§ On the Motion to go into Committee of Supply,
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLEN (Newcastle-under Lyme) ,
rose to move:—That, as the principle of gratuitous public service, upon which the representation of this House is at present based, limits the freedom of constituencies in the selection of their Representatives, this House is of opinion that, a reasonable allowance should forthwith be granted to all Members of Parliament.He said that he need hardly apologise for again submitting this subject to the attention of the House. He thought that both those who agreed with the Resolution and those who were opposed to it were limited in its importance, and recognised that if Legislation based upon it were passed through the House, it would have far reaching effects on the representative system. The Resolution was identical in terms to that which he proposed two years ago, which the Government then supported and which was carried by a large majority. Whatever the question might be in the House, it was certainly not a party question 1750 outside, for at the Trades' Union Congress, at which the leading working men of both political parties were represented, a resolution in favour of the Payment of Members of Parliament was unanimously passed. Therefore he thought he might fairly claim that the Resolution he proposed had the approval of the working classes of the country to whatever party they belonged. His chief objection to the present voluntary system was that it restricted the choice of the constituencies. Under the present system a man must either be possessed of wealth himself, or must have some rich relations who were willing to keep him in Parliament. A seat in the House was attained at present either by wealth or position, and not by merit, and ho thought honourable Gentlemen opposite would agree that brains and wealth did not always go together, and that intellect and position were not always united. What they wanted in the House was to have the ablest men in the country, whether they were rich or poor, and he maintained that it was impossible to attain that until the present voluntary system was done away with. There were a certain number of men willing to strain their resources to pay their election expenses, but they were faced with this difficulty—that, after their expenses had been paid, they would have heavy expenses laid upon them, to meet the charges they would have to pay for six months in London attending to the business of the House. They were not able to do this, and the consequence was that they could not come before the constituencies as candidates. He did not think he was exaggerating when he said that in a very large number of constituencies there were men who had taken an active, interest in local affairs, men who had studied all the political and social problems of the day, men who were able to keep up a fair position in their own districts, but who would not be able to meet the extra charges that would be laid upon them if they were returned to this House. The consequence was that the constituencies were not able to elect them, and it was difficult to say how much the nation suffered from the loss of the, services of these men. He thought that the case at the present time for the payment of members was even stronger than it was two or three years 1751 ago, for undoubtedly there were parties in the state, growing in numbers and power and composed almost entirely of poor men. There, was the Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party, and there were the Social Democrats. He did not say he agreed with these parties in tin doctrines they preached, but he did say that it was not just or fair to then that they should be debarred front returning a candidate to Parliament if they could get a majority for him. simply because they were poor men. He believed that the wider the constituency from which a member could be chosen, the greater would be the confidence felt by the country in the House; for he could not imagin anything that would lead to greater discontent among every section of the community than that they should feel that they were barred because they did not possess wealth, from having a representative in the House. They wanted the ablest men of all classes, so that questions might be discussed from all standpoints. They wanted the doors wide enough to admit all who had ability and merit, all whom the constituencies had confidence in. They wanted brains and not wealth, ability and not position, and that could never be attained under the present system. Another strong argument in favour of granting an allowance to members was that they would get more local men into the House. They were, he believed, better representatives, as being more in touch with the constituencies. Any constituency of their way of thinking would be only too glad, in all probability, to get one of them for its representative; but the ordinary carpet-bagger, the, man who went down to a constituency a few months, or sometimes only a few days before the election, who knew nothing of the people or of the wants of the district, was as a rule a most undesirable member. Then he believed that if legislation such as this resolution called for were passed, it would increase the responsibility of Members. Members would have to come up to the scratch. If they did not their constituencies would dismiss them, for they would feel they were not earning their wages. A suggestion had been made that some Members should be paid and that some should not. That was a suggestion he wished to repudiate on the strongest terms, just 1752 as the Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiated it two years ago. The right hon. Gentleman said then—A question has been asked as to whether in this matter there is to be equality of treatment of all. I have no hesitation in saying that that is my opinion. I cannot see how it is possible with respect to the dignity of the individuals who are disposed to receive a salary, yon can make a distinction so invidious in its Character and calculated to make their position more difficult in this House.The Leader of the Opposition, speaking against the Motion of the hon. Member for wansbeck four years ago, used very nearly the same words, for he said that in his opinion, if one Member was paid all Members ought to be paid. What would it mean if they paid only a certain Section? It would mean that Members would have to make a declaration of poverty before they could receive their salaries, just as paupers had to do when they went before the Guardians to get out-door relief. He did not think that it would add to the dignity and honour of the House to make a distinction between different classes of Members, and he believed that the House would never consent to such a course. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Exeter, who had given notice of an Amendment, objected to the Resolution on the ground that it would involve the taxpayers in some expenditure. Hon. Members opposite professed to be very careful of the taxpayers' interests in a matter of this kind, but they did not hesitate to vote money for a miserable island like Cyprus, or for a railway in Uganda, or in order that what they called the glorious British flag" might be run up to float over some dismal swamp inhabited by negroes. For such purposes they were willing to spend millions, but when it was a question of paying the people's representatives, so as to get better men n that House to frame laws for the people, hon. Members opposite said at once that they must protect the tax-payers. They were sometimes told that the payment of Members would lower the standard of dignity in that House. Well, they paid the Secretary of State for India £5,000 a year. Did it lower his dignity? Did any among them think less of the right hon. Gentleman's great speech on the Cotton Duties because he received that salary? Did they think 1753 less of the Home Secretary because he received a salary? Did they think the Whips who guarded their doors the less dignified because they received salaries? Surely the work of legislating was as good work and as worthy of payment as the task of sitting at the doors of the House and preventing Members from going away. He believed that the dignity of the House would not suffer, and that its work would be better done. Then it was said that the professional politician would gain admittance to the House. But what was meant by the expression "professional politician?" As he understood the term, a professional politician was one who devoted all his time and energies to the service of his country, and who made a special study of all questions that came before the House. The more of that class of men they had in that House the better, He had high authority for the view which he took, the authority of the right hon. Gentleman who helped the Party opposite to Office in the last Parliament by his support. Speaking on January 29, 1885, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said:—You pay the Ministers of the Crown, and I cannot understand why Members of Parliament should be the only people to work for nothing. If yon paid them it is possible that they would feel a higher responsibility to those who employ them, well, it is said sometimes, 'Oh, but you will introduce the professional politician into England!' Well, why not? The argument does not appear to me to be conclusive. Doctors, lawyers, manufacturers, working men, all have to learn their trade, and I should like to know why politics is the only business which may be left to amateurs. I should like to know why the great interests of the State should be committed to men who undertake to deal with them as a distraction and as a distinction, and who do not make it the serious business of their lives.That was the opinion of the Leader of one of the wings of the Unionist Party. Surely hon. Members opposite would pay some deference to it. [Admiral FIELD: "Not a bit on that subject."] The hon. and gallant Member would not have said that a short time ago. It was a sign of the beginning of the breach. It was said that, if Members were paid, unworthy men would get into that House. It was possible that, in some rare instances, men unfitted for the position might get into Parliament, but he had never heard any argument to show that a larger percentage of such men would get into the 1754 House under a system of payment than could get in now. It certainly was not flattering to the constituencies to say that a larger percentage would get in when the constituencies would have to contribute to the payment of their Members, and would therefore have greater control over them than under the present system when they gave free and voluntary services. Then it was said that the payment of Members would sap independence. He doubted that greatly. Let them consider the position of a Labour Member, who was supported, as a rule, by a Trade Union in his constituency. Such a Member might give a vote that the Trade Union disapproved of, and his salary might be stopped in consequence, and he might be left in a very difficult and awkward position. Now, if such a Member were paid by the State, his constituency would have time in which to reflect upon his conduct, and very likely they would finally come to the conclusion that the Vote which they disapproved of on first hearing of it was, after all, not as open to adverse criticism as they had supposed it to be. The Member, in such a case, would not be compelled to resign his seat in consequence of the withdrawal of his salary at a moment's notice. He would not be in fear and trembling for his Parliamentary existence, and would, therefore, be a freer agent than he could be under the existing condition of things. There were hon. Members who opposed this Resolution, who would probably at a future time have seats in the House of I Lords. On the Liberal side, in the House of Lords, at the present time there i were 30 Peers who received salaries amounting in all to £150,000 a year, or £5,000 each. He could not understand how Gentlemen who hoped to go up some, day to the other House, and to get a share of the plunder there, could oppose with any consistency the payment of Members in the House of Commons. Now what was the position of the Government in this matter? Were they going to satisfy the advanced men in the constituencies by accepting this Resolution, and were they going to promise to bring in a Bill and to press it forward, or were they going to promise to put the necessary charge upon the Budget? He did not ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant payment to Members of 1755 this present Parliament, for it might seem invidious to vote salaries to themselves, but he did ask the right hon. Gentleman to make a provision that should come into force at the beginning of the next Parliament for the payment of Members in the House of Commons. They were tired of shilly-shallying in this matter, and they wanted a straightforward answer from the Government. Did they mean business or not? Personally, he would very much prefer that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make a speech against this Resolution, and lead the Members of the Government into the Lobby against it, than that he should make, in favour of the Resolution, a speech that meant nothing except that the Resolution was to be put aside to be forgotten. They ought to understand clearly what the Government's position was, so that the advanced men in the constituencies might know whether a Liberal Government would give effect to their wishes in this matter or not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer answered last Session a question put on this subject by the hon. Member for the Ince Division, and a great many Members understood his answer to contain a pledge that he would introduce a Bill and press it forward during the present Session, and a great number of people outside that House also understood that answer in the same sense. Was he prepared to fulfil that pledge or not? If not, the Government would give grave dissatisfaction to a large body of their supporters, and, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an answer, he would ask him well to count the cost. In conclusion, he would ask the House to recognise what was recognised in every business, in all professions, and in other branches of the public service, that, whatever the work might be, so long as it was honest and straightforward work, the labourer was worthy of his hire.
§ MR. C. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
, in seconding the motion, congratulated the advocates of the payment of Members upon the development of public opinion both in this House and outside, in support of the principle. In 1870, when Mr. Taylor, then Member for Leicester, brought the question forward, he was only able to find 26 Members willing to support him in the 1756 Lobby. In 1888, when he himself had the honour to intoduce the Motion, he was supported by 135 Members in a House of 327; in 1892, by 162 Members in a House of 389; while his hon. Friend, who moved the Resolution two years ago, succeeded in carrying it by a majority of 47 in a House of 505 Members, the Government of the day supporting the Resolution. He maintained that the service rendered by the Members of Parliament were not in the nature of benefactions to the constituency, but were public duties, undertaken by responsible representatives, and in the interests and for the well-being of the general community. In that light he claimed that they ought to be paid for as other public duties of a like nature were paid for in nearly every other legislative assembly throughout the world, So far back as 1868, the late Prime Minister said—It would be worse than ridiculous to admit all classes to the franchise, and yet to continue arrangements which practically limit the choice of candidates.That was the effect of the present system. The present system limited and restricted the choice of constituencies in the selection of their candidates, the choice being practically confined to one class of society —namely, the wealthy and leasured class. It might be contended that if Parliament adopted this principle, it could not stop at Members of Parliament but would have to pay Members of Town Councils and County Councils. Every question of this kind must be determined on its own merits, and where public duties involved the giving up of time ordinarily devoted to business pursuits, then the public must be prepared to compensate such men. At the present time, however, the duties of Town Councils, and even of County Councils, did not involve the same loss of time or attention to business which Membership of this House did, and in every case he believed where loss of time and money out of pocket were incurred by Members of Town Councils or County Councils the community undertook to indemnify them. The principle had already been recognised by Parliament itself. If a public Bill came before a Select Committee or Royal Commission, and, say, the Mayor of Newcastle or the Lord 1757 Provost of Glasgow were requested to give evidence, they were indemnified for money out of pocket, and were also compensated for loss of time on a scale in proportion to their social position. Why in words used by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, should a Member of Parliament, who devoted the whole of his time to public duties, be the only man who was not to be indemnified for his loss of time? Hon. Members might serve day in and day out on Committees and Commissions, but unless they were compelled to come from their homes to attend these meetings, unless they actually incurred expenses, they were not entitled to claim any indemnification for their loss of time or their devotion to public business. Parliament had gone further, and had recognised the principle by providing pensions for ex Cabinet Ministers. These pensions were granted simply on the ground that the men who received them had been so completely drawn oft' the ordinary economic and industrial lines, that they were no longer able to keep up a position in society becoming an ex Minister. The position was an anomalous one. These Gentlemen might have been for many years in high paid offices under the Crown, and yet, the moment they passed into opposition they were entitled to a pension, though they then only acted in the capacity of private Members. On what ground these hon. Gentlemen were entitled to payment for their services while it was denied to private Members he was at a loss to understand. It was, in his opinion, ridiculous to say that the payment of Members would degrade the House of Commons. The Hon. James Munro, a member of the Victorian Parliament, speaking at a banquet in Liverpool four years ago said, that the, result of paying each Member of that Parliament £300 a year had been exceedingly satisfactory; they had an honest Parliament, and a Parliament greatly in accord with the wishes of the people, who were well served by it. He failed to see why payment of Members should degrade private Members any more than it was held to degrade official Members. The old Tory notion was that the payment of Members would improve the dignity of the House, and, therefore, Lord Blandford, in introducing his Reform Bill in 1830, said, as the object 1758 of the Bill was to restore the representation to its ancient purity, he proposed to restore the principle and practice of paying Members the wages of attendance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might say, as the Prime Minister said to a deputation that waited upon him a short time ago, that the real difficulty was one of time and money. He understood that it was the intention of the Government this Session to deal with the question of registration and the payment of returning officers' fees. Why should they not deal with this question in the same Bill. He agreed that it would be impolitic to put the principle into practice in this Parliament. The country ought to have an opportunity of giving its decision at the next election, with the full knowledge that this principle was in force. The constituencies would then know that the Members they returned would be paid for their services. As to the cost, he did not think that the nation, considering the enormous duties that were cast upon Members at the present time would grudge them a reasonable indemnity for their loss of time. And, after all, the cost, in his judgment, would not be more than the cost of a first-class battleship, and the House could always find money for that. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so minded, there was not the least doubt that, with his wonderful powers of resource, he would find the means necessary to give effect to this principle. Concluding, he said there was no question, in the opinion of the industrial classes, of greater importance than the question of payment of Members. It would have the effect of removing every restriction on their liberty of choice and enabling them to select from their own ranks tried and trusted representatives, who, in his judgment, would be an ornament and a credit both to the constituencies which they represented and to the House of Commons itself.
SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTK (Exeter)
said, remarks had been made both by the Mover and the Seconder of the Resolution which relieved Members on his side of the House from the necessity of opposing it, for both of them practically said they wished to omit the word "forthwith" from the Resolution, and merely to call upon the Government to take action in a future Parliament. He, 1759 for one, would await with perfect confidence the verdict of the country on this question if the issue were fairly and squarely presented to the electors; but he would like to state his objections to the proposal, and he could assure the hon. Member that the question of the cost was by no means the only or even the principle objection to it. He would first take broad objection that it was not for this country and the mother of Parliaments to be bound by precedents, or by examples set by other States. It was rather for us to set precedents, and for other countries to follow our example. He would also ask those hon. Members who might be disposed to rely on foreign example, whether they were prepared to follow that conclusion to its logical result, and, for instance, to reverse the whole of our commercial policy and adopt that system of protection which prevailed, not only abroad, but in our own Colonies? He thought the House should consider the very great distinction which existed between the British Parliament and that of foreign or Colonial Legislatures. In Germany, Austria and Italy it must be remembered that Parliament was not supreme, but was largely checked and controlled by the Crown, which in those countries had a very real power. Again, in Switzerland the Referendum supplied the electorate with a very practical check over the Members of the Swiss Parliament. In the United Slates, under certain circumstances, it was within the competency of the Supreme Court to declare the action of the Congress contrary to the Constitution, and therefore null and void. Consequently, it appeared to him that the action of the Continental and foreign Legislatures was of a good deal less importance than was the action of this Parliament, which was, after all, the supreme authority in this country. Of course the position of the French Assembly was more analogous to that of our Parliament. Although he would be unwilling to say an offensive word against that body, he did not think that any student of history would wish to change the position of the French Legislature for that of the British Parliament at any stage of our constitutional history. Passing to Colonial Legislatures, he would first remind the House of one distinctive characteristic, namely, that whereas in 1760 this country there was a leisured class able and willing to enter Parliament, that state of things did not prevail in our colonies, which were obliged to pay their Members, because they were not fortunate enough to possess a class of men able to give their services gratis. Whether it was or was not desirable that the House of Commons should consist mainly of such men was a matter for disussion; but, if it were, it was worth noting, as a matter of fact, that we possessed that class and that our colonies did not. He would further remind the House of the very great distinction which existed between differences of opinion entertained in the House of Commons and the differences of opinion which divided the members in our Colonial Legislatures. In the House of Commons hon. Members taxed one another with their differences of opinion on such matters as Home Rule, Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and so on, and they had hitherto been spared that class of questions which prevailed so largely in some of our colonies, in America, in France, and in Italy, namely, those questions of personal corruption which were mainly the basis of the disputes which took place in those Legislatures, where there was nothing more common than accusations of corruption against Ministers or against private Members, charging them with having sold their votes for a direct pecuniary bribe. That was a state of things which he hoped that the House of Commons would always escape; but it was impossible to disguise not only that those charges were freely bandied about in Colonial Legislatures, but that those Legislatures were composed mainly of men of the same race as ourselves. He did think that if the House of Commons were to adopt a system which might lead men to enter the House for the purpose of making a living by it, those unfortunate charges might, not impossibly, be raised against Members of the House of Commons. He was not going to suggest that there was a different standard of morality between men who were rich and men who were poor, but just as there were certain temptations which were presented with considerable force to the rich, but from which poor men were saved by the very fact of their poverty, 1761 there were, at the same time, temptations from which the rich were free from the very fact of their wealth, but to which poor men were particularly exposed. In regard to so-called labour Members, he entered a decided protest against the idea that they monopolised in that House the representation of the working classes. All the Members of the House were returned more or less by the votes of the working classes. It was said that it was quite impossible for working men to bear the expenses incidental to a seat in Parliament. He would like to remind the House that the 12 or 14 labour Members in the House were returned by majorities averaging about 5,000 votes per representative, and if that number of electors were determined to have one particular man to represent them it was idle to say that, providing of a small sum for that man's maintenance while in Parliament rendered his candidature an impossibility. Since the legislation of 1867 and 1884 the working classes were absolute masters and controllers of the political situation. If they chose to return to Parliament men not specially connected with themselves, the reasonable explanation was to be found in the fact that they knew themselves to be masters of the situation, and that they possessed the means, by a cheap Press, by public meetings, deputations to Ministers, and constant contact with their representatives, of impressing upon the latter what policy they wish them to adopt; and therefore they did not think it necessary to turn for their representatives to working men, who, from their position, had not had the opportunities of education and study such as most, of the Members in the House at present possessed. They must also bear in mind that the representatives of working class constituencies were backed by great Trades Unions and powerful and wealthy societies who could find any amount of money for the promotion of the interests of Labour, and who could easily find sufficient means to supplement the contribution of a poor constituency. He would say that hon. Gentlemen, like the hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they addressed the House on any Labour Question, or on any public question indeed, spoke with special authority for 1762 the constituents or the Trades Unions, who made sacrifices in order to secure their presence in that House. But, if they were all placed on the same dead level of £300, they would lose that special esteem and authority. Now, he wanted to take one rather broader objection. He heard, with great regret, an expression which fell from the mover if the Resolution, when he spoke of Members of the House earning their wages, because, if, that principle were adopted, it would be a long step towards placing Members of the House in the position of being an assembly of paid delegates simply carrying out what it was the fashion to call the mandate of their constituencies. If the hon. Member chose merely to carry out the mandate of his Constituents, he was at perfect liberty to do so, but for himself he repudiated that idea. He was not sent there as a delegate of any constituency, or to carry out their mandate. It was the duty of a Member to listen with attention and respect to the views of his constituents, but it was no less his duty to tell his constituents what his views were, and f they were not the views of the majority he should rather resign his seat then abandon his convictions. He could not see how they were to lave salaries for themselves and refuse to vote them to Members of Parish and District Councils and other public bodies. He hoped, almost against hope, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might recur o his wiser frame of mind which he held in 1871. If that was too much to expect he appealed to unofficial Members to enter the Lobby and enter a protest against the Motion. He regretted, more deeply than he could say, that there should be any doubt as to what the verdict of the majority might be, but he hoped they would show that public spirit was not wholly extinct, and that they were prepared to act like the great statesman early in the century who—Spurned at the sordid lust of pelf,And served his Albion for hisself.
§ Mr. R B. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, similar Motions to this had been carried in previous sessions, and then how was it that it had not been carried into practice? They could not forget that he principle was embodied in the Programme of the Liberal Party, and yet they 1763 seemed not much nearer the attainment of their object. If there had been slowness in carrying the principle into effect, he believed it was because there were many on his side of the House, as well as on the other, who were not educated up to the proper level of this question. One remark was made by the Mover of the Resolution with which he did not agree. It was said that this was not a Party Question. But it was a Party Question, and a difficult one for the Liberal Party, and like other questions, they would only turn it into victory, after a long and sustained effort. They had nothing to do with the analogies of the United States and France; they were simply concerned with the three Kingdoms. The hon. Baronet seemed to think that it was sufficient if they had a leisured class who could discharge the duties. Was that a doctrine which hon. Members expected the House to assent to as an argument put forward in 1893? It had been negatived, as he had hoped, once and for ever in 1832. Doctrines of that kind were out of date, and the House was face to face with a state of things in which matters had changed. They had accepted the principle of democracy rightly or wrongly, and they were face to face with the fact that they relied on the people and on popular votes for the purpose of determining the footing on which the business of the country was to be conducted. If that was so, how, then, did hon. Members stand to-day with reference, to this matter? The hon. Member was filled with fears about the effect of making it possible for a large number of persons to whom, in practice, it was not possible to come and take their part as legislators in the House of Commons. It was rather interesting to look at the effect of the fears on the sections of which the House was composed. He did not think that the Conservative party need be afraid of the democrat and the wirepuller being introduced into their midst; they need have no fear of the influx of the working man, degraded by the acceptance of a salary. The Conservative working man representative was an imported remedy, intended only to be con sumed in homœopathic doses. He was not aware that it was such an easy thing in constituencies possessing majorities such as those of hon. Gentlemen opposite for men with £300 or £400 a year to 1764 obtain acceptance in order to be returned to power. He passed from the Conservative working man to the case of the labour party. He should have thought that on the morrow of the Bristol election the Conservative party would not show any feeling of unfriendliness to what was called the Labour Party. He was not sure that the House would not see a closer alliance between the Conservative Party and those who maintained an independent attitude towards the old-fashioned party of progress. Surely it was not right that, from the point of view of that party which was coming more and more to the front, which was performing its work, which had got its mandate, whatever might be its future, it was not to be denied that the time had come when, if, it be possible, the conditions should be removed which restricted its activity and hampered its efforts. Take the case of the Irish party. Was there an instance in the history of representation in this country of a set of men who had struggled under greater difficulties in face of poverty, in the face of extraordinary hindrances arising from distance, from social conditions, which had made it difficult to send a compact body of representatives to this Parliament to embody the sentiments of their people? If they passed to the constituencies which hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House represented, the case seemed to him to be stronger. Did hon. Members opposite really think that the Liberal Associations would be likely to fall into the hands of wirepullers and demagogues? Did they know how fastidious, how jealous, those who made up these bodies were, of the character of the men who represented them? Did they realise that in the case of the men who were unworthy to come to the House of Commons to represent those constituencies, it was too often because, owing to the difficulties of their position, it was impossible for these constituencies to find men who would come forward to bear the heat and the burden of representing them? Hon. Members opposite had a larger proportion of rich men in their ranks than was the case with the Liberal supporters of the Government. The Conservatives had no difficulty in finding a candidate, but with the Liberals it was constantly necessary to go outside 1765 the locality, to bring in people who, after all, even then, only came in circumstances of constraint, and in the face of adverse conditions, to represent the people, and who were with difficulty obtained even for that purpose. Surely, from that point of view, it was right that they should enlarge the choice of the constituencies and give them the opportunity to pick and choose more freely, trusting them to repudiate and put aside any man who had not a spotless and blameless character, to carry out the trust committed to him. The hon. Baronet spoke of corruption. Where did they find the best instances of corruption in that House? Was it from the poor men, or was it from the company-monger? Was it from the wealthy capitalist—he cared not on which side of the House he sat? He grieved to think that there had been some cases of this kind on his own side of the House, as he also grieved to think that there had been cases among hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was one of the saddest things to think that the constituencies had been driven to look for representatives in men who did not come forward with clean hands financially, but who came into Parliament, not for the purpose of politics, but for their own gain, for their own ends, and who found themselves in a better position to follow their avocations with the letters "M.P." after their names. He did not think they could therefore say that the working class, was the corrupt class. Whatever might be said against the representatives of a body like the County Council, which was democratic, which had a large number of men on it who earned a scanty livelihood, they had, at all events, in that body, whatever its faults, one of the most remarkable examples of purity, absolute individual incorruptibility. He knew of no case to the contrary. It appeared to him, therefore, that the position in which the House was now placed was the outcome, not of anything which had happened to-day, not of any corruption which might be traced to yesterday, but the outcome of the principle which they took up in 1832, which they carried further in 1867, and a stage further still in 1885. It seemed to him that when they said they would trust the people of the country to manage their own affairs, 1766 not asserting that they were absolutely infallible, not asserting that the were better or wiser than any other class of the community, but simply right and earnest in the doctrine of representative Government, then they had reached a standard from which the proposition of the evening was the inevitable and logical outcome. He did not say the payment of Members would come at once; the constituencies had to be educated up to it; but it was coming very rapidly. Each year, as the people came more and more to understand what it was, it impressed itself on their minds, not only as a thing they must take for what it was worth, but as one which would work out to their best advantage, inasmuch as it would give them a larger choice of candidates and a better opportunity of supervising those candidates. He did not wonder that it had taken time since the proposition was first mooted to attain to its present position; but the question was progressing, and the two sides of the House were coming to a better understanding about it. Yet he believed it would remain a Party question. It was one of those Party questions that would be carried, on a day not far off, by a decisive majority, and then it would be seen to be something beneficial and in the interests of the whole community, just as the principle of representative government had been seen to be an almost unmixed blessing.
§ MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)
said, he could not help wondering whether, when the hon. and learned Member said that this was to be a Party question as between the two sides of the House, he had read the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1870, in which he advanced that very argument of the existence of a leisured class, upon which the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution, appeared to throw scorn, and which the last speaker had tried utterly to demolish. In 1870 the right hon. Gentleman said:—But the truth is this—and let us not disguise it from ourselves—the condition of this country is peculiar. We have in this country a vast leisure class to which there is nothing parallel on the face of the earth. There is no country in which such an amount of wealth is concentrated within so small a space, and where, with respect to occupation, wealth being abundant in the market—if I may use a metaphor of 1767 political economy—commands but a small price. We have wealthy men in the country to whom wealth is nothing because it is so common; but power, honour, distinction, the confidence of their countrymen, the favour of the Crown all those things have value in their eyes; they are not money, but they are money's worth, and the public has no difficulty whatever in finding competent and qualified persons—the most competent generally and the best qualified persons to discharge all these offices without pay.There was no good case in argument for the payment of Members, and because this was so, hon. Members opposite said, "Let us make a Party question of it." According to the Resolution, payment would have to be made to Members of the Government in addition to their official salaries; for the Resolution said the allowance was to be "granted to all Members of Parliament."
§ MR. DARLING
said, the Resolution did not make any exception. The hon. and learned Gentleman said:—Do not let us hear anymore the argument about the leisured class; it was the argument used in 1832.Yes; but it, was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in 1870; had he since given it up? ["Yes."] In 1886, he supposed. The hon. and learned Gentleman told them they must assimilate this House to the London County Council, because in this House there had been unfortunate lapses in financial matters, and in the London County Council there had been none. Did he know that three members of the London County Council had been sent to gaol for dishonesty—one for stealing a railway ticket, one for stealing a shilling from a lady of easy virtue, and the third for some other unconsidered trifle; that other two members were principal shareholders in a newspaper to which the Council had deliberately, In their own vote, sent the bulk of their advertisements, and that their conduct had been arraigned before that body itself as corrupt conduct. Yet it was said that this House, on account of those unfortunate spots which they all regretted —none more than Her Majesty's Minister must be made pure, clean, and wholesome like unto the London County Council. If there were an argument wanting 1768 against the Motion, the hon. and learned Member had supplied it: it was, that this would make the House of Commons like, the London County Council.
§ MR. DARLING
said, some of them were paid directly, and he rather gathered that others took means of paying themselves, it was suggested, too, they should resemble the Deputies of France and Italy. Could there be a more preposterous proposition? The case of America had long been given up. If it had not been demolished before, it had been demolished by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns), who had investigated the purity of American public life on the spot, and had given it as his deliberate opinion, first of all, that he knew only one place to equal Chicago, and then on further thought, that that particular place did not come up to Chicago in iniquity. They were told that this was particularly a labour question, and that in view of the election the other day at Bristol, they must make the House more in accord with trades-unionism and the advancing tide of democracy. How were they to set about it? The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division said the Trades Union Congress had passed a resolution in favour of the Motion, and he added that this was not a Party question, but a trades union question.
§ MR. FENWICK
begged the hon. and learned Member's pardon. He never said anything of the kind; he said the representative men amongst the trade unionists were in favour of this proposal, but he never said it was their question.
§ MR. DARLING
understood the gentlemen in question had expressed the opinion as officials of the trades unions, and as delegates to the Trades Union Congress, and he thought the hon. Member said it was at the Congress they had expressed their opinion in favour of this Motion. He apologised if he fell into the error—a very natural one—that having been discussed and resolved upon at the Trades Union Congress, it was not inaccurately described as a trades union question. If it be a trades union question, was it a question of the 1769 old or new unionism? Was a Member of Parliament to receive a minimum wage, or what? Was overtime to be permitted? The Resolution did not say. In the times when the proposed system prevailed in this country there were two scales of payment; there was the scale of 2s. a day for borough Members and there was the scale of twice that amount for Knights, and he was obliged to confess that the Impartial services rendered by one or two Knights to both Parties really entitled them to draw from both sides of the House their 2s. a day. He imagined the Congress would not be in favour of Members of Parliament doing an excessive amount of work for their pay. He imagined they would be opposed to Evening Sittings and Winter Sessions, or if they did consent, to such things they would insist upon a wholly different set of labourers being employed for such overtime. He could not imagine that the Trades Union Congress would consent to impose upon the Members of the House of Commons any obligations they would not allow the members of their own bodies to undertake. They must have two shifts of Members, or the one shift must be paid for overtime. He did not know how the point was going to be solved, but they must certainly have such a question raised by those who had come here with a mandate from the Trades Union Congress, Just as it would be possible to pay some Members more than others. They would be brought face to face with the question whether a Knight of the Shire or a Metropolitan Member should receive more than anybody else, or whether a man should be rewarded by the public according to the amount of work he did, or whether they should all draw the same salary. It would be obviously unjust that his hon. Friend the Member for Kings Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles), for instance, should only received what everybody else got. Before 1770 this proposal could commend itself to the House he fancied it must be a little more carefully thought out. There was only one other argument to which he wished to allude. It had been said there was something degrading if a man who was not in a position without some payment from the public funds to support the dignity of a Member of Parliament—whatever that might be—had to make a declaration to that effect. It had been said by another hon. Member there was no degradation in Members of Parliament being paid, because those in office, were paid, and those who ceased to hold office received a pension as a matter of course. That was not so. As he understood it, ex-Ministers who received pensions—there were only four ex-Ministers in receipt of pensions at the present time—had to make what was called the declaration of poverty. There was no disgrace. If there was no degradation in an ex-Minister of the Crown making a declaration that he was in need of a pension, why should an ordinary Member of Parliament or a working man be degraded by making it. Before they passed this Resolution to pay those who wanted salaries and those who did not, they should exhaust every other remedy, because this Resolution meant putting a further taxation on the taxpayers of the Country, directly and deliberately for their own advantage. It was useless to say:—Get rid of the obloquy of doing that by voting that we shall not have it, but that the next Parliament shall.The next Parliament would consist, for the most, part, of men who would not want it. They ought to see whether a smaller remedy than that proposed would not meet the case.
§ MR. J. W. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
admitted that weight was to be attached to many of the arguments used in opposition to the Motion. Although the difference of opinion in the House 1771 was great, he believed that, after all, was possible to assign neutral ground on which the opponents and promoters of the measure might meet. The question seemed to him largely to depend on what the salary to be received should be. If they could fix a salary that would admit working men to Parliament, and at the same time offer no inducement to any man to come there for the sake of getting it, it seemed to him that they would have solved the problem. The working man who would be likely to seek election would probably be making £2 or £3 a week. He would not fix the salary at more than this except to allow something for the extra cost of living in London, arid railway fares to and from his constituency. £150 or £200 a year, with railway expenses, would probably meet the case. If working men wished to enter Parliament they should be prepared to make sacrifices, just as Members who were already there had made sacrifices to obtain their positions. It had been said that if a Member of Parliament were given a salary he would be more liable to accept bribes than a man who received no salary. That was a startling proposition, and one which required proof. He agreed that poor man was exposed to temptations to which a rich man was not, and for that very reason advocated salaries. It had been said that payment of Members would lead to corruption. The London County Council had been alluded to. The Members of the Council received no salaries. But the hon. and leanred Gentleman said they had no salaries but they found means of paying themselves. He thought it was an unfair aspersion, but, granting it was true, it was an argument for payment of salaries. If men without salaries found a means of paying themselves, the sooner it was arranged to pay them a salary above board, the better it would be. The hon. Baronet opposite said, that this country should set the precedent and not borrow an example from foreign countries. 1772 But this country had set the precedent. Six hundred years ago this country first adopted the system of payment of Members, and the whole history of this question was fraught with most important lessons on the subject they were now discussing. In the first place, the payment of Members was adopted for the very reason for which it was demanded now, viz., that they could not get Members of Parliament of the class to stand without paying them, and a salary was granted. These salaries were, unfortunately, ultimately paid by the constituencies, and had it not been for that fact, he believed they would have continued to be paid down to the present time. The law creating the system of payment of Members had never been repealed, and in the opinion of many eminent legal authorities, there were many Members of this House who, if they claimed wages under the conditions laid down in these old Acts, would be entitled to the payment of them. The system died out because, unfortunately, Members found other means of paying themselves. It was found by their constituents that they could made such handsome sums in the pickings to which they were entitled, that, instead of having to pay a Member for his services, it was easy to get a Member to pay them to adopt him. That was a remarkable fact, and it meant that the moment corruption entered by the door of this House, payment of Members went out by the window. So far from leading to corruption, the two were utterly incompatible. The old system of paying Members was not introduced. It was not necessary, because, long after corruption of the grossest sort had passed away, Members of Parliament had a great many privileges which, in themselves, amounted to a handsome salary, such, for instance, as immunity from their creditors for themselves and their friends, and the privilege of franking letters, which Sir Reginald Palgrave 1773 estimated was worth £900 a, year These had been done away with, but there had been other privileges, even less highly to be recommended, which also constituted a money value in the letters "M. P." after one's name. It had been, unfortunately, too easy when a man had these letters to obtain directorships. He was happy to say, however, that that was dying out, and, at the present moment, the House of Commons was purer and freer from corruption and from ulterior financial motives than at any period of its history. It was actually in consequence of tins purity that they demanded the payment of Members, and if such a demand were granted, he felt certain that that purity would be by no means and in no way endangered.
§ MR. GEORGE CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
observed that when a motion, the terms of which were identical with this, was introduced and passed by the House by a majority of 47 two years ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that he would carry it out as soon as he had time and money at his disposal. Since, that date the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had a larger allowance of time than at that period he had reason to expect, or that they thought he had a right to expect; and, as regarded money, in the interim his financial genius, which they all acknowledged, had placed very considerable resources at his disposal. And yet, up to the present time, they had heard nothing whatever about the fulfilment of those pledges then given, and for his own part he could not forbear from sharing the suspicions which were honestly entertained and, a it appeared to him, most candidly expressed, by the Member for Haddington and the Mover of the Motion. The former of these hon. Gentlemen, in his able and ingenious speech, said they were not much nearer the point of fruition than they were two years ago, and that remark he thought not only 1774 true in fact, but probably prophetic in lone, and if, half an hour hence, the hon. Member had been able to make his speech after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would very likely say the same tiling. The fact was that the proposal for the Payment of Members was one of those proposals which it was easy enough to commend with a sort of clap-trap plausibility on popular platforms in the country; easy enough, too, to vote for with the cynical impunity that characterised their proceedings on a Friday night, in the House of Commons. But when it came to the question of a responsible Government carrying the Resolution into effect he did not believe either the present Government or the Government which might succeed them would in the least degree meet the desires of hon. Members below the Gang-way opposite. He remembered reading an admirable speech against the payment of Members by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer over 20 years ago. He should not give himself the luxury of quoting that speech, because he had done so on previous occasions, but having heard the speech the right hon. Gentleman made two years ago on the question, and which the Mover of the Resolution implored him not to repeat that night, he could not help thinking that the sympathies of the right hon. Gentleman were now in reality at bottom in agreement with that former speech, delivered in times when the right hon. Gentleman was not his present but his former self, in this discussion on the Payment of Members it was almost impossible to say anything new. He hoped he should not be regarded as saying anything disrespectful of those on the other side who had preceded him when he stated that there was absolutely no novelty in their arguments, and, equally for himself, he might say that he did not in the least expect that he should be able to introduce any novelty in his brief reply. Now, his 1775 hon. Friend the Member for Haddington used an argument which was characteristic of his subtle mind. He said that payment of Members was the logical corollary of the various constitutional steps, particularly those of political enfranchisement, that Parliament had taken during the past 20 years. That was an interesting theoretical assumption on the part of the hon. Member, but he did not make—and it was doubtful whether, with all his ingenuity, he could make any attempt to demonstrate it in fact. In his opinion a logical corollary was, in modern political phraseology, merely a synonym for the lowest political expediency. The Payment of Members was no more the logical corollary of the Franchise Bills that had been passed, than would be Manhood Suffrage, Female Suffrage, One Man One Vote, or any other of the particular methods of tinkering the Constitution that were in favour with hon. Members opposite. Since he had been in the House he had heard almost every new proposal stated to be the logical corollary of something that preceded it at some time or other, and he had no doubt that if this proposal was carried into law they would have the question of Payment of Members quoted at some future time as the logical antecedent of some measure of which at the present moment they had not the remotest idea. Then, as to the argument of the hon. Member who moved the Resolution, why should they pay a Secretary of State, a Member of that House, £5,000 a year, and not pay the ordinary Member of Parliament; he conceived the answer would be that they paid these right hon. Gentlemen high salaries because they were worth the price. In the course of the discussion the sum of £350 a year had been mentioned as a possible salary for hon. Members, but for his own part he was free to confess, without making any discrimination between Members on either side of the House, that he thought some hon. 1776 Members would be dear at the price. They paid these right hon. Gentlemen because, he presumed, they could not obtain their services without paying them a very substantial salary, and, moreover they gave them these large salaries as an equivalent—and, in his opinion, a most modest equivalent, but still such as was customary in this country—for the permanent engagement of abilities of high order in the service of the State. The Argument, therefore, that because we paid a Secretary of State £5,000 a year we ought to pay every ordinary Member £350 a year, was as absurd as to pretend that, because the Deputy Chairman of the County Council was paid £1,500 a year, therefore every member of that body ought, also to receive a salary. He passed to another argument, and a very familiar one. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution asked the House to affirm the principle that the labourer was worthy of his hire. But if the labourer did not want any hire, and if any considerable proportion of the body of labourers under discussion not only did not want their hire, but would decline it if it were offered them, why should it be forced upon them? There was another consideration—were the Members of the House of Commons the only labourers who ought to be spoken of in this context? The hon. Baronet pointed out what was a perfect truism, that in this country we had a great administrative system, at any rate as regards local government, the principle of which was that of unpaid public service, which permeated every class of our organisation and our population, the basis of which was to be found among the people and the apex of which was perhaps supplied by that House. If they were to pay Members of Parliament in the mariner proposed, it was perfectly certain that all this great machinery that had been so recently set up, their County, District, Parish, and Town Councils would equally be entitled 1777 to and would equally claim remuneration. They would find it impossible any longer to sustain that threat system of unpaid magisterial service, which was one of the chief peculiarities and distinctions of this country, and, descending to another grade of the public service—than whom he ventured to say none were more meritorious—the jurors who constituted our ordinary and special juries would also claim, and with a persistency they could not resist, payment for their services. So then, if they made this concession to Members of Parliament, they would be starting upon a downward plane, they could not possibly arrest their progress until they reached the bottom, and they would not be able to stop until the total charge put upon the revenues amounted to between £2,000,000 and,£3,000,000. Passing to what he would call the main argument —namely, that under the present system the choice of the constituencies was unhappily limited—he might say that them was not a man on that side of the House who had the slightest desire to impose any restriction whatsoever upon the legitimate choice of candidates by constituencies. There was nobody on those Benches who would argue that the House ought to be composed solely of the rich, leisurely, or well-to-do. They were in favour, as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite, of throwing wide open the doors of the House and admitting everyone whom a constituency succeeded in electing. The Mover of the Resolution drew a picture from which it might be inferred that each constituency was flooded with a number of admirable gentlemen whom it was desirous of returning and who desired to be returned, but who were prevented from their condition of destitution from entering the portals of the House. For his own part, he belonged to that class which had been called by an hon. Member "carpet-baggers," but he could only say he had never come across the class of gentlemen depicted by the hon. 1778 Member in his own constituency. In electing him his constituency not only did what he thought a wise thing, but they also, of their own initiative preferred him, an outside stranger, with reasonable means at his disposal, to a crowd of presumably better qualified candidates who existed in their midst. If the Motion were passed the result would not be that a larger number of working men and poor men would get into the House. That was not the experience of foreign countries, nor of the colonies; but in a number of constituencies they would have needy, impecunious adventurers attracted by the distinction attaching to the House, and still more by the salary. If it were not a desideratum that the House should consist of rich men, it was equally undesirable to have in their midst a number of poor men who were attracted by the prospect of a stipend, and who might be a serious political danger. There were even stronger reasons against the proposal: if Payment of Members were established they must be prepared to revolutionize our political machinery. At present, political principles and views were crystallized within very definite limits, and political parties were divided by unmistakable lines. The result was that at an election now the electors had to choose ordinarily between two candidates, advocating two different policies, in deciding to whom they should give their suffrages. Already there were indications that another system was growing up; but if there were payment of Members there would be in every constituency such a rush of candidates, mainly drawn from the Liberal Party, and therefore a great source of political advantage to the Conservatives that they must inevitably institute the second ballot, and, indeed, in some cases a third ballot might be required. [Ministerial Cheers.] He was surprised to find that there were some Members to cheer that prospect. It had always seemed to him to be one of the 1779 glories of our public life, that we were free from that confusion of political issues which, was such a fruitful source of trouble and danger to many countries on the Continent. He hoped the House would willingly accept the proposition that anything which tended to aggravate the control that was exercised by the constituency over the Member of Parliament was to be deprecated. They all knew from experience how invidious and how extreme that pressure could sometimes be. It was perfectly true that a man was honoured by being returned to Parliament. In return for that honour he gave his services for nothing, and he was allowed a very reasonable and most necessary measure of personal liberty. But if they gave Members of Parliament a salary of £350 a year it was certain that many of the constituencies would insist on ear-marking for their own local purposes the greater part of that salary. The poor man, therefore, under this proposed change would be no better off than he was now. But, more than that, when a man knew that by taking a line in antagonism to a large section or to a majority of his constituency he might lose not merely his seat, but his salary, if a poor man he could be placed in a position which he would find, in some cases at least, considerable difficulty in resisting. But the strongest argument of all was the effect which the change would have upon the position of the House of Commons in the estimation of the country. It ought to be an object dearer to every Member than the retention of his seat in that Chamber to secure the hold of the House on the confidence and esteem of the country at large. In the various political struggles which they had waged, whatever might have been their aberrations of judgement and conduct, the House of Commons, on the whole, had retained a hold on the respect of the people. Prejudiced as Members of the House sometimes might be, ignorant as they often were, the people yet 1780 believed they were honest, and they knew, in modern times at least, that they were pure. But if he read the signs of the times aright, he did not think that this position of the House of Commons in public estimation had been maintained, and he doubted whether the House of Commons, as an institution, had now a very large reserve fund of popularity at its back upon which it might draw unlimited cheques in the future. Too often when classes in this country appealed to the House to consider their grievances and to look into their concerns, they found the House engaged in petty Party recriminations which they could not understand. And too often, also, when the citizens of our great Empire outside came to the doors the House and asked for even the most modest attention to their concerns, a deaf ear was turned to their claims. At the same time that they had this growing suspicion and distrust of the House of Commons on the part of the people, they also found existing the keenest and most acute distrust and suspicion of anything like financial reward in public life. The most vigilant and searching criticism was applied to anything like political pensions. If his diagnosis were correct, he could understand that it might be said with some justice in the future, upon critical occasions, when a Vote of Confidence was being decided and the fate of a Government was at stake, that the independence of hon. Members was compromised by the fact that their salary depended on the vote which they gave. He would not press that too strongly, but Payment of Members would in the last resort decrease the respect in which the House was held and lower the status of its Members. Finally, there was the plea that this was a democratic measure, or, in other words, that it was a measure acceptable to the people. If so, why not apply the only possible and reasonable test, and propose that the people in the various localities should 1781 pay for it themselves? Then it could be I seen how popular the measure was. It was easy enough to put a charge of £250,000 a year on the Consolidated Fund; the constituencies did not feel that. But let the people be asked whether they, as ratepayers, would be willing to bear the burden. This was not a piece of democratic legislation at all. Deserving and praiseworthy as the class might be for whom the change was made, it remained true that this was a piece of class legislation and nothing else. But it was not on this ground that he opposed it. Because he believed that it would dislocate our whole political machinery and bring no compensation, and because it would lower the status of the House, he hoped it would be long before this Resolution, however often lion. Members might vote for it on Friday nights, was taken up by any rerosponsible Government and embodied in an Act of Parliament.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
The hon. Member criticised me for having, as he said, held a different opinion 20 years ago upon this subject from that which I hold now. That is perfectly true. The hon. Member is one whom the House justly admires, and in whose future it feels a great interest. And I venture to predict that if the hon. Member should succeed in escaping from that sword of Damocles which is always hanging over his head, and should not be banished to another place—and I know that if it were in his power he would escape that fate—I venture to say that 20 years hence the hon. Member will hold very different opinions, and that, if he is still a Member of this House, he, in common with his colleagues, will receive a payment for his services. There is no question which has made a greater or more rapid advance than the present question. I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend behind me that it is the inevitable consequence of the great classes of 1782 extension of the suffrage and the mark of a democratic age. I am not going to rest this case at all upon the example of other countries. I think that what the hon. Baronet opposite said in his very thoughtful and becoming speech was true upon that subject. It was a signal contrast to another which we heard. I hope that that speech did not represent the opinions of Gentlemen who sit opposite; and that when the example of one of the greatest colonies of England is cited it will not be treated as a "Botany Bay affair." In my opinion, language of that sort used in the House of Commons is most injurious to this Empire, and I hope that language of that insulting character will be repudiated by every right-thinking Member of this House. I will say the same thing of the unjust imputations cast from the other side of the House, apparently with approbation, upon that great body the County Council of London, who are doing a great and good work for this Metropolis—[Cries of "Oh!" and cheers];—and I hope that the language which we have listened to to-night will meet with general reprobation. I pass from that speech, which was a most unworthy contribution to the Debate, and I turn willingly to the speech of the hon. Baronet. He said that there was a great, leisured class in this country, and that that class had rendered great and gratuitous service to the nation. So it has. We ought all to recognise that, and the immense advantages which the services of that class have rendered generation after generation to this country. But everybody who has considered the subject must have felt that it is true of this House, as was said by Lord Salisbury of the other House of Parliament, that we are too much of one class, and that this House, having regard to the great extension of the popular suffrage, does not sufficiently represent all classes of the community in the 1783 Members who are returned to it. Now, the hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite has drawn pictures of the various classes of Members undesirable in this House, who might, be returned in consequence of remuneration being given to Members of Parliament; but I would call his attention to the fact that all these suspicions are founded upon the conception and the belief in the incompetence of the constituencies to judge of the people they will return. Does he imagine that the constituencies of this country are not able to distinguish between a needy adventurer endeavouring to get into Parliament to earn a salary and a man who, though having a humbler fortune, is a man as worthy as anybody else to occupy a seat in this House? The whole of the hon. Gentleman's speculations and alarms are entirely founded on a conception on his part that the constituencies are not able to form a sound judgment. Something has been said of personal corruption. Well, there were days when the House of Commons was very generally corrupt. Those were not the days of democracy. If you go back to the middle of last century, those were the days when in the House of Commons the power of the Crown and the power of the aristocracy was in the ascendant; and therefore to say that because you are going to admit a larger number of men who have small means you will by that introduce corruption to Parliament is, in my opinion, an entirely unjust conclusion. I believe that among the working classes of this country there is as great, I will say a greater, horror of pecuniary corruption than among any other class, and that the man suspected of practices of that kind would be repudiated and rejected by any constituency in the country. The hon. Member opposite has said that the House of Commons has lost, and is losing, the respect and confidence of the country. I do not believe that. I think that would be a 1784 very extraordinary result of having given the choice of Members of this House to a far larger proportion of the people of this country. I cannot share the pessimism of the hon. Member on that subject, nor do I see how the House of Commons is going to lose much of the respect and more of the confidence of the country because it embraces within its numbers a greater variety of the representatives of the different classes in the country. Now it is unnecessary that I should go at length into the arguments put forward. I have had the honour on more than one occasion of stating the views I entertain on this subject. I have said that, in my opinion, the proposals in this Resolution are wise and expedient, and I think the hon. Member who has just sat down will do me the credit to believe me when I say that if I did not believe that it would conduce to the strength, to the character, and to the honour of the House of Commons, I should not be here to support this Resolution to-night. There is nothing that is dearer to me than the honour and character of the House of Commons. Now, Sir, let us look at this Resolution. The hon. Baronet opposite said that the speech of the Mover of the Resolution had struck the word "forthwith" out of the Resolution. When we were discussing this matter before, I asked a question as to the meaning of the word "forthwith;" and it was expounded by the Mover of the Resolution on that occasion that it meant "as soon as practicable." But he has now given a more protracted meaning to the word, because he has declared to-night that he does not think that this Resolution ought to take effect within she present Parliament, because there would be something unbecoming in voting a salary to ourselves. I confess I do not feel that. If the thing is right, it is just as right for the present Parliament as for any other, and I confess I do not see any distinction; and it 1785 is a very doubtful piece of policy to pass an Act of Parliament which you say is not to operate on the present House of Commons. It seems to me that the logical conclusion of the hon. Member's argument is that the constituencies when they elect the next Parliament should decide upon this question themselves. I have been addressed in two tones, as it were. There was the tone of the Mover of the Resolution, who warned me to count the cost—of course, we shall have to count the cost. He warned me of the serious consequences that might ensue in a minatory tone. Then there was the tone of the Seconder of the, Resolution, whose persuasive tone I prefer to the minatory tone of the Mover. I say, as I have said before, that this is a question of time and of money, as the Prime Minister told the deputation that waited upon him. As to Money, I shall be able soon to give the House more information than I am able to at present. As to time, the House is really more master of that than I am, but my opinion upon this subject and my desires are what they have been, and when I have the time and the means to promote the objects laid down in this Resolution I shall do what I can to further them. When I have the opportunity I will do what I can to give effect, to the principle e ob/-bodied in this Resolution.
§ MR. G. J. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
It appears to me that, at all events to-night, we are going to plough a furrow in the sand. Any decision upon the Resolution is to be absolutely nugatory. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an enigmatical speech, and no one knows whether he proposes in his Budget to submit to the House an estimate for the cost which will be involved if this Resolution is carried out. But I rather gather that that is not to be the case, and I understand that the Party opposite are perfectly prepared to remit this subject to n future Parliament. I wish to 1786 make our position on this side of the House perfectly clear. I do not believe there is a single person on this side of the House who does not welcome every genuine representative of the working class. We wish to have in this House the representatives of that class, and I am certain that I represent the opinion of both sides of this House when I say that the experience which we have had of the working-class Members in our midst has been such as to make us proud of their association with us and to make us desire that they may increase in numbers. It is from no desire to exclude any single working man that most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House are opposed to this Resolution. But we do not believe that the passing of a Resolution of this kind will increase the numbers of working-class Members in this House. There is not in the countries where there are paid members a single Parliament which numbers among its members as many genuine working men as sit in the British House of Commons. There are paid members in France, in Germany, and in other countries, but in none of the Continental Parliaments are there as many working men as sit in this House. If there be a genuine desire to have more working men in this House they will come here and constituencies will return them. Is there not some hypocrisy among hon. Members opposite on this question? When working men have come forward prepared to sit in this House, notwithstanding that they are not paid, have hon. Members opposite, their leaders and organisers, made the necessary efforts to secure their return? Look at Bristol. There was an opportunity for a working man to be elected to this House. [Ministerial Cries of "He is not a working man;" and Laughter]. Hon. Members may laugh, but there are many constituencies where working men have come forward and have been opposed by Gladstonians. 1787 I say it is not the question of expense that has kept them out of the House, and if we on this side oppose the payment of Members it, is upon the ground that it will generally lower the status of the whole House of Commons, and because we do not believe that it will increase the number of working men here. It is another class that will benefit by the change, the professional-politician class, men who will lay themselves out in order to make an income by sitting in this House. I honestly believe that the status of a Member will be lowered by payment. That is what has happened elsewhere. Have not the populace pointed at representatives coming from the French Assembly, saying: "There go the 20-franc men, the men who have been paid?" If you introduce a system of paid members, they will be considered more as delegates and less as representatives, I entirely endorse what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that he himself is anxious for the dignity of the House. I believe we are all anxious to maintain its traditions and that no greater blow could be struck at the general position Members of Parliament hold in the country than by passing a Measure of this kind. I earnestly say that if I thought it would be a Measure which would assist in making the House more representative that would be the greatest argument in its favour. We all desire to see working men amongst us. We believe it is possible now that they should be represented. There are many constituences where men would gladly give way to have a working-man representative. We should not promote that result, but the return of a number of Members less desirable than those who sit in this House if we passed this Resolution. Therefore, I trust, our vote will not be misunderstood. It is not a vote against democracy or against working-class Members, but against putting Members of the House on a footing on which they would less command the general respect of the community, and 1788 that respect which I trust we shall long continue to enjoy.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 158; Noes, 176.—(Division List No. 34.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added:"—
§ And, it being after Midnight, and Objection being taken to further proceeding, MR. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business.
§ Whereupon Mr. WILLIAM ALLEN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put:"—
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved,—That, as the principle of gratuitous public service, upon which the representation of this House is at present based, limits the freedom of constituencies in the selection of the Representatives, this House is of opinion that a reasonable allowance should forthwith be granted to all Members of Parliament.— (Mr. William Allen.)