Empire Settlement Act 1922-55


SECRET Copy No. 5 6
CP . (56) 240
19th October, 1956
C A B I N E T  M I G R A T I O N  P O L I C Y : E M P I R E  S E T T L E M E N T  ACTS, 1 9 2 2 - 52
1. The Empire Settlement Act, 1952, expires on 31st May, 1957, and, if it is
not replaced, there will cease to be legislative authority for United Kingdom
contributions after that date either towards the Australian Assisted Passage Scheme
or towards the maintenance of child migrants in Australia and Southern Rhodesia.
This matter has been considered in recent months by the Oversea Migration Board
and' by an official Inter-Departmental Committee. Both have recommended
renewing our contribution to the Australian Assisted Passage Scheme and
continuing assistance to the voluntary organisations concerned with child migration.
2. I propose therefore that a Bill should be introduced and passed before
31st May, 1957, to extend the Empire Settlement Acts for a further five years, i.e.,
until 31st May, 1962. I annex a note setting out the facts and arguments in favour
of this course.
3. The current agreements with the voluntary organisations which arrange
the migration of children also expire on 31st May, 1957. I recommend that these
should be renewed, provided that the organisations undertake to modernise their
methods of child care in Australia and to bring them more into line with those
accepted in this country.
Commonwealth Relations Office, S.W. 1,
17th October, 1956.
The Present Position
1. The Empire Settlement Acts, 1922, 1937 and 1952, empower the
Commonwealth Secretary to make contributions to " Empire Settlement"
schemes up to a maximum of £1,500,000 a year, " in association with the
Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions, or with public authorities
or public or private organisations either in the United Kingdom or in any part
of such Dominions." These Acts are due to expire on 31st May, 1957. Before the
war a large number of schemes were operated under the Acts, and United Kingdom
expenditure on them fluctuated considerably, the maximum figure being £1,280,000
in 1927. Since the war fewer schemes have been brought into being so that 50665
expenditure has been less, the maximum figure reached being £899,000 in 1950-51.
At present the only schemes operated under the Acts are those described in
paragraphs 2 and 3.
The Australian Assisted Passage Scheme
2. The Australian Assisted Passage Scheme has been in operation since
March, 1947, and some 200,000 men, women and children have sailed under it.
Up to 31st March, 1956, United Kingdom contributions towards the costs of the
Scheme totalled over £3 millions. At first the costs, less the contributions paid
by the migrants, were shared equally by the United Kingdom and Australian
Governments. However, subsequent deterioration in the United Kingdom's
financial situation led to successive reductions in the United Kingdom contribution,
until in 1952 it was fixed at its present figure of £150,000 a year. The Scheme is
due to expire in March, 1957 and, although the Australian Government have not
yet expressed their views, it may safely be assumed that they will be anxious to
see it extended for a further period. They still attach great importance to
immigration as a means of building up the population of Australia and have
repeatedly expressed their preference for migrants from the United Kingdom.
Child Migration
3. For many years there have been in existence agreements made under the
Empire Settlement Acts between the Commonwealth Secretary and various child
migration organisations. At present agreements with 9 such organisations govern
admission of migrant children to 39 farm schools, homes and other institutions in
Australia and Southern Rhodesia. All these agreements provide for the payment
by the United Kingdom Government of 10s. a week towards the maintenance of
each child under 16 years of age. Six of the agreements also provide for the United
Kingdom Government to pay, £4 towards the cost of an outfit for each child. The
agreements will all expire on 31st May, 1957. Since the war some 2,700 children
have migrated under these arrangements. The present expenditure from United
Kingdom funds is of the order of £36,000 a year. Child migration to Australia was
investigated earlier this year by a Government-appointed Fact-Finding Mission
whose Report was published in August (Cmd. 9832).
Renewal of the Empire Settlement Acts
4. From the budgetary standpoint, the Acts should be renewed if new
agreements are to be made which involve a financial commitment extending
beyond the period covered by the annual estimates. Although the existing' child
migration agreements have been renewed from year to year since 1954, it is
desirable for agreements of this type, and the Australian Assisted Passage
Agreement, to run for 2 or 3 years at a time, to enable the organisation and the
Australian Government to plan ahead. If the existing Australian Assisted Passage
Agreement and child migration agreements are not renewed, there will still remain
a moral liability for maintenance payments for the children already sent to
Australia and Southern Rhodesia until they reach the age of 16. This would taper
off over about 10 years from the present figure of £36,000.
5. The Acts have been on the Statute Book since 1922, and failure to renew
them would be interpreted, both here and overseas, as a change of policy and a
change of heart, even if no change were intended. The Acts are only permissive.
It is therefore recommended that a Bill to renew the' Empire Settlement Acts
should be introduced in the 1956-57 session in time to receive the Royal Assent
before 31st May, 1957.
6. Although expenditure under the Acts in any one year has never reached
the limit laid down, any attempt to reduce the limit would give rise to criticism
that the Government were unsympathetic to emigration. Moreover, with rising
prices, the present figure of £1+ millions does not mean as much now as it did in
1937, or even 1952, and it would be wise to allow a substantial margin over the
highest figure (£899,000) spent in the past 15 years. It is accordingly recommended
that the maximum figure to be included in the new Bill should be the same as before,
i.e., £A\ millions. The Treasury, however, would prefer that the annual limit
should "be no higher than £500,000, on the grounds that in the past five years
expenditure has averaged about £270,000 and is at present at the annual rate of only
about £200,000.
7. The 1922 and .1937 Acts had a duration of 15 years, and a similar period
for the new Bill might be an earnest of the Governments genuine belief in the
benefits of migration to the Commonwealth. However, it is difficult to see so far
ahead, and it may be considered unwise to fix the Governments migration activities
for so long a period, in case conditions in the meantime improve, and a more active
policy becomes possible or even necessary. It is therefore suggested that the new
Bill, like the 1952 Act, should have a duration of 5 years. The Ministry of Labour
would prefer to see the Acts extended for 15 years, and hold the view that extending
them for no more than 5 years would make the new Bill appear to be another
interim measure suggesting impermanence and uncertainty in the Governments
migration policy.
Renewal of the Australian Assisted Passage Agreement
8. Against Government subsidisation of emigration may be argued our own
manpower shortages and a doubt whether the United Kingdom contribution has
any significant effect on the numbers emigrating. It is, moreover, not wholly
appropriate nowadays that one independent Member of the Commonwealth should
subsidise emigration to another. On the other hand, a strong Australia, continuing
to be predominantly of British stock, is of great strategic and economic importance
to us. Furthermore, the Australian immigration policy has been followed by all
Australian Governments and is supported by most Australians, and to stop the
United Kingdom contribution would cause resentment and a strain in relations
between the two countries. An incidental advantage of our contribution is that it
enables us to keep some check on Australian recruiting of immigrants in this
country. It is therefore recommended that if, as may be expected, the Australian
Government approach the United Kingdom Government to renew the Assisted
Passage Agreement, we should accede to their request.
9. If the Agreement is renewed, the Australian Government would
undoubtedly like to see the United Kingdom contribution increased above
£150,000 a year. For this reason, it would be difficult to secure a further reduction,
and an attempt to do so might also lead to the political difficulties described in
paragraph 8. It is therefore recommended that, if the Agreement is renewed on the
same lines as at present, the United Kingdom Government should be prepared to
renew their contribution of £150,000 a year. It would appear that no practical
alternative to a money contribution by the United Kingdom Government can at
present be devised.
Renewal of the Child Migration Agreements
10. The Fact-Finding Mission's Report referred to in paragraph 3 contains
a number of criticisms of the arrangements made by the voluntary organisations
concerned with child migration in Australia. These criticisms are at present being
considered in consultation with the Australian authorities and in the light of
comments by the voluntary organisations, but, whatever the outcome of this
consideration, it is unlikely to warrant the discontinuance of the present wellestablished
system of child migration to Australia. The system has existed with
Government support both in Australia and the United Kingdom for over 30 years,
has influential support from churches and prominent laymen in both countries,
and, by most accounts, has benefited the children who have made use of it. It is
recommended that the agreements with the voluntary organisations concerned with
child migration to Australia should be renewed when they expire on 31st May, 1957,
on the understanding that the organisations undertake to modernise their methods
of child care and to bring their arrangements in Australia more into line with those
accepted in the United Kingdom. Since we in this country cannot make sure, in
the ordinary way, whether those undertakings are honoured, we shall have to
persuade the Australian authorities to take over the responsibility. Similar
arrangements will not be necessary in the case of Southern Rhodesia since the
organisation concerned with child migration to that country has decided in
agreement with the Southern Rhodesian authorities, not to send any more children
there after January, 1957. Those children already there will continue to be eligible
for United Kingdom maintenance payments whilst they are under the age of
16 years.
Commonwealth Relations Office,
17th October, 1956.
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