§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question (12th February), "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Tomkinson.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ *EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
rose to move the following Amendment:—"But humbly regrets that the social legislation declared by your Majesty's Government to be urgent should be postponed for the purpose of effecting revolutionary changes in the powers exercised by Parliament over the affairs of the United Kingdom and in the constitutional relation between the two Houses." He said: The Amendment which stands in my name invites attention to an aspect of the Gracious Speech from the Throne which has already been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and from which he drew an instructive contrast between the action 572 when in power of those who occupy the benches opposite and those who sit on this side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very fond of denouncing us as the defenders of class privileges, while they claim for themselves a monopoly of interest in and of the advocacy of social reform. But from the moment they obtain that control of the helm, which enables them to steer their course towards the goal of their avowed ambition, their interest in social reform immediately gives place to a desperate anxiety to overhaul and reconstruct the machinery of the vessel. No one will deny that that is an accurate description of the last Liberal Government, which held office from 1892 to 1895, and which will be remembered in history as a Parliament of unpopular aspirations and futile achievements. It succeeded in passing a Parish Councils Bill, which, we were confidently assured, was to keep the people on the land by giving them a greater interest in local affairs, but which, after ten years experience, does not seem to have effected anything in that direction; it failed to pass an Employers Liability Bill, for which by common admission the Unionist Party has since provided a much better substitute; and it devoted two out of three sessions to an attempt to destroy the Constitution and the Church, with the only result that it afforded the House of Lords an opportunity of showing how much more 573 representative they were of the people of the country than the Liberal Party, which professed to speak in their name. And now we have a new Liberal Administration; we have, we are told, for the first time a thoroughly democratic Parliament, intensely eager, and burning with anxiety to devote itself to all those social problems which have been too long neglected or postponed. What is the result of all this fuss and swagger? We have had one session mainly devoted to attempts, happily frustrated, to deprive grown-up people of their votes, and children of the religious education which their parents desire them to have. No one I think would include either of those measures in the category of social reforms, nor should I be inclined to include in that category the Trade Disputes Act, which, according to the latest version of its own authors, gave to organised labour no privilege which they had not long enjoyed, and which, according to the earlier version of its authors, took away from unorganised labour the fundamental birthright of Englishmen—viz., equality before the law. So far the Government have but one measure of social reform to their credit, the Workman's Compensation Act, which is merely an extended application of principles already embodied in legislation by their predecessors. This week we start on a new session which, to judge from the King's Speech, so far as social reform is concerned, is likely to be even more barren than the last. I will deal with its contents in a moment, but first let me say a word as to its omissions. There is the question already alluded to by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, viz., that of the unemployed. When Ministers are not engaged in an elaborate panegyric on our existing fiscal system, they always tell us there is no problem more urgent than the increasing number of the unemployed. We were informed that the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for South Dublin was extremely inadequate, and that it required to be supplemented and extended in various directions. The President of the Local Government Board has made several speeches hinting or promising that steps were to be taken to deal with the question, but there is no mention of the unemployed in the King's Speech. According to the flamboyant election address of the President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. 574 Gentleman had discovered in a legal eight hours day a means of securing "work for all, over-work for none, of reducing the rates, and giving permanent employment where demoralising casual labour now prevails." Well, the Government which has in its power to bestow this great benefit upon the working classes has placed a measure for the regulation of the hours of labour in its programme, but I find with great astonishment that the boon is to be confined to the mining industry. Then there is a question on which there was a general consensus of opinion in favour of fresh legislation. I refer to the provision of medical inspection in elementary schools. There was a clause making such provision in the Government Education Bill of last year, which was approved of by both sides in this House and in the House of Lords, and I am rather surprised that the Government has not embodied that provision in a Bill of their own instead of leaving it to the chances of a private Member's ballot. Again, there is the question of overcrowding, and especially of overcrowding in London. I do not for a moment suggest that that is a question which admits of a single solution; but there is one step which has been unanimously recommended by the Royal Commission, viz. the appointment of a Traffic Board. This is a matter of the greatest importance to the working classes. Why is there no reference to the intentions of the Government in the King's Speech? Have they not made up their minds on the question, or are they waiting to have their minds made up for thorn at the forthcoming County Council elections? Then there is a whole group of questions connected with Poor Law administration. The Postmaster-General, in his election address, stated that that law required overhauling, and those who have watched the enormous increase of poor law expenditure and studied the recent revelations in regard to the proceedings of certain boards of guardians will certainly share his opinion. We require greater strictness and uniformity in Poor Law administration, and a clear and definite policy laid down by Parliament for differentiating between the treatment of the deserving and undeserving poor. Why is there no mention of the subject in the speech? The President of the Local Government Board may say 575 that a Royal Commission now sitting taking evidence on the subject, and that therefore it is premature for the Government to make any proposal in regard to it; but I think they are barred from using that plea. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has definitely pledged himself to the principle of old-age pensions, the merits of which cannot be discussed except in reference to Poor Law administration as a whole and has even hinted at making some beginning with it this session, although the Minister for War has declared that old-age pensions would have nothing but a pauperising effect. It is also remarkable that there is no mention in the King's Speech of a general reform in the system of rating. Considering how the late Government were denounced for passing the Agricultural Rates Act, and that it was said by the Liberals that it was unjust to the towns to deal with this question piecemeal; considering that they have allowed this Act to remain in force, and that the Government has foreshadowed measures dealing with the valuation of property and the graduation of taxation, which must have an important bearing on the question of the incidence of rates on real and personal property, one would have thought that they might have found room for a passing reference to the question of rating reform in the programme of the present session.
I pass now from the omissions in the King's Speech, and come to its contents. There are practically only two measures of social reform promised; one dealing with small holdings and the other with the housing of the working classes. [An HON. MEMBER on the MINISTERIAL Benches: Licensing reform.] I do not propose to discuss licensing reform, for the Bill is not before us, and to judge from the speeches made in regard to it, it is more likely to be a measure for ruining the trader than for benefiting the consumer. Take the two questions of small holdings and housing of the working classes. No one who knows anything of the country or the slums in our great cities will deny that the problem of urban overcrowding and rural depopulation is one which, whether we regard it from the point of view of national health and morality or of national defence, demands the serious attention of this House, and that any Government which can contri- 576 bute, however little, to its solution will have deserved well of the country. I think it will be admitted that the Party to which I have the honour to belong has some claim to show an interest in the matter. I do not say that for the purpose of making a Party score, for I admit that hon. Gentlemen opposite have not had the same opportunities for passing legislation of this kind as we have had, and they gave us their assistance. But every Conservative Administration which held office during the second half of last century left on the Statute-book some definite contribution to the solution of the problems I have referred to. Even the last Administration, with all its difficulties abroad and the complications of war, passed three measures, one enabling the working classes to become owners of their houses, another permitting local authorities to go outside then own areas for the acquisition of building land and a third extending the period for the repayment of loans. The Government propose to deal with urban overcrowding by tackling first the question of rural depopulation. In any attempt to put a thriving population on the soil they will have the heartiest sympathy of the Opposition, though I am not very sanguine of the success of their efforts. Any Government which wishes to solve the problem will frankly recognise that the root cause of the evil is the heavy burdens laid on the agricultural industry and the insecurity of its profits. I do not think that very much is to be expected from a Government whose policy is apparently further to increase the taxation upon land and to rivet upon the country a system of dual ownership which is fatal alike to the security of capital and the facility of transfer and sale. The important point is not whether the Government are likely to succeed, but what belief they show in the urgency of their proposals. They put these two measures at the bottom of their catalogue, in the paragraph of the King's Speech which as we know, from bitter experience, furnishes the majority of victims for the annual massacre of the innocents at the close of the session. I may be told that the order in which there measures are mentioned is no certain indication of the order in which they will be taken, but that is not a sufficient answer. Anyone who knows Parliamentary procedure, 577 knows that to place acutely contentious measures in the same list with non-contentious measures is to expose all to equal destruction, and I believe that any Government which was really in earnest in their desire to solve the social problems which confront us, and which had its hands free as this Government has, would be willing to devote at least one session to the consideration of those problems, and to keep as far as they could all contentious measures outside their programme altogether. But what have the Government done? They actually include in their programme this year two measures, one dealing with Ireland and the other with the House of Lords, both of which they must be aware are sure to excite the keenest and most bitter political controversy. If they are in earnest in their statements with regard to these two measures they must know that they are beginning an agitation which will occupy the time of Parliament not for one session alone, but for many sessions. If they are not in earnest they plead guilty to having deliberately postponed legislation of a social character which they know to be urgent in favour of issues on behalf of which no such plea can be raised and of the solution of which they see no early or immediate prospect. I wish to do to His Majesty's Government the credit of assuming that they mean to take these two questions seriously, and I am encouraged to do so, because the Prime Minister devoted more than three-quarters of his speech to the question of Ireland and the question of the House of Lords.
I come first to the question of Ireland. What is the Irish policy of the Government? That is a direct simple question which ought to be capable of an equally direct and simple answer. We do not ask them to explain or to reveal the details of their measure, but we do ask them to say clearly and straightforwardly what is its intention, and what is its object. Hitherto we have failed to get the smallest information on this subject. The Chief Secretary for Ireland made a speech the other day in which he told us what we knew already, namely, that he and the Prime Minister were Home Rulers still and would not throw any difficulty in the way of Home Rule. We all know that he will not do any thing to make Home 578 Rule more difficult, but will he do anything to make the achievement of it more easy? In other words is the Irish legislation contemplated a mere simplification of local administration, or is it to be a measure which will weaken in however small a degree the control of the Imperial Parliament over Irish administration, and place it in the power of hon. Members below the gangway to achieve their avowed object of destroying and repudiating that control altogether? That is a question to which I hope we shall have an answer. I do not wish on the present occasion to discuss what is called the policy of "instalments." It is sufficient for me to refer to the statement of Mr. Gladstone years ago that, whatever might be said in favour of the Repeal of the Union, there was nothing to be said in favour of the policy of giving concessions to Ireland which would not satisfy Irish opinion and wonld only be made the basis for fresh demands which the people of this country were unable or unwilling to grant. But I am not concerned so much with the merits of a policy. I am concerned with the good faith of Ministers. Minister after Minister at the last general election gave pledges of the most clear and explicit character on this subject. The usual form in which that pledge was given was expressed in language so identical as irresistibly to suggest the conclusion that it was the result of careful and collective deliberation. Perhaps I may quote one version. The Foreign Secretary, speaking at Belford, assured his hearers that votes given for free trade would not be used for the purpose of introducing Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not believe that if a Home Rule Bill were introduced it would pass the House of Commons, and if it did it would be rejected by the House of Lords. That pledge was very general in its character, and Ministers might say that although it debars them from introducing or voting for a measure of Home Rule themselves it does not debar them from introducing or supporting a measure which is intended to load in the direction of Home Rule. But unfortunately for them one Minister either in a moment of forgetfulness or in a moment of confidence engendered by the belief that no reporters were present gave a pledge of a much mores definite character. Let me quote 579 the speech of the Secretary of State for War at Preston Pans on 12th January. He said—They were inviting the support of many Unionist free traders, and it would be a breach of faith to use their votes for the purpose of setting up"—not an Irish Parliament—but,A system of which those Unionist free traders did not approve.I should be very loth even to hint that public life has fallen so low that Ministers of the Crown can be capable of resorting to verbal subterfuge in order to place upon utterances of that kind an interpretation obviously different from that which they were calculated to convey to the minds of those who heard them. If the Government are open to such a suspicion they have only themselves to thank. If what they propose is only an extension of local administration, why all this mystery about it? Why gratuitously prejudice the prospects of co-operation between the two Parties by fostering and encouraging a suspicion which they might so easily remove? There is nobody who might more easily remove it than the Prime Minister, who has given rise to most of it. We all remember his speech at Stirling, in which he advised the Irish Nationalists to accept measures which would lead up to "the larger policy." Lord Rosebery at once described that as the "rehoisting of the Home Rule banner in its most pronounced form" and he declined to serve under it. Then the Foreign Minister, who said he was in the personal confidence of both statesmen, gave the assurance that the Prime Minister did not contemplate anything of which Lord Rosebery would not approve. How can we reconcile that statement with the speech made by the Prime Minister last week, in which he said explicitly that he looked forward to the time when the Irish people will have the same control of their own affairs which the people in the Colonies enjoy, with the sole proviso that if they have that control they shall not at the same time interfere in the affairs of Great Britain? What does that mean, but that the Prime Minister hopes to introduce legislation leading up eventually to the establishment of an Irish Parliament with the control of its own police, its own army, its own judiciary and its own taxes and customs tariff—because that 580 is what the Colonies have—and that the Irish Members are either no longer to vote at Westminster or only to vote on Imperial matters? That is Home Rule in a far wider sense than ever entered into the imagination of Mr. Gladstone; and if it is the deliberate view of the Government that they are at liberty to introduce legislation tending, however remotely and at however distant a period, to such a goal, then they hold their present position on false pretences. The attack on the House of Lords turns out to be nothing but an attack on the outworks of the defences of the Union. The Liberal Party pretends to be concerned with the relations between the two Houses; what they are really concerned with is an alteration of the historical relations of Great Britain and Ireland.
I now pass to the question of the House of Lords. It will not have escaped attention that, although the paragraph referring to the House of Lords occupies the forefront of the gracious Speech from the Throne, and although my Amendment was not put down until last Thursday night, most of the speakers on the Address have scarcely referred to it. Perhaps that is not surprising. The Recess was given up to a kind of dross rehearsal of the battle scene to be shortly performed at Westminster. I must say I think that rehearsal was shockingly badly stage-managed. It was not only that the performers were few in number, because we are accustomed to that in all stage armies, and they made up for it by the frequency of their appearances. It was not that there was any lack of energy in shouting the war whoops which were intended to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy. If they failed in their object it was chiefly duo to the fact that they had scarcely time to sound the note of defiance before the bugle was sounded for a hasty and precipitate retreat. That bugle was sounded by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who stepped at the critical moment into the arena and told his followers that it was no use to shout, because they could not end the House of Lords by shouting; that they must have some rational and practical scheme to put before the country. Thereupon the leaders of the army plunged once more 581 into meditation, no doubt greatly assisted by eloquent lectures from the Minister for War, on the value of clear thinking, while the rank and file left off denouncing the criminal, and set themselves to devise some ingenious way to make the punishment fit the crime. Various schemes were propounded with that object. It has been suggested that we might admonish the House of Lords by a Resolution of this House. It has been suggested that the House of Commons should show its respect for Constitutional usage by adopting the frankly unconstitutional procedure of tacking a Bill or Resolution to a measure of Supply. And, lastly, it has been suggested that we might swamp the Peers altogether by a liberal introduction of fresh creations—[An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.]—on the principle, I suppose—I do not know which represents the view of the hon. Gentleman who cheers—either that we cannot have too much of a good thing, or the homœopathic principle that like cures like. According to hon. Gentlemen opposite, the issue is a very simple one; it is whether the people intend to be masters in their own house, or whether they intend to be the wards in Chancery of the Liberal Party; whether they prefer to sign their own cheques, or whether they will place their whole rights and property at the unfettered disposal of the sixteen or seventeen very estimable but not infallible Gentlemen who adorn the Government Bench. If the question is so simple as hon. Gentlemen opposite say, why not put it to the country at once? Why this sudden discovery that there is no hurry at all, and that the democracy can sit down and wait while the Liberal Party once more apply themselves to what they themselves describe as the task of Sisyphus rolling up the boulders of legislation to the summit of the Parliamentary mountain, only to see them plunge again down into the abyss? I can only conclude it is because the Government have not made up their own minds as to what their real grievance against the House of Lords is. The accounts of that grievance have been somewhat inconsistent. At one time we are told that the House of Lords reduces the Liberal Party to impotence. At another the Liberal Party tell us they have passed more legislation than any 582 other Government in one session. At one time we are told that the House of Lords is an hereditary assembly dominated by class interests; and at another the complaint is that they passed the Trade Disputes Bill and the Land Tenure Bill, in one of which they had a direct personal interest, while they refused to pass the Plural Voting and the Education Bills—in neither of which had they any interest at all. I fall back on the latest version of the grievance given by the Prime Minister—namely, that the House of Lords is a partisan assembly. If that merely means that the House of Lords contains more Conservatives than Liberals, then, of course, the fact is undeniable. But the fact itself stands in need of some explanation, because the House of Lords is not a purely hereditary assembly, but is constantly recruited by the addition of fresh Peers created by the Crown on the advice of responsible Ministers. During the last half-century there has been a far greater number of Liberal than of Conservative creations. What is the reason therefore why there are now so many more Conservative than Liberal Peers? Is it that Liberal opinions have such a disastrous effect on the longevity of their owners; or is it that Liberals, like other people, grow wiser as they grow older; or is it that when Liberals enter the House of Lords they for the first time find it possible to consider measures on their intrinsic merits, and not solely with reference to their temporary popularity with one or other section of the community? If the complaint is that the Peers are invariably hostile to a Liberal administration it is not historically accurate, for there have been occasions, as in the China War, when the Lords, like the people, supported a Liberal Minister who had lost the confidence of the House of Commons. If the complaint is that the House of Lords throws out more Liberal than Conservative proposals, broadly speaking it is true; but is it necessarily relevant to the issue which Ministers have raised—namely, whether the people are to be masters in their own house? In that case what they ought to ask is not whether the House of Lords is favourable to this or to that Party, but whether it on the whole reflects the deliberate opinion and judgment of the country. 583 The answer to that is that while the House of Lords has more than once rejected proposals for great constitutional changes with the unanimous approval of the country, they have never offered a permanent resistance to measures which have been definitely submitted for the approval of the electors and have received their emphatic endorsement. If the grievance is that the House of Lords introduces an element not of permanent obstruction but of regrettable and irritating delay, is not that equally true of any constitutional check that could be suggested? Is it not equally true of the referendum and of every second Chamber that has ever existed? And is that to be regretted in itself? Is not the House of Lords our sole security for stability of policy, the sole guarantee against hasty and violent reversals of legislation? Surely it is grotesque to say we are to alter the fundamental institutions of the country simply to suit the whim of a handful of people whose only conception of progress appears to be that of the motor-car accompanied by an uninterrupted emission of gas and a series of rapid explosions. I readily admit that the check ought not to be one-sided, but ought to operate equally, whichever Party is in power. But obviously the Liberal Party, which is par excellence the Party of innovation, will offer more frequent opportunities for the exercise of that check than will the Conservative Party. But can it be shown, as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to be able to show, that the House of Lords habitually passes Conservative legislation of a kind which it would have rejected if it had been proposed by a Liberal Government? Can anyone pretend that there is any analogy between the Education Bill which the House of Lords passed four years ago, and the Plural Voting Bill which they rejected last year. The Plural Voting Bill introduced a change into our constitutional system; the Education Bill of 1902 introduced no now constitutional principle. [An HON. MEMBER: Rates for religious education.] Why, for years and years you paid, not merely taxes, but rates, for denominational instruction in every Poor Law and reformatory school. There is another fundamental difference, viz., that the Education Bill could always be repealed, whereas in the nature of things the Plural Voting Bill, if 584 carried, would render it impossible ever again to consult the electors whose franchises were taken away. Let us admit for a moment that everything which has been contended is true as to the House of Lords being a partisan Assembly. What is the logical inference? That the Government ought to make themselves responsible for a Bill to strengthen and reform that Assembly so as to make it impartial, so as to infuse into it all the elements of ripe judgment, expert knowledge, and experience which the country can furnish. If that is their policy they will find many supporters and approvers, not only here, but in the House of Lords itself. Is that the Government policy? Not at all. The Prime Minister said that he was not interested in the constitution of the House of Lords; what he is interested in is the relations between the two Houses. You do not want, therefore, a stronger and a more impartial Chamber; you do not want a single Chamber. What, then, do you want? The only hint that I can gather is one given by the Lord Advocate in a speech at Edinburgh some weeks ago. His scheme, as I understand it, was that the House should pass a Resolution—I will assume that the Resolution would be effective—that any measure which twice passes through the Commons should, by what he called an extension of the prerogative of the Crown, pass through the House of Lords pro forma and go forward to receive the Royal Assent. In other words, it is a Resolution limiting the veto. What does it mean? The House of Lords is to be kept for two purposes only—to provide sinecure honours for gentlemen who have no opinions of their own, who are too idle to do any work, or who are such snobs that their whole ambition is to be able to write "Lord" instead of "Mr." in front of their names; and to serve as a decoy to persuade the people of the country that they have still a constitutional check on the Ministry of the day, whereas in point of fact it would only exist to say "ditto" to anything a Radical Government proposed. That is a conception which naturally might commend itself to a Government which habitually lives under servile conditions in the compounds of the various sections of its own supporters. But I am rather inclined to think that they will find it difficult to persuade any Second Chamber 585 to accept such a position as that, and they will find it still more difficult to deceive the people of the country by such a plan. It is nothing else than a single Chamber in disguise. I came across, the other day, a speech by a high constitutional authority, whose opinions, I think, will carry weight with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. It was a speech made in the year 1889 on a Motion to abolish the House of Lords—The existence of a Second Chamber is confirmed by reason itself, because tyranny may proceed from a body as well as from one man, and it is protection that the ruling body should be divided into two branches, the emulation and even rivalry of which may prevent dangerous measures from being hurried through. That opinion is gaining ground in the country. During the agitation in 1884 there were probably many who thought we ought only to have one Chamber, that the House of Lords should be extinguished; but I believe that feeling has declined, and I believe that generally there in a strong feeling in the country that the House of Commons ought not to have the sole charge of the affairs of the nation. The House now is different from what it was in 1884. It is not only a more democratic body, and more responsive to gusts of outside feeling, but it is much changed in its inner working and construction. The introduction of the closure, and the way the closure is worked, makes this House a totally different body from what it was before, and renders it necessary to provide safeguards against the dangers of precipitate action which did not exist in 1884.That speech was delivered by Mr. Bryce, the present Ambassador at Washington, in 1889, and I believe that it represents not only the truth but the feelings of the great mass of the people of this country. They are not going to entrust themselves to the tender mercies of a single Chamber, certainly not to one which, like the House of Commons, so habitually misrepresents the real balance of opinions in the country, and which, according to its own admission, cannot transact its business without the habitual suppression of the liberty of debate. The last election has apparently inspired Ministers with a most unfortunate belief in their ability to deceive the electors by an adroit use of "terminological inexactitudes." The latest illustration of that belief is their proposal in the name of popular government, and under the plea that they are extending the prerogatives of the Crown, to undermine the whole machinery on which 586 popular control really rests, and sooner or later to expose the Crown itself.—[Cries of "Oh, oh," "Withdraw."]
§ EARL PERCY
The hon. Member must know that the last thing I would do would be to impute disloyalty to any Member of this House. I am dealing with the effects of proposals, not with the intentions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I say that this proposal, if ever carried, would inevitably undermine the whole machinery of popular control; and it must, sooner or later, by making the Crown the sole arbiter between the Ministers and the people, expose it to all the artillery of Party criticism and Party attack. Disguise it how you will, this is a veiled attack on popular liberties and on the constitutional foundations of the British Monarchy itself. It will be difficult for the Government, among their many mandates to discover a mandate for any change so revolutionary as that. We make no complaint that this question has been raised. We agree with the Prime Minister, new that it has been raised, that it must go forward to its issue. We think it well that the people of the country have been given this timely warning of the true nature of the path which they are invited to tread. We have no doubt as to their answer. From the study of the social well-being of the nation the Government have turned aside to destroy her Institutions. It will not be the first time that the intoxication of power has lured its possessors to destruction; and that those who have claimed in the name of a popular mandate the right to be the sole and exclusive interpreters of the people's will have demonstrated by their fate the truth of the saying—Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat. I beg to move.
At the end of the Question, to add the words 'But humbly regrets that the social legislation declared by Your Majesty's Government to be urgent should be postponed for the purpose of effecting revolutionary changes
in the powers exercised by Parliament over the affairs of the United Kingdom and in the constitutional relation between the two Houses.' "—Earl Percy.
§ Question propose "That those words be there added."
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fifeshire, E.
Even if the noble Lord had not made, as he always does, a most able, interesting, and eloquent speech, it would have been necessary as a mere matter of Parliamentary good manners to treat this Amendment with at least an outward show of respect. Is it not the fruit, as far as we know the only fruit, of prolonged and anxious deliberations among the Leaders of the Opposition? Is it not the proposition, and as far as we know, the only proposition, which the corporate wisdom of their united counsels has enabled them to present on their own responsibility? There is, I know, on the notice Paper another Amendment which I understand we are to discuss to-morrow, but though it is ushered into life at the same moment as this one, its parentage is dubious. What mingled strain of blood pulsates in its veins we may, perhaps, tomorrow discover; at any rate no man on that front bench, no hon. or right hon. Gentleman hiss had the courage to make himself answerable either for its features or its fortunes. The noble Lord's Amendment is the only direct issue which the official Opposition challenges us to meet. But if it were not for its respectable origin and sponsorship, I should have thought that among all the Amendments now on the notice Paper it was the least deserving of the serious consideration of the House. What does it mean? The noble Lord asks the House to affirm that the path of social reform is being wantonly blocked by the determination of His Majesty's Government to proceed with two political schemes of a revolutionary character. These two schemes have at this moment this much in common—that there is not a single hon. or right hon. Gentleman on that Bench who has the faintest or dimmest inkling of what shape they will take. We see to what straits the noble Lord has been driven in his speech to night! The noble Lord has indulged in all kinds of ingenious speculations. His imagination has soared to the dizziest heights and dived to the murkiest depths 588 of political folly and turpitude, to sketch out the possible proposals of His Majesty's Government in rotation to Ireland. He has been obliged, for the purpose of his argument, knowing absolutely nothing of what the Government will propose, to treat these lurid, but unsubstantial visions as if they were solid, living, and moving realities. Unless you are going to lay down—and I shall be surprised if the Leader of the Opposition commits himself to any such doctrine—that whatever measures are "adumbrated" in the gracious Speech from the Throne it is the duty of Ministers in the debate on the Address to explain, if not in detail, at least in their main outline, I cannot imagine a more preposterous proceeding than to invite the House, as the noble Lord does, to condemn the Government in anticipation of their production for schemes of the real nature and contents of which neither ho, nor anyone outside the Government, has any knowledge whatever. But the noble Lord has said one or two things which I cannot pass without immediate notice. I will not follow him in that long catalogue of unmentioned social reforms which he thinks ought to be added to a list which I thought sufficiently long already to tax all the time and energy even of a new Parliament in a single session. But I will deal with the two main branches into which his indictment has been divided—the question of Ireland and the question of the House of Lords.
As regards Ireland, the noble Lord, echoing, although somewhat softly, the strident notes of a speech of extraordinary and I must add uncharacteristic violence delivered two or three nights ago outside the House by the Leader of the Opposition, tells us that we are sitting here on false pretences, and that we are contemplating, if, indeed, we are not actually engaged in launching, a scheme which is at once revolutionary in its character and a gross breach of faith to the electors of this country. That is the charge which the noble Lord has made, and which is somewhat feebly cheered behind him.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The hon. Baronet always has the courage of the convictions of those who sit around him. But the 589 Leader of the Opposition, as I gathered from the speech to which I have referred, is shocked almost beyond his power of expression at the spectacle which he witnesses of the men actually responsible for the government of the country sliding slowly, but surely, into a perfect abyss of political dishonesty. True, his reprobation is tempered by some more agreeable emotions. After exhibiting our conduct in the darkest colours the right hon. Gentleman said—Have we not here the elements of hope?That, Sir, is patriotism up to date. We have all known, in days gone by, politicians who had enough of the natural man left in them to find a gloomy satisfaction in the follies and ineptitudes of the rivals who had taken their place. But it has been reserved for the right hon. Gentleman, so far as my knowledge of history goes, to find a topic, not only of consolation, but of exultant hope, in the fact that the responsible Government of the day is engaged in the habitual and systematic violation of the moral law. It is difficult to treat these things seriously. But what is it all about? The noble Lord has not the remotest notion, nor has the Leader of the Opposition, of the actual schemes which the Government are about to introduce. All that they have to go upon, or, at any rate, all the recent information they have, is the declaration made in the course of this debate by the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary—declarations in which there was nothing at all novel, declarations that my right hon. friends retained their conviction that the ultimate solution of the Irish problem could only be found in some form of what is called Home Rule, and therefore that they could not be parties to any changes which in their view were inconsistent with further and future developments in that direction. There is nothing new in that. It was said by both my right hon. friends and by many hon. Members on this side both before and during the General Election. But apparently it is not they who are on the eve of committing this great act of political perfidy. Who are the guilty parties? Am I one of them? The noble Lord spared me any quotations from my speeches, for which I am very grateful, although he quoted some of the utterances of my close friends and colleagues. I want to use very plain 590 language with regard to this matter, and I will, therefore, say this in face of the House. If, when the scheme of the Government is produced—and I am not going to say anything about it until it is produced—it contains any provision which either in letter or spirit is inconsistent with, or is a violation of, any pledge, assurance, or declaration that I have ever given, either before or during the General Election—if that is the case, and it can be proved, I will at once resign my position in His Majesty's Government. It is quite true that I said, as several of my colleagues and as a great number of Gentlemen behind me said, that we regarded the dominating issue at the last election as the great issue between free trade and protection; and certainly I, amongst others, declared that in my view the introduction or passing of what is called a Home Rule Bill—that is to say, a Bill for creating an Irish Legislature with an Executive dependent on and responsible to it—would not and could not form part of the business of this House of Commons. If I were to be a party to the presentation of any such scheme I agree that I should be guilty of a breach of faith. Nothing could be plainer. But that was not the only pledge I gave to the electors. The hon. Member for Waterford the other night justly reminded us that the whole of us of the Liberal Party, in all its shades and sections, voted as one man with him in the late Houses of Commons in favour of a resolution which condemned, root and branch, the present system of administration in Ireland. I am not going, nor are any of my friends, to recede by one inch from the position which we took up then. I do not like to quote my own speeches. I would rather quote other people's. But since we are deliberately accused, not of a mere ordinary inconsistency, but—and by responsible politicians—of holding our seats here by false pretences, then in face of a slander of that kind, and it is nothing but a slander, the House of Commons will pardon what may seem a display of egotism if I endeavour to overtake it at once, before it has legs enough and wind enough, to carry it on its journey. I go back to the year 1902, a year when, as the historian will record, there were grave differences of opinion, though exaggerated differences as I always thought, within the ranks of the Liberal Party. 591 Speaking at a most critical moment in the month of March, during that episode in our history, I expressed the view on this subject which I then entertained and which I entertain now, and which I see no occasion to vary or modify. I pointed out that the difficulty of the Irish problem consisted in two main things, one of a local and the other of an Imperial kind, though interdependent and interlaced one with the other. The local factor is discontent, chronic, persistent, secular, in Ireland. The Imperial factor is the growing congestion in this House of business with which our forms of Procedure are totally unable to deal. As to the first I said—That discontent springs from causes, not the least important of which has been the almost complete dissociation of the Irish people from their own administration and government, both local and central.After referring to the rejection of the two Home Rule Bills, those of 1886 and 1893, I said—What does that bring us to? I am a practical man, and I am not ashamed to own it, in politics as elsewhere; and if I find I cannot attain my ends by a particular road, if I find that road is blocked. I try to attain my ends by some other, and I am not going to acknowledge that I have abandoned the object of my journey because, taught by experience, I seek a different way to it, or because that which I hoped to accomplish in a day at one stage I am obliged to accomplish in several stages slowly and indirectly.And I went on to say this—I have not abandoned, and I do not know any Liberal who has, the ends of our Irish policy. I want to see Irish discontent, not bribed or dosed into a kind of lethargic and temporary suspension, I want to see it exorcised, extirpated, got rid of, and I am certain that, in the long run, that end cannot be fully attained except by the gradual but ever-increasing association of the people with their own Government, by the stimulus of local knowledge, and by the restraints of local responsibility.That was the doctrine which I preached then, the doctrine which I have preached ever since, and the doctrine which, so far as opportunity allows me, I mean to practise today. I will not trouble the House with any further quotation from myself; but I should like to read two or three lines from a speech of one who has always been, and, I am thankful to say, I still is, one of my closest and most intimate political colleagues and friends—the right hon. Baronet who is now the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. 592 Speaking at Newcastle—the noble Lord has already referred to the speech—at the end of November, 1905, I think within a week of the resignation of the late Government, and, therefore, when we were on the threshold of the election, he used this language:—Supposing the victory of free trade over protection had been accomplished, as he believed it would be at the next election, what what was going to be the policy of the Liberal Government with regard to Ireland? He would quote what he thought that policy should be. It was this—large administrative reforms on the lines which have already received, for a moment, the approval of Mr. Balfour, and for a permanency—I am not quite sure that he was right here——the approval of Mr. Wyndhard and to which Sir Antony MacDonnell has earnestly devoted his time and attention To chat and to the development of local institutions in Ireland the next Liberal Government will be able to devote their energies.And he said—I ask the House to notice this—There were certain steps of reform which he thought were ripe to be taken, and should be taken. Not one of these would prevent people going further if they wished it afterwards.This is the doctrine of what is called instalments; it is not the doctrine of which the Prime Minister is the sole and exclusive exponent—But the country would reserve its opinion with regard to the further steps until it had seen the result of Sir Antony MacDonnell's policy. In his opinion, when they came to future Parliaments and future years, the country would have to go further still; but he was prepared to take what lie believed to be the settled opinion of the British electors, that they must have one step at a, time.I venture to say that if, after declarations of that kind, my right hon. friend and I, or any of us, were, in deference to these clumsy taunts about Home Rule, to recede from the position we then took up, to fold our arms, to try and put the Irish question on the shelf—I can assure the House, from twenty years experience, there is no more difficult operation—we should indeed have sunk to the lowest depths of cowardice and political dishonesty. The noble Lord asked, "Is it going to lead up to Home Rule?" There is no constitutional change, no change of any sort or kind, I venture to say, in the whole sphere of Irish administration which cannot be plausibly represented both by its 593 friends and its opponents as leading up to Home Rule. Who are the people who talk about steps loading up to Home Rule? From what quarter, with what kind of authority, I would venture to ask with what cleanness of hands, are these charges put forward? Why, have we forgotten the Local Government Bill? Was that a step towards Home Rule?
§ *MR. ASQUITH
The right hon. Gentleman opposite says "No." Has he forgotten Lord Salisbury's Newport speech in which he declared that that very concession, that very mode of dealing with the Irish question, would be far more dangerous both to the interests of the minority and to Imperial unity than a full-blown scheme of Home Rule itself? I am not going into the curious and interesting, but still obscure chapter of recent history—the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell, an avowed Nationalist, to take the place, as we were told by Lord Lansdowne, and as we were told by the then Chief Secretary, and as the correspondence showed, not of a mere subordinate, not of an ordinary Civil servant, but of a man who was to have a voice in the actual determination and direction of the policy of the country. [An IRISH MEMBER: As a colleague.] Yes, I think the word actually used was "a colleague"—a sort of colleague. I do not want to go into that. It is a painful subject. We have never understood to this moment either why it was that the late Chief Secretary resigned and yet the Prime Minister did not resign, or why it was that, if the Prime Minister felt bound to accept the Chief Secretary's resignation, the services of Sir Antony MacDonnell were retained. I say it is a painful subject. I think in the whole history, mythological and actual, of the human race, at any rate since the day when Iphigenia bared her throat to the knife at Aulis, there has been no more extraordinary, mysterious and inexplicable instance of vicarious sacrifice. My own test—I only offer it for what it is worth—with regard to any proposal for legislation and changes in the administration of Ireland is not whether it leads to or leads away from 594 a particular solution which is not for the moment in question, but whether it tends to get you further on the road towards the attainment of our two great purposes—the emancipation of the Imperial Parliament from business which it cannot do and the setting free of its hands for business which it ought to do and does not do, and the growing association, within the limits of Imperial unity, of the Irish people with responsibility for all merely Irish concerns. If only the voice of faction could be stilled, the voice of a faction, a noisy and intolerant, but, as I believe, a dwindling faction—if only the voice of that faction could be stilled, there never was a moment when there was a better prospect of making a substantial advance, with the general consent of reasonable men, on the path which leads to contentment and loyalty. Some, at any rate, of the presuppositions of what I may call old-fashioned Unionism—the notion, for instance, that if you gave the Irish power over their own affairs they would abuse it to oppress the minority and impose unjust burdens, by discrimination of religion and class, on their fellow-countrymen—some of these presuppositions, as I think even the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be glad to acknowledge, have been negatived, and more than negatived, by the experience we have had of the working of local institutions in Ireland. I would ask one further question. Is there anyone in this House or out of it who knows the condition of Ireland, and the temper of the British people—and those are the two important factors with which we have got to deal, both of which have largely altered during the past fifteen years—is there anyone with that knowledge who can doubt that the area of misunderstanding, both between classes in Ireland and between peoples on opposite sides of St. George's Channel, has been steadily narrowed and cut down? The Government, at any rate, wish to approach this task, even if our effort at the moment is not on what is called an heroic scale, not in this atmosphere of suspicion which the noble Lord has sought to engender. We wish to approach it in the spirit of good-fellowship, and in the hope that our efforts may be attended with some share, at any rate, of the blessing which is promised to those who seek peace and ensue it.
595 Now I pass for a moment to the other branch of the noble Lord's attack, because, after the clear and full declaration which has been made by the Prime Minister earlier in this debate, no more is needed, if, indeed, anything is needed but two or three sentences. The noble Lord says we have not made up our mind what our grievance against the Lords is. We must be a very slow-witted Party to be in that condition. Does anyone defend, does the noble Lord himself defend, the present system? He does not. What is that system? It is a system in which, it is true, you have got a second Chamber. The noble Lord said something about considering measures on their intrinsic merits. No doubt that is the ideal function of a second Chamber in Plato's Republic or any imaginary polity of that kind; but the second Chamber as we have it in fact and experience, as everyone who is listening to me knows perfectly well, accepts practically without demur everything that a Tory House of Commons sends to it, and rejects or mutilates with as little hesitation, subject, I agree, to the restraining influence of an occasional fit of prudent alarm, the vast proportion, at any rate, of the measures which are sent up to it by a Liberal House of Commons. The noble Lord compared the treatment of the Education Bill of the late Government with that of the Plural Voting Bill of the present Government. You could not have an apter illustration of what I mean. The Education Bill of the late Government was a measure which had not only never been submitted to the electors, but which, I venture to say, not one man in a thousand at the General Election of 1900 ever dreamt of being introduced. The measure was violent, revolutionary, subversive of the system which had prevailed for thirty years, and it was protested against and voted against by us, then a small minority in this House, with a pertinacity which I have rarely seen surpassed, and accepted by the House of Lords without demur. And the noble Lord actually has the courage in defending the title of the House of Lords to be a second Chamber which considers measures on their intrinsic merits, and in view of the degree of acceptance and satisfaction which they have received from the people of this country, to contrast that with the case of the Plural Voting Bill! The principle of the Plural Voting Bill has been before the electors of this 596 country for more than twenty years. Go back to the General Election of 1885, and read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and others, and you will find that there was not a Liberal candidate during that time who did not use the old formula "one man, one vote." But the noble Lord tells us, with a strange indifference either to the facts or to the intelligence of this House, that it would have been an irreparable mistake to pass the Plural Voters Bill, because its victims would have been hopelessly disfranchised. He forgets that they would all have been left in possession of a vote. [Opposition cries of "No."] Yes, unless they were stupid and ignorant, and if they took the most ordinary precautions. My right hon. friend the First Commissioner of Works and I took hours and weeks in devising safeguards in the interests of the careless and absent-minded plural voter. Moreover, that was a Bill which peculiarly affected the privileges and position of this House. It was heartily approved of at the last general election by the vast bulk of the electors of the country, and I do not hesitate to say that its rejection by the House of Lords was a direct affront to the popular will. The noble Lord, with perhaps unconscious irony, in the framing of this Resolution professes to deplore the postponement of social reform to political change. I will not go through his list of social reforms; but was there ever a clearer case of putting the cart before the horse. Where, I ask, and in what quarter is social reform really blocked? Every proposal of the kind that we make, provided that it interfere—and what social reform worthy of the name does not interfere—with the vested interests of some class—every measure of that kind that we propose—as we know by long and bitter experience—has in the course of its progress, if it is to get on to the Statute Book at all, to be diluted and doctored to suit the palates of an Assembly which regards the safeguarding of vested interests as one of its supreme trusts. The matter was never brought more clearly to a head than it was at the close of last session. What happened then? A minority of this House numerically almost insignificant, fresh from an almost unexampled rebuff at the polls—that minority, by the aid of the agency of the House of Lords, showed 597 itself able to control, and even to dictate, the legislation of the country. The noble Lord has very aptly used the metaphor of Sisyphus and reminded us that we live laborious days in painfully pushing a stone up a hill, only when it has reached the top to have it hurled back. If I might change the metaphor I should say that whatever we do we are either checkmated or stalemated; we play under conditions under which we can never win the game. Well, that is the state of the situation; and the position of the reference to this matter in the King's Speech shows the overshadowing importance of this matter over all the rest of the legislative programme, and the deliberate opinion of His Majesty's Government that we are face to face with a caricature and a mockery of representative government. We are determined, with the assent of our follow countrymen, as we believe, to provide for it, as soon as may be, an effectual remedy.
§ *MR.CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
said he rose, with very much diffidence, to support the motion of the noble Lord the Member for Kensington. He was quite sure that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a very large measure justified the claim raised by the noble Lord that the present Government was committed to a policy of Home Rule. If there had been any doubt in their minds before, that doubt had now been removed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had complained that hon. Members of the Opposition did not know the character of the measure which the present Administration proposed to bring in. They might not have the details before them, but certain particulars they had, and they believed that they were justified in judging of that measure by the forecast which had been vouchsafed to them. They were told that it would be a measure leading up to, and consistent with the larger policy of Home Rule. If the measure did not come up to that description of it, then they were justified in complaining that the Prime Minister had not placed before the House a fair forecast of his principal measure for the session. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had assured his constituents at the time of the General Election that no Home Rule Bill would be introduced 598 in this Parliament, they had the distinct assurance of the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Government were going to bring in a measure which would lead up to and be consistent with Home Rule. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the temper of the people of England had changed during the last fifteen years. The right hon. Gentleman would, he thought, find that so far as Home Rule was concerned the temper of the people of England had not changed, and that they were as opposed to the granting of Home Rule to Ireland as in 1886 or 1893, or to any measure which would lead up to it. He supported the Amendment of the noble Lord because it condemned the postponement by the Government of social legislation. Social legislation only found a very meagre place at the end of the King's Speech. Was it to be postponed until after the Attorney-General's revolution of which they had heard so much, or until the Chief Secretary for Ireland had succeeded in taking an efficient step towards the disintegration of the Empire? If so, social legislation would be postponed for a very long time. It was proposed that certain revolutionary changes should be made in relation to the powers of Parliament over the affairs of the United Kingdom. Such proposals would be met with consistent opposition by all who believed that the union between this country and Ireland was essential to the well-being and the existence not only of the United Kingdom but of the whole British Empire. The present Administration would find it extremely difficult to carry out what they proposed to do, until, in the words of Lord Rosebery, it undertook "to convert the predominant partner." Mr. Bryce, now British Ambassador to the United States, had told an audience at Newcastle that Ireland was in a state of profound peace. If that right hon. Gentleman were now in the House they might ask him to read the evidence in that day's Times of the existence of boycotting in Ireland, showing that there were many people there suffering from grievous persecution. If the control of the affairs of that island were handed over to the disloyal majority, hundreds, if not thousands, of persons would be subjected to tyranny and persecution which would make their lives intolerable, and in all probability result in their 599 having to leave the country. Other changes were referred to in the Amendment of the noble Lord relating to the constitutional relations between the two Houses of Parliament. These justified them in asking if it was true that the House of Lords did reject measures which the country really wanted. He believed that that statement was not warranted. Reference had been made to the Education Bill of last year; but such a measure was referred to the electorate in January last. There was then no proposal laid before the country practically to destroy the denominational schools, and to make it impossible for children to be brought up in the religion of their parents, or for head teachers to impart religious instruction to the children in the schools, however much they might desire to do so. The country gave no mandate for the iniquitous Education Bill of 1906, and little courtesy was shown to the House of Lords for the excellent Amendments they introduced into that measure. As regarded Plural Voting the House of Lords acted as they might be expected to act in regard to such a measure. It was a party measure introduced in a petty party spirit, merely in order to enable the Government, who had been returned on the cry of Chinese slavery, to obtain some cheap popularity. It was a paltry party measure which was rightly and justly thrown out by the House of Lords, and he was sure when the issue was placed before them, the country would back up the House of Lords in regard to their action upon both the Education Bill and the Plural Voting Bill. They on that side were prepared to go to the country upon this Education question alone. They spent two months in debating it, and notwithstanding the admiration which had been expressed for the conduct of that measure by the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, still the Bill was a bad one and the House of Lords were justified in treating it as they had done. There was no doubt that the only mandate before the electors at the last General Election was that of the alleged Chinese slavery in the Transvaal, and now after fourteen months the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had told them that during the month of January no fewer than 2,121 indentured Chinese labourers were introduced into the country. That was the way in which the only mandate 600 which the Government received from the people had been treated, and the present Ministry, who were going to put a stop to the slavery in the Transvaal, were admitting the Chinese as freely as ever. Why should social legislation be deferred in order to give Home Rule to Ireland and to attack the House of Lords? The procedure seemed to be like that of the Chinaman who set fire to his house in order to light his pipe, and this precious Government seemed to wish to destroy the British Constitution in order to carry out their policy of attacking the House of Lords. In consequence of the long frost there had been a large amount of unemployment, but those out of work had meanwhile not received a word of encouragement or any assurance that the difficulties they were encountering would be dealt with. That was the condition of the country at a time when they were told that trade was booming and that the trade returns were going up by leaps and bounds under a system of so-called free trade. They hoped that the time might come when under better auspices and under a better fiscal system they would be able to do away with that system under which the suffering poor now existed, a condition of things which found no word or echo of sympathy in the gracious Speech. In supporting the Amendment he hoped that before long it would be realised by a large majority of this House that by the action of the House of Lords during the past session, and their action in 1886 and 1893 in reference to the Home Rule Bills, they had constituted an efficient barrier between the people of this country and the first steps towards the disintegration of the Empire and of the interests which the present generation had received from those who had gone before them and which they desired to pass on to their successors.
§ MR.AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
said that there were two words in the Amendment which had impressed him very much, viz., the reference to "revolutionary changes." He was not aware that they had in the King's Speech anything which could be called a revolutionary measure, and he was content to wait until he saw the proposals of His Majesty's Government before deciding on the point. He would 601 say, however, that he did not think that a revolution was or revolutionary measures were at all likely to come hurriedly in this country, although language of that kind might be used by newspapers or by perfervid orators. In this country, however, revolutions had been extremely rare, although it was quite true that we had sometimes what might be called political violence, but, in the same way as a seismic disturbance might take place at Java or Jamaica and not disturb much the action of the instrument which at Greenwich Observatory registered the movement of the earth, so, although the eyes of every man woman or child might be riveted on a particular constituency, the stability of the British Constitution was not disturbed. We had great cyclones in which feeling was greatly excited, but if the earth did not open public-houses did, and if property was not destroyed tempers were sometimes lost, and although lives were not jeopardised, reputations occasionally suffered. But what did the total of all this mean? The great institutions of the country had scarcely given a susceptible reception to the oscillations of the electorate, and the stability of the British Constitution of which they heard so much was something to strike despair into the heart of the too ardent social reformer. The Resolution expressed regret that social legislation was to be put on one side for the purpose of making changes in the constitutional relation of the two Houses, but he hoped the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, and to whose speech they had listened with the greatest pleasure, would forgive him if he said that many of them on that side of the House heard his expressions of regret with considerable reserve. He did not know anything more fascinating, on the historical side of the two Parties, than the question of what they had each of them achieved in regard to social reform. The Loader of the Opposition had challenged the Government to show whether, as a matter of fact, more measures of social reform had not been put upon the Statute-book by Tory Governments than by Liberal Governments. He had no doubt about it. More measures of social reform had been placed upon the Statute-book by Tory than by Liberal Governments, but there was a very easy explanation. In all cases in the history of social reform it had been the mission of the Liberal Party to go into the constitu- 602 encies and, as it were, sow the seed of social reform; but when it came to putting measures on the Statute-book, the Liberal Party had failed because they had found that the friction of the constitutional machine was such that they were not able to do anything more than propose, and possibly fail in carrying, their measures of social reform. The next stage of the process was that the Conservatives, who had crippled these measures, and who, by their representatives in the House of Lords, had been able to stop their becoming law, were able to take up the threads of social reform where the Liberals had left them, and, being able to pass them in the House of Lords, were enabled to place them, in an attenuated form, on the Statute-book. He did not, from the other point of view, know why the noble Lord should regret that the social legislation declared by the Liberal Government to be urgent, should be postponed for the purpose of effecting revolutionary changes in the powers exercised by Parliament over the affairs of the United Kingdom and in the constitutional relation between the two Houses. The question of social reform was urgent, and if the Liberal Party were about to play, were forced to play, as they might be, from the necessities of the case, their customary role of endeavouring to overcome the difficulties of the constitutional machine, it was possible, but, he hoped, not probable, that history might repeat itself, and that the Liberal Party might not be able to carry the social measures they now so ardently desired. He hoped the traditional rôle in this case would not be fulfilled. He would venture to draw an analogy. He was told it was the custom of the astute Chinaman to do his fishing by proxy. He did not trouble to fish for himself, but trained a cormorant, who dived into deep, and sometimes muddy, water, and brought up a fish on which he hoped to make a savoury meal.
§ MR. JEREMIAH MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
called attention to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted; and, forty Members being found present—
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR, continuing, said
But when the bird endeavoured to swallow its fish it was found it had a gold ring round its neck, which 603 made the process of swallowing impossible, and, worse still, that it was compelled to disgorge the fish and see its wily co-adventurer enjoy the fish which it had obtained. Nobody who had seen the way in which the bird had tried to get its meal, and been deprived of the fruits of its labour by the wily Chinaman who got the benefit, could watch it without sympathy. The analogy he wished to draw between the Parties in that House and that story was that it was the Liberal Party which went down into the deep waters and brought up what it thought was essential to the well-being of the community, and it was the Tory Party which, by the political machinery of the country, had been able to profit by the labours of its opponents. The time had come when some change was necessary in the constitution of the relationship of the two Houses. He thought the tendering of a "humble regret" from the other side of the House at the postponement of what must eventually inure to the benefit of the community might, with some decency, be abandoned.
MR. SWIFTMACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said the Amendment now before the House was one of which he was rather jealous. He himself had put down an Amendment in respect of the constitution of the House of Lords, and, at great inconvenience to himself, he had remained in the House to a late hour in order to ensure that his Amendment should be put first on the list. After some three days of incubation, however, there came an Amendment, the words of which might be those of the noble Lord, but which certainly showed the hand of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for London. The Amendment was an exceedingly clever one. It began with the insinuation that the Liberal Party were endeavouring to postpone social legislation in order to carry the country into an agitation in favour of what was called both revolutionary and unconstitutional reform. Those two words, however, meant nothing but an expression of opinion in the mind of the speaker or writer who used them. Then they said that the attempt to alter the constitutional relationship between the two Houses was being made by men who ought to forward the social legislation of the country. As he understood it, it was an attempt to alter the consti- 604 tutional relations in order that the measures of social reform proposed by this House should not be obstructed or mutilated in the other. They were attempting to take away the barrier and make social legislation easy of performance. One of the greatest social reformers who ever lived was a Tory Peer, and his name stood most high in the history of this country. If ever there was a great and good man in this world that man was Lord Shaftesbury. What were Lord Shafesbury's views upon this question? When he began public life he forswore everything that would prevent social reform. Lord Shaftesbury, speaking of his own times, said that the measures of social reform sent up by the House of Commons were mutilated and rejected by the House of Lords and, in relation to the Mines Regulation Bill, that he never saw a greater instance of the selfishness of the House of Lords and of their frigidity towards anything like social reform; that the selfishness and insensibility to human sympathy in that assembly was absolutely without parallel. Lord Shaftesbury further said that if the people were alive to their own interests they would see what the House of Lords was. He compared the House of Lords to a rabbit and the people to a boa-constrictor, and said the rabbit was ready in its cage if the boa-constrictor was in earnest. He (Mr. MacNeill) thought the boa-constrictor was in earnest now. If ever there was an instance of the mutilation of a measure of social reform by the House of Lords that instance was the Parish Councils Bill. Mr. Gladstone's last expression from the front bench was that the issue was between the Lords and the people—between those who represented themselves and 70,000,000 of people—as to whether they should have a permanent and predominant voice in regard to their own interests. It was very easy to speak of certain proceedings that they did not like as revolutionary and unconstitutional. Though the Government had not told them their scheme, yet he averred that no scheme, however drastic, or the reform of the House of Lords, could be, historically, either revolutionary or illegal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not told them what the Government programme was, but they could easily gather what it was from certain expressions used, so far back as March 605 1888, by the Secretary of State for India in the debate in this House on the hereditary principle. Speaking as representing the leaders of the Liberal Party, the Secretary for India said that the first measure to take in effecting a reform was to make the people masters in their own House of Parliament—to take care that the hereditary principle was no longer allowed to stand in the way of the wishes of a free self-governing and self-respecting nation. Therefore, they knew that the hereditary principle must be attacked in some form, unless the Government had altered their opinion since 1889. But this was said to be unconstitutional, and that the relations of the House of Lords were constitutional. They were nothing of the kind. In order to be in accordance with the principles of the Constitution and with long practice, the House of Lords and the House of Commons must be two assemblies of harmonious tendencies, and not of contrasted or opposed tendencies. The House of Lords was of contrasted and opposed tendencies. That had been so ever since 1832, and it had become so more and more every day. The House of Commons had been reformed no fewer than three times; the House of Lords had never been reformed in any circumstances whatsoever. There had been no such thing in the course of 750 years as an Act of Parliament for a reform of the House of Lords, however slight, except one, and that Act, passed in 1871, was to preclude bankrupt Peers from getting their writs. In all that regarded the composition of the two Houses in their social caste, and in all the ideas that governed the people at large, the two Houses of Parliament were not co-ordinate, but contrasted and opposing Houses. It was not so before 1832, because the same aristrocratic influences which dominated the House of Lords then dominated the House of Commons. It was not imagination to say that the House of Commons, until 1832, was in the hands of the House of Lords. Of 658 Members of the House of Commons, no fewer than 487 were returned by single individuals, and of these 487 there were 310 returned as the nominees of Peers. The Duke of Norfolk alone nominated no fewer than eleven men to be sent to the House of Commons. The hereditary principle of the House of Lords, as they now knew, was a very modern outcome 606 of constitutional development. Would it surprise people to know that until certainly the period of the Revolution, the majority of Members of the House of Lords were not hereditary? They were the Lords spiritual; they were abbots or prelates—prelates of a very different character from the twenty prelates we had now. In the Middle Ages the humblest boy, if he went into the Church, was allowed to rise to the highest position. Until the time of the Revolution, the spiritual Peers always commanded a large majority over the temporal Peers, and of those spiritual Peers at least two-thirds were men who, while surrounded by all the privileges and grandeur of wealth, felt for the people, and, although not selected by the people, yet represented the people in feeling, thought, and tradition, for they were, in many cases, allied to the people from among whom they had sprung. Forty temporal Peers had been created since the commencement of the present reign, and 295 were created in the last reign. After the Wars of the Roses, in the reign of Henry VII., there were only twenty-nine lay Peers, and in the reign of Henry VIII., fifty-nine. With the increase in the number of Peers there was an increase of the number of rotten boroughs. These rotten boroughs were created to overwhelm the popular vote, and with a fresh batch of rotten boroughs there was a fresh batch of Peers. In the Stuart régime there were 193 Peers created, nearly all of them purchased in the reign of James I. and Charles I., and certainly all were bought in the reign of Charles II. In the reign of George III. no fewer than 388 Peers were created, and these men on a whole were not of great distinction; they were large contributors to Party funds, and they utterly altered the tone of the House of Lords, and brought it into still greater contrast with the House of Commons and with popular feeling. Were the temporal Peers hereditary? He would ask the Government, who had a scheme in contemplation, to consider this question very carefully. He affirmed, and he had never been contradicted, that it was perfectly competent for the Minister of the Crown, for the Cabinet, to advise the Sovereign to issue or withhold the writ of summons, by which alone a Peer could attend. Lord Cranborne, speaking in the House of Lords in February, 1856, said that the 607 presence of Peers in the House of Lords depended on the writ of summons, which either could be given or withheld. The writ of summons was not an honour, and not a privilege of the Peer. It was an obligation upon him to attend for the performance of most solemn duties, and it was unquestionable that if the Crown did not consider a Peer capable of giving the Crown counsel and advice, it was fully within its purview and power to return his writ, postpone it, or even cancel it. It did not interfere in the slightest degree with his status as a Peer. No lawyer would deny that the prerogative of the Crown could not be taken away, and the exercise of the prerogative in the Stuart time, however arbitrary, was not illegal. Under the Bill of Rights it could be acted upon, not in propria persona, but it could be exercised as acting under the Constitution and on the advice of Ministers. When the present Duke of Devonshire became a Member of the House of Lords he appeared before their Lordships to take the Oath, but as he had omitted to bring with him his writ of summons the administering of the Oath was refused, and he could not take his seat. The Crown could either act or refuse to act in regard to the issue of writs of summons to Peers for attend-dance in Parliament. The issue of a writ of summons was not a matter of privilege, but a question of consultation with the Crown as to whether a person ought or ought not to be invited to take part in the proceedings of the Upper Chamber. It was well known that the late Lord Selborne, a distinguished lawyer who had been Lord Chancellor, held the opinion that a man might be a Peer of the Realm and not a Lord of Parliament, it being entirely in his discretion on succeeding to a peerage whether or not he took out a writ of summons. Accordingly the noble Lord's son, the present Lord Selborne, who as Lord Wolmer was a Member of the House of Commons, attempted to retain his seat in the House after his succession to the peerage, contending that he was not a Lord of Parliament and did not propose to become one; but the authorities decided against him. Let these gentlemen be Peers of the Realm as much as they liked, let them be free to become Members of the House of Commons if they liked; but even if they were as wise as Solon they should not be 608 permitted to make laws unless they occupied some sort of elective position. The way he advocated for dealing with the House of Lords involved no dissolution of Parliament, but was a smooth and easy procedure well within the competency of the Crown to exercise on the advice of the Ministers. The House of Lords could be dealt with in the way he had suggested and the Veto Bill could still be gone on with. They ought to be acting in this matter, and they did not want simply to pass a Resolution or have abuse of the House of Lords as a kind of doxology in every Liberal speech. It was quite clear from history that the prerogative of the Crown could not be destroyed by desuetude. They had had some experience on this point during the reign of Edward I. Why could not the same prerogative be used by the Crown to-day? As guardians and trustees for the people with whose interests they were connected and whose interests were very dear to them, could they, as sane men, allow a gentleman simply because he was the son of his father to be a revising agent over their proceedings? The less some of them said about that the better. Many of the peerages were obtained because the first peers were the illegitimate sons of distinguished persons. There was one peerage still in existence which was given to a man because he married the cast-off mistress an English king. In the past many of knighthoods and baronetcies had been bought with large sums of money and some of the peerages had been bought by more considerable sums. He wished to express his gratitude to the hon. Member for having made his proposal the official Amendment of the Opposition Party. With regard to Ireland he had sat in the House of Commons for twenty years and they had had their little quarrels with the House of Lords. The hon. Member for South Tyrone who was always remarkably moderate in his language made a speech twenty years ago in which he said that they in Ireland would make short work of the House of Lords, and that he did not know anyone outside a lunatic asylum who would defend the hereditary principle. His hon. friend in speaking thus was going completely on historical precedent. In 1751 in the Irish Parliament a Dublin crowd invaded the House of Lords and pitched them all out. They 609 found an old woman in the street, placed her on the seat of reverence—the woolsack—and put a churchwarden clay pipe in her mouth. He wished that members of this House would take matters more clearly into their own hands and deal with the House of Lords. He was extremely grateful to the senior Member for the City of London for linking together the question of the House of Lords and the Irish question. It was delightful to think that when they went to the country attacking the House of Lords they would also be attacking the hacks of Dublin Castle. They were pretty much in the same boat, and he hoped they would live and die in the same boat. If the man in the street were asked whether the men constituting the House of Lords with such antecedents as he had described should rule over him the answer would be "I do not think so." He himself would say that even if their ancestors had rendered valuable service to the State, that did not confer on their descendants a hereditary right to legislate.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said he desired to support the Amendment which his noble friend had proposed in such eloquent terms. The Opposition had a grievance against the Government for introducing into the King's Speech two revolutionary measures. They felt aggrieved because these measures were not put before the country twelve months ago. Whenever Home Rule was mentioned on the platform by Unionist candidates they were told it was a bogey and a scarecrow, and that Home Rule was not going to be introduced during the life of this Parliament. The other question—that of the House of Lords—was never raised at the recent election. As to the question of Home Rule, he reminded the House that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton had said that if a Home Rule Bill was introduced it would be not only a fraud, but be a breach of faith and an act of dishonesty; while the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said "Home Rule was not an issue, and could not be." But he understood from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he excused himself by saying they were only going to give a measure of devolution—a half-way measure. Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell the electorate twelve months ago he was going half-way to Home Rule? If he had, 610 they all know what the answer would have been. They all knew that the measure was going to lead up to a separate Parliament in Ireland, and ultimately to a separate nation altogether. What did the late Mr. Gladstone say on the question of devolution when it was brought forward? When he introduced his Home Rule Bill in 1886 them was a suggestion that he was going too far, and he said:—It is absurd, in my opinion, to talk of the adoption of such a scheme—that of delegating various branches of Irish affairs to a central elective body—in the face of two obstacles. Firstly, that those whom it is intended to benefit do not want it, do not ask for it, and refuse it.He understood that was the position of Irish Members to-day. What was the second obstacle?That all those who are fearful of giving a domestic Legislature to Ireland would naturally and emphatically, and rather justly, say: 'We will not create your Central Board and palter with this question, because we feel certain that it will afford nothing in this world except a stage from which to agitate for further concession—and because we see that by the proposal you make you will not even attain the advantage of settling the question raised.'The settlement which the hon. Member for Waterford sought was plain, because he had said they would be satisfied with nothing less than a Parliament in Dublin, with an Executive responsible to it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed a scheme of Devolution which was to lead up to that. He understood the Government admitted that. It was not denied. As to the other revolutionary measure, the Government had no case against the House of Lords, and would have been better advised to have waited until such time when the House of Lords had really rejected a popular measure. In amending the Education Bill, and in throwing out the Plural Voting Bill, the House of Lords had not rejected popular measures. The Government dared not go to the country on this question, because the country was against them. He supported the Amendment.
§ MR.MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)
said he did not want to follow the hon. Member who had just spoken with regard to the Education Bill, and he could not see any particular object in dealing any further with the Irish question, which had been absolutely and 611 conclusively dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Many hours had been wasted in reading quotations from the prelections of living and dead speakers in regard to the Irish question, although there had been no indication of what the Government proposals were to be. He therefore wished to turn his attention to the brilliant speech of the noble Lord who had introduced this Amendment. There were several minor points of criticism he wished to make. He must express a little surprise that the noble Lord had failed to notice that one object of the Parish Councils Act was to accomplish the regeneration of the rural population of the country, and that the House of Lords had removed from that Act those portions which would have made that regeneration possible. The subject he was most keenly interested in was that of social reform. He rejoiced at the enthusiasm for social reform which had been manifested in the speeches from the benches opposite; and he congratulated the noble Lord and those who acted with him on the sedulous manner in which that enthusiasm had been concealed during the last ten years. He did not want to use the tu quoque argument, but he had the strongest recollection of a time when in common with every young man he looked at both political parties with equal indifference. All through the years at the end of last century, when there were Budget surpluses, they looked to the Government with hope, then with hope deferred, and afterwards with utter despair of any particular problem of social reform being approached by the Government. For ten years there was inscribed on the roll of legislation only one first class measure of social reform, the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1887, and that was brought in and forced through Parliament by the right hon. the Member for West Birmingham, who was described by hon. Gentlemen opposite as an alien in the fold. The last general election was fought mainly on the question of free trade versus protection; but there was a stronger conviction amongst the working classes than even that; and that was that there was no hope of getting any great social reform from the Unionist Government. The result was that at the present moment the word "Imperialism" had no charm for the working classes of the country. A year ago he had no sort of 612 feeling of indignation against the House of Lords. If the measure proposed by the Government in the King's Speech had then been proposed he would have been strongly against it; but now, if in his humble fashion he would support an immediate and drastic movement against the House of Lords, it was entirely due to a conviction, which experience had driven home, that in regard to social reform they could look for no better treatment from that Chamber in the future than in the past. The noble Lord had referred to the Plural Voting Bill. That had nothing to do with social reform; but the Education Bill was a great and far-reaching measure of social reform, for it had bound up with it the medical inspection of the children in the schools. Again, for hours and days they had worked in the House of Commons for the passing of the Provision of Meals for Children Bill, and at the last moment a small company in the House of Lords came down and struck out all the provisions which related to Scotland, in spite of the fact that the whole movement arose in Scotland and that the condition of the children in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee in regard to under-feeding was far worse than in most English towns. Then in regard to the Trade Disputes Bill, that was not let through by the House of Lords because they thought it was a just measure, not because they thought that the country was behind it, but because the late First Lord of the Treasury thought that the country was behind it. If the late First Lord of the Treasury had withdrawn his embargo the House of Lords would have had one of the happiest moments of their lives in massacring the measure. If the Leader of the Opposition would give an assurance that the hand of the House of Lords would be carefully lifted from any measure of social reform mentioned in the King's Speech, then, so far as he was concerned, the right hon. Gentleman would take the heart out of the opposition to the House of Lords. He was convinced that the best thing they could do for social reform was to back up the Government in securing that an equal measure of justice should be given to the legislation of a Liberal Government as to that of a Conservative Government. Might he say how much he rejoiced in the fact that the Government in the Speech from 613 the Throne had declared their determination to continue the work of social reform concurrently with their campaign against the House of Lords? He referred to the paragraph in the King's Speech concerning the very kind of social reforms that the noble Lord advocated, and which he and those who agreed with him were glad to find would receive the heartiest support of the noble Lord and his colleagues—measures dealing with the housing of the people in the country districts and with small holdings. He hoped that the Bills would be such as would make a beneficial change in the rural condition of the country. If the Government would give an assurance that they intended to promote measures of social reform concurrently with their campaign against the House of Lords, and not unduly to lengthen that campaign, he thought the anxiety of the noble Lord opposite as to postponing social reform would be relieved, and with that assurance perhaps the noble Lord would withdraw his Amendment. It would be impertinent on his part to give any advice as to the policy which ought to be pursued by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but he respectfully asked them this question: They had lost the support of the working classes of this country. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] They had lost it in the great working-class constituencies of the country, which had returned Liberal and Labour Members by large majorities. Did they think that the conduct of the present Government during the past twelve months had in any appreciable degree induced the working classes to give their support to the Unionist Party? The by-elections offered a very strong contrast to the usual falling away of a majority. He knew a considerable number of Conservative working men, but he had never yet found any working man with any kind of enthusiasm for the House of Lords as at present constituted. He warned the Tory Party that they would never get the working men to demonstrate in Trafalgar Square or Parliament Square in defence of the House of Lords. They heard last week a considerable amount of discussion about old-age pensions and the suggestion that old-age pensions might be taken out of the proceeds of a high protective tariff. He wished the Party opposite would formulate such a system, because he knew that, if they did, it would have a 614 disastrous effect upon their fortunes in the country. [Laughter.] But these questions seemed to him to be less subjects for laughter than for tears, and he wished heartily to join in the eloquent appeal made last week by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil in connection with the immediate pressing necessity of pressing forward social reforms. If their campaign against the Lords meant the abandonment of that policy, he for one would hesitate before he engaged in it at all. For fifteen years we had not had one single first-class measure of social reform, as he did not think the tiny measures of social reform connected with the housing of the working classes could be claimed within that description, and the country was hoping that this year there would be placed upon the Statute-book some of those measures mentioned in the King's Speech which were vital to the continued welfare of the country. There were the problem of the decaying village, the problem of unemployment, the problem of pauperism and of increasing pauperism, and other matters to be dealt with. But he was thankful to say that the Government in the gracious Speech from the Throne had outlined a programme which filled them with delight, and if they would only pursue the policy there indicated concurrently with the policy of dealing with the House of Lords they would receive such support as few Governments had received.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON (Lanarkshire, N. W.)
said he did not propose to follow the hon. Member for North West Ham into a discussion of what did and what did not, in the opinion of one side of the House or the other, constitute social reform; but so far as he could gather the hon. Gentleman had invited them to enter into a sort of Dutch auction of reforms. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had denied that the policy which the Government was pursuing was in any sense a revolutionary one in regard to Ireland, but the right hon. Gentleman did not deny that the new Government measures for that country were not intended to help forward Home Rule later on. It was a step in advance, and, although it might only be a little step, that consideration did not meet the objection taken by his noble friend, which had reference, not to the size of the step, but to the taking of any step of that character at all. He 615 and his friends objected not only to the big hole for the cat but also to the little hole for the kitten. The Bill which the Government proposed to bring forward would provoke a large struggle and must therefore take up time which ought to be devoted to measures of social reform such as those to which the hon. Member for North West Ham had alluded. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the second part of the charge was that they were going to make great revolutionary changes in the relations between the two Houses, and he admitted that they were going to do so, and said it was a very good thing to do. They on that side had great difficulty in criticising the proposed action of the Government in the matter, because they were entirely in the dark as to the method by which they proposed to achieve that result. He doubted whether the Government were in possession of that information themselves. What was there in the political situation which called for immediate action in this matter? Last spring the Government came into office with what they were fond of calling a blank cheque from the electorate. He was rather sceptical about that, but let it be supposed that they came in with a whole book of blank cheques. They began to fill up those blank cheques and to present them in another place for payment. A very large number were honoured. One, the Aliens Bill, the Government quite accidentally omitted to endorse and it was returned to them. He had not heard that the Government showed any signs of endorsing it, and he thought it would be interesting if they had a statement from the Government on the subject. Two other Bills, the Education Bill and the Plural Voting Bill, were regarded as making too large a draft upon the confidence of the electors and were returned marked "Refer to drawer." Was there anything unbusiness like about that? On the contrary it was the only businesslike thing to do. Had the Government shown any signs of "Referring to drawer"? If the Government really believed that the country desired these two cheques to be honoured why did they not consult the drawer? The complaint of the hon. Member for North West Ham was that the House of Lords did not throw out the Trade Disputes Bill. The hon. Member said that they ought not to have passed the 616 Trade Disputes Bill, because they did not believe in it. That was the gospel of the Second Chamber according to the hon. Member for North West Ham, but it was not a correct statement of that gospel.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
said his point was that the reason why the House of Lords passed the Trade Disputes Bill was not that they agreed with it, but that the Leader of the Opposition supported it.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said he would not argue the point further with the hon. Gentleman. The country relied upon this House of Lords to give a check to measures of an objectionable character, and when, as was suggested should be done in this case, the cheques had been referred to drawer, there was not a case in history in which, if the country approved the draft, they had not passed the measure in question. Instead of referring the matter to the country, however, the members of the Government, under the leadership of the President of the Board of Trade, were going about the country blowing "a blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment" of Peers and calling upon the people to make an attack upon what was described recently as "the walls of Jericho." If the walls of Jericho were to go down, the Government had forgotten the necessary preliminaries—they had not been round the walls seven times, they had only been round once, and then they rode most of the way in private Members' chariots. The Government must remember that after all the trumpet blowing the walls of Jericho remained standing, and did not fall down until the people shouted with a great shout. If the Government would call on the people, and if all the people then shouted with a great shout, he did not believe even the lordly citizens of Jericho would regret the ruin of its walls. But if the Government neither went on with their marching nor called upon the people to shout, but merely stood still blowing the trumpet, then they would be open to the bitterest charge that could be brought against any Government, viz, that they preferred the cause of Party to the cause of the people.
§ MR. PAUL (Northampton)
said he doubted whether either the noble 617 Lord or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been convinced by their own arguments. It must have been present to the minds of both that, whereas a Liberal Government had very great difficulty in getting measures through the House of Lords, that difficulty entirely disappeared when a Conservative Government came into office. He called special attention to the Reform Act of 1867, a purely political measure that had never been before the country, an Act which introduced household suffrage, but, having been introduced by a Conservative Government, it passed into law practically without Amendment. The Leader of the Opposition at the close of the previous session called in the older House to redress the balance of the new. He himself was not prepared to accept the suggestions which had been made, certainly not the referendum which would result in the abolition of the House of Commons instead of the House of Lords, and he certainly was not prepared to agree to any measure for making another place more distinguished and more decorous, and which would be an alagous to substituting the Athenæum for the Carlton. But the question that he wished to ask and answer if he could was, "From whom has the revolutionary change come?"—because he did not deny that there was a revolutionary change. He made bold to say that not within living memory had the Lords claimed to make such bold, fear-reaching, comprehensive changes in the conditions under which public money should be voted and distributed as they made in connection with the Education Bill of last year. The last occasion upon which the Lords throw out a Money Bill was when they so dealt with the measure for the repeal of the paper duty in 1860. Then the House of Commons was invited to pass three Resolutions defining its own powers over public money. For 230 years it had been an elementary part of the Constitution that the right of collecting and distributing public funds belonged to the House of Commons alone, and that right was reaffirmed in 1860. Next year Mr. Gladstone, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a change in the form of the Finance Act by putting all the taxes into a single Bill. He had only one precedent for that, but that was the precedent of no less a man than William 618 Pitt. Objection was taken to that procedure by that staunch Conservative Mr. Newdigate, but on the division Mr. Newdigate was left in a very small minority. The change was approved by the House. The majority of Lord Palmerston's Government at that time was fifteen, and on the Third Reading of this Finance Bill it fell to nine. When that financial measure went to the Lords it passed unanimously, the fourteenth Earl Derby, "the Rupert of debate," who had been thrice Prime Minister, refusing to take the responsibility of advising the Peers to stand up against the taxing rights of the House of Commons. What control of the public purse had the House of Commons if the Lords could say, "You may raise the money, but we shall spend it," or rather, "We shall say how public money is to be spent, and you may find out for yourselves how to get it"? That was not real control of the purse; it was only an imperfect and semi-control. It was not the House of Commons, therefore, that had provoked or challenged the constitutional conflict in which they were unhappily engaged.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said it was remarkable that all the speakers on the Liberal side of the House had avoided direct reference to the principal question at issue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spoke first, had gone to great pains to justify his own position and that of his colleagues upon the question of Home Rule. But when he came to the question of the House of Lords, and the House thought he was going to deal with the Amendment of his noble friend, he gave them only a few words, it would be untrue to say a few sentences. The right hon. Gentleman practically said, "We are going to deal with the House of Lords, and a good job too," but made no reply whatever to the speech of his noble friend. The next speaker from those benches, the hon. Member for East Toxteth, regaled the House with an interesting account, no doubt true, of how Chinamen caught fish with cormorants; and that was about all he did say. The hon. Member for West Ham had given his own views as to what the policy of social reform ought to be or ought not to be, but had paid very little about the House of Lords. In the course of his speech the 619 hon. Member had made one or two rather interesting admissions. He told the House, for one thing, that the Government had no mandate to deal with the Lords. He did not think much of mandates, and therefore would not say much about this point, but it was a great admission to have from a Party which talked a good deal about mandates. The hon. Member went on to say, as far as he understood him, that the blame for what happened at the end of last year rested, not with the House of Lords, whom they thought his Party were attacking so strongly, but with the Leader of the Opposition. They were glad to know that the assault which was adumbrated in the Speech from the Throne was not going to be made against the House of Lords; though why Ministers should put it in that way he failed to understand, if the attack was only going to be made on his right hon. friend. The only attack of any shape or form upon the House of Lords came from the hon. Member for South Donegal, who had given the House a rather remarkable historical speech. He began by regretting that his own child—his own Amendment—was not before the House. His own Amendment was a direct attack upon what he called the accident of birth, otherwise the hereditary principle. He then went on in rather a remarkable manner to talk of the late Lord Shaftesbury's utterances in the House of Lords. He told them of how Lord Shaftesbury had said that the House of Lords was insensible to feeling, and so on. But the notable fact about that was that Lord Shaftesbury made those utterances at a time when for half a century there had been a steady stream of Liberal Peers created, which had flooded the House of Lords. At that time, twenty-five years ago, by far the greater part of the Upper Chamber was composed of the holders of Peerages which had been created by the Liberal Party. The hon. Member had then made an extraordinary statement, saying there had been no collision between the two Houses until the year 1882. He (Mr. Courthope) had always thought there was considerable collision in 1649, when the House of Lords was abolished for a short time, until Cromwell found that government without a House of Lords was an impossibility. At the end of eight years he tried to create 620 a popular House of Lords. This popular House of Lords was such a failure that it became the laughing stock of the whole country, and they had to go back to practically the same system as that which obtained to-day. The hon. Member for South Donegal had also told them that a Peer's right to sit in the 17th century depended entirely on the writ of summons. That he believed was quite true; but he went on to destroy his own argument, by explaining that the prerogative had been restricted and hedged about by statutes passed by both Houses. Surely neither he nor anyone else would suggest that the Ministry could restrict the prerogative of the Crown at one moment and extend it again at another to suit their own Party convenience, but that was what it would come to. They were also told by some hon. Gentlemen that the unrestricted prerogative was a power for evil. He only hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer on reading the lengthy memorandum which had been promised on that subject would take notice of this point and bear it in mind when any attack was made. The hon. and learned Member then gave an account of the Irish mob which invaded the Irish House of Lords, turned out the Members, and placed an old hag on the Woolsack, and expressed a wish that the people would behave in the same disgraceful way to-day. These were strange words from a prominent advocate of Home Rule, who wished to be trusted to govern Ireland. He had said a few moments ago that a very large proportion of the House of Lords, up to about twenty-five years since, had been created by Liberal Administrations. The same remark applied to-day, though not quite to the same extent; and they naturally asked themselves why was it that all these Liberal Peers, or at all events the majority of them, so rapidly became Conservative? Did they pay them so poor a compliment as to suggest that, having got into the House of Lords, they wished to keep the veto which that House had over the House of Commons? He did not think that would be suggested for one moment. The flower of the Liberal Party—over 200 of their best men during the last sixty years—had been sent to that House. He did not think it would be suggested that these men were actuated by selfish 621 motives in crossing the floor. He honestly believed that, once removed from the noise and turmoil of Party platforms and the excitement of general elections, they were able to look at the intrinsic value of a measure from an unprejudiced point of view, and then they recognised that their policy was to preserve what was good in our system and our institutions, and to reform in a temperate, wise, and statesmanlike manner what was bad. That explained their action, not only in the far past, but also he thought last year. He did not think it would be denied by any serious thinking person that the people of this country really desired that there should be definite religious instruction given to the children, quite apart from the good will of a local education authority, or the teacher, the parent, or the child itself, and that the parents should have a voice in the teaching of their children. The Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill had secured these two points. He believed all impartial people—he would not say hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, because they were no doubt disappointed at the failure of a Party measure—but all impartial people would agree that any reform in our Parliamentary system should deal with the whole and not a mere section of our electoral system. And it was because they thought, and he believed rightly, that all that was best in the wishes of the people of this country was behind them, that the House of Lords amended the Education Bill and threw out the Plural Voting Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the work of social reform would not be delayed; but during this debate he had stated that some social reforms could not be undertaken owing to their great cost. He would mention old-age pensions as an instance. These reforms were too costly for our existing basis of taxation. His Majesty's Ministers would employ their time—and they would not have too much time—better in widening the basis of taxation with a view to introducing sound social reforms than in making what he believed would be a useless, fruitless, and discreditable attack on the House of Lords.
§ *MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)
said that from the speeches which had been made on the Opposition side of the House there had been a great omission. The Amendment of the noble Lord, which in 622 form attacked a paragraph of the gracious Speech from the Throne, was in substance a defence of another place and was directed to the aggressive action adumbrated by His Majesty's Government; yet they had waited in vain to hear from Gentlemen on the other side any suggestion that the recent action of the House of Lords had been in accordance with constitutional precedents, or that there was any action to be compared with it in the history of the last seventy years. His hon. friend the Member for Northampton had pointed out with great force how the House of Lords had been encroaching on the historic powers of the House of Commons with regard to finance. He would respectfully observe that the House of Lords was not only encroaching on the domain of finance, but was inventing new methods of dealing with legislation sent from this House. Those methods were absolutely without precedent. He hoped some Member of the Opposition would state whether there had ever before been a case where a Bill of the first magnitude, passed in the first session of a new Parliament by huge majorities which increased with every stage of the Bill, had been rejected by the other House of Parliament in the way in which the Education Bill was rejected last winter. Hon. Members who were familiar with political history since the great Reform Bill would know that the action of the House of Lords on previous occasions had destroyed or eviscerated Liberal legislation, but that power had invariably been exercised when the majorities in the House of Commons were small, and when they had not been of so important and unusual a character as were the majorities last autumn, or when there had been a long interval between the polling of the constituencies and the introduction of the Bill. In the case of the Education Bill they had a measure supported by a surprising majority both in size and in character. A majority of English, of Scotch, of Welsh, and of Irish Members, a majority of the county representatives and a majority of borough representatives. Therefore it was the expression, to a degree unique in recent history, of the deliberate and overwhelming opinion of a popular House of Commons. That measure, so supported, having been treated as it was last autumn, they who supported the Government in taking steps to alter such a condition of 623 things were not revolutionaries; they were maintaining the Constitution in regard to the due proportion of its component parts, and they were opposing such an alteration of those component parts as was indicated by the recent action of the other Chamber. He hoped they might be told by some member of the Opposition, before the debate closed, what precedent there was for allowing the House of Lords to dictate when there should be a dissolution. He was not aware of any instance since the rejection of Fox's India Bill in 1784 where the action of the House of Lords had led to a dissolution; therefore, in supporting the Government they were supporting all that was most conservative in the Constitution of the country, as well as that which was practically necessary if the wishes of the people were to be carried out. They did not under-rate the gravity of the crisis nor the difficulty of the situation. However they might regret being turned aside, for the moment, from that policy of social reform which was often talked about on the other side of the House and which had been begun by the present Government, he thought that this and other debates would show throughout the country, if indeed the country did not know it now, that there was no guarantee for social reform or for those political alterations on which the majority of the country had set their heart until this obstacle was modified, and until that subordination of the other Chamber to the House of Commons, which had existed unbroken for seventy-five years, was restored by action at once conservative and progressive.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said he desired at the outset to remind the hon. Member for Middleton that the House of Lords did not reject the Education Bill; practically they only made two Amendments in it. The first Amendment was that religious teaching was to be given every day for a certain time in the school, and the second was that the country districts should be put upon the same footing as the urban districts. Those were the only two Amendments, and he was surprised that the hon. Member opposite should get up and say that the Second Chamber had no right to make two alterations of that kind in a Bill. The hon. Member had also 624 said that there was a mandate from the people for the Education Bill, and that they wished the Bill to be passed in the form in which it left the House of Commons. If that was the case why did not the Government appeal to the country? If the country was so anxious to have the Education Bill there was a very simple method by which the Government could have obtained the opinion of the country on the subject. If they had appealed to the country and received a real mandate they would have had some grounds for taking exception to the action of the House of Lords if they attempted to alter the Bill a second time. The hon. Member for Middleton had asked if there was any example of the House of Lords having altered an important measure in the first session of a new Parliament. He would give such an example. In 1903 the House of Lords rejected the Home Rule Bill.
§ MR. ADKINS
said what he asked was whether there was any precedent for the House of Lords rejecting a first-class measure in the first session of a new Parliament when it had been passed by increasing majorities.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said he did not know whether the hon. Member opposite considered the Home Rule Bill a measure of first-class importance or not. Personally he should think it was a third-class measure; at any rate the Home Rule Bill was rejected by the Lords in 1893. He would remind the House that the majorities on the Education Bill varied very much, and on one particular occasion there was a very great drop in the majority upon a religious question. The hon. Member was wrong in saying that the majorities on the Education Bill were always increasing. He had the privilege of being a Member of the House of Commons in 1893, when he listened to exactly the same kind of speeches about the House of Lords as those which were being made at the present time. It had been said that it was not for the House of Lords to dictate the time when a dissolution should take place. Nobody had over said it was. What they did say was that if the Government did not believe the decision of the House of Lords to be agreeable to the country, they could go to the country and find out. He had 625 listened with much interest to the able speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington in introducing this Amendment, and he wondered at the time how the Chancellor of the Exchequer could possibly answer what seemed to him to be unanswerable arguments. The right hon. Gentleman had devoted his arguments practically to two points only, and the greater part of his speech dealt with the Home Rule question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was extremely angry about what he called the slander cast by his noble friend upon the Government in charging them with obtaining their position by false pretences. He had also said that if a Home Rule Bill was introduced into this Parliament he should resign his position in the Government and vote against it. The right hon. Gentleman had also quoted from a speech of his own to the effect that if they could not get their object by the straight path, they should try to obtain it by some other path; in fact, he had argued that they must get it by a roundabout way. Then the right hon. Gentleman had said equally fervently, "I will not go back from the opinion which I expressed some two or three years ago." He could fancy a Member of the Government going down to an English constituency, and saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declared that he would resign his seat if a Home Rule Bill was brought in. Did they think the Government was going to bring in a Home Rule Bill after that statement? No, they would declare that Home Rule was dead. On the other hand, hon. Members would go back to Ireland and say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declared that if he could not get Home Rule by the straight path he would achieve it by a roundabout way. The Irish constituencies would be told not to be discouraged, because all the members of the present Government were in favour of Home Rule which they were going to get by a flank attack. It was not for him to say anything about false pretences, but the statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were most extraordinary, and he did not think they would appeal to any fair-minded Englishmen. He thought, under the circumstances, it was quite open to his noble friend to repeat the charge that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were holding their positions by false pretences. 626 The hon. Member for North West Ham had said that a dissolution must come soon. No doubt a good many hon. Members would be very glad if that view proved well-founded. All the House of Lords wanted was to ascertain the opinion of the country. The real point at issue was whether or not the House of Lords represented the opinion of the country in the action they had taken. ["Oh, oh!"] Had the House of Lords interfered with the will of the people or had it not? The only way to ascertain was to go to the country. It was not for him to say that the Education Bill did not represent the desires and wishes of the people of this country. As far as he could judge from Conservative electors the Education Bill did not represent those desires. He would quote as his authority upon this point the President of the Board of Trade who, in a speech at Zion Chapel, Llanelly, at the end of September last, said that—The Plural Voting Hill, which put every man on the basis of absolute equality so far us voting power was concerned, had parsed the Second Reading, and they meant to pass the Third Reading and send it up to the House of Lords, and then something would happen.Well, something did happen.
§ MR.PATRICK WHITE (Meath, N.)
called attention to the fact that there were not forty Members present. House counted; and, forty Members being found present—
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said the President of the Board of Trade went on to say that he admitted that the Education Bill did not satisfy everybody in the country. What happened to the Education Bill when it went to the House of Lords? The Bill was not rejected, but slight alterations were made in it. With regard to the Plural Voting Bill, the quotation he had made from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade showed what its real object was. That Bill was sent up to the House of Lords it being known they would reject it, so that there might be a cry on which the Radicals could go to the country. He had addressed a few meetings in the last two weeks in the country, and he had never met anybody who cared two-pence for the Plural Voting Bill. ["Oh!"] He did not deny that some Radical Members mentioned the Plural 627 Voting Bill during the general election, but to suppose that the country gave a mandate to deprive certain people of their votes—which was all the Bill would have done—was absolutely absurd. The Plural Voting Bill was introduced solely for the purpose of adding to the Ministerial majority. An hon. Member had admitted that it would be very useful at by-elections. Surely a Second Chamber was entitled to throw out a Bill which was described as one which would be useful at by-elections to the Party in power. He did not believe there would be a serious attack on the House of Lords at all. The attack had been made during the recess in order to get up some cry on which eventually the Party opposite could go to the country. They knew it was easy enough to say that the House of Lords ought to be abolished, but they also knew perfectly well that they could not do it except by doing as Cromwell did and having soldiers in. They had got to abolish both Chambers, and the Crown and Constitution, and then proceed to erect another Chamber which, apparently, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, was to give effect to the chance will of the majority. In the last fifteen or sixteen years the constituencies had varied in the most extraordinary manner. In 1892 they returned a liberal majority, in 1895 and 1900 they returned Unionist majorities, and in 1906 they returned a Liberal majority. With such fluctuations in the country there must be a Second Chamber or the Referendum. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had been going about the country speaking about the large crop of legislation last year, and also about the way in which the House of Lords had obstructed legislation. Both statements could not be correct. He personally hoped that at the dissolution, which could not be far distant, the electors would say that they would not stand for a moment the idea that any number of men who happened to sit on the Treasury Bench should revolutionise the Constitution because they had been returned for one, or, it might be, two or three particular objects. If they did assent to that he and his friends must submit, but it would be an evil day for the country.
§ MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)
said the noble Lord who moved the 628 Amendment had complained that the Government had stayed their hand in regard to social reform. This caused the noble Lord much grief, for, he said, social reform was far more important than either the reform of the House of Lords or the granting of Home Rule. Many Members of the House would welcome the noble Lord as a recruit to the cause of social reform, and they would be glad of his help in regard to measures for the betterment of the condition of the people. Social reform would cost something, and the basis of taxation would have to be broadened. Would the noble Lord support the Government in regard to a graduated income-tax so as to provide a scheme of old-age pensions? Would those who were in favour of tariff reform as a solution of the problem of old-age pensions pay their quota out of the superabundant wealth which they got out of the country at the present time? He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would remember the expressions of good will which had fallen from Members of the Opposition as to social reform. He judged men by their deeds and not by their words. The present Government had given some indication of a desire for social reform. Last session a Bill was introduced to provide for the feeding of school children. That Bill, day after day, was opposed by the Opposition. They admitted that there was an evil in connection with the under-feeding of children, but they could only oppose the measure because it was Socialism. When the Bill went to another place it was mutilated by noble Lords, and yet they were told that their supporters in this House were in favour of social reform. In another place Scotland was omitted from the operation of that Bill. That was done not because there was no need for the Bill in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee, but he supposed it was because the measure was Socialism. He did not know whether the same cry would be raised with regard to old-age pensions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's objection to an old-age pension scheme was that he had not got the money. He did not think the resources of taxation were exhausted, and, having regard to the figures published by the Board of Trade relative to the abounding wealth of the country, he did not think there ever was in our commercial history a more opportune time than the present for initiating such a scheme. He believed that the 629 taxation of the enormous incomes which were drawn at the present time would provide more than enough money to give a measure of relief to the veterans who were in the workhouses or starving outside. What was the noble Lord's idea of social reform? He took it that the noble Lord would include old-age pensions, bettor housing of the people, cheaper means of transit. If he accepted that programme he would be welcomed by every social reformer in the House. There were many sources of revenue at present untaxed, and he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to widen the basis of taxation so that the social reforms which were urgently desired by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches might be carried into effect. But he doubted whether the Gentlemen who mutilated the Provision of Meals Bill would pass an Old-Age Pensions Bill. He looked upon the House of Lords as the most cowardly assembly in this or any other country—cowardly, because of their action in reference to the legislation sent up to them last session. The Trade Disputes Bill was described by the noble Lord who occupied the position of Lord Chancellor in the last Administration as a wicked and vicious Bill which would overthrow justice, and yet the House of Lords accounted the measure. Why? Because the Leader of the Conservative Party in that place said that if there was to be a struggle they must select the ground most favourable to themselves. If that was the function of a revisory Chamber, then they had no regard for the well-being of the industrial classes. The House of Lords had outlived their usefulness, and the sooner they were abolished the better it would be for the people of this country.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
said that if they looked at this question from the purely Party point of view hon. Members on the Opposition benches had no reason to complain of the predilection shown by the Government for revolutionary changes. As a Party Unionists stood to gain from their infatuation. One would have thought that the Radical Party would have learned something during their long sojourn in the political wilderness—broken only by a brief interval of fruitless ploughing of the sands. But apparently they had gained 630 no wisdom in their wanderings. No sooner had they floated themselves into power, on a flood of misrepresentation, than the old desire for destruction manifested itself strong as ever. Last session it was the Church against which their blows were directed. This year it was the other House of Parliament; and their campaign against the Second Chamber was simply intended to cover an insidious attempt to undermine the Union and destroy the integrity of the United Kingdom. What the Party opposite seemed to be incapable of appreciating was the rooted dislike in the minds of the great majority of the British people of anything which had the appearance of revolution. The electors who were not allied to either of the political Parties were responsible for putting the present Government into office. They were the people who brought about the swing of the pendulum in politics. They had no scruple in toppling over a Government on the principle of "giving the other side a chance." But what the Radical Party had failed to understand was that this indeterminate but influential section of the electorate was as strongly opposed as the highest Tory amongst them to any tinkering with the Constitution. As a representative of an Irish constituency he might be permitted to express regret that the great constitutional issues which the Government were determined to raise would necessarily hinder the work of social amelioration which had been going on steadily in Ireland during the last twenty years of Unionist Government. Although in some respects it could not be denied that Ireland was in a backward state in comparison with the rest of the United Kingdom, that could not be properly ascribed to the form of Constitution under which the country was governed. If there were any grounds for that idea they would expect to find that the whole of Ireland was equally unprosperous. It was obvious that that was not the case. The northern province had had no special privilege under the Union. And yet the remarkable development of Ulster was one of the features of the nineteenth century. It was not necessary to go far to seek the explanation of that progress. The prosperity of the north east had been the result of the energy and thrift of the people. And if the rest of the Irish people had placed less reliance on political 631 agitators and depended more on their own exertions there could be no doubt that the state of Ireland as a whole would have been vastly better than it was to-day. It was one of the most hopeful signs for the future of Ireland that this fact was becoming recognised. During the last few years there had been an uprising of a new spirit among the Irish people which was certainly a most hopeful augury for the future of Ireland—if only it could be kept free from political disturbance. However this beneficial change had arisen, there could be no question that the progress of the movement was largely due to the great number of remedial measures which had been passed by the Imperial Parliament under the guidance of Unionist statesmen during the past twenty years. The Government had advanced the preposterous claim that their policy of devolution was based upon a Unionist foundation. Nothing could be further from the facts. If they were really anxious to benefit by the experience of their predecessors and desired only the good of the country they would try to help and not to hinder the social and industrial developments which were now proceeding so successfully in Ireland. The constitutional struggle which they seemed determined to bring about was certain to interrupt the progress of land purchase. It would also throw obstacles in the way of agricultural and industrial development. It would hinder any improvement in primary education. Ireland needed, above all things, peaceful co-operation in industrial matters. The Government proposed to introduce political conflict. By legislative changes which they intended to propose they would inevitably swamp all social and industrial progress under a flood of political agitation. Therefore, although he felt that the course taken by the Government was likely to discredit them in the country, as an Irish Member he could not refrain from expressing his regret that the peace and progress of Ireland were to be disturbed and hindered by the grave constitutional issues which were involved in the policy the Government had announced.
§ *MR.FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said that, holding the opinion which he did respecting the debates on the Address, he ought to apologise 632 for intervening at all. He thought that during the twenty-one years he had been in the House he had not spoken six times on the Address. He looked upon the debates, excepting it were a first class vote of censure brought by the Opposition, as a wilful and deliberate waste of time, and during the whole of his Parliamentary experience he had never listened to a debate on the Address which was more of a hollow sham and fraud than this one. No one could find any fault either with the tone or the temper displayed by the noble Lord in introducing the Amendment, but for the life of him he was unable to understand from whence had sprung this new-born zeal for social reform on the part of the noble Lord and his Party. He remembered the election of 1895, which was won by the Conservatives on a programme of wholesale social reforms, but in the succeeding twelve years in which they held office the Unionists made no attempt to give effect to the major portion of that programme. They had no fears for the House of Lords, and the House of Lords had no terrors for them. The House of Lords was always quiescent during the existence of a Tory Ministry. It was like a spent volcano. It was only when a Liberal Ministry came into office that the House of Lords and the Tory Party went in for social reforms. When a noble Lord came down to the House last session to vote against the Education Bill, he was arrested by one of the attendants, and when he explained that he was a Peer he was told he was going into the wrong shop. The noble Lord did not know the way into his own Chamber. It was only when an active Reform Government was in office that they had any knowledge whatever of the existence of a House of Lords. Those who took part in the election of 1895 knew how the Party now in opposition won that election on a programme of wholesale social reform, and not the least taking item in their programme was old-age pensions. Like a message from Mars they sprang that question upon the gullibility of the English elector, and as to talking about the present Government holding their position under false pretences, he would retort that there never was a truer case of holding a position under false pretences than was furnished by the case of the Conservative Government of 633 1895, who remained in office for years without doing anything to carry out their pledges. They put forward before the country this question of old-age pensions, and the working men and their wives and families were glad to jump at the idea, although many of them regarded the proposal with some suspicion and thought that perhaps it was a bait to catch their votes. Some of them indeed wrote to Lord Salisbury and asked him whether the social programme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had his support, and he replied—I have said again and again that the Member for West Birming am is our spokesman on all such questions.What could be more natural that on such a declaration being received from Lord Salisbury, the working men should rally to the Conservative cause, knowing that if they had a majority in this House, Lord Salisbury in another place was monarch of all he surveyed, with a permanent majority, and that they had only to give the Government a majority and then they were sure to have such legislation carried in another place? What followed? The Conservative Government came into office with a majority of 152 behind it, pledged to social reform, and in the first four years they were in office, thanks to the Finance Bill of Sir W. Harcourt they had surpluses amounting in the aggregate to £9,000,000. That was before we entered upon the wicked war in South Africa. With these handsome surpluses extending over four years one would have thought that the Government would have considered that as a splendid sum with which at all events to begin to redeem their pledges as to old age pensions. But no, these surpluses were not given to the industrial classes, but were used to safeguard the position of their own friends. After the cry of old-age pensions had fulfilled its mission of placing the Tory Party in office, it "vanished like the baseless fabric of a dream." He remembered that in 1894 a Royal Commission, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was a member, was sitting on this subject, and before that Commission made its Report that right hon. Gentleman came down to this House and voted for the Second Reading of a Bill introduced by a private Member in regard to old-age pensions. So eager were they 634 that they could not wait for the Report of the Royal Commission; but now the question had passed away altogether from their purview. He did not believe that the Constitutional questions which the Government intended to raise between this and the other House would impede the progress of social legislation, but that depended upon the point of view from which hone looked at the question. He was not merely concerned with the legislation foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne. He did not believe that there must be a general election immediately. He did not believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted it. General elections cost too much money, and he did not think that they would like to have them forced upon them every six months. The Government had much more social legislation to introduce than that which was foreshadowed in the King's Speech, and it would be just as well in his judgment that they should at the very beginning sharpen and tighten up the machine by which it was to be carried. When he was a coal miner he always thought that he could produce more coal with his tools well sharpened, and he thought the Government would make much more progress if they came to a real understanding of what the relations of this House were to be with the Members of the gilded Chamber. They had measures of far-reaching importance to come before them before this Parliament came to an end. For instance, there was the question of land reform. They could not deal with the questions of providing work for the unemployed, of the housing of the working classes, and many others unless they were given easier access to the land than they had to-day. They might talk until they were black in the face about there reforms, but they would not accomplish anything unless the question of the land was dealt with, because the base of all human activities rested upon the land. The questions of how they were to feed their people, clothe their people, house them, or provide employment for them—all these great social problems carried them back to the land as the bed rock from which they must start before they could make any progress, and if they could have this question of what ought to be the true relationship between this and the other House settled, they would make much greater progress in regard to social reform 635 than they were likely to do under present conditions. The fear which had been raised about Home Rule for Ireland had no terrors for him, because he fought his first election in 1885 as a Home Ruler, at a time when the Nationalist vote was diverted by official order from men like himself, the supporters of Home Rule, to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Nationalist circular sent out in 1885, called upon every Nationalist and Irishman to vote against the Liberal and even against the Labour Party, and to vote for the men who had done their best to block the achievement of national aspirations. He said therefore that the Home Rule bogey had no terrors for him, and if it could not be accomplished at one fell swoop he was prepared to take it by easy stages, because he believed that each stage that they took would give them a vantage ground from which they could go on until they had realised the just and legitimate aspirations of the Irish people. He would just say one word more with respect to the constitutional crisis that had arisen between the two Houses of Parliament. He had never been persuaded of the absolute necessity of a second Chamber. That was by the way; but if we were to have a second Chamber he thought it would be universally admitted that it could not continue to exist as at present constituted. The House of Lords, an at present constituted, was simply another wing of the Conservative Party, and he asked any fair-minded right hon. or hon. Gentlemen opposite whether if their Party were in the place of supporters of the Government, with such an overwhelming majority behind them as the present one, and they found a House of Lords so constituted that there was in it a large majority of their political opponents, they would be satisfied with the position. He was perfectly sure that they would not, and it ought not to be possible for any Leader of the Tory Party, sitting in this House, to dictate to another place and say, "You must accept or reject this measure," as was the case in the Trade Disputes Bill. [Dissent.] Hon. Members need not shake their heads at him. He was present in this House and knew all that took place on the Trade Disputes Bill. He remembered distinctly that the late Prime Minister voted against the four operative clauses of the Bill, and 636 on the Third Reading declared that it must be accepted. If, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, the Bill was so bad in all its operative sections, how could the whole he regarded as acceptable? The Bill went to another place and it was described there by the Conservative Party as disgraceful, tyrannical, unjust, and un-English, but it was said that it must be accepted, and they must not amend it or substitute another Bill for it. And why? Because the Leader of the Tory Party in this House had declared that the Bill must be accepted. [Cries of "Oh."] At all events that was his opinion, and it was capable of being defended. No one could pretend that the relationship between the two Houses should be permitted to go on as at present. The will of the people must in some way or another become the law of the land. What was the use of going through the turmoil of a general election to ascertain the will of the people, if that will, when declared, was not to become the law of the land? Why were they put to this great expense and the industry of the country and the channels of commercial intercourse interfered with in order to ascertain the will of the people, if it was not intended that the will of the people when ascertained should prevail? He welcomed this contest between the two Houses, and he could only assure the Government that if they dealt in a thoroughgoing way with the question they would have the support of the country. No greater calamity could befall the Government than that it should show any want of thoroughness or backbone in dealing with social questions as a whole, or with the House of Lords in particular.
§ *CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said he would not presume to attempt to answer any of the questions which the hon. Member who had just sat down had put to the Unionist side of the House. He did not pretend to have any special knowledge of the constitutional relationship between the two Houses, but he could not see in the arguments put by hon. Members opposite any suggestion that social reforms had been retarded by the other House; indeed, two hon. Members had based their attack on the House of Lords on the ground that that House had allowed measures of social 637 reform to pass. So far, however, as the fight against the House of Lords was concerned he did not consider it was seriously intended, or that it would ever come before this or the other House in any practical shape. He desired to deal with a matter far more serious—the utterances which had fallen from Ministers since they had come into power. He congratulated the noble Lord on having drawn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the statements that right hon. Gentleman had made, whether they were welcomed or whether they gave umbrage to any particular section, because they, at all events, made clear the issue before the House with regard to the second great measure of the Government. He alluded to the measure for Home Rule for Ireland or devolution. Those utterances certainly allowed the House to see more clearly what the views of Ministers were on this point. He noticed that the appeals to-day of the right hon. Gentleman were based on speeches he had made during the course of the general election, he presumed to his constituents, and he noticed that the right hon. Gentleman had said that all that the Government desired to do at the present time could be carried out peaceably and easily if it were not for a mere knot of irreconcilables. He (Captain Craig) presumed that among those he must number himself, for the reason that he presumed the right hon. Gentleman referred to those Members who represented Unionist constituencies in Ireland. The Unionist Members for Ireland had all had to fight hard for their seats. The conditions of an election in Ireland were much the same as those in England, where the opponents of the Unionists tried as much as possible to set aside the question of Home Rule, and they quoted right hon. Members opposite as not being in favour of that policy. He believed he was right in saying that among the names mentioned as being of the older school of Liberals were those of the Minister for War, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These men were held up in Ireland as a guarantee that the Ministry then being formed was not a Home Rule or a Devolution Ministry. Yet they had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer declare 638 that the Ulster irreconcilables were the only people who stood in his way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed to the Irish Nationalist Benches, and had said in effect, if not in actual words: "Take what you can get, no matter how small, because you have the assurance of the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who are Home Rulers, that whatever is given is a step towards the larger policy of Home Rule." Whatever measure, then, was introduced by the Chief Secretary, they might take as the preamble of a Bill which meant Home Rule in the end. That very invitation to the Members who represented Home Rule constituencies in Ireland was sufficient excuse for Unionists to go back to Ireland and say that their fears were justified, that this was a Home Rule Government or at least a Government prepared to learn the lesson of Home Rule, and to give it to Ireland in the long run. They could go back to their constituencies and say that one of the first actions of the Government was to bring forward a policy which Unionist Members dreaded, not in any personal narrow sense, but because it would set back the progress of Ireland, and interfere with the development proceeding on time laid down by the Unionist Government. Now the cry of Home Rule had been started by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the whole of the Irish Unionists—who represented public opinion in Ireland, and were not merely nominated by a clerical class—would take up the challenge. He could only say most emphatically that the whole power of the Unionist Party and the Orange organisation would be used to defeat the policy of the Government.
§ MR.ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said he had listened very attentively both to the speech of the mover of the Amendment, and also to the speech of his seconder. He had noticed with considerable surprise the apparent anxiety of the noble Lord about the cause of social reform. Like his hon. friend the Member for Wansbeck he had begun to wonder where this newfound zeal of the noble Earl had come from. He had been sufficiently long interested in politics to know something of the attitude adopted towards 639 social reform by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House. During the afternoon his mind had been taken back to 1894, when the Liberal Ministry of the day had a very small and uncertain majority behind them, and when those who occupied the Opposition Benches did not know what a day, what an hour, would bring forth. They were expecting almost every moment that the Government would be defeated, and there would be an appeal to the country. Preparations were made by the Opposition, and they had the memorable social programme which was supposed to have been framed in the library of the Member for West Birmingham. He remembered that social programme very well. In the forefront of it stood a question on which politicians never ceased to speak, and on which electors never failed to hear something at the meetings which they attended—the subject of old-age pensions. He also remembered that the author of that programme, and all his colleagues, came into power in the following year, and remained continually in power until a little over a year ago. How had they kept their programme in mind? There was not only old-age pensions in the forefront of it, but there was another measure in which the miners were distinctly interested, the Miners Eight Hours Bill. He need not go through the items which had been referred to with a certain amount of éclat by Members above the gangway. Among the measures was the Workmen's Compensation Bill. But he might safely say that the promise with regard to even that measure had not been fulfilled. He was working in one of the foundries at the time the question was brought forward for legislation, and he, like others, had looked forward to compensation for all accidents, no matter how those accidents occurred. The short term which was used in those days was "Universal compensation for all accidents." He had taken the trouble to give this brief history in order to show what was the attitude of the Opposition towards social reform—of the Party which was now throwing obstacles in the way of the present Government's carrying out their promises in reference to social reform. Having regard to the lavish promises made 640 in 1894, and to the fact that a Unionist Government had been in office continuously ever since, might he ask where the obstacles had come from, and who were they who had prevented the Unionist Party, in office for something like ten or eleven years, from completing every item of the programme with which they captured the country about twelve years ago? The country had a right to ask that pertinent question. They had left the question of old-age pensions, and of the miners' eight hours day in the same position as they were in in 1894. But they could see in a moment, on examination, that the obstacles now set up found their origin in two causes—the determination of the Government to do something for Ireland, and the question of the House of Lords. But assuming for the sake of argument that the present Government were guilty of placing obstacles in the way of social reform, what of the Party who were now complaining? The Unionist Party had also been guilty of putting obstacles in the way of social legislation. What of the agitation voluntarily undertaken in connection with fiscal reform? Were they justified in placing that obstacle in the path of social reform, as they undoubtedly did from May, 1903, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and just immediately before his (Mr. Henderson's) first election? After having themselves blocked the way to social reform, was it for the Unionist representatives, at the beginning of the second session of this Parliament, to challenge the Government who had only been in power one year, as to their policy of social reform, which, he maintained, his Majesty's Government were carrying out? He was not going to say that Labour Members were fully satisfied with everything the Government had done, but they were going to trust his Majesty's Ministers a little longer until it was shown that they were no better than their predecessors in keeping their pledges in favour of social reform, and if they found that they were no better they would be prepared to act towards them as they had acted towards the Unionist Government. The Government were 641 doing a little, and they on those benches were prepared to trust them to see whether they would do a little more. The objection of the Opposition was that the Government were also going to do something for Ireland. He thought he was speaking accurately when he said that every member of the Labour Party was a Home Ruler. That being so, they welcomed the indication in the King's Speech, and in the excellent speeches delivered by the Prime Minister and by the right hon. Gentleman who had recently accepted responsibility for the management of Irish affairs. It might be truly said, as had been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that what the Government proposed was not Home Rule. But what they said in reply was that by going in the direction of Home Rule, the Labour Party, so far as he was aware, would be prepared to give the Government the fullest and most earnest support that they had at their command in the endeavour to place the Government measure on the Statute-book. Then there was the objection that the Government had turned aside to deal with the relations between the two Houses. It was only fair to say that the Government had not thought that issue. It had been forced upon them; and he for one would like to say that if the Government at the commencement of the second session of the new Parliament had given no indication of their attitude towards the treatment in another place of Government Bills, and not only of Government Bills, but of Bills for which the Labour Party were responsible, there would have been much disappointment. The noble Lord had referred to the Education Bill and the Plural Voting Bill, but the Labour Party had to complain about a Bill of their own. They had sent up a little Bill, which was not of very great importance to the majority of Members of this House. It was a Bill to prevent the importation of alien "blacklegs." It was passed unanimously in this House, but was rejected and never discussed in the other House, on the subterfuge that the Government had declined to make themselves responsible for the measure. Personally he did not want to see the Government make themselves responsible for it, but if he and 642 those who sat on the benches behind him were never to get a small measure like that through the House of Lords, unless the Government made itself responsible for it, they had better go home. Therefore they had a grudge against the House of Lords in unceremoniously rejecting that little Bill. Then there was the Bill for the feeding of children. It had been urged as a justification for the action of the House of Lords in regard to that measure that there was no evidence from Scotland in favour of the measure. He admitted that they did not have all the evidence from Scotland that they would have liked, but what was strongly before the House of Lords was the fact that every Liberal Member and the two Labour Members representing Scotland voted in favour of the Bill. In regard to this Amendment, what was the position? The Government had not sought this issue; it had been forced upon them. The point he wished to make was that this issue, having been forced upon the House, and the Government having accepted the challenge, the Party for which he was speaking sincerely hoped that the battle, once begun, would be carried right through to a finish. He was in full agreement on this question with what the hon. Member for Wansbeck had said. What was the use of their going to the constituencies, and their great trade organisations being put to the expense of an election, if in the very first session of a new Parliament the House of Lords was to be allowed to pick and choose as to which measures should be rejected, which should be mutilated, and which should be passed? It seemed to him that it reduced representative government to an absolute farce if those who had been elected to voice the wishes of the constituencies were to tolerate the setting aside of their expressed will in this way. They had been told that there was nothing in their objection to the action of the House of Lords, because they passed such a useful crop of legislation last session. It had also been stated that they only passed the Trade Disputes Bill and the Workmen's Compensation Bill because they were plainly told that they must pass them by a certain section of this House. In his opinion that only made 643 their case worse, because if they possessed revising responsibilities they had no right to claim that the Trade Disputes Bill would bring ruin upon commerce and industry and then allow it to pass without a division. He hoped that the Government, having set out to bring about a reform of the intolerable position they were now in, would carry the issue right through to a finish. On this question the Labour Party wanted no patchwork. They would never consent to a reform which might leave them with a second Chamber in existence that made the last position worse than the first. That being so, they went in for ending instead of mending the House of Lords.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
said there was a well-known saying that in politics there was little gratitude. But he thought the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, before he taunted the Conservative Party with their new-found zeal for social reform, should have remembered that measures which were considered useful by the Labour Party, such as the Factories Acts, Truck Act, Free Education Act, Trade Unions Act, and Workmen's Compensation Act, owed their inception to the Conservative Party. [Ministerial Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Surely what he had stated was well within the knowledge of the whole House.
The Free Education Act was carried by the Liberal vote being added to the Tory vote. Two nights after the division, in reply to a Question, the late Mr. W. H. Smith admitted that more than half of his own Party voted against the Second Reading of the Bill and that the Bill was only carried by the Liberal vote being added.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said that established fully the proposition he made, which was that the measures he enumerated owed their inception to the Conservative Party. He might have added that in their endeavours to place the Truck and Factory 644 Acts on the Statute-book they encountered no little opposition from the Liberal Party. He was sure that on reflection the hon. Gentleman would qualify his observations. The primary issue before them, that of the House of Lords, was, he agreed, of supreme seriousness; but to listen to the speeches so lightly made one might wonder whether they were taking part in a tragedy or a comic opera. Did hon. Members know that those who were considering this question ten years ago had also given no slight attention to the practical method of dealing with the House of Lords? He knew no more astute and experienced politician in that House than the leader of the Irish Party. That Party in their view had no more cause to like the House of Lords then than now, yet this was what the hon. and learned Member said at that time—It is positively amusing to read the facile prophecies of early destruction that are hurled at the Lords; you would imagine it was the easiest thing in the world to pull down an institution as old as the English Monarchy, which enjoys the confidence of millions of the English people.Those words were as true to-day as they were then, and the difficulty had not grown less. The throats and resolutions and stage alarums that had been bandied about the country were an inspiriting prelude if the Government was going into action; they were singularly unimpressive if the Government was marching out of the line of fire of a general election. The Lords had taken the same line towards the Plural Voting Bill that they took with regard to the franchise dispute in 1884, insisting that the greater anomaly as well as the smaller must be dealt with. As to the Education Bill, the real quarrel of hon. Members opposite with the Lords was not that they destroyed that Bill, but that they did not destroy the Trade Disputes Bill. The Liberal Party had hoped to have the latter Bill as a make-weight in their great Constitutional struggle. None of the really enlightened champions of democracy had since dealt with this issue of the House of Lords without giving vent to their extreme grievance of the passage of the Trade Disputes Bill. One of these hon. Gentlemen, who now sat on the Front Bench, asked, "Why was it the House of Lords passed the 645 Trade Disputes Bill? Because the foot of Labour is big." Although the Lords thought it a bad Bill, they passed it because the foot of Labour was big. When there were reasons for thinking the majority in the constituencies in favour of a measure was large, then the House of Lords passed that Bill, irrespective of their own moral judgment. Did any hon. Member suppose that at the time the House of Lords passed the Reform Bill they approved of it?[An Hon. Member: No.] Precisely, that was the position in regard to the Trade Disputes Bill. [Laughter.] Hon. Members who laughed did not mark where that admission led to. It led a little beyond the pleasantry of the moment. It led to the conclusion that if once the Lords were convinced the people really wanted a Bill, they would pass that Bill. If he had established that preliminary ground, he asked the House to mark the practical conclusions that flowed from it with reference to the Education Bill. He gathered that the view of hon. Members on the other side was that the House of Lords was a collection of extremely pusillanimous statesmen. What was it in respect of which they were pusillanimous? It was not the House of Commons. It was the country, and when they had reason to believe that popular feeling would flame into violence against them they would pass a particular measure. It was said that the country wag seething with indignation because the Lords did not pass the Education Bill. From what quarter was the indignation to be generated? Was it to come from Bristol, where the Minister before the election promised a Bill with all-round facilities? The Labour Members took no interest in it because it was not frankly secularist. Was it coming from Mr. Hirst Hollowell and the passive resistors, whose sole thought was that the Bill must be stopped somehow? Were the Irish Members or the English Roman Catholics satisfied with the Bill? The strongest possible motive was needed before the Government could deal with the House of Lords, and the Prime Minister had said, "A way must be found." He had always found in his experience that when a man said that a thing must be done he had not the slightest idea of the particular method. 646 During the recess the Home Secretary, in a speech at Leeds, after a torrent of criticism of the House of Lords, informed his listeners that he really believed, by the line the House of Lords had taken, that they had brought the secular solution nearer; and then he added,I myself have always been in favour of the secular solution.That was the extent of the right hon. Gentleman's quarrel with the House of Lords. It was true that while the right hon. Gentleman sympathised with the secular principle he voted against it. The Home Secretary had avowed himself a supporter of the policy of filling up the cup, but the right hon. Gentleman was too mild and courteous a man to be really at home in this revolutionary galère. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies stepped into the breach at Manchester and pointed out that a great deal could be done by tacking. Nobody knew better than the hon. Gentleman what could be done by tacking. Members of the Party opposite had been invited by the Tribune to state their view as to how the situation should be dealt with, and he found that they had eleven distinct methods of dealing with it, each of which had considerable sections on the benches opposite to support it. The method which had received the largest measure of support was that of restricting the veto so as to enable the House of Lords to throw out only once a Bill passed by this House. Was it not obvious that by committing themselves to such a method of dealing with the House of Lords, whether by Resolution or by Bill, hon. Gentlemen opposite were really making themselves a laughing-stock before the country? What was the whole dispute? The whole dispute was whether the Government or the Opposition represented the people on a particular issue—let them take the case of the Education Bill—andobviously the Government could not be the judge in the issue which they themselves put forward. If that view had prevailed the last Home Rule Bill would have been law to-day, although the country had so speedily rejected it after the House of Lords refused it. The real truth was that historically the efforts of the Liberal Party to deal with the Constitutional question had been vitiated by a complete 647 disability to distinguish between the Liberal Party and the people. They were not necessarily constantly the same. They occasionally approximated one to the other more than they did at other times. A most offensive habit which the Liberals had in dealing with this issue was to talk of England as if it were a permanent Radical pocket borough much on the same principle as if a valet were the master's clothes in the servants' hall. [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh."] The Liberals had been attempting for 250 years and more, without making substantial progress, to pass resolutions declaring that the House of Lords was useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished. He was sure that the House of Lords was more than satisfied, and the agitation which the Government had in contemplation would perhaps be not more effective. Whenever hon. Members opposite had been in power, they had adopted the same tactics as far as the House of Lords was concerned. He had tried to discover the historical origin of the phrase—the offensive phrase, "the people's House," which was so common in the mouths of a large number of Liberals. [Ministerial cries of "Why?"] Because it was not necessary to insist on a fact with which everybody was familiar, and because it was only stated in order to induce in some way the view that the Liberals were the special and self-appointed guardians of the people. This interesting expression arose at the time when Fox's India Bill in 1784 was carried through the House of Commons by a majority of 100, and thrown out by the House of Lords. The action of the House of Lords provoked protests which were exactly paralleled by the protests being made to-day; but the result of all the protests was that 160 of "Fox's Martyrs" lost their seats. Then coming down to Lord Melbourne's administration from 1835 to 1841, he feared there were not many hon. Members who recollected that period, but they must have read that between these years there was constant friction between the two Houses, and the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill convulsed Ireland to the heart. Led by the threat O'Connell, there was more promise then of a successful agitation against the House of Lords than at any other period, 648 and Macaulay said that there would be a final collision between the two Houses soon. There wree four years of bluster, during which the Liberals declared that the people were being betrayed, but, at the general election which followed, those who had said that the people had been betrayed, and had thrown themselves on the bosom of the people were themselves cast away, and the Conservatives were returned by a majority of ninety-one. Again in 1872, there was a bitter agitation against the House of Lords, but two years after the Conservatives were once more returned to power by a majority of two votes. Then there was the case of the Home Rule Bill. He would remind the House of the meetings in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, to protest against the action of the House of Lords in throwing out that measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite chose their battleground; they came, they saw, and they were conquered. And that was the end of the great outcry against the House of Lords. The Liberal Party had drawn too many cheques on the people in the last sixty years—cheques which had been returned marked "no assets"—for much attention to be paid to the present pretensions. He would recall the repartee of Charles II., when warned by his brother James that the people meant to assassinate him. Charles replied—They are hardly likely to assassinate me to make you king.The people of England were not likely to assassinate the House of Lords to make the Radical Party king. He ventured to think that the people of England were similarly unlikely to assasinate the House of Lords in order to make the House of Commons king. He would only say in conclusion that small numerically as the party was to which he belonged, they would welcome a clear and definite pronouncement that the Government had taken the burden of this great Constitutional question on their shoulders, to add to those which already rested there. They would in that case look forward to the future with even greater hope than they had looked forward to it before the Government embarrassed themselves by attempting to deal with the gravest Constitutional problem with which the country had been brought face to 649 face for over a hundred years—a problem of which no less than ten Members opposite had suggested absolutely inconsistent solutions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think everyone who has listened to the brilliant speech of my hon. and learned friend will admit that he has added to his Parliamentary reputation by his clear and acute analysis of some of the fallacies by which the question of the House of Lords has been embarrassed in current Parliament controversy. In my remarks I would venture to remind the House that, while undoubtedly everything connected with the relative positions of the two Houses and everything connected with the fundamental relation of the Imperial Parliament to Ireland is strictly relevant to this debate, nevertheless the point principally raised by the Amendmentis as to whether the Government, if they had been sincere in their desire to carry out great but unspecified social reforms, would have embarrassed their course by launching us into the turbid sea of political dispute over two such gigantic questions as the House of Lords and Home Rule. That is the real question, the main question. I would begin, therefore, by expressing not any view as to the plan of the Government with regard to the House of Lords, because I entirely agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that neither I nor any other Member of the House knows what the plan is, and is therefore competent to discuss it. I say "no other Member" advisedly, including in the phrase His Majesty's Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the secret was of a kind that was never broken. I agree. No secret can be revealed which is not known to any one. And my conviction is that His Majesty's Government, overburdened by an autumn session and other onerous duties, have not yet resolved in what form they mean to attack the ancient Constitution of this country. As I do not know, and if they do not know, what line their attack is going to take, it would be folly on my part to attempt to discuss it. But, surely, I am justified in going so far as to say that it is impossible that you should enter upon this great controversy as to the relations of the House of Lords with the House of 650 Commons and the people without opening the floodgates of political controversy which will, and must, overwhelm every minor question, every smaller question, every less exciting question of social reform, and will render this House useless for any purpose of carrying out those objects to which the hon. Member for North-West Ham made such interesting references earlier in the evening. When I listened to the debate this afternoon I tried to gather what was the justification of the Government in starting this great debate, which is to last not only over this session, not only over this Parliament, but, as the Attorney-General said, over this Parliament and many of its successors. I listened for that justification, and it seemed to me to be of the thinnest and the most jejune description. One hon. Gentleman mentioned the Reform Bill of 1831 and 1832. But that was seventy-six years ago. Since that time there have been declarations made in the House of Lords by great authorities, and accepted by the House of Lords, which make it perfectly clear that no such crisis as that of 1832 could ever again occur, because it has been laid down by many great statesmen, among others by Lord Salisbury, that when it is perfectly clear, as it was in 1832, that the people of the country were determined upon a particular course, it was no part of the constitutional function of the House of Lords to resist. There is no use, therefore, in quoting 1831 or 1832. These are not only ancient precedents, but musty precedents.
§ MR. MACNEILL (who was received with Opposition cries of "Order")
May I ask when Lord Salisbury said that? I ask the right hon. Gentleman in all courtesy.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I agree, perfectly courteously, if rather irregularly. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I have not come down armed with quotations, but I do not think there is anybody in the House who will say that I have not accurately represented the doctrine, not preached by Lord Salisbury is a solitary prophet, but the accepted doctrine of all those who have had deserved importance in the other House. What were the other cases alleged? The 651 hon. Gentleman whose speeches always interest me, the hon. Member for Northampton, quoted the paper duty of 1860. He has the advantage over all of us that he has just written a very interesting work on contemporary history; but, unless my memory entirely fails me, there was no difficulty with the House of Lords. It did, indeed, reject the paper duty in one session, but there was no difficulty found in carrying out that, reform, which, as the hon. Gentleman explained to us, gave us the double blessing of cheap Shakespeares and cheap newspapers. Well, after 1860, what case was produced which would require us to uproot the whole British Constitution? There was a great leap from 1860 or 1861 until the events of last year. The events of last year are, no doubt, fresh in the memory of the House, and especially fresh in the memory of the right hon. Gentleman to whom, to my great misfortune, is entrusted the duty of replying to my observations to-night. I mean the late Minister for Education and the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. I am obliged to my hon. and learned friend who spoke last for a hint he gave me.
What was the double crime of the House of Lords in the last session? It was that they passed the Trade Disputes Bill and modified the Education Bill—modified and amended the Education Bill. Of the first crime I will say nothing. If I am challenged, I will make this observation. I observed great hilarity just now, when my hon. and learned friend was speaking, because he pointed out that the House of Lords were probably influenced in their action by the consciousness, or the belief rightly or I wrongly entertained, that there was a body of public opinion in this country behind the Trade Disputes Bill which was really of a fixed and unalterable character, and that it was really the view of a great mass of the electorate. I have no doubt that did influence them. I hope that did influence them. I think it ought to have influenced them. That is exactly the kind of argument that ought to influence the House of Lords in its position as the regulative, not the primary or the most important, Assembly in our double Assembly Constitution. Why it should be a matter of either 652 hilarity or reproach I confess myself wholly unable to understand. Well, then, I come to the Education Bill. I excited some merriment, I think, in hon. Gentlemen opposite when I said just now that what the House of Lords had done with regard to that Bill was to modify it. It was modified. Hon. Gentlemen opposite no doubt thought, and I dare say still think, that the modifications were of such a character as made it impossible for the Government now in power to pass it. Well, I do not dispute that. It is not for me to judge. I venture to say the modifications were not of a character which would have made that Bill unsatisfactory to the great mass even of the Party which support hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am not going, of course, to repeat those ancient debates in detail; but let me remind the House of several points in the great controversy—I will not call it the great education controversy, but the great controversy connected with religious education in this country. That Bill, as modified by the Lords, and as sent down finally to this House and rejected by this House, would have left the appointment of teachers in the great mass of our schools entirely to the local authorities; it would have handed over the management of the great mass of the schools entirely to the local authority; it would have taken away from the present managers of the great mass of our schools the powers they now possess; it would have entirely removed the great blot which we still inherit from the Act of 1870—the blot of the single-school area difficulty; every Nonconformist parent throughout the country would have been able at the public expense to get the religious teaching he liked for his child; and every denominationalist throughout the country who wanted to get the religious education which he liked for his child would have had to pay for it out of his own pocket. You would, therefore, have got rid—if that Bill had passed, modified by the House of Lords—of the passive resister [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."]—yes, except as regards Clause 4 schools, invented by the Government—and even in those schools I cannot conceive where the passive resister comes in, because in every school in the country the cost of denominational education was to be paid 653 for by the parents or by the denominations. You would have got rid of the passive resister difficulty; you would have got rid of the single-school area difficulty; and you would have handed over the great bulk of your schools absolutely to the control of the local authority. Is any man in this Assembly going to tell me that you will uproot an institution more ancient than this House—an institution which has borne its part, as every historian, including the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, will admit, without discredit or his honour to the great political abilities of our country; whose debates have been adorned by eloquence, by the presence of statesmen, by a fine political instinct as to what was or was not required by the growing institutions of this country; but is any man in this Assembly going to write himself down such an ass as not to recognise how great and how honourable has been the part played by the debates in the House of Lords? Not one will dare to say so.
Then, if that be so, are we going to destroy an institution of this kind because, forsooth, with regard to one measure brought in by Gentlemen opposite ["Oh, oh.!"]—well, one of the great and beneficent measures brought in by hon. Gentlemen opposite, with regard to education, they amended that Bill or altered that Bill—I will not use any question-begging phrase—they altered that Bill so as to give parents greater control over the education of their children, while remedying all the great grievances which have been alleged against the system which we have inherited from the Act of 1870? Sir, the thing is absurd. It is not upon the supposed delinquencies of the House of Lords in the past that any alteration of our Constitution in the future can possibly be framed. What I notice even more than the jejune character of the elements on which the attack on the House of Lords was based was a total want of comprehension of the extraordinary difficulty and gravity of the problem which any attempt to deal with the House of Lords would necessarily carry with it. In America, where representative institutions and a Second Chamber exist, they have a written Constitution. In this country, as we all know, you have 654 no written Constitution. Our Constitution has grown gradually, and there are no safeguards, literally no safeguards, for its preservation from chance attacks by chance majorities. I do not allege that hon. Gentlemen opposite constitute a chance majority. I am only pointing out the extreme difficulty of the problem you are dealing with. Our Constitution has come down to us and has been modified in accordance with out needs. It has been slow modification and slow growth. If you are going, to destroy the power of the House of Lords, to use a majority of the House of Commons which may have been produced in a moment of transitory excitement—["Oh!"]—yes; I do not put it controversially—what substitute are you going to have? The Americans, who I suppose are not undemocratic, have so swathed and bound themselves in the limits of their Constitution that they cannot even put on an income-tax and they cannot alter the Constitution without procedure so cumbrous and so difficult that it would be the despair of any practical statesman who tried to introduce any important modification into it. We are happily blessed with a Constitution far more elastic, far more capable of the necessary modifications which time and change bring with them. But if you are going to have no limits to the power of the House of Commons, you have no security that the Constitution may not be shattered in a moment. I think that is perfect folly. I do not believe any serious political thinker on the other side wishes that insecurity introduced into the very basis of our political life; and surely, while no sane man would trust a single Chamber with so enormous a responsibility with regard to the deposit of centuries of which we are the temporary trustees, that folly would be doubly foolish when we remember the conditions under which the modern House of Commons works, and, I do not deny, has to work. A quotation was read this evening by my noble friend from Mr. Bryce, in which, in 1889, he pointed out the necessity of a Second Chamber, and based his argument largely on the fact that the House of Commons, under a constitution which had been recently changed in 1889, worked under the 655 closure rule. Ever since that date closure rules have been getting more and more stringent; full and free debate is getting more and more difficult. Every Government in turn has been responsible for the change. I make it no subject of accusation against hon. Gentlemen opposite at the present time that they have not only used to the full every instrument for curtailing debate left them by their predecessors, but are in the way of inventing new instruments themselves. I do not quarrel with that now; I may quarrel with it on some other occasion. But the fact remains, and nobody was more sensible of it than hon. Gentlemen opposite when they happened to be in Opposition. Are you, then, really going to leave it to a Ministry, who are necessarily the creatures of a majority in this House, to destroy by a stroke of the pen, and without adequate debate, the very foundations of the institutions under which this country has lived and flourished? You have only got to state the problem to see its gigantic character. It is not a question whether the House of Lords did right with the Education Bill and did wrong with the Trade Disputes Bill, whether they did or did not pass the Reform Bill years later than they ought to have passed it; or whether the proposal as to the paper duty should or should not have been resisted in 1860. You are going to the very root of the Constitution; and I only mention that now to prove to every man who listens to me that the Government which gratuitously raises this question is gratuitously raising a problem which must overshadow almost every other which can be dealt with by this House—I said almost every other because I am not sure that it overshadows the other problem raised in this Amendment—I mean the question of Home Rule.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who replied to the most brilliant and eloquent speech of my noble friend to-night, dwelt at considerable length on the subject of Ireland. He was apologetic, explanatory, and I am bound to say, I think defamatory, too, in part of his speech. I felt I admit, rather aggrieved when, without rhyme or reason, or any connection with the Amendment, he chose to quote 656 and endorse a statement made by the Foreign Secretary at Newcastle in December which never had a vestige of foundation, which has been elaborately and deliberately contradicted by me more than once, namely, that I ever gave my consent, directly or indirectly, to any form of devolution.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Neither by letter, nor by conversation, nor by assertion direct or indirect, have I ever under any circumstances, to anybody or in any place, suggested that I was in favour of devolution. The Foreign Secretary ought never to have made the statement, and it ought never to have been repeated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer dragged me in, and I was obliged to make that brief personal statement. But I am not interested in defending myself to-night, because that is not the question before the House. The question before the House, in connection with Home Rule and the Government, is really as to where the Government stand in this matter, and what is the character of the controversy into which they are going to introduce us. It is the character of that controversy which is eminently relevant to this Amendment, and it is the magnitude of the dispute which will have relation to that social legislation of which we have heard so much in the vague and so little in detail. The right hon. Gentleman did a very unusual thing in my experience. He got up and explained his position with regard to the government of Ireland this session. He repeated certain statements which he had made at the general election, and then he put his hand on his heart and told us that if anything was done by the Government, or proposed by the Government, inconsistent with his election and pre-election pledges, he would then and there resign. Did he speak for all his colleagues? My noble friend read out—I have not verified the quotation, but no doubt it was accurate—a quotation from the Secretary for War in which the Secretary for War, anxious—rightly and naturallv—to collect Unionist votes in the county he represents, explained that 657 nothing would be proposed with regard to the government of Ireland in this Parliament which was otherwise than agreeable to gentlemen holding Unionist opinions. ["Oh, oh."] Yes; that was what he said. Is the Secretary for War going to get up in his place and, putting his hand on his heart, assure us that he will resign if anything is proposed that is unpleasant to the Unionist doctors of this country? I think if he did there would be a very serious prospect of the Government losing one of their most brilliant and most efficient Members. But let us consider the matter a little further. The right hon. Gentleman, while protesting in this emphatic manner that nothing in the nature of Home Rule was going to be proposed by himself or his colleagues on pain of his own resignation, told us that in his view the Irish government must be altered root and branch. Take it even upon that level. You do not alter the long-established government of any country, not even of Ireland, without introducing subjects of such magnitude that minor issues must vanish. Even if you are going to confine four attention to the relationship of the Chief Secretary to the various boards in Ireland and to the Under-Secretary in Ireland, even if you are going to carry out changes which may without violence of language be described as merely involving devolution—even then is it not plain that you must raise issues of the utmost difficulty, of the utmost complexity, which will postpone all other questions until they are settled? That is not all, or nearly all. There is a very clear and distinct divergence between the statements of one section of the Cabinet and another section of the Cabinet upon this point. Both sections agree that nothing which is to be done is to be inconsistent with Home Rule. Well, I suppose not. The existing Constitution of Ireland, repulsive as it is to so many gentlemen from Ireland, is not inconsistent with bringing in a Home Rule Bill or carrying it through this House. That has been twice done. Therefore, of course, I am ready to accept the statement that no change of a devolutionary character in the government of Ireland would be inconsistent with Home Rule. But that is not what we want to know. 658 What we want to know is whether this is to be a step in the direction of Home Rule, whether it is to be an instalment towards Home Rule. We want to know whether it is framed as a half-way house towards Home Rule; and on that I observe a marked distinction between the carefully chosen language of the Prime Minister and the not less carefully chosen language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister is perfectly clear. He wants to get some day, not merely Home Rule in the Gladstonian sense, but Home Rule in the Colonial sense; and he advised his Irish supporters to accept anything which he could induce his colleagues to accept which is of assistance towards that ultimate goal. That is not the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer carefully guards himself. He says, of course, "Anything we may bring in may be represented by partial and prejudiced opponents as being a step to Home Rule, and they may so represent it in debate—the possibilities of debate are great, and that kind of perversion, that kind of representation, of our policy is one very easy to make." The Chief Secretary is also a Home Ruler. I do not know whether he wants a Colonial or only a Home Rule Parliament. They are very different. Of two very pernicious things the Colonial Parliament, being the more extreme form of a Home Rule Parliament is the worse. A Colonial Parliament, being beyond a Home Rule Parliament, is the worse for any part of the United Kingdom. I do not think that can be denied. I think everybody feels that we do not want to break up the United Kingdom, or to revert to what we have done in Australasia. Everybody feels that, of two methods of smashing up, the Colonial principle is the extremer of the two. It is the case of lyddite and of dynamite. But which is the one that the Government mean to adopt? I take it that they must and will be driven to the Prime Minister's view. The leader of the Irish party the other night indicated admirably and forcibly, but not for the first time by many, his view that nothing will settle the Irish question except giving to Ireland a separate Parliament and a Ministry responsible to it. Then consider 659 what, from the point of view of this Amendment, is the folly of the procedure of the present Government. Their object being to get over all these difficult constitutional questions and then plunge whole-heartedly into the problems of social reform, they deliberately divide into two controversial halves one controversy—the controversy about Ireland. They deliberately set to work to break up the existing system, knowing that that cannot be the solution of the question. You have the reiterated statement of every member of the Irish Party that whatever you do with your Irish boards, however you manipulate the machinery of Irish government, nothing will settle the Irish question, in their view, until they have a separate Parliament. If your object is to settle the Irish question, and if your view is that it cannot be settled unless you satisfy the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, why do you make two bites of this cherry? My hon. and learned friend who spoke last asked how it was that this body of courageous politicians, the great mass of whom are avowed Home Rulers, have not the courage to tackle Home Rule? I do not ask that question. I ask another—How this body of social reformers, anxious to deal with social reform, deliberately spread out the Irish controversy over two great questions instead of settling it over one? Why are you going to waste a session over manipulating the machinery of Irish government, and other sessions afterwards over the question of giving a separate Parliament, and a separate Administration responsible to the Parliament, to the Irish people? That is a question to which I may receive some answer from the right hon. Gentleman. But, at all events, I think I have shown enough in what I have said, not to demonstrate either the utility or the in-utility of the House of Lords, not to discuss the merits or demerits of Home Rule, but to show conclusively that a Government which insists on dealing with the House of Lords and on raising and dealing with the Irish question in these two separate instalments is not a Government which can be regarded as seriously desirous to carry out social reforms. There was a very interesting speech to-night, delivered unfortunately in a nearly 660 empty House, by the hon. Member for North West Ham, who gave us an autobiographical glimpse of his early life. He told us that long after he became a young man he was indifferent to Party issues, but when the Unionist Party came into power in 1895 he watched its career at first with hope—that dwindled—and finally with despair. He told us that the Party catalogue of social reforms was so meagre that, he and multitudes of young men his contemporaries—indeedI think he included the great mass of the working classes of the country—having been favourable to the Imperial ideas of the Unionist Party, turned to their rivals in despair and gave up Imperialism, as it seemed to be bare of social reform. I am sufficiently removed from youth to have the deepest sympathy with its difficulties, its problems, and disappointments; but I confess that while I listened I wondered whether the hon. Member was not acting unconsciously as a great missionary for the Unionist Party in the course he has taken to-night. He told us that he started with indifference as between the two great Parties, but became a Radical because the Unionists were slack in social reform; to-day he has announced himself an adherent of a Government which indefinitely postpones social reforms until they have settled the two great constitutional questions—the House of Lords and Ireland. I think the junior generation to the hon. Gentleman, his juniors by ten years, if they study our debates and proceedings with the attention he has given to them, will draw a moral not dissimilar to his, except that its application will be turned in an exactly opposite direction. They will look at his speech and will say, "Here we have the high water mark of earnest social reform; here is a man of whose honesty in politics there is no doubt, who comes to the House as a social reformer, it might be almost said as nothing but a social reformer, and yet he is caught by the Radical Party and becomes nothing more or less than a Radical wirepuller and politician." I think the effect on the ingenuous youth will be as great and as striking as that of which he has given us an interesting account, to-night; and if there are any still remaining outside the House who ever take seriously the social programme 661 as delivered from Radical platforms, those people, if such there be, will hardly doubt that the Radical Party has fallen back into its old course. Though face to face with the real and difficult problems of social life, they have failed to grapple with them with a view to their solution, and have preferred to take instead the old familiar and barren path of political destruction.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD-LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
It. is naturally with some perturbation of spirit that I rise, for the first time in my Parliamentary life, to take part in a general debate of a kind which, I think, is sometimes called "full dress." But it is one of those full dress debates the melancholy splendour of which has been much depressed by two, I am sorry to say, unsuccessful attempts to count it out. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech, and I find some difficulty in following him. It has hitherto been my lot to be followed by him. I remember one great occasion that I was followed by the right hon. Gentleman when, in a speech of somewhat unexpected passion, he called upon his myrmidons in another place to kill the Bill which was our first fruits in the first prolonged session of a new Parliament. I am not surprised to find that he is possessed of the opinion that the other place has a fine political instinct. Where would he be without the other place? Cast our thought back a little more than a year ago. The right hon. Gentleman then was Prime Minister, sitting on this Bench, commanding a great majority in this House and the loyal acquiescence of the other branch of the Legislature. He seemed to have everything on his side. But he committed, as I think he will now probably admit, one error. He sat where he did a little bit too long. The consequence was that when the appeal was made—as necessarily some time or another it has to be made—to the country he underwent a great reverse of fortune in this House. He is now, instead of the leader of a great Party, the leader of a very small one, and I cannot help reminding him—as Canning once reminded a clergyman that, it was possible to be both tedious and brief—that it is possible to be the leader of a small and yet dis- 662 united Party. But for all that the right hon. Gentleman still wields a great power, and he was able, by his command of votes in another place, to exercise almost supreme authority over the fortunes of that Education Bill, for which, I am bound to say, he made to-night one of the best speeches in its favour I have ever known him to make. I only wish his new-born zeal for the corpse had been introduced into our debates when it was yet alive. The right hon. Gentleman made an exceedingly good case for that Bill; but last session by his counsels, by his influence, when it came to anything like negotiation, although defeated in this House, although the leader of a small and disunited Party here, he nevertheless was able to control the fortunes of the Bill elsewhere—so much so, indeed, that the House of Lords was really in the position of a pocket, borough of the right hon. Gentleman. In the days of George III., some sixty or seventy Members sat in this House for pocket boroughs belonging to the Crown, and were called the King's friends; they were found exceedingly inconvenient by the Government of the time being if it did not succeed in obtaining their vote. The same sort of thing exists now, for the Tory Party have their pocket boroughs in another place, and whatever may happen at a general election they are able to exercise an enormous control which I do not think fairly belongs to them. Therefore, when hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for the Walton Division, who made, as he always does, a powerful and admirable speech, ask us, "How are you going to get up any steam against the House of Lords?" they mean, "Is Bristol once more to smoke with fires, are the military to be called out to shoot my constituents, are Manchester and Leeds to be in flames, and all the inhabitants of Newcastle to go out on the town moor?" I do not think that is the way the question will arise at all. I think it has come now to this, that the country will regard it as a matter of fair play. It is as a matter of fair play that they will argue the question as to the present relationships between the two Houses. If we found a Second Chamber that was eminently critical, that was, if, I may say so, uniformly disagreeable, if we found a House composed almost 663 entirely, let me say, of men like my very dear friend, whom I may mention quite frankly, Lord Courtney, if they were that kind of man, a most invaluable kind of man who approaches the schemes, whether of friend or foe, with the same impartial eye and the same exacting criticism, then I, who, as a follower of truth am rather fond of criticism, should say there was a good deal to be said for a House of Lords of that description, provided its powers were not too great. But everybody knows that the House of Lords has ceased to play the part of an intelligent Second Chamber. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh" and MINISTERIAL cries of "Hear, hear."] Some, I will not say of the more intelligent, but of the younger men amongst them, have begun to recognise this themselves; they have observed on the extraordinary fact that they are called upon to exercise their critical and disagreeable functions only when a Liberal Government is in power, and that they are asked at the very latest moment, when a Tory Government is in power, to pass all the Tory measures, wholly irrespective of whether they are to their mind or not. In my view, commonplace, perhaps, as it may be, the country is alive to that consideration of the state of the case, and they will honestly and justly require that some arrangement should be made, that some alteration may be effected, which will adjust the powers of this House and the other House a little more fairly, so as to secure, if that be possible, the real value of a critical and revising Assembly. It is not only the Liberal Party that has been guilty of hasty legislation, or of having placed on the Statute-book unintelligible clauses which have necessitated appeals to a Court of law. Everybody agrees—I agree frankly—that there may very likely be ill-considered legislation, and if there is to be a Second Chamber at all, I should like to see one that had some capacity and willingness to exercise purely critical functions. I believe those critical functions would be very usefully employed. And therefore I do not for a moment hold that this question is one that will be treated by the country in a revolutionary spirit; but that it will be treated in a spirit of fair play and common sense. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the 664 Liberal Party ought to be quite content with the delightful situation under which they can only secure the passage through Parliament of measure's upon which they have set their hearts and given pledges to their constituents at the point of revolution each time. What does that come to? That when the Liberal Party are in power there are to be annual Parliaments, but when the Tory Party are in power, septennial Parliaments. It is said, for instance, that the House of Lords passed the Trade Disputes Bill because it had been printed. I do not deny for a moment that there were a certain number of constituencies which were made acquainted with that Bill, but there were not very many who were capable of appreciating the legal significance of all its clauses. There were far more people in the country made acquainted with the outlines of what the Liberal Education Bill meant. The Lords' claim is that if you put your Bill in print, get it read in the Commons, then go to the country and say it is approved, that thereupon their right of criticism goes and they are bound to pass that measure, however repugnant to their moral sense. But when another measure, which embodies principles well defined and clearly understood, comes before them they exercise their own sweet will upon it. They passed the one and rejected the other, because they said the one Bill had been in print and had been before the country, whereas the other Bill was not printed and had not been before the country. The Liberal Party could not pass any Bill to which the House of Lords objects unless they had a general election upon it, and thus you would have when the Liberal Party is in office annual Parliaments, and when a Tory Government is in power septennial Parliaments. I repeat that the present system is most unfair to the Liberal Party. Perhaps it may be said that the Liberal Party has no rights; but we think that they have rights. It would be better for the right hon. Gentleman to awake from his slumber, to take our places and form a Government, because he would be able to pass measures which, although not up to our mark, are better, perhaps, than none. He would be able, owing to his control over another place, to do what we have been unable to do. That is an 665 argument that has been used by his followers in the constituencies. But it is obviously not a state of things which will recommend itself to our minds or to the mind of the country, which I believe is really desirous to see the scales are held fairly for all parties. The right hon. Gentleman is angry with us because he says we have put off those social reforms, upon which he has notoriously set his heart, in favour of Constitutional questions. Now, for my part, speaking as one connected with Irish administration, I deny altogether that the two Irish measures mentioned in the King's Speech are not social measures. I insist that they are social measure of the first importance. Involving a constitutional dispute as they may do, they are from my point of view root and branch social questions. The local government of Ireland is a social question; and University education is a social question. The Irish people are injured by the existing state of affairs. They are injured in their moral character by being dissociated from the government of their own country. They are injured in their intellectual stature by being deprived of University education. I say, therefore, these measures are social measures just as much as any English measures which await solution. I honestly put these measures in the very forefront; they are a first charge upon Parliamentary time, not as political questions merely, but as social questions, essential to the social regeneration of Ireland. Are we to say that the restoration of the evicted tenants to the land is not a social question? Every one who has any acquaintance with Ireland knows very well that any unsettlement there is in the country is almost entirely to be traced to this cause. Surely these questions are vital to the social well-being of Ireland, and I claim for them the rank of social questions. The noble Lord in his interesting speech referred with some emotion to that part of the Education Bill which dealt with medical inspection of the children in elementary 666 schools, and other things of that sort, and he said with perfect truth that that part of the Bill received the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Perfectly true, so it did. Very well, all I can say is that I hope my successor in the Education Department will take advantage of the noble Lord's, I am sure, perfectly sincere declaration, and will bring in a Bill incorporating that uncontentious part of the Education Bill, and then we may rely on the assistance of the noble Lord in passing it. I hope my right hon. friend will take an early opportunity of introducing a Bill of that sort, which I think will pass through all its stages without any absorption of Parliamentary time. I say that the King's Speech does contain substantial promise of other measures of social reform which may be put on the Statute-book if the other place will allow it.
Then the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition speculated once again on what the contents of the Irish Bill are to be. I really must ask him to wait a little longer—he will know all the detailed provisions as soon as the Bill is placed before him—and to rest assured that it will be in his view a step towards Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has never had anything to do with devolution. But devolution Bills have passed this House, and there are departments and boards in Ireland to-day to which have been devolved in a manner and in some particular character most important functions and duties. Therefore I cannot understand in what sense he says that he has had nothing to do with devolution. I cannot conceive any sensible man in the present congested state of affairs in this Parliament saying that he will have nothing to do with devolution, though I am willing to believe that the right hon. Gentleman, with his dialectical skill, will proclaim our forthcoming measure to be as bad as it can possibly be. What more, then, do you want? I regret as much as any 667 man that the Liberal Pary should ever have to be engaged in constitutional disputes. I agree that it would be far better it we lived under a Constitution which would enable us to do full justice to the demands of every question. But I am persuaded that at some time or other it will be absolutely essential for the Liberal Party, for all parties, indeed, who have at heart the welfare of the people, to deal with this subject. The Tory Party do not represent our whole wishes; we cannot all become followers of theirs. We have our own views and our own sections of people; but we and our way of making known in law the mind and the will of the people hopelessly blocked, to be made the subject of periodic revolution and frequent general elections. We should scarcely be ordinary mortals if we did not look to some other way of dealing with these questions.
§ That is the view that the most intelligent Radicals take in all parts of the country; and I do not think, therefore, by placing Ireland in the forefront of our measures we are departing from our constitutional obligations or our pledges, or doing anything else but dealing with what we regard as one of the most pressing of social questions. As for what is to happen to my colleagues the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary for War when this measure is unfolded—well, well, let us leave that and see. It may be a very exciting Irish night if they both get up and wash their hands of this terrible measure; but I think we may, after all is said, with perfect confidence await the issue.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 111; Noes, 374. (Division List No. 4.)671
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Faber, George Denison (York)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Fell, Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Fletcher, J. S.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Forster, Henry William||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Moore, William|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks-||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Muntz, Sir Philip A.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gordon, Sir W. Evans-(T'rHam.||Nield, Herbert|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Haddock, George R.||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hamilton, Marquess of||Percy, Earl|
|Bull, Sir William James||Harrison-Broadley, Col. H. B.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Heaton, John Henniker||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Helmsley, Viscount||Rawlinson, John Fredrk, Peel|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hervey, F. W. F. (Bury S. Edm'ds)||Remnant, Jas. Farquharson|
|Cave, George||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Hills, J. W.||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Rutherford W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Houston, Robert Paterson||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cecil, Lord E. (Marylebone, E.)||Hunt, Rowland||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc.||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W.||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. J. (Birmingh'm)||Keswick, William||Starkey, John R.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||King, Sir H. Seymour (Hull)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.||Liddell, Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Long, Col Chas. W. (Evesham)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Dublin, S.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Du Cros, Harvey||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Wyndham, Rt. Hn. George||Alexander Acland-Hood and Valentia.|
|Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)||Younger, George||Viscount Valentia.|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Halpin, J.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Collins, Sir W. J. (S. Pancras, W.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil|
|Agnew, George William||Cooper, G. J.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Alden, Percy||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex E. Grinst'd||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cox, Harold||Hart-Davies, T.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Cremer, William Randal||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Crombie, John William||Harwood, George|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Crooks, William||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Astbury, John Meir||Crossley, William J.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Cullinan, J.||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Dalmeny, Lord||Hazel, Dr. A. E.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Dalziel, James Henry||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Barker, John||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Delany, William||Henry, Charles S.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Beale, W. P.||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Beauchamp, E.||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Becke, A. Cecil||Dillon, John||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Bell, Richard||Dobson, Thomas W.||Hodge, John|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Dolan, Charles Joseph||Hogan, Michael|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp'rt||Donelan, Captain A.||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hooper, A. G.|
|Bertram, Julius||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Billson, Alfred||Elibank, Master of||Hudson, Walter|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Hutton, Alfred Eddison|
|Black, Arthur W.||Erskine, David C.||Hyde, Clarendon|
|Boland, John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Essex, R. W.||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Evans, Samuel T.||Jackson, R. S.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Brace, William||Everett, R. Lacey||Jenkins, J.|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Farrell, James Patrick||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Branch, James||Fenwick, Charles||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea|
|Brigg, John||Ferens, T. R.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Bright, J. A.||Ffrench, Peter||Jordan, Jeremiah|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Field, William||Jowett, F. W.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Joyce, Michael|
|Brooks, Stopford||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Brunner, Rt. Hn. Sir J. T. (Chesh.||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Bryec, J. Annan||Fuller, John Michael F.||Kincaid-Smith, Captain|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Fullerton, Hugh||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Furness, Sir Christopher||Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Gill, A. H.||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Glendinning, R. G.||Lambert, George|
|Cameron, Robert||Glover, Thomas||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.|
|Carr-Gomm, W. H.||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Gooch, George Peabody||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Grant, Corrie||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Levy, Maurice|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Cleland, J. W.||Gulland, John W.||Lough, Thomas|
|Clough, William||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Lundon, W.|
|Clynes, J. R.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Lupton, Arnold|
|Lynch, H. B.||O'Mara, James||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs||Parker, James (Halifax)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Paul, Herbert||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Strauss, B. S. (Mile End)|
|M'Arthur, William||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Pollard, Dr.||Sullivan, Donal|
|M'Crae, George||Power, Patrick Joseph||Summerbell, T.|
|M'Kean, John||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|M'Killop, W.||Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Radford, G. H.||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|M'Laren, S. D. (Stafford, W.)||Rainy, A. Rolland||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Raphael, Herbert H.||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Maddison, Frederick||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Mallet, Charles E.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Reddy, M.||Tillett, Louis John|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Tomkinson, James|
|Marks, G. Groydon (Launceston||Redmond, William (Clare)||Toulmin, George|
|Marnham, F. J.||Rees, J. D.||Verney, F. W.|
|Massie, J.||Rendall, Athelstan||Vivian, Henry|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Renton, Major Leslie||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Meagher, Michael||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th||Walsh, Stephen|
|Meehan, Patrick, A.||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampt'n||Walters, John, Tudor|
|Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Rickett, J. Compton||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton|
|Mond, A.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Montagu, E. S.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Montgomery, H. G.||Robinson, S.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Mooney, J. J.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Roe, Sir Thomas||Watt, H. Anderson|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd(Carmarthen)||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Morley, Rt. Hon. John||Rose, Charles Day||Weir, James Galloway|
|Morrell, Philip||Rowlands, J.||Whitbread, Howard|
|Morse, L. L.||Runciman, Walter||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Russell, T. W.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Murnaghan, George||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Murray, James||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Myer, Horatio||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Napier, T. B.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne||Wiles, Thomas|
|Newnes, Sir George (Swansea)||Sears, J. E.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Nicholls George||Seaverns, J. H.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Nicholson, Charles N. (Donc'st'r||Seddon, J.||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n|
|Nolan, Joseph||Seely, Major J. B.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Williamson, A.|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Sheehy, David||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Sherwell, Arthur James||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Winfrey, R.|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Simon, John Allsebrook||Wodehouse, Lord|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Yoxall, James Henry|
|O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|O'Dowd, John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|O'Grady, J.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Whiteley and Mr. J. A.|
|O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.||Soares, Ernest J.||Pease.|
|O'Malley, William||Spicer, Sir Albert|
Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned"—(Mr. Hills)—put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.672
§ And, it being after half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. Speakeradjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at twenty-seven minutes before Twelve o'clock.