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Empire Settlement Bill

Volume 319: debated on Tuesday 2 February 1937

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Considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

Clause 1—(Amendment As To Power Of Secretary Of State To Co-Operate In Schemes)

6.51 p.m.

I beg to move, in page line 22, to leave out Sub-section (2).

It will be remembered that the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, laid down that in any scheme or schemes arranged between the United Kingdom Government or any voluntary society in the United Kingdom, and any Government or society overseas, the contribution should be on a fifty-fifty basis. Had the Bill continued that arrangement, I do not suppose there would have been much objection to it, but in the Subsection which I am moving to omit there is a departure from that arrangement in a manner which, up to now, I have not been able to understand or to get any explanation of it from the Secretary of State. The Sub-section lays it down that the arrangement shall continue except where it is a development of a land settlement scheme or a scheme between the Government of the United Kingdom and any Government overseas. I want to know to what schemes that statement applies, and I want an assurance, which I have twice tried to get from the Secretary of State, as to what the schemes are to be. I am much concerned about a recommendation in the interdepartmental report, which is mentioned in the interim report of the present Oversea Settlement Board. They say that the contribution from the United Kingdom in any scheme should be an equitable share of the cost of the scheme. They then recommend that we should increase the contribution, in circumstances which they do not explain or state what they are likely to be, to up to 75 per cent. of the cost. On the other schemes of land settlement it shall be an equal share. I want an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that that recommendation of the interdepartmental report shall not be implemented. That is the objection that I have to the Bill.

I have here a report of the delegation that went to Canada in 1924, and which dealt with a particular phase of migration that had existed for 60 or 70 years up to that time. It would be interesting to know the suffering and hardship of thousands of children in Canada during those years, under that scheme. When the delegation went out in 1924, they had no hesitation, as they say many times in the report, in recommending that the migration of children under school-leaving age should cease. The Canadian Government were so impressed with the facts of the situation that they agreed also. I do not object to child migration if the whole family migrates with the children. Family migration is perhaps the best form of migration. I am not raising the question of the average farm school; what I am raising is the possibility of the restarting of a scheme of sending out children who are used as little drudges in the home—the delegation proved that that is what it meant in many cases—who often receive no education and are used for purposes that none of us would desire for our own children. They sometimes received education in the winter, if possible, but none in the summer. I am strongly opposed to the restarting of any such scheme, because I fear the consequences. I cannot understand why the United Kingdom Government are prepared to agree to 75 per cent. unless it be for such a scheme.

Moreover, if a scheme of the kind is restarted, it will be by voluntary societies, and will involve all the evils of the past. In 1924, the arrangements were in the hands of voluntary societies who used to tout all over the country at the institutions of public authorities, in order to get hold of institutional children and send them overseas. They did that up to 1924 without regard, in many cases, to the children's welfare. No doubt, if the scheme restarts, the same kind of practice will be followed. The voluntary societies want to get money from the Government. I have been 13 years a member of the Oversea Settlement Committee, largely after this scheme ceased, and the evidence I have of the position which existed before is not from what I experienced on the committee, but is the result of meeting with other people and of reading what were the facts of the situation. I have no doubt that what I have said represents the facts.

Public assistance committees are more enlightened than they were a generation ago, I believe. They will not so easily give up little children for that purpose, because they have more regard for them as human beings. The children are equal to our own children, and ought to be considered from the same point of view. It is because I fear the consequences of this kind of scheme that I am moving the Amendment. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give me an assurance that no scheme of the kind will be restarted, I shall have no objection to the Bill, but if I do not get that assurance there will be a Division on every occasion when I have the opportunity to vote against the Bill. I shall do so in the hope that some day my protest may have its effect. Moreover, I should like to get to Canada this view that I hold—and I say without question that every one of my colleagues holds—that Canada, which was ready to close the scheme down in 1924, will never agree to its restarting in the future.

7.0 p.m.

I would like to put one or two points in speaking on this Amendment. Some of the schemes have been dealt with before. People have been sent overseas, and much dissatisfaction has arisen with the position in which they have been. We have had scores of letters from people who have been stranded oversea and unable to get back. They have asked us what could be done.

I think the hon. Member should raise that on the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part." The Amendment that we are now discussing is whether the Secretary of State shall or shall not under certain conditions be allowed to contribute three-quarters instead of one-half. The hon. Member is raising a wider question which would come better on the Clause.

7.1 p.m.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reply to the serious statements and allegations which have been made with regard to voluntary organisations. The suggestion has been made that in the past, when this machinery was in full operation, they went round the country touting for children to send to the Dominions without adequate provision being made for them on arrival. If there are facts supporting that allegation the Committee should have them. The statement of the hon. Member was that some of these societies went to the Poor Law guardians asking men if they had any surplus children, and then sending them to a new world, far from their own country, without any machinery for protecting them in their new homes. The society with which I and most of us are familiar is the Salvation Army. My knowledge of the Salvation Army, and of Commissioner Lamb, who was responsible for most of the work, is that it had machinery all over the world to protect the interests of migrants.

Every organisation has critics, but so far as my knowledge goes the Salvation Army is an organisation that deserves every sympathy and support from the State. The Committee is entitled to know who these societies are that have failed to do their duty, who is responsible, and how they came to get State assistance. Such serious allegations should be substantiated, but I suppose, knowing that my hon. Friend is an ex-Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions, that he had reason to make those statements. Before we decide whether to vote for or against this Amendment I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet these charges, and either refute them or persuade the hon. Gentleman to substantiate them.

7.5 P.m.

I want to ask whether care is taken by the Department to ascertain what is done for the care of people who have settled in other countries. I have memories of the determined effort a few years ago to send many young boys to Australia. I never agreed with it. The answer we received on the last occasion, from a Government Committee, was that a boy who was placed 150 miles up country could, if anything was wrong, post a letter. It was stated that the letter would be posted in the presence of his employer, but that he could wait for the visit of the land inspector, or the inspector dealing with the rabbit pest or the inspector who had to deal with fences. No one should be sent and no contribution should be made to any organisation unless it has made provision for great care being taken regarding the conditions under which these people live and work. The people in that particular organisation were much surprised that in this country we were not prepared to let these youngsters go 9,000 miles without the slightest preparation being made for them.

7.8 p.m.

I hope my right hon. Friend will explain more fully than he has done why he has tied himself to 50 per cent. for development in land settlement schemes. May I give him an instance of a settlement scheme which might be enlarged and which it is desirable that the Secretary of State should have power to assist? There is the MacDonell Settlement Scheme in Alberta, under which 200 families were settled 10 years ago. The settlement met with hard times, as every fanning settlement did in Canada, but 90 per cent. of the settlers came through. That was a great achievement. The families came from the Hebrides, Ulster and other parts of North Britain. The moving spirit in that scheme was Father MacDonell. There were Protestant families and Roman Catholic families among the settlers, but the settlement took place under the Scottish Migration Society. Father MacDonell is now over here hoping to make two further settlements. That kind of settlement has been tried and proved successful, and it is just the kind of settlement which the right hon. Gentleman should have full power to assist. It is a matter for great regret that he should tie his hands by limiting himself to 50 per cent. Again, take a scheme such as a branch railway to one of the national railways in Canada, in which the capital of this country could be used and the Government might guarantee the full amount of interest on the capital employed. There might be a useful opportunity arising to develop a tract of country where migrants could settle. I would ask him to explain fully why he limits himself to 50 per cent. in cases where it is most desirable that he should have full power to act.

7.12 p.m.

I would give two reasons why we confine ourselves to a 50 per cent. grant in land settlement schemes. In the first place, normally our partner in a land settlement scheme would be one of the Dominion Governments or a State or Provincial Government, and for reasons I have stated on more than one occasion we are abiding by the fifty-fifty principle in schemes in which Dominion Governments are our partners. We believe that the migration of people from this country to settle in the Dominions benefits both parties more or less equally, and that the principle of equal benefit should be maintained and should involve also the principle of a more or less equal burden and expenditure in promoting the scheme. Secondly, as a result of our experience in recent years we are dubious of the desirability of promoting any considerable land settlement scheme. One of the great features of these years of trade depression has been the low prices received by land settlers, and although we are glad to see that prices are rising, I believe that modern conditions, with machinery and modern methods of cultivation, mean that agriculture itself is not going to provide a livelihood for large numbers of additional people on the land in the Dominions. For these two reasons we have thought it wiser to make our proposals more moderate with regard to land settlement schemes than in some other cases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give a liberal interpretation to the fifty-fifty basis? If the Dominion provides land would that be reckoned as part of their 50 per cent., and similarly social services, schools and so on?

That is a matter which would have to be settled on the merits of each case. I do not rule out the possibility that the provision of free land would be counted as part of the Dominion Governments' contribution. I would, however, remind my hon. Friend that there are certain other costs in which this Government will be involved, and which might also be taken into account in these circumstances. This Government will have provided free education for migrants; this Government will have provided all sorts of other social services for them before they left this country; and I think the fact that, partly as a result of those services provided by this Government, the Dominions were receiving physically and mentally fit new citizens, should be taken into account in trying to get a balance on a fifty-fifty basis.

With regard to the case made by the Mover of the Amendment, he has again made it quite clear that he objects very strongly and sincerely to a certain type of migration; but for the possibility that we might use our powers under this Clause to encourage that type of migration, he frankly confesses that he would not have moved this Amendment. The type of migration to which he and his party object is, not the migration of children in any circumstances but the migration of children under a system which means that they are boarded out in families in the Dominions. He has pointed out that in the past this boarding-out system was condemned by a Commission which travelled in Canada, and that it has resulted in many unsatisfactory cases in which children were treated as drudges in families. I would not contest that at all; I agree with the hon. Gentleman that in the past that system did result in some cases in which children led a rather unhappy life in the homes where they were boarded out; and that experience would naturally make the Government think very carefully before deciding to approve in principle of the recommencement of any such scheme.

There are very weighty arguments against the Government deciding to participate in any such scheme again, and they may very well come to the conclusion that they will not participate in such a scheme, but I cannot give the hon. Gentlemen an absolute assurance to-day. The matter, as I have said, has not arisen. I can, however, give the hon. Gentleman this assurance, that, if the Government were to wish to participate in a scheme for boarding out children, they would only do so with the complete safeguards that were laid down in the Departmental Committee's report, and any other safeguards which the Government thought were necessary. For instance, in the old days, before 1924, when this system was in operation, it is undoubtedly true that some voluntary societies who helped children to go out under this scheme, and who did so from the very best motives, really thinking that they were giving the children a chance of a better life in a new country, had not adequate administrative machinery in the Dominions to look after the children. They had not a proper staff of inspectors to make what are sometimes very long journeys to visit the children and inquire into their condition periodically. We should never contemplate playing any part in the re-starting of this scheme unless our partner in it were a society or societies who had an adequate inspecting staff, so that we had a complete assurance that the child's life in the home would be watched over carefully by some guardian appointed by the society.

There was another flaw in the old system. It was customary that boarding-out fees should be paid by the societies for these children to the families in which they lived, but in many cases, if not in all, the boarding-out fee ceased to be paid when the child reached the age of 12, and, if the child did not start to earn a wage before the age of 14, there was a period when the family received no contribution at all towards keeping the child; and it was very often during those two years, when the family did not feel under any obligation to treat the child as an equal member of the family, that the child found all sorts of little duties being heaped upon it. The Departmental Committee recommended, and I would certainly subscribe to the recommendation, that the boarding-out fees should continue to be paid up to at any rate the age of 14, and there are various safeguards such as that which we should want to have as a part of the scheme before we contemplated participating in the renewal of that kind of migration at all.

As I have said, it might be that we would not, even if we were assured of safeguards, contemplate that type of migration at all. For instance, in 1924 and before 1924 there was no Fairbridge Farm School scheme in Canada, and therefore there was not that alternative method of child migration. Now there is a Fairbridge Farm School scheme established in Canada, on Vancouver Island, and it would seem to me that because of that the possibility of the Government wishing to encourage this other type of child migration has been very considerably lessened. All I can say is that the Government are fully aware of the objections which the hon. Gentleman has raised in regard to this system of migration, and we shall keep them fully in mind. We are just as anxious as he is that some of those bad cases of the past should be quite impossible in the future. But beyond that I really cannot go; I cannot give an absolute assurance that in no circumstances will we again encourage a society to send a child into a family in Canada, Australia or some other Dominion.

I would point out that, even if the Amendment were carried, it would not really afford an assurance that that type of migration will not start again, and that the Government will not participate in it. All that it would secure is that we could not pay a 75 per cent. grant, but only a 50 per cent. grant. If the Amendment were carried, there would still be nothing to prevent the Government from giving a 50 per cent. grant towards a society which was boarding out children in one of the Dominions. Therefore, the Amendment would not have the effect of destroying the possibility of the Government helping such a scheme; it would only have the effect of crippling the Government's ability to take part in such a scheme. My difficulty about the Amendment is that it would not only cripple our ability to help that scheme, which, as I have said, we may never take up, but it would also cripple our ability to take part in any of the other schemes with which, I understand, the hon. Gentleman finds himself in hearty agreement. He talks about the migration of families as the best form of migration. Many voluntary societies have helped families to go and settle in the Dominions. But the Amendment, if carried, would cripple the Government's ability to help voluntary societies to promote these other forms of very desirable migration.

The voluntary societies do a very great deal. Sometimes they train migrants in this country before they go out; sometimes they provide them with assistance on their passage to the Dominions; and in many cases they give them a proper reception. By that I do not mean just the Lord Mayor coming down with his chain, and then disappearing when the migrant has to go and settle and do the job. These societies often provide a really helpful reception for the migrant arriving in a Dominion, and, most important, of course, of all, these societies, in the case of thousands of migrants, have provided after-care for months and years after the settlers have got on to their farms or into their jobs in the towns or cities. For instance, although, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out over and over again, migration has practically ceased during the last few years, this work of after-care has gone on steadily. Take the case of a voluntary society like the Big Brother movement. The Big Brother movement was responsible for enabling large numbers of youngish boys to go out and settle in Australia, and those boys have been looked after right through the years of the depression up to the time when they reached the age of 21, by this Big Brother movement. That is only one example of the way in which the voluntary societies do not desert the migrants immediately on their arrival, and return to start looking round for new victims here; they go on looking after them for years after they have actually landed in the country.

Another reason why I hope the Amendment will be rejected and the Clause passed as it stands is that the voluntary societies have been finding it more and more difficult, as the years have gone on, to raise from private sources the large sums of money which are necessary if this very beneficial work is to be carried on. All sorts of societies, like hospitals and other voluntary organisations, are finding it more and more difficult to raise money with which to do their work. The voluntary societies concerned with migration are no exception, and it is to enable them to carry on with adequate funds that the Government are anxious to have power to raise their percentage grant to these societies from 50 to 75 per cent. For the reasons I have given, I hope the Amendment will not commend itself to the Committee, and that we shall get this additional power to help voluntary societies in the very useful work which they do for thousands of migrants going from this country to the Dominions.

Division Mo. 62.]


[7.28 p m.

Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. DykeFurness, S. N.Owen, Major G.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.Fyfe, D. P. M.Palmer, G. E. H.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Ganzoni, Sir J.Peake, O.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.Penny, Sir G.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)Gluckstein, L. H.Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)Peters, Dr. S. J.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.Petherick, M.
Aske, Sir R. W.Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Atholl, Duchess ofGrimston, R. V.Pilkington, R.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGritten, W. G. HowardPorritt, R. W.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead)Guy, J. C. M.Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.Hanbury, Sir C.Radford, E. A.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Hannah, I. C.Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)Hannon, Sir P. J. H.Ramsbotham, H.
Birchall, Sir J. D.Harbord, A.Ramsden, Sir E.
Blaker, Sir R.Harris, Sir P. A.Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Blindell, Sir J.Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Bossom, A. C.Heilgers, Captain F. F. AReid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Bower, Comdr. R. T.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-Remer, J. R.
Brass, Sir W.Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)Ropner, Colonel L.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)Rowlands, G.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon}Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)Holmes, J. S.Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Brown, Brig.-Gen, H. C. (Newbury)Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.Salmon, Sir I.
Bull, B. B.Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.Salt, E. W.
Burgin, Dr. E. L.Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Butler, R. A.Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)Scott, Lord William
Cartland, J. R. H.Hudson, R. S. (Southport)Seely, Sir H. M
Carver, Major W. H.Hume, Sir G. H.Selley, H. R.
Castlereagh, ViscountHunter, T.Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Hurd, Sir P. A.Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Channon, H.Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)Jones, L. (Swansea W.)Simmonds, O. E.
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)Keeling, E. H.Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Colfox, Major W. P.Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W D.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.Lamb, Sir J. Q.Smith, Sir R W. (Aberdeen)
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)Leckie, J. A.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)Leech, Dr. J. W.Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Courtauld, Major J. S.Lees-Jones, J.Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.Leighton, Major B. E. P.Spens. W. P.
Crooke, J. S.Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.Little, Sir E. Graham-Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Croom-Johnson, R. P.Lloyd, G. W.Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
Crowder, J. F. E.Loftus, P. C.Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Culverwell, C. T.Lovat-Fraser, J. A.Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)Lumley, Capt. L. R.Strickland, Captain W. F.
Dawson, Sir P.MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
De Chair, S. S.M'Connell, Sir J.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Denman, Hon. R. D.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)Sutcliffe, H.
Denville, AlfredMcEwen, Capt. J. H. F.Train, Sir J.
Doland, G. F.McKie, J. H.Tree, A. R. L. F.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.Macquisten, F. A.Turton, R. H.
Drewe, C.Magnay, T.Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)Manningham-Buller, Sir M.Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Duncan, J. A. L.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Dunglass, LordMarkham, S. F.Warrender, Sir V.
Edmondson, Major Sir J.Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)Wells, S. R.
Ellis, Sir G.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Williams,.H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Elliston, Capt. G. S.Moreing, A. C.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Elmley, ViscountMorris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Emmott, C. E. G. C.Morris-Jones, Sir HenryWithers, Sir J. J.
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)Womersley, Sir W. J.
Entwistle, Sir C. F.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)Wragg, H.
Erskine-Hill, A. G.Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)Munro, P.Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Fildes, Sir H.O'Connor, Sir Terence J.Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin and Mr. Cross.
Findlay, Sir E.Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.
Fremantle, Sir F. E.Orr-Ewing, I. L.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 212; Noes, 98.


Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)Hills, A. (Pontefract)Quibell, D. J. K.
Adamson, W. M.Hopkin, D.Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)John, W.Ridley, G.
Ammon, C. G.Jones, A. C. (Shipley)Riley, B.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. J.Kelly, W. T.Rowson, G.
Barr, J,Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.Sanders, W. S.
Bellenger, F. J.Lathan, G.Sexton. T. M.
Benson, G.Leach, W.Shinwell, E.
Bevan, A.Lee, F.Short, A.
Broad, F. A.Leonard, W.Silkin, L.
Brooke, W.Leslie, J. R.Smith, E. (Stoke)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)Logan, D. G.Sorensen, R. W.
Burke, W. A.Lunn, W.Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cape, T.Macdonald, G. (Ince)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Cluse, W. S.McGhee, H. G.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.MacLaren, A.Thorne, W.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Maclean, N.Thurtle, E.
Dobbie, W.Mainwaring, W. H.Tinker, J. J.
Ede, J. C.Marshall, F.Viant, S. P.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)Mathers, G.Walkden, A. G.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)Maxton, J.Walker, J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.Messer, F.Watkins, F. C.
Gardner, B. W.Milner, Major J.Watson, W. McL.
Gibbins, J.Montague, F.Welsh, J. C.
Gibson, R. (Greenock)Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Green, W. H. (Deptford)Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Creenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Oliver, G. H.Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Grenfell, D. R.Parker, J.Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)Parkinson, J. A.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Henderson, J. (Ardwick)Potts, J.TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Henderson, T. (Tradeston)Price, M. P.Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Muff.
Hicks, E. G.Pritt, D. N.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

7.38 p.m.

I should like to have an explanation on some points in connection with this Clause. What is the position of migrants under this scheme who, after a lapse of time, find that something happens as a result of which they are dissatisfied with the homes which they have made out there, or it may be that through circumstances over which they have no control failure comes along? Is there anything in the scheme to assist them to get back? Some time ago hon. Members on this side and probably on the other side also were getting letters from people in Canada and Australia who had gone out under some assisted scheme; depression had set in, failure had come, and they had been stranded out there, unable to get back. Requests were made to us to get the Government to give something to assist them back, but we were met with the question as to how far it was to extend. People have been going out overseas for many years now, and the Government wanted to know whether the whole period of migration was to be covered for many years past. I could see the force of the argument that it would be difficult to lay down a definite line, but now that we are dealing with this question, I would like to know what the position is now.

One remark that the right hon. Gentleman made rather bore on this point. He said on the last Amendment that for the last few years migration from this country had practically ceased. Hon. Members will see the implication. Migration had probably ceased because the people who might have desired to go overseas had had in mind the thought that, once they left these shores, if they failed, there was no hope of getting back here. That would naturally have a great effect on the mind of anyone desirous of going overseas; knowing the failures that have taken place and the hardships that have been endured in trying to get back, they might be deterred from going out unless they had some assurance that they would be able to get back again if they failed. I do not want men to be assisted back in all cases. If a man deliberately will not try, I do not say that he ought to be brought back simply because he is a bit tired of the new conditions, but I do want genuine cases of hardship, arising through no fault of the man or the boy himself, to be considered and, if possible, assisted. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can clear up that point, but it would be, as well to let people know exactly what the position is, so that they will know what they are taking on.

7.41 p.m.

During the Second Reading of the Bill, great regret was expressed on all hands that the Secretary of State had found it necessary to propose a reduction of the maximum expenditure from 3,000,000 a year to 1,500,000. It was regretted very largely because of its adverse effect on migration to the Dominions, but we were to some extent reassured by the Secretary of State when he said that if it were necessary, he would come to Parliament for powers to increase that expenditure. I hope, for the sake of the effect that such statements have upon the Dominions, that the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to repeat that assurance this evening.

7.42 p.m.

I think that probably all of us who are interested in this subject have received letters from migrants in some one or other of the Dominions who have had a very severe experience during these years of depression and who have been anxious to return home, and the letters have always asked whether there was any fund from which they could get assistance towards their passage home. I agree with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that there are some very hard cases in which one would be very tempted to give that assistance home, especially cases where some member of a family, perhaps a comparatively young member of a family, has gone out and become separated from his relatives and friends over here. On the other hand, as the hon. Member himself appreciated, it has been quite impossible to contemplate any general scheme of return passages, otherwise you would merely be encouraging people in some cases to go out for the trip and not to make a really determined effort at settlement in a new country, and as soon as a difficulty appeared above the horizon, the migrant or traveller would ask for his return passage and come back. It is therefore quite clear that this is a matter which has to be considered very, very carefully, so as to prevent anything which might be a real abuse and a wrong expenditure of considerable sums of money provided by the taxpayers of this country. It is because of that latter consideration that in the past the Government have not agreed to any return-passage scheme at all, and at the present time I have no funds at my disposal, and I do not know of any funds which are at the disposal of any particular voluntary society, which would enable return passages to be paid.

On the other hand, there have been cases where assistance towards passages home has been found. In some cases Governments overseas, Dominion Governments or, I think, State Governments, have contributed towards return passages, in particularly hard cases. In other cases migrants who were in the position which the hon. Member described have been able to get assistance from some organisation on which they had claims or with which they were associated. I am not sure whether they were ex-service men's associations in some cases, but there have been quite a number of cases where migrants have had assistance towards their passage back to this country from a society or association of that nature. So far the Secretary of State has had no funds at all from which he could get money for that purpose. I have been very impressed with the arguments in favour of such a fund being created, but I think one would have to be very careful to safeguard it against the kind of extension to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I believe there is a strong case to be made out for such a fund, but there is also a strong case against it, and all I can say at present is that the whole matter is being inquired into. It is not a case of an inquiry as the result of the hon. Gentleman's remarks to-day. I had started an inquiry into the possibility some time ago. When it has been concluded I shall be able to consider the results of it and, if it proves that there is a balance of advantage in favour of such a fund being created, I shall consider going to my colleagues and seeing whether we can agree on that policy. We have the matter in mind, and it is possible that the point will be met, to some extent at any rate.

With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), I have, of course, no hesitation in repeating what I said in a previous Debate. We have reduced the provision at the disposal of the Government in any 12 months from £3,000,000 to £1,500,000 a year, because we believe that that con- forms to realities. On the other hand, if conditions became such that we wanted to participate in any large scheme of settlement which would require more funds than that, we should be ready to come to the House at the earliest convenient opportunity to get an amending Bill enabling the Government to go beyond that amount. That is the policy of the Government, and I can assure the House that I make that announcement with every intention of its being carried out if circumstances should permit.

7.48 p.m.

I am very pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government are considering the possibility of providing return passages for migrants who go overseas. I should like to know whether it has been or will be referred to the Oversea Settlement Board for consideration, not that I expect—I have considered the question many times —that it may provide for everyone who goes overseas, but even if the position can be met that in certain hard cases it may be provided, it will be to the advantage of those people and I think it will be welcomed. The position to-day is difficult. We know that since 1931 scores of thousands more have come back than have gone from this country, and many thousands have been deported from Canada, which is the only country within the Empire which has a Deportation Act. They are most unfortunate cases, because they have had to become practically regarded as criminals in order to be deported. I think the most important thing is to see conditions improved in the Dominions and to know that they are such as to tempt people to go. I am not prepared to encourage a single person to go unless conditions are such as to guarantee a livelihood. If conditions improve so as to provide work and wages for migrants, it will be an advantage not only to our own country, but to the Dominions overseas. At the same time I hope that we shall keep in mind the point that has been raised and that we shall hear something about it in the near future.

7.51 p.m.

I see nothing to object to in the hon. Gentleman's speech. I think I am perhaps nearer to him than to some of my hon. Friends. I cannot think it is the slightest good for people to go to any of the Dominions unless conditions are better than at present for the ordinary man, apart from land settlement. That is quite a different thing. There is one thing that I should like to mention, though it would not be in order to go into it in extensor. When Canada is again ready to take immigrants in any large number the first place that she ought to get them from is not this country, but Newfoundland.

It is not in Order on this Clause to refer to other parts of the Empire.

I was about to explain that. I am aware that the Bill has nothing to do with Newfoundland, but you now compel me, Sir, to relate my argument to the Bill. While we must not refer to this forbidden subject we have to bear in mind that there are other parts of the Empire where the question of migration will have to be considered.

This is not a Second Reading Debate. We are now dealing with a specific Clause in the Bill.

I fully accept your Ruling, Sir. It reminds me of the old days when we had a very rigid interpretation of the Rules. I have not risen for the purpose of indulging in a discussion with the Chair, as I did 20 years ago, sometimes with some success. I merely intended to correct one statement of the hon. Gentleman opposite. He said Canada was the only Dominion which had the power to deport British migrants. I think it is rather important, because this Debate will be read by, at any rate, a portion of the people in the Dominions who are interested. The system is in practice in all the British Crown Colonies, and it is only fair to Canada that that should be made clear. It is not right that it should go out that Canada is the only country.

I think there is something to be said for paying passages back in specific hard cases, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman is considering the matter. Some hundred years ago there was a series of Debates on this very subject, when the then Government gave assisted passages to Australia. Even so long ago as that the Government had some scheme, in exceptional circumstances of hardship, for getting the people back to this coun- try. That may be helpful to the committee of investigation which will consider the point. While I think that in exceptional cases these people's fares ought to be paid, I suppose there will be agreement on both sides of the Committee that it would be unfortunate if the idea went out that anyone could go to the Dominions with the certainty of having his fare paid back. It is really rather a cynical reflection on the way the Empire has been built up that we are to-day discussing exactly the same difficulties as our predecessors discussed a hundred years ago. In those days Members who were keen about migration used to point to the possibility of Australia having a population similar to that which then existed in the United States—some 20,000,000 or 30,000,000. One suggested that it might have a population of 50,000,00. The population is 7,000,000, and we are still discussing the difficulties of migration, as our predecessors did a hundred years ago.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 2 (Short Title, Interpretation And Construction) Ordered To Stand Part Of The Bill

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time upon Thursday.