HC Deb 27 May 1903 vol 123 cc74-96
*MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

said that from time to time various proposals had been made in the House of Commons for the reform or the abolition of the House of Lords. Some of the Motions were said by those who opposed them to be either undesirable, indefinite, or impracticable. The Motion he moved to-night was not, however, open to the charge of vagueness or ambiguity, and he hoped to show that it was not only desirable but practicable. This was a burning question amongst the people, who had made up their minds that until the problem of the House of Lords was disposed of there could be very little useful and progressive legislation in this country. He did not now propose to discuss the question of whether there should be one or two Chambers, but he was perfectly certain that if this country only possessed one Chamber and it was proposed to establish a second, in which the sole qualification for a seat should be that the occupier should be the eldest son of his father, and that he and other eldest sons should possess the power of perpetual veto, that the proposer of such a scheme would be speedily incarcerated in an asylum for idiots. But that principle was unfortunately embodied in the British Constitution. We had not yet reached the stage when we had hereditary tinkers, tailors, or shoemakers; but in our Constitution hereditary lawmakers had the power to meddle, muddle, and destroy useful legislation passed by the House which derived its authority from the ballot-box. Postmen, policemen, porters, and domestic servants had to produce some evidence of character for their positions, but no such qualification of capability or character was needed for the House of Lords. The Members of the House of Lords were all presumed to be honourable and able men, and born lawmakers. It was idle to disguise the fact that this evil existed, and his desire was to make the best use of the House of Lords and to bring it into harmony with modern requirements. This was the object of his Resolution. For some time past he had been in correspondence with Members of the various Parliaments of Europe and America, and had endeavoured to find out whether any other Chamber in Europe was based on the same system as the House of Lords, and this was the result of his enquiries. The Upper House of Austria was composed of princes, nobles with proper qualifications and some hereditary rights, some ecclesiastics, and life members nominated by the Emperor. Their power of veto was perpetual, but in case of a conflict a conference was arranged between the two Houses and the matter generally settled. That of Belgium was composed partly of men elected by the general body of electors under a method of proportional representation. The power of veto was continuous, but had only been exercised three times since Belgium had become a kingdom. In Denmark twelve life Members were appointed by the Crown, and fifty-four Members were indirectly elected by the people every eight years. Their power of veto was also continuous. In the case of nearly every Parliament of Europe he found there was an elective element in the constitution of the Upper House. In France the Senate is elected by district bodies and delegates for nine years, one-third retiring every three years. The power of veto is continuous, but both Chambers being elected they manage to settle their differences without any serious conflict. In Germany the fifty-eight Members of the Upper Chamber of the German Empire are appointed by the Government of each individual State, so that they derive their power indirectly from the people. In Hungary there is an elective element, and also in Holland. In Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, more or less of the elective principle prevails. In the United States of America the Senate was an elected body, every State in the Union having power to appoint two Senators. In the case of a conflict there, both Congress and the Senate appoint three Members as a Committee, the general result being a compromise. The most interesting of the illustrations that he wished to give to the House was that of the little kingdom of Norway, which had solved the question of one or two Chambers in a most intelligent manner and democratic spirit. In Norway there was one suffrage, every man over twenty-five years of age being entitled to a vote. Every three years they elect 114 men to constitute their Parliament. One-fourth of this assembly is formed into a sort of Select Committee, and is generally composed of the most able and experienced men. Both these bodies had their President and officers, and were practically separate from each other for the time being, The power of veto was a limited one. In case of a conflict a joint sitting of the two Chambers was held and a two-thirds majority of the whole settles the matter. That was to him the most interesting information he had been able to gather, because the Parliament of Norway being elected on a democratic basis the question had been solved by that little State in the most satisfactory and democratic manner.

The organisation of the legislative bodies to which he had referred showed that not in the whole world was there to be found any Chamber based exclusively on the hereditary principle where the power of veto was perpetual. It might be said that in practice the system in this country of which he complained worked very well. Such a theory was entirely upset by the black catalogue of offences committed by the House of Lords in opposing useful and beneficial legislation passed by the House of Commons. He would give only two instances, which might be multiplied indefinitely. The House of Commons had thirteen times, by large majorities, passed the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, and thirteen times the House of Lords had defied the expressed will of the House of Commons by rejecting that Bill. Again, the House of Commons had twice passed the very useful little measure known as the Friendly Societies (Outdoor Relief) Bill. The House of Lords had twice rejected that Bill, the second time on Friday last. So that the House of Lords not merely defied the House of Commons, but it also defied the great friendly societies of the country, with upwards of a million of members, who were practically unanimous in demanding that the Bill should be passed into law. What did the House of Lords know about friendly societies? He did not suppose there was a member of that Chamber who had any practical acquaintance with the subject. Not one of them had ever been an Oddfellow, a Druid, or a Shepherd, or a member of any of these great organisations. If there were no other reason than that the House of Commons had been so repeatedly flouted by this hereditary Chamber, and that useful legislation had been unceremoniously thrown out by the House of Lords, that would be quite sufficient to justify him in making every effort in his power to reform that institution in the way indicated by his Resolution. There were, however, some weak-kneed people who said: "Yes, it is all very well to preach these doctrines; we are at one with you in admitting the evil that exists; but we fail to find a remedy. It is no use to talk of a thing being desirable if it is not possible. It is no use to pass resolutions which are simply pious expressions of opinion." Those who reasoned in this fashion forgot that the House of Commons held the purse-strings of the nation, and if the House of Lords, supposing this or a similar resolution was passed, were to defy the House of Commons, the House of Commons must decline, as he believed it would decline some time or other, to vote the Supply necessary for the continuance of the House of Lords. Every year the House of Commons votes a large sum for salaries and expense of offices in the House of Lords, and if the House of Commons declined to provide the £42,000 which it voted last year, then their Lordships would have to pay their own expenses and the salaries of their officers, some of which were very fat. They would have to pay the cost of maintaining their own Chamber and its various offices, to furnish their own apartments, to pay their own domestics and chambermaids. Such a thing as a bachelor-librarian having eight bedrooms at his disposal would not happen again. He believed that people out-of-doors were heartily in support of the proposal which had been made to limit the vetoing power of the House of Lords. In proof of that, he cited the thirteen Labour Members in the House of Commons who had some right to speak, not only on behalf of the people whom they represented, but also on behalf of the great masses of their fellow-countrymen. Every one of these thirteen Labour Members was cordially in support of this proposal. Formerly monarchs in this country possessed omnipotent power, and there was constant friction between the Crown and the people, but our forefathers gradually deprived the monarchs of a great portion of the power they possessed; they took the sting out of the crown, and the result had been the constitutional monarchy under which we exist, and which appears to harmonise with the popular will. That was exactly what he wanted to do with the House of Lords; to deprive it of some of the power it possessed, and which he, and those who thought with him, believed it ought not to possess. They wanted to take the sting out of the Upper Chamber and bring it up to date, by limiting the power of their Lordships' veto, which ultimately would have to be done. It was with that object he had brought forward his Motion, and having slung his little pebble at the great giant he would conclude by moving the Resolution.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said they ought to thank the hon. Member for the very valuable account he had given of the different foreign Chambers, and their functions. If it were desirable to have a second Chamber, of which he had doubts, he would select as a model out of the list given by his hon. friend, the Norwegian. In Norway the first House was elected by the people, and it sent their most eminent men up to the other Chamber, where they had a good deal to say, but very little to do. That would be a very good thing here. They could perfectly well afford to send the two Front Benches up to the House of Lords, where they could talk matters amongst themselves, while the Commons did the business of the nation. His hon. friend had asked him to second his Motion, which he gladly agreed to do, although suffering from a severe cold. He had at various times moved Resolutions of this character in diverse Parliaments. In 1894, when a fresh Liberal Ministry had been formed, he moved an Amendment to the Address very much of the character of his hon. friend's Motion. Who opposed him? Why, it was the Liberal Administration. He was shocked to find them going into the Lobby against him, together with the Members from the Benches opposite. But he had not long to wait for vengeance, for from that moment they muddled, and muddled, and muddled, and ploughed the sands of the seashore until they went to the country and lost their election, as he believed, simply because they did not support his Motion. He did not want to treat this matter in a mere academic way. He believed that Liberals generally did not want to do so; but, whether academic or not, it was a question of vital importance to the Liberal Party. Under our party system, a Party at a General Election obtained the majority, and a Minister was born from that majority. That Ministry remained in power until it lost the confidence of the country. But the Upper House was formed by hereditary legislators, of bishops and peers recruited from gentlemen who, in most cases, paid the Party to which they belonged very large sums of money for being made peers, and obtaining for themselves and their descendants the right to legislate for the people. From the very nature of the hereditary principle they were bound to have a permanent Conservative majority in the House of Lords. He did not mean Conservative in its true sense, but in its party sense.

They were told that the business of the House of Lords was to check hasty and impulsive legislation when a Government chose to legislate on a matter of very great importance before the country had been consulted upon it. But, when the Conservative Party were in office, the House of Lords was absolutely nonexistent. It was a wretched echo of the dicta of this House. How was the present House of Commons elected? It was elected by the present Ministry and their supporters going to the country and asking the country to return them to Parliament, irrespective of all domestic questions, simply and solely to enable them to finish up a war which, from some want of logic, had not been already finished. The House of Lords did not say to the Government, "The war is not over; we will pass none of your measures." But they would have done so in the opposite case had the Liberals been returned to power. [Cries of "No."] Well, take the case of the Education Act of last year. Did the Government ever consult the country on that matter? They knew perfectly well they did not. The Government calmly, and on their own initiative, proceeded to upset the whole educational system of the country to their own advantage. Did the House of Lords throw out that Bill because the country had not been consulted? But suppose the Liberals, without consulting the country, had put forward a Bill providing what he regarded as a sound educational system—that was to say, which swept away all sectarian schools entirely—would not the House of Lords have thrown it out? Most unquestionably they would. Take the Home Rule Bill. He had heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say what a valuable institution the House of Lords was, because it stepped in and prevented Home Rule for Ireland. It must be remembered that in the election that brought together the Parliament that passed that very Home Rule Bill of Mr. Gladstone's, the question was put to the country, and the election turned on Home Rule or no Home Rule. The House of Lords could not say that the country had not been consulted, because they knew perfectly well that it had. Yet they threw out the Home Rule Bill. Mr. Gladstone wanted to dissolve at once and appeal to the country. [An HON. MEMBER on the GOVERNMENT Benches: "But you did not do it."] He would have done it anyhow, and he might reasonably say if that had been done it was the opinion of most Gentlemen on that side of the House Home Rule would have been carried. But what happened? There were certain Gentlemen who lagged superfluous on the stage and stuck to office without power, and when at last they went to the country they did so without once alluding to the House of Lords, and they were beaten. He was not sorry that they were beaten, and he hoped that it would be a lesson to them for the future.

He was credibly informed that at some place called Epsom there had been that day a race between three-year-olds, each carrying the same weight; but in the struggle between the two Parties in the State the Liberals were handicapped in the game. They were not treated in the same fair way as the horses. He believed the favourite had won, but if the favourite had had to carry double weight, it would probably not have won. If the Liberals were sent to the country with their legs bandaged they went at a great disadvantage. They made promises; perhaps they believed in these promises, and when they carried these promises into the Bill which the Lords threw out they were dumb. Therefore, the country said, "Much as we dislike King Stork, we prefer him to King Log." He himself was entirely in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords; he would abolish it root and branch. He objected to hereditary legislators. He objected to the archbishops and bishops of one particular sect legislating for him; and he objected to all those brewers and bankers, and Heaven knew what, who were sent to the House of Lords simply because they had large money bags. The constitution of the House of Lords was utterly unfitted for the present age. There was not one country in the world which was prepared to accept an Upper Chamber formed in the same way and with the same powers as the House of Lords. He was glad to know that all the Labour Members, with one single exception, had issued a whip for this Resolution, and that one Labour Member did not join in the whip because he took a stronger view of the matter, and was in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords altogether. He alluded to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil. He regarded the Resolution before the House as one of the most moderate proposals ever made by a moderate man. It did not ask for the abolition of the House of Lords; it dealt simply with the difficulties of the present situation; it proposed merely to clip the wings and pare the claws of the House of Lords. It had been suggested by certain Liberals that it would be desirable to restrict the veto not from one session to another, but from one Parliament to another. He remembered that he had the privilege of speaking to Mr. Gladstone on that matter. Mr. Gladstone said to him— You have brought forward many Resolutions, but remember this: never agree to any restriction which allows a veto to be carried on from one Parliament to another, because it would be absolutely impossible for a Liberal Ministry to live under such a régime." He thought Mr. Gladstone was perfectly right, and that anybody who really thought the matter out would agree. For what would happen if the veto was from one Parliament to another? A Liberal Ministry would pass a Bill. The Lords, who would be much more free in using their veto than at present, would throw the measure out. Next session another measure would be treated in the same way. What would the Liberal Ministry be able to do? Either one of two things: to sit down and grin and bear it, or to dissolve. It would be impracticable to force a dissolution almost every year, and they would have to sit down and bear it, and enjoy the emoluments of office; but the constituencies would not quite approve of that. They would say, "We sent you to Parliament with a majority to do something; but if you humbly accept the decision of the House of Lords, we come to the conclusion that it is not worth while exerting ourselves at the next General Election." And when that election came off the Liberal Ministry would be turned out. He thought there would be time enough for consideration if the veto were from session to session. He did not suppose anyone would take the little part of finishing a session one day, and beginning another session the next day. He meant the ordinary session the next day. The Resolution of his hon. friend really represented the irreducible Radical minimum. It ought to be the corner-stone of Radical policy. The country ought to know at the next General Election that if the Liberals were returned to power this force would be swept away once and for all.

In the reign of Queen Anne a sufficient number of Peers were created by one Government to swamp the majority of the other Party in the House of Lords. That could be done again; there would not be the slightest difficulty in the matter. As a matter of fact it was quite sufficient to threaten the Lords, who would then absent themselves from their House, as they did on the occasion of the great Reform Bill, and allow any measure to pass. He trusted all Liberals would, as he was perfectly certain all Radicals would, show the country that they were really in earnest in this matter by voting for the Motion of his hon. friend. In the last speech made by Mr. Gladstone in this House he said that matters had arrived at such a point that, unless the power of the Lords to veto was restricted it would be absolutely impossible for any Liberal leader to remain in office. This Resolution really represented the Radical minimum. It ought to be the corner-stone of Radical policy. The settlement of this matter was a legacy left to the Liberal Party by Mr. Gladstone, who was the greatest member and Statesman of the present times, and the best way of honouring his memory was to show respect for the advice which he had given. He seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the power now possessed by the House of Lords to veto any measure adopted by the House of Commons should be limited to one session of Parliament."—(Mr. Cremer.)

SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

said he had not had the good fortune to hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member who had introduced the Motion, and therefore did not know whether the hon. Member had founded his argument on the fact that the Motion was necessary in the interests of the country; but he had had the good fortune to hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, and that hon. Member based his argument in support of this Motion not on the fact that it was necessary in the interests of the country but on the fact that it was necessary in the interests of the Liberal Party. The hon. Member for Northampton would excuse him if he did not share the views the hon. Member apparently held, that the interests of the nation and the interests of the Liberal Party were the same. Where a Motion was brought forward to change the whole constitution of the country, he submitted the question to consider was not the interest of a particular Party but the interests of the nation as a whole. The hon. Member, with his usual candour, by making so much of the Liberal Party gave his case away, because, when alluding to the last speech Mr. Gladstone ever made in the House, he seemed to forget that by that speech Mr. Gladstone failed to carry the majority of the country with him. The hon. Member could hardly expect, therefore, that the majority of the nation would cut their own throats to do something the whole aim and object of which was to restore to power a Party in which they had no confidence. The hon. Member who moved the Motion gave a long account of different forms of government in foreign countries; but he could found no argument upon that unless he could prove that the countries with these various constitutions were better governed than our own, and their people more prosperous and more happy. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion was now absent, like the thirteen Labour Members, but in the speech he had delivered he spoke of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill of 1892 as having been demanded by the people, but surely the hon. Member's recollection was at fault. There was the greatest anxiety to know what the Home Rule proposal of 1892 would be, and finally it was found that it did not differ very much from the previous Bill of 1886. The action of the House of Lords in rejecting the Bill was approved by the nation at large. The only way in which the question could be determined whether a measure was desired by the nation was to take an election on the issue; and in the case of the Home Rule Bill the Liberal Administration knew it would be useless to do that. The present Motion was absurd, or else it meant the practical abolition of the House of Lords as a legislative assembly. If that was the intention, then it should be boldly stated, and reasons given for it which, so far, had not been given. He hoped the House would reject a Motion which would make so great a change in the constitution of the country.

*MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

thought that in bringing forward this Motion the hon. Member had a little misread the signs of the times. There had been Motions of a similar character before which had greatly moved the feelings of the House, when the Leaders of both Parties debated the subject as if it were a branch of practical politics. He congratulated the House and the country upon the present appearance of the Front Ministerial Bench, and also of the Front Opposition Bench. Both of them were empty, which he regarded as a sure indication that no one having any responsibility for public affairs at the present time cared twopence about this Motion. It was a Motion which aimed at the existence of the House of Lords, because it would reduce the House of Lords to a position of mere futility and public uselessness. The House of Lords in its conflicts with the House of Commons in dealing with great public questions had not always had the worst of the contest. In the periods between 1880 and 1890 there were two conflicts between the Liberal Administration and the House of Lords, and in neither of those conflicts did the Liberal Administration succeed in converting the country to their views and carrying the country with them against the decision of the House of Lords. He believed that, with all its anomalies and alleged impediments to usefulness, if the hon. Member cared to test the opinion of the people he would find that in reality they were proud of the House of Lords with all its faults. The object of the Motion of the hon. Member and of this attack upon the House of Lords, as was said by the hon. Member for Northampton, was to enable hon. Members opposite to "do the business" of the Kingdom and "do the business" of the Empire. There was a fatal significance about the words, and the majority of the House, and in all probability the people in the country, were of opinion that if put in the position hon. Members opposite would certainly "do the business" of the Kingdom and the Empire. Until hon. Members opposite were prepared to establish a second Chamber more powerful than the House of Lords, he did not believe they would succeed in leading any considerable body of public opinion to a course by which the veto of the House of Lords would be limited to the startling extent proposed by the Resolution, which he characterised as a bald and revolutionary proposal. The hon. Member had referred to the cases of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. He could only say that in the case of Canada the example of this country had been followed as nearly as possible, while as to Australia, where there was one of the most democratic peoples in the whole civilised world, the Constitution recently adopted for the Australian Commonwealth was in itself one of the strongest condemnations of the present proposal.

MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)

believed that those Liberals who put the abolition of the House of Lords in the very forefront of their programme in 1895 were the most successful. He had the fortune to win a seat from the other side on that occasion, and that was what he did. The House of Lords was composed of five or six hundred persons about the same as any other similar number of individuals picked from any crowd, and neither better nor worse. He failed to see, therefore, why the House of Commons should have its measures vetoed time after time by those six hundred Gentlemen picked indiscriminately from the general public. The hon. Member for Plymouth might be a cleverer man than he was. He quite admitted it—but that was no reason why the hon. Member's son might not be a bigger fool than his son. He had no animosity against the House of Lords as Peers, and no objection to their having their titles and their estates. He objected to them in politics as being a landlord body. The British Parliament as a whole had been ever dominated by the landed interest, and he objected to that, as he would object to any one industry or interest in the country dominating legislation. He held that the veto of the House of Lords should be limited to one session at most.

MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)

was bound to confess that he found few additional ideas advanced in support of the attack on the House of Lords since 1899. When the mover of the Motion expressed a desire to pare down the power of the other House and reduce it to one exercise of the veto, he was perfectly candid, for he admitted he would like to get rid of the veto altogether. He did not, however, seem to appreciate that the function of the House of Lords was to stand up for the will of the people. Yes, to maintain the Constitutional principle that, when the will of a majority in the House of Commons is opposed to the will of the people, the latter shall prevail. No assembly having to deal with great affairs ought to be without some check on its action; and the House of Lords imposed a check on spasmodic action by the Commons. It had done that over and over again, and the House of Commons had repented its hasty action. The Long Parliament, having got rid of the House of Lords, determined to make itself permanent, and so roused the indignation of the people that Cromwell had the support of the nation when he turned that House of Commons out, locking the doors and putting the key into his pocket. It was the want of any check on the proceedings of the French Assembly that caused some of the most sanguinary episodes in the Revolution. The House of Lords was not an unpopular institution. Direful threats were made against the other House if it dared to reject the Home Rule Bill; but when the House of Lords did reject it, it was not upon the Conservative but on the Radical Party that the stroke of popular vengeance fell in 1895. He hoped that the House by a comparatively large majority would reject the Motion.


said the hon. Members for Plymouth and Peterborough both appeared to have completely misunderstood the object of the proposal. The speech of the latter had been directed not so much in support of the House of Lords as it at present existed, as to a definition of what a Second Chamber should be. The Second Chamber of the Australian Commonwealth had been quoted in defence of the House of Lords. As a fact, there was no more democratic Assembly in the world. It was quite typical of the working-classes of Australia. He supported this Motion because he saw in it the germ of what he desired. By reducing the House of Lords to a position of futility, it would lead to the uprooting of the hereditary principle. The hon. Member for Peckham said the Unionist Party could not support the Motion as by so doing they would be cutting their own throats.


I did not say it would be cutting our own throats; I pointed out that the hon. Member for Northampton had declared that the carrying of the Motion would be the salvation of the Liberal Party, and I did not see why we should cut our own throats in order to put the Liberal Party in power.


admitted that the intellect of the hon. Member was more subtle than his own, but he failed to see that he had inaccurately quoted the sense of his observation. There was under this Resolution the deep underlying purpose which the Liberal Party had supported ever since it took its present shape, and he for one frankly admitted that he supported it because he felt that if they were to be enabled to pass the measures which the country desired, they must get rid of the House of Lords as at present constituted. As to the hereditary principle, would any hon. Member opposite claim that he had a right to go to his own constituency and recommend that his own son should succeed him as Member, simply because he was his son. Such an idea as that was altogether out of date at the present moment. He was really unable to take the arguments of the hon. Member opposite seriously. Underlying this Resolution was a purpose which the Liberal Party had consistently supported ever since it took its present shape. ["What shape?"] He had been in political life for some time, but until two days ago he had never known a Government completely to change a proposal three times in three consecutive days, or one that was sometimes kept in office by its nominal opponents, and sometimes deserted by its nominal supporters. He thought, therefore, the Liberal Party was at any rate as coherent a political unit as the Party opposite. [At this moment the Colonial Secretary entered the House.] The right hon. Gentleman could not have entered the House at a more interesting period, as the House would be glad to hear some repetition of those doctrines which were not out of favour with the right hon. Gentleman some ten or fifteen years ago. The right hon. Gentleman might have changed his opinions, and could doubtless give adequate reasons for having done so, but the words he addressed to the English people on this subject ten or fifteen years ago would be an important factor in deciding the question when it came definitely before the country.


said that he could remember the time when this question was one of the principal planks of the Liberal Party, and he was therefore amazed to see the Front Opposition Bench so deserted. The hon. Member for the Prestwich Division had attacked the House of Lords on three grounds: first, that one Lord was the son of another; secondly, that the Lords were largely interested in the land; and, thirdly, that if the Liberal Party had been in office last year the other House would have rejected the Education Bill. He was pleased to hoar the hon. Member admit that that would have been enough to condemn the House of Lords in the eyes of the country.


said his contention was that if a measure had been sent up by the Liberal Party with as little popular support as the Education Bill had at its back, the House of Lords would have thrown it out as a party question.


said it remained to be seen what would be done with any future Education Bill sent up by a Liberal House of Commons. The question they had to consider was whether the House of Lords rejected Bills that were for the benefit of the country. The hereditary principle had been objected to. Probably if a Second Chamber were now being appointed, a Committee representing the nation would be formed to select from the foremost men of the country persons fitted to be members of such a Chamber. But the Cabinet of the day might be said to represent the nation, and frequently, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, as the head of the Cabinet, persons who had been eminently succeessful in various walks of life were made Members of the House of Lords. There were in the Upper House many Members who sat there not because they were the sons of their fathers, but because they had done such service to the State as to entitle them to sit in the Second Chamber. A large majority of the Members so appointed voted against the Home Rule Bill, and a fair majority of them voted against the Employers' Liability Bill.

No doubt, if they were now to form a Second Chamber, they would not proceed on the hereditary principle; but he contended that the House of Lords understood the feeling of the country and, on the whole, worked very well. There was something to be said in favour of a device similar to the referendum. That, however, raised a great constitutional question which required much consideration. Failing that, he saw nothing but a Second Chamber to save the country from ill-considered and revolutionary legislation.

MR. OSMOND WILLIAMS (Merionethshire)

said he would go farther than the Resolution—he would do away with the House of Lords altogether, and start de novo with a representative Chamber. Why should they submit to have a Tory Committee always ready to throw out Bills passed by a Liberal Government? As an Assembly, the House of Lords was a blot on our Constitution. What was its record? In 1832it brought the country to the brink of civil war over the rotten boroughs; in 1880 it plunged Ireland into crime because it refused compensation for disturbances. Then for many years it kept Nonconformists out of the Universities. Who were these men that they should dictate terms to our Statesmen, and encompass the ruin of our Constitution? Were the Members of the House of Commons so lost to their pride of race and their love of popular institutions as to allow this Tory Committee to flout and jibe the representatives of the nation? The House of Commons was not perfect, but at any rate it was bone of the national bone, and flesh of the national flesh; it came from the people, and periodically it went back to the people for a renewal of life and energy, whereas these Lords sat on for ever, watching the poor and the working classes struggling for a better, brighter, and nobler life, knowing all the while they had the power and the will to thwart them. If the House of Commons was not to be down-trodden and flouted in the future as it had been in the past, it was time to put an end to this irresponsible Assembly, and he hoped the Resolution of his hon. friend would be carried.


said he should like to ask the hon. Member whether they lived under a representative form of Government, because he noticed that the proposer and seconder of the Resolution warned the House that outside this was a burning question, and if the House of Commons was a representative body, surely it ought to reflect in some-way the conflagration that was said to be raging outside. They were also told that the Resolution they were now discussing was the corner-stone of the Liberal Party. [Mr. Labouchere: It ought to be.] He was tempted to believe from the state of the House, with most of their Members outside it, that very few took the slightest interest in the subject. This was not the first time the question had come before the House. Nothing whatever came of a previous Resolution carried under Lord Rosebery's Government; and he asked whether the discussion of such Resolutions, to which not the slightest importance was attached, and which indeed were a mere worthless brutum fulmen when used by one House against another, was consistent with the self-respect of the House of Commons. He had been struck by the weakness of the case made out under present circumtances against the House of Lords. How could the hon. Member have the face to accuse the House of Lords of obstructive and obscurantist views in rejecting the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill when every Member knew that the Bill would now be law if it were not for the House of Commons itself, which enabled a small minority to trample on the will of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the generally settled convictions of the British people? ["No."] Those were, at all events, his sentiments. He ventured to submit that the House of Lords was equally subject, though not so directly, to the same power as the House of Commons, and bowed, as the House of Commons constitutionally bowed, to that power—he meant the settled and constitutionally expressed conviction of the country. He did not think the House of Lords ought to yield to the passing feeling of the hour if it had strong views of its own in a contrary direction; but if it had to do with the settled conviction of the country, made known year after year in the constitutional fashion, the House of Lords of these days knew, perhaps better than the House of Lords in past years, that its duty was to recognise and bow to that conviction. Those who withstood such convictions, whether in the one House or the other, were, in his opinion, guilty of an offence against the Parliamentary and constitutional spirit which had enabled our somewhat complex system to work through so many generations as well as it had done.

The hon. Member had referred to every country in Europe and other countries. He did not think it necessary to go into the systems of other countries, or the history of past times, or even the methods of the colonies. They had to deal with the system that suited themselves. Theirs was not like the Parliaments of Portugal and Belgium and those great Parliaments which had sprung up in their own colonies in close imitation of their own. Starting afresh to sketch out a Constitution, they might individually prepare different systems; but they knew the system under which they worked, and they knew that it did work. He objected to the language of the hon. Member when he spoke of the veto of the House of Lords. It was not constitutionally accurate. The House of Lords did not exercise a veto. The constitutional view was that the two Houses must concur in every act of legislation. There was no question of one House vetoing the proposals of the other. The hon. Member talked as if this country had since 1832, and anterior to that, been legislatively at a standstill; whereas almost year after year, and certainly every four or five years, very large measures of fundamental reform had been passed. Every one of these measures had been passed by the House of Lords as well as by the House of Commons. How could it be said, then, that the House of Lords pursued a policy of bar? The House of Lords acted, as every second Chamber must act, rather as a checking instrument than as a vetoing power. The House of Lords had long ceased to try to thwart the settled convictions of the British people. There had been nothing of that sort in recent years, because the House of Lords had to a large extent essentially modified its character and so had the House of Commons. They had made up their minds no longer to rely on mere privilege.

No doubt Lord Lyndhurst would have mutilated every measure which the Reformers of 1832 sent up to the House of Lords, but Lord Lyndhurst and the party of privilege did not get their way, and why? Because Lord Lyndhurst did not lead the Conservative Party, and because a far wiser, more long-sighted Statesman, Sir Robert Peel, led the Party, and almost for the first time induced it to become a progressive Party. The House of Lords now judged measures on their merits instead of rejecting from the point of view of mere privilege, Bills sent up from the popular House. He did not think his hon. friends had made out a strong case for this Motion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had not brought down their friends to support this corner-stone of Liberal politics. They were not present. The working men were conspicuous by their absence. This was a proposal not only inconsistent with the dignity of the House of Commons to accept, but it was fundamentally wrong in itself. No doubt it might be possible to make many changes in the constitution of the House of Lords; but, at the same time, it was very desirable, while there were two Houses, as he thought there ought to be, that the one House should be independent of the other. Each must bow down to the solid will, the deliberate sense, of the British people. They did not want one House to be the mere echo of, or subject to, the other. But they could not be equal in authority. This House was the main instrument under our Constitution for governing this country. He asked the House to reject the Motion by a large majority.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 62; Noes, 118. (Division List No. 110.)

Moulton, John Fletcher Schwann, Charles E. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Shipman, Dr. John G. Wason, E. (Clackmannan)
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sinclair, John (Forfarshire) Weir, James Galloway
Paultan, James Mellor Tennant, Harold John White, George (Norfolk)
Rickett, J. Compton Thomas, Sir A. (Glam., E.) Williams, O. (Merioneth)
Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Thomas, J. A. (Glam., Gower) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Robson, William Snowdon Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.) Mr. Cremer and Mr.
Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland) Toulmin, George Labouchere.
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Flannery, Sir Fortescue Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath
Arkwright, John Stanhope Forster, Henry William Nicol, Donald Ninian
Arnold-Porster, Hugh O. Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Atkinson, lit. Hon. John Fyler, John Arthur Parker, Sir Gilbert
Baird, John George Alexander Galloway, William Johnson Percy, Earl
Balfonr, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Pierpoint, Robert
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin and N'rn Pretyman, Ernest George
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gordon, Maj Evans (T'r Haml'ts Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Bignold, Arthur Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury St. Ed. Purvis, Robert
Bond, Edward Groves, James Grimble Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Bull, William James Gunter, Sir Robert Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Butcher, John George Guthrie, Walter Murray Ridley, S. F. (Bethnal Green)
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh. Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Hamilton, Marqof (L'nd'nderry Robinson, Brooke
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm. Hay, Hon. Claude George Round, Rt. Hon, James
Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A (Worc Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Royds, Clement Molyneux
Chapman, Edward Johnstone, Heywood Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Charrington, Spencer Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H. Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. P. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)
Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Kerr, John Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasqow) Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd. Univ.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Cranborne, Lord Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Thornton, Percy M.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Llewellyn, Evan Henry Valentia, Viscount
Cust, Henry John C. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Walker, Col, William Hall
Dalkeith, Earl of Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S. Walrond, Rt Hn. Sir William H.
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lowe, Francis William Warde, Colonel C. E.
Denny, Colonel Macdona, John Cumming Webb, Col. William George
Dickson, Charles Scott MacIver, David (Liverpool) Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.
Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C. M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E. M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Majendie, James A. H. Wilson John (Glasgow)
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Malcolm, Ian Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Manners, Lord Cecil Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Milvain, Thomas Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Fellowes, Hon Ailwyn Edward Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Man'r Morgan, David J(Walthamst'w TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Sir Alexander Acland-
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. Hood and Mr. Anstrnther.
Fison, Frederick William Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute