HC Deb 13 June 1950 vol 476 cc48-105

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

Before I rose in the hope of catching your eye, Major Milner, I felt that, after the remarks made by the Prime Minister, I ought to have come here today armed with the most specific proposals on this matter, and then I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations might have definite and specific proposals to put before us this afternoon. In the last half-hour there has been a certain amount of controversy from all sides of the House, and, if I might do something to unite the Committee, perhaps it might be useful if I were to indicate now that, on this particular item, my hon. Friends and myself do not feel that it will be necessary to divide the Committee, but that, rather, we might look forward on another occasion to defeating the Government. Doubtless, the opportunity will arise during this week.

I am sure hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee will wish to join with me in saying how happy we were to know that the Secretary of State will shortly be making a visit to Australia and New Zealand, returning via Canada. We feel quite sure that his visit will be useful, will be of value to the right hon. Gentleman in the discharge of his high office and, indeed, will be most pleasurable for him personally. The only danger that I see is that he is likely to be killed with kindness, but I see that his immediate neighbour on the Front Bench is the right hon. Lady who is now in charge of the Ministry of National Insurance. As she was able to survive that experience, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be equally capable of coming back here safe and sound, even if he does weigh something more on his return.

It is opportune that we should discuss this matter, which is of great importance, because it is a long time since we had a Debate on it. Indeed, the last statement on the subject was made, I believe, in the White Paper of 1944. A great deal has taken place since the appearance of that White Paper. There has been a change in the whole strategic context of the problem of world defence. At the time when the White Paper was issued, we looked forward to permanent friendship with Russia and to the United Nations being a more lasting and permanent influence in world affairs than is our experience at the present time. Therefore, these matters must be considered by the right hon. Gentleman during his journey.

There are other matters which equally need consideration now. The White Paper of 1944 was prepared at a time when the thoughts of everybody were on the return of their own ex-Service men to the countries which they had left in order to discharge their military duties. The problem confronting this country and all the Dominions, in those days of the White Paper, was the problem of how to get our own men back to their own homes, reestablish them in civil life and find houses for them to live in. What happened was that the soldier came back from abroad, and no sooner was he home than he married the girl of his choice. Naturally, they wanted a home of their own, but it was not possible then to provide the houses. The same thing took place in the Dominions overseas, although they were more fortunate in having rather different Ministers of Health from those we have had in this country since the war.

The time has now come when this matter should be reviewed again by the Dominions, and I hope that one result of this Debate will be to focus attention on it in order to enable the right hon. Gentleman very seriously to consider, in consultation with the Dominions, whether the time is not now ripe for the issue of a further statement on Government policy regarding emigration, by way of a White Paper or in some other way, which would clearly show how the Government are thinking on this question.

There are certain thoughts which must be in the minds of each and every one of us. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has put one forward very bluntly. It is whether these islands can maintain 50 million people at their present standard of living and in full employment. Equally, there is the fact that the Dominions continue to possess, undeveloped and unutilised, their undoubted resources; and there is the pressure of population which exists in some parts of the world and the desire for expansion, development and making use of all possible opportunities.

When considering the Dominions, it is fair to say that the principal ones to which we must automatically turn when we think in terms of emigration—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia—would most definitely be advantaged by a regular and definite increase in the numbers of their populations. It would be rather more difficult to argue that we would sustain as heavy a loss if there were to be an orderly migration from these shores. I rather dislike the way in which this question of the movement of population between one part of the Empire and another is often discussed. Some people say, "Can we afford to let our people go?" I do not think that is the way in which this problem should be approached.

We must realise, as I am sure the Committee does realise, that the Empire and Commonwealth is one unity, and that it is as cheap, if, indeed, it is not actually cheaper, to move goods from London to Sydney than it is to move them from New York to San Francisco. There is less difficulty in doing the latter. Certainly, the natural, physical barriers are no greater, and, therefore, we must not think of people who are leaving this country for overseas as representing a loss to this country, but must rather pay regard to the better distribution of our population as a positive and definite gain to all parts of the Empire. I believe that one of the most useful things that might result from our Debate today would be an assurance of the determination of the Government to do all it possibly can to make it easy for people, for business and for trade to flow freely and uninterruptedly through all the countries which owe a common allegiance to His Majesty.

I find that I have used the word "Empire" on more occasions than is perhaps customary nowadays, but I confess that this is a link with the occasion when I visited Australia and New Zealand. The Government Chief Whip will remember how eager we were to conform to the wishes of our Dominion hosts, and that some of us were very punctilious never to use the word "Empire." But, having trained ourselves very hard to do so over a period of time, we found that among large sections of New Zealanders and Australians it was a word which they used with pride, and I use it, therefore in the sense in which it would be used by a New Zealander or an Australian.

We must try to secure this movement within the Empire in the freest possible way, because emigration is no new thing. Since the 17th century there has been a tide and a movement, usually outward, from these islands to other parts of the world with inestimable advantage to ourselves and also to the countries to which our kinsfolk have gone. Of course, things are a little different today from what they used to be. In the past, people used to move from these shores on a very personal and independent basis. My own grandparents were among the early emigrants to New Zealand, travelling at their own expense with a family of 12 children all under 16, and baking their own bread on the voyage. I do not think we would wish to see that sort of thing come back, but we want to know that there is now just the same ease of movement as before.

In this age in which we live an attempt must be made by the Governments of the Dominions as well as by the Government of this country to see that there is a movement of a fair cross-section of the population. As we are placed in this country, we cannot afford to lose only our younger age groups. They are, I know, the groups which all countries who look for emigrants immediately select, but we cannot exclusively lose those groups. Nor, indeed, can we view with particular pleasure the loss of skilled farmers and farm workers, and, at the present time, we can ill afford the loss of skilled building and engineering operatives unless, at the same time, there is a movement overseas of those dependent on them.

When I say that, I mean dependent in two ways. The first is in the family sense, that is to say, wherever possible there must be family emigration. The children and the elderly must accompany those of the working section. Secondly, they must be dependent in the social and the economic sense. There must be a movement of the transport worker together with the bricklayer, of the lawyer with the hospital nurse. There must be a unity—a cross-section must move overseas.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Not many lawyers have gone.

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman says that not many lawyers have gone. I believe there are some very competent lawyers in Australia anyway, but, nevertheless, they could still make a useful contribution to Australia.

Much can be done if we ensure the full interchangeability of social insurance throughout the Empire. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say how far this has gone at the present time, and whether he is taking energetic steps to develop it wherever possible. It is not a matter that can be dealt with entirely in terms of ordinary accountability of money. There must be an acceptance of the broad principle that a person normally qualified to receive insurance benefit in this country would be similarly qualified and entitled to benefit throughout all the Dominions where such schemes exist.

Any debate on matters concerning the Dominions and the Commonwealth almost invariably develops into a Cook's tour from one Dominion to another. I hope I shall be forgiven if, having tried very hard to avoid it, I find that pattern almost forced upon me. I look back—and I think that all of us in this House should—to the admirable work done by the late Minister for Immigration in the Australian Government who ardently believed and did much to ensure that the population of that great continent should be increased. We are happy to know that under the new Prime Minister there is a similar enthusiasm for immigration, and, particularly, for the entry into Australia of British stock. When we consider these matters, we always ask, what is the ultimate population which Australia has in mind? I am sure that when the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was there, he asked what was the optimum population of Australia. I put that question on many occasions and received many different answers. The figure varied from 15 million to 50 million, but every figure showed a large and substantial increase over the present population.

Australia is definitely eager to increase her population, and is most anxious that the largest increase should come from people of British stock. The idea of a white Australia is not a matter which can be argued in Australia. It is an article of faith which one must accept. Indeed, anyone having dealings with that country knows how keen she is to avoid the difficulties that have arisen in other parts of the world over questions of colour. However, I hope that in the development of some of their territories, our Australian friends will cast their eyes on some of those other Colonies, such as Malta, which have a long tradition of loyalty to the Crown and which have populations larger than can be comfortably accommodated within their own confines.

What else can we do to assist Australia in these matters? We do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to give us any information about the availability of shipping. It may be that there has been a satisfactory increase in shipping during recent months, but my own feeling is that we have not been quite so progressive as we might have been in placing shipping accommodation at the disposal of the Australian Government. In view of the diminution of orders in our own shipbuilding yards, it might very well be that, in consultation with the Australians, we could place orders for additional vessels to be built in this country and to be utilised for the conveying of people overseas.

The problem of Australia is that in two wars she has felt the lack of secondary industries and is determined to build up such industries with all possible speed. Those of us who have seen Australian industries, know how efficient they are. I believe that by assisting Australia to build up her secondary industries we shall be providing markets for our own manufactured goods. The technical, large-scale machines that will be required will, I believe, find a very ready market in Australia.

Before leaving the question of Australia, there is one other point I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. Nobody examining that great continent can fail to note the comparative scarcity of towns with populations of between 30,000 and 80,000 people. There are either the big populations in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, or, alternatively, the smaller populations in the very small towns, or, indeed, right out on the sheep stations. I wonder whether anything will be done to ensure that the population emigrating from these islands will go to new towns of roughly that size, which are regarded as being most suitable for a full and sufficient social life, based on industries taken from this country and thus forming almost a colony of Old England in the heart of Australia. They would thus avoid much of the home-sickness and also some of the difficulties of abrupt acclimatisation in great cities on the one hand or the loneliness of Australia's countryside on the other.

New Zealand is a country of which I could speak for a long time, but I should be trespassing on the time of the Committee if I did so. All I would say is that the problem of New Zealand is as great as that of Australia, and her desire to increase her population from these shores is equally strong. The numbers required are not as great, but the proportionate increase desired is exactly the same. In discussing New Zealand we really must pay a tribute to the magnificent schemes which the New Zealand Government have operated in the past, under which so many of the people who have travelled there on assisted and sponsored passages have been absorbed within the New Zealand economy and under which so very few have returned. It is a matter for which the New Zealand Government should be thanked and praised.

I prefer to leave the problem of Rhodesia and other parts to hon. Gentlemen who have far greater experience than I have, hut I should be neglecting my duty in opening this Debate if I were not to refer to the problem of Canada. This is a special and great matter to which this Committee should give the greatest possible attention at this moment. The problems confronting Canada and confronting this country in her relations with Canada must be solved. We have in Canada a member of the dollar area bordered by the United States, with very rapid access across the common frontier. So easy indeed is the common frontier, that I believe there is quite a steady drift southwards of Canadians to the more easy climatic conditions of the United States.

Canada has a population of 12 million only, giving a density of 3.3 per square mile, compared with 507 in the United Kingdom. She is a Dominion capable of supporting a far greater number of people than she has ever supported up to now. She has enormous undeveloped resources, with a cultivable area only half of which has yet been brought under cultivation and enormous possibilities of expansion in forestry, minerals, oil and coal reserves. There is no doubt at all that these will be developed in the quite near future.

The question which is confronting this House and the Dominion of Canada is who will be the partner, of Canada in this development. In Canada is the point where the United Kingdom and the United States very largely learn to understand one another. That may, indeed, be the great and glorious mission of Canada. It is an amazing thing that there is there a currency in terms of dollars and cents, reminiscent of America, while every stamp carries the head of the same King who is King of the United Kingdom.

Present figures are rather disturbing. If we are going to play our part in Canada there must be some greater movement towards that Dominion from this country. Over 360,000 people went to Canada in the first four years after the war. Since then there has been a substantial fall. I cannot help feeling that a great deal of it is due to the restriction on the transfer of currency which exists at present. There is a £1,000 limit on the transfer of currency. This is one of the greatest possible mistakes. It penalises young people. There are many young people in this country who have secured or saved £1,000 or more but, under this restriction, they are having to split their capital.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)

My hon. Friend might just clarify that point a little. The sum is £1,000, but migrants cannot take it out all at once. It is spread over four years, and that makes it far worse. I did not want my hon. friend to think they could draw £1,000 at once.

Mr. Butcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for assisting me and clarifying this point. It takes a brave man to convert £250 into dollars and use that as his sole resource in landing in a new country in which he is unknown. It is time some action was taken on the lines of the letter to "The Times" by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) in which it was suggested there might be a migration loan to assist people in these matters. These restrictions prevent the elders moving to be near their children. We prevent the Dominion—and this is the only Dominion against which we discriminate—

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)

The only dollar Dominion.

Mr. Butcher

The right hon. Gentleman says it is the only dollar Dominion. I am quite sure he and his Government must take steps to ensure that people in this country who are thrifty and who, for personal reasons, wish to move to any Dominion are not held back by Treasury regulations. The Government should so order their affairs that there can be free movement of people to any Dominion they choose. We are looking forward to hearing from the right hon. Gentleman that, as the dollar position improves—and his Government tell us it is improving—the Government, as a first step, will restore the limit to £5,000 to be taken out in far larger sums.

We hope that that will not be regarded as the completion of the job but will be regarded as one step towards ensuring full transferability of persons and of cash in the case of genuine migrants from this country to any Dominion of their choice. I believe that that, perhaps, will be the greatest point of controversy between the right hon. Gentleman and those who may follow me in this Debate. All sections of the House are united in a desire to ensure that in these Dominions there is a full transfer of freedom and of population and of ideas from one section to the other.

Years and years ago, there went out from these shores people who founded 13 Colonies on the other side of the Atlantic and from that developed the great United States of America. The development of that great country was our salvation on more than one occasion. Indeed, we are still constantly receiving help from them. But there are other parts of the world which should and could benefit equally by the flow of people from these shores.

So I come back to where I started by saying to the right hon. Gentleman that we wish him well on his journeys overseas. We believe he has a post in which he can do much to spread the ideals of liberty and of freedom wider and wider throughout the whole of the Dominions—Dominions of which we form a part. We believe we are not several countries but one great unit, and that the prosperity of each part is only a part of the prosperity of the whole.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)

I should like to begin by congratulating the National Liberal wing of the Opposition upon bringing up this important subject for discussion today. I should also like to comment on the solidarity of the support of that party which results in a rather higher proportion of attendance than is perhaps usual in some of our other Debates. As this is a short Debate, which I understand is due to conclude towards the hour of 7 o'clock, it is obviously not possible to go into any great detail, and if I do not weary the Committee in that way but confine myself to a few broad generalisations, I hope it will not be taken as an indication that argument is lacking for the proposals which I wish to put forward.

It would be unrealistic and useless to discuss the subject of emigration in an academic vacuum. It must be related to the wider overall policy which we intend pursuing in this country in the future. For instance, in the first place it would be possible for this country to give up the race in world affairs and to accept the position of a tiny island off North-Eastern Europe. That would inevitably lead, without any action on the part of the Government, to a mass emigration of all the young, virile and adventurous sections of the population to other parts of the world.

We should be left in this country with a very small population, perhaps 10 million or 12 million or so, consisting of a few craftsmen keeping alive some of the old industries which have made this country famous, and perhaps a considerable number of hotels to cater for the American and other tourists. In this event our national wealth would lie in our possession of Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, Stratford-on-Avon and one or two other national features. But for the rest, this country would become a small, widely dispersed agricultural community. That is one aspect of emigration. If by our wider policy we were to accept that position in world affairs, then without any governmental action whatsoever the population of this country would be run down in the course of a few generations to something like that which I have described. But I am sure that there are few hon. Members who would willingly contemplate a future of that sort.

So I turn to another possibility, which is for this country to take its part in the full integration of Western Europe. That is a matter which was discussed indirectly before this Debate started. Obviously if we were to pursue that policy there would be no place for emigration at all. There would be the need for an intense industrial development which would provide work for every pair of hands in this country, subject to any fluctuations of fortune in Europe over which we would have little control. Again, I think that such a policy is not very promising. I notice that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) wished to discuss an excellent pamphlet which first saw the light of day only this morning.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

I did not call it excellent.

Mr. Adams

I am very well aware that the right hon. Gentleman has not had time to study it in detail, and so I am applying the adjective which is most appropriate after a full examination of the facts contained in it. I am certain that excellent booklet is a useful indication of the way in which the Labour Party is thinking. When the right hon. Gentleman has had time to read it he will find clearly set forth the fact that we on this side of the Committee realise our responsibilities in the Commonwealth and we realise that the future of this country does not lie in complete integration into a European economy. Our whole history makes that impossible. This country has an important part to play as a link between Western Europe, the Commonwealth and the United States of America. We cannot play that part if we have sunk our identity completely in Western Europe.

Mr. Baxter

The hon. Gentleman must not think that that view is held only on his side of the Committee.

Mr. Adams

I am well aware, or I hope, that that view is held by all people who have taken the time to examine the problems that are involved, but the hon. Member will agree that a great many hon. Members who have spoken in this House and outside have given the impression that the future of this country lies in being integrated with Western Europe. I say that to sink our identity in that way would be almost to commit suicide.

I turn to the third alternative, which to my mind offers the greatest future for this country. This is a new conception or a new development of the Commonwealth, for it is there and there alone that emigration has an important part to play. Unlike the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher), although I appreciate the point that he made in regard to Australia, I do not intend from now on to refer to the Commonwealth and Empire. I prefer to refer solely to the Commonwealth, because that is what it is. It is a matter of bringing into a fuller state of responsibility those dependent Colonies which have so often been referred to as the Empire, and bringing them more and more into line with the self-governing Dominions. I think the future lies in the development of the Commonwealth as a single entity. That involves the best disposition of all our economic forces, including manpower. It is that subject which requires a great deal of further study.

I believe that the greatness of this country lies in the full development of the Commonwealth as a single entity; I believe, moreover, that that entity can make the best contribution to world security and to social happiness. But there are a number of points which have to be considered in connection with such a development. Take, first of all, the important question of defence strategy. I do not consider that we can make the best contribution to peace in the world or in Europe by standing in the front line in Europe itself. I believe that the resources of this country and of the Commonwealth as a whole can best be used as a valuable reserve and as an outpost of defence. That has been our rôle in the past and I think fuller consideration should be given to it in the light of possible developments.

Again we have this question of the economic development of all our resources. What we have to ask ourselves is where best can existing manpower be used. That can only be decided by consultation and discussion among all the members of the Commonwealth. Instead of busying ourselves discussing the Schuman Plan for the beginning of the integration of Europe, we ought to be busy discussing with our fellow members of the Commonwealth how best our industries can be developed in the Commonwealth as a whole. We ought to consider where the iron and steel industry could best be developed from the strategic and economic points of view. We ought to consider whether manpower can best be used in this country, or to develop certain products in Canada or new projects in Rhodesia or Australia.

These are some of the wide problems which we can discuss only in a general way today, but which we ought to be discussing at the present time. If we were to apply ourselves with relentless efficiency to a solution of such problems as these, we could once again make the Commonwealth a great trading area, with this country as a clearing house between the Commonwealth, Western Europe and United States of America. To my mind that holds the biggest possibility of future greatness for this country.

If we are to undertake that venture, if we are to do our best to develop the Commonwealth as a single entity, politically, economically and strategically, then we need an over-all Commonwealth plan. We must not be content simply to look at this problem of emigration from the point of view of this country or from the point of view of Australia or of any other single Dominion; the whole problem of migration, together with these other problems I have mentioned, must be studied by a central conference or committee. Those old Botany Bay days have gone for ever—the days when we exported convicts from this country to other parts of the Empire.

These problems must be discussed equally between ourselves and the other parts of the Commonwealth. There must be a new sharing of responsibility. Such things as defence costs must be shared fairly between all parts of the Commonwealth in the proportion to which they are able to bear them. The days are rapidly passing when this country can prepare and subsidise defence plans involving the protection of the whole Commonwealth.

What I have said about defence costs also applies to the National Debt. If, in agreement with other parts of the Commonwealth, this country is prepared to see 100,000 workers or more go to more profitable projects overseas, then those countries which accept the workers must be prepared also to accept a corresponding share in such items as the National Debt and the social services of this country After all, our ability to bear the National Debt is based upon our ability to produce wealth in this country. If, as part of a voluntary agreement, we encourage workers to go to other corners of the Commonwealth, then those countries must be prepared, as a quid pro quo, to give us some support in the debts which remain in this country.

The same problem arises with the social services. The problem which confronts this country perhaps more than anything else is the problem of the increasing proportion of old-age pensioners in the total population. We can visualise younger and more energetic members of the population going to other parts of the Commonwealth only if they are able to carry with them some responsibility for the National Insurance Scheme in this country. I do not want to weary the House unduly on this subject, but I must point out that these two or three items which I have mentioned are some indication of the fact that we ought to do some over-all planning of migration if we are to go in for it at all, and that our responsibility and interest does not end with dispatching a shipload of would-be emigrants to some other part of the Commonwealth, but that such problems as those which I have mentioned must be considered in relation to the Commonwealth as a whole.

What I have said about the transfer of responsibilities also applies to the transfer of certain rights of the individual. It ought to be possible in the future to arrange such matters as pensions and superannuation rights on a Commonwealth basis. It ought to be possible for an engineer to do a term of duty of five or six years in, say, Kenya and then to transfer for 10 years or so to Australia; then, perhaps, to come back to this country, and eventually to make up his mind to retire in the West Indies. It ought to be possible for him to carry his superannuation rights through those different jobs and in those different parts of the Commonwealth so that he is left perfectly free in his decision about where he is to retire.

I turn to the last point I want to make in this connection. If we are to have a successful emigration policy we must look to the development of our air and sea transport. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that today one can travel from here to Australia or any other part of the Commonwealth just as quickly as 200 years ago a man could travel from Scotland down to this great city. Time and distance are being annihilated by modern inventions and we must be ready to take full advantage of them. In the days of Botany Bay, as I said a few moments ago, a man was despatched from this country to Australia and his connection with this country was ended; he became an inhabitant of Australia. That is no longer true. With developments in transport, and with other improvements which I have suggested, labour should be perfectly mobile within the whole Commonwealth. A man should be able to move freely from one job to another and should not feel cut off from his relations who, for the time being, may be living in some other part of the Commonwealth.

It is only if we look at such problems as these and then decide to go for an all-out policy of Commonwealth development that emigration begins to make sense. In short, the planning of all our Commonwealth resources as a single unit is absolutely essential if we are to contemplate a policy of emigration, if we are to contemplate a policy whereby we are to develop our resources. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Holland with Boston; there are tremendous projects in some parts of the Commonwealth where manpower and capital are urgently required and which, if developed properly can make an immense contribution not only to the Commonwealth but to the world as a whole. But these things can only be done if we are prepared to look at the Commonwealth as a single economic unit.

That is why, in conclusion, I invite the Government as a matter of urgency to set up a Commonwealth study group to examine these and many other problems. I believe that a new development, such as that which I have broadly described, can be the beginning of a great future again for this country. It can lead to a new greatness, prosperity and security, far beyond anything which appears possible art the present time, but we have to make up our minds. We cannot play around in European affairs, we cannot ally ourselves wholeheartedly with the United States of America and, at the same time, try to develop the Commonwealth. We have not the resources available. We have to choose where our future lies; and to my mind the future of this country lies in a new, sound development of the Commonwealth in which emigration has its proper part to play.

4.49 p.m.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

I am sure that most of us on this side of the Committee will agree with a very great deal of what the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. R. Adams) has said, and that we welcome the fact that more and more members of the Socialist Party are showing a greater interest in Commonwealth and Empire affairs. That is something for which I am sure all of us in this Committee ought to be very grateful. I remember the days, not many years ago, when there was not by any means the same enthusiasm in that party about the Commonwealth and Empire, and I am sure that we on this side welcome the fact that the Socialist Party now find themselves able to make a contribution to Commonwealth affairs.

We are all grateful, too, to the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) for having brought forward this subject today. It is, indeed, most appropriate that the hon. Member should raise any matter that has to do with the Empire, because there are associations between Boston and Parliament and the Empire, and it may very well indeed be a good thing for us to have those associations ever in our mind's eye, in order that we may ensure that we do not make similar mistakes again. Therefore, it is most appropriate that this matter should be raised by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston.

However, what I rose to say was that I, personally, do not believe that there is any Government policy for migration—or any Opposition policy for migration. There seems to be no policy at all. I do not believe that this matter has ever been properly tackled, and I believe that it is high time it should be. When the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central, pleaded for a study group or something of the sort, I sympathised with him; indeed, I would go further, and say that there should be a migration board set up on which there ought to be representatives of the Dominions. I think it ought to be based on the fact that we want a continuity of policy in this matter. We do not want it to be a party matter. We want this great affair to be dealt with on very broad lines.

For some time I have had some experience of the way in which shipping companies have been attempting to deal with this problem of migration, and I think the Committee would be astonished if it knew the efforts that have been made to find accommodation for the people who have wished to go overseas. It is very difficult, at the conclusion of a war, during which there were a great many sinkings, to get the ordinary trade of the country going, let alone to find sufficient tonnage for migration. People who do not appreciate the difficulties of shipping say such things as, "Why not use the Aquitania instead of breaking her up; why not use her for taking emigrants to the Dominions?" It was quite impossible. It would have cost far more to do that than could ever have been met by any returns on the venture.

However, there are large numbers of vessels now allocated for this service, and the accommodation is very good. The limiting factor, so far as Australia is concerned, is not ships or shipping accommodation, but homes for the people when they have reached their new country. That is a matter of supreme importance, and it is important that this House should realise that not only have we here a housing problem but that Australia has an even greater one. It is necessary, therefore, for a definite scheme to be devised. When we talk about our economic capacity here, and our ability to send out a quota of British people abroad, who are necessary to people in other parts of the Empire, it is essential to remember that they should have homes to go to when they go out to those other countries.

Moreover, those homes ought not to be to the exclusion of the people living, say in Australia. We cannot, I think, in this country find the timber for our own houses, so we cannot do much in that direction, but there seems to be very little reason why the Australians should not attempt to get timber from Sweden, or somewhere in Scandinavia, for houses. That timber would be very appropriate for the climate, and it could be transported with considerable ease. But until we can get more houses—until Australia can arrange for the provision of more houses—it is quite impossible to take more people out there than are being taken at present to that part of the world.

There is what is called the Assisted Passage Scheme. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston just now. It has worked extremely well, but the type of people who can benefit by it are limited, and there ought to be a broader definition of the categories who can benefit by it, because we cannot get away from the fact that we do want to send to the Dominions such people as superior craftsmen, operatives of every sort, men who have a certain amount of money put by, and who badly want to go to the Dominions, but who are not now eligible for assistance under the Assisted Passage Scheme.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that owing to dispersal and war conditions it may be necessary for complete factories to be sent to the Dominions, and these will require the best operatives, supervisors, foremen, and so on—and their families, including old people. I believe that that is the sort of thing which a migration board would have to consider and could well consider, and that it is high time a body of that sort was established to ensure continuity of policy.

There are tremendous developments impending in Canada. Nobody knows better than my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) that that is the fact. In a short time the whole position in Canada may change, even within the next few years. The immigration into Canada will be from the United States if the new development of oil in Saskatchewan results as anticipated. I have had letters from friends of mine in Canada who say they are quite certain that there is more oil in Saskatchewan than ever there was in Texas. If that is so we are going to have a complete change in the economy of that part of Canada. All of us who have been to Canada and are admirers of that great Dominion realise that there has always been a flow of people across the border from the north of it to the south, and from the south to the north. A great many people who have gone to Canada have crossed to the United States, and others have crossed from the United States into Canada.

However that may be, it is the economic laws which will govern these things. I believe the time is coming when we shall want a migration board which would consider all these problems in all aspects—the shipping aspect, the aspect of economics generally, and take into account all the social matters which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central. We ought to have representatives of the Dominions on such a board, and, I hope, of the House of Commons, showing what an interest we have in meeting what is an ever new situation. The situation is like a kaleidoscope; it keeps changing; there is nothing static about it.

Communications are of tremendous importance in helping us to keep abreast with the situation and to understand it. Are we satisfied about broadcasting? Have we come to an end of what can be done by broadcasting? Cannot we do something more? Are we quite sure that we are on the right lines in that respect? Then, again, are we quite sure that the people who go out from Britain as family units—certainly to some parts of the Empire—know to what they are going? Are they quite certain what to expect? People do, in fact, go to some Dominion or to some Colony and come back again? Why do they? Is it because the women-folk are bored? In some parts they have not the same cultural amenities at the present time that we have here. There are not the same opportunities for art, music, the drama.

Why cannot we do something to tell our people more about life elsewhere in the Commonwealth? Perhaps the British Council could help. Perhaps it would be more useful for it to do that than to concentrate its efforts behind the Iron Curtain or on the approaches to the Iron Curtain. It seems to me that we have things here which we ought to show to other parts of the Commonwealth; and for goodness sake let us have their stuff here so that we can see it—their pictures, their sculptures, and so on. I know that it is difficult and will cost money to arrange, but we ought to be able to manage it with a little bit of effort.

Then there is the question of the Press. There is at the moment the Imperial Press Conference being held in Canada, and I know the results of previous conferences held under the able direction of Colonel Astor. They have done a great deal of good. But, there is very little doubt that very little news gets into the Dominion Press about affairs here, and it is equally true that little Dominion news gets into the newspapers here. I do not know what the solution is. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must always remember that Britain is a part of a much greater whole, and that we are always inclined, whenever there is a General Election about, to think more and more about internal affairs, whereas we ought to think more largely. I think the Press can help in teaching our people about the Commonwealth, and vice versa. The Press can help tremendously. I believe something might be done to enable the newspapers, the weekly ones especially, to reach all parts of the Commonwealth much more quickly than they do today. I believe that that could be done quite well with a little bit of organisation.

I think it is very urgent and vital that we should be able to send a quota of our British stock into the Commonwealth overseas, but we cannot do it alone. We have got 50 million people in these small islands. How can we alone revivify the whole of the Commonwealth? We want to get that flow of people into the Commonwealth, and we need a policy on migration. We do not want such examples of settlers as the Dukoubers in Canada, and we have to remember that there are difficulties of that kind.

As we have had all this movement and change as a result of the war, it is surely all the more important that we should really get down to this matter. What is the right policy that we should pursue on migration? How can we help our own people to live a more fruitful and happy life? How can we help the great Dominions and the Commonwealth generally? Nor must we forget that our responsibilities do not end there. The right hon. Gentleman is Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations—a new title for an old office—but these are all questions of migration within the Common wealth. Where are Indians to settle? What is to be the future of coloured races in different places? What are we going to do about the West Indies? At the moment this migration is undoubtedly Colonial and Commonwealth migration, but that does not fall altogether within the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman: it is a Colonial Office matter. For instance, India and Pakistan, very great countries which are now under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Gordon-Walker

Not my administration.

Sir R. Glyn

No, but I take it they would be as regards migration. There is the problem of this enormous increase in the population of the West Indies. Where is it to find an outlet? How far will it work in with Dominion policy? Those are some of the things which I venture to mention today to try to emphasise what, to my mind, is the most urgent need to be considered in looking at this matter as one of the first importance, to be dealt with by a migration board, or something of that kind.

5.2 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)

I think that both sides of the Committee will find a great deal to agree with in much of what the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has said, but I must join issue with him on one or two matters. For instance, when he says that we have at present no policy on emigration he is surely wrong. It may be that, taking a very long-term view, looking to the future of this or the next generation, possibly the country as a whole has not decided upon a long-term policy. But I think that the statement made in another place on behalf of the Government only a week or two ago set forth quite clearly a perfectly reasonable and specific policy. As was pointed out in that statement, we must remember that the initiative in migration today is largely at the receiving end; that we in this country do not feel a particularly strong urge to send from our shores young and active people, while on the other hand many of the Dominions would very much like to receive them.

In that situation it seems to me that our policy—and a perfectly reasonable policy—should be to say to the Dominions, "We do not particularly want to shoot out to you these young people of ours; we do not want to lose them; but if you would like a proportion of them we will not merely put no obstacle in your way but will help you as far as we can." Surely that is what we are doing, and it is a fairly simple policy suited to the needs of the moment.

Although I agree with the hon. Baronet if his contention was that this was not a long-term policy, we do not know what policy we shall be following for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. The country generally has come to look at emigration in a completely different light from that in which it has been viewed in the past, in our history and in the history of our Dominions. We look upon it as one step that we can take towards the proper organisation of the development of our resources, and it is that, more than chance—or even, as with a number of my fellow countrymen from the northern part of this island, clearing out because of eviction from their own holdings here—which affords a policy based on reasonable and clear objectives. Those objectives will have impingements beyond our borders and beyond the borders of the Commonwealth. They will strongly affect our international relations, and, whatever policy we pursue from time to time, it is essential that the changes we make in it, should be, so far as possible, co-ordinated with the policies of the Dominions and of other countries. I was very glad to note in the statement of Government policy to which I referred earlier that this topic is under discussion by the I.L.O.

The economic aspect of Commonwealth development is the most obvious one to be considered. I think it is reasonably fully understood. It is a question of developing under-developed areas and undeveloped spaces. I was glad that the hon. Baronet referred to the tremendous impending development in Canada. Canada is already taking her place as one of the leading nations of the world, and her position in the world will be more firmly based on a strong economy when the development is not merely of oil but of iron and steel—which are just beginning—when they are more fully worked out.

There is no doubt that the Dominions have tremendous resources to be developed, and they need men and capital for that development. However, we must avoid the simple view that it is merely a matter of sending persons, or even families or business firms to the Dominions. There is also a very serious problem at the receiving end. To send a citizen from this country to another country is to make, to the extent of that one citizen, less demand on the capital resources of this country—in roads, streets, houses, shops, and so on—and a correspondingly greater demand on the capital resources of the receiving country. The shortage of houses in Australia is only an instance of that very much wider problem. To accept a large number of immigrants means either a lowering of the general standard of living, or increasing capital equipment in order to keep the standard high enough while still accommodating the immigrants. That is a serious problem, particularly for the younger countries. If they can import capital, so much the better; if they can save the capital, so much the better again There is fairly clear evidence now that Canada is getting into such a position that she can equip herself largely from her own savings, but it is by no means a simple or easy task.

I should like to cross swords with the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) in connection with the emigration to Canada. I think he was a little too facile in dealing with the subject. He suggested—I am not sure that he did not specifically say so—that to increase the amount of capital an emigrant could take with him to Canada would be the solution to the problem. Well, for one thing, that is a rather cavalier method of dealing with the dollar problem. Apart from that, it must be remembered that for some months now, Canada has had an unemployment problem of considerable magnitude; certainly not one that we can lightly dismiss.

Mr. Baxter indicated dissent.

Mr. MacPherson

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but for last year the unemployment figures in Canada corresponded to unemployment of about one million or a bit over one million in this country. That is an unemployment problem of no small magnitude.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the consequences of this currency restriction is to prevent a number of people who would be glad to go to Canada and start businesses there, thereby absorbing the unemployed, from being able to do so?

Mr. MacPherson

Yes, I think there is a point in that, but it is not everyone who wants to go to a country where there are unsettled economic conditions and unemployment and who is ready to risk his capital. It is an important factor that the would-be emigrant must take into account, but the great majority of emigrants are not going abroad to start businesses; they are going to look for jobs.

I would like also to bring to the notice of the Committee one point which may well have come to the attention of Members already, and that is the direction in which emigrants into Canada are going. They are not, according to the latest figures, going to the wide, open spaces. They are going to Ontario and Quebec and the highly-industralised parts of Canada.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

That is what we have been saying all along in connection with the effect of the currency restrictions. How can one possibly buy or equip a farm on £250 a year for four years?

Mr. MacPherson

The great majority of emigrants to the far west of Canada do not buy a farm when they arrive there. They take employment. That still remains true of the majority of people who would like to go to Canada. They are not expecting to start as industrialists or farmers in their own right, straight away. They are, for the most part, expecting, as their predecessors did in previous generations, to find employment, and the present situation in Canada is not propitious from that point of view.

I think that the general economic questions involved in emigration are questions which have received fair canvassing and discussion; but there is another set of questions, the more purely political set, which do not, it seems to me, get anything like the amount of discussion that they should have. The hon. Member for Abingdon referred to them at the end of his speech, and I was very glad that he did. He suggested that the Commonwealth is a great deal wider than it appears to be to some people. It is not a Commonwealth established only of the old Dominions; it now consists of new Dominions in the Far East, and, in point of fact, we are members today of a Commonwealth which is predominently non-white in race and non-British in its traditions of thought, religion, culture, and so on.

When we are talking, as I think we should talk, about the development of the Commonwealth and the various nations of the Commonwealth, we should, I think, remember that the Commonwealth has this tremendously important new side to it. Before the war, these new nations were not members of the Commonwealth. That is to say, they were not self-governing units in the British Empire. Today, they are. We have an example in one of the old members of the British Commonwealth of the tragedy that can be caused by any mishandling, whether just now or in earlier generations, of the racial question.

We have to realise, in fact, that while we are talking quietly and peacefully, as indeed we should, about emigration, there is another side to the whole question, and that is set out in the grim phrase liebensraume that Hitler used before the war. It is put in rather grim enactments, whether resulting from the past or present, like the present Group Areas Bill in the Union of South Africa; and we, I think, should today begin to face up to the desirability of getting together with our Dominions in the East on this question of emigration.

The West Indies and India have both been mentioned as other countries which, like ourselves, are highly-populated and from which emigration could well take place; but while our emigrants can find places easily elsewhere in the Commonwealth, we cannot say the same about the potential emigrants from the West Indies or from India. That is a different matter altogether and a very difficult problem to settle. I do not want to follow the implications that would arise from that particular policy; I want simply to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the problem of race does exist. I want to suggest, for instance, that if a migration board is set up—and the proposal made in another place was turned down, but that was a proposal which asked for a migration board simply connected with the old white Dominions—it should be a board on which the non-white Dominions are also fully represented. If that were to take place, I think we might well be tackling a problem that exists within the British Commonwealth. We must tackle at some time the problem of finding places for the people of the British West Indies and of helping the great self-governing nation of India with its task of finding places for its emigrants. If we do that, we shall be tackling, within the framework of our own Imperial constitution, a problem which is becoming world-wide. If we could find a way of dealing with it, we would be giving a lead to the world in one of those matters in which a well thought out, strong and clear lead is most needed.

5.18 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)

I was most encouraged by the speech made by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. R. Adams) in that it seemed to me to herald a very different approach on the part of certain hon. Members of the Labour Party to the question of Empire and Empire development. It seemed, at any rate, to portray a very much greater consciousness of the need of Empire development than that which appeared in the Labour Party election manifesto on which they fought the last General Election. I was somewhat amused to hear the hon. Member suggest to his own Front Bench that they should have yet another study group. Perhaps he was a little jealous at being left out of the Dorking week-end party; but perhaps he will get his own way, and the Government will give him the study group he requires and invite him to join it.

I welcome this Debate; indeed, I believe that it is the first Debate on the subject of emigration which we have had in this Parliament, and also the first we have had since the Labour Government got into office. When I was in Australia, about this time last year, I had borne in on me with due force the desperate need of that Dominion in the realm of population. I was most impressed by the very great efforts which the Australian Government had made to solve this problem and to assist in getting British emigrants to go to Australia. In fact my admiration of the Australian effort was only equalled by my depression at the efforts made by the British Government over here.

I believe that I am right in saying that up to date, the only shipping which has been put upon the emigrant service between this country and Australia has been put on to that line by the Australian authorities. There are, I am told, 12 ships serving emigrants and carrying them to Australia. So far, His Majesty's Government in this country have done precisely nothing, and have not put on one single ship to serve this vital traffic. I hope that the Government will, despite its poor performance in the past, take a new view about this situation.

When I was in Australia, I visited the then Minister of Immigration, Mr. Caldwell, and I can certainly corroborate what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) about his very great efforts and desires to help with this immigration policy. Mr. Caldwell told me, and I have his permission to quote his remarks, that he was really appalled, when he visited the United Kingdom, at the attitude of His Majesty's Government to this problem, and by their utter and complete refusal to do anything, either by providing shipping for this traffic, or in other ways to speed up and help the solution of these difficulties.

I have asked His Majesty's Government to bring a new outlook to bear upon this problem. It is, of course, true that much can be done by way of small-scale development, and we shall be thankful for small mercies and small driblets of population which may find their way to Australia through the meagre shipping facilities that are available. But there can be no doubt that what is really needed in a continent the size of Australia is large-scale development. There has been a lot of nonsense talked about the wide open spaces and possibilities of development by a few squatters here and there on large tracts of undeveloped and underdeveloped territory.

Take, for example, the large wide open spaces of North-West Australia, often described as the land where men make money to spend somewhere else. That surely has been the whole trouble with tracts of under-developed and undeveloped territory such as in North-West Australia. The money which has been made and I do not dispute that considerable quantities have been made by some fortunate people, has not gone back into the territory, with the result that living conditions have remained, and still remain, poor and primitive. Such things as the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central has spoken about, like social services, housing and Hospital services, just do not exist in many parts of Australia, where medical help and succour depends on that overworked, through sterling, service of the flying doctors and nurses. There can be little doubt that these poor social conditions, taken together with the very poor climate which is found particularly in the North-West, must have a discouraging effect on British migrants.

There can be no doubt that if we are to get over these difficulties, if we are to get over these discouragements, we must stimulate to the utmost of our ability development on the largest and widest possible scale. Perhaps at this moment that is beyond our immediate capacity. Therefore, I ask the Government whether they are taking any steps or considering any steps with the United States to make joint plans to get large-scale development going throughout the Commonwealth. I would ask the Minister for Commonwealth Relations whether he recollects a speech made by the President of the United States in which he referred to investment by the United States—what is now known as the Point Four Programme.

Are we following up this lead? Are we doing anything, for our part, to prepare plans with the United States to cash in on this American initiative? Are we discussing with the United States any plans for American help in the field of investment, so that we may develop these large tracts of territory throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire? I sincerely hope that the answer from the Minister will be in the affirmative, or will at any rate be encouraging, because there can be no doubt that if we are to solve our own economic problems, and particularly our dollar problem, we can only find the solution in the development of the British Commonwealth and Empire.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

Like all those who have spoken in this Debate, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) for having raised this subject. I should like to cross swords with my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting). I would remind him that we have debated this subject once, if not twice, since the end of the war, and that the things that worried us during those Debates are still worrying us today, which is a reflection upon His Majesty's Government and also an indication of the difficulties inherent in this problem.

I regret that the Government Front Bench has been unoccupied for so long by any Minister, although I do not wish to cast any reflection on the importance of the Government Whip who has been present. I say that because this is a subject which concerns not only the Commonwealth Relations Office, but also the Ministers of Transport and Labour, as well as the Service Departments, in view of the important strategic element involved in this discussion. It seems a pity that the right hon. Gentleman, who we know is so hard worked, should be left to bear the burden on his own. The right hon. Gentleman indicates that he is quite happy to do so, but we shall have to await his reply to the Debate.

We are in the happy position, in dealing with this problem, that there is really no dispute on principle between either side of the Committee, or between His Majesty's Government and the Governments throughout the British Commonwealth. I think it would be unwise, however, in discussing migration from this country to bring in the enormous racial and over-population problems of India. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) suggested that a migration board, having been set up, should have on its agenda the racial problems that face India and South Africa. I cannot think of any better way of bringing its proceedings to an immediate stop, if not to a break-up with almost a show of fisticuffs. Many Members will have had some experience of discussing these matters with our friends overseas. Feelings run very high on racial questions, and Members in this country sometimes do not have at their command sufficient knowledge of the facts and feelings of people in other countries to make a sound contribution.

The important point is that on the question of the need of migrants of British stock from these islands to the British Commonwealth, particularly to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia, there is a large amount of unanimity both in this Committee and between the Governments concerned. It is one thing to have agreement about a plan, but it is quite another thing to put that plan into effect. It is because some of us are concerned at the speed with which migration is going on that we welcome this Debate. It seems to me that the Government have a duty to support the intentions of those who wish to migrate to Commonwealth countries.

The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs said that the initiative must remain with the Dominions. Why should it? If we are agreed that it is a good thing for the Commonwealth that there should be migration from this country, it must also be a good thing for this country, which remains the heart of the Great British Commonwealth. It is, therefore, in our interests, as well as in the interests of the whole British Commonwealth, that this matter should be tackled properly. It is not helping at all to sit back and say, "The question of transport to Australia is one for Australia; we need not worry about that," or, "The question of housing is one for Australia; we need not worry about that." To be fair to His Majesty's Government, I understand that they have tried to help with transport in some way or another, but I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Melton said about the Government's lack of active assistance in providing any of those 12 ships which are on the migration route.

I understand that they have helped in discussions with the Australian authorities about the quicker provision of houses. I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman how much the slow provision of houses is holding up the reception of emigrants at the other end, and how much His Majesty's Government have been able to help in this matter. The question of transport is the most worrying of all.

Mr. Gordon-Walker indicated dissent.

Mr. Low

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If he is correct about that I have no doubt that he will be able to tell us that there are only short lists of applicants waiting to go overseas, that there is very little hold up, and that there is very little limitation on the number of people leaving these shores.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

We are able to ship as many as can be housed.

Mr. Low

The right hon. Gentleman is saying that housing in Australia is the limiting factor. We would like to hear from him what steps he has taken to help the Australian authorities on this, because if His Majesty's Government think it is important that there should be re-distribution of British stock, and, in particular, more encouragement given to leave these islands and go to Australia, then we ought to help the Australians to tackle this housing problem. It is no good sitting back and saying that it is a matter for Australia.

There are other ways in which His Majesty's Government can help. The first I have in mind is by assisting with passages. I understand that that has been done mostly under the Empire Settlement Acts, which have been extended until the end of 1952. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what he has in mind about the future of those Acts? I understand that it was said on behalf of the Government in another place that they were now under review. It is important that there should be a review in the near future, so that this House can express its opinion on the Government's decision when it is announced. We do not want to leave it until the end of 1951 or the beginning of 1952.

There is a further and more intricate way in which the Government can help, and that in their encouragement of people to migrate. There have been references once or twice this afternoon to the idea that a man who migrates from Scotland or England to Australia is lost to this country. He is not lost at all. It is the fundamental and proper consideration of this problem that we should realise that he is not lost. I agree with something which was said by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central, about our consideration of the placing of an industry, if an industry decides to shift part of itself over to a Dominion. Neither that industry, nor its products, are lost to this country. In fact, it is very likely that movement such as that would add to the economic and strategic strength of the country. If the idea gets abroad in this country that migrants, who are leaving this country, are leaving a sinking ship heavily laden it will not help. All they are doing is allowing the ship of State to move faster through the sea and at the same time helping a Dominion to complete the task which it has in hand. What we want is a wisely conducted migration policy.

I have spoken so far on the ways in which the Government can help. There is one way in which the Government can hinder, and that is by the restrictions on the amount of capital that can accompany a migrant who wishes to leave this country. In my opinion, the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs was quite right to link the question of the movement of manpower and the movement of capital in his consideration of this matter. We cannot really consider migration apart from a movement of some capital in order to enable development to go properly ahead.

What is happening in Canada? Those who go to Canada—and, alas, the number has been very much reduced, for in 1949 it was only 52 per cent. of the average of the years before—are allowed to take only £250 of their capital each year for four years. That has two results. It limits the type and number of persons who go, and it also acts as a direct disincentive to members of a man's family, particularly the older members, from accompanying or joining him when he gets there. In other words, it is a direct attempt to move against one important point of Government policy on migration—that there should be a cross-section of our people leaving this country, and not only actively bodied persons.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer these points, because it has often been stressed in this House that the limitation of currency to those going to Canada has an effect on the type and quantity of persons and is a direct discouragement to a man's family from joining him. In theory, at any rate, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, it looks as if that might be the result. The other day my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) wrote a very interesting letter to "The Times" suggesting migration loans so that persons who have capital deposited in London can draw an equivalent sum of dollars in Canada to give them some capital to start with. What does the right hon. Gentleman think about that?

It may be that such an arrangement could be made, perhaps not on the basis of a loan as was then suggested, but on a slightly different basis, whereby the banks in Canada would be enabled to advance dollars to migrants in that country against a deposit of sterling in this country on the promise that that sterling would be remitted in the course of 10 years. It is really worth thinking about, and bankers who are concerned have been thinking about it.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

Would that be an advance by the Canadian Government of Canadian dollars?

Mr. Low

It would be an advance of Canadian dollars, which would depend upon the approval given by Canadian banks and upon a promise given by His Majesty's Government that the sum might be remitted in five or 10 years. That is the point of real importance in the matter.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into this point, because it is important. It is always being stressed on this side of the Committee, but His Majesty's Government do absolutely nothing about it. They say that it is due to the shortage of dollars, but in so far as our trade position with Canada is now becoming better I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say that this matter will be one of the first things to be looked into when the dollar position is restored. It has often been said, and it cannot be said too often, that if we are to get the full benefit out of the tremendous resources of the British Commonwealth and out of the skill and quality of its people there must be a redistribution of people within the Commonwealth.

I do not believe that the idea of mass migration that was popular in high places in Australia shortly after the war would be sensible, but it would be in the interests of this country—our purely selfish interests—as well as in the greater interests of the British Commonwealth, if His Majesty's Government did more to encourage and to facilitate emigration from this country to Australia, Canada, Southern Rhodesia and New Zealand in particular. More, I am certain, they could do.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)

The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher), who opened the Debate, and, indeed, all those who followed him, have dealt primarily with the question of emigration from this country to the Dominions. The only deviation from that line was that taken by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. MacPherson) who tried to bring into the Debate the very dangerous subject of this country accepting responsibility for emigration from India, for which we have no conceivable responsibility.

I should like briefly to touch upon a matter which has hardly been mentioned this afternoon but which is one for which we have a certain responsibility, and that is emigration from overcrowded parts of the Colonial Empire, and from two areas in particular, Malta and certain islands in the British West Indies. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to say a word about Malta, especially as he is going to Australia. When this matter was raised in another place some time ago the Government spokesman there said: His Majesty's Government will do everything to assist, if they are asked to do so. What does that mean? Who is to ask them? Malta, or Australia? I need not tell the right hon. Gentleman that the problem of Malta is very nearly insoluble, unless the people of Malta are prepared to accept some form of family limitation, which is most unlikely. Unless it is solved by emigration, the island must remain a growing and permanent pensioner of this country, which the people of this country and of Malta do not want.

The Maltese make first-class immigrants. I think the Australians will agree that the Maltese who have gone to Australia have become really good settlers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell the Committee whether he has any later statement to make than was made by the Government spokesman to which I have referred, and if any limiting factor exists, such as housing or reluctance on the part of the Government of Australia to accept Maltese. I do not think there is, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say something about Malta, which is as much a problem and a responsibility for this country as is actual emigration from these islands.

The other colonial question relates to certain islands in the British West Indies. The two of which I am thinking are Barbados and Jamaica. Barbados is the same size as the Isle of Wight and has double the population. There is only one hope for maintaining a reasonable standard of living there, and it is some form of emigration. That is equally true, although not quite so seriously, of Jamaica. What has been done? There has been a commission, the Evans Commission, which has recommended migration to British Honduras and British Guiana. I would be the first to admit that emigration to either of those two places could not solve the problems of Barbados and Jamaica. Nevertheless, it would help. I know that this matter is not the direct responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman, but we are discussing emigration as a whole, in so far as this Committee is responsible. I hope that in regard to both Malta and the West Indies the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make a statement.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. Booth (Bolton, East)

This is one of the most important matters that this Committee can discuss. I am a thorough and unrepentant Anglo-Saxon. I believe that the contribution of this country in spreading its resources over the component parts of the Commonwealth is one of the best guarantees of good living in the coming days. I am not at all amused by or interested in the claims from these benches or the benches opposite about who has done most for and shown most interest in emigration. To my way of thinking, the problem has hardly been tackled at all in the proper way.

I am reminded of the old lady in London who shrugged her shoulders and said, "Australia? That's the place where we send convicts," at the time when her opposite number, an old lady in Sydney, was saying, "London? That is the shocking place where the convicts come from." Hon. Members have been talking about the problems of emigration, but I believe that housing problems, transport difficulties and currency complications will fall into their proper places if the House of Commons and the Government would make this great problem one of top-level importance.

I remember the outbreak of the First World War. I looked at the population of Australia, which, I think, was about six million people. I read about the valour of the Australians and the great contribution they were going to make. I read equally about the valour of the Canadians. It was true, because I was with the Australians at Messines and with the Canadians at Vimy Ridge and I know all about that. It was positively true. I also knew that we could not get away from hard facts and acid figures. I knew when the six million Australians had been sorted out into people of immature years and people over military age and we had made allowances for the vital services being carried on how very few fighting men Australia could put into the field.

I do not speak purely from the military point of view when I say that in view of the world conditions in which we are living and of what has happened in the last 25 years, we must have some regard to the probability that if Governments of the past, of any colour or calibre, had looked at this problem in the light of the commitments of the British Empire as it was then and of the Commonwealth as it now is; if there had been, in 1914, 50 million people in Canada, as there ought to have been, and 30 million in the Commonwealth of Australia instead of six million, as there could have been, the Kaiser's Germany would have hestitated a long while before entering into war in 1914. As a consequence we might not have had a 1939 war.

We should not think only of British components of the Commonwealth of Nations. I believe that a country like France could be interested. I have in mind the great French contribution to the population in Canada, Canada is a living example of Gaul and Anglo-Saxon living together under good conditions and good government. We have to look at this in the light of the fact that there could be another war, though God forbid that there should ever be one. We should re collect the complete openness of the north of Australia in the last war and the talk of the complete evacuation of its population to the south. These matters are interlocked with the question of emigration. This country ought to have a say in the conditions of emigration, for there is no virtue in taking men and women from populated centres like Liverpool and Birmingham and putting them into equally populated centres like Sydney and Melbourne. That is no contribution to the solution of the problem.

To talk all the afternoon about housing problems—they are manifest—to spend our time on currency impositions and to bleat about transport when the most important subject has not even been approached, is quite wrong, if not a complete waste of time, I hope that from hon. Members of all parties there will come a determination to see that emigration in the light of the well-being of the Commonwealth and the contribution that these people can make to the good government of the world shall have the earnest consideration of everyone here.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)

Listening to parts of this Debate, I began to wonder why we were discussing the subject. Was it of tremendous importance to the country? Was it a matter upon which there was a surging interest and a great desire in the country for something to be done? I have been unable to discover any great desire at this moment to spend any money upon it. Under what conditions ought we to be desirous of getting people away from the country?

The first and fundamental condition should be that we had tremendous difficulty in employing them here. I presume that if we can employ our own people effectively, our country is in a very good position and there is no crying need for us to give artificial encouragement to people to leave the country. Even if we had a certain amount of unemployment we should want some certainty when encouraging people to leave the country that they were going to a place where conditions were much better. I question very much whether there are other countries which are in a much better condition than our own. I believe that Englishmen have as much opportunity today in this country as they will have in other countries.

In that case if we really want to encourage emigration, under what conditions should we do so? Once we have encouraged people to go out, should they not have some encouragement to return if they want to? Many of our people get assisted passages to Australia, Canada and other places, but when they reach their destination they find that the conditions are not quite what they expected and they become dissatisfied and want to return to this country. If I encouraged a friend to go to another country and met his expenses in doing so, and he then found that the conditions were not what he expected and he wished to return, I should consider that there was a duty upon me to give him the same encouragement and assistance to return as I gave him to emigrate.

However, I do not believe that the time is even ripe for that. The need for this encouragement to emigrate does not appear to exist. It all depends, of course, upon the way at which one looks at the matter. If one looks at it from the viewpoint of a future war, one's ideas may be tremendously different from those due to other ways of looking at it. I believe that charity begins at home and that a family should be allowed to live together if it wishes to do so. The country is going along well, everyone is working and there is no unemployment difficulty.

Therefore I do not believe that this is the time, particularly in view of our financial burdens, for us to go out of our way to spend any money in this direction. The time was perhaps some years ago, but if it should again happen that we cannot use our men effectively and we think they have a better opportunity elsewhere, it can be considered in a fresh light. Then it may be worth while expending the necessary money to encourage our people to leave this country. For the moment, however, I see no necessity for spending money on this object when we are employing practically all our people.

I have intervened to put those points because there has been too much unanimity on this subject. There is almost an assumption that there is a great demand by our people to emigrate but that they have not the necessary means. I do not think that is the position. People are emigrating, they are finding it is easy to get away, but not easy to get back. We want a free flow between countries. It is no use trying to make me believe that the Canadians or the Australians are out particularly for our good. They are ready in a friendly way to help if necessary because they want me men in Australia and Canada. That is their primary object, whereas our primary object should be to keep our people here if they want to stay and if we can give them fair conditions and full employment

6.3 p.m.

Captain Ryder (Merton and Morden)

We are all indebted to the National Liberal Party for giving us a chance in this Debate and, until the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) rose, it seemed there was a wide measure of agreement for the need of emigration. Unanimity on the matter seemed to be distasteful to the hon. Member, but we should draw some satisfaction from the support we now see coming from the opposite side of the Committee. Indeed the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Booth) spoke with some force and emphasis which is encouraging. We welcome this Debate because we feel that the Government are lukewarm on the subject of emigration and are not doing enough about it. Therefore, I shall try to emphasise the importance of emigration because it is of much more urgency than has so far been indicated.

First, there is the problem of housing our people. It has been estimated that it will take 20 years to work off the present names on the housing lists. Even if the Conservatives achieve their full hopes about the building programme, I am far from satisfied that it will provide a full solution of the housing problem. It is a great problem which cannot be solved by the resources here at home. Our population is expanding at considerable speed, and standards are improving.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

Can the hon. and gallant Member suggest anywhere where people could emigrate and find a better housing programme than exists here? It is much worse everywhere else.

Captain Ryder

The housing problem in the Dominions is capable of solution—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—but supposing here we built all the houses we want, sacrificing everything else, we should encroach on agricultural land, greatly increase the congestion on the railways, increase the length of time people have to wait in bus queues, and so on. From the point of view of housing alone, we should not only build all we can but should also provide facilities and encouragement for those who feel they can go abroad and start life in the Dominions. One of the things which reacts against people doing so is the erroneous belief that they are going to a foreign country. I am quite sure that this is a most urgent and pressing need if we are to overcome this great deficiency in the lives of many people, who long passionately to bring up their children in decent surroundings and now feel so depressed.

I put housing first, but an even more important matter is that of defence. For generations we have rested secure behind the guns of the British Fleet. Now the advent of the atom bomb and, even more, the hydrogen bomb, have shown up the nakedness of our position. Surely we should realise that in this crowded island we provide a sore temptation to any man who feels reckless enough to start a war to try to blot out a large proportion of the British race? Therefore I would urge that the best means we can adopt for abolishing this temptation is to encourage those people who are able and willing, to go and build up the strength of the other countries of the Commonwealth. I consider it most unwise to hang back on this.

It is admittedly a long-term policy and one which has no electoral appeal. There are many people who are opposed to this, from humble folk who cling to their slum street where they have lived all their lives, to vested interests of people who have financial interests in the matter. They come forward in opposition and the favourite method is to over-state the problem, saying that unless we can export 30 million of our population, it will not get us anywhere at all. So we must have in mind some idea of the scale of the problem to be dealt with. I note that in 1922 we achieved our highest figure of 220,000. Now the average is more like 113,000. Maybe that is less than we have been taking into this country. Australia, on the other hand, in spite of the remarks made about housing, plans to take in some 200,000 a year. Canada and New Zealand have not given their figures.

Our task is at once to discuss these matters with the Dominions and to find out what numbers they are prepared to take so that we can then set about trying to provide the necessary means to get them there. If, for instance, we could achieve a figure of 300,000 a year—I am not suggesting that that is desirable or possible, but let us suppose that that is the target figure—that would mean 6,000 emigrants a week or some 7,500,000 in 25 years, which would make a great improvement on our waiting lists for houses.

We shall never achieve anything if we tackle this matter merely in a spasmodic, haphazard way. We must discuss it with the countries of the Commonwealth so that we can build up a steady and progressive plan, in which they can build the houses now so that when a shipping slump comes later we shall have the ships available to take full advantage of it. At present, however, I feel that the Government are not properly seized of the urgency of this problem and have not a proper plan. If we ignore the possibility which is now before us, if we ignore the developments amongst the races of Asia, if we overlook the lessons which our history books provide for us of the development of mankind throughout the ages, and if we fail to build up the strength of our Dominions, then in the long term, when we look ahead, there is little future for the British race.

6.12 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

It has seemed to me in this Debate that the Committee have had some tendency to treat as a national problem something which is a European problem and to a considerable extent even a world problem. The problem of emigration, surely, put in its simplest terms, is this: there are areas in the world where there are too many people for those areas to support, and there are other areas where there are not enough people to develop the natural resources. What is wanted is to move people from the first to the second kind of areas.

When we consider this country, in which of those categories do we fall? I should have said in neither. This is a country which is proving itself capable of providing what is a pretty satisfactory way of life for the people who inhabit it, not perhaps the highest standard in the world, but a pretty satisfactory standard which is very high up in the world. There does not seem to me to be any case made out for reducing the population of these islands.

Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)

Does the hon. and learned Member also believe that we can go on supporting that standard of living when the present favourable conditions in world markets no longer exist?

Mr. Paget

Certainly, I do. I believe that we can go on maintaining, and indeed expanding, this standard of living still, and I do not think that we shall improve our chances by reducing our numbers. Our problem, in fact, has been rather to buy than to sell, and therefore when world markets fall and we can buy our imports cheaper—it may be that we also have to sell our exports cheaper—I do not see why, fundamentally, and after the readjustment which follows the dislocation, we should in the long run fear any serious or inevitable reduction in our standard of living. We can look forward, I think, to a normal expansion, but certainly our problem would not be improved, particularly with an ageing population, such as we have here—in fact, it would be made more difficult—by reducing that population.

The hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder) referred to housing as one of the reasons why we should reduce the population of this island. If, however, we want to solve the housing problem, we want fundamentally to move people from places which are without houses to those which have houses.

General Sir George Jeffreys (Peters field)

Where is that?

Mr. Paget

I do not know whether hon. Members realise that in this country there is now something like one house to every four people of our population; that is to say, we have more housing per head of the population than anywhere else. If people are moved out of this country, they are being moved to a worse housing problem than that which faces us here. I do not want to go into the details and difficulties, for this is not a housing Debate, but I know perfectly well that the difficulty in this country is not so much a lack of houses as a maldistribution of population amongst the existing houses. The ratio of one house to every four people of the population is not really too bad. It is certainly a great deal better than is to be found anywhere else.

A great many other Members may have shared my experience of having received a large number of letters from constituents who have succeeded in emigrating, in which they complain bitterly about the conditions, and particularly the housing conditions, which they have met in the Dominions and asking if there is not some possible way by which they could get home again. That is my experience, and I think that it is the experience of a good many other hon. Members.

Captain Ryder

Does that not rather bear out the argument that emigration should be better planned? That is the very point which I was trying to make.

Mr. Paget

What is meant by "better planned"? Is it intended that we should arrange for the houses to be built in the Dominions for the emigrants before their arrival?

Captain Ryder


Mr. Paget

If so, why not build them here?

Captain Ryder

Because of the space.

Mr. Paget

Who is to build them?

Mr. Baxter

Is the hon. and learned Member not aware that Australia is facing the problem of keeping the Commonwealth a "white" country and that the British majority in Canada is sinking to a minority? Has the hon. and learned Member any realisation that he comes from a Mother Country instead of talking about it like a spinster country?

Mr. Paget

The hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) is anticipating what I was going to say. I shall come to that in a moment.

I wanted to deal with the other point, which is the question of defence. That, again, seems to me to be a completely bogus point. If we are to make this country less vulnerable, then one, two, three or even seven millions taken away from it will make no substantial difference. A million people could be taken out of London. That would not make it a substantially less vulnerable target than it is today. Again, from the point of view of building up the manpower of the Dominions for such a war, past experience is that the manpower of the Dominions always came over here to help us—and deeply grateful we were to them; but we are not substantially better off by having moved them from here in order to bring them back again.

I agree with the hon. Member for Southgate that the real problem is that we are a Mother Country. It is highly desirable that there should be a continuous outflow on a moderate scale from this country to all our Dominions. The percentage of British blood and the amount of British feeling in the Empire should be maintained and continually refreshed by a properly planned emigration from this country. While that is taking place, however, there must be a compensating immigration into this country. We should regard this as a two-way traffic in the same way as in the past we have taken Huguenots and Flemish weavers, and in the same way as after the last war we brought populations from the Baltic provinces into this country.

By every one of those infusions of blood into this country I believe this nation has been improved. This policy should be continued and, as a number of our people go to the Dominions, so should a number of people from Europe come into this country. The two things should be run on a more or less balancing level so that the population, certainly at this time when we are an ageing population, is not allowed to drop. If it is allowed to drop, we shall run into a great many economic difficulties.

I have said that the problem here is a European rather than a national prob- lem. The place where there are obviously more people than the country can support is Germany, and that is an explosive situation. Those homeless people in Germany, in the vast camps, mostly farmers driven from their ancient homes by the Bolsheviks and those who fled from behind the Iron Curtain, the expellees from the Sudetenland and the Polish Provinces, are concentrated in Germany and create an addition to the population of that reduced territory which it cannot support. Either those people are eventually going to win themselves a home by the sword, or they are going to find a home somewhere else in the world.

There is the fundamental emigration problem which is facing Europe today, to find new homes for those people who are homeless in Germany. They are living in appalling conditions and they are people who are prepared to accept the pioneering conditions which emigrants from this country would not be prepared to accept. They are people who can be warned of exactly what they are going to and, provided they are given the tools, they can go to comparatively virgin country and build their own homes, as the original pioneers had to do. That pioneering life would be a vast improvement upon the frustration and misery of the camps in which they are existing today.

That seems to be the first emigration job which is facing both Britain and Europe and that is a job to which we ought to give first place. I know the bitterness of war, but the Germans have proved admirable emigrants wherever they have gone. In America those of German descent were among the best troops who came to fight the Nazis. We have no more loyal citizens than the German inhabitants of Canada. Wherever Germans have gone to make new homes they have become loyal and enthusiastic citizens of that country and they are good stock.

There is the problem, the really urgent problem, the movement of population problem which is facing Europe, and I hope that Europe will face it and give priority to those farmers in the Eastern provinces, at present camping under horrible conditions—and I have seen those conditions—in an overcrowded country that cannot support them.

6.25 p.m.

Captain Duncan (South Angus)

I welcome this Debate which has been so ably opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher), particularly for the tone he set in his admirable speech. I regret, therefore, that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) widened the Debate to such an extent that it would really be impossible to follow him. He mentioned housing, the Germans in Europe, and the whole host of other things far beyond the intended scope of the Debate as laid down in the opening speech of my hon. Friend.

But on the whole I do welcome the unanimity which has been stressed in the Debate. I remember that in the days before the war the Labour Party were definitely against emigration. I remember sitting on the benches opposite and Mr. Lunn, as he then was, sitting on the Front Opposition Bench refusing to have anything to do with any scheme of Empire settlement. I remember the great work that was done by Sir Henry Page Croft, as he then was, the Member for Bournemouth, in making great speeches and going to an immense amount of trouble over Imperial settlement in Canada. Each time the Labour Party came down and opposed any scheme that was put forward. Therefore, I welcome the tone of the Debate today because, except for one hon. Member who said he wanted to voice the lack of unanimity, the general tenor of the Debate has been in favour of a policy of the distribution of the population of the Empire.

There are various practical difficulties in the way and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply will deal with them specifically. They have been mentioned by more than one of my hon. Friends. What is being done, for instance, in Australia to deal with housing? To what extent are we co-operating with Australia, or is it to be, in the eyes of His Majesty's Government purely an Australian matter? What is being done as far as Canada is concerned with regard to this £250 limit per year for four years on the export of currency? It really is hopeless to expect British people to go to Canada and set up in business or on a farm, and sell up everything in this country and settle with that very small sum with the high cost of living in Canada and the prospect of a total sum, at the end of four years, of only £1,000.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

Is not the hon. and gallant Member suggesting a completely false picture? Can he imagine farmers in this country today selling up complete farms to go to Canada, or businessmen doing the same?

Captain Duncan

If the hon. Member will exercise patience, I shall give an instance of a man who did it.

The third difficulty is the question of machinery. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is happening to the review of the Empire Settlement Scheme. In another place there was a Debate a month or two ago in which it was stated that these schemes were under review. What progress has been made in the last few months in reviewing them? I agree that they do not come to an end until 1952, but people like to know well ahead what facilities will be available. Those are the three major questions with which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to deal.

As I see the problem of inter-Imperial migration—and I wish to restrict myself to that problem, omitting from my remarks reference to the Germans and also to the Indians and the Pakistanis and even to the Maltese—it is in the form of a dilemma. Here we have this old country, with 50 million people in it. We have an enormous problem ahead of us to maintain them at the standard of life they now enjoy. I do not think anybody, including any hon. Gentleman opposite, really believes in his heart that the present boom conditions can last for ever. Problems will arise in the future although they have not yet arisen. Hon. Gentlemen opposite pride themselves on being the planners, but what is the Government plan in this connection to meet the circumstances of a time when things will not be so good as they are today.

That is one side of the problem—50 million people crowded on to a small island, with all its problems of supply, employment and defence, an enormous problem into which I will not enter in the time at my disposal. At the other end of the scale there is the Empire—Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia at the moment at all events—crying out for more people. The Australian Minister for Immigration is crying out for people although he is not perhaps building enough houses quickly enough to house them. Canada, with the vast projects ahead there, is bound to welcome an increased population. Are those people to be British or are they to be people of other races? From both the British and the Imperial points of view, I desire to see those opportunities abroad filled by British people rather than by foreigners.

We have in our ancient story a tremendous Imperial tradition. We may not have been the first in the age of discovery but we were one of the first. We may not have been the first in the age of exploitation but there too we were one of the first, and we have no dishonourable tradition as a nation in the exploitation—I use that word in its correct connotation—of Colonial and foreign resources. We have a great heritage. We are now becoming an old people, not only old in years but old in the balance of our population. The problem, the dilemma is, should we encourage our young people to go or should we discourage them from going because we want the young people here to help to maintain the old?

As one who has always been an Imperialist, and I make no excuse for that word, I say that our heritage of Empire must go on. I believe that we still have a duty to our kith and kin overseas. I believe that for strategic and defence reasons it is vital in our own interests, as it is in the interests of our Empire, that we should discharge that duty. There is the other point of view, however. Last week I was in one of the wildest glens in my constituency. The teacher there told me, "I have had some bad luck this week. Two of my best pupils have left." I said, "Where have they gone?" She said, "To Australia. They were my best pupils, coming from the best of homes, that of the most respectable man and wife one could meet. The family have gone to Australia." I asked, "Why did they go?" Her reply was, "Because the man, a respectable hard-working fellow, thought there were greater opportunities in Australia than there would ever be in this country again."

I shall give one more instance. An ex-Service man came back from the War and wished to set up a fish shop. After a great deal of difficulty in these days of shortages he managed to get a place which he could convert into a fish shop. But the Town and Country Planning Act had by that time been passed and the development charge in that wee town in Scotland would have been £102. The man said, "A charge of £102 in addition to all my other expenses in getting into this shop! This is no country for me." The next week he went to Canada.

I have given two instances of people who made up their own minds, whatever we here are doing today, whatever the Canadian Government or the Australian Government may do, that there are better opportunities overseas in the Empire than there are in this country, either because of Government controls such as the Town and Country Planning Act, or for other reasons. Those are the things which people of "go" and of energy but of small means are thinking about in large numbers. I ask the Government to make it possible for those people who want to go to be given the freedom and encouragement to go, and not to put impediments such as restrictions of currency and other difficulties in their way. I hope that the Minister in his reply will show that if he cannot in these days encourage migration, nothing will be done to discourage it, but that those people who wish to go to make a fuller life abroad will be given every chance to do so.

6.38 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)

I join with all those who have expressed our thanks to the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) for raising this matter. As several hon. Gentlemen have said, there is need for new thinking on this old problem. We have to fit our migration policy into a general population policy and we have not had time either as a Government, or for that matter as a country, to digest all the arguments in the population reports which must be considered in relation to any population or migration policy.

It is also clear, as an hon. Member has pointed out, that there are many Departmental interests involved, which means a great deal of co-ordination. We shall also need to have discussions with the Commonwealth countries concerned before we can arrive at a proper migration policy. The main reason why it takes time to formulate a migration policy is that the Royal Commission on Population has only just reported. It is also a very complex matter, a great deal more complex than some hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in this Debate appear to think.

It seems to me that many of our old traditional ideas about migration need revision, or at any rate re-examination. In some of the speeches we have heard today there were a good many echoes of the 19th century, in which there was a rapidly increasing population in this country and in which there was an automatic acceptance by everyone that emigration was desirable because on the whole agricultural workers went out and created markets for our goods and provided food supplies. It was a very simple problem in the days when England was the leading industrial country. All that has changed completely. It would be madness to base a 19th century migration policy on a 20th century population and one has to think the whole thing out again.

Then we had the inter-war years with the new factor of trying to get rid of unemployment by exporting the unemployed physically, and by sending away men who would not have work. The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) said that in the old days the Labour Party used to oppose migration. I would point out that the entire circumstances in which the subject is discussed have changed. In those days when the Empire Settlement Act was being enacted, the whole idea was that the Commonwealth countries overseas were a sort of workhouse in which we deposited our people—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It was certainly a part of the policy of the Government of the day to help to solve unemployment by emigration. Several hon. Members have said today that we might be in the same state again; that there might not be work for the people here and it might be better to get them overseas. Perhaps I should not have used the word "workhouse" and I withdraw that word. But I still adhere to the principle that I was illustrating; it was an attempt to solve unemployment by physically moving the people from this country to other countries.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, there is the entirely new fact—or it is now very much more of a fact—of an ageing population. It is a complete fallacy to think that the arithmetical reduction of population necessarily solves any problem at all in terms of unemployment, if that should come upon us. I think there is a lot in what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. Were we an isolated country and not a member of a Commonwealth, it is at least very arguable whether we would want any emigration at all. It was a striking thing to note that hon. Gentlemen who were most enthusiastic for emigration took the most pessimistic view about the future of this country. They said that the boom could not last and there would be bound to be mass unemployment. Well, I do not know, and people who take an optimistic view of the future do not think that that is necessarily an acceptable idea.

In the conditions of full employment and a Welfare State, there is certainly no longer the need to send people away in order to solve the problem of unemployment. I would remind hon. Members that in this country there is a scarcity of labour, and if we send people abroad—as I shall argue in a moment that we should do—it creates a greater scarcity of labour which in turn creates further problems for us. A point which has not been made, and which has to be considered, is that the capital investment in a child who has reached the age of 16 is very much greater, and that that is lost capital investment if that child emigrates.

A point which has certainly not been mentioned is that if that migrant goes to another country which has a good and well developed social security scheme, and if the country to which it goes is to keep up the level of its housing, schools and health services, it will involve that country in a considerable amount of capital investment. That is one of the problems with emigration today. It is a matter of large-scale capital investment, both for the country from which the migrants leave and for the countries to which they go. The capital investment is on a far greater scale than in the 19th century. The countries of the Commonwealth are rightly eager that they should have British emigrants, but they are beginning to realise that it involves them in a considerable problem of capital investment if they propose to push up the figures very high.

We of course are not an isolated country. We are the centre of a very great Commonwealth. For that reason—not to get rid of our potential unemployed or house lists and all these other things, but because we are the Mother Country—we do in fact assist, and are in fact encouraging, migration to the Commonwealth from this country. We do not regard a person who goes to the Commonwealth as a loss in any sense. I entirely agree with what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, but I wish that they would have a word with certain Conservative candidates who, in the stress of the election, sometimes talked as if anybody who left for Australia was leaving a sinking ship; and also to their ally the hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South, who ended his speech on that note.

The solidarity and increasing strength of the Commonwealth depends on the increasing migration of people from this country to those countries who wish to receive our migrants. We must take account of the fact that countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada will in any case be receiving migrants from other than British sources, and it is all the more important that there should be an adequate flow of British migrants to those countries, if they will have them. Our firm policy is to facilitate and to encourage the outflow of all those people who wish to leave these islands, although we cannot compel them to go to the countries of the Commonwealth who wish to receive them. That is just a formal policy which we state and restate. We have in fact been carrying it out with vigour.

There has been a tendency to presume that there is a sort of constriction on the part of the Government. I know these things are said in speeches, but in fact our policy has been to facilitate the outflow of people from this country to the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, since the end of the war, no fewer than 470,000 people, in round figures, have left this country for the Commonwealth. I must point out that a very large number of people, not the same people, have come in, and the net outflow is, roughly speaking, 260,000 since the end of the war. But the figure which reflects our policy is the gross outflow, and that is roughly 470,000 since the end of the war.

Shipping and housing are the two prime difficulties that we have to deal with, and I was very glad that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) paid a tribute to the shipping lines for the great endeavours they have made—I may say with the co-operation and encouragement of the Government—to help to solve this problem. I thought that the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) was talking nonsense, and very ill-informed nonsense. He has explained to me that he could not be present when I replied, but I told him that I would have to say this about him. He talked about there being only 12 ships available, and that it had all been done by the Australians. In fact, all these things are done in close cooperation, and now, in early 1950, the number of ships on the Australian run is 25, and not 12. Ten of these are exclusively for migrants and there is another one which is soon going on that run, the "New Australia." The chief effort has been made in the case of Australia, but efforts have also been made to help the migrant movement to New Zealand and Canada.

There is no doubt that the important problem and the real difficulty is housing at the other end. I think we can claim that we have now an outflow of migrants which is equal to what can be absorbed by the housing accommodation available in the various Commonwealth countries who want these migrants. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) who asked about the Australian Housing Mission which has been over here mainly for fact-finding purposes, in the first place to look into the question, here and on the Continent, of providing prefabricated houses for export to Australia. We have given them all the help we can, both here and in Europe. We are in a difficult position so far as timber is concerned, but we shall do everything possible to meet the placing of orders which may be placed as a result of this mission, which was in fact not an order-placing, but a fact-finding mission.

In the main we cannot really make a very big contribution by building houses at the other end of the world. Primarily that must be an Australian job, though we shall help where we can.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, asked about the arrangements for transferability of social services within the Commonwealth. I agree that that is a most important factor which creates the free movement which we ought to have in our Commonwealth. The position in Canada is complicated, as always, by the dollar problem, but the Canadians themselves have lowered to one year the period necessary for qualification for family allowances which is their greatest, or most important, social service.

In Australia all services are available to migrants on arrival except old age pensions about which we are now in discussion with Australia. In New Zealand there is reciprocity over family allowances and we are discussing the rest of the field. These are reciprocal matters. They involve both Governments in potential cost. They have to be worked out with care. These matters cannot be rushed, but we are making steady progress. Some progress has been made since the last Debate.

I come to the question of the limit of £1,000, spread over four years, which can be taken to Canada. We came to this decision with the greatest unhappiness. This is the one exception to what we have been doing to facilitate the flow of migrants, and we have done it solely for dollar reasons. We could have no purpose in doing it unless it was absolutely necessary. Hon. Gentlemen must make up their minds. We cannot both save dollars and spend them. Quite an important amount of dollars is involved.

Before 1948 when this limit was imposed, dollars to the value of £17 million to £20 million were going every year with migrants to Canada. In 1949 this had been reduced to £8,500,000. The figures are not exact and they include Canada and the United States. There is still an important quantity of dollars involved. I am no better economist than the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), but perhaps I am about as good. I think that all these loan devices are only devices for moving dollars from England to Canada.

I cannot promise on behalf of the Government that we will give absolute top priority to this matter as the dollar situation eases. There are other matters to be considered. There is the question of timber for housing in this country. There are even questions about whether it is more just to allow legacies left to people in Canada which have been blocked by exchange control to be transmitted before capital. A number of factors must be taken into account. However, as the dollar situation improves we shall give very high priority to increasing the amount of capital which can be carried with a migrant to Canada. I shall discuss with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the point made by one or two hon. Members about whether it would not be possible, in some cases, to allow a larger portion of the £1,000 to be carried in the first year rather than that it should be divided over the four years.

I should like to pay my tribute to the various Commonwealth Houses in London, who have now admirable systems, which have enormously improved since before the war, for sorting out, informing and helping people who are to migrate to their countries. The system now works extremely well and very good care is taken of the migrants when they reach the end of their journey. Just as our policy has changed with the disappearance of unemployment, so has the policy and attitude of Governments elsewhere. Migrants were not treated so well between the wars. There were a lot of failures, and that did harm. All that has changed, because the Commonwealth Governments also have full employment. That makes a lot of difference to the attitude towards human beings who are moving from one country to another.

There are still people who come back disgruntled. I have on a number of occasions looked into this question. The numbers are very small indeed, and these cases often get much greater publicity than they merit. None the less there are some, and we should reduce them to the lowest possible minimum. In almost every case they are people who did not go under an assisted scheme. They went under their own steam without fully informing themselves about housing difficulties and so forth. It is most important, if anybody is helping a friend with capital, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend seems to do frequently, to make sure that the person knows all about the conditions. There are still many hard conditions for new migrants in the countries to which they go.

In this matter we should act not as a Government and an Opposition but as a Parliament and a people, because this will be a continuing policy as we begin to frame a proper population policy into which we can fit an emigration policy. We must not only consider the optimum population of Australia and Canada, but also the optimum population of this country. We cannot assume that it is automatically right and proper to take people out of this country. We must try to make up our minds—and here I might say that hon. Gentlemen who find it difficult to accept planning in general seem to jump at planning human beings in the mass—on the most difficult problem of what makes people stay in one place or move to another.

I do not know—and I do not know how anybody can tell for a long time—whether there will be a natural desire for people to go, without any encouragement or facilities, in the proper sort of quantities to the Commonwealth. We cannot judge from the position after the war. After all wars there seems to be a sudden rush. There was after the last war and after the 1914–18 war. There then arises the question whether there should be special inducements by allowances, subsidy or propaganda. We shall have to consider in particular the question of the assisted passage scheme to Australia which expires, or has to be renewed, in March next—if it is to be renewed. I do not know. We are thinking about that.

I am not sure whether a subsidy to encourage people to leave may be part of an outmoded and out of date policy. Certainly, it can only play a very small part in the cost of migration. An important factor will be the degree to which the receiving countries, the Commonwealth countries at the other end, are prepared to put capital into this. That may be the final limiting factor when we have finally solved the problem of shipping.

We must decide not only whether we should encourage migration to the Commonwealth, but whether we should take any steps to discourage migration to non-Commonwealth countries. That must be considered. We certainly want migration from other Commonwealth countries to this country. It is most important that there should be a movement about the whole Commonwealth. We want a net outflow from this country, but we want it made up by a bigger outflow counterbalanced by an inflow. That has been happening since the war and it is to be encouraged. It is most important that New Zealanders, Canadians and others should come to help us and to settle and work in this country.

In spite of some strictures passed on us in perorations today, we can claim that Britain since the war has been the country with the greatest emigration and immigration record of any country in the world. We have been doing this on a very great scale. A problem which we have already had to face and about which we have taken important decisions is whether we are to allow non-British migrants into this country to balance the British emigrants who go to Commonwealth countries, on the assumption that we need an optimum population. For example, if we send 100,000 people a year to Commonwealth countries, should we bring in a similar number from non-British countries to make up the balance? I think that our policy since the war, which has been to do that, has been wise. It is easier for us, with 50 million people, to absorb 100,000 people from non-British sources than if they went straight to Commonwealth countries, which would be the alternative. It may even help to solve the German problem mentioned by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Northampton.

One hon. Gentleman said that we want much more of a balanced emigration, balanced by age, sex and skill, than we have had in the past, though we have made great progress there. We have a system now of very close collaboration and discussion with Commonwealth Governments and Houses about the sort of people for whom they advertise, and so on. I think that we should have to carry this further than we have done, but the practice has developed to a great extent already.

Finally, I do not think that when we discuss this problem of migration we should think only of people who move permanently. There should be large-scale movements of people who want to spend their working lives in some other part of the Commonwealth than that in which they are normally resident. I am very glad that the High Commissioner for India in London said in a speech the other day that there are today more British people concerned in trade and commerce in India than there were at the time when India attained her independence. That is very good news and that sort of thing is very much to be encouraged. It is another facet of migration that we should not forget.

I hope I have said enough to persuade the hon. Gentleman that this Government not only says that it has a policy for facilitating migration to the Commonwealth, but that it has a pretty creditable record in that direction since the war, and certainly a much better record, with a much more controlled and a greater planned achievement than in any comparable period before in our history. I hope that this Debate will have the effect of encouraging still more people to think about those very grave and still unsolved problems which attach to the whole question of migration.

My own view is that the greatest contribution we can make by migration to the strength and future of the Commonwealth is by finding a way of increasing our own population here, to some extent by immigration but also by means of the natural increase. That is a very important fact. The people who want to empty Britain in order to populate the Commonwealth are pursuing an extremely short-sighted and stupid policy. We have to keep the reservoir full, if we are to be able to people the Commonwealth countries, in so far as those countries will accept British people.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.