Skip to main content

New Clause—(Agreement To Scheme Conditional)

Volume 154: debated on Monday 22 May 1922

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

The Secretary of State shall not agree to any scheme. unless he is satisfied that the Government, authority, or organisation with whom the scheme is agreed has offered any

required assistance, such as is provided for in this Act, to suitable persons already domiciled in that part of His Majesty's Dominions to which the scheme may apply. —[ Mr. Kennedy.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I want to assure the House that I do not move this Clause with any desire to obstruct the Measure. On the contrary, I think I can say that all those who are associated with me on this side of the House wish that no obstacle should be put in the way of any worker in this country who desires to emigrate. We desire to put no obstacle in the way of a man who believes he will find overseas a means of earning a livelihood which is denied him at home, but we do feel, with regard to a Measure of this sort, that provision should be made to prevent any possible conflict of interest or of opinion between workers on this side and workers overseas. Workers who emigrate do so, in nine cases out of ten, on account of economic pressure, and, for that, general emigration is no solution. It is, indeed, no palliative of the problem of unemployment which gives birth to this Measure. The evil with which this Measure deals is not one to be remedied by the transference of sections of workers by emigration from one part to another. Unemployment is not due, as many people seem to imagine, to overpopulation: it is due fundamentally to the fact that in our modern markets the means of production are enormously in excess of the means of distribution, and the means of purchase on the part of the community. The problem with which this Measure deals, therefore, is not the simple one of peopling the waste places of the earth; otherwise the peopling of the millions of uncultivated and undeveloped acres in other parts of the Empire would be met by it. I think the obligation which rests not only on the Government of this country, but upon the Overseas Governments, is one of showing agreement, not only as to the available spaces overseas, but the means of earning a livelihood in the sense of not only having land cultivated, but markets for the produce of the cultivator.

If we examine the condition of the Overseas Dominions, what do we find? That there is not a single part of the British Commonwealth which has not its unemployment problem relatively of the same magnitude as that with which we are faced at home. In these circumstances, the first duty of the Dominion Governments is to the people already settled there. I think, therefore, that this is a necessary administrative Clause, and it should not be regarded by the Government as an unnecessary interference with the province of the Dominion Governments. It is one which ought to be included in the Measure, if only as an assurance to the people overseas, who may regard the transport of large numbers of workers from this country to the Dominions as an attempt to overcrowd an already overcrowded labour market. It is notorious that a very large proportion of emigrants have gone in years past to the Dominions in order to achieve that living which they could not find at home, and having first settled on the land, and finding it no very successful, have gradually drifted back into the great industrial centres. I can say that with some degree of authority, as I possess the information in regard to the industrial position in the big industrial centres; and I can say that in the Colonies the labour organisations and labour generally are suspicious of this scheme of emigration. Their suspicions may be unfounded. I desire that the Government should prove to them that they are so by accepting this new Clause, for it will be an assurance, at any rate, that no single worker already domiciled in the Dominions will be precluded by this scheme from having a prior access to any required assistance. It is purely for that object I move the Second Reading of this new Clause.

Up to a certain extent. I think I would agree with the motive that underlies the introduction by the hon. Gentleman of this new Clause. Certainly it would be undesirable if large schemes for introducing new settlers were started in the Dominions, and nothing had been done to meet the needs of the people of those Dominions for settling on the land, or for other employment. I can assure the House, however, that that is the last thing we would think of doing. All through our action in the matter of free passages for ex-service men we have not assisted a single ex-service man unless the authorities in the Dominions concerned were satisfied in view of the labour situation in their Dominion that the man of that particular class could go out and in securing employment not displace a worker already domiciled. It is a very desirable precaution. We shall certainly continue to act on those lines. We do not desire to introduce into the Dominions any undesired class of person. I would not agree to do so from the point of view of those sent out. We should not like to do that if by so doing we might be creating difficulties with the Dominions themselves.

Our whole object is to facilitate cooperation with the Dominions, so that those shall go out who want to go out and for whom there is employment and opportunity, not only in our opinion, but in the opinion of the Dominions and authorities concerned. To that extent I certainly agree with the motive underlying the new Clause. But when it comes to laying down in a new Clause that we shall not enter into any agreement affecting land settlement or passage money or anything of the sort with the Dominion Governments, unless we have satisfied ourselves —I suppose by inquisitorial methods—that they have done their duty by their own citizens, I confess I think it is an unnecessary and an undesirable Clause to add to the Bill.

My own knowledge confirms the view that the Dominion Governments are very much alive to the needs of their own people. If there is temporary and not very large unemployment in certain industries they—if I may use the phrase—put a "stopper" on immigration very quickly. They would not attempt to embark upon large settlement schemes if there were large numbers of their own people willing to go directly on the land for whom they had no provision. They have made very generous provision for all their ex-service men. I think it would be a reflection upon the Dominion Governments to put into the Bill anything of the sort suggested. One word as to the Clause itself. It refers to the "government, authority, or organisation." If this proposed new Clause were added to the Bill it would mean that no municipal authority or provincial authority in the Dominions. or no private or philanthropic organisation, could enter upon any work dealing with settlers from this country unless the particular organisation—and it might be quite a new organisation—had already for a certain time devoted itself to doing something similar for the people of that country. It might be that another similar organisation had devoted itself to working for those domiciled there. That would not, however, meet the requirements of this proposed new Clause. I think under the circumstances, and in view of what I have said as to the policy which the Oversea Settlement Committee will certainly follow in this matter, that the House will agree that this Amendment is unnecessary.

I hope the House understands the motive with which this Amendment is brought forward. We do not want emigrants from this country to have a better chance than the ordinary worker in Australia and Canada. We want it to be quite clear that, wherever they are, workers shall have an equal share of the opportunities. After the statement that we have heard from the hon. Gentleman, I would advise my hon. Friend the mover of the proposed new Clause not to press it to a division. We have made it clear, and the Government have now made it clear, that in this matter of Empire migrants there is to be no preference in any particular part of the Empire.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.