Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to provide for the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, of any expenses of the Secretary of State under any Act of the present Session to make better provision for furthering British settlement in His Majesty's Oversea Dominions, so however that the aggregate amount expended by the Secretary of State under any scheme or schemes under any such Act shall not exceed one million five hundred thousand pounds in the current financial year or three million pounds in any subsequent financial year, exclusive of the amount of any sums received by way of interest on or repayment of advances previously made.
I rose to ask a question on that point. There is a certain Supplementary Estimate which the Committee will be asked to pass within a few days after the original Estimate. I put this point quite reasonably, and, I hope, quite clearly, to the Leader of the House. Could not it have been foreseen, when the original Colonial Office Estimate was presented to the House of Commons, that the sum of £1,500,000 would be necessary for the purpose of this Vote? I do not rise to take exception in any shape or form to the amount of the sum which the Committee is being asked to vote this evening, but I wish to enter a protest against a further Supplementary Estimate—the second already in the year —after the Secretary of State for War, a very few weeks ago, from the Government Front Bench, informed the House that there would be no Supplementary Estimate this year.
I am only on my feet for a moment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman himself got up a very few moments ago to raise an objection to this Vote being taken this evening. After what he said a few minutes ago, his protest seems rather strange.
I was under the impression that the main issue was to be taken. I had hoped that we should have had a very full discussion on this point, which is of vital interest to the Empire as a whole. I am sure that my hon. Friend is as much behind this Bill as I am.
I have no desire to stop the Government getting this Financial Resolution, which is very important. My only object in rising was to ask a simple question, whether the provision of £1,500,000, which would be required to operate this Bill, would be in the Estimates of the year. Time and again from these benches we have taken exception to Supplementary Estimates, and we take special exception to Supplementary Estimates being taken within a few days of the Estimates being presented to the House.
There is an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. X. Maclean), and also one in the name of the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Malone), which are both out of order for this reason. The hon. Member for Govan proposes to add the words "in the United Kingdom." The Resolution provides for settlement in His Majesty's oversea Dominions, and if we were to add the words "in the United Kingdom," we should have to take another Resolution. Therefore, it is out of order. The hon. Member for East Leyton proposes to insert, after the word "Dominions," the words "or Colonies." I am not quite certain whether Colonies are included in "Dominions." If not, we should again require another Resolution. Therefore, both these Amendments are out of order.
I beg to move at the end of the Resolution to add the words:
which sums shall be available for expenditure by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Act.
This Amendment is rather explanatory than anything in the way of altering the sense of the Resolution. In the Bill itself it is quite clear that, apart from grants made to intending settlers, there shall be loans made to Dominion Governments for the development of land settlement, and where these loans are met out of the £3,000,000 per annum, which, when we get into full work on this Bill, we hope will be expended, after five years may be returnable, and it is a little doubtful in the expression used in the Resolution whether when loans are returned, the Secretary of State can use the amount so returned on repaid loan for the continuance of the work. The hon. Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Sir H. Mackinder) on the Second Reading of the Bill brought up this issue, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies agreed that that returned money from these loans and from the interest on the advances made, should be used again
as recurring money. The amount of actual money suggested in this Resolution is so small that it was hoped that within a few years when the money lent to the Dominion Governments——
I was not quite aware of the argument which the hon. Member would adduce in favour of his Amendment. It seems to me, now that I have heard his argument, that his Amendment is out of order, because it is unnecessary. The Resolution says:
or three million pound in any subsequent financial year, exclusive of the amount of any sums received by way of interest on or repayment of advances previously made.
Under those words it seems to me that the Secretary of State could use repayments for certain purposes, which, as I understand, is all that the hon. Member desires to do.
It is so, but we did not feel it was quite clear in the Resolution, and we were in hopes the Government would accept the elucidation of the phrase, because at some future date it might be ruled that this money that came back from these loans might be claimed by the Treasury as revenue for that year.
Yes, but there is no use in putting words in that have no meaning, and that are not effective in the Resolution. The Amendment of the hon. Member is out of order because the matter is already provided for in the Resolution.
On a point of Order. Is it not for the Committee to consider whether or not the proposed words strengthen the Resolution? If the thing is out of order for other reasons that is quite a different matter. But I submit that if the Committee in its wisdom thinks that words can be added giving force to the Resolution, that is a matter for the Committee.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that this is in effect a Supplementary Estimate, and that it is not provided for in the Budget except in the way other Supplementary Estimates are provided for in the £25,000,000. But it might conceivably be that total will come to £55,000,000. I trust there will be few more of these, and that the Government, in the present state of things, will take care that this is so.
It would clear the atmosphere if my hon. Friend would tell us why it is not possible to include this in the ordinary Estimates, instead of bringing it in now as a Supplementary Estimate?
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I just answer the points put to me. I think, from the point of view of legal interpretation, the words "His Majesty's Dominions" covers "Dominions" in the narrow sense and also includes the Colonies. From the practical point of view, settlements of the people of this country in other parts of the Empire are mainly people of the Dominions. That will also cover the Protectorates. As regards the point raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bigland), I entirely accept the view laid down by the Chairman that the suggested words are otherwise. The last sentence of the Resolution was specially inserted by the Treasury to enable the monies returned by the settlers to gain, and for us to get the fullest value in money for the purposes of this Resolution. It is, of course, the case that this Resolution will subsequently involve a Supplementary Estimate, but I would like to point out that the maximum of this Resolution entirely depends upon the Dominion Governments organising a scheme, and there will be no expenditure here unless and until there is expenditure from other sources. This Bill was the outcome of a Resolution passed at the last year's Imperial Conference, and we have had to consider the amount involved and the probability of Dominion cooperation. That is the reason why it was found impossible to include this in the Colonial Office Estimates.
We have just left a Budget discussion in which every hon. Member who has taken part from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) to others less eminent have all pressed for economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer assured us that he had taken £25,000,000 to cover all Supplementary Estimates, and we have also been assured by the Leader of the House that the sum in this Resolution is included in the calculation presented to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The sum of £25,000,000 has been laid aside for the Supplementary Services for the whole year which the Chancellor of the Exchequer calls ample provision. We have already had a Supplementary Estimate for £4,000,000 for unemployment and £700,000 for Ireland and Russian refugees, and now we have before, us a Supplementary Estimate for £1,500,000, which makes a total of £6,250,000. The Budget was introduced on Monday, and by Wednesday we have reached £6,250,000 out of the £25,000,000 provided in the Budget for Supplementary Estimates for the whole year. With the object of this Bill I am in sympathy so far as the finances of the country will permit, but I think it is our duty to try and keep within the limits laid down, and I wish to direct the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the fact that already over a quarter of the sum provided for this purpose has been hypo- thecated. It seems to me to be extraordinary that it should have been found impossible to include this sum in the ordinary Estimates. Why not? Foresight can be exercised in connection with these transactions.
I attribute the absence of this item from the Estimates to the extremely sloppy condition to which finance has sunk. During the War Supplementary Estimates were passed without the least difficulty. That state of affairs must come to an end and the Estimates for the year must be adhered to; otherwise we shall spend, not £25,000,000 extra, but £90,000,000, and the whole Budget forecast will be falsified.
The reason I intervened earlier was that when this was first mentioned some days ago I desired to move an Amendment to insert "three millions" for "one and a half millions,' and "six millions" for "three millions," for the simple reason that the amount we are asked for is quite inadequate to deal with a question which has so far received the unanimous support of the House.
I wanted to draw attention to the fact that I understand that the only way of securing my end is to move a reduction, which I shall do if I have an opportunity. I wish to add this with reference to the remarks of the previous speaker (Captain Benn). It is not a question of extravagance in this case. It is a question of procedure and of the methods of obtaining sanction to the expenditure. It is a pity, I admit, that the sum was not provided for outside the £250,000,000 contingency allowance. But, however, that is gone by, and I hope we shall not have further delay in getting on with this Vote, and get the sanction of the Committee to it, so that progress may be made with the Bill. We all admit it is of urgent importance that we should not lose a minute in achieving what we are aiming at—to try and help in every possible way the scheme which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has introduced into this House.
I do not think that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) should be allowed to pass; without comment. With his general sentiment with regard to procedure, I am in entire agreement as to the inclusion of the sum in the Estimates for the year and the prevention of the presentation of Supplementary Estimates; but, when the hon. Member suggests that this Measure is in contravention of the rule for general economy, I join issue with him at once. I am supporting this; Measure on the ground that it is the highest and best economy from the point of view even of expenditure. This Measure has been commended to the House partly on the ground that it is going to save a considerable sum in the relief of unemployment at home. It was not commended to the House finally on that ground, but it is an element that it is a contribution to the relief of unemployment at home. This Measure, I think, should be accepted by the House, and I desire to give it my very hearty support from the point of view of a zealous economist.
I intervene in this Debate because of a remark made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) to the effect that this proposal seemed to have the unanimous support of the House. So far as I am concerned I do not support it, and I put down an Amendment, which, however, was ruled out of order, because it would have altered the entire scope of the Financial Resolution. I put it down because I have put down similar Amendments to the Bill itself. I have no desire to see the brawn and muscle of this country go out of this country to other parts of the world while there is sufficient land in this country upon which those people could be settled.
I know there are, but this country might have been better, though it would have been worse for the Dominions, had they been able, through a similar scheme of settlement on the land of this country, to devote their good ability to the development of the land at home. There is sufficient land in this country still waiting to be developed, and I have yet to learn that this Government showed the same desire to settle men on the land at home that they are evincing to place them in the Colonies. It is interesting, when we look at the figures in connection with the settlement of ex-soldiers on the land at home, to find that the amount spent on placing them on the land at home is so much less than is going to be spent in placing in the Colonies unemployed workers and ex-service men from this country, and it is from that point of view that I object entirely to the scope of this Bill. The argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) against it was that it was practically a Supplementary Estimate—it meant spending money without bringing it before the House. The hon. and gallant Member spoke from the point of view of economy. I do not oppose it from that point of view. If this money can be spent usefully I have no objection to its being spent, but with this proviso, that I want it spent at home in first developing our own country, which is waiting to be developed. Hon. Members will remember that with their papers a few mornings ago they received a bulky report of 100 pages or so on the deer forests of Scotland, showing their extension. The hon. and gallant Member for East Woolwich (Captain Gee) probably knows nothing about deer forests——
What the hon. and gallant Member says may be true, but at least I have the confidence of the ex-service men in Scotland, which is more than he would have if he went to Scotland.
My point of view is that many of the ex-service men in this country have a desire to go on to the land of the country which they saved from the Germans. I want to see it become theirs, and if the House of Commons can vote money to pay the passages of these men to places thousands of miles away, and place them on the land there, I see no reason why similar sums, if not this sum which is being voted to-night, cannot be spent upon placing ex-service men on the land of the country for which they have fought.
I will do so in deference to the Chair. At the same time, this is not the first time we on these Benches have had to stand the same thing from the same quarter. It is getting beyond the bearing point, and I, for one, am not going to take from anyone, outside the Chamber, at any rate, what is said to us inside. I let it go at that.
I am not going to invite any further interruptions. I am merely once again going to insist on the point of view that I take that this money, or an equivalent sum, ought to be voted in order to place men on the land in this country rather than treat them in the parsimonious manner the Government is treating land settlement, and I shall move Amendments to the Bill with a view to getting the views that I and others hold put into operation.
I do not rise to take part in the controversy, but looking at the two hon. Members, the best advice that could be given them would be to keep their hair on. When I was a teller against the Motion to exempt this business from the 11 o'clock Rule it was not because I was opposed to the scheme, but because I so strongly support the Government, not merely in this step, but in the policy which I believe they hold, which may result, I trust, in many steps forward along these lines. I do not know that any Government seriously concerned with unemployment in this country, who properly appreciate the new relationship that exists between ourselves and our Dominions, could more fruitfully occupy the real business and wakeful hours of this Assembly than by putting down for discussion within those hours such business as this. This is first-class business. This is high-class business. This is urgent business, and it is put down after 11 o'clock at night.
I am not at all interested in going into technical points or as to the value of land here and the putting of people on the land here. We will deal with those matters under other heads and arising from other subjects. The question is not one of putting the unemployed from our industrial areas into our rural districts. I know, speaking as the representative of an agricultural constituency, that the question is how to keep our agricultural workers employed where they are. Agricultural employment to-day is a very serious matter, and it is trifling with this Committee to suggest that unemployment in this land—of which we are all so proud, and which every man in his own way did his best in the great War to protect—can be solved by putting more men upon the land here. It is a waste of words and a waste of time. It is also absurd to suggest that there is a solution for our unemployment problem at home by sending largo numbers of men from this country to the Overseas Dominions; but it is not absurd and it is not unworthy, on the contrary it is wise and statesmanlike for the Government to ask the House to grant some small sum, and a larger sum if need be, to give men in this country, whose our look is dark, and who think it will be brighter abroad, opportunities to take advantage of the new sphere that is opening in our Dominions. I rose not to engage in con- troversy, but to say that the reason why I was a teller against the Government in the Motion to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule was because I support the Government so much on this question I would rather have more time given for its discussion in the wakeful hours of business.
I will deal with one point raised by the hon. Member opposite. This Measure is urgent because of our negotiations with the Oversea Governments, and also because certain very distinguished representatives of Oversea Governments are over here for a short time, and it is very desirable to get the Bill passed to enable us to got a practical discussion with them. In view of that, and in view of the fact that the Bill was fully discussed on Second Reading, when we elucidated the whole matter, I do ask the Committee to pass this Resolution so that we may get the Bill into Committee, and have it back for Report and Third Reading. It is not too much to risk the Committee to agree to this formal stage after 11 o'clock, and I hope they will agree to it now.
As an ex-service man, I wish to say a few words arising out of the remarks made from the Labour benches. Does not the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) realise that this Bill opens up the one chance in the world, perhaps, for some of our ex-service men, who do not know what they are going to do to got a job in this country? He knows that they are walking the streets without hope until this Bill passes.
The hon. Member knows that the Dominions are going to assist these men to develop new areas there. It is all very well to speak about developing the Scottish doer forests, but the hon. Member knows that that is not a practicable proposition.
If I had my choice between land in a deer forest in Scot- land and a good area of land in Canada or Australia I would choose the land in Canada or Australia. This project opens up one chance in a hundred to ex-service men. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman to consider the feelings of the ex-service men and not to do anything to interfere with the realisation of their hopes in this matter.
I do not rise to speak as an ex-service man, but I am the father of four ex-service men, and the probability is that if a demonstration of courage was needed I should not be a bit behind my sons. But we are not discussing the courage of any individuals. What we are discussing is the question of settlement on the land. I have seen a deer forest, though I have not shot over one, owned one or leased one. The point at this moment is this. By all means give the men a chance in the Colonies if they want to have a chance. Compel no man to remain in the Highlands if he wants to leave them. But if there are ex-service men who want to remain in the Highlands, then do not force them out of the Highlands because of the niggardly action of the Government to suit an agitation for cheap labour in the Colonies. Some of us know what is going on in the Colonies. I join my voice in the protest of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) against the statement that the Highlands are all bogs and rogs. [Interruption.] I do not like speaking against noise. It is like speaking against a Salvation Army drum. These noises are bad manners. There are men who can make a living in the Highlands and want to do so. I believe that they do not get a chance in the Highlands because we are an industrial country, and money made in industry is spent in keeping the Highlands of Scotland as a sporting ground. I was sorry to hear a Scotsman say that the Highlands of Scotland can not be cultivated. He is talking nonsense. He is not acquainted with the agricultural possibilities of his own country. I hope that the men who want to remain in the Highlands will get a chance to remain there, and not be driven out of the country because the Government will not make the same provision for them as they make for those who go overseas.
This is such a serious problem that I would not like the Debate to close on the level it has reached. It is an Imperial problem. I shall not deal with the question from the ex-service man's point of view alone, because there are industrial workers in this country who also are eager to emigrate to the Colonies. One or two fallacies have been raised by hon. Members opposite. We have been asked to co-operate in this scheme by the Governments of the Dominions overseas. In one case the request comes from a Labour Government. For the first time in the history of the Empire emigration is to be dealt with on a scientific basis. We are willing to co-operate with the Dominions, but the same old parrot cry has been raised about driving the ex-service men from the land for which they fought. Two classes of men are affected—ex-service men and industrial workers. Each class is vital to the life of the Empire and each class can take part in this emigration scheme. We ought to do everything we can to bring about a redistribution of the population within the Empire. I appeal to Members of the House. So far there has been no Division on the Bill. We all love our country and our Empire, and I ask that this Resolution be allowed to go through without a Division.
I want to say how much I find myself in agreement with the purpose of the Resolution and how much I find myself in disagreement with the sentiments expressed in one quarter of the House. This is one of the most vital and important questions that have arisen in this House since I have known anything of Parliament's history. It marks only a beginning, of course. We are beginning late, but not too late to do some good. The broad fact is that this scheme means employment overseas for the men who in this country are unable to get work. That will be for their benefit and for the good of the Dominions overseas. Our Dominions have proved an asset which cannot be decried. It is all very well for certain people to declare that there are strikes and unemployment in the Dominions. There may be, but these only exist for the same reason as that to which labour troubles in this country are due. We all know what those reasons are.
We have no desire to rush the boys who fought during the War out to these other parts of the world, but I am wondering why we have not had volunteers from among those who are so dissatisfied with this wretched old country of ours and who, during the War discovered nothing in it worth fighting for—those who learned nothing from the War. We have had no volunteers from among them, but we have discovered that it is necessary that we should provide a means of assisting those who would care for the change. We are driving no one; we are merely showing our desire to help those who are willing to help themselves. "As per usual" it is those who fought, for the good old country, and made the greatest sacrifices, who will probably be called on now to forsake the country and leave it to the shirkers, but they are having the chance of going to another country where there is plenty of elbow room and where they will have the assistance of the Dominion Government as well as of the homo Government. This, as I have said, is only a beginning, and I am only sorry this Resolution is not for three, four or six times the amount.
If this country is becoming so wretched, owing to labour agitation, syndicalists, quasi-Bolshevists, and all the other lot, there should be a fair opportunity provided for those who wish to go to other parts of British Empire, where there is a chance of leading a new life, a clean life, and playing the part of a Britisher. People who are unable to obtain employment here—sometimes through the tyranny of the trade unions—should get this chance. Those who sit on the opposite Benches pretend to be sympathetic with such people and sneer at this being a country fit for heroes to live in. They have not helped to make it a country fit even for devils to live in. Those unable to obtain employment should have a chance of going to other parts of the British Empire—where there are Labour Governments—and where they will be away from the temptations which beset them in this country—in which, it appears, the Bolshevist reigns supreme.
On behalf of the women workers of the country, I welcome this Bill. As a result of the War, a great many women have been thrown out of employment, and if this Bill is successful it will deal to a very considerable extent with the present surplus of 2,000,000 women. There are ex-service women, munition workers and domestic servants, among whom great unemployment exists. During the War, through the different War agricultural agencies, women had an opportunity of entering into agricultural work. Immediately after the War, they had the opportunity offered them of going overseas, but a great many did not accept. This new Bill gives a further opportunity, and I think many of them will be pleased to take advantage of it. In England they had schemes for learning the smaller branches of agriculture—poultry keeping and that kind of thing, and also some dairy work—and that will prove most beneficial. I welcome the Bill particularly on behalf of the ex-service women, so many of whom are at present out of employment.
I would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for an hon. Member who suggested that the House had shown that it was unanimously in favour of this Bill by agreeing to the Second Reading. In view of that statement having been made, those of us who view with some doubt the action of the Government on this question had no option but to state clearly what our position is in regard to it. It is obvious that the policy of the Government must be considered not merely with reference to this matter but as a whole, and while I do not object to any well-considered scheme for the purpose of giving opportunities of closer association between the Colonies and ourselves, the Government are here asking for an expenditure for the purpose of sending men overseas larger than their expenditure upon the settlement of men at home. That is so. It is not merely a matter of the deer forests, although with regard to that I entirely associate myself with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), but what about the promises which were made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture? The Prime Minister delivered a speech which is bound to be in the recollection of the hon. Gentleman now in charge of this Bill, in which he declared that there should be no attempt in the future to call upon men who were able to work in agriculture to leave their own land. Every Government scheme for settling men in Great Britain on the soil has either been abandoned, or the policy with regard to it has been changed. The assistance given to the county councils has been so inadequate that the county councils have been obliged to say they will not consider further applications for small holdings, and there is not a single county council in England and Wales that has not on its books large numbers of approved applicants for small holdings, men whose qualifications for settling upon the soil have been tested and approved. The committees have come to the conclusion that they are suitable men to settle on the soil, and yet they cannot be put on the land. Under these circumstances, I say deliberately that it is heartless and cruel to say that there will be no opportunity given for colonising our own country, but that these large sums of money are to be expended for colonisation abroad.
There is this further word to say, and I think it is relevant with regard to what has been said about the ex-service men and with reference to the bogs in the highlands of Scotland. When it was desired that the men in the highlands of Scotland should be called to the Colours to fight for this country you did not talk in this deprecating manner about the land of their birth——
Might I correct a wrong impression which appears to exist in the mind of the hon. Member? I did not mean to assume that all Scotland was composed of bogs or was forest land. What I talked about was the deer forests, which are mainly bogs and rocks.
I would ask the Noble-Lord to carry his memory back to the time when an appeal was being made to the Highlanders, drawn from the hills and valleys of Scotland, to fight for this country. No doubt he will remember a recruiting poster, a copy of which was posted up in Whitehall, depicting a Highlander at the hour of sunset standing at the bottom of a Highland glen. Below was the legend, "Is not this a land worth fighting for?" Was not the land worth fighting for? Now, these men having been induced to endure the hell of war——
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for a moment? Did not some of the bravest of the Scottish race come from, the Dominions overseas to defend our shores just as much as the bravest here, and the bravest in the world, came to fight? There is no difference between the Hielander in Scotland and the Hielander in the British Dominions.
My hon. and gallant Friend, who is possessed of much greater eloquence than I, is emphasising the argument I am endeavouring to address to the House. I am perfectly prepared to see any reasonable arrangements made to carry out the task which the hon. Gentleman has laid before the House, but I do say that there should be some sense of proportion in the Government's policy. I deprecate the policy which the hon. Gentleman has proposed to the House. It is a mere policy of despair to say that there should be opportunities of settling men thousands of miles overseas when these men in the Highlands, to whom the recruiting appeal was made, are to be flung out simply for the purpose of the further extension of the deer forests.
I would once more commend a consideration of the Report which has just been presented. It is not a report from people who are unduly antagonistic to the development of deer forests. With one exception, every Member of the Committee may be described as a representative of the landlord interests——
T think the hon. Gentleman is going rather beyond the scope of the Resolution. It is quite in order to argue that money should be spent in settlement here, but this is not the time to discuss this Report.
I am much obliged to you, Sir. I was led to go farther than I intended by the interruptions to which I was subjected. I really rose for the purpose of entering a caveat now, so that when in Committee we who feel that there is a lack of proportion in the Government policy are compelled to move Amendments, we shall not be met by the statement that we were coming there and stating for the first time objections which should have been made here and now. I do not propose to divide against the Resolution, but I wish to make it clear that there is a considerable body of opinion in the country, which has its representatives in this House, which feels that this provision should not be made when, at the same time, no provision is made for the further settlement of the people in the Highlands of Scotland.
I wish to associate myself with the protest which has been made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean). We favour any measures to help the ex-service men and women, but the protest which has been raised is largely due to the fact that the Government have not shown an equal anxiety to give the men who prefer to remain in England an opportunity to remain here, and I share the views of those who say that if the Government were prepared to spend the same amount of money in this country, they could find suitable employment for a good many thousands of ex-service men. I am not speaking without my book. I happen to have been associated with the land all my life. I was brought up on the land, and therefore I know what an agricultural occupation means, and I want to remind the Committee that if these men are to go out to the Colonics, they must be men who, at any rate, have had some little experience already of agriculture, if they are to succeed, for it is no good sending industrial workers out. At least, I am certain you are not prepared to spend enough money on giving them sufficient training or keeping them for a sufficient period until they are at least able to earn their own living on the land, so that if it is to be the men who already have had something to do with agriculture, then, in my opinion, you are going to induce men to go from this country who would be better kept here. I do not know much about Scotland, therefore I will not fall out with hon. Members with regard to the bogs or the rocks or whatever Scotland consists of, but I know my England perhaps as well as the next Member of this House, and I am quite satisfied that if this Government cared to tackle the question of making provision for the ex-service men who know anything about agriculture, the bulk of those men could be absorbed in this country, and the land could be used to produce food, and then the men would begin to purchase the utensils which the other men in industrial occupations are waiting to make. If the Government had made a real, earnest attempt at home to settle the men who preferred to remain here on the land, I am certain they would not have met with the same amount of opposition to their present proposals. I recently found a lot of ex-service men in Cambridgeshire who had been put on the land by the County Council. I was told that the land, prior to being purchased for the purpose of getting these men on the land, had been let to farmers at £1 an acre, but the price that had to be paid for the land was so high that these men were being charged at the rate of £4 an acre for it. I think it would have been good business for this Government to have sunk a few hundred thousand pounds in purchasing land for these men to work in this country.
I have one little grumble to make to the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill. One of my constituents wrote a while ago complaining that he went to Canada and remained out there for 18 months. It was prior to the relief that was given, but when he learned that the passage was being paid both ways he made application, and the money was sent. The man was out there altogether for 18 months, for 12 months of which time he could not find work, so that he was only in work for six months. He then had occupation offered him back here in his own town, and when he intimated to the authorities that he was returning, the money that had been sent to him for his fare there and back was disallowed. The man came home again and found employment. In my opinion, that was rather a mean advantage to take of a man who had made an honest attempt to get employment in the Colonies! There are other cases of the kind that the Department might well look into: and they can very well afford to be generous to men like this. In any case of doubt the men ought to have the benefit of it. There may be bitterness engendered in Debate, but I believe that in every quarter of the House, whatever our views may have been about the War, that in regard to the ex-service men there is an earnest desire to do the best for them—for they did the best they could for the country, The Government have preferred to spend £3,000,000 to send these men to the Colonies, though they might have spent something to enable those men who wished to do so to stay at home. It was that attitude that has aroused the protest from these benches. It should be remembered that there are men, young and middle-aged, who served in the War, and who have got all sorts of ties in this old country, and for many reasons they would have preferred to stay at home. Perhaps they have been driven out by poverty? I do not know that there is a man here who would deny the perfect moral right that those who served the country and who wish to remain here as citizens and work in agriculture or industry should not be allowed to do so. They have home ties, and all their feelings are towards their friends and relatives. They may—and do—desire to live in the Mother Country. They ought to be free to choose. This they are not able to do to-day, seeing they are without pensions and without employment; this has really caused them to go away. They would not have gone if there was the same opportunity here that you are affording them in the Colonies. I ask those in charge of the Bill to satisfy the Committee that there is an earnest desire to, if possible, keep these men in this country and if they so desire. If the landed interest in this and the other House were not so strongly entrenched, there would doubtless be a better opportunity for these men.