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147 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM(44) 13th Meeting (extracts) LONDON, 12 May 1944, 11 a.m.



MR. ATTLEE invited Mr. Bevin to make a statement regarding the
United Kingdom Government's post-war employment plans.

MR. BEVIN said that he would deal first with the arrangements
which the United Kingdom Government proposed to put into operation
during the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany. The
change of emphasis in our war effort, which the Japanese war would
call for, presented certain difficulties. Against Germany we were
compelled to put a large army into the field. The prosecution of
the war against Japan would on the other hand call for a
preponderance of naval and air forces. The United Kingdom
Government had decided not to make use of the term
'demobilisation' during the continuance of the war against Japan.

It was instead proceeding on the basis that a reallocation of
manpower between the forces and industry would take place. It was
important that this idea should be fostered, to avoid possible
discontent amongst members of the forces who would be employed in
the Far East. With this object in view the United Kingdom
Government had therefore carried a Bill through Parliament giving
all men and women in the Armed Forces a right to reinstatement in
their civilian employment, even though the employer might have
found it necessary to engage a substitute during the transition
period. General demobilisation would not take place until Japan
had been defeated.

Some re-orientation of industry would be effected when Germany had
been defeated, but until the precise nature of the military
requirements for the conduct of the war against Japan were known
it was difficult to forecast the extent to which this could be
achieved. Military requirements would, of course, override all
other considerations.

During the interim period, the National Service Act would remain
in force.

[matter omitted]

MR. CURTIN said that he had listened with interest to Mr. Bevin's
account. Australia could not, however, look forward to making
similar plans for some considerable time. Her whole efforts were
still directed to the prosecution of the war in the Pacific. As
the United Kingdom authorities were aware, the Commonwealth
Government had been engaged for some time in study of the manpower
problem which had arisen on account of the conflicting demands of
the Australian forces for replenishment, the United States forces
for supply and maintenance and the United Kingdom for agricultural
products. The Commonwealth Government had been forced to
contemplate a reallocation of its manpower, not on account of any
transition period, but because of the dictates of the war
situation with which his country was faced. His Government found
it extremely difficult to take decisions in the absence of firm
estimates of the demands they were likely to be called upon to
fulfil, and of the fighting forces which they would be expected to
maintain in the field. These questions had been raised in the
telegram which he had addressed to Mr. Churchill in October last
[1], to which a reply was still awaited. Since then the position
had been further complicated by the receipt of additional request,
eg., for the manning by Australia of additional R.N. ships. The
situation was an unhappy one, and he greatly hoped that it would
be possible to let him have, at an early date, an indication of
the contribution in fighting forces which his country was expected
to maintain, and of the supply and maintenance facilities which it
would be expected to provide for other forces. The continued
supply of agricultural products to the United Kingdom was
dependent upon the nature of the answers given to these questions.

Mr. Curtin went on to comment that the proposals outlined by Mr.

Bevin conveyed to him the impression that the United Kingdom
authorities contemplated a lengthy transition period and a small
military, as opposed to naval and air, contribution to the
prosecution of the war against Japan. The suggestion that men who
had served for long periods should be replaced in the United
Kingdom forces by fresh recruits, would, in his opinion, involve
further delay in the impact against the Japanese enemy. Even the
soldier seasoned in European warfare required at least six months'
training and acclimatisation for jungle fighting.

MR. ATTLEE explained that until the requirements for the
continuation of the war against Japan and for the garrisoning of
occupied countries were definitely known, it was impossible to
determine the level at which the armed forces would have to be
maintained. The United Kingdom Government anticipated, however,
that taking the armed forces as a whole, considerable re-
allocation between them and industry might be possible. As Mr.

Bevin had pointed out, military requirements would override all
other considerations, and the primary objective in our minds was
to make the maximum contribution we could to the defeat of Japan.

MR. BEVIN added that it must be obvious that it would be
physically impracticable to ship an army of three million men to
the Far East. It would be wasteful to retain them all in the
services. The plans he had outlined for the transition period were
primarily designed to make use of the surplus which would be

MR. CURTIN said that he did not wish to be interpreted as in any
way objecting to the proposals for re-allocation between the
forces and industry, but he hoped that the necessity for
retraining under suitable conditions would not be overlooked and
that the detailed examination of his country's manpower problems
would be prosecuted with expedition. He realised that an operation
on the scale-of 'Overlord' [2] could not be undertaken
simultaneously with operations on a similar scale elsewhere. An
early conclusion to the war depended upon success in 'Overlord'
and he would not suggest that the scale of effort devoted to it
should in any way be weakened.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS said that he thought that the plans which Mr.

Bevin had outlined were a tremendous improvement upon what had
been done in 1918 and 1919. The military effort of South Africa in
the war in the Pacific would be negligible, but part of the
S.A.A.F. might perhaps participate. He thought that any forecast
regarding the length of the war against Japan must at the moment
be entirely speculative. He felt that provided the maritime
strategy was successful the end might not be long delayed.

Enormous areas, which it would take months or years to fight
through on land, could be by-passed by naval power and it might be
possible to bring the Japanese fleet to action at quite an early
date. A crushing defeat of the Japanese fleet would make it
impossible for Japan to continue the struggle.

MR. ATTLEE invited Lord Cranborne to make a statement regarding

LORD CRANBORNE said that Mr. Bevin's statement about the United
Kingdom Government's demobilisation plans had covered the whole
field of transference of the people of the United Kingdom back
from war to peace. Mr. Bevin had also touched on one particular
aspect of special interest to the Dominions-namely, the settlement
in the Dominions of demobilised members of the United Kingdom
Forces. Lord Cranborne said he wished to speak about the problems
of migration rather more generally. After the vast issues with
which the meeting had been dealing during the week, this subject
might appear a somewhat limited topic. But he believed that it was
important that discussion of it should take place and that some
progress should, if possible, be made during the present series of
meetings. It appeared to him that we were faced with a new
situation and new possibilities in this sphere. The prospects of
migration from this country to the Dominions had gradually
deteriorated in the last fifty years. It was the fashion now to
say that the impulse to migrate was generally of romantic origin
and sprang from a spirit of adventure. That may have been true in
a few cases, but he believed that as a general proposition it was
untrue. The main motives which had led men to migrate were poor
conditions at home, the pinch of extreme poverty in the days when
there was no machinery for its alleviation, and the wide
difference between the opportunities that offered at home and in
the newer countries of the world. But gradually this incentive had
become less so far as this country was concerned. Standards of
wages had been raised, social services improved, the risks of life
reduced. As a result, the great majority of people in this
country, who were conservative by nature, if not in politics,
tended more and more to prefer to stay at home and not run the
risks of starting entirely afresh. It had looked as if the great
period of inter-Commonwealth migration was over. But it so
happened that in the last four years a new state of circumstances
had arisen favourable to the stimulation of migration. As a result
of the war, a large number of people had been uprooted from their
homes, the continuity of their lives had been broken and their
minds were receptive to the possibilities of establishing
themselves elsewhere. Considerable numbers of young people, in the
course of their training or on their way to or from the various
theatres of war, had passed through one or other of the Dominions
and liked what they saw there very much. The minds of these young
people were turning to the possibility of making their lives in
these pleasant places. He had had evidence of this from many
sources. In a recent letter to him, Lord Moyne had stressed the
widespread interest of the troops in the Middle East in the
possibilities of migration to the Dominions and there was an
urgent demand for information on this subject. But this was a
temporary phase as a result of the unsettling effects of war. As
soon as these people had returned to this country, settled down
and taken up jobs-and there would be plenty of opportunities for
employment-they would lose the desire to move. The opportunity of
establishing them overseas, if lost, might not recur. He did not
know whether the Dominions wanted migrants from the United
Kingdom. The matter was one entirely for them, but, if they did,
he would suggest they should strike now while the iron was hot.

The two years after the cessation of hostilities would be the
psychological moment. After that the possibilities of obtaining
migrants would not be so good. The United Kingdom authorities were
at present deluged with enquiries, both in Parliament and outside,
about the Government policy towards migration, and had been unable
to give any information. Over a year ago, he had sent a despatch
to Dominion Governments giving the main headings of the problem
and seeking their views. [3] So far, no definite indication of the
Dominion Governments' views had been received. He did not complain
about this, as the Dominion Governments were faced with the same
demobilisation problems as the United Kingdom. Moreover, they were
no doubt uncertain about the post-war economic situation and the
prospects of employment in their own countries. But he felt that
it was urgently necessary to look, if not at the long-term
arrangements, at least at the immediate problem arising on
demobilisation and decide where we stood. Clearly, the question
required considerable preliminary study. Migration imposed a
double obligation, on the country which sent the migrant and on
the country which received the migrant. There must be some
assurance, before the individual set out, that he would find
suitable employment when he arrived. Any serious failure to do so
would prejudice the flow of future migrants and cause distress and
friction on both sides.

This raised the question what type of men and women were required;

did the Dominions want industrial or agricultural types or both?
Another problem of considerable importance was the bearing of
migration on social security arrangements. The important point was
to avoid a gap without security while the individual transferred
from one scheme to another. The United Kingdom authorities were
already looking into this matter for their part, but it was
essentially one for joint expert examination. He understood that
Mr. Bevin, who had long experience of this type of problem,
thought it not insoluble. He did not wish to suggest that the
Prime Ministers should tackle such questions in detail at the
present series of meetings, but he would like, if possible, to
make some progress on the subject. He would suggest, with all
diffidence, that the Prime Ministers might agree that further
discussions should take place on the official level as soon as
they could conveniently be arranged, with the object of
formulating practicable arrangements, on the understanding that
these arrangements were for the consideration of Governments and
that no Government was thereby committed. As he had said, this
question was one even more for Dominion Governments than for the
United Kingdom. If these young people did not leave this country
the United Kingdom authorities would not be broken-hearted. The
birth-rate in the United Kingdom was falling and it was arguable
that we could not afford to lose good young men and women in any
large numbers. But if they wanted to go and the Dominions were
ready to take them, he felt that it would surely be wrong to
discourage them. Moreover, the interchange of British blood
between one part of the Commonwealth and another must tend to
strengthen the whole and to multiply the links that bound it
together. it was in that spirit that he raised the subject and he
would be very glad to hear the views of the Prime Ministers,
particularly on the question what answer could be given to
enquiries from the public in the United Kingdom in the near

MR. BEVIN said that in the past unemployment had made present in
everyone's mind the necessity of finding a solution by creating
employment or seeking it elsewhere. That had been an incentive to
migration. But, if plans for full employment in the United Kingdom
in the postwar period were successful, that incentive would
vanish. A new factor which, in his opinion, had arisen was
defence, a subject so very present in our minds at present. The
character of war had changed and new weapons and training methods
called for greater facilities than could be provided in the United
Kingdom and he had been revolving in his mind the possibility of
training British forces overseas in areas where there were not the
same limitations of space. He felt that such a plan would
assuredly stimulate migration, bind closer the links between the
United Kingdom and the Dominions and do much to promote the common
understanding and knowledge of one another's problems. Upon
completion of a training period or period of service in a
Dominion, a young soldier might be allowed to settle there
permanently, whilst remaining on the United Kingdom reserve or
joining a Dominion reserve. Under such a scheme the British
Commonwealth would be assured of a trained reserve of men in each
of the countries which comprised it. Opportunity should also offer
simultaneously for the development of industrial potential for
defence purposes in the different parts of the Commonwealth, and
provide an impetus to inter-Commonwealth trade. As regards social
security contributions and benefits, he would suggest that the
simplest possible solution should be sought. From his experience
in the past, he thought that the most practicable arrangement
would be for the United Kingdom to continue to bear a man on the
United Kingdom scheme, to which he had contributed, for an agreed
number of months, whereafter he could be transferred to the
Dominion scheme. It should not be a serious deterrent that the
benefits were not the same in each country.

[matter omitted]

MR. CURTIN said that he found himself in agreement with almost all
that Lord Cranborne had said and that, for their part, his
Government would welcome the opportunity to take as migrants
demobilised personnel from the United Kingdom forces. He would
table a full statement of his Government's views. (This appears as
Appendix II, and includes separate notes on Child Migration and
Maltese Migration.) As regards the ideas Mr. Bevin had thrown out,
he agreed that defence was a primary consideration in everyone's
mind and thought that, generally, his Government's reaction would
be that suitable migrants of British stock would be a valuable
accretion to his country's strength. He agreed with the suggestion
that the whole question should be further examined on an official

[matter omitted]



1. Government-Assisted British Migration to Australia
The questions raised by the United Kingdom Government in Dominions
Office despatch D No. 24 of the 2nd April, 1943, covering the
Report of the United Kingdom Inter-Departmental Committee on
Oversea Settlement on Demobilisation and in Dominions Office
cablegram D No. [578] [4] of the [18]th April, 1944, have been
considered by Australia and the following statement [5] of the
Government's policy on this subject is furnished:-

(a) The Commonwealth Government will welcome the opportunity to
accept British ex-Service men and women, wherever demobilised, and
their dependants for settlement in Australia, provided they are
medically fit and otherwise approved by the Australian authorities
to be suitable for life in Australia.

(b) The Commonwealth Government also agrees with the proposal that
in respect of British Service men and women who are demobilised in
Australia with the intention of remaining here, they should retain
the right to be repatriated (at the expense of the United Kingdom
Government) to the United Kingdom within a period of two years
after demobilisation, or, alternatively, their dependants in the
United Kingdom may be provided with passages to Australia on the
same basis as that applicable to parallel classes of individuals.

In such circumstances, the right to free repatriation to the
United Kingdom would be forfeited.

[matter omitted]

(e) The Commonwealth Government will be prepared to share with the
United Kingdom Government on a fifty-fifty basis the provision of
assisted or reduced passages to suitable applicants not eligible
to participate in the ex-Service free passage scheme. In this
regard, it is considered that the measure of Government assistance
should be such that no approved applicant should be required to
pay more than 10 sterling with proportionately reduced rates for
juveniles and children. For example, children under 12 to be
carried free, and juveniles over 12 and under 18 not more than 5
sterling. Further concessions might also be made in favour of
married couples with children. (The Commonwealth Government is of
the opinion, however, that before there can be any appreciable
flow of assisted migration 'the present tourist or third-class
rates must be considerably reduced.)

[matter omitted]

(g) The Commonwealth Government concurs in the view that the
increase in secondary industries in Australia will offer greater
scope for the absorption of industrial workers from the United
Kingdom than has been offered in the past, and that land
settlement schemes should be regarded as of secondary importance
so far as British migration to Australia in the future is

[matter omitted]

(j) The Commonwealth Government will provide free rail transport
from port of disembarkation to place of employment or destination
in respect of all British migrants who receive free or assisted
passages and, where necessary, accommodation for a limited period.

(k) It will be appreciated that the extent to which migration to
Australia can be promoted will be largely controlled by
Australia's absorptive capacity, having regard to the housing
situation as well as the economic conditions, and the
rehabilitation of our own people engaged in war and war

(l) The Commonwealth Government is examining the question of
reciprocity as regards social services, but attention may be drawn
to the recent legislation which provides for unemployment and
sickness benefits after one year's residence. Child endowment is
also subject to the same residence test.

(m) The foregoing conclusions have been arrived at without
prejudice to further consideration which may be necessary in the
light of subsequent developments.

[matter omitted]

1 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI,
Document 293.

2 Code name for the Allied liberation of north-west Europe.

3 Dispatch D24 (dated 2 April 1943). On file AA:A989, 43-
44:/554/2/1, i.

4 Document 110. The reference in square brackets was incorrectly
cited as D558 of 19 April.

5 The statement was based on a submission made to Full Cabinet by
Senator J. S. Collings, as agendum 538A, dated 1 May. In addition
to Govt-assisted British migration to Australia, settlement in the
East Kimberleys. At Curtin's request, Cabinet considered and
affirmed Collings's recommendations on 10 May, stressing item K on
British migration and adding the words 'and the rehabilitation of
our own people engaged in war and war industries'. In AA:A2700,
vol. 7.

[AA:A6712, 1944, TOP SECRET]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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