Motion made, and Question proposed;
That a sum, not exceeding £40,473, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs."—[NOTE.—£13,500 has been voted on account.]
On a point of Procedure. I feel it would meet the general convenience of the House if, with your consent, Mr. Chairman, there could be a general Debate covering the whole of the Dominion situation instead of separate Debates upon each Vote. I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs will agree that that would be the better course to adopt.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
Yesterday's Debate, by a curious turn of fortune, dealt with the importance of foreign nations understanding that there will be continuity of policy in this country. However important it may be that no misunderstanding should arise in regard to foreign affairs, I think it is equally important that when we are discussing Imperial affairs we should keep clearly in mind what the consequences of our actions may be in regard to particular Dominions. I have never hesitated to say—and I always endeavour to act up to that in practice—that although there may be, indeed there must inevitably be, party differences on question of policy, that so far as the unity, the development and the prosperity of the Empire are concerned, there is no real essential difference between any parties in the House. If that statement is acquiesced in when we are in this House, I submit that it is equally necessary that the same policy should be preached by all parties outside. It is neither fair nor honest, and it is not "playing the game," to give a general acceptance in this House to the broad policy I have now laid down and then in the constituencies, either privately or on public platforms, to declare boldly and defiantly that the disintegration of the Empire is inevitable, if the party which I represent are returned to office. If any hon. or right hon. Member opposite holds that view, here is the place to state it, because this is the only place where such a challenge can be met.
I am quite prepared, on the right occasion, to talk about last night. There will be no running away from that issue. Hon. Members ought to avail themselves of the only place where an answer can be given to any charges. It is one thing to make a statement on a public platform, and it is another thing to stand up here and face the music across the Floor of the House. I thought we had long ago gone by the stage when certain gentlemen assume that the Union Jack is the prerogative of a particular political party. I thought we had got beyond the stage when the British Empire 30uld be used as a sort of preserve for any political party. Last week when I was in the West of England I took up a daily paper, and the first thing I saw was a blazing headline to a speech made by an hon. Gentleman opposite who had been speaking in the Devonport Division. I noticed that he used certain arguments against the return of the Labour party to office, and after dealing at considerable length with that question he said that the return of the Labour party to power would be a danger to the Empire.
I notice that the hon. Baronet the Member for East Cardiff (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) is getting excited already, and I hope that is not a prelude to what is going to happen before I have finished. There are a large number of hon. Members opposite who, judging from their cheers, appear to believe the statement which I have attributed to one of their colleagues. Therefore, I am going to avail myself of the opportunity of giving those who believe that statement, who have uttered it and who may utter it again, an opportunity of facing that argument across the Floor of the House. There are two ways of testing this question. The first is to examine the record of the Labour party whilst in office and the second is boldly to declare our intention of what is going to happen in June when we get back.
I think what I have stated is a fair way of meeting the situation. Curiously enough, whatever else may be said of the year 1924, there will be no disagreement when I state that in the field both of foreign and Imperial politics the Labour Government was faced not only with a bad legacy, but with a problem more difficult than has ever been encountered since. I do not propose—indeed, it would not be in order—to make any mention of the foreign situation because the record of the Leader of the Opposition in that respect is a monument of success so far as foreign policy is concerned. I ask the House to consider fairly and impartially how we faced these great Imperial problems. What was the first problem? Our first difficulty was the result of the action of the Coalition Government who, in their wisdom, settled the differences in Ireland by the creation of the Irish Free State. Curiously enough they left unsettled one of the most difficult problems connected with that settlement, namely, the boundary question.
I submit that if ever there was a question which lent itself to party differences it was the Irish question. I well remember the baits offered to the Leader of the Opposition and myself in connection with that difficulty, and I recollect the great efforts which were made to make it a party issue. What did we do? We said, "Ireland has been too long the Cinderella of British politics, and the misery and suffering in Ireland is not going to be exploited by us." Consequently, we took the unprecedented course of calling together the leaders of all parties, and we said to them, "Here is a difficulty which is not of our own making or seeking. We do not desire to make party capital out of it, and we are ready-to unite with you in trying to bring about a settlement." That was the first step we took in connection with out dealing with the Irish problem. It is no secret to say that our efforts to secure co-operation were not successful, and the actual signatories to the agreement refused to co-operate with us. We did not stop there. We said, "So far as our view of Ireland is concerned, there is only one real and lasting settlement, and that is the unity of both North and South Ireland." Afterwards, we took steps to bring together the leaders of both sides from the North and South of Ireland. I presided over those conferences, and I said on every occasion that any solution that was agreeable to both sides the Government were ready to acquiesce in. Again we failed, but we were not dismayed and we were not despondent. We tried to find a solution ourselves. I said to the representatives of Northern Ireland, "Whatever views I may have held previously, so far as representation is concerned, Northern Ireland can have any representation she likes to agree to," and I said the same to the representatives of Southern Ireland.
Then came the difficulty about the selection of a Chairman of the Boundary Commission, and I came to the conclusion that there was no man in this country, however distinguished or eminent, who would be considered impartial in the eyes of one side or the other. I looked round the Empire, and I asked, "Where can I find a distinguished Colonial statesman to act as Chairman who will give confidence to both sides?" I invited Sir Robert Borden to act as Chairman, but that gentleman was unable to accept the position. Looking round again, I ultimately selected a gentleman who to many was an unknown man, Mr. Justice Feetham, I thought he was a well-known man, but, when I chose Mr. Justice Feetham, what was the criticism from Members on the other side of the House I Who is this unknown country lawyer who has been brought in to solve this problem? "The Committee will remember who made that speech. I need not recapitulate it, except to say that that was the contribution to Imperial unity we were getting at that particular stage. It did not daunt us, and we went on and selected Mr. Justice Feetham.
That is just why I selected him. It was because of that that I resented the criticisms of him by people who ought to have known better. The point is this: The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister came down to this House. What was their announcement soon after their return to office? Their announcement was: "We are happy to state that, largely as a result of the magnificent and painstaking work of Mr. Justice Feetham, this unfortunate problem is happily solved." What becomes of the talk of disintegration of Empire? What becomes of the talk of our being unmindful of responsibility?
I do not want to be reminded of hon. Members behind me, because everyone of them is capable of speaking for himself. Only a few weeks ago, on another Irish problem, we had an exhibition of hon. Gentlemen opposite dealing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not in the least disturbed in answering that point. I want to follow that by the next Imperial difficulty with which we were faced; and, again, let me remind the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted that, every action which I took then, and which my leader took, not only was approved, but met with the enthusiastic approbation of every member of this party. That was our first difficulty. We made our contribution, and the Empire did not suffer as a result.
Our next problem was in connection with the Versailles Treaty. Those parts of our Dominions, those self-governing Dominions which form such an important part of what is called the British Commonwealth of Nations, demanded and were conceded at the end of the War the right that in future matters of peace or war, they were not to be bound without having a voice or say in the deliberations—a very wise and necessary concession, justified not only by past experience but by the great sacrifice that they had made. But though that was conceded, no attempt had ever been made by the Coalition Government or the then Conservative Government to take the necessary steps to put it into operation. We had the High Commissioners in England with no power and no authority. We were immediately faced with giving effect to the Dawes plan. How could we interpret, in the letter and the spirit, the Dominions' right to have a say on this great problem which so vitally affected them? We said: "Because Canada will not agree to her High Commissioner accepting the authority, we will wait and do nothing until Canada can send her own representative, and join in our councils to find a joint solution."
That brings me to this aspect of the policy. Whatever Government may be in power, I am perfectly certain that the difficulties we experienced then, the difficulties which all Governments will experience in the future, will necessitate a reconsideration of this position. It is no good saying to the Dominions: "You have this power; we want you to exercise it," and at the same time provide no machinery that gives effect to it. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever his view may be, we should certainly determine to give more consideration to that problem, and in consultation and agreement with our self-governing Dominions, try to hammer out a plan which will enable us to be in daily contact not only with representative men, but men who have got the power and the authority to act in consultation with us. I know of nothing that ought to receive more attention in the interests of Imperial unity than the problem that we find ourselves up against and with which I am dealing at this moment. But we got over the difficulty in the way; I have indicated, and we got over it not with disunity to the Empire, but with the acquiescence and thanks of the Canadian and all our Dominion Governments for the action we took in that connection.
What was our next problem? It was that of the Imperial Conference. It is no secret that to hold an Imperial Conference with South Africa, with its past history and record, not represented, would be a disaster. We knew that General Hertzog, who had not long then been elected Prime Minister, not only did not intend to come, but refused to come. We are not supposed to be Imperialists; we are not supposed to have the interests of the Empire at heart; we are supposed to have no influence, but, at all events, we said that an Imperial Conference without a South African representative would be a farce, and we took steps ourselves. I, myself, personally went to invite General Hertzog to attend the Imperial Conference. I would only remind the Committee of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Prime Minister, and more especially Lord Balfour, who, in giving their report of the last Imperial Conference, emphasised that the great success was at least due in no small measure to the presence of the South African Premier. If there is acquiescence in those acts, if there is general agreement that we have done the right thing, what becomes of the humbug and talk about the Empire going to pieces when we take office? [Interruption.] I will tell the hon. Member for East Cardiff a lot more things, and all about his League if only he will wait. I will tell him some things of which he has not heard, and I am quite sure that his agitation will be complete before I have finished. I have now reached the stage of the visit to South Africa. I had not been in South Africa a week before I came to the conclusion that one of the gravest problems not only affecting South Africa but calculated to have far-reaching effects on the future of the Empire, was the Indian question in South Africa.
Now we are coming to agreement. In spite of strong Labour opposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I see that some hon. Members opposite cannot quite follow that. The Labour opposition to the Indian problem is in South Africa. South African labour people feel very keenly about their own jobs, and there was real bitterness and danger arising. How did we meet it? Not by running away; not by saying: "It is a difficult problem which we can let stand over." We faced it right away by saying to South Africa: "This is not a South African problem. You have no right to treat it as a South African problem. You have to remember that there is the great Indian Empire which is involved in this, and all the repercussions which will follow it." That is how the anti-Empire people met the problem, and we met it on their grounds. We met it against their opposition, argued it out and discussed it. How did we suggest dealing with it? I made, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, a suggestion that the Indian problem could only be faced by recognising right away that it was an Imperial problem, and that representatives of South Africa, India and this country should all sit down to consider it in the Imperial sense. That was the suggestion which the Labour Government made. That was the suggestion which was followed by the India Office after we went out of office. These four questions all arose in 10 months, all had to be dealt with in 10 months, all had to be faced immediately by inexperienced people unfit to govern! The question I ask of those who make speeches such as the speech to which I have already referred, and which met with a lot of approbation on the other side is, what grounds of justification based upon that experience of actual facts are there for the statements that they made, and probably will continue to make?
I turn to what is, perhaps, the most difficult of all the problems in connection with what is called the Imperial Conference. If I were asked what in my view is most likely to cause real friction between the Dominions and ourselves, I should say it would be the holding of a Conference in London, where all these representatives assemble and argue out different Empire problems, then returning to their States to find in a few months that a change of Government has caused all their work to count for nothing. Any practical man, I do not care on which side of the House he may sit, anyone who knows the British Empire, who knows the feeling of Colonial statesmen, cannot deny the statement I make that bitter dissatisfaction arises in that way. Surely, it is not incapable of solution. Surely, there are people in all quarters of the House and in all parties who ought to apply themselves, to that problem. I myself have suggested that the real solution is that the Imperial Conference, instead of being a Conference of Governments, should be, a Conference of Parliaments. By a Conference of Parliaments I mean a Conference where representatives of all parties would be present.
I know it will be argued that they would carry no responsibility, but I think the very fact of their meeting in this way would direct their attention and focus their minds on the problems that would be common and acceptable to all; and that would be far better than merely passing a resolution and finding, as experience has already proved, that to give effect to that resolution was impossible. At all events, I repeat that, while we are favourable to the principle of an Imperial Conference, with all its advantages and all the possibilities that it opens out, I do not think it is wise always to limit its place of meeting to this country alone. I do not think for a moment that it is a good thing merely to say that the Imperial Conference must always be held in London. I, certainly, would change that, and would give to our Dominions the value that would come from Conferences being held in their countries; and I would go beyond that by, as I have said, widening and broadening the basis of representation.
I come to a question which undoubtedly will receive considerable discussion during the coming election, namely, the question of migration. I suppose that no party is more abused and misrepresented on this question than ours. I will deal later with the general principle, but for the moment I am going to limit myself to what we did when we were in office—not what we said we would do, not what we proposed to do, but what we actually did in our 10 months of office. We agreed upon and set up the existing Australian scheme, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, sanctioned an expenditure of £30,000,000 odd, of which, as he knows, £26,000,000, four years after we left office, has not yet been spent. When hon. Gentlemen opposite are facing these problems on the platform, let them face them right out and at least deal with them fairly. I repeat that on the Australian scheme expenditure to the amount of £30,000,000 odd was sanctioned, and £26,000,000 has not yet been spent. While I am dealing with that matter, let me give this figure, because there is so much misrepresentation and, if I may say so, humbug on the question of migration. How many Members of the House know that at this moment there are over 50,000 names registered, and that men have been waiting one, two, three and four years, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, for an opportunity to migrate? And then we hear the silly flapdoodle that is talked in the country!
The right hon. Gentleman knows, as I know, that the barrier is not on this side. The fact that there are 50,000 waiting at least indicates that the spirit of our people is not lost, that our people still prefer work, that the spirit of adventure and opportunity to make good still exists in our people. The fact remains that while in office I made the Australian scheme which I have already described. The family scheme in the case of Canada was also our scheme. We were the first to make and fix up with the Canadian Government what is now called the family scheme, and, as a Government, we alone were responsible for it. I also made the only other scheme in Canada, namely, the scheme in connection with the Canadian National Railways. That was our work in 10 months of office; that was how we tackled these Empire problems; and I would ask, what ground or justification is there for the statement, to which I have referred earlier, that the Empire would be in danger if we sat on the opposite side of the House?
I will take any number of years you like. Whether you make it 10 years or 20 years, I do not care; I am dealing merely with the interruption of the hon. Member for East Cardiff that, although, as I have said, when we were in office we were responsible, and alone responsible, for these migration schemes, we did that in spite of the fact that, 10 years before, our people were against migration. That means that, because we did it in defiance of our people, we are, according to him, to be condemned.
Might I, then, remind the hon. Member of this fact, which should not be lost sight of in talking of migration, that, although there have been years of Conservative and Liberal administration, although the problem of Empire has been talked about, and although the question of migration has been a burning question, there was, prior to 1922, no scheme in existence. The hon. Member may be surprised to learn that.
In other words, if there is to be any condemnation, it must be condemnation of the hon. Member's friends who never did it. I hope the hon. Member will make that clear in Cardiff. If he does not do so, I will, when I am there, tell them what his view is of his own friends. The point that I want to put with regard to this question is that it would be unfair and positively dangerous to gibe at us on the question of migration on the experience of the harvesters last year. Nothing could be worse than to do that. It was an improvised, hasty scheme, though I myself would not say that even that was an entire failure. I would not go so far as to say that, but it would be a profound mistake, and against the best interests of this country and the Empire as a whole, not to face the real difficulties with regard to migration.
With regard, first, to South Africa, I would say without hesitation that to talk of sending people to South Africa is to waste time. The only people who are wanted in South Africa—and there is room there for them—are those who have capital. That is how I would summarise the situation in South Africa. In Australia and New Zealand there are, undoubtedly, tremendous possibilities, but do not let us forget that the difficulties of dealing with the problem in Australia and New Zealand are difficulties to the solution of which Australia and New Zealand have to make a contribution. I am not now speaking of a contribution in money; I am speaking in a much wider sense than that. My view is that you have to ask both Australia and New Zealand to sit down and apply themselves to the problem as it affects them. With Regard to Canada, I take an opposite view to that taken by many people. Undoubtedly, 10, or even five, years ago, it could be said that Canada was essentially an agricultural country, with an agricultural population, and that the opportunities there for agriculture were undoubted. I believe, however, that all the mineral wealth possessed by the United States to-day is exceeded by that in Canada. There is no part of the Empire that is so immensely rich in all mineral resources as Canada. How many people realise that, although the United States has a population of 150,000,000, yet Canada has actually a bigger acreage than the United States? I have already spoken of its great potential mineral wealth: but its population numbers 8,000,000 at the outside.
I would not for a moment suggest migration as a solution of our unemployment problem—he would be a foolish person who would suggest it—but that it could be made an effective contribution cannot be denied. It is a thing that ought not to require commissions of committees to consider. I will give a typical case of the foolish restrictions that exist. There is a man who has three sons in Canada, all making good. He himself has worked for 50 odd years and paid for his old age pension, not only by his contributions but by his work and his effort. Because he says, "I want to join my own family; I want to spend any retiring days with my son who has made good in Canada or Australia or New Zealand," the British Government says, "No, you must sacrifice the pension that you are entitled to." Was there ever such humbug as talking about the unity of the Empire when such barriers as that exist? We do not stand for that and we will not continue it.
Let me take another instance. I will give an illustration within my own personal recollection which affects thousands Supposing any Member of the House desires to reside in Canada, Australia or New Zealand and he is insured, taking the ordinary precautions of life. He can go to his insurance company, or send his secretary, and arrangements will be made at once to commute what he has paid. It is an ordinary commercial transaction. If a working man, who is compelled to pay his insurance, who has a vested interest and a capital value in it, goes to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or India and after two years wishes his family to go out to him, if in the interval he dies, they are deprived of their pension. You do not solve Empire problems by running away from that kind of facts. These ought not to be party matters—they are bigger than party—and whether we are on this side or that, we intend to deal with them and urge their solution.
Let me make another suggestion. I do not know what Lord Lovat's Report on this problem may be but you have to face this fact with regard to industry. There were killed or permanently knocked out of industry between 1914 and 1918, in round numbers, a million able-bodied men. There are employed in industry to-day approximately 700,000 more than in the boom period of 1914. Your birth rate during that period is exceeding your death rate by approximately 200,000 a year or more, and your unemployed figure at this moment is over 1,250,000. Those folks who are going to tackle the unemployed problem cannot possibly leave out of their minds the other great Imperial problem of what contribution the Empire can make to help to solve this problem.
I will tell you how I would propose to deal with it. I have indicated the things that must be swept away. I have indicated that you have no right to dump people into any given place without provision being made for them. A Committee representing all sides of the House of Commons, and including representatives of Canada, ought to sit down at once and face this problem, not with the view of dealing with the harvesting problem next year, not dealing with it in a tin pot way like that, but in a big comprehensive way. When you are talking about expenditure, remember the £650,000,000 spent since 1918 in unemployment benefit with no return. Capitalise that and then you will get some idea of the possibilities of real Empire development. I started off to-day with a view to challenging the House on the statement I originally presented, because if we are going to face the electors, do not forget that when you talk about the disintegration of the Empire resulting from the return to office of our party, in every Dominion in the Empire you have either a Labour Government or a Labour official Opposition, and they will resent such aspersions upon their policy as much as we resent them here.
I should like to refer to the tremendous good work of the Empire Marketing Board. A study of the wonderful research work they are doing justifies every penny of the expenditure. I want to know whether they ought to be limited to research. I say to myself sometimes, "What is it that is calculated to strain the love of Empire existing among some of our people?" I picture to myself a young, vigorous man, who leaves this country with a limited capital, goes to Australia, New Zealand or Tasmania and, after years of effort, becomes the owner of his own fruit farm, not working four, six or eight hours a day but toiling hard from January to December. Having garnered his crop, having seen the results of his year's labour, I can picture him when he sees it shipped to his old homeland, proud of his work and justified in looking for his reward. But his love of Empire is strained when he receives, not a cheque for the sale of his apples but an intimation that they did not even fetch in London the price of the freight. That is not an exaggerated statement. That is what has been brought to my personal knowledge. His feelings are more strained when he knows perfectly well that, while he got nothing for the apples, they were retailed here at 3d., 4d. or even 6d. a pound. Love of Empire does not appeal to him after that in quite the same way. I remember, while at the Colonial Office, receiving some Press cuttings with a letter showing me the advertisement in New Zealand and Australia of mutton for sale at 3½d. or 4d. a pound. I had inquiries made and the same meat was being sold here at 1s. 6d. and 1s 8d. a pound. I want the Empire Marketing Board or some such authority to have the power to ascertain where the difference between the price to the producer and the price to the consumer comes in.
Every view I have expressed to-day is land will be the considered policy of our party and what we intend to give effect to. Some of the things I have been saying have disturbed even our Colonial Prime Ministers. Mr. Bruce himself at the last Imperial Conference, expressed grave apprehension at the difficulties I have enumerated. The High Commissioner for Australia, in a letter to the "Times" two days ago, drew attention to the serious problem of Australian meat as compared with foreign. I do not know how far the Government can justify the placards about eating Empire produce. We know perfectly well that this Empire Government is buying a lot of foreign meat. I have taken this opportunity to give a broad and, I hope, not unfair summary of the difficulties we were placed in and how we met them. I will conclude by saying that I do not suppose that anything I have said this afternoon will stop the libel from continuing. I suppose that there will still be people who will endeavour to make party capital out of this Empire difficulty. I shall be sorry if they do. Speaking through this House to the Empire which is far more important than really talking party against party, speaking for my party with authority and with knowledge, I say that if the political fortunes in a few weeks' time enable us to take the reins of office—and as in 1924 it did not result in the disintegration of the Empire—our aim and object in 1929 will not be disintegration, but the consolidation and progress of a heritage of which we are all proud.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) has made this Vote the occasion for an electioneering speech. [Interruption.] I do not complain of that, but I cannot help feeling amused at his trying to make us believe on this side that the Socialist party is a truly Imperialist party. It is not always that his Front Bench can answer for those behind. Last night sympathy was much more with the rebel than with the leader, and I think that in this case which has been dealt with so fully by the right hon. Gentleman very much the same thing has happened. It is beside the point to argue from what happened in 1924. At that time, the Socialist Government were in leading strings and had not full liberty of action. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If all the Labour party resembled the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, I should have little fear for the Empire. I had the privilege in the autumn of 1924 to form one of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation which was most ably led by the right hon. Gentleman, and I had occasion then to note his tact and his knowledge of the problems of Empire. I could wish that many of his followers had the same realisation of these great problems. When he mentioned South Africa just now and said that there was no room there for the rank and file, I thoroughly agreed with him. There is not except for specially skilled men, but he went on to say "except men with capital." Then I asked myself: Could there be any men with capital if a Socialist Government were in power?
Yes, but they would not have the power of using their capital as they chose. It is a very material point. I read in "Labour and the Nation" that the question with the Socialist Government would not be what they would take from the capitalist, but
what they would leave to him. How is he going to provide men with capital to go on their own initiative if that is the way in which capital is to be dealt with? Is it true that the majority of those behind him are in sympathy with the Empire and the problems of the Empire? I would remind him what happened in Winnipeg last year, and venture to read again to the Committee what was printed in the "Manitoba Free Press" on the visit of that delegation with reference to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). I do not think that the right hon. Member for Nottingham was altogether free from blame. This is what the "Manitoba Free Press" printed:
Does a lie, once started keep on for over? One would hate to think that western Canada would for ever, or even for a century, be tarred and feathered and carried in a cart' by a portion of the Press of the Empire because disgruntled men among the British harvesters made certain exaggerated and fantastic statements regarding their treatment here, which were further strengthened by the condemnatory attitude of certain Labour Members of the British Parliamentary Delegation.
I am sorry to interrupt, but I do so only for the purpose of putting this matter on an even keel. It would be unwise merely to take an extract from any paper for this reason. If I were to dare to produce what the Malay papers said about the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. God knows, he is not fit to sit there; and he knows it.
At that time there was a very strong feeling with regard to rubber which renders my right hon. Friend's analogy quite useless. Here we had an Empire Parliamentary Delegation travelling through a great Dominion, and these two members of it very seriously offended public opinion in the Dominion. That was not a very wise thing to do. I go further and ask: Is the Independent Labour Party a supporter of Empire? Is the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max ton), who is the head of the International League against Imperialism in this country, a fervid supporter of our Empire? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] The greater number of the Socialist party on those benches belong to the Independent Labour Party, and one of the objects of that party is the breaking up of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman said that some of us on this side consider that a Socialist Government would be a danger to the Empire. We say this because we believe it. We believe that it would be a danger to the Empire and to this country, and we do not believe that the majority of the Socialist Members on those benches really care for problems of Empire or for the development of the Empire.
When the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the question of migration. I found myself in much greater sympathy with him. I know that he wishes for the wise management of this great problem. What is the greatest problem in the Empire at the present time? It is the redistribution of its white population, and we want our best and wisest to deal with that question. I agree with my right hon. Friend, if I may so call him, in saying that this should not be a party question, and nothing would give me greater delight than that all parties in this country should join together in trying to solve the problem. We heard this morning from the Prime Minister that the Government will take in hand in June when they come back with a good working majority, as they are going to do, the problem of Colonial development, and that there will be a Commission appointed to deal with it. I was delighted to hear that. A visit to Tanganyika in the autumn convinced me of the immense possibilities of our Colonies, Nigeria, Malaya, and East Africa, providing work at home, work for shipping and work for the natives whose productive capacity has become one of the factors in the world markets.
Tanganyika is a mandated territory which is part of the British Empire and will remain so. There is no bar to our developing that territory just as if it were a colony, if only we had a commission of our best and strongest to deal with the problem of migration, and development in the Dominions. A little more than a year ago I had the good fortune to be able to introduce a Bill which dealt with the matter. One of the central points of that Bill was the provision of an Empire Board with this object, and another provision was the widening of the powers of the Minister in dealing with migration questions. We heard from the right hon. Gentleman that there are 50,000 people in this country ready to take advantage of opportunities of migration. That is true. Unfortunately, the difficulties are on the other side, overseas. There is here among some people in trade union circles, and I sympathise with it, a repugnance to the idea: "There are superfluous people in the country, let us get rid of them; let us send them to the Dominions." That is not the way to get rid of the difficulty. To look at it in that way, would be an easy means of defeating our object. We want a large scheme which will make the people taking part in it feel that they are taking part in the development of a great Empire.
What are the difficulties on the other side? There was a very interesting article in the "Contemporary Review" last month which dealt with the matter from the Australian point of view and pointed out that one of the fears on the part of the Australians was their in-ability to absorb more than a certain number of emigrants. The Australians lose sight of the truth which was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at Sydney on his Empire tour, namely, that additional population developing the resources of a Dominion produces greater power of absorption. Why the Dominions are not more favourable to migration is that migration is so expensive as well. They think that they have not the power of absorption and they find the expenses too great so they are rather luke warm. One of the best things done recently has been the establishment of the £10 passage to Canada. That has established to some extent the free flow of migration. The migrants under that scheme have not to comply with a long series of conditions as people going out under assisted passages have, and already a considerable number of people have gone out under the £10 passage scheme. I would suggest that the Government should examine carefully the possibility of such a scheme as that outlined by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) which was published in the "Times," recently, signed by him and other Members of this House. Take Canada and British Columbia. Supposing that after successful negotiations with the Federal Government and the British Columbia Government a chartered company, supported by this Government, acquired a large tract of land, and set to work to develop it. The lack of the Canadian railways is population and feeder lines. This particular tract of land, and there is such land, would be near or about the Canadian National Railway in the Peace River district. A beginning would be made by constructing a feeder line with labour from here, laying out farms on each side and making roads, and gradually as that succeeded, as it would succeed, other than agricultural workers would be brought there, such as teachers, doctors, and mechanics. Material would be brought out from home, which would give employment at home, and shipping would benefit in bringing the material through the Panama Canal.
I commend the consideration of such a scheme to the Government. It meets with the approval of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) who is no visionary, and of the hon. Members who signed the letter to which I have referred. I discussed the matter with Mr. John Oliver, the late Prime Minister of British Columbia, at Victoria, and he found the scheme perfectly feasible. I discussed it with the authorities at Ottawa. I believe the scheme to be feasible. The result would be that we should get rid to a large extent of the system of dual control, which hampers and hinders the flow of migration, we should take into Canada capital which would be very useful in Canada, and we should provide in Canada a new market for the products of that country.
It is obvious from the discussion this afternoon that there is a coming General Election. When a man so usually kindly in his manner as the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) uses such strong language as he has done to-day, it shows that this is not quite a normal Dominions and Colonial Debate. The hon. Member misunderstands the position of the Labour party on the subject of Empire. There are two conceptions of Empire. One conception is the older idea of the word, which implied domination by a central State, and the subservience of tributary States. Certainly, the Labour party does not stand for that conception of Empire, one for which few even of the Conservative party could stand to-day. The generally accepted view of the British Empire to-day is surely that it is a Commonwealth of certain equal peoples, along with a number of communities where the people have not yet reached that stage of development which enables them to practise self-government, but where the conditions are or should be arranged to enable them to achieve that state as soon as possible. For that conception of Empire I think I can claim the united support of the whole Labour party, including the Independent Labour party.
The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) was justified in making a protest about the position which is sometimes allocated to the Labour party in political discussions on the subject of Empire. It is true that at the beginning the Labour party concentrated on the serious economic conditions at home, out of which it had really developed. But it was not very long before the leaders of the party realised that all mankind is inter-related and that the condition of the workers at home is very seriously affected by factors outside of these islands.
While we realise that any comprehensive settlement of human affairs must go beyond the British Empire, we do feel that a co-operating, united, vigorous and flourishing Empire would be a very great step in world progress. We have achieved in the Dominions the aim of establishing independent and autonomous peoples as parts of the British Empire, and we of the Labour party wish to speed up the progress towards this stage of the other component parts of the Empire.
The Conservative party has no right to claim the British Empire as a party asset, and the Conservative party authorities should surely discourage their candidates from using the Union Jack, which is the national and Empire symbol of all our people, on their party cars and on their literature.
I suggest that the Conservative contribution to the Empire has been more associated with the older conception of Empire of which I have spoken. In the position of the Empire to-day, where the problems are really economic, the Labour party has a very substantial contribution to make, and one which the Conservative party is to a large extent prevented from making, because of their political prejudice. On the side of the Constitutional development of the Empire the Liberal party has made a considerable and important contribution, but to-day they have no economic principle except the negative one of Free Trade, which has not been accepted or practised by any of the great Dominions. The Conservative party especially has had very great opportunities in the Empire during the last generations, but they have not utilised those opportunities to advantage.
It is natural that the Labour party should take a great interest in the Empire. Who has made the Empire? Who has developed the great Dominions? Ninety-five per cent. of the people in the Dominions have sprung from working-class stock, and of the migrants who continue to go from this country year after year the vast majority also represent the same class.
It will be agreed that the position of the Empire to-day is not satisfactory. We have in this country a densely-crowded population which is dependent on overseas countries for food and raw materials, and we have increasing difficulties in disposing of our manufactured goods. In the Dominions there are wide, unpopulated spaces, suitable for settlement and requiring development, and yet we experience difficulty in getting easy and scientific redistribution of our Empire population. The difficulty must be tackled in a different and bigger way than that which has been adopted hitherto. It cannot be done by hurriedly-devised schemes such as that for the Canadian harvesters, although I agree with the right hon. Member for Derby that that scheme did achieve a partial success. The real big problems must be tackled by a better thought-out policy. A considerable part of the problem in migration lies in the Dominions. Those great autonomous units of Empire, while they have preserved their affection for and loyalty to the Mother Country, have been allowed to develop economically in a direction which makes co-operation and Empire economic unity very difficult. The tariff barriers of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, especially of Australia, are increasing, and, in spite of preferences, they are a great hindrance to free exchange of Empire peoples and Empire commodities. Free Trade within the Empire seems a common-sense arrangement in an area comprising roughly about two-thirds of the habitable globe, and containing within its borders everything necessary for the life and happiness of mankind. But Free Trade within the Empire seems to be almost beyond hope, though it seems to me almost an essential for ultimate and complete cooperation.
We have other difficulties. There are other points, besides those brought up by the hon. Member for Windsor, which affect Canada. One of the things that occasions me most anxiety about Canada is that for a considerable number of years about 50 per cent. of the migrants have come from European countries other than our own, where the standard of living is lower than ours; people with whom the migrants from this country have to compete, and whose low standard of life is a considerable risk to our people. When we add to that the fact that there is no unemployment relief or poor relief, and that trade unionism is not very strongly developed in Canada, one can see the reasons for the hesitancy of many of our people about going to Canada, and also the hesitancy of those who are called upon to advise such people. Until the problem of security for the worker is faced in Canada to a greater extent than it has been up to the present time, it will be difficult to get that increase in population which is so desirable, whatever may be the cheap fare inducements.
New Zealand, I think it will be agreed, has for the present reached saturation point. There is a considerable amount of unemployment there, and without further developments there migration is not possible in the meantime. In regard to Australia there is very great room for development and immigration. A very large sum of money has been spent in Australia on irrigation and other public works; an expenditure which could only be justified by a considerable increase in population. The Australian people fear if there is a large influx of new people that any surplus produced thereby will be used by employers to lower their standard of life, and there is no doubt that a great many of the Australian people look askance at any considerable influx of people from this country into that Dominion. I agree also that South Africa cannot help us very much. She has difficult problems of her own and is not in a position to absorb many of our people.
The Labour party appreciate the fears of the workers in the Dominions, but we believe that a proper use of the Empire Marketing Board and other State Departments, which would cut out the rapacious brokers and middlemen both here and in the Dominions, those who create such difficulties in regard to Empire trade, would make a very great difference in the position. As the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, the producer in Canada and Australia is not sure at present of a decent return on the fruit or meat which he sends to this country, which, however, is usually sold here at a high price. Between the producer and the consumer there is a large number of individuals who capture the bulk of the profit and who never lay a finger on or handle the commodities at all. As I have said I believe that the Labour party has a special contribution to make in this matter. The days of individual marketing are really gone. In the Dominions, in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, individual producers have found it necessary to combine in order to market their produce, and they have arranged to work co-operatively in regard to grading and packing. Not very much has been done on this side to see that the products so graded and marketed and forwarded in a co-operative manner are put before the public after a reasonable commission only has been allowed to those concerned with its transport. The Labour party believe that the Empire Marketing Board, or some other body, could arrange for bulk purchases of certain commodities which would enable the consumer here to get them at a much lower price and give the producer in the Dominions perhaps 100 per cent. or 200 per cent. more than he gets at the present time. In all cases, there could be control of the selling price and of the spoils of the middlemen. If that were the case, and if there was a steady and increasing market in the Dominions for the produce, there would not be the same hesitation among the people of the Dominions to increase their population and to admit migrants from this country. And every new emigrant from this country to the Dominions would be a new customer for our manufactured goods.
We believe that very substantial results would accrue if we could only work the marketing arrangements in this way. Hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite, because of their objections to State interference with trade and commerce, find it difficult or have some hesitation in putting these things forward. We have, however, come to a condition of things to-day, both in this country and in the Dominions, where marketing, upon which so much depends, cannot safely be left to individuals who have no interest in the Empire or in migration, or in the welfare of the people in the Dominions or at home. Their only interest is to get as much profit and benefit as possible for themselves, no matter who may suffer. One could quote many instances similar to that given by the right hon. Gentleman about Tasmanian apples, about the enormous difference between the prices at Covent Garden and the price at which the goods are sold to the customer. After all, is it not rather a foolish thing to spend so much money on advertising Empire products, invitations to buy Empire goods, and yet while we give that invitation, we allow a state of things to exist whereby manipulators and financial sharks of all kinds are able to rob both the producer and the public? Would it not be much better if the producer got a bigger amount and if the public could buy cheaper? Would not that be the best possible advertisement for Empire produce? I am sure it could be achieved if those in authority in the Empire Marketing Board and in other Departments were able and were prepared to use the authority of the State and say that only fair trading would be permitted, and that only a fair margin of profit would be allowed to those who handle these Empire commodities when they arrive in this country.
We are all agreed that lip service to Empire is not enough. The problems really are very serious. I say without any glorification of party at all but perfectly sincerely that the problems arising internally in our own country and in relation to our Dominions cannot be met in the old laissez faire way. We cannot permit, because the issues are too serious, such unscrupulous exploitation as goes on at the present time and which, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, strains to a great extent the feelings of loyalty of our sons overseas to the Empire. Anyone who has talked to producers in the Dominions knows how much pains and care is generally taken in grading and packing and getting the goods dispatched. When they arrive in this country the conditions of private manipulation and sale are such that very often the return is insignificant and unsatisfactory. In this, as in other matters, I feel that what we have to give to the Dominions before they will welcome our people is security. It must be remembered that the people in the Dominions are working under democratic government and that the rank and file of the people have great power. Very often Governments have been sympathetic and keen in regard to migration, but the mass of the people have not been able to support the Government enthusiastically because of their fears. Therefore, unless we can show that we are prepared on this side to so arrange matters that the goods produced in the Dominions are going to have a fair chance then I do not think we shall get them to encourage immigration.
It will be agreed not only that we have an important contribution to make from this side to this problem, but that many members of the Labour party, and in increasing numbers, are concerning themselves very much with the problems of Empire and are doing at least as much as members of any other party to achieve good results. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has himself on several occasions paid a tribute to Labour Members on the Empire Marketing Board and on the Oversea Settlement Committee. There is no branch of Empire activity where Labour Members are not actively working, and while Members may be a little more sensitive and irritable just at this time I think it should be realised that we all have a contribution to make to this Empire problem. I hope hon. Members opposite, even at the heat of election time, although they may think our theories and ideas go too far and are not sound, will, at any rate, admit that it is desirable that our point of view should be put forward and considered. Above all, I hope they will give us credit for sincerity. It may be that our conception of Empire is different from theirs, although I do not think it is in many cases. At any rate, we are equally sincere in our desire for the prosperity and welfare of the British Empire, not only because we desire the happiness of its own people but because we believe that a united and prosperous British Empire will be the best guarantee for the happiness and peace of the world.
I am sure the Committee has been very much interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Dr. Shiels), but I am in a little doubt as to what the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) meant when he said that we were always accusing the party to which he belongs of being anti-Imperial. I do not think anybody on this side assumes that any particular party in this country has a right to the whole British Empire. It is the common heritage of everybody in our public life, and the sooner it is recognised as being outside and beyond the sphere of party politics the more easily we shall be able to do what we all want to do. There are, however, some interesting features of the right hon. Member's speech to which I should like to refer. Although we are on the eve of an election I regret very much that His Majesty's Government have not pursued a more forward policy in regard to Empire development and emigration. The right hon. Gentleman himself has done practically everything anyone could do, but I believe there has been a considerable block to progress from the point of view of Governments overseas. I cannot help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman had been more ready to take the House and all parties of the House into his confidence, we could have done something to make it clear that, as the British taxpayer pays a great deal towards Empire settlement, we ought to insist on having a fair deal.
There is one particular case about which the right hon. Gentleman knows. It relates to the regulation passed by the Government of Canada, that if a man has three children who are under the age of 12 he and his wife and family are not allowed to settle in Canada, although they may be perfectly healthy and can pass the doctor and everything else. That sort of regulation is obviously red tape and very foolish. There was a definite instance at Chiseldon amongst the British Legion families, and it was pointed out to the Canadian migration official who was over here. Steps have been taken to make representations direct to Ottawa on that particular subject. I believe that there are all sorts of regulations, made by officials in Government Departments, which ought to be shown up and made known in this country through the medium of this House, and that we ought to support the Cabinet of this country in seeing that our people have a really fair deal and are not in any way compromised by foolish restrictions. Our taxpayers pay a very large sum towards the settlement of these people and they ought in every case to have the fairest possible treatment.
Incidentally the hon. Gentleman who spoke last mentioned the personnel of the Oversea Settlement Committee. This House ought to recognise that the only three private Members who serve on that Committee are Members of the Labour party. There are no back bench Members from the Government side of the House on the Committee, nor has there been any since this Parliament began. The composition of the Committee is confined entirely to Ministers, and they have had very loyal support from the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are the other Members of that Committee. I think that the unsatisfactory figures of overseas settlement, as regards Canada, are very largely due to the action of one individual who is a permanent official in Ottawa, and I cannot help feeling that if the Oversea Settlement Committee took a little stronger line we might succeed in getting that official a little bit more amenable to our own point of view.
There is another matter which I hope-the Secretary of State will take up. I regret very much that it is not part of the programme of our party. It is a matter which I know that my right hon. Friend has had at heart for some time. It is a matter which tends to deter men from settling overseas. That is the question of the forfeiting of the premiums that they have paid towards the various national insurance schemes. It seems to me to be the most extraordinary nonsense that we should not capitalise the value of the premiums paid by all persons who wish to emigrate. It is a perfectly normal financial operation and there is no difficulty about it. I was delighted to learn from the right hon. Member for Derby that should his party take office after the General Election one of the steps they are going to take will be to deal with this matter. I hope that when we return to office, as I think we shall, whoever is responsible for the Dominions will induce the Treasury to provide sufficient funds for money to be repaid to those migrants who have previously paid premiums which they are not in a position to forego.
I have had the experience of talking to a good many men, ex-service men chiefly, on the subject, and they have said to me, "Why should we go overseas? Ever since we have been in employment we have had week by week to pay so much. We are insured as regards our wives, our families and ourselves, and we cannot afford to throw away what may be a comfortable old age and take on all the risks of going overseas." They feel that it is not fair to their families, who have been provided for as regards schooling and so on. I would go further and repay to them not only their own premiums, but a proper proportion of the State's actuarial liability in meeting their probable demands as regards maternity, health, education and the rest. I am satisfied that if something of that sort could be done it would remove one of the obstacles to migration. It is a thing that can be done only by the Government of this country.
Let me turn to Australia. I do not know whether the Committee realise that 1926 was the last occasion when an assisted family from this country settled in Australia. That seems to be a most extraordinary situation. Australia is capable of accepting families at a time of the year when the climate makes it very difficult for families to settle in Canada. Could we not so arrange things between this country and Canada that men went there in the early spring of the year and others to Australia in the fall of the year? We could then have continual training here and could build up such a system of settlement, certainly in Western Australia, which is capable of taking a great many more families, as would greatly help matters. If we really concentrated on this object, not from a party point of view but from the point of view of our national obligation in playing our part to maintain the Empire as thoroughly British, we could do a great deal to help future generations.
Then there is the question which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Derby, as to South Africa being a country to which only persons with a small amount of capital should go. I am sure that, speaking generally, that is absolutely true; but it is equally true that there are opportunities in South Africa for people with capital to take out others as working though not financial partners. There are opportunities in orange growing and in other ways by which we could undoubtedly settle a certain number of people, those with capital and those who, having capital, take out someone who may not have much of this world's goods.
In regard to the question of training centres, we ought to recognise that when those centres were started the Socialist party did their level best to help them forward. That brings me to the point that I believe it is only members of the Socialist party who can assist in Empire settlement, and that without their help we cannot do all that we should like to do. A difficulty in the past has been the hostility of trade unionists to the sending of skilled men, for instance to Melbourne and Sydney and other places, where it was felt that the position of the existing workers would be upset. That is why more has not been done hitherto. It is no use trying to prove that the more people get into a country the happier is the position of that part of the Empire. This work would be far better done by the trade unionists of this country—the work of bringing home to their colleagues overseas the fact that there is no wish to spoil the market from the point of view of labour overseas, but that we do want to look upon the Empire and the labour market of the Empire as something which is the concern of the Government of each of the Dominions as well as of that at home. With the co-operation of the Labour party here and overseas we ought once and for all to abandon the stupid and antiquated ideas which have done so much to stop the flow of skilled labour from this country to places overseas. It is only by such co-operation that it will be possible to guarantee work to skilled craftsmen overseas.
Next there is the question of the Empire Marketing Board. I believe that this House owes the Secretary of State for the Dominions an enormous debt of gratitude for what he did when he made a tour of the Empire last year. I have had an opportunity of reading some of the speeches that my right hon. Friend made on that tour, and I think I have never read speeches which were more calculated to inculcate the feeling of Empire unity since the speeches of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. No person who heard the right hon. Gentleman overseas could have misunderstood his great enthusiasm for Empire development, or the work that is being done by the Department that is under his authority. It is a great misfortune that some of us cannot hear some of those speeches delivered in this House, because of the weight of administrative detail which must necessarily oppress him when he is here. That weight was removed when he was overseas, and we had in him a sort of Missioner of Empire whose work was of incalculable value.
I hope that, after listening to the speech of the last speaker, the Committee will not run away with the idea that the Empire Marketing Board should be a sort of sales department of Empire. I am sure that that would be an entirely wrong line to take. The Board's business, as laid down in the constitution, is to forward in every possible way the grading and marking of goods, and to encourage research. The work done by the Board has not had adequate recognition from this House or from the country. I believe it is the most successful department of State that has been set up for many days. The personnel of the Department and the work done by the various Committees are beyond all praise. How many Members of the House, I wonder, have read the last report, Command Paper No. 3158? It gives one some sort of idea of what the future of the Empire Marketing Board might be if it were left alone to develop itself on normal lines. I am afraid that if it were made a State trading department it would fall into all those difficulties of State trading which we know so well. It is far better that the Board should assist in every possible way in cheapening transportation and in encouraging settlers to pack and grade their goods for the British market in the way that the British market wants.
The members of the Board have been most extraordinarily successful in their efforts. There is one further thing they must do, which they cannot do at present. If the Board were given more money, I should like to see them allowed to advertise British goods in the Dominions. I cannot see why, because an Empire Marketing Board was set up to assist the sale of Empire goods in this country, as we were not able to grant them Preference, we should not go a little further and utilise the Board to advertise British goods in the Dominions and Colonies. I am satisfied that the Board would not waste the money. The advertising of British goods in the British Empire should be done without restriction by a Department of State in this country. If we start by saying, "You shall not do this or that," we are hampering trade.
In the case of the Department of Overseas Trade—though it has no direct connection with the Empire Marketing Board—there are trade commissioners in the different countries of Europe whose reports are of extraordinary excellence but are entirely unknown and unused. In the British Dominions there is no opportunity of making use of the reports of the trade commissioners of the Department of Overseas Trade. There is no use paying salaries to skilled people who make reports, if those reports are not going to be used, not only by our own people here, but by our merchants and commercial men in the Dominions. I think there might be much usefulness in having some sort of connection between the Empire Marketing Board and the Department of Overseas Trade so as to ascertain the normal flow of trade and what countries on the Continent are buying goods from places within the British Empire, and seeing whether we cannot direct the flow of the products of the Empire, not only to this country but to other countries in Europe.
It is much to be regretted that so little time is available in the House of Commons for discussing the affairs of the Empire. The opportunities for discussion are small and the subject is immense. When one listens to the Secretary of State for the Dominions, one realises that he must feel that, if he leaves out one part of the Empire, that part of the Empire will wonder why it is being left out, and the result is that he has to cover an enormous field in a limited time. I suggest that in future a sort of general report by the Secretary of State, showing what is going on in the Dominions and throughout the Empire, might be issued in the form of a White Paper. In this way, apart from the ordinary blue books, we might have a readable report, adequately divided up, to which reference could be made by Members for the purposes of these Debates and it would then be possible to discuss properly matters which are of the greatest interest to this country and to the whole Empire. Interesting as are the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, I always feel on reading them that there is something else which he has not had time to mention. If he could issue a report setting out all the salient features, it would enable the House and the country to have a just appreciation of the wonderful advances which are being made in Imperial matters and also the many opportunities which are being missed by us of making far more of the Empire than we do. Whatever the future may hold, the full benefit of the Empire will only be achieved if men of all parties forget party bickerings and concentrate on future Imperial development and on the assistance of our people by migration and other methods.
When hon. Members opposite speak about the Labour party as being opposed to migration, I am afraid they do not thoroughly understand the position from the working man's point of view. If they had had the experiences which we have had related to us, they would understand a little better the feeling against people going into the towns of Canada and Australia and increasing the number of unemployed there. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) spoke about the trade unions in this country assisting migration. What man in his senses in this country would go to seek work as an engineer in Sydney, knowing that there were already unemployed engineers there, and what engineer in his senses in Sydney would agree to more engineers being brought from England to Sydney if it prevented him getting a job? There is no use in talking platitudes. We might as well face the fact that every man who has been to the Dominions and has been unemployed there, prevents a number of other people from going to the Dominions. Every letter from an unemployed man in the towns in our Dominions, relating the terrible time he is having and the privations he is suffering prevents scores if not hundreds of others from going out. That is a fact which I want to be faced not by the Conservative party or the Labour party but by the House of Commons as a whole.
I object to some of the stupid things which are being said about the Labour party and the Dominions. The feeling with regard to migration is the feeling of the unemployed man that he objects to being pushed out of his own country if he wants to stay there. Ill-feeling in this matter has been engendered by the fact that in the past no schemes were arranged which would give these men some measure of certainty that they would get jobs when they went overseas. The average man going abroad does not do so for himself alone, but with the intention of making a home for his wife and children. I put it frankly to the Committee. What arrangements have been made in the past for such men? They have had nothing but the rough and ready possibility that they might get jobs. If they did, all was well. If they did not, then not only the men themselves but the wives and children suffered. The reason for the suspicion, which undoubtedly is prevalent among thousands of the working class in this country, in regard to migration, is the knowledge that migration has not been organised on a scientific scale.
The Committee will pardon me if I give my own experience. In 1910, my wages; were 23s. a week and I had a wife and two children. After long discussion with my wife, we decided to go to Canada. We arranged for the sale of our furniture and for my wife and children to live with her mother. Then, a week before I was to make final arrangements, I asked myself what would happen to my wife and children if I failed to get a job. I put it to hon. Members opposite, if they were in that position, would they be in favour of migration? Who would care about me if I went to Canada and did not get a job? There was absolutely no arrangement to give a man the possibility of "making good" unless he could put down some money. That was the position then. That is the truth of the position to-day. I have had the great pleasure of visiting Canada and Australia and I say here what I have said in the country—that I would not advise my greatest enemy to seek a job in the towns of Australia. If a man asks my advice, I would not advise him to go to Australia to look for a job in the towns and I would say the same thing about Canada. I would also say, however, that one of the happiest scenes I ever saw in my life was the working of the group settlement schemes in Western Australia, just as one of the most miserable things I ever saw was the spectacle of some of my own countrymen unemployed in Sydney. There was nobody to care for them and they had none of the unemployment pay for which they had contributed here.
These things militate against the good feeling which ought to exist between possible migrants and the people over there. You have people there writing home to the effect that the Dominion in which they are situated is not a land flowing with milk and honey as it has been described. I would like to see a real attempt made on the lines of the group settlement scheme. We met there an old woman from London and it would take a team of horses to drag her back to England. But curiously enough this successful work has been stopped—after £30,000,000 had been voted for it. I wonder why. Only £6,000,000 of that money has been used and £24,000,000 is waiting to be used and 50,000 people are waiting to go to Western Australia which is forty times as big as England with a population less than that of Leeds. The Government there are spending money in opening up the country with railway lines, and there is land there capable of growing anything from wheat to vines—yet nothing is done. Whose fault is it? Hon. Members opposite cannot say that it is the fault of the Labour party though we are accused of being the only people who do not wag the flag.
We have been accused here to-day of preventing migration. [Interruption.] Of course it is silly but people on the other side who regard it as silly ought to say so. When the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) was speaking, one would have thought that he was addressing a meeting of the Junior "Imps," he wagged the flag so much. But all the people on the other side are not more concerned about the Empire than about money, and it is not always those who say most who are prepared to do most work. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) that this ought not to be a party question. As long as there is a family in this country who want to go abroad, who are prepared to go abroad, we should use every endeavour to enable them to go—but only under good conditions and they ought not be pushed. I would not push any man out of the country of his birth, and we ought not to be parties to anything which would even lead to the suggestion that we want to dump our surplus unemployed across the water. I was amazed to hear an hon. Member opposite recently propose, as a solution of the unemployment problem, to give the unemployed their unemployment pay in order that they could go to Australia. I have spoken to people in Australia very seriously on this matter and whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, there is an underlying feeling that we are anxious to export—not migrate—our surplus unemployed.
That feeling must be removed but it cannot be removed by platitudes. Proposals such as that made the other work to give an unemployed man his unemployment pay on condition that he goes to the Dominions and as long as he is unemployed, will engender a worse feeling. I agree that there is no case against the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Derby that a man who has paid into the Unemployment Fund, the Health Insurance Fund or the Old Age Pension Fund, if he wants to go to join a son or other relative abroad ought to have his pension. I have pleasant recollections of meeting an ex-police sergeant from Bradford who was spending the afternoon of his life on his pension in the beautiful sunshine of Sydney, and who did not want to come back. Many people in this country would be delighted to have such an opportunity. This is the time and place for ventilating these matters and it is for the common good that we should do so. I do not know whether it has been mentioned so far in the discussion, but I would like to mention one point in connection with the Empire Marketing Board. In the tea room of the House of Commons an apple costs 3d., but it has been landed in this country for 1d. If anybody has a right to that 2d. it is the man who grew the apple. Some of my hon. Friends opposite went to see the places where they were growing the apples, and they know the millions that have been spent on irrigation and the millions of heartbreaking hours spent in using the results of irrigation in growing the produce. When that produce is brought to this country, it is at the mercy of a gang of crooks—I use that term without any equivocation—who go to the docks, who buy the produce that is coming from Australia, and who rig the market so as to buy at the least possible price, robbing the men who have done the work.
I say that the Government, if they cannot market the goods for the people whom they send over there, ought at least to keep some supervision over the way in which the produce is marketed here. There is too great a disparity between the price of the Tasmanian, Canadian, or Australian apple landed in this country, all costs paid, at 1d., and the 3d. charged for it in the Tea Room of this House. We here, I suppose, get those apples at a reasonable price, and I am not putting the House of Commons in the pillory. Probably they would cost 4d. or 5d. elsewhere, but the Government ought to keep some supervision over the marketing of this produce. If it is true that samples of fruit from the Dominions have been deliberately smashed in, so that they look bad, and that all the cases on board ship have been sold on the looks of the smashed samples, the Government ought to take cognisance of it. I suppose the Government are not unaware of these statements, which ought to be investigated, and if they are true, those responsible ought to be locked up. If you are going to send people into those great spaces in order to produce food for the people of this country, you will have to make some arrangement, whether you like it or not, to see that the produce of those people is sold at a decent price and that they are not robbed of the product of their labour.
Things like those keep back migration and keep those vast spaces in Australia from being filled with happy, contented people. If 2d. profit can be made on an apple in this country, on a cost price of 1d., I say that half that amount ought to go to the man who produces it, and a Government which cannot see that he gets a fair share of the result of his labour is not doing its work properly. There is no reason, except the ordinary, orthodox prejudice of hon. Members opposite in favour of private enterprise, that prevents it being done. It can be done, because I happened to be a voluntary worker in the greatest scheme of Empire marketing that the world has ever known in which the British Government made a profit of over £60,000,000 and shared half of it with the producer. I refer to the purchasing of the Australian wool and of the British wool. It was true that it was done in war time, when there were exceptional circumstances, but it is also true that the majority of the people during war time were more or less daft, either one way or another, and if we could do it when we were all more or less wrong in our heads, we can do it, surely, when we are all more or less sane. If it was possible to buy khaki cloth more cheaply at the end of the War than at the beginning, and to make a profit of £60,000,000 on the transaction, by buying Empire products when we were daft, we can do it when we are right in our heads.
I believe in an extension of the Empire Marketing Board. I visited a group of Australian ex-service men and was told that the high cost at which their land had been bought and their comparatively high expenses, together with the very low prices they were getting for the excellent goods they produced, took the heart out of them, with the result that any number of those homes belonging to ex-service men were deserted, and they could not find successors. I ask the Dominions Office to take some cognisance of the prices that are being paid for the produce of these people when it is sent over here. If I go along the Strand and Fleet Street, I see Canada House and Australia House, and I see the offices of the High Commissioners for South Africa and the other Dominions and Colonies, and every one of them has some kind of advance agent over here to boom the produce of the particular Dominion or Colony which he represents. If you want to know anything about Western Australia, all you have to do is to visit the High Commissioner of Western Australia, and the same is true, of course, in regard to Canada and the other Dominions and Colonies, but is there anything of that kind in the Dominions in regard to this country? I have never seen anything. I was talking to a man the other week who wants to sell cloth to Australia, and he said he had prepared his samples at a cost of £60, and when he sent them over there, they sold one piece of 60 yards long. He told me, however, that his samples came in very useful, because they were copying them in order to produce them themselves!
When a man wants information from anybody in London about Australia, he can get it in London, but when the Australians want any information about what is going on in this country, they have to come here for it. It is a stupid thing. When I was over there I advertised and advocated British trade, and I talked about British motor cars, but they said, "What is the good of doing that? If we write making inquiries about British motor cars, they send us a picture postcard of a car." That is stupid. I came back to England after having visited Canada and Australia, and, being a motorist and observant of the kind of cars they use on the roads there, their clearance and so on, I wrote to the manufacturer of the car I fancied and told him that I had ridden at least 5,000 miles in motor cars during my visit over there. I said, "If you like, I will have a talk with you, so that you can produce the car that I think they want over there, and I will come at my own cost." I got a very nice letter, saying that they appreciated my offer, but they did not think any useful purpose would be served by such an interview. I have never heard of such stupid methods in all my life. From one end of Canada to the other I saw only one British motor car, and the man who bought it could afford it, because it was a Rolls-Royce. Go into Sydney or any other town in Australia, and the curious thing is that while they can produce motor cycles there, they cannot produce motor cars. [Interruption.] They are well protected, of course, and I could say something about proposed Australian motor cars if I wanted to be nasty to some of the very good friends that I made over there.
I had not intended speaking to-day, but I heard so much flag-wagging from hon. Members opposite that it got on my nerves. I think the most useful experience that we had was when, as Members of Parliament, representing the Conservative party, the Liberal party, and the Labour party, and the House of Lords, we sat in Sydney, in Melbourne, and in the capitals of all the States of Australia, talking to Members of Parliament about matters which affected both countries. I profoundly endorse all that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby has said. If we are going to discuss the question of the Dominions and Colonies on non-party lines, which is going to be the only solution, it will not have to be discussion between the "ins" over there and the "ins" over here. It is not merely going to be a question of those who are in office in Australia and those who are in office here discussing the problem. It ought to be a discussion between all parties. Our experience was that, while we discussed things in Australia, in every Parliament House there, not a single party discussion took place, and we were able to discuss matters affecting both countries, the Mother Country, as they so fondly call it, and their own. It can be done in an informal way, such as was done when we took the opportunity of presenting that very greatly valued Speaker's Chair to the new Parliament in Australia. It was not premeditated; we resolved ourselves into Committees and decided what we were going to talk about—migration, trade, and other things. I believe that a useful purpose was served, and I would recommend the right hon. Gentleman opposite to consider laying the foundations of non-party discussions between the various Parliaments of the Dominions and Colonies and the Parliament of this country.
I want to see some of those beautiful acres of land populated. I do not know that I have ever regretted anything in, my life as much as I regretted leaving Western Australia. I wanted to stop, because I liked the country so much, but I do not want any of our people to go out there unless they are very carefully prepared for in advance. It is no use saying that there are not pioneers to-day as there were in the old days. Our people are always striving after something better. They would not be worth while if they were not. I remember, in the old days, that there used to be sand on the floor, and a wooden fender round the hearth, and the fireplace was blackleaded, but they are not content with that to-day. The pioneer instinct has gone, and they are not blackleading fireplaces now; but there is an instinctive desire to reach out for something better, and nobody has any right to regret that our people have not got the pioneering instinct. The old way was a haphazard way, but now money is voted, and people are waiting to go, and anything that can be done on non-party lines to put the people where they want to be ought to be done. I would not advise a single man to go to a city in Canada or Australia unless he had a job waiting for him.
I was asked what kind of man I would send out to Australia, and I said that I would not send out the agricultural labourer, because in this country the agricultural labourer is waiting for a chance to get into the towns, and in Canada or Australia he would soon get into the towns, after he had been on the land for a short while. I would prefer to go to the mining towns, to the great railway centres. Look at the allotments of the people who are cultivating the land for the love of the land. Give such a man 300 acres or 1,000 acres of land, instead of the 100 square yards that he has now, and that he loves and tends and nurses; give him the opportunity to get on to the land, and give him that opportunity in his own country, if possible, because it is as important a part of the British Empire as any other Give that man the opportunity, under good and carefully conceived conditions, to cultivate the land that he knows, and I am satisfied that it could be done on non-party lines, and we should see some of the fruits that some of us have been dreaming of since we saw some of these beautiful countries.
I could not help being disappointed when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) deprecate the making of party speeches on Imperial matters, and then proceed to make largely a party speech himself. However, if I want consolation, I turn with pleasure to the speech which has been just delivered by my Friend the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder), with whom I was a colleague on the Australian Delegation, and who has just shown the Committee how on a great question of this kind he can speak from his heart and show what is and ought to be non-party treatment. I feel delighted to endorse his line of thought. I think that we can join together on matters of this kind to the mutual advantage of the Empire, and survey the whole question from this united point of view as far as political parties are concerned; and create thereby a most valuable connection throughout the Empire.
After what has been already said I have risen only to make a short contribution to the Debate. It occurs to me that the time has come when we might review the whole outlook of the Empire Settlement Act, 1922. It was an admirable Act with admirable intentions, pioneered and guided by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions. It was universally supported as a great effort in the right direction, but we have had seven years in which to judge it, and I think that it would be wise if we re-surveyed the whole position of Empire settlement. There are several directions in which I would suggest consideration. For instance, the hon. Member for Shipley has mentioned that migration is not carried out on a scientific basis, and he has referred to group settlement in Australia. Under the Empire Settlement Act, are we really spending in the best way the large amount of money which Parliament voted? A great deal of the money is not being spent at all, because the best means do not appear to be it hand. It may be necessary to get into closer consultation with the Dominion Governments overseas to see that no needless inconveniences or undesirable regulations are imposed, and to try and understand better how we can, to the mutual advantage both of the Dominions and ourselves, promote further migration by our own people. As regards family settlement, the group settlements in Australia certainly look prosperous and happy, but their history is not without one or two hitches, and in those circumstances again it may be wise to review the working of the Empire Settlement Acts. That brings me to another aspect of the question. We have all agreed—it has been admitted here this afternoon—that the Empire Marketing Board has in its very short existence proved a remarkable success. Would it not be possible to institute something in the nature of an Empire Migration and Development Board much on the same lines? I cannot help thinking that that would be a valuable policy to pursue, and certainly it would be well worth trying.
May I make another point? My thoughts in respect of migration go back to past history. In very early days we know that Lord Selkirk successfully carried out a policy of family migration and pioneering in Western Canada, after whom the Selkirk Range there is named. We have before us the results of Mr. Cecil Rhodes' wonderful impetus and forceful personality in South Africa, where he started a Chartered Company and let them do much of the pioneering, encouraging families and friends to go out together and to settle; and they successfully shifted for themselves for a number of years. If the Government were—if I may use the expression—to smile on such a fresh effort in these days, I wonder whether it would be possible for such a fresh effort elsewhere in the British Empire to be undertaken. I have consulted one or two friends in London who are interested in these matters, and they tell me that they believe that money might be forthcoming to start a company of that kind. That would be an additional method of carrying out Empire settlement which would be to a great extent justified by what has happened in the past. Suppose that were organised by the right people and put into the right hands, I should be ready to plead for a certain amount of Government assistance. The way in which the Trade Facilities Act has been applied has been commented on in this House, sometimes with approbation and sometimes not so much so, but I cannot imagine a better purpose for a Government loan, if it is to be applied towards encouraging trade and progress, than that it should be applied for encouraging Empire building and for assistance to a well-managed company, chartered or commercial. I have not deeply looked into these suggestions, but I should like to throw the light of discussion in an impartial Debate of this kind upon them, for they might be useful in questions of migration.
I desire to intervene in order to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a matter which has been represented to me, and which I promised to do my best to bring to his notice. That is, the methods and the success of the Empire Marketing Board, and the way in which the money which has been allocated for that Board has been spent. It has been suggested to me that there is a good deal of disillusionment, if not discontent, at the results that have followed from the expenditure of this money. A few months ago, when this was first brought to my notice, I made a few inquiries, and I found, for example, that some of this money was devoted to subsidising lectures which were given all over the country by various lecture societies. I remember bringing to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a particular case which rather struck my fancy, where a lecture subsidised in this way was being delivered on "Some Curiosities of Currency," and I asked the right hon. Gentleman how that could help the sale of Empire produce. That is only a small thing. I am told, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give me some assurance on this point, that there is a certain amount of disillusionment among the agents and representatives of the Dominions in this country. I do not want this to be merely a carping intervention, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give any assurance on that point. If the information is not immediately available, can he give some assurance that in the expenditure of this money there will be in future constant consultation and collaboration between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and the various agents and representatives of the Dominions and Colonies in this country?
I suppose that all the time from one General Election to another, we all have an eye upon the coming one, and since we returned after the Easter Recess, there is no doubt that we all appreciate that we are not far from a General Election, for each day we are hearing propaganda speeches upon one subject or another. I heartily agree that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) which needed making in this House. It covered a wide field that is not usually appreciated and known, and it explained, what many Members on the other side of the Committee have never appreciated, the attitude of the Labour party to the Empire question. I find myself in agreement with a crusted old Tory like the right hon. Member for Aston (Sir E. Cecil) upon the question of migration, and I agree that in the relations between the mother country and parts of the Empire there is less, and should be less, of the party spirit than in most questions that come before this House. I am a party man, and believe in supporting my party, and I contest the suggestion that the Labour party is any less an Empire party than any other party in this House. I am quite sure that we can go to the constituencies after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby and flourish the Union Jack and sing the National Anthem at our meetings equally with any other party, if we believed that these things should be attached to any party.
I have seen a brief report of the Prime Minister's speech to-day. A reference is made there to purchasing British meat. I was in the House when the Prime Minister was in Opposition, and I remember his making a speech from this side in which he declared his emphatic belief in bulk purchases of produce from the Dominions. There is nothing on those lines in the speech he has made to-day as Prime Minister; but after the instances which have been quoted this afternoon of how the producer is plundered, or, at any rate, does not get a proper return for the produce sent to this country from various parts of the Empire, I think something ought to be done to put us more closely in touch with producers in the Dominions in order to insure that they get a better return from the products which they send us.
The right hon. Member for Aston dealt with the Empire Settlement Act. It is well to recall that before the War very little was done by any Government to assist migration. Neither Liberal nor Tory Governments spent any money on migration; it was the pioneering spirit of our people which carried them to the Dominions in those days. After the War, and with the assistance of Australia, Canada and other Dominions, an effort was made to assist migration, and even before the Empire Settlement Act was passed, nearly 100,000 ex-service men were transferred to various Dominions and settled on the land. The Empire Settlement Act, which was easily piloted through this House, and was accepted unanimously, is an Act to which I subscribe to-day. I see no good reason for altering the conditions of that Act relative to the fifty-fifty basis as between this country and the Dominions. In its administration I, personally, think this country makes a generous contribution to the Dominions, because it is not worked altogether on a fifty-fifty basis. In the matter of contributions we are not comparing like with like, and this country takes as broad an outlook as possible in its dealings with the Dominions in its desire to settle more people abroad. I believe the Empire Settlement Act has been a success, not only as regards the number of people it has dealt with but in improving the relations and the understanding between this country and the Dominions. That is its greatest success. The 3,000 families' scheme is surely the best arrangement we have made, and that scheme has worked successfully. Efforts have been made ever since 1924 to try to enlarge upon that scheme and to secure the settlement of at least another 3,000 families or more in Canada along those lines, and I offer my congratulations to everybody who has been working for that end.
But there are difficulties with regard to migration at the present moment which some people do not seem to appreciate. It is easy to say: "In 1912 we sent 250,000 people to the Dominions; why did we not send that number in 1927 or 1928?" There are tens of thousands of people in this country who are desirous of going to the Dominions, but they have not the means with which to go. Migration is bound to be more active and more successful when people have money of their own with which to undertake it; to-day the people who would go have not the money to carry them overseas and need assistance, and the difficulty is to come to agreements between this country and the Dominions such as will work. The Australian agreement which has been alluded to is a good one, not only from our point of view but from the Australian point of view, but that agreement is not working, people are not going to Australia under it, and there seems no likelihood of any-great spurt in that migration in the immediate future. The fault is not on this side. It is in Australia. As regards Canada, although I approve of the £10 rate, I regret the withdrawal of the £2 rate, which was discontinued on 31st December last. People are going to Canada to-day under the £10 rate, but there is a relaxation of Government effort in Canada in the matter of migration which is not very encouraging. The Oversea Settlement Committee, of which I am a member, and an active member, are finding tremendous difficulties in bringing about what so many Members on all sides of the House would like to see, a flow of men, women and children to the Dominions—though not for the sake of curing unemployment.
One of the dangers in connection with this question of migration is its association with the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour are very much in the limelight, but they are doing very little. They estimate that they will be able to train about 6,000 people this year. I appreciate what is being done to train men, but 6,000 is not a very large number, and I fear for the future success of the scheme under its connection with the Ministry of Labour. I am quite satisfied that it is not in the interests of the Dominions to leave the question of migration with the Ministry of Labour, because its connection with unemployment is not helpful. Very little is being done in this matter to-day, but I am convinced that whatever party comes into office after the General Election will have to tackle the problem of migration more seriously than it has been dealt with hitherto. I have also come to the conclusion that the Oversea Settlement Committee as at present constituted is not the most perfect body to undertake this work. I do not know whether we ought to create a board on the lines of the Electricity Board or the British Broadcasting Corporation, or whether we should have a committee of Members of all parties in this House, but I do not think it is satisfactory to have a committee overloaded with officials from various Departments. They think too much on the lines of their Departments and are not so much interested in the question of migration.
There must be a driving force on this side, and there must be more intimate contact with the representatives of the Dominions. There is not that contact to-day. There is a board in Australia dealing with migration, but we have heard very little of that board ever since its creation. An economic commission went out from this country recently, but we know very little of that commission's report or of the possibilities of migration to Australia. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has been to Canada, to Australia, and to various parts of the Empire, and I am quite sure that he has not been as successful as he would have liked to be in coming to an understanding on this question of migration; and the same may be said of the visit of Lord Lovat, who is now unfortunately ill, but who was a remarkably good chairman of the Oversea Settlement Committee. Whoever tackles this problem will, I hope, endeavour to bring about contact between all interests on this side and in the Dominions, and try to get a move on. One of the mistakes made by those who go to the Dominions has been to discuss the question with Governments while ignoring the man-in-the-street. When I became chairman of the Oversea Settlement Committee in 1924 one of the members of it was the late Member for the Forest of Dean, who has since passed away, Mr. Wignall. He had been on a deputation to Australia, and during that visit he devoted a good deal of his time, away from the deputation, visiting trade union branches and trade union organisations, and those who are dealing with migration from this side ought to try to understand the Labour position in the Dominions and endeavour to meet it, because there, I think is the crux of the matter.
Migration offers great possibilities, but all the same I think that Great Britain ought to be brought within the Empire under the Empire Settlement Act. People ought to have an opportunity of settling on the land in this country as an alternative to being driven—at least they understand it as "being driven"—to another part of the Empire. I cannot see how you can do that under the Act as it stands at present, or even under the Oversea Settlement Committee. I think it is possible that some committee might take this matter in hand and deal not only with the Dominions but with the possibility of developments within our own country. In saying this, I am not fouling my own nest as a member of the Oversea Settlement Committee, but I am satisfied that that committee has not got the driving spirit either on the committee or in the Department at the present moment, and this question will have to be tackled whatever Government comes into power. I feel that a Labour Government would be the best to provide that driving power, because they would endeavour to come to an understanding with the representatives of the Dominions, and I think we should be more successful than the present Government have been since 1924.
The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) has just delivered a speech, by far the greater part of which was practical, helpful, and non-party, although he could not refrain from opening and closing with a little electioneering flourish. The same thing may be said of most of the speeches which have been made from the benches opposite. In the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), the electioneering flourish occupied, chronologically, the greater part of his speech. I agree with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) when he says that the overwhelming majority of members of all parties look upon the British Empire to-day as a great problem, a great responsibility, and a great opportunity for free co-operation and wise trusteeship. I think it is only when we come to the every day rough-and-tumble of politics that we differ on methods, and are convinced each of us that the advent to power of the other would be a disaster to the nation and to the Empire. Perhaps I shall be excused if I do not devote a very large portion of my reply to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which was devoted to ulterior purposes. I will only say that, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman's spirited vindication of the true blue Imperialism of his party when in office, I could not help thinking of the passage in Hamlet which says:
The lady doth protest too much me-thinks.
I do not therefore propose to go into any critical analysis of the claims which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby made for the continuity of
policy shown by himself on such matters as the very difficult problem of the frontier between the Irish Free State and Ulster, or the problem of how to find accommodation for the rightful claims of the Dominions to take their part in any international settlement. There are other instances, however, where the policy of continuity was less successfully exemplified. In 1923 at the Imperial Economic Conference we arrived at certain agreements with the Dominion Governments in regard to which we believed we were not departing in any material sense from the established fiscal policy of this country. Those agreements, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, felt bound to reject, and although not all the Members sitting on the opposite benches followed the right hon. Gentleman, there was in that matter a serious breach in the continuity of our policy which was gravely felt in many parts of the Empire. In the same way that Imperial Conference came to the conclusion, not from the point of view of aggressiveness towards any foreign Power, but in order to make naval co-operation possible between the various parts of the Empire, that it was essential to create a naval base at Singapore.
I am not going into the merits of the case, but in that matter again right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not carry out a policy of continuity, and their action gave rise to earnest protests from some of the Dominions. I know that this breach of continuity was fully realised by hon. Members opposite, and from that point of view the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) made a suggestion in 1924 which has just been repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, namely, that it might produce greater continuity of policy upon matters arising out of the Imperial Conference if representatives of the Opposition were allowed to take part in the conference. I must remind the Committee that that suggestion did not meet with the approval of any of he Dominion Governments; indeed, it was strongly disapproved of by several of them. Mr. Bruce took the view that such a change would hamper the frank exchange of views and might lead to serious complications, when some of the representatives might be inclined to report on
their return to their own country their own version of what had happened, with the result that the conference might tend not to compose but to stimulate party differences. The Prime Minister of Canada dealt with the central crux of the whole matter when he said that
the Imperial Conference is a Conference of Governments and in no sense an Imperial council determining the policy of the Empire as a whole. Each Government must accept responsibility for its actions, and afterwards the opposition must be free to criticise, with Parliament, and if occasion arises, the people to decide the issues.
I have taken part in a great many Imperial Conferences, and the essence of their business has been executive; they have dealt mainly with foreign affairs and Imperial matters which arise from day to day upon which the Governments concerned alone have full information and for which they alone are responsible.
I do not want to have any misunderstanding outside on this question. What I said was that we should try to bring about a conference on the lines indicated. I am sure that no one will interpret that as meaning that we would do that on our own. In other words, I mean that our proposals would have to be considered after consultation and agreement with the rest of the Dominions. I thought I made that point quite clear. Take 1924 as a classic illustration. The Secretary of State for the Dominions spoke with authority and responsibility but afterwards the Opposition took his place. That may happen at any time either in Australia or anywhere else. I want the right hon. Gentleman to apply himself to the question how can you speak with authority when that kind of thing exists?
I quite agree that the problem we have to face is a very difficult one. But every Ministry must act on its own responsibility. I think the best safeguard against a danger of that kind is, in the first place, a real belief in the importance of continuity of policy in all parties. I will go so far as to say that it might conceivably have been a good thing in 1923 if, outside the Economic Conference, we had taken some members of other parties into consultation. We did not believe that at that moment in any real sense we were doing anything inconsistent with our established fiscal policy. I believe that the effective work of the Imperial Conference would not be helped by trying to bring in any element outside the responsible executive Governments, and by trying to convert it into something half-way between a conference of Governments and a conference of Parliaments. But the suggestion that there should be a conference consisting of Parliamentary delegations to deal outside the Imperial Conference with broader general aspects and so help to form a foundation of mutual understanding and for continuity of policy, I think that is an important suggestion and it is well worth keeping in view. In this we are encouraged by the experience we have had of the informal conferences of Parliamentary delegations in the Empire Parliamentary Association, of which its last visit to Canada gave such a successful example. It may well be that the time will come when, side by side with the free and unfettered conferences of responsible Governments, there may also develop an equally free and unfettered system of conferences between Parliamentary representatives. Meanwhile, of course, wherever it is possible to bring in the non-party element, it is desirable to do it. We have done it for many years past in the Oversea Settlement Committee. The results have only been beneficial. In the Empire Marketing Board the right hon. Gentleman is himself one of our colleagues on the main Board and two of his colleagues as well as representatives of the Liberal party assist us on other committees of the Board. In all we are doing we are striving as far as possible to maintain the atmosphere of continuity.
The right hon. Gentleman also, I am glad to say, emphasised his intention to do everything he could to promote closer and more continuous contact with the Dominions on the difficult problem of maintaining unity of policy on all essentials when we are dealing with the outside world. In that respect I believe that, if he were by any chance to come into office in the next few weeks, he would find that great progress had been made in the last four years. The Conference of 1926 helped to clear away many misunderstandings and to consolidate the position we have reached in the Empire to-day. The very fact that our co-operation, our unity under the Crown, is an absolutely free and unfettered one has made us more than ever conscious of the need for continuous mutual consultation both by the written and the telegraphed message, and even more by the personal human element. We have developed steadily the machinery day by day by telegrams, keeping the Dominions in touch with every aspect of the changing field of foreign policy, while the mass of documents for information on every subject of common imperial interest which goes out is infinitely larger than it was a few years ago. We are here to-day in closer personal touch with the Dominion High Commissioners, who have gradually grown in status and influence, and have been assigned wider functions by their Governments as the whole system of imperial co-operation has developed, and we are adopting at the suggestion of the Dominions a corresponding machinery for personal communication at the Dominions end. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite how difficult it is to send any telegram, the purpose of which is not misunderstood at the other end, and how much better it is to send a telegram to someone at the other end, whom you can trust to explain your purpose, to remove misconceptions, and to apprise you of difficulties you have not foreseen. Certainly that is the experience we have already had in the last few months of the work of Sir William Clark in Ottawa and of Captain Clifford in South Africa, who has undertaken this task in addition to the duties of what is known as Imperial Secretary. The result of the suggestion put forward by Mr. Mackenzie King at the last Imperial Conference has been very fruitful and valuable.
The same is also true of what is by many regarded as a much more doubtful experiment, namely, the creation of Dominion representatives in foreign capitals. Here, again, our experience both at foreign capitals and at the League of Nations has been to show that, while these appointments create a possibility of friction and disunion, if we wished it so, they also offer increased opportunities for personal contact and for spreading the sense of responsibility and knowledge over a wider basis. We are engaged in gradually giving a broader foundation in free co-operation to the whole imperial policy which at one time rested exclusively on the Government of this country and upon this House.
I now come to the question of migration, on which the right hon. Member also touched. I fully agree with the credit which he gave to the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) for the valuable work done by him during the months when he was in charge, months which in no sense broke the continuity of the work of that committee. Whether or not our present machinery has in some respects outlived its usefulness, it has been immensely valuable in these last seven years in creating a sense of continuity and touch between members of different parties in this country, as well as with the Dominions and in creating a better understanding of the whole problem. I may as well touch now on one special point raised by the right hon. Member. He suggested—and the suggestion naturally had the sympathy of all—that it ought in some way or another to be possible to take the various insurances to which men have contributed year in and year out and to enable those men who go overseas to take with them in some way a commuted sum representing those insurances. He also suggested that this should be tried with old age pensions. The question of old age pensions is one mainly of administration, and the difficulties are by no means inconsiderable. The difficulties of the insurance system lie in the very character of the insurance itself. The right hon. Gentleman said, as a parallel case, that, if any Member of this House wished to settle in Canada and went to his life insurance society, he could get the commuted value of his payments up-to-date. That is true of life insurance, but would it be true of fire insurance? I do not think any fire insurance company would give back premiums for the simple reason that, while in life insurance the risk is a low one increasing progressively, in fire insurance the risk is only just covered by the premium every year. The view of the Committee which, under Sir Donald Maclean, examined this question, was that these insurances were in that respect much more of the nature of fire insurance, and that they did not in fact carry with them actuarially any surrender value. The question they put themselves was whether an insured person has accumulated out of his contribution any balance in the form of a fund or credit out of which a surrender value can be paid in the event of his migration. They came to the conclusion that, except in respect to the small class of deposit contributors to National Health Insurance, there was not in fact a fund from which the insured person could claim a share in the form of a surrender value, and the payment of any such sum on migration would therefore fall directly upon the Exchequer.
I knew of that, but where I disagree and think that further investigation is necessary is in this respect. It is perfectly true that there is no surrender value in the unemployment insurance, but it is only an actuarial distinction, because, in National Health Insurance, if one of my members desires to transfer to another society, an accurate mathematical calculation is made transferring to the other society his actuarial value. Therefore, the very fact that it can be done in National Health Insurance shows that the same principle can be applied to Unemployment Insurance. I am not blaming the right hon. Member. I think that it is a subject that ought to be considered in connection with the whole problem of migration.
I entirely agree, and I would like to see the whole problem re-investigated. I am afraid what it comes to is that there is not so much an actuarial surrender value as a moral surrender value which is felt by the people who have contributed. It might, however, still be worth while to meet that by paying a sum not actuarially justified, and regarding it as an indirect contribution to migration. On the broader question, the right hon. Gentleman realises how great the difficulties are in the way of any rough-and-ready solution of this matter. He pointed out that out of £34,000,000, which came under the scheme consolidated in the agreement signed just after the hon. Member for Rothwell had finished his work, some £26,000,000 was left unspent. It must be remembered that it was Australia that raised the money and Australia must have the discretion in judging whether the expenditure is justified, and, in doing so, Australia must be governed by whether the conditions are suitable to settlement. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) pointed out very well at the beginning of his speech that there can be no shovelling people out of this country without regard to what is to happen to them at the other end. The governing condition throughout must be whether the people, whom by assistance we induce to go overseas, are going to succeed there when they get out there. It was truly said by him that one man who has been a failure in Australia or Canada is the most powerful anti-emigration agent you can have.
Therefore, we must get away from the idea that because we have got unemployment here, and because there are unemployed whom we find it difficult to deal with, therefore an easy and offhand solution is to push those unemployed overseas. Men may be employed or unemployed. The essential thing to ask ourselves is, what are the openings available for them overseas? What work are they fit for? If the openings are there, what assistance can we give them by cheapening the passage and by making it easy for them to find that work? What assistance can help them best in their early days? On all these lines the work done under the Empire Settlement Act has been of immense value. Quantitatively, the results may not have been as great as we may have hoped at the outset, though even so they are far from contemptible. Since the Act was put into force, something like 390,000 persons, very few of whom could have gone without assistance, have been helped to settle in the Dominions, and the great majority of them have made good. In the last four years, 215,000 have gone with assistance, and another 170,000 have gone unassisted. While there is not that full, flowing tide which was running between 1908 and 1913, and which would have received a very severe check from economic causes after 1913, even if there had been no war, still it is a much stronger tide than that which was running in the first six or seven years of this century.
The importance of the work, however, lies, not so much in the mere number assisted, as in the experience gained as to the various ways in which success can be achieved. We have learned much about the value of short-period testing and training for adults. The hon. Member for Rothwell spoke of the 6,000 men now being trained at the Ministry of Labour's centres as being an inadequate contribution, and, from one point of view, it may be, but the training of these 6,000 men this Spring is a very valuable and helpful contribution from their own point of view. These men, with no knowledge of agriculture, would not have been likely to be successful if they went out without being tested, but, with the training they have received, they have a much better chance of succeeding when they go out. Over and above these 6,000 men who go out, there will be some hundreds who will have been weeded out for their own good, and in whose case it would have been a misfortune for them to try to face overseas conditions. In the same way we have developed a great deal of useful work in connection with hostels for the training of boys, while in the Dominions there is the very valuable work of movements like the Big Brother movement in Australia, all contributing to an increased percentage of success among those who go out, and diminishing the chances of failure. We have developed co-operation on an increasing scale with the voluntary societies, and, not less important, the country is steadily being covered by a network of voluntary committees interested in migration, which create a knowledge of the subject and its advantages and difficulties—and it is essential that the people of this country should realise both.
The actual work of migration is proceeding steadily. Our whole machinery, the wiring of the house, so to speak, is being improved all the time. It depends largely on economic circumstances in the Empire and in the world as a whole how strong will be the current that will flow through those wires. At any rate, the machinery is there. No doubt it is susceptible of improvement, and, obviously, one of the first things that a new Government will have to do will be to take in review the experience of the last few years, in order to see how far the basic principle of the Empire Settlement Act should be maintained, how far, possibly, rigidity in the working or legal interpretation of the existing Act creates difficulties which might be surmounted, and how far the existing machinery of the Oversea Settlement Committee might be improved, possibly in the direction suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Sir E. Cecil), that is to say, by something in the nature of a Board more akin, perhaps, in its working and in the freedom of its financial arrangements, to the Empire Marketing Board.
From that subject I will turn to the work of the Empire Marketing Board, and I may say that not only I myself, as the Minister responsible, but, even more, the band of enthusiastic fellow-workers with whom it has been my privilege to work—official and unofficial, British and overseas—will appreciate the testimony of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and other Members of the House to their work. It is essentially work of a non-party character, covering a novel and profoundly important field. I should like to say a word or two about the main divisions into which that work falls. To go into details would be impossible. All I can say is—and this must be my answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn)—that the publications of the Empire Marketing Board, like the very valuable Report of the Oversea Settlement Office which came out the other day, give a full detailed statement of the work done such as it is impossible to give orally under the conditions of pressure under which we work in the House of Commons.
The work of the Empire Marketing Board falls into three main divisions. The first is publicity. There we have essayed a very novel task—the task of advertising, not particular commodities, for that must always remain the duty of the firms interested, but of advertising an idea, a conception, regarding the capacity and productive power of the Empire which it is important should be made real and alive to the people of this country. I believe that we have in a very large measure succeeded in doing that. It is of course impossible, since so many factors come into play, to ascertain exactly what contribution the posters of the Empire Marketing Board have made to the undoubted fact that the percentage of Empire purchases in this country has gone up very markedly during the last few years. Since the War, the proportion of our purchases from the Empire has gone up by 11 per cent. as compared with the pre-War figures. From such investigation as we have been able to make in regard to retail trades in selected cities, and so far as we have been able to gather from business firms concerned, our view is confirmed that undoubtedly the work of our Publicity Committee has contributed very largely to that increase.
The hon. Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. Crawfurd) suggested that in overseas circles there was dissatisfaction with this work, and that we ought to be in closer touch with those circles. I am not sure that we could be in closer touch with them. The Board itself and all its committees contain representatives of all the parts of the Empire concerned, and, more than that, the secretary of the Board holds regular monthly conferences with all the Dominion trade and advertising associations in this country. The co-operation, for instance, between Australian advertisers and our background advertising is very close and most effective. Certainly, wherever I went in the Dominions, I found that our work in this respect was appreciated, possibly even beyond its real value. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow also suggested that in certain respects our work was wasted—that, for instance, lectures were given on entirely irrelevant subjects. I think that the title of a particular lecture must have misled him. Naturally, we have to make our lectures as interesting and varied as we can, and, naturally, we sometimes gild the pill of serious economic information with a certain amount of general information. The title of the particular lecture to which the hon. Member referred covered the fact that in West Africa currency largely consists of cowrie shells and bars of copper and other metals, while in East Africa for many years the Maria Theresa dollar of 1760 was the only currency accepted by the natives as a whole. As a matter of fact, the lecture was one on production and trade in East and West Africa.
I have described one part of the Board's work. Another is the whole field of research which underlies production. How is it possible to touch in any detail on the various ramifications of this, the most fascinating and interesting work in which it has ever been my privilege to take part? I might, perhaps, give just an instance or two of the kind of matters involved. In this country we import some £400,000,000 worth of the products, direct and indirect, of grass land—dairy products, meat, wool and hides. The effective yield in wool, meat, butter and so on of a particular area of grass land depends on a number of factors which were hardly suspected a few years ago. Minute deficiencies of iodine or phosphorus, or iron, or calcium, may cause what otherwise appears to be a rich and promising pasture to be almost valueless from the point of view of stock-raising, or, at any rate, of far lower value than it ought to be. We have developed, from our centre in Aberdeen, with the co-operation of the Dominion Governments, a whole network of investigation in Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, all bringing out month by month points which may become of immense importance, worth a hundred times or a thousand times the money spent upon them, and which may ultimately have a bearing on problems connected, not only with animal nutrition, but also with human nutrition and human health and welfare.
Another problem of the same kind is that of dealing with insect pests. It is estimated, I believe, that, of the world's crops, more than 10 per cent. is destroyed by insects every year. The study of what insects live on, and how their development can be checked or kept under control by the propagation of suitable parasites, is being steadily developed here and in the Dominions, with the help of the money that we have been able to grant. We have a regular zoological garden and breeding station for insect parasites, which are sent out to corresponding institutions in the Dominions, tested there, and, when required, let loose upon the insects which it is desired to keep under control. I wish I could go on on these themes, but I will only say that immense help is being given everywhere in the Empire, as well as among agriculturists in this country, by research in connection with these and many other problems. Similar research is being undertaken in connection with the problem of transportation, the infinitely complex question of cold storage, and the no less important question of marketing and of the spread of prices between producer and consumer.
It is very desirable that hon. Members opposite should bring forward the fact that the producer often gets an unduly small share. But it is essential to remember that the other agencies which intervene between the first producer and the consumer each fulfil an important function which involves an element of cost and, what is not least material to this consideration, an element of risk which has to be met by a charge. A little time ago, an investigation was conducted by the Ministry of Commerce in Canada on the increase of cost between the first producer and the consumer in a large number of articles. It was ascertained that, if you put on one side the producer's cost, and his profits and all other profits, and on the other the cost of getting the article to the consumer, not including the middleman's profits, the latter amounted to half the cost of the article to the consumer. There is, therefore, a very real factor of importance which has to be paid for in the handling of these goods, and would have to be paid for even if the producer, through his own agency, handled them all the way to the consumer.
It is important to note that, on the one hand, you have the work of the Imperial Economic Committee, whose very valuable contributions to the subject have not been mentioned, who have gone in for a very close analysis of these costs and made their suggestions as to how they might be reduced. On the other hand, the work of the Empire Marketing Board in research is also helping to produce economy. Anything that will secure better grading means that the middleman is sure of a better average and, therefore, is not entitled to levy so high a charge. Everything that contributes to the better keeping of fruit or meat reduces the risk to the middleman and must naturally involve a lower charge on his part. Therefore, without regarding it as at all desirable from the point of view of the Empire Marketing Board that it should step into the position of an Empire Sales Agency, and undertake executive commercial functions which are not within its sphere, I believe it can contribute regularly and with increasing effect towards ensuring to the producer a greater proportion of the actual expenditure of the consumer.
One satisfactory feature of this discussion has been that, with the consent of the Committee, the Chair has permitted us to discuss subjects which fall upon different votes but are in fact inseparably linked up with each other. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) put it very well when he pointed out that what we are doing through the Empire Marketing Board and in other ways, is increasing the opportunities for successful migration and also building up our best markets. The conclusion that has forced itself upon my mind more and more is that migration and markets are inseparable. It is no good assisting people to cross the seas if you drop your assistance when they are settled and do not continue to assist them by buying the goods they produce. The whole object of encouraging Empire migration from the economic point of view is not that we are getting rid of our people or that we wish to push them out of the country, From the economic point of view, so far from their being lost to us as customers, they are among the best customers we have in the world. It is by taking the problem as a whole and envisaging it altogether that we can solve it in each of its aspects. If they are all solved, each will be worth solving. While we may differ on details, that is a view that is being held increasingly by every section in the country. It was the view, I notice, expressed very clearly the other day by the signatories of the Balfour Committee's final Report, who included not a few members of the party opposite, whether in or outside the House. They point out the great value to this country of the whole economic policy pursued by the Dominions. They lay stress on the high value of the preference to British traders. They point out that the duties they impose on this country are on the average 9 per cent. less than those imposed on our foreign competitors. They emphasise that no foreign market absorbs nearly so great an amount of British goods per head of the population as New Zealand and Australia, and that the four great Dominions purchase goods to the average of £6 per head of the population, as compared with 10s. for France, Germany, and the United States. And
the conclusion to which they come is that
in view of the facts which cannot admit of doubt preservation of this advantage must be one of the cardinal objects of British commercial policy.
That, I believe, is a matter of very general belief in all sections. But of course we have not always got unanimity, and in the party opposite there is such a thing as the rogue elephant, the powerful influential person who takes a different view and might conceivably be in a position to enforce it.
While we have listened to the opinion I have just read out, and others, I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby to something which was said recently in a contribution to "John Bull" by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), an article under the title, "Is the Empire bleeding Great Britain?" in which he pours contempt upon the whole of Empire trade, regards the work of the Empire Marketing Board as unnecessary, and as a waste in view of the way in which we have been treated by the Colonies. He says—
The British manufacturer who finds himself more and more excluded from the Dominion markets by the ever rising tariff walls they build cannot see why his Empire patriotism should make him cheerfully pay taxes to advertise the products of the Dominions which are to a great extent in competition with what Great Britain can produce.
I might say it advertises also, and very emphatically advertises, the goods that Great Britain does produce. He goes on:
The British taxpayer is paying for expensive advertisements of Australian and Canadian products, and then the Dominions are spending the money they get from their exports to Great Britain in buying more and more goods from foreign countries. In the year 1925 Australia imported goods to the value of £69,000,000 from the United Kingdom and goods from foreign countries to the value of £66,500,000.
I should like to draw attention to the curious logic which says that the Dominion tariffs are so preposterously high against British goods that they exclude them, and that the same tariffs, raised on the average by yet another 9 per cent.
against our foreign competitors, afford such encouragement to them that they take away all our trade. He goes on:
The fact that Australian imports of goods from foreign countries are increasing rapidly proves the farcical nature of the alleged preferential advantage.
In several passages, he describes the preference that the Dominions give to British imports as a mere pretence.
The talk about Imperial preference is sheer bunkum.
Such statements should not go unchallenged. He complains that Australia buys £66,500,000 worth from foreign countries while buying only £69,000,000 worth from this country. I should like him to point to any foreign market in the world that buys anything like that proportion of British goods. If Australia bought from us the same proportion that foreign countries do on the average, her purchases would not be £69,000,000 but £13,500,000—a loss of £55,000,000. He talks of these preferences being farcical because the original tariff is so high that British goods are completely excluded. As a matter of fact, in many cases, even where the tariff is high, British goods still go in in large quantities, and thanks to the preference, they have absorbed almost the whole of the trade. Apart from that, does he realise that, of Australian imports, nearly £29,000,000 consist of British goods which come in duty free, and which would have to pay from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. duty if they came from any other foreign competitors? Whereas in a country like the Argentine, perhaps 50 per cent. at the most of their cotton imports come from this country, in Australia, whose general economic conditions are broadly parallel, 85 per cent. of all their cotton imports come from this country, and we sell £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 worth, thanks to the 15 per cent. preference. Surely in these days of narrow margins, when many of our trades can barely hold their heads above water, assistance of that sort, whether we are able to reciprocate in exactly the same form or not—that does not arise here—ought to be recognised as valuable.
It is quite true that Australia has a high tariff on certain classes of goods. If you look at it from the Australian point of view, they are the greatest producers of the raw material, and they will naturally wish to produce themselves. The right solution, it seems to me, lies not in our complaining that Australia wishes to develop her own lines of industry, but in our seeing whether we can dovetail in our skill and power of producing the finest articles and the most varied goods, which could only be produced for a large market, and agreeing that in certain of the simpler products it is natural and proper that Australia should develop her own resources. I did not want to go into issues of controversy, but I did wish to lay stress on that particular point, and I hope that without any informal consultations behind the Speaker's Chair I may be told that on this point also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley does not speak the mind of his party.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer a question before he finishes his speech? It is in regard to the Old Age Pension. He made reference to the Insurance scheme but did not go into the question of Old Age Pensions.
I did, but perhaps the hon. Member did not hear. I said that it would involve a very difficult problem of actual administration in order to secure payment, but I agree that it is a question which requires to be looked into again.
Negotiations in regard to a case which has been brought to my notice are said to have been prolonged. I understand that to acquire the necessary residential qualification a man must be out there 25 years. In a letter dated the 9th February which took a good time to come from the Ministry of Pensions it was stated that negotiations were now going on through the right hon. Gentleman. Is he now able to make any definite statement with regard to getting this matter adjusted.
I should really like to have notice on that point. I do not wish to detain the Committee much longer. I came back just a year ago from a visit to all the great Dominions. I was profoundly impressed by what I saw there, with the great developments which had taken place in the last 25 years. The productive capacity, the efficiency, the whole level of agricultural production in the Dominions is something quite different from what it was when this question of Empire trade was first discussed. They are on a far higher plane to-day and far more capable of co-operating and reciprocating with us than they were then. The other thing which rises up in my mind is that every Dominion, with boundless opportunities for development, with room for millions of homes, is marking time and awaiting the solution of the problem of the market. In many cases efforts have been made to try and solve that problem by local protection. In my view, neither under Protection nor Free Trade can we really solve the problem, because the market is not big enough. You must get reasonable security in a wider market. When I came home to this country I found that same problem—a capacity on the part of organisers; of working men equal to the best, power of output unlimited, and everywhere capacity, production and development, but the standard of living held back by the difficulty as to the market. The conclusion which impressed itself on my mind was that somehow or other we must get over our differences of points of view and get away from the party treatment of this great problem, and see how to find ways and means of putting the vivifying energy of our different markets together and creating for the different nations of the Empire a wider common home market just as the different States of America have had given to them their opportunity for the wonderful developments in that country.
The right hon. Gentleman, in concluding his speech, drew my attention to an article by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). I must at least take note of it lest my silence be misconstrued. I want to say two things. First, that I have not seen the article, and therefore I am not in a position to criticise something which I have not seen. On the other hand, the Committee must not judge of a few extracts from an article which perhaps taken as a whole may bear an entirely different complexion. If I had read the article, I would not have hesitated to give my view. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley in every article written by him on this subject which I have seen has never hesitated to point out both sides. It is no good talking here as if all the advantages are on one side. You have only to look at our financial market, and you will see at once the tremendous advantages that all our Dominions get, and rightly get. They amount to many millions, and hon. Members should not forget that. Anyone who forgets that entirely misunderstands the position. A very distinguished Member on the opposite side of the Committee recently drew my attention to the Empire Marketing Board's advertising. His complaint was that we were boosting Australia, which was putting up a deliberate tariff against his particular industry. It is no use running away from it. Every year finds every one of our Dominions developing some new trade or other, and we must not condemn them for saying to themselves, "We are going to foster it." They are fostering it at the expense, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, of our own trade. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley did not have anything about the repudiation of Empire in his mind. He was rather giving a common-sense consideration to a very difficult problem.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) has not only made a glorious speech this afternoon, but has relieved me of the trouble of answering the one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which marred an otherwise admirable declaration. I am only sorry that the major part of the speech was not heard by a larger number of Members, especially on the benches behind him. It is extraordinary when we are discussing matters relating to the great self-governing Dominions that during the greater part of the afternoon the benches behind him are almost empty. So much for that great Imperial party. Apart from the quite unfair attack upon my right hon. Friend without notice having been given to him—
I withdraw at once. But I think it was unfair to give the quotations with the headlines, for if the right hon. Gentleman knows anything about journalism, he knows that whoever writes the article the headlines are the editor's. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman contains very important statements indeed, and I will enlarge on one or two points and ask one or two questions. He talks of the Labour party having broken continuity with regard to Imperial Preference. It was the right hon. Gentleman and his friends opposite who broke continuity in the first place. It was broken by the taking away of our Free Trade system and the introduction of Imperial Preference, especially on foodstuffs. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's policy is now. If his party come back to power by some mischance, is it their policy to reintroduce the Preference Duties on tinned lobsters and dried and canned fruits from the Dominions? I think we ought to know. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the rogue elephant—and I would not in any way call him the rogue elephant of the Conservative party—but does he confess to having abandoned his old faith with regard to Imperial Preference taken to its logical conclusion, with duties on timber and wheat, and so on? Heavens, no! He would run out of the House. He would not even stay and face the music.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer twitted my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for not answering, but at any rate he remained in his place to face the music. The Secretary of State for the Dominions runs away and does not answer questions. The right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State can no doubt answer my question. I am only a humble back bencher. Will he say what is to be the policy of the party to which he belongs if they come back by some mischance with a majority? Are they going to carry Imperial Preference to its logical conclusion? However, I welcome the constructive part of the speech of the Secretary of State. Listening to him, I felt that a little more experience of the Empire Marketing Board, and the Secretary of State himself would apply for admission to the Labour Party. I do not mean its advertising, but its constructive work in research on a non-commercial basis is getting very near to the pure milk of Socialism. With Conservatives, it is not Socialism but anarchy and the breaking up of society when we do these things.
I have the honour of representing a city which is a great seaport, and I am glad to say that we have taken our own steps in our district to retrieve some of the losses of trade which we have suffered through the languishing of Europe and the obstacles placed in the way of our Baltic trade by succeeding Governments by deliberately developing a direct trade with the Dominions with excellent results. The Port of Hull has direct shipping arrangements with South Africa. Probably the right hon. Gentleman may have enjoyed some of the quite new types of fruit brought from South Africa. We have frequent visits from the Dominion representatives to this country, and we have made up for some of the losses to our trade in Europe by developing Empire trade. At any rate, it is not for us to find any fault with or to obstruct anything that will foster this trade. It is useless for hon. Members on the benches opposite to thump their party drums and wave Union Jacks and pretend that they are the only Empire party. We on this side want to see the development of Empire trade as one of the major means of relieving unemployment in this country. The Secretary of State admitted that a mistake was made by the Imperial Conference in 1923—this is a very important matter and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary will represent this to him—in not having formal consultations with the other parties in the State. Why was not that mistake rectified in 1926? We are told about the great results which flowed from the Imperial Conference of 1926. If it was a mistake that we were not consulted in 1923, why were the leaders of the Opposition not consulted in 1926?
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the difficulties of communication by telegram. That is his own fault. We have not taken the steps that might have been taken to develop telephonic communications throughout the Empire. I am informed that there are no technical difficulties in speaking to South Africa by telephone and that very soon we shall be able to speak direct to Australia by telephone. Of course, now that the beam wireless has been handed over to the new merger, the new private trust now in process of formation, development is being held up. At the present time we can talk to Canada by telephone. How many times have the officials of the Dominions and Colonial Offices talked to our representatives in Canada by telephone? Do they ever use the telephone for that purpose? They can speak not only to Canada but to Newfoundland and South Africa, and very soon they will be able to speak to Australia. We might have the Prime Minister at Downing Street connected by wireless telephone to the Prime Ministers in the Dominions. What a wonderful thing for Imperial unity it would be if only imagination could be shown by hon. and right hon. Members opposite in regard to these developments.
I am glad to see that, at last, after all these years, we have an air mail line running to India. The next step to be taken, a step which ought to have been taken years ago, was to extend the air mail line south of the Cape of Good Hope, with feeder lines to the great Crown Colonies. I have advocated that again and again in this House ever since I have been a Member. The line could then proceed by way of the Dutch East Indies to Sydney. The aeroplane as a means of Imperial communication is of the greatest possible advantage to the British Empire. Hon. Members opposite are thinking so much of building fighting air squadrons against our good friend, France, that they have almost neglected this wonderful means of aerial communication. A further matter which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and which was welcomed in all parts of the House, judging from the sympathetic cheers, was in regard to the pensions, health and unemployment insurance rights of intending migrants. It was a very important pronouncement, and I am very glad that it has been receiving attention, but I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman read from the old report of the Maclean Committee. I daresay they put forward very solid difficulties, but they were difficulties that can be removed. If we really want to tackle this matter, all these difficulties can be removed if we have the will, strength and purpose to remove them. Excuses can always be found for doing nothing, and I am afraid that that is one of the curses of the present Government.
The present difficulties in regard to pension and health insurance rights ought to be overcome in the case of intending emigrants. We have established our own trade centre at Hull, through the great energy of our own corporation. I have gone into the matter carefully, and I find that the question of pension and health insurance rights has been one of the difficulties in regard to migration. In the middle classes and amongst the aristocracy there is far less hesitation in going overseas for the Civil Service, or in going to service in India or in going into the Army and Navy, than there is amongst the working classes. That is because the young man going out to the Dominions or Colonies from a well-to-do family, especially to Government service, or to the Indian Civil Service, knows that in a certain number of years he will get leave and be able to come home, and his parents know that they are not parting with him for ever. Among the working-classes a young fellow in his teens who wants to go to Australia knows that the chances are that he will never see the old country again or, at any rate, not until he has reached old age and his parents are dead.
Only a week ago I was in one of our Dominions, the Irish Free State, and I saw a heart-rending sight at a country station, on the departure of emigrants. The old people looked very pathetic, because they knew that they, in all probability, would not seen again the fine young men who were going to America or Canada. That is the trouble in a working-class family when a youngster goes to the Dominions. Could not we come to some arrangement by which, especially if they succeed in the Dominions, they should have a return ticket available for three or four months in this country after two years in the Dominions? That is a matter of real importance, as I have discovered in talking to prospective migrants and their parents. I see no more difficulty in arranging for it than there is in arranging for the leave of the young men who go to service in the Crown Colonies or the cadets who go to the Indian Civil Service.
I do not subscribe to any criticism of the principle of the Empire Marketing Board. With only a very slight extension the Empire Marketing Board could be made a real live agency for great bulk purchases for the whole Empire. I do not expect that hon. and right hon. Members opposite will welcome that suggestion, but it would be real Imperialism and not the Imperialism of the Birmingham school of patriots. The Empire Marketing Board might do important work in inquiring into the operation of buying rings in this country. It is notorious that the buying rings, especially in London, are a real hindrance in many cases to the developments of our purchasers in this country, and a great service could be done if investigation took place. If it was known that the Empire Marketing Board were going to investigate these rings, the people who form them and who draw unwholesome profits from trade would be very careful what they were doing. I should like to know whether that matter has been considered.
I have just spoken about the Birmingham school of patriots and in that connection I should like to describe an experience that happened to me last year. I was in Birmingham, that great Imperial city, the home of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain—I am very sorry that so few Birmingham Members of Parliament have been here to-day—and I went to a certain hotel. I was told that it was the best hotel in the city. I was there for the Labour Party Conference. My wife was rather tired after the journey and I wished to get a modest bottle of wine for her. I sent for the wine list and, as always, I looked for an Empire wine. There were French wines, Spanish wines, German wines, Italian wines, Portuguese wines, but no Empire wines on the list; no wines from South Africa or Australia or any part of the Empire. Everything else at the hotel, the accommodation and the food, was excellent, but there was this one blot, the absence of Empire wine. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that our best hotels in Hull since I have been there have stocked Empire wines, and the London and North Eastern Railway Company as a result of my representations stock Empire wines.
I asked if I could see the manager of the hotel, and I said to him: "I understand that this hotel is the great Conservative hotel in Birmingham." "Yes," he said. "I suppose that the Colonial Secretary comes here?" "Yes," replied the manager, "we frequently have the Colonial Secretary here." "I suppose the hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon) and other Conservatives come here?" "Yes," was the reply. "Then," I asked, "how is it that you have no Empire wines on your list?" He replied: "We are never asked for them." There we have an instance of practice and theory. We hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions saying that we must reciprocate and buy Empire goods, and in his own city, the city which he represents, the best hotel, frequented by leading Conservatives, is never asked for Empire wines until a poor red Socialist goes there and asks for them and pleads for Imperialism. I suppose it is the same at the Colonial Office receptions. At the Colonial Office receptions how much Colonial wine is offered? I am a temperance man and am not in favour of drinking wines, but if wines are to be offered for social reasons at the Colonial Office, and the Dominions Office, surely they ought to be Empire wines. What about Empire tobacco at the Colonial Office receptions? If I ask the right hon. Gentleman about Empire tobacco offered there he is silent, but he will ask me to go to his room, where he will offer me Imperial tobacco or an Empire cigarette. I am offered an Empire cigarette across the floor of the House.
Then there ought to be. Who entertains distinguished visitors? Who entertain the Imperial Conference when they come here? There is always a certain amount of entertaining.
The Dominions Office does not exercise such hospitality, but leaves it to private benevolence. I do not make any point of that. There is one further point of particular importance to which I would refer. A report has been issued by the subcommittee which was set up to look into the question of radium and it contains some remarkable statements, beginning with the terrible lack of supplies of radium and the fact that thousands of people die every year whose lives might be saved by the use of radium. The report goes on to say that there are radio active ores in certain of the Australian territories, in South Africa and elsewhere, yet this vitally precious medical commodity is controlled almost entirely by a foreign monopoly, and I understand that they charge huge prices and make great profits. Canada and Rhodesia are also mentioned in the report among the places where there are radio active ores. I am informed that there are valuable radio active ores in Australia and capital is needed for their development. It would be a grand thing if we could develop our own supply of radium within the Empire. You can call it socialism if you like, but if it will help suffering humanity I will praise the present Government for doing it; if they have the opportunity. After this Debate I hope hon. Members opposite will really mind their p's and q's a little outside this House. On the one hand, we have the Prime Minister criticising the very successful State enterprises in the Dominions—
Yes, very successful indeed. There is the example on the Canadian National Railways which are now making huge profits. All these State enterprises have been highly successful, yet we have the Prime Minister with the greatest levity and lack of responsibility insulting and annoying our great self-governing Dominions by critising their Governments. What should we think if the Prime Minister of New Zealand criticised this Government for not doing more for unemployment. We should think that it was going rather too far, and our self-governing Dominions think the same. On the other hand, we have hon. Members opposite standing up on every public platform and pretending that they are the only party who cares for the Empire. We on this side are called little Englanders, and it is said that if we got into office we should break up the Empire.
The hon. and gallant Member who has been absent from the Debate most of the time cheers it. I was called a little Englander when I was a member of the Liberal party, that was before there was a Labour party, and now we are called the disrupters of the Empire by members of the party which lost us the American Colonies, and, had it not been for Campbell-Bannerman, would have lost us South Africa as well. We want an Empire of which we can be proud. That is our aim. The right hon. Member for Derby mentioned some of the things we tried to do when we were in office, and when we do get into power we shall show hon. Members opposite what we can do with the Empire on real constructive and collective lines.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has made a characteristically interesting speech. He described himself as a red Socialist, and has spoken like a true blue Imperialist. The Committee has probably been dazzled by the irridescent combination of colours. But his speech, as well as the speeches of other hon. Members in this Debate, has clearly indicated that there is now in all quarters of the House a common approach being made to Empire and that all parties are dominated by a desire to approach Imperial problems with a true and genuine sense of Imperial unity, consolidation, and development. It is asking a little too much and pressing the desire for unity of outlook upon Imperial questions too far if you set up some high standard of continuity of policy, and attempt to apply it to raise practical policies as opposed to what we have now got, which is an attitude of mind and a broad identity of interest and outlook in all parties. Meantime it would be useless and dangerous to attempt to place Imperial policy any more than any other policy concerned with the national welfare altogether outside the arena of party disputes, as was suggested in some passages from the two speeches to which we have listened from the two Front Benches.
For example, the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who opened the Debate, was very sensitive of criticism of the party to which he belongs and even suggested that it would be regarded as an insult by the Labour party in Australia if we used hard words about the Labour party here. The next time he makes a reference to the party to which I have the honour to belong I hope he will pause before he delivers himself of his opinions and consider the effect it might have on the Prime Minister of Canada.
What we have already established in this Committee is important. In all parties the predominant opinion and feeling is one of true loyalty to the idea of Imperial consolidation and development. When we come to the methods by which that should be put into effect there must inevitably be differences of opinion between parties, just as there are differences of opinion in matters of foreign policy. We must strive to get continuity of policy and to co-operate with each other as far as we can, but it must be a voluntary and not a mechanical form of co-operation.
The Secretary of State referred to the preference which his Government proposed to give to the Dominions and Colonies in 1923, and said that the Government came to the conclusion that they did not violate the fiscal principles of the Labour party or the Liberal party. He was warned at the time, and it is incredible that the Government could have come to this opinion seeing that they were warned by the spokesmen of the Liberal party and also, I believe, by the Leaders of the Labour party that we could never assent to their proposals. And so with regard to Singapore. From the very moment that project was mentioned, long before 1923, in the time of the Coalition Government, Mr. Asquith, who was then the Leader of the Liberal party, strongly protested, and, although I cannot recollect any actual speech because I was not in active politics at the time, I have no doubt that the Leaders of the party above the Gangway made similar protests.
It is not the case that there was no warning. It is the case that the Conservative Government of that day made a deliberate departure themselves from the continuity of Imperial policy in both these two respects, and in spite of the warnings given publicly by representatives of the other parties. Moreover, when the Secretary of State was replying to the observations of the right hon. Member for Derby with regard to the representation of opposition parties at the Imperial Conference, he said that an Opposition must be free to criticise when the Government delegation gets hack to the Dominions to which it belongs; the association of the Opposition party with the Dominion delegation might only intensify party differences. The Secretary of State was quoting the opinion of Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, but he said that he agreed with it. If Oppositions are going to criticise it must he assumed that their criticisms are sincere and genuine, and it must be supposed that if within a very few months of making these criticisms an Opposition finds itself in office, they must give effect to them in their policy. To suggest that such action on the part of an Opposition is a departure from continuity of Imperial policy, and that the Opposition must bear the sole responsibility for that departure, is to press the case too far. If there is to be continuity in any Dominion and in the home country it can only be as a result of close co-operation between the leaders of parties before such a policy is framed.
I would like to pay my humble tribute to the invaluable work, on which the Secretary of State dwelt so interestingly, of the Empire Marketing Board. I have been proud to take a humble part in that work. Undoubtedly, the Board is growing in usefulness and strength from month to month, and the Government deserve full credit for its establishment. I believe the Board will continue to grow and evolve. It is now a mere infant of a few years' life, but it will strengthen and grow. But it would certainly mean a great deal more than a slight extension of its duty if, as my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last suggested, it is to become a great Imperial buying agency. That would be an immense departure of policy on the part of the Board. It would mean a complete recasting from top to bottom, and certainly could not be regarded as a slight extension of duties. Whether or not it should undertake such duties depends on large questions of economic policy with which this is not the best occasion to deal.
There is a very strong case, which has not been fully answered in this Debate, for continuing energetically such inquiries as have already been made into the midldeman's costs, the gap which exists between the price received by the producer in the Dominions and the price paid in this country by the consumer. The Secretary of State, in reply to suggestions which had been made earlier in the Debate, referred to the cost of bringing stuff over here from the Dominions, and the risks to which perishable merchandise is exposed, and he gave a concise explanation of the reasons why the transport charge should be one-half of the cost of the article. That, however, does not meet the most striking point mentioned, that apples which cost 1d. when landed here in London are sold at 3d. to the consumer. That gap between the 1d. and the 3d. calls for inquiry, and I hope inquiry will be energatically prosecuted.
There is the question of migration. I agree with what other speakers have said about the importance of the loss of pension and insurance rights. There is another small point which has not been mentioned, but which I have found has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction in some parts of the country, because it is obviously an injustice. If a man goes to the Dominions and comes back to this country, after having spent many years over there, he cannot get the old age pension here unless he qualifies by residence in the same way as a foreigner. I know the case of a man who went overseas at the age of 40, spent 25 years in the Dominions, and came back here at the age of 65. He cannot get an old age pension until he has qualified by 12 years' residence here. That is a hardship on a man who is British born. I hope that that point also will be considered.
Let me turn to the larger question of migration. Undoubtedly, very little progress has been made. The last thing that I want to do is to make a party speech, but a good many party speeches have been made by hon. Members opposite on the subject of Empire. They have indulged in very rabid criticisms of other parties on the platform. It is a very remarkable thing that after four years of talk, so little progress should have beer, made with migration. There is, for example, the Australian scheme, on which, out of £30,000,000 sanctioned, only £4,000,000 has been spent, although we know that there are 50,000 men who are waiting to migrate. How is that matter being dealt with? We do not know what is in Lord Lovat's Report. We do not know what proposals the Government may be able to put before the House after having been in office all these years. As far as we know there is no agreed plan, no new scheme which the Government have prepared for dealing energetically with this question and making any real progress. It is not a question which can be quickly solved. But it should be promptly tackled. I doubt very much whether, in the words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, migration can ever be one of the major means of dealing with unemployment. That is absolutely the wrong way to tackle it.
This question of Empire settlement and the better distribution of population over the whole surface of the Empire and the development of our Imperial resources, is a big question, and we must take a big and long view of it. The Empire is of very young growth. What is 100 years in the life of a nation? It will undoubtedly take a very long time to develop a policy of Imperial migration. It must not be regarded as a mere means of getting rid of our unemployed and of dealing with what I firmly believe to be a temporary problem which can be solved by other means. Of course, one of the great difficulties is that the type of man that the Dominions want is the man who understands agriculture and is accustomed to life on the land. There may be openings for a few miners or for a few skilled men in other occupations, but what the Dominions want in numbers is strong, vigorous men, the flower of our manhood. That has led to a disastrous state of affairs for this country. It has led to emigration agents and railway and shipping companies scouring the countryside here and taking away, as from the Highlands, the men whom we can least spare.
I believe that we must lay our foundations broadly and lay them here at home, that the true way to approach this question is by land settlement here at home, by developing agriculture here, by settling men on the land here, and not by dissipating and squandering our racial capital, which is what we are doing now, by sending abroad whole families of the finest land workers we have. Our duty is to build up our racial capital and to conserve it. If we do that, there will always be among the descendants of men who are settled on the land here, and of the men who gain a practical knowledge of land problems by employment on reclamation and drainage work—there will always be enterprising men and women who will be only too glad to go abroad and develop our Imperial heritage in the great Dominions of the Crown. Therefore, I believe that the policy of national development here at home is not only the right way in which to deal with the unemployment problem, but that it is the true and essential foundation upon which to build a scheme of Imperial development and migration. I am glad to find that there is in the House of Commons so much agreement on the importance of this question and so much identity of view as to the general principle which underlies this great Imperial question. I hope, as a result of Lord Lovat's report and other contributions which are being made by hon. Members in all parts of the House of Commons, and men and women in all parts of the country in various ways, that we shall eventually arrive at a great Imperial policy which will command, in very large measure, and in fundamentals, the general assent of all political parties.
I am in full agreement with the speech of the hon. and gallant baronet who has just sat down when he says that the gap between the amount paid by the consumer for Colonial produce, and the amount received by the producer is one of the difficulties of the situation. What applies to the Colonial producer, is also the case as far as the producers in this country are concerned. The Tight hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State in his excellent speech said that migration and markets were inseparable. The question of assisting migration depends upon the probabilities of success, and I submit that success in this matter depends upon prices. I understand that on this Vote it will be in order to discuss the administration of the Empire Marketing Fund. This Fund was established in 1926, and its purpose was the marketing in this country of Empire produce. I think it was at a later stage that these activities were extended to British agricultural produce as well.
The work of the Empire Marketing Board has achieved very considerable success and we were all pleased to hear the Minister's statement upon it, and the purpose of my intervention in this Debate is to suggest to the Committee that a further useful purpose might be served by the Empire Marketing Board. Its activities might be made to apply not only to the produce of the Empire overseas, but also to British agriculture with which I am more immediately concerned. I suggest that there should be an extension of these marketing arrangements so as to apply them to the staple food of the country, namely, bread. Bread is the staple food of the whole of Western civilisation, and to-day bread, for the most part, is made of flour produced from wheat which is grown in this country, in Canada, Australia, and various parts of the Empire, and also in the Argentine and Russia and other parts of the world. It is probable that in each loaf consumed by the public there is flour made from wheat which comes from all these countries.
I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee the fact that British wheat is still at a price lower than that made by wheat imported from other parts of the world. I am concerned mainly with the question of whether or not it is possible to increase the demand for British wheat, and therefore the price of British wheat and at the same time facilitate Empire production by means of an extension of the activities of the Empire Marketing Board. I contend that such a course is possible, and I am confirmed in that opinion by the information given in the excellent report on the marketing of wheat, barley, and oats published by the Ministry of Agriculture. In that report, we find that before 1875 British wheat, generally, was sold at a higher price than imported foreign wheat.
We also know that British wheat holds a pre-eminent position for colour and flavour compared with the average product from abroad. It is cleaner, sweeter, and much more palatable. On the other hand, the moisture content of British wheat averages from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent., whereas in the Canadian wheat there is only 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. and this difference of 5 per cent. decreases the food value of British wheat by something like 2s. 6d. per quarter on a price of 50s. per quarter. I do not know whether Members of the Committee fully understand that British wheat is a soft wheat whereas the Canadian and Australian wheats are hard or strong wheats. In making a 4 lb. loaf of bread, of the size required by the public, a mixture of hard and soft wheats is necessary. If the loaf were made exclusively of strong wheat it would be too large; if it were made exclusively of soft wheat, it would be too small. The ideal is a mixture of the strong and the soft wheats, and what I wish to draw attention to is the fact that there is a very large margin of price between the amounts which we pay for the hard wheat of Canada, as compared with the amount received for the British soft wheat.
If the Committee will bear with me, I propose to give some figures. An examination of the prices of English October wheat, compared with Manitoba No. 1 wheat, shows that instead of there being only this difference of 2s. 6d. per quarter—which is the difference represented by the moisture content—there has been during the autumn months, in regard to the large bulk of British wheat marketed, an average difference of about 13s. 6d. In October, 1923, British wheat was selling at 8s. 11d. per cwt., and No. 1 Manitoba wheat was selling at 11s. 6d. per cwt., a difference of 2s. 6d. per cwt., or 11s. 3d. per quarter, but in June, 1924, there was very little British wheat on the market, and its price was 11s. 3d. a cwt., as against 11s. 7d. for Canadian. But though in June British wheat was making 11s. 3d. and in October it was only making 8s. 11d., the price of bread was exactly the same, namely, 8½d. per 4 lb. loaf. The average for October for the five years, 1923 to 1927, shows a difference of 13s. 6d. per quarter between the prices of Manitoba No. 1 and British wheat. The British farmer, therefore, since the food value of British wheat is only some 2s. 6d. per quarter less than that of the Canadian wheat, is actually selling his wheat at over 10s. per quarter less than its comparative food value. An examination of the question leads to the conclusion that because British wheat is to a large extent harvested in the autumn months, the supply is greater than the demand.
There is still another reason. The baker, not being financially concerned in the flavour and the quality of the bread, but only in the number of loaves of bread that he can obtain from a sack of flour, naturally demands from the miller a flour that will give him the best result from that point of view. A sack of Canadian flour will absorb 82 quarts of water, whereas a sack of English flour only absorbs 62 quarts. Therefore, from a sack of English flour, a baker can only hope to obtain some 88 to 90 loaves, whereas from a sack of Canadian flour he may obtain from 95 to 100 loaves, but a loaf of bread made from Manitoba No. 1 wheat may contain from 40 to 42 per cent. of water, whereas a loaf of home-made bread will only contain 33 per cent. of water. I have never yet been able to understand why, in the staple food of the country, namely, bread, there should not be a definite proportion of water permitted. We have, in the case of milk and other food products, a limited amount of water allowed, but in the case of the staple food of the country there is no limit whatever. In other countries a limit is imposed, and in America. I understand, the limit is something like 35 per cent. of water in the bread. Undoubtedly, any means by which the demand for British wheat by the millers could be increased would quickly cause its price to rise nearer its actual food value, and it is essential that we should get this demand.
Under the Empire Marketing Board, or by the application of a national marketing scheme, it would be possible to increase the demand for British wheat. The activities of the Empire Marketing Board could be applied to Empire wheat, which would include the soft British wheat and the hard wheat from the Empire. This bread, made from these British and Empire wheats could take advantage of the national marketing scheme, and we should get an increased demand for British wheat during the period in which the British farmer most wanted help, so that the price would be nearer the food value, and at the same time it would increase the demand for Empire wheat. Considering that this result would be attained, I think I am justified in suggesting to the Minister that he should consider whether it is practicable to have bread brought under the scope of the Empire Marketing Board activities.
A good deal has been said to-day about continuity, and I fear that the use of that word has come to that pitch where people imagine that, no matter what the policy of a Government may have been, whichever Government succeeded it must accept the same method, the same type of administration, and the same conducting of affairs. If that is to be expected of us, I am afraid I cannot subscribe to that policy of continuity. I differ from so much that has happened in regard to our Dominion and Colonial policy in the past that if, by the use of that word "continuity," we mean that we must simply carry on as the older parties have done, then I can no longer subscribe to it and must oppose it at every opportunity.
I am concerned with migration particularly in the case of the young people who have been sent out to our distant Dominions. I want to assure the Committee that I have never been happy at all in my membership of some of the Committees dealing with this matter, and I fear that it is not to the advantage of this country, despite all that we have heard to-day about our people still remaining purchasers of the products of this country when they go abroad, to send the best of our human material to these distant parts of the world. Having stated, however, that I do not look to migration as any solution of the unemployment problem, I am yet concerned to ask the Dominions Secretary if he receives reports from those Dominions to which the young boys are sent, as to how they are treated, the work they are undertaking, and whether or not the prospects held out to them are such as warrant the Dominions Office in allowing them to be sent to those distant parts. While some people seem to think that emigration assists the solution of our unemployment problem, again let me say that I disagree with that view, and I would like to know whether the Dominions Office is quite satisfied with the money which we expend in grants to these various voluntary associations. We make grants to many bodies with regard to migration, and I am anxious to know whether we receive frequent reports, whether those reports are examined by the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and whether, when so examined, those reports are found to be such that exception may not be taken to the methods adopted by some of these voluntary agencies.
I was surprised to hear that the advertising of home products had been part of the policy and practice of the Empire Marketing Board from the start of their work. I have seen some of their posters, and I do not think a great deal has been expended in that way. I have never been enthusiastic in believing that we shall have any great advantage from that expenditure. If we had adopted the method of assisting in the selling and buying of Empire produce, in spite of it cutting across so many ideas of Members of this House, we might have saved a good deal of that profiteering which has prevented so many of our people encouraging interchange between the Dominions and this country.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consult with other Departments about the question of pensions. I could quote tragic cases of young people who desire to have with them their aged relatives, and I need not go to Australia for them, for there are cases in the Irish Free State, but a few miles away from our own doorstep. Some of these young people cannot have their older people with them because of some condition which is laid down that pensions may not be paid if they leave the country. A great deal is said by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends about the unity of the Empire, and about our considering it as one great home and one great family, but it does not look much like one great family when, if the families attempt to get together, they are deprived of the benefits for which they have paid under the various insurance schemes operating in this country.
I have put many cases up to the Department. I will quote one as an illustration. A family made the adventure of going to one of the Dominions. After two years a younger member of the family died. The others returned to this country because of the ill-luck of their adventure, and because they had not been subscribing for the two years they had been in the Dominions, they were deprived of benefit and had to pay for a period before they could be entitled to benefit again. If you are going to think of the unity of the Empire and the closeness of the family feeling, at least carry it out and practise it when you come to deal with the various forms of insurance which are operative in this country.
My view of the Imperial question is that of closeness of touch between the peoples. I want that closeness of touch, but not in the way in which it is meant by people whenever they wave a flag. I have a contempt of those people who speak of the Empire as a great fighting machine, or as a place for gathering together fighting men. If the Empire means the unity of the people and a better understanding between the people, cement it by all means. That is the idea of the Empire which I have, and I would accept continuity with that idea, with the idea of working for freedom between the various peoples, but I would not accept continuity of the policy now operating.
I confess that when I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) I could not help thinking how short are the memories of the people of this country. He made an astounding statement. He said that he thought the time was past when it could be said that a Labour Government coming into power would prejudice the British Empire. Let us take some of the actions of the Labour party even if they say they were in office, though not in power. Let us take the relations between the Labour party and New Zealand and Australia over the question of the Singapore Base. The Socialist Labour Government decided to stop further expenditure on the naval base, and announced their extraordinary decision to the various Dominions. Let us see what the Dominions most concerned—New Zealand and Australia—thought of this extraordinary and ill-advised decision. New Zealand, speaking through the Governor-General, said:
I protest earnestly on behalf of New Zealand against the abandonment of the proposal to make Singapore a safe and strong Naval station, because I believe that the Empire will stand as long as Britain holds the supremacy of the seas; but, if Naval supremacy is lost by Britain, the Empire might fall, to the detriment of humanity as a whole as well as of its own people, and it is surely the duty of the British Parliament and British Ministers to see that there will be no danger of such a catastrophe so far as it is humanly possible to remedy it.
That is from New Zealand, the part of the Empire for which the Labour party have such affection with regard to nationalisation. On the same question, Australia said:
We think, on the contrary, that if the proposal which the highest naval authorities of the Empire support as a necessary defensive measure, is abandoned by your Government, incalculable harm will be done to the Empire's prestige, the confidence of smaller nations will be shattered, the ambitions of lesser Powers will be increased, and deep distrust will be caused throughout the whole Empire. Not by actions having such results as these can we hope to bring about further reductions in armaments.
I was reading an extract of what Australia, speaking through the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, thought of the action of the Colonial Secretary of the Labour Government. We notice in this House that whenever a policy with regard to the Colonies comes up, the Labour party have a sort of "Peter Pan" idea, the mild Captain Hooks are put forward, and the other hon. Gentlemen, like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), are kept well in the background. There is this difference between the Labour party and the Liberals, that the Labour party pretend to have interest in the Colonies, and the Liberals have very little interest.
Let us take the question of the War Loans to the Dominions and Colonies. A total is owing to this country of over £120,000,000. Interest is being paid on all the loans and in the case of Australia, New Zealand and Trinidad, there is an annual Sinking Fund. Just imagine the impression made on these countries which owe money to this country by the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) the day before yesterday, and the extraordinary divergence between him and the Leader of the Opposition. Let us try and think how it will affect the future financial transactions of this country if the Labour party came into power with a determination to repudiate debts and the whole question of the War Loans of the Colonies and Dominions came up. This is a comparatively recent trouble, which has been aroused not by the Labour party when in Office but by the party when in opposition, and one can quite understand the financial fears and anxieties which would be felt in Europe and the Colonies by the speeches. We know of the objections to Imperial preference by the Liberals and the partial objection to it by the Labour party. How far are the present leaders of the Labour party actually the people who represent the Labour policy.
Let us remember some of the statements made by Members of the Labour party. I refer to some of the societies to which they belong. Take, for instance, the League against Imperialism. The hon. Member for Bridgeton is I understand one of the leaders of it—and the alternative leader I understand to the present Leader of the Opposition. There are statements by this League in reference to the Colonies and various statements by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). Which is really the future policy of the party towards the Dominions and Colonies? After the extraordinary statements made by the right hon. Member for Derby we have a right to know which is the policy to be officially adopted as regards the Dominions and the Colonies. Is it to be the policy of his mild speech to-day, or is it to be the policy which his lieutenants, his young men, his gladiators and warriors, indicate when they are talking about a slave empire in their speeches on the hustings?
I am almost ashamed to inflict myself on the Committee for even a minute or two at this late hour, but there is a matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the Colonial Secretary. I think every Member of the Committee enjoyed every word of the extraordinarily comprehensive speech which he made on Dominion subjects; we were particularly interested in all that he told us about the Empire Marketing Board. I have myself seen excellent examples of the work of that Board in more than one part of the world. I have come across a Queensland farmer who had benefited greatly from the use of those counter pests which the Colonial Secretary described, and only just now I was hearing about some experiments with a system for the preservation of fish on trawlers which will be extraordinarily valuable to the fishing industry. I also wish to pay my tribute of praise to the work of the Board in popularising the bulbs of this country. Those efforts have been greatly appreciated in our bulb-growing areas, and I hope the Colonial Secretary and the Board will go on with that good work. I wish it had been possible for the Board to exhibit their posters four or five months earlier. The ideal time would be when we are being flooded with attractive foreign catalogues in beautiful colours. If the same set of posters could be exhibited this or next year between July and September, I am sure they would produce beneficial results.
For one reason, I had rather hoped the Under-Secretary might be here, because I want to say something about Java. No one has more eloquently and more truthfully described the amazing developments there under Government agency than my hon. Friend. The preference on British grown tea has now disappeared as the result of the removal of the Tea Duty in the present Budget. During the last eight or nine years there has been a remarkable expansion in the sale of Java teas in this country. They are mainly used for blending purposes, these teas being cheap, and sellers being able to give better value through the blending process. The expansion in the sale of Java teas has been from 20,000,000 pounds in 1920 to 61,500,000 pounds last year. An application was made to the Board of Trade for a marking order to be applied to packages of tea containing this foreign admixture, but on the ground of impracticability the order was refused. May I suggest that with the removal of the duty on tea and its consequent cheapening, there may be an extended use of it and hence a severe tax on the world's rather limited stocks of tea. The result, now that the preference has disappeared, may be a further demand for foreign teas. The supplies from Ceylon, certainly, cannot be rapidly expanded, though it is possible that Assam and Bengal may be able to expand their output. The real benefit of the abolition of the Tea Duty may tend to go to Java and Sumatra, and I would suggest that the Government should co-operate with British producers and British growers in order to assist them to secure this trade.
There is another point I should like to make with regard to the Empire Marketing Board. It is in some degree connected with the topic which has been discussed to-night as to what is the true policy at the back of the mind of the Labour party in regard to Dominion questions. As far as I can observe, the Empire Marketing Board in its present guise is an entirely beneficent institution, and it is doing a great deal of good. It seems to me that it does contain one element of danger which was referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). During the Dominion tour which I, in company with a good many hon. Members enjoyed, we heard constant references made to the Empire Marketing Board, and one view expressed by a Labour Member was that the Board might very well be made the nucleus for some sort of State buying and State selling department. I think that is a danger which we ought to bear in mind. That idea was mooted in a debate in the Dominion House of Commons in Canada, and representatives of every part of the Empire showed that they entertained grave misgivings regarding any such attitude towards the Empire Marketing Board. If the ex-Colonial Secretary, who opened the debate, should ever inaugurate the inter-Parliamentary discussions to which he has alluded, he will be surprised to find what a large volume of opinion exists in the Empire in opposition to that idea.
I want to say a word or two on the subject of emigration. I do not propose to discuss in detail that extremely difficult problem, but I wish to express the widespread appreciation of the Concessions which have been made recently by Mr. Mackenzie King and the Minister of Immigration in their effort to meet the demand for a greater influx of British immigrants into Canada. Also I should like to draw attention to a speech which was made by the Premier of British Columbia to the Empire Party delegation in British Columbia last August or September. He was so downright in his determination to fill the Province of British Columbia with members of the English-speaking race that I would like to draw attention to his statement that he was ready then and there to negotiate on behalf of his Government for the bringing in of a very considerable number of British emigrants. When the present Government are returned to power next month, as they will be, and when new arrangements are made for the encouragement of emigration, I hope the Government will bear in mind the words I have just quoted from a speech by one of the overseas Premiers.
There is a point to which I wish to draw attention which appears on page 75 of the Estimate, and it relates to Voluntary Societies (Grants-in-Aid). I see that a number of organisations are mentioned there, and I would like the Colonial Secretary to give some explanation of those items. I wish also to refer to a point dealing with emigration which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) which relates to people who emigrate and afterwards desire to come back to this country. A Canadian with whom I had some conversation on this subject suggested that the Government might do much good by granting return passages to emigrants. This Canadian told me that when he wanted to engage people to go abroad to his works, he could not get them to go unless a promise was made that they could come back again after a time in order to see their own people, and he was able to get quite a number of people to emigrate upon those conditions. He said that some of those he had engaged took their passage back again to this country, and although they could have stopped in the home country if they liked they went back again and, in fact, they were quite desirous of getting back again to the new country. Surely in a matter of this kind it is wise to consider human nature. If an offer could be made to an emigrant by the Government that after spending a certain amount of time overseas he would be given a chance of coming back once more to see his own people, I think that would be a great inducement. If the immigrant makes good in a Country which puts out its arms, and makes the stranger welcome in its wide open expanses, then these people will not want to stop in England when they come back. They will say that they are satisfied and prefer to stop in Canada, Australia or New Zealand, if you break down that barrier by which they may never see their people again. I suggest that the Colonial Secretary should consider that point in regard to the question of emigration.
After the passions and excitements of yesterday, in the calm, not to say somnolent atmosphere of the Chamber at this moment, it is fitting to make a few observations, more especially on the subject of migration. I am inclined to think that there are two forces operating to restrict emigration, because I cannot but think that every boy of a certain age who is properly constituted must want to emigrate. I never could remember the time in my own life when I did not want to go abroad. The ends of the earth naturally present a most keen attraction to all adventurous youths. Whether our youth has become less adventurous I do not know. I am sorry to observe a considerable diminution in the number of boys who run away to sea. It used to be the regular way of starting life, as far as the story-books were concerned, but it seems to be a practice which is falling into desuetude. I am sorry to hear it. Possibly it is because, instead of being encouraged, stowaways are rooted out with greater vigour than in former days. At all events, the diminution in the number of boys running away to sea rather tends to show that there is a diminution of adventurousness in our boys.
What is the cause of that? I am sorry to say the answer is a simple one. It is our system of education. We educate every boy who comes to school in a manner which makes him a clerk in an office. The whole system of education is devoted to producing post office clerks and people of that character. I would have education in country schools so arranged as to make boys thoroughly capable of working on the land and entirely useless in the towns whatsoever. The town population is quite big enough, and there is no necessity whatever for recruiting from the country. What we really want is to recruit the country from the town much more than the town from the country, but the system of education is so framed as exactly to militate against it. The system does not encourage people to stay on the land or young people to emigrate. That is one of the great reasons for the falling off in emigration. I believe that illustrated cinematograph lectures given to schoolboys, showing different parts of the world, would stimulate the imagination and might have a greater effect in stimulating emigration than the expenditure of vast sums of money.
I ask myself another question. I have asked a great many people and I can get no answer, perhaps because it is a difficult problem to solve. When a child is born in this country—I will not follow back to the earliest years of his life—he is born to various rights. He is born to the right of a free education, the right to have his health attended to while at school, and to be fed if his family is destitute. He is going to be launched into the world at the age of 14. Then he very soon gets into a system which will provide him with medical attendance if he is ill, the payment of a certain amount of money for a certain time if he falls out of work, and insurance against accidents, and, finally, he is entitled in due course to an old age pension. What is the actuarial value of that when a child reaches the age of 14? It must be quite a considerable sum. You expect him to emigrate and to throw that inheritance away. You ask him to go out of the country and to abandon all those rights which are very material and important, and which tend rather to grow than to diminish. You ask him to go to the ends of the earth and to forsake his heritance. It seems to me that if you could value what it is that he forsakes, and paid him a lump sum of half that amount on condition that he went to one of the British Dominions or Colonies, you would save this country a certain amount of money—not large—and would encourage rather than discourage emigration. Of course, an emigrant who accepted such a premium would not be eligible to receive the benefits in case of his return, and he would have sacrificed them once and for all, but you would give him some equivalent to the sacrifice that you are asking every emigrant to make. I think you would be saving the country expense rather than creating it, and it would be a little more than an act of justice to an enterprising youth.
Lastly, I want to refer to one small matter which I approach from another side. There is a very eminent American professor of the University of Yale who has devoted his life to the investigation of the climates of the world and their influence on the inhabitants of those regions. The result of his long researches, assisted by correspondence from all parts of the world, he published in a book on climates, the correct title of which I have forgotten. The general outcome of his lengthy investigations was this: He showed that there were four parts of the world which enjoyed the best climates, speaking, generally, and regarding climate as good for all purposes—such as an all-the-year-round climate in which human people could work, in which stock could be bred, in which the land was fertile and in which there were various, other merits for which he awarded marks.
He summed it up in this way. There were four spots, if I remember aright, one of them was where the Western frontier of America joins the frontier of the Dominion of Canada, another was somewhere in Japan, another was in New Zealand, and the fourth was in Great Britain, more especially in the southeastern parts. The culmination, curiously enough, was actually in the City of London, which he proclaimed had the finest and most suitable climate in the world for human beings to be born, to work, and to die in, and he said that Great Britain, as a whole, was the best breeding ground in the world for cattle, sheep, and, more particularly men, which seems to be the reason why our people populate so large a portion of the earth. If that be the fact, and if it is to continue, what must happen is that our population must increase up to saturation point. Somewhere there must come a saturation point, and, indeed, it is said that it has been reached now. My hon. Friends opposite tell me that they are hostile to the idea of migration, that they do not regard it with much sympathy, but would rather keep their children at home.
I do not want to send people into the cities of the Empire, but into the broad acres. At all events, the time must come when they must go or our population must begin to decline, and that is the worst thing that could happen to us. There cannot be room in these islands for an indefinite time for a stalwart and vigorous and live people; they must go, and we must help them to go if necessary. I would infinitely prefer that they should help themselves, but, in the circumstances of to-day, we must help them, and I suggest that one of the ways of doing so is by giving to the young suitable education to enable them to stand on their own feet on the soil of any part of the world and to draw a living from it. I would give, not a penalty, but a premium to any youth who wishes to go to the ends of the earth and carve out a fortune for himself.
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate, but the remarks of the last speaker lead me to say that I have never listened to a more reactionary speech than his since I became a Member of the House of Commons. First of all, he deplored the fact that there is not the tendency to-day that there used to be for the young people of our nation to run away to sea, and for the lack of that tendency the hon. Member blames the educational development of our time. That, from an hon. Member who, I understand, represents some of the Universities of this country, comes with a very ill grace. He followed that statement by telling us that in his opinion the educational tendency in rural areas should be strictly confined to fitting young people in those areas for an agricultural life. That remark made me wonder, in view of the fact that the present Prime Minister of this nation is said to be actively associated with that little animal which provides us with bacon in the morning, what would have happened if the Prime Minister had been prevented from having the benefit of the educational system of this country. However much we may disagree with the Prime Minister, he, at all events, when he was being educated, was a potential statesman of this country, and what happened in his case might reasonably be expected to happen in the case of those people whom the hon. Member would confine to an agricultural livelihood.
Then we were told that the hon. Member's idea of the rights of a new-born child was that it was entitled to certain medical attention and certain educational facilities which were narrow in their application. I would like to remind the hon. Member that the philosophy of the Socialist party is that a new-born child who is given the breath of life by the Creator of all men is at all events entitled to the opportunity to be reared an active, intelligent and healthy citizen; and, believing that, we say that no artificial barriers so far as education is concerned should be placed in the way of that child's developing into an active, intelligent and healthy citizen. We have also been told that the day is not far distant when this little country of ours will not hold all the people that are born in it, and that the time will come when those people will have to go. I want to suggest to this Committee, and particularly to the hon. Member, that the day is far distant when this little country of ours will not be sufficient in area to absorb all the people of our nation. We speak glibly about migration, but we forget that many of those whom we are attempting to transfer into the prairies of Canada and the wilds of Western Australia are men who, from 1914 to 1918, fought for the land fit for heroes to live in. The irony of the situation is that the very man whom you have sent out to negotiate the transfer of these poor, unfortunate, unemployed men, lock stock and barrel, despite their social amenities and their domestic responsibilities, actually possesses, in this country of ours, 182,000 acres of land.
If there is any merit in the claim of the Tory party that all that the British unemployed man, being a fine fellow, sound in character and sound in integrity, needs to work out his economic existence is to be put in active touch with the soil, it would better become the Tory party to attempt to put the British working man into touch with his own soil. If they expect the country to believe that there is any merit in the claim that the British unemployed man is to be put in touch with the soil, might I remind them that we are importing £700,000,000 worth of foodstuffs, and a proportion of it could be grown in this country if they had the courage to tackle this vital problem of a land-locked nation. We had an illustration only a few weeks ago of a man who declared the value of his land for Income Tax purposes at £105, and when the local authority needed it for municipal development he asked £42,000. If you will only make an attempt to start to put the unemployed man in touch with the soil of his own country, we will believe that there is some logic in the claim which you are making.
An hon. Member below the gangway said that there was some possibility that the Labour party could not continue the wonderful work the Tory party had done in cementing the relationships between this country and the Empire, and the reason we of the Labour party were unable to cement this friendship was because we believe in collective buying and selling. If that is the only thing that is standing in the way of the Labour party following the Tory party in better cementing the relationships of this nation and the Empire, the argument is exceptionally thin. The suggestion is that we are not as keen to co-ordinate and develop the resources of the Empire as Members of the party opposite. I want to refute such an allegation. Whatever faults the Labour party may have, we claim, with all the sincerity we have, that our fellow human beings who inhabit the Empire are just as dear to us as to the Members of the Tory party. We do not believe in waving penny flags on Empire day and that kind of humbug We believe in developing the resources of the nation and of the Empire, but under such conditions as will bring the greatest happiness and the greatest welfare to all the people who are in it.