MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck), in rising to move—
That, in the opinion of this House, it well deserves the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, whether, and under what conditions, it would be expedient to revert to the ancient custom of paying Members for their services in Parliament,
said: I would have been glad to see this Resolution in the hands of some person more able and competent than I am to do it that full measure of justice which its importance requires, and where it would be less likely to suffer through misconception of the real motive for bringing it forward. I can assure the House, however, that I have been guided in the course which I am now taking by other and higher than merely personal considerations, which, however important to me personally, would certainly not be sufficient to justify me in taking up the time of the House. I have been guided in this matter by a sense of the importance, the reasonableness, and the equity of the case, and, as I at least understand it, by consideration for the public good. I have to ask the House to consider the expediency of reverting to an old Constitutional practice, now obsolete or inoperative in this country, but observed in every other country except Italy, and in many of our Colonies. Even in Italy it would not be correct to say that Representatives receive no indemnity, for they are allowed to travel free by rail or steamer to all parts of the Kingdom. It may, perhaps, be as well for me to state here what the precise practice of some of the Foreign and Colonial Legislatures is on this point. In some countries remuneration is by fixed salary, in others a per annum allowance is given with or without travelling expenses. For example, in the United States the salary of a Senator, Representative, or Delegate in Congress is 5,000 dollars—or, say, £1,000 per annum, with travelling expenses. The Members of the Canadian House of Commons receive an allowance of 10 dollars per diem to the end of 30 days, and for a Session lasting longer than that period a sum of 1,000 dollars, with, in every case, 10 cents per mile for travelling expenses. In France, Deputies receive 9,000 francs, or a sum of £360, and Senators 15,000 francs, or a sum of £600. The Members of the Second Prussian Chamber are paid £1 per day, and travelling expenses. Refusal of this payment is not permitted. In the Argentine Republic, both the Members of the Senate and the House of Deputies are paid £1,000 per annum; and in Brazil Senators receive £900 and Deputies £600 per Session respectively. As I have shown, the principle
for which I am contending is sanctioned by the universal practice of Foreign and Colonial Legislatures; but I would also remind the House that it is one which, in the estimation of our Predecessors, was so obviously just and equitable that it required no positive law to insure its observance. Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, tells us that this custom—
Commenced with the commencement of representation, from a principle of common equity without any positive law.
The same authority tells us that—
No man in those times imagined that this custom ever could or would be changed, as it seemed so reasonable, and was productive of good effects.
Well, it may here be asked—Why was a practice so reasonable, so apparently fair, and so productive of good effects, permitted to lapse? I will submit two reasons to the House as an answer to the question, which, to my mind, are quite sufficient to account for the change. In the first place, there was no uniformity in the payment. A County Member was allowed twice the amount given to a City or Borough Representative, and that difference set up an invidious distinction, which in time became intolerable, and to some extent was responsible for the breakdown of the custom. In the second place, the payment itself was levied directly upon the constituencies. Those people were compelled to pay who were not allowed to vote; and hence the dissatisfaction of the non-electors on the one hand, and the invidious distinction of the Members upon the other, led ultimately to the abandonment of the custom. From what I have been able to find out, it is, roughly, about 200 years since this practice ceased, though there have been several attempts during the interval to restore it, to two only of which I will briefly refer. The first occasion to which I refer was in 1830, when the Marquess of Blandford, a distinguished relative of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), brought in a Reform Bill, which was supported by nearly all the leading Liberals of that time—Lords Althorp, Ebrington, Russell, and Howick, and Messrs. Whitebread (father and son), Hobhouse, and Joseph Hume were amongst those who voted for the second
reading of that Bill, one of the provisions of which was—
To restore the principle and practice of paying Members the wages of attendance according to the value of money at the present time.
The great objection, however, to the Marquess of Blandford's proposal was that it attempted to set up again the mischievous principle of class distinction. He proposed to give County Members £4 per diem, and City or Borough Representatives £2—an invidious distinction which was severely commented upon. However, as I have said, the principle of that proposal was the restoration of the practice, and it was supported by all the leading Liberals of that time. Now, Sir, the next occasion to which I will refer when this principle was raised was in 1870, when Mr. P. A. Taylor, then Member for Leicester, asked leave to bring in a Bill—
To restore the ancient Constitutional custom of payment of Members of this House.
The result of Mr. Taylor's efforts, I am bound to confess, was certainly not calculated to inspire the advocates of the principle with hope for its speedy adoption, though I am also bound to say that, reading the debate on that occasion, his arguments were, in my opinion, unanswered and unanswerable. But I have not referred to Mr. Taylor's effort for the purpose of reproducing his arguments in this debate, but for the purpose of saying that many changes have taken place since 1870. Since then more than 2,000,000 have been added to the electorate of the country. Those electors are drawn chiefly from one section of the community—namely, the industrial class; and as to whom, if the vote you gave in 1884 is to have a real and not merely a nominal value, it is absolutely essential, in my opinion, that you should revert to the custom for which I am now contending. Another fact to which I desire to call attention—and one which, I think, will not be disputed by any Gentleman in this House—is that the tendency in constituencies is more and more to select their Representatives with a view to real and actual service. Any candidate at the time of an Election who is not prepared to give the most explicit pledges that he will devote the best of his time to the service and the interest of his constituents is
likely to receive very little support. Even the Government have recognized that tendency, and have, in my opinion, wisely altered their Rules of Procedure and instituted a system of Grand Committees, the object of which is to secure a greater despatch of Public Business. But I would point out to the House that the effect of that alteration is to increase the labours of Members, and to compel those who, say, like myself, are serving on two Committees, to be in attendance at the House on four days of the week from 12 to 13 hours per day; and in my judgment it is unreasonable and unjust to request Members to withdraw so much of their time from the pursuit of their ordinary calling in the interest of the public good without any indemnity or compensation. But it is said—Why should you pay private Members, when you can secure any number of Gentlemen both willing and ready to accept the duties solely for the sake of the honour? My objection to that argument is this—that it mistakes the true nature of Parliamentary representation, and assumes it to be a privilege which is enjoyed by the individual, rather than a duty which is undertaken on behalf of the community. And here I shall ask the permission of the House to read a short extract from a speech made in 1868 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The right hon. Gentleman said—
It was time Parliament expressed an opinion, especially with a widely-extended constituency, as to the true nature of Parliamentary duties, and decided whether sitting and voting in the House was a privilege to be enjoyed by the individual, or a duty to be performed towards the community. In his judgment it was a duty performed towards the community,
If I may be permitted to say so, I entirely concur in that judgment, and that is why I ask this House to consider the expediency of providing an indemnity for those who are engaged in the discharge of a public duty. But I should like to follow that argument a little further, and see to where it would lead. If I understand it correctly, it means that you cannot get Ministers to undertake the duties of Office gratuitously, or simply for the sake of the honour, and, therefore, you are bound to pay them. Is that the position which any Gentleman will get up and defend in this de-
bate? Will any hon. Member, for example, suggest that the First Lord of the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not as willingly and as devotedly discharge the duties of their respective Offices as they do at the present time if there were no considerations of pay attached? The suggestion, in my opinion, is too mean to be entertained for a moment. Then, if I may not suggest that Ministers hold their Office simply for the sake of the pay, why do you continue this distinction between official and non-official Members? Clearly not because you cannot get Gentlemen who for the sake of the honour would be willing to undertake the duties of the Office. To do otherwise you would restrict and limit your choice of eligible men, and prevent the nation from utilizing the combined experience and wisdom of those who are capable of governing a nation, but whose only misfortune is to be poor. That is the point of my argument in favour of extending the principle to private as well as official Members. My contention is that our present system restricts and limits the choice of the constituencies, and practically sets up a property qualification. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1868 said—
It was ridiculous to admit all classes to the franchise, and yet continue in existence those arrangements which practically limited the choice of candidates. It was a pernicious doctrine to prevent poor men from coming into the House. The entrance of such men would be beneficial to all classes, and would strengthen the confidence of the people in the Legislature.
This quotation strengthens my position in saying that the continuance of the present system practically is a bar to working men coming into this House. But there is one striking anomaly in our present system on which I should like to say a word or two, and that is the principle on which an ex-Minister of a certain class is entitled to remuneration for public services even when out of Office. This, in my opinion, is an indefensible principle. He is elected to Parliament in precisely the same way as other Members are. If he is fortunate enough to obtain Office, he receives the salary attached, and when in Opposition he is as much a private Member as any other Member of this House. Why the law should permit any departure in such cases has always been to me
a puzzle. There is one other objection to the change I am seeking to which I will briefly refer. It is said if you change your present system you will degrade the Office. What I have to ask is, do the present Ministerial Members of this House who are in receipt of pay consider themselves in any manner or form degraded by receiving pay for their services? Is there a lawyer, a railway director, or a chairman of any Company who is prepared to admit that he is degraded by the receipt of the salary which he obtains for the discharge of his public duties? Not one, I venture to say, would consider himself so degraded. Then why should it be held that the payment of Members will lead to the degradation of the Office of a Member of Parliament? I have endeavoured to state my case to the House without passion, without any unnecessary references to political Parties. I have endeavoured to show that my case is not only in accordance with the practice of other countries, but that it is one so obviously just and desirable in the interests of a large section of the community that I have no hesitation in asking the House to revert to this old Constitutional custom, and I therefore beg to move the Resolution that stands in my name.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, in rising to second the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Fenwick), he thought there was one point, at all events, on which all sections of the House would agree with him. He did not apprehend that the force of the argument to which the House had just listened was in any degree weakened by the temperate nature both of the arguments and the language with which the Motion had been moved by his hon. Friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick). He (Mr. Haldane), in supporting the Motion, wished to put before the House briefly, and in as few words as possible, the considerations which had led him to the same conclusion as his hon. Friend. He was aware that this was a question upon which there might well be a difference of opinion. It was one of those matters upon which it was only possible to arrive at a decision after balancing the considerations on both sides; but it seemed to him, for reasons which he would shortly state to the House, that the 638 balance of the considerations clearly and distinctly lay upon one side, and that side the side of the Motion. Now, there was one argument which he had no doubt had been present to the minds of many Members of the House, and which had probably been largely present, and which was probably now present to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite—he meant this, that if they introduced a system of payment of Members they would put a premium on the spouter, the demagogue, and the most vicious class of professional partizan politicians. That was an argument which had been supported not only by hon. Gentlemen holding these opinions now, but by eminent Radicals in times gone by. If his memory did not deceive him, it was the opinion held by no less an authority than the late John Stuart Mill. But a good deal had happened since John Stuart Mill wrote. The franchise had been extended, and they were now speaking under no vague terror as to that of which they had no experience when they spoke of the tendencies of the mute electorate. He did not think that those people to whom the franchise was extended in 1885 had proved themselves to be dangerous and of a nature calculated to bring ruin on the House by the rashness and intemperance of the votes they gave. Let him remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that that very body of new electors had placed the Tory Party in the year 1886 in a majority in the House of Commons; and he was sure he was appealing to something which hon. Gentlemen opposite would sympathize with when he referred to the moderation and hesitation with which the new electors, many of them, received the propositions that were brought forward for the extension of a system of Home Rule to Ireland—the way in which they hung back from supporting a Party to which they were deeply attached. It was possible, perhaps, that hon. Gentlemen who were inclined to nod assent to that proposition would also be inclined to nod assent to the fact that these same electors, after a lapse of two years, and after having carefully and fully considered the question, were now giving their votes, as recent elections proved, in the most free and unstinted way to the Party from which they had been temporarily estranged. At least one thing was clear; the new elector was 639 very like the old elector. The line of distinction between the Liberal and Tory had obtained among these classes as it obtained amongst the more fortunate classes. The new elector was not by nature a demagogue; he was not a revolutionary; he was prone to choose, and to choose well, and to be in no hurry about his choice. He (Mr. Haldane) did not think that the history of the last General Election showed that those candidates obtained the largest majority of votes who made the most specious promises and addressed the electors in the most intemperate language. If that was so—and he imagined that it was proved not by mere abstract reasoning, but by experience which they all had access to—it followed that the new electors might be trusted in the same way that the old electors had been trusted. If the new elector were given the selection of his candidate they might depend upon it that he would have shrewdness enough and sense enough to see that that candidate was not one who was simply following his own interests, and who was seeking his own aggrandizement at the expense of his constituents. He believed that there was nothing which the electors of this country, and particularly the new electors, had a higher sense of than the characters of their candidates. They were sensitive, and very sensitive, to anything like self-seeking on the part of those who sought their suffrages; and by an instinct which it was impossible to reproduce or to analyse, they found out the truth about the men who were seeking to represent them. Now, if that were so, it seemed to him that all force was taken away from the argument of those who said that the payment of Members of Parliament was putting a premium upon a class of candidates who would come forward in large numbers, and who, to the ruin of this country, would woo the constituencies with an amount of success to which they were not entitled. They on the Opposition side of the House maintained that the result of paying Members would be simply this—that the new system would develop and stimulate to an enormous degree the electoral machinery, and would thus enable the electors to make a proper choice amongst an increased number of candidates who would come before them as to who would be 640 the best to represent them in reality and truth as well as in mere profession. Then there was another argument brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was said that the House of Commons in this country was better and nobler and higher in its character, on the whole, than any other Representative Body in the world where the system of payment of Members obtained. He did not wish to make any reference which would seem in the slightest degree unfriendly to any other country; but he knew it was an opinion currently entertained that the House of Commons had always been higher in its morality and status than the Lower House of the Congresss of the United States, or the Assembly of France. He believed that was an opinion which was a favourite one with a large number of persons in this country, and the fact of the payment of Members was one of the reasons pointed to as accounting for that state of things. But in considering those reasons regard must be had to the fact that, in the countries to which he referred, public opinion did not lay such great store by representative institutions as was laid by them in this country. It was further to be observed that in America, at all events, there was a separation between executive and legislative machinery which had no parallel in this country, and which was not without some unfortunate consequences. If it were said that they imported considerations of self-seeking into the motives of the candidates by holding out to them the possibility of obtaining emolument, he would ask whether that state of things was altogether absent in the present system and from our present House of Commons. Why, the House of Commons, in the opinion of most people, was an institution, access to which greatly facilitated the growth of prosperity in the concerns of those who belonged to it. They all knew that in the City of London, at all events, a short time ago, the letters "M.P." used to have a distinct commercial value. Some of them knew that those letters had a commercial value to this hour; and, if that were so, he maintained that it was desirable that the electors and the constituencies should have a wider choice than was now presented to them in the selection of their Representatives, and that it would be better that Parliament should give them 641 an opportunity of obtaining men who, if they were poor, at all events, were strictly honest, and if they were not the most proper persons in other respects, were, at any rate, sincere in their political professions and desirous of devoting their best energies and abilities to the service of the country; and that brought him to his second point. It appeared to him that the extension of the franchise had, to a large degree, increased the necessity of extending the class from which they were to draw their candidates. As things at present stood, it was extremely difficult for a man of moderate means to stand in a Party election. He had to incur not only large expense in the course of his election, but he must maintain himself in London; he had to make very considerable outlay, and it was impossible for him, unless by the greatest efforts, if he were not a man of a considerable fortune or of high personal position, to maintain himself in his position in that House. Now, upon the working classes, who formed by far the largest portion of the constituencies, this pressed very hardly. It was not fair that they should be precluded from sending to Parliament men of their own class, with an intimate knowledge of their desires and necessities, to represent them. Experience of the working class Members had shown, and it would be generally admitted, that in those cases where the labouring classes had succeeded in returning men from their own ranks to represent them, that they had made a wise choice in the men they had so selected. The labouring classes had made the wisest and most sensible selection, and he was certain—even hon. Members opposite would, in the main, agree with him—that it was not only desirable, but their bounden duty in this House, having extended the franchise, to have the courage of their opinions, and to enable those to whom they had given the vote to choose the kind of candidates who would best look after their interests in the Imperial Parliament. Looking upon what had been pointed out already, that the increase of Business they had seen coming upon the House, and the multitude of duties that were crowding upon them, the ever-increasing amount of special knowledge which was essential for the discharge of those duties, it was more and more necessary that they should have not 642 only men who were able to give the fag end of their time to their Parliamentary work and who devoted the best part of their time to the earning of a living from day to day, but that they should have men who were content to live modestly and quietly, like the class from which they came, and to devote the whole of their time and attention to their Parliamentary labours. This was the position in which they stood; and they might depend upon it that if the principle of this Motion were carried into law they would see a great improvement in the electoral machinery of the country. It might also be necessary for them to have a second ballot, which would help them in getting rid of the difficulty which would arise from the multiplicity of candidates. An argument which had been brought forward by his hon. Friend in support of this proposition was that it was nothing new. Well, he (Mr. Haldane) did not attach any great importance to considerations of antiquity. Times had changed, and because Members of Parliament were paid a good many hundreds of years ago, it did not necessarily follow that they should pay them to-day. This point, however, deserved consideration from those who thought that this was a proposition which the Radical Party on that side of the House had taken up in a hurry, and were trying to carry through without mature consideration in the course of their downward path. It was a circumstance which deserved consideration at the hands of hon. Members opposite that this proposal, embodied not in any abstract Motion but in a Bill, was, as his hon. Friend had reminded the House, supported by such men as Lord Althorp, Lord John Russell, and members of the Whitbread family. It seemed to him that this Motion was one to which all sections of the House might, in view of the principle involved in the extension of the franchise, give their assent; and before he sat down he should like to draw attention to the question upon which they were going to vote. What was asked for was an inquiry, but he admitted that the desirability of making an inquiry could not be assented to without, at the same time, assenting to a principle involved. But what was that principle? It seemed to him that it was thus: that they should no longer 643 confine the franchise and confine the benefits of the franchise and the privilege of being elected to Parliament to rich men—to men of independent fortune, but that they should at once frankly recognize, in the presence of a new order of things, and face to fact with new demands on the constituencies that it was desirable that they should no longer make representation in this House the monopoly of a single class If it were true that the principle of this Motion were not one which was attended with danger, if it were true that they could trust the constituence to return Members to sit in the House, surely they were entitled to say that the choice of constituencies should no longer be restricted as it had been in the past If that were the principle—and it seemed to him to be the only principle involved in this Motion—then, in seconding it, he must say that he hoped many Members, without regard to the quarter of the House in which they sat, would give a hearty assent to the Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it well deserves the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, whether, and under what conditions, it would be expedient to revert to the ancient custom of paying Members for their services in Parliament," instead thereof.—(Mr. Fenwick.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
said, there was one serious objection to the Motion before the House which, strangely enough, the hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House paid no attention to, and that was, that if carried out this plan would involve a serious addition to the expenditure of the country. He had noticed that the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Resolution with great moderation was very careful to keep clear of any statement as to the amount which he proposed that Members should be paid, if paid at all; but that seemed to him (Mr. Jennings) to be a practical part of the question which, if this Motion was to be adopted, could not be overlooked but for a very short period. He assumed that, if it were decided to pay Members of Parliament a salary at all, they would not treat themselves less liberally than Members of Congress 644 were treated in the United States. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion quoted, without any expressions of disapproval, the rate of pay now adopted in both branches of the United State Congress. Every Congressman got £1,000 a-year and a very considerable mileage fee. The hon. Member did not describe this amount as being too large; and, consequently, it might be assumed that that would be about the sum that he would be willing to pay to Members of Parliament. ["No, no!"] Well, it was very important that the hon. Member should say what sum he would pay Members of Parliament. He (Mr. Jennings) desired to call the attention of the House to the fact that last year the Congress of the United States cost the people of that country 2,210,000 dollars, or about £440,000. The salaries and mileage fees amounted to that enormous sum, and he (Mr. Jennings) could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that if they supposed for a moment that the people of the United States paid this large amount willingly or gladly they were very much mistaken. Now, supposing that the House took it that this rate of pay was required for the services of Members of Parliament, it was quite obvious that the amount would be largely in excess of that sum, as there were many more Members of Parliament than there were Members of Congress in the United States. This House consisted of 670 Members, and if the rate of the remuneration was £1,000 a-year, that would make a total of £670,000 a-year. Even if the hon. Member were to reduce the sum by one-half—and what was the good of voting themselves anything at all if they did not vote as much as that?—the total would be £335,000 a-year; and then the hon. Member had not said what he proposed to do with the House of Lords.
§ MR. JENNINGS
said, he observed in the Resolution that the hon. Member spoke of "Members of Parliament," and he presumed that that phrase still included Members of the House of Lords as well as Members of the House of Commons. It had occurred to him (Mr. Jennings) that possibly, by way of reparation for the hard things which were sometimes said of the House of Lords, the hon. Member proposed to make an 645 addition of, say £1,000 a-year each to their incomes. But supposing the hon. Member confined his Motion to Members of that House—which certainly his Resolution would not do—and supposing that Members were only paid one-half of the amount received by Congressmen in the United States, the total, as he had said, would still amount to nearly £350,000 a-year. Now, he appealed to the House whether they had any right to add so large a sum as that to the National expenditure. On every side there were grievous complaints, and just complaints, of the amount of taxation imposed upon the people of this country. On every side there were complaints that the Army and Navy were in a state of inefficiency, and that the Public Services were not as they would like to see them, and the desire of everyone in the House, he believed, without respect to Party, was to bring about a retrenchment of public expenditure rather than to increase it. But they could not bring about a retrenchment of public expenditure and at the same time vote large salaries for their own services. He asked the House to consider the position in which they would be placed if, at the end of the Session, they had to go before their constituents and say they had not been able to do much towards the retrenchment of the national expenditure, but that what they had been able to do was to vote themselves £500 a-year, or £1,000 a-year each, out of their pockets. He did not know what kind of reception hon. Gentlemen opposite would get from their constituents, but he, for one, would rather not face his constituents at all than go to them with such a story. Now, the other very serious objection to this proposal to which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Seconder of the Resolution (Mr. Haldane) had briefly adverted, was a very real one, and not an imaginary one, as the hon. and learned Member seemed to suppose—that was to say, that if the proposal were adopted, it would lead to the inevitable degradation of Parliament. There would, he believed, forthwith spring up a class of men whose aim would be to get into this House for the sake of emolument. The professional politician, who was the bane and curse of every country where he existed, would overrun the land. It had been said, and said that night, that though this 646 had happened elsewhere it would not happen here. Well, for his own part, he did not know what magic there was to transform an evil system into a good one just because it happened to be resorted to in England. It had been found elsewhere that the payment of Members was one of the causes which led to the deterioration of legislative institutions. Now, the opinion of an English Member of Parliament with reference to the condition of things in the American Congress was not of any importance, and, perhaps, it would not be worth while to give it, but they might very fairly consider what were the opinions of Americans of the best class and the most intelligent class concerning the working of this system of Government in their own land. He would merely call the attention of the House to one or two opinions which were very well worth considering, and which came from men occupying eminently representative positions. A few years ago one of these gentlemen, the President of the Union League Club—a representative club, which, during the American war, was the means of doing great service to the people of the country—in a speech he (Mr. Jennings) had heard him deliver in New York had said—Our most promising young men have long ago ceased to look upon politics as a desirable career. A seat in the Legislature, which is thought in England by a gentleman who leaves his University as the highest point of his ambition, is regarded here with aversion and contempt, and most of our most eminent citizens have as little to do with the shaping or checking of public affairs as if they lived in Austria or Russia.Now, if that statement had been made by an Englishman it would be looked upon as a piece of impertinence; but there was no denying the authority from whom it emanated, and he thought it would be almost impossible to find any eminent man in America whose opinion was worthy of respect who did not agree with that statement. Again, the editor of Scribner's Magazine, published in November, 1886, a statement that Congress was no longer a Legislative Body, and that it consisted of a plutocracy at one end and of a mobocracy at the other. Well, now they were told to look at the Congress of the United States as an example to encourage them in the path along which hon. Gentlemen opposite would lead them, and he would ask the 647 House to consider the statements of the authorities whom he had given, and whose opinions were entitled to respect. He did not assert that the degradation of the American Assemblies was owing solely to the payment of Members, but still that was one of the causes to which the degradation was ascribed. The other, and the more potent, cause was the practice which, he regretted to say, was coming into vogue in this House of relegating all the real Business of the country to Committees. In the course of time, the attention of the country would become concentrated on the proceedings of those Committees, and the proceedings of the main branch of the Legislature would sink into insignificance. In no part of these considerations could be found much encouragement to them to adopt the proposal put before the House; but he placed special stress on the first points which he had mentioned, and trusted that some hon. Member who advocated the Resolution on the other side of the House would tell them precisely what they would be prepared to pay to M.P.'s, supposing they were paid, and how much they would allow them as mileage fees? A man could not expect to be an M.P. without being prepared to pay something for it, and the fact of his having to pay something for it was, and ought to be, a part of the honour and glory of the position, and the payment of railway expenses was the least part of that necessary cost. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick) said they set up in England a qualification of property and of wealth for Members of Parliament, but that he (Mr. Jennings) denied. If such a qualification as that existed, he, for one, would not be able to be in the House of Commons at that moment. Then the hon. Member said that poor men were unable to get into the House under the existing system, but that also he (Mr. Jennings) denied. Poor men had succeeded not only in obtaining positions in that House, but in doing their work in the House, and in earning their living at the same time by the exercise of their Professions. He had a right as a Member, sitting on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, to deny entirely the statement that a qualification of wealth or property attached to a seat in the House. 648 In conclusion, he trusted the House would reject the proposal, which would be fatal to everything of which they had reason to be proud in connection with their National Legislature.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had appealed to the House on the score of economy, but he (Sir George Trevelyan) hoped to be able to give the House some reasons further on to show why the very last person who should oppose the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Fenwick) should be an economist. They would want a more tangible reason than the fact that in America £1,000 a-year was paid to Members of the Senate and of the Lower House, and that we, therefore, in our turn would be pledged to pay £1,000, or at least £500 a-year, to every Member of the House of Commons if they were to reject the Resolution of his hon. Friend. That Resolution was brought forward in an eminently practical spirit, and in an eminently practical spirit he (Sir George Trevelyan) intended to state the arguments with which it was supported. It was not arguing in a practical spirit to tell them that if they passed it they were bound to pay £1,000 or £500 a-year to Lord Derby, the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Bedford, and Lord Ardilaun. That was a preposterous argument to bring forward against such arguments as were adduced by his hon. Friend. Then the hon. Member for Stockport—to whom he had listened with much satisfaction some time ago when he had spoken on other subjects, and could have listened if he had spoken at much greater length than that night—told them that he would be ashamed to go down to his constituents and say that he had voted himself a salary. For his own part, he (Sir George Trevelyan) would be much more ashamed to go down to his constituents and to say that he grudged to men as good as he, but not so privileged by fortune, the possibility of going to Parliament and of serving their country, and that he grudged his country the advantage of being served by them. The hon. Member had talked of the decline of the American Legislature and of American politics. He had heard a great deal about that decline ever since he was a very young politician, and, in 649 his opinion—and it was the result of a tolerably close obervations—these complaints of the decline of American politics were the complaints of those whom they had in America, as well as in this country, fastidious dilettanti. Americans there were who were willing to talk against their country, and say that it was going down in the world, just as there were men in England who said the same of their country; but they could not say that their country was growing poorer, that the population was becoming less numerous, or that the prosperity and education of the people were going backwards, and so the one thing that remained for them to say was that politics were becoming vulgar. Now, no one could have watched American public life during the last 30 years without seeing that it was becoming purer, more public spirited, and more in accord with the highest intellect of the country; and to say that the corrupting influence in America was the payment of the Legislature, was to say something which could not be borne out by facts. The corrupting influence in America had always been their system of patronage of placing men in Office because they belonged to a special political Party, and removing them from Office when the other Party came into power. What, in two sentences, was our history on this point? We were as bad as the Americans not long ago, but we had cured ourselves as we became more popular and more democratic, because it was then that Members of Parliament had surrendered the privilege of appointing their constituents, their nominees, or their relations and friends to offices which then became open to every citizen who qualified himself by passing a public examination. So it was in America; as America proceeded she had begun to go in the same direction, and patronage was being extinquished in that country, and yet all the while Members of the Legislature were being paid. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Wansbeck Division had brought forward an argument which possibly weighed very much with him, but which, for his own part, he (Sir George Trevelyan) owned weighed very little with him. The hon. Member had said that the custom of paying Members of Parliament was an ancient custom in this country. But not only was it an ancient 650 custom, but it was also a modern one, and in full swing at the present moment. At the present time the principle of Members of Parliament being paid as Members was in full operation, as he would undertake to show, but, instead of those being paid whose circumstances required it most, it was a favoured few—and not so very few either. He would take a Return laid before the House in 1872, as it would be less invidious to refer to than to take any personal observations which one might have made of one's Colleagues in the present Parliament. That Return was a very interesting one, of Members of Parliament who received salaries while they were in Parliament. He had picked out a few of the most important, and as they were only a few, perhaps the House would allow him to read them. He found that a lieutenant-colonel of the Army received £ 173 a-year; a major of Artillery £237; a captain of Royal Engineers £301; a colonel £1,000; a lieutenant-general on unattached pay £456; a major-general on unattached pay £456; a colonel of Artillery on half-pay £365; a lieutenant-colonel on half-pay £200; a colonel of foot £1,000; a captain and colonel of the Guards £1,000, £505; and another £495; an admiral on half-pay £850; a rear-admiral £625; a captain and naval aide-de-camp £487. Now, here they had 14 officers getting £7,700 amongst them, or an average of £550. Of these—and he considered this argument unanswerable; he defied any hon. Member to answer it—some were on pension and of them he would say nothing, but others were on full or half-pay, and they had not to perform their duties during the Session of Parliament. That was an old privilege of the Army. Now, why were these men paid? They were paid because they were Members of Parliament [Cries of "No, no!"] Would such an economist as the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury admit the principle that men in the Government Service were paid for doing nothing?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
They are paid for their military and naval duties.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
said, they did not do those duties. They were nominally paid because they were doing military or naval duties, but they 651 were excused their own duties in order that they might attend the House, which he must say, in some respects, was a privilege of very dubious propriety. They were excused one public duty in order that they might perform another, and, therefore, he maintained that they were paid for the public duty which they did, and not for that which they did not perform. Well, he did not grudge their being paid as Members of Parliament, but he thought that the pay was too much and that it was given in a very irregular and, so far as the state was concerned, in a covert, indirect, and not very reputable manner, and he hoped that when the inquiry asked for by his hon. Friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick) took place, it would put these military and naval officers and all other Members of Parliament on a proper footing.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
said, he had been resting his case principally on the military. Now, here was another case. In the Return of 1872 there were three Members of Parliament who were officers—or were in 1872—of the Royal Household. One of them got £924 a-year, another got £904, and another £336, or, in all, £2,164. Here were Gentlemen who were not technically paid as Members of Parliament—["Hear, hear!"]—yes; but they were really paid as Members of Parliament. They had no other serious duties except attendance in that House. But that was not all. They had obtained these posts because they were Members of Parliament; that, as a matter of fact, they would not have obtained them unless they had been Members of Parliament; and, therefore, he maintained that they were paid £900 a-year for being Members of Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) wished to know whether he thought that too much or too little, he would tell him quite plainly that he thought it just three times too much, and that he, for his own part, would never vote for the payment of a larger salary than £300 a-year to a Member of Parliament. But there was a very much stronger case indeed, and a case exactly on all-fours with the payment of Members of Parliament, and that was the case of political 652 pensions. That the nation which kept up political pensions should refuse to pay Members of Parliament under the same circumstances as the recipients of these political pensions, was the ne plus ultra of anomaly. They took not the men who had gained least from public life, but the men who had gained most; they took people not like—well, he would not name anyone—not the most hard worked veterans in the House, with possibly precarious incomes during many years, but hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had obtained many thousands of public money. They invited them to make a declaration that they could not support themselves—he was not sure of the exact words of the declaration, but it was something like that—in a manner befitting and becoming public men and Members of Parliament—because between two Governments they were nothing more nor less than plain Members of Parliament just like the rest—and then Parliament gave them £2,000 or £1,200 a-year—a pension which was often very much more than the bare compensation which a man ought to receive, and which, he was bound to say, was the most a good man would ask, for the means of making money which he had foregone when he entered Parliament, and the expenses which awaited him there. Now, as to the principle on which these pensions were granted he wished to say a single word. He did not object to the nature of the declaration that was made; in fact, he was rather in favour of it. That was exactly one of the points he should like to refer to those who conducted the Inquiry his hon. Friend called for. He should like to have the question referred to them whether it would not be best to make these pensions optional, and whether the declaration which was practically exacted now from the holders of political pensions should be exacted from the receivers of Parliamentary salaries. But that the present system was right and just, that they should give a man who had drawn large official salaries a very large pension when he was nothing more than a Member of Parliament, and refuse anything to his brother Members who were doing exactly the same services as himself, was what he (Sir George Trevelyan) would never admit. There were one or two practical questions which he thought 653 ought to be answered in that debate before many of them on the Opposition side of the House were convinced they would be wrong in voting with his hon. Friend. In the first place, were they to have working men in the House or not? It was most important, in his opinion that they should have working men in the House, and it was most important that they should not in any way be in an exceptional position as compared with other Members of the House. But some of them were in an exceptional position as compared with other Members of the House, and a position which was highly honourable to all parties concerned, both to their constituents and themselves, but which was not in the long run to the advantage of the State or to the advantage of the individual. Working men could not sit in the House, Parliament after Parliament, unless their brother workmen and their constituents contributed to their support; and that could not often be done in a regular manner, unless it was done through some recognized organization and machinery. He wanted to have working men in the House. He would like to have a good many more, just as he liked to have plenty of country gentlemen, plenty of Members representing the fishing interest, plenty of commercial men, and he was sure they were all of them glad to have a sprinkling of the liquor interest. But they wanted to have representatives of these interests who belonged to these interests, and who understood their views and sympathized with them, but who were in no sense dependent upon these interests for being able to sit in Parliament. They wanted to have people who agreed with the opinions they represented, but who were in no sense dependent for their pecuniary position upon that agreement. From time to time, at rather long intervals, since he had been a Member of the House, one threatened interest or another had by popular rumour been supposed to have had Gentlemen in the House who were in some sense dependent upon them, and those Gentlemen—he was not speaking of any Member of the present House—had not been conspicuous as good Members for general purposes. Now, the working men who were amongst them, even those who were most closely attached to the Trades Unions, were good Members for 654 general purposes. He did not think it was right or kind to put upon them, or upon perhaps their more numerous successors, a strain which could not always properly be borne. If they were to receive a salary for their public duties, that salary ought to come out of the Exchequer, and that consideration alone, as relating to the working man, would induce him to vote for the Inquiry proposed by his hon. Friend. But there was another consideration which it was impossible to blink, and which seemed to him to be of overwhelming importance. Hon. Members opposite were one and all determined to keep their Irish Colleagues in this House. He thought that hon. Members upon the Opposition side of the House were quite as strong in wishing to keep many of their Irish Colleagues in the House; certainly he himself was. But it was simply impossible they could expect, generation after generation, 103 Irish Members to come over to Westminster, unless the State were to follow the example of every other civilized nation that had a Parliament, with the single exception, and that only a partial exception, of Italy. They were told that they would lower the dignity of Parliament if they paid its Members. Why, if there was an august Body in the world it was the American Senate; and the American Senate did not require any of its Members to cross even the river which divided their State at Washington at his own expense. Still less would they think of bringing such a distance as that from Ireland to London and across the Channel, for six or seven months of the year, a whole body of Members as large as those who were sent here from Ireland, at their own expense. It might be said—and he had no doubt it would be said by the hon. and learned Member who followed him, for he trusted this subject would be discussed in a serious tone and in a practical way, and a real answer given—it might be said it was the fault of the Irish people; they ought to elect men who would gladly come over here and leave their business behind them. It might be said that Ireland used to elect such men. That was true enough. They used to elect such men whose business was of a nature which could be left behind, men on whom the name of absentee landlord was largely conferred. But that 655 was not the case now. A great number of men were now sent over who followed commercial and professional and literary pursuits, which, to be followed successfully, required their constant attendance in different parts of Ireland, and it was no use telling the Irish people that they ought to elect another order and body of men. They could not dictate to people who they ought to elect, and, in his opinion, they would find that before a very long time went by that the Irish Members, as well as a great number of English and Scotch Members, would be a very potent and governing reason for acceding to the proposal of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had said it would involve the country in very great expense. He (Sir George Trevelyan) was bound to say he considered the economical argument on this subject an exceedingly weak one, if not an almost ridiculous one, when they considered what the country was paying at that moment in other directions. When they considered that at that moment they were paying large salaries to twice as many Generals as they employed; when they considered what a superfluous number of Irish Judges there was, and how exceedingly disproportionate the incomes of Irish Judges were to the incomes that were drawn by members of the Irish Bar, it was too much to tell them that economy was to step in for the first time when it was a question of a hard worked public man drawing the small sum which he could draw with a perfectly clear conscience from the Exchequer. But that was not the sense in which he considered this an important economical proposal. Jobs and abuses such as existed in every quarter of our National Expenditure, in every corner of the Estimates, and in every corner of the Finance Accounts, existed because there were not enough courageous and independent Members of Parliament to go at them and do away with them, and they would exist until they could get all the best men in the country ready to present themselves, and they would not be able to get those men simply because they could not afford to come into Parliament unless they were paid. Now, it was not much that they asked; only a very small sum of money indeed. The supporters of the Motion felt equally with every class in the country, equally with those young men who 656 came from the Universities—and he had known young men who had taken the highest honours in the Universities to whose friends it would be a great addition to their happiness and comfort if they could see them in receipt of a small and hardly-earned salary from the State—they felt as much as anyone else what an honour it was to have a seat in Parliament, they felt that that repaid them for almost anything; that it repaid them for the sacrifice of that which they might have gained by following an open commercial or professional career outside Parliament. But there was one thing, and one only, for which it did not repay them, and that was for the loss of the peace of mind and the self-respect which came to a man who could not, even by pinching and living close, follow the career in which he was engaged; and it was because they wished to relieve such men from that—because they thought that the services of these men were as important to the country as those of men who were more fortunate and whose fortune had been derived, perhaps, not by their own ability, but by inheritance from others—because they could not afford to lose any good men from the central body of workers in England, that he should most certainly vote for the Resolution of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
said, he had the advantage of listening to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) at the Union of Edinburgh, and he was convinced that if the right hon. Gentleman had made a speech similar to that they had just listened to, the younger members of that Body would have said that he had evaded the point. It was scarcely germane to the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick) to talk to them at any considerable length upon American Institutions. What the right hon. Baronet told them was extremely interesting. He had no doubt that the American Senate and the American Congress were very excellent Bodies, but he preferred the English House of Commons. But, after all, the strongest argument the right hon. Baronet addressed to them was that certain officers of the Army, when they were Members of that House, received pay for doing nothing. The 657 right hon. Baronet dwelt also at some length upon the fact that certain Members of Parliament who had been in Office received considerable emoluments when they were out of Office, and front that fact, and from the existence of this system which he would not defend for one single moment if the question was put before him, he argued that the House ought to support the proposition of the hon. Member for Wansbeck. Because they spent money in a way which the right hon. Baronet would be the first to admit was wholly indefensible, according to the speech of the right hon. Baronet they were to support this proposition. Now, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane), who preceded the right hon. Baronet, spoke of the desirability of the House of Commons not consisting of one class only. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman did not consider how the House was composed now. Could they complain that the working men of this country were not fitly represented in the present Parliament, when they could present their case to the House in such an admirable manner as it was presented to them by one of their own Body that night? Could they say that the working men were unable to support their Representatives in the House when they had sent to it for many years Members of their own class and had supported them in comfort he supposed, if not in affluence, during the time they had belonged to the House of Commons? Now, they could not altogether dissociate the speech in which, in so admirable and moderate a manner, the hon. Member for Wansbeck had introduced this question, from the speech in which the hon. Gentleman proposed a germane Amendment to the Local Government Bill some few nights ago. That Amendment related to the payment of the expenses of members of the proposed County Councils. The question was thoroughly debated in the House. The hon. Member, in proposing his Amendment on that occasion, did not limit the payment to those who required the money for their support, but told the House that he expressly desired that all Members—even those as rich as the Duke of Westminster—should receive pay. The hon. Member desired to amend the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Rotherham Division of 658 York (Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland) by making it imperative that all members of County Councils who expended certain sums should receive those sums whether they needed them or not. What was the ground on which he made the proposition? It was not that those members required the money, but that the few who did require the money would have their feelings injured if the others who did not require it did not receive it at the same time as themselves. The hon. Member actually wished the House to support the proposition to pay men as rich as the Duke of Westminster their expenses because men not as rich as the Duke of Westminster wanted the money, and to-day, although he did not say so in as many words, he did, by reminding them of a fact which they all knew—namely, that the Members of the Prussian Legislature were compelled to receive pay for their services whether they wanted it or not, lead them to the conclusion that, in his opinion, and in the opinion of the working classes to whom he belonged, hon. Members of the House of Commons should be paid whether they required the money or not the reason being that there would be an invidious distinction made if some Members of the House were not paid. To salve the feelings of a few he would put the community at large to the very great expense of paying salaries to the many who did not require them. He (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) opposed this proposition on what he ventured to term the ground of principle. [Laughter.] He was aware of the way in which the word "principle" was abused. It was said to be a Constitutional principle to pay Members. There was no principle whatever in it. It was a practice which ceased to be observed when the Representatives themselves did not like to bear the expense. It was common knowledge that many boroughs in this country—he happened to live in a county within five miles of one—which returned two Members to the House, petitioned Parliament that they might be disfranchised, because they did not care about the expense of paying their Members. He did not know whether the feelings of the democracy in those days were different from the feelings of the democracy of the present day; but, so far as one's general political experience went, it was within one's appreciation that a constituency did 659 like a rich man rather than a poor man. But that was not the point to which he wished to come. The point to which he wished to come was, that the payment of Members of Parliament was not like the payment a private person received for the work he did for his own benefit. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) said, in the discussion upon the Amendment to the Local Government Bill to which he (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) had already referred—the hon. Member for Northampton, speaking in his usual ex cathedra style, said that a man who worked ought to be paid for his work. If he had appreciated the authority in which that opinion was founded, he would more properly have said that a labourer was worthy of his hire. Although everyone assented to the principle that every private person who supported himself by his own work, who added to the wealth of the community by his own work, who prevented himself from being a burden upon the community by his own work, ought to be paid, it did not necessarily follow that he ought to be paid when he gave certain services to the community at large, of which he was an individual member himself. In his (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke's) humble judgment the principle which had hitherto underlaid the whole of our political and public and local life was that in return for the advantages a private citizen derived from being a member of a social community, he was bound to make some personal sacrifices in order to aid in the continuance of that civilized community. It was upon that principle that he based his opposition to the proposition now before the House. The only cases which occurred to him at the present moment were those of Overseers and High Sheriffs, who, as hon. Members opposite were well aware, were compelled to give their services to the State gratuitously, unless they could show some reasonable excuse, and the point the House ought to decide now was whether services which private citizens were quite competent and quite willing to give to the State gratuitously should henceforth be paid for by the State. It was said that working men could not represent their fellows in Parliament if this principle be carried out. He quite understood that poor men had not the same advantages as rich men. Men who had no such means as others must always lie under disadvantages, 660 public as well as private; but although individuals themselves could not make the sacrifices which the State called for, and sometimes exacted, from private citizens, they could do so vicariously. If a great body of labourers said to themselves—"We desire to be represented by one of our own class, one of the working classes, one who knows our wants and requirements, but who is not able to bear the expense of entering and maintaining himself in Parliament," they could make for him a sacrifice which, if he were better off, he would make himself. By some small individual sacrifices vicariously made they would do for the man that which in other circumstances he would do for himself. He (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) did not see what disadvantage would accrue to Members or to the State if the process which had sent such hon. Members to the House as the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) and the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick) were extended. It had been suggested that possibly hon. Members whose expenses were paid in this way by their constituencies would not feel themselves such free agents as they otherwise would. But surely it would be casting a great slur upon the constituents of such hon. Members to say to them —"You pay your money to your Representatives, not because you want a person in Parliament who will represent your views, not because you want to send a person to Parliament whom you consider to be able, competent, and meritorious, but because you want a servant who will be at your beck and call to do exactly as you please." Would any hon. Member representing the working classes in the House at the present moment stand up and say he was the delegate of his constituency because he received assistance from them; would he stand up and say he dared not give a vote according to his own judgment because his constituents assisted him to support himself in London while he was doing his duty in Parliament? Not one of them would say anything of the kind. Such hon. Members were no more dependent upon their constituents because their constituents vicariously made some sacrifice to the State for them than other hon. Members were dependent upon their constituents who could turn them out of their seats at the 661 next General Election if they chose to do so. [Ironical cheers.] He would not dwell any further upon the subject. He had endeavoured to treat it, not in the light spirit in which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed disposed to treat it. He had endeavoured to confine himself to one chief point, and that was that the State demanded some sacrifice from the individual for the benefit the individual derived from the State; and while the State could get a sufficient number of able and competent men to make the sacrifice it ought not to depart from that principle.
§ MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
said, he considered this a most important question, because he firmly believed they would never get a genuine representation of the people in the House of Commons until they passed some such proposition as that proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick). The hon. and learned Member for West Newington (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) had referred to a debate which took place some few weeks ago upon an Amendment to the Local Government Bill. He observed that upon that Amendment, which was simply a proposition that Members of County Councils should be paid their travelling expenses, hon. Members got up and welcomed very warmly the presence in the House of hon. Members like the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) and the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick) and other hon. Gentlemen who acted with them. But he thought that those welcomes were given in a somewhat patronising manner. He wondered why it was those Members had been so warmly welcomed, and he came to the conclusion that it was because there were so few of them in the House. He wondered whether those welcomes would have been so warmly given if, instead of some six or seven working men in the House, there had been 100, 150, or 200. He wondered, also, whether the hon. Members opposite who spoke then, and he wondered whether those who had spoken that night had considered what was the leading principle of representation. What was that leading principle? Surely, it was that every constituency had a right to elect what Member they liked. Was that possible under the present system? He had had some opportunity of gaining 662 experience in this matter. He knew what the expenses of elections were—he knew it to his cost. He was one of those hon. Members whom the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) alluded to just now. He was a poor man, and when he stood for the constituency he had the honour to represent he tried as hard as possible to contract the expenses within the lowest possible limits. But with all his efforts, and he was a good man of business, and did not waste money—with all his efforts the two Elections he had contested cost him £1,000 each. But when men were elected to that House they had not done with the expense. How was it possible for men to come up from the country, live in London, and attend the House of Commons, not only without losing the income which they might be earning from their avocations in the country, but also without considerable expense in London? What had been the result of this system? They all knew what had been the result of it, although he knew there were some who would not admit it. They all knew that this was a class House. They all knew that, with the exception of six or seven Members of the House, there was no one who could come into the House who had not a certain income, and who could not afford to spend at least a considerable sum upon Elections, and upon living in London after he had got into the House. In speaking of classes, he would ask, what was the largest class in this country? Why, the largest class—he believed he was well within the mark in saying that they formed two-thirds of the community—was what was called the working class, and he asserted deliberately that they, with one or two exceptions, had no direct representation whatever in the House of Commons. He professed, but he had some doubt as to whether he was right in professing, that, to the best of his ability, he represented the labourers and artizans of the constituency for which he had been returned. But he frankly owned he very often had misgivings as to whether he represented them properly. [Laughter.] Well, at all events, he owned it, and he looked forward to the day when someone in that constituency belonging to the class he professed to represent would represent it better than he did himself. 663 Now, the main argument against this proposition was that the payment of the Members of the House of Commons would lead to the introduction of a class of professional politicians. Were there no professional politicians in the House now? He had the misfortune to be a lawyer, and therefore he knew that there was one class in which there was a large number of professional politicians. It was notorious that part of the career of members of, at all events, one branch of the Legal Profession was to be in the House of Commons. Just as a boy in a good position went to a public school and then to a University, a barrister who, having had a good practice at the Junior Bar, was made a Queen's Counsel, naturally expected to come to the House of Commons as part of his professional career. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) that the payment of Members would not lead to an increase in the House of what were called professional politicians. He knew perfectly well what was meant by professional politicians. What was meant was men who came to the House merely for the small amount they would get for sitting here. He had confidence in the electors of the country. He believed they were not such fools as hon. Members opposite took them for. He believed they knew the best men when they saw them. Although there might be, he knew there would be, and must always be, exceptions to the rule, he believed that the constituencies of the country, and especially the most democratic of them, would not return professional politicians, but would choose the best men, and very likely the best men would be men of their own class. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) referred to the question of expenditure. He could not help thinking that the hon. Gentleman's argument was of a most degrading and, at the same time, of a very extravagant character. The hon. Gentleman talked about paying Members of the House £1,000 a-year each. He (Mr. Cobb) had thought a good deal on this subject, but he had never thought of anything like £1,000 a-year. He had no such extravagant notions as the hon. Member for Stockport. He had often thought that £250 or £300 a-year would be quite sufficient to pay each Member, and, according to that estimate, the whole 664 amount which would have to be paid— and some hon. Members seemed to think that the payment would have to be made out of the rates, but he had always understood that it would come out of the Consolidated Fund—the whole amount which would have to be paid would be only £140,000 or £150,000 a-year. He knew that was a very considerable sum. He had always been accustomed to vote for any reduction in the Estimates. [Laughter.] Yes, and let him tell hon. Members that if they had Members paid, if they had men in the House who would have an interest in reducing the Estimates, they would soon save more than the £140,000 or £150,000 which would be required to carry out the proposal of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division. He (Mr. Cobb) had observed, since he had been a Member of the House, that upon a great number of questions there were only a very few Members who had been able, upon some subjects, to give the House any information of practical importance. He had been ashamed of his ignorance upon many subjects. He had looked for information upon those subjects, but he had looked in vain, because there were not sufficient Members of the House belonging to the working classes who could give him the information he required. He believed, but he had no doubt he was singular in the belief, that the time would come, and it might not be many years hence, when they would see in the House 250 or 300 men who, in their daily life, were accustomed to wear corduroys. He hoped very sincerely that when that day did come, he would be sitting in the Strangers' Gallery looking down upon an hon. Member sitting where he now sat, who would represent the constituency which he had tried to represent in a far more able manner than he could possibly do.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, that he would not have ventured to address the House but for the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), which he regarded as a challenge calling upon him to justify his own existence in that House. It was always a pleasure to him to listen to that right hon. Gentleman, although he might not be able to agree with his opinions; but on that occasion he was sorry to find that the right hon. 665 Gentleman was so hard up for argument as to be obliged to drag in the case of the few naval and military men who were in that House. He must remind the right hon. Gentleman that no naval officer on full pay could sit in the House except the Lords of the Admiralty, who were officials. He (Admiral Field) knew that, because some years ago, when in command, he was asked to stand for a constituency, and he inquired if he would be allowed to keep his ship. He was told "No;" he would have to go on half-pay. He therefore stuck to his ship in preference to a seat in that House. He need not dwell upon that any longer, but if at any time the right hon. Gentleman wished to use a naval illustration he would advise him to apply to him for information. The right hon. Gentleman wished the House to believe that every portion of the civilized world enjoyed the privilege of paying its Members of Parliament. Did he include our Colonies in the civilized world? If so, he could tell him that he was wrong again. He had made it his business to go to the Colonies—and he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that it was a wonderful eye-opener—and made inquiries into questions connected with representation and other matters. He found a growing feeling in the Colonies against the payment of Members. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; he was told by a very able man in Victoria that any number of men could be bribed in the House of Assembly there. [Cries of "No!"] He did not say it, but the man who told him said it. His informant was a man of great wealth. [Cries of "Name?"] It was no good asking him for his name, for he was not going to be guilty of a breach of honour by giving it. In New South Wales they did not pay their Members, but preferred to follow the example of the old country. In New Zealand, where Members were paid, there were strong arguments for doing so. It was a country which had not existed long enough for a leisurely class of men to grow up who could afford to be idle and devote themselves to public duties. [Laughter.] He did not see that there was anything to laugh at; he thought a country should be proud of having men of means and leisure willing to devote their services to their country. In New Zealand it was at first a matter of necessity to pay 666 men to go to Auckland to discharge public duties. Struggling men could not be expected to leave their own business interests and go to the capital with out payment. To make it easier for them to attend, the capital was moved from Auckland to Wellington. He found that the feeling was growing among leading men in New Zealand in favour of discontinuing payment to Members. They hoped that the time would soon come when they would have a leisurely class who would be independent and could spare time to devote to the service of their country without payment. He fully agreed with the observations of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), who had gone into this question among the Americans. In the United States much dissatisfaction existed at the state of things which prevailed. It was notorious that bribery and "log rolling" existed there to an enormous extent among professional politicians, which the system of payment fostered. There was a lot of cant and humbug on this question among many hon. Members. There was an assumption on the part of some hon. Members who supported this proposition that working men were Heaven born legislators, and that no one else but a working man had any right to come there to make laws. He had had as much experience of working men as most hon. Members, having served with them afloat and ashore, and he had as much respect for working men as any hon. Member, but he refused to subscribe to the idea that a working man, because he was a working man and uneducated, was a better man to make laws than an educated man who was able to devote his whole time to the service of his country. It might have been that in earlier times, to which reference had been made, it was necessary to pay Members; but as the country advanced it was no longer necessary because men were found to serve the country for the honour of doing so. He had yet to learn that while men of leisure were found to serve the country without payment, it was necessary to put an extra charge on the country or the community for the purpose of paying Members. If they paid Members of Parliament they would have to pay everyone who discharged duties to the State. They would have to pay their magistrates. [Opposition cheers.] He 667 knew hon. Members opposite wanted magistrates to be paid, and perhaps some of them would like to be appointed to the office. He had had considerable experience of magistrates, and he believed that they discharged their duties ably and with great advantage to the State, and he hoped it would be long before the Radicals would be able to force paid magistrates upon the country. If Members of that House were to be paid, County Councillors would have to be paid—for they were poorer men—and so would Town Councillors and Mayors. [Mr. CONYBEARE: So they are.] Only a few of the Mayors of boroughs were paid, and if the hon. Member thought that the Mayor of every Corporation was paid he would invite him to study that among other questions. Hon. Members did not agree about the salary they would wish paid to Members of Parliament. Some put it at £250 a-year; but if Members of the House were paid so low a salary as that it would lead to a very inferior class of men coming into it. If there were working men fit to come into the House there were many gentlemen in England who would enable them to do so. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members opposite cried "No!" because they did not understand the feelings which animated high-minded English gentlemen. He and his hon. Friends would be the first to subscribe. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) when he said he was not in favour of working men sending working men to represent them, because every educated. Englishman who came into the House was as fit a Representative of the working man as any other man could be. To make useful laws we should have the cleverest men in the country, but they would not be found among the working classes, because among working men you would find uneducated but not educated talent. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Rugby Division (Mr. Cobb) that lawyers were professional politicians, and that there were always too many of them in the House, while there were too few sailors. He hoped the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division would not allow the House to suppose that he grudged the presence of the few naval officers who were there. There were now only six in the House, 668 but there were two or three of them in disguise. They were only six simple-minded men who came there for the good of their country. In the last Parliament there were only four naval officers. Because he and a few more were willing to sacrifice themselves for the public good, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not grudge the first line of defence to have six Representatives in that House. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not exaggerate the amount of the pensions they received. He did not receive £450, but only £365—and that was part of the pay from the first moment he entered the Service—and the pensions of naval men were not like those of politicians—they were part of their pay. Through the parsimony of that House, which starved the Naval Service, they did not spend half their time at sea; they were obliged to be on half-pay wasting their time, because the country would have a peace Navy, with Reserves of officers, in order to be in a state of preparation for war. He was utterly opposed to the payment of Members. He did not yield to any man in his admiration for the working man, but he did not believe that he was any more the saviour of his country than men of any other class.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY of STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
said, that as they would soon give a vote on the question, he invited the House to consider it in a practical spirit. In the first place, this Motion was not what the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir George Trevelyan) represented it to be. It was not a Motion for an Inquiry; it was a Motion which pronounced as positively as the Rules of the House would allow in favour of a deliberate attack upon the Consolidated Fund. It was quite true that it did not in form attack the Consolidated Fund, because it suggested this as a matter for consideration by Her Majesty's Government. That phrase was used because it was necessary, according to the Rules of the House. Therefore, those who voted for this Amendment must be prepared, not to enter into an inquiry, but to pronounce a positive opinion in favour of the payment of Members out of the Consolidated Fund. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution laid a trap for an old Tory like himself when 669 he proposed reversion to an ancient custom. When he saw that, he was disposed to receive the hon. Member's remarks with great favour; but when the hon. Member illustrated the Motion by his speech, then it appeared that there was not to be a reversion to an ancient custom, because the ancient custom was not payment of Members out of the Consolidated Fund, but payment by the constituencies which sent them to Parliament. If the hon. Member desired a reversion to an ancient custom he should persuade the President of the Local Government Board to introduce into his Bill some provision enabling the County Councils and the Councils of boroughs which were to be counties to lay a rate on the inhabitants for the payment of Members of Parliament. He did not wonder that the hon. Member shrank from that proposal, not merely because it might impede the progress of the Local Government Bill, but also because the ancient custom never appeared to have been a very popular custom. The payment which was made to Members in olden times was not so high as the hon. Member proposed. Borough Members were paid only 2s. a day and County Members 4s. He thought that if they were to pay Members at all now the Member for a County was still entitled to a higher stipend, on the ground that in present circumstances the labour of a County Member was so much greater than that of a Borough Member. But, so far from the constituencies being desirous of paying their Members, it was recorded that many made no returns to the Writ at all; many actually paid sums of money to the King to buy exemption from the burden of sending Members to Parliament. He found that out of 165 boroughs to whom Writs were issued in the Reign of Edward I. one-third took no notice whatever of the Writs, and also that in the times of Edward III. and Henry VI. the Sheriff of Lancashire returned that there were no boroughs in the whole of his county that were rich enough to afford to send Members to Parliament. It was therefore quite clear that none of those who were in favour of this method of paying Members for their services in Parliament were willing to submit this matter to Local Option. If the people of this country really desired to pay for their Mem- 670 bers to serve in Parliament, it was quite clear that it was out of their own funds and rates they ought primâ facie to meet the claim, and not by a demand on the Consolidated Fund. He did not agree with the hon. Member that it was want of unanimity between Borough and County Members that led to the practice being stopped, because it was always easier for the large and rich county to pay its Member in former days than for the then comparatively poor borough; and the hon. Member had entirely mistaken ancient history when he gave as his second reason that the elections were not popular. The old elections were popular. The restricted franchise was not the ancient custom of this country, but the comparatively modern innovation, and at the time of which he was speaking the franchise in most boroughs was far more popular than it was in those later days when the practice of paying Members was discontinued. He was not sure that the day might not come when it might become expedient to pay Members of Parliament; but no one really believed that the time had yet come when they could attempt practically to place upon the Estimates a large sum of money for the purpose of giving a stipend to Members. As a strong argument for saying that the Motion was premature, he might point out that Parliament had not yet removed obstacles to the entrance of poor men within its portals. A great deal was, he admitted, done in this direction by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) in the last Parliament; but had the reduction in the cost of elections been yet carried to the point to which it ought to be carried? He should advise those who wished to smooth the way for poor men to enter Parliament to turn their attention to that subject rather than to the one before the House. Proposals had been made from time to time to throw the cost of elections upon the rates, which was a much more reasonable proposal to carry through in the first instance than to ask Parliament to support Members after they were returned. The only argument which had any force with him was that to pay Members would enlarge the choice of the constituencies. At first sight that was a specious argument; but in the present state of society, he did not think the choice would be much 671 extended, because the number of persons who could afford to sit in the House was comparatively limited. A payment of £300 a-year, which the right hon. Gentleman put as the maximum, and he supposed also the minimum, payment, was not sufficient to induce a man to give up his profession or business and come to that House. Every man who sat in the House had to make some pecuniary sacrifice. Rich men did so, and sat in no better company than was enjoyed by their poorer fellow Members. The hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Admiral Field), with that dislike of lawyers which was always found to exist among sailors, pointed to them as the only class which profited by seats in Parliament. But there was not a lawyer in the House who would not be richer if he were out of the House, though there might be one here or there who contrived to retain a large practice while sitting in the House. It was one of the circumstances which induced the people of this country to place such confidence in the House that, with the exception of an adventurer here and there, the Members of the House made some personal sacrifices to represent them in Parliament. Then as to the representation of working men. Nothing was more valuable or desirable than that the wishes and feelings of the working classes should find adequate representation. But while we had a Parliament which sat seven or eight months in the year it was absolutely impossible that an actual working man should sit in the House. It might be possible to get men who had recently been working men, but it was out of the question that in this country we should have a state of things such as existed in Melbourne, where he had seen a man with his hod of bricks upon his shoulders lay them down and take his place in the Legislative Assembly. But in Melbourne the Assembly did not sit till midnight. He had the greatest honour and respect for those direct Representatives of the working classes who were supported in the House by the direct contributions of their fellows. But it was a noteworthy fact that those who contributed were beginning to get tired of the burden which they had imposed upon themselves. He did not, therefore, think that this was a strong argument in favour of the Motion. He 672 was glad to find that the hon. Member repudiated the suggestion that Members might make a declaration of poverty and accept payment, while others refused it. The optional receipt of remuneration would certainly not satisfy those who had brought forward this Motion. The Government had been pressed with the argument derived from political pensions. But that stood upon a totally different basis, and had nothing to do with the proposal before the House. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not assent to a proposition which had certainly not yet become a question of practical politics. He trusted that the House, instead of adopting the proposal embodied in this Motion, would rather seek to remove the disabilities that were imposed upon poor men who sought to represent constituencies by diminishing the cost of election.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
said, that he had been much impressed by the closing observations of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, in which he said that the House should apply itself in the first instance to removing the disabilities which at present impeded the access of the labour Members to that House in the shape of election costs. But was the hon. and learned Member ready to promise on the part of himself and of his Government that, if any measure was introduced into that House having for its object the reduction of the costs of elections, he and those who sat behind him would support it? Again and again efforts had been made by the Liberal Party, almost absolutely in a body, to transfer the burden of the payment of the cost of elections from the individual to the rates, and again and again that proposal had been resisted by hon. Members opposite. The hon. and learned Gentleman probably held out this flattering invitation with the reservation in his own mind based upon his perfect knowledge that if, in compliance with his invitation, a measure embodying such a proposal were to be brought in next week it would be opposed by the Government with their whole force. The consideration of the question, therefore, had better be postponed until the Liberal Party next made an effort in this direction, when the hon. and learned Gentleman would have an opportunity of testifying his sincerity, and of bringing 673 along with him a respectable tail of Members from that side of the House. The hon. and learned Member in commencing his speech had told the House that the question had been mis-stated, and he proposed to rectify it, but his own statement required ratification. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the questions upon which they were about to vote were—first, whether the Members of the House were to be paid; and, secondly, whether they were to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Those, however, were not the questions which the House was asked to determine. The Motion upon which they were called upon to vote did not bind hon. Members to the universal payment of Members. What the Motion did was to invite the Government to consider whether, and under what conditions, it would be expedient to pay Members. That would, of course, permit the Government to consider what limitations ought to be imposed upon the principle. The hon. and learned Member had asked, in a very bold and challenging tone, whether any single Member of that House deliberately proposed that there should be a general payment of Members; but unless he himself was very much mistaken there was a very large number of Members who were in favour of such a payment. This was, he admitted, a very large and important question, which was beset by difficulties. Undoubtedly there was a great deal of authority upon the subject to be drawn from the practice of other nations, as far as it could be considered to have a bearing upon our own practice. The fact that Members had in former times been paid had also its own weight. Doubtless there were a great many persons who were prepared to grapple with the question; but the Motion before the House did not bind anyone to anything beyond the declaration that there was ground for the Government to consider whether there ought not to be some change in our practice in this respect. Those who opposed the Motion must be taken to be of opinion that the present practice was faultless, and that in no case ought the slightest change to be made in it. He would point out what loudly called for alteration in the present system. The hon. Member for West Newington (Mr. R. Cooke) had laid down the very broad proposition 674 that it was the duty of hon. Members to make personal sacrifices if they sought to be elected to seats in that House. The gallant Admiral opposite spoke of cant and humbug; he should be sorry indeed to speak in such plain language as that. The hon. and learned Member opposite spoke in animated and touching terms of the sacrifices they all made for their country. He would not describe that language as humbug; but he would say that it was exaggerated and highly coloured, and to a great extent unreal. Gentlemen came to that House with mixed motives; but, undoubtedly, they did not come in the spirit of martyrdom. The hon. and learned Member adopted a very high tone, like a great preacher disposed to elevate their conceptions to the highest point human nature was susceptible of, in tracing the mental process through which Members passed before accepting a seat. He did not understand that to be the case at all. Gentlemen were there under a great variety of circumstances and motives. Some were attracted by official salaries, some consoled, though not attracted, by unofficial salaries, some by the early prospect of professional advancement, and some by the social distinction which a seat in the House conferred. Consequently, they must not pitch too high as to the motives under which Members sought a seat in Parliament. The hon. Member for West Newington said that sacrifices, if they could be made, ought to be well apportioned among the members of the community benefited. There could be no more sound principle; and he rejoiced that this principle was more widely acted upon in this country than in any other; but did we apply the principle in the case of the arduous and burdensome services required to be rendered by Members of Parliament. Reference had been made to the Members from Ireland, and also to those who were called labour Members, who were listened to with so much deference, both on account of their position and also on account of their personal qualities. Could anyone say that the sacrifices they were called upon to make, or those of their constituents, were proportioned to the sacrifices by other Members of the House? The hon. and learned Member applied his principle with the grossest inequality. He did not propose to apply it to the 675 constituencies generally; the constituencies generally do not make any sacrifices whatever. The hon. and learned Member said that every member of the constituencies which returned a labour Member ought to be ready to bear his share of the expense; but why should these particular Members for these particular constituencies be subjected to that charge when other Members and other constituencies were placed under no such necessity and bore no such charge? If these Gentlemen sat in the House of Commons with any narrow object, if they sat there for the representation of purposes which were in the main class purposes, he should feel a diminished anxiety upon this subject. But he ventured to say that they were less than any one the mere representatives of class; and more than any one they were connected with the broadest interests of the country. The House could not afford to dispense with them. However separated they might be from them they ought to feel that to have them in the House of Commons was a matter of vital interest, or, to put it a little lower, if some hon. Members did not agree with him there, it was a matter of the highest Imperial advantage. Why should they have a state of things in which certain constituencies were subjected to a pecuniary burden because they returned a certain class of Members, who were admitted to be of the utmost value not only to those constituencies, but also to the country at large? It was in point of fact imposing a deferential duty upon the presence of labour Members. If there were to be these sacrifices they ought to be imposed according to reason in fair and just proportion. If they said that such representation was to be desired why should they impose burdens in these particular cases upon constituencies which were not to be imposed in the case of any other class of Members in that House. The hon. Gentleman stated that the labour Representatives had been labourers, but were not labourers now; they had been labourers; they might be again. They had the habits and instincts of their class. From the nature of their occupation they were compelled to suspend the duties of their position more than any other class of Members of that House; but, substantially, the hon. Member knew that there was no 676 class of the community more faithfully and exactly represented in the House of Commons than were the vast body of labouring men by the labour Representatives. Was it to be desired that under these circumstances, in a country where the public was certainly, in his opinion, the most liberal of all paymasters, that these particular burdens should be imposed upon a certain portion of the constituencies only? If they were to escape the burden it must be done by ceasing to return Representatives of labour. The gallant Admiral opposite had stated that certain high-minded English gentlemen were anxious to put their hands into their pockets in order that these Members might be sent to Parliament. It was unfortunate, under the circumstances of the case, that such an instance had never yet occurred. With regard to political pensions, it might be doubtful whether they ought or ought not to be subjected to reconsideration. But, at any rate, this was shown—that in a period of reform and of the increasing admission of the nation to the power and privilege of the franchise, now extending to 50 years, there was, on the part of Parliament, and of a long series of Parliaments, a disposition to meet every case, perhaps to be too free and liberal in meeting cases, such as that of political pensions—but to meet every case where a fair ground could be urged for making a charge through the Consolidated Fund or through the taxes laid upon local communities. The case now before the House was an infinitely stronger and more necessitous case than any which had been made for political pensions. He would not enter upon the question whether invidious distinctions would have to be drawn. That would be travelling too far. He had endeavoured to consider the subject, and he believed it might be dealt with without introducing anything in the nature of invidious distinctions. If he took political pensions or the payments received by naval and military gentlemen in the House—they were received specially, yet he did not think it could be said that in practice they had been found to involve invidious distinctions. But the mode of applying the principle was not the question before the House, nor was the question of going to the Consolidated Fund, nor the question of the general payment of Members; with regard to 677 which he fully admitted that such a payment, he thought, would not be introduced either now or hereafter without much doubt, much difficulty and much discussion. It was simply the question whether they stood now upon a ground that might be maintained, and which could be defended against all invasion, as being unattended with any serious practical objection; or whether, on the other hand, if they really meant that the constituencies should have the choice of returning whom they pleased, they were to maintain a system which went far towards rendering that choice unreal, and which, undoubtedly fettered, and fettered very heavily, the exercise of that choice in a particular case, where they were most of all anxious that it should be perfectly free—namely, the case where the labouring portion of the community determined to exercise its franchise in a few instances—he heartily wished they were more, he was quite convinced they never would be too many —by subjecting them to heavy pecuniary burdens, and declining to entertain even in the most limited and moderate form, a proposition to examine whether a remedy could be applied to such an evil.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
said, that, according to the right hon. Gentleman, this Resolution bound nobody either on the question of the general payment of Members or on the other vital and burning question as to the fund out of which payment was to be made. It was thought that this Resoltiuon carried some expression of opinion on that subject. "Oh, no," said the right hon. Gentleman, "nobody is bound to express an opinion as to whether the rates or the Consolidated Fund are to bear the burden." Thus the House had been spending some hours discussing a Resolution which bound nobody to anything, and whether hon. Members voted for or against it they expressed no view on either of the subjects to which he had referred. The right hon. Gentleman declared that the Resolution asserted that there were some grounds in our present political state for considering whether some change or other was desirable in this respect. If that was the only thing asserted, this Motion would be a hypocritical Motion, unworthy of the hon. Gentleman who brought it for- 678 ward. If he did not intend to bind the House to a principle, it was most certainly a delusion and a snare. The hon. Gentleman, he was sure, intended to pledge the House one way or the other, and, what was more, he recommended the fund out of which the payment was to be made. He hardly thought the hon. Gentleman would thank the right hon. Gentleman for the interpretation he had put upon his Resolution, nor for his speech, which, interesting and eloquent as it undoubtedly was, had not conveyed to the House the slightest hint as to the views the right hon. Gentleman himself held upon either of the vital parts of the question—namely, were Members to be paid, and who was to pay them? The right hon. Gentleman argued that a fine and penalty ought not to be imposed on the choice of constituencies which were pleased to elect a working man; but the alternative was that all the constituencies should be fined in order to pay for the choice of a few. The right hon. Gentleman, on the contrary, had delivered himself of a speech colourless and meaningless. There was, perhaps, abundant amusement in it, but no instruction whatever. What did he propose? Did he propose that a Member should come to the Table and declare, as in the case of political pensions, that his means were not sufficient to support his position?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
And that, therefore, he demanded this stipend? Was that what he recommended to the working men whom he hoped to see in the House of Commons? He (Mr. Matthews) did not think the right hon. Gentleman committed himself to that. He did not think that would be popular with working men Members or their constituents. Then what was the alternative? That every Member, whether he desired this stipend or not, should be compelled to accept it in order that no invidious distinctions might exist. If the right hon. Gentleman could not advance something stronger than political pensions, then the case was hopeless indeed. It seemed to him if they turned to history they would find that it was emphatically against the Mover of this proposition. The hon. Gentleman said that this system did exist at 679 one time in our history; but as had been shown, it was resisted by the constituencies themselves, and so universal was the feeling and so strong the opposition throughout the country, that the system vanished without any obligation of law, and it dropped entirely into desuetude. They were now compelling the constituencies which voluntarily gave up this system, which they repudiated and abandoned, to resort to it again. They were reversing history. After all, the real vital question was would they improve their Parliament—would they serve the interests of the country? From this point of view they were not without guidance and experience. Let them take America. He was not going into the question why political life had been abandoned in America, and abandoned by all honourable men. He would not go into the question of what had led to that. Let him turn to a country nearer home—to France, where, when Louis Napoleon was sending off the Members of the Legislative Assembly in prison vans to Cayenne, they were jeered at with the cry, "See the men of the 25 francs." The effect on the French people of the payment of their Members certainly was to make them regard their representatives not with greater but with less consideration. In Italy this question had led to very acrimonious discussions and to charges that the Members of the Legislative Assembly were scamping their work in order to earn their salaries the more easily. The payment of Members, if adopted, would inevitably have the effect of changing the career of politics from being a public trust into being a mere paid profession. It was impossible to avoid that result. Whether or not the work continued to be as well done it would cease to be regarded in the same light as now when it would be gratuitous. The work would be degraded by being regarded as paid work. It could not be said that the present system caused this House to be without working men Representatives, for it now contained several whose services were on that side of the House recognized to be of the greatest advantage. If this proposal were accepted and Members were to be paid, a very serious charge would be incurred—a charge which would either fall upon the Consolidated Fund or upon local resources. If it was to 680 be thrown upon local resources, there was no necessity for any change in the present system, for it was now quite competent for any constituency to provide its Member with such income as might be deemed requisite to enable him adequately to discharge his Parliamentary duties. If, on the other hand, the burden was to be thrown on the Consolidated Fund, then it would be most unfair; since localities that did not require paid Members would be paying for others localities that did. This was a change which was not called for and which would, he thought, have very unfortunate results, and Her Majesty's Government could be no party to supporting it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 192: Majority 57.—(Div. List, No. 198.)
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SUPPLY—Committee upon Monday next.