HC Deb 09 March 1888 vol 323 cc763-816
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

, in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is contrary to the true principles of representative government and injurious to their efficiency that any person should be a Member of one House of the Legislature by right of birth, and it is, therefore, desirable to put an end to any such existing rights, said, it had been pointed out to him that these words might include Her Majesty, which, of course, was not intended; and he should, therefore, instead of "a Member of the Legislature," say "of one House of the Legislature." They had been engaged in democratizing as far as they could the Commons branch of the Legislature; but all their efforts would be abortive, all their efforts at Parliamentary reform would be illusory, if they allowed side by side with that House a Legislative Assembly to exist which in its nature was aristocratic, and which had a right to tamper with and veto the decisions of the nation which were registered by the House of Commons. He (Mr. Labouchere) would not enter into the question whether it was desirable to have one House or two Houses; but if it was desirable to have an Upper Chamber Members of that Upper Chamber should be composed of men who were responsible for what they did to the country. The functions of this Upper House should be limited to altering any little error of detail the Commons had made, or throwing out a Bill on some fundamental Constitutional question on which the country had not been consulted, or which it might be fairly imagined the country did not approve of. Did it limit itself to these functions? Was it entirely free from Party and personal motives? All would agree this was not the case. How was the House of Lords composed? Members of the House of Lords were neither elected nor selected for their merits. They sat by the merits of their ancestors who were rotting in their graves; and if we looked into the merits of some of those ancestors we should agree that the less said about them the better. The House of Lords consisted of a class most dangerous to the community—the class of rich men, the greater part of whose fortunes was in land. It was asserted of them that the House of Lords was recruited from the wisest and best of the country—that the House was so wise and so good that in some mysterious way they were able to transmit their virtues to future generations in sœcula sœculorum. The practice in the selection of those Gentlemen was not quite in accordance with this theory. They consisted generally of two classes—of those who were comparatively unsuccessful politicians and of those who were undoubtedly successful money-grubbers. He would take a few examples, and as he did not wish to be inviduous he would take them from both sides of the House. They all knew and appreciated Sir R. Assheton Cross, Mr. Sclater-Booth, Sir Thomas Brassey, and Mr. Knatch-bull-Hugessen. What did they think of these Gentlemen? As Members of this House everybody respected and liked them; but they were looked upon merely as decent sort of mediocrities of the ordinary quality which was converted in course of time into administrative Ministers. Take another class. Why were brewers selected as Peers? Simply because they of late had accumulated very great fortunes by the sale of intoxicating liquors, and for no other reason. The names of Guinness, Bass, and Allsopp had been for long household words in every public-house in the country, but who ever heard of them as politicians? Yes; these Gentlemen were considered to be the very best men in the country to be converted into hereditary Peers. Another class who made money were the financists. Lord Rothschild inherited a large fortune, and had increased that fortune, and no doubt spent his money in the most honourable way; but Lord Rothschild did not in the House of Commons in any way distinguish himself. With brewers, when one was made a Peer, another must be made a Peer for advertisement. So with financial houses; when a Rothschild was made a Poor, it was necessary to fish up some one of the name of Baring, and one Baring was converted into Lord Revelstoke—a Gentleman who, though probably eminent in City circles, was hardly known to anybody in that House, and who had never taken part in politics. So much for the composition of the House of Lords. Most Members sat there by right of birth. These were made hereditary Peers on the extraordinary ground that where a man had looked so well after himself he would look after others—a doctrine which experience was against. Of those who were either pensioners themselves, or derived their incomes from accumulations of pensions, or had been placemen—themselves or their wives—there were 189. In any other Assembly such a number of placemen never existed on the face of the globe. Most of these Gentlemen selected courtly employment, which required neither intellect nor learning, because it was well known that any well-trained ape could do the same. He had always thought it most unfair to throw on Her Majesty the onus of these appointments, because when the Civil List was settled a certain portion was allocated for the purpose—should he say—of subsidising these Peers. Therefore, their salaries did not appear in the Estimates, or the House would know how to deal with them. Deducting Representative Peers from Scotland and Ireland, and deducting Members of the Royal Family, and deducting Bishops and Archbishops, he found 470 Peers sitting as hereditary Peers in the House of Lords. He found those Peers had annually distributed among them £389,163, amounting on an average to £820 each—these rich men who would with one accord protest against the payment of Members of that House. These were the rich men who were found at public meetings denouncing Members from Ireland as a wretched crew, because, being mainly poor men, they received enough to enable them to live from their constituents. The Peers were almost as careful of their relations as of themselves. In a valuable publication he saw it put down that from 1874 to 1886 no fewer than 7,000 relatives of Peers had had places of emolument under the Government. Take even 5,000—was it to be supposed that if the Peers were not legislators and able to vote, 5,000 of their relations would be on the country? But they were not satisfied with cash. They were to be pampered with honours to keep the Peerage sweet. In the other House there were 120 Privy Councillors, of whom he ventured to say the majority in that House never heard. Orders had to be found for those Gentlemen. Almost every one of them had a decoration. There were three decorations which were absolutely made for Peers and for no other body—the Garter, the Order of St. Patrick, and the Thistle. Walpole declined a decoration, "because" said he, "why bribe myself?" Lord Melbourne said of the Garter that its pleasing feature was that there was "no nonsense of merit about it." An impression existed that Private Bill legislation was more independent in the House of Lords than in that House. He did not think it was. A great deal depended on railway matters, and Sir S. Laing had pointed out the other day that the landed aristocracy had obtained for land sold to railroads, £50,000,000 more than it was worth. He (Mr. Labouchere) found that there were far more Railway Directors in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons, and why? Because railway legislation came before the House of Lords, and the great magnates of railroads thought it desirable that as many as possible should be encouraged to be on their side. So much for the personal independence of the House of Lords. No men looked better after the class interests of those to whom they belonged than the Peers. They were great landowners; 16,000,000 acres belonged to them. Yet our land laws were a disgrace to the country, and were tainted at the present day with feudalism. They were in favour of the great owners of land, not the tenants or labourers. Why was there, let him ask, a difference made between real and personal estate? Why should the Death Dues be 3 per cent on personal, and only 1⅞ per cent on real property? He suspected that would be the case be long as the House of Lords existed. In 1880 a Liberal Government brought in a Bill to give compensation for disturbance in Ireland. The majority against the Bill in the House of Lords was 232. He went into the House of Lords to see the scene. Generally—as they all knew—when an important question affecting the country at large was under discussion, the House of Lords was empty. At this time Peers unknown to the doorkeepers came up in order to vote against the Bill—against anything that appealed to their personal or class interests. Through the injustice done to the tenants by this action of landlords the Liberal Government was obliged to adopt a pernicious coercive policy. Was the House of Lords in harmony with the people on general questions—in, say, religious legislation? Most of the Peers were members of the Church of England; they desired that the Church of England should be absolutely supreme, and that any other Church should be treated with intolerance. In 1832 they opposed a Bill to throw open the Universities to Dissenters; in 1834 they threw out a Bill to allow 20 persons to worship in a private house. In 1837 they threw out a Bill to give religious and civil liberty to the Jews. They turned their attention to Church rates, and from 1858 to 1869 threw out Bills to do away with those rates. When at last live Dissenters got their rights, they turned their intolerance to dead Dissenters. In 1873, 1876, and 1879 they threw out Bills for the burial of Dissenters, which were intended to give them the same rights as members of the Church of England. When, four years ago, the hon. and learned Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) brought in his Burials Bill, he (Mr. Labouchere) and others protested against this clause of the Bill What, said the hon. Member, was the good of altering those clauses, because if he did the House of Lords would throw it out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman emasculated the Bill, and when it went up to the House of Lords they proceeded further to castrate it. They voted against the Ballot, against Municipal and Parliamentary reform, and they did their best against a free and cheap Press by throwing out the reduction of the duty on paper. All these were now by common consent esteemed good measures. Whenever they had appealed to the people against the House of Commons they had invariably been wrong and the country pronounced against them. The House of Lords were far too shrewd to make these appeals too often. They crippled with pernicious Amendments all Liberal Bills. No Liberal Bill passed through the House of Lords as a Liberal Cabinet would have it, so that the Cabinet had to consider, not only whether a Bill would pass the Commons, but whether it would pass the Lords. It was admitted that the Peers were, as a body, Conservative. They were mostly partizans of one Party. They were the servile and submissive instruments of the Tory Leaders, and this was thoroughly understood—that if an obnoxious Bill passed the Commons it would be rejected in the Lords. This had been openly avowed in the case of a Bill of his own. In 1885 when a Bill passed through the House of Commons to throw the expense of Parliamentary Elections on the rates clauses which he inserted were attacked by the Conservatives and talked out on successive nights until he told them that he should continue until 6 o'clock in the morning, and then they saw the cogency of the reasoning. An hon. Member of the Front Bench suggested they should yield because the Lords would throw it out. In The Times of October 21, 1887, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), at Sunderland, is reported to have said— If Mr. Gladstone has a majority he will find it has taken up a great deal of time to get the House of Commons to agree to a new Constitution for Ireland. But the Bill has to go to the House of Lords, and I do not think we need have the smallest doubt, as reasonable people making reasonable calculations, but that the House of Lords would throw out the Bill. They would insist on remitting the question, the plan in all its details, to the judgment of the country. Very well, then the Session of 1889 is closed. Then we come to the autumn of 1889. Now, Mr. Gladstone has always contended that no action of the House of Lords need be final. He would call Parliament together in the winter of 1889, and he would send up the Bill again: and again we must calculate as reasonable people that the House of Lords would stick to their guns and throw the Bill out."— And here one of those voices which sometimes conveyed a good deal of wisdom called out in the meeting— And that will go on to the millenium. The Leaders of the Conservative Party did more than this; they absolutely told their followers in this House that they might vote for a Bill which would do them harm, because while that measure would be sure to crush the Liberals in this House, the House of Lords would not use it to crush Conservatism. At the recent Conservative gathering at Oxford, Lard Salisbury said— I have no doubt that the result of a considerable amendment in the Rules of the House of Commons will be to send up from time to time when there are bad Houses of Commons a considerable number of objectionable measures to the House of Lords, and I hope that the House of Lords will not shrink from acting upon its conscientious convictions. Generally, the main argument in favour of the House as it existed was that it saved the House of Commons from acting ultra vires beyond the mandate of the constituencies. No doubt that would be so if the Liberals were in power; but he never heard of the House of Lords applying the same principle to the Conservatives. The control was entirely on one side. The noble Lord opposite had said what would be done if a Home Rule Bill were passed. He said that the House of Lords would throw it out. But a Bill was passed last Session, the Coercion Act, which the Liberals contended was ultra vires. The Liberals were of opinion that the Conservatives had got in by assuring the constituencies that they would not pass a Coercion Bill if they had a majority in this House. They did not, because the House of Lords was in confederacy with the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. He had stated how the Conservatives acted as legislators. He had much extenuated and set down nought in malice. This House of Lords was not collectively worse than any 600 men would be. They were ex necessitate a Tory House and a house of partizans. The assertion that they subordinated public interests to their private class and Party interests was merely tantamount to saying that they were human beings. A House of artizans would act on similar principles. There had been many proposals for a reform of the House of Lords. The hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) had an Amendment on the Paper. If he had known the Forms of the House he would have known that he could not put it. He (Mr. Labouchere) had read an article recently on the House of Lords in which it was said that all reforms must come from the Conservatives. That showed that the reform was intended not to weaken but to strengthen it as a barrier against the democracy. The Tories professed to place confidence in the people. They called themselves Tory Democrats. But that confidence only lasted so long as the people acted in accordance with their wishes. The Tories were greatly in a minority in this country. They were in a minority now. The Tories wanted the House of Lords to control this foolish people, yet there were Liberals who were ready to whitewash this Tory sepulchre of Liberal measures. The hon. Member for the Arfon Division of Canarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) had put an Amendment on the Paper of this nature. He proposed to maintain but reduce the hereditary element in the House of Lords and to add some elective Members. He objected to this method of giving weight in a race, to use a sporting metaphor. If a Liberal measure were accepted by the elected Members of the House of Lords, it would still be thrown out by the hereditary contingent. At present a Liberal Ministry could force their Bills through the House of Lords by a threat of a creation of new peers to swamp the Upper Chamber, as was done at the time of the first Reform Bill. He had read an article in The Times in which the hope was expressed That the Ministry will give some intimation that they are willing to consider a policy which may deprive destructive Radicals of a dangerous weapon. That was the excellent advice which his hon. Friend seemed anxious to follow. The avowed object of such plans was to render nugatory the wishes of the Radical masses of this country. The same article said— It would be improper in either House to take the initiative in calling for organic changes in the other. This claim for the divine right of hereditary legislators far exceeded anything that was ever put forward in favour of the divine right of Kings. The House of Commons had as much right to abolish hereditary legislators as it had to do away with the representation of towns which used to return Members to that House. It was said, however, that the House of Lords would not assent, and that a revolution would be necessary. Nothing was a greater mistake. There was a Constitutional means of meeting this difficulty by the creation of now peers, and the threat of this course was sufficient in 1830 to bring a strong man like the Duke of Wellington to accept the popular verdict. By the Constitution Her Majesty could act and speak only on the advice of her Ministers, and a few days ago he should have said that it would have surprised him if Her Majesty-had ventured to express au adverse opinion on anything her Ministers had done. The objection that it would be necessary to have a revolution to pat an end to hereditary rights of legislation was, of course, absurd. As to the further objection that if they did not sit in the House of Lords they would sit in the House of Commons, why should they not do so, if the people chose them? He would like to see the best men of all classes on each side in the House of Commons; and he would much prefer to listen to the Marquess of Salisbury in the House of Commons; indeed, it would be better that he should, as Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, sit in that House than that he should, be obliged to answer for himself through the mouth of another; and the Representatives of the people would have more control over him. He (Mr. Labouchere) should resist all schemes for reforming the House of Lords which involved the maintenance of the hereditary principle, the mixing up of the hereditary and elective principle in one Chamber, or the selection by the Lords of their best men to form an hereditary assembly. In all these proposals he scented the snake in the grass, because their object was not to weaken, but to strengthen the House of Lords as a Conservative body rampart against the democracy of this country. Speaking on this subject at Oxford, the Marquess of Salisbury said he was sceptical as to any reform of the House of Lords being carried, because there was only a certain amount of political power, of which the House of Commons had five-sixths, and if the house of Lords were reformed, it would compete more thoroughly with the House of Commons. The House of Commons was quite acute enough to see this, and therefore no essential change was likely to be made. Those observations he commended to the attention of the followers of the noble Lord. His Amendment went to the root of the evil. He at first thought of including Bishops; but he struck them out, on the principle of de minimis non cured lex. If the hereditary principle were done away with, what the right hon. Member for Birmingham called the incestuous union between the spiritual and the political would cease of itself. His Amendment did not prejudice the question whether there ought to be two Chambers or one only. Personally he was in favour of one, but those who voted with him need not necessarily support him on that particular point. Other countries which had two had simply followed our example, and it was a more result of chance that we happened to have two. If they agreed, the second was useless; if they disagreed the second was pernicious. If the functions of an Upper Chamber were to be properly fulfilled by those who soared above class and Party interest, we must not look for its Members in this world, but we must bring down angels from Heaven; but as that would be difficult, there was only one other alternative. We should also require alternating Chambers—a Tory Upper House to control a Radical Lower House, and a Radical house of Lords to control a Conservative House of Commons. An Upper Chamber was needless in our system; and it was cumbersome as a Court of Revision, whose functions could be discharged by a committee of experts. A second Chamber was not necessary as a means of appealing to the people. He challenged any one to name an instance in which the Liberal Party had passed a measure in which the country did not concur. There had been no case in which it had been necessary for the House of Lords to step in in order to make an appeal to the country. The Liberal Party was in touch with the constituencies, and would not force a measure through the House against the wishes of the electors. He would challenge the Liberal Members who wanted to preserve the hereditary principle to submit the matter to their constituents. No question was deemed more important by Radicals than this of abolishing hereditary legislators. They perceive that the antagonism between class government and national government was becoming more acute every day, and they judged of what the Lords would do by what they had already done. While ready to accept a defeat at the poll they objected—when the verdict of the constituencies was in their favour—to being cheated out of the victory by 500 or 600 hereditary Gentlemen who claimed the right to set aside the will of the Nation. The Tory hereditary House gave to the Conservative Party the same advantage that an ace up the sleeve gave to a gambler, and the Liberals were determined to shake the ace out of the Tory sleeve. The Liberals who favoured the maintenance of the hereditary principle were in reality not Liberals. They gave only lip-service to their principles. These half-hearted Liberals must realize that sham Liberalism was out of date, for the constituencies would not be humbugged any longer. They must realize that the centre of gravity had shifted of late on the side of the House which they eat upon. The Liberal Party had become a Radical Party, one of whose strongest doctrines was the abolition of hereditary legislators. This was illustrated recently in the Dundee Election. There was a competitive examination for candidates. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Firth) and Sir Horace Davey were competitors. They were asked whether they would abolish the hereditary principle in the Legislature. The hon. and learned Member's answers were satisfactory. Sir Horace Davey's were not. What happened? That eminent lawyer, excellent man, and good Liberal, was left out in the cold, and his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Firth) was chosen. He trusted that would be the case with every constituency where Liberals had to choose between a candidate in favour of hereditary legislators being abolished and a candidate opposed to that. He would, moreover, impress upon Liberal constituencies being firm in insisting upon their candidates being very specific in their pledges upon this point, and not to be satisfied with vague generalities with regard to it. The question that such constituencies should put to their candidates was, "Are you in favour of abolishing hereditary legislators, root and branch?" And any man who failed to answer that question distinctly ought to be discarded as a Liberal candidate. We had at the present moment an Irish Question, and the Radicals intended to give the Irish Home Rule. The Irish Question meant that local self-government should be given to Ireland, and Liberals intended to do their best to give local self-government to Ireland. We want local self-government not only for Ireland but for Great Britain. What the Castle and the nephew were to Ireland, the uncle and the House of Lards were to England. No proper local self-government could exist in this country so long as an Assembly of hereditary legislators, of rich men, of men belonging to one class, had the right, whenever the country sent to the House of Commons a Liberal majority, to hamper and block legislation. The Conservatives at their meetings always shouted, "Thank God we have a House of Lords." Radicals had no intention to remain any longer supinely like toads under the harrow of the House of Lords. They intended to agitate until they could say, "Thank God we have not a hereditary House of Lords."

Amendment proposed, 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 is contrary to the true principles of Representative Government, and injurious to their efficiency, that any person should be a Member of one House of the Legislature by right of birth, and it is therefore desirable to put. in end to any such existing rights,"—(Mr. Labouchere,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

said, the only complaint he had to find with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution (Mr. Labouchere) was, that he had answered his (Mr. Rathbone's) arguments before he had heard them. He had not the slightest intention of trying to whitewash what the hon. Member called "that whited sepulchre, the House of Lords." All Radicals and all Liberals would agree, and he fancied all Conservatives would also agree, that hitherto the House of Lords had too much dammed up public opinion and discontent in quiet times—that in such times it had opposed legislation in accordance with national feeling only to break down its barriers, and allow a flood of hasty legislation to pour forth in times of excitement. It had been anything but a truly Conservative part of our Constitution, and he should be the last to wish to strengthen it as an opponent to the House of Commons and a barrier to the deliberate wishes of the nation. On the contrary, he thought the reform of the House of Lords was necessary, and that the continued existence of that Chamber was impossible unless it could be made to represent, as the House of Commons did, the deliberate will of the nation. If it were Representative, it might be made to strengthen the House of Commons very materially, not that he supposed it would ever enjoy the same kind of power as that House. His hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) treated everybody as a bad Liberal who did not insist on nothing less than the abolition of the House of Lords; but he (Mr. Rathbone) would remind the hon. Gentleman of the story of the Irishman who said there were 15 reasons why he did not eat his breakfast, and the first of them was because he could not get a breakfast to eat. That was a good reason in the case of the Irishman, and a similar kind of reason might be used in regard to the abolition of the House of Lords. He did not think they would be able to get abolition, at any rate within any reasonable period. His object in rising was to move as an Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton to leave out all the words after "in," in line 1, and insert— Order to improve the legislative efficiency of the House of Lords, it is desirable that it should not rest solely on right of birth, and not be responsible to or in sufficient touch with the people; and that a combination of the hereditary and representative principle would preserve what is valuable in, and increase the usefulness of, that branch of the legislature. Few men, he presumed, would be found to argue that, granting that a Second Chamber was necessary, they would, if they had to begin again, select in these days the hereditary principle as that on which to found it. But, in the Motion which the hon. Member for Northampton had brought forward, he (Mr. Rathbone) thought he had hardly taken account of the very strong characteristics of the British nation. The British people seldom tried to destroy an insti- tution which had long existed, and to which in times past they had owed considerable benefits, without first trying to amend it; and he did not think the hon. Member would persuade them in the present day to act on any different principle as regarded the House of Lords. Therefore, as they were all agreed that their Legislative Constitution had not worked as efficiently as it ought to do in order to meet modern requirements, he would ask the House to consider whether it would not be well to try promptly to reform the House of Lords and make it, as he believed it might be made, a very useful and efficient part of the Constitution. Few countries had thought it desirable to proceed without a Second Chamber; and, oven after they had altered the Rules of Procedure in the House of Commons as proposed, he could not see much chance of their having too much legislative power to meet all the complicated wants of modern civilization. They knew that there was in the House of Lords considerable legislative talent which received its education in the House of Commons. There was a strong feeling, moreover, in the country in favour of the hereditary principle, founded on the services which such families as the Russells, the Cavendishes, and the Howards had rendered as popular leaders; and he thought it would be most practical to see whether we could not in some way use this talent, and avoid arousing against us a strong popular sentiment, and try to carry the House of Lords with us in their own reform. Lord Salisbury himself had used words respecting the American Senate, showing that he coveted for England a Second Chamber as powerful and efficient, and we might with advantage see whether the principle which had been so successful there could not be adapted and applied to the improvement of the House of Lords. He presumed that what they wanted a Second Chamber for was, in the first place, to help efficiently in the practical work of legislation, so that laws might be more carefully and promptly considered than they were now; and, in the next place, that it should represent the mature and permanent opinions of the country, and give time for reflection in periods of great excitement and violent agitation. That was what the Senate of the United States had done very successfully. It was purer from corrupt influences, move powerful and more useful than the House of Representatives, and still more so than the State Legislatures which selected it. Now, could not they in some way use the principles which had produced that result, and, while retaining what was useful and noble in the House of Lords, make that Assembly still more useful, and therefore still more truly noble, in the best sense than it was now, by providing for it division of labour, increased means of political information, and increased sense of responsibility? He thought anyone who had really studied the question why the House of Lords had not hitherto been made more useful than it had been, would have come to the conclusion that it was from the want of these advantages that its comparative uselessness had arisen, and that it had become merely a drag on the House of Commons, and a Court to register its decrees. To bring that home to anyone who had watched with anxious interest the course of legislation it was only necessary to follow the stages of a Bill in the two Houses, and to see why, with all the legislative capacity which the Upper House contained in many of its Members, its legislative work had to be done all over again when brought to the House of Commons. No Bill came in a practicable and workable shape from the minds of its promoters or hands of its draftsman. It was printed, debated in the face of the public, sent down by hon. Members to those of their constituents who were interested in the question, and Members received in reply all the practical information that practical men interested in the subject possessed, and with the aid of such information the Bill was amended and thrown into practical shape. This was what happened to a Bill in the House of Commons; but Members of the House of Lords had not volunteered to undertake the duties of legislation, and some of them had neither taste nor fitness for the work. They were responsible to no electors. No individual lay Peer was directly connected with the inhabitants of a locality, or with those interested in any trade, manufacture, or profession in a way to authorize and induce them to communicate with him as to the defects of any Bill, or the best mode of making it more complete He was not in any effective manner responsible to or in touch with those for whom he was legislating. Hence the Lords rarely debated openly in detail any of the ordinary measures brought before them; the Committee stage of a measure was usually settled by a conversation across the Table; and the Bill, not having received that consideration and consequent amendment by suggestions from the experience of the country at large to make it practically workable, the whole work necessary to bring it into practical shape had to be done over again in the House of Commons. Consider for a moment what powers and qualifications the House of Lords possessed, in what respect it was deficient, and what was necessary to make it the most powerful and efficient and useful Second Chamber in the world, as the Senate of the United States is, he believed, in the opinion of those who had most studied the subject, including the Prime Minister himself. The House of Lords possessed enormous historical dignity, and, in spite of its blunders of late years, still had a strong hold on the feelings, or if they liked on the prejudices of the English nation; and it contained now a minority certainly, but still a considerable number of men of great ability and trained to political life who might be made very useful as legislators; but, moreover, a large number of men who, having no taste and no faculty for legislation, were nevertheless very useful in their own localities as Chairmen of Quarter Sessions and of Boards of Guardians, and partakers in county and local administration generally. What they wanted was division of labour in the House of Lords, leaving to Peers their rank and dignity, but providing that, when sitting as a Legislative Assembly, only those Peers should vote who possessed the necessary qualifications to enable them to legislate usefully and with effect as Members of a Second Chamber. This division of labour was already in practice adopted as regarded the legal or judicial Business of the House of Lords; for the general Rule that no one but Law Lords voted in judicial cages had never been deviated from for more than a century; but something more than custom would be required to make such a Rule effective in relation to the legislative portion of the work of that House. To enable and induce the Lords to be an effective part of the Legislature they ought to feel practically responsible to the country for the due performance of the work for which they had been selected and which they had agreed to undertake. They ought to represent the matured opinion of the country so as to provide against hasty, unwise legislation during periods of excessive excitement. They ought to bring the House of Lords into connection and touch with the different parts of the country. He assumed, what he believed to be the case, that the country, as a whole, was not prepared to do without a Second Chamber. But they wanted a Second Chamber somewhat in accord with the gradual, steady, irrevocable movement of national sentiment and thought. Would not those objects be attained by allowing the Peerage to retain all that it now enjoyed of rank and precedence, but appropriating to its diverse functions the diverse abilities of its members; by leaving them free, if they so preferred, not to undertake the duty of making laws; by providing that all Peerages of the United Kingdom, as did then Peerages of the Scotch and Irish Kingdoms, should confer, not a seat in the House of Lords, but the capacity of filling such a seat; by providing that the House of Commons should elect those Peers who should actually vote, but not elect them all at once or in the ordinary manner, but each successive House of Commons electing by the cumulative vote one-third of their total number, say 50 Peers, who should sit during three Parliaments, a period, on the average, of 15 years? Power might be reserved to the Ministers to nominate a limited number of eminent Civil and Military Servants of the Crown to sit in the Upper House, either for life or for a term of three Parliaments. The present Law Lords would, of course retain their seats. And, finally, in order to connect the House of Lords with the nation and its whole system of local government, the Chairman of the New County Boards, when these last should have been established, might be added to the number of the Members of the Upper House. As the United Kingdom contained 114 counties, of which some might be grouped and others divided for purposes of administration, they might compute the number of Chairmen as about equal to the num- ber of counties. Adding these to the 150 elected Peers, and making a moderate allowance for life Peers and for Law Lords, we obtained a total of about 300 Members. More numerous a Second Chamber could scarcely with advantage be; and if the nominal Upper House of that day exceeded that figure, its working numbers fell far below. By this mode he believed they would retain every Member of the House of Lords who really took any practical interest in legislation in the present day; and, either as elected by the House of Commons, or as Chairmen of County Boards, they would have undertaken the work of their House, and would feel responsible for its performance. The House of Lords would represent the deliberate opinion of the nation spread over three Parliaments. The hereditary Peers would still be in the majority; but they would be Peers who had sought election, and voluntarily assumed the responsibility of the work; while the Upper House would be brought into connection and communication and touch with the localities through the Chairmen of County Boards. On this system they would have adopted what was valuable in the constitution of the House of Lords itself, in the House of Commons, and in the Senate of the United States. They would have a Body representing the deliberate opinion of the country, and not open to be influenced by gusts of passion. The only objection that he had heard to his plan was that it would make the House of Lords too powerful, and that they might fear clashing with the House of Commons. His answer to that was, he thought, simple and conclusive. The Senate of the United States had been made more powerful than the House of Representatives, yet there was no clashing there. The Senate had been not only by far the most powerful, but the wisest and most useful part of the Constitution of the United States; and if the power of the House of Lords should overshadow that of the House of Commons—which he did not believe would ever be the case—it would be because, like the Senate of the United States, it had been more useful and wiser than the more popular Assembly; and power arising from beneficent action and wisdom was that which they ought not to fear, but rather to covet; and, after all, it could only be because the House of Commons ceased to be in the future what it had been in the past—the first Legislative Assembly in the world—and it could only by remaining so degraded for some considerable time lose the tremendous hold that it had upon the affections and confidence of the country. He was not wedded to any particular part of the scheme he had laid before the House. He had suggested it as one way in which he thought the defects of the House of Lords might be remedied, and that Chamber made a powerful and beneficent Legislative Body. Some had proposed that the selection of the legislative part of the House of Lords should be left to the House of Lords itself. That would, no doubt, be a great improvement upon the present House, brought up to vote on most important issues, which a great many of its Members had not taken the trouble either to understand or debate. The most valuable part of his suggestion was that it would bring the Chairmen of County Boards into the House of Lords, elected for, say, seven or ten years; as that really would do something towards bringing the House of Lords, into connection and touch with the country, and would, moreover, have the most beneficial effect in dignifying our whole system of local administration, by making the head of the local government of each county a dignified Member of the Legislature.

MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)

, who had an Amendment on the Paper, to leave out all the words after "opinion of this House," in line 1, and insert— The strengthening of the Legislature is to be sought, not in the abolition, but in the reform and modification of the hereditary principle in the composition of the Upper House of Parliament, said, that he was not able to compete with either of the two hon. Members who had spoken before him that night, because the first of them was a conscious and the second was an unconscious humourist. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was a man of facetious and fanciful temperament, and no institution was safe from his quips or his satire. There was nothing that he touched which he was not capable of turning into laughter, and they had an admirable illustration of that in his speech that night. The want of seriousness on the hon. Member's part was but the reflex of wha were his real feelings on the matter. Would it be believed that less than two years ago the hon. Member for Northampton, that arch-democrat, actually contemplated without alarm the contingency of becoming a Peer himself?


I must protest against what the hon. Gentleman says. I never for a moment contemplated so horrible a contingency.


said, he was very glad to hear that disclaimer, because he had derived his information on the point from a quarter of unquestioned veracity—a journal called Truth. The hon. Gentleman stated, in. the autumn of 1886, writing in that paper, that he would almost consent to become a Peer himself if only to gaze on a picture by Mr. Herbert, which hung in one of the ante-chambers of the House of Lords. He (Mr. Curzon) confessed that he was a little surprised at that admission of weakness on the hon. Gentleman's part, and he could not understand how an hon. Gentleman like him could contemplates becoming a Member of an Assembly where the exploded principles of order and decorum still prevailed, and it was only when he himself went and examined the picture in question that he was able to account for the hon. Gentleman's curious remark, because he found that the subject of the picture was that of Moses breaking the tables of the law. The present Motion of the hon. Member was, he must observe, one of a very restricted application. It applied by its terms only to those Members of the House of Lords who were legislators by right of birth, and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last appeared to fancy, judging from the terms of his Amendment, that the House of Lords consisted entirely of such Members. Now, he (Mr. Curzon) denied the hon. Member's assertion that the House of Lords rested solely on the right of birth. There were many Members of the other House to whom the terms both of the Motion and of the Amendment did not apply. First, there were the Archbishops and the Bishops, 27 in number, who sat, not by right of birth, but because they represented their dioceses. Then there were three Law Lords, who sat not by right of birth, but by the terms of an Act passed in 1876. Then, there were the 16 Scotch and the 28 Irish Representative Peers, who sat in virtue of their election by their Peers, and who were in the strictest sense of the term Representative and not Hereditary Peers. Further, there were in the House of Lords no fewer than 70 Peers who had been ennobled themselves and who sat there, not by right of birth, but by right of the patents granted to them for services they had rendered to the State. The whole of these classes, amounting in all to 144 persons, were excluded from the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, which only dealt with the remaining proportion, or about three-fourths of the House of Lords; so that they arrived at this ridiculous conclusion—that if that Motion were adopted, and the forms of the Constitution permitted it to be carried into effect—which, fortunately, they did not—they would abolish three-fourths of the existing House of Lords, but would still have a body of over 140 Members, the composition or the political complexion of which would not be more satisfactory to the hon. Member than those of the present Upper Chamber. The first and main argument of the hon. Member for Northampton was that the House of Lords was not a representative institution, and that it was contrary to the principles of representative government that an institution so composed should exist. Now, he took leave to point out that representative government was not a complete or an exhaustive account of the Constitution under which we lived. We had representative institutions, but all our institutions were not representative. Some of them were based on a directly opposite principle. There was the Throne, which was not filled on the Representative principle., but on the principle which the hon. Member for Northampton had so severely condemned, the hereditary principle. And if the hon. Member levelled a blow at the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, he (Mr. Curzon) wanted to know why he did not also strike at the hereditary principle in the Throne. Then there was the Cabinet, which might be described as the ruling body in this country. It was not framed on the representative principle; it was nominated by one man, the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister himself was not selected on the Representative principle, but was nominated by the Sovereign. Finally, they had the Judges, who were not elected, but nominated, and were not responsible nor removable. To return to the direct charge that the House of Lords was not a Representative body. The hon. Member himself said it was exclusively representative of one class only, that of the land. Well, he conceived that the possession of landed estates, and the stake in the welfare of the country which that possession involved, were no mean guarantees for the possession of the qualities of independence and patriotism so essential in a Second Chamber. The hon. Member had drawn a somewhat fantastic picture of the House of Lords, sketched in a highly sensational and imperfect style of art. He had described it as being composed for the most part of unsuccessful politicians and of successful money - grubbers. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: The recent additions.] Now, in its actual composition it contained 23 Cabinet Ministers, 4 Viceroys of India and 6 of Ireland, 4 Governors General of Canada, 8 Governors Principal or Colonial Governors, and 6 Ambassadors or ex-Ambassadors. In addition to these there were in the House of Lords two ex-Speakers of the House of Commons, eight Judges, 78 officials who had held posts under the Government exclusive of the Royal Household, 120 Privy Councillors, 157 Peers who had served in the Army or Navy, excluding Yeomanry, Volunteers, and Militia; and, lastly, there were 194 Peers who had satisfied even the stringent rule laid down by the hon. Member for Northampton himself, inasmuch as they had submitted to the ordeal of public election and had passed through the House of Commons. To contend that a House so composed was not a Representative Chamber and was not representative of many and varied interests was an abuse of language; but, at the same time, he felt that the House of Lords might be made much more representative than it was. There were interests which at the present moment were excluded from representation in that House and which might be admitted, and there were interests which were imperfectly represented, and whose representation might be enlarged. There were three classes to whom these remarks mainly applied. First of all, there were the great Dissenting denomi- nations which filled so large a place in the public life of the country, and which at the present moment were almost without representation there. Then there were the Public Services, which trained and turned out a staff of public servants unequalled for efficiency in the world, and whose abilities and experience after they had retired from their professions might be continued in the service of the State. Lastly, there were the Colonists, who were absolutely without representation in the Imperial Parliament. If the House of Lords could be made more representative of these classes and interests he believed that the community at large would approve of such a step being taken. The hon. Member for Northampton complained that there was a permanent Conservative majority in the other House. That was a necessary feature of a Second Chamber. ["Oh !"] There never had been a Second Chamber in the history of the world which did not contain a Conservative as against a Radical majority. They might have representatives of whatever element they pleased in a Second Chamber; but it would be found that a Radical majority if temporarily secured could not be permanently retained, and that the Conservatives would in the long run have the preponderance. There had been 300 creations to the Peerage in the present Reign, and over 200 of these had been the creations of Liberal Prime Ministers. Notwithstanding that the Conservative majority in the House of Lords was stronger than ever. Of the 200 creations, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was responsible for nearly 80; and yet he (Mr. Curzon) would not hesitate to say that one-half of that number, if not more, would without a qualm of compunction go into the lobby against him. The hon. Member for Northampton was in favour of a single Chamber, because, as he said, we could not possibly get a satisfactory Second Chamber. By a satisfactory Second Chamber, the hon. Member meant a Second Chamber composed of men of his own political complexion. That was not an argument against Second Chambers per se, but rather an argument against Radicalism per se, and the very fact of the impossibility of keeping a Radical majority alive in a Second Chamber, tend and water it as they pleased, was a proof, not of the unhealthiness of the atmosphere, but rather of the inherent sickliness and decrepitude of the plant. Then the hon. Member trotted out the old and familiar argument which he might describe as the "Financial Reform Almanack Argument," and which was this, that because the Peers received so much annual income in rental, in pensions, or in pay, therefore they must be regarded with suspicion as legislators. He retaliated by regarding the figures of the hon. Member with the greatest possible suspicion. In November, 1884, the hon. Member complained that a certain number of hereditary Peers were owners of 14,000,000 acres with a rental of £9,000,000; while in March, 1886, he stated that the same number of Peers owned the same number of acres at a rental of £12,000,000. The astonishing thing was that this increase was said to have taken place in little more than a year, when every man of sense knew perfectly well that rents had fallen from 15 to 30 per cent. The figures of the hon. Gentleman were totally and hopelessly inaccurate. The hon. Member also referred to the matter of salaries paid to Peers. He (Mr. Curzon) would point out that salaries were paid to Cabinet Ministers even if they were Members of the House of Commons, and the salaries included those paid to Viceroys and Ambassadors and others in the service of the State in different parts of the world. He fearlessly asserted the principle that the labourer was worthy of his hire, whether Peer or peasant. A Peer was as much entitled to a salary if he happened to be in the service of the State as the doctor or the barrister to his fee, or the hon. Member for Northampton to the sixpence which a gullible public paid for a copy of Truth. The House of Lords did real service in saving the country from the two greatest curses which could befall a nation having a titled order and great commercial wealth—namely, the curse of an aristocracy framed upon narrow lines of caste, and the curse of a plutocracy or moneyed order uplifted and sustained by wealth. While the nobility of other countries had, under the blighting influence of caste, shrivelled into a dry and sapless trunk, the nobility of England had struck new roots into the soil, and recruited itself by fresh impulses from the source whence it sprung; and while other countries had suffered from making money and not birth the test of rank, we had been free from the degrading taint of Mammon worship is England. In its Constitutional aspect the House of Lords acted as a counterpoise to the unbalanced weight of a democratic and Representative Chamber, and that that counterpoise was needed had been admitted by all save the section represented by the hon. Member for Northampton. The House of Lords was also a means of referring hastily conceived and premature measures to the people, and as such it had been a democratic rather than an aristocratic agent. Then it was said that the House of Lords had never done any good thing; that it had only indulged in massacre and mutilation. His estimate of good and evil no doubt differed materially from that of the hon. Member; but if the hon. Member asked what good the House of Lords had done, he asked in return what evil had it not prevented being done? How often, had not the House of Lords taken imperfect measures and lopped them into shape? How often had it not stood between the country and the impetuous amateur legislation in which Gentlemen like the hon. Member were apt to indulge? The hon. Member appealed to recent history. He (Mr. Curzon) remembered the Session of 1886, after the Home Rule Bill had been thrown out, when most Members had gone to their constituents, and there remained in the House only a small band of faithful Radicals under the lead of the right hon. Members for Edinburgh and Stirling, At that time a number of hasty and ill-considered measures were hurried through the House of Commons, and, but for the House of Lords, they would have now been the law of the land, and the reputation of hon. Members opposite as legislators would have been even lower than it was. The hon. Member spoke of the selfishness of the House of Lords. Was it no proof of self-abnegation and the preference of patriotism to Party interests that a body like the House of Lords, composed almost entirely of Protestants and Churchmen, should have passed a measure like the disestablishment of the Irish Church, or that a House composed, as the hon. Member complained, of landlords should have passed with so little friction the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, and a measure like Lord Ashbourne's Land Purchase Act? If nothing but evil had come out of the House of Lords, how was it that so many great and good measures were inscribed on the Statute Book? We had heard a great deal of fifty years of Liberal progress. Surely the House of Lords deserved some share of credit for contributing to that progress by the measures it had passed? But on that side of the House they did not argue that the House was free from blemish, otherwise they would not have put on the Paper proposals for its reform. There were bad points is the House of Lords, but they were points which the hon. Member had to a great extent overlooked. The House of Lords was not sufficiently Representative, and might be made more Representative than it was. The Prerogative of the creation of Members of the House of Lords was one of the highest which was vested in the hands of the First Minister of the Crown. It was a Prerogative which ought to be exercised with discretion and restraint, but these qualities had not been uniformly displayed, for promotion had not always been in recognition of services rendered to the country, but had too often been the reward of purely political services. Then the hereditary system prevailing is the House of Lords was compulsory, not permissive. The eldest son of an hereditary Peer succeeded to his title, and was bound to take it, whether he was willing or not. There might be a man more fit, but the man less fit could not be relieved of his duties. There were evils in the House of Lords, but there was a growing desire in both Houses to remedy those evils, and therefore he had ventured to put on the Paper an Amendment which anyone could understand, and that was more than could be said of the hon. Member's Amendment. The Amendment which he had put on the Paper asked the House to assent only to the reform and modification of the hereditary principle in the composition of the House of Lords. We ought to be content with small and tentative measures to begin with, but without some modification of the hereditary principle you could not proceed any distance in the direction of reform. Impulse might be communicated from without, but the action must come from within. No help could be expected from members below the Gangway, as the House had heard from the hon. Member. He hoped, however, that among other sections of the House, both Conservative and Liberal, a more moderate and statesmanlike spirit prevailed, because if there was one attitude which was likely to be more fatal than what he might call the unblushing nihilism of hon. Members opposite, it would be a stubborn opposition to reform such as might have been expected from the Conservative Party in old times, but was not to be expected from them now. In process of time there might be a combination of all Parties and of both Houses of Parliament to carry out this reform. But whatever might be done in the direction of reform, he (Mr. Curzon) hoped that an institution which had existed in this country so long, and on the whole had justified itself to the sound judgment of the nation, would not be hastily and hurriedly swept away in obedience to a mandate from Northampton.

MR. FIRTH (Dundee)

said, he did not propose to detain the House at any length; but there was one question propounded by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Curzon) which he desired to answer. He would not follow the hon. Member in his suggestion that the action of the House of Lords in 1868 in regard to the Irish Church Act, and in regard to the Land Act of 1870—three vital clauses of which they struck out, necessitating the Act of 1880—was patriotic. Neither did he propose to combat the hon. Gentleman's proposition that the House of Lords was the embodiment of the religious life of country. The one question he wished to answer was why the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) did not include in his Motion the Crown as being one of the hereditary institutions of the country. He apprehended that the reason why his hon. Friend did not include the Crown was that that institution did not, in matters of legislation, present itself to the country in the same position as the House of Lords. Although, technically, the Crown possessed the right of veto, they did not find it exercised that right. On the other hand, they did find the House of Lords constantly dissenting from measures passed by the Representative body of the people. It seemed to him that the Crown presented an example which, if the House of Lords were to follow it, would offer the readiest and easiest solution of the question they were now considering. His hon. Friend had pointed out that the peculiar characteristic of our Constitution was its adaptability to the circumstances of the time. If the House of Lords were to adapt itself to the growing democratic spirit of the age by following the notable example the Crown had set, the difficult problem they had before them might easily be settled. During the Tudor and Stuart dynasties, the Crown exercised direct control, and direct control was exercised by William III. There came a time in the reign of the House of Hanover, when the King could not speak English, and his first Minister could not speak French, and the control had to be exercised through the medium of conversation in Latin. The control became, in consequence, less and less. To-day, the Crown was supposed to be the embodiment of the Executive. To-day the Crown was supposed to have the nomination of all officers of the Army and Navy, and to have the control of many affairs, but, as a matter of fact, such rights were not exercised. If the House of Lords followed the example of the Crown and curtailed the control over Bills sent up from this House which it claimed to exercise, the result might be a happy euthanasia for that House, and the House might be preserved from attacks to which it was now subject. It had gone to a certain extent in that direction. It had, in the first place, ceased to meet as a body as a Court of Supreme Appeal on questions of law, though it was entitled to do so if it thought fit. It had also ceased to make the claim, although it had never specifically abandoned it, of originating measures of Supply. If it were to go on and cease to dissent to the measures passed by this House on important questions like those affecting the franchise of the people, and so forth, it might still have a long life; but if it persisted in opposing the will of the people, its life might come to a more speedy end than some hon. Gentlemen opposite imagined. It seemed to him that this was the answer to the question, How it came to pass that the Crown was not included in this proposition? He hoped the House would accept the proposition of his hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere). The time might come when it would be necessary to embody the proposition in an Act of Parliament. He supposed that that was the only way, short of a devolution, in which the proposition of his hon. Friend could be carried into practical effect. Of course, it would be necessary for the House of Lords to assent to such an Act; and, whether that assent would be obtained except by the method which was adopted in 1831, when, as they knew, two Ministers of the Crown wont to Windsor with 80 creations of Peers in their pockets, he was not prepared to say. Very probably there would be an Act of Parliament of that kind unless the House of Lords accepted the suggestion, which had been made in all good faith, that they should gradually let go those prerogatives which, technically, they possessed, whenever they conflicted with the will of the people as expressed in this House.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

said, that after the admirable speech of the hon. Member for the Southport Division of South-West Lancashire (Mr. Curzon), it was unnecessary for him to say a word as to the importance of the House of Lords. He desired, however, to say a few words upon the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper, but which, he understood, it was impossible for him to move. His Amendment was as follows:— It is desirable, with a view to the maintenance of that respect and confidence in which both Houses of Parliament have hitherto been held by the country, that hereditary Members of Parliament who have been convicted of crime, or who have been bankrupt, or whose conduct is of such a nature as in the judgment of their Peers to cause public scandal, should cease ever again to sit or vote or take part in the proceedings of Parliament. He need hardly say he approached this subject as a strong supporter of the Second Chamber, as a believer in the hereditary system to a certain extent. He agreed fully with his hon. Friend (Mr. Curzon) that it was necessary at the present time to consider the reform of the House of Lords in its representative character—to incorporate within it certain Life Members or certain Members who had been not only hereditary Peers, but would sit there as a reward for public services, and who would form a large addition and a great strength to that Blouse. They had listened to a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who, in his usual flippant manner, would get rid of the House of Lords and our great Constitution under which the Empire had attained its present great dimensions. Those hon. Members who believed in the principles of legislation could not suppose that the hon. Gentleman's proposition was really seriously meant. The hereditary body was, without doubt, a body which might be proud of its present position; for learning, for patriotism, and for morality, the House of Lords, the hereditary Chamber, could hold its own. In spite of the fierce light under which it lived, in spite of the fashion which now existed to do the utmost to pervert everything that everybody in any important position did, in spite of the writings of scurrilous newspapers which fastened upon everything that could be made to look bad—which, if they could not make truthful statements which suited their purpose, did not hesitate to invent them—in spite of all those who envied the House of Lords, and who pandered to it, and then scandalized it behind its back, the House of Lords could hold its own for all the quality of greatness. He asserted that there were very few who could throw stones at the House of Lords; certainly it was not this House which could do so. But while he said this, he fully agreed that this was not enough, and the Amendment which he would have moved, had he been able to, bore upon the subject. If there was one bad man in a body of men immense injury was done to the whole body. The public fixed upon the one individual and the prestige of the body was degraded and their influence seriously impaired, There was no doubt that cases of scandal influenced and damaged the position of the whole House. It might be true that Society very easily forgot scandal. It might be true that men who had behaved in a disgraceful way were again received into Society. Such men might be permitted to enter political clubs, but there was no doubt that through their scandalous acts they did permanently injure the position of the House to which they happened to belong. There had been cases of great scandal which affected the position of the hereditary Chamber. Members of that House had become bankrupt, and after they had been whitewashed, or whatever the technical term was, had resumed their position in the House. Members of that House had been convicted of serious offences, and after undergoing the punishment inflicted upon them had resumed their seats in the House. Other Members of that House had disgraced themselves by acts which nobody could excuse; but still they continued to sit in the House. It had been said by some papers which had commented upon his Amendment that the House of Commons was not free from scandal. He knew that was so, but it must be remembered that no Member of this House was elected for life. Men were only elected to the House of Commons for a Parliament, and it might be taken for granted that a man who was the subject of a gross scandal was never re-elected. This circumstance was a hopeful sign of the times, for when constituences re-elected Members who had had their characters blasted, the sun of England's greatness would certainly have set. He did not wish to mention any name, but they all knew perfectly well that there was a case some time ago in which an hon. Gentleman, no longer a Member of this House, who had risen to a high position, and who was at the very portal of the very highest place an Englishman could wish to fill, was involved. Every one of every section in the House was very much grieved at the event. What was the result? The constituency for whom the hon. Gentleman had done so much, and whom he had served so long and so well, refused to re-elect him; they preferred to elect a young unknown man. That showed that the House of Commons had the means of purging itself of those who disgraced it in any way; and he had no hesitation in saying that no one would ever be re-elected to the House who had disgraced himself in an open and flagrant manner. If it was the case that constituencies refused to return such men to the House of Commons, how long would the country allow men who had blasted their names to continue to sit in the House of Lords? Let him take the very simplest case—namely, that of bankruptcy. There were cases, no doubt, in which men had become bankrupt through misfortune; but such cases were very rare with Peers. Members of the House of Lards who had become bankrupt had generally become so through circumstances which were not creditable. Could it be contended for a moment that men who had become bankrupt should continue to sit in the House of Peers? It was certain that no hereditary Chamber could possibly last for any great period which possessed such Members, and therefore it was clear that those who really believed in the advisability of extending and strengthening the House of Lords should do their best to lop off its rotten and decayed branches. But there had been cases in which serious crime had been committed by Members of the Upper House. It certainly required no argument to prove that men who had been guilty of criminal offences of this sort should not have the right by birth and for life to continue to exercise the functions of Members of Parliament. He now came to the last class of cases, which was quite as important, but probably the most difficult to deal with—he referred to the men who had been guilty of some act which was disgraceful, but which did not come within the Criminal Code. Surely, men who had been guilty of open and flagrant acts of immorality, and who had been adjudged to be guilty of those acts by their Peers, ought not to be allowed to sit and act as legislators for life simply by right of birth. Was it reasonable to suppose that a man who had figured conspicuously in the Divorce Court should be allowed by right of birth to claim the privilege of sitting and voting in the House of Lords? And was it reasonable that a man who had so misbehaved himself that if he appeared on Newmarket Heath he would be kicked off, should sit and vote in the House of Lords merely by the right of birth? It was monstrous that in the case of urgent Divisions such men should be whipped up by the Party Whips in order to take part in the decision or settlement of some momentous affair of the nation—possibly the question of the Establishment or Disestablishment of the Church. It was often said, "though these men are bad, yet there are many quite as bad in all classes of society;" and, "the only offence of many men is being found out." He did not believe this was so; but even if it were, it did not affect the argument. With what a man was in his private capacity public opinion had nothing to do; his sins when not publicly known were between himself and his conscience; but those men who defiantly outraged all laws of morality clearly should, not be allowed to remain for life, by right of birth, Members of the Legislature. Such cases were very few; but that fact made it all the more easy to deal with them; and it was the more necessary, for a few cases were remarked upon and became known to everyone. He would even go beyond the terms of his Amendment. To his mind, any man who had disgraced himself should not only be cut off from taking part in all legislative proceedings, but just as a clergyman was unfrocked and a military officer lost his commission, so he would have such a man uncoronetted. He saw no reason why men who succeeded to the name and position earned by the great deeds of their ancestors should not, when they disgraced their position, be cut off from taking part in the legislature of the country. A man was made a Peer and a hereditary legislator for some great deed; but if he, or any of his descendants, disgraced themselves, there was no reason why the privilege should not be withdrawn from the man who had shown himself unworthy of it. It might be said such a course would be hard on the children of Peers; but it was harder on the country to be obliged to retain men in their position of privilege in spite of any misconduct. It was impossible to suppose that children would be brought up in principles of nobleness and virtue by parents, who openly set at defiance all rules of morality. The only way to keep a hereditary Chamber really in touch and in sympathy with the masses of the people was to lop off these evil members. The maintenance of the House of Lords was of immense importance to the country, and, he believed, that the character of individual members largely affected the character of legislation. Those who studied history knew that the decadence of people had developed from the decadence of individuals, and was most rapid where the disease entered the senate. He hoped that in what he had said he had not wounded any susceptibilities. Example in high places was of great importance. The influence of a hereditary Chamber was very great, and he had no doubt whatever that the fact that a man whose offences were publicly known had, simply by right of birth—regardless of what he might have done—the right for life to the position of legislator, was doing great mischief in the country. He was sure there was nobody who believed in a hereditary Chamber being necessary to the Constitution that did not agree with him. The time had come when legislation should stop these public scandals, and he believed the work could be undertaken by the present Government; and he appealed to the Front Bench to support the proposition that a man who had brought disgrace upon himself by his conduct should not solely by right of birth remain for life a Member of the Legislature, working and making the laws of the country to which he be-longed,

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I think that there is a general desire in the House that this debate should not be continued at any great length. The speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) appeared to me to be hardly fresh. Although the hon. Member has the gift of brightening his speeches with well-worn jokes and stories which are not now to the House, I felt, while he was speaking, that I was listening to observations which I had heard him make before. The view which the hon. Member takes is that there is really no necessity for a Second Chamber at all. With the frankness which always distinguishes his remarks, he said that he thought a Second Chamber useless; and he implied that the legislative centre of gravity ought to be sought for in himself and the Party with which he is intimately associated. For my part, I think that there are very few persons in this country who seriously believe, having regard to the enormous powers that are vested in the Legislature, that there ought to be no Second Chamber, and that it should be in the power of this Assembly, however representative it be, to institute and carry out by its own vote, in a single Session of Parliament, changes of a vast and overwhelming character affecting the interests of this great nation. The hon. Member's suggestion that a Second Chamber is useless, the centre of gravity being in this House, indicates with sufficient clearness what stop he would take if he had the power. The hon. Member's real object is to convert this House into a Convention which would have the right to pass such measures as might be thought expedient by a temporary majority. Nobody, however Radical, excepting the hon. Member himself, will, I think, seriously suggest that the important interests of this country should be intrusted to such an Assembly as that. The hon. Member proposes that the Second Chamber, if retained, should deal with mere matters of detail. He would also, in certain circumstances, allow the reference of greater questions. [Mr. LABOUCHERE dissented.] Then the House of Commons is itself to dispose of every great question as it arises, perhaps under the influence of popular passion or blind impulse. I think it is hardly necessary to appeal to hon. Members not to support a Resolution of so revolutionary a character, which would shake the very foundations of the Constitution. As to the figures quoted by the hon. Member from The Financial Reform Almanack, they have been proved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) in his remarkably able speech, to be utterly fallacious. Now, Sir, the charge against the House of Lords is that it is a House of partizans. But the House of Lords has been hitherto used to contain a considerable proportion of the Liberal Party, and any Second Chamber would, according to the hon. Gentleman's argument, share the same fate and need to be abolished. The check against ill considered and violent legislation which is secured by a Second Chamber exists in the interests of the country at large, and if it is not so fairly representative as in the view of some of my hon. Friends it might be made, I say that no Second Chamber can long remain deaf to the public opinion of this country, but must advance towards it if that public opinion is consistent with the interests of the country. The remark made by the hon. Member for Southport that the reform of the House of Lords must come from the Conservative Party and from the House of Lords I accept. The assertion has great value, and I earnestly trust will meet a full consideration. It is obvious that any reform must strengthen the hold which I believe the House of Lords has on the affections and sympathies of the great mass of the people of this country, but it must be sent down to us from the House of Lords itself for our consideration. The hon. Member opposite has observed that any reform of the House of Lords would be objectionable, because it would strengthen the position of the House of Lords in the country. I do not speak for the sake of the House of Lords itself, but regarding it solely as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature with ourselves, I would gladly welcome any reforms which would render that House more fit to fulfil the duties that attach to it as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature in protecting the interests of the people at large. It is a calumny to say that the House of Lords exists for the protection of certain classes only. The work which the House of Lords has done from time to time affords evidence that that is not the case. A vast amount of domestic legislation with regard to factories, affecting the poor and affecting land, has been done by it, and shows that it has studied the interests of the people at large, and not of the class of which it is composed. The Settled Land Act of Lord Cairns which was passed by him when sitting on the Opposition Benches, was sent down to this House, was accepted by all the lawyers in the House, and passed, I believe, absolutely without debate. I refer to that to dispose of the allegation that the House of Lords is not capable of constructive legislation. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) referred to some circumstances connected with Members of the House of Lords, but I will remind him that there is no body of men among whom some black sheep cannot be found; there is scarcely a family among whom some black sheep may not be found. It can hardly be said, Sir, that the same observation does not apply to other bodies and other associations of men. I should like to refer, Sir, to some observations that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on the last occasion when he had to meet the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. In March, 1836, he said— This great question ought not to be prejudiced by premature discussion. You ought to leave the whole field open, and you ought not to narrow or restrict the means of future action by laying down beforehand a limited condition that whatever you do you will totally abolish the hereditary principle. I am not going to ask the House to affirm anything about the hereditary principle. I am not myself entirely inclined to its total abolition…. But do not let the hon. Member suppose that when he talks of abolishing the hereditary principle he is propounding an opinion which it will be as easy to give effect to as it is undoubtedly popular and musical to the ears of men.… But I think the House will do well, while reserving this great subject for a time when its whole power, its whole attention, and its whole freedom can be concentrated upon it—and I am quite certain that when that time does arrive all your means and all your resources will be required in order to deal with it worthily—the House will do well to decline to deal with it in a manner which I think would not be worthy either of the dignity or of the high character of this House, or of the greatness of the subject itself, by laying down a particular opinion in respect of a particular point in the future—perhaps distant—discussion of a great public subject as to which we might find ‥‥ that such a declaration had fettered us in our freedom of action and made still more difficult a practical solution of the question."—(3 Hansard, [303] 48,49.) In a Manifesto issued in September, 1885, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said— I certainly cannot deny that there is a case sufficient to justify important change. Those who hold with Mr. Burke, as I do, that knowledge and virtue alone have an intrinsic right to govern, might desire to constitute a Second Chamber, strictly on this basis. But we cannot in the nature of things exclude the action of other influences, especially the permanent growing and highly agressive power of wealth. Among these secondary influences, as a force congenial to the character and habits of the people, and as a check on other and yet more mixed agencies, I hope that in the reconstitution of the House of Lords, when it arrives, a reasonable share of power may be allowed under wise conditions to the principle of birth. I recommend these opinions to the consideration of the hon. Member for Northampton. I quote the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman as to the value of the principle of birth, and I find that in his judgment it is valuable as a means of guarding against other influences and other dangers. The right hon. Gentleman referred then to the growing dangers to which even a body situated as this is is open and exposed. He referred to the dangers of the power of wealth in influencing bodies of men even in our democratic Constitution. But there is another danger in which money plays an important part, and that is in political combinations influencing the return of Members to this House, not directly, but by agencies which play on the passions of the people. Those are the dangers against which a Second Chamber, and perhaps a hereditary Chamber, is a safeguard. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that, however strong the House of Commons may be, there are dangers to be guarded against in the passionate appeals made to the constituencies of the United Kingdom by caucuses and by the associations which direct those bodies, and it is against these dangers that the existence of a Second Chamber largely assists us. I earnestly hope that the House will by a large majority reject the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. With regard to the other hon. Members who by the Forms of the House have only had an opportunity of stating their views on this subject, I think I may claim the assistance of the hon. Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone). He admitted that the system requires amending, but wishes to improve its practical efficiency. I quite agree that that should be the object in view. I desire that the House of Lords should be as practically useful, as safe, and as powerful as it ought to be, in the interests of the country, and it is on that ground that I appeal to the House to reject this Amendment.

MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I think, Sir, that we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) an announcement which will be felt, even on his own side of the House, to be deeply disappointing and inadequate. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that Her Majesty's Government are as anxious as anybody else in the State for such a change in the House of Lords as will promote its real efficiency and strengthen its stability; but that we must look to the declaration of Lord Salisbury as the test and measure of the extent to which Her Majesty's Government are willing to go.


I said "indication."


As the indication then; I withdraw the words test and measure. Now, Sir, we have abundant means of knowing Lord Salisbury's point of view on this most important question. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) quoted one passage; but there are some words which I should like to read again. Lord Salisbury at Oxford said—" I am very sceptical if any such reform will be discovered "—that is to say, any reform which would not be unwelcome to the mass of the Conservative Party. Then he explained to his followers why he was sceptical as to any satisfactory reform— The reason is that any change in the House of Lords which increases its power and influence in the country, if such a change can be discovered, must do be at the cost of the power and influence of the House of Commons, and you may be sure, therefore, that no such proposed change would ever pass. That does not show any very brilliant opening for those who desire to see the position of the House of Lords in the State modified or improved. But we have other means of knowing Lord Salisbury's mind with regard to this question, because in a debate in "another place," in answer to a most eloquent, brilliant, and forcible speech from Lord Rosebery, Lord Salisbury expressly declared how far he was then willing to go. He said that he would not go beyond a strictly limited power of creating Life Peers. The absolute number might be limited, or the number to be created in any single year: any other course would be fatal to the independence of the House of Lords. I know Lord Salisbury is apt to move very rapidly: but I believe he still stands at that limit. Lord Salisbury showed the utmost extent to which Her Majesty's Government were likely to go in the path of reform of the House of Lords. I submit that his views as to the extension of Life Peerages will be found extremely inadequate even by his own followers. It amounts to a definite non possumus. We know that Lord Salisbury is not in the least degree likely to raise this question. His attitude with regard to the request of Lord Rosebery for a Select Committees made that perfectly clear. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon), who made a very ingenious speech, will vote with us, because that vote is the only way of raising the question of reform or change in the House of Lords. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has not stated very fairly what the effect of this vote will be. The right hon. Gentleman says that to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton is to vote for the abolition of a Second Chamber. [Mr. W. H. SMITH: Hear, hear !] No such implication is convoyed in that vote. The form of my hon. Friend's Motion does not raise the question of a bicameral or a unicameral system.


The hon. Member was frank enough to say that that was his view.


I said that my Motion did not in any way prejudice the question of two Chambers.


We have nothing to do with my hon. Friend's pious opinions. By voting for the Motion we are not commuting ourselves to the question whether or not the government of the country should be entrusted to one single Representative Chamber. That question is not raised, and will not be settled by our votes. In voting against the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair, what I, at least, vote is this—that the time has arrived for the discussion of the whole question. I do not vote, myself, either for or against any of the four proposals on the Notice Paper. They must be considered each on its own merits, and on none of them will this Division be a test of the opinion of the House. The right hon. Gentleman seems to overlook the fact that the right hon. Baronet now sitting next him (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) made, not many weeks ago, a very important, interesting, and, as I thought, from our point of view, a not wholly unsatisfactory declaration of his view, that the present state of things in the House of Lords could not continue; and he used language which goes much further than any declaration that Lord Salisbury has made, and much further than those words of Lord Salisbury which I have just read to the House. I hope that the right hon. Baronet will, at all events, not forget what he said, and that he will use his influence to enlarge Lord Salisbury's hopefulness, and to diminish Lord Salisbury's scepticism.

Now, on the other side, it has been attempted to be shown that the House of Lords is a truly Representative Body, and that, on the whole, the country is indebted to it for a great number of beneficent reforms. Well, I am not going into that old story of "50 years of legislation by the House of Lords." I should be quite prepared, if the time allowed, to go through, the legislative performances of that House, and I think it would tell a very different tale from that with which the right hon. Gentleman has favoured us. But that is not the point at the present moment. The point which we have to consider now is, whether the House of Lords is in such a condition, and does its work in such a way, as to satisfy even those who believe in the expediency and the necessity of a Second Chamber? I submit that the most firm believers in a Second Chamber are exactly those who ought to dislike most the present state of the House of Lords, because, in its present position, the House of Lords performs none of those functions which a Second Chamber ought to discharge. It is not a Senate. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it was. It is not a Senate; it is a privileged interest. It has no effect on the fate of Governments. It cannot force an appeal to the country. Its Divisions excite no curiosity, because they are a foregone conclusion. Even its debates, remarkable for dignity and decorum, are only interesting as to the academic exercise of individual effort: they give no collective weight. What is the difference between having one Chamber only and having two Chambers, one of which is so utterly weak for the purpose for which it exists? Lord Salisbury said truly that a ricketty parapet on the edge of a precipice was more dangerous than no parapet at all, because you lean against it where leaning means destruction. The House of Lords is not a bridle upon democracy, as the hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire scorned to think. It does not form a centre of resistance to the predominant power in the Constitution. More than that, the House of Lords does not do even the more humble work it might well do. I will give the House an illustration of that from what took place this week. There was before the House of Lords a Bill called the County Courts Consolidation Bill. I am told by those well qualified to speak on it that that Bill is of the greatest importance—that the accuracy of the drafting of that Bill will affect private interests in the most serious way. What happened? In the "other place," where they had nothing else to do, they might have examined the Bill, and brought the minds of many competent men to bear on its provisions. What happened? The Bill was passed through Committee, as far as I can make out, without one single criticism or word on a single clause. That is important as showing that the Second Chamber performs neither the humbler nor the higher functions for which it is upheld. Great changes have been made in this House. It has been three times reformed in 55 years. This extension of the representative principle brings into more direct contrast a Chamber in which there is no direct elective element. In the second place, we have this week completed a change in our own Procedure which is pregnant with momentous consequences. The effect of the change is what? To strengthen the power of majorities in this House. That will bring into still more conspicuous light the absurdity of a system which allows an Hereditary Chamber to deprive the majority of this House, for which you have just been taking new and enlarged securities, of its legislative power. Lord Salisbury has announced, with what I must describe as an excess of rashness even for him, his intention to use the power of the House of Lords for the purpose of overriding the will of this House. ["No, no !"] I hear some Gentlemen say "No." I will read Lord Salisbury's words at Oxford with reference to these very Rules. He was endeavouring to soothe the alarmed minds of his followers, lest, in a phrase used below the Gangway the other night, they might be making a rope tighter round their own necks— I have no doubt the result of a considerable amendment in the Rules of the House of Commons will be to send up from time to time, when there is a bad House of Commons"—that is, a House in which there is, a Liberal majority—"a considerable number of objectionable measures to the House of Lords"—objectionable, that is, to the House of Lords—"I hope the House of Lords will not shrink from acting on its conscientious convictions. The noble Lord himself—I am not sure whether in the same speech—compared his own position and that of his Party to that of a man on a toboggan. I cannot see how you can reconcile that adherence to conscientious convictions with coming down on a slide. Let Gentlemen not deny that Lord Salisbury—and this is my answer to the First Lord for blaming my hon. Friend for raising the question here, instead of waiting until the House of Lords raised it—has forewarned us that when there is a Liberal majority in this House, in spite of all the pains we have taken to make the House the reflex of public opinion, to give the majority of the House power over its own time and proceedings, all that shall be as naught, and that a Liberal House of Commons shall be overridden. That is a digression, but not irrelevant. The third reason why the substantial limits of power in the House of Lords are undergoing change is, that you are on the very point of extending and strengthening the representative and elective principle in local government. We are moving away in every direction and in every quarter from privilege and from the hereditary principle. I say that weakens the whole foundation on which the power of the House of Lords rests. It is cracking and crumbling in every direction. There is another element of their power which is failing. The basis upon which it has hitherto rested is the territorial basis. They have acquired their power not in a small degree as possessors of the soil. It is certain both from the decline in the value of land, and from the increased facility of alienation, that the territorial basis is disappearing from the other House, and this must contribute to the weakening process which is going on. This weakening of the power of the other House is not due to direct attack from without; it is not due to the spread of democratic or Liberal principles; it is due to changes with which outside influences have little to do. The Amendments to that of the hon. Member for Northampton do not appear to be helpful or satisfactory. One contains an extraordinary proposal which it was hardly worth while raising in a grave Constitutional debate. It is that of the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) to this effect— Hereditary Members of Parliament who have been convicted of crime, or who have been bankrupt, or whose conduct is of such a nature as in the judgment of their Peers to cause pub be scandal should cease ever again to sit or vote or take part in the proceedings of Parliament. This is to give to a tribunal of Peers the right to take away from a Peer, who, after all, is a citizen, rights which the law of the land now gives him; a close, packed, special tribunal is to override the law of the land. I am against treating Peers better than other people. I should be sorry to vote for an Amendment that treats Peers worse than other people. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), as it stands, I do not very clearly perceive how it would work. He said he wanted to make the Second Chamber like the American Senate. But the Upper House cannot be made parallel to the American Senate. That Senate has peculiar and large powers conferred upon it. For example, no Treaty is valid until it is ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate; and the diplomatic, executive, and administrative officers of the United States Government are appointed subject to confirmation by the Senate. Now, if my hon. Friend knows all that, does he gravely suppose that we are going to pass a Bill which will confer upon noble Lords in "another place" such powers as those? I cannot conceive any House of Commons consenting to any proposals of that kind. The Amendment of the hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) reads well enough; but I listened in vain with the greatest interest for some suggestion as to how he intends to give effect to his object. He gave us no inkling of his plan. I am not going to detain the House any longer. I have fully explained what we mean by voting that the Speaker do not leave the Chair. By doing that we mean to express our opinion that the hereditary principle has become a question which ought no longer to be neglected by this House. We do not support the proposition of the hon. Member for Northampton out of any childish or dangerous taste for Constitution-mongering. We are not moved by any theoretical or abstract logic; we are moved by the logic of actual experience and of events. We are not arguing in advance of the facts by a single day. Experience shows that along whichever path we may ultimately choose to move in dealing either with the position or the composition of the House of Lords, the first step that we have to take in that direction is to affirm that the accident of birth no longer confers the right to make laws for a free and self-governing people.

THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)

I shall only trespass for a very short time upon the indulgence of the House, and I should not have risen to intervene in the debate at all, had it not been for the very now and somewhat astounding doctrine and Unexpected attitude which has been taken up by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) from this Bench. ["Hear, hear !"] Whatever may be the meaning of the cheers of hon. Members around me, I believe I shall not be misrepresenting the state of the case when I say that I understand that the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman is to be regarded as the official utterance of the official Opposition. [Cheers and counter cheers.] Whether that is a fact to be received with cheers or not, I must say distinctly that it is worthy of note as a distinct change of attitude on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I feel bound to remind the House, in connection with that change of attitude, that a Motion almost similar to that which has now been moved by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was brought forward about two years ago, when it was strongly opposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who was then Prime Minister, and by the great body of his Party, and was not supported, as far as I know, by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Before the debate concludes, therefore, it is worth while to take notice of this change of attitude, and to endeavour to ascertain, if we can, what it moans, or whether it means anything at all. The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne says—"We understand the Motion as assorting the fact that the time has arrived when it is necessary to deal with the hereditary principle in our legislative system." But ray right hon. Friend has not advanced very far in the elucidation of the subject, and has only given us to understand that he does not commit himself to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. He has also still more distinctly given us to understand that he does not approve of any one of the Amendments placed on the Paper. My right hon. Friend has taken Lord Salis- bury to task for the attitude which he has taken up in regard to this question. He has described the length to which Lord Salisbury is prepared to go, and he says that Lard Salisbury's attitude practically amounts to a non possumus. But I want to know whether my right hon. Friend has given us any assistance in the solution of this question? Can any hon. Gentleman, after listening to the speech of my right hon. Friend, deduce anything from it, or say whether, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, there ought to be a Second Chamber at all, or whether, if there is a Second Chamber, it ought to be solely hereditary, or partly hereditary in its constitution? My right hon. Friend has not given us the slightest indication of his opinion on any one of those points, and in these circumstances it seems to me that it is hardly fair on his part to taunt Lord Salisbury for the position of non possumus which he alleges he has taken up. My right hon. Friend found fault with the composition of the House of Lords and with the action of the House of Lords in a great many respects; but I venture to ask whether he has given to the House the slightest indication or guidance as to the action which ought to be taken by the country and by the Legislature in regard to the composition of that Chamber; whether he himself tended to the opinion that the House of Lords ought to be abolished altogether, or whether some and what reform ought to be instituted in the composition of the Second Chamber? I have risen, chiefly in consequence of his absence, for the purpose of attempting to defend my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian from the false position in which he is unfortunately placed by his Friends here. I had not had, until a short time ago, the slightest conception that it was the intention of my right hon. Friends sitting near me to alter the course which they took two years ago. I have only just had time to refer cursorily to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian on that occasion. It seems to me that his arguments were couched in an extremely moderate tone, and were amply sufficient to justify the vote be then gave. I believe the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) has referred to the attitude of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. My right hon. Friend on that occasion said he opposed the Motion On the ground that he had never in Iris knowledge voted upon a question of importance upon a declaration of abstract opinions in regard to a matter involving deeply the public interest unless he was able to follow up that Resolution by action. It is true that my right hon. Friend on that occasion drew a distinction between the position of Members of the Government and independent Members, and he allowed that, owing to the peculiar and difficult position in which independent Members were often placed, it might be necessary for them to resort to the method of abstract Resolution. Entirely adopting the principle of the right hon. Gentleman, I am disposed to press it somewhat further than he did on that occasion, and I am inclined to contend rather more strongly than he did for the responsibility which rests on the action of every individual Member of Parliament, whether he be in Office or in an independent position. It appears to me impossible for any Member of this House to give his vote on such, a question as this without considering what is the course which he would take himself if he were placed at some future period in power, or if those with whom he is politically connected were placed in power. And I want to know whether, in the speeches which have been delivered to-night, we have had the slightest indication to show what course those who are disposed to support this Motion would be prepared to take if they or their Friends were placed in power? The right hon. Gentleman did not rest his opposition on those grounds alone. He brought forward other, and, as I thought, adequate and sufficient reasons for voting against the proposition. He said that he did not rest his opposition to the Motion on account of the past legislative action of the House of Lords; on the contrary, he took two years ago, as he would probably take to-day, a very unfavourable view of the past legislative action of the House of Lords. He did not deny the possibility or the desirability of the reform of the House of Lords; but he said that such, a Motion as this should not pass for those reasons, and that a great question ought not to be prejudiced by premature discussion. The House of Commons, he said, ought to have the whole field before it; it ought not to narrow or restrict its means of future action by laying down beforehand a limit in the sense that, whatever they might do in regard to the Second Chamber, they intended to abolish the hereditary principle. My right hon. Friend said that he was not in favour of abolishing altogether the hereditary principle; and, further, he pointed out that the hon. Member for Northampton, even if he could induce the House of Commons to assent to his theoretic condemnation of the hereditary principle, might find it a much more difficult thing to carry into practice than to lay down in a theoretic manner. I say that, in my opinion, those reasons given two years ago by my right hon. Friend against a similar Motion are absolutely sufficient to justify its rejection on this occasion; and I submit that, with all respect for the ability of the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he has not answered one of the arguments adduced two years ago by his present Chief. But I may venture to add that it seems to me, in approaching this subject as we are invited to do by the hon. Member for Northampton, we are not commencing at the beginning. Before the House of Commons passes such a Resolution as this, it ought to discuss the question first whether it desires to retain in our legislative system a Second Chamber or not. If there is any Member or if there are many Members in this House who do not desire to have a Second Chamber at all, no doubt they will support the abolition of the hereditary principle. But if there are many other Members of the House who are going to vote against the Speaker leaving the Chair to-night, and. who still think that there ought to be a Second Chamber, but that it ought to be differently composed, then I think it is incumbent upon them, before they condemn the hereditary system, to consider in what way that system is to be replaced, and how the Second Chamber they desire to retain ought to be composed. It is a doubtful question whether there are any Members on this side of the House who desire to reconstitute the Second Chamber in a manner which may have the effect of making it a very much more powerful Assembly than it now is. For all these reasons, it seems to me that we ought, at all events, to reject the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. The Motion has been placed in a very inconvenient form before the House. It would be perfectly possible for anyone to resist the Motion that you, Sir, do leave the Chair who intended to support such opposite propositions as those put forward by the hon. Member for Northampton, the hon. Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), the hon. Member for the South-port Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon), and the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley). All those will vote against the Speaker leaving the Chair in the hope that the Motions may be reached. But the House is aware that it is impossible for us, on the present occasion, and probably impossible during the present Session, to discuss adequately the relative merits of these Amendments. The only effect of the rejection of the Motion to leave the Chair will be that a sort of assent will be given to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, and that a very incorrect view of the state of feeling in the House of Commons will be given to the country. Under these circumstances, I think that hon. Members will be well advised if they follow the advice given to the House on a similar occasion by the Leader of the Opposition—who then occupied the position of Prime Minister—and until there is some definite idea as to the reform which the House desires to see introduced in the other branch of the Legislature, to resist the Amendment, which cannot have the effect of leading to any practical reform in the constitution of the House of Lords, but which will prejudge the consideration of the question.


I will not stand for many minutes between the House and a Division. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Harrington), who has just spoken, has asked what is the meaning of this Amendment, and what is the meaning of the vote which we are going to give. My right hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) expressed clearly the view of those who sit on these Benches. The declaration which is to be given by this vote is, whether Members are or are not in favour of a reform in the House of Lords, which reform is to be based upon dealing with the hereditary principle. It is that principle which is challenged in the Amendment, and it is upon that that we vote. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne complained of the non possumus of the First Lord of the Treasury; but there is a much stronger non possumus than that of the First Lord of the Treasury. There is the influence which always emphasizes the non possumus of the Conservative Party, and that is the influence of my noble Friend. He does not think the non possumus of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House strong enough, for there was a weakness about it; there was an indication of an intention in some circumstances of entering into a reform of the House of Lords. There was no such intention in the speech of my noble Friend in any circumstance. His was a non possumus pure and simple of reform of the House of Lords under any conditions and any circumstances. How does my noble Friend argue the question? He goes back two years. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes; my noble Friend's progress is always backward. It is a sort of crustacean progress, and my noble Friend represents that element in. the Party of progress. Why, the Conservative Party have made great progress in this matter in the last two years, and he is jealous of us, because we have made some progress. There is only one man who will allow no progress, no reform, and I should not be surprised if my noble Friend was to go back half-a-century. That is my answer to my noble Friend. He says we are not even to discuss this question—that men placed in power are not to make declarations, unless they are prepared to give effect to them.


I did not lay down any doctrine of the sort. I only repeated what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothiaz.


If my noble Friend wishes to impress that doctrine upon us who are not in Office, will he not impress it still more upon his right hon. Friend opposite, because the First Lord of the Treasury said tonight that there ought to be a reform which ought to originate in the House of Lords. But what is that but making declarations without being prepared to give effect to them? Is the right hon. Gentleman who leads this House prepared to give a pledge on the lines of action laid down on the part of the Marquess of Salisbury that he will initiate in the House of Lords those reforms which the Conservative Party has declared they are prepared to carry out? If not, what becomes of the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman made to pacify the conscience of his followers? We have now got a very clear issue before us. In spite of all these non possumus evasions, from whatever source or from whatever quarter of the House they come, we have brought this matter to an issue on which a vote can and will be taken upon it. The question will be determined by this vote whether you are prepared to enter upon practical measures for the reform of the House of Lords in dealing with the hereditary principle. Upon that issue we are perfectly ready to stand and to meet you, who, having a majority in this House, and a majority in the House of Lords, have got the power to give effect to your declarations. So long as you continue to take the course of making those declarations, and of giving no effect to them, I think the country will judge of the value of them. We, at all events, are perfectly prepared to declare in this Division our views and intentions with reference to this matter.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 223; Noes 162: Majority 61.

Ainslie, W. G. Bethell, Commander G. R.
Aird, J.
Ambrose, W. Bigwood, J.
Anstruther, H. T. Birkbeck, Sir E.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Blundell, Col. H. B. H.
Baden-Powell, Sir G. S. Bond, G. H.
Bonsor, H. C. O.
Baird, J. G. A. Boord, T. W.
Balfour, rt. hon. A. J. Borthwick, Sir A.
Baring, Viscount Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.
Barry, A. H. Smith-
Bartley, G. C. T. Bristowe, T. L.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.
Bates, Sir E.
Baumann, A. A. Brookfield, A. M.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Brooks, Sir W. C.
Bruce, Lord H.
Beckett, W. Burghley, Lord
Bentinck, Lord H. C. Campbell, J. A.
Bentinck, W. G. C. Carmarthen, Marq. of
Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer Cavendish, Lord E.
Chaplin, right hon. H.
Charrington, S. Hamilton, Lord E.
Clarke, Sir E. G. Hanbury, R. W.
Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N. Hankey, F. A.
Hardcastle, F.
Coddington, W. Hartington, Marq. of
Colomb, Capt, J. C. R. Heath, A. R.
Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E. Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Ed ards-
Compton, F. Heaton, J. H.
Corbett, J. Herbert, hon. S.
Corry, Sir J. P. Hermon-Hodge, R. T.
Cotton, Capt. E. T. D. Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.
Cross, H. S.
Curzon, Viscount Hill, Colonel E. S.
Curzon, hon. G. N. Hoare, E. B.
Darling, C. J. Hoare, S.
Davenport, W. B. Holloway, G.
Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P. Houldsworth, Sir W. H.
Howard, J.
De Cobain, E. S. W. Howorth, H. H.
De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P. Hubbard, E.
Hulse, E. H.
De Worms, Baron H. Hunt, F. S.
Dixon-Hartland, F. D. Hunter, Sir W. G.
Dorington, Sir J. E. Isaacson, F. W.
Dugdale, J. S. Jackson, W. L.
Duncombe, A. James, rt. hon. Sir H.
Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H. Jarvis, A. W.
Johnston, W.
Edwards-Moss, T. C. Kelly, J. R.
Egerton, hon. A. de T. Kerans, F. H.
Elcho, Lord Kimber, H.
Elliot, hon. A. R. D. King, H. S.
Elton, C. I. Knowles, L.
Eyre, Colonel H. Kynoch, G.
Feilden, Lieut.-Gen. R. J. Lafone, A.
Lambert, C.
Fergusson, right hon. Sir J. Lawrance, J. C.
Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.
Field, Admiral E. Lawrence, W. F.
Fielden, T. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Finlay, R. B. Legh, T. W.
Fisher, W. H. Leighton, S.
Fitzgerald, R. U. P. Lewisham, right hon. Viscount
Fitzwilliam, hon. W. H. W.
Llewellyn, E. H.
Fitz-Wygram, General Sir F. W. Long, W. H.
Low, M.
Folkestone, right hon. Viscount Lowther, hon. W.
Macartney, W. G. E.
Forwood, A. B. Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.
Fowler, Sir R. N.
Fraser, General C. C. Maclean, F. W.
Fulton, J. F. Maclure, J. W.
Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E. Madden, D. H.
Making, Colonel W. T.
Gedge, S. Malcolm, Col. J. W.
Gent-Davis, R. Mallock, R.
Giles, A. Maple, J. B.
Gilliat, J. S. Marriott, right hon. W. T.
Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.
Matthews, right hon. G. J.
Gorst, Sir J. E.
Goschen, right hon. G. J. Mattinson, M. W.
Maxwell, Sir H. E.
Grimston, Viscount Mayne, Admiral R. C.
Gurdon, R. T. Mills, hon. C. W.
Hall, A. W. More, R. J.
Hall, C. Morrison, W.
Halsey, T. F. Moss, R.
Hambro, Col. C. J. T. Mount, W. G.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F. Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.
Mowbray, R. G. C. Sidebotham, J. W.
Mulholland, H. L. Sinclair, W. P.
Muncaster, Lord Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Muntz, P. A. Smith, A.
Murdoch, C. T. Spencer, J. E.
Newark, Viscount Stanhope, rt. hon. E.
Noble, W. Stanley, E. J.
Norris, E. S. Stephens, H. C.
Northcote, hon. Sir H. S. Stewart, M. J.
Sykes, C.
Norton, R. Talbot, J. G.
O'Neill, hon. R. T. Temple, Sir R.
Parker, hon. F. Tollemache, H. J.
Pearce, Sir W. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Pelly, Sir L. Vincent, C. E. H.
Penton, Captain F. T. Waring, Colonel T.
Plunket, right hon. D. R. Watson, J.
Webster, Sir R. E.
Powell, F. S. Webster, R. G.
Raikes, rt. hon. H. C. Weymouth, Viscount
Richardson, T. Wharton, J. L.
Ritchie, right hon. C. T. White, J. B.
Whitley, E.
Robertson, Sir W. T. Whitmore, C. A.
Robinson, B. Winn, hon. R.
Rollit, Sir A. K. Wodehouse, E. R.
Round, J. Wood, N.
Salt, T. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Sandys, Lieut-Col. T. M. Wright, H. S.
Young, C. E. B.
Saunderson, Colonel E. J.
Selwyn, Capt. C. W. Douglas, A. Akers-
Seton-Karr, H. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Shaw-Stewart, M. H.
Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.) Clancy, J. J.
Clark, Dr. G. B.
Acland, A. H. D. Coleridge, hon. B.
Anderson, C. H. Colman, J. J.
Asher, A. Conway, M.
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Cossham, H.
Ballantine, W. H. W. Cox, J. R.
Barbour, W. B. Cozens-Hardy, H. H.
Barclay, J. W. Craig, J.
Barran, J. Crawford, D.
Beaumont, W. B. Cremer, W. R.
Biggar, J. G. Crilly, D.
Blane, A. Crossley, E.
Bolton, J. C. Crossman, Gen. Sir W.
Bolton, T. D. Deasy, J.
Bradlaugh, C. Dillon, J.
Brown, A. H. Duff, R. W.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Ellis, J.
Brunner, J. T. Ellis, J. E.
Bryce, J. Ellis, T. E.
Buchanan, T. R. Esslemont, P.
Burt, T. Farquharson, Dr. R.
Buxton, S. C. Fenwick, C.
Caine, W. S. Ferguson, R. C. Munro-
Caldwell, J. Finucane, J.
Cameron, C. Firth, J. F. B.
Campbell, Sir G. Forster, Sir C.
Campbell, H. Fowler, rt. hon. H. H.
Campbell -Bannerman, right hon. H. Gane, J. L.
Gardner, H.
Carew, J. L. Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-
Causton, R. K. Gill, T. P.
Chamberlain, R. Gladstone, H. J.
Channing, F. A. Grey, Sir E.
Guilders, right hon. H. C. E. Grove, Sir T. F.
Gully, W. C.
Haldane, R. B. O'Connor, T. P.
Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V. O'Kelly, J.
Paulton, J. M.
Harrington, E. Pease, A. E.
Harris, M. Pickersgill, E. H.
Hayden, L. P. Picton, J. A.
Hayne, C. Seale- Pinkerton, J.
Healy, T. M. Plowden, Sir W. C.
Hingley, B. Potter, T. B.
Holden, I. Power, P. J.
Hooper, J. Price, T. P.
Howell, G. Priestley, B.
Hoyle, I. Quinn, T.
Hunter, W. A. Rathbone, W.
Jacoby, J. A. Redmond, W. H. K.
Joicey, J. Reid, R. T.
Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J. Roberts, J.
Roberts, J. B.
Kennedy, E. J. Roe, T.
Kenny, C. S. Roscoe, Sir H. E.
Kilbride, D. Rowlands, J.
Lawson, Sir W. Russell, Sir C.
Lawson, H. L. W. Samuelson, G. B.
Leake, R. Schwann, C. E.
Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S. Sheehan, J. D.
Simon, Sir J.
Lewis, T. P. Smith, S.
Lockwood, F. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Mac Neill, J. G. S. Stanhope, hon. P, J.
M'Arthur, A. Stevenson, F. S.
M'Arthur, W. A. Stewart, H.
M'Carthy, J. Stuart, J.
M'Donald, Dr. R. Sullivan, D.
M'Ewan, W. Sullivan, T, D.
M'Laren, W. S. B. Summers, W.
Mahony, P. Swinburne, Sir J.
Menzies, R. S. Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.
Morgan, right hon. G. O.
Tuite, J.
Morley, rt. hon. J. Warmington, C. M.
Morley, A. Watt, H.
Mundella, right hon. A. J. Wayman, T.
Will, J. S.
Murphy, W. M. Williams, A. J.
Newnes, G. Williamson, S.
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Wilson, H. J.
Nolan, J. Woodhead, J.
O'Brien, J. F. X. Wright, C.
O'Brien, P.
O'Brien, P. J. TELLERS.
O'Connor, A. Cameron, J. M.
O'Connor, J. Labouchere, H.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

SUPPLY.—Committee upon Monday next.

And it being One of the Clock, Mr. Speaker left the Chair without Question put.