy way of secondary industries to the exclusion of primary production. The whole life of the cities is built up on that, and it is a tragedy to go out into the great outback, into the cattle-raising and corn-growing parts of Australia and see the lack of capital equipment. I was told that there had not been an inch of new railway built in Queensland for thirty years, in a country where men have to drive cattle for 800 miles because of the lack of mechanical transport. Yet when you go into Sydney, you think you are on Broadway. That is one thing the Australian Government have to get right. Australia has to get an expanding population. They do not want mid-Europeans, but if the standard of this country goes up, the attraction to migrants must go up, too.


My Lords, we all deplore the tendency which the noble Lord rightly has pinned on Australia, but one cannot help asking what new country of the type of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina or South Africa is not pursuing precisely the same course, wrong as it may be. It would be unfair to pin on Australia the blame for a policy which, to the misfortune of the world, is the tendency in all new countries.


I am not trying to pin it on Australia. I am stating some of the facts to which Her Majesty's Government must give attention. I would conclude on that note. Once again, I would thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, for his speech, which from the Australian point of view has not differed from mine at all. He said practically the same things that I have said. If the reply of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on behalf of the Government, is going to be one of caution in their approach to this subject, I shall commend it. I think it is desperately serious. But just look at our position. How we are going to weather the economic storm is a matter of grave concern. What must we do? The noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has given us a few indications, but it can really be put into this plain language. We have got to import every raw material into this country except one—namely, coale—and very likely that. We have got to fabricate it and produce the finished article better and cheaper, and export it better, than any other country in the world. Let us pay a tribute to British industry for what it has done in the past few years. It has staggered its friends and astounded its critics. But we cannot do it by carrying an overload of elderly population and at the same time maintaining armed forces to keep the peace of Europe—because it is only the British armed forces in Europe that ever brought the Nine Power Agreement into being: let us realise that. The, future peace of Europe must always be the responsibility of this country, aided, thank heaven! by the Americans. But we cannot do everything. Although I realise the difficulty of the position of Australia, I trust that Her Majesty's Government will take into consideration some of the factors which I have thought it worth while to put before your Lordships.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I did not originally put my name down to speak in this debate, bat I have been so interested and fascinated by what has been said, especially by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, that I feel I must speak. I have the brightest possible recollections of a visit to Australia a number of years ago, when I went over every part of the country except Tasmania, and spent a great deal of time in doing so. Of course, what one sees first in Australia are the difficulties. One has only to look at the map to realise that it is only a quarter moon of Australia which is really cultivable in the normal way. That is why I asked the noble Viscount what progress has been made in regard to the Snowy River project, and other similar projects, because I wondered how far they had been able to contribute to an increase in the area of possible cultivation. I do not know whether I am right in thinking that it has not been very much, but perhaps we shall be told that before the end of the debate.

I have thought a great deal about Australia in recent years. I sympathise strongly with her desire for more immigration. It happens that only a week or two ago I was in Malta, and I found there that a considerable number of Maltese people, whose standard of life is not so high as ours, were going to Australia, where I understand they are welcomed. But that is only a trifle, and it will not solve the problem. I feel that this problem in Australia is one which can be solved only if it is looked upon as a Commonwealth problem as a whole. In January next there is to be a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and if this problem could be brought up there, and a plan made from the standpoint of the Commonwealth as a whole—not only with regard to Australia but also with regard to the other parts of the Commonwealth which are inadequately developed —then I believe that there would be some chance of something being done.

In my view, it is no use attempting to attract large numbers of migrants to Australia unless the conditions are altered—they have been described by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth just now with regard to the four great cities in Australia. Building those four great cities is not developing the Continent. It is an interesting process, and it may be a nice way of living for a limited number of people; but if the country could be developed more fully, and its agriculture extended—which I should imagine, with the modern possibilities of science, could be done—then I believe that Australia would be brought into line with the other countries of the Commonwealth. At the present time Australia is not in line with the others, owing to the fact that a large part of the country does not produce vegetable matter in any large amount, and does not produce crops. She could have her industries; she could have her irrigation, beautiful gardens, fruit, and so on and so forth. As we know, we get raisins and dried fruits from Australia of admirable quality; but that industry is not sufficient to support a large part of the population.

The only point that I wish to make to-day is that I hope the matter will be considered at the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers from the standpoint of the Commonwealth as a whole, and that it will become part of the policy of the Commonwealth as a whole, and of its development, because I believe strongly that the more we can develop links between the countries of the Commonwealth, the better contribution we shall make to the world and the happier countries we shall be, each in our own section of the Commonwealth.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I must, first of all, apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, that I had to go to a meeting and was unable to hear his speech in this debate. I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, had to say with regard to the drift of population to the cities and secondary industries of Australia. But we cannot put the clock back; and those secondary industries have, of course, come to stay, and will be extended. I agree with the noble Lord, however, that everything possible should be done to get more people to go to the country, and Australia must do more than she is already doing to make life in the outback more comfortable. This applies particularly to the women, who have to cook in great heat, and cope with flies and so forth. They have so much to contend with and they must be considered in every possible way if the country is to be developed.

One of the great boons is electrification. The new Snowy River scheme will help to bring electric power to isolated stations, so that refrigeration, and later, perhaps, air conditioning, will be possible. I would quarrel with one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said. He said that in Queensland not a single mile of railway had been built. However, there have been roads—there is the great motor road from Alice Springs to Darwin—and many cattle and sheep are now carried in big modern pneumatictyred trucks over this and other roads. The noble Lord did not mention the air beef scheme whereby cattle are killed in isolated places and the carcases flown to the abattoir. That is something which I am sure is going to develop considerably.

From what I have said it seems to me most important that as many migrants as possible who go from this country should go to the land. I think the best way of doing this is to send out boys and young men, as some, of the private migration movements are doing. I can speak personally for the Big Brother Movement. We have sent out 1,400 lads aged 15½ to 17½ since the war. I think 80 per cent. of these have gone on the land, and many have done very well. Some of those who went out since the war have saved sufficient money to come home and see their parents here, and have gone back as supervisors to other "little brothers" of a later vintage. Many of them have become share farmers, and some of them even own their own property, either in whole or in part. These young men are supervised until they are twenty-one, and as the Movement is their legal guardian they cannot drift away to the towns without its approval. Such schemes as the Big Brother Movement—forgive me if I do not speak of the others, but they are doing equally good work in their own way—are fostering migration at little cost to public funds.

We have been asked to submit proposals to the Oversea Migration Board to enable them to assist in our work. I feel that this is one of the ways in which the British Government, through the Board, can help without any large outlay of funds. A few thousand pounds a year to these various movements will make all the difference, and will enable them to carry on. This is not without precedent. We used to receive a grant from the British Government of 75 per cent. of our administration expenses, or £900 per annum, whichever was the less, but this grant was dropped some years ago Another advantage has come out of the migration of these lads. In many cases their parents have followed them, so that the whole family has become reunited in a new country. Thus, youth migration has led to older people going out to Australia as well, thus maintaining the balance of population. I will not keep your Lordships any longer. I have said these few words to advance the cause of the Big Brother Movement, and other movements like it, and to ask Her Majesty's Government to give us, through the Migration Board, every consideration.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, when I came to your Lordships' House this afternoon it was with the intention of listening and not speaking, but I must ask your Lordships' forbearance for a few minutes while I make certain respectful comments upon the magnificent and statesmanlike speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne. The noble Viscount called upon Her Majesty's Government, in their forthcoming talks, to take an imaginative and far-reaching view of the future of Australia. I would urge them to go even further than the noble Viscount suggested, and to contemplate, even in their roughest form, measures which are not likely to be practicable for many years to come but which certainly must be introduced at some period, however distant, if Australia is to be properly developed. I say that for two reasons. First of all, for a longer period than one can envisage Australia will require an increase of population greater than she can possibly produce by her own birth-rate. Secondly, we in this country, for an equal period, shall need to find an outlet for our surplus population. As all speakers have stressed, it is desirable that the greatest possible number of migrants to Australia should be of British stock.

In Australia there exists one of the last three great undeveloped areas of the world (the others being North Africa and Brazil), and the only one which is under Commonwealth control. As the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, has so truly said, this is a matter which affects our whole Empire and Commonwealth and not Australia alone. I am sure that Australians will not object to that sentiment. But, unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of square miles of the centre of Australia are at the present time practically useless owing to lack of water and the desert conditions. Attempts have been made in a great many places to remedy this problem by the sinking of artesian and other types of wells. These wells, I believe, usually do produce water, but too often that water, although drinkable if not very palatable, is entirely useless for the purpose of irrigation, owing to its high alkaline content. It is obvious that it is no good being able to produce water for sheep and cattle to drink if, at the same time, it is impossible to produce fodder for them to consume.

A long-distant and, at first sight, fantastic remedy has been suggested: the harnessing of the water supplies of the extreme East of Australia, the boring of great tunnels through the Eastern hills, and the bringing of that water to the central desert areas by means of great covered flumes, so that those areas can be irrigated and can produce the abundant crops that always appear possible if irrigation is itself practicable. These schemes, by their very nature, must be not only far-reaching but, unfortunately, far off and appallingly expensive. I myself do not doubt that the cost would run at least into ten figures—to save your Lordships mental exercise, ten figures is a thousand millions or more. But I would ask that such schemes, however far off, and however apparently impossible, should be considered with the Australian Government, and also with the United States of America, because, whether we or they like it or not, the fates of the British Commonwealth and the United States are to-day inextricably linked. If these schemes are now contemplated, it may be, and I think will be, that at some time, however distant, we shall be able to develop the centre of Australia for the benefit of Australia, of the Commonwealth and of all mankind. We shall do something towards rendering Australia safe from these Asian attacks, which have been rightly alluded to as all too probable; and we shall have done a good deal to provide food for the rest of the world which, by that time—particularly Asia—is likely to be in even more dire need of it than it is at the present day. Therefore, however wild these schemes may appear, and however unlikely it may be that any of us in your Lordships' House to-day will live to see them, I hope that when these conversations are undertaken such schemes will not be left out of the picture.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I believe all your Lordships will agree that the debate we have had has been both interesting and timely. I think it would be a great pity if we confined ourselves to the terms of this Motion. I noticed that, with the usual obedience to non-existent Rules of Order which characterises your Lordships' House, no one, least of all the mover, dealt very much with the Motion. Certainly, the debate has been all the better for that. I do not much mind whether the noble Lord asks the House to agree to the Motion or withdraws it, but I am sure it would be a great pity to give our views only upon Australian migration and not upon migration generally. You cannot deal with migration to one country only in the context of political events in South-East Asia. That would be a great mistake. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, as I do with much of what he said and with other speakers, that you cannot deal with migration merely to one part of the Commonwealth; you must deal with migration as a whole. That is true.

With your Lordships' permission, I propose, if I may respectfully say so, to ignore the terms of this Motion and to do what I think the House would wish me to do—that is, to deal with migration generally. It is a pretty wide subject, and I will give, as I am in a position to do, some views and decisions of Her Majesty's Government. The speeches which have been made—I think this is true of all of them, as one would expect from people who speak on migration in this House—have been responsible and balanced in their argument. We have not had the extreme views, or we have had only very little of them, which get a good deal of currency out of doors, but I think I ought to deal with those extreme views in order to show why I and the Government—and I think I shall carry the whole House with me—would discard them. I do not know whether I could call them of the Right and of the Left, but they are of two entirely different schools of thought. First, there are the people who say, "We have a difficult problem in this country. We must have as many people as we can at work here. We cannot possibly afford to let anybody go out of this country." For reasons which I shall deploy, I hope, at not too great a length, in a moment, I dissent completely from that point of view.

But there is another school of thought from which, equally, I dissent, which is based on defence considerations. Some people say that we ought to have a wholesale shift of population out of this country—millions, if it is to be effective—because we are a vulnerable target here; that the only way to create a strategic defence is to shift millions of our population somewhere outside this country. I say at once that that is not only impracticable—I do not know how you are going to get people to go, if it is right—but is strategically and economically utterly unsound: strategically unsound because the defence policy of this country, and of the Commonwealth and of the grand alliance of which we are part is, not to create an absence of targets over a long period of time by removing a large part of British industry to the Antipodes—I mean no offence in using the word—a long distance away from any centre of attack. That really is not sense. The policy which we all share is to build up rapidly a strong deterrent in men and arms; and this country can only play the great part which it must play if we are economically prosperous, industrially strong and efficient here in the United Kingdom. Therefore, I say that the whole argument for a wholesale dispersal is fundamentally defeatist and contrary to our own economic policy and to Commonwealth and allied interests.

Fortunately, we do not have to rely on any such argument as that to believe in and to justify a wisely balanced migration. I use the word "balanced" advisedly because I think it is very important; this has been accepted generally in the debate. It would be quite impossible for us to send out the most skilled men in the prime of life who are perhaps the greatest assets we have in this country. We just could not afford to do that. It makes a great deal of difference if the family goes with them. When I was talking in Canada to the responsible, Ministers, I found that they did not believe in what they called subsidised immigration: they do not ask us for any money at all—and indeed, they would, I believe, reject the proposal if we offered it. They do, however, advance a man his passage money in some cases, to be repaid within two years, and I believe they have a certain preference for Britishers, in doing so. Of course, a man who goes there has to be prepared, at first, at any rate, to do any job that he can find. People will not find that they can go out there and, supposing they are skilled fitters or turners, get exactly the job that they have been doing here. On the other hand, they will probably make a good deal of money and have a great opportunity.

But to return to the question of families, one thing that the Canadian Minister said to me was, "When a man gets settled, we think he ought to bring out his family." They are very sound about that matter. That applies, I think, everywhere. One noble Lord said that he hoped I was not going to give theoretical statistics. I am not going to give many statistics. Very often one can use statistics for one's purpose and never make a mistake in one's logic, and the facts remain at one's disposal. But this is a fundamental fact to which we must have regard. Up till the war, we were not breeding at all rapidly. If you leave out any question of migration and assume that nobody goes out of this country, that there is not a net exit by migration, it is estimated that in the decade 1952–62 the population in the age group 20 to 44, which is the most important age group industrially of the lot, will decrease by about a million. After that it becomes better again. That reinforces tremendously what I said: that though I want to see migration, we cannot afford it to be unlimited or for it to be a case of just picking the best.

In a sense, any discussion, and certainly any decisions the Government could take, must at the moment be rather short-term, because the Empire Settlement Act, under which all assistance is given to migrants, expires in May, 1957. Parliament will certainly have to consider in 1956 what is to be done about that matter. But the fact that we are dealing with an interim period ought not, I think, to prevent us —in fact it is rather a reason the other way from—discussing principles and long-term considerations. Certainly the Government—and, I am sure, from what has been said in the debate to-day, the whole House—have been tremendously helped by the responsible, balanced and informative Report of the Oversea Migration Board. I think it is one of the wisest documents on the whole question of migration that I have read, and we owe the Board a tremendous debt. They took a great deal of evidence. They had an opportunity, fortunately, of hearing, in the most informal way, a great many witnesses, from Ministers downwards, who were here for the Coronation from a number of Commonwealth countries. I have been asked if that is to go on. Certainly, so far as I am concerned, it is going on, because the Board are performing a most valuable service, and I know that they have certain studies before them now.

My Lords, I would venture to put three propositions—I might almost say three principles—on which I hope we shall all be agreed. I think, first, it is true that it is the desire of the Commonwealth countries to have immigrants of British stock. Secondly, in spite of the figures I have quoted of population trends, we believe that we in this country can and ought to spare a proportion of our people to go overseas and we assume that they will be keen to go; but, as have said, it ought to be a balanced selection. And thirdly, it certainly is a United Kingdom interest (and I think an interest of the whole Commonwealth) that the existing character of the Commonwealth should be preserved.

For my part, I would add this. I like to think of migration as a two-way traffic, particularly for the young. It is very important for young people—possibly in schools; certainly in the universities—that there should be the greatest possible interchange between the countries of the Commonwealth. I was delighted to find in Canada a surprising number of Commonwealth students. I found something like a hundred English boys in Vancouver. That is admirable. They are the counterpart of the Rhodes Scholars here. Quite admirable are the Athlone fellowships, under which carefully selected Canadians—I think something like forty a year—come here for two years. They spend half their time in a university and half their time in a firm, and tremendous trouble is taken in Canada to select them. They come here, and then go back with their knowledge of British technique and a general affection for this country. The more we can do in that way, and the more general that can become, the better.


Before the noble Viscount leaves the point about a balanced migration, I gather that his theory, with which, of course, the whole House agrees, is that you cannot send all young men. Has the noble Viscount or his advisers ever thought of a rough proportion of youth under 40, to those over 40?


No; but it will be interesting to see what the Migration Board have to say about that. For my part, I very much doubt whether it is possible to lay down any hard and fast rule. Moreover, statistics are rather unreliable. The noble Lord has probably read what is said in the Report. We are going to follow that up, to see whether we can get better statistics.

There is another way in which this two-way traffic can be most valuable—that is, in our research institutions. Again, I was delighted to find in Canada, where they have research institutions of the highest possible quality, that not only was there a complete interchange, a pooling of information, between institutions in Canada and our institutions here (not only between Government institutions like Farnborough, the National Physical Laboratory, and so on but also with the big industrial research projects) but there was an interchange of personnel. One could go round and find an Englishman here and an Englishman there, and one would say, "What are you doing here?" and the answer would be, "Well, the fellow who ought to be here is over in England." It is not just among the "brass hats" at the top that this is done; it extends right down through to the "backroom boys." All that sort of thing seems to me to have a value out of all proportion to mere numbers.

The value of balanced migration is mutual, although, of course, the direct benefit goes to the receiving country. One noble Lord said in the debate that it cost £2,000 to house an immigrant when he gets to a Commonwealth country. That is true; but then it costs that to house anybody. One must not forget that it costs quite a lot to train a man in this country; there is his schooling and all the rest of his training before he goes out. It is not as if you were starting at zero and then spending £2,000; you are spending £2,000 to house a very valuable asset.

Then there is another proposition on which I hope we may agree. Perhaps one or two noble Lords will be a bit doubtful about this—although if this were an economic debate there is not a single noble Lord who would not, quite rightly, press economy upon the Government of the day—but my proposition in this debate is that we have to watch and curb expenditure. That is a Commonwealth, as well as a national, interest. My noble friend Lord Bruce of Melbourne, in his most interesting speech, emphasised the importance of investment—in fact, I think he said that investment was the key to the whole problem. I entirely agree with him; capital is being sought not only by Australia but by every Commonwealth country. If I may be forgiven a flash of the obvious, you cannot lend from an overdraft—at least, you certainly cannot lend long. The only way you can lend is by saving. People cannot pay unlimited taxes. There is a real limit to what we can spend if we are at the same time to maintain our lending.

It has been suggested that these matters should come up at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in January, and no doubt they will. But do not think for a moment that this question of Commonwealth investment has not been engaging the attention not only of our Government but of all other Commonwealth Governments ever since we came into office. In the second Conference of 1952, when the Prime Ministers came over here, a great part of our discussion was devoted to investment and to what kind of things should attract investment; and the Commonwealth agreed on what might broadly be called a system of rules which ought to govern investment. They covered, for instance, the kind of productive investment which was worth while and which we ought to try to support, and the fact that there must be considerable support within the country itself, as well as from outside, for a particular project. That study has steadily continued. There, is, of course, only a limited amount that can be invested, with claimants throughout the Commonwealth for it, and there must, therefore, be some agreement as to who shall borrow, for what purpose and how much. The conclusion of such agreements is part of our daily work, and there have also been the regular meetings of the Finance Ministers of the Commonwealth. So I should not like the House to infer that the noble Viscount was introducing some entirely novel idea, important as it is. It is so important that it has been consistently engaging our attention for the last three years.

The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, said, if I may paraphrase his words, "You are pretty mean; you could give quite a lot more. Look at the size of the Budget." I am accustomed to hearing that sort of remark. One hears it from everybody who is a spender, or a would-be spender, at the expense of Her Majesty's Government. One is told, "My case is so de- serving and it is so small in amount compared with the vast amount of national expenditure." If everybody takes that line, not only can expenditure not be reduced but it is the one thing which makes for those automatic increases which Governments face when they come to consider their Budgets. I must therefore tell the noble Lord frankly that we are not going further. We certainly cannot go further and it would be utterly unreasonable to expect us to go further than is proposed in the Report of the Oversea Migration Board. I am not saying this in an offensive spirit at all, but the noble Lord must bear in mind that, while we regard our contribution to Australia as a very wise one, from our point of view as well as from theirs, Australia is the only country which asks us to make a contribution. I think it is fair to say that. That is no criticism at all. If we thought it unreasonable for Australia to ask for a contribution from us we should say so quite frankly; but when one is held up as being "pretty mean" on this matter it is just as well to remember that Australia is unique. Indeed, were it not so the money would have to go further.

There are many reasons why Australia is unique. It is a great distance away—admittedly it is not further away than New Zealand, but it wants many more immigrants than does New Zealand. It costs a great deal more money to get there than to get, for instance, to Canada. Broadly speaking, we shall be able to follow lines of the sort recommended by the Oversea Migration Board. I have already had an interchange of views with the Australian Government, and we have agreed that the f£150,000 a year under the Assisted Passage Scheme shall be renewed for two years. That is as far as we have power to go, for at the end of two years the Act expires.


If the noble Viscount will forgive my interruption, I fear that what he has said may create a somewhat erroneous impression. It rather sounded as though Australia had come seeking the assistance of the United Kingdom with regard to immigrants' passages. The Australian interpretation of it would be that they were the only Dominion who were prepared to co-operate with Britain in a mutually beneficial scheme.


I do not think the noble Viscount need really have intervened. I said in effect that I regarded this as a mutually satisfactory arrangement and that, had we not so regarded it, we should have said so quite frankly. Going back in history, long before the war, there was a recommendation, arising out of one of the Imperial Conferences, that there should be Commonwealth consultations on whether co-operative schemes could be arranged. We voted a sum of money and said that we were prepared to enter into arrangements with any Commonwealth countries. The only country, I believe, with whom we entered into an arrangement—I consider to our mutual advantage—was Australia.


I only wanted to clear up any misunderstanding.


Certainly there is no misunderstanding in my mind, and I do not think there was any in the minds of noble Lords.

On child migration, which I consider very valuable, we shall continue, I hope, to support the Societies which are doing admirable work. They foster a very good form of migration and do a great deal to help themselves. I know that in principle to-day the tendency—probably rightly—is to think it better to put the child in a home than in an institution. I have no doubt that that is right. There has been a great development of the practice of adoption. I doubt whether a hard and fast rule can be laid down. Anybody who has seen the work done at the wonderful estate of Fairbridge in Western Australia, as I have, will agree that the mothers are as good to their foster-children as any real mother could be. The whole spirit that pervades the place and its absolutely unique record of success in after life with those children—some from the worst homes one could find—are deserving of all praise. We shall also certainly be prepared to consider other societies on their merits. My noble friend Lord Gifford made an eloquent plea to-day for the Big Brother Movement. That Movement seems to me to fulfil all the tests which the sociologists have put forward to-day: the right sort of age, the fact that the children can go to the "big brother," and its remarkable record of success. Without making a firm commitment, I would certainly go so far as to say that thze Movement looks a very likely starter.


Thank you.


Then I hope we shall certainly continue our help to the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women, which is doing unobtrusive but excellent work in selecting professional women for overseas, helping them here and helping them there. Nearly all its work is done by voluntary workers, to whom I would pay a tribute; and certainly we want to continue our help to them.

I think I have now dealt with the main points that have been raised. I have spoken at greater length than I meant to do, but I thought that the House would like me to speak really frankly on this subject and to expose the whole mind of the Government in relation to it. I hope the House will have thought our line of thinking reasonable and our action practical. Certainly, for the future, I look forward to the admirable Migration Board continuing their good work. I am sure that they will be encouraged by the tributes, the just tributes, which have been paid to them in the House to-day. I am sure that their work will continue to be of great value not only to us in the United Kingdom but also to the whole of the Commonwealth.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for the degree in which he has dealt with this subject. I appreciate his effort to convey to us the Government's views. We shall read with care the words which he has used in conveying the Government's attitude to us. For the rest, I appreciate the fact that he has dealt with this matter on a wider scale than was envisaged by my Motion. Perhaps I may explain to him why I confined my Motion to its present terms at this time. The fact that the menace arising from political developments in South-East Asia affects Australia more greatly than anywhere else does not, of course, lessen in any degree the interest which all must feel in the general flow of migrants or the proportion of it which is directed elsewhere.

I confess to feeling some disappointment at the noble Viscount's attitude on the question of expenditure. He based his arguments on familiar grounds, using arguments which are often used by Ministers when seeking to justify limitation of expenditure. I feel one should take with reserve his statement that it would be utterly unreasonable to expect the Government to go further in expenditure in this connection. That, I think, is putting it rather strongly. I confess to a hope that in the future we may see a more generous policy applied. I should like to extend my thanks to all those noble Lords who have taken the trouble to speak upon this Motion. Their speeches have, I know, contributed very much to the usefulness of this debate in drawing attention to this important question. Particularly would I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, because—as has been so readily conceded by the House—he brings great authority to a debate of this sort.

Before I sit down, I desire to repair what I think was an omission—I think the noble Viscount will agree that it might have been said before this. I wish to pay a tribute to the Civil Service who for several years past have contributed to the efficient working of the mechanism of the transferability of the privileges and social services under which so much work has been done, and which, in the case of Australia, has come to fruition with particular advantage. Again with the indulgence of the House, I would emphasise a point in connection with what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said in his most effective survey. I would point out to him that the manufacture of consumer goods (and this is a point which Lord Bruce of Melbourne stressed) must inevitably continue in the Dominions; and if the United Kingdom develop their production of capital goods which the Dominions will not so easily make, then we shall have met some of the difficulties which Lord Lucas of Chilworth mentioned. I would remind him of the imports into Australia in the past two decades. There has been a tremendous shifting over from consumer goods to capital goods, while the total volume going from tie United Kingdom to Australia has been progressively increasing. If I correctly understood the noble Viscount he is prepared to accept my Resolution, and I appreciate the reference which he made to the propriety of its being extended.

On Question, Resolution agreed to,