HC Deb 21 May 1903 vol 122 cc1416-39
SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)

said in moving that the House do now adjourn, he did so in order to call attention to the appointment which had been made of a person who was not a Member of this House as the President of the Board of Agriculture. That his Motion was not a political one was evidenced by the front Opposition Bench. He did not make this Motion from any objection he had to the noble Earl who had been appointed, or on the ground of his unfitness for the position, because from his training as a Member of many Government Departments and from his having been under the Colonial Secretary at the Colonial Office, he would naturally be a man of business qualities, and no doubt to a certain extent able to fill the position. He did not oppose the appointment of the noble Earl on the ground that he was a Peer, although he was aware of the fact that the agricultural journals of the day did so. There was a very strong objection indeed to the President of the Board of Agriculture being in the House of Lords when there was not an official in this House to represent that Department. Up to now the precedents were all in his favour; on no occasion had a President of the Board of Agriculture been appointed who was not a Member of this House. What good reason was there for the Government departing from these precedents? He was, of course, aware that at the present time no county seat was safe; but even if that were so, the position could be filled by an hon. Member who, like the late President or the President of the Local Government Board, sat for a great borough. If the Government thought the boroughs were also shaky, then why not appoint the Secretary to the late Mr. Hanbury to the position? It was well known that the late President of the Board of Agriculture had had no great experience of agriculture, but he brought great business abilities to his Department, and was an ideal President whom it would be difficult to replace from either side of the House. Mr. Hanbury was an ideal President because he was a man who had absolute independence and firmness, and was prepared to stand up for his Department and the agricultural interest in this House even against his colleagues. It was very undesirable that this House should have no representative at all, in an official sense, of the Board of Agriculture. Of course, there was the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire who would represent it—in the way of a Member sitting on the Treasury Bench as a junior Lord of the Treasury to answer questions put to him—but he would be only a mouthpiece, and have no power or initiative—he would be, as had been aptly suggested, merely the phonograph of the noble Earl sitting in another place.

What would happen in the case of a Bill being brought up, a new Bill of great interest to agriculture, such as the Adulteration of Butter Bill, the Sheep Scab Bill, or even the Food and Drugs Bill? They would in future have to come down from the other House, where they might not have been discussed at all But supposing, for the sake of argument, they were introduced into this House, the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire would have no power to make alterations in them, or make concessions. He would have to consult the noble Lord in another place. He might be told that the Government intended that the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire should be practically the President, but if that was so he would ask why they had not appointed him President of the Board of Agriculture. They could not say he would not be well-fitted to succeed the late Mr. Jan-bury, because the hon. Member was a practical agriculturist and understood what the farmers wanted in this matter. He was one of those members of the Government who would not have to seek re-election upon accepting office under the Crown, and therefore the Government would not risk a shaky seat. But if he was wanted by the Government as a Whip, then why could they not look a little lower down on the Treasury Benches and appoint the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Suffolk, in which case the Government had nothing to fear in case of a by-election, because his seat again would not be affected by his taking office at the present moment. It was really impossible to understand why it was so necessary to go to another place for a President of the Board of Agriculture. On the benches opposite there were twenty or thirty hon. Members perfectly capable of succeeding the late President. With regard to the question as to whether the President of the Board of Agriculture should sit in another place, he might point out that that system was adopted in the last Parliament with regard to the Post Office, and was a failure. The Duke of Norfolk was appointed Postmaster-General, and his appointment had been most inconvenient. They wanted a responsible man in this House who could answer them face to face when they attacked his Department, and who might explain away, if he could, the objections taken to the methods of that Department. It would be found to be practically impossible to get into touch with the President of the Board of Agriculture, because when they went up to another place they would probably find the House of Lords had adjourned, and that the noble Earl's whereabouts were not discoverable. The late Mr. Hanbury, in season and out of season, was always anxious to see agricultural Members, and that was a state of things that was of great advantage to the agricultural interests of this country. It seemed to him, for all practical purposes, the Government were abolishing the Board of Agriculture. Why could not they say boldly that they desired to save £2,000 a year, and that agriculture could be represented in another place by a Lord-in-Waiting, and in this House by a junior Lord of the Treasury. He could assure the Government that if the Party to which he belonged had ventured to offer such an insult to the House of Commons as the present Ministry had done in this particular appointment, he should have taken exactly the same course as he had done on this occasion.

MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)

said the point at issue between them was the very simple one of whether this Government, or, for the matter of that, any Government, had the right to appoint a peer as head of the Department which represented the largest industry in this country. He did not intend to make any attack on Lord Onslow about whom, and of whose capacity, he knew nothing, nor would he say anything about the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire, except that if the Government had thought fit to appoint the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire to the office, he, for one, should have had no complaint whatever to make. But as a result of the action of the Government, those who represented agricultural constituencies would no longer be in touch with the Minister for Agriculture, and it seemed that the Government had now deliberately broken the link between the tenant farmer and the Board of Agriculture. Those who represented the Board of Agriculture knew they represented the tenant farmers, and were bound to understand their grievances, and the conditions under which they lived; they knew their needs, and it had been a perfectly simple matter to put the difficulties before the Board of Agriculture. What chance would there be of ventilating the grievances of the tenant farmers in the House of Lords? The House of Lords was a house of landlords, and there could be no doubt whatever that they would look at agricultural interests from the landlord's point of view, and that the tenant farmers were bound to suffer by it. The great feature of Mr. Hanbury's administration was his accessibility. They would bitterly miss Mr. Hanbury in this House, but his loss to them had been accentuated four-fold by the action of the Ministry in appointing a Peer to take his place. He did not think there was any doubt in any quarter of the House that the appointment had been made absolutely in order to avoid a by-election. Suppose some more vacancies occurred; suppose, for the sake of argument some terrible epidemic carried off a number of the Ministers, then he supposed more peers would be appointed to the positions, and that the House of Commons might take a long holiday because the seat of Government would then have been removed to the House of Lords. This appointment might suit the Prime Minister and the Members of the House of Cecil, but it would not suit the electors, and by the appointment they had made, they were only driving another nail into their own coffin which had now become well studded.

Adjournment (under Standing Order No. 10), Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn." —(Sir Edward Strachey.)

Mr. A. J. BALFOUR and Lord EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)

rose together, but the noble Lord at once gave way. The Prime Minister, however, also resumed his seat with the remark, "You had better precede me."


then advanced to the table and explained that he had given way out of courtesy to the Prime Minister. He said this was a matter of great importance, because it involved questions which went a little beyond the immediate question, which was a comparatively narrow one, raised by his hon. friend the Member for South Somerset. Nothing, he maintained, could be more natural than that those of his hon. friends who represented constituencies partly or wholly agricultural should seize the opportunity of calling attention to the appointment of a Peer to represent agriculture. The matter had come rather suddenly upon the House, because nobody could foresee what interpretation would have been placed on the rule governing Motions for Adjournment. Nothing was more natural than that, when a legitimate opportunity arose, his hon. friend or some other Member should raise this question. In regard to the representation of great Government Departments in this House, the House of Commons had from time immemorial claimed to make its voice heard. It had not always been actuated by the same wishes or motives, but debates had certainly arisen as to the position of Ministers in this House▀×which, and how many, Ministers should sit in it, and so forth. In earlier constitutional history the House of Commons was intensely jealous of a great number of Ministerial places being created, on the ground that the Front Bench was thereby unduly strengthened. That was the state of things when the House was not so representative of the popular voice as in these days. The relations between the House of Commons and Ministers of the Crown were regulated by a Statute passed as far back as 1782, when the House asserted its opinion that not more than two Secretaries of State, and a limited number of Under-Secretaries, should be allowed to sit in the House of Commons, the fear being that if a larger number of places were created the popular voice might be over-awed by the influence of the Crown. After the Reform Act of 1832 a new order of ideas arose. The House, feeling that it represented the voice of the nation, desired that Ministers should sit here rather than in another place, in order that the representatives of the people might have as large and as tight a hold upon them am possible. In successive years the number of Ministers who might sit in the House of Commons was increased, and since the Act for the better government of India, which might be taken as a crucial case, the spirit of the House had always beer in favour of more Ministers being members of the House of Commons than formerly. The Minister for Agriculture had always hitherto been a member of this House. The case was all the more remarkable that the change took place when they were all united ii desiring that something should be done, if possible, to promote the interests of a great and suffering industry. One would have thought that of all times this was, perhaps, the last when the responsible Ministry would have desired to separate the interests of agriculture from representation in this House where there was not, and could not be, an Under Secretary, as no such office existed The burden of proof was upon the Government to tell the House why they had departed from the ordinary rule, and had gone across the lobby to find a Minister for Agriculture.

Mr. Gladstone made it a rule that the heads of the two great spending Departments should be members of the House of Commons, and it might be laid down as a parallel proposition that the heads of the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture ought always to sit in this House. But one hope had filled all their breasts. He had hoped that the unfortunate loss which all deplored would be seized to restore to the Board of Agriculture the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford. That appeared such a natural thing, and, under the circumstances, almost a providential opportunity created for the Government, that it was supposed they would have insisted on the right hon. Gentleman being restored to his proper place in the hierarchy of office. It would then have been interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak on the repeal of the Corn Duty, but whether he would have converted his colleagues or been converted himself it was not for him to speculate. There was, no doubt, a suspicion abroad, that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were blockaded on that bench, and that they were in the position of the famous Austrian general who got into a great fortress and would have given his eyes, ears, and nose to be able to get out, but was not able, because he was besieged. That being so, they were perhaps really discussing the wisdom of keeping to the antiquated rule of Members vacating their seats on appointment to offices of profit under the Crown. Through the existence of the rule Members were sometimes not appointed to offices for which they were eminently fitted, and Ministers were then drawn from another place. Such a state of things was essentially contrary to the power and dignity of the House of Commons, and he sincerely trusted that the matter might again draw attention to the question of limiting still further the necessity for re-elections on accepting or changing office; but he was quite aware that some of his hon. friends would not agree with him in this opinion. They desired to raise the question on strict constitutional grounds, holding that according to immemorial practice the Board of Agriculture should be represented in that House, and not on any personal ground.


The speech of the noble Lord may be divided into halves, one devoted to history and the other devoted to humour. The historical part was exceedingly interesting, and I think there is no man better qualified than the noble Lord, who has made a great study of constitutional history, to remind the House of the strange and most interesting vicissitudes of opinion which have influenced the House in its dealings with its own Members who have held office under the Crown. He has reminded us, and worthily reminded us, of the times, not so far distant, when this House was nervously anxious that not too many office-holders should be amongst its Members, and if it has any anxiety at the present time it is in the reverse direction. With regard to the humorous part of the noble Lord's speech I shall say nothing; it speaks for itself. But there was one observation which fell from him at the close of his speech which came upon me as a matter of surprise. It was when he spoke of the matter in dispute as not being one with regard to whether the Minister for Agriculture should be in this House or in the House of Lords, not a question whether the new Minister for Agriculture was, or was not qualified to carry out his high functions, but a question of a by-election. I confess that never occurred to me before. It never occurred to me that any hon. Member would get up in this House at three o'clock, and solemnly ask leave to discuss as a matter of urgent public importance an appointment which the Government had made, not because the appointment was a bad one, not because the person appointed was in another place rather than here, but because it did not vacate a seat which hon. Members opposite thought they had a chance of winning. That is the newest version of a "question of urgent public importance."

Now let us turn to the speeches of the mover and the seconder of the Motion. Neither of those hon. Members attempted to traverse the proposition that Lord Onslow is eminently fitted to carry out the duties of Minister for Agriculture. In my judgment, no man'not in the Cabinet, has to a greater degree shown by long service to the country in different offices, his capacity to carry out the functions now to be entrusted to him than Lord Onslow. He is himself an agriculturist; he is an administrator; he has carried out administrative work in at least three great Departments of State; he has had not only British but colonial experience. Except for the fact that he is a Peer I cannot conceive of any human being who would suggest that he is not eminently fitted for the office he is to occupy. If I may incidentally allude to it in this connection, the fact that Lord Onslow will be assisted in this House by my hon. friend the Member for North Huntingdonshire, to whom well-deserved eulogistic allusions have been made, shows that the interests of agriculture will suffer neither in this House nor in the other. I take it, therefore, that it is not a question of the fitness of the individual for the office. What, then, is it? It is the question whether it is consistent with the conduct of public business and with the dignity of this House that the President of the Board of Agriculture should be in the House of Lords. What theory of the Minister for Agriculture lies at the bottom of this criticism? We on this side of the House have taken a very different view of the position of the Minister for Agriculture from hon. Gentlemen opposite. This zeal of theirs for the Minister for Agriculture is new-born. The office was initiated by the Party on this side of the House. When Mr. Gladstone came to appoint the only Minister for Agriculture who has been appointed by the Party opposite, it is true he did not take him from the House of Lords, but he did not put him in the Cabinet. Therefore, if we are to estimate by precedent the conception of the Party opposite of the dignity and importance of this office, we are forced to the conclusion that the Minister for Agriculture may be in this House possibly, but certainly not a Member of the Cabinet. That is the doctrine which hon. Members opposite commend to the great agriculturists of the country. [" No."] I am talking not of their speeches but of their practice. It is not to their professions when we are in office, but to their practice when they are in office, that the agricultural interest will look, and it will then be seen what an enormous difference there is between the views of the two parties as to the importance of the Minister for Agriculture.

That being conceded, as I think it must be, the principal question for us to consider is whether or not it is proper that the Minister for Agriculture should be in the other House. I may ask hon. Gentlemen opposite on what principle they think that offices should be allocated between the two Houses. The noble Lord quoted a sentence from some remarks of Mr. Gladstone's in 1869, declaring that the two heads of the great spending Departments should always be in the House of Commons, and he incidentally observed that that had been the invariable practice of Mr. Gladstone when he had the opportunity himself of making a Government. I do not remember the occasion; I do not happen to carry it in my mind when he laid down that dictum, but I do know that he hardly ever kept it. I am not aware that, subsequent to the Ministry which existed in 1869, Mr. Gladstone ever appointed the heads of the two spending Departments in this House. We remember that Lord Northbrook, Lord Ripon, and Lord Spencer were heads of the Admiralty. Can any hon. Gentleman recollect that after 1869 any hon. Member of this House was appointed to that office? [" Oh."] Well, perhaps the hon. Member's memory is better than my own. I therefore assume the right of saying that, after the dictum laid down in 1869, Mr. Gladstone felt it to be absolutely necessary, as long as the Legislature consists of two Houses, that there should be a due proportion of Ministers at the head of great Departments in the other House.

MR.LOUGH (Islington, W.)

Mr. Childers.


Mr. Childers was a Minister in the very administration of which I am speaking. I say that the year 1869, the date of the dictum, is the date in which Mr. Gladstone put the First Lord of the Admiralty in this House. This is admitted to be the universal practice of the Constitution, a practice going back to time immemorial, sanctioned by Mr. Gladstone himself. That practice is that you must have a due proportion of the great Ministers of the Crown in the House of Lords, even if some of those Ministers represent spending Departments over which this House has a special and natural right of control. If that is true of the First Lord of the Admiralty, it is true of the Minister of Agriculture. The complaint is not that my hon. friend the Member for Huntingdonshire is inefficient, but that he is so efficient that he ought to be the Minister for Agriculture himself. That was the allegation of the hon. Gentleman opposite.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

But he is not an official of the Deprtment.


The hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that by the practice of this country, where there is not a secretary allocated to an office, it is the practice that he should be represented by a person who is not a Minister. I should like to point out to the House the tendency which seems to me to influence these matters. There is a very growing desire in this House to have Ministers representing the Departments among its Members. That is a natural tendency; and yet there is another tendency that cannot be ignored—I am afraid I am rather travelling away from the question of the Minister for Agriculture—[" Hear, hear!"]—there is another tendency which makes it more and more difficult to have the more laborious Departments represented on this Bench. Never again, I think, shall we see a Minister for Foreign Affairs in this House. ["Oh,_ oh!"] Well, hon. Gentlemen may have the gift of prophecy denied to myself, but I have some knowledge and experience of the matter upon which I am speaking. There have been great Ministers for Foreign Affairs in this House; but I do not believe it will be physically possible in the future for a Minister for Foreign Affairs to sit in this House, carrying on at the same time the duties of an ordinary Member of Parliament and the duties of a member of the Government. The growing strain of official work is a thing that is not, and perhaps hardly can be, appreciated by those who have not had experimental knowledge of it. The noble Lord opposite has held a high official position, and he knows that in his time the work was far greater than it was ten years before; and I can assure him that in the Department he represented in this House the work is now far greater than it was in his time; and I believe it is true also under modern conditions, of every Department, or almost every Department, of State that it is, if not actually overworked, at all events worked up to the highest pitch and strain its staff can possibly endure. The idea that a Minister can do the current work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the current work of a Member of this House at the same time would never enter the head of any man who knows the amount of work to be done by a modern Minister for Foreign Affairs. The mere labour of keeping abreast of the vast pile of documents poured in upon him day by day, alone renders such a thing impossible.

We have, therefore, in these modern times to deal with a double stream of tendencies running in opposite directions. This House is still increasing, as it has increased through many generations, its relative power in the body politic as compared with the other Chamber; and with the increase of its power, responsibilities, and activity, there naturally arises the desire that more and more of the Ministers responsible for the discharge of duties of high offices should sit on this bench, and should assist the House with information, should be compelled to give direct answers, and to take part in the day-to-day controversies across the floor of the House. Yet I am convinced that the difficulty of carrying that out will be found increasingly great, and that as you pile one duty after another upon the heads of great Departments, so it will make it less and less possible for a man to be a Member of the House of Commons and a great Minister at the same time. We know it has been made matter of comment that as compared with times past, the number of gentlemen who are able to sit on this bench throughout an ordinary debate, in which their respective Departments are not concerned, is getting smaller and smaller. I believe that, so far as I am individually concerned, some comments have been made upon my not being present last night during a large part of a debate upon a matter in which I, at all events, take great interest. It is perfectly true. You cannot avoid it. It is absolutely impossible that the work of the country can be carried on inside the House and outside the House at the same time by the same man. And when I read, as I do, of the many hours spent by Mr. Disraeli, when Leader of the House, on this bench, and when I am told that there is less done now than was done then, I think that history has exaggerated, and I do not believe it is possible for anybody holding a great office to spend very much time on this bench during discussion of matters in which he is not directly concerned. I am afraid I have unintentionally become rather egotistical. I did not mean to touch upon my own case. I want the House to remember that the very fact of the growing influence and importance of the duties placed on Ministers makes it more necessary that a due proportion of those Ministers should be allocated to the other House.

There is one other point I should like to mention before I sit down. Two of the hon. Gentlemen who have been good enough to address us to-night spent a good deal of eloquence on explaining how much better they would have made up his Majesty's Government than we have made it. They have explained what recommendations they would have made to the King if they had been Prime Minister for the Unionist Party. But then they are not Prime Ministers for the Unionist Party. I am quite sure that when, in due course, they have the burdensome responsibility they will make a proper selection; but I do not think they have any greater claim to make up our Administration than I have to make up their Administration. I shall be quite ready when the time comes to offer my advice, perhaps it will not be eagerly sought, as to how the next Administration should be formed. I am quite ready to act as a Board of Conciliation, or whatever the approved phrase may be, and to give the best advice which along—too long, perhaps—acquaintance with delicate questions has enabled me perhaps to give with some advantage. When that time comes, my advice, in private, will be at their disposal. But certainly it would never occur to me to move the adjournment and ask as a matter of urgent public importance why this Minister is in the House of Lords and that Minister in the House of Commons, or to thrust my advice on them in public, after long speeches, as to the various qualifications of gentlemen who are going to form the next Administration; that, I think, would be travelling far beyond my duty, and would amount almost to an indelicacy. It is an indelicacy which I think hon. Members opposite have not been reluctant to commit on the present occasion. But I can assure them that this interference with our domestic politics is really quite unnecessary, that we can settle for ourselves who shall best represent the Departments which they have got to preside over, and that I am perfectly ready to give to them all the freedom which we claim for ourselves. I would ask them to remember this one additional thing. It is not an easy matter to form a Government, as perhaps they will one day know; it is not an easy matter to allocate the various offices among the various persons thoroughly competent to fill them. But I do say in the interests of those who may come after me that any such arbitrary rule as apparently hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to lay down to-night—that this office is to be held in the House of Lords and that office in the House of Commons—will add a difficulty which may greatly interfere with the proper constitution of the future Governments of this country.

The difficulty is got over in some foreign States, I am aware, by providing that the Minister of the Crown, or what corresponds in those States to the Minister of the Crown here, should have the right of expressing his views in either House, and should be cross-examined in either House. I think that is wholly alien to our wishes and our traditions. We wish the Ministers of the Departments to belong to one House or to the other; and, so far as the Ministers in this House are concerned, they may be the friends of the House, or the victims of the House, or the tyrants of the House, or whatever it may be, but they must belong to the House, to be bullied by the House, to coerce the House, or to conciliate the House, whichever their particular functions and abilities may enable them to do to the best advantage. We should not tolerate some gentleman coming down from another place and giving us a lecture on any subject whatever, even if it was his own Department; and I daresay they would be as fastidious, in the House of Lords as we should certainly be here. That being so, if no interchange is possible, then depend upon it you must have some fair balance of forces between the two Houses; and you will only hamper the Minister responsible for the choice of the best man to serve his country, his office, and Party, if you lay down arbitrary restrictions with regard to this or that Minister. I have explained to the House how Mr. Gladstone, after having laid down, in 1869, that the heads of the two spending Departments must always be in this House, was himself driven by the logic of events always to have the head of one spending Department in the other House. Can there be a more striking proof of the folly of laying down these dicta, these new constitutional maxims, not based either on the history of the past, on the necessity of the present, or on the legitimate desire which this House properly has of supervising the action of the Government? Such maxims, if the House once accepts them, will do nothing, in my judgment, to add to the dignity of the House or to its power in the State, but will only entangle the future framers of Ministries in a series of arbitrary rules, which can only result in the less efficient man being chosen for the office simply in order to carry out some rules laid down in times gone by which have no reasonable application to present circumstances. These, Sir, are grounds not narrow, small or personal—grounds, I venture to say, of great and lasting importance, which ought to induce this House uncompromisingly to reject this Motion, which, as far as I know, is absolutely without parallel; and for that reason, if for no other, I am sure they ought utterly to thrust it aside.


said they were indebted to the First Lord for his offer of future conciliation between the ranks of the Liberal Party, and he rejoiced that the right hon. Gentleman was having now such experience as would enable him to give very good advice. The more experience of that sort the First Lord had, the sooner probably would the time come when his advice might be necessary. He would not traverse the Prime Minister's history, or his criticism, or humour. He was bound to say the right hon. Gentleman had extracted a good deal more humour from the noble Lord's speech than was intended or contained in it. The humour of the speech was entirely the Prime Minister's. He spoke about by-elections, but he did not think the noble Lord was anxious about by-elections.


But he spoke about them.


said he did not see where the humour of the situation came in except in the mind of the Prime Minister. He could assure the right hon. Gentlemen that there was not much humour in the by-elections from a Government point of view. [MINISTERIAL interruptions and cries of "Question."] He said if he were out of order Mr. Speaker would correct him, and he could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite who were interrupting him that he was in no hurry. They were discussing the appointment of a new Minister for Agriculture. The First Lord had not said that the noble Earl appointed to the post was the best man, he could find for it. He had said it was very difficult to form a Government. It was sometimes difficult to keep it together when it was formed.


I did not say that.


No, no, that was my addition. One recommendation for the present appointment might, perhaps, be found in the fact that the House of Lords owned about one fifth of the land of the country. He did not know whether that qualification had formed the basis for this appointment. It was said that they had a capable hon. Member to represent the noble Lord in this House. It was a curious thing that the hon. Member was not present during the first debate upon this question. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the work of some Departments was so laborious that they ought to put the Ministers representing them in another place where they could devote all their time to administration. That might be true. If there was one office where the work was so laborious as to require the whole time of the person in charge it was the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Gentleman who was to represent the Department in the House was a Whip. Surely this was not a time to increase the labours of a Government Whip. He had not only to whip his own side, but to whip eighty Members from Ireland. He protested against the burden which was put on the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire. He was new to the duties. The post of Minister of Agriculture essentially belonged to a Member of the House of Commons. There were many Members who had great claims upon the office, but the Prime Minister seemed to have felt that it would be invidious to make a selection from his followers in this House. He would not make a point of by-elections. He understood that the Prime Minister had one difficulty. He was told that there were certain revolts on the Government side of the House. It would have been very awkward to have promoted a revolter. It would have been putting a premium on revolt. The training of the noble Lord appointed to the office had been essentially bad. The noble Lord had received it under the Colonial Secretary. No man could possibly have a worse training than that. The Colonial Secretary was autocratic and all-powerful. Did any one imagine that the right hon. Gentleman allowed the noble Lord to say a word as to colonial policy? Not a single cheer was raised in answer to that. The noble Lord had obediently and reverently carried out the policy of the Colonial Secretary. Was that a qualification for a man appointed to the head of a Department? Why, the noble Lord would not know what to do when he got on his own legs. There were a great many men in this House sitting behind the Prime Minister who ought to have been preferred for this appointment.


This debate has been raised in order to call attention to a point of some constitutional importance. I have been told that the course of the debate hitherto has been confined to the constitutional question, and that nobody on the other side has introduced into the discussion anything like reflections upon my noble friend the Minister of Agriculture. It has been reserved for the hon. Member for Anglesey to complain, not merely of the appointment with reference to the question of the precise position the Minister of Agriculture should occupy in the one House or the other, but also on the ground of the position he is in, as more or less an intimate acquaintance of mine. It is that which has induced me to intervene in the debate. Having had the great advantage of the assistance of Lord Onslow during the past few years, I can truly say to the House that, having in view my noble friend's judgment, energy, initiative, and industry, the Government, the country, and, above all, the agricultural interest, are extremely fortunate in obtaining his services. When the hon. Gentleman says that my noble friend as Under Secretary was the meretool of his superior he shows a grotesque ignorance of the administration of a Government Department. When the hon. Gentleman is the head of a great and responsible Department, I hope he will treat his subordinates much better than he seems to think it is desirable to do under similar circumstances. For myself, I can say of my noble friend that, during the period we have been working together, I have always valued his opinion, and have often followed it; and certainly he has never been deterred by any terror of me from expressing his opinion, whether he agreed with me or not. Now that he has been placed in a position in which he will have greater opportunities of individually distinguishing himself, I am perfectly certain that he will justify the choice which has been made by the Prime Minister and the confidence which all who know him feel in him.


said that the Secretary for the Colonies had ably defended the appointment of his colleague, but he ventured to say, with all respect, that the qualifications of Lord Onslow did not form the question before the House. This debate had been justified, if by nothing else, by the interesting declarations which had been made from both front benches. The Prime Minister had declared that, in his opinion, never in the future of this House would the Foreign Secretary occupy a seat here. What was the reason the right hon. Gentleman gave for that? It was that the office was so important, that the duties were so responsible, and that the necessities of the office required such an amount of time, that it was quite impossible for the Foreign Secretary to discharge the duties of the office and occupy a seat in this House at the same time.


What I said was that no man could be Foreign Secretary and at the same time attend to the ordinary duties of a Member of this House.


said the analogy of the Foreign Office was not closely applicable in the case they were discussing. The Foreign Office was not an administrative office. Did the Prime Minister hold that the office of Foreign Secretary was the most important in the Government, and that it was the only office that no Member of the House of Commons could hold? He ventured to say that the Secretary for the Colonies did not believe that his office was less important than that of Secretary for Foreign Affairs.


The discussion of the relative importance of the different posts in the Government is out of order, unless it bears on the question now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury made an allusion to the office of Foreign Secretary, and I did not interrupt him, although it was not strictly relevant, because I thought the whole House was listening with interest to it.


said he would, of course, strictly observe that ruling. [Cries of "Divide."] He hoped that the hon. Member for Lowestoft would control himself a little.

COLONEL LUCAS (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

I was not opening my mouth even.


It is sometimes possible to make a noise without opening your mouth. [Cries of "Withdraw."] I would withdraw if I thought I had made a mistake. The hon. Member said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cricklade Division had argued that when the head of a Department was appointed there should be no by-election, and that the law should be so altered as to enable a Member of this House to accept office without having to seek re-election. He entirely differed from the right hon. Gentleman on that point. The argument put forward by the Prime Minister suggested that his position was troublesome and full of anxiety, and he had appealed to them to pity the sorrows of a poor Prime Minister who had no time even for golf. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh," and repeated cries of "Divide."]


I must appeal to hon. Members to maintain order. On the other hand, I trust the hon. Member will address himself to the question.


said he did not intend my remark he had made to be offensive to the Prime Minister. If the right hon. Gentleman regarded it as offensive he would withdraw it. He contended that the House had a right to criticise the appointment of the head of an important office. Lord Onslow could not properly represent the Board of Agriculture in the House of Lords, and the interests of agriculture would be practically unrepresented in the House of Commons.


said he absolutely brushed aside the fact that Lord Onslow was a Member of the House of Lords. That was his misfortune and not his fault, and it should not be the means of penalising one of the best men of the country who could have been chosen to fill the post of Minister of Agriculture. Lord Onslow was a practical agriculturist, and there was no Member on the Ministerial Bench who knew half as much about agriculture as the noble Lord did. The noble Lord was the one man whom the Government had never sufficiently rewarded for his great services to the country and the Empire as Governor of New Zealand. He congratulated the Prime Minister on having appointed a Minister who had rendered greater services to the Empire than any other Member of Parliament. He supported the Government most heartily in the appointment they had made.

Question put.

House divided:— Ayes, 54; Noes, 178. (Division List No. 97.)

Allen, Chas. P. (Glos., Stroud) Duncan, J. Hastings Hutchinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk.
Barran, Rowland Hirst Edwards, Frank Labouchere, Henry
Black, Alexander William Fenwick, Charles Lambert, George
Brigg, John Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall),
Caldwell, James Griffith, Ellis J. Layland-Barratt, Francis
Cawley, Frederick Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Leigh, Sir Joseph
Craig,RobertHunter (Lanark) Harmsworth, R. Leicester Lloyd-George, David
Crooks, William Harwood, George Lough, Thomas
Dalziel, James Henry Helme, Norval Watson Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Hope, John Deans (Fife, West Nussey, Thomas Willans
Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardig'n Horniman, Frederick John Perks, Robert William
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Pixie, Duncan V.
Rea, Russell Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe) Williams, O. (Merioneth)
Rickett, J. Compton Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E
Runciman, Walter Thomas, DavidAlfred(Merthyr TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland Wason, E. (Clackmannan) Sir Edward Strachey and
Shipman, Dr. John G. Wason,John Cathcart (Orkney Mr. Soares.
Sinclair, John (Forfarshire) Weir, James Galloway
Sullivan, Donal Whitley, J. A. (Halifax)
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Fisher, William Hayes Murray,Rt.HnAGraham(Bute
Anson, Sir William Reynell Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon 1 Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Arkwright, John Stanhope Flannery, Sir Fortescue Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Flower, Ernest Myers, William Henry
Arrol, Sir William Forster, Henry William Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Fyler, John Arthur Paulton, James Mellor
Aubrey- Fletcher,Rt. Hn.SirH. Galloway, William Johnson Peel, Hn. Wm. R. Wellesley
Bailey, James (Walworth) Garfit, William Pilkington, Lieut-Col. Richard
Bain, Colonel James Robert Gordon,Hn.J.E. (Elgin & Nairn Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Baird, John George Alexander Gordon,Maj.Evans(T'rH'ml'ts Pretyman, Ernest George
Balfour,Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r. Goschen, Hon. Geo. Joachim Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Balfour.Rt.HnGeraldW(Leeds Goulding, Edward Alfred Purvis, Robert
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Randles, John S.
Banbury,Sir Frederick George Greene,Sir E.W.(Bury St. Ed. Ratcliff, R. F.
Bartley, Sir George C. T. Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Grenfell, William Henry Reid, James (Greenock)
Bignold, Arthur Groves, James Grimble Remnant, James Farquharson
Bigwood, James Hamilton,RtHnLordG(Midd'x Renshaw Sir Charles Bine
Bill, Charles Hamilton, Marq. of(L'nd'ndry Renwick, George
Bond, Edward Harris, Frederick Leverton Ridley,Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Heath, James (Staffords. N. W. Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Brassey, Albert Helder, Augustus Robertson, Herbert (Hackney
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hoare, Sir Samuel Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Burdett-Coutts, W. Hobhouse,RtHnH(Somerset,E Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Butcher, John George Hoult, Joseph Round, Rt. Hon. James
Campbell,J.H.M(Dublin Univ. Houston, Robert Paterson Royds, Clement Molyneux
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Howard,John(Kent,Fay'rsham Russell T. W.
Carvill,Patrick Geo.Hamilton j Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Jameson, Major J. Eustace Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Cavendish,V.C.W. (Derbyshire Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse
Chamberlain, Rt Hon J (Birm Johnstone, Heywood Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln
Chamberlain,Rt. HnJ. A(Wore Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Keswick, William Smith,H.C(North' mb. Tyneside
Chapman, Edward Knowles, Lees Smith, James Parker (Lanarks
Charrington, Spencer Lambton, Hn. Frederick Wm. Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Law, Andrew Bomar (Glasgour Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Lawson, Join G. (Yorks. N. R. Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole Lee,ArthurH(Hants. Fareham Stewart,SirMarkJ.M'Taggart
Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Stone, Sir Benjamin
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Long, Rt.Hn. Walter(Bristol,S. Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Craig,CharlesCurtis(Antrim,S Lonsdale, John Brownlee Thorburn, Sir Walter
Cranborne, Lord Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Tollemache, Henry James
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Tomlinson, Sir Win. Edw. M.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Lundon, W. Tuke, Sir John Batty
Dalkeith, Earl of Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Valentia, Viscount
Denny, Colonel Majendie, James A. H. Walrond,Rt.Hn.SirWilliamH
Dewar, Sir T. R.(Tr. Haml'ts Malcolm, Ian Welby,Sir CharlesG.E. (Notts.
Dickinson, Robert Edmond Massey-Mainwaring,Hn.W.F Whiteley, H.(Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dinisdale,Rt.HonSirJosephC. Maxwell,W.J. H. (Dumfriessh Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Melville, Beresford Valentine Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Wodehouse,Rt.Hn.E.R. (Bath
Duke, Henry Edward Mitchell, William(Burnley) Wolff Gustav Wilhelm
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.Hart Molesworth, Sir Lewis Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants Wylie, Alexander
Fellowes,Hon.AilwynEdward More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire Wyndham, Rt, Hon. George
Fergusson,Rt. HnSirJ. (Mane'r Morgan,DavidJ(Walthamstow
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Finch, Rt, Hon. George H. Mount, W ilium Arthur Sir Alexander Acland-Hood
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. and Mr. Anstruther.
Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas Muntz, Sir Philip A.

Resolution agreed to.