§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
It is my duty, Sir, to-night, to call the attention of the House to the subject of the payment of Members, and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it well deserves the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, whether and under what conditions it would he expedient to revert to the ancient custom of paying Members for their services in Parliament.Now, Sir, on a previous occasion the House was good enough to grant me a very liberal measure of its attention and indulgence when I referred to this subject; and to-night, considering the circumstances by which we are surrounded, I shall again have to ask its indulgence, although I hope I may not unduly trespass on the limits of its time by the remarks which I have to make. I wish, in the first place, to make one or two observations with reference to the debate and division which followed on the occasion to which I have referred. To my mind both that debate and the division were of a highly satisfactory character, and were such as to encourage me to persevere with the object I have in view. On that occasion many of the Leaders on this side of the House, following the lead of Lord Althorp, Lord Russell, and others in 1830, spoke and voted in favour of the principle embodied in the Resolution which I moved. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow pointed out in a most forcible and able manner the anomalous condition in which the House now stands in regard to this question, by consenting to pay certain Members for political services and refusing to extend that principle to others; and, on the other hand, the Minister who replied on behalf of the Government declared that his opposition was not to the principle of the Resolution. He said, "He was not sure that the day might not come when it would be expedient to pay Members"; but he thought that day had not come. Here we have the Liberal Leaders speaking and voting for the Motion, and the Minister who re- 1180 plied on behalf of the Government, using the remarkable words I have quoted. Hon. Members will remember that my Motion was lost by a majority of 57 in a House of more than 330 Members. Perhaps the House will be interested in knowing from a Return since issued that there are 101 Members of the House who are in receipt of public money. Twenty-two receive sums under £20; 16, from £20 to £100; 19, from £100 to £500; 44, from £500 to £1,000; and, according to a Return moved for by Lord Monkswell, in the Lords, 27 Members receive sums under £20; 21 receive from £20 to £100; 23, from £100 to £500; and 80, from £500 to £5,000. In all, 252 Members of both Houses receive, in the aggregate, £814,081, and 58 of those who defeated my Motion receive, in the aggregate, £84,368, or an average of £1,454 each. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Flintshire if his Motion embraces in its terms any of those Members who receive public money, and, while doing so, voted against my Resolution; are they among the Members who "neither need nor desire payment for their services in Parliament?" My hon. Friend has the best intentions, no doubt, in putting down this Amendment to my Resolution; but I think it is a distinct case of going back on the traditions of the Liberal Party; for, as I have already pointed out, the Leaders of the Liberal Party of 60 years ago were in full sympathy with the practice to which I am now desirous of calling attention. I am asking the Government to consider whether or not it would be desirable, and under what conditions, to revert to the practice of paying Members. Under the present system it is impossible to have absolute liberty of choice between rich and poor candidates, and unless you are prepared to provide means which will afford the constituencies the most complete and perfect liberty in the choice of candidates, then I say your representative Government becomes a mere sham and delusion. The present arrangement tends entirely to the representation in this House of wealth and of the professions as well as the naval and military services. The representatives of the Services are in many cases paid out of the public funds for their services in Parliament, for it is well known that these Gentle- 1181 men who have seats in this House are, while the House is sitting, exempt from the performance of their duties with respect to the Army and Navy. Why, then, should the industrial interest be the only interest saddled with a burden in order to obtain representation in this House? I think that is an unfair, unjust, and unreasonable tax to impose on the working classes of this country. It is perfectly true that they have obtained a certain proportion of Representation in this House, but they have only been able to do so by imposing on themselves taxes which are not imposed on the richer constituencies in the country. I have no hesitation in saying that our existing arrangements are most unreasonable, and that Members of this House are called upon to make sacrifices and incur burdens which the representatives of no other country are required to make. If the Democracy—the government of the people—is to be otherwise than a delusion and a snare, it is absolutely necessary that the Government should take some steps to bring about such a condition of things as will give to the constituencies full liberty of choice in the selection of candidates. My hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) has placed an Amendment on the Paper, which I presume will, in his mind, obviate the difficulty we have now to contend with. How does he propose to meet the difficulty? By making the payment of Members a charge upon the localities. But I would point out to the House that service in this House is a service given to the general public in a public capacity; and I fail to see why the localities should be called upon to burden themselves with payment for services that are discharged in the interests of the general community. It is perfectly true that the Amendment does not state whether the levy is to be made on the whole locality or upon those only who elect the Representatives. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to enlighten the House when he moves his Amendment. With regard to the practice which obtains in other countries, as I went into that matter at some length on a former occasion I will only make this general statement now, with the exception of Italy, there is no other Representative Assembly in the world in which Members are not paid for their public services, as well as being allowed 1182 their travelling expenses. I referred to the fact that, in the United States of America, Members of Congress are paid an allowance equal to about £1,000, and it was suggested by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) that I advocated a similar allowance for Members of this House. That was a perfectly gratuitous assumption on the part of the hon. Member. I never thought of suggesting any such sum, and my own view would rather be in favour of an allowance similar to that paid to the members of the Chamber of Deputies in France, which is about £375. I venture to say that for the amount of service rendered in this House that that is not an exorbitant sum. It is said that the payment of Members will reduce the representation in this House to a profession, and that our Parliamentary institutions will be considerably degraded thereby. That is an argument which has been used against every reform. It was used in the agitation for Parliamentary reform in 1832, in 1868, and again in 1884. It was said that if you extended the Franchise, the Representatives sent to this House would prove a discredit to the dignity of the House; but on each of those occasions the prediction proved untrue, and I venture to say that it wilt prove equally untrue in the present ease. A writer in the Saturday Review says that "the payment of Members will fundamentally change the character of the House of Commons, and that the respect now paid to a Parliamentary position will to a great extent be withdrawn." The same argument has been urged against every reform, and in my opinion it is an argument based on profound mistrust of the judgment of the people. It suggests that the constituencies cannot be trusted to send Representatives to this House who will discharge their duties in a respectable and dignified manner. What does the argument mean? It means that the constituents are not to be trusted to discriminate between a trading adventurer and an able and capable man, who will look after their interests in this House. Will any hon. Member say that his constituents are not to be trusted in making a selection? Surely, if they are, why may not the rest be trusted? In putting the question in the form in which I have placed it upon the Paper, I have not been desirous of needlessly inconveniencing the Govern- 1183 ment. I ask them to consider under what conditions, if any, the practice of paying Members for their services in Parliament may be reverted to, and the fact must not be forgotten that there are 101 Members of this House who are in receipt of public money for public services, and 151 Members of the other House; therefore, I maintain that it is only in the interests of justice to extend the practice to the whole of the Representatives in this House. I know I may be told that there is no country in the world in which there is such wealth as in this, and that men are prepared to make great sacrifices in order to obtain a position in this House. At the same time, I venture to think that the services of a Representative are not given simply for the honour of a position in this House, but to enhance the value of the particular vocation in which these hon. Gentlemen are employed. We know what éclat it gives to men who are connected with the professions in the country to write after their names the magic letters "M.P." Therefore, although we have hon. Members ostensibly making sacrifices for a position in this House, those sacrifices are really made with a view to their own ultimate benefit. Therefore, believing that some such measure as this is necessary to afford the constituencies full and complete choice in the selection of their Representatives, I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
§ *MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I desire, in seconding the Resolution, to do so in as few a words as possible, because I am satisfied that nothing I can say would materially add to the force of the very cogent argument which my hon. Friend has just addressed to the House. I confess that I do not attach quite so much importance as my hon. Friend appears, from the terms of his Motion, to do to the usages of antiquity. I think that the social and economic conditions of the time when a Member of this House used to receive a wage of 2s. or 4s a day for his services were so widely different from our own, that no very useful argument can be drawn either from the adoption or the subsequent abandonment of that practice. Nor do I think that the practice of other countries, although material and important, is at all decisive of the question. It is unquestionably a 1184 fact, on which those who oppose this Motion will have to attempt to give some opinion, that there is not, with an insignificant exception, a country in the world, except Italy, where representative government exists, in which, sooner or later, directly or indirectly, the State has not been obliged to remunerate the Members of the Legislature. But I agree with those who say that this proposal must be justified in the circumstances of our own time and our own country, and, what is more, in the interest, not of this class or that, but of the nation as a whole. I have come to the conclusion—I confess, not without a good deal of deliberation—that the proposal can be justified upon that ground. Its simple, but sufficient, justification, in my judgment, is this: that its adoption is necessary in order to complete and give effect to the reconstruction upon a democratic basis of our representative system. The proposal is, to my mind, the practical complement and corollary of the franchise legislation of the last 20 years. What is the principle which underlies that legislation? It is that it is to the interest of the community—not of one class more than another—that every man, subject to certain conditions, many of which, if not all, may disappear before we are many years older, that every man should have a voice in and a responsibility for the making and the administration of the law. If that is your principle, how are you going to carry it out in practice? What is the good of giving to the great majority of the people the right to choose their representatives if, at the same time, you artificially restrict and limit the area of their choice? What, in other words, is the good of a democratic suffrage when it is as easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle as it is for a working man to get into this House? No one will deny that something like two-thirds or three fourths of the electorate of this country belong to the working class, and yet, as representing the working class in this House, we have, in point of numbers, but an insignificant fraction. I am not a fanatical believer in class representation. Natural forces have been and are at work in favour of men of wealth, leisure, and education. Those natural forces you can do nothing by legislation to cheek 1185 or counteract. But your present system, with the disparity it has brought about in the composition of the electorate and the elected, adds to the natural forces an artificial weight which they ought not to possess, and which ought to be taken away by legislation. In the first place, the enormous and excessive cost of elections which is thrown upon the candidate is a public charge that ought to be borne by the community. But, over and above that, I am convinced that so long as a man who earns his livelihood by labour cannot get a seat in Parliament), except by some special provision which throws a great and most unjust burden upon his class or constituency, the people will not have perfect freedom of choice, and cannot, therefore, give full effect to the principle of democratic legislation. Let me allude to one or two of the objections which are made to this proposal. It is said first of all that it will be expensive. I do not think that the House will seriously consider that there is much in that objection. My hon. Friend does not ask the House to commit itself to any specific figure, but has suggested a reasonable compromise between a too high and a too low view of the matter—namely, £1 a day, or £360 to £370 a-year. The total charge involved would be about £250,000 a-year. That sum might very easily be obtained without imposing any additional taxation. A small charge like this could be met by re-arranging official salaries upon a more moderate and reasonable scale, by reducing the ornamental sinecures, and by curtailing the grossly unreasonable pensions and superannuation system. In various ways economy might be effected which would easily meet the requirements of the case. With regard to the objection raised in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), who says, with apparent plausibility, why thrust the payment upon Members who do not desire it, and why not make it a matter for the consideration of the constituency itself; my answer is that if our argument is well-founded, it is a matter not of local but of national concern. Then again, the Amendment does not go to the root of the matter; and to pay Members in the way suggested by my hon. Friend would be to establish a most invidious distinction in this 1186 House. I cannot see any difference in principle between paying a Minister of the Crown a salary for the performance of administrative and executive work and paying a Member of the House a salary for the discharge of the equally important, though often much more thankless, duty of exposing the blunders of the Minister and correcting his mistakes. I never heard of Ministers, although they notoriously belong to the wealthy classes of the country, declining to receive their official salaries. I come now, lastly, to what is, after all, the most serious and the only fundamental objection to this proposal—namely, that it would demoralize us by introducing into public life a mercenary element, and by creating a class of professional politicians. I have been reading the book which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has published with regard to American institutions, and I find that the existence of a class of professional politicians is, after all, not such a very bad thing for the community. But, whether good or bad, no one who has read that book and studied the mass of information to be found in it can doubt that the very least potent of the causes which have tended to the creation of that class has been the salaries paid to Members of Congress and Members of the State Legislatures. Is it not time that in this matter as well as in others we should clear our minds of cant? To listen to some language, it might be supposed that no one enters the House of Commons but from a single-minded desire to serve his country, and that my hon. Friend who moved the Resolution is going for the first time, in this scene of Arcadian purity and simplicity, to open the door to a horde of self-seekers and place-hunters. Anyone who is really acquainted with the facts knows that that is not a fair description of the conditions of public life. Look at the Treasury Bench, or, for that matter, to the front Opposition Bench. We see on the two front benches conveniently concentrated what I may call the flower of English statesmanship. I am sorry to raise a blush upon the cheeks of right hon. Gentlemen; but, the truth is, we are so much more in the habit of listening to them than they are of listening to us, that we rarely have the opportunity of letting them know the 1187 strength and genuineness of our affectionate admiration. They are the men who, in the struggle for existence, have outpaced or trampled down all their competitors. Well, Sir, looking at these men, whose patriotism no one will call in question, will any one of them get up and say that office—I do Dot of course mean the emoluments alone, but the power, the patronage, the visible authority of which office is the symbol—will any one of them say that the chance of getting these things, the hope of keeping them, the fear of losing them, do not form a powerful motive in the political life of this country? I do not for a moment say that only of the Front Benches. It applies also to those who have never sat upon the Front Benches, but who hope some day to sit there, and to those who, having sat upon those Benches, and been exiled by the caprice of fortune, hope, some day, to get back again. Then there are the men who come here in the hope of business or professional advancement, and even the men who are moved by the vulgarest form of vulgar ambition—the desire to get into what is called society. With all these forces at work, in active operation—mixed as I agree they are, and as I know they always will be, with honest zeal for the public service, with which few of them are altogether inconsistent—can anyone seriously maintain that the adoption of this trivial proposition, for so it is, this proposition to allow a Member some £300 or £400 a-year, would substantially add to the mercenary elements by which our public life is invaded? One other remark on the subject of professional politicians. There is another sense of the term professional politician, and I do believe that the adoption of this proposal would add, and add beneficially, to the class—professional politicians, I mean, in the better sense of the word—the men who make politics the serious business of life as distinguished from the amateur or dilettante. Under our existing system there are numbers of such men excluded from the service of the State. Take the common case of a young man who has been, perhaps, through the training of a public school and university, and the bent of whose mind and abilities is in the direction of politics. He has equipped himself at all points for the work of public 1188 life, but he does not possess that modicum of fortune necessary, under our system, to become a candidate for a seat in this House. Under the old system of a hundred years ago, with all its abuses provision was made for a case like this. You had pocket boroughs, sinecures, and various forms of patronage, the acceptance of which was not thought dishonourable, according to the ideas of that day, by which a man's entrance into Parliamentary life was promoted. All this has been swept away, and rightly so, but then you have put nothing in its place. What is a man to do under such circumstances? He goes into business, or he becomes a journalist, or he enters a profession; he may even, by stress of necessity, be driven to go to the Bar. And what is the result? After his best powers, perhaps the best years of his life, have been occupied and absorbed in other pursuits, he is able at last to gratify his desire, to indulge his natural bent late in life, certainly with his powers jaded and impaired—he comes and offers to the service of the State the fag-end of his time, the dregs of his abilities. I do not wish to over-colour or overstate the matter, nor do I look forward to a time when this House will not be mainly composed of men of leisure. But this I do say: that our present system is fatally defective on two sides; on the one hand, it does not adequately and faithfully reflect the different interests and opinions of different classes of the community; and, on the other hand, it does exclude from the service of the State men whose fortune is not equal to their abilities, and by so doing it cripples the resources, the effective resources of the country, and impoverishes our public life. On these grounds I heartily support the proposition of my hon. Friend.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it well deserves the consideration of Her Majesty's Government whether, and under what conditions, it would be expedient to revert to ancient custom of paying Members for the services in Parliament,"—(Mr. Fenwick,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."1189
§ MR. G. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
Although I have listened with much admiration to the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, I cannot say that his arguments have in any degree removed my objections to this proposal. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division (Mr. Fenwick) recommends his Motion on the ground that it is a reversion to an ancient custom. No doubt there is a specious air of Conservatism about this, but I hope that no hon. Member will be so incautious as to swallow so transparent a bait. I noticed that, in his speech, the hon. Member skated very lightly over this question of ancient custom, while the hon. and learned Member who last spoke professed contempt for ancient custom altogether. As a matter of fact, ancient custom, so far from being a precedent for this proposal, is in direct opposition to it. That it was an ancient custom for Members to be paid is perfectly true. But by whom? Out of what fund? They were not, and they never have been, paid from the Imperial Exchequer. They were paid by their constituents, and so little enamoured were the constituencies with this old system that they took refuge behind every possible plea in order to escape the payment of their Members, and even consented to the worst of all horrors—total disfranchisement—rather than put their hands in their pockets to pay for their Members of Parliament. I have instances here with which I need not trouble the House, though, if an appeal is made to ancient custom, the further we go back the better, I suppose, will the illustration be. In the days of Edward II. a Member for Wiltshire, who appears to have been a very simple-minded kind of person, received 1s. 4d. a day, until it came to his knowledge that he was by law entitled to 4s., whereupon he brought an action against the Sheriff for the balance. A little later on we find that the Cambridge townsmen had a still more innocent individual as their Representative, for they compounded with him for 1s. a day for his services in Parliament. If ancient custom is appealed to, Members of Parliament may have grown more wise, but I do not suppose that constituencies have grown more foolish; and I can hardly imagine that hon. Members opposite would like, by revert- 1190 ing to ancient custom, to revive a system that often led to distraint, and that might lead, if distraint was not successful, to eviction. In fact, ancient custom, so far as it can be quoted at all, may be quoted in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), who proposes the partial resumption, under limited circumstances, of a system that was once universal, but afterwards fell into desuetude. But it certainly cannot be quoted by the hon. Member for Wansbeck, whose proposal, so far from being a return to antiquity, is a Radical innovation without warrant in previous history. Just a word or two on the question of expense. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Asquith), I was interested to observe, alluded to the financial question as not a serious one. Let us see whether it is or not. We have been told that American Senators and Congressmen are paid at the rate of £1,000 a-year, with an extra mileage for railway expenses. The hon. Member for Wansbeck also said that in Prance Senators and Deputies are paid a sum equal to about £375. I believe it is really £360. Well, I do not, for my part, see any reason why, if we are to be paid a salary, we should be rated at a lower figure than the American Congressman; but apparently the hon. Member entertains a more modest estimate of his own Parliamentary worth, or at least of the pecuniary recognition of it which the country is likely to entertain, and he is prepared to take £375. Well, there are 670 Members here; and I suppose that until representation in certain quarters of the House is reduced to more just proportions, 670 will remain the figure. The hon. Member who spoke last, working out the sum, told us that 670 times 375 gives a grand total of £250,000. Now, he said this was a trifling addition to the public expenditure. It may seem a very small thing in his eyes, but I think an expenditure of £250,000 a-year would be thought a very serious item in the country; that it would be regarded as the most serious of the questions raised by this proposal. I ask the House to note the quarter of the House from which this Motion proceeds. It comes from hon. Members whose 1191 financial consciences are so sensitive that they cannot stand the strain of putting our Naval Forces, by which alone we subsist as a first-rate Power, in a state of practical efficiency. It comes from that quarter of the House. It proceeds from hon. Members who come down here day after day, and night after night, and move reductions of paltry sums of £50 and £100 from the salaries of hon. and right hon. Gentleman on that Bench. We now find that though they are fond enough of nibbling at the salaries of others, they have very voracious stomachs indeed when it comes to asking salaries for themselves. What I feel disposed to say to hon. Members is this—"Why do you not have the courage of your opinions? If you think you ought to be paid by the country for representing it here, why do you not go down to your constituents and ask them to put their hands in their pockets and find the money for payment?" That would be a perfectly honest, and straightforward thing to do; and, what is more, it is the line that at no distant time was adopted by the Radical Party when they advocated the payment of Members. I have here a book called the "Radical Programme," which only a few years ago was regarded as indicating the high water mark of extreme Radicalism. The words therein in reference to the payment of Members are—Whatever sum should be paid to the representatives of the people, it should be a charge not on the Imperial Exchequer, but on the constituencies.Well, it appears that the Radical high water mark has receded since then. Why do not hon. Members deal frankly with their constituents, instead of coming to the House and attempting to shuffle off responsibility by throwing a charge upon the Consolidated Fund? I venture to submit to the House that there are two questions which ought to be answered before we can vote for this Motion, and to neither of which has any answer been given. Can it be shown that the House of Commons, under a system of non-payment of Members, suffers by the exclusion of men or the non-representation of classes who otherwise might be returned or represented? The hon. and learned Member for Fife says poor men are excluded, and I think the hon. Member for Wansbeck said working class repre- 1192 sentatives are excluded. Well, as regards poor men, I doubt very much whether a sum of £375 a-year, as proposed, would be the means of bringing poor men into the House, and for this reason—that it would be hardly worth while for a man, for a moderate recompense of that kind, to throw up his profession in order to run the risk of election to this House, and, even if he were returned, to run the further risk of losing his seat a little while afterwards, and being thrown upon the world with no profession at all. I may appeal to the experience in Victoria. A salary of £300 is paid there to Members of the Legislative Chamber; but it has not been found that this payment brings in poor men or working class representatives. In speaking of the latter, I hope I shall not be misunderstood. I do not mean to say one word in depreciation of labour representatives in the House; on the contrary, I think that for fairness of tone, for courtesy of manner, for contribution to Debate and to legislation, they deserve the thanks of the House of Commons. But, I think, the advantages of working-class representation can be very easily exaggerated. I think, to quote the hon. and learned Member for Fife, there is a great deal of cant talked on this subject. A few years ago we were told how desirable it was that Mr. Joseph Arch should be elected as the peculiar and special representative of the class of agricultural labourers. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite, with great liberality, paid his expenses, and he became a Member. During the six months that he was here I do not remember that he cut a very distinguished figure. I do not remember that he did, and I speak from personal recollection, for though I was not a Member of the House, I happened, from that Gallery, to hear every speech that he made. Certainly, whatever figure he cut, the first time he went back to his constituency for re-election they returned him no more, and all that good Liberal money was thrown away. I do not see that it is an argument at all, because working-class representatives behave well or creditably in this House, that, therefore, you should add considerably to their number. We have among us many Members belonging to the Services—Admirals, Colonels, and others, whose demeanour is irreproachable, 1193 and who seldom speak except on their own subjects; but no one would say that that is a reason why we should have more of them. I do not suppose the hon. Member for Northampton would say that because we have barristers among us who are sometimes able to throw off the trammels of Party subserviency and to vote according to their convictions, that, therefore, we should have more barristers. The hon. Member who brought forward this argument, said, alluding to the system under which we exist, that with a constituency of 6,000,000, three-fifths belong to the working classes Well, if that be so, then there is scarcely a Member here of whom it may not be said that he has an honest claim to be considered a working-class Representative. I observe no reluctance in any part of the House to deal with working-class measures. I remember the Coal Mines Regulation Bill and the Employers' Liability Bill, and I remember, too, of this last mentioned Bill, that it was owing to the action of the labour representatives that it was not passed into law. When hon. Members talk of interests being represented in the House, when they allude to the landed interest, the commercial interest, the banking interest, the legal interest, and to that which is the particular object of their disgust, the liquor interest, I feel disposed to answer that the labour interest, in point of numbers, importance, and influence, is more strongly represented than any other interest in this House, and that there need be no fear that with the democratic character of modern constituencies the claims of labour will be for a moment neglected. The second question which should be answered is this—If you pass this resolution, and have payment of our Members, are we likely to have a better House of Commons than we have now? I remember the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. Healy) in one of his discursive midnight sallies once described the House of Commons as one of the most ignorant bodies in the world. I took that cum grano Hibernico, as I do everything that comes from those Benches, but for my own part I would far rather have unpaid ignorance than paid ignorance. I accept the challenge of hon. Members and refer with perfect readiness to the experience of foreign countries. It sometimes seems to me 1194 an unfortunate thing that a good many Members have not had the good luck to enjoy the opportunity of travelling abroad, or at least they talk as if they had not, or, if they have, as though they had their eyes shut. There is a favourite tendency in the minds of a good many to argue that any system in foreign countries must be better than that in our own, and that because payment of representatives is the practice in other countries, therefore, it must be superior to our own system. Now, I challenge the contradiction of any hon. Member when I make the statement that the status of a deputy in no single European country that you can name can be compared with the status of a Member of Parliament here. I will go further and include the United States of America. The hon. Member who spoke last seemed to me a little indiscreet in allude ing to the work, the monumental and classical work of his colleague o then Front Bench (Mr. Bryce), for that hon. Member in his book points out clearly enough that the payment of Members of Congress in the United States was not introduced originally to enable wording men to come into Congress, but on the theory that where there was public work done it ought to be paid for, and then he goes on to say—The reasons in favour of payment are stronger than in England or France, because the distance from Washington is so great, and attendance is so continuous, that a man cannot attend to his profession or business while sitting in Congress.Further he adds—That when the Constitution was framed the number of persons with sufficient private means to put them above the need of a lucrative calling hardly existed, and is comparatively small now.Finally he sums up—The existence of the system in America furnishes no argument for its introduction into a small country with a large leisured and wealthy class.These remarks coming from the hon. Gentleman who speaks with unrivalled opportunities of forming a judgment dispose of any attempt to establish an analogy between the position of the two countries. I said that the status of a Continental Deputy is not so high as that of a Member of Parliament, and what I say of the Continent I would repeat with still greater certainty of America. It is a truism that in America the 1195 best men abstain wholly, I will not say from political life, but certainly from Parliamentary life. Do not misunderstand me. I do not say that that is due soley to the fact of payment being made to Members. It is due to a variety of causes, it is due to the system of official corruption, it is due to the place hunting system, and to many other circumstances, but incidentally, among other causes, it is due to the payment of Members. Whether you may be disposed to regard the class of professional politicians with contempt or not, when you attach payment to Membership you place it on a like footing with the other professions and you make it an object that may be sought by the poor and deserving and by working-class representatives, but that will equally be the object of the idle, the necessitous, and the unscrupulous. This has happened in other countries, and it must happen here in England. Without any hesitation whatever I say in total opposition to what has been argued by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, that the great reason why in this country Membership of the House is looked upon with such respect is that the country knows that for the most part the men who come into this House have nothing whatever to gain financially, but that on the other hand, in many cases, their entrance is a loss to themselves. ["No, no."] I speak of the bulk of Members who have nothing whatever to gain and very often a good deal to lose; and whatever be the attractions of social prestige, the desire for personal distinction or the promptings of public ambition, so artistically depicted by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, however important these influences may be in drawing men to this House, certainly the majority of them do not come here as a means of pecuniary emolument, but as a matter of public duty and personal sacrifice. I hope that the House will not be in a hurry to throw away advantages which it has already in its possession, and which, like many others, may be partly the result of accident, though I believe here, as in many other cases, that a seeming accident may be found on analysis to involve the survival of the fittest.
§ *SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I have listened most carefully to the speech of the hon. 1196 Member who has just resumed his seat, but I do not find that he has used other than the old argument against this proposal. First, on the point of economy; slender as his argument was, I think he fell into a slight inconsistency. The Motion, he said, presented a suspicious appearance coming from the quarter of the House it did, and that Members there who were always trying to reduce the salaries of other people, now brought in a Motion to introduce payment of salaries to satisfy their own voracious stomachs. But, before he finished, he told my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck, he had fixed the salaries far too low, and that in his estimation an objection to the motion was, that the salary suggested would not be sufficient for the remuneration of the great services he considers—I do not say he included himself—but I mean services rendered to the country by attendance in this House. So that it seems to me while he accused the hon. Member for Wansbeck of making an extravagant demand, he himself objected to the Motion on the ground that the proposal was not sufficient to meet the exigencies of the case. The economical objection is a very slender argument. It was brought forward by the great Party of economy on the other side, that is, by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) who looks after the pounds, and the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) who looks after the pence. The answer to the argument used by that party of economy is that this £200,000 would probably be saved by the increased attention to business on the part of paid Members. It is quite true that a good deal of attention is now paid to the Estimates, but it is attention paid by a small and devoted band of Members, whose persistency is in inverse proportion to the amount of attention they receive. I believe, if a larger number of Members of the House took continuing interest in the discussion's upon the Estimates, Ministers would feel there was a great body of public opinion behind Members, and that with far less expenditure of time, and greater economical results would be attained. Another argument has been used, that the payment of a salary would lower the character and position of a Member of Parliament, but this, I suppose, is not 1197 meant to apply to the present House, but to future Houses, for I conclude that every Member of the present House is equal to the test of standing the strain of a salary of £300. Neither do I think there is anything degrading in the fact of receiving a salary. If it is not a degrading thing in itself, then is there anything in the conditions of the work of a Member of Parliament that makes it undesirable he should receive a salary? If there is I have never heard these conditions properly defined. I have heard some vague talk about the necessity of the House being filled with men of leisure, means, and independence, and I admit that is to a certain extent desirable, but I do not admit what I think the argument is meant to imply, that because a man has leisure and because a man has means therefore he has also independence. Independence is not a monopoly of men of wealth and leisure, it exists among many classes other than those who have lands and property. It does seem to me sometimes in our excessive anxiety to make sure Members are men of leisure, we not only get the men who are by nature and habit leisurely outside the House but who introduce the nature and habit of leisure into business inside the House. The class of Members I think we want are men who by nature and habit could not be idle. If you have such a man then he must sacrifice something else to his attendance here, and I maintain that it is not unreasonable that some compensation should be given for the sacrifice of the time he would devote to work elsewhere. In fact, you cannot get this class of men admitted as freely into the House as the men of leisure and means are admitted until you introduce some compensation of this kind. I ask hon. Members who oppose this Motion to observe that this salary is not proposed by way of adequate remuneration, it is rather by way of indemnity for the trouble and expense to which a Member of the House is put by having to live in London and attend to his Parliamentary duties. It is quite true we shall have one difficulty if Members of the House are paid; accusations will be more frequently brought against candidates and Members of seeking to gain and hold the position from interested motives; 1198 and, I suppose, as long as politics exist, there will be natures which will delight to impute low and dishonourable motives to their fellows. But I am convinced that hon. Members who mean to oppose this Motion, conscious of their own integrity, will put an argument of that kind entirely on one side. Members of Parliament very soon learn to be above noticing imputations of motives, though they suffer from them, and we may abandon this objection; for it simply means that every Member of Parliament would feel it more incumbent upon him than he does now to be above suspicion altogether. In reference to professional politicians, I think the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Curzon) only looked at one side of the question as it presented itself to him—he considered who the men would be whom this change would admit into the House. But there is another question to be asked. Who are the men who, by your present condition of things, you are keeping out of the House? There is a class of men who monopolize—I hope and I think not, in fact but in name only—the title of labour representatives, of whom the hon. Member for Southport spoke with all respect. Why have we not more of these? The hon. Member for Southport brought forward a very curious reason why we have not more in the House, and that was the fact that one Member who was returned as a labour representative, and upon whom he passed some reflections that were uncalled for, had ceased to be a Member of the House, not being elected a second time. Now, I ask, may not the very fact that this Gentleman, who obtained admission to the House once was unable to obtain it a second time, may this not be a very fair argument why some change in the conditions should be introduced that would make access to the House more easy than it is now for men of his class? There is—I will not say another class—but other members of the same class, of whom we hear a great deal out of doors, but never meet a representative in this House—I mean the Conservative working men. Why should not the door of the House be thrown open to them? If it is open at the present time, then what is the obstacle that prevents them from appearing here? I, for one, am perfectly willing to do my best to have the obstacle 1199 removed. Then in regard to the character of Members. I would ask the House to consider how many constituencies there are at the present time in which men of known and tried character, and held in high estimation by their friends and neighbours, would naturally be selected as candidates, but who cannot come forward simply because they cannot afford the expense of coming to town and throwing up their local duties? How many constituencies who, in all respects but this, have a candidate ready to hand, have to accept a Member sent down from elsewhere—a man, perhaps, perfectly fitted to be a Member, but not intimately known to the constituents, as a man would be who lived among them. It is quite true we might have a certain rush of candidates, and that might confuse Party organization; but I think the burden of that inconvenience would fall more heavily upon the Liberal than on the Tory Party. The Tory Party have always been the Party of obstruction. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not use the word in its Parliamentary sense. I use it as opposed to construction. I will say that both Parties are Parties of progress, but that our progress has been more rapid and continuous than that of the Party opposite; and this leads me to the conclusion that I think it would be found that, in the increase of candidates, an undue proportion would be found standing on our side. When you are advancing fast it is much harder to keep your line even and unbroken than if you are waiting to receive a charge. But, after all, Party organization must take care of itself, and adapt itself to any change. I do not think it has any bearing on the merits of the question. What is the advantage to be gained? It is one that has been impressed upon me more strongly than ever by reading recent speeches of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). He has lately inculcated most emphatically this doctrine—that outside the House of Commons people are only to seek redress for their grievances by efforts inside the House of Commons. It is to the House of Commons, said the right hon. Gentleman, the people outside must look for redress of all grievances; must place entire dependence on the House, and absolute confidence in the decision of the House. I agree that 1200 is a doctrine of great weight and importance; but if it is to carry the weight and importance it ought to carry with the country, then the choice of candidates by constituents for seats in the House must be as far as possible absolutely free. If they feel fettered in their choice they will refuse to pay that absolute, implicit, and unquestioning deference to the will of the House that the right hon. Gentleman wishes they should give. The hon. Member for Southport devoted part of his speech to the support of the Amendment given notice of by the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), declaring that if Members were to be paid the constituencies ought to pay them. I disagree entirely with that, and I think the hon. Member for Fife is right; it would introduce an invidious distinction, and would do more—far more than anyone has said this Motion would do—to destroy the independence of Members. If a Member were liable to have his salary granted or withheld or reduced according as he pleased his constituents, he would become the slave of the constituency; but I maintain that by granting the payment from the Consolidated Fund you make a man, not the slave of a particular constituency, but you make a Member of Parliament what he ought to be—the servant of the country at large. I think the constituencies may be trusted in the matter. My hon. Friend is asking the House to do a hard thing, and I have no doubt many Members see in their mind's eye half-a-dozen possible candidates ready to spring into existence in his own constituency, if only the means are supplied, and to whom he is asked to throw the door open. Well, I do not think a Member need fear if he stands on his own merits. No one who has attended large meetings throughout the country can possibly doubt that while constituencies often make mistakes as regards opinions and political views, and even as to the abilities or genius of a particular candidate they are seldom mistaken as to that man's moral character. Everyone who has attended large public meetings must have seen the man of earnestness and integrity get a hold and grip on the character of the audience not attained by the speeches of men who seem to be shallow in their earnestness or hollow in their convictions. If 1201 that is so, the logical outcome of our constitution is that a large choice of candidates should be open to constituents. That is a demand entitled to be made on the merits of the case. I for one have that confidence in the constituencies that I would not be afraid to trust them with a very extensive choice of candidates, believing that they would exercise that choice and that responsibility in the future, as in the past, with careful discrimination of the characters of the men who come before them.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
Out of respect for the hon. Member who has brought forward his annual Motion, it is due that I should say a few words. The hon. Member who has just sat down concluded his speech with some observations that were somewhat at variance with what fell from his Friends who had preceded him. The constituencies, he said, could be trusted, from their fine moral sense of character, to discover if a candidate were actuated by motives above all personal considerations and superior to vulgar, selfish aims, and that they had exercised that faculty in the past. But according to the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, apparently constituencies have not the skill to discover those persons who are looking simply to prestige and power, or whose sole object in coming to the House is to achieve personal distinction. Another set of men of whom, according to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, the House is largely composed, are those who are open to the degrading imputation of seeking to gratify the most vulgar form of vulgar ambition. All these then must have escaped the fine sense of the constituencies of which the hon. baronet spoke, and I would therefore recommend him to consider his absurd proposition, that the adventurer who may be tempted by the proffered salary is certain to be instantly detected by those whose suffrage he solicits. The hon. Member, in introducing his Motion, again gave a long list of those who, being Members of the House, receive payment from the State in some form, and he included all Ministers of the Crown, all who receive official salaries, and also Naval and 1202 Military officers on half pay; and he assumes that these last receive this half pay for services in Parliament, inasmuch as they are discharging no other duty. This is an altogether preposterous proposition. Such public money as these officers receive is due to them for past professional services totally unconnected with their presence in this House, which does not set them free from liability to active service. The position of a Naval or Military officer in this House does not exempt him from service in his profession if the claims of duty require it from him. There are a certain number for whom the time of active duty has ceased, and the public money they receive is due to them for past services. It is a most extravagant exaggeration of facts to include these officers—any of them—as receiving half-pay for services in the House. Then the hon. Member said that industry and labour alone were saddled with taxation to get representation in the House. But what does a lawyer receive by way of remuneration for representing a constituency in Parliament? What does the commercial man receive? Where is the country gentleman that receives payment to induce him to come here and devote his time and attention to public affairs? It is quite clear that the principle the hon. Gentleman lays down has no general application at all. Another argument lies at the root of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, that unless you give salaries to poor men, poor men are practically incapacitated from entering Parliament at all, and so you limit the free choice of constituencies, preventing them from electing Members they would desire to elect. He says you add artificially to the natural influence of wealth. Well, I do not know whether his argument would not carry him much further. If it is the duty of the House to level the distinction between wealth and poverty, does the hon. and learned Member mean to contend that the payment of £375 will produce any thing like a position of equality as regards candidature? Would this tempt a poor man to leave his profession, would this fill up the distinction of level between the rich man and one who is not blessed with equal fortune? The argument as to freedom of choice should be met by the constituency themselves giving their Mem- 1203 ber that which the hon. Member for Berwick calls an indemnity. Considerable skill and discretion have been shown by hon. Members who have conducted the debate from the other side in avoiding a difficult position that would arise. Of course there is a certain plausibility in saying that to enable a poor man to go to Parliament in discharge of a public duty you must give him such indemnity as will dispense him from the necessity of earning his livelihood by labour; but is that payment to be compulsory to those who do not want any such indemnity? I gather that the system is to be compulsory—that those who do not want it are to be forced to accept it, for the obvious reason that else you would establish an invidious distinction between paid and unpaid Members. But with what semblance of justice can you compel 570 Members of the House to receive a remuneration they do not want, in order to spare the feelings of the other hundred Members, who otherwise would dislike to take the remuneration they do want. I believe I am putting the figure rather high. I believe that if men had the option of being paid a remuneration under any possible set of circumstances likely to arise at any time, not nearly so many would come forward and claim the salary For various reasons the great majority of the House would decline, and so you would have this great principle introduced in order to gratify the choice of some few constituencies who sent Members to Parliament who did not want the salary. Then there is another material difficulty which Mover and Seconder have overlooked somewhat, and that is the provision of the money. I apprehend it is proposed to throw the charge on the Consolidated Fund, and, perhaps, hon. Members may consider this a trifling expenditure—this quarter of a million to carry out a Radical reform. This charge is to be thrown on the whole of the country, in order that some few Members may discharge the duties of their position with convenience to themselves. I do not think that this is altogether fair to the general body of taxpayers. I do not propose to enter into the various public and general considerations that arise in connection with the proposal; but let me just mention that the general rule and principle followed in this country has been 1204 hitherto that the greater part of our public work—I may say certainly a most important part—has been unpaid work.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Member is perfectly well aware that Ministers who receive a salary for their official work were for a long time excluded from this House, and it was only the consideration of the absolute necessity of having them here that led to their being permitted to have seats in the House. But I was saying a large amount of public work and most valuable work in the country is unpaid, and all the better done for being unpaid. I do not mean to say a line of distinction is easily drawn; I do not mean to say that administrative work can be discharged by unpaid services as effectively as can work such as that of Select Committees, for instance; but there is a vast deal of public work, useful work, performed at present without payment, for which, if you admit the principle of payment to Members of Parliament, you should, to apply the principle consistently, pay. We have just created a large number of County Councillors. Borough Councillors, of course, have existed for a long time—there are magistrates, sheriffs, jurors, and many others who discharge most important functions absolutely without remuneration. Can anyone say it is necessary to change the whole system by which this work has hitherto been done from a sense of public duty, and with, perhaps, a feeling of pride derived from the consciousness of doing good public service? Can anyone say the work would be better done if paid for? How far, too, should the principle of payment be extended? If you point to the example of foreign countries, where services of this kind without payment are absolutely unknown, I reply that it is pre-eminently a characteristic that distinguishes this country to its credit that there is a stronger display of public spirit. I deny that the poor man elected by a constituency as the best man they can find for their representative need be prevented by his poverty from sitting in the House. I do not want to enter into particulars; but instances will occur to many hon. Members where men who certainly might be described as poor have in different ways which I need not 1205 particularize found the means of discharging their duty as Members. I believe the means can always be found if a man is the free choice of a constituency. It would be invidious to select particular instances. Originally it was the custom of wealthy patrons to assist young men to enter the House, and I do not believe the modern democracy will be less generous than the patrons of old days. There will be no difficulty, where a man is selected as worthy of the confidence of a constituency, in providing him with the means of taking his seat. The argument that you will avert those evil consequences dreaded by hon. Members opposite, by converting unpaid into paid services, seems to me overstated, and not founded on experience. I do not say that, from the fact of being paid, a man necessarily receives less respect and social consideration, but, at any rate, the fact of there being no payment saves a Member from the suspicion of one more inducement added to those so eloquently enumerated by the hon. and learned Member for Fife. I do not say payment degrades a man—payment for good work never degrades—but I do say that the position of Members would be more open to suspicion, more open to the reproach that they were not earning their salary. This would be thrown in their teeth by the constituencies, and they would be called to account and reminded that they were expected to speak, not because they had something to say, but because they were paid to speak.
§ *MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
The right hon. Gentleman finds some inconsistency between the speeches of hon. Members on this side, but I do not think that any of us who advocate the payment of Members would affirm a proposition that constituents never make mistakes, and, indeed, under a system of payment of Members, it is not unlikely that selections may be as extraordinary in the future, in some cases, as they have been in the past. But one reason why selections have been unfortunate is that on our side, at all events, the limit of the field within which candidates can be selected is an extremely restricted one. By payment of Members you would have a much wider field of recruitment than at present. Hon. Gentlemen 1206 should, I think, take note of the fact that the wealth of the country is not so much found on our side as on theirs; and, therefore, I think they will admit that on this matter alone we are placed at some disadvantage in the matter of the selection of Members. Our candidates, in many respects, are hopelessly handicapped. The right hon. Member opposite mentioned the circumstance that some of the labour representatives in this House are returned under conditions which will be perpetuated; that is to say, their expenses being subscribed by their constituents. Well, I think he must see that Members who are now returned to the House with their expenses paid come here with their hands far more tied than they would under any system of payment by the country. They are far more pledged to the constituencies. It must be extremely difficult for an hon. Member who is returned to this House under such circumstances to give that free and independent vote which is so much desired in the best interests of the House, and without which your representative is very likely to become your delegate. The right hon. Gentleman referred to unpaid work as compared with paid work, and no doubt there is a great deal in the contention that so long as we can find proper men to do the work without pay, we do not require to pay for the work being done. But it does not follow that the paid men will not do the work better. In Scotland the Magistracy is paid, and no argument could induce the Scotch people to go back to the system of unpaid Magistrates, although the system is found to work well in England. I do not, like some hon. Members, attach much value to the historical precedents which have been brought forward; neither do I attach value to the precedents of foreign countries, although, as they are living compared with the others that are dead, they are entitled to more consideration. My hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Curzon) referred to the system of representation in the United States of America. For my own part, I am not so sure that Congress occupies so low a position as compared with our legislative system as is often assumed; and as to the cost to Congress men, if one enters into detail at all it is easy to prove that the cost of living in America is certainly double 1207 what it is in England, and on that ground alone there is reason for paying the representatives more than we would have to pay here. There is one matter in regard to the American Congress which should commend itself to public opinion in this country, and that is that the American House of Representatives is less than half as numerous as the present House of Commons. With the present unwieldy House of Commons no doubt the cost of paying Members will be very great, but I should hope that the passing such a Motion as this would act as a lever to induce the House to reduce the number of representatives and so establish a more effective Chamber. We, on this side, when we propose the large additional expenditure which would be involved in the payment of Members are taunted with our opposition to increased expenditure on the naval defences of the country; but in reply to that taunt I would point out that the Admiralty themselves are doubtful as to the expediency of this increase, as is shown in the contradictory statements of the First Lord from time to time. This proposed salary of £365 a-year is not meant to attract men within these walls, but if such a salary were paid to Members of Parliament, it would have the effect of enabling poorer men to come within the walls of this House if they wish to do so and constituencies wish to send them. So long as the working classes have not a free selection of candidates, there cannot be a real representation of the people. Under a system of payment I believe that we shall have a better House of Commons, and that we shall get more men who come here to work. I think that as constituencies have shown in the past that whenever good men come forward they have a good chance to get in, so they may be trusted to select good representatives under a system of payment. I do not think they are likely to accept any charlatan who comes before them without asking his former character. Of course there must always be some risk in dealing with new recruits, and with an unwieldy Chamber such as this, and my eyes are by no means shut to such a disadvantage; but I think it has been pointed out with sufficient clearness that this country having embarked on a system of de- 1208 mocracy we should endeavour to make it effectual, and I trust hon. Gentlemen opposite will join in making it so, instead of endeavouring to shirk the inevitable.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
I desire to say that my constituents do not wish Members to be paid. I believe that if any constituency wishes to be represented by any person who is unable to pay his own expenses they can easily make a collection and pay them for him. The hon. Member opposite would lead the House to suppose that a great number of the Members of the two Services in the House are on full pay. But, as a matter of fact, out of all the Service Members in the House there are only some two or three who are on full pay and eligible for employment. The others are on the retired list, and some, like myself, receive remuneration from the State for past services, and not on account of connection with the House. I shall on all occasions vote against the payment of salaries to Members of Parliament.
MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down into any discussion with respect to naval and military pensions, and I have never felt that the practice prevailing over Europe, excepting in Italy and in the United States, is a strong argument in this matter. I believe that our own position is so peculiar historically, economically, and geographically, and differs so much from that of the United States or a country like France which has broken with its past, or a country like Germany, that we cannot found, any strong argument on their action in this matter. But I am convinced that the subject is one in which the mass of our constituents, Conservative and Liberal, are taking an increasing and ever-deepening interest. It is absurd to pretend that by the mere extension of the franchise we are anxious to have in this House complete representation of all classes and sections of our society, if at the same time you narrow the latitude of choice by making it practically impossible for more than an extremely limited number of the working classes to find their way into the House. The Home Secretary, in language which surprised me very much, said—"Oh, there would be no difficulty at all in the case of a workman who could not provide 1209 for himself while in this House in providing means to secure his seat and to maintain him while occupying that seat." If that has been the experience of the right hon. Gentleman it is very different from my own personal observation. I believe there has been the greatest difficulty experienced in raising funds to pay the election expenses of what are called the labour representatives, and more difficulty still in obtaining funds to maintain them whilst in this House. I do not wish to refer to personal cases, but it is well known to all Members of this House that there are two labour representatives who, a year ago, were placed in circumstances to which great objection might fairly be taken by them, or their friends, in consequence of the reluctance on the part of their constituents to continue the fund on which they had been led to rely. This is a matter of fact. I think the Home Secretary is mistaken as to the fact. The right hon. Gentleman says that this will mean an increase of taxation to the extent of about £300,000, and he says, fairly enough, that that would not in itself be a great recommendation of this proposal to the constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that, while we advocate this proposal, we are not prepared to pursue a policy which, in other respects, will recoup the Exchequer for this outlay. But that is an expenditure which has been attacked, not very systematically as yet, but which is certain to be energetically attacked more and more, and which will be perfectly adequate to meet the demands proposed to be laid on the Exchequer. Then it is said that five-sixths of the Members of the House will refuse to receive the salaries. Well, I have never heard of the richest Peer in the Realm ever refusing to take his £5,000 a-year, or of any other Minister refusing to take his salary to the last farthing, and I think they are quite right. The sums paid to them by Parliament are in the nature of an indemnity for the sacrifice of time and professional advancement which a seat in Parliament details. On that ground I cannot give my assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Flintshire. It would be most invidious, and defeat the very object we have in view, to cast the charge upon the localities. For my part, I am going with greater 1210 confidence than before to vote for this proposal. The great political writer Mill, from whom I learnt and was glad to learn earlier ideas in politics, was strongly against this proposal. He said it would lead to the admission of a great number of sycophants and flatterers of the mob. Well, for some time I thought so too, but experience has shown that there is no force in it. I think with the hon. Baronet who spoke from this side of the House that we have now had considerable experience of elections taking place with a low franchise, and I appeal to any Member of this House whether in all these instances character has not had more to do with the election than a mere concurrence in the opinions of the constituency? The more free we make the choice, the wider we make it, the more likely is the constituency to choose a man who will not be a sycophant or a flatterer, and in whose independence we can have confidence. There are, no doubt, other reasons which make me vote for this proposal. It is perfectly clear that we are going to have in this House in the next few years most serious discussions pointing in the Socialist direction. If we want to meet the attacks, some passionate attacks against class legislation, depend upon it it is our interest to leave no stone unturned to make the choice of the electors as wide as possible, and make the access to this House as open as possible to every member of the community, however poor he may be. On these "grounds I shall support the proposal.
§ *MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
As I understand I am precluded by the Rules of the House from moving the Amendment in my name, I should like to offer some general observations on the question before the House. At the outset, I would say that it is not without anxiety that I put myself in opposition to Members for whom I have so much respect. No Members have won a more honourable place than the "labour Members," and it is, therefore, with some hesitation that I speak against the proposal before the House. But I think this is a question which should not be decided merely on abstract considerations. This debate 1211 has, to some extent, been conducted upon abstract and logical considerations. But what weighs with me, and what I think will weigh with the House in the long run, is the larger and broader point of view—namely, what is best for the welfare of the country. The present proposal is one which would have very far-reaching effects. England, above all countries, has been distinguished for many years for the public spirit of its citizens. There is no other country in the world where there is anything like the amount of gratuitous, unpaid labour that there is here. Not only have we unpaid work in Parliament, but in the innumerable Boards scattered all over the country; our voluntary system has become a habit and tradition of the country; and I think this public spirit is the very salt of our social and political life. It keeps the administration of our affairs free from corruption; it maintains a high level and standard of duty such as I think you will find in no other country in the world. I do not think you can change the constitution of Parliament without affecting our public life at its very roots. To introduce the system of paid Members of Parliament will be to supplant the voluntary with the professional politician. And I cannot but remember what I have seen in other countries—the United States in particular—and I believe the introduction of paid Members would sooner or later lower the character of this House. You may depend upon it, Mr. Speaker, that if we have payment of Members of Parliament we shall soon have payment of Members in Town Councils and County Councils, School Boards and Boards of Guardians, the Magistracy, and all those public bodies with which the country is covered. This is, so to speak, the thin end of the wedge. We are discussing now, not merely the payment of a few hundreds of Members of Parliament, but we are discussing the ultimate payment of 10,000, or 20,000, or 30,000 persons holding public offices throughout the country and doing their work both honestly and 1212 gratuitously. What have been the consequences in other countries of the adoption of this course? We could not expect this country to escape from the degradation of politics which has taken place in France. And we all know what exists in the United States of America. It is urged that the adoption of payment of Members will bring a large number of working men's representatives into Parliament. I do not believe it. Where the system does exist we do not find that working men are elected. So far as I am aware, not a single working man sits at Washington at the present moment—at least, I have never heard of any; nor have I ever heard of any in France. ["Oh!"] It may be that there are, but I have never heard of any. I must confess, however, that I do not know so much of France as I do of the United States of America, where I spent some time as a young man, and where I never heard of a single case. My own opinion is that we have a larger number of working men in this Legislature than has any other Legislature. [Mr. JAMES ROWLANDS: No.] My hon. Friend says "No," but I shall be glad if he can prove that is not the case. I say the payment of Members of Parliament would tend to bring in not a larger number of working men, but a large number of place-hunters, men whom I must call self-seeking demagogues, who abound in those countries where payment of Members exists. Will the House permit me to give an account of my impressions formed when, as a young man, I visited the United States. At that time the state of politics was simply deplorable, and I ask the attention of the House to what I witnessed both before after the Civil War. I do not believe and that in any country or in any age corruption attained to such enormous dimensions as it then did in New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and, indeed, in most of the large cities of America. In most of the State Legislatures and the National Legislature, the state of politics and of public life was also very bad. In New York, municipal affairs were entirely under the control of what was called the Tammany ring. A parcel of scoundrels, a set of thieves, got entire possession of the municipal government, and in the course of a very few years these men stole out of the 1213 City Treasury the sum of £4,000,000 sterling. These men were all attracted to politics as a money-making profession. In ten years the public debt of New York was raised from 20,000,000 to 100,000,000 dollars; and the taxation which early in the century was ½ per cent on the value of property, rose to more than 2½ per cent per annum on the capital value of the property. That is to say, that supposing house property on the average yielded 5 per cent, the taxation represented 50 per cent. of the income. I believe, as a matter of fact, the owners of mortgages in New York did pay 50 per cent. This enormous amount was necessary to make up the defalcations and laches of those scoundrels who embezzled the finances of the City. There was more or less the same state of things in every large city in the country, and it existed to a great extent at Washington itself. I have often been asked why the citizens did not make an effort to overcome this state of things, and to get affairs into their own hands. Good citizens did make very strenuous efforts, and after striving laboriously for years and years with scant success, they did at length succeed in turning out the Tammany ring; but I believe that since then many of the abuses have again sprung up. When I was in New York, there were corrupt Judges in the pay of these men, who were dismissed years afterwards, and who had acquired large fortunes out of their disgraceful practices. Now, Sir, allusion has been made to-night to the admirable work of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce's "American Commonwealth.") I have had great pleasure in reading through the greater part of that work: and I believe it will be the standard book on America for many years to come. I would like hon. Members to listen to a little extract which I am about to read. Mind you, Mr. Speaker, this is the deliberate conclusion come to by my hon. Friend after repeated visits to the United States during some twenty years, and with the most perfect knowledge of the American system of politics which I venture to think has been acquired by any Englishman:—Politics has now become a gainful profession, like advocacy, stock broking, the dry goods trade, or the getting up of companies. People 1214 go into it to lire by it, primarily for the sake of the salaries attached to the places they count on getting. Secondarily, in view of the opportunities it affords of making incidental and sometimes illegitimate gains. Every person in a high Administrative Post, whether Federal, State, or Municipal, and, above all, every member of Congress, has opportunities of rendering services to wealthy individuals and companies for which they are willing to pay secretly in money or in money's worth. The better officials and legislators—they are the great majority, except in large cities—resist the temptation. The worst succumb to it and the prospect of these illicit profits renders a political career distinctly more attractive to an unscrupulous man.That is the state of things at the present moment in America. Some say that an improvement has taken place. I believe that improvement is very slow indeed, Now, what I assert is, tha like causes produce like effects, and what you see in America to-day you would probably see in England 50 years hence if you introduced a similar system of paid representatives. I have observed that whatever custom, fashion or abuse finds a place in America sooner or later becomes acclimatized here, and after a certain number of years affects us as it affected the people there. Now, as we are aware that in America the system of paid professional politicians has led to these abominable abuses, I say that, in the course of time, when full opportunity has been given to work out the system in this country, we shall see similar effects here. Parliament is now free from corruption; but, with paid Members, we should, 20, or 30, or 50 years hence, when the present Leaders of Party had been taken away, see a very different state of things. In Washington's time the American Republic began on virgin soil, and it had statesmen of the highest character at the head of affairs. It took 50 years of the professional politician system to entirely change all that. I say that after we have had a generation of paid Members, under the same conditions as in America, there is too much reason to believe the same fruits will be produced in this country. Just conceive what it will be to put into the bands of a body of professional politicians, largely living by politics, the control of £120,000,000 of local and Imperial taxation! Con- 1215 sider what would be the consequences of entrusting to Committees drawn from this class Private Bill legislation involving enormous sums. Take as an illustration the Manchester Ship Canal. There was an enterprize dealing with £8,000,000 of money; it was promoted as determinedly on the one side as it was opposed on the other, and each side spent some £100,000 or more in Parliamentary expenses. The decision was left to a small Committee of five Members; and we have never had a suggestion or a whisper as to the honesty or uprightness of those members. But go to the United States, and you will find in respect of such undertakings that each side provides a large amount for "blackmailing," and if it wishes to carry a Bill, it will have to disburse heavily from this Secret Service fund. This Secret Service fund is disbursed to a large extent among members of the Committees. It is a notorious fact that it is almost impossible for any great Corporation in America to carry through its work without putting aside a large amount of money for "lobbying," and for secret and unavowed purposes. There is a class called "lobbyists" in America, whose profession it is to get through Bills. They receive large sums of money of which they give no public account, for it is perfectly well understood that they could not be publicly vouched for. I see from the accounts of one railway quoted in this book (Mr. Bryce's) that it had put aside no less than 4,800,000 dols. for this Secret Service Fund, or nearly a million sterling, in the last few years. Will the House permit me to read a short extract from my hon. Friend's book on this system of lobbying? It is well that we should know something about this system, which may some day migrate to this country; and from what I saw during the time I resided in America, I can vouch for the truth of every word of what I am about to read:—The doors of Congress are besieged by a whole army of commercial or railroad men and their agents, to whom, since they have come to form a sort of profession, the name of 'Lobbyists' is given. Many Congress men are personally interested, and 'lobby' for themselves among their colleagues from the vantage ground of their official positions. That the capital and the hotels at Washington are a nest of such intrigues and machinations while 1216 Congress is sitting, is admitted on all hands; but how many of the members are tainted no one can tell.How long, I ask, could you keep such a system out of England if you once admitted the professional class of politicians? I hold that it is true patriotism to face these facts, and take due cognizance of them, rather than rush into a change of which many are unable to estimate the ultimate consequences, and not improbably the majority of those who now promote it will, in the end, deeply regret their share in its introduction. Under our present political system, although there is far too much of party bitterness, there are few countries in the world in which politicians are so free from the charge of corruption, or where such a thing as the acceptance of a bribe by a Member of the Legislature, is so absolutely unknown. This was not always the case; but happily it has now become so, and I say that this immunity from political venality is to us a priceless possession. There is, however, an increasing tendency to widen the area of politics and to suck into their vortex one interest after another. Among other evidences of this I have been sorry to observe the tendency that has been exhibited of late to identify the heads of the Civil Service Departments with party politics. This is what, more than aught else, has been the ruin of the American system. In that country, whenever the Government changes lands upwards of 100,000 officers employed in the Service of the State are turned out to make room for the adherents of the victorious party. I believe that not quite so extensive a clearance has accompanied the latest change of Government; but still, the system is it now exists is a detestable one and utterly destructive of anything like good or honest government. The men who obtain office under such a system know that they must feather their nests in a short time—about four rears at most—and the consequence is that they too often contrive, in one way or another, to carry on the feathering process with more or less success—some of them going into office poor, 1217 and coming out rich men. If the working of the political machinery of this country were placed in the hands of professional politicians like these, do you not think the time will come when they will use the power with which they may be invested in the same manner as is the case in America? The temptation would be found irresistible. It would be too much for our poor human nature; for, after all, we are made of the same clay as the Americans. Both are of the Anglo-Saxon race, and it would be assuming a great deal too much to say that the evils which now occur in America could not occur here. I hold that if we are placed in the same position we will witness similar results. The fact is that the American "machine," as it is called, is worked from top to bottom by a class of men who try to make as much out of it as they can. My hon. Friend, the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has given us a description of this "American machine," the working of which is an illustration of what comes from handing over the political power of the country to unscrupulous politicians who intend to make money out of it. [Several hon. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I say to those hon. Members who cry "Oh!" that anyone who knows anything about the working of the political machinery of America will testify to the fact that, to a large extent, the political business of that country is put into the hands of men who would not be trusted in this. Here is what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen says about the American machine:—Observing the forms of consulting the voters, it substantially ignores them, and forces on them persons whom they do not know, and would dislike if they knew them. It substitutes for the party voters generally a small number of professionals and their creatures, extracts pre-arranged, nominations, from packed meetings, and calls this consulting the pleasure of the sovereign people…. It is less trouble to put up with impure officials, costly city government, a jobbing State legislature, an inferior sort of Congressman, than to sacrifice one's own business in the effort to set things right. Thus the machine works on and grinds out places, power, and the opportunities for illicit gain to those who manage it.These "machines" are worked by a person called the "Boss," who discharges the function of pulling the wires. Now, with us the wire-puller is, as a 1218 rule, free from corrupt motives—although a strong partizan; but in most of the States in America, the man who controls the party machine, who pulls the strings and gives the bias to the side to which he belongs, is this so-called "Boss," of whom Mr. Bryce says:—It must not be supposed that the members of Rings, or the great Boss himself, are wicked men. They are the offspring of a system. Their morality is that of their surroundings. They see a door open to wealth and power and they walk in. The obligations of patriotism or duty to the public are not disregarded by them, for these obligations have never been present to their minds.I need not read more; but I would repeat, that if you make politics a gainful profession you will soon find that you have commenced the descent of a steep gradient and will be unable to stop until you have landed yourselves in the quagmire of the American system, the motto of which is "The spoils belong to the victors." I have been quoting from the ablest book on America that has been published in our time—a book which is regarded as a masterpiece in America. Besides this, I wish to remind the House that I have many relatives and friends in America, and that in what I am saying I speak of that which I personally know. I hope the House will not suppose that I am attacking the great American nation. I am one of those who esteem and honour the Americans, and I have said nothing which most of my American friends would not say themselves or have not already said to me times out of number. I feel assured that if you had some of them in this House to night they would say exactly what I have said, and would add that they groan under their existing political system and wish to Heaven they could alter it; but that it is coiled around them in such a way that it is impossible to unwind the coils. We in this country would be crushed under so demoralising a system; but America has such enormous resources that the people do not feel anything like the pressure we would have to endure. They have nothing like the mass of poverty nor the congested populations we have 1219 in this country, and we cannot afford to make such experiments as the Americans are able to indulge in. In spite of the political corruption prevalent in their midst, the Americans are a most energetic, active, and prosperous people, they have resources which we do not possess; we cannot afford to play the pranks or run the risks they have no hesitation in encountering, and the Americans are, consequently, able to flourish under a state of things that would be ruinous to an old crowded country like ours. There is much more excuse for the system of paying Members in America than here; they have not the leisured class we have, neither have they the same amount of public spirit as animates the class from which, in this country, our legislators are derived. You do not see first-rate men in America applying themselves to politics as we do here, and I, for one, doubt very much whether it would be possible to govern America without a system of payment running from top to bottom. Here, however, there is no necessity for such a state of things. There is no difficulty in any English constituency in finding men ready to become candidates for Parliamentary honours, to serve any office they might be entrusted with, or even to devote their whole lives to their legislative duties gratuitously. Nevertheless, I can fully sympathise with the motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick); and if I could see some via media whereby it would be possible, in a limited number of cases, to provide payment for a certain proportion of poor men who might be elected as Members of this House, I should be willing to accept such a proposal. But I do not think we would find 50 Members of this House who really desire to be paid; and, putting aside the representatives of the working-class, I very much doubt whether there are more than 20 or 30 British Members who have this desire. I put it to the House, therefore, is it desirable that we should thrust on the enormous majority of unwilling Members a payment which is only demanded in the interests of a very small number? As I fear I have already occupied too much of the time of the House, I will now conclude. I would merely add that the view I have put forward is that entertained by the great Tribune of the 1220 people whose eulogium we have this evening heard pronounced from both sides of the House. The late Mr. John Bright was opposed to the payment of Members of Parliament. I hope that the House will not abandon the system of gratuitous and voluntary service, but that it will keep up the standard of English public life, and hand down to posterity the priceless boon of an incorruptible Parliament.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I think that a constituency have a perfect right if they consider a man is indispensable to them, to pay him for being here. But my own constituency does not take the view that its representative should be paid. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division (Mr. Fenwick) seemed to think that there are sailors and soldiers in the House who have an unlimited draw upon the public purse. I have served in the Army myself, but that has nothing to do with my presence in the House, and the same may be said of nine out of ten of the admirals and officers who have seats in it. The payment of members in Victoria is not likely to add strength to the hon. Member's argument, and as for the United States, I believe that the system is becoming decidedly unpopular. If we are to pay Members of Parliament I do not see why we should not also pay town councillors, county councillors, and even magistrates. Members will be in an extremely unfortunate condition if on going back to their constituents they tell them that, although they have not been able to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take a penny off the Income Tax, or have not succeeded in reducing the Estimates, they have secured for themselves £365 or £500 a year a piece. It seems to me that the real solution of the question is not payment of Members while in the House, but the facilitating of the entrance of Members to the House by reducing as far as possible the enormous initial expenses, and providing State system of registration of electors.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House was counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at Twenty-five minutes before Nine o'clock, till Monday next.