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Emigration To Commonwealth Countries

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 26 March 1964

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3.0 p.m.

I wish to refer to the need to encourage emigration from the United Kingdom to other countries of the Commonwealth. In raising this matter I am fortified by the fact that there is on the Notice Paper a Motion signed by no fewer than 101 hon. Members. It is:

That this House welcomes the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage emigration from the United Kingdom to various countries of the Commonwealth and calls upon the Government to implement that policy more fully by spending a larger proportion of the sums voted by Parliament for assisted passages under the Commonwealth Settlement Act.
The policy of encouraging emigration is so obviously sound and sensible that I do not recollect a single speech ever having been made against it in this House. Without emigration from this country there would never have been a Common wealth. But what about the future? In moving the Second Reading of the Commonwealth Settlement Bill on 1st Much, 1962, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations said:
"…a steady flow of British emigrants to other countries of the Commonwealth is of benefit to all concerned, and is a source of strength and unity to the Commonwealth. This feeling is shared by the Governments of all the principal receiving countries, who continue to look to Britain to provide a substantial proportion of their new settlers.—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 1st March, 1962; Vol. 654, c. 1557.]
I am sure that we all agree with those sentiments. I think that my right hon. Friend might reasonably have added, because it is helpful and pertinent to consider the points that emigration to other countries of the Commonwealth tends to increase our own trade with those countries and, incidentally—although I do not wish to go further this afternoon on this point—it does something to relieve our own serious problems of population.

The principal receiving countries are Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and I happen to have cousins in all three of them. Each of these countries will have large numbers of immigrants for every year in the foreseeable future and each of them would like a larger number to come from Britain. I shall show that they have not been getting as many as they would like to have or as are willing to go.

I should remind the House of the opportunity given to the Government by the provisions of the Commonwealth Settlement Act, 1962 which gives authority for another five years to contribute £1½ million a year to schemes designed to encourage emigration. That legislation was the successor of other Statutes passed in 1922, 1937, 1952 and 1957. There was a time when better use was made by the United Kingdom Government of that opportunity given by Parliament over these many years. But since 1952 only £150,000 a year has been spent, only a tenth of the amount approved by Parliament.

During the Easter Adjournment debates in 1955 I complained about this, and other hon. Members complained during the debates on the 1962 Act. The arguments used by the Government on previous occasions may or may not have been valid then. But I suggest that they are quite untenable today and I trust that we shall not hear them repeated by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. The annual sum was cut in 1952 to £150,000 and this, I understand, was done as a temporary measure of economy. It was fixed at that low level as a mere token of our good will and is now used to pay a minor part of the cost of assisted passages to Australia. In fact, it provides about 15s. per passenger out of a relatively substantial fare, if a person wishes to go "right down under". It is a trifling sum compared with the tens of millions which are spent—rightly, in my opinion—by the Department of Technical Co-operation Overseas to help under-developed countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. So I hope that we shall not be told that we cannot afford to pay a fairer proportion of the modest sum which Parliament has approved in order to help the older Commonwealth countries in this way.

One it is accepted that the Government's policy of encouraging emigration is the right one, surely it follows that it should be properly and progressively implemented instead of being allowed to run down with every year that passes; for that is the effect of freezing the amount spent at the token level of £150,000 which has gone on for 12 years and which, I suggest, is gradually making a dead letter of the Commonwealth Settlement Act. By eliminating all other forms of encouragement, I understand that the sum is now confined to the assisted passage scheme to Australia.

What is the result of the policy which has been pursued since the war? This is a subject on which one could deluge a debate with statistics, but I do not propose to do so. I shall mention hardly any figures, but I think that I should mention that only about 20 per cent. of post-war immigrants to Canada have been British. There is no assisted passage scheme to Canada or any other Government help or encouragement at this end. Only about 50 per cent. of Australia's immigrants since the war have been British. New Zealand's immigration has been on a smaller scale, but I am glad to say that a very high percentage was from the United Kingdom.

There are three factors which govern emigration. First, the number of people here who wish to emigrate. Secondly, the number of people whom receiving countries feel that they can take altogether including those from the United Kingdom. Thirdly, the funds made available from our Government and other Commonwealth Governments concerned to enable emigrants to travel. I will deal in turn with each of these factors.

The number of people wishing to emigrate since the war has been more than have been able to do so. The numbers have varied from year to year, but last year as many as 172,000 applied for assisted passages to Australia. Owing to the lack of funds, only 55,000 will get their passages paid. It is only fair to record—and one is glad to do so—that 55,000 is the highest figure for many years. In addition, about 10,000 people will pay their own passages, or have them paid by people or organisations in Australia. They will include many skilled people who will go there anyway, and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Among them there will no doubt be some doctors and nurses. Some of their future patients will have assisted passages and if we have to part with doctors and nurses it is as well that there should be plenty of patients to accompany them. Let there be no doubt about two things in this context. The first is that we shall lose some of our best people. But that has gone on for many years. It has made the Commonwealth what it is and I do not think that we should be inward-looking about this matter. There will still be vast numbers of good, skilled people left here.

The other point is that many skilled people will emigrate without assisted passages, whether we like it or not. If, in any event, some of the cream is going to be skimmed, I suggest that it is quite a good thing to let some of the milk go, too.

As to the number of people whom those three countries—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—would like to have from the United Kingdom, the fact that they would like many more is proved by the vigorous recruiting campaigns which their Governments are conducting in this country. To give one example, on Monday of this week the Evening Standard devoted a whole page to encouraging people to emigrate to Canada. The heading was:
"There is no place like Canada."
"Canada, land of opportunity."
Then the various ways of getting there by paying one's own fare were mentioned in the advertisements. I give that as an example, but no doubt there are others which are familiar to hon. Members. That, I suggest, is proof in itself of the desire of the Governments of those countries to receive British people.

There is no hindrance to increased emigration to be found either in the willingness of people to go or in the willingness of the Governments concerned to accept them. The only limiting factor is the lack of Government funds. Let me concede at once that it is quite right that the Governments of the receiving countries should make a greater contribution towards assisted passages than our Government do, in addition to con- tributing a good deal towards the cost of establishing immigrant families in their own countries. But, as I understand the matter, those Governments feel naturally that, to use the words of my right hon. Friend, in the interests of Commonwealth "strength and unity", our Government should play an adequate and increasing part and not what is, in effect, a diminishing part.

In answer to a Parliamentary Question on Monday I was told that our Government are
"always ready to discuss specific proposals by the Governments concerned".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1964; Vol. 692, c. 29.]
But I do not see why our Government should not use some initiative in this matter, especially in view of the recruiting campaigns. Surely Commonwealth relations are now mature enough for confidential discussions to take place. In view of our own attitude for the past twelve years, it would perhaps be understandable if Commonwealth Governments were reluctant to take the first steps themselves, but I think it is up to us to approach them.

I should, therefore, like to ask my hon. Friend three questions, to which I hope he will give definite answers. I believe that he has been aware that I intended to ask these questions. First, if any of the other governments concerned were now to make a fresh approach, would our Government make a fresh contribution, or would it still be limited to the present sum of £150,000? Secondly, if none of those Governments were to make a fresh approach, would our Government approach them? If so, would some extra money be made available?

I realise that assisted passages are not the only way of encouraging emigration. The Italian and Dutch Governments, for example, do a great deal to help their emigrants to Australia by encouraging a system of housing loans by which banks in Holland and Italy make advances to building societies in Australia. That has had a most beneficial result for the emigrants, In that they have generally got a house to go to when they reach their destination instead of having to wait as other immigrants sometimes have to do. I have sometimes thought that it is a great dislocation for people to have to take all their household goods and chattels with them, and perhaps the assisted passage scheme could bear an element of provision for transferring these household goods.

May I summarise my views? Canada, Australia and New Zealand are going to receive large numbers of immigrants from somewhere every year as far ahead as one can see. They would prefer a larger proportion of those people to come from this country than have gone in recent years. Plenty of our own people wish to emigrate, but many of them have to be helped financially to a greater extent than is possible at the moment. The Government could do more to encourage emigration. If they were to do so, the Commonwealth would be strengthened, our trade would increase and our own population problem would be eased. Any Government which took this step should regard it as a sign of confidence in itself as well as a duty to the Commonwealth.

3.16 p.m.

I assure the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) that I appreciate his motive in seeking to encourage emigration from this country to other parts of the Commonwealth. I think we all heartily desire that those who have been educated in this country and have absorbed our own British values should take them to other parts of the Commonwealth where they are already cherished, particularly in those areas to which reference has already been made, though this applies to a lesser extent in other parts of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, I am sufficient of a British patriot who cherishes the inheritance of this country to hope that our assessment of human values, and particularly democratic values, is increasingly disseminated throughout the Commonwealth and further afield.

Emigration is inevitably interlocked with immigration, and, were it not for emigration and immigration, every part of the Commonwealth would be infinitely poorer than it is today. This country has been the recipient of many immigrants, not only from what is now the Commonwealth but from beyond. That is why our very mixed stock, of which my own name is one reminder, has probably benefited enormously. But the other factor is equally important. We have been able to take our values to other parts of the world. We have been able to implement them. Although at times they have been adulterated, and, as we now regret and should have regretted before, we have not always been filled with as great a sense of responsibility as we should have been, nevertheless I have always maintained that, on balance, the expansion of the British idea, the British way of life and British values has been of substantial importance to all the peoples by whom they have been assimilated.

I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he suggests that we should encourage emigration. Certainly I think we should assist it and that much more should be done in that direction. The figures which he gave indicating the difference between what has been allocated and what has been used to assist emigrants are impressive, and I join him in urging the Government and other Commonwealth Governments to do all they can to assist emigrants from this country to settle in any other part of the Commonwealth in which they desire to settle.

However, it is one thing to assist and to urge greater assistance, and it is another thing to encourage. I see no reason why we should encourage emigration from this country. I say that because one of the reasons for emigration in the past, as has already been touched on by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was to get rid of our surplus population. We have no surplus population now. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that we require all the people in this country to stay here if possible. Were it not for a very large influx of immigrants from other parts of the Commonwealth, this country would be in a very poor way. Its economy would suffer seriously. Therefore, to suggest a new impetus to get rid of our surplus population seems to me entirely to ignore the facts to which I have referred.

I repeat, therefore, that I do not see why we should encourage the emigration of our people. Only recently we have been lamenting what is called the "brain drain". Surely we are as much concerned about the departure of our people who are skilled without being necessarily academically highly qualified as we are about those who are in the category of the alleged superior brains of the country. It is lamentable that we should increase the number of skilled men and women who leave this country to settle overseas when we need them here. If there is the menace of surplus population, which at this time I do not contend exists, a far better way would be to seek to control our own population here so that we should have a stabilised population.

I hope that it is not entirely irrelevant when I suggest that recent publications, including one dealing with South-East England, makes one aware of the need to control population. I do not enter now into the vexed question of how we should control it. The desirable thing is that we should control it so that we keep a fair balance, otherwise we shall absorb a great deal of our time in trying to catch up with our own tails.

Whilst I entirely disagree with the belief of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire that we should encourage emigration, I would say, by all means, that we should assist it. Time was when we were only too glad to give all kinds of inducements to the unemployed to get out of the country to try and minimise the unemployment problem. I can remember from my earlier days the inducement offered by the then Government of Canada of about 160 acres of Canadian land for those who would go overseas, but today is a different time altogether. This does not mean to say that one does not want to see the intermixture of peoples. I most certainly do.

I want to see an increasing number of the people who want to go and settle elsewhere carrying with them our own attitude and that of other lands towards democratic institutions, but I would point out that although emigration in the past has been stimulated by other factors than are necessary today, it is nevertheless true that in India, despite all the forebodings, there are more British people living there than were living there before India obtained independence.

Is it not correct to say that there are more of these people working in India but not establishing their homes there and they therefore do not intend to live there after they have retired?

I said "living in India". Their jobs keep them there and when their jobs are finished they will come home. This applies equally to Canada and Australia. The figures show that quite a number come back to this country after some years, though not because they necessarily wish to do so. I know many of them, and good luck to them. One reason why they return, particularly from Australia, is that they cannot obtain proper housing accommodation. Therefore, with all these stimuli that we apply to emigration let us at the same time make sure that those who emigrate are guaranteed proper housing.

It is for this reason that I have always believed that there must be some restriction on immigration into this country, because as long as we have a great shortage of housing accommodation for people who are already living here it is only fair to the immigrants to say, "Unless and until we can provide you with decent accommodation it is unfair to allow you to come in without restriction." The same applies the other way round. Constituents of mine have written to me from Australia, and some have corm back, whose lot has been wretched in the extreme. I do not blame the Australian Government. I know that they have established hostels and have done their best, but the fact remains that tens of thousands of emigrants who have gone from this country to Australia have had to live in thoroughly unwarranted conditions—

Has the hon. Member seen some of the housing estates in Australia? What about Elizabeth, which is just outside Adelaide and is one of the most beautiful housing estates one could ever see? There are tens of thousands of people living in Australia in far better conditions than they could ever have achieved in this country.

I am not being extravagant and I am not blaming the Australian Government. I am not unaware that there are these housing estates, but surely it is right for me to urge the need to guarantee accommodation for all who go there. I have not been to Australia but I have many Australian friends who write to me. I concede what the hon. Member has just said, but that does not alter the fact that there are many of them who do not have that accommodation. Although in this country there are hundreds of thousands living in decent accommodation in new towns and on housing estates, that does not alter the fact that there are hundreds of thousands living in wretched conditions. And so in Australia.

I am surprised that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire did not mention this point, because merely to encourage the outflow of people from this country to other parts of the Commonwealth to settle down there and sometimes to have to wait two, three and four years before they get this accommodation is surely something deplorable which requires recognition from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not seek to be contentious in my comments on his otherwise excellent contribution to the debate, but I think that we should require from the Australian and other Governments that adequate accommodation should be made available within reasonable time for all emigrants from this country.

I see that hon. Members opposite are most anxious to intervene and I will merely say again: let us certainly encourage the free flow of peoples from one land within the Commonwealth to another. Let that also be recognised as a contribution to the very nature of the Commonwealth. Let that, however, not be accepted as meaning that no restrictions must be imposed, but let it also carry with it a guarantee that those who settle elsewhere have decent accommodation. Until this is guaranteed, emigration should not be encouraged, though it may be assisted in certain circumstances in exactly the same way as immigrants into this country should be assisted and welcomed but, nevertheless, should not be allowed to come here unless decent accommodation is provided for them.

3.28 p.m.

I hope that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) will not think that I am lacking in courtesy if I say that he seems to blow both hot and cold or, to put it in another way, he damns the subject with faint praise. Surely, he realises that people who emigrate from this country should not expect to find a Utopia when they arrive. I agree that they should be able to find accommodation and be reasonably housed, but they cannot expect Utopia. They are there to work for it. The great contribution which British people have made to the Commonwealth as a whole by going to these other countries to live has been in the work which they have done and the value of this work in consolidating the spirit of the Commonwealth.

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that that is equally true of immigrants into this country, without whom our economy would have suffered grievously?

I entirely agree. I hope that the House will accept that, at a time when there is a definite strain upon the new Commonwealth in both Africa and Asia, and at a time when Britain has been excluded from Europe, it is increasingly important to strengthen the links binding us with the old Commonwealth, our partners overseas who are basically from our own stock.

It is not just a matter of reducing the overcrowding in this small island by taking advantage of opportunities which exist elsewhere. Many other factors have their importance. For example, it can be shown that, wherever there has been an increased flow of emigrants of British stock to another country, there has been an increased flow of trade. In the last five years, emigration to Australia has not been running at a high level, and I notice that in the same five years the British share of the Australian market has declined by 4 per cent. whereas the American share has increased by 12 per cent., the Japanese share has increased by 180 per cent. and the West German share has increased by 96 per cent. Moreover, we should not forget that there are great opportunities in Australia and other expanding peoples will fill them if British do not. This should be borne in mind by the whole Commonwealth.

I quite agree that we should not expect only the best young men and women of Britain to go to other Commonwealth countries. Commonwealth countries must be prepared to absorb a reasonable cross-section of our population. In fact, this is what they do. If a Commonwealth country takes a British family, it expects to take some of the older generation as well as the younger.

In the past few years, Britain has had a net inward flow of people. There have been more immigrants into than emigrants from this country. This can be an asset. I am sitting between two immigrants at the moment, my hon. Friends the Members for Rye (Mr. God-man Irvine) and for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet), one from Canada and one from New Zealand. We all recognise the great, contribution they and other Commonwealth members render to this House. However, considering purely the question of area, it seems ridiculous that this small island, with a population of 52 million, should be receiving more people than it sends away to the vast under-populated lands of the rest of the Commonwealth.

I come now to the means by which we can encourage emigration from this country. There have already been references to the Commonwealth Settlement Act, and it has been pointed out that in the last year for which we have figures we spent £150,000 on assisted passages to Australia and £10,000 on maintenance allowances and so forth for child migrants. We find these figures in Table 13 of Cmnd. 2217, the Oversea Migration Board's Statistics for 1962.

Is this all we spent? We have the figures published by the Oversea Migration Board, but do they show all that we spent out of the total sum allotted of, I understand, £l½ million a year? If it is, it seems to reflect a lack of imagination on the part of the Government on this important subject.

The money could be used in many other ways. There have already been references to housing, and there is the example of what has been done by other European countries not so directly concerned with Commonwealth emigration as we should be.

There is also the question of the work of the Oversea Migration Board itself. It has been in existence now for about ten years. In 1960, it stopped making annual reports and in 1961 and 1962 published merely tables of statistics. Any Government office can do this. Yet I understand from a reply given in the other place last May, the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations said in answer to a Question, that
"the Oversea Migration Beard has not met in recent months because there have been no new schemes of emigration for it to consider."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 22nd May, 1963; Vol. 250, c. 281.]
The terms of reference of the Oversea Migration Board are surely to do exactly that, to make suggestions for new schemes of Commonwealth emigration. If the Board had not met for several months in that year, how often has it met since? I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is Chairman of the Board, will be able to tell us a little more than we can find out from the White Papers. How many times has the Board met in the last 12 months, and what constructive and positive work has it done?

I turn now to some of the principal Commonwealth countries. The population of Australia has increased from 7¾ million at the end of the Second World War to 11 million now. I understand that about 50 per cent. of Australians come from British stock. But, in 1962, according to the tables in the Command Paper to which I have referred, British emigration to Australia decreased, and so did our trade, by 4 per cent. I am sure that we are all glad to see the arrangements which the Board of Trade is making to hold trade fairs in Australia in the coming months. We wish them success.

In New Zealand about 75 to 80 per cent. of the population of only 2½ million are of British stock. Emigration to New Zealand has increased in the last few years, and so has its trade with this country. I understand that New Zealand purchases £50 worth of British goods per head of population, which is a record for any country in the world. In Canada the population has increased by 4 million since 1951. Here again the percentage of British stock is under 50 per cent. and it is decreasing. Only 10 per cent. of the people entering Canada since World War II have come from this country.

Southern Rhodesia—a wonderful country—needs to increase its population of British stock. I am sure that it would be agreed that if Southern Rhodesia had a more balanced population some of the political pressures which exist there today would decrease. There was an increase in emigration to the Federation just prior to its dissolution and I understand that about 450 people emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in the first month of this year and that about a third of them came from this country.

One can say that the wild stories that one hears of people pouring out from Southern Rhodesia because of certain political issues are not true, although they have some basis, because there was a building boom in Salisbury for many years. Now the country is over-built and people are going south to the Republic of South Africa, which is enjoying an all-time boom in building and many other sections of its economy. We must agree, I think, that Southern Africa has an important part to play in the future of Western civilisation. Therefore, we should encourage migration to that part of the world as much as we possibly can.

Finally, I wish to touch on a subject which has not been mentioned so far, and that is child migration. We all agree that Canada and Australia can offer opportunities to some of the younger members of our population which cannot be matched by the opportunities offered in this country. In this connection, I should like to refer to the Fairbridge Society and the schemes operated by it. We must always be careful when talking about emigration because it still seems to some people a hangover from the days when convicts went to Australia. The President of the Fairbridge Society is His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester and the Chairman is Viscount Slim. That gives a complete cachet to its standing and suitability.

This Society operates farming schemes in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania. It will take, not only the individual child, but also a family if it has lost one parent, or, in certain cases, if the family is very large, it will take both parents and the family. The object is to establish a new family in a new country.

One difficulty which springs to mind when talking about child migration is the detaching of the child, whatever opportunities may be offered to him, from his family and relations in this country in order to establish him in a country many thousands of miles away. That may cause certain strains to develop in its character. The Fairbridge scheme gets over this by taking the brothers and sisters, and even both parents in large families, and establishes the whole family in Australia.

It amazes me to learn that, instead of there being a long queue of people wishing to avail themselves of the opportunities offered by the Society, there is a number of vacancies today. I hope that this debate will serve in some way to publicise the opportunities offered by the Society in Australia.

I understand from Home Office pamphlets that there are 60,000 children in care in this country and that they are costing the country about £16 million a year. The average cost per child in care is £5 3s. 4d. per week. Of these, 19,500 are in local authority homes, where the cost per head goes up to over £10 a week. Surely, some of these children could be allowed an opportunity to take the advantaged offered by the Fairbridge scheme.

As I am a member of the Council of the Fairbridge Society, perhaps I can be of help to my hon. Friend about this aspect. I have been carefully into the question of children being available from the sources which my hon. Friend has mentioned. The first thing that emerges is that a great number of the children in care are there only temporarily owing to family difficulties, a great number are in due course adopted and a number are foster-children. There are, therefore, not a great many available.

May I add a sentence? Surely, the great problem is to encourage local authorities—I say this in no party political sense—and principally the London County Council, to be slightly more venturesome in this way, because this is a means whereby they could contribute to the solution of their own problem and also set up a new community overseas.

I am grateful for those two interventions. In reply to the second, I hope that one of the advantages of this debate will be that it draws the attention of local authorities to the openings that are offered.

I was coming to the aspect of which my hon. Friend the Member for Rye has spoken and I should like to quote a few figures. As my hon. Friend has said, most of the large number of 60,000 children are in care for only a short time. Fifteen thousand are in care because of the short-term illness of a parent or guardian and 10,000 because of the confinement of the mother. There are, however, over 300 with no parent or guardian, another 300 have been abandoned, 2,000 are illegitimate, 677 are in care because of the death of the mother and over 4,000 have been deserted by their mother. This makes a total of about 8,000, some of whom could well benefit by being able to adopt the advantages offered by migration to places such as Australia.

Four years ago, in April, 1960, the Joint Commonwealth Societies met together to discuss the question of migration. They passed unanimously the following resolution:
"That this conference believes that an increased flow of British migrants is a matter of supreme importance to the expanding Commonwealth. It calls upon the Government to adopt a more active course to increase this flow and asks that a greater proportion of the money voted by Parliament under the Commonwealth Settlement Act should be applied for the purpose for which it was created."
I believe that that resolution expresses the view of the House. The Government have found the money, but they should apply themselves more to seeing how it can be spent. We all wish to maintain our Commonwealth links and emigration is one of the best methods of so doing.

3.43 p.m.

In concluding the previous debate, the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations engaged in blatent electioneering. It is to the credit of the right hon. and learned. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) that he has dealt with his case dispassionately, clearly and concisely. He deserves our thanks and congratulations.

It is a good thing that the House of Commons should debate from time to time the important subject of emigration from Britain. The whole history of this Island and our place in the world has been based on the remarkable dispersal of the British people to other lands. The propensity to colonise will probably be seen in 500 years' time as the dominant feature of the British. I use the word "colonise" not in its bad sense of dominating other people, but in the sense of going across the world to settle in unknown countries.

Let us face it. The Englishman is a good coloniser and a bad one. He is good when he is in company with other immigrants building a little bit of England overseas. His ability to do that makes it all the more difficult for him, because sometimes he is unable to fit in with already established societies. Perhaps our friends the Scots are better in this respect than the English. They scatter over the whole world with their Burns societies and Caledonian clubs, but they manage to adopt the ways of the countries in which they live.

That is another matter, and I shall not be drawn into that argument.

There is still a strong impulse to emigrate to other countries and a desire for British immigrants into other countries, as no one can deny who has looked at the figures recently. In Canada, as the hon. Gentleman has already said, Britain's share of the total number of immigrants was for some years declining, certainly after the very high level of 1957, when the increase, we know, was caused by the Suez fiasco, but it is encouraging to find that whereas in 1962 we sent only 25,000 people to Canada, last year the figure rose to 40,000. This is very heartening. Australia, too, expects about 65,000 to go to that country this year, and about 55,000 of those will be assisted by the Australian Government.

There is to my regret, I must say, a flow of emigrants to the Republic of South Africa.

I should have thought the reason was obvious and I do not want to develop the matter, for there are other hon. Members who want to speak.

The question which I hope we shall discuss frankly and openly today is whether the British Government should discourage emigration or discourage it, or simply let it take its course according to their individual initiative and subject to inducements which Commonwealth Governments may wish to extend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why regret it?"] It is all very well to talk, but it is not an easy question. Do not be so rude. This was a civilised debate till you started to be rude.

I was under the impression that they were addressed to the hon. Member, but I hope that we shall get on, because there are many other hon. Members, who wish to speak, and these interruptions are just a waste of time.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was not addressing the remarks to you. I was really objecting to the hon. Member's interjections for the sake of other colleagues who want to speak today.

I was saying that this is not an easy question. On the one hand, we want to retain the closest possible relations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and emigration keeps our four countries bound together in those ties of blood which, I feel, will always be more important than legal institutions. On the other hand, we want to keep in this country the skills and initiative which potential emigrants possess.

This is not a country—or it should not be a country—where people find that there is no scope for their abilities and initiatives. I hope that there will always be a fair number of what I call positive emigrants—people who want to go for the love of change, of adventure, wanderlust, call it what we will. It will be a sad day when the British people do not have a fair sprinkling of such bright people in other parts of the world, but I do not want to see any negative emigration.

I do not want anyone leaving this country because the old country has had it, because he feels he cannot get on, because he does not wear the right tie, because he feels we have a class-ridden society still, or because it is not possible for an average working man to earn a dignified and comfortable living here. All of these are potent factors at present. We have got to stop all that. That is quite apart from the drain of our scientists and technicians away to countries where they can earn better salaries.

For myself, I shall be happy when I see the return flow of those people back to this country. But that cannot come about till we put this country back into a fit state to induce them back. Even then there will be emigration, perhaps as much as or more than at present, but emigrants then will be going to something and not from something, and I hope that that is an important difference. I think that is what we have to do, and the voters will have an opportunity to assist in that in a month or two's time. We have got to get this country right first.

Permanent emigration is of great assistance to our Commonwealth relations. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who underlined that.

But there is another part of this field which I should also like to see greatly expanded. These days, a large number of our young people spend a year or two abroad in their early twenties. Nothing can better cement our Commonwealth relations and help us to understand our Commonwealth partners than the practice of the young people going abroad and getting to know each other. I think that this will do more to consolidate these good Commonwealth relations than anything else.

There are others who could do this work. There are many engaged in business, and administrators, and I think that they, too, could gain from a period of a few years in another Commonwealth country. Emigration need not now be the boat-burning operation it once was. I should like to see a perpetual change, a kind of butterfly movement, so that we could bring in the Commonwealth and by this means join peoples who otherwise might remain in their own country and never move out, if it meant moving to a permanent residence.

I suppose that we are entitled to ask where the Government come in. First of all, it is the job of the Government to administer the economy and the social order of this country so that it is a good, prosperous and happy place in which to stay. Second, they should encourage all sorts of exchange of personnel, as I have suggested, for short periods. Lastly, they should place no obstacle in the way of other Commonwealth Governments who want to entice people to migrate to their lands, provided that we are not losing a significant part of our population with all its skills. My hon. Friend intended to say "either by brawn or by brain". I think we have to recognise that, although we want to keep our people here as far as possible, we ought not to place restrictions upon their moving if they wish to do so, because I believe that by this means we can gain and strengthen the ties of blood with the Commonwealth.

I have here a copy of the Oversea Migration Board's Report. I agree that it is not much of a Report; it is nothing but statistics, and even in this case it is guesswork. It seems odd that we cannot have a more accurate way of getting these figures. I hope that the fact that this has been mentioned in the Report and that the Minister has signed it will mean that there will be pressure on those Departments which are responsible. I suppose that in the case of the Home Office it will be said, "We are concerned only with those who come in", and that in the case of the Foreign Office it would be said, "Anybody who wants to leave the country can do so." But there ought to be some way in which we can collate the figures, and the suggestion in the Report that come-thing can be done in regard to air passengers ought to be followed up.

The Board, I am sure, was established in order to recommend schemes of emigration. I have looked through the list, as others must have done, and there does not appear to be a recommendation of any kind. As a matter of fact, when the Duke of Devonshire spoke in another place—he was the chairman of the Board at the time—he said that there would be a meeting of the Board if there was a request. That seems to be the wrong way of going about it. I should have thought that the Government would have taken the initiative. Not only ought they to ensure that there are meetings, but I suggest that they might even improve the Board by having other representatives upon it.

In this respect, I think of the migration councils of the Churches, bodies like the Fairbridge Society and similar ones which are associated with them. We know the good work of the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Methodists and the Salvation Army in this respect and I would try to enlist their help so that more could be done. Why should we not have members of other Commonwealth countries at least associated with the Board, if not as members of the Board? I believe that, by this means, we could get more positive development of migration between this country and the Commonwealth, both ways.

The Government, who have always professed to be Empire-minded, have not done what one would have expected them to do. I am informed that, since the end of the war, the United Kingdom Government have spent about £8½ million on the assisted emigration scheme. The overwhelming part of it—£7 million—was spent by the Labour Government. One would have thought that this in itself would have been an inspiration to the present Government. I urge them to do more about Commonwealth migration.

4.55 p.m.

"There is no article of food, there is no raw material of your trade, there is no necessity of your lives, no luxury of your existence which cannot be produced somewhere or other in the British Empire if the British Empire holds together, and if we who have inherited it are worthy of our opportunities."
Those were the words used by Joseph Chamberlain in 1903, so the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) will forgive me for mentioning the British Empire. I repeat:
"…if we who have inherited it are worthy of our opportunities."
I ask the Government whether they are worthy of the opportunities which have fallen to them.

On 6th November, 1963, my hon. Friend signed the Report of the Oversea Migration Board in which, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, he referred to figures gained by guesswork. The Report was presented to this House proposing no positive policy, merely recording past facts. A few days later, we had the White Paper on Central Scotland, the White Paper on the North-East and, only this week, the White Paper on South-East England. Is it not time we had a population policy for the Commonwealth? I again repeat:
…if we who have inherited it are worthy of our opportunities."
I ask the Government to consider seriously whether they are matching up to the opportunities available to them so to plan a strategy for Commonwealth population policy as to make the best use of the assets of this nation, not just in terms of internal movement of population from the South to the North or from Wales to Scotland, or whatever it may be, but in terms of disposing our material assets for the further propagation of our way of life.

I suggest that, since the war, this country has failed to think sufficiently positively about a Commonwealth trade and population policy. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) referred to a "brain drain" I regard the export of people from this country to the Commonwealth not as a loss to this country, but as a positive gain for the, Commonwealth, for each person—indeed, each family—who goes abroad is not necessarily a loss, but the opening up of a new market in an expanding Commonwealth.

That is why I believe that we should, which ever party is in power, have a positive population policy for the Commonwealth. Of course, there are details of housing, of financing the movement. There are hesitations about providing cash, either directly from Government sources or through building societies for providing the first necessity of life in an overseas country—housing. But these hesitations could be overcome. As has been said already, these are practical problems which, in the sophisticated atmosphere of the Commonwealth of the 1960s, can be talked out between friends.

I would have thought that the absence of policy in this Report of the Oversea Migration Board, Statistics for 1962, was symptomatic of the lack of positive thinking in Commonwealth terms by the Government. I particularly ask my hon. Friend to reply to the comments of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East on the guesswork in getting statistics. We all know that the Board has been hammering on this subject for years. Surely, as Chairman of the Board, my hon. Friend can now report that the Government intend to take more positive action to solve this problem. If it means legislation, let us know; if it means Statutory Instruments, let us know; but if it can be done by administrative action, surely we can have a declaration here today.

I understand that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) would like to take part in the debate and I will, therefore, curtail my remarks to my first point: if we who have inherited the Commonwealth are to be worthy of our inheritance we should have a more positive policy for Commonwealth migration.

4.1 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) for cutting what he had to say so short. I must do the same. I understand that the Under-Secretary would like to speak at five minutes past four and I shall, therefore, be as brief as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South.

I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) on initiating the debate, but I think that he attempted to oversimplify a little. My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) posed a number of problems which have interested those of us who think about these things; for instance, the problem of what to do when it is found that many of our ablest and best people are going away—whether to let them, or encourage them, and so on.

For my own part, I should like to encourage them and I shall briefly say what my own interest in encouraging emigration is. I am not interested in counting heads and I would not agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South about a population policy for the Commonwealth. But I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) about passing on some of the ideas which make up our way of life. I do not agree with him that we should do it in a temporary sense. I do not want people to go to the Commonwealth for a short time and then return. I should be happy to see some of our key people in skilled occupations and in professional and administrative jobs going to the Commonwealth, both the new and the old, settling there and being creative in their work.

I will give just one illustration of what I have in mind. I am not enough of a student of history to know, but I am told that when the large influx of the Irish arrived in the American colonies, at roughly the same time as many other immigrants from other countries, there was one thing the Irish had which was different from the experience of others—some understanding and some knowledge of how elective machinery worked, what voting was and, in a rough and ready sense, what democracy was. Many of the other people in the Colonies did not know. For that reason the Irish were a spearhead in the building up of democratic institutions. That is as simple an illustration as I can give.

Our people are accustomed to a particular kind of academic freedom and if they settled in countries like Canada and Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth, they would take with them our ideas of academic freedom. I cannot feel any sadness about what is called the "brain drain", even when it goes out of the Commonwealth to the United States, because in so many respects the United States is so close to us in interest, destiny, habits, nature.

On the other side, I would expect there to be a compensating movement with ideas coming to us in the same way as ideas go from us and those people who return coming back with some absorption of ideas from their temporary colleagues overseas. But if they stay we shall be compensated by others coming from Canada, Australia and the United States, who can show us that our notions of academic life are not the only ones. I strongly believe in the creative value of a movement of ideas, both for ourselves and for the Commonwealth.

The money allocated by the Commonwealth Settlement Act should be spent. A few years ago, when the Under-Secretary was a back bencher, he suggested that one of the ways in which money should be spent was in research. I agree. We need further research into how the money can be spent to improve housing. Evidently some people are in difficulties, and unhappy. What is the best way to relieve this situation? So far, the Government have explained the difficulties. We want to know how they can be overcome.

In the same way, money could be spent in working out methods of making it easier for our local authorities to feel that when a child emigrated to one of the Fairbridge schools it would not be out of their care. Their difficulty arises from the fact that they feel responsible for these children and do not want to appear as tough they are shuffling them on to other people's shoulders. We want. to devise methods by which we can make certain that they will be able to keep in touch continually with the children, and will always be able to ensure that youngsters are being well looked after.

I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words in this debate.

4.6 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies
(Mr. R. P. Hornby)

I am sorry to have to rise before some of my hon. Friends have had an opportunity to speak, especially as two of them come from Commonwealth countries, one from New Zealand and one from Canada. We need only my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) to have a round table of Commonwealth Members who wish to speak.

I very much welcome the debate, because we are all aware of the important part that migration has played in the history of the Commonwealth. I am aware of the interest taken in the subject by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) and other hon. Members on both sides of the House, many of whom have signed an early day Motion relating to the subject.

I share the wish expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to see Commonwealth links strengthened in every way. I agree with him that migration is one of the things that can play an important part in that respect. I also agree that we have a domestic reason for taking an interest in this subject, namely, the problem of congestion that we have to face in some parts of the country. For all those reasons I welcome this interesting and timely debate.

The best thing that I can do is to deal with the points raised by hon. Members and also to sketch out the main lines of Government policy in this matter, but first I want to make one point which is absolutely crucial and essential to the subject. Emigration—the choosing of a place where one is to live, probably for the rest of one's days—is an intensely personal decision. It is not essentially a Government decision. Every prospective emigrant must weigh up for himself the advantages and disadvantages of living here or going elsewhere.

One factor which must be taken into account as part of the background to this debate—and it is not a matter of party dispute—is that, generally speaking, we are proud of the standards of life of our people. Conditions in England today are very different from those which produced what one might call the heyday of emigration in the 19th century, admittedly with all that it meant for the long-term good of the Commonwealth. Those conditions from which the emigration statistics over the years have been built were very different.

I now turn to the main lines of Government policy. We recognise the advantages—to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred—which emigration can bring in strengthening links with the Commonwealth and promoting Commonwealth trade. Of course it is a help if there are many people in overseas countries of the Commonwealth whose roots, whose language and whose affections come from Britain. Of course it is a help if those same people retain their affections for Britain and in rising in their industrial, commercial or agricultural life in new countries wish to continue to do business with Britain. Of course, therefore, it is a help to our trade.

I make one point on the matter of trade. We should beware of pressing that argument too far, as I thought was done to some extent in one of the speeches in this debate. Trading conditions for British industry all over the world, whether in Commonwealth or foreign countries, are intensely competitive. We trade, not on Commonwealth favour, but on the quality of what we produce. This is how both British industry and our Commonwealth customers would wish it to be.

Our migration policy is based on three main factors. First, we have to recognise that the flow of migrants depends primarily on the absorption capacity of the receiving countries. We would do neither ourselves nor the prospective migrants any good if we were to press for rates of emigration which led to conditions of inflation, unemployment or severe housing problems such as were mentioned by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen).

Secondly, we have to take into account the free choice—I emphasise the word "free"—of individual people. It is not for us to compel them either to stay or to go. Thirdly, it should remain our policy to give such help and assistance as we feel able to provide to Commonwealth migration bearing in mind the needs of those who may want to go, the needs of the receiving countries, and also the needs of the people who will be staying behind in this country.

In pointing out what has been happening, I shall try not to give the House too many figures but I shall give the salient ones. They add up to the fact that a steady flow of people has been going from Britain to the Commonwealth since the war, numbering at the end of 1963 1,470,000. The figures have risen steadily. The figures for Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 1961 were, in round figures, 67,000. In 1962 they were 71,000. In 1963—an approximate figure as the final total is not yet in—they were 86,000. Over the last five years Canada has taken 20 per cent. of her immigrants from Britain, Australia about 35 per cent. and New Zealand about 45 per cent.

Although I recognise that these percentages are not so high as some of my hon. Friends would have hoped for, they are no mean figures when we remember that about 50 per cent. of immigrants between the ages of 20 and 44 were educated at Britain's expense and were in the prime of their working life. I emphasise this as a substantial achievement because we have to recognise that it has been done at no small cost to ourselves. The receiving countries are no longer today merely concerned with numbers. They are highly selective. They want skilled people and semi-skilled people, young and active but not old people. To quote just one example, the majority of those now going overseas come from the skilled and semi-skilled of our construction and manufacturing industries, precisely the people of which this country is in urgent need here and now.

This is terribly important. Surely my hon. Friend knows that all three of the countries with which we are concerned accept the family, and if necessary three generations, as the unit of immigration.

I must point out that the bulk of those going and the bulk of those to whom the advertisements which have been referred to in the debate are directed, are the skilled, the young and the active, people who are urgently needed here. We must realise that these figures of migration, which we welcome, are figures which are achieved at a cost to our own economy. I say deliberately that we welcome very much the fact that so many are going. If any hon. Member doubts that fact, I would like to mention the facilities which we give to the receiving countries through the 900 offices of the Ministry of Labour, which make their services available to Canada, Australia and New Zealand for the distribution of migration literature and for the arrangement of interviews.

I realise that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite feel that, despite the numbers going and the help which we give, we none the less are doing too little. In particular it has been mentioned that insufficient use is made of our powers under the Commonwealth Settlement Acts.

I would like to make clear one or two points about that Act. First, that Act or series of Acts is the means whereby Her Majesty's Government may con- tribute to the migration schemes of Commonwealth countries or of other public or private bodies. It was never the intention of those Acts that they should be the means of initiating migration schemes from this country without the initiative first coming from other bodies.

Secondly, I would like to take up the point about the amount which we spend. It is not factually correct to say that we are underspending the amount voted by Parliament. The position is that the £l½ million mentioned in that Act is a ceiling figure, deliberately set as a ceiling, above which expenditure on such schemes as might be proposed may not rise. The amount to be spent each year is the amount which Parliament annually may approve for expenditure on any individual scheme which may then be proposed. The facts are that Canada and New Zealand have not at any time since the war sought agreements with us under these Acts, and our impression has been that they prefer to finance and operate their own migration policies without financial assistance from us.

Australia's case is rather different. I would now like to mention this briefly. The bulk of our financial assistance under the Commonwealth Settlement Act in fact goes to Australia and it goes in two ways—in the contribution which we make to the assisted passages scheme, the details of which the House is aware of, and also in the contribution which we make to various child migration societies. I think that the House should beware of assuming too readily that, if we were to increase the amount which we contribute to the assisted passages scheme, an increase of migrants to Australia would automatically follow. The House may like to know that the British quota under the assisted passages scheme was 35,000 in 1962–63 and 45,000 for the current financial year, and that has been increased still further to 55,000 to July of this year. These are record figures and I hope that my hon. Friends and others will take encouragement from them, as we do. We have, by and large, filled our quota. A total of 46,989 people left Britain under the scheme in 1963, and contrary to what has been suggested, it is not true to say that over the years there have been large queues building up for the assisted passage scheme. There have been variations from time to time but, by and large, those who have wanted to go have been able to go.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine) was, I understand, perfectly correct in saying in his intervention about the Child Migration Scheme that the problem was that there had been a sharp falling off in the number of children taken into care, who were available and anxious to take part in the Scheme. We welcome the work that has and is being done by the voluntary societies and the new branching out of their activities into slightly different spheres of this work.

Appreciating that another subject is to be debated after this, I am sure that hon. Members are anxious that some time should remain for that discussion to take place. I would not like to close, however, without saying a word about housing, the importance of which I recognise, and the bearing it has on the rate at which the receiving countries can absorb immigrants. Reference was also made to the Oversea Migration Board. The terms of reference of the Board are such that it is for the Board to consider such schemes as may be put to it by the Secretary of State, and if individual members of the Board wish to raise points for discussion it is open to them to ask for a meeting. The Board last met in November of last year.

I was also questioned about migration statistics and the amount of information that can be made available. From the beginning of this year our statistics will be based on a 4 per cent. sample of incoming passengers and a 7 per cent. sample of outward passengers covering both long sea voyages and air routes. I hope that these statistics, which are on a sizeable scale, will give hon. Members, who have criticised the statistics available, a greater degree of confidence.

I welcome the discussion we have had on this subject and the opportunity of repeating that we are ready, as always, to consider any specific proposals which Commonwealth Governments may wish to put forward. I recognise that the proportion of British migrants is not as high as it once used to be, but this reflects changing circumstances both in this country and in other countries with emigrant populations. When the House considers what is now being done, bearing in mind the numbers who are leaving Britain, the cost of their education here, the loss they represent in skill and the gain they represent to the receiving countries, I am sure that hon. Members will not wish to belittle too much the contribution which is being made to the strengthening of Commonwealth links by emigration today.

Still less will hon. Members wish to belittle it when they remember that in addition to those going out to settle, there are countless numbers of people who leave this country for limited periods, perhaps under the Overseas Service Aid Scheme, and those who go abroad in employment in private industry. In all these ways we are anxious to adapt our policies as best we can to the wishes of individuals, other Commonwealth Governments and the needs of our own economy, remembering that our economy is dependent on our trade throughout the world, especially with the Commonwealth.