HC Deb 01 March 1894 vol 21 cc1146-64

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Lords Reasons, and the Lords Amendments to the Amendments last made by the Commons, and the further Consequential Amendments to the Bill, be considered forthwith.


Sir, the more usual course in this House in dealing with the Lords Amendments to a Bill which has been sent by us to the Lords is to take the Amendments seriatim, but on the present occasion it has been found necessary by the Government to regard them as a whole, and to arrive at their own decision upon them as a whole. Therefore, I think it more convenient that, as far as we are concerned, we should inform the House of what we propose and what we advise with regard to those Amendments jointly rather than proceed to consider them one by one. Now, since the sitting of the House of Lords yesterday, the Government have had a question to consider of very considerable difficulty. Two Amendments have been made in the Bill by the Lords; on both of them the Government strongly dissent from the House of Lords. They dissent so strongly that they could under no circumstances be party to a final arrangement for incorporating them into the law of the country as a settled matter which was to be regarded as placed beyond the reach of future alteration and amendment. The first thing that has occurred to us is this: that this operation of sending and re-sending and again re-sending backwards and forwards between the two Houses this particular Bill is an operation which has continued long enough. I am very far, Sir, from making that observation in the interest of one House or of the other House in particular, because I confess it appears to me, and it does appear to us, that if we were to prolong this operation the result would be a considerable loss of dignity to both. Houses, approaching, at a certain point, in the face of the country, almost to the ridiculous. We have concluded with respect to this Bill that the operation should cease and that we should adopt a decisive course. The Lords' decision that I have mentioned constituted for us no difficulty. The next question, however, was one of very considerable difficulty. The choice before us was to reject the Amendments of the Lords, and with the rejection of the Amendments of the Lords to give up practically the hope of passing the Bill. The other alternative was to accept them, as I have said, under protest, with the hope and intention, as far as the present Ministers are concerned, that on some future opportunity, which they hope will be an early one, those Amendments, and especially the second Amendment, would be reversed and effaced. The first Amendment touches the question as between a population of 200 and a population of 300 as the qualification for a Parish Council. In raising the number from 200 to 300 the House of Lords, we think, have been ill-advised in disregarding a decision which was arrived at in this House by a very considerable majority, by no means confined to the usual supporters of the Government. We regret that decision very much, but the second Amendment is of a more serious character still. The Debates have been long, and need not, I think, be renewed, upon our several views with respect to the mode of determining the constitution of the parish trusts; but we have frankly adopted the principle, which has also been adopted and has been repeatedly stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, that the charities are the property of the parish community. We have thought, and we still think, that the conclusive direction and management of the charities ought to remain, and remain permanently, with the representatives of the parish community. We have had many Debates in the House upon that subject; but the course which the Lords have taken has been with the intention, perhaps, of circumventing or avoiding the difficulty, but it appears to us that it has landed us in another difficulty of the most serious kind. The question whether a majority of the representatives of the parish are to have a commanding control over the charities is, for us, a question of principle. The Charity Commissioners may be conveniently the authority to prevent the undue multiplication of trustees, and to prevent, therefore, the trust from becoming what is termed unworkable. Nor have I, for one, and I do not think my colleagues have, any jealousy of the spirit in which the Charity Commissioners discharge their trust; but to hand over to the Charity Commissioners the business of deciding this great question—whether the controlling influence and authority in the management of these charities is to be given or not to the parochial community—is, in our opinion, the transfer to them of a duty of a very high class, and one that it behaves Parliament, and Parliament only, to deal with, and in principle to settle. Then we have to come to another question—what is the alternative? We cannot doubt, after what has happened, that the alternative is the loss of the Bill. We acquiesced in the loss of an important Bill the other day on account of an objectionable Amendment, but the reason why we took that course was because we thought the objectionable Amendment tended to vitiate the whole working and operation of the Bill. Now, here it is not so. The character of this Amendment, however objectionable it may be, is limited to the particular subject-matter. It does not interfere with the great extension of the principles of local government, which the Bill contemplates, and which it affects. It is a mischief. In our opinion it is a gross mischief. In our opinion it is a mischief which will have to be removed upon an opportunity as early as can reasonably be found for the purpose; but, at the same time, it is a mischief limited to this portion of the objects and purposes of the Bill, and it leaves all the rest of the Bill to work freely and undisturbed. Under these circumstances, we have arrived at the conclusion that it would not be well to wreck the whole work of the Session. Except this Bill, nearly the whole work of the Session has been wrecked. This Bill touches matters of such great importance and such lively interest to the whole rural population of the country that we could not make up our minds to part with the opportunity which it offered us of placing it upon the Statute Book. We have therefore reluctantly determined, in reference to these Amendments, which we think so objectionable, to withdraw our opposition to them for a time, but to withdraw it under protest. We cannot consent to be understood as accepting these Amendments, and especially the second Amendment, as a settled matter; but, on the contrary, we look to a reversal, and we hope an early reversal, of the unfortunate decision which has been arrived at by the House of Lords. I have no doubt there are many—and I sympathise with them in many respects—who would have been ready even to sacrifice the Bill rather than allow the Amendments to go forward, and at any rate temporarily to take their place upon the Statute Book. Still, I must observe that the sacrifice of the Bill forms part of a most serious question—a question which has long been serious, which, I am sorry to say, has grown more and more serious with the lapse of time, and which during the present Session has arrived at a stage of peculiar acuteness and peculiar magnitude. We look, therefore, Sir at the question of the acceptance of these Amendments as part of a whole. We look at the acceptance of them, not as closing a controversy, except for the moment, but as handing on that prolonged controversy, which in our judgment it will be the duty of Parliament to continue until it has arrived at a satisfactory settlement. But if we were prepared to attempt to destroy what I call the whole work of the Session by consigning this Bill to the temporary oblivion to which the Irish Government Bill—[Interruption, and ironical Opposition laughter] I do not join, and I am pleased to see the large majority of those who sit opposite do not join, in the manifestation that escaped from some hon. Members. Sir, the fact is that these Amendments, and the treatment of several Bills of great importance, which this House has sent to the House of Lords after unexampled labour, raises a question of the gravest character. Two of these Bills—the Irish Government Bill and the Employers' Liability Bill— occupied this House for more than 100 days, and Ave meet here at the end of a Session which has doubled almost any Session upon record in the amount and intensity of its labours for the purposes of what we thought, and what the majority thought, beneficial legislation. This is a very old question. As long ago as the year 1880 a small work was published— small but of importance far out of proportion to its size—called Fifty Years of the House of Lords. It was published under the auspices of, I believe, Members of this House of great authority. But the matter of that book left upon the mind, I think, of every gentleman associated with the Liberal Party who read it the painful but firm conviction that the case of the House of Lords for these 50 years in the exercise of its legislative functions was a case, upon the whole, grievously unsatisfactory. NOW, Sir, Ave have come to a more acute stage of the controversy. The question is whether the work of the House of Lords is not merely to modify, but to annihilate the whole work of the House of Common?, work which has been performed at an amount of sacrifice—of time, of labour, of convenience, and perhaps of health— but at any rate an amount of sacrifice totally unknown to the House of Lords? Well, Sir, we have not been anxious—I believe I speak for my colleagues, I know I speak my who convictions—Ave have not been desirous to precipitate or unduly to accentuate a crisis. We have been desirous to save something from the wreek of the Session's work. We feel that this Bill is a Bill of such value that, upon the whole, great as Ave admit the objections to be to the acceptance of these Amendments, the objections are still greater and weightier to a course which would lead to the rejection of the Bill. We are compelled to accompany that acceptance with the sorrowful declaration that the differences, not of a temporary or casual nature merely, but differences of conviction, differences of prepossession, differences of mental habit, and differences of fundamental tendency, between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, appear to have reached a development in the present year such as to create a state of things of which we are compelled to say that, in our judgment, it cannot continue. Sir, I do not wish to use hard words, which are easily employed and as easily retorted—it is a game that two can play at—but without using hard words, without presuming to judge of motives, without desiring or venturing to allege imputations, I have felt it a duty to state what appeared to me to be indisputable facts. The issue which is raised between a deliberative Assembly, elected by the votes of more than 6,000,000 people, and a deliberative Assembly occupied by many men of virtue, by many men of talent, of course with considerable diversities and varieties, is a controversy which, when once raised, must go forward to an issue. The issue has been postponed, long postponed, I rejoice to say; it has been postponed, in many cases to a considerable degree, by that discretion, circumspection, and reserve in the use of enormous privileges which the House of Lords, on various occasions in my recollection, in the time of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Aberdeen, and other periods, have shown; but I am afraid, Sir, that the epoch, the age of that reserve and circumspection, may have gone by. I will not abandon all hope of it, but I must say of the present, I do not like to say that the situation is intolerable, because that is a hard and, may seem, a dictatorial word—but I think hon. Gentlemen opposite must feel, as I feel, that in some way or other a solution will have to be found for this tremendous contrariety and incessant conflict upon matters of high principle and profound importance between the Representatives of the people and those who fill a nominated or non-elected Chamber. It is not with the House of Commons to pronounce a judgment on this subject. The House of Commons is itself a party in the case. I have no difficulty in pronouncing a judgment on behalf of the Ministry in issues that have been raised throughout this year between the two Houses. We take frankly, fully, and finally, the side of the House of Commons. The House of Commons could not be a final judge in its own case, and I am by no means anxious to preeipitate proceedings of that kind, however they may be invited by an impatience most natural in the circumstances of the case. No doubt, Sir, there is a higher authority than the House of Commons. It is the authority of the nation which must in the last resort decide. [An hon. MEMBER: At once.] Happily, we know that we, all of us, are sufficiently trained in the habits of Constitutional freedom to regard that issue as absolutely final upon one and upon all alike of every one of these subjects. The time when that judgment is to be invited, and the circumstances under which it is to be invited, of course, constitute a question of the gravest character, and one which the Executive Government of the day can alone consider and decide. My duty terminates by calling the attention of the House to the fact, which it is really impossible to set aside, that in considering these Amendments—limited as their scope may seem to some to be— we are considering apart, an essential and inseparable part, of a question enormously large, a question which has become profoundly acute, which will demand a settlement, and must receive at an early date that settlement, from the highest authority. In these circumstances, the House will understand that we have not dealt lightly with this matter; that if we give advice to accept the Bill as it comes to us, undoubtedly a damaged and a mutilated Bill, we have given that advice under the gravest sense of our responsibility; and that, considering the nature of the issue to which we have adverted, we are unwilling to do anything in our power for the purpose of unnecessarily stimulating the sharpness of the crisis, by consigning to destruction the only important, the only very important and truly national portion remaining of the arduous work of the Session now expiring. Having said this, and thanking the House for the attention they have given me, I have only to signify that it is the intention of the Government to acquiesce in the Amendments which have been made by the House of Lords.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

Sir, as regards the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—the least important part and the most relevant part—I have very little to say. The right hon. Gentleman has announced in moderate language the very wise decision, in my judgment, at which the Government have arrived. He has told us, and I am sure every man will agree with him, on whatever side of the House he sits, that the idea of abandoning a Bill of the magnitude of the Parish Councils Bill, which has taken up so much Parliamentary time, and on which so much of our work has been expended, and to abandon it for no other reason than that in one corner of one clause the House of Lords have re-introduced, in a very qualified form, the original clause of the Government, would have been a course so grotesquely absurd that no hope, if hope were entertained, of deriving electoral advantage from it could possibly induce any responsible Government to adopt it, or think seriously of doing so. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that, though under protest he agrees to the Amendments sent down from the House of Lords, he regards the second Amendment especially as so essentially a question of principle that he intends to re-open it. Why, Sir, it became a principle of the Government on the 17th of November last. It became a principle of the Government about 10 o'clock on that night. At 6 o'clock on the same day they had quite a different principle, which it now appears they have wholly abandoned. On that day, and at that hour, the Member in charge of the Bill, representing the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite, came down and told this House that the provision, not the amended, modified, and qualified provision which the Lords have now sent down to us, but the Amendment sent down by them two days ago, represented the distinct statement of policy made by the Government, and that it was impossible as a matter of honour and principle of political wisdom for the Government to recede from it. Well, Sir, it has been frankly admitted that, in declining to wreck and smash the Bill because we had adhered to their honour and to their political wisdom, it would have been an absurdity beyond all the legislative absurdities ever attempted or committed in this House. After all, it was not the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which created most interest in the House. It was the second part. And what was that second part? Veiled, no doubt, in the dignified language which the right hon. Gentleman always has at his command, it was nothing else than a declaration of war against the ancient Constitution of these realms. The right hon. Gentleman has made this the occasion of a brief survey of the history of the House of Lords for the last 50 years, and especially of the history of the House of Lords during the last few months. Of the last 50 years I will say nothing. It is a subject on which I could speak; but it would be irrelevant to the question before us. It is more to the purpose to discuss the particular issues which have been raised, and which the right hon. Gentleman, speaking with his responsibility, thinks afford an adequate cause for the utterance of these vague, these covert threats. [An hon. MEMBER: Not covert.] What is the offence of the House of Lords as regards this Bill? That is the matter with which we are primarily concerned. It is that on a subject on which they were by training and knowledge especially qualified to speak —[Ironical cheers]—as well qualified to speak as the hon. Gentleman from Ireland who has interrupted me with that ironical cheer—on a Bill on which they were specially qualified to speak—a very long and complicated Bill—they have sent down to this House two Amendments which in no sense deal with the personal interests of any Member of the House of Lords, which concern matters of public moment, which do not touch a vital principle of the Bill, which are essentially, in their relation to the Bill, matters of detail — the House of Lords actually dared, on a question of such character and on such a Bill, to express an opinion. The right hon. Gentleman thinks this is an offence so serious—I do not know against whom, but I suppose against this House—that he tolls us he and his friends are going to start an agitation in favour of a domestic revolution. I do not know what alternative scheme for our present Constitution is going to be proposed by these gentlemen. I presume the majority of them will still adhere to the view pretty universally accepted by civilised people —namely, that legislation cannot be safely and wisely conducted except by the existence of a Second Chamber. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] I did not say it was right: I said it was universally accepted; so it is. [Mr. LABOCCIIEKE was understood to dissent.] I am not speaking of the hon. Member for Northampton; I am saying that the civilised world, which does not necessarily include the hon. Member for Northampton, has hitherto been of opinion that two Chambers are necessary to wise legislation. I say that whatever, in your wisdom, you are going to substitute for the House of Lords, you will never find a Chamber that will be content not to exorcise the very modest amount of control over the details of our legislation which the House of Lords has exercised in relation to the Parish Councils Bill. The idea of starting an agitation against the House of Lords because the House of Lords wishes to introduce the Charity Commission as: a body to which to refer charity trusts, is really so humorous that nobody but the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) can fittingly deal with it on a platform. I admit that, although an attack on the House of Lords in regard to this Bill would be exceedingly absurd, the action they have taken on the other Bill referred to by the right hon. Gentleman is, undoubtedly, of a serious character. Undoubtedly, the summary rejection of the Home Rule Bill was an act on the part of the House of Lords which proved the value of the part they are called upon to play in the Constitution of the country. I do not know whether it is on the rejection of the Home Rule Bill that the agitation is going to take place. [Ministerial cheer s.] That I can understand. That really was an important piece of legislative, or rather anti-legislative, work; that really was a great exercise of the authority and privilege given them by the Constitution. Are you going to denounce them for it to the country? If you denounce them in the country, are you going to get large audiences? Do you anticipate the agitation you promise yourselves so much advantage from will have much fuel supplied to it by the really important action taken by the House of Lords during the last two years? If that is your prophecy you read the signs of the times very differently from what we do. My belief is that, so far from the action of the House of Lords in the last year and a half having diminished their power with the people of this country, or convinced the people of this country that they could do without the House of Lords, I believe that for the first time you have brought home to the great masses of Englishmen and Scotchmen that their interests are not safe in the hands of a Party majority, unless that majority be controlled by another Assembly whensoever it betrays the interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night that he is not closing a controversy—he is carrying it on; but he told us that it has reached an acuter stage than it ever did before. His whole 'speech, however moderate in tone, was in substance a declaration of war. Let me tell him that Ave, against whom that war is declared—we who do still believe in the ancient Constitution of these realms—look forward without dismay to the fight. We are not perturbed by these obscure threats. We know, or at least we most firmly believe, that the tribunal to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and which he truly said is the ultimate Court of Appeal before whom all these great suits must be decided—we firmly believe that that tribunal, the people who sent us here, share with us the conviction that the House of Lords, so far from abusing the trust committed to it—a trust which it not less than we owe to the people of this country—has vindicated its continued claim to the confidence of the country. And, for my part, I wish for nothing better than to see hon. Gentlemen opposite attempting to stir up the country on the issue which will be laid before it—namely, that the House of Lords was or was not rightly guarding the interests of the majority of English men and Scotchmen by exercising its power of veto over the Home Rule proposals of the Government.

LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)

I cannot express the admiration with which I have listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend, and also my admiration of the vigour and eloquence with which the First Lord of the Treasury addressed us. If at this period of the Session we are commencing a battle royal on the Constitution of the country and the disestablishment of the House of Lords, I fear we shall never get to the Newcastle Programme and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget. I think the Prime Minister has attached undue importance to the Amendments on this Bill sent down by the House of Lords. Even if the Amendments made by the House of Lords were unnecessary, they seem to me to furnish a very slender basis on which to rest a declaration of war against the House of Lords; yet, if the House of Lords had not passed these two Amendments, the right hon. Gentleman would not have proposed the destruction of the House of Lords. Are you to destroy the Lords for insisting upon these Amendments? I think, however, they were not necessary for the perfection of the Bill. But if it be the case that the Amendments are not necessary for the actual finishing off of the Bill, I do not see how the destruction of the House of Lords is to be based upon them. They seem to form a slender basis for a declaration of war against the House of Lords. What I would draw special attention to is that if the House of Lords had not passed these two Amendments the right hon. Gentleman would not have proposed the destruction of that House. I do not gather that the right hon. Gentleman would destroy the House of Lords for rejecting the Home Rule Bill, and I do not think he would destroy it for insisting on the insurance arrangement in the Employers' Liability Bill, though I admit that I was sorry they did so. These are not matters for which you destroy and level to the ground a second Chamber. I must point out to the Leader of the House that there are some Bills which the House of Lords is bound to examine and amend, and in regard to which it is sometimes bound to insist on its Amendments to a certain extent. I should like to mention the kind of Bills that I think the House of Lords is really entitled to amend. There are Bills which involve great national questions—great English questions and great Irish questions. They may be of largo extent, and may involve very large changes, and they may be very novel in their form. I will give the right hon. Gentleman some instances of Bills of that character. There was the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. That Bill when it went to the House of Lords was amended largely. All the Amendments were not accepted, hut the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will recollect that the dexterity and skill of Lord Cairns persuaded him and his advisers to accept many of them. I will take another Bill of great magnitude—namely, the Land Bill of 1871. That Bill was amended by the House of Lords, and the First Lord of the Treasury accepted many of the Amendments. Then I will take the Land Bill of 1881, also a large measure, and a very novel one. The House of Lords made Amendments in that Bill, and many of them were accepted by the right hon. Gentleman. There was no outcry at the times I refer to that the House of Lords was violating the Constitution by amending those Bills. The Amendments were subject to a Conference between the two Houses, and there was no agitation got up in the country, because the House of Lords had passed them. The Bills were large and novel, proposing changes in the laws of the country that had never been made or suggested before. But let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a great change in the composition of the House of Lords since the period between 1868 and 1880. There was not in those days the tremendous disparity between the numbers of Parties which marks the House of Lords now. What that is due to I cannot say, but it certainly creates peculiar effects, and it renders it more difficult undoubtedly for a very large part of the House of Lords to discriminate so carefully between Bills like those which the House has been occupied with during the autumn and winter and the large Constitutional measures which it is the duty of the House of Lords to examine most carefully and to amend. It is desirable to bear in mind that the House of Lords on these few Amendments was by no means unanimous, and the majorities were small. One majority was only five, and the other was only 32, while on each occasion the minority was over 50. It is absurd to take the whole of the House of Lords and denounce them in a, speech like that which we have heard this evening and to proclaim a long-protracted agitation throughout the country for the abolition of the House of Lords simply because on one Amendment 50 Beers voted one way and 55 another, while on another I think 51 voted on one side and 83 on the other. I confess I would have liked to have the Local Government Bill finished on Monday night. I thought that all dispute was over. I would have liked to see the Employers' Liability Bill passed into law, because of the 2,000,000 of working men—of miners, artisans, operatives, and workmen of every class— who would thereby have obtained the abolition of the doctrine of common employment. I regret what has happened to those Bills, but I say they form no foundation for revolutionary changes, and I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can, without notice and without any foundation for his tremendous edifice of denunciation, pile Pelion on Ossa in holding up the House of Lords to the execration of the nation. I think the House of Lords has great rights, and I do not believe it is in the power of any statesman to abrogate or limit those rights, but I own that the rights must be used for great legislative and constitutional purposes. It has generally been the custom of the House of Lords to use them in that way, and I think the custom has not been widely departed from on the present occasion. I associate myself entirely with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in the sentiments he expressed when he said that no more hopeless, no more futile scheme could a Party embark upon than that of trying to destroy the House of Lords. I have been ranch about the country, particularly in the course of last year— perhaps more than any Member of the House has been—and I have found that the House of Lords could not be more popular than it is. The action of the House of Lords, on the Home Rule Bill particularly, will always be remembered with gratitude in the country. I think the immemorial service which the House of Lords rendered to the nation with regard to that Bill will not be obliterated by faults which I admit, and which I would rather for the sake of the legislative business of Parliament had not been committed, but which are faults that cannot be seen in the blaze of the rejection of the Home Rule Bill by so enormous a majority. With these words I leave the great Constitutional question —a question which ought never to have been raised. If the Government like to raise next Session the question of the abolition of the House of Lords there is not a man on this side of the House who will not be ready to take part in the Debate. If the Government think that it is likely to conduce to the success of the Newcastle Programme, to conduce to the progress of the business of the Session, and to conduce to the strengthening of the Navy to raise this Constitutional question on the top of the immense Constitutional question of the Union, I invite them to act upon that opinion. Nothing could be more satisfactory to us, or more likely to conduce to a transference of our forces from this side of the House to that; and if the right hon. Gentleman will continue in that line of Constitutional reform I think he will find no more willing opponents than those who sit in this part of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered. The Lords do not insist on their Amendment in page 1, line 10, to which the Commons have disagreed, but propose, in lieu thereof, the following Amendment:—In page 1, line 10, leave out "two," and insert "three.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

said, he understood this to be the Amendment which would prevent parishes with less than 300 inhabitants necessarily having Parish Councils. As the House knew, he never voted against a thing simply because the House of Lords had proposed it, nor did he accept a thing simply because the House of Lords insisted on it. His view upon the merits of this particular case was that a parish with less than 300 inhabitants had as much right to have a Parish Council by law as a parish with more than 300 inhabitants. His right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proposed to agree to the Amendment because the House of Lords insisted upon it. But he (Mr. Storey) asked the House, and he thought he might ask the country, in what proportion had the House of Lords insisted upon it? Sixty Members voted for insisting on it, and 55 against. Even in his own House the Tory Leader could not carry his own Party with him; on the contrary, the Liberal Party had been reinforced by a very considerable number of Tories and Unionists. If he thought the Prime Minister had been right in one observation, he would not vote against him. The right hon. Gentleman had said they had to choose between accepting the Amendment and losing the Bill. He would, however, point out that this was a new Amendment, and consequently it could have been considered and sent back to the Lords. No doubt this would have involved the loss of another day, but he did not believe the other House would have insisted upon the Amendment. The Prime Minister had made a very powerful speech upon the relations between the two Houses. He (Mr. Storey) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government were in earnest. He had heard such speeches before, though they had not been quite so pronounced. If the Government were in earnest, and if the present Leader or any future Leader would be resolute in the matter, they would have plenty of men behind them in the country. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman's speech were but as the sound of heavy artillery to cover a retreat, a crusade against the House of Lords would be an impossibility. He had a strong view that when there was a division of opinion between an elected House and a House—


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the discussion must now be confined to the particular Amendment of the Lords. We have passed from the general discussion of the consideration of the Lords Amendments.


said, he quite understood that, but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had, amongst other reasons for agreeing to the Amendment, given the reason he was just alluding to. Because he thought the House of Lords wrong and the Government right he held it to be the duty of the House to divide against the Amendment, to show that it did not agree with the House of Lords.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords proposals agreed to— The Lords do not insist on their Amendment in page 3, line 40, to which the Commons have disagreed, but propose, in lieu thereof, the following Amendment:— In page 3, line 40, after "meetings," insert" convened by the chairman of the parish meeting, or by the Parish Council, or if as to allotments in the manner prescribed by 'The Allotments Act, 1890,' or otherwise as the Local Government Board may by rule prescribe. The Lords agree to the Amendments made by the Commons to the Amendment made by the Lords in page 9, line 21, with the following Amendments:— In line 2 of Sub-section (5), leave out "representation be made by," and insert "proceeding is taken on the petition of:"—and at the end of the said sub-section, add "Any Order made under this sub-section overruling the decision of the County Council shall be laid before Parliament by the Local Government Board. In line 4 of Sub-section (6), as amended by the Commons, leave out "shall be," and insert "by some person interested is. At the end of Sub-section (16), add "and the Parish Council shall have the like power of petitioning the County Council as is given to six Parliamentary electors by Section 2 of 'The Allotments Act, 1890.' The Lords propose, as Consequential Amendments:—In Clause 10, page 10, line 29, after "fourteen years," to insert "nor more than thirty-live years," and at the end of Sub-section (l),as amended, to insert "and that section shall apply as if it were herein re-enacted, with the substitution of 'hiring' for 'purchase,' and with the other necessary modifications. In page 11, line 38, leave out the whole of Sub-section (5). Clause 10, page 12, line 7, insert "County Council or," before "Local Government Board. In page 12, leave out lines 11 to 13 (Subsection (8)).

Further Lords proposal read— The Lords do not insist on their Amendment in page 14, line 37, but propose the following Amendment in lieu thereof:—Page 15, leave out lines 1 to 23, Sub-section (3), and insert,— '? Where the Governing Body of a parochial charity other than an ecclesiastical charity does not include any persons elected by the ratepayers or parochial electors, or inhabitants of the parish or appointed by the Parish Council or parish meeting, the Parish Council may appoint additional members of that Governing Body not exceeding the number allowed by the Charity Commissioners in each case, and if the management of any such charity is vested in a sole trustee, the number of trustees may, with the approval of the Charity Commissioners, be increased to three, one of whom may be nominated by such sole trustee, and one by the Parish Council or parish meeting. Nothing in this sub-section shall prejudicially affect the power or authority of the Charity Commissioners, under any of the Acts relating to charities, to settle or alter schemes for the better administration of any charity.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)


said, that those of them who dissented from the course taken this afternoon made, of course, every consideration for the views of the Government and the difficulties of the time; but they did not think it desirable that so important a matter as this should pass without protest from those who felt strongly on the matter. The point was this: The House of Commons had insisted from the first upon the elective element having control over charities. There were some on that (the Ministerial) side of the House who thought the Government never went far enough. Many of them had thought that inasmuch as the charities belonged to the people of the parish the management of the charities should be under the control of the people of the parish. Those Members were content to accept the Amendment which was finally settled by the House of Commons. The House of Lords had now proposed that the control of the charities need not be necessarily under the management of the people at all. The judgment of himself and his friends was that that was a serious invasion of the rights of the parishes and of the poor people of the country districts. Although they did not wish in any way to indicate that they were at variance with Her Majesty's Government they thought it their duty to their constituents to make a protest by way of a Division.

MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

said, he would appeal to his hon. Friend not to put the House to the trouble of a Division. Every Member who represented an Agricultural Division in the House, and who listened to the speech of the Prime Minister, must know that the care of this question and of all other questions which were to be dealt with in the future were safe in his hands and of those of Her Majesty's Ministers. They knew what the history of the Bill had been. They knew that the reiteration of this Amendment in different forms by the House of Lords was part of a concerted plan to destroy the Bill—


Order, order! The hon. Member is not in Order in referring to the proceedings of the House of Lords. The particular Motion before the House is to agree to the Lords Amendment.


said, Mr. Speaker had misunderstood him—


Order, order! The hon. Member was clearly out of Order in what he said.


said, his observations had been specifically directed to this Amendment. ["Order!"] Well, he had endeavoured so to direct them. Ho wished merely to say that the Amendment had been drafted merely to destroy the Bill. He hoped, therefore, that the course which had been recommended by the Prime Minister in the historic speech to which they had listened would not be challenged by a Division on a point which was of no consequence whatever.

MR. WARNER (Somerset, N.)

said, he was one who, on this point and every other point, would disagree absolutely with the House of Lords. Looking at the urgency of the present occasion, however, he thought it expedient not to go to a Division, although, no doubt, a protest was desirable.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 273; Noes 37.—(Division List, No. 450.)

Lords proposal agreed to— The Lords insist on their Amendment in page 28, line 3, to which the Commons have disagreed, for the following reason:—Because the insertion of the words "for parishes" is necessary to avoid ambiguity.

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