HL Deb 22 May 1963 vol 250 cc281-3

2.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, with regard to migration, whether it is now their policy to extend more encouragement for any migration programme to the Commonwealth; if so, what use is being made of the advice of the Oversea Migration Board, which it is understood has not met since October, 1962; also whether it is on the advice of the Board that grants in aid of migration to different directions have recently been reduced.]


My Lords, it continues to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage migration to other Commonwealth countries. My noble friend will be aware that the Australian Government have recently announced an increase in their planned intake of British immigrants for 1963–64 from 34,000 to 42,000. In spite of this, the problem will be one of selection since applications for assisted passages to Australia covering 111,000 persons have been received in the past four months alone. Migration to Canada and New Zealand increased substantially in 1962, and the volume of inquiries so far this year has been much higher than usual. Thus it will be seen that migration prospects for 1963 are certainly favourable.

As regards the second part of the Question, the Oversea Migration Board has not met in recent months because there have been no new schemes of emigration for it to consider. In accordance with the Board's terms of reference its views will no doubt be sought by my right honourable friend whenever any specific migration proposals are submitted to him. Until then there is no occasion for the Board to offer advice. To turn to the last part of the Question, presumably my noble friend has in mind the decision to taper off, over the next three years, the grant-in-aid paid to the Women's Migration and Oversea Appointments Society. The Oversea Migration Board was not consulted since this is a matter outside its terms of reference. The grant does not relate to a specific emigration scheme but is in respect of administration expenses at the Society's headquarters, and I might perhaps mention that no other voluntary migration society is in receipt of such assistance. I would add that this decision is solely due to the fact that circumstances have changed since the grant was originally instituted and is not in any way a reflection on the Society, to whose work I should most sincerely like to pay a warm tribute.


My Lords, I thank the noble Duke for his full reply. Evidently from its tone he and his Department feel reasonably satisfied with the present flow. But it does seem, in view of the change of emphasis of Government policy in regard to economic matters in general, that some more imagination and initiative from the body representing that subject is needed. I would ask the noble Duke this: does it not seem that, in the circumstances of such a change, it might have been appropriate for that body to have been consulted? It seems surprising that they have not met. Would the noble Duke not feel that they should be consulted to a greater extent?


My Lords, I would refer my noble friend to the terms of reference of the Oversea Migration Board. They are: To consider and advise the Secretary of State upon specific proposals for schemes of migration from the United Kingdom to other Commonwealth countries and upon any matter relating thereto which may be referred to it by him. Bearing those terms of reference in mind, I think there has not been anything for the Board to meet about. I am sure my noble friend will agree with me that nothing is more tiresome than for distinguished men and women who serve on the Board to meet merely for the sake of holding a meeting, when there is nothing very concrete to discuss. So far as creating imaginative schemes is concerned, I should have thought that those interested in migration, as my noble friend is, would be more than satisfied with the knowledge that over the first four months of this year the applications to emigrate from this country to the Commonwealth are four times as much as they were for the corresponding period of last year.


My Lords, the point is that the noble Duke has confirmed the fact in my first statement, that he was evidently reasonably satisfied. But surely it would seem natural, in the changed circumstances which have resulted from the change of direction from Europe to other quarters, that the body constituted to advise his Department should have been consulted and should have met.


My Lords, at the last meeting of the Board I, as chairman, gave an undertaking that I would call a meeting of the Board if any member of it so requested. I have not so far received such a request.

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