§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [16th 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 Com- 443 mons 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. Rogers.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. A. A. W. H. PONSONBY
proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words:—"And further desire humbly to submit that the repeated rejection by the House of Lords of measures of capital importance which have been passed in this House by overwhelming majorities has made it imperative that proposals should be embodied in a Bill for the consideration of Parliament this Session for regulating the relations of the two Houses of Parliament in accordance with the resolution of this House of 26th June 1907, declaring that in order to give effect to the will of the people, as expressed by their elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons shall prevail."
Motion proposed: "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. PONSONBY
It is with some diffidence that I rise to move the Amendment. I am fullv aware that there are many Members in this House who are better equipped and qualified to undertake a formidable task of this sort, and also that there are very few Members who have so short a Parliamentary experience as I have. But I do not raise this question with any reluctance, because nobody can be more fully aware than I am of the very grave Constitutional crisis that has arisen because of the strained relations between the two Houses. It is even with a sense of deep disappointment that I feel myself obliged to act in this manner. I hoped up to the very last moment that it would be unnecessary to take steps of this sort. But after I had read the Speech from the Throne there was no alternative left me. The President of the Board of Trade the other night, on the Amendment on Unemployment, said that the Government were getting sour and middle-aged. I do not see that there is any particular reason for that. My complaint is perhaps more serious. I am afraid the Government is becoming self-complacent. I do not blame them for it. I think the blame rests with their huge majority on the back benches, because I 444 believe that as time has gone on—I do not say we have become in the slightest degree apathetic—but I believe we have become rather docile.
The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division the other night on the Unemployed Amendment made an appeal to us here not to vote against the Government. The hon. Member has considerable authority and great influence with Members in this quarter. May I, as one who has neither authority nor influence, venture to differ from the opinions of the hon. Member. I think if this huge majority were never to have voted against the Government at all the self-complacency might have reached a very dangerous point. I consider it to be the duty of a large majority, when the occasion rises, to make the Government very uncomfortable. This Question, some may say, is more suitable for a party meeting, and that it is a Question of tactics. That is not my view. It will have to be discussed, not only in the congenial atmosphere of the platform, but it will have to be argued and debated again and again in the full fray of Parliamentary debate within these four walls. I do not desire—to use a vulgar phrase—to put the Government in a hole. On the contrary, my desire is to block up the hole into which they seem determined to creep. (OPPOSITION laughter and cheers).
I am quite aware that in a great many remarks which I shall have to make this afternoon I shall receive cheers and jeers from hon. Members opposite. But I note with satisfaction that as the time goes on the once hilarious laughter that greeted the mention of this subject is becoming a little more hollow in tone and a little more nervous and hysterical. I am impatient that this question should be raised and discussed, because I believe that the honour and credit of the Liberal party as a fighting machine and as a machine of Government is involved. As the House knows, the question of the House of Lords has come up on many occasions during past years. Since 1832 it has come up more and more frequently and with increasing vehemence. In 1894 an Amendment was moved to the Address, and was passed in the same way as I hope the Amendment I move will pass. In 1907 mention was actually made, for the first time, in the Speech from the Throne of the unfortunate differences that had arisen between the two branches of the Legislature. After that a Resolution was passed by this House by an overwhelming majority, and finally the Prime Minister himself gave voice to an eloquent call to arms, the un- 445 compromisingly vehement terms of which are still ringing in our ears. The challenge was on the Resolution passed by this House. That was taken up when the Licensing Bill was flung back in our faces.
What would have been thought of a champion in the days of old who had thrown down his glove, and when his opponent stooped to pick it up, had cried out: "Just wait a moment; I am not quite ready yet." I think the Government are not reading the feelings of the country aright if they consider that the country is not ready for this fight. I believe the country is more than ready. But there is one thing which people object to, to whatever party they belong, and whatever part of these islands they may live in; and that is hesitancy and indecision. The people do not mind a statesman or a Government being wrong. We are all wrong at times; it is human. But what they do not like to see is an indecision which generally betrays indifference. I do not want to join those in the country, who, I hope, are not an increasing number, who seem to believe that the Government, on this question, do not mean business. But when I saw the Speech from the Throne, and instead of seeing mention, as I had hoped, of a Bill to deal with the veto of the House of Lords, I saw instead a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church of Wales, I was sorry.
No one is a warmer advocate of Disestablishment than I am, not only for Wales, but elsewhere. But I believe my hon. friends from Wales know that a Bill dealing with the veto of the House of Lords would have been a far higher step to achieve their object than by this Welsh Disestablishment Bill, which means that we shall discuss night after night, trudge through the Lobby, this time not even with any doubt in our minds that our work is useless. Social reform comes very much in the same category. We cannot really deal with it decisively and comprehensively as long as that obstacle remains there. Like architects, the Government ought to see that these dangerous ruins must be removed before they can lay a sure foundation for a nobler and finer edifice for those who follow.
There is no doubt the Government could do a very useful work, especially in the way of administration, if they stay in for another two, three, or four years—whichever it is they mean to do—but it is not a matter of this or next year. It is a matter of the future. The Government ought not to allow their zeal to show their efficiency under the present hampering con- 446 ditions to militate against the clear necessity to remove these very obstacles. They ought to think of the great number of like Governments which have to follow. We know well enough that the old parties of 10, 15, or 20 years of Unionist Government passed with the 19th century. That will not recur again. But for the periods when Liberal Governments have power that must be utilised, the ground must be prepared, and too much attention should not be paid to the immediate future. If a man runs a race with a weight chained to his foot surely it would be best for him to stop dead, take a file and file through the chain, and then, after he has got rid of the impediment, he can go forward, refreshed, steadily on his course. I feel that we must concentrate on this issue, and, so far as I am concerned, nothing short of a Bill to deal with the veto of the House of Lords, to be introduced this Session, will satisfy me. I can hardly believe that the Prime Minister has come down here to-day to smother the flame which he himself kindled—I say, "smother," because he cannot extinguish it. Further than that, he after all is not sorry that someone has decided to accept his invitation to treat this question as the dominating issue, although they may have accepted it with rather embarrassing promptitude.
In dealing with the House of Lords, it is exceedingly difficult to restrain ones language. I will do my best. The House of Lords is the beloved friend of hon. Members in that corner of the House, and I do not propose to go into writings and speeches upon this question. I do not suppose there is one question which has called forth stronger and more vehement eloquence than this of the House of Lords—from prominent statesmen who are no longer with us, and those who are at present with us on both sides of the House. I notice that there is really no defence made of the House of Lords. There is an excuse, even an apology made, but no defence. I cannot say that I envy the task before hon. Members above the Gangway opposite in the next election when they have got to go up and down the country defending the House of Lords. I think that they will have to cook up some courses of Tariff Reform to induce them to consider this very unsavoury part of the menu which they will put before the constituencies. There are many anomalies in our Constitution, some of them inconvenient, some of them rather puzzling, but this one is really ridiculous. The Constitutional power of the House of Lords really 447 amounts to a European joke—indeed, I do not see why I should confine it to Europe, I think it tickles the sense of humour of the world.
The principle of hereditary legislators will not hold for a moment, because it is really not defended anywhere. Only recently prominent members of the House of Lords itself have made speeches saying that it needed reform. But it is puzzling that in this twentieth century, when there is a distinctly steadier advance in democracy, and when there are great social and economic problems coming up for settlement, we should submit, sit down, and allow this hereditary, incompetent, and irresponsible chamber to be the ultimate arbiters of our legislation. It is a sad reflection on the common sense of the nation. In future, no doubt it will appear amusing and comic to our successors, but at present the comic element does not appeal to the people. When we see our endeavours thwarted and our ideals crushed, it makes us feel bitter and indignant. What do their lordships represent?
Popular opinion with regard to the Lords, I am glad to say, has very much altered during the last year. I think that education and various other things have altered the view that peers are descended in a straight line from people who came over with William the Conqueror. They do not consider that is true. We all of us know now that they are quite modern creations; that peers are people very much like anybody else, except that they have had the advantage of a public school education. Beyond that people accept them as ordinary human beings. But I fear that there is still in our nation, I think less in Ireland and Scotland than in England, a certain tendency to be overawed and impressed by mere titles. What I want to draw the attention of the House to is this: that in the past the nobility—I do not like the word nobility—the aristocracy had a certain distinction, a certain refinement, which I think now is fast fading away.
There is no doubt that this distinction obtained for them the respect and confidence of the people to a great extent. But that particular and undefinable distinction is fading away fast before our eyes. In its place we are getting sterling worth. I do not refer to the creation of peers during the last fifty or one hundred years; I do not detach one part of the House of Lords from another; I take the assembly as a whole, and I say that the flower of the ancient aristocracy is fading away and 448 in its place is rising the gaudy fungus of plutocracy.
The prosperity of this country to my mind depends not on how many men there are who have incomes that far exceed their possible needs and requirements, but how few men there are whose incomes do not fall below that standard which makes human life endurable. Money is being collected by individuals into backwaters and into unremunerative channels, with the result that the general flow is lower, leaving people on barren rocks, where the fertilising flow of national wealth cannot reach them. But though the landed aristocracy is bad, the plutocracy is ten thousand times worse, because it is infinitely more cruel. Yet this takes place before us, although we do not seem to be wholly aware of it, and that is an additional reason why the House of Lords, which represents the plutocracy, should have its powers curtailed. One noble Lord said that the House of Lords owned about one-third of the land of the country. " Owned." That is a word which requires more careful definition. "Property " is another word. Most of the land does not belong to them by any very ancient tenure, and it is merely the result of the way in which they used their overwhelming political power in the 19th century, when they appropriated to themselves many thousands of acres; and that is why we have got to try, though it will be uphill work now, to get back some of that land.
And now comes a claim which has been very often made on Unionist platforms. It is an interesting claim, and requires careful attention. It is that the Lords represent the will of the people. An instance is given in regard to the way in which the Borne Rule Bill of 1893 was treated by the Peers. On that occasion 419 Peers voted against Home Rule. They came from all corners of the country, and it was one of those occasions when the police and officials and clerks of the House of Lords were greatly embarrassed because of the strange faces of noble Lords who flocked up to London. They may have been interested in the question of Home Rule; they may not. They may have understood the merits of the question; they may not. But the point is that they all claimed that they were impelled by a great desire to express the will of the people, which they somhow seemed to find in themselves. How the will had communicated itself to them I do not know; that is a matter for psychical research. Whether it was communicated through their heads to their intelligence, or whether it was directed to 449 their legs so as to direct them into the right Lobby, I do not know. But it is claimed that on that occasion they were representing the will of the people. That statement has been met, because we know that their motive is simply a blind, blundering, and ill-concealed prejudice against Liberal legislation. That is the only guide, that is the only principle by which they are directed in dealing with measures sent up by this House.
in 1897, confessed, with regard to the Workmen's Compensation Act, that had it been a measure sent up by a Liberal Government it would not have passed through the House of Lords. While they do not represent the working people, they do all they can to prevent the House of Commons from representing the will of the people more closely than it does. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does it?"] I do not know to what extent the House of Commons represents the people. That is always a matter for discussion, and how soon and how long after elections does it continue to represent the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Six months."] I believe it has been claimed that they do not a week after the elections. However that may be, any desire on the part of this House to extend the franchise or to do away with plural voting, both of which measures would allow us to represent the people more closely than we can now, those are the very measures which would be rejected by the House of Lords.
I am not going to weary the House by going through all the measures and analysing how they have dealt with them, but I will take one which they accepted, and that was the Old Age Pensions Bill of last Session. On that occasion, after the second reading, an enthusiastic Unionist writer in one of the newspapers said that the House of Lords looked its noblest. I was present when it was looking its noblest, and I can only say a more depressing or humiliating sight I have never seen. To think that there was undoubtedly the richest assembly in all the world not just criticising, but grudgingly, grumblingly, and reluctantly accepting a measure which would give five shillings per week to aged workers. That is a sort of nobility which, I am glad to say, we are in measurable distance of seeing extinguished.
Then their lordships are said to be a great safeguard against any sudden change. I have never been able to tree the force of that argument or to see the absolute necessity of a Second Chamber. But let us for one moment consider that 450 claim, and let us suppose that a Unionist Government was in power, and that the Leader of the Opposition had introduced a scientific tariff. Now, I do not think there is anybody in this House who would claim that that would not be a great and a revolutionary change in the state of affairs now existing. But does anybody suppose for one moment that there would be any talk of throwing out a Budget of that kind? We know quite well that their lordships, who are most of them vice-presidents of the Tariff Reform League, would accept a scientific tariff without a murmur. If the Liberal Government, since it has been given place had taken up an uncompromising attitude, had tried to force its measures down their lordships' throats it would be different. There might be some excuse then, but even in 1906, when the Liberal Government came back fresh from the country with its colossal majority, and when there was some excuse for taking up some sort of arrogant attitude, even then they showed a most conciliatory disposition.
Over the Education Bill of 1906 the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was then at the head of the Education Office, was conciliatory to the point of danger, and yet their Lordships showed an uncompromising attitude on an occasion of that sort. It is this heedless cynical obstinacy which they show over measures which we here, as a party, think of great importance and vital to the national good, that makes me say that this question I am raising to-day is not a side issue, is not a mere constitutional or academic question which can be debated without any result, but that it is a vital and overwhelming matter that overshadows all others, because whether it is hon. Members for Ireland, or Wales, or those who sit below the Gangway, or we here, or those who are in favour of land reform, all of us unite in feeling that no progress can be made until this obstacle is removed.
I am not going for a moment to enter into the question of the Constitution of the House of Lords, because that is a matter which can be dealt with later.
What we want is some practical step forward to be taken now. And I am glad we have got the scheme that was sketched to the House in 1907 for the curtailment of the powers of the House of Lords. That scheme holds the field. It is quite practical. It has not been assailed by any criticism of a damaging sort at all or by any criticism whatsoever so far as I know. 451 It is a perfectly practical scheme. It allows the other Chamber to be a body that can amend, but it prevents any of those disgraceful exhibitions of petulant animus against the House of Commons. I say that a Bill of this sort might be introduced now—this Session, and passed after being fully discussed in this House; and sent up to their Lordships before the end of the Session. If they rejected it, then explain to the country how matters stood. And I should certainly not be afraid, nor would any of my hon. Friends around, of the result when we go to the country.
Even if hon. Members on this side of the House may feel insecure in their seats, they know well enough that by a deliberate fighting policy of this sort they are much more likely to return to this House. As sure as I stand here this form of Bill will eventually be carried. It is merely a matter whether the Government by a judicious selection of this unique opportunity will achieve that purpose or are going to take refuge in indefinite postponement. I feel sure that the Government do not want to avoid the issue, but I would in all humility urge as strongly as I can upon them that this is a fit and proper opportunity to formulate our views; to embody the Resolution in a Bill which can be fully, and freely discussed in this House.
We on this side of the House and hon. Members sitting below the Gangway have no two opinions as to the clear necessity of curtailing the House of Lords. But it is because of the dominating character of the issue, it is because I feel that our legislation will be rejected, will be mutilated, and will be emasculated if any other course is adopted, it is because I feel sure that those who desire to see some deliberate advance in our social and political life, and desire to have those issues resolutely dealt with, that I would beg of the Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government not to dismiss my appeal as inopportune, but to accept it as an expression of the sincere conviction, not only of a great many of the loyal supporters of the right hon. Gentleman in this House, but of a large body of opinion in the country. I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. LEHMANN
I rise to second the Amendment my hon. Friend has just moved. I was one of those who heard the Prime Minister, enthusiastically, when on a certain occasion he informed us this question of the House of Lords was the dominating issue. I understood him to mean by that an issue which controlled 452 and was superior to all other issues, an issue on which fight was to be shown, and an issue which, in the meantime, was to be kept prominently before the attention of the country. We may be told that within the view of His Majesty's Government that the issue is still the dominating issue. If that be so, we are pressed to the conclusion that the notes of dominance in any issue are first that it should not be mentioned in the King's Speech, and, secondly, and as a consequence, that it should be impossible to keep it prominently before the electors.
I have heard hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House say, "We will not be dictated to by the House of Lords; we will choose our own time." Well, that sounds very bold and very fine, but I am not sure that as matters develop we shall be so free as we imagine. It seems to me that after a few years we shall so strengthen the practical position of the House of Lords in opposition to this House that in the end they will be able to take away our freedom, that they will kill our freedom of choice, and that they will impose a time at which we have to go to the country on this question. We seem to be in the position of those who have deliberately heated an iron to white heat and then having waved our hammer over it we have allowed the iron at white heat to cool off, declaring that at some future unnamed and indefinite time we propose to take it out again in order to strike it very hard. That seems to me to be a course which offers grave risk of eventual futility and failure. I know that it has one certain result—it discourages those who support us in the country. They are made to feel that the Government is willing to suffer rebuffs from the House of Lords, and their enthusiasm against that House must suffer a perceptible diminution.
What is the position of this House as against the House of Lords? There are three measures of capital importance which have been either rejected by the House of Lords or so mutilated as to make it not worth while to persevere with them—the Education Bill of 1906, the Plural Voting Bill, and the Licensing Bill. There was also, as I am reminded, the Scottish Land Bill. All these matters had been prominently before the country. The Plural Voting Bill, for instance, had been discussed in principle for year after year. The Education Bill had been discussed in the country ever since the party opposite brought in their Bill and passed it into law. The Licensing Bill was for a great 453 many years discussed up and down the country. We know what the result has been. It is that on these points all avenues of legislation are closed to us, unless we accept the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite—who are, after all, in a small minority in this representative House—and frame our Bills to suit their demands.
I see also that in His Majesty's Gracious Speech we are invited to legislate with regard to Irish land and Welsh Disestablishment. The Chief Secretary for Ireland is a very sanguine man, but he must be more sanguine than even I take him to be if he supposes that his Bill, though it may pass this House, will suffer any other fate than disaster in the House of Lords. As for Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, I am most heartily in favour of it, and I believe a large majority of this House shares my opinion; but not even the most enthusiastic supporter of that Bill from Wales will believe that, after having passed through this House, the measure can meet with any other fate than rejection from the House of Lords. ["Why not"] Because the House of Lords is the House of Lords. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the Bill. My hon. Friend knows that I am in favour of it, and if the word goes forth I shall willingly trudge through the Lobbies with my hon. Friend in support of it. But we know that our toil will be useless and our time wasted. The upshot is that outside the region of finance—and even with finance you are not absolutely safe—you are forbidden to legislate unless you suit your legislation to the demands of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are in a minority in this House, but, working through the House of Lords, they Iran impose their will upon us and upon this Assembly.
With regard to the fitness of the House of Lords, constituted as it now is, and possessing its present powers, to discharge what are considered to be the duties, of a Second Chamber—to judge dispasssionately, and to hold the balance evenly between the various parties—I am relieved from the necessity of saying very much. Their lordships appointed a Committee to inquire into their constitution and what reforms might be desirable in it, and that Committee published a Report, which, regret to say, has attracted little attention, certainly not the attention which its merits deserve. What did they recommend? They recommended that there should be a reduction in the number of legislators in the House of Lords. The result of that would be certainly to with- 454 draw a certain number of Noble Lords from the irresistible temptation to vote against Liberal measures, but at the same time it would stereotype the present system, and in no sense alter the immense disproportion which exists between progressive and conservative opinion in the House of Lords as at present constituted.
All that would happen if the principles of that Report were carried into effect would be that the House of Lords would become a more compact and even more manageable instrument in the hands of the party opposite; while the evil of which we complain, and the existence of which that Committee admitted, would be touched in no way whatever. It is just as if a body of medical experts, called in to advise as to the case of a man blind in one eye and what treatment would relieve him, after taking their time and considering the situation, presented a Report, in which they said that the best method for the man to adopt was to reduce his weight and wear a smaller suit of clothes.
There appears to be an impression in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the House of Lords possesses some secret by which it can discover the opinions of the country better than we who sit in this Chamber are able to do. I do not know how that may be. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool may have in his mind some idea of what the secret is; if he has, I trust he will tell us. For myself, I have never been able to discover why the House of Lords should be in possession of such a secret any more than any other casual collection of young, middle-aged, and elderly gentlemen. When a Unionist Government is in power we have the advantage of living under a Single-Chamber system. All the measures proposed by a Unionist Government are humbly accepted and acquiesced in by the House of Lords; it is only when a Liberal Government comes in that that House wakes up and begins to mutilate and reject.
Certainly, under these circumstances, hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot be root and branch opponents of the Single-Chamber system. We are told that a Second Chamber exists to prevent rash, impetuous and hasty legislation from being placed upon the Statute Book. All who have been in Parliament, even so short a time as I have, will be aware that measures of any importance are not only debated in this House, but have been debated for years in the country; and when Members bear in mind the different stages through 455 which measures have to go, they must consider the charge of rash, impetuous, and hasty legislation, as brought against this House, a ridiculous one. In fact, when you call a Bill "rash, impetuous, and hasty,"—I speak for myself, as well as for hon. Gentlemen opposite—it merely means that you very much object to the measure.
Then we are told that Noble Lords cannot be called to account by popular clamour, that they are above and beyond the gusts of popular passion, that therefore their sane and deliberate opinions have full weight, and they can decide according to those opinions. But do they always do that? Do they put aside motives of mere convenience or of mere party interest? Did they do so in the case of the Trades Disputes Bill. We know the manner in which they received that Bill, but we also know that they passed it. Then with regard to the Old Age Pensions Bill, they passed that also. I am not complaining of the result in these cases, I am complaining only of the .state of mind. During the passage of the Old Age Pensions Bill through this House and in the discussions in the country I never saw that anybody hazarded the opinion that a great war would on the whole be preferable to the passage of that Bill, yet that was the opinion put forth in the House of Lords by Lord Lansdowne, the Leader of the Unionist party in that House.
The point, however, is not that we should establish a Single Chamber system, but that we should do something to remove the absolute veto of the House of Lords as at present constituted. The Government is pledged to that. That can only be done by being embodied in a legislative measure and submitted to this House; and, since the House of Lords would be sure to reject it, on that question the country must be consulted, and on that question we shall have to live or die. I desire that that question should be submitted to the country promptly.
I am reminded of a lady in "Middle-march," who declared that boys were apprenticed not ultimately, but at 15. On this question—and it is by the invitation of the Prime Minister himself—we shall have to fight. Our existence as a political party and as a political force is involved in it; and I can only regret that the trumpet sounded so valiantly should give forth at present so hesitating and so uncertain a sound.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
According to well-settled constitutional practice an Amendment to the Address is regarded as equivalent to a Vote of Censure upon the Government; and I think that my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment, realising that fact, approached the matter as if it were a difficult and, on the whole, a not very congenial task. I am not sure that I could apply quite the same commendation to my hon. Friend the mover. He told us that the Government was suffering from self-complacency. I do not know what evidence there is of that state. I am not conscious, and I do not know that any of my colleagues are, of any undue attack of that most insidious and repulsive disease. My hon. Friend, however, was good enough to say that though we were, as he thought, suffering from self-complacency, it was not our own fault; and it was certainly not his fault.
I think we may approach the consideration of the very serious question he has raised remembering always that the issue presented to the House is not the issue to which the mover and seconder of the Amendment devoted the main part of their speeches, namely, whether or not a vital change should take place in the relations between the two Houses of Parliament. The issue presented by my hon. Friend in his Amendment is that the Government are deserving of censure because they have not proposed in the King's Speech to take any steps this Session for giving effect to the opinion which we all hold.
Though I regret very much that this question should have been raised upon such an occasion and in such a form, I am not at all sorry at the opportunity of explaining and justifying the omission from the King's Speech of any reference to the matter. There is no controversy among upon this side of the House either as to the magnitude or as to the urgency of the issue itself. It is not too much to say that for the last twenty years it has overshadowed the whole field of British politics, and it has done so with growing obtrusiveness as the House of Lords has become in a more and more overwhelming degree a body of one particular complexion, and as the guidance of its policy has come more and more to be conducted by very different hands and in a very different spirit from that which animated the great Conservative leaders of the past—the Duke of Wellington, the Earl of Aberdeen, and Lord Derby. Fifteen years ago from this very place from which I am speaking to-night many of us heard Mr. Gladstone in his parting speech to this. 457 House, with all the weight and all the wealth of his accumulated experience and his unrivalled authority, warn the nation that this was to be the problem of the near future, but during the last ten years it has reached a stage which I doubt whether even Mr. Gladstone could possibly have foreseen.
What is the history, so far as these two Houses are concerned, of the last decade? It has been indicated by my hon. Friend who has just sat down. During the first and larger part of that time, to all intents and purposes, we had not in this country a second chamber at all. We were living in what some people represent as the worst of all constitutional conditions—the untempered autocracy of a single chamber. During that time, and under those conditions, measures of a revolutionary character, never submitted to the electors at the polls, were carried through this House by a strict party vote, and, I would add, with the liberal aid of the closure. (An HON. MEMBER "Oh!") Yes, the liberal aid of the closure, and passed into law without remonstrance, without delay, and substantially without amendment, by a docile majority elsewhere. That is the history of the first part of the last ten years. And what of the second part? We have seen as complete and absolute a reversal of these conditions as the human mind can possibly conceive. We have seen measures, the principles of which have been expressly and emphatically approved by the electors at the polls, torn to pieces or rejected with contempt, and without even the homage of discussion, at the instance and under the inspiration of the very men whom those same electors had sent to this House a discredited and impotent minority.
This is a state of things which I venture to say is quite incapable of being defended. The picture I have drawn is not in any of its features either an exaggeration or a caricature, and the necessity for a speedy, effective, and drastic remedy is a necessity which is not simply advocated from platforms for party purposes by demagogues and men of one set of opinions in the State, but it has been forcing itself with ever increasing insistence upon all clear-thinking and clear-minded men in the country. That being so, I confess I feel myself that a climax was reached the other day on the Licensing Bill—one of the greatest and most far-reaching measures of social reform—a measure certainly approved in its general features at the last General Election by a majority—a measure on the discussion 458 and shaping of which this House had expended weeks of time and thought and zeal. That measure, at the invitation of a private and irresponsible party caucus,. was refused so much as a second reading.
In the speech which I made almost on the morrow of that remarkable incident, which I think both of my hon. Friends have referred to, I declared in my own name and in the name of my colleagues that in our opinion the relation between the two Houses had become the dominating issue in British politics. I did not use that expression lightly or unadvisedly. I used it with the full conviction of its truth, and both in letter and spirit I adhere to it to-day. What does it mean? It means that in our opinion it is useless to ask the electors to vote for the Liberal party at the poll—it is useless to submit to the country at an election Liberal measures as part of your political programme—it is useless to propose and pass those measures so submitted and so approved through this House unless adequate safeguards are provided by the Constitution that the will and determination of the people shall effectively prevail.
So far I believe there is no difference between my two hon. Friends and those of us who sit upon this Bench, but their amendment suggests either that there was some want of sincerity in the declaration to which I have alluded, or, if they acquit us that, that there has been some want of consistency in not following it up as they say we should have followed it up by an announcement in the King's Speech, the effect of which would have been, of course, that we should have wound up now this present Session and this present Parliament in order at once to submit the issue to the country. I am addressing my hon. Friends, and I think they will agree with me that that is the gravamen of their complaint. Let us see how the matter stands.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I intended to convey, not necessarily before the end of the Session, but before a new Session next year.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know that I quite appreciate that distinction. Let us look at the Amendment. The Amendment declares that it is "imperative that proposals should be embodied in a Bill for the consideration of Parliament this Session." In other words, the Bill should be brought forward, and, I presume, pressed forward this Session, raising the issue. If that is the case, anybody who is acquainted with Parliamentary and political life must be aware that from that 459 moment onward this House of Commons and this Parliament would be acting under sentence of death. There is no question whatsoever about that, because you would be deliberately bringing to issue a question which can only be settled by a dissolution—namely, the question whether the present relation between the two Houses should continue to exist.
My colleagues in the Government and myself—I need not assure my hon. Friends have devoted a great deal of time and thought to the consideration of that course, and we came to the conclusion that such a course was open to insuperable objections on several grounds, which I will proceed to enumerate. In the first place, though my hon. Friend who has just sat down does not seem to attach very much importance to it, we were not disposed, and we are not disposed, the first time to concede to the other House, in addition to the powers which the Constitution does give them of checking, of defacing and of destroying legislation which this House has approved, another right never claimed by it, and never allowed to it—the right of prescribing the time and the method for a dissolution of Parliament. If anyone will consult our political annals he will find that never since the year 1832, never since the time of the Reform Bill, has there been any dissolution of Parliament which has been occasioned by a vote of the House of Lords.
No Government, Liberal or Conservative, has ever recognised in the House of Lords the right or the power to dictate a dissolution. That is only one step along the road, of course, assuming—and my hon. Friends will agree with me in assuming—that it rests with us, and not with the House of Lords, to say when and how the issue should be submitted to the people. Then, of course, we have to determine the answer to that question upon a general survey of our duties and obligations, and upon that survey it appeared perfectly clear to us, and I confess it appears increasingly clear to me the more I reflect on the matter, that this Session—the whole time of this Session—is hypothecated to tasks which we cannot honourably to ourselves, or in the best interests of the country, leave unattempted or half performed. I will mention one or two. Take first of all the question of finance. There has not been a Parliament or a Session in the House of Commons, for a great many years in which the financial problems which will have to be discussed 460 and determined were so great in bulk, so complex in detail, so grave in their consequences for the years which lie immediately ahead. I will only give one illustration.
I will give you only one illustration. Take the Old Age Pensions. Last year this House decided to grant Old Age Pensions, knowing perfectly well it was committing itself to an expenditure the exact dimensions of which could not be ascertained with any approach to accuracy and which may turn out to be even a larger addition than most of us contemplated to the normal expenditure of the country, not merely for this year alone, but for years to come. I believe it to be beneficent legislation. I am not going to attempt to forecast the Budget of my right hon. Friend. I do not pretend to know what it will contain. But I am perfectly certain will occupy in consideration, and must occupy, a much larger proportion of the time of this Session than is usually given to our financial proposals. It cannot in fairness or in justice be rushed through.
Therefore, upon that consideration there is primâ facie reason for supposing that the time and energies of this House will be required far in excess of those which we have to provide for in ordinary years. I will leave on our side the question of finance. There are pledges distinctly given by us and given in regard to this Session as to specific measures which we are bound in honour to perform. I will take the Irish Land Bill. There is the Housing Bill of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board and the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. But over and above and beyond these there is a group of social problems connected with unemployment, and with the underpaid and unorganised industries of the country, with which even if we were not pledged, as we are pledged, to make serious and substantial beginnings this year, cannot in policy, and I am not exaggerating if I say, even in safety, be put on the shelf or in the pigeon-hole, to come up for settlement at some uncertain date in some indefinite future.
Here is business of the highest importance which imperiously and urgently calls for the immediate attention of the House of Commons. Here is a House of Commons ready and able to grapple with the tasks laid upon it; and under these conditions, to which we have to respond, it is rather a strong thing for my hon. Friend to ask us to indefinitely postpone attempts to pass all these important Bills. I do not 461 think what hon. Gentlemen opposite may think about playing the game; but I need not add for the information and reassurance of many on this side of the House that there is no intention on our part of shirking or postponing the issue we have raised. I repeat, there is no intention of postponing the issue we have raised. We have no desire to do so. We have no interest in doing so; and, speaking for myself and the Government, I can give a complete assurance that at the earliest possible moment that is consistent with the discharge by this Parliament of the obligations I have indicated, the issue will be presented and submitted to the country.
Let me say to hon. Friends who take a different view that in my judgment, at any rate, the cause is not likely to he jeopardised nor the issue in the long run less wisely decided because it is presented in all its aspects, after full deliberation and consideration, to the tribunal of public opinion.
Let me, by way of illustration, take the case of the fiscal controversy. How was it we won our verdict in the Constituencies?
An Hon. Member on the Opposition Side: By Chinese labour.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Chinese labour! I should have thought that hon. Members opposite by this time would have found out the danger of referring to that subject. How was it we won? We won by argument upon the facts. We were not like the Leader of the Opposition, afraid of dealing with figures. The arguments were carried on by the light of day. The arguments so convinced the electors of this country that they returned to Parliament the largest majority ever known in Parliamentary history. I for my part, and on the part of those of my Friends who agree with me, think that when the matter is fully and freely presented to t he judgment of the electors, carefully argued out by the light of day as the Fiscal Question was, they are likely to arrive at the same just determination on the issue.
We need not be afraid if a few more weeks or months are occupied in the process than some of the more ardent and impetuous of our supporters may desire. For my part I am confident that the longer the arguments proceed, and the more fully they are presented to the country, the more it will be realised that the evils to which I adverted in the early part of my observations are evils which no one can seriously contend can be remedied by any mere change in the composition of the 462 constitution of a Second Chamber. I do not prejudge or pronounce any anticipatory verdict on proposals of that kind; but of this I am perfectly sure, that, however your Second Chamber may be constituted—given on the one hand proper opportunities for deliberation and consultation, and on the other hand such regulations as to the duration of Parliament as will prevent the popular Assembly from acting after it has exhausted its mandate and expended its force—it is perfectly fair, given these two conditions, to assume that when the matter is placed before the people, and when they have had an opportunity to make up their minds, will come to the conclusion that it is only by limiting strictly the limit within a short duration of time of the veto of a non-representative Assembly that the electors of this country will be satisfied.
When I came down to the House I had no intention of intervening or taking part in this debate. Nor should I have done so had the speech of the right hon. Gentleman indicated merely a domestic controversy between the Government and their recalcitrant followers below the Gangway. But he has raised one or two issues and used words which I do not mean to deal with at length or detail. I think, however, that the House would regard it as unusual if the Leader of the Opposition did not rise in his place and deal with such important utterances on the part of the Leader of the majority.
The right hon. Gentleman began in a strain familiar to me now after 20 or 30 years of political life, saying how much wiser and more prudent and more statesmanlike were the Tory leaders of a previous generation than are those who hold the sway in the less happy times in which the right hon. Gentleman has been called upon to exercise political activity. He looks back with a regretful eye to the days of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Aberdeen, the Earl of Derby, and other eminent Conservative Ministers. He looks back to those happy days, and he compares the statesmanlike moderation which then prevailed with the reckless counsels of my right hon. Friend Lord Lansdowne and other wild revolutionaries in another place. I always notice there is no demerit which existing statesmen possess which their predecessors possessed when drawing interesting parallels.
Let me call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the different condition of things, if I take the time of the Duke of Wellington for example, and the differ- 463 ence in circumstances which the House of Lords had then to deal with, and those which the House of Lords has to deal with now. It is perfectly true that on more than one occasion the House of Lords on the appeal of the Duke of Wellington, gave way, because the Duke of Wellington and the House of Lords felt whatever their own views might be public opinion was that of the House of Commons and not that of the House of Lords.
Is that the case now? Will any hon. Gentleman candidly say that in their opinion the House of Lords in rejecting any of the measures to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted were running counter to the great mass of public opinion? [SEVERAL MEMBERS: "We all say so."] I will put the question rather differently. I am perfectly sure that at the present moment there is not a man who believes that anybody may convince himself that I am right merely by casting his memory back over the history of the last three years.
The Education Bill was the first measure mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman and that was rejected in the very height of the power of the present majority, when it was not more than 13 months old. It was Amended in the Lords and then dropped by the Government, though they were quite ready subsequently to adopt most of the Amendments in the Bill which was intended as a compromise, and yet the whole blame was thrown on the Upper House.
There were many people at that time who were of opinion that this would arouse a storm of indignation in all parts of the country, and there were plenty of people who were anxious to arouse such a storm, and, had the fuel been there there were plenty of people ready to lay the match; had there been dynamite about there were plenty of willing hands to lay the train. Everybody knows that the country could not be stirred to a moment's indignation, that the general trend of feeling, on the whole, was in favour of the House of Lords, and that it was impossible to arouse the smallest scintilla indicating that the House of Lords was in the position now in which it had been in at the time of the Duke of Wellington in the case to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, in which the House of Lords, whether they were right or wrong in their opinions, did not share the general opinion of their countrymen. 464 That was the first of the great actions of the House of Lords to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. What is the last? The one which he described as the climax of the whole—that was the Licensing Bill. It was rejected by the House of Lords after what was called a caucus. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman means the meeting at Lansdowne House. I do not know why that was more a caucus than the meetings that Mr. Gladstone used to have of his party at his house. I presume that the difference between Berkeley-square and Carlton House-terrace is not fundamental to the Constitution, and that if a collection of Conservative or Unionist gentlemen in a house in one quarter of the town deserve to be described as a caucus, no more complimentary epithet should be applied to those who met to discuss great political questions when Mr. Gladstone was leading the Opposition and living in Carlton House-terrace.
The House of Lords did reject the Bill. That was the climax of their iniquities; that was the last unforgivable offence—their rejection of the greatest of all social reforms; the casting out contemptuously of something which the great mass of their countrymen were passionately desirous of seeing passed. Does not everybody know that by any test you apply, the majority of the country was behind the House of Lords. It is possible, of course, to argue about the vehemence of the indignation existing on the one side, and to say that there was little indignation on the other side. I admit you cannot bring that particular balance of argument to the test of those figures, of which the right hon. Gentleman in his speech to-day was so much enamoured.
The Licensing Bill applied to England, and England alone. We have had some test as to what the opinion in England is at the by-elections. The right hon. Gentleman said just now we ought to have Parliamentary elections at sufficiently rapid intervals to prevent the House losing the mandate of the country. He, therefore, does think that this House does lose the mandate of the country before its six, years have elapsed. I wonder what his tests are of the House having lost the confidence of the country. I have never been one of those who have held that the Government of the day were to go outside the letter of the Constitution. I never pressed the Government to dissolve on account of the by-elections, but when they come forward and tell us that the country is indignant with the House of Lords for 465 having pursued a certain course of action, I ask, then, what the indication is? Everything has been done to stimulate and magnify the indignation, if it exists. Every machinery has been set to work to invent it, if it did not exist; but with all the power of magnifying and inventing nothing has appeared that any human being could describe as indignation, excitement, or disapproval of the action of the House of Lords. The whole trend of every by-election in the country since the House of Lords took that action, and when it was known they were going to take it in the country in which the Bill applied, has conclusively shown that the inference which everybody can draw from such indications as are open to all of us, as to the way public opinion was going, is that the House of Lords would not have been doing their duty, would not, at all events, have been carrying out the views of their countrymen if they had passed the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in such indignant terms.
The right hon. Gentleman having denounced the House of Lords and worked himself up to a degree of indignation which would have satisfied even his Friends below the Gangway—perhaps it was intended to satisfy them—proceeded to air an argument which I did not quite understand. He said it was quite true that the House of Lords committed all these iniquities; it was quite true he was burning to be at them; it was quite true the country was panting for their blood. But the Government had a duty to perform, and he was going to exercise his whole powers of self-control, he was going to keep his impatient colleagues on the leash, he was going to prevent any premature inquiries in this country as to what the country really thought about this subject, in order that these great duties might be carried out.
I do not dissent from one portion of the right hon. Gentleman's schedule of duties. I quite agree he has run up an enormous Bill. I do think he should pay it. That I agree, but he did not tell hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that directly that the Budget was passed he was going to the country. Not at all! They are going to discuss the Welsh Church, the Irish Land Bill, the Housing Bill, and a great many other Bills this Session, including Unemployment. We heard nothing about the Unemployed Bill, by the way, during the unemployment debate; it has suddenly appeared; it is a new subject in the Government's programme. They have thought of it since last Tuesday.
They have got to get through all these things before they ask the country to decide upon the great issue. Well, if they are going to carry out all these great measures of social reform I presume the right hon. Gentleman thinks these measures will receive very fair treatment at the hands of the other House. If they do not think that, I do not see whom they are benefiting by it. If they really think that the co-operation of the House of Lords cannot be counted on on questions of social reform, surely it is the greatest waste of time and the unkindest thing to the classes that think they are to get these social reforms, not at once to see that this obstructive Upper Chamber is reduced within the limits which commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
If you do not think there is any difficulty when you come to social reform it seems to me all this sound and fury and indignation is thrown away. I therefore cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman's line of argument. He admits that you have not only this Session but a succession of Sessions before you in which this Government is going to carry out fruitful and beneficent work for the people.
The hon. Gentleman has an interest in prolonging the labours of this particular Parliament, but if this particular Parliament is going to carry out all these beneficent duties, I repeat, how can you with any decency say that the House of Lords is a great obstructive Chamber to social reform? You give away your own case by announcing your own programme. What does it all come to?
The right hon. Gentleman launched out into musical metaphor. It was the climax, the crescendo, the dominant note. He drew inspiration from some great choral or orchestral work. I ask what the climax is going to be? It is going to die away in some faint diminuendo, in some distant future. I think the Government must feel that speeches of the kind to which we have just listened, on an Amendment of the kind which has just been proposed, after the pledges given, Session after Session, and after the Resolution which has been passed by this House, are an anti-climax really of the most ludicrous description. Hon. Gentlemen really should give up beating the big drum and blowing their trumpets, walking round the walls of Jericho, and expecting them to fall unless 467 they have something like the courage of their opinions.
Anybody reading the speeches of the Government and of those who support the Government, reading their resolutions, examining the indignant resolutions passed by their supporters in the country, would really suppose they meant business. It is quite obvious they do not mean business. Then the question arises, Why do not they mean business? The right hon. Gentleman has spent half an hour and more this evening eloquently in giving us what he wants us to accept as the reasons for their not meaning business. I will give a much shorter and a much more conclusive reason why they do not mean business.
The fact is—and everybody knows it—that either by bad luck or bad management the Government and their supporters have contrived in three years to turn the whole country against them. A majority much smaller than that which I see opposite to me now—a majority of half its size with the country behind them—would, I do not say make different speeches, but they would do different things. Everybody knows what has been the effect of their policy. Everybody knows why nothing is brave about them but their speeches. Their communications have been cut. They are a gigantic army, but they have no means of drawing supplies from their true base. They know they have not got the country behind them, and it is because they know they have not got the country behind them, and it is because they know that all this indignation against the House of Lords is indignation which they may feel in their own breasts, but is indignation that has no echo in the breasts of their countrymen—it is for that reason, and for no other reason, that instead of assenting to the proposals of the hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has felt himself bound to get up and make the amazing speech to which we have just listened.
§ Mr. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I desire to say a few words on behalf of the party with which I am associated with regard to this Amendment. We must take this Amendment for its intentions, and we are not prepared to say the Government ought now to produce a Bill dealing with the House of Lords veto, that they should close all their other work in order to advance that Bill, and in a month or two appeal to the country upon it. We have no desire to vote for that, to speak for it, 468 or to associate ourselves in the country with it at all.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
What I want to make clear is this: I believe that my hon. Friend's intention is, as he has indicated by his interruption, but his amendment is so worded as, I think, to carry that meaning to a very large percentage of people who have not read it carefully. At any rate, all that I have to do is to make our position perfectly clear. We certainly shall not vote for the Amendment to the Amendment if it is moved, because again we must take the intention, and however skilfully that Amendment may be worded, and the Opposition has got very skilful nowadays in wording its Amendments—however skilfully that Amendment may be worded the meaning of it is this—it means that this House is to agree that the other place shall have the power to say when an election is to be held, and that is a thing that I shall not for a single moment submit to, and this House of Commons would be unworthy of itself if it submitted to any such idea as. that. But it seems to me that the Labour party must take the best opportunity which presents itself for indicating what it thinks and feels about the House of Lords. Therefore, if we vote for the Amendment which the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs has just moved, it is simply because it is the only opportunity that presents itself to us on this occasion of declaring emphatically that we are altogether opposed to the further existence of the House of Lords.
There is one thing, I think, that the Government has failed to do. I doubt very much if there is a single Member of this House who believes that the Government do not intend to do something about the House of Lords agitation before Parliament comes to an end, but I am doubtful about the country. Is it not excusable on the part of the country to argue that a Government which is sending up, almost on every occasion, man after man and supporter after supporter to the House of Lords does not mean to deal with that House very effectively. I know very well the conditions under which these men go-up. The party wants funds; they are individuals prepared to subscribe those funds. We all know the conditions under which those funds are subscribed. I am bound to say, in view of the historical position of the House of Lords, that deprives it of all the respect that it ought to 469 gain by it. If we find that the other place has become merely one that is occupied by Gentlemen who are buying a seat there in a recognised way, it is no longer an aristocracy, it is the very worst expression of the plutocratic spirit that shows itself in England at the present time.
I hold in respect for valour the curiosity collector who has bought from a pawnbroker a Victoria Cross, just as much as I respect those noble lords whose only claim to be there is that they have paid for the right to sit in that House. I am one of those curious specimens of a Conservative who sit with the Labour party. I am Conservative because I have a profound respect for historical institutions. There is nobody in this House who is more anxious to pay respect to the House of Lords and the aristocracy of the country than I am. Where is it? What is it? As to the majority of the people who have gone there recently, why we have really seen the strawberry leaves growing painfully on their brows for year after year. It has forfeited that respect which an aristocracy, British, or any other, is bound to have if it is to stand against the impact of a growing democracy.
So far as we are concerned we want no conflict with the House of Lords. It is not our intention to pick a quarrel, and we would prefer very much if they would just let us alone. We came in here to do some social legislation; we did not come here to tinker and try to mend our democratic machinery any more, but if the machine will not work then the machinery must be thrown upon the scrap heap. If our Constitution has so provided that no drastic amendment can be made in our taxation, in our method of holding property, and the way that property is used—if our Constitution has so carefully provided impediment to these changes, then it is absolutely necessary for the democratic party to remove those impediments as soon as it can and as early as it can in carrying out its programme of social reforms.
Those of us who have to face electors know perfectly well that the interests represented by the House of Lords are admirably represented in this House. They are the people of money; they are the people of privilege; they are the people who at every election in this country subscribe money for political organisations and non-political organisations to keep us out of this House—to keep advanced Liberal and Radical opinions out of this House, and to swell the ranks of the party which sits above the Gangway on this side of the House. And yet, not content with 470 the enormous political power that property and wealth gives them, they have to be entrenched in another ditch—in another place—lest drastic Radical and Socialistic legislation should go through this House and be set up. They have a double chance. They have a chance in our elections, and then, if you please, each one of them occupies precisely the same political value in the Constitution of his country as my constituency does, or any constituency does.
"One man one vote." Why, there is, one man one constituency, when we consider the powers and privileges of that other place. We have got to face that whether we like it or not. It is said, however, that they ought to be the great interpreters, the wise and accurate interpreters of the democratic will. Well, I am bound to say that the democratic will is exceedingly elusive. Whoever interpreted the democratic will rightly? I recollect one of the wisest and keenest electioneers that ever sat in this. House, the late Lord Beaconsfield, egregiously erred in 1880, when he thought he interpreted the democratic will, and realised to his cost, much too late, that he had made a mistake in regard to it. I do not know whether this House does interpret the democratic will, but I know this House is carrying out the Constitution. I know the British Constitution is that we have an election once every seven years, and that the majority returned to the House has to do its best to carry out the democratic will, and the only way in which you can judge of the way it is doing so is just the ordinary indications that show themselves outside. The Government is in touch with its followers, its followers are in touch with the constituents, and I ask whether there is a single Member of this. House, whether Liberal or Labour, who, is waiting to throw away his seat to follow some will-o'-the-wisp in the shape of drastic forms of legislation.
There is not a single Member of this House, in supporting legislation who does not believe that somehow or other he can secure a majority of his constituency in the approval and support he gives to it. The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House challenged us to test whether the House of Lords, in rejecting the Education and the Licensing Bills, was carrying out the will of the people. Curiously enough, he saw his error in time and then he set conditions by which the test was to be applied, and said if you take the figures of by-elections, you must knock Scotland out. In order to make 471 himself safe, he had to become a separatist, and I hope he will remember that. Will he allow us to test the opinion of Scotland with regard to the Land Values Bill?
Is it the policy of the Unionist party now to take Bills relating to England and measure public opinion regarding those Bills only so far as public opinion is the opinion of the English Constituencies? What is fish for one is fish for another. If that is so as regards England, what about Ireland? Are they going to allow us to carry a Home Rule Bill through this House on the ground that there is a vast majority of opinion in favour of a Home Rule Bill, and that every bye-election that has happened in Ireland regarding my hon. Friends on this side of the House has only shown more than ever the practical unity of the Irish people. That separatist argument will not go down, and there is no party in this House who will be more ready to throw it overboard than the party led by the right hon. Gentleman.
Since the Licensing Bill was introduced there have been eighteen contested elections in England and Scotland, and the Government lost six out of the eighteen. Three of the seats would never under normal conditions have been held by the Government, and two of the other three were attended by three-cornered contests, and the Opposition Member returned to sit won by a minority vote. Since the Licensing Bill was introduced the Government have only lost one seat, which they might have lost under ordinary circumstances, and might have indicated a slight change of public opinion.
Then as to the votes. The votes cast were 98,760 for the Bill, and 80,905 against it. I wonder if the other place which interprets the democratic mind was aware of those facts. Moreover, supposing it was all right and the majority was on the other side. Why is this Upper Chamber as active as Lot's wife after she was cast into a pillar of salt when the Tory party is in power? Why is it that it requires some Radical knight to kiss her bosom and painted cheeks before she wakes into life and shows her teeth? If the House of Lords is the custodian of the democratic will let it be the custodian all through, and not merely when the hated Radical Government is in office. Why was it not aware of the great democratic responsibilities placed on its shoulders during the last two Parliaments? Were there no 472 bye-elections showing this impartial Senate what the democracy of the country wanted prior to 1906? Where was their vigilance? Where was their patriotism? Where was their impartiality in those days? They did not know it. They do not know it now. Let me take the two most recent examples, the Mines Eight Hours Bill and the Licensing Bill. I went up and heard the debate on the first Bill there, and I heard Gentleman after Gentleman get up seriously assuring his hearers and through the House the country that he was awake to the iniquity of imposing a penny or twopence a ton on the price of coal. A very large percentage of some whom I heard speaking are actually themselves imposing sixpence a ton on coal and not giving one single iota of service to the community to entitle them to it. How do you explain this, that the mining rights and royalties imposed on pig iron in France are eightpence, in Germany and in England 4s. 6d.
I wish those who had so suddenly awoke to the fact that to protect the lives of miners meant a penny or twopence more on their coal had awoke to this more serious fact, that in order to keep the aristocracy of this country going we have to impose duties of 6d., 7d., and 8d. on a ton of coal. The first case is an instance of class legislation of the most objectionable kind. Take the Licensing Bill, where you get a combination of partisan interest and class legislation perhaps unparalleled in the history of the country. The Leader of the House referred to a caucus. The Leader of the Opposition objected to the word "caucus." I do not mind. Let us call it a meeting. A meeting, however, in Mr. Gladstone's house was a meeting of representative persons—of persons sent to this House under party pledges, because they displayed certain party colours—meeting to consider what the party ought to do.
So long as we have a democratic constitution that sort of thing will go on, and it is very good that it should go on. Probably if the opinion of this House was more solid, and if the small Committee known as the Cabinet did not force legislation upon us, I think this House would produce better results than it actually does. But why was this meeting of the other place in regard to the Licensing Bill called? First of all it was called of those who are Tories by conviction, and secondly of those who are owners of brewery shares, and they voted. The Bill was held up to them as the baby was held 473 up by Solomon to the natural and the unnatural mother, and this Solomon said—Shall we kill it or shall we not?The unnatural mother very nearly unanimously said we will kill it, and they killed it, and they left the House boasting of their patriotism and their impartiality. They voted simply for their party and their pockets. They reminded me of those gentlemen you see on the side-walks. They tuck up their legs behind them, and put in front of them the legend that they are lame. They discolour and disfigure their eyes, and assure the charitable passer-by that they were born blind.
The Lords went out for Lansdowne House with "Patriotism" written on their chests in the same way as the rogue and vagabond tries to palm off his assumed blindness and lameness on the charitable public. Let us simply use the proper words in designating certain patent facts. The House of Lords is a class assembly. It represents a certain economic interest. It stands there to do that, and to do nothing else. Its patriotism and its impartiality are as fraudulent as those brass plates that the rogues and vagabonds wear. I hope the time will not be far off when we shall have an opportunity of discussing one Chamber and two Chambers. Personally, I am in favour of a single Chamber. Wherever two Chambers have been tried, wherever British stock is governing itself, the two Chambers have failed. You have either to have the second Chamber opposed to the first, in which case it is not wise legislation that it issues, or you have to have it having the same opinions as the first, in which case it goes to sleep like our own Chamber when the Tories happen to be in office. Take Canada. One of the first things Sir Wilfrid Laurier had to do was to adjust the political balance in the Upper Chamber. It kicked at first, and then it slept, and it has been sleeping ever since. Take New Zealand. The Upper House in New Zealand kicked when Seddon came to carry out his programme. At first the Upper House kicked. Then new men were appointed to it. Then it slept, and it, too, has been sleeping ever since. Take South Australia. The Upper House is elected, but there has been friction, and the Upper House has been at loggerheads with the Lower House. I was privileged to sit in the House of Commons in Adelaide on the day when Parliament assembled there after the last General Election, and I saw a scene there the like of which I have never seen before, and hope never to see 474 again. The Prime Minister rose up and moved the first reading of the Second Chamber Bill. It went through in the twinkling of an eye. He rose again, and moved the suspension of the Standing Orders. That went through in the twinkling of an eye. The Bill got its second reading, went through its Committee stage, and got its third reading all in 35 minutes, showing that the conflict between the Lower and the Upper House had become so drastic and had reached such a crisis that no reasonable person, not even the Opposition, offered opposition to what everybody admitted was an absolutely necessary Bill. The Lower House was determined not to have its work retarded and blemished by the Upper House. I am not opposed to a revision Chamber, but it must be perfectly clear that the revision Chamber must give a second reading to every Bill that comes from us as a matter of right. It must be one of the House of Commons' privileges that we settle the principles and aims of legislation, and if there is to be any alteration to be made it must be in detail. Just as we have claimed the privilege of settling financial legislation, so must we claim as a privilege that the principles, the aims, and the intention of legislation shall issue from the House of Commons, and from no other branch of the Constitution.
But we are in no hurry. Our programme is not fulfilled. We were not sent here to go back to the country without, at any rate, attempting to do certain good work. We are not going to allow, so far as my colleagues and myself are concerned, any irresponsible and non-representative Chamber to tell us when General Elections are going to come. We are going to go on. We have to amend the Old Age Pensions Act. We have to deal with the Unemployed, and so on. But if the Government is really to impress the country with the fact that it is in earnest, it must do something it has not yet done. We will vote, I suppose, for the Amendment under the conditions and with the explanations I have made, but I hope before long the Government will make it perfectly clear to us, even clearer than the right hon. Gentleman in his very clear speech has made it this afternoon, that the Liberal party is not going to allow, if it can help it, such a Constitution in which a few non-representative persons can undo the work of an elected Chamber to remain, because, in the words of the formula which have often been carried here and elsewhere, the House of Lords is responsible to nobody 475 except itself, it is representative of nobody except a class, and it is an anachronism in our Constitution, and ought to be abolished as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
moved as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment to leave out from "imperative" to end, and insert "in the interests of stable Government to decide forthwith by an appeal to the constituencies which of the two Houses of Parliament enjoys the confidence of a majority of the electors." He said: The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in the course of the somewhat violent observations which he has made on the subject of the House of Lords, appeared to me in places to have somewhat missed the real nature of the issue which is before the House at the present moment. The issue is not as to whether the House of Lords possesses merits or whether the work of the House of Lords is vitiated by demerits. The question is a very short and simple one—whether or not the Government are going to take the opportunity which is afforded to them at the moment of going to the country in order to decide whether or not the country shares the indignation which they express at the recent conduct of the House of Lords. I certainly imagined my Amendment would have met with the support of the Labour party.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
On a point of order, I have to ask your ruling as to whether the Amendment is in order. It is a direct negative to the Question before the House, and is not an Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think the Amendment is a direct negative. It is an alternative course, namely, to dissolve at once and appeal to the country.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Under those circumstances, the hon. Gentleman, being reassured as to the character of the Amendment, I trust I may have his support also in due course. The mover and seconder of the Amendment, in their very weighty and serious statements, certainly impressed me with the idea that they have put their hands to the plough in the spirit of men who mean to carry it to the end of the furrow, even if they are only ploughing sand. The difference between their Amendment and mine is after all only the difference of a single Session. I do not believe in the elaborate machinery which the Government suggest is to follow from their Resolution. I rather venture to suggest, in view of the conflict that has arisen 476 as to what should be done at the moment, that the right course is to have an immediate dissolution. If the hon. Gentleman, the mover of the Resolution, still adheres to his view, and if the House as a whole should take the view that they were not prepared to accept my Amendment, then I certainly should find myself in a position to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman as an Amendment to the Address; because, as I understand the position of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, while it would not produce an appeal to the country as early as I or my friends would wish to see, it would at least procure an appeal at least one Session, and, maybe, two Sessions, earlier than the Government intend to make that appeal to the country, if left to themselves. Under those circumstances, I shall support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman unless the House accepts the Amendment to it which I have moved. I confess that, reading his Amendment, I thought it was admirable, dignified, and adequate, until I came to the word "Resolution," and saw that we were, after all, only to be treated to a revival of the discussion of a year or two years ago. The tenour of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman reminded me of the speech made by a supporter of the Government in the country the other day, to this effect:—The country demands in dealing with the Lords a policy severe, haughty, and drastic. Nothing short of this will satisfy the fighting brigade. But at all costs you must resist the monstrous claim of the Lords to force a dissolution.That is:—The policy may be as severe, as haughty, and as drastic as you please, but whatever else we do let us resist the claim of the House of Lords to force a dissolution.I do not particularly quarrel with the limitations of the hon. mover's proposal. I think he is very likely waiting with the admirable prudence of his fellow countrymen until the pending bye-elections in Scotland are determined before giving his voice in favour of an immediate election. As far as opinion in this discussion is concerned, it has developed, so far as one can judge, among the occupants of the Ministerial front bench in this direction, that they are strongly of opinion that it is their duty to their country to remain in office, while so far as we have had an opportunity of judging, nearly everybody else in the House, or at any rate those below the Gangway who usually support them, we upon this side of the House, and the Labour Members below the Gangway are 477 strongly of opinion that the Government should not remain in office. As far as the rank and file of the Government are concerned the position they have taken up with regard to the House of Lords does them, from one point of view, very great credit. Very many of them have indulged in violent denunciation of the House of Lords. The Prime Minister denies that he indulged in it at all. But we find that if you take from the year 1830 the Liberal party created no fewer than 249 Peers. This then, it may be said, is a parricidal war. Since the days of King Lear none has ever nursed such an adder in his bosom. And while the Liberal party created 249 Peers, we on this side of the House have only created 181 Peers. During the first year in which the present Government held office they created 16 new Peers, that is to say, a Peer every three weeks. I can see the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen watering. I hope to supplement the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, the mover of the Amendment, because I must not close my eyes to the possibility that the House may not accept my Amendment, and I must, therefore, seek to reinforce his arguments by some observations which have fallen from Gentlemen opposite at different times and by some inferences which I shall ask the House to draw from those observations. There was one speech made by the Prime Minister before he was Prime Minister of which my hon. Friend, if he had recollected it, would possibly have reminded the House. The right hon. Gentleman said:—Outside in the country, wherever the electors have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion, they have spoken of the contempt into which the Ministry has fallen. Under these circumstances, why do they not resign? No one but the Office holders know.
The hon. Gentlemen would have helped the House to arrive at an impartial decision if they had reminded us of a speech which the Prime Minister made at a banquet in the National Liberal Club. Let us give the House the advantage of those stimulating words:—The question I want to put to you is this: Is this state of things to continue? (Cries of no, certainly not.) We say it must be brought to an end, and I invite the Liberal Party to-night to raise the veto of the House of Lords as the dominating issue in politics.'As indicating the earnest spirit of these strenuous men who assembled together on that occasion, I note that the "Times" reporter calls attention to the fact that the company at that point stood up and waved their dinner napkins. It was, perhaps, a somewhat inauspicious omen at this early stage that they should have mast-headed 478 the white flag. I can well understand my hon. Friends who moved and who supported this Amendment thinking that it was a somewhat fallacious proceeding to wave the napkins, unless the waving of the napkins was followed by something. I would ask them to apply their consideration not merely to the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister, but to the very surprising statements made by other Members of the Government having regard to the extraordinary apathy that they are now displaying. Take for instance the First Lord of the Admiralty. No one will fail to recollect it is only about three years ago that the First Lord of the Admiralty when he was at the Education Office announced to the country in most resolute and determined language that he was shortly going to the House of Lords with a sword. It was quickly discovered that his only qualifications for the Board of Education were an insubordinate record and his sword, and he was therefore dropped into his present position. Since he occupied that position one may perhaps discover the reasons why he is not so anxious to press on the campaign, as he was until he found himself in this position, which is one of great prestige and dignity, and one that affords great scope for enjoyment, and the nation, I am sure, will have observed that the right hon. Gentleman lately, in a manner which was not inadequate to his dignity, examined those outposts by which our maritime supremacy is sporadically maintained in the Mediterranean, and the country noted with much interest that the right hon. Gentleman's uniform on this occasion was an impressive compromise between that of a private tourist and that of a Rear-Admiral. The exaltation which is produced by the opening of belligerent possibilities in a Radical bosom may possibly account for the change of opinion in the First Lord of the Admiralty, but there is another Member accustomed to sit on that bench whose apathy produced even greater astonishment, and that is the President of the Local Government Board. Only three years ago I remember reading, as many of us in this House had occasion to read, the election address of the right hon. Gentleman. In that address he used, if I remember rightly, the remarkable words:—"I am opposed to all hereditary offices of whatever kind they may be.One would expect that if there was one sincere democrat the President of the Local Government Board would be that one. What is the explanation of the fact 479 that he is now in favour of postponing the appeal to the country? Two explanations suggest themselves to me which I place at the disposal of my hon. Friend I can hardly expect that he will appreciate the first as clearly as I would. The first is the extreme inconvenience of a Constituency in Scotland. I do not doubt that the President of the Board of Trade will confirm what I say. Because I am told that the position of the President of the Local Government Board in Battersea is very uncertain and Battersea is not seething with such indignation against the House of Lords as other parts of the country. The second reason why I understand the President of the Local Government Board is not in favour of an immediate election is that it is rumoured he desires continuity of access to official sources while he is engaged in the preparation of an interesting work to be entitled "How I Saved England," recommended to the public by that graceful suppression of the author's individuality which has made him so popular. I shall probably be asked, and an explanation is certainly due, as to why the President of the Board of Trade is not in favour of an immediate appeal to the country. At first sight it would seem very difficult to suggest a reason, if one looks back to some previous utterances, such as that of the 25th June, 1907, "At no distant date we shall open our bombardment." That is very nearly two years ago, and at present there are no signs of this bombardment. In the same debate he said:—The House of Lords is one-sided, hereditary, unpaid unrepresentative, and absentee.I should have thought it was time now to develop this bombardment against a Chamber that could be described in that way. The only explanation I can think of why the right hon. Gentleman shares the desire for delay which unaccountably pervades the whole of the Ministerial Front Bench is that he cannot take himself from the work of elevating in his official position the whole tone and spirit of our public controversy in dealing with questions affecting our national trade. We can ill spare an official in his position when showing an example of that spirit of modern exaltation which many competent observers thought had left English politics with the late Mr. Gladstone. I for one hope that I shall listen to many more of the courteous and conciliatory impromptu speeches, to the preparation of which the 480 right hon. Gentleman has devoted the best years of his life. Perhaps I may be permitted to make an observation about the Minister for War. He said that the history of Liberal Governments for the last fifty years shows a certain amount of reaction has always appeared after three years. The House will at once see the simplicity of the explanation, because that reaction has now appeared. The House should recollect that there are other reasons why the Secretary for War does not wish to retire to the obscurity of private life. As the House is aware, the right hon. Gentleman has formed an alliance on equal terms with the "Daily Mail" and the author of a well-known melodrama, who have devoted their services to the raising of this Territorial army. The Minister for War said only yesterday thathe looked forward to the time when the Territorial Army would be as large as the German Army.
Then there is the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I confess that at first sight his attitude gives me considerable difficulty. The only explanation I can give is that the right hon. Gentleman cannot turn himself from a subject which lends itself so much to the sallies of a pretty wit as the present condition of Ireland. When he indulges in his witticisms I do not believe he is in any way indifferent to the horrors which are made to appear the subject of his humour. The right hon. Gentleman belongs to that type of man who, would still be fiddling if all his colleagues were burning. With regard to the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he is believed at one time to have been strongly in favour of contesting the will of the people before the Budget was introduced, but when it was pointed out that this course would place the Government in the position of absconding bankers as far as Old Age Pensions were concerned, he said that it did not matter to him, as he was finished anyhow. How is the case put today? Let me for a moment treat the question seriously. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Hear, hear."] I should be very sorry it there was anybody in this House who did not realise the difficulty of treating this question seriously. So far as it deserves serious treatment, what is the position? It is said that by rejecting the Education Bill and the Licensing Bill, which were passed by this House, the House of Lords have rejected something which the people wanted. Let me first deal with the Education Bill. As my right hon. Friend has already pointed out, 481 if the House of Lords were wrong in the action they took upon the first Education Bill, then the Government were wrong in the Education Bill which they introduced at the end of last Session, because every considerable Amendment which the House of Lords introduced into the first Education Bill proposed by the present Government was introduced in the Education Bill which was proposed from the Front Government Bench at the close of last Session. Hon. Members will all remember that when the first Education Bill was introduced, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared thatClericalism is the enemy.Two months later the right hon. Gentleman appears in double harness with a Welsh Bishop and produces a Bill which was the very negation of all that had been proposed before. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said:—I would rather have a compromise than a victory,But that would not have been possible if the House of Lords had not done that which they are now being blamed for doing. I am astonished at the arguments advanced by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to the effect that the country wanted the Licensing Bill. Take any evidence you like, either of hon Gentlemen opposite or their own leaders, I claim that I can establish to demonstration over and over again that the country did not want the Licensing Bill. What did the Lord Chancellor say in the House of Lords? He said:—The Bill may be an unpopular measure, so much the more reason why this House should pass it.That is the new theory of Liberal democracy. And what did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say about this Bill, for the rejection of which you are being asked to pick a quarrel with the Lords? He said:—It is the greatest opportunity the Lords has had to rise to the dignity of its great profession as an independent institution, far removed from the passion and interest which sways the multitude.That is modern democracy as understood in Wales. A statement of that kind involves the admission that the Licensing Bill, in the opinion of the Government, does not represent the will of the people. The "Labour Leader " said of the Licensing Bill thatit was a Bill which does not stir the pulses of the people.
A paper called "Justice" said of the same measure:—The House of Lords has kicked it out with contumely, and the Government know if they dissolve Parliament on this issue they will be soundly beaten.482 The hon. Member for Bradford, writing in the "Clarion," said:—The Bills which have been slaughtered by the Lords are of doubtful popularity, and it is putting it very mildly to say that the popularity of the Licensing Bill is very doubtful.
In the face of that evidence, and the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there has been a sensible reaction of feeling of an unfavourable character, how can it be contended that anyone thinks the Licensing Bill was popular, or that the House of Lords came into collision with the will of the people by throwing it out? The President of the Board of Trade has impliedly admitted this, because he said in the country in a recent speech:—I assert that there is no reason, as the history of this country abundantly shows, why a general election at a well-chosen moment should not retrieve, and restore, the whole situation.Upon that. I make two comments. First of all, there is the implied admission that the present is not a well-chosen moment; and, secondly, if there is need for some policy to retrieve and restore the whole situation, there must be something which requires restoration and stands in need of retrieval. As the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer know, the only thing which requires retrieval at the present moment is the unpopularity of the Government. The only determination which seems to animate the present Government is that if they possibly can they will continue in office until they have introduced legislation which will reduce their unpopularity in the country, and that is why the appeal to the country is not being made now. We cannot compel the Government to appeal to the country, because that decision is in their own hands; but we can at least make an appeal to them that if they are not going to take the decision of the country they should drop the farce of this Resolution and the Bill which is going to follow it. They should also make such speeches as have been made in the country less frequent than a year ago, but still with considerable frequency. There is no one in this House who does not know that if the Government believed that they would have got a majority against the House of Lords when the Licensing Bill was thrown out they would have appealed to the country. Consider the strength of a Government, returned on a plain issue, placed before the democracy in England. If instead of indulging in empty bickerings the Government had appealed to the country on the Licensing Bill, and had been returned again to power, they would 483 have been able to have sent across the corridor a message saying, "You threw out this Bill, and we went to the Bar of the people of England, and they have sent us back with a majority strong enough to deal with your pretentions." The Government knew very well that no such consequences would have followed, and therefore they adopted the simpler course of indulging in declamation in this House. I appeal to the Government to drop the whole of this discussion until they are ready to go forward with business-like proposals. If they are not ready to do that, and if they are determined to introduce each year a debate on this subject in this House—if they persist in that course, our opinion of their statesmanship may decline, but at least we can say that they are entitled to the gratitude of the whole country for making a substantial contribution to the gaiety of nations.
§ Mr. E. A. GOULDING
I rise to second the Amendment. It is nearly two years since the memorable Resolution in reference to the House of Lords was proposed by the late Prime Minister and carried by overwhelming majority. But it was specifically laid down in that Resolution that the objects were to be secured by law. Yet from that day to this, although we have had two King's Speeches, there is no whisper of legislation in regard to this matter. Why this delay? Ministers up and down the country have told us that vital measures were before this House, and if they were thrown out disastrous consequences would result. Nothing of the kind has happened. The measures have gone, and the Ministers still remain in their places. The Prime Minister himself made a very remarkable statement in reference to the Licensing Bill. In June of last year he said:—I stake my own political fortune, and if I may say so, the political fortune of my friends, on this Licensing Bill.Well, the House of Lords accepted the challenge of the Prime Minister and threw out the Licensing Bill. Ever since Ministers have been up and down the country denouncing the House of Lords in the name of the people. Yet they take precious good care that they will do nothing to enable them, and enable us, to secure the verdict of the people upon these transactions. What a contemptible position for any great Government to occupy! Recall for one moment the Liberal Government of Mr. Gladstone, 1869-74. What would have been thought of that Government if they had come declaring 484 this or that great measure to be a matter of vital importance to the country, yet suffering these measures to be thrown out?
They still cling to office, and occupy the position without any power whatsoever. Doubtless they comfort themselves with the feeble precedent of 1892–5, when, on Mr. Gladstone's advice, they still clung to office after the rejection of the Home Rule Bill. What is the position to-day? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say they do not desire a dissolution because they are not going to let the House of Lords dictate the time. The House of Lords has made no such claim. What they claim, and what they are determined to claim, is to exercise those Constitutional rights they possess. They are not defying the people. If you think so, take up the challenge. But you do not take it up, because the bye-elections which have recently gone on show that enmity to your rule is largely writ in them, together with no confidence in your administration.
Then we come to the Prime Minister. He makes a great speech at the National Liberal Club. The forces of the Liberal party are gathered there to regale themselves, and take courage on the great efforts they are going to make. He appeals to them to gather all their forces together and make this great appeal to the country on the one dominating issue in politics—the House of Lords. They are to throw all their great forces into it, to "do or die" in this great cause. Nay, more. He goes on and says:—The great governing issue that is before us to-day is this veto of the House of Lords.Further on he goes on to say:—I repudiate altogether the idea that we are content as a great party to remain in office, and to be content with passing colourless legislation of a non-controversial character, which may pass the House of Commons and not offend the House of Lords. Such action would be a confession of humiliation and impotence.What did the Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Crewe, say on 18th January:The question of the House of Lords, as the Prime Minister put it the other day, remains, and must be the dominating issue in politics until it is decided.
I now come to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I am glad to see in his place. He also has been exercising himself over the House of Lords. He has made some great speeches. In pious, almost vehement, terms he tell us thatTheir Party never, even with the Licensing Bill, hoped to gain popularity. They were only actuated by the highest and disinterested motives.
No tinge of revenge against the trade. No fear of the rising anger of the United Kingdom Alliance. Not a word of the meetings and deputations that we heard of 485 the teetotal brigade that sit behind dominating the introduction of the Bill, or they would vote against the Government. So said the right hon. Gentleman, andHere is an occasion for the House of Lords, and the House of Lords said: 'Here is our chance, we can destroy the Liberal Party.'
Well, really, I should have thought that the very fundamental basis of a Second Legislative Chamber is that, they should revise legislation coming up from this House, that they should not pass Bills that they believe are against the wishes of the people, and put forward at the dictation of a party. Having said that, the right hon. Gentleman found that it did not stir up the audience sufficiently, so he got into his old light vein, and declared the House of Lords to be a "musty, dusty, cobwebby sort of place." Liberal measures going to the House of Lards had no chance of progress; they were all labelled "poison." That veto must be settled. Well, if that is so, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify his continuance in office? He is there merely as an office holder, without any power. He goes on further that these bye-elections still suggest to him:—Although he was in favour of an appeal to the country when the prospects were brighter, now he must say to his friends: 'Postpone this time.'We must postpone the appeal, take repeated blows if you like; threaten, but never strike; bark but never bite.
Then I come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. He is always interesting. But I do not know whether he is most happy when he is either conspiring against his leader, or insinuating imputations against his political opponents, and especially if those political opponents are those with whom he previously acted as colleagues. He is a recent recruit ; one of the junior Members of the Radical Government. He has already conspired against his leader with the note of the Prime Minister ringing in his ears and the House of Lords the dominating issue. Not so for the Member for Dundee. He gets up and says—We are not going to fight on the political and Constitutional issue. We are going to mix it up with a wide scheme of social organisation. We are going to make the country better for the multitude.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE rose and made an observation that was inaudible to the official reporters.
§ Mr. GOULDING
The right hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to correct it, and I have the statement here in my pocket as delivered in the speech. His remarks were referred to by a gentleman 486 who was a long time in this House, Mr. Labouchere. He said:—All this talk of making things better for the multitude is that sentimental gush that won't wash down with the working classes.I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman, finding they are not doing so well in the Constituencies, should confuse the issue and cloud the atmosphere. I am inclined to think that he is gaining a recruit in the Prime Minister, because he himself has recently forced the Scottish Secretary to take a seat in the House of Lords. If ever there was a case that justified this Motion it was that. It was only in the late Parliament that I happened to be present when the Scottish Secretary considered it an insult to Scotland that the Secretary for Scotland should sit in the House of Lords. He moved the re-election of the Marquis of Linlithgow.
But there is the Government and here is the Prime Minister holding the House of Lords the dominating issue, the "dusty and cobwebby atmosphere" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they force this Secretary for Scotland to go and sit there. It won't do! The bye-elections, like cold steel, have entered into the hearts of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their courage is gone. We turn round and ask: Is it tolerable when you yourselves have said that this issue is the dominant issue in the country that you still are to remain in office, shirking a reference to the people of the question, who are the tribunal to settle it? They will when the opportunity is given them determine that this political, transparent imposture shall no longer exist.
Question proposed: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed amendment."
§ Mr. W. RYLAND ADKINS
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division has devoted himself at some length and with great ingenuity to piecing together fragments of utterances of occupants of the Treasury Bench, and he has been followed in that interesting occupation by the hon. Member who has spoken last, and who, if I might say so without offence, might learn from the hon. and learned Member for Walton that wit as well as party spirit is desirable if he is going on those lines. What is the outcome and object of those. speeches? We have had party invective and party badinage, but that is a kind of political food of which Members of this House have more than enough in other places. And I think the House would notice the 487 extreme and adroit care with which both speakers avoided any reference to the real question or the merits of this controversy. The whole argument that is suggested is that it may be or it may not be inconvenient on party grounds that this question should now come before the country. They avoided in this debate as they avoided in previous debates all serious reference to the merits of this question.
The seconder of the Amendment to the Amendment went so far as to say that all he and his friends were contending for was that the House of Lords should exercise constitutional rights. I think that none of us will give a vote on this Amendment to the Amendment, or indeed vote on this question at all, without having in mind that the proceedings of the House of Lords last year showed that they were going far beyond their constitutional rights, as indicated by the uniform principle of the last seventy years. Great play has been made with the popularity or unpopularity of the Licensing Bill, but when we recollect that from the time of the great Reform Bill of 1832 until the present time, with the single exception of the Home Rule Bill of 1893, no measure of first-class importance, passed by this House after prolonged discussion, and ample time given for discussion in another place, and passed continuously by large majorities, was ever thrown out by the other House on the second reading, we see that we have got for the first time a novel extension of the constitutional rights of the House of Lords. It is that novelty of procedure which makes the gravity of the present situation, and at the same time may well lead the Government to choose their time for bringing to an issue so grave and so wide a problem.
What is the position suggested by the hon. Member for Walton. His Amendment is one to promote stable government, and to do so by submitting the issue to the constituencies forthwith. The arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite have been over and over again that the country is affected not by the question of the House of Lords, but by the question of Tariff Reform, and they want a dissolution at the present moment, or whenever they think that public interest can be turned away from the subject of the House of Lords, on which, by their silence, they admit that they are wrong, to this question of Tariff Reform, in connection with which they place before the 488 electors such an elaborate picture of the prosperity which must necessarily follow. If this Amendment were carried, and action followed, we should find that hon. Gentlemen on the other side would expect to get an election at such a time and in such a way that other things besides the question of the House of Lords could be put artfully and adroitly before the electors.
Put into simple language it comes to this, that the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment desires to have a dissolution as an immediate sequence to the throwing out of the Licensing Bill by the House of Lords. We have heard in this debate from both sides of the House-reference to the strange fact of the House of Lords dictating a dissolution. I can well understand that it would suit hon. Members opposite if the House of Lords dictated the dissolution. It would be very convenient to them if the constitution of the country were so modified in the interests of their Party that the Upper Chamber would be subservient to, their political views, and would order a dissolution whenever they liked. The hon. Member for Walton, whose abilities, however, should make it grateful to him to discuss questions, would find it very convenient to be saved all the trouble of debating in this House when he had the knowledge that the other House was packed with relatives and friends of his own clients, and he could depend on what the verdict would be. It is the fact that this would give to the other Chamber a new constitutional power, that some of us are unable to vote with my hon. Friend, and will with the greatest pleasure vote. against the proposal of the hon. Member for Walton.
We on this side of the House perfectly appreciate the easy dialectical position of hon. Members opposite on this occasion; we see that the tactical position will not always correspond with the graver and more serious facts of the case; but when they turn from their epigrams, original, acquired, or immediate, to deal with the arguments and facts of the case, they must recognise how grave a matter it is to the country that the very Chamber which is supposed to revise, and which is supposed to moderate party feeling, should be entirely and absolutely in the pocket of one political party. Although the Licensing Bill was continuously opposed in this House, it was strongly resisted not because of its principles but because of the way in which those principles were carried out in detail, and I believe that 489 Members in all quarters of this House, as is certainly the case with many Members of the Conservative party in the country, regret that that great opportunity of social reform was thrown away, and who regret that the other Chamber did not give to that measure the respectful and strenuous treatment which might indeed have altered it in many respects, but which I for one believe would have ended in a measure of temperance reform which would have commended itself to the sober sense of the bulk of the people of England.
Therefore, on this grave issue, arising from the Amendment, I shall support the Government. I believe that those who are supporting the Government on graver grounds are not doing so from any desire to put off the Constitutional conflict, but we are determined whenever it comes that it shall be under such circumstances that we, at any rate, to the best of our ability, shall put before the electors alike the gravity of the issue and the importance of bringing it to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
Whatever may be said of the House of Lords, it cannot be denied that it has always been most consistently the enemy of Ireland. We hear a great deal of the disturbances which occur from time to time in Ireland on agrarian questions, and we all know that for the last thirty years the time of this House has been largely occupied in passing measures of reform dealing with the land in Ireland. Within a year or two of my entering the House I remember that a measure of a most moderate character was passed through this House dealing with the serious state of affairs in Ireland in reference to a large number of impending evictions.
There was no proposal to interfere with the rents of the landlords. A simple and meagre and moderate measure was introduced by Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1880, having for its object simply the compensation of farmers in Ireland who might be capriciously or unjustly evicted. That Bill was sent to the House of Lords. It was called Compensation for Disturbance Bill, and like the Education Bill, like the Licensing Bill, like the Plural Voting Bill, it was thrown out without any consideration whatever by the House of Lords, with the result that the agitation was intensified in Ireland, and from that day to this has been going on in greater or lesser degree. I think the landlords in the House of Lords have had very good reason indeed to regret 490 from many points of view that they rejected that moderate measure because the rejection of that measure led to a strong agitation in Ireland, which I am happy to say resulted in very large and more far-reaching measures of land reform being carried for Ireland.
I might refer to many other occasions on which the House of Lords has dealt in a most prejudiced and unfair spirit towards Ireland, but I think on this occasion there is no need to do so. I rose for the purpose of saying, and I speak entirely for myself, that while I fully admit and appreciate the transparent sincerity and honesty of the hon. Gentleman who introduced this subject for discussion, and of the hon. Member who seconded this motion, I for one cannot, I may be right or I may be wrong, bring myself to believe that there is a genuine ring amongst the Liberal party in the so-called attacks which are made against the House of Lords. I, of course, admit that the House of Lords, no more than the Opposition here, have any right to dictate the time at which there should be a Dissolution, but at the same time I must say that I cannot but recognise as extremely hollow and insincere if I may say so without offence. [An HON. MEMBER indicated dissent.] If the hon. Member thinks it is offensive I will withdraw it, but I cannot bring myself to recognise that there is anything but hollowness in most of the speeches which are made against the House of Lords coining from the Liberal side.
We have heard the most strong attacks from every point of view made upon the House of Lords. We have heard the speeches of hon. Members who do not believe in a Second Chamber at all, like the hon. Member for Leicester, who spoke with so much force and eloquence this evening, and that the House of Lords ought to be ended, and we heard strong language of the hon. Gentleman who declared that the House of Lords must be at once somehow or other put a stop to, and that the present power of the Second Chamber, which interferes so frequently and so disastrously with the action of the representatives of the people, must be remedied. I hold that opinion about the House of Lords. I think the House of Lords in relation, not only to Ireland but to England, is in the present stage of the world's history something entirely out of it.
I do not believe if this country were called upon to-morrow to set up a Consti- 491 tution for its Government that any section of people, no matter how small, would be found in favour of establishing a hereditary principle such as exists in the present House of Lords. There have been many Constitutions made for the British Empire even within our own recollection. We know Canada, we know a few years ago we here in this House passed a Bill setting up a Constitution for Australia, and we read in the newspapers to-day even of the proposed Constitution for United South Africa.
We know the class of Second Chamber which are established in those Constitutions, and which have been fashioned by the wisest thought of the present day amongst statesmen, and nobody for a moment proposed that there should be a Second Chamber established in them which is not based upon the principle of popular representation of some sort or another. If men in this House and outside of this House hold the strong views sincerely, as I believe they do, against the House of Lords, why do they tolerate it so far as it is within their power to tolerate it? I listened to the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Liverpool to-day, and he read out a list of Peers who have been created by the party that sits over there and by the party that sits on this side of the House, and what do we find? We find that the party which is now in open war against the House of Lords is the party which within the memory of living man is more responsible for the House of Lords than any party in the State. Yes, but we may be told this is ancient history. It is nothing of the kind. Hardly a week passes by without some Liberal being appointed to the House of Lords by the Government.
I cannot, for my part, recognise those appointments in any way as a proof of the sincerity which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire and his friends have in reference to their onslaught on the Lords. Why do you tolerate? Why do you send men to the House of Lords and then come down here and denounce it as if it was almost a band of thieves ; as it was almost composed of men who were utterly incapable of having any share, hand, act, or part, in the Government of the country?
I am an old Member of this House, I am sorry to say, almost in point of continuous service, one of the very oldest Members of the House. I am twenty-six years here now, and I must say that the 492 House of Commons is a place something like the world in its changes. One sits here indeed year after year seeing familiar faces opposite pass away, and many pass away altogether. Others of them disappear from the House for various reasons, but nothing surprises me more than when occasionally in moments of depression and in search of harmless relaxation. I go across the Lobby to the House of Lords, and I may say pleases me more, than to suddenly find myself confronted with old familiar faces of ten and twenty years ago. As far as 1 could see almost every prominent gentleman of the Liberal Party opposite whom I have sat or I have met during the last quarter of a century, they have gone to the House of Lords.
The House of Lords is stuffed with them at the present time, and if the House of Lords is to be fashioned according to the ideas and opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, well, I have got a remedy, a way in which I think it can be so fashioned. Let the Opposition give the present Government a lease of office continuously for the next ten years, and if they do, so far as I can see, and judged by the rate of progress during the last three years, every single prominent Radical in this House, if not in the country, will be in the House of Lords. And if that should take place, as far as I am concerned, I think the House of Lords will be worse than ever.
Why, after all, what is it that if I may say so disgusts and disheartens the mass of the Liberal party in the country, some of whom I have come into contact with myself, in reference to these attacks from time to time upon the House of Lords. What do they say? What does the working man in the street say when he takes his halfpenny evening paper and reads about another debate about the House of Lords. "Why," he says, "it is all gammon and spinach, as soon as they get a chance they all becomes Lords themselves as quickly as they can." I was fairly respectably and carefully brought up. I hope, and at any rate, I never knew a Lord, even by sight, until I came to London to the House of Commons. At the present time it is impossible for me to go across the Lobby to the House of Lords without finding that really my acquaintance amongst the ancient nobility is large.
I went there to see His Majesty opening Parliament—a most interesting sight to see, their Lordships all robed in their 493 resplendent robes—and I saw around me many familiar faces. I could detect all the newer creations by the newness of their magnificent robes. I admired how they had adapted themselves to the higher atmosphere of the Chamber in which they found themselves and how they sat upon their crimson seats as if they had been there all their lives and had been accustomed to them from the time of William the Conqueror. I saw the late Whip of the Liberal Government there. I must say he did the thing well because he adopted a title which nobody in this world could pronounce. Therefore, I say in all seriousness, if there is to be a genuine and a straight and a serious attack upon the House of Lords, it should be commenced by the Government that is in power saying "We so strongly disapprove of the present constitutional basis of the other Chamber that we will give it no countenance whatever, that we will send no Members to it, that we will advise His Majesty to create no new Peerages until such time as the Second Chamber is placed upon a more democratic basis and more in touch with the democracy of the country." I speak quite dispassionately because I never at any time, even in the wildest flights of my youth, expected that I should ever have the misfortune of being a Lord myself, but I can feel for hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I wish to speak with no disrespect of them.
As an old Member of this House, I know that wealthy men, men of great position in the country, ambitious to be Members of the House of Lords, I know many of the gentlemen who have been appointed by the Liberal Government to the House of Lords, are from every point of view an improvement upon many of the hereditary legislators, but I do say with the utmost respect and with absolute sincerity, that neither this Government nor any other Government will make real headway towards reform of the House of Lords as long as the man in the street in this country finds you attacking the Lords one moment, and the next moment adding to their number by some of your most influential and most wealthy supporters. I would say here to the Government with all respect that they will earn for themselves a real respect in the country; they will prove their sincerity in this matter, and they will rouse a real and genuine interest from one end of Great Britain to the other in the question of reforming the other Chamber, as it is called, if until 494 that reform they will refrain from sending Members to it and adding to its numbers. I know it may be hard for Members of the Government and those who have given long years of political service to their party to be told, perhaps, that they never would be Members of the House of Lords; hard, for instance, on my friend the Vice-President of the Irish Department of Agriculture hard on the President of the English Department of Agriculture, and others that I might name, the new Secretary for the Board of Trade, for instance, who I think really would make a first-rate Peer. But I ask them in the interests of the great cause about which they speak so much to smother their feelings on this subject, to behave as if they were as genuinely democratic as they would have the world believe, and lead this attack upon the House of Lords by imposing upon themselves an obligation to have nothing to do with the House of Lords until it is reformed.
I have said what I know perfectly well the rank and file of the Liberal party are saying in the streets. I have said what I know perfectly well will continue to be said as long as the present system prevails. Somebody found fault with the appointment of the Scottish Secretary (I think it was the hon. Member for Worcester) as a Member of the Lords—I am going to see him one of these days. I do not see why he questioned it, or why the Secretary for Scotland should not have been appointed as well as anybody else. A great many men have been sent to the House of Lords by the Liberal party who really had very little of record or service to show compared with the hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for Scotland. If you are to create Peers, he is as well entitled as anybody. I do appeal, if you cannot go the whole way, if you cannot resist the temptation of creating Peers, at least to make a good selection; and at least let us have done with the practice of sending, whether they be Liberal or Tory, brewers and drink-sellers to the House of Lords. They talk of the House of Lords rejecting the Licensing Bill. I am not a bit surprised at the House of Lords rejecting the Licensing Bill. Nobody supported that Bill more strongly than I did. I voted for it in Committee and on the third reading; I would vote for it again, and regret that it has not passed, but I say, from whatever knowledge I have of the English people, that a worse issue upon which to fight the House of Lords than the Licensing Bill you could not pos- 495 sibly select. I once had a conversation in the smoke-room of a trans-Atlantic steamer on the characteristics of the English people, and one gentleman said that there were two things the average Englishman liked. "What are they?" I asked. He replied:The average John Bull likes his liquor, and he likes his lord.I believe that that is a fact, and that the Opposition have displayed the greatest political sagacity in endeavouring to fasten your quarrel upon the Lords in connection with the Licensing Bill. You would have had a far better chance if you had fought them on the issue of Ireland, because that did not affect the pockets or effects of the English people as the Licensing Bill did. I hope that if ever the struggle with the House of Lords does come the issue will be carefully selected, and that it may not be a Licensing Bill.
I am very much inclined to vote for the Amendment, because I recognise the sincerity of its mover. He, at any rate, and those who are supporting him, are anxious that something should be done towards reforming the House of Lords besides creating new Peers. Whether he will carry his party with him I doubt, but it will be to his credit that in these days of vapouring and talking about the House of Lords he put the matter to the test by challenging those who were in favour of something being done to express their opinion in the Lobby.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
Everyone will feel that those who sympathise with the Amendment are in a somewhat difficult position. In the first place, we have to take part in the unpleasant process of washing our dirty linen in public, and thus give the enemy occasion to blaspheme. But I am one of those who think that linen, if dirty, had better be washed in public than not washed at all; and we had better have this matter out, even though we may expose ourselves to a certain amount of ridicule from our opponents. A more difficult point was that raised by the Prime Minister—that in voting for the Amendment we were supporting a vote of censure on the Government. But there are times and purposes which justify one in taking even such extreme measures as that. The justification for raising the question on the Address is that it was distinctly named in the King's Speech of 1907. The Government itself took the responsibility of putting the question in the forefront. The Prime Minister has said that we must not be 496 too keen about lighting and bearing fiery crosses. That is quite true. But the Government should have been careful about lighting a fiery cross, and, having lit it, they must be careful about letting it go out. The responsibility rests not with my hon. Friend, but with the Government. There was also the speech of the Prime Minister at the historical banquet, where the question was again put forward as the dominant issue. Have we no right to expect some result. Are we to sit quietly down and allow the matter to die out? We cannot do so. The Government is to blame if we seem to be in a technical difficulty, and it must take the consequences.
Further, it is not a question of our doubting the sincerity or truthfulness of the Government. It is a question of tactics and of policy, and on a question of policy those who are not attached to the Government have a right to hold an opinion and to express it. We find ourselves facing a primary question. As one who for ten years followed the Prime Minister through dark years of opposition, I hope I shall not be considered wanting in a proper feeling of loyalty. But, after all, the public outside does not concern itself so much as we inside imagine about who sits on the Treasury Bench. We often say how fickle the constituencies are; they send Members to this House, and two years afterwards send them to the right-about. But it is not the democracy that has changed; it is the Members. We, living in this House day by day, subject to the discipline of the Whips and the power of the Government, lose the true perspective of the relative importance of things, and place an extravagant estimate on the question of who sits on the Treasury Bench. The people in the street do not care two straws who sits there; practically I do not myself. Personally I am not spending the last years of my life unwillingly here for the sake of putting one body of respectable and probably very common-place Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench in place of another body practically equally respectable and common-place. As one who is closely in touch with the feeling of Liberals in the country, I would say that you greatly over-estimate what they think on a matter of this kind. They do not care much who sits on the Treasury Bench, except for the measures they pass; as to the persons themselves, they are almost indifferent. Therefore, when face to face with a great issue, we need not frighten ourselves with a personal point of that kind. 497 The Prime Minister gave three reasons for deferring this matter. The first was that you cannot allow the Lords to dictate when the Government shall dissolve. That is so. But the Lords do not dictate in this case, because the Government choose the question of the Lords as the one upon which they will fight. You dictate the time when you choose the question, and, because the question happens to be the Lords, the Lords have not dictated the time. There is no charge of impotence or indignity in choosing the question, simply because it implies a dissolution. All we say is that you ought to choose the question, and you ought to choose it now.
Then we are told that the Government have incurred great debts and ought to pay them. Quite so. But there is nothing in the proposal of my hon. Friend that would prevent that. The Budget will not take the whole of the Session, and if the Prime Minister could have given us an assurance that, after the Budget had been disposed of, some practical step would be taken, the situation would have been different. We are tired of rhetorical heroics. We want something really done. It is the greatest mistake in the world to threaten and not to strike. You had far better,strike, and not threaten; but, having threatened, you must strike, no matter what the result.
The third reason given was certain Bills. The Prime Minister particularly mentioned three: the Irish Land Bill, the Housing Bill, and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. But what is the use of devoting our time to Bills which will never be carried or allowed to go through in anything like a satisfactory form? The Housing Bill bristles with points that will aggravate and irritate the Lords. I sat through nearly all the discussions on that Bill, and we felt that the Minister in charge, whose courage I admired, had all the time the House of Lords in his mind, and we had to modify and weaken the provisions for fear the Bill would not get through. The sword of Damocles is hanging over you all the time; your very legislative discussions are paralysed, because you have no confidence that your measures will pass. The Irish Land Bill will be in the same difficulty; it will not pass in a satisfactory form. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish benches: "How do you know?] I am only expressing my own opinion; the hon. Member will be able to express his. Then, does anyone suppose that a Welsh Disestablishment Bill—apart altogether from its details—will be allowed to go through 498 the House of Lords? What is the use of wasting our time elaborately discussing the details of a measure that has not the least chance of passing?
It is of very little use for us to grumble, but may I say what I think the mistake has been in this matter? The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman once did me the honour of asking what I thought should be the leading question for the Government to put forward, and I ventured to say to him what I had thought for many years, that a Liberal Government having come into power with a great majority, should first of all settle the proper relationship to the House of Lords. I objected, and I do object, altogether to the policy of what is known as "filling up the cup." I do object to discussing the position of the House of Lords in relation to any particular Bill, whether it be the Licensing Bill or any other distinct measure, because the discussion becomes in that way complicated with all sorts of considerations which relate only to the Bill itself. Surely anyone who has any democratic feelings must acknowledge that the possession of the power which the House of Lords now has, and the use of that power in the way in which it has been used, is inconsistent with the spirit of true democracy. If we wanted a true battleground I should recommend the land question, because you would fight on that which they would feel most, and on that you would have most support in the country. We should recognise that the present position is intolerable. Before we proceed with legislation of any kind we should come to a proper understanding as to the proper relationship between the two Chambers.
That is what I plead for. My advice was not taken, but I am afraid that is another instance of how true it is with parties as with men—"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.The tide was not taken at the time it ought to have been taken, and we are feeling the effect now. It is hard for people in the country who have worked, as many of us did, for 20 years in our own neighbourhood, trying to educate public opinion and to rouse enthusiasm, to find, when that enthusiasm at last had reached a pitch even beyond that for which we had hoped, that it is wasted by unwisdom and impolicy. I make no charge, but I do say that our party tactics have been distinctly unwise in the face of the public opinion which has been created. I do not think that courage is ever hopeless in English 499 political life. It may seem that the omens are against us at the moment, but I am certain that they will be much more against us the longer we delay. Having taken up the gage of battle it would be much better to go into the battle and be killed, and if we do not succeed in finishing the fight others will take up the gage.
It is not with me a personal thing. May I point the Government to a warning which is to be found in the fate of the last Government. The House knows quite well how they hung on to office. I do not say that they did so from any unworthy motive, but they hung on to office when many of us thought they were making a mistake. What was the result? It was disaster which they have never since been able to explain. We are told that it was a question of mandate for one thing or another. It was nothing of the kind. It was the natural impatience and disgust of the electors at a Government holding on to office after its power had gone. I ask the Government to remember that incident and to take their courage in both their hands.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
I think the speech we have just heard has been the most effective in favour of the Amendment. We were told that the question has not been treated seriously by the House. I wish to deal with one or two of the arguments which have been put forward by hon. Members on the other side. It appears to me that the first question we have to ask ourselves is whether the House of Lords has actually resisted the will of the people, and secondly, how we can really tell what the will of the people really is. (An HON. MEMBER: "Hear,hear.") An hon. Member below the Gangway cheered that remark, but I can assure him that it is a very difficult question indeed. An hon. Member representing one of the divisions of Lancashire spoke of the Licensing Bill. It would be difficult to say whether the will of the people was represented by that measure, seeing that the Government at one time proposed to put grocers' licences under local veto, and then withdrew that proposal. The party opposite were almost unanimous in putting them in, and again almost unanimous when they took them out afterwards. In which case did they represent the will of the people? Take the Tea Tax. If the people were asked their opinion as to it, they would solidly vote in favour of taking off the tax. In the various constituencies at the last election we had large placards asking the electors to vote 500 for so and so and no taxes on food, and many hon. Members who sit opposite and who compose the large majority came here on the support obtained by such representations. It is perfectly plain, therefore, that the House of Commons last year and the year before, and the year before that, in voting for the continuation of the Tea Tax voted in contradiction of the will of the people. I could mention many other questions.
At Question Time a question was raised in regard to granite brought from abroad. If that question was put to the people their first answer would be that all the requirements of our Naval works should be bought in this country, if possible. In many cases we have found that Ministers have entirely changed their opinions since the General Election took place. This is particularly the case in regard to the Prime Minister. At the last General Election if anyone in the constituencies had asked what was the opinion of the Prime Minister in regard to the "gag," or what is known as the guillotine, it would have been perfectly plain from "Hansard" that he was one of the keenest opponents it ever had in this House. I would like to give a quotation from a speech he delivered on this particular question in reply to the present leader of the Opposition, who had proposed that we should have the guillotine under very exceptional circumstances. Speaking on 11th November, 1902, the right hon. Gentleman said:—"I venture to say that until this debate, whether you look back to the precedents of the past or to reason of the thing, both the theory and practice of the House of Commons have been that this procedure— which we all regret, which none of us like, which we admit to be inconsistent with the elementary rights and privileges of a debating assembly—this procedure has never been and ought not to be resorted to except in one or two cases, in a case of extreme emergency in the interest of public order, or in a case where a Bill having been carefully considered, both by the country and by Parliamentary discussion, is ripe for a final decision. What are you doing here? You are violating those traditions, you are flying in the face of experience.
That was the opinion of the Prime Minister at the last General Election. But I would ask the House to remember what happened last Session and the Session before in regard to measures which were hardly discussed at all. In these circumstances it is difficult to say what is the opinion of the people that ought to prevail. Take the question of Home Rule. Before the last General Election the Prime Minister said it was an academic question. Those who remember the questions which were asked at the Manchester election will say that it was far from an academic question then. The right hon. Gentleman 501 said he was acting in unison with the views expressed by the President of the Board of Trade. Take the question of the Trade Disputes Bill. No one would suppose for a moment that it would have been possible for the Prime Minister, after the views he expressed in previous Parliaments, to acquiesce in the passing of the last Trade Disputes Bill. There was no one more emphatic with regard to the particular contentions brought forward by many of the Labour Members in this country, and no one condemned more strongly the provisions which are embodied in the Bill which was afterwards enacted.
We have had many interesting speeches in regard to the Licensing Bill, but no one had ever suggested that the House of Commons in passing that measure were expressing the will of the people. Everybody has admitted practically that it was unpopular. If it was unpopular that meant that the majority of the people were against it In a speech made since the last General Election by the Prime Minister it is perfectly plain that no Bill of this kind should have been brought forward. On 26th November, 1907, the right hon. Gentleman said:—I can assure you that in any legislation which the Government propose they will keep in view the legitimate interests of all persons who have invested their money in this trade, which is a lawful trade, not prohibited by the law, and a trade, therefore, the investors in which ought to be secure, like the investors in every form of commercial or financial undertaking in this country, against unreasonable or confiscatory legislation. Speaking for myself and my colleagues, I may say that as far as we are concerned we shall certainly not bring before Parliament any proposals that have this tendency or effect.It may be said that the Licensing Bill did not have that tendency or effect. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member opposite says " Hear, hear." All I can say is that several hon. Members who advocate Socialism have welcomed the Licensing Bill because they think that its principles might be applied to other kinds of property in future. Therefore, it is perfectly plain that when the country voted for the Liberal party at the last election they did not for a moment believe that they were voting for a party who would bring in a measure which would involve reducing the value of every ordinary share in every brewery company in the kingdom.
There was a small controversy this afternoon between the Prime Minister and one or two gentlemen on this side of the House with regard to the issue at the last General Election. The right Hon. Gentleman said it was the question of Free Trade. An hon. Gentleman on this side 502 said that the result was owing to the fact that the late Government had outstayed their welcome. I think there is a good deal in that. I think to some extent it was the question of Chinese labour. It was whether the Chinese indentured labourers should remain in the Transvaal in a condition of slavery or not. What was the action of the Government when they came into power? They not only instituted indentured labour in the New Hebrides, but they passed an Ordinance which was much more strongly worded than the conditions with regard to the Transvaal.
There is no doubt that the Bills which the House of Lords has thrown out had been condemned by leading Members of the Liberal party. More than that, they had been condemned by experts in that party. I will take the question of plural voting. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean condemned the machinery of the Bill, while Lord Courtney regarded it as a small affair, and declared that the machinery of the Bill deserved the condemnation of the hon. Baronet. Take the question of the Education Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the South Division of Lincolnshire was a leader of the Wesleyan Methodists and a man who had done more for Wesleyanism than any man in this country, and he said that the Education Bill of 1906 was a severe disappointment to Nonconformity, and the British Nonconformists would shed no tears over its fate. As to the Education Bill of last year, every one who read the resolutions passed by the Free Churches would believe that the Nonconformists shed no real tears over it.
Again, take the case of Small Holdings. I suppose Lord Rosebery knows something of Scotch Small Holdings. He has lived in Scotland, and has been Prime Minister. He said that dual ownership, which was introduced by the Bill, had produced disastrous results in Ireland. Experts in the Liberal party have condemned these Bills. I should like to mention how small was the majority of votes in England recorded for the Liberal Party at the General Election. I think very few people have taken the trouble to examine the figures.
It is perfectly true there were a certain number of uncontested elections. But making allowance for them, the majority for the party opposite was extremely small. [SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS: "Plural voting."] I do not altogether justify the present system of plural voting, but—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is going over a very wide range. The question before the House is the Amendment to the Amendment.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
I wish to say, in conclusion, that I do not believe that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite can think that the Licensing Bill and Bills of that character expressed the passionate desire of the people of this country. I do not believe that a single Member on that side of the House seriously believes it. The leader of the Opposition has said that if the Gentlemen went to the country at the present time they would find it difficult to come back with a majority. After all, the House of Lords has been a very useful place to the Liberal party. A chief Liberal Whip has gone there, also a Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for India and the Secretary for Scotland.
I think we must all agree that there is a great deal to be said for the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs, although, of course, I shall not vote for it. The House, as a whole, will come to the conclusion that the will of the people ought to prevail, and it will best prevail by an appeal to them at a general election.
§ Mr. E. WASON
The hon. Member who has just sat down quoted the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean as to the Plural Voting Bill. The hon. Baronet was opposed only to the machinery of the Bill, for I venture to say that there is no one more strongly in favour of the Plural Voting Bill than is the hon. Baronet. He also quoted the hon. Baronet the Member for Louth with reference to the English Education Bill. Happily, in Scotland we have got our education system, and the English people would be well advised to adopt a similar system to that which we have in Scotland. If they did so, we should not get all these religious controversies, which do not advance the cause of education a bit.
As to Lord Rosebery's opinion of the Small Holdings Bill, Scotland has suffered greatly by the action of the House of Lords. It is the one point in these islands which is deprived of beneficent land legislation through the House of Lords. As to the bye-elections in England, let us take those which have occurred in Scotland [An HON. MEMBER on the Opposition Side: "The Licensing Bill did not apply to Scotland."] I know that as well as the hon. Member. There have been four bye-elections in Scotland, and in every one the 504 Liberal candidate was returned by a large majority. So far as Scotland is concerned, the people are absolutely in sympathy with the Scotch Small Holdings Bill. They do not want to despoil landlords or take away any man's property without due compensation.
But we are sorely in want of a Scotch Land Bill, and we have been deprived of that by the action of the House of Lords. I believe that the Government will in due time take the proper action with reference to the relationship between this House and the House of Lords, and believing that I shall not support the hon. Member if he goes to a division.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling burghs is impatient. I do not think he will be well advised if he persists in going to a division, but I am not at all sorry we have had this discussion. I do not know Whether my hon. Friend knows the old Scotch proverb, which says that "Nothing should be done in a hurry except grabbing fleas." We do not want to be in a hurry. The Government has announced its intention of seeing that the relations of the two Houses are so adjusted that the will of this House should prevail, and for my part I will do all I can to assist the Government when the proper time comes in seeing that the will of the people, as expressed by the representatives of the people, is carried out, and that the Peers shall not be allowed to interfere with the rights of the Members of this House to make the laws of this country.
§ Mr. W. W. ASHLEY
All of us in our private lives have intimate friends or near relations who take upon themselves the privilege of acquaintanceship to tell us the true value of our worth. They are the candid critics, and I think this afternoon the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs has taken upon himself this task of enlightening the Government on what they ought to do with reference to the House of Lords. I think it is very illuminating for us who do not agree with the Government upon this question to see the way the Prime Minister has dealt with it. He has made deep protestations of the desire that the relations between the two Houses may be adjusted. He echoed the denunciations of hon. Members, but he left as in the dark as to when he is going to translate his words into deeds, and he said to his followers: "Trust us, we will do what we can as soon as possible."
A good many of us in our young days read Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," and the situation that presents 505 itself in the Liberal party to-day upon this question of the House of Lords forcibly reminds me of the position in which he describes the army advancing to the attack of Rome under Lars Porsena, and the undecision which reigned in the ranks:—When those behind cried forward, And those before cried back; And backward still and forward Wavered that great array, While to and fro the standards reel, And the victorious trumpets peal, Dies silently away.'
That is just what the Government wishes—that this trumpet peal would die silently away, but, unfortunately for them, the Member for Stirling Burghs and his Friends will not allow this very desirable thing for the Government to happen. The most important aspect of this question is whether it is for the good of the country or not that the powers of the House of Lords should be emasculated.
What was the proposal brought forward by the Government, and by this Amendment? The Government said that in the future the House of Commons, if it passed a measure in two successive Sessions, it should be passed over the heads of the House of Lords, even if the Lords rejected it. That seemed to be a most absolutely one-sided Chamber system, and gives practically uncontrolled supremacy to the Cabinet, because, as we all knew, the Cabinet practically controls the House of Commons at the present moment. If the Cabinet has practical control of the House of Commons it means that the Crown, now represented by the Executive, will gain absolutely uncontrolled power over the representatives of the people of this country.
If you consider for a moment you will see that that is the thing which the people of this country from the time of the Barons a Runnymede down to the Constitutional fights in the reign of the late Queen, have always been fighting to prevent. It has always been recognised that the essence of the Constitution is that the law is above the Government. I do not think that will be denied by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because if they go back to Bracton, a very learned lawyer in the reign of Henry III., they will see that "The King hath a superior God, also the law by which he is made King—also his Court, to wit, Earls and Barons, and if he be without bridle, that is without law, they must set a bridle upon him." Now, the Crown at the present moment means the State, and my contention is if we agree with the proposal of the Government with reference to the House of Lords we shall be putting the Executive 506 in an absolutely uncontrolled position, which our ancestors for hundreds of years have always been fighting to prevent.
What control except the House of Lords would there be upon the Executive at the present day? Nobody can say the House of Commons has any real control upon the Executive. Individual Members have lost practically all their powers. It may be they can influence the Government to bring in a measure rather sooner than they would wish if a large section combined together, but apart from that, I really deny that this House has any real control over the Government of the day. We are ruled by the Cabinet, which in its turn is ruled by the permanent staff. Why is it that the House of Commons does not control the Executive? Because many hon. Members do not wish to lose their seats.
If we were this evening to pass this vote of censure upon the Government it would mean that hon.. Members would have to go to their constituents and to seek re - election at great expense, and a great many Members on one side or the other would lose their seats. Therefore we have this position. If you remove the control of the House of Lords you do not in any way increase the power of the House of Commons, but you immensely increase rule by a body of fifteen or twenty men who form the Cabinet. We see the power of the Executive increasing year by year.
During the ten years the late Conservative Government was in office the closure by compartments was resorted to three times. In the last three years of the present Government the closure has been used ten times. That must bring home to the mind of hon. Members the fact that the power of the ordinary Member of the House of Commons, apart from the Government number, is decreasing year by year, and surely if hon. Members are in favour of this revision of the relations between the two Houses, they must at the same time absolutely reject any continuance of this system of closure by compartments; because if you place the House of Commons in such a position that a Bill may be sent up to the House of Lords with many important points absolutely undiscussed, and passed whether the House of Lords wish or not, you are leaving the Executive uncontrolled power to pass into law matters that never have been discussed at all. What does Parliament exist for?
Most people consider it exists for changing the law. In my opinion Parliament 507 exists much more to prevent the law being changed without the consent of the people. If we look at the beginning of any Bill how does it read, "Be it enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty and with the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal." As we know our modern Constitution, when we substitute the Cabinet of the day for that of the Crown, I say if you are going to put such enormous powers into the hands of the Executive by removing the Second Chamber, which stands between the country and this House doing what it likes, hon. Members ought to realise what the change would be, and I have not heard from hon. Members that they do appreciate what this great change they advocate would really mean. We see the Royal Veto exercised by the Prime Minister, and dispensing powers exercised by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Star Chamber revived by the President of the Board of Education.
The Prime Minister exercises the Royal Veto when he says that only half a dozen days shall be allowed to private Members for private Bills, and only such and such a time for their private motions, and we see the dispensing power which Constitutionalists voted against so bravely exercised at the present moment by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who says: "I will not enforce the Crimes Act," which he has power to enforce at any moment he chooses. If that is not using the dispensing power, what is. The Star Chamber in the same way, not this, but last year, was revived by the President of the Board of Education in interpreting Acts of Parliament with regard to the Training Colleges. It seems to me that hon. Members opposite approach this question from an entirely mistaken point of view. If hon. Members opposite are in favour of one Chamber, then I can perfectly well understand anybody supporting this Amendment, because, as I said at the beginning, the Government means one Chamber, and that Chamber will take two years or eighteen months to pass a Bill, instead of two or three years as at present. But if they are, as I believe the vast majority are, in favor of two Chambers, I cannot see how they can support this Amendment, because it only means one Chamber if it is carried into law.
If hon. Members say they object to the hereditary principle, or that they object to the House of Lords because it rejects Liberal and not Conservative measures, I can quite understand that, but I cannot 508 see how this Amendment will make it different. If the Amendment proposed to introduce the elective element and to bring the Chamber into closer touch with public feeling I am bound to say I might have some sympathy. If they were in favour of introducing life Peers I should also have a great deal of sympathy with them, and I should understand their point of view and I should say they had gone upon the experience of what has happened in every civilised country in the world, but the proposal at the present time of the Liberal party is one Chamber simply and solely. But that one Chamber, I do not think, will commend itself to the people of this country, and, therefore, your agitation has fallen extremely flat.
I admit that there is a great deal to be said for the Liberal party and the hon. Members below the Gangway, but then for Heaven's sake let them come forward with a well-considered scheme providing [...]or an elected Chamber or for having life Peers nominated by the Prime. Minister of the day. That is a proposal which would be received by Members on this side with sympathy and courteous consideration, and is also more likely to receive favourable consideration at the hands of the country.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I should like to put in a protest against a doctrine which I heard enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition to-day in regard to matters of this kind. He told us that the House of Lords was justified in rejecting the Licensing Bill because we had had no disturbances in the country, no outrage, no rick-burning, or incidents of that character, and no similar experience to that of the Duke of Wellington when he urged the House of Lords to pass a measure of which the people did not approve.
Surely it is an anachronism to go back to those days, because people then were not represented here, and they had no other other means of expressing their views and opinions. Since then we have had a large extension of the franchise, and people pursue a constitutional course, and elect representatives to carry out their wishes. It seems to one a very dangerous doctrine, as the right hon. Gentleman would suggest that we should revert to those old methods, and to say that is the only way in which you are going to induce Gentlemen in another place to listen to their demands. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the House of Lords was justified, because it had acted in accordance with the opinion of the country. 509 How did the House of Lords ascertain that opinion? That is what we should like to know. Was it the power of telepathy, or divination, or magic by means of which they ascertained the will of the people when their representatives ascertained an entirely different point of view? If there is such a power, why should we not employ it always instead of having the costly and lengthy process of an election? Why should we not bring in a Bill and decide it in that way and save a great deal of trouble? I think that suggestion is really not put forward seriously, but only put forward in a spirit of make-believe.
What is the position in which we find ourselves to-day? I would like to look at it very seriously, and I am not approaching it in any sense hostile to the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. I am entirely in sympathy with all their measures, and I only want to see those measures succeed and carried out by the removal of the obstacles in their way. I wish to see them initiate successful legislation. We should remember that last Session when the House of Lords threw out the Licensing Bill a question was put by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister, and he asked what the right hon. Gentleman intended to do. The Prime Minister said that an opportunity might occur when he would make a statement. The Leader of the Opposition said that that might be at a private dinner, when he was not present, and he would like to know in this House.
The Prime Minister said it would not be long before he had an opportunity of knowing what the decision of the Govern-would was. Naturally we were led to expect that this matter was going at the earliest possible moment to be taken, in this Session, and I think we felt some surprise, and it has put us in a difficulty, that no mention was made in the King's Speech, and it makes it necessary for us to say something about it.
We are not in the position of the other side. The other side have their secret organisation, their secret confederacy, in which the word goes round, they may even take counsel with the Reader of the House of Lords, and have their closure beforehand in their private parlour. All we in this House have been told is that the rights and privileges of the people have been challenged by this other House, and surely this is the proper place in which we should discuss this matter. If the rights and privileges of the people have been invaded, this is the House in 510 which to discuss it. The Lords have given us three successive blows.
At the end of three Sessions we have had three rebuffs, each of them increasing in violence. The Education and Plural Voting Bills were rejected the first Session; in the Second Session the Scotch Land Bill was thrown out; and in the last Session we sent them up Land Legislation, which was rejected, as also was the Licensing Bill. These all have been rejected by the House of Lords, who claim to represent the people. In the name of the people they claim this right, and if we look at the position of things we find they make a claim to represent the people in a wider manner and larger sense than we do. Lord Ampthill said:—The House of Lords represents, or ought to represent, the permanent principles and settled convictions of the people of this country. It stands for the depths which remain undisturbed by the commotion, however terrible, which may for a while take place on the surface of the sea.This language was endorsed almost in identical terms by the Leader of the Opposition, so that we must take it as the settled view of the other side. When this claim was made the Marquis of Ripon said:—I have been fifty years in this House, and I have never seen such an attackin language and in form upon the other House as I have had the misfortune to witness to-night. . . I believe that the language which has been used to-night is fraught with great danger. I hope the wisdom of the other House will avert that danger.That is strong language, but the other House took no heed. This action of theirs was taken when no measure had come before them, when not a word had been said by this House in regard to its relations with the other House. The first opportunity they had of carrying out their view they took, and that was the great Education Bill of the first year. They rejected that and our Plural Voting Bill. The next year they went further. They not only rejected our measures, but took a step which was quite unprecedented. They took out of the hands of the Government the order of procedure of business, and said they would not discuss the Small Landholders Bill until they had discussed other measures. This Lord Lansdowne admitted was entirely unprecedented. The following year they again rejected legislation which was put before them. Not only so, but on the very subject on which the Government had legislated they put forward their own Bills, arrogating to themselves the right to dictate what legislation should or should not be proposed for the Government of this country. Then finally last 511 year in rejecting the Licensing Bill they went a step further.
Having taken the business of this country out of the hands of the Government they met in a private parlour and issued a decree that no second reading was to be granted. These measures were the settled, determined and deliberate measures of the Liberal party, introduced after the greatest election which we have had since the Reform Bill, and backed up by all the enthusiasm, all the support and all the unremitting work which was put into those measures by this House of Commons. We had the Plural Voting Bill and Bills which gave rise to enthusiasm and which led to this large majority at the last election, namely, Education, Land and Licensing. They were all of the very first importance. They were sent up to the House by enormous majorities ranging from 3 to 1 to very nearly 5 to 1. The Plural Voting Bill was carried by 335 to 106, the Small Landholders Bill by 192 to 65, the Land Values Bill by 174 to 35, the same Bill in 1908 by 347 to 90, the Valuation Bill by 347 to 90, and the Licensing Bill by 350 to 113. These majorities were quite unprecedented.
It seems to me that no greater insult could have been given to this House than the manner and the method of rejecting these Bills. I ask, as representing a constituency, what are we to do? Are we to sit down quietly and say nothing? Are we not to resent it? Are we to muzzle our indignation? We have been pulled up in England for one thing and in Scotland for another. Wales is in exactly the same position. Is it not a work of supererogation to discuss Disestablishment? In the three kingdoms and the principality we have been pulled up and unable to legislate on the great and dominant issues and every one of those countries has been met by the Upper House with a blank denial. If this is permitted to go on we are wholly destroying the work which was carried out by the great Reform Bill of 1832.
At the time there were no collisions with the House of Lords, because the House of Lords held the House of Commons in its hands. They had the rotten boroughs and the pocket boroughs. The Reform Bill settled that no man could sit in this House who did not represent a Constituency and was not there by reason of the electors of some Constituency having chosen him. The object of the Reform Bill surely was to enable the people's wishes to be ex- 512 pressed and be given effect to. Some people seem to think the object of the Reform Bill was to put the people's wishes all together into one head so that it might be more easily cut off at one blow. All who took part in that Bill, either supporting or opposing it, agree that that was not the obpect of it, but that it was to place the people in power in this House.
I should like to quote what was said by Sir Robert Peel:—When once you have established the overpowering. influence of the people over this House, when you made this House the express organ of the public voice, what other authority in the State can—nay, what other authority ought to—control its will or reject its decisions? The people are the judges of their own interests, the people are enlightened and well affected to the throne; the House of Commons is the organ of the people; who will presume to check its patriotic. course?That is a principle plain and clear, and yet here is a claim put forward to wholly destroy the people's demands as represented by us here and as interpreted by legislation. Dod tells us most distinctly that—The House of Commons is the legitimate organ of the people, whose opinions cannot be constitutionally ascertained except through their representatives in Parliament.Sir Robert Peel, in 1841, speaking on a different topic, said:—It is dangerous to admit any other regular organ of public opinion than the House of Commons.Then that claim is quite unprecedented, and unsupported by authority, and it is, therefore, an unconstitutional claim. But the fact is that the Lords have been growing more and more Tory, and now they are challenging the people through their representatives. Are we not to take up that challenge? Are we not to vindicate the people's rights at the earliest possible moment which is open to us? What are we waiting for? Our late leader laid down very clearly the conditions of action. He said in the last speech dealing with this subject that he made, that the Lords were to have another opportunity of giving better consideration to this Land Bill for Scotland. They were also to have another opportunity of considering the Licensing Bill, and if these Bills were rejected, after a Resolution curtailing the power of the House of Lords, that legislation would be immediately proceeded with. He also indicated that the Resolution should be put in Statutory form. He said:—Before I sit down, I shall submit to the House the broad lines of the plan which at a later period will, according to our intentions, have Statutory form given it.
The time has fully come to give effect to this. I quite agree that we cannot go to the country to-day. One reason is that we have not provided the money for the 513 old age pensions. But there is no reason why we should not concurrently pass the two things as well. The measures dealt with in the King's Speech are very good in their way, but they would have bean infinitely better if we had passed the various measures which we had already taken up. But if they are to be taken In substitution for these measures they cannot be regarded as satisfactory. The Prime Minister on the occasion last autumn when he addressed the National Liberal Club himself indicated that the policy of taking no notice of what had been done by the other House was not the policy which should be pursued. To those who allege that we should content ourselves with a neutral colourless programme of uncontroversial measures certain to pass the House of Commons and unlikely to offend the susceptibilities of the House of Lords, he said that that condition would be one of undue humiliation. I do not know whether these measures are in that category or whether it is expected that they will not offend the susceptibilities of the House of Lords. I can only ask, Has the policy been changed? Assuming it has not, then if we are really determined we cannot legislate on this matter of great constitutional importance with a moribund Parliament.
Parliamentary authority is gradually effervescent. It must be so by the efflux of time. Can we sit down under the greatest blows ever given to the people of this country without one word of protest? Can we ask our supporters in the country to continue to support us if we allow their command of affairs to be lost? If this process is to be continued it will destroy the representative system. Who will come here as representatives to spend their time over various measures if in the end these measures are to he thrown in the scrap heap? The first year we brought in an Education Bill. We spent day after day and night after night over it, and in the end it was thrown on the scrap heap. In the second Session the main work was the Land Bill, and certainly the Scotch Members had a busy time of it for about 35 days, and at the end of that time it was thrown away. In the last Session the main work was the Licensing Bill, and it was equally thrown on the scrap heap.
I remember the Leader of the Opposition on one occasion saying that it was putting a great strain on Members of this House to put them on Committees, and that we should deprive the House of the 514 services of busy men if we put them on Committees. It is infinitely more intolerable that busy men should have no security against all their work going for nothing, and if this were to continue we should reduce this House to a gathering of theorists; we should divorce it from the help of men who are carrying on the practical concerns, and looking after the practical interests of the country. It would be very unfortunate if ever that state of things comes about, and if decisions are taken here without the opinion of men who are in close touch with the matters affected.
I do not understand why the taking of a decision on the present issue is always to he placed in limbo. If this policy is pursued we shall be reduced from the position of a great Liberal party capable of doing well to that of a troop of ostriches hiding our own heads and oblivious of the imperious dictates of the situation. If this happens I can only think we shall become chargeable with fraud to the electors. I am glad our leader admits it to be a serious position to be placed in with the electors, that we can discuss measures and programmes with them, and then that we are not in a position to carry them out. This policy of ignoring the issue has been pursued before. It was pursued in 1894. The party had then lost a great leader who was identified with its policy. We have also lost a leader identified with the policy. This House has suffered tremendous blows from the other House, yet the King's Speech has been drawn up, and no notice has been taken of them.
In the past the outcome of that policy has been most unsatisfactory to the Liberal position, and still more disastrous to the country, culminating with the great disaster of the South African war. Let us now join issue and show at once what we think of the action of the Upper House. Let us take proper steps to make this the dominating issue. It all depends on us here. Never in all our history have we been subjected to such a tremendous blow. Never has such a calculated and determined course of resistance to our will been displayed by the House of Lords. If there is not a like determined spirit in this House, and if we are not earnest, then we shall find our constituents telling us we are unworthy of the confidence which they have placed in us, that we have allowed their rights to be invaded in our persons, and they will dismiss us from their service.
Mr. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS
Several observations have been made with reference to Welsh Disestablishment, and these observations tempt me to make a few remarks. It seems to me that every Liberal Government must hold office on one of two conditions. Either it must come at once to an issue with the House of Lords or it must make up its mind to go on with its work and ignore anything that the House of Lords may do. It cannot steer an even course between those processes. The position to-day is this:
The Government came into power three years ago with a mandate, if ever any Government had a mandate, to settle the Education Question in this country. The House of Lords refused to allow the Government to settle the question in the way decided on. The Government since then have introduced three other Education Bills, and to-day the undoubted Nonconformist grievance, admitted by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, as well as by us on this side, the grievance in single school areas, still remain unremedied; and the Government to-day by refusing to reintroduce any form of Education Bill or mention it in the King's Speech, really admits its own omnipotence and accepts the position lying down.
Another great question relating to Scotland was the Land Question in that country. The Government has introduced a Bill on that subject and passed it through this House, and what is the result? It is defeated at the hands of the House of Lords, and it does nothing this Session to introduce that Bill, or do anything to keep alive the question. We are told to -day that Welsh Disestablishment must go by the Board as well as the Scotch Land Question and Education. This is not the occasion to tell the House how Disestablishment has been a burning question in Wales for two generations. For the last forty years we have sent a majority of representatives of this House pledged to Disestablishment. At the last election we sent 34 Members—every Member we could send for the Principality—all pledged to this one question of Disestablishment, and not a single one of those 34 Members would have been returned if they had not been so pledged. Wales has spoken on this question for forty years with a unanimity and consistency such as you cannot find in any other part of the country.
Irishmen speak of the persistency with which Ireland demands Home Rule, but that it is nothing compared with the unani- 516 mity and consistency which has been displayed for forty years in regard to this question of Welsh Disestablishment. It would have been quite allowable for the Welsh Members three years ago to have told the Government that they expected this question to he dealt with there and then, but they did not do so, because they were loyal and wished to give a general support to the Liberal Government instead of pressing forward their own sectional interests. For three years we have trudged the Lobbies of this House, and we have helped one section after another to get their own particular question settled. The first Education Bill proposed by the present Government was not the sort which appealed to the Welsh Members. The Licensing Bill was not popular in Wales, and it was not one which we should have introduced; and yet we subordinated our own views and opinions and helped to carry one after another of those great measures. We have helped the Irish to get their University, and we have supported what was practically a sectarian University in Ireland.
When any question that has appealed to the Labour party, such as trade disputes or anything that has made for the progress of the race, has been introduced by the Government, we have not taken a selfish view, and even those from Wales representing agricultural Constituencies have been faithful in the observance of their duty. The Welsh Members have always come forward, not as representing a mere class of the community, but to throw into the common stock of the work of this House whatever contribution it was possible for them to give. And now, at the beginning of the fourth Session of this Parliament, when the Prime Minister has introduced for the first time into the King's Speech a reference to this question of Disestablishment, we are told by hon. Gentlemen who were not above receiving our support last year, and from other parts of the country, that it is useless for us to press forward our claim for Disestablishment to-day, and that we ought to ask the Government to resign in order to fight this battle with the House of Lords, and not waste any more time over useless discussion in the House upon matters so trivial.
Wales is the most democratic part of this country, and is composed entirely of working men, and I was pained, in fact I was amazed and surprised, to hear from the Labour Benches, where I expected Welsh questions would obtain sympathy, 517 references not marked by the sympathy I expected from hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches. I have no right to speak for my colleagues in the representation of Wales, and I can only speak for myself and my Constituency.
If the Government have made up their minds to fight the House of Lords and co ask every section in the House to sink their own individual preferences, their own sectional interests, and to concentrate in one general attack upon the common enemy of all progress in this country, then I say at once, as far as I am concerned—and I believe I am speaking for my fellow Members in the representation of Wales, and I am certain that I speak for a great number of my countrymen in the Principality—we will support the Government and will allow our own questions to sink into the background for the moment; but if the Government are going to go on clinging to office they ought, as a Liberal Governcent, to feel that they are there to carry out Liberal measures. They are not there to be impotent in the face of the opposition of the House of Lords, still less ought they to be there to carry out a toy either in armaments or anything of the sort.
The limits of the activity of the Government are being circumscribed day after day by the House of Lords. Education must not be touched, licensing and temperance must not be touched, because that would be flying in the face of the House of Lords. Disestablishment, we have been told by nearly every speaker in the course of the Debate on the Address, ought not to be touched, and why? Not because a vast majority in this House are not in favour of that measure, and not because it could not easily be carried in the House, but because, forsooth, we must not carry anything in this House which does not meet with the approval of the House of Lords. I repudiate that doctrine entirely.
Either we ought to fight the Lords at once, or we ought to go on with our Liberal policy. I do not care which it is But if the Government try to steer between these two policies, then they court disaster. I am not one of those craven spirits who think that if we got to the Constituencies we shall be defeated. I see no evidence—and I travel about the country as much as most people—at all of any striking unpopularity either on the part of the Government or their measures. We must lose an occasional bye-election. The marvel is that we should be losing so few after the great turnover at the 518 last General Election. It was only to be expected. If it comes to an appeal to the Constituencies, look at the united front presented by the Front Bench.
Remember the internal condition of the party opposite as exemplified last Thursday by that fine speech of the hon. Member for Marylebone—a speech that has endeared him to every hon. Member of this House. I say we need not fear the result. I remember the late Lord Salisbury saying twenty-two years ago that Tariff Reform was masquerading under the name of Fair Trade. I remember him saying that there weresome things upon which Fair Traders were explicit, and some upon which they were agreed. But the things upon which they were agreed they were not explicit upon, and the things upon which they were explicit they were not agreed.
That is the spectacle that was presented to the House and the country last week by those who are so eager to appeal to the Constituencies to-day. In conclusion, I say that if the Government are true to themselves, true to the Liberal policy that they here advocated, they need fear nothing. It is only themselves they need to fear. Whichever course they pursue, so long as they pursue a consistent policy—and I believe I am speaking for the rest of my colleagues—they can rest assured that they will have the undeviating support of the Welsh Members in the future as in the past.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Perhaps my hon. Friend opposite, with whom I am in great sympathy, will forgive me if I correct a small error into which he has fallen in reference to his own Church. He said that Welsh Disestablishment was now for the first time proposed—
§ Mr. MacNEILL
Oh, this Parliament; but I have had experience of Welsh Disestablishment. Really and truly, when I heard the Prime Minister say that Welsh Disestablishment was in the ascendant, I thought with horror—simple horror—of what occurred in 1894. A Welsh Disestablishment Bill was proposed in that year. The second reading was discussed in the House of Commons for seven days. It was discussed in Committee and carried to the third reading.
If the House will forgive a personal reminiscence, so anxious was I about it, that I left on the Friday evening for my home, where there was sickness, and I was back again for several weeks concurrently to vote for my dear friends, the 519 Welsh Members. What was the result? It was utterly useless. If I can help it I will not have this horror another time to suit the convenience of gentlemen who were very anxious to bear our misfortunes with patience and consideration to the tune of from £2,000 to £5,000 a year. Sometimes those who look into old records, as I very often do, find analogies between old times and now. Mr. Gladstone directed my attention to the fact that a gentleman, in the House many years after Edmund Burke was dead, used always to speak, with particular interest and affection, of the fact that he was that great man's intimate friend. In like manner I felt, rightly or wrongly, that in the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ponsonby), there was a voice from the past and I felt that he was expressing the honourable and courageous sentiments of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, a man, who perhaps was not great, but was better than that, good. Eloquence did not touch his lips, nor genius perhaps urge or move his pen, but he brought to the consideration of public affairs a far higher possession—the possession of a pure mind, purity of purpose, and a determination to carry that purpose out.
It is one of the misfortunes of politics that we can so easily be judged after the event. I heard from these benches, amid a great flourish of trumpets, the propriety of at once going to the country. They did not go to the country. The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, with an immense majority, actually resigned his seat in the Government than face the country. Nothing like that had ever occurred before, but he was wise in his day and generation, and why? The people of England—and the Leader of the Opposition has reproached them for it—in feeling are very strong, deep, and earnest. But partly from pride and partly from shyness they do not give intense expression to their views. But when the time comes they strike, and strike strongly.
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman,
whom I am proud to say was a Celt, perhaps did not actually know the strength of his own heart. He was therefore placed in the position of forming a Cabinet without knowing how much that Cabinet would reflect the sense of the country.
Therefore, we have to-day in that Cabinet gentlemen in positions of prominence who, if the sentiment of the country were 520 known, would be relegated to a very insignificant position. I look across the floor of the House, and I see leaders of the Liberal party, and I remember that two of them for their great public services were made Privy Councillors by the Leader of the Opposition himself. I see one who was to blame for prolonging the South African War—
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Alfred Emmott)
I think the hon. Member is getting a little far away from the question before the House.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
The hon. Member does not like it because he is a Liberal Imperialist himself, and because what I say hurts him. It may be that my hon. Friends near me will dissent from what I am going to say, but I desire to say that I know that the Prime Minister is as earnest about passing Radical measures as I am myself I know, unless he has changed from the far away days of his boyhood, he is to-day as he was 35 years ago in regard to the Lords, but a Prime Minister has always influences from within to consider—a contingency to which Prime Ministers unhappily must be subject.
We heard the Prime Minister's very telling and eloquent reference to the last speech of Mr. Gladstone in 1894. He then advocated a forward policy against the House of Lords, and he knew that Mr. Gladstone wanted there and then to dissolve and to fight the issue of the House of Lords; but he knew also that Mr. Gladstone was beaten in his Cabinet by puny political whipsters who ventured to set their judgment against his. In one of his last conversations with Lord Morley Mr. Gladstone again spoke about the dissolution, and fighting the issue of the Lords, and expressed regret that it had not taken place.
The battle would have been over and we would not have had these weary years of ploughing the sands. If we do not take care, we are going to do exactly the same thing over again. This debate, to which I have listened attentively, has been the most interesting as a set debate on the House of Lords that I have heard. I was delighted with the enthusiasm of my hon. Friends and with the cheers which they accorded. I then listened to the Prime Minister, and I am afraid that in the Cabinet for some reason the Radical programme has been put aside for a tame and halting programme which never succeeds. 521 The Leader of the Opposition made a magnificent speech; he laid aside all flimsy pretences and justified the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman said they were the saviours of their country, and he ridiculed and derided the powers of this House. I hope and trust that in every Liberal town this speech will be seen and read. It will give every Radical candidate their motive so far as the House of Lords is concerned.
My hon. Friend opposite said that if the Amendment were carried it would be necessary for the Government to exercise their prerogative. I am going to quote Lord Rosebery, of whom I speak with bated breath and whispering humbleness. There was a speech delivered by Lord Rosebery on the 27th of October, 1894, when he took the headship of the Government, there was a dangerous change of policy, and he was proceeding to whittle down Radial measures and make things easy for Toryism. He made a great speech on the House of Lords and their grievances, and his epigrams, compared with those of the hon. Member for Walton, were more acrimonious than witty, and, if I may say so, in regard to the speech of so great a man, they were prepared impertinences. Lord Rosebery said the first thing to be done with regard to the Lords was to proceed by Resolution, and then by Bill, but he added the House of Lords would throw out the Bill.
Then what are we to do? The Prime Minister has only to do what Earl Grey did in 1832—swamp them with Peers and then carry the Bill. And the Prime Minister to-day has a majority ten times that Earl Grey had at the time of the Reform Bill.
It is most interesting to know that the House of Commons of the time adopted a preliminary Amendment for the abolition of the Lords altogether. If ever a man had a mandate to do the right thing and was not prevented by some hidden influences the Prime Minister has that mandate. I am urging no revolutionary course at all. It was the great-grandfather of my hon. Friend who first suggested it; I refer to Earl Grey, the first Prime Minister of Reform, to whom everyone in England ought to be grateful and to whom the people of Ireland ought to be more grateful, because, as Mr. Grey, he was one of the few who, with Sheridan, in 1800 protested most vehemently against the Act of Union, and divided the House again and again. At no time had he more than fifteen supporters. Earl Grey received from King William IV. a letter dated 522 Windsor, 17th May, 1832, giving him (Earl Grey) permission to create such a number of Peers as would be sufficient to ensure the passing of the Reform Bill.
There is nothing in the world to prevent the present Prime Minister doing that with the enormously greater power of his present majority, greater, far greater, than Earl Grey had. Perhaps some Gentlemen would say there would be a difficulty in finding Peers. Sir Erskine May, who was Clerk at the Table, has described what occurred in Earl Grey's time, that, although it was not very pleasant to be made a Peer, the carriages were tumbling head over heels to get them. And I am perfectly certain if it were necessary to create four or five hundred Peers tomorrow many Gentlemen from Villadom in Kensington would sacrifice themselves for their country. In doing so they would only be following the example of their leaders.
The Duke of Wellington has been referred to. In one memorable address he said, "Officers to the front," but they were all officers. It only takes three to form a quorum of the House of Lords, the same number that forms a riot at common law. Within the last three years three occupants of the Treasury Bench have sacrificed themselves for their country, and gone to the House of Lords as martyrs and heroes of a great cause.
I compare those great men, especially my Lords Fowler and Morley, to those devoted men, those Wesleyan missionaries, who got themselves sold into slavery to convert the blacks. I am sure some hon. Gentlemen opposite will follow that great example. A difficulty arose on another occasion, and it was met by the Prerogative of the Crown.
I remember hearing the Duke of Devonshire on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, giving a quotation from Dicey's Law of the Constitution, one of the greatest constitutional authorities in his day, and likewise a protagonist of the Union, and a writer of Britain's case against it. He did not write Ireland's case for it. I have known other historians, such as little child's handbooks, edited by a man named Arnold Forster, in which changes were made; but I see according to the last edition Professor Dicey made no changes in the passage to which I refer, and which stated:If Government by party is ever transformed into Government by the House of Commons, the transformation will be effected by use of the prerogative of the Crown.
I wonder no one in this debate has 523 mentioned the recent letter of Sir John Gorst, in which he recommends the use of the prerogative of the Crown in passing measures through the House of Lords simply by withholding or issuing writs by the Crown on the advice of the responsible Ministers. If that were done this whole question of the Lords is settled without a single Act of Parliament. It looks a strong remedy, but is not nearly so strong as Earl Grey's remedy, which King William IV. accepted of creating fresh peers. The simple knowledge that the power was to be exercised gave effect to all the powers of its exercise just like the effect on an ironmaster that his men can strike, and will do so if driven to it. No one will deny that the writs can be issued or, withheld.
I cannot reveal confidences, but I know it to be the opinion of many eminent men on both sides that there is no difficulty in putting this course into operation.
What ought to be done is this: If, when the Bill has passed this House, there should be any difficulty in passing it through the House of Lords, the Government should declare that such a remedy as I have suggested would be taken; and if it were not taken, they should, in going to the country, say that, if returned at the polls, they would exercise their own discretion as to whom they would or would not summon to attend the House of Lords. I have been preaching the sermon of Sir John Gorst, one of the leading constitutional lawyers of his time, a member of four Tory Administrations, a representative of Cambridge University, who was turned out of his seat because he was too clever to belong to the Cecilian circle. No lawyer can deny that his proposition is perfectly sound; all that can be said is that it is unusual.
But things that are unusual have sometimes to be repeated. Mr. Gladstone, who possessed courage, adopted this method when, after having been passed by this House, the Bill for the abolition of purchase in the Army was thrown out by the Lords: he advised the Queen by prerogative writ, to stop purchase in the Army; the Queen did so; there was a great outcry; but nobody has ever attempted to repeal it or to revoke the decision then arrved at. That shows how far the prerogative of the Crown can be used. (An HON. MEMBER: "Strained.") Yes, the prerogative ought to be strained in such cases. The Constitution of the country is the people's Constitution, and it cannot in any case be 524 raised against the national aspirations or desires. When the Constitution is raised as a bulwark against the people, it is time to destroy it without fear of the words "danger" or "revolution." We hear some curious talk about revolution. All the history of England is one revolution. I know two or three descendants of revolutonary dukes.
The Duke of Devonshire received his dukedom because he was a revolutionist. "The resources of the Constitution" was a favourite expresson of the late Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman. The resources of the Constitution can be abundantly availed of in this way if only Ministers have the necessary courage. If we allow an irresponsible body of legislators to dictate to us, our position is not worth anything; we might as well go home or resolve ourselves into a Cogers' Hall. It is sometimes said that the House of Lords can interpret the will of the country better than we are able to do. They never interpret anything. The Gentleman who does their thinking for them sits on the Front Opposition Bench in this House. But it would be better that the people should be wrong, speaking through their representatives, than they should obtain any justice or equality by Gentlemen who set themselves up as being better able to judge what is good for the people than the people themselves.
It is perfectly outrageous that certain Gentlemen who are in their position by reason of their fathers or grandfathers, of whom the less said the better, should, in the intervals of the card-party or of the Divorce Court, come down and show their devotion to the Empire by destroying measures passed by the representatives of the people. ["Oh, oh !"] It is very bad, but it is true. Ireland, too, has her own quarrel against the House of Lords. Measures passed by the people's representatives, which every member in the House of Lords knew were in consonance with the desires and deepest feelings of the Irish people, have been thrown out by that Assembly. The whole of the trouble in reference to the Irish land question during the last 25 years has been entirely due to the action of the House of Lords.
In 1880 Mr. Gladstone's Government passed through this House, by a large majority, the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, but it was rejected by the Lords. It was on account of that Bill that Lord Lansdowne defected from the Liberal party. After its rejection there was a round of social disturbances in Ireland which otherwise would have been avoided. 525 That Bill was thrown out on 4th August, 1880; on 4th September, 1880, Mr. W. E. Forster, speaking from the Treasury Bench, declared that the House had a better right to judge what was good for the people than any hereditary legislators who were there only by the accident of birth—and he was considered a revolutionary for saying it. But so say we all now, even Lord Rosebery. I hope the Prime Minister will have the courage which certainly appertained to the late Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, and fight this matter out. With a slight inversion of a well-known text, I would say if we only went for the House of Lords first,, everything else woud be added unto us. To deprive them of their present mischievous powers is our first duty to our constituents and to ourselves as men. I sum it all up in the old Latin formula, Delenda est Carthago: the House of Lords must be destroyed, and the sooner the better.
§ Mr. ARKWRIGHT
I have listened to some terrible statements, but I do hot seriously believe that the British Constitution is going to be destroyed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, acting on the instructions of the hon. Member for South Donegal. We have been asked to be serious in this matter. I wish we could be serious. Here we are in the British House of Commons, within a short time of taking the division on a serious Constitutional question, with only one Member of His Majesty's Government on the Treasury Bench, and I defy any ordinary observer to understand from the speeches to which we have listened what the position of the Ministerial party is.
The hon. Member for South Donegal has given us an easy method. He expatiated at considerable length what it was possible for the Government to do, if they wished "to deal with the House of Lords"—a common and useful phrase, which on public platforms commits you to nothing. His method is to deal with the question by what is commonly understood as swamping the House of Lords. He knows that the one and real objection to that measure is that the country will not stand it. It is not that the measure is impossible, it is not that it is illegal, and I, for my part, do not say that from the point of view of the Government, or certain aspects of the question, it would be unwise, but, as a matter of fact, the time for that has passed, and we all know that that is an absolute bar to the remedy which the hon. Member suggests. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock district turned my views 526 of the first part of his speech topsy-turvy and inside out by the few closing sentences. I understood him to be indignant, and justly indignant, at the attitude of the Government, which had at the eleventh hour put forward a great measure of Disestablishment for Wales in the King's Speech, and then apparently had given way under pressure from its own side, and looked rather as if it might go to the country on the question of the Second Chamber. But he said this, and I think it is exceedingly significant; I understood him to say: "So far as I am concerned, if the party would really concentrate upon this issue, go honestly and bravely to the country and say 'We mean to fight this,' I for one would follow the leaders of my party." But you cannot steer between these two things.
You cannot get up a great agitation against half of the Constitution, and at the same time pretend that you are waiting for another occasion. The hon. Member for Blackburn, I should think, is no particular friend of the House of Lords, and he told us on one occasion, not here but elsewhere, that there had been no less than twenty distinct attacks on the House of Lords since 1832. Everyone of these has failed. Lord Courtney, speaking in another place, told the Members of the present Government that if they were going to do anything in attacking the Second Chamber it should be a sustained, and a long sustained, attack. We heard a beautiful simile in regard to iron heated to a white heat, and then put by, I think if iron at white heat is put by it will be like a pantomime poker when taken out again, and it will not be of very much use except for pantomime purposes.
May I be allowed to remind the Government that this is a very grave and serious question? At a time when we see every day more men taking an interest in public affairs, and discussing them intelligently and reasonably, the Government of the day begin to talk of altering the Constitution of the country and using that question for their own purposes on public platforms. They do not say whether it is the privileges or the constitution of the Second Chamber that they mean to alter. They do not answer the question whether in their opinion the Second Chamber should be altered or abolished. They do not answer the further question whether the Second Chamber should be made stronger or weaker. Though at the same time we are told that this is the dominating issue in English policy which over-tops and overshadows and gathers into 527 itself all lesser points of policy of all sorts, we do not get elementary questions answered.
You utterly and absolutely ignore the fact that on both sides of the House there are men who would support any reasonable proposal for the reform of the House of Lords. When you treat this question as a party question, and when you cannot answer the obvious questions which any child would ask, then I must say, with all respect to the opinions of hon. Members opposite, I am sure this debate will do them no credit in the country, and it will be one most disastrous to their interests.
§ Mr. SIMON
The hon. Member who has just sat down said something about two aspects of the question raised by the Amendment. One is the question of the disease from which it is said the body politic is suffering, and the other is the totally distinct question as to the remedy to be applied to the disease. I cannot help thinking that there has been, not in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but in some of the speeches, some confusion between these two totally separate questions. There is, for instance, agreement between the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division, who moved an Amendment, and the mover of the original Amendment. Both are agreed in affirming the fact that there have been "repeated rejection by the House of Lords of measures of capital importance which have been passed in this House by overwhelming majorities." One is always glad to find common ground of agreement with the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division. I welcome the fact that he, as well as others, recognises that fact. It is that fact which, in the judgment of some of us, is the basis on which we ask the Government to take action. A general Election took place, and it was found that one part of the Constitution which was supposed to be asleep is really awake and rejecting measures of importance.
We are entitled to ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—who says that in the fulness of time he anticipates some small adjustment in the House of Lords—what is their theory as to the functions of the House of Lords? It awakes into activity when the Liberal party are in power, and sometimes into indiscriminate activity, like a volcano. The hon. and learned Gentleman for Walton went into very ancient history, but he showed him- 528 self very ill-informed about the history of the last three years. He seemed to think that the rejection by the House of Lords of the measures sent up to them was an echo of the by-elections. Whether that be a just or unjust claim it is not a fact as regards by-elections.
In 1906 and 1907 no one could say that the record of the by-elections was other than a record in favour of the Government. When there was no question of by-elections during those periods, what is the theory of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite of the functions which the House of Lords is to perform? In the first few months of this Parliament there was sent up to the House of Lords a measure to provide that no voters should have the right of voting in more than one election. Hon. Gentlemen may think that a foolish proposal, and they may have a serious argument against it, but they cannot seriously contend that the proposal was not put forward at the General Election. On the second reading the Bill was passed by 403 against 95. What happened to it when it got to the House of Lords? After three hours' debate the Members of that body, who do not enjoy the privilege of having a vote at elections or of being voted for, rejected the Bill.
What is the theory on which the House of Lords acts when it is dealing with Liberal legislation? It cannot be reasonably contended that it is the knowledge of the opinions of the country as expressed at by-elections. What are the motives which actuate the House of Lords? All the proceedings of that body do not take place in the House, but sometimes in private houses.
§ Mr. SIMON
I take three circumstances which go to show that it is impossible for anyone who desires to defend the House of Lords in its action to suggest that it is proceeding on some high principle of public policy, and is carefully feeling the pulse of the people and is determined to save the people from their friends. First, when no unfavourable influence could be based on bye-elections there was the manner in which the House of Lords, led by Lord Lansdowne, thought fit to pass the Trades Dispute Bill. I remember the third reading debate in this House of that measure.
The senior Member for the City of London made a speech in which he gave us 529 to understand that the Bill was the worse Bill he had ever heard of. It violated the first principles of liberty, and was going to destroy the freedom of the working classes. Shortly afterwards, when a division was called, on the second reading, the hon. Baronet, like a political Casabianca, stood upon the burning deck when all but he had fled; and on the third reading the Bill passed without a division. It went to another place, and then it was said: "We must be very careful not to enter into a conflict with the popular House over this Bill." They must be careful in the ground which they selected. They passed the Bill not because they approved of it, but because they said the occasion for rejecting it was not a wise occasion. On the second occasion there was the Licensing Bill. Though the action of the House of Lords had received various criticisms from various quarters—some people thought it was wise and some otherwise—no one has the least hardihood to get up and say what was their true policy at Lansdowne House with reference to the Licensing Bill. There are reports of that meeting fortunately available. You will not find a word that suggests that these Heaven-sent legislators were carefully collating opinion in order to determine what it was people really wanted. That well-known candid Conservative newspaper "The Saturday Review," referring to this matter, stated:—Lord Lansdowne is leader of the majority of the House of Lords, and though it may be true that this majority belongs to the Conservative Party it is not wise to advertise or emphasise the fact. It is easy,this admirable print declares,to make your practice square with your theory as far as may be practicable, and according to the theory of the Constitution the House of Lords is a Second Chamber to revise or reject Bills of the House of Commons.
It strikes us as tactless to call a party meeting of Conservative politicians at Lansdowne House, then to decide upon the rejection of the Bill, and, worst of all, to publish that decision to the world. Is there any hon. Member opposite who will seriously contend that that analysis, rather cruel as it is, rather crude as it may appear, is not a true analysis of the motives that actuated those who met at Lansdowne House, and if that is so, I ask again what is the thing which we should profess in order to have the same high opinion of the House of Lords, and what is the authority you ask us to accept in order to appreciate their presence in the Constitution under which we live? That is the second point, and if I need a third I find it in the language of Lord Lansdowne himself. The Liberal-Unionist 530 Club held a banquet on 29th May last year, at which the Leader of the Opposition, I think, was the guest of the evening. Lord Lansdowne, in the course of his speech that evening, sketched out what, according to him, were the functions of the different elements of the Conservative party in the Legislature. We have representatives of the Conservative party already in this House.
There are representatives of the Conservative party over the way, and this is the division of the functions according to the Leader of the Conservative party in another place:—Our work is cut out for us, in the meantime let us be untiring in the country. Let us in the House of Commons be daring in proportion as we are meek, let us in another place be cool-headed and prudent in proportion as we are strong.What I want to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite is this: That, no doubt, is a most admirable division of functions from their point of view, but do you expect anybody except a Conservative to stand it?
I venture to say that the first question to which we are entitled to have an answer from hon. Gentlemen who represent the views of the party opposite is: What is your theory as to what the House of Lords does and is meant to do during the years the Liberal Government is in power? That is the first question, and having put that I should like to put a second: What is your theory as to the functions of the House of Lords when a Conservative Government is in power. Undoubtedly a General Election may be expected to produce some change, but is a General Election an electoral revolution which substitutes one-Chamber Government for two-Chamber Government? And if it is not, what is it which the House of Lords according to you does when Conservative Governments are administering the affairs of the country?
I do not think it would be a very bold, not too bold a challenge to ask hon. Members opposite what Bills the House of Lords has revised or rejected during the years in which we were enjoying the benefit of a Conservative Government of the country? Hon. Members will be able to supplement my knowledge on the subject, but I think a Conservative Government threw out a Bill for allowing tramcars along the Embankment. Whether they would have done that if the trams had not also to come over Westminster Bridge I do not know, but they come very close to the precincts of this House and of the other House, and with all possible justice even in the years in which we enjoyed a Conservative Government and statesman- 531 ship they threw it out. Then there was another measure which had passed this House on more than one occasion, though not at the instance of a Tory Government. Still they were holding office. I mean the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. It passed several times in the Commons, but was rejected in the House of Lords. With the exception of these two instances, I should like to know what other instances there are within a reasonable measure of time during which a Conservative Government has been in power that the House of Lords has taken part in any legislation at all in rejecting any Conservative proposals or seriously amending them.
It is unnecessary to point out that neither of the Bills to which I have alluded are Government Bills; and I wish to know why the theory of the Constitution at the time a Conservative Government is in power is this, that the Conservative Government, whatever be its constitution, whatever be its record, whatever be the course of bye-elections, whatever be its length of life, is always to be accepted as the final arbiter of fate. I should also like to know why, on the other hand, no Liberal Government, whatever its majority, however recently returned to Parliament by a favourable result at an election, is never to be treated for a single moment as representing the national will? The Amendment which has been moved, though the hon. and learned Gentleman does not say so in so many words, is really an attempt to enshrine the whole Constitutional power in the House of Lords. That is the whole meaning of it. There is no other meaning that can be attached to the proposal.
The House will also observe that, though my hon. and learned Friend is very careful not to say so, it means that if a General Election ultimately puts the Conservative party into power, that means that they are put into power for a period of seven years, more or less. But if, on the other hand, the General Election is to have the effect of putting their political opponents into power, then according to the hon. and learned Member they are to be in power until such moment as the House of Lords rejects a Bill brought forward by them. We on these Benches do not accept that proposition. If the appeal is to Constitutional authority, whether it is to the late Minister for Education, in his well-known book, or to Professor Dicey, there is no Constitutional authority for the proposal 532 that the House of Lords, in addition to its other functions, is entitled to say that a general election is to take place.
On the other hand, so far as I myself am concerned, if I thought that the points which His Majesty's Government now take up about this matter indicated any slackening in their real determination to deal with this matter, I should find myself in complete sympathy with the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment. But I desire to call attention to what the real issue involved in this Amendment is: We have, on the one hand, the Prime Minister stating at the National Liberal Club and elsewhere, in the strongest, clearest, and most carefully chosen language, his deliberate determination to deal with this matter drastically, and as dominating the real issue of politics. The first issue is: Do you believe in the sincerity of that? I do. In the second place, the issue which is involved in this debate, as it seems to me, is: Are those hon. Members in this House who are prepared to support either my hon. Friend or the hon. and learned Member for Walton prepared to sacrifice the irregular work of the Session, not indeed to any defeat at the polls, which, as far as I am concerned, I do not anticipate and see no reason to anticipate, but to the hurly burly of a general election?
I heard the hon. Member for Leicester analyse with great acuteness the claim—I think the absurd claim—put forward by those who defend the House of Lords that rejection of a Liberal measure is to be in itself a call for a General Election. Having made that exceedingly acute and I thought just analysis, he proceeded to announce that the Labour party were going to vote for the Amendment. He said most truly that there was work to be done in the course of the next few months. I appeal to my hon. Friend, is not the realisation of that fact a circumstance which ought to give pause before you give a vote which, if it means anything except advertisement to constitutents, ought to mean that you are prepared to sacrifice here and now the opportunity of legislating during the next two or three months for the purpose of having an immediate struggle, in which I agree we may well hope for a triumphant issue, but in which none the less we are bound, if we accept the sincerity of the Prime Minister, to pay some attention to his own judgment of times and seasons.
I observe that the Irish Members also show naturally considerable restlessness at the prospect of postponing, whether but for a week or a month, the issue in 533 which they are anxious to join. But is there nothing in the near future of this very Session which the Irish Members desire to see carried? If there is, I appeal to them, and point out to them that they are sacrificing the opportunity of that regular and useful legislation of the next few months merely because they are not prepared to accept what the hon. and learned Member must recognise as the sincere and democratic judgment of the Leader of a democratic party.
My Friends on this side of the House are, I know, sincerely devoted to the causes mentioned in the King's Speech. Whatever may be said by some of our critics opposite, we on this side sincerely believe it is possible by a Housing Bill, a Sweating Bill, and a Bill for Labour Exchanges to effect definite, immediate, and valuable reforms in the directions indicated. I do not appreciate what is the basis of action which presses the proposal in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stirling to a division. Those who support the Amendment are prepared to sacrifice all those matters merely for the sake of carrying through their own judgment, not indeed as to fundamentals of policy—for on that we are all agreed—but as to the moment at which that policy should be put to the test of the polls. When that time comes—I care not whether it comes in the course of this year or a subsequent year—we who hold the view that I have endeavoured to express about the action and the inaction of the House of Lords—for each of them is equally open to objection—have no fear as to the result of the reasoned arguments which can be put forward. We invite from our friends on the opposite side arguments in defence of the House of Lords. You may say—it serves your party purposes—that it serves the purposes, of wise government, but it is impossible for any reasonable body of men to justify as it at present exists the constitution of a body so constituted, so torpid at one period, so revolutionary at another, and so wanting in the very judgment which you claim for it as its principal characteristic.
The "Times" newspaper, in some comments on a recent bye-election, observed:After three years of life the House of Commons ceases to be representative.
"Too old at forty" gives way to "too old at three." That rather provokes a serious question: "If the House of Commons is too old at three, how old is the House of Lords?" and until we have a clear defence of that body, in which we are told whether the theory is whether 534 the House of Lords decides what the people do want, or what the people ought to want, until we have these two things clearly distinguished and defined, we on these benches shall continue and continue with confidence to contend that no reasoned justification of that body can be produced in any assembly of Englishmen.
From what I have said the House will appreciate that, as far as I myself am concerned, I do not see my way to support the hon. Member for Stirling. I desire to submit to my friends on this side of the House that they should give the Government, of whose sincerity I have no doubt, the opportunity of showing that sincerity, and the best way of doing that is to show that we hold the Prime Minister to his word, that his declaration that this is the dominating issue of politics is a declaration we accept and we seek that he should justify it; and I have no doubt that the interval which must elapse between this moment and the General Election is an interval which certainly will not diminish the argument against the House of Lords and may possibly increase it.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I did not intend to take part in this debate, but I have been tempted to do so by the very interesting speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. He began by complimenting himself upon the fact that, up to a certain point, he was in agreement with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool, who admitted that some measures of great importance passed by great majorities in this House had been rejected in another place, and he drew the inference—which is a perfectly natural one—that some adjustment must take place if the affairs of the country are to be thoroughly and smoothly carried out. I quite agree so far with my hon. and learned Friend, but there are two ways by which adjustment can take place—one is a change in the character and constitution of the House of Lords, and another by a change in the composition of the House of Commons.
The hon. Gentleman opposite ventured to take up an attitude which I do not think is at all justified on the part of a supporter of His Majesty's Government, because he said, "I appeal to you opposite to tell us what you propose to do, and what your policy is." That is not our business. What we have to do is to find out what is the policy of the Government now in office. If I venture to put some questions to the hon. and learned 535 Member I wonder what reply he would give. Is he in favour of a single Chamber or is he not? Does he think that this familiar Resolution which we have heard so much talk about means the domination of a single Chamber? I have no objection to giving a passing answer to the question of the hon. Member as to what our theory is of the function of the House of Lords whilst a Liberal Government is in power.
None of us profess to believe that the House of Lords is perfect. None of us deny that a change might be made which would add greatly to the power of the House of Lords, and perhaps greatly to the security of the country as a whole; but as it stands, we say that the House of Lords is enormously to be preferred to no Second Chamber at all, and we say also that its function now is clearly and precisely the same as it was in the halcyon days of the Duke of Wellington to which the Prime Minister referred, namely, to carry out to the best of its ability what it believes to be the desire of the people of this country.
The hon. Member opposite seemed to realise that the abstract cry about the abolition of the House of Lords, which has been going on for at least seventy years, has not produced much fruit as yet, and is not likely to be effective; and he seemed to think it was necessary to but tress up that cry by a recital of the Bills rejected by the House of Lords. The Education Bill was the first the hon. Member mentioned.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
At any rate, the hon. Member mentioned Trades Disputes and Plural Voting. His complaint, in effect, is that when the House of Lords rejects measures passed by the House of Commons they are criminals, and when they pass measures they are greater criminals. The hon. Member says that this is a new departure, and an interference with the measures passed by a majority in the House of Commons. I think the hon. Member is old enough to remember the time when the county franchise was brought into operation, because at that period the Government of the day endeavoured to do precisely what this Government has tried to do, that is, gerrymander the constituencies in their own interests.
What happened? The House of Lords refused to pass it. And even Mr. Gladstone 536 had to give way and stop the gerrymandering. The hon. Member comes to the Trades Disputes Bill, and says it is criminal to oppose it, because, presumably the majority of the House of Lords did not believe in it. But what about Gentlemen who sit on that Bench? What made the Secretary of State for War and the Prime Minister himself pass a measure about which, only a few months before in the country one of them had said:—Let the Member for Merthyr Tydvil come to us and we will show him what is to be done.These very Gentlemen passed the very measure.
§ Mr. LAW
I will tell you the answer. For the same reason which made these Gentlemen, who are at least opposed to it as any on this side, that they believed that it was a clear issue at the election, and that the will of the people desired that it should be. Another question: My hon. Friend's test is an overwhelming majority of this House. Has he forgotten the Irish Councils Bill. There was a majority by which it passed. Is it law? Was it the House of Lords who rejected it? And in face of that experience—an experience which showed that the House of Commons did not represent the opinion of the Constituencies—will he get up and say that any Measure passed by any House of Commons should, after a reasonable lapse of time, become law?
I should have liked rather to go into the merits of what the real proposals of the Government are. But it seems to me that that is not the Amendment before the House. That Amendment is on an entirely different ground. The mover of it knows precisely what the views of the Government are. His object is to ask the Government why they are not going to carry it out. I am bound to say that 1 have often listened to a debate more interesting, but never to one more enjoyable. And if I can judge by the appearance of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the process has been reversed on the other side. They have found it interesting, but not enjoyable. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment was good enough to expend a great deal of compassion on us as to what we should say when we speak about the House of Lords at the next, General Election. It seems to me that he is not troubled with an exaggerrated sense of humour. For this I think his Constituents will not be held respon- 537 sible. I do not know exactly what he will say about the General— Election that depends on when it comes. I can assure him and the House—and I speak with a great deal of experience—at any Unionist gathering nothing affords the audience more pleasure than a short disquisition—I do not think they are interested enough to desire a long one—on the attitude of the Radical party on this question. A phrase was repeated that I think was used rather pathetically about the Prime Minister: "Do you think that he is sincere." Well, I am sure—I believe the right hon. Gentleman means well—but I am sure of this: that in the country nothing has so convinced the people of the unreality and insincerity of the whole policy of the Government as their action upon this question.
Now, how could it be otherwise? The position is really remarkable. The Prime Minister, in June last, either in the House or in the country, said—"I, myself, and my Government, and as far as I can speak for it, the Radical party, are going to stand or fall by that great measure of social reform, which is to transfer the supply of alcoholic drink from publicans to grocers and clubs." Everyone who heard or read that speech understood it to mean that if the House of Lords dared to reject the measure they would be at once faced and brought to book before the tribunal of the people of this country. Well, the House of Lords rejected the Bill. The Prime Minister himself attempted to keep up the dramatic interest. He came to the House of Commons and said—"I am going to say what is to be said upon that in the proper place." The proper place came. It was a dinner party at a Radical club. He said then, and said distinctly—"I ask this party to make the important question of the veto of the House of Lords the dominating political issue of the day." There were great cheers, and I notice the President of the Board of Trade joins in the cheers now. Shortly afterwards he and some of his colleagues went to the country and said the question of "the veto of the House of Lords is the dominating issue, but it is not going to dominate just now. There is a great deal of social work which nobody can do except us, and that must be done before this dominating issue is fought."
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to think what the position is. Is it perfectly plain? No amount of dialectics, not even those of the Prime Minister, can confuse this issue. A deliberate conflict has arisen be- 538 tween the House of Lords and the present Government. It can be settled in one way only—by an appeal to the people of this country, who are masters of the House of Lords and masters of His Majesty's Government. [" No, no."] Then why do they not appeal to the country? If they believe, as said the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, with a good deal of stage effect, that the people of the country are behind them, then let them appeal to the people of the country, and in that case they will come back.
The House of Lords would be to a large extent in the hollow of their hands, and, from their own point of view, the social reform in respect of which they are hanging on to office, will be done infinitely better without the obstruction of this monstrous House of Lords. One of two things must happen. The Government must either come back, or somebody else will come back. If they believe they will come back their path will be smooth. If they do not believe they will come back, then what right have they, after the kind of speeches they have been making, to hang on to office for a single hour after they know that they have lost the confidence of the country? And they have lost now the best argument which the late Prime Minister had when he was dealing with this question two years ago. He said —"You told us to appeal to the country, but if the House of Lords will not listen to the majority of 1906, what is the use of taking another majority."That argument does not hold now. The hon. Gentleman has not followed his Leader's speeches.
Some Members of the Cabinet who, I think, I see before me, at a meeting, said that the Liberal party will not take office again unless they have power to deal with the House of Lords. I know that this Government is carried on to a great extent by want of confidence amongst its leaders, but I presume they did not do that without some authority from the head of the Government. That argument falls to the ground, for they know that if they have the confidence of the country and come back they will have it in their power to carry out reforms in their own way. Yet they did not do it. Their position is rather a hard one. They know they are right, they know they are the only people capable of looking after the best interests of this country, but they know that the people of this country do not think so, which rather hampers them. Somebody quoted the words of the Lord Chancellor to show, for instance, that the 539 new Licensing Bill had not the support of the people of England. The Prime Minister admitted the same thing. In a speech before the Autumn Session he said on a public platform:—We are accused of passing only popular measures, of taking popular causes to get votes, but could anyone say that the Licensing Bill has that objection?
That admits it was not popular at least. But it is noteworthy that the object of making that speech was a different one from the question of popularity or unpopularity of the measure. It was to show what a righteous Government we had and how much they were above the petty methods of Unionist and other politicians. But even that did not hold ground, because earlier the Prime Minister thought it was popular, and was going to help the popularity of his Government.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Never said it was—then what did he mean by saying when he introduced it that those of us who told him it was unpopular were living in a fool's paradise. He thought it was going to be popular. He found it was not and wanted to make the best of both sides. Since it could not be made to add to the popularity of the Government it might be made to add to their virtues. Now I said no amount of dialectics could get over a position which is so plain and simple.
We had a sample of the Prime Minister's dialectics this afternoon. He said his hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Amendment had not really dealt with the question, that the question was a vote of confidence or want of confidence in the Government. Then he proceeded to speak, and I venture to say he dealt still less with the question. The question was not what his views were, or whether he thought something should be done. The question, the direct question raised by the Amendment, was "Those are your views, why don't you carry them out." To that aspect of the question the Prime Minister gave very little attention. It is true he did at the end allude to it. He said, "I have come to the conclusion from careful examination of all the facts that we are bound not to go to the country now on this issue." And he gave as the first reason, "We must not allow the House of Lords to dictate to us the date of the General 540 Election." That had been foreseen by the hon. Gentleman, the seconder of the Amendment, and that was just what the Prime Minister did say. It sounds very courageous, said the hon. Gentleman, but it is a courage mixed with caution. So it is, courage mixed with a great deal of caution—that is the position.
The territory of the Government is invaded by a reckless and terrible foe, and the Government say:—We will not allow them to dictate to us when we will fight. We will run away just now, and fight when it suits us better.
That is the attitude of the Government. Then the right hon. Gentleman took another line:—Our time for the present Session is promised; it hypothecated to finance by definite promises.
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, however, got up and wished to put him right on the point, but the right hon. Gentleman said he did not think his interruption relevant—which I have noticed is a favourite plan of his when he cannot answer the point raised. The mover said:—We will allow you to enjoy the high privileges of office even for another Session, but we want clearly to understand that that is to be the end of it, and that then, at least, the dominating issue is going to dominate.
The hon. Gentleman agrees that that is his view. But the Prime Minister says:—No such thing. We must carry on this social reform which the House of Lords is hampering at every stage, and which a victory at the polls would enable us to carry through without their interruption, for the reform we must still go on.
I do not envy the Government their position. How are they going to win the next great victory? The Prime Minister has told us that they are going to win it by the same methods as were applied at the last General Election. I can assure him that though they may work once, they will not work twice. What is the position of His Majesty's Government? It was expressed with agreeable frankness by the President of the Board of Trade when he said that if they wait until the proper moment he has no reason to fear they may not retrieve their position. There they sit—to imitate again the President of the Board of Trade—a band of melancholy Micawbers, waiting to see what is going to turn up.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I wish merely to say that I cannot accept the Amendment which has been moved to my Amendment. It is not proposed in the same spirit or with the same intention as my Amendment. Whether or not the hon. Member opposite and his Friends give 541 me their support is a matter of complete indifference to me, but, as to my own Amendment, I find myself obliged to press it to a division. The Prime Minister's speech did not in any way meet the particular point which I brought forward, and I think the hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow would hardly have made the appeal he did if he had heard that speech. The question of the Lords' "dictation" has been brought up on seevral occasions. I repeat that the Lords cannot dictate to a Government that is determined and has made up its mind, but they can dictate to a Government that is undecided. If I felt from the Prime Minitster's speech that there was a reserve power in the Government, that they were merely holding back their fist with a view to striking strongly in the future, I would not press my Amendment; but I think that anybody who heard that speech must have noted that really the matter for the time being is burked. The Prime Minister used one adjective which I think was inaccurate—"speedily." It is not fair to say that this matter is going to be dealt with speedily, when there is absolutely no mention of it in the King's Speech.
I would appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House who are in some doubt as to how they should act in the division. I feel that we are not, as the hon. Member opposite said, making a parade for the sake of our constituencies. I have no such intention. I consider that we are standing here for a very great principle and an over-shadowingly important issue, and those who follow me into the Lobby will be standing for an immediate fight on this issue. They will be standing for Liberal principles, while those who support the Government must be voting for indefinite postponement.
I heard the speech made by the Prime Minister, and I have not a shadow of doubt in my own mind as to the course I propose to take, and that is to vote for the Government on this occasion. We have had a great deal of general discussion this afternoon, on which I do not propose to enter. I have in my mind one thought, and that is that a Government which dissolved or took a course the consequences of which would be almost immediate dissolution, now that they are in possession of that monumental work, the Report of the Poor Law Reform Committee, without passing or attempting to pass on that Report any legislation, would have to pay, and immediately pay, a very heavy price. 542 The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to our case this afternoon. He said, "You are in this dilemma. You go on with your legislation as a consequence of this Poor Law Report, while maintaining at the same time that the House of Lords is antagonistic to you, and while it is hampering your legislation
The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that we have a guarantee that legislation on the Question of the Unemployed would be passed by the House of Lords. We have that on the authority of their own leader in the House of Lords. We know very well from Lord Lansdowne that they are going to fight us on the ground most convenient to themselves. We know very well from past experience what they have done in regard to kindred matters. We know that it is not on the question of unemployment that they are going to stand. If this Amendment were carried we should be told by hon. Members opposite that we had a difficult Budget, and that we got out of it by adopting the Constitutional question. We would be told also that we were faced with the question of Poor Law Reform, and with that we evaded the issue by adopting the Constitutional question. I say that the Constitutional question is not going to be settled in one Session or in two. That will be a long fight. Here is this immediate necessity of dealing during this present Session with the question of unemployment, and I should very much regret if any vote in this House were to hamper that settlement.
§ Mr. MORRELL
As one of those who intend to support the Amendment, I must protest against the suggestion that we do so because we are in favour of an immediate dissolution.
Some of my hon. Friends say that the issue of the Poor Law Report is a new reason why this question should be postponed. Those who urge those arguments on this side can only be a party with hon. Gentlemen on the other side in the opinion that the General Election would go against us. I understand that the suggestion of my hon. Friend is that after the work of this Session has been done a Bill shall be passed on the lines laid down by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and accepted by the Liberal party, and that within a definite period the judgment of the country should be taken upon it. I shall certainly support my hon. Friend if he goes to a division.
§ Mr. BYLES
Before a division is taken, I should like to repudiate the suggestion 543 made in many parts of the House that those who are disposed to go into the Lobby with my hon. Friend are doing so in a spirit of hostility to the Government. He has afforded the Prime Minister an opportunity of making a valuable declaration on the policy of the Government. The division will show that, in addition to a large and solid support from many Members of his party, he has amongst them some ardent and impulsive spirits who are not only in favour of his policy, but desire him to go a little faster and further, and it is in that spirit I shall vote with my hon. Friend. Old reformers like myself have been waiting for a long time for big reforms. In 1906 we thought that we were in sight of them, but so long as the obstacle of the House of Lords remains this great Liberal party, with its great majority, cannot realise one of the great causes for which it was created.
I desire to express with all the emphasis I know how that I believe the first thing to do—that the dominant issue in the policy of the Liberal party should be to remove the House of Lords obstacle and to blow up the barrier which stands between us and the measures we want to pass.
I rise after the speech of the hon. Member to ask why in the interests of genuine reforms should he wish to destroy the only instrument by which they can be accomplished, and by which alone it is possible, at any rate for some considerable time, to secure them. I take it that this matter of the House of Lords is a Constitutional question. The Members near me have been elected for carrying out a social programme. We have supported the Trades Disputes Bill, the Meals for Children Bill, a drastic Workmen's Compensation Bill, and the Miners' Eight Hours Bill. We have been highly successful.
On the purely political side of the question, perhaps, we have not been so successful. We on this side of the House are concerned in things which I think it may be possible, if the past experience of the work of this Parliament is to be taken into consideration, to see passed into law. We are interested in that part, at any rate, of the efforts of a Legislative body like this, and we believe if experience counts for anything, we may be able to succeed, and, therefore, I myself am going to vote in favour of the Government, not only in the interests of legislation, but for the purpose, if I can during my life-time, or at 544 any rate during the time I am in this House, of preventing those gentlemen who mismanaged, for ten years, the affairs of this country, and who added something like £250,000,000 to the National Debt, and who increased expenditure in every possible direction without any increase in efficiency, coming into power. I say that on a miserable side issue like this as to whether the House of Lords should remain, with all their present authority for, at the outside, another couple of years, and as we who were elected to secure definite legislation in the interests of the poor and working population, I am not going to be side-tracked by any Motion of that kind. I do not claim to be an in-and-out supporter of the Government. I am only going to support the Government so long as I can see that the policy I am here to support is going to succeed, and I take it for granted that however much we may dispute and argue about the subject that every vote given at the present time which will tend to weaken the Administration in power is a blow against the interests of the working-men of this country.
§ Mr. LUPTON
(who spoke amidst cheers, counter-cheers, and cries of "Divide): I wish to explain why I shall have to vote against the Amendment. The Government have been in office three years and have passed 183 public Acts, and every year it has been in office it has passed one measure of paramount importance to my Constituency. I see no reason why it should not go on for two or three years passing valuable measures, and I wish them to do so. As for the House of Lords, I have been fighting the House of Lords all my life. I intend when the next General Election comes to go on fighting them. I told my Constituents that they could not smash the House of Lords without two elections. It is necessary to have five or six years of Liberal administration between the two elections and then the public will decide between the two parties and on the great issue between the Commons and the Lords.
The Leader of the Opposition said that Ministers must stop beating their drums and blowing their trumpets round the walls of Jericho. Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten history. Has he forgotten what happened to the walls of Jericho? When the trumpets blew the walls fell down. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and his colleagues to continue their good work and to continue in office, and when the 545 time comes for a General election we shall win. The leader of the Opposition suggested to me that I wished for this course because I was afraid of losing my seat at the next election. That is not so. At the last election I met and conquered a great man. He will not come there again, so now I have nothing to fear. I shall face the issue with confidence.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
(who also spoke amidst cries of " Divide ") said: The walls of Jericho fell down when the trumpets were 546 blown, but the hon. Member has forgotten that the trumpets have been blown for two years, and the walls of Jericho have not fallen down. What we want is that there should be some serious attempt to make the walls of Jericho fall down—
§ The House divided :Ayes,—284; Noes, 73.547
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Acland. Francis Dyke||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lambert, George|
|Adkins. W. Ryland D.||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Lamont, Norman|
|Agnew, George William||Dickinson. W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)|
|Alden, Percy||Dillon. John||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Edwards, A. clement (Denbigh)||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Astbury, John Meir||Erskine, David C.||Lupton, Arnold|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Esslemont, George Birnie||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Everett, R. Lacey||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Balfour. Robert (Lanark)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Fuller, John Michael F.||Maclean, Donald|
|Barnard, E. B.||Furness, Sir Christopher||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Gibb, James (Harrow)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Barry, E. (Cork. S.)||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Macpherson, J. T.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Glover, Thomas||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)|
|Beale, W. P.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Crae, Sir George|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)|
|Bell, Richard||Grant, Corrie||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Bellairs. Carlyon||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Mansfield, H. Kendall (Lincoln)|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Griffith, Ellis J.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Bennett. E. N.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)|
|Bethell. Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Gurdon, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Brampton||Massie, J.|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hall, Frederick||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim. N.)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Halpin, J.||Menzies, Walter|
|Boulton. A. C. F.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Molteno. Percy Alport|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Branch. James||Harmsworth. R. L. (Caithness-sh)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Brigg. John||Hart-Davies. T.||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Bright, J. A.||Harwood, George||Morrell, Philip|
|Brodie. H. C.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Muldoon. John|
|Brooke. Stopford||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Myer, Horatio|
|Bryce. J. Annan||Hayden, John Patrick||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Hazleton, Richard||Napier, T. B.|
|Burke. E. Haviland-||Hedges, A. Paget||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Burns. Rt. Hon. John||Hemmerde, Edward George||Nicholls, George|
|Buxton. Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Henry, Charles S.||Nolan, Joseph|
|Cameron, Robert||Higham, John Sharp||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hobart, Sir Robert||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Hodge, John||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hogan, Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon. N.)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Clough, William||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Partington, Oswald|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W.)||Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Cooper, G. J.||Jenkins, J.||Perks, Sir Robert William|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, Sir D Brynmor (Swansea)||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Philips, John (Longford. S.)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Jowett, F. W.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Joyce, Michael||Pollard, Dr. G. H.|
|Cross, Alexander||Kavanagh, Walter M.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Kekewich, Sir George||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Kettle, Thomas Michael||Radford, G. H.|
|Raphael. Herbert H.||Seddon, J.||Waring, Walter|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Seely, Colonel||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Redmond, William (Clare)||Simon, John Allsebrook||Weir, James Galloway|
|Rees, J. D.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Soares, Ernest J.||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Spicer, Sir Albert||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Ridsdale, E. A.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Wiles, Thomas|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Summerbell, T.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Williams, W. Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Tennant. Sir Edward (Salisbury)||Williams. A. Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Williamson, A.|
|Rogers, F. E. Newman||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Rose, Charles Day||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull. W.)|
|Rowlands, J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tomkinson, James||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.||Toulmin, George||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Ure, Alexander||Yoxall. James Henry|
|Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Verney, F. W.|
|Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)||Wadsworth, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Walton, Joseph||Joseph Pease and the Master of|
|Sears, J. E.||Ward, John (Stoke upon. Trent)||Elibank.|
|Seaverns, J. H.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Forster, Henry William||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Gardner, Ernest||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Ashley, W. W.||Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goulding. Edward Alfred||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds)||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hamilton, Marquess of||Rutherford. John (Lancashire)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Baring. Capt. Hon. G. (Winchester)||Heaton, John Henniker||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hill, Sir Clement||Sandys, Col. Thos. Myles|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hills, J. W.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanier, Beville|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Houston, Robert Paterson||Starkey, John R.|
|Campbell. Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Hunt, Rowland||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Joynson-Hicks, William||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Cave, George||Kenna way, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Thornton. Percy M.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kerry. Earl of||Tuke. Sir John Batty|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Win.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood. Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York. E.R.)|
|Crean, Eugene||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Younger, George|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Morrison-Bell. Captain|
|Du Cross, Arthur||Newdegate, F. A. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —Mr.|
|Fell, Arthur||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||S. Roberts and Mr. G. Gibbs.|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Grasvesend)|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Percy, Earl|
§ Amendment to Mr. Ponsonby's proposed Amendment to the Address:—
§ Line 3, leave out from "imperative," to end insert "in the interests of stable government to decide forthwith by an appeal to the Constituencies which of the 548 two Houses of Parliament enjoys the confidence of a majority of the electors."
§ Question put" that the words proposed to be left out of to Amendment stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 282; Noes, 71.551
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.||[11.10 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Beale, W. P.||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Bell, Richard||Buckmaster, Stanley O.|
|Agnew, George William||Bellairs, Carlyon||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Alden, Percy||Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Byles, William Pollard|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Bennett, E. N.||Cameron, Robert|
|Ashton. Thomas Gair||Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex. Romford)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight|
|Astbury, John Meir||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Channing, Sir Francis Allston|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Black, Arthur W.||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Boulton, A. C. F.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Bowerman, C. W.||Clough. William|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bramsdon, T. A.||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Branch. James||Compton-Rickett, Sir J.|
|Barnard. E. B.||Brigg, John||Cooper, G. J.|
|Barnes. G. N.||Bright, J. A.||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex. E. Grinstead)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Brodie, H. C.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Brooke, Stopford||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lamont, Norman||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cross. Alexander||Leese. Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lewis, John Herbert||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lloyd-George, Pt. Hon. David||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Lupton. Arnold||Rose, Charles Day|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Rowlands. J.|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Dillon, John||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Maclean, Donald||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.|
|Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh)||Macnamara, Dr Thomas J.||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Edwards. Sir Francis (Radnor)||MacNeill. John Gordon Swift||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Erskine, David C.||Macpherson, J. T.||Sears, J. E.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||M'Crae, Sir George||Seddon, J.|
|Everett, R. Lacey||M'Hugh. Patrick A.||Seely, Colonel|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||M'Micking, Major G.||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Mallet, Charles E.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Mansfield, H. Kendall (Lincoln)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Marnham, F. J.||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Glover, Thomas||Mason. A. E. W. (Coventry)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Massie, J.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Masterman, C. F. G.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Grant, Corrie||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Menzies, Walter||Summerbell, T.|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Micklem, Nathaniel||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Molteno, Percy Alport||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Mooney, J. J.||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Gurdon, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Brampton||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Morrell, Philip||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hall, Frederick||Muldoon, John||Tomkinson, James|
|Halpin, J.||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)||Toulmin, George|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Myer, Horatio||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Ure, Alexander|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Napier, T. B.||Verney, F. W.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-sh.)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Wadsworth, J.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Nicholls, George||Walton, Joseph|
|Harwood, George||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Nolan, Joseph||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Waring, Walter|
|Haworth. Arthur A.||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Hedges. A. Paget||O'Connor, T. P (Liverpool)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Parker, James (Halifax)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Partington, Oswald||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Saff. Wald.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Hodge, John||Perks, Sir Robert William||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hogan, Michael||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Philips, John (Longford, S.)||Williams, W. Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Williams, A. Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pollard, Dr. G. H.||Williamson, A.|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Power, Patrick Joseph||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Jenkins, J.||Price. C. E. (Edinburgh. Central)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Radford, G. H.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Raphael, Herbert H.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Joyce, Michael||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Kavanagh, Walter M.||Redmond, John. E. (Waterford)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Rees, J. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Kettle, Thomas Michael||Rendall, Athelstan||Ponsonby and Mr. Lehmann.|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Richards, T. F, (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Lambert, George||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Courthope, G. Loyd|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bignold, Sir Arthur||Craik, Sir Henry|
|Ashley, W. W.||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Dalrymple, Viscount|
|Balcarres, Lord||Butcher. Samuel Henry||Du Cros, Arthur|
|Baldwin. Stanley||Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Fell, Arthur|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Carlile, E. Hildred||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cave, George||Fletcher, J. S.|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Forster, Henry William|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. G. (Winchester)||Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Gardner, Ernest|
|Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Lockwood. Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Sandys. Col. Thos. Myles|
|Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Morrison-Bell, Captain||Stanier, Beville|
|Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds)||Newdegate, F. A. N.||Starkey. John R.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Percy, Earl||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Hill, Sir Clement||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Thornton. Percy M.|
|Hills, J. W.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Ratcliff Major R. F.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Walker, Col. W. H. ( Lancashire)|
|Hunt, Rowland||Remnant, James Farquharson||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Roberts, S. (Sheffield. Ecclesall)||Younger, George|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Kerry, Earl of||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. F.|
|Law, Andrew Sonar (Dulwich)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||E. Smith and Mr. Goulding.|
§ The PRIME MINISTER claimed:
"That the question on the Amendment to the main question be now put."
Question put accordingly: "That the words 'And further desire humbly to submit that the repeated rejection by the House of Lords of measures of capital importance which have been passed in this House by overwhelming majorities has made it imperative that proposals should be embodied in a Bill for the consideration of Parliament this Session for regulating the relations of the two Houses of Parlia- 552 ment in accordance with the resolution of this House of 26th June, 1907, declaring that in order to give effect to the will of the people, as expressed by their elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons shall prevail' be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes,. 225.553
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[11.25 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Kavanagh, Walter M.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Kettle, Thomas Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||O'Kelly. James (Roscommon. N.)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Philips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Cooper, G. J.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dillon, John||Macpherson. J. T.||Redmond. John E. (Waterford)|
|Edwards. A. Clement (Denbigh)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Redmond. William (Clare)|
|Glover, Thomas||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Halpin, J.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Mooney, J. J.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Harwood, George||Morrell, Philip||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Muldoon, John||Wedgwood. Josiah C.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hodge, John||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Hogan, Michael||Nolan, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr,.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Ponsonby and Mr. Lehmann.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bright, J. A.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley )|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Brodie, H. C.||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)|
|Agnew. George William||Brooke, Stopford||Edwards. Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Erskine, David C.|
|Armstrong. W. C. Heaton||Bryce, J. Annan||Esslemont. George Birnie|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Evans, Sir Samuel T.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Astbury, John Meir||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Ferguson, R. C. Munro|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Cameron, Robert||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury. E.)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Balfour. Robert (Lanark)||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Furness, Sir Christopher|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Gibb. James (Harrow)|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Gladstone. Rt. Hon. Herbert John|
|Barnard. E. B.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Clough, William||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)|
|Beale, W. P.||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Grant, Corrie|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Greenwood, Hamar (York)|
|Bell, Richard||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A .||Griffith. Ellis J.|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Cotton. Sir H. J. S.||Guest. Hon. Ivor Churchill|
|Benn. W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Cowan. W. H.||Gurdon, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Brampton|
|Bennett, E. N.||Crosfield, A. H.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex. Romford)||Cross, Alexander||Hall, Frederick|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-sh.)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Branch. James||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Brigg, John||Dickson-Poynder. Sir John P.||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Napier, T. B.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs. N.W.)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nicholls, George||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Partington, Oswald||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Perks, Sir Robert William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jenkins, J.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Tomkinson, James|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Toulmin, George|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pollard. Dr. G. H.||Ure, Alexander|
|Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Verney, F. W.|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Radford, G. H.||Wadsworth, J.|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Raphael, Herbert H.||Walton. Joseph|
|Lambert, George||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Ward. John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Lamont, Norman||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis||Rees, J. D.||Waring, Walter|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Rendall, Athelstan||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex. Harwich)||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Robertson, J. M (Tyneside)||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Lupton, Arnold||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Roch. Walter F. (Pembroke)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Maclean, Donald||Rose, Charles Day||Wiles, Thomas|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Rowlands, J.||Wilkin, Alexander|
|M'Crae, Sir George||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Williams. J. (Glamorgan)|
|M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.||Williams, W. Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Williams. A. Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Mallet, Charles E.||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Williamson, A.|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Sears, J. E.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Marnham, F. J.||Seaverns, J. H.||Wilson, Henry J. ( York, W.R.)|
|Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Seddon, J.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Massie, J.||Seely, Colonel||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Shipman. Dr. John G.|
|Menzies, Walter||Silcock, Thomas Ball||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Simon, John Allsebrook||Joseph Pease and the Master of|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Elibank.|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Myer, Horatio||Spicer, Sir Albert|
§ Question again proposed:—Debate arising.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ And, it being after half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ The House adjourned at Twenty-six minutes before Twelve o'clock.