asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is aware that assisted emigrants from Britain to Australia demonstrated outside the Marquis Street depot in Perth, Western Australia, in January, alleging that since they had been stood off from the camps just before Christmas they had not eaten, and that when they were sent to new jobs at Laverton, 600 miles away, they were each given 2s. to buy food for the journey; and whether, in view of the plight of these men and others similarly situated, steps will be taken to secure their repatriation?
The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Marquess of Harting-ton):
My right hon. Friend is informed that the facts are as follow: Six assisted migrants, all single men between the ages of 27 and 28, who have been for a long period recipients of Government relief gathered at Marquis Street Unemployment Depot on 8th January, following the Christmas stand-down period, together with some 20 other single men, seeking assistance or country relief employment. The party were officially informed that they should reapply on the following day, and this appears to have caused discontent. The Western Australia Unemployment Department immediately arranged for the six men in question and others to take up relief work under the direction of the Main Roads Board in the Eastern Goldfields district. The party left Perth on 12th January, and were provided with railway passes and 2s. cash for each man. All six chose this sum in preference to the recognised payment of 5s. per man which would have been refundable. The allegation that these men were so destitute that they had nothing to eat in the interval between ceasing and recommencing work, is not supported by the official records, which disclose that they were all considered by the Department to have had sufficient money at the time of ceasing work to carry them over the Christmas vacation. Each received Christmas cheer of 30s., and in some cases additional assistance. I am not aware that any question of repatriation has arisen in these cases, and, as the hon. Member is aware, it is not a matter in which my right hon. Friend can take the initiative.
Is the Minister not aware that there have not only been cases of men involved writing home to their parents, but also many newspaper reports, showing the bad conditions under which these men are living; and, in view of the fact that in all the Dominions the question of repatriation is continually arising, will he not take up with the Dominions Secretary the advisability of having, along with any arrangements that are being made for assisting emigration, a scheme of assisting repatriation when necessary?